Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Telemarketers...and the Guys Who Called Selling Drugs

Hopefully, the title got your attention.  We've all had our experience with telemarketers, right?  We all get off the phone, after the conversation has long since ended, and think about what we should have said.  Sadly, we didn't...though we try to remind ourselves that we will think more quickly the next time.  I have to hand it to them, they're a lot like kids.  As a matter of fact, if I were starting a business I would do just that - hire only kids.  Why?  Well, it was said to me long ago (and if you're a parent, you'll agree) that kids are the best salespeople in the world.  They never take "NO" for an answer.  Think about it.  Not only don't they accept that answer, but they're also smart enough to go to another parent, call Grandma, have another child's parent call...whatever it takes.  They're the best.  Same principle with telemarketers, though I've never wanted to cuss and strangle my kids the way I do a tele.....wait....I take that back....but it was a really, really bad day. 

For several months, we've been getting calls for a 'Tom Green' from numbers that, when I try to call them back, are not in service.  They have a great phone system that always shows a bogus number on the caller ID.  I should mention, too, that the person calling  is of Asian descent.  Don't ask how I know - I just do.  Broken, half-baked English with 'THE' accent.  Hey, we've all been to enough oriental food places.  You just know.  The first time he called he asked for Tom Green.  I told him he had the wrong number, to which he replied, "I can fill your prescription."  Actually, it sounded more like, "Ohh, I can hep fi' you skreep."  After I deciphered what he said, I told him we didn't need any prescriptions filled.  He kept going - "You no need puh-skreep-shun.  We send to yoo."  I actually had to hang up to get him off the phone.  This has since happened about 5 or 6 more times and, when Sharon answers the phone, he has gotten increasingly rude and belligerent.  He's even dropped the F-Bomb a few times.  To be fair, though, when she's handed me the phone (and those that know me see this coming...) I've jumped right in and sang along.  The best, though, was yesterday.  They called on Memorial Day and....they just called again NOW!  This is too good!  When he called yesterday, asking for Tom Green, I had time to think before answering because Sharon saw the number and told me they had been calling recently.  I answered and told them I was Tom.  He said to me, "Hi Tum, we want to feel yo' skreepshun."  In the interest of brevity, I'll tell you what I told him - I only used two medications, Viagra and Penicillin.  He wanted my credit card number (yeah, I was shocked, too) and I told him it had to be COD.  Finally, after several minutes of back-and-forth, he told me he could do it.  He also told me that I'd be receiving two confirmation phone calls and that no, I didn't need a prescription.  They were just going to send the pills!  I suppose some people would fall for this, but I wasn't doing anything other than having a great time.  He said I should expect the first confirmation call in about ten minutes.  I waited.  When the phone rang again, I answered as 'Michael', Tom's gay lover.  Speaking with a pronounced lisp, I asked how soon the Viagra could get here.  I assured him Tom was in dire need and they should expedite it.  Dead silence on the other end...for a few seconds.  Then, he told me that he would certainly do what he could to help Tom and I.  Seriously?  People really fall for this stuff?  The second call never came.

As I said, they called while I was writing this, too.  Ironically, it was a lady this time - she sounded young, but hey, you want to work for them, you're fair game.  I told her that Tom was out and, again, this was 'Michael'.  She was having a hard time understanding the lisp, so I told her that Tom had just come home.  I then, in my deepest voice, answered with confirmation that I was, in fact, Tom Green.  I let her speak about three sentences when I proceeded to tell her how hot she sounded and that she ought to date customers.  I confessed that the Viagra was really for Michael and I, looking exactly like Tom Selleck, would never need such a drug.  She informed me she would really like that (actually she would "Ree-ree rike dat.")...as long as I bought a large quantity of drugs and finished the business first.  Uh, yeah, lady.  Whatever.  I'm bored now and I'm hanging up.  You want to call back, feel free.  Just know you are subjecting yourself and all your little classmates (that I heard eating oriental food in the background) to my 'Cast of Characters'.  Have at it, I'm ready!

Now that I have firsthand experience with these 'rip-off artists', I implore ALL of you to think before giving out your credit card info.  I know we all think, "Who'd be that dumb?"  Read a newspaper and tell me it isn't happening.  Wrong!  Just try to do one thing the next time a telemarketer calls - think of this advice...and play along.  It's great fun for you and annoying as hell to them.  It might even get them to stop calling!

Until next time.............

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Thoughts on Memorial Day

It's here!  Another Memorial Day weekend that signals the 'unofficial' start of summer.  Yes, we have to wait until June 21st for the official arrival, but this weekend, as with every year in the past, we get an extra day off from work, we get to enjoy great food cooked on the grill, enjoy a few adult beverages while watching two of motorsport's premier events, and many will enjoy time with their families simply relaxing.  Many will have the opportunity to do those things.  Others, though......the ones whose actions and service to this country....who volunteer to be where they are at present......will not even see their family.  Think about that one word for a second - volunteer.  It's been many years since our country drafted a person into military service.  The men and women of the Armed Forces are, presently, all volunteers.  Amazing when you actually think about where they are currently and what they are doing.

In May of 1868, in a move designed toward reconciliation of our country, Gen John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed the first Memorial Day when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  If you've never been to this hallowed ground of our incredible country, I recommend highly that you consider making the effort to visit.  To walk through the 'Fields of Stone' that so ceremoniously pay honor and tribute to lives given to protect our freedoms.  The headstones are perfectly aligned in formation, their simplistic beauty paying homage to people we may or may not have known, though their sacrifice was unimagineable.  These are fathers, uncles, brothers, sisters, aunts of someone.....and they gave their lives....for us.  Imagine.  As you sit, watching over the Tomb of the Unknowns, the members of the 3rd United States Infantry (The Old Guard) pass with precision 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  They never leave their post and the Tomb has been guarded every minute of every day since 1937.  The most inclement weather will not make them abandon their posts as they feel the soldiers buried within deserve their very best.  Think about that.  If they can show the remains of an unkown soldier that kind of tribute, why would we not offer a simple, "Thank you," when we see a man or woman in uniform.  Honestly, I believe most of us do.  I am thankful we did not live in a time (as many still remember) where soldiers returning from a place called Vietnam had to endure the horrific treatment of rebellious citizens.  They were called unspeakable names and were literally spat upon by people who had the right to do so...all because these soldiers had been to this foreign country.

They deserve our honor and our thanks.  They deserve our appreciation.  The families of fallen military personnel are owed a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.  It matters not if they were Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.  It matters not to which battlefield they were called.  None of us reading this right now can even comprehend the possibility that we might be in a foreign country, void of any contact with friends or family, and our last breaths might come as we lie dying in the arms of a fellow soldier.  We have yet to give them enough, either in way of praise or pension.  I have had the opportunity to vist many VA Hospitals and Sharon worked there.  The fact that these men and women, upon entering these hospitals, are given a container of body wash (only) is a travesty.  They are given no deodorant, no toothbrushes or toothpaste, no razors or shaving creme.  These men and women, if called to duty in a war, were asked to give their lives if necessary...and the did it willingly.  We cannot even give them the essentials that we all take for granted.  What an incredibly sad commentary on our country's treatment of veterans.  Perhaps that, "Thank you," seems a lot more important and meaningful, huh?

Thank a veteran, please.  Thank their families.  Tonight, walk outside in the darkness and imagine being thousands of miles away.  Imagine having to sleep in the dusty, dirty hole you've carved out of the ground.  Imagine not being able to walk inside and hug your wife and kids.  Imagine that, instead of waiting for your newly-graduated son or daughter to come home from their date on time, you're praying they don't come home in a flag-draped casket.  They deserve more than our thanks.  They deserve our undying gratitude for doing what many of us cannot imagine.  I think the best way to sum up the true feelings of Memorial Day were immortalized in a poem by Moina Michael in 1915, that said, "We cherish too, the poppy red....that grows on fields where valor led....It seems to signal to the skies....That blood of heroes never dies."  These are the heroes of our time....and they should be memorialized at the beginning of every summer, last Monday in May.

Until next time......

Friday, May 27, 2011

Math and The Grocery Store

So I decided, while standing in line at Wal-Mart (that in itself should have been a clue), that I would take my phone and update my Facebook status.  What did I post?  That some people cannot count.  It's that simple.  Do I believe it to be true?  Not really.  What I believe is that some people, no matter how hard they try, simply cannot help themselves when it comes to being inconsiderate.  Maybe it's not that, either.  Perhaps it's just that they think the rules should be bent for them...or that they don't even apply to them.  I can't imagine why, especially upon further examination.  It's not like these are the people that are living on Park Avenue in NY.  You know, the ones that wouldn't be caught dead in Wal-Mart in the first place.  Seriously, we're talking about something simple.  The sign clearly states, "Express Lane - 20 items or fewer, thank you".  Wait...now it's coming to me.  It's not a 'math' issue at all.  It might just be a 'reading' issue.  With the state of some of our schools today, it could even be both.  Before any teachers hit the roof on that one, it's not you I'm speaking of...and that's another topic entirely.  Back to the sign.....

It's really self-explanatory, isn't it?  Twenty items.  Yes, three packs of Oreos counts as 'three'.  The salad dressing in those little foil packs?  Each one counts as an individual item.  As I stood in line, I watched the cashier ring up almost 35 items.  They were small, I agree, but the sign doesn't say "Bring as many as you want as long as they're small items."  Then, to make matters worse, the customer and cashier wanted to have a conversation about....well, who cares?  Let's move it, sister...I got things to do!  It might have been the fact, too, that as I was ready to place the first item of my own on the counter, I realized I had forgotten the cat food.  Rolling my eyes so everyone could almost hear it, I turned and went to the back of the store.  Yeah, cats have to eat, I get it.  They were lucky I was in a generous mood and hadn't hit the breaking point.  I get back to the cashier and guess who gets in line in front of me?  Exactly - another illiterate, non-mathematician.  Apparently, though, I am getting really, really good at transferring my feelings and thoughts.  The couple started counting.  Out loud.  They might have even been perspiring.  I was pissed.  The total?  Twenty-THREE items.  I know, I know....breathe, right?  Let it go, right?  I promise, I will...WHEN THEY CHANGE THE SIGN TO SAY 23 ITEMS!  And, release.....okay, time to get the weekend started...and I can work right into a groove given a few minutes in the basement.....

Other friends pointed out some of the other 'Issues' we face when going to these grocery stores.  Valid points, I must admit....though the one about 24 beers in a case was deemed to be okay in the eyes of the 'Checkout Line Police'.  These issues ranged from being over the limit (as well as the items bought) and paying with food stamps.  It happens...and bothers us.  The other is waiting until everything has been rung up, then pulling out the checkbook.  C'mon, people....you knew where you were going, stood there watching Susie ring it up, and waited.  Get the damn pen out and start writing!  Hell, I've even got the PIN number entered before she's done...you can certainly fill out the check, Gramps.  Little consideration, please?  While we're at it, could you workers show a little consideration, too?  Yeah, I know - and this grinds me everywhere - "It's Not My Job."  Really?  I want to hurt you.  Fifteen people in line, two lanes open, and three workers are standing by that little podium they put in the aisle to oversee the cashiers.  Hello???  How 'bout getting your two braintrusts off their asses and show us what customer service looks like!  Wow...and I'm asking this of Wal-Mart.  Sounds like I've already gotten the weekend started, huh?  Mind-altering beverages employed, apparently.  What was I thinking?

Until next time..............

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Arizona and the Supreme Court.....Thank God.

I should have jumped on this topic long ago, however it did manage to disappear or, shall we say, hide itself for awhile.  The issue is the one involving illegal immigrants and their status in Arizona.  The Supreme Court, in a ruling today, upheld the law that will penalizes businesses for hiring people that are in the country illegally.  Not surprisingly, the 5 Justices that voted in the affirmative are Republican appointees.  They were against the Chamber of Commerce and the ACLU.  I'm sorry, but the fact that we even have to have a law passed for this issue is astounding to me.  As Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said, "Not only is this law constitutional, it's common sense.  American jobs should be preserved for Americans and legal workers."  Not surprisingly, either, is that the Obama Administration backed the challenge to the law.  Now, let's explore a few of the details and what 'The Supremes' wrote.

Justice Stephen Breyer said that this law upsets a balance in federal law between dissuading employers from hiring illegal workers and ensuring that people are not discriminated against because they may speak with an accent or look like they might be immigrants.  Dear Justice Breyer.....are you kidding me?  Maybe I'm a little 'off the wall' in my thinking, however I am wondering when it was decided that discrimination laws were in place to protect illegal immigrants.  So, if I am hearing you correctly, they have just as much right to non-discriminatory practices as I do?  Let me fill you in on a little deep, dark secret - I'm a white man and I get discriminated against routinely because of it.  Because I am not black, Hispanic, Mexican, or any of the other protected races, I have to be willing to become accustomed to losing opportunities...and I better enjoy it, right?  I'm supposed to understand that, because their skin is a different color and we have enacted these laws, I might have to take a backseat because we don't want to hurt their feelings....EVEN IF THEY ARE HERE ILLEGALLY?  I'm no lawyer (thank goodness), but I'm certain these laws were put into effect during the times of the Civil Rights movement.  Blacks were routinely discriminated against - think separate lunch counters and fountains, not to mention riding a bus - and I am grateful that my kids and their friends can grow up in a world where we no longer have that problem.  Let me point out, too, that we have now gone so far beyond the intent of the law that it is ridiculous.  This borders on insanity, don't you think?  Seriously, your argument is that we need to protect the rights of....wait for it....it's in the name.....here it comes....ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!  When did 'illegal' come to mean 'something to be protected'?  If I want to be a drunk driver, it sounds to me like you're discriminating against me because I drink.  Please don't do that.  I'll sue you.  If I want to smoke marijuana, you're discriminating against me because it is an 'illegal' drug rather than a legal one.  C'mon....you people aren't really serious about this, are you?  Where's Allen Funt?  Where's the candid camera?  You HAVE to be putting me on.

Illegal Immigration is something we spend millions of dollars a year - my money and yours - to fight.  We somehow consider it a losing battle and now you're telling me they have rights?  What the hell are YOU smoking?  This is an issue for which we need a solution.  Otherwise, you are just throwing our money away, putting our kids further in debt, and confusing the hell out of everyone involved.  If they want to live here and have travelled here to make a better life, then by God do it the way our ancestors did - EARN IT.  No more social programs, no more help with the discrimination laws.  Get your citizenship like they did.  Take the test and we will welcome you.  It's how this country was built and what made us great.  Trouble is, they don't want to because (here's a shocker) they don't want  the authorities to have the ability to track them down.  They don't want to play by the rules, yet they want the rules to protect them.  I'm sorry, but this is asinine.  Fix it.  It seems to me that Arizona is well on their way to doing what many, if not all, states should have done long ago.  Just my opinion....but you're nodding, too.  You feel it...and believe it.

Until next time.....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

(In)Consideration. or Not.

I'm not sure when it happened really.  I've tried, but the answer eludes me.  When did inconsideration become so, I don't know....vogue.  When did it become okay, even acceptable at times, to be patently inconsiderate?  I was thinking of a specific situation but, after a little more thought, have decided it applies to many situations I've encountered lately.  It shouldn't be that hard, really.  Consideration (kun-si-de-ray-shun) n., 1. The process of giving careful thought to something, 2. sharing concern for the rights and feelings of others.  There - not that difficult, right?  We all know what considerate and consideration mean.  We're teaching it to our kids, right?  Well?  Are we?

I watch, as I pull up to the drive-thru window of the fast-food joint, as the teenager looks at me and asks for $6.83 as if I am inconveniencing her.  Her expression isn't really lifeless so much as it is semi-disgusted.  I want to say, "Hey, Shaniqua (or Mary....it depends), it's not my fault you thought it was a good idea to quit high school.  Or, if you did finish high school and are a typical teenager, I'm sorry there aren't any CEO jobs available.  You'd be perfect - you already know everything."  I don't say it, though.  I typically hand them the cash, take my food, and then catch myself thanking them!  What the....?  To be politically-asexual with my examples, I could respond, "Hey, Dude, you get that my money is going toward your paycheck, right?  You need to learn how to treat customers, you pinhead.  Your mom dresses you funny, too!"  Again, I don't.  I drive....and eat.....and get lettuce and mayo on my shirt....which really irritates me.....all because of inconsideration.  Okay, that last part might have been because I'm a klutz, but still......

Seriously, when did it become cool to treat people, especially after they've been considerate toward you, with such disregard?  I'm thinking (wait 'til you see this leap) it was about the time that divorce became, shall we say, all the rage.  Think about it - have you ever seen people treat each other with more disregard than when they are divorced.  That's a special kind of inconsideration.  A whole new level.  It almost becomes a game, really.  Let's see who can be the most inconsiderate of the other when, actually, that's probably why the marriage ended.  HER: "Why would you plan a golf trip when my mother's coming to town?"  HIM: "Seriously?  Ask yourself that question again, only this time do it slowly and listen to ALL the words.  Concentrate on the last five.  Got it?  Bingo!"  See, with marital inconsideration, there always has to be sarcasm, too.  Technically, there doesn't HAVE to be sarcasm but it IS a nice touch.  Here's another - HIM: "Tell me again why you thought it would be a good idea to wash my white shirts with the burgundy tablecloth.  You ruined them!"  HER: "You look good in pink.  That's not a problem, is it?"  See what I mean about the sarcasm?  It just works.

Divorced with kids is always fun, too, especially if you're adept at using them as pawns.  This can be particularly inconsiderate or, as I like to see it, nasty and hateful.  HER: "Gee, I'm sorry you drove the whole way here to get the kids but they're sick and I don't think they ought to go anywhere."  HIM: "They just got sick today, huh?  Did they put a cast on your broken fingers?"  HER: "What are you talking about?  I don't have broken fingers."  HIM: "Oh...so I'm guessing there's another reason you couldn't pick up the phone?"  Yes, for those of you still happily married, these conversations do, in fact, take place.  Even in this situation, though, shouldn't we ALL try to be more considerate?  Listen, it costs you nothing.  It's the right thing to do.  It's nice and kind and, though I don't think we'll really ever have world peace, can't we just make the attempt?  You know - it's the whole 'it takes more muscles to frown than to smile' routine.  You give what you get....hopefully.  Maybe we could just give it a try and start being nice to people and treating them well without being prompted.  I think it's worth a try, don't you?  Just sayin'.....

Until next time.....

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The End Of Days....In Five More Months....Maybe......

Okay, Folks, here's how it goes - I tell you I've read the Bible and start preaching "The Word".  You pay attention to me because I've read the book and have come to some conclusions.  I'm going to share those conclusions with you...and all you have to do is send me your money.  Not 'some' money - ALL of it.  Any denomination (wow - a double-entendre!) of bills will do.  Just send it.  Now, thanks to your listening to my preachings, I can call myself an evangelsit.  When I get on TV, I'll be a televangelist.  You can send more money at that point.  Studios and air-time are expensive.  Fork it over.  If you're good....and send enough cash, I might even let you in on when the end of the world will take place.  If you're good.  If not, then you get hit with all the bad things - tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis - that you can conjure up in your minds.

Now, let's have a little reality-check.  The end of the world MIGHT happen in our lifetime.  It MIGHT happen in our kids' lifetime.  Then again, it might not happen.  Allow me to share one thing with you, though - none of us is getting out alive.  There, I said it.  I know it's not the most comforting thought, but it's the truth.  I don't even need to be a prophet to predict that.  That's just a little old-fashioned experience.  Harold Camping has predicted the end of the world three times now.  He's 0-2.  It didn't end in 1994 because of (here's a shocker!) a mathematical error.  Uh-huh.  It didn't end this past weekend because he made a (ready for it?) mathematical error.  Now he's predicting October 21, 2011 will be THE day.  He's certain.  Almost as certain as he was the past two times he predicted it.  This guy is a former Civil Engineer, too.  I think we can all admit, at least those of us that know an engineer, that they don't make mathemtaical errors.  Not on this scale, anyway.  His followers have spent their money on billboards and other media to get the word to all of us.  Many drained their life-savings.  All this for an empire that, in 2009, reported $18.3 million in donations and had assets in excess of $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly-traded securities.  Gang, I have to tell you - "Gullible" is, in fact, in the dictionary.  Ironically, if you look it up, there's a group photo of Camping's followers.  No lie. 

I cannot imagine how people continue to get roped into following these people.  Scratch that.  I have an idea.  I think, as I try to examine it more closely, that people become 'followers' because they are, and have always been, just that - followers.  I consider it to be sad, though.  Sad in the fact that they have lost everything and given it to a man that continues to make 'errors' while amassing a fortune for himself.  Sad, too, that they are so lost that they will cling to any words of hope...and even despair.  These are, seemingly, desperate people with little hope.  They would never admit that nor describe themselves that way, but their actions belie their words.  Seriously, the message was that this was going to take place at 6:00 p.m. on 5/21/2011.  It would begin and follow across the time zones, striking in each at that precise time.  Seriously?  We can't even get the New Year's Rockin' Eve clocks that coordinated.  I forgot, though - this was God.  Time Zone, Schmime Zone, right?

For all the followers, I have a message.  It's Country Music 101 and a well-written song whose lyrics should inspire and guide.  Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" has a message we all need to embrace, though many do not grasp the concept.  I've tried to live life with a different credo, but one that shares the same message - Die with No Regrets.  I even heard an add-on for that message last evening - "I'd rather die with regret for things I did than things I didn't do."  Some have commented, after I've shared pictures or postings of my travels and experiences, that I get to do a lot and said, "What a life you lead!"  The truth is, we ALL do...we just have to learn to live it.  I try to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself if it allows me to experience something new and different.  I know many of you do the same.  Sadly, there are many people that do not.  They are filled with excuses and reasons to NOT do things.  That seems, to me at least, to be a life that could be lived far more fully.  Yes, I'm a big proponent of hugging your kids, telling the people around you that you love them, even stopping to watch a sunset.  That was one of the most important parts of the trips to Key West - sunset at Mallory Square.  Look, the world IS going to end but none of us knows when and, even if we did, would it matter?  Would you do things differently?  If so, do them now.  Why wait?  If you knew the world would end tomorrow, what would you do?  Truth is, you don't know it WON'T end tomorrow so do it now.  What do you have to lose?  Not a thing.....and your life, should we continue living, will be richer for having done it.  You can, however, continue to send money...and lots of it.

Until next time..........

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Sick, Twisted, Sad Story....also known as - Where Was Help?

I promised I would write this story...though I have to admit, it made me ill when I read about it.  If you don't know the name Christian Choate, I hope you will remember it when you are through reading.  This is a sickening story about people that should never be allowed near other individuals, much less a child.  It's also a story of Child Protective Services doing what they do often - complain of being overworked and having far too many cases, while failing to do what their name implies - protect.  It's a story of law enforcement being an oxymoron - they enforced nothing.  Quite honestly, the 'System' we have come to expect to be an 'Epic Fail' did not disappoint.  They failed beyond measure and, sadly, it cost a 13-year old boy his life.  To think this even goes on in the world is shocking.  To think that we won't consider 'An Eye for An Eye' as punishment is even worse. 

Christian Choate went to live with his father and stepmother after his biological mother gave up custody of he and his sister.  She had left the father, Riley Choate, claiming he was abusive.  Why would this woman willingly give up her two children to a man she claimed was abusive.  Yeah, I agree - problem #1.  This boy was kept in a dog cage, savagely beaten, rarely fed, and chained to a bed frame standing on end.  He was kept this way, unbathed and naked (except for a diaper) constantly from the age of 11-13.  Twice a week he was given a shockingly cold shower which would make him scream...which, of course, led to more beatings.  When he wouldn't eat, the sister was told to punish him - she'd strike him and, by her own admission, choke him until he turned blue.  Sick yet?  Just wait.  The day before he died, he would not eat and, when his father heard this, punched him in the chest and head repeatedly, then threw him back in the dog cage.  The last day of his life, as he lay unresponsive in the cage, the sister was told to give him CPR...which she did with an air mattress pump.  The father and stepmother then put him in two garbage bags and buried him in a shallow grave with lime and concrete.  They put a Bible on his chest, too.  How thoughtful.  He had been dead and gone two years before authorities were even alerted to the disappearance.  Search 'Christian Choate' and read the full articles.  You'll become physically ill.

The bigger picture questions I have are - where the hell was Child Protective Services?  We'll never know.  confidentiality provisions in Indiana prohibit them from releasing any information.  The Police?  They will not comment on active investigations.  No one was ever called to find out what happened to this boy, nor did they ever make it a priority.  He was dead for two years...TWO years...before anyone knew of it, and then it was only because the mother was finally alerted by the sister.  Here's my suggestion for these people - first, find two cages.  I know some of you are saying it wouldn't be right and that would be cruel and unusual punishment.  You think Christian would feel that way?  If we cannot protect the children and use some damn common sense, who will?  We let these things happen more often than we care to admit.  Children are molested, attacked, beaten, and killed and we always do the same thing - we shake our heads, say, "What a shame," maybe even cry a little for an unknown child.  Enough already!  We have to ACT!  The system, my friends, is broken.  Prisons are overcrowded and we have no room?  Build more and put people to work.  We can get rid of a few lawmakers who are squandering our monies and build jails.  We can actually use programs designed to help kids and hire more caseworkers.  Better yet, when we DO hire caseworkers, let's make sure they aren't just working for a cushy government job.  Let's find people who will actually CARE!  I am physically sick...and tired...of people working for agencies like Child Services that do nothing but tell me how busy they are...all while filing the paperwork when a child gets killed and forgetting them.  It is unforgivable, yet here we are.  You'll read this tonight and think it's a sad story.  You'll tell someone about it tomorrow.  You might even share it with someone in a postion that could affect change.  Ultimately, though, nothing will happen.  We are not united and there are far more pressing issues.  The deficit and healthcare.  Well, here's my little nod toward fixing healthcare - why don't we just let these people loose on our youth today?  That way, we won't have to worry about healthcare - they'll kill the kids for us.  What?  Sound too radical and turn your stomach?  Mine, too...so what say we collectively find a way to fix this and change things.  I'll say it again - Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.  It's the only thing that ever has........

Until next time........

Sunday, May 22, 2011

About The Road...From The Road

So here we are - Sunday night and, though I've missed a few days, I had to get this in tonight so I'm blogging from the road. More specifically, the passenger seat of the Camry. Yeah, it could've waited, I suppose, but I wanted to write while the angst and my impatience was fresh. My desire to 'go postal' is in check, however it still exists. Tonight's topic? The idiocy and inconsideration plaguing our nation's highways. Oh, I might be guilty of a few 'no-no's' that we all bitch about, but I try to at least be considerate while being an offender. Some of these things are those that you'd be hard-pressed to find me doing. What say we chat about a few, huh?

Left Lane - we all know this is for passing, right? Well, do we? I hate to have to ask twice, but Oh, My God! Are you kidding me? When the speed limit is 70 mph, please DO NOT get in the left lane and go 65 mph. We're out here going damn near 80 because the cops will give us almost 10 over the limit without sharing ink and a sheet of paper with us. In other words, you aren't getting stopped (typically) until you are 10 or more over the limit. That means, as you are doing your elderly, complacent 65 in the left lane, some (most) of us are passing cars at almost 15 mph faster. It's an ugly closing rate when you're lollygagging and we're drafting. Please get out of the lane. Oh, and check your mirrors. We come out of nowhere, too. Pay attention. Don't be offended if I flip you off - nothing personal, you just...well, are thoughtless.

Cell Phones - if you're going to use them, again, check your mirrors. I'm good with you talking to Susie...just don't be lost in the conversation while holding up a line of 15 cars. It's irritating and makes us want to run you off the road. Seriously. Why not invest in a headset? They are inexpensive and might allow you to drive with a bit more regard for others. Hell, you might even end up learning to chew gum and walk simultaneously, too! Really, please look in your mirrors. We're back here and want nothing more than to show you how Smoke or Mark Martin bump-draft on the backstretch. It might hurt and screw up your bumper, but we're good with it...as long as you learn your lesson.

Did I mention the whole 'get out of the left lane unless you're passing' thing? I know I did but thought it important enough to repeat thank you for your consideration. Suffice it to say, you have been warned. That's all for tonight...and I can certainly expound on this more later!

Until next time....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Don't Be Hatin'.....or Why We All Have Opinions.....

Let me start off with this - I thought Haley, on American Idol was flat when she started singing.  Period.  I am not tone-deaf, either.  I thought last week, when she sang the second half of her song and gave it a raspy 'growl' for the entire second half of the song, both Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez were correct and I agreed with them.  Trouble is, as with most people her age, she finds it hard ot take criticism.  When Randy tried to expound on what he said and give an explanation, she (as is frequent with young adults these days) said, "Okay, I heard you!"  I thought it disrespectful and classless.  As was pointed out to me tonight, the judges are millionaires and know what they are talking about.  Apparently, Haley agrees...but only when they are telling her how wonderful she is.  That, in and of itself, turned me off to her.  You're a contestant and when you sign up, you know they are going to critique you.  Shut up and listen.  If you were good enough to shrug them off, I suppose you wouldn't NEED American Idol and would be kicking ass selling gold and platinum CD's already.

As I said, this is MY opinion.  You know the saying - we know what opinions are like - we all have 'em and they all (depending on who you are and agree with) stink.  Someone wanted to say, though, when I commented that it was "Only in Alabama" as if the people here are idiots that are clueless about musical talent.  For the record, I am not from here - I am from PA.  I lived in VA, as well.  What the hell does where I live have anything to do with it?  Do I have ANY musical background?  Yeah, I was a band geek.  Qualifies me to read and play music...and understand the difference between flat and sharp.  This isn't just me listening to Top 40 or Rap, or Blues, or Jazz or anything else.  Been there, done that with music.  No, I am not a record-selling millionaire like the three judges...but they can't sell dental equipment, either. 

I'll go back to my original comment from last week, too.  The Voice has talent that will put American Idol to shame.  Adam levine put it best when he said, "Anyone here could win American Idol.  We want someone who can give us more than that."  They do not disappoint.  The difference is that The Voice is looking for just that - VOICE.  They are not worrying about how to dress it up, market it, package it and sell it the way Idol is.  Don't misunderstand - I am not saying idol has talentless singers.  They are good....just not AS GOOD as the people that we've seen and heard on The Voice.

No, I'm not from Alabama...but I do take offense when someone makes it sound as if my geographic location plays a part in my opinion or generalizes that the people here are deaf, dumb and blind based solely on where they live.  To me, it's reaching for anything when you have nothing better to justify your argument.  C'mon, let's get into a real debate, not a'nanny-nanny-boo-boo' type thing.  Haley should be gone.  They let the winner go last week....pretty much the same as they did with Daughtry a few years ago.  I know, I know....the American public screwed that up.  They did it again this year and it has nothing to do with the talent level of the judges or the singers.  I was trying to be funny (for the most part) on Facebook.  I still say she was flat, though.

Until next time.....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Endodontics - Day Two

No, it wasn't supposed to happen this way.  When I left yesterday, the doc handed me two prescriptions - one for an antibiotic, the other for the pain meds.  His exact words were, "You probably won't even need these."  The pain meds, of course.  Need and want are still two different things, right?  "See you next Monday."  Kiss of Death.  Could he have tempted fate a little more?  Fast forward to 3:30 this morning.  I'm awake and, oddly, so is my tooth.  The one he told me he had loaded with antimicrobials prior to using a temporary filling material.  That tooth.  The one that won't cause me any pain.  Why, yes, he did get a call at 8:03 as soon as I could lift my head from my hands and see the numbers clearly on the telephone.  This hurt worse than yesterday.  When doc?  You can see me WHEN?  1:15 this afternoon, huh?  I'm good, see you then.  The next 5 hours were excruciating...and don't make me remind you I'm a wuss.  Can't take pain at all.  Seriously, a hangnail puts me down for two days.  I once hit myself on the thumb with a hammer and was out for a week.  No pain, dude, I can't deal.

I show up at 12:40....because it hurt, that's why...and he comes to get me at 1:05, then proceeds to ask how I'm doing.  How the hell do you think I'm doing?  I'm here 45 minutes early.  A clue, perhaps?  My face is swelling like that baloon at the carnival that gets bigger when you spray water in the clown's mouth.  Seriously large.  Let's take a look after we open it up again.  Then, I had to confess - "Umm, Doc?  The pressure was a little intense, so I might have, umm, taken a, uh......I might have dug the filling out of the tooth.  There I said it."  I had done just that.  This morning, after two hours at my desk, it was either dig it out or claw my eyes out.  I have never experienced a pain like that before.  Labor pains were the closest thing I can remember.  I even had an epidural before that, too.  It was some serious.....wait.  That wasn't me.  Those were sympathy pains.  Got it.  Saddest part?  Pain meds couldn't touch this.  These are strong puppies, too.  No sense in wasting them - I started drinking instead.  Yep, right there at my desk.  I pulled out the Scotch at 10:00 and just......please tell me you aren't believeing this.  I did no such thing.  Actually, I curled up on the floor in the fetal position.  Not quite as good as Scotch, but it helped. 

So we have the tooth open and we go through the same procedure again, only this time he proceeds to squeeze my jaw on both sides.  Hard.  This is when he told me of the....'stuff' oozing out.  Okay, enough of that.  It does, but we don't need to get graphic, eh?  This time, we use even more Clorox to irrigate it (I'm guessing it'll work) and close it again.  Easy peasy lemon......we've been down this road.  Never mind.  He did give me another antibiotic, though.  Specifically told me not to drink while taking it and, as I assumed it would render it ineffective, I nodded my understanding.  That was when he hit me with, "It has the same effects as Antabuse."  Anyone know what Antabuse is?  Anyone?  Bueller?  It's the drug they use in alcohol-treatment programs.  It will make you ill if you drink.  I have a bad tooth and this freak wants me NOT TO DRINK???  Oh, and it makes you pee brown.  What?  TMI?  Sorry, but that side-effect kind of threw me.  I just thought I'd share.  Anyway, herre we are, ready for another fun night.  Get ready, America.  If you see tomorrow's entry titled, Endo - Day Three....you'll know it wasn't me writing it.  I'll be in jail.  Sadly, we'll have one less endodontist in this area, too.....just sayin'.  Yessssss.....that was a JOKE!  Hope y'all have a better night than I did.......

Until next time...........

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Fine Art of Endo.....and Other Various Tortures.

Please tell me, after seeing my status earlier (if you did), that you knew this was coming.  It has been an excrutiating 24 hours and I just had to share.  Here's the Reader's Digest version - boy breaks tooth, tooth aches, boy goes to dentist to find out there is an abcess forming, boy waits, boy bites on something, boy, oh boy, oh boy.  That's it.  The tooth broke a few weeks ago.  I went to the dentist and she told me she could save it but, yes, it would need a root canal.  This procedure in dentistry in known as Endodontics.  The other name for it is "Waterboarding's Second Cousin".  If you have ever had an abcess you can relate.  Being a hygienist, we were taught the questions to ask and the tricks to use to determine, prior to using an x-ray, if the tooth might be "hot".  Is it sensitive to cold?  Not a real good indicator.  Is it sensitive to heat?  Great indicator.  How about percussive taps?  Percussive taps are when the doc or hygienist flips the mouth mirror around and uses the end of the solid stainless steel handle and 'taps' gently against the tooth.  So, is it sensitive to that?  Let's put it this way - when he walked in the room, I told him, "Doc, I know what you're going to do.  Let me tell you it's sensitive to my tongue tapping it."  For the record, my tongue can't tap anywhere nearly as hard as stainless steel can. (Go ahead, finish snickering).  At this juncture, the doc decided he knew enough.  I only got worried when he told me of the decay he saw on the adjacent teeth.  Really?  Can I see those x-rays?  Ah, I think I see the problem, Pal.  2006.  What say we take a peek in my mouth and check to make sure that tooth is still there.  It's not?  How 'bout that.  Why not compare it to the....there you go - the x-rays from two weeks ago.  I felt like we were looking at a copy of Highlights Magazine and you had to pick out the differences in the two pictures.  No, no...I always perspire like this - keep going.

Then came the injections.  I got 4% Citanest, 4% something else, and 2% Lidocaine.  Seriously.  He explained them all...even down to the vasoconstrictors.  Umm, hey doc?  REALLY DON'T CARE - MAKE THE PAIN STOP!  Whew...okay, I'm back.  Then, after the second injection, he asked if I felt that on my tongue.  I thought he meant the tingling, numb feeling so, of course, I said yes.  Here's where he pulled his Jason Bourne impression.  It felt like he had ripped the electrical cord from a lamp, split the wires, flipped the switch and, with a sly smile, held them to my tongue. "What the...," I politely inquired.  Ah, you felt that one, huh?  Yeah, bub...I felt that one.  That was me hitting the nerve, nicked it actually, with the needle.  Really?  How 'bout we don't do that again?  Ever.  Jesus, it was like a dental student working on me again!

Finally, he gets into the tooth, the pressure is relieved, I can tell it was infected (mainly because he gave me a play-by-play of the...never mind), and he proceeds to disinfect and close the tooth.  Here's your antibiotic, here's your pain meds (which you won't need), here's the appointment for next week.  Bingo, Bango, Bongo, Done.  Easy, Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.  Yeah, except I am sitting here typing and the novocain has worn off.  It is aching.  It's time for my antibiotics.  Maybe, just maybe, it's time for one of those pain pills I won't need, too.  So the moral of the story is what?  Bueller?  Bueller?  Seriously, if you have a pain like this, go to the dentist.  Do Not wait until it gets this bad....please.  They can make it better, I promise.  They give 'scripts, to.  Work with me here.........

Until next time..........

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Kid's Halo...and Boys Are Icky!

I had nary a clue what I was going to write about this evening.  I was struggling, wondering what I was going to make for dinner, why I have to go to work tomorrow, why it can't be 'Saturday' 4 times a week...and then I posted a question on Facebook.  I wanted to know the issues facing kids today and what parents are worried about the most.  Drugs?  Teen pregnancy?  Texting while driving?  Grades and school?  While all of these things are a concern, I'm sure, to parents collectively, I wanted to get input from as many people as possible.  What really bothers you and worries you?  Then, by simply adding a comment at the end of it and suggesting my daughter was 'polishing her halo', I got her response and laughed.  Hard.  The kid has a great sense of humor and made me laugh, something I was not prepared to do.  Someone even shared the fact that, as Britt and I were kidding back and forth, we must have a great relationship.  We do and it's something I cherish every day.  She told me her "halo is always shining, never has an attitude, doesn't do drugs, hates texting, and boys are boogers.  So, I'm all good - I should keep cleaning that guy..." meaning her halo.  She's a riot.  When one of her friends questioned when THAT happened (the aforementioned statements about boys, texting and attitude), she replied with this:

"Just now - it hit me like a brick!  BOYS ARE ICKY!  And have cooties.  And I hate them.  Texting is overrated.  It just gives my fingers blisters...and trust me when I say I don't like blisters.  And shoot, I never have an attitude.  This girl is an angel....."  I realize she didn't mention the drug thing, but I know she's good there, too.  THAT isn't the issue with her.  She must've known that, too, as she concentrated on the 'boys' part.  She knows daddy is cleaning his gun, not her halo.  The attitude thing only comes up when you wake her, if you should be so inclined.  I, having spent many nights with her, know better than to attempt it.  This is NOT someone you want to awaken.  That's the only part I enjoy about the fact that she lives with her mother.  Mom gets to wake her most mornings.  She is with me, typically, on weekends only.  I'm smart enough to let her sleep until she wakes herself for the most part.  If I have to wake her before she's ready, I usually do it with a stick from about 20 feet away.  Not a happy camper.

She is a good kid and I don't get to mention it often enough.  There are times when, like tonight, she makes me laugh and she has such a full and complete personality.  I am comfortable taking her anywhere and she knows how to act around adults.  She has manners and is polite, something I am proud of.  I try to tell her, often, how proud a father I am of the young lady she has become.  Knowing me, though, most of you reading this know I am proudest of her sense of humor and quick wit.  At times, it's even irritating - she can be quick and I can't keep up with her.  The other thing I love about her, that I feel I should share with the world, is her ability to care.  I believe we develop our sense of humor in how we handle adversity.  This little girl (not so little any more) lost both her grandfathers last year.  She's never had anyone die that she was that close to before then.  It affected her greatly and she and I have spoken about it at length.  She misses them both and, because of it, carries a compassion with her that she uses when dealing with family and friends that is something to behold.  She is an amazing young woman...and I feel I must share that with the world.  If this is my legacy....my only legacy...I will be a happy man and know that, having helped bring her into this world, I have left it a little bit better place than I found it.  I know this is a different entry for a Sunday evening, but I had to share it.  I hope she reads it....and knows that I love her.

Until next time.....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Exploratory Committees.....and the Games Begin.

So, here we go again, huh?  I realize that's not a very American sentiment but it's how I feel every time we get 100 days into a Presidency.  Newt Gingrich is forming an exploratory committee.  So is Mike Huckabee.  Perhaps Mitt Romney,  Donald Trump comes to mind.  For the love of God, JUST SAY IT!  Why can people that want to lead the country not simply come out and say, "My name is _____ and I want to be your President!"?  Exploratory Committee?  Yeah, we're going to 'explore' if there's enough interest in people wanting to vote for me.  We're going to float some of our ideas and see if anyone takes the bait.  How many people can we sell our bullshit to this time?  I'm sorry, but it's how I feel. 

I have friends that have said, "This is MY President!" and he has done a world of good for us.  I said it earlier and I will say it again - the 'Change' I got ain't the change I was promised.  No one came to me and said, "Hey, guess what?  We're going to increase the National Debt to $14 Trillion."  I, respectfully, would have declined and ask that they not 'change' on my behalf.  Let me, too, point out that Barack Obama has neither been completely responsible for everything good, nor is he responsible for everything that has gone wrong.  If you believe he has, let me introduce you to our system of government and the "Magical Triumvirate" that we house in Washington, DC.  My daughter, all of 15, spoke a lot about this last year.  Executive, Legislative, Judicial - our three branches of the government.  Remember those?  If not, let's have a refresher course, shall we?  Each one keeps the other in check and none, though they do have certain powers that are available for specific, unusual circumstances, outweighs the other.  It's what is (supposed) to enable (or keep) us from being able to say, "King Obama did this or that."

Frankly, I am already fed up with our elected officials and find it difficult to even stomach the notion of a full year or more of campaigning. I am curious, though, to see if Sarah Palin has been tutored properly.  From that point, it might just be interesting.  Before anyone says or suggests that, "If you want to make a difference, run for office," let me point out that I can't.  Not that I am unable to do it, only that I am unwilling to have my life put under a microscope so I can have mud slung at me from all sides.  I've said it before - campaigns are not about the most qualified people anymore.  They are about who has the least amount of skeletons in their closet.  Sorry, mine is full...and most of you know it.  The thought of me even contemplating running for office has most of you in hysterics, huh?  I thought so.  So here is what I suggest - let's try something different this time.  Let's try to find the best LEADERS not the best non-inhalers.  We are at a point in the generations where it is going to be increasingly difficult to find someone...anyone...that hasn't at least TRIED marijuana.  Quite honestly, if you want to fight the war on drugs, I want someone who knows and understands what we are really dealing with.  Let's decide, too, that this is one drug we might use (again, as previously mentioned) to cut that deficit and help us actually fight a war on real drugs.  I am more concerned that my kid can buy heroin in her high school than I am that she can find weed.  It's that simple.  I don't want her to find crystal meth, either....or coke, or roofies.  I want a leader that understands what we are dealing with and can make a difference.  I want a leader that, when realizing we must fix health-care, grabs a multitude of people from ALL sides of the aisle and puts them in a room together to solve the problem.  Did I mention it would be nice if they could do it without the help of special-interest groups and lobbyists, too?

Yes, folks, it's gearing up for the ""Every Four Years Fiasco" once again.  We need to let them know, as we are supposed to, what "WE, The People" expect this time.  We want a leader that can rally everyone to work together to solve the issues at hand.  We want a (yep, saying it again) LEADER.  Someone that can find a compromise to solve our problems.  Someone that can motivate everyone to get involved so we can, collectively, return us to the stature we one held as a country.  Someone about whom we can ALL say, "This is OUR president," proudly.  Someone that makes us feel......United.

Until next time.....

Friday, May 13, 2011

Who Decided the World Should Smoke Crack...and All at Once?

Okay, maybe the title I've used oversimplifies and is misleading.  You have to admit, though, it is intriguing, no?  There are several reasons I used it, mostly because it actually appears those in a position of power and decision-making have been doing just that.  Where to begin?  There are so many wonderful stories of idiocy today.  First, let me share (in case you haven't heard) this one - Wonder Woman was NOT picked up by NBC for its fall line-up!  I know, right?  Me, too!  They said, if you can actually believe it, that the script was no good.  Wonder Woman in the 21st century, competing with the likes of NCIS, CSI, SVU, and other assorted acronyms.  How could that not be a hit?  Okay, the men, at least, were waiting for the costume which, as luck would have it, turned out to be the other main reason the show will not air.  They seem to have a hard time with high-heeled boots (not really), skintight vinyl pants (again, not the real reason), and a vinyl bustier that barely covered her (BINGO - we found the real problem!) umm, upper torso?  Either way, this really isn't earth-shattering news.  I'm only shocked they didn't consider casting Lynda Carter again.

Seriously, though, the idiocy of the day involves two 'what the hell are we actually thinking anymore' type moves.  A woman got a parking ticket for $750 plus costs of $85...for parking on the grass.  No lie.  She was at her son's all-day baseball tournament and she, along with others, parked on the grass next to the parking lot.  We've all seen it.  The lot was full and they were at a sports park.  You know, the kind where kids run on the grass for their baseball, soccer, and football games in cleats which, of course, are used solely for aereating the turf.  You remember those, right?  So she parked on the grass and they ticketed her.  There was 'No Parking On Grass' painted on the curb (which I'm sure she saw when she got out of her car and crawled under the cars parked in front of said curb).  Simply careless and thoughtless on her part.  Were there signs?  Absolutely - about a hundred yards away.  Dumb chick should've had binoculars, right?  I know!  The best part was the interview with the councilman - "Hey, we have signs and we've ticketed before.  It just seems the $15 violations weren't getting anyone's attention.  We had to increase it."  Makes sense to me.  If $15 won't get their attention, jack it up to $750.  How did we arbitrarily arrive at that number?  We couldn't have gone to maybe $100?  Clear case of punishment fitting the crime....and how we've lost any shred of common sense.

The worst episode, though, happened in Shelton, CT.  James Tate, a high-school senior (I'm guessing you've seen this story) in Shelton, decided to romanticize his invitation of a young lady to their Prom.  Think "Say Anything" with John Cusack.  Remember Cusack standing on the front lawn holding the boom-box with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" blaring to get her attention?  Yeah, well this kid had a different plan (and one I am quite fond of, actually).  He and two friends went to the school in the evening, climbed a ladder, and put cardboard letters on the side of the school, effectively asking this young lady to the Prom.  I don't care what anyone says, it took imagination and thought and, in some romantic fashion, is something that neither he nor the young lady will ever forget.  C'mon, who wouldn't love to tell that story to your kids some day?  See?  I agree.  Anyway, the Head Mistress of the school (that term still makes me snicker a bit) didn't see it that way and suspended ol' James.  Now the kid can't go to his prom.  He even admitted he'd be willing to clean up the campus on a weekend or any other punishment, but really - no prom?  Seriously?  Apparently, if you are suspended for any reason in the last month of school you cannot go to the Prom.  Fast forward two days.  This story has been on the Today Show twice, there's 160,000+ members on a FB page supporting him, AND (best yet) the Governor thinks the punishment is excessive.  Head Mistress (giggle) won't budge. 

So here's the magic $64,000 questions - When did we lose our common sense?  I'm sorry, but you just know if this was a kid that was anything but white (and I am NOT being racist), there'd be a huge uproar, public outcry, and Jesse Jackson would be on the campus immediately.  Don't even think about arguing that point.  If not Rev Jackson, there'd be the ACLU or any number of other organizations.  This is ridiculous and shows, in my opinion, how minorities aren't really.  Listen, if you want to accuse me of being racist, know this - I have friends of all colors, creeds, religious persuasions, etc.  It's not about that at all.  It's about a double standard.  It's about how we have taken small issues, use no common sense in dealing with them, and hide behind 'The Rules'.  Rules were made to be broken.  Simply put, there are ALWAYS exceptions.  The kid did not vandalize the school.  He didn't spray paint the message on the walls, didn't use racial slurs, didn't hurt anyone.  He was trying to be as romantic as the man (or woman) that uses the Jumbotron at a sports arena to propose marriage.  'The Rules', though, dictate that we make an example of James Tate.  I cannot stress enough how idiotic this is.  As a matter of fact, Today took a poll - 94% in support of James.  I'm no math whiz, but I'm thinking that's a fairly overwhelming majority (it is, right?).  The world is in bad shape and so is our country.  When we allow clouded thinking such as this to pervade our everyday decision-making, we're screwed.  Dear Head Mistress (no, not this time), please extract the upper portion of your body, mainly above your shoulders, from the lower rear portion of the same body.  Politely put, don't you think?  Anyway, I have to point this stuff out, even though I'm sure you've seen it.  If not, glad I could bring it to your attention.  Now, go put a 'Like' on James Tate's Support Page on FB.  The kid needs help.  Jesse didn't show up....and, quite honestly, I couldn't get there in time to save the day....in my Wonder Woman costume.....with the bustier....which, by the way, is a little snug.  Hope y'all have a great evening and.....

Until next time......

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Backwards Day. As Twisted as Groundhog's Day.....

Today, as I pondered what to write I remembered watching the Today Show this morning.  Oddly, they are a great source of material lately.  Whether you like them or not, they provide (me, at least) with a boat load of subject matter.  Maybe the other morning shows are the same, I'm not sure.  I can't bring myself to watch ABC here in Birmingham.  The morning newscasts are, well, bland and boring.  Same news, I suppose, not-so-great delivery.  CBS owns the evening programming, but again they lack any 'hook' in the morning.  Great...all of a sudden I'm doing a critique of the morning TV programs.  NOT where I wanted this to go, but....let's say it's background material.  Good - we're all on the same page.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah...morning news.  God, sometimes I feel like I ought to be on Adderall.  Oooh, shiny!  Newscast - got it.....

So here was the story this morning - Woman in NC loses custody of her children because she has breast cancer.  Yep - reread it.  That's exactly what I said.  Because she has breast cancer.  Here's the background - she and her husband have two children, a daughter that is 11 and a son that is 5.  Three years ago, the mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Shortly after, the couple split amidst allegations of affairs and abuse by both parties.  The husband was unable to find work in NC so he moved to Chicago, about 600 miles away.  He then filed for permanent custody of the children to have them live with him in Illinois.  The judge's ruling?  They should share custody but the children should live with their father because their mother's health is uncertain.  This is called (first-hand knowledge) Joint Legal Custody with the father having Sole Physical Custody.  The mother, who is unemployed and receiving treatments at Duke University, is supposed to travel to see the children every other weekend.  There, my friends, is the background.

When I first heard a mother lost custody I was shocked.  Seriously amazed.  I know I will have people disagreeing with me and arguing these points, however I am telling you this is how it happens.  The system is slanted toward mothers.  Period.  I realize that years ago, when divorce started to become more prevalent, the courts ruled in favor of mothers and their nurturing ways.  This isn't then - this is NOW.  Mothers, at that point, were not as likely to be in the workforce.  Now, however, they are in the work force and are as likely as any man to have a job.  Be honest - haven't we all heard of "Mr. Mom" situations recently?  Fathers staying home to be the custodial parent while mom is out earning a living.  We all know it happens.  Therefore, shouldn't we be more likely to award custody to either the father OR both parents?  Say it with me....c'mon, you know you want to.

I have personal knowledge of both Joint- and Sole-Custody situations.  I blame the courts, the judges and the lawyers for stupid decisions.  What the hell has happened that we stopped using common sense and began letting lawyers rewrite the way we ought to think?  How did this happen?  It's another prime example of the great joke that goes, "Kangaroo walks into a bar...."  Wait, wrong joke.  The one I am thinking of is, "What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?"  "A great start."  Lawyers and judges (who happen to be lawyers that have graduated to wearing robes) are changing the way we deal with everyday situations and taking common sense and disregarding it completely.  Whatever happened to finding what is fair and just?  Sadly, the courts don't care anymore.  Think about it - a person spills a hot cup of coffee in their lap and gets a million dollars for it?  Isn't that like saying, "Hey, you're clumsy.  Wanna get rich?"  We, my friends, need to take a stand.  As a good friend said to me this evening, "Somebody took my country and I want it back!"  I could not agree more...but someone tell me, how do you get around stupid situations such as this?  Appeals?  Yeah, they're more likely to get thrown out or denied rather than changing an opinion.  This woman has Stage 4 breast cancer, too.  Do we really think she'll be around for the decision on the second appeal?  Who knows?  No one knows, you are correct...which is why I have to ask again - why did she lose custody?  I hate to say it, but me thinks there's a judge that needs to take a small plastic bottle to the ladies room.  Perhaps a specimen is required.  Yes, your Honor.....it stays in your system for at least three weeks...or so I've heard.  Just sayin'.....

Listen, I don't know how we stop the insanity but someone has to point this out.  We all have to make a stand and agree that these things cannot and will not be tolerated any longer.  We want to make a difference in the world, right?  Isn't the other saying we've all heard, "Be the change you want to see in the world."?  Then we need to make sure the idiots that want to change it for the worse have to answer for it.  They're screwing it up for our kids.....and, quite honestly, they should have the same opportunity we did - to screw it up all by themselves.  I just wish we hadn't been so damn good at it.

Until next time.........

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Crossroads....or Vacation?

It has been a long day.  Long week, actually...and they seem to get longer and longer.  I'm not sure why that is other than I am either at a crossroads or need a vacation.  It seems that everyone I've been dealing with, on the customer side, has been short-tempered and impatient.  I understand, believe me.  Hell, when they get frustrated I do, too.  I can't explain why someone hasn't called them back yet.  I can't explain why their product hasn't arrived yet.  I can't explain why the rivers are rising.  Okay, that one I get, but still.  I can't explain why, when I hold the 'shift' key and press 'I' it gives me something that looks like this - i.  Now THAT pisses me off.  See?  I'm leaning toward vacation.  I guess the problem is (and where my frustration begins) that I work with adults...and expect them to act as such.  When someone asks you to do something and you say you will, I expect it to get done without having to remind them or follow up with them.  Okay, I get that it might happen a time or two.  That's understandable and forgiveable.  When it happens damn near every time it gets frustrating.....and we start putting loaded weapons away for fear of what might happen.  To us, not them.  We don't want to go to prison.  I hate to have the attitude of "Do your flippin' job and no one gets hurt."  It shouldn't be that way....so again, I am leaning toward vacation.  Maybe, though....just maybe...it means a new career choice.  Sadly, I've looked under "Millionaire's needed - will provide cash," but can find nothing.  I'm destined to earn it myself, I suppose.  Yeah, like there's time for THAT until I croak.  Robbing a bank sounded promising, too...until I found out the government frowns on that.  Tend to lock you up for that one.  Nothing fun is ever without consequence, I guess.

While we're on the subject of the government - have we all seen the story of FEMA todxay?  They want $22 million back that they improperly doled out to victims of natural disasters.  Please don't ask about the specifics.  Suffice it to say, they screwed up (IF they did) and now they want the money back immediately.  They're giving people 30 days to repay these payments, some as high as $27,000.00.  Fine government we have - perfect.  I said, too, I would not bash the current administration.....BUT...I was listening to the Speaker of the House this morning and he made a comment I not only agreed with, but finished the thought before he did.  We are a country that does not have an income problem, we have a spending problem.  Amen.  Now, can we please get to fixing the country's sorry economic state, try to trim the $14 Trillion-dollar deficit (yes, with a "T"), and get us back on our feet.  It's time to get us moving again and, quite frankly, the change I was promised is not the change I got.  I am NOT blaming Obama (solely) for this mess as I believe Congress has been dicking around as well. Yes, that's a political term - dicking around.  Refers to old Dick Nixon.  Seriously, look it up.  Anyway, Congress and the White House need to stop playing politics and start governing.  Period.  There is no other way to say it.  If the Obama supporters thing I am bashing him, so be it, however let's not bash George W. completely, either.  We (collective term) have created it.  Okay, so we've identified the problem.  Now let's offer up the solution.  End of story.  See?  Seriously, a vacation seems in order, doesn't it?

Lastly, and when I am in this mood this was the wrong story to see - they want to take chocolate milk out of schools.  Too much sugar.  Oh, God, here it comes.....wait for it......get ready......ARE YOU FREAKIN' SERIOUS???  Chocolate milk?  Uh-huh.  Let me tell you, folks, my kids go to school where there are (we never had 'em) vending machines with carbonated bevcerages - Coke, Sprite, Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew (great for school), and others.  They also have Chik-Fil-A for lunch.  That's one of the options!  i swear, we had salisbury steak that was tricked up to look like a burger.  Cardboard with some tomato sauce and cheese that they called pizza.  These kids get fast food and Coke....and they want to remove chocolate milk?  I am so close to using a four-letter word right now.  Yes, THAT one.  The BIG one.  Just to scream it. I can't....but remember the 'Crossroads' I mentioned way back when I started this piece?  I think I found my calling.  I'm thinking about a 48-State tour to get the word out - The Insanity Has Begun!  I think it might work.  Any thoughts?  Screw it, I'm going for it....

Until next time.........

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day (I mean, what else would I write about?)

I've been trying to figure out what to say for Mother's Day without sounding like a Hallmark card.  Yeah, we can all get mushy and tell her how much she means to us, but do we really ever pick a card that say what we're actually thinking?  I could never find one that said it perfectly.  They aren't long enough.  So, I just figured I would say it here with an open letter to her.  If I nail it, she'll be happy.  If I don't, well.....I know Mom - She'll tell me she was anyway.  The easiest way would be to say, "Dear Mom, thanks for everything.  I appreciate it and really love you.  Love, Me."  See?  Nailed it first try.  Wait, maybe I'd better try a little harder.

Dear Mom,

Thanks just doesn't seem to really be enough.  I remember everything you've done for my sister and I, even if you don't.  I remember (the stories) of you putting yourself through college even though you already had a son.  I remember having to spend hours with a great-grandmother because you worked until 6:00 p.m. and, though some would view the glass as half-empty, I appreciated it because I got to spend time with her AND knew you were doing it so we could have more.  You worked harder than any woman (or man) to provide more for us than most had.  You gave us stable lives, even as you went through two divorces.  You kept us grounded, taught us right from wrong, taught us manners, taught us to...well, care.  I remember Christmases past when you made it seem like the presents would never end.  I remember you taking us to visit relatives, Dutch Wonderland, Fantasyland, even the trip to Colonial Williamsburg.  How about the vacation to Wisconsin when we ended up in Canton, OH and got to go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Okay, I 'm guessing that wasn't your choice....but I remember it and loved it.  I remember spending time with you after divorce number 2...and how we talked for hours and became better friends.  I remember spending time at the house on Stock St and sitting on the front porch with friends, many nights, sharing good times.  I remember how you were with my friends, and how many of them thought of you as a "second mom" when I was busy trying to pretend I didn't have one.  It took me a long time to realize how special those times were....and I hope I did nothing to make you feel bad......ever.  I guess what I am trying to say is....you done good as far as I can tell.  You've raised two kids who like themselves and others.  We're happy with who we've become and how our lives have turned out.  We learned love, caring, and compassion from you and for that I am eternally grateful.  I love my family and my friends, and can tell them that, freely, because of how you raised us.  I just cannot say 'thank you' enough and it doesn't seem to be enough when I do.  Please know that you are loved, dearly, by your children and grandchildren.  You've got a lasting legacy you can be proud of and, when the time comes, if you ever ask yourself if your life was 'worth it' and if you made a difference, please know that you did.  The lives you have touched are better for having known you.  We all are.  See?  This is why there is no Hallmark card that says what I needed it do say.  I ramble.....Hallmark doesn't.  They cut to the chase in 50 words or less.  I love you, appreciate you, and am proud that you're my Mom every day.

For the other 'Momma' in my life - you, too, are very special to me and I appreciate you more than you know.  From dealing with Dad to giving me a place to stay years ago, I am indebted to you always.  I consider you a dear friend and love you very much.  I would do anything for you as well.  All you have to do is ask.  For the relatively short time you have been in my life, you have garnered more of my love than you know.  We are family and, even after Dad's death, will remain so forever.  I love you, Momma L.  happy Mother's Day.

For my friends, most of whom I have grown up with that have mothers I love - please pass along my sentiments.  They have raised you to be great people, too, and I will always love them as well.  There are other mothers that, sadly, have passed before their time.  Fortunately, I still see them in their adult children.  Those mothers raised their children well and if they were here today would tell them how proud they are of them.  These mothers are missed greatly, yet have made a lasting impact on us all.

For any other mothers reading this - Happy Mother's Day.  You have a thankless job, yet I never hear any of you complain.  Actually, I find it wuite the opposite.  You cook, clean, wipe runny noses, put band-aids on cuts, and do everything else in the job description of 'Mom'.  We are all more thankful than you can imagine and hope that this year, and every year in the future, brings you the best on Mother's day.  We love you.

Until next time........

Friday, May 6, 2011

Police Brutality...or Parents Asleep at The Wheel?

If you've found your way here today, and saw the FB post earlier, you know what this is about.  Phoenix, AZ two months ago.  A fifteen-year old female, already in a school for 'wayward' youths, was assaulting her mother in the parking lot of a strip mall.  The video clearly shows mom on her knees while grabbing the daughter, somewhat, around her waist...as the teen manages to punch her in the face.  Again, let me reiterate - kid hitting mom in the face with her fists.  Apparently, mom didn't fold the laundry 'just right' and she was irate.  Okay, I made that part up.  Here's the real story: the girl was at school, drunk and belligerent, was giving alcohol to her classmates (I mentioned it was a school for kids with issues, right?), and had assaulted a teacher.  Fifteen-years old.  I know, I am repeating myself.....but that's because my daughter is the same age.  So she has all these things going for her and mom comes to school, I'm assuming, to pick her up.  Mom, however, has already called the police.  The police arrive and find her slapping, nay punching, mom in the face in the parking lot.  The video is available on YouTube.  The girl then starts to walk away as if nothing has happened when, from about ten yards away, the officer breaks into a sprint to get to her.  As he approaches, the girl (sensing her pending 'Uh-oh' moment), turns just in time for the linebacker, er, I mean officer, to shove her...into a wall.  Her body careens into the wall and she crumples to the ground like a lifeless doll.  Police officer cuffs her and walks her to the patrol car.  There's the story...that ends with the officer being put on administrative leave without pay pending criminal and internal investigations.  It is also important to note that neither the girl or her mother has filed any criminal charges.  Bold print, folks - important stuff!  Now, let's delve into the "Who should be getting punished and why did this happen," portion of our program, shall we?

I've searched several pages about this particular situation and the first word in some of the identifying captions was, "BRUTAL!"  I have to admit, when first viewed on TV, this could have been seen as extreme but I'm not sure 'brutal' was the best word to use.  Could the officer have used less force?  Most likely.  Could he have accomplished the same thing without slamming her into the wall or 'body-checking' her?  I think so.  Note that, with both of these questions, I did not say definitively "Yes".  I can't...and neither can anyone else.  Believe me, I am not defending the officer's actions.  I have friends that are in law enforcement and have had my own personal interaction with '5-0', so I can see this from both sides.  I will say, too, that many of us have had experiences with inebriated individuals.  They aren't the easiest people in the world to deal with when they've been drinking, either mentally or physically.  I can suggest what the officer should have done but I'm not a policeman and I wasn't there.  Videos, for the most part, are only part of the picture.  Too often, the police officers are charged with maintaining order and have to deal with these types of situations, yet when they use even reasonable force they are criticized.  Maybe we all need to remember the 'Until you walk a mile in my shoes' adage.  Now, for the 'counter-point' part of the discussion....

This girl was.....no, I've said it enough.  You know how old she is.....or, rather, how young.  Drunk at school and providing alcohol for classmates AND assaulted a teacher.  Are you kidding me?  I'm sorry, but it's hard enough for us to find quality teachers in this day and age.  They have been, as I mentioned previously, put in a horrendous situation because they are no longer allowed to discipline students.  Someone, though I am not sure whom or when, decided it was a bad thing for teachers to do this.  Most likely, a teacher went too far at one point and caused bodily injury so instead of punishing that one individual, we made it illegal for them to do it at all.  Now, we have teachers fearing for their lives in certain situations and unable to do what they are trained to do - teach.  Sadly, the parents, too, have made matters worse.  In our day (ooh, dreaded term), if our posterior ends met with the wooden paddles (nicest way I could say it) in school, you could count on getting the same treatment at home, if not worse.  It was standard practice and it was deserved.  Now, however, teachers may not discipline the students and parents have decided they won't either.  That last statement is not entirely true.  I should say that parents, too, are unable to discipline their kids because they are afraid they will be jailed for abuse.  I have friends who've told me their kids were told in school, "All you have to do if your parents hit you is call 911."  They never said, "If your parents abuse you, call 911," nor did they say, "If your parents discipline you."  Can you tell this is a big issue with me?  I hate it.  Kids need to respect their parents AND authority.  This girl, obviously, has problems and no one seems to be able to handle her.  Now, finally, they will be handled by the Juvenile Justice System.  Later, I'm fairly certain, they'll be handled by the State Correctional System.  Yes, all this stems from someone (wish I could get my hands on them) deciding that spankings are bad.  Which one of those freak doctors that wrote books in the 70's was the genius that came up with this plan?  Who decided 'time-outs' were good ideas?  I fear, in the coming years, we will see a second study that says, "Oops, we made a mistake.  We might have been wrong."  I'm okay with that if we're talking about two glasses of red wine being good for your health when consumed daily.  If they come back years later to dispute that finding, well.....then I'm just out a lot of bucks and have fond memories.  With this situation, though, we're allowing respect, overall, to deteriorate.  Personal opinion, I know, and please don't think I am advocating beating your kids (not always, anyway).  That was a joke....relax.  These situations need to stop....for ALL concerned.

Lastly, we need to thank all those with camera phones and the ACLU.  My advice - get a life and be part of the solution.  Inciting people to rebel against the police is not responsible and leading us down an extremely slippery slope.  We're creating our own 'end' by tearing at the very fabric of what is right and just.  We need to start becoming more respectful and maybe, just maybe, there will be fewer incidents like this.  I know we don't all like the police - I get it.  The problem, as I am beginning to notice, is with the 'Next Generation' - the one right after the 'Baby Boomers'.  We wanted to give them more, be more gentle with them, allow them more freedom...and look what they've done with it.  Time to tighten the reins and bring this situation back to center.  We need that balance and it isn't there.  How do we do it?  One case at a time.  Like I've said on many occasions - spend time with your kids.  Talk to them.  Teach them.  Let them know, from the early days of their lives, that manners and respect are not optional.  We are a great society and a great country BECAUSE of those things, not in spite of them.  Yes, this is one of my 'soapbox' issues and I will continue this journey......hopefully, side by side with many of you.  We can do this.  We owe it to our kids.  Otherwise, they will end up as the girl in this story...and just think how hard it will be to reverse the trend rather than teaching it from the beginning. 

Thanks again for reading - I always appreciate it.  Leave a comment, too.  I'd like to know, seriously, if I'm standing in left field alone.....

Until next time.............

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Inspiration...and the ongoing saga of the dead guy.

First, let me apologize.  Last night's blog was.....well, horrendous.  So bad that I deleted it.  I do have standards, you know.  You didn't know?  Well, I do...and that certainly didn't measure up.  Again, forgive me.  Quite honestly, it sucked.  Out loud.  Tonight, however, I've watched the news, spoken to friends, and come up with fodder for conversation.

The only word I could think of that best sums it up is 'Inspiration'.  It has now been one week since the country, most notably the southeast, saw the most tornadoes ever recorded in a single day - 226.  Amazing.  226 tornadoes in a single day and a death toll well over 300 with more than an additional 300 still missing.  In the past week, stories have emerged that have disgusted most people, and other stories that prove incredibly inspirational.  The bad news?  People have begun looting the homes ravaged by the tornado in Tuscaloosa and other remote areas of the state.  The police have instituted a curfew from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.  It's been helping and they promise to prosecute everyone involved.  I, personally, have my own idea of how to serve justice in these cases.  I say we put the offenders in a wind tunnel, crank up the air to at least 190 mph, then let the homeowners and neighbors toss things into the wind.  We'll even let them use pointy, metal objects.  I'm not positive but think it might be a deterrent.  Just a thought. 

The good news, though, is so much better and the stories are emerging more every day.  Take, for example, the gentleman that found $10,200.00 in cash, $3,000.00 in silver dollars, and 18 guns.  He returned them all.  Simply took them to a police station, told them there was no identification but that someone must be missing these items.  How many people would do that?  Most, we hope, but.....are we sure?  One of the most inspirational stories was how, in one particular county, the news anchors told of the upcoming prom at the high school.  Most of the county had been devastated but the prom would go on.  The trouble is that many of the families had lost their homes and their daughters had no prom dresses.  The call went out and within 24 hours there were 200 prom dresses donated.  All shapes and sizes, any color imaginable.  They kept coming, too, and are now at well over 400 dresses.  The Pro-Am golf tournament that was held today will benefit the relief fund....and the pro golfers that came to town brought gifts.  Clothing, money, and many other items sorely needed by the survivors.  There were two trailer loads of 5-gallon buckets that arrived earlier in the week.  These buckets, from a group called God's Pit Crew, were filled with cleaning supplies, toiletries, and other essentials that the citizens need.  I know...and I understand - your first thought is that, of course people are bringing things.  It's what they do.  My mind, however, goes back to the days of Katrina when we saw so many at the Superdome in New Orleans.  How much was needed and how it took forever to get there.  Maybe it's true.  Perhaps we do learn from our mistakes and, in a time when we are all too eager to help 'aid' other nations, at least we, that are not in politics, know how to help each other first.

I was speaking with a friend today and the question was posed - "Are the people there depressed?  How are they doing?"  My answer was quite simple and why, as I mentioned earlier in the week, I am proud to live here and consider myself an Alabamian.  Yes, I will always call PA home, however this is where I live now and I am extremely proud of that fact.  The people here are not depressed - they are reactive.  They looked around after the storms had passed and, in true southern fashion....in  true American fashion.....responded with simple actions that seemed to say, "Wow, that was a big one.  Hmmm.....looks like a pretty big mess.  Damn, we lost a lot of stuff.....and, sadly, a lot of lives.  We're still here, though, and this mess ain't cleaning itself.  C'mon, let's get to it."  That is the attitude they displayed and the attitude that continues.  We can get knocked down, you can kick us when we're down, but for God's sake finish the job if you don't want us to get up...because we will.  Trust me, the people of this area will take care of this mess because it is what they do.  They survive.  They help each other, gladly, and then take care of their own issues.  The south is a wonderful place and if you haven't been here for awhile, give us some time.....then come to visit.  The 'Southern Voice' is alive and well....and resonates deep within all that live here.  Amazing.

On another note, and speaking of the dead guy (I'm tired of mentioning him by name), can we please get past the fact that he was unarmed.  I really am quite tired of reporters, digging for any nugget of 'news', that begin to make issues out of ridiculous things.  He was unarmed?  Yes, so were the people on 4 airplanes back in 2001.  So were the sailors on the USS Cole.  So was every other American that this coward and his brethren killed from afar.  They used bombs to get the biggest body count.  He never got close enough to look them in the eye before killing them.  I believe some of the 'hood's finest drug dealers are less cowardly than this piece of dirt.  Here's my take on it - I really could not care less if he was unarmed.  He took a shot to the head and two to the chest.  He got off easy, in my opinion.  What had someone said earlier?  He wanted to meet 72 virgins on a beach.....and instead met 27 SEALS from Virginia Beach.  Damn shame, huh - NOT!  The other point being raised and argued, again, is the effectiveness and legality of interrogation techniques.  Waterboarding, in particular.  Let me say again for those in the back of the class - these are terrorists and extremists.  I DO NOT CARE what interrogation techniques we use.  Keep my family, and all Americans, safe and I am fine with it.  Want to argue the point?  I'm in.....and you won't win.  Don't try giving me the only argument I've heard to date, either.  It's a violation of their human rights.  Seriously?  How dare you even think that?  Read the news...and let me know who's rights have truly been violated.  Please, everyone....take a pill and come back to reality.  That, for the moment, is my plan.  The reality, not the pill.  Thanks again for letting me vent.....it has been one of those days.....

Until next time........

Monday, May 2, 2011

Where Were You When The World Resumed Turning.....?

For nearly ten years, we have all been haunted by the words, immortalized by Alan Jackson, of the song, "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?".  I'm sure, for most of us, we fit into one of the categories of which Jackson sang when he spoke of "teaching a class of innocent children, or driving down some cold interstate".  We all remember that fateful day, September 11, 2001.  The day our lives, and the world, changed in an instant.  A 'relative' instant.  I'm sure it didn't feel like 'an instant' for the people trapped inside the hijacked planes or in the World Trade Center towers.  That, for them, must have felt like an eternity.  How many of us, show of hands, remembers rushing home (after calling our families) only to be glued to the television.....riveted....for hours as they replayed the searing images of those planes.  Those incredibly large, fast-moving planes flying into the glass and steel of the Towers...only to watch the pieces of glass and concrete fly apart like a pinata slapped by a stick.  We watched in horror as the smoke billowed from their gaping wounds, certain that the NYPD and NYFD would arrive in time to save the day.  They had to - it's what they do.  While hundreds rushed out of these buildings filled with smoke and debris, men and women rushed IN.  They climbed the stairs as others came down, knowing they could reach the lives stranded above in time.  They couldn't.  They didn't.  Then, as we watched, transfixed and disbelieving, they fell.  They came crashing down as if someone had poured a giant glass of water on a sandcastle.  They disappeared before our eyes....and we wept.  For the souls that were on those planes, in the Towers, and their saviours that would not reach them in time.  A nation, collectively, mourned...and then, something miraculous happened.  We spoke more kindly to each other.  We spoke to strangers, we were gentler with our families, we.....cared.  I remember that time and, as if it were yesterday, remember the collective soul of a nation reborn.  I cannot, to this day, remember a time when I saw more united States flags flying from the front porches of homes.  We were as one then.....and our resolve to 'right this wrong' was felt by us all.  We held benefits and concerts.  Prime-time television aired a two-hour special with some of the biggest names in show business.  I remember - I bought the DVD.  We remember the President in a school in Florida hastily exiting so he could manage the crisis...and, for the first time in our lives, a sky void of air traffic.  For days, we looked to the sky and heard not a sound of jet engines, nor saw the faint glint of a plane as the sun reflected off its' steel body.  It was an exceptional, different time...and one we will never forget.

Osama bin Laden - a name we became all too familiar with that day.  Kind, gentle people spoke words of hate and death.  Given the opportunity, I'm not sure an 80-year old grandmother might not have beheaded him in a town square for all to see.  We saw a side of ourselves that we did not want to see, ever, on that day.  I am reminded of a line from (again) The West Wing (Aaron Sorkin is one hell of a writer so he deserves the credit) - More than any time in recent history, America's destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people's strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive.  We have risen mightily to master that specific moment...and will continue.  Yesterday, May 1, 2011, marked our arrival at one point on that journey as we heard the President announce, late on a Sunday evening, the words we had longed to hear - Osama bin Laden is dead.  Some thought we'd never hear those words in our lifetime.  He had managed to elude and escape us for almost ten years.  I assume he thought we did not know the meaning of the word 'perseverance'.  I assume, too, he forgot about the Navy SEALS.  Severe error in judgement, apparently.  For it was SEAL Team 6, based in Norfolk, VA, that was his final enemy and combatant.  The SEALS, who are almost mythological beings and the closest we have to super-heroes, were sent to take out this heartless, cowardly being.  They accomplished their mission with surgical precision, suffering zero American casualties in the process.  This is what they do.  Osama bin Laden is dead.

For years, we of this generation heard the stories of how our Vietnam veterans were treated upon their return.  We, as a generation (I am proud to say) have learned from the mistakes of our fathers.  We are proud of our military and understand and appreciate they are performing a thankless task.  They do it for a meager salary while they miss first steps and holidays, proms and graduations.  They do it for us, their fellow Americans.  In a time when our government was debating and playing politics with the federal budget, they face making half their usual income.  How dare we?  We see them now, though, and we thank them...publicly.  I remember the Budweiser commercial as military personnel walked through an airport and the crowd began to applaud.  We owe it to them and they deserve it.  I have told the story, countless times, when I met the father of a sailor lost on the USS Cole (another of bin Laden's criminal acts).  How his eyes welled up with tears when I spoke to him and thanked him for giving what most cannot imagine - the life of a child in the service to country.  It moved me...and I implore each of you to do the same.  Thank them publicly.  Buy them a drink or a meal.  It is, as I said, a small price to pay for knowing they allow our children to grow up a bit safer in a world filled with more terrorists.  These are the heroes of a generation and no 'thanks' will ever be enough.  The brave men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard for things we cannot imagine.  The absolute beauty of the most highly-trained and specialized is that their efforts will, most likely, never be known.  We will probably never know the name of the person that fired his weapon and killed bin Laden.....and they are okay with that.  They do this, not for notoriety, but for serving their country.  To me, it is the definition of nobility.  I admire and respect them....and we all should.

I've heard others, too, take to social media such as Facebook and Twtter to either praise the President or curse his predecessor.  They want to chastise and curse Donald Trump for belaboring the birth certificate issue.  They want to say that president Obama did what President Bush could not.  Please, for the love of God and country, try to remember that this was a joint effort.  Neither President Bush nor President Obama caught and killed bin Laden.  They were mere pieces of the puzzle that allowed our collective military and intelligence agencies to find and exterminate him.  Let us, please, not play politics with this situation as it was a day for our country, collectively, to breathe a little easier.  We must stop pitting one side against the other and find compromise for the common good.  Rather than deciding what you won't let the other have, why not figure out a solution that best suits all involved.  Then we'd be happy.  Today is for rejoicing in that we have, in many ways, caused a major setback for terrorists worldwide.  A cowardly man they called their leader is dead.  By most reports, he used a woman as a human shield or she took a bullet for him.  Either way, terrorists fight in a cowardly manner.  My opinion...and I believe it.

Do I think this means the War on Terror is over?  Hardly.  Do I think there will be retribution?  Most likely.  I will say this, though - we have been told, since 9/11/01, that the only way terrorists win is if we allow them to terrorize us.  Think about that.  Their sole purpose is to strike fear in the hearts of Americans.  I think we have the ability to change the War on Terror within every American.....and all we have to do is take a lesson from the Navy SEALS that dropped in to Pakistan yesterday.  Yes, there were potential life-endings dangers awaiting them.  They went in anyway.  If we refuse to be terrorized and refuse to be scared, they cannot win.  I think we can all agree, we are born to die.  Some will die younger than others, some will live long lives, but we will ALL eventually die.  I'm not saying any of us wants to die.....I'm saying we all will die.  Why should we allow someone crazy and cowardly to scare us into leading lives as hermits?  Why will we allow them to make us live in fear?  Yes, there is a possibility that we could, yet again, face a terrorist attack on US soil.  We have put systems in place to try to minimize those chances but it could, indeed, happen.  By the way.....we put stop lights and signs telling you when to 'walk' and 'don't walk' at intersections.  People still get hit because someone ignored them or ran the light.  You will never be 100% safe.  We're talking about irrational people that will gladly take dynamite and strap it to their chest, all in the name of killing Americans.  It's been my experience that, if they're THAT crazy, you can't protect yourself anyway.  DO NOT let them win.

I thought, too, about how we took to the streets last night cheering for our country.  I remember watching this same ritual in the Middle East and wondered, what could ever happen here to cause us to act like that?  What events could take place that would cause us to jump around screaming happily that a man was dead?  Sadly, I now know.  it takes some incredible kind of monster to get us to act that way.  We are a more civilized bunch, we Americans.  This man, however, brought out the worst in us...and everyone in the world.  Fortunately, the United States military got the call to restore some semblance of order to this planet.  Hopefully, we can all live our lives free of as much worry as we had, content in the knowledge that there are Soldiers and Sailors, Airmen and Marines willing to protect our country as they always have.  I salute them and can say, today, that I am extremely proud of them and of being an American.  There's really no place else I'd rather be.......

Until next time..........