Tuesday, April 19, 2011

No title

In my world today

Confusion, contradiction

I really don't know anymore.

What is it that I want?

I think I need a break from all of this.

Starting now.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Under fire - A rant for everyone


Once again I am faced with a blank page and have no clue what to write. There are so many words and thoughts bubbling up inside me. There is so much that I want to say, but I just don't know where to start.

I am finding the world to be so disheartening. I don't even want to turn on the news or go to the online sites. I normally love to hang out on Twitter and chat with my friends, but my stream is filled with links to stories and articles that cause me great despair. I begin to worry about the state of the world, my country and my community. I feel like I am being attacked on all sides. Everything I believe in, everything I care about is under fire. My first impulse is to shut it all out, immerse myself in music and find respite from all of it. Tempting, but, I know that is not the answer.

It is this kind of attitude that has led to many of the problems we now have in this country and in the world. It is easier to turn a blind eye and bury ourselves in everyday life and pursuits, to escape into something more pleasurable and less stressful. And to be honest, life does intrude at times and distracts us from the problems of the world overall to our more immediate concerns. It is hard to care about who to vote for in the next election and what is happening in another part of the world. It is hard to keep track of what our elected officials are doing in Washington DC and in our state capitols when we are also worried about how we are going to pay the rent, fill our gas tanks and buy groceries to fill our bellies.

However, we must do just that.

We must make an effort to care about these issues.


Because, perhaps the reason we are having problems paying the rent, filling our gas tanks and our bellies is because of the policies being formulated by our elected officials. They like it when we are so distracted by life's problems that we do not realize what they are doing.

They are also fond of misdirecting us by creating fear when there is no reason to fear, by creating doubt in others and creating a sense of urgency so that they can effect radical change.

And why are they doing this? Perhaps to cover up information like this:

Off-the-charts income gains for super-rich

And this from Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times:

The One-Percenters

This last link was found to be so threatening to some that it was reported as abusive on Facebook and I could not post it there. Please read it and judge it for yourself.

I could go on and provide many more links. But, I guess the point I am trying to make is that we all must do our best to be informed no matter how busy we are. We must check out the candidates ourselves and not rely on their campaign commercials or even the mainstream media. They will package themselves in the best possible way to get elected and then do as they wish once they get into office. We as voters must dig deeper to find the truth. We must become educated voters and then hold our representatives accountable for what they campaign on. An educated voter is dangerous to many politicians, particularly if you can remember what they promise to get elected.

I fear that we are in for a fight. Our basic rights and our way of life are being challenged by a few powerful people. We cannot be silent anymore. Educating yourself on the issues is the first step. Then you must contact your representatives and express your opinion. And finally vote and encourage others to do so as well.

And perhaps we should also follow the example of the citizens of Wisconsin. Maybe it is time for all of us to raise our voices in protest and take to the streets when we find that the interests of the voters and our country are not being served. It is time to stand up before we are all run over in this wave of change.





Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Coping in a troubled world

I spend most of Friday through Monday offline. That is now my work week and I get 40 hours in 4 days, 2 – 8 hour shifts and 2 – 12 hour shifts. I work as an advocate at a group home and it is all pretty much direct care. I never know from day to day what challenges I will face. This past weekend I was cleaning up projectile vomiting in one bathroom while also caring for the person who was sick. Later, a coworker was fixing a broken handle on a toilet which somehow morphed into a fountain, spurting water up. The night ended with another incident requiring an additional half hour of paperwork. But I was glad for the ordinary distractions. They grounded me and focused my attention on something other than what was happening in the world.

I was rather distressed after finally reading the “Fridays List” from Judy Clement Wall on her blog, Zebra Sounds. I had been too busy to read it until now. It was such a treat to read when I worked overnights. It was usually posted around 2am central time. It gave me something to look forward to on those long nights. Last Friday Judy posted this update:

I wrote most of this post yesterday before the earthquake and tsunamis hit Japan, but after what happened in Wisconsin and Texas and Libya. On Facebook, I posted a happy status this morning, the morning after giving birth to the story I’ve carried inside me for years (and some other good news I got yesterday). Within a few seconds, someone jumped on to remind me of the tsunamis and I felt unbelievably chastised. Unbelievably insensitive. I deleted my original comment, cried a little, and then put up this status, which is more thoughtful and more ambivalent (because my commenter was right… and wrong):

In this big world, on the same day, a baby gets born, an earthquake strikes, people fall in love, a government cheats, a book gets written, a revolution takes hold, funding finally comes… it’s hard to feel them all at once.

I was a little angry for her and if I had seen the comment I would have had her back and would most certainly had said something. We live in confusing times. There is so much turmoil, sorrow and pain. I think we need a little joy too, if only for balance. Judy had a right to her joy and damn the person who took that away from her.

I think we all need to find ways to cope with the increasingly stressful events that are occurring now. The internet is a blessing and a curse. Information is instantaneous and immediate. I was grateful to be at work over the weekend. If I had not, I would probably spent most of the day (and night) on the computer chasing the story. Instead, I cooked and cleaned and cared for the residents at the group home. Ordinary life still goes on no matter what is happening elsewhere in the world. And it is important to focus on it, sometimes even more so.

I was aware what was happening, but I could not read nor look at the videos that were saturating the internet. I usually get on Twitter after my shift to wind down from the stress of caregiving. But I knew that would not be wise. So instead, I played music. It was mainly to distract me from the stress at work and from the events in the world. I also hoped that it might be an alternative for some of my friends and might also provide distraction for them as well. I have seen tweets from several who are adversely affected by the catastrophic events in Japan.

I realize that some may criticize me as well for playing music. Some might think it is frivolous in light of all that is going on. But, it is my way of coping. I think it is healthy to look for the positive and good when things are looking so bad.

To my friends, and to anyone who might read this, life still goes on. In times of great stress sometimes it is best to focus on the ordinary things of life. The events of the world can be overwhelming. Focus on your routine and even on the distractions of those things that will give you pleasure. There are things that can be done to help those in need. If you are financially able, give. If not, just help to raise awareness.

I don't believe all hope is lost. I have to believe and have faith. I have also been praying a lot these past few days, but that is a comfort too. We cannot let this bring us down and overwhelm us. There is too much to do. We have to believe in the best of all of us to get through these troubled times.

As for me, I will continue to play music. If you care to listen I am Azsky13 on Twitter. You are welcome to come play with me.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How much is enough?

Today I took all of my coins to the bank to cash them in. It is something I do occasionally when the drawer I put them in gets full, usually around once a year. But today I did it because I had to cover my rent check. When I wrote it there was enough money in the account, but not by much. I wasn’t concerned as I had no pressing needs and I would be getting paid this week. But, I checked the account this morning and discovered a debit had been posted that I hadn’t anticipated. When the rent check hit the bank, there would not be enough to cover it.

So I gathered up all of my silver change and headed for the bank this afternoon. I had over $80.00 in change which was more than enough to cover the check and provide a small cushion until Thursday when I get paid. But it got me thinking about all of the protests in Wisconsin over the unions and collective bargaining. I work 40 hours a week and am barely getting by. I have seen the cost of everything go up, everything that is except my wages. You see, I work in the human services field as a caregiver and advocate for some very special people. It is a job that I love. Unfortunately, it does not pay well. It is also always one of the top targets for politicians who are looking to cut the budget.

One might think that I would be anti-union, that I might be jealous of what those in the public unions have in the way of benefits and salary. However that is not the case. I think we should all share in those benefits. I think we should all be paid a “living wage” and have the health care promised by the democrats in the 2008 election.

Yesterday I found the video of Michael Moore speaking to the protestors in Madison, WI. I started to watch it, but didn’t finish as it was almost a half hour long and I needed to leave for work. So I took the time to watch it again today. In it, Moore made the statement that 400 U.S. individuals were worth more than half of all American households combined. I found that to be obscene.

I checked Moore’s website and found that he posted proof of the statement here: The Forbes 400 vs. Everybody Else | MichaelMoore.com. Why should 400 individuals be worth so much more than the rest of us? And it is actually turned out to be worse that Moore had stated in the speech, it is actually 400 of the richest are worth more than 60% according to the article. With this in mind, it really begs the question. Why are the rich getting the tax breaks? Why don’t they pay more instead?

I highly recommend that you watch the video of the speech that Moore gave in Madison last Saturday. He states the case much better than I possibly could.

I do take ownership of my financial situation. I am short now not because of what I am spending, but because I decided to sign up for health insurance this year. Trust me, this is no Cadillac plan, it is down-right sucky! The premiums are high and it pays so little that I seriously considered not taking it again. I figured that if I stayed healthy I could at least save the money from the premiums. Because if I got really sick and needed it, I would still probably go bankrupt because it pays so little. But, I had been without health insurance for 2 years and in the end, I decided not to chance it another year.

So, once again I am looking at my budget to see if there is anything I can cut. A raise would be nice, but I know that won’t be happening. I really don’t need a lot. I would need just enough to be able to put some away so I would have a little cushion. I would like to have just enough to not have to turn in my change so I don’t bounce a check.

However, I am curious and would like to ask just one of the elite top 400 on the Forbes list, just how much is enough for you? Will you be satisfied with having more than 60% of those in the U.S or will you not be satisfied until you have it all? Really, I want to know. How much is enough?

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

The People Rise Up and Say Enough

These past few weeks the world has watched as the common ordinary people grew tired of the conditions of their lives and hit the streets to protest. Tunisia was first and the government tumbled, then Egypt and now Bahrain, Iran, and Iraq. The politicians and the pundits pondered and posed questions, contemplating a possible “domino effect” in the Mideast. But perhaps they should have been looking a little closer to home. The people in the state of Wisconsin are proof that it can also happen here.

Really, no one should have been surprised at the protests in Wisconsin this week. My surprise was only that it has taken this long for some group to get pissed off at the government here. For years our hard-fought rights have been chipped away. The Patriot Act has taken away our privacy, the economic downturn took away many of our jobs, our retirement savings and foreclosure has taken away many homes.

We could all argue over the causes and most of us would line up on the progressive left or the conservative right and all would spout the talking points and fight over which political party was responsible. In truth, we are all responsible because we allowed it to happen. We should have risen up as a people long ago and said enough.

We did nothing when the tragedy of 9/11 was used as an excuse to decimate our rights and eventually lead us into a war with first Afghanistan and then Iraq. The war in Afghanistan was perhaps justified given the events of 9/11, but the war in Iraq was not. It was based on a series of what we now know were lies.

We did nothing as the lies continued into the Health Care Reform Debate. Republican politicians stood up before their constituents and flat out lied about what was in the bill. They used scare tactics and spoke of “death panels” to describe what was essentially a living will.

I could go on and on with the lies and the deceptions perpetrated against us. I could probably fill pages with all of the examples. But what would be the point? It would just offer further proof of our gullibility. And it is that gullibility that allowed the Republicans to think they could do anything once they gained control again. So now instead of focusing on jobs and restoring the health of our economy, they seem hell-bent to push every right-wing conservative issue they have been sitting on. From women’s right to choose, immigration to now union-busting; it is all on the table.

The debate has been hot, in Washington at the federal level and in the statehouses across the country. Except for the state of Wisconsin where there was little debate at all. Republicans now controlled both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office. Governor Scott Walker just decided to shove through a bill that would essentially break the power of the unions by putting an end to collective bargaining for public employees. The Cap Times ran an editorial Sunday with the headline "Walker is acting not as a governor, but as dictator."

Governor Walker and the Republicans ignored the criticism and continued to move forward with the bill. Much to his surprise, the people affected rose up and marched on the capital. The teachers, the firefighters, the prison workers and snow plow drivers all showed up and said no.

The protest shut down the schools in Madison as teachers called in sick so that they could come to the Capitol to protest. They were joined by many of their students who marched in support. Also joining in support were present and former members of the World Champion Green Bay Packers who along with their union, the NFL Players Association, released a statement in support of the protest.

On Wednesday it was estimated that the crowd at the capitol numbered 30,000 strong. But even with all of that support, today it appeared that the bill would be passed in the state senate. Because the Democrats who opposed the bill could not stop its passage, they staged a walkout. They did not just leave the chamber; they left the building completely and then quickly left the state. With their departure, they successfully postponed the vote. In an interview with CNN Senate Minority leader Mark Miller stated that they left because they were “trying to allow opportunity for democracy to work."

It is still too early at this point to know what will happen in this case. The leaders of the teachers unions have once again asked its members to come to the Capitol on Friday and Saturday to protest. And schools in Madison will be closed again on Friday. Many may be asking if it will be worth the cost if they do not succeed. I for one think it will. Just as the successful people’s protest in Tunisia provided an example to the people in Egypt and the Middle East; perhaps Wisconsin can be an example to the rest of the country. We don’t have to take it anymore either.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reflections on the first day of 2011

It was very hard to get out bed yesterday. Nothing really profound or troubling, my apartment was just chilly. It might sound strange, but I usually have my thermostat set at 60. My apartment has a southern exposure and the low winter sun shines in most of the day. On occasion the temperature would climb to 80 during the day. I really don't like hot so I usually open the deck door to cool things off. When I get up during the winter, it is usually no cooler than 69 degrees. Yesterday, New Year’s Day 2011, the temperature was 62. Taking that fact into consideration, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what the temperature was outside. And I would need to go outside.

I did log in to the Weather Channel. I don’t remember exactly, think it was 3 degrees. Once it goes below 10 degrees, it doesn’t really matter, you dress the same for outdoors. It is important to dress in layers. Each layer supposedly will trap warm air to insulate you from the cold. A warm hat is also essential gear. In the winter if you are hatless; your body heat escapes much like smoke from a chimney.

It is also important to protect your face in some way. A scarf will do, but I prefer a coat with that protection built in that zips up and covers your lower face. If it is really cold I have a sweater under that which does the same thing. My coat is also down filled, which sucked big time in the rain Thursday. It soaked it in like a sponge. But, it is great when it is just cold. This year I have also included ice spikes to my winter essentials. A co-worker had recommended them. They were the same used by ice fishermen. After I turned 50, I suddenly began to fear falling in the winter. A little voice kept whispering, "You could fall down on the ice and break a hip!"

It was late afternoon when I finally ventured out. I would have rather stayed inside, but the freezing rain from Friday night left me concerned again about the locks on my Honda CRV.

Now don't get me wrong, I love this vehicle. It is the best winter vehicle I have ever owned. The only problem I have had is that the locks freeze when we have rain followed by freezing temperatures.

But hey! It is not supposed to rain in December! It's just not right! It rained on Thursday and when I went out on Friday the locks were frozen. It almost made me late for work. It was rather comical actually. The first door I was able to open was the back door on the driver’s side. I have a remote starter so I let it warm up as I cleared the ice off. Even after spraying de-icer in the locks, they still would not open. So, I had to crawl over the seat to get into the front, not an easy task at the age of 55. I am not as limber or spry as I once was. By the time I got to work the locks unfroze.

But I digress, back to January 1st. The puddles of slush from two days before were frozen solid. However, my ice spikes worked great; no slipping and sliding for me! But, the locks were once again frozen. This time the first door to open was the front passenger side door. It was much easier than Friday, I only had to slide across. Once in the vehicle, I decided to drive around until it opened. It only took about an additional ten minutes.

By this time it was near sunset and it looked like it might be a nice one. I found an open spot and took the shot below. What a beautiful end to the first day in 2011!

I suppose at this point I should think of something profound to write. But, I am not sure I can do that. New Year's Day was like any other day for me. I don't make resolutions, I never have. Every day takes resolve to get through it. Everyday I do the best I can under whatever circumstances I am faced with. Some days are better than others and I do well. Some days I suck. There are always problems to deal with such as frozen locks and bitter cold.

But, there can be rewards too. If I had not gone outside and braved the cold, I would have missed a great sunset. I guess there is something mildly profound in that. At least there is to me.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Why I hate Christmas and all major holidays

I am not a Scrooge or a Grinch, really I am not. I lost my love of Christmas not long after I became an adult. At first I think I was appalled at the commercialization of what I saw as a spiritual event. But, back then I was a “re-born” Christian making everyone around me miserable as I tried desperately to save their souls. I was so bad that my Mom thought I had joined a cult and it drove her to her priest. Oddly enough, she became stronger in her faith as a result and I fell away.

In the later years, Christmas became hard because I was alone. I had never found that significant special someone to share it with. I had no family of my own. My siblings began to drift away from a huge family Christmas and instead everyone celebrated individually. But, I always had my parents and when I could I would share it with them at the farm. Back then I loved the snow. They had acres of woods to wander and I loved tromping through with my camera. Many times, mine were the first footsteps on a sea of white. But like all things, that changed too.
Five years ago, I lost my Dad to cancer. I still went down to be with my Mom at Christmas. As much as it was still so I would not be alone, it was also so she would not. The first Christmas was hard. Dad’s death was still too fresh and emotionally, I was a wreck. The second not so much, but I was concerned more about my Mom’s ability to take care of herself. She had just turned 90 a week before Christmas. I joked with her on that birthday and asked her if she was going to try for 100. I was surprised when without hesitation and with certain vehemence she responded,“No!”That year was to be our last at the farm together.

Several weeks after Christmas she fell ill with an infection that weakened her considerably. She never regained her strength and never returned home to the farm. Her home now is a nursing home where she is well cared for. But the loss of her independence nearly killed her that year. She would not accept that she would never go home and was very depressed.

I thought for sure I would lose her and remember how hard Mother’s Day was that year. It was the first time I began to think, this could be the last time I celebrate it with her. Now the thought creeps in every year on all of the holidays and special days, this could be the last.

A year ago I was frantic on Christmas Eve. A winter’s storm stopped me from going. It is a short two hour trip, but in bad weather, it can be treacherous. I felt terrible about it and again worried again that it might be the last. But, it wasn’t.
All this week I have watched the weather. I have worried that the California storms would move east and north and would wreck my plans. But, the forecasters assured that there would only be flurries and travel would not be a problem. Yesterday at work I watched the snow fall. It was much more than flurries. I cleared at least 3 inches from my vehicle. At 10 pm it was falling at an inch an hour.

This morning it is still falling. It doesn’t look bad from here, but I know from experience that it will be worse outstate in southern Minnesota where I will be traveling. That part of the state had the heavier part of the storm and even though the snow is supposed to stop around noon, the roads may not be plowed well. So I am changing my plans and will drive down tomorrow. Hopefully, conditions will be improved.

I will be happy to spend Christmas Day at the nursing home with Mom. They actually put out an excellent meal. But, I know the thought will always be there. This could be the last.

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