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Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Okay, I’m Different—I Understand That

peach and walnut cutting board

One of Graham’s recent cutting boards.

Today was crafts day….both Graham and I are working hard, preparing for a market next Saturday. He’s working out in the shop (a garage? What’s that?) and I am sewing sewing sewing as rapidly as I can without needing to pull out stitches and resew.

My sister called and asked me if I had time for her to stop by. Of course. She wanted to see if we could talk to a good friend to design some earrings. I called, yes, and so we did. Not a big interruption for me, but what happened during that visit had me thinking…and when I get to thinking, I start composing another blog.

See, I met that artisan a few months ago and based on that initial 2 hour interaction, I invited her into our home for dinner and have been building what I hope will be a precious friendship. We have a lot of differences….her pathway that brought her to this here and now has taken her to places I never have experienced. Some seem pretty exotic to me, so I am eager to hear whatever stories she chooses to share.  And some have been downright painful and all I can do is offer a sympathetic ear and a hand to hold to let her know she has made it safely through.  But we also have some really profound similarities….and one is in the belief that we are here to do good and another is that sad understanding that few people have that goal. acceptance

She said something today that got me thinking. She had no idea who I was and there I was inviting her into our home, accepting her as she was. She said she is waiting for the other shoe to fall; for me to turn on her. That is her experience.

That apparently is also the experience several others I know and hold dearly also have had.  So, all I can tell them is I am me. As unusual as it may be in your life, I am who I appear to be.  I will be a friend to them as long as they don’t hurt me. And when they do, as soon as they do, the first thing I will do is go to them and talk. I will say, “when you did this to me, I felt this way” and hopefully we can clear the air.  If we can’t work it out, then yes, I cut my losses. I will not set myself up to be abused.  Been there, done that.

See, I am pretty disgusted at the number of people in my own life, let alone all I hear about, people who pledged and promised love and honor for life, that turn.  Perhaps, they never really cared.  It was perhaps some kind of game. “As long as you make me happy, I will stay with you and maybe make you happy.” The way I see it, that kind of person is rarely happy. They look for something outside themselves to take care of that.

It will never happen. And so, this is one way I am different. I know how to be happy. To set a goal that will offer enough of a challenge to make it interesting but within the scope of my talents and experience is an example of a fun time for me. I’ve been lucky to be able to get to the point in my life where this is more normal than unusual…and so, I am happy.  And different from most other people.different-3


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We’re Closer Than You Think

THEY want us to be fragmented. THEY don’t want us to realize that we have so much in common that we join against them so they continuously feed us news about how we are fighting each other.

It’s time to stop listening to THEM and start listening to each other.

For example, I know you love your guns and I know you have the right to own them. I also know that since Obama became President the NRA and gun manufacturers have had a massive campaign telling you that your guns would be taken away from you.  Hasn’t happened, has it?  So, take a deep breath and join in the discussion the concerned people are having about all these damn killings. We non-gun owners don’t want you to lose your gun. We want the guns that are “out there” kept out of the hands of 3-year-olds (and 8-year-olds offered inappropriate experiences at gun ranges) and we do want a control on the guns getting into the hands of people who use them to express their anger, like estranged spouses or stalkers with restraining orders.  I think you want the same thing. You want this to be a safer place. Join the discussion. We’re closer than you think.gun-safety-poster

Another example: we hear the unemployment rate is way down, and I suppose that the way the government collects that data, it is. But here on the street we feel something otherwise. My own search for a job in the 18 months we have been in Oregon is a pretty good example.  I have a pretty diverse background and years (and years and years) of experience so I have applied to about 50 positions. I have had four interviews. Yup…and the rest? Some never even acknowledged receipt of the application.  Few sent a message about thanks but no thanks. So, I have stopped looking and am starting my own business. I guess that means I am not counted as unemployed any more. But the reality, of course, is that there is still no income generation flowing into our household budget yet.  So, what’s the problem? Well, in my case it may be ageism, the last bastion of discrimination. They can’t ask birthdate any longer but they do ask date of high school graduation. Duh. let’s see, estimate 18 years old at graduation and age 40-some years. Uh huh. Old…into the trash. Or, “too” experienced. One person actually told me I was overqualified and would be bored. No, damnit! It would be easy! I could do it with one hand tied behind my back, letting me shine for you. (okay, bitch bitch moan moan….deep breath move on)  The point is that current government policies (some good, some bad, some indifferent) have resulted in corporations moving their workforce out of the United States (without any consideration other than their profits to what that does to the local or national economy).  Some places have become so automated human personnel have dropped tremendously in the past few decades. And small business owners hire part-time workers at low wages in order to avoid taxes/fees/whatever. Some places have an amazing revolving door with their new hires but still have not caught on if they just raise the salary and be more discriminating in the expertise of the people they hire they could get someone who could do the job.  Pay a bit more so the worker can have ONE job to help the family manage and have energy to come to work refreshed and eager each day.  Offer decent time off for illness/vacation/personal time so the worker can actually get some things done to maintain their own health, for example, thereby being able and willing to be at work with full attention to the job. I know you feel the same way. We’re closer than you think.

technological-unemployment

Technology and Unemployment: The Future of the Labor Market and … pennpoliticalreview.org

Just about everyone I know has grave disappointment in the education our kids are getting. Schools are testing like crazy and scores are supposedly showing improvement but many people can not read (even this chatty kind of writing) and most can’t do simple math. Life skills? I heard recently from a friend who is the director of a social service program at a local church that she is starting a cooking class for very young kids because in many families there are three generations who do not know how to cook and the household has no cooking equipment. How about being able to present and listen to both sides of an argument? By teaching kids how to debate both sides of an issue you help teach them to listen to two sides of an issue.  You know it is hard to listen to people who rant and rave , but a calm presentation of the “other” viewpoint can be a mind opener. You know I listen to you and I know you feel the same way. We’re closer than you think.EmilysQuotes.Com-purpose-reason-learning-score-test-mistake-failure-education-intelligent-Jeannie-Fulbright

I volunteered to help with a state legislative campaign this past fall after meeting the candidate and listening to his position on the issues. I offered to make phone calls to ask people what they thought was the biggest issue facing the state and here was my experience. Each evening I worked I made 200 calls. I reached 20 people. I spoke with five. The other 15 told me things like they “don’t discuss politics” (wait a second–this is the time to do it-I promise NO argument!), “it’s meaningless what I think” (only if you don’t share it), “I always vote the straight party line” (and how has that worked for you in the past?).  I understand that with the Koch brothers buying candidates who will support their agenda, many people feel that national politics no longer is representative of what they think. (Suggestion: don’t vote for those candidate and yes, you CAN find out who has contributed to their campaign.)  I understand that even on a state level the massive amount of money that is now allowed to pour in influences the decision making. On a local level, we still may have time to grab and hold on to our government…but only if you move now.  There is a lot a grassroots movement can do, but you have to move now. There is a groundswell demanding that state legislatures call for an amendment to the Constitution that will overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision. Your voice is needed now. I know you feel the same way. We’re closer than you think.citizensunited

THEY want us to be fragmented. THEY don’t want us to realize that we have so much in common that we join against them so they continuously feed us news about how we are fighting each other.

It’s time to stop listening to THEM and start listening to each other.

 

 


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Almost There

fishing-hooks1My sister, upon hearing the story, asked repeatedly, “Didn’t you know then?”  No, no and no. When a scam artist, especially one who has been operating for over 40 years plays you, you are hooked on his line. Nothing stands out to wave a red flag. I’m mixing metaphors but you get the picture.

I think I told the story already but I’ll recap it: To get ready for our move from West Virginia to Oregon we scheduled a trip a month before we expected to make the big move. We connected with a realtor in McMinnville, explaining we wanted to rent for a year to be sure we were in the right place before purchasing a house. We asked her to help make the appointments for the 10 or so properties I had pulled from Craigslist and that we would work with her in a year when we would buy something.  She assured us she would help.

But she never called any of the properties so we only got into the one that I had called directly. We met the owner there on a Sunday afternoon. We had gone to the church we expected to attend that morning , so we were dressed nicely. Another family with three small children also were at the house. Graham and I looked at each other, figuring we were the better risk; the rental would be ours.  And sure enough, he offered to get it ready for us in the month and I wrote him a check for first, last and security, about $2450.

About three weeks later Graham was knocked out of his chair when he read the online edition of the Portland newspaper that it had been a rental scam. Two friends met and each shared the exciting news that their adult kid was renting a house nearby…it was exciting until they shared the address. And then they went to the police.fraud-alert1

Okay, I’m not recapping, so I’ll shorten it now. Jerry was caught. His name was different than he had told us. He went to jail, posted bail. Court hearings were held bi-monthly to try to arrange full restitution to all victims. Each month his attorney reported some inability to follow through. The judge told him the next hearing it was put up the money or go to a jury trial. Jerry did not show up.  When he was apprehended he was put in jail with a bail too high to pay. And there he sat.

In the fall we were notified that there was real person involved with the name we had been given for the check and we appeared in court for that person’s plea bargain hearing. He is out on probation and is supposed to pay full restitution but golly gee, can’t get a job.  We’re not holding our breath.

So today was Jerry’s plea bargain hearing. He was facing a jury trial so a plea bargain was at least a known. A jury of his peers may have thrown a heavier book at him after all.

So, now Jerry is going to prison for 11 years. The $15,000 bond will be prorated to all the victims, as it is not the full amount that needs to be repaid.  The rest of the outstanding money will be supposedly  paid when Jerry gets out of prison (and gets a job hahahahaha). Of course, the other guy is supposed to pay restitution, so perhaps he will be able to since the amount he will be responsible for will be lower.light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel

So, that is the story…not quite finished. But at least almost there. I want to share a couple of impressions I got sitting in court listening to pleas and sentencing about six times in the past 15 months.

We have a lot of people in our society who want what they want when they want it. They don’t think about making a plan to achieve a goal. Hell, they probably make few if any long term goals. They don’t think about how their actions affect anyone else…until they get caught. I heard a lot of apologies, even from sociopathic Jerry. Yeah, he’s sorry. He’s sorry he got caught.

The judge today was a new person. I liked her. She talked loudly and clearly and simply. She told the person what she thought, good bad or indifferent. She told Jerry she didn’t believe he would ever learn anything but perhaps, in prison, his effort to scam people would be limited to others in prison. The prior judges had seemed to be way too lenient setting up an action plan after listening to the defendant’s sob story.

Many of these people seem to be in a revolving door, unable or unwilling to earn their living, make their way, follow simple rules.  The rules are not meant for them.

If you know anyone who is in this kind of rut and I am offending you, please explain your perspective. All I know is how this event affected us, and we were in the best financial position of all the victims and yet that loss of $2450 for all this time has stopped us from something important. Many of the others have still not recovered and have had to move in with family, thereby affecting more people.  uneven_scales_sm


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There’s Something in the Water

Something is going on.

In the past three weeks five people I know have had babies. In the next two weeks, several more babies are due. The problem is not that there are so many wonderful babies born, the issue is it is all around the country so potentially more difficult to avoid if it is spread in the water. Be careful. Maybe drink beer or wine instead. stork-and-newborn-baby-cartoon

Also in the past couple of weeks several of my friends have been going through difficult times. Loss of jobs, illness, marriage issues, needing to move, you name it.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????So I put a light hearted spin on the babies, but in reality, life throws huge curveballs sometimes.  And there are times in life that it feels that the issues are all there are to deal with with no “normal” time happening.  Lots of issues that will cause a major change.  Babies do that also.

So, why is it that just when you need to face a needed adjustment, all you feel like doing is staying in bed?  At the time you need to think clearly, all your issues are making your head spin.

You need to forget how it will look and reach for help. If you have a reliable partner, share, talk, hug, cry, plan. If you don’t, call a friend. You and I know that when the going gets tough, only true friends walk with you. The others scatter, as if it is contagious. Better off without them. Note their action but do not spend one iota of energy mourning their loss.

But remember to reach. And if no friends surround you, get thee to a professional. Someone who has expertise in the area where you need the help. Don’t put on your game face. Give an honest picture of where your head is, your heart is, your finances are.  Only with honesty, essentially to yourself, can you get on the pathway to healing.

And besides, beer and wine won’t help. You need to take those steps, albeit difficult, to look yourself in the mirror, into your heart, tell yourself you deserve better, and then work for it.

Why? Because you are loved. You are important. I need you in my life.

You hear me?two-people-holding-hands-you-are-not-alone


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Blame It All on Obama

So, I read once again this morning that it is Obama’s fault. Specifically this morning it was about some unhinged individual who took his gun and travelled to Brooklyn to kill some cops. It’s Obama’s fault.

I really have trouble with the President being blamed with all that is wrong. So, let’s examine our own behavior because it is the collection ALL OF US that makes up American society.not me

Do you chose to go to the movies and pay $8 or more to watch bloodshed and violence?  Do you consider it really cool when someone goes around and starts “making things right” by killing and destroying. Then YOU are contributing to the attitude that supports riots after something happens that angers people.Einstein logic

diet-soda2Do you chose to ignore the advice that artificial sweeteners have been a major reason why there are so many overweight Americans with health issues? When you grab that diet soda, YOU are contributing to your own health decline and the crisis we have in the United States with rising health care costs.

Do you chose to drive your favorite ride whenever you want to go without considering fuel efficiency or planning to run all your errands at one to time to minimize adding emissions to the air? Then YOU are contributing to dependence on oil and poor air quality?

Do you encourage your girl children to be “pretty” and your boy children to be “tough”? Then YOU are contributing to gender role problems and all the issues that lead up to the high level of sexual assault and rape on college campuses, discrimination against gays, ill treatment of anyone who is different.

kid in front of computerDo you encourage your children to play with their electronic games to keep them from bothering you? Then YOU are abdicating your parenting to the values others will give them.  Don’t blame the schools for not teaching your kids if you are not teaching your kids.

Do you rant and rave when something gets you angry or upset and blame problems on others?  Then YOU are demonstrating that anger is justified and you are rolling over and permitting anyone who has power over you to control you.

This meme made the rounds on Facebook and so many people "liked" it. What does it say about us when we enjoy seeing a baby encouraged to pose this way? Worse, what does it say about how this child is going to be raised to demonstrate anger?

This meme made the rounds on Facebook and so many people “liked” it. What does it say about us when we enjoy seeing a baby encouraged to pose this way? Worse, what does it say about how this child is going to be raised to demonstrate anger?

WE are society. If you do not like something you need to DO something about it. Yelling, writing a tirade (yeah, even this one) without positive action is only contributing to the anger level.

WE are society. If you see so much is wrong you are at a loss to know where to start, start in your own home first. Teach your children  to strive for excellence, not complacency. Don’t do just enough to get by, aim for the best you can do. Teach your children that respect for others is the way to go.  Don’t teach them to “screw them before they screw you” as one person quoted his version of the Golden Rule.taking-personal-responsibility2

WE are society. Get involved. If the concept of contacting your representative in Congress is too hard, go contact your neighbor. The person next door. Help with a chore. Bring them some cookies. Shovel their walk. Offer to take them to the store. Get to know them.

WE are society.  Stop blaming the President. We elected him, twice. With large margins. Soon we will be participating in another election process. This time, stretch your own thinking and go to a nonpartisan source to read about all the candidates. A site like procon.org which will present facts, not editorials, about each candidate and even provide a questionnaire to see which candidate is most aligned with your thinking. You may be surprised. Be your own thinker next time.

WE are society. You don’t like the way America has become. Change what YOU are doing and set the pathway on the right course.Society-Needs-People-Like-You

 

 


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Success Is Not a Straight Line

Years ago, when I was young and considerably more foolish than I am now, I asked a man what his goal in life was.  He told me he wanted to be rich. He could not define what amount of money would make him feel rich nor could he tell me any plan he had to achieve that vague concept. I asked him how he expected to get there and he actually felt it would just happen. The stars would align or something. Maybe his good looks.   So, 30 years later, he still is not “rich” and he is very angry with the way his life has turned out. planning future

Most people never have a plan. They may have a vague idea…someday I want to drive a nice car. They have no concept of actually how to achieve that; how to save money or how to even get a job if they don’t have one.

warning-challenges-ahead-231x299Some people do have plans. And they research them carefully.  And they implement them cautiously. And something happens unexpected which requires them to reassess the situation.

consequences1When each of us makes a decision…..or when we fail to make a decision…..we set forward on a pathway that will have consequences.  Some will be pleasant and some may be unpleasant.

The only way to move back to the pathway of the original goal is to admit responsibility and make a new plan.  Nothing, no hoped for Fairy Godmother, will magically fix the situation.

By the way, that character at the beginning….he asked me what my life goal was and I responded I wanted to be happy. He thought my goal was also unachievable.  I respectfully disagree.  Being happy is not a continuous state of elation. For me, it is an attitude about the challenges ahead of me, the people surrounding me, and the analysis of my pathway that brought me to this here and now. Only with all components can I look forward to the adventure each new dawn brings.

 

 


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You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

filesI grew up in an all-white neighborhood. It’s not that way now, but it was back in the 1950s and 1960s. My dad got our neighbors all in a tizzy when he would have meetings about civil rights in our dining room. Cars would park at our curb and “colored” people went into our house. There probably is a file in the storage area of the FBI with my dad’s name on it and that makes me proud.

Vacant prior to demolition, one of three buildings in the complex.

Vacant prior to demolition, one of three buildings in the complex.

Same dad: when I was selected to play violin in our all-county-orchestra, so was one of my friends.  She lived in one of the 8-story apartment buildings which was the model in the 1960s for low income housing. I have to assume that phone conversations between my father and my friend’s mother occurred, because each week we would park, go into the building and up the elevator to get her, returning her a few hours later the same way.  I do not remember being afraid, because I was with my dad, and after several weeks the crowd comments changed from something a bit challenging to ones of encouragement for the music.

In 1978 I moved to Memphis, Tennessee to work with an engineering/planning consulting firm. Everyone took lunch at the same time and most people used the 45 minutes to leave the building.  I often brought my lunch and sat eating about once a week with three women who were my age.  They were the company “gofers” and were surprised I would sit with them. I was, after all, white and they weren’t. I was, after all, educated, and they weren’t.  When I found out one woman had never learned to swim we arranged for her to come home with me overnight, and I taught her in my condo complex pool. She was actually shaking before we got there. I assured her I wouldn’t let her drown. No, she was more concerned that the white people would be ugly about her getting into the pool.

This is what she knew.

This is what she knew.

In more recent years while my son Sam was running track for his high school, Graham and I enjoyed the 5-hour meets by becoming the team photographers.  The other athletes got to know us and trust us over each season and as the years went on, those in Sam’s class cohort because more and more friendly with us old geezers. Two guys in particular came and spent time in our home and one even went on a road trip with us. They shared stories about their lives that opened my eyes. While Sam could go anywhere for his practice runs, these young black men had to be very careful selecting their routes if they ran alone. They were stopped just about every time. They were stopped driving their cars at least once a week. They were pushed and shoved and treated in ways that made no sense at all, especially considering the courtesy they always showed and the way they spoke. 1a  before meet  run

We white people have NO idea how bigotry is so alive and well. Well, maybe you do, because you feel the hate. If you say there is no bigotry, you don’t know what you don’t know, but you can take steps to model tolerance and brotherhood. “Tis the season to start.