Monday, March 24, 2008

American Deaths in IRAQ

Today's big media news is that 4,000 Americans have been killed in Iraq. Well let me preface my "so" "and what else" by reminding you of my patriotism. I know the cost of war. Along with over 180,000 other Americans I lost my father in World War II.

But 4,000 killed? Over five years? Come On People. How many are killed in automobile accidents annually in this country? How many junkies die of overdoses annually in this country? How many Americans were killed by terrorists in New York City on fatal 9-11?

I do not shrug off the death of anyone of our brave military serving in Iraq. But we need to put this into perspective. How many of them might have died here in this country on the road or in another kind of accident?

Their families are compensated. No, life can't be bought but neither can freedom be cheaply defended. The media would twist all this to have us believe the war is a failure, even though the surge is working. The media call it Bush's War. The liberal media hate our President and I believe they hate our way of life. They are about their own liberal agenda.

Did you know that until three years ago, the "death gratuity", a tax-free sum paid directly by the government, was $12,420 for military death? In addition, service members had a group life insurance policy for $250,000 with the government paying the premiums.

In 2005, Congress increased those amounts to $100,000 and $400,000 respectively, retroactive to 2001. So, if a service member dies in the line of duty today, his survivors get half a million dollars. Hmm. Do local/state governments insure their fire fighters or police officers for similar amounts?

Note that "dies in the line of duty" does not mean "is killed in combat". In the military context, it simply means that the member was on active duty or on authorized leave and did not cause his own death through willful misconduct. If a soldier dies in a snowmobiling accident on his day off, his family gets the full amount.

In 1962-68, the death gratuity was six months' base salary and the insurance policy was $10,000...it's gone up quite a bit. When my father's plane and crew disappeared in 1944 it was $10,000 period! So the government has generously increased this death benefit.

Our military are doing what they are paid to do---defend us.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What a difference a day makes



Yesterday, March 20, first official day of spring, the snow was nearly all melted. A week ago I saw the first robin on our back deck and yesterday we saw several robins in the front hunting for worms. No worms out yet, the evening temperatures still freeze and those crawlies stay snug far underground.

I walked the neighbor's dog with my jacket open and thought that at last this terrible winter would end and it would be spring. Easter is Sunday and I don't ever remember having Easter in the snow growing up in PA.

Yesterday I decided to get out some of my Easter bunny decorations and lighten up the living and dining room for Easter. The last few days we were out in the motor home, readying it for a short trip next weekend to Albert Lea for one of the Republican endorsing conventions to which I'm a delegate. It will be good dry run getting ready for our trip and reunion in Pella, IA end of April.

The weather forecasters predicted a snow but we hoped it would just pass us by or not stick and melt as quickly as it came down. Not so.

Woke up this morning to a blanket of white and still more tumbling white feathers from the sky. Phooey! By this time, I was sure the angels were done combing the dandruff from their hair! Enough with the white stuff!

So again today it's back to Jerry shoveling/snow blowing. Well it was his idea to move here to what has been the tundra winter; he's paid plenty penance. He says its all exercise, but I think if he were honest he'd admit he's seen enough white for awhile.

I suited and booted up to walk out into the white fluff to snap some photos to contrast how it all changed between yesterday and today. Spring tried to poke through but Jack Winter isn't done with us yet. What a difference between yesterday and today. My winter rose garden awaits spring.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Animal people


For the first time in our lives, after moving to MN we are without domestic animals, pets. Jerry is vehement that we not get any dogs or cats so that we can come and go when we want to. Besides we live in the city limits now, not like Newcastle, Ca where the animals had over 6 acres to roam free. Living in the "city" means a leash law and no loose animals.

Well every once in a while I peruse the want ads and think, maybe we should get some animal--a small poodle, a schnauzer, a Siamese cat--something that I could talk to. But as quickly as I mention it, Jerry puts his foot down again.

We have always had animals. Sometimes we had two or three head of dog; once along with the dogs, our circus included two Siamese cats and a cockatiel bird. I wanted such a bird after meeting one that a friend had which talked and was so adorable. George, the bird, was named for King George because we got him on Independence Day 1977. (Photo of George sitting on my arm 1977 above) He was a misnomer as after 4 years he went into a terrible molt. I didn't know what it was then, but he had hardly any feathers left and I thought he must surely be dying. What to do with a bird? Off to the bird doctor which took some searching and a referral of our veterinarian who did horses, goats, farm animals of all kinds, dogs and cats but not birds. As I recall, I packed George into a portable cage and drove about 40 minutes away, to somewhere in Carmichael.

The bird doctor took one look and said, "she is molting." Huh? She? turns out George had a "deferred hormonal system" which took 4 years to shake loose. And immediately following that she developed a deep psychological yearning to mate and was sexually frustrated. So She had pulled out all her feathers. This was according to the bird vet. I did not want to mate George. I learned that though George was amusing, sat on my shoulder and liked to fly around the house, the upkeep on a bird is tremendous. Seeds flew everywhere near the cage requiring daily vacuuming. Daily cage changes too due to other droppings. So the vet said, my other option was to administer thyroid medication to George and hope for the best.

This was a new challenge to animal husbandry for me--crush the thyroid pill in a teaspoon of water and pour down the bird's throat. Not at all as easy as it might sound. But somehow I persevered without wringing George's neck. By the way, the male cockatiel has the Bright orange/yellow spots on the cheeks. George had the great color so we never once thought he was a she. The vet explained that "it happens in the animal world, one sex is mistaken for another and so on." As we lived in CA this did not even surprise me--I worked around all kinds of people.

Well after several months George had restored herself and was back to looking colorful. But she developed a very strange habit of sitting on the bottom of her cage and swaying. Again, we watched this for several days; she was eating, but acting strange. I thought she was heavily constipated as she wasn't eating much and wasn't dirtying up the cage with droppings. Even odder, George refused to come out of her cage, screeching and pecking at me like she never did whenever I opened her door to let her out. Another phone call to the bird vet who said "she is likely trying to lay eggs but she will not be able to because she is sterile." Nobody told George who acted like this for about a week. One day we came home from work and there were two eggs in her cage. Only George wanted nothing to do with them. We removed the eggs and George went back to her normal self.

Only after her hormonal resurgence and her sex change she never did try talking again, no more "pretty bird." George shrieked so loud that we heard her a mile away outside out in the orchard. We had George for nearly 10 years. People told us that they didn't live but seven years max. No one told George.

We had two Siamese cats who ruled the house during the same time, Roscoe (male) and Mimi (female). We would come home and find Roscoe lying spread eagle across the top of the bird cage--one paw in the cage trolling. He never got to George. Roscoe trolled while George protested the intrusion by hiss, peck and nip at the troller.

George' demise came suddenly without warning. I felt responsible because at the time I was singing with a woman's chorus. I had the lead vocal parts and was working hard on the high ranges and soprano notes. George would screech with me. That Saturday I did not hear George singing along. He hit the higher notes easier than I did. One look into the cage revealed a peaceful George, on the floor. We buried George out in the back by the big oak trees and the swing, a park like area overlooking the hills. I've never since wanted another bird; one was all it took.

I remember my grandparents in PA had canaries. I always thought they were pretty. My grand pap had been a coal miner and raised canaries for the miners. My grandmother enjoyed the chirping. Grandpap was devoted to canaries because they advised miners of oxygen or bad air in the mines. My uncle told me that my grandfather, Teofil Kochanowski, was always crazy for animals and would go out of his way to get dogs, birds, whatever. I know he always had hunting dogs and Boston Terriers when I was growing up. He would cut their tails off--I always cried about that. I don't think Grandpap ever took a dog to the vet.

Uncle Carl told me that once when they were growing Grandpap brought a ground hog into the house and went to bed. I believe he came in late and had been out with some of the guys drinking "N Piwo" and possibly won this ground hog in a card game. The story goes that my grandmother arose bright and early the next morning, just like normal, came into her kitchen and saw a ground hog and likely broomed it out the door in no time. My grandma, Baba, was an excellent housekeeper and would not have wanted a wild animal in her house. When Granpap awoke and came downstairs, no trace of the animal. He asked where his ground hog was and Baba just looked at him, like "what the heck are you talking about, Pap?" She never admitted to anything and so Grandpap didn't confront her further. Uncle Carl said, that all he could say was, "no proof that Rose did anything." He knew he didn't have a ground hog anymore and never again brought one into the house that anyone knew. But now I know that I have likely inherited my love of animals from Granpap. Even worse, my son, Steve has compounded love of animals. Today in CA Steve loves his dog, Bandit. I know we were animal people but I'd never thought that it was an inherited trait.

My most famous best dog pal of all time was my Great Dane, ACE whom I'll write more about later. He was the dog of all dogs, in his heyday weighing about 170 pounds and still preferring to be a lap dog. He did commercials for the local Newcastle rib house starting a trend at folks sharing their animals love of Spencer's Ribs.

Our first Siamese cat, which found Jerry and became our famous Lady Godiva is another entertaining tale. When Jerry called and said, "Do we want a cat?" I said, "Sure but what about the dogs?" He replied, "Oh this cat will take care of herself." And she did claiming the house as her territory from the day she arrived. It turns out that she was in heat; this was likely the reason she had gotten out. Or someone had tossed her out. There is no earthly sound like a Siamese cat in heat! We lived in a two story home with high ceilings--she raced up and down the stairs, clawing the carpets, drapes and screaming. We took her to the vet, because I was sure she was sick. The car ride with her was absolute torture. The vet explained that she would soon pass through this but would be in perpetual heat unless she were fixed. We did not want to hear those screechy wails, so we had her fixed and peace was restored to Fair Oaks.

Lady Godiva became famous, featured in columns in the former Sacramento Union newspaper. She was a self taught toilet user. I accused Steve, our son, of neglecting to flush the toilet. I could not understand his behavior because he was about 9 at the time. "But Mom I do flush" This went on for several weeks until one day I was home alone, just me and Lady Godiva. I will never forget being at the counter between our kitchen and den and hearing a trickling noise in the bathroom off the den. I walked there and there sat Lady Godiva on the toilet. Indignant as only a Siamese can be! She looked at me as if to say, "Look I allow you your privacy, might you respect mine?" I could not wait for Jerry to get home to hear about this! We don't know how or why she figured it out. But she never did learn to flush! We never had to have those nasty cat boxes around!

Friends awaited the chance to witness this. She indignantly allowed people to observe her at toilet--all the while keeping her long Siamese tail up in the air over her head. She was quite the Siamese. When we moved her to Newcastle she transitioned to going out side too and became quite the huntress. Before that she had been a strictly an inside cat. It was a sad day when she layed down and gave it up after about 12 years. We buried her out in the backyard too.

We've enjoyed many animals as part of our family over the years and I will write more later. But for now after babysitting and walking Abby, my neighbor's old lab dog for a week while she went to FL, I am in complete agreement with Jerry. No more animals in the Morrison house.

Monday, March 17, 2008

For those who voted Democrat in 2006

America Asked for Change In 2006

A little over one year ago:
1) Consumer confidence stood at a 2 1/2 year high;
2) Regular gasoline sold for $2.19 a gallon;
3) The unemployment rate was 4.5%.

Since voting in a Democratic Congress in 2006 we have seen:

1) Consumer confidence plummet;
2) The cost of regular gasoline soar to over $3 a gallon;
3) Unemployment is up to 5% (a 10% increase);
4) American households have seen $2.3 trillion in equity value evaporate (stock and mutual fund losses);
5) Americans have seen their home equity drop by $1.2 trillion dollars;
6) 1% of American homes are in foreclosure.
7) The Democratic controlled Congress' approval rating has tanked to 11% by the American People, down from 31% two years ago before they took control and below the President's rating but the media do not report that do they?


America voted for change in 2006, and we got it! Of course, it’s always easier to blame the president, right

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Easter 2008

Do you realize how early Easter is this year? It's March 23! Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around in date on our Roman based calendar.

Based on the above, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) but that is rare. Here's the interesting info. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!

Facts:

1) The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now.)


2) The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones around for that!)


3) The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now.)

4) The last time it was on March 22 was 1818.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tax Time

I'm in a bad mood. We just picked up the bad news from our CPA on our taxes. Seems the feds need more of our $$ to distribute to the least. This federal money laundering program has to stop. Adding insult to injury because we owe too much we get a penalty for under payment. How gross--did we know we'd get those capital gains? Fortunately we had some capital loss offsets too!

I especially hate paying income tax on Jerry's Social Security. After all, he was self employed paid the whole thing himself and we have already been taxed on it.

Well we bought the motor home end of the year so there will be far less interest to be taxed on next year. Our Brokerage accounts did well last year--but so far the market slumps will wipe that out in 2008.

I suppose some say be grateful that to pay income tax it shows we have income. That is not the point. We worked for this every bit of it! And just think if the Bush tax cuts are not extended we can pay more!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

1510 Cedar Drive inthe snow

Taken Feb 18 2008 Snow on the roof which may not melt until April at the way this winter is going. See the high snow fence that lines the driveway. Too much white this year.

this is snow

Recently frends in Ohio have had snow--14 inches. Well this winter we got that much and more. Jerry is using the snow blower here and see these snow banks from blowing the snow out of the driveway? Well five foot high and more. So high that I can't see above them when I back the SUV out of the driveway. Now we have had snow. Today is March 9 and the snow is still 4 foot high in piles. We are supposed to get a couple days in the 40 degrees this week and that will really feel warm!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Change

This frustrates me because I always was one for change. But today some improvements are just not change for the better. Why can't they leave well enough alone? Now I know I'm getting old.

I've always been a champion for change, most often led change efforts at work, at church, in organizations, in life. At Curves, every month we change direction and order of our workouts--it keeps us thinking. Don't even get used to the layout of the grocery stores. The theory that abides, the more walking through the store, the more purchases one makes. One exception is our local grocery store in town--it's too small to mess with so familiarity rules. They can hardly move the bakery, deli, meat counters, or refrigerators, so we are fairly set.

But most changes evoke my "grrrr." My ISP claims to have expanded and improved its service. Not so! Now instead of emails coming directly to my inbox from folks who have emailed me forever, they get hung up in the ISP spam report. This means, I have to look at the daily report, which arrives in my own spam filter folder thanks to Nortons. Once there I have to either allow, whitelist, delete, blacklist, etc. One at a time. Why I ask my ISP do you have to mess with me?" Oh, it's a greater service. "No it's not," I say, "it's a pain in the neck. Can't you just bypass this on my system?" "Oh no, that's part of your service."

We do our banking online. Jerry started that long ago in CA. And just recently our bank, in the spirit of improvement changed all the screens again. It's not an improvement--we liked the old way better.

Our brokerage account also "improved" which now means I have to flip through a menu to get what used to display automatically. And I have to check multiple screens. I want it the way it used to be!

When did they quit making so many conveniences just to improve the products. Doesn't it cost to retool and aren't things expensive enough! Leave it alone already. Recently Jerry's 91 year old mother wanted Vaseline bath oil beads. She's used them for years. But now, huh unh. Try to find them--we did yesterday accidentally at a close out sale in Wal mart. Just one small thing they no longer are making.

Fortunately I have little desire or need to shop for clothes. Now this is a significant change to my life. Shopping had been a big recreation for me. But with retirement the wardrobe needs are sparser--jeans, shorts, t shirts, some sweaters. For this change I am thankful--because have you noticed the fashions? Why does every woman or girl have to wear maternity tops? Why when we work out and try to stay in shape must we wear sacks? Clothes are way beyond ugly. I thought the torn jeans were bad enough--look now at the resurgence of the polyester 70's. And the colors! Ugly! Fashion is not a positive change influence.

This weekend heralds another major change event--the changing of the hours of the days and nights--daylight savings time or whatever they call it!~ Why can't we just be allowed to naturally adjust to nature, sun, light? Why must we be forced to change time to save daylight? So Saturday night we have all our watches, clocks, alarms, etc. to set forward. Only the computer and the cell phone automatically reset themselves. The rest will all require us to make the adjustment. Another tinkering piece of change which now happens earlier in the year and lasts longer in the year!

Things that I wish would change don't and things I wish would stay the same don't. What's going on here! And by the way, when did I start resenting change!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Adult Children of normal parents.

Today I'm having several thoughts--none of which are life changing. It's Caesar Day for us --the day to give to Caesar the things that are for Caesar--and today to give a little more than what should be Caesar's. Income Tax Day--a quick meeting with our accountant, here in La Crescent. We'll get the rest of the bad news in a day or two. Larry chatted a bit to remind us how much better off we are here in the tundra--away and out of the clamor and clatter and over population of California.

In another post, I mentioned responsibility and I wonder if guilt has any place in that. And for parents, especially for career parents--those who never give it up--what an awful thing it must be. That a parent is forever, we know, but that a parent is the scapegoat, bearing the guilt for the mistakes of the children--when those children cross into adulthood, I don't think so. I'm not sure if it's responsibility or guilt. Or an absolute inability to let go!

I meet people who absolutely define themselves by their kids--never mind that these people are in their 60's or 70's--their conversations are first and foremost about their children and then by extension their children's children. Heck I'm related to people who do that! I don't think these people ever had an accomplishment that was not child or family centered. They often travel in a pack through life with those kids--they often are the ones who suffer most from an empty nest.

When a "kid" screws up, the parent (most often the career mom) takes offense, takes the blame, takes up for the kid.. I don't get it, why isn't the kid allowed to take their own blame? I'm talking about adult kids which generally means anyone over the legal age. When they clearly are responsible for their own actions or lack there of. When my son screwed up, did I defend him--heck no! I was old school, you got a double dose of the punishment and maybe learned lifelessons. As he screws up today, do I feel the need to rush to his defense? No. I can't--it's his path even when it's rough. Listening is one thing, but taking it on our own shoulders--not.

I have heard some parents who are new to the world of adult children brag that if children are brought up right they will always do right! Oh please! Get a life yourself! What about outside influences--what about the kid choosing to be a buffoon! Why do adult children of outstanding parents become delinquents, maladjusted and whatever even worse. And should that parent feel guilty--I think not.

Isn't there a time when the apron strings are cut--when Johnnie or Janie really have to do it on their own, when they have to grow up and fess up? Maybe that's part of what's wrong today--no one grows up--Peter Pan rules! Instead of raising the fledglings for independence, Peter Pan's parents settle for co-dependence. Perpetual Peter Pan parents---that's what they are.

We do what we can when we raise them. Often this is doing the best we can with what we have and what we know at the time. With the exception of psychopaths, no parent sets out to deliberately screw up their child's life. I prefer to be around adults who can actually discuss, talk, and think about something beyond their children. Barring that--give me a good book to read, or a keyboard---I have a thought to blog.

Wallow or move on in gratitude

Sheila Walsh is a Chirstian woman who often emails just the right thought when I need it. The italics are my thoughts the regular type is from Sheila.

Often at Buble study we talk about grace and gratitude. We can never be thankful enough to repay grace. Grace is a magnificent gift. For a long time when I was heavy into my career I kept a daily gratitude journal. Somedays would be tough and all I could be gratful for was that I got through that day! It was over, tomorow starts anew.

I learned that at least I can be grateful to be through with it. Whether it's a miserable experience or just a bad day. Gratitude for the endurance.

Recently Sheila wrote about a talk radio show, where the host's main concern is to speak the truth, however painful that may be to hear. And at times the truth is fairly brutal. The woman caller was very upset at her stepmother who had never lived up to the daughter's expectations of what a mother should be. The caller had never known her own mother, and for thirty years she had allowed herself to be wounded over and over when her new "mom" didn't measure up. I felt real sympathy for this woman. There are so many things in life that are just not fair.

(My comment here is notice that Sheila says, "allowed: herself to be wounded." This reminds us that we can't be wounded if we think about it--we have to allow it. We can certainly be hurt, but we can get over it!)

Life seems random and cruel to many people. The host didn't appear to share my sympathy. And I was struck by her simple message that has enormous potential to impact our lives. I'm paraphrasing a little, but she said something like this: You have a choice. You can spend your life being angry at what you did not get out of life or you can count your blessings for what you have. I thought about what she said for some time. We all have losses in our lives. But if we choose to feast on them every day, they numb our souls to all the good that God pours out on us every day.

We can choose to remain in a "stuck" place regretting what is not, or we can become alive and fully awake to what is good and true about our lives.

Sometimes we are so aware of what is not there that we miss what we have. Yet the very act of being grateful for what we do have multiplies our gratitude and opens our eyes so that we see that we have even more than we thought we had at the start. Can a grateful heart change our actions and our relationships?

Choose to act with a grateful heart. Cultivating gratitude removes us from being victims to being free to love and act as we are called to do. I believe that living with a thankful heart is a large part of that process. Waking the soul is more than a one-time conversion. It is a daily turning from what is destructive to what is Christ like.

That practice of gratitude is something I've kind of taken for granted here in retirement--even here in the tundra! What a great reminder of being thankful, of moving on in gratitude and of not wallowing.

Responsibility

Just the other day Jerry & I were talking about the big R word--responsibility. It seems that today it's popular for no one to assume responsibility for their own decisions, actions, choices particularly when the outcome is not all that positive. It's acceptable to be a victim or to blame someone else. It's acceptable to expect someone to do for, give to, etc, usually the government is expected to take care of.

Sometimes I get beyond annoyed with our son who in his 40's falls into that poor me syndrome. He's made some horrid choices and is paying a heavy price today. But there is no real way anyone rescues an adult. We have to suffer along sometimes and watch. We have to know when enough is more than enough.

Recently a friend emailed about his personal philosophy, reflected in the Henley poem, "Invictus." That poem centers on "I am the master of my fate".....responsibility. A recent Wall Street Journal article about Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, Mr. Constitution, emphasized responsiblity. Justice Thomas says that what's wrong today is people all want the benefits without taking or showing any responsibility first.

I posted something on this blog that really backfired when family read it. Not at all what I intended but it created bad hurt feelings. So I pulled that post. After all it's hardly going to get the literary award and why keep something that's perceived offensive even if it is so not intended to be so. Maybe that's chickening out.

But who's responsible for that--well I am. I wrote it. I posted it. I shared the blog and I got the big cream pie in the face. I got chastised for putting it out there. I think I can write/say whatever I think. Especially at this age. Beyond it all is the responsibility. A heavy word.