Friday, October 30, 2015

Mr. Tommy Cat

It's time once again for a furry friend story. Today is the story of Mr. Tommy Cat, the newest addition to the family.
It begins a little sad. Our friend Mr. Jeepers disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared. For those who may not know, he showed up on the porch 2 years ago and we were determined to ignore him. I wrote the Mr. Jeepers story last March.
Mr. Jeepers was a perfect gentleman indoors but he still had a love for wandering and he fully expected that if the dogs could go out, he should too. He was very good at finding a way to get past us and escape. Sadly, one day a few months ago, he did not return. We filed missing cat reports. No Jeepers. We still hope that he is somewhere and loved but we have missed him so.
Last Saturday morning Holly said "Let's go out to the humane society and see the kittens. Just look." Of course, we both knew we were most likely to return with a cat. On the way Holly said, "We're just looking but I would most prefer a kitten."
When we arrived a volunteer encouraged us to see the pretty tabby cat she had grown fond of - not a kitten. Our attention fell to the 3 little kittens below. Then nearly in unison, we caught sight of a cat off to the right. "Jeepers!", we said. But upon closer look we learned that he was only 1 year old and unmistakably NOT neutered. His name was Tommy. Though he seemed so very much like Jeepers, he is too young to be a son and came from a home who had to give him up.
Mr. Tommy Cat came home with us.
I hope he doesn't mind that we could not resist his resemblance to Mr. Jeepers in both looks and demeanor. The shelter staff description of what they experienced with him and our brief meeting with him at the shelter have rung true. He is a gentle soul, as was Mr. Jeepers, and I am looking forward to learning more about his special personality.
In less than a week, he seems quite content and is gradually feeling more secure. Tobey, as with Jeepers, is most interested in interacting with him and he does not seem to mind (though he was unsure at first). He prefers higher posts so I think my mission soon should be to make him a little condo of his own.
We miss Jeepers. We did not intend to have a cat at all. Perhaps his mission in life was to show us that we should. Thank you Mr. Jeepers. Thank you Mr. Tommy Cat.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Seeds you Plant

Every day we are planting seeds.
Your words, your acts, your thoughts - they are all seeds.
Think about that a moment.
Every word - every act - every thought is planted. It has the potential to grow. You have no way of knowing what will grow and what won't.
Every word - every act - every thought is a seed.
It does not matter if it is an angry word, act or thought or a happy word, act or thought - It is still a seed. You have no way of knowing what will grow or not. Once it's released to the universe, the determining factor is where it lands. Once you say it, do it or even think it - it has it's own energy. Once released, it is no longer solely yours. It now has potential life of its own.
You do, however, have control over the seeds you plant. You CAN change your words, your actions and your thoughts. And only YOU can.
What seeds are you planting?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Changing Focus

We're very good at focusing on what is wrong in the world and what we don't like. And we express a great deal of emotion - especially anger - about what we don't like and don't want. Everywhere you look, people are talking about what's wrong and what we hate. It's not a liberal thing or conservative thing. It's not a religious thing or an agnostic thing. It's the American culture today.
We obsess over bad news, people who should be hated, and things that shouldn't be happening. We do it at both ends of every spectrum and across most of the in between. We focus on what didn't/doesn't work and love to place blame on somebody - anybody.
With the energy we put out into the world, we help create that world. If our vision goes no further than what we hate, what we don't want, and who to blame - we will get more of what we hate, what we don't want and someone to blame. We need to create a vision of what we want to see happen and put more energy into that vision than we do focusing on what we don't want. That vision needs to be facing forward creating a beacon for where we will go.
Things change. That's one thing we can be certain about. It doesn't need to be a whirlpool or a cesspool. If we help create the change we want to see, we can be positive about it.  It can be difficult as often things seem to be beyond our control but I tend to think every effort we make in a positive direction will help change the course.

Here are some small strategies I'm trying:

1) Try to state a positive outcome instead of focusing on the negative thing that happened.
2) Consider how to get to that positive outcome
3) Avoid inflammatory characterizations or statements
4) State facts and avoid emotional reactions
5) Don't make fun of anyone - in other words, do no harm

It will be a great deal easier to talk to one another if we can all do these few basic things. We still may not agree but we might get a lot closer to real solutions to real problems. I know I can't change the world but I can change me. This is where I'm starting.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Keeping a Nation Strong

From 1933 to 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corp employed up to 300,000 workers doing public works projects in every corner of the United States. It was one of the most remarkable programs of the New Deal and the results of their labor remain quite visible these many decades later.

In proposing the CCC, President Roosevelt said:

"I propose to create [the CCC] to be used in complex work, not interfering with abnormal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects. I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth."
CCC Statue at Letchworth State Park, NY

The CCC re-forested public land, built picnic areas, pavilions, retaining walls, bridges, dams and much more. Visit any national park or state park that was established prior to the CCC and you will witness the results of their efforts.
We were in the middle of the Great Depression. Unemployment was a staggering 24%. The United States was in a huge financial crisis. The government was broke. And yet, they found a way to put hundreds of thousands of people to work in one of the biggest social programs of our nations history.
Hundreds of thousands of people were no longer hungry and homeless. They were engaged in meaningful work while gaining valuable skills.
From an early age, traveling to and camping in many of our state and national parks, I've been keenly aware of the work of the CCC. This program should be a source of great national pride and this story should be more broadly re-told. When I hear someone scoffing at "socialism", I think of the CCC.
Capitalism alone is not enough to keep a country strong. We need a certain degree of socialism. The two can work hand in hand. Letchworth State Park is a great example of how that can happen.
William Pryor Letchworth was a successful capitalist. But once he had made his mark in business, he turned his attention to social reform. In addition to conservation, he is remembered for his work with epilepsy and the plight of poor children. And, of course, he donated the land that is now the cornerstone of Letchworth State Park - one of the most visited state parks in the United States.
We can thank Mr. Letchworth for his socialist acts. We can thank Mr. Roosevelt for his socialist acts. We can thank our government for the socialist acts to keep these parks open and in good order for the public enjoyment of generations to come. Capitalism alone would not do that. Socialism is not a bad word. It's about doing what Capitalism cannot or won't.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Let's get social....

It has been refreshing to see much of the response to the Democratic debate this past week. It was refreshing to see the debate itself. They actually talked about issues and there were few, if any, defamatory comments toward one another.
I love that Bernie Sanders came to Hilary Clinton's defense about the "damn emails". I didn't love it because I'm a Hilary Clinton fan (I'm not), I love it because he speaks my language. Let's talk about the issues that matter and what we want to do about them. He set an example that I wish we could hear as a nation. Let's get focused on what matters. Side shows and hyper boil are destroying our country.
Our government cannot get a thing done because of it. Hatred and dividing lines are causing such a huge quagmire that people can't see the facts of anything through the dust that's constantly kicked up.
Who can we believe to deliver the actual facts about anything?
I see a lot of reaction to fear of what may happen. I see a lot of reaction to what has happened and blame placed on the most hated person of the moment or in line with the media line that's regarded as gospel. There's a lot of talk about government as though it's an alien entity that has no connection to us. There's a lot of horrible talk. There's very little work being done to solve anything.
I see "socialism" thrown around as if we are not part of a social fabric but rather live in some kind of dog eat dog culture. Many of the same people who claim to hate socialism are angry that government isn't giving them something that they perceive is being given to someone else. But they hate socialism! It seems more like a "give me" first sort of mentality.
The hatred that's boiling will kill this country. We have to stop it. WE have to stop feeding that monster. We can disagree but we have to find room to talk. We have to find common ground. We have to find the facts of a matter and work on actual solutions to issues. Yes, it's hard. Yes, we will disagree on the best path to take but we have to find a better way to seek that path. We have to govern. We have to be part of governing. We have to build our government into a reflection of us. I hope that reflection is more like what I saw in the democratic debate. We can differ on our views but we can discuss them. We can be civil to one another. We can find agreement. Let's get there.

Monday, October 12, 2015

My Guns are Gone....

For about a dozen years I lived on a farm located 6 miles in any direction to the nearest town. I rented the farm house and freely roamed the 200+ acres which was partly wooded and partly leased to other local farmers. It was a great experience and I have many fond memories from those days "on the farm".
After a few years, the landlady noticed that the big ole blacksnake was doing fine keeping up with the smaller rodent population but groundhogs were getting too plentiful.  They can do a lot of damage to out buildings, are mean little possessors and were not helping my gardening efforts. So, when she offered the loan of a .22 to try to ward them off, I agreed to try. Though I didn't grow up with guns, along the way I had opportunity to learn to shoot and have some natural skill but groundhogs are thick skinned and hard headed. Soon, I decided to buy a shotgun or two.
Then the church just a short walk from the farm house was robbed. There were boot tracks around the house in the snow. Odd things happened up the road. I was six miles from the nearest town and a lot more miles from the nearest police barracks. I grew quite fond of my shotguns. But it troubled me to imagine the scenarios. Fortunately, none of those scenarios became real.
When I bought the house in Franklin, the guns were locked in the safe again. I felt no need for them. The police were nearby and if rodents became a problem, I couldn't exactly start shooting around the yard. I never wanted to imagine those other scenarios again. I never want to point a weapon at another human being. And if all hell breaks loose in the world - to a point of utter chaos - I'm not sure I want to be standing looking at the aftermath. I'm not sure how I would feel about my fellow gun holders at that point.
I'm not against guns. I understand the desire to protect oneself from imagined or real encroachment. But we need to balance our fears, and our needs, with the vision of the type of world we want to survive. I want a world of peace. I want a world built on trust. Weapons won't build peace or trust. Groundhogs aren't threatening my garden. My guns are gone.
We have killers in the world. They are creeping into our space from unexpected locations. I don't want to be the hero who kills the killer. I want to be the hero who loves the kid who could have become a killer - except he didn't - because someone loved him enough to show him a better way.