Sunday, June 18, 2017

How great is America?

Desperate people do desperate things. Good people can be led to believe things that are not true. Decent people can be convinced to support indecent things.
In recent years, these facts have weighed on me. How could, why did so many people join the KKK in large numbers? How could, why did the German people support the Nazi's? We often focus on the leaders and the specific actions of these organizations but they were supported by many, many ordinary people very much like you and I.
Could you, are you supporting the types of ideas that give rise to the types of things organizations like the KKK and the Nazi's did? Are you? Could you? Do you?
How prone are you to a need for power and control? How far will you go to pursue an ideal?
On the left side of equation, Marx, Lenin and Castro started with lofty ideals. But power, control and suppression took over with them as well. Greed and corruption took hold of them and magnified the flaws in their theories of system.
We need to develop systems of society that applaud and support exceptional achievement while tempering greed. Greed may lie at the lowest and highest levels.
We need to adopt an expectation of equal treatment while rewarding exceptional character, ethics and effort. Some will achieve much with little effort. Others will achieve much with major effort. We need to know the difference and reward it accordingly.
What has made America great for over 200 years, is that we found those exceptional people and exceptional efforts and lifted them. We have had a moral compass that, over time, squelched greed and corruption. (or at least attempted to slow it)
We learned from the depression that allowing 10, 20 or 30 percent of our population to flounder has a crippling effect on us all. Now, with a global economy, we need to learn that allowing 10, 20 or 30 percent of the world population to flounder has a crippling effect on us all. These are the fertile grounds for groups like ISIS. Or the KKK. Or Nazi's. Or Marxists.
What has been great about America is that we have navigated those waters and squelched greed, corruption, and power grabs when they most posed a danger to our existence as a democracy. Power, greed and corruption are threatening us now. They are burning us apart from within. Desperate people are doing desperate things. Good people are let to believe "alternative facts".
Have we, will we now cross that last bridge where decent people are convinced to support indecent things? Therein lies that question that will determine just how great America can be.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What troubles me....

Much of what is happening in the world troubles me from time to time. Try as I may to keep it at a distance and preserve perspective of the reality of danger, I also see nothing as disconnected or so very distant. The pain of one, no matter how far away, is pain to me.  It ripples, somehow, into my world no matter whether I acknowledge it or not. Your pain is mine and mine is yours. Nothing exists in isolation. Nothing.
In response to the most recent terror attack in London, according to the BBC, "Theresa May has said she will change human rights laws if they "get in the way" of tackling suspected terrorists."
This sounds like a familiar approach. In the wake of great "danger", human rights must take a back seat. In terms of human rights we're talking about due process, the right to privacy, innocent until proven guilty, and freedom of religion. If human rights are not at the very heart of what we fight for, then what are we fighting for?
There is a great shift toward "survival" mentality as though our very survival is based on fighting. Many times I am reminded of Jesus' command to "fear not". When fear is our driver, we will always make the wrong choices and follow the wrong path. Sadly, we now have leaders who cherish fear and fear mongering. They think the answer to overcoming our "enemy" is to make them fear us more. That will not work. We cannot win by being nastier and meaner than the next person. We don't win with cleverness or force. It's a marathon. If you believe in eternity, a slap today is not a problem solver. 
Our violent reaction - their violent reaction - creates ripples that cannot end UNTIL someone does something rationally different. We need to understand what is at the root of this terrible thing that is spreading. And we need not feed that root. If we cannot understand why someone is radicalized to the point of terrible violence and hatred, we will never solve it. If we respond in kind - with violence and hatred - we will continue to grow it.
Human rights should never be in question. We have to maintain the standard by which we measure humanity. We have to BE the standard by which we measure humanity. We don't lower our standards to match the depths to which our enemy will take us. We raise our standards and insist that they join us. Insist, not by force, but by example. If they cannot see, it is OUR failing, not theirs. If our ideology is truly right and just, there should be no question. If there is question, we need to look at ourselves.
If we lower our standards, what have we gained? In my mind, we may win a battle but the war is lost for all. We gained nothing. Humanity gained nothing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Henderson House

Some years ago (I'm bad with passage of time), my sister Laurie and I imagined that the brick house on Elk Street could be a guest house. It would be a place where we could welcome visitors and help them find all the wonderful things our region has to offer. And it has been a guest house to many already with friends and family staying there when need arose.
Laurie and I thought of many names for it. Informally, it's been called "the Brick House" but finally it's landed on it's most appropriate name, "The Henderson House". It's most appropriate not because that is my name, but that is the name that is historically accurate. It is named for Miles R. and Freda Henderson who built that house. In that, I am honoring a part of the family I never knew but also honoring my own family with the name.
We started a guest book with my own house experiences and what we know of M.R. and Freda. I'm sure we'll be adding details. Fortunately many who occupied the house before me preserved important features - the mantel, woodwork and overall layout of the house. It even still has the original, intact and sound, slate roof which I'm quite protective about having only allowed renowned slate roof experts to maintain it. I'm hopeful that with their help it will long outlast me.
The house will be a balance of preservation and creation of a place that provides comfort and welcome for all who stay there. I love this house. I love sharing it. And I love making it some place special. Can't wait for Laurie to see what we've done so far!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Show ratings are dropping but everyone's watching

Barely into the season, the show's ratings have tanked and may be taking the entire network's ratings down with it. The presumed "star" of the show has obviously not read the script and simply ad libs his lines leaving the rest of cast scrabbling to try to add narrative that creates a plausible plot. Ironically, the "star" blames the rest of the cast for the failures. For viewers it's like watching ping pong balls dropping in a huge room and wondering where they will eventually land.
Oddly, the network knew the pilot was a flop and should have foreseen that an actual show was going to be quite messy. But someone pulled strings to ensure this show went on the air - popularity or ratings be damned.
So, what to do now? Is the "star" actually the biggest problem? Has the network lost all credibility and ability to create something that's productive?
Buckle up. It's going to get bumpy. Or start practicing ping pong. We may all need to deflect some of the strays flying around.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Trickle UP, not trickle down...."

As I look around my community, there are many who may have voted differently in national elections but I fully support their local efforts. They are working on serious issues that trickle up - that lift our community UP. I see people who see a need and jump in to solve that problem. I see PEOPLE who want to build a better community for themselves and those around them.
There are the PEOPLE who cannot fathom a four pawed creature lost and who will dedicate countless hours searching for them. There are PEOPLE who stop in the middle of the street to rescue an injured or lost pet and spend countless hours finding the right home.
There are PEOPLE who spend endless time and money in our local Mustard seed program to help homeless people or to rehab homes for those in need. They are not liberal or conservative - they are PEOPLE - who care and serve without expectation except to make the world a better place.
They are preserving local legacy and local spaces. They are restoring local iconic structures. This is huge in terms that cannot be quickly summarized but can be seen long term as significant value added to our community.
Often we are caught up in the HUGE stuff - the global and national dramas. Our work, our promise, our impact, lies right here and right now. We can trickle up. We can set examples. We can show how things get done and how problems are solved. It's right here. It's right now. Just do it.
Many of us feel that what is happening in the big house is not consistent with our values and beliefs. Ok. Express those views. But if you really want to drive change - Trickle up. It doesn't trickle down. WE need to set the standards. WE need to set the example. Let's get something done.
TRICKLE UP!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

"Snowflakes" and "Libtards"

It's shocking to see "those snowflakes" - "libtards" - and other similar slurs from people who have at some time, told me they loved me - from people I love. They know me well enough to know that I have very different views from them, and yes, I know they label me liberal. Do they call me, think of me, when they use those labels?
It causes me to pause.
Do they believe, do I, view them through similar filters?
It causes me to pause.
It causes me to be more cautious in what I say and do. It's policy and practice that matters. If we allow ourselves to be calloused and hardened to perspectives other than ours, we can learn nothing. We learn nothing when we label and isolate "others".  We learn nothing when we stubbornly hold onto any ideology. We don't know, what we don't know and we won't if we cannot learn to communicate civilly, Or to simply learn to communicate policy and practice that makes sense to the other person.
It causes me to pause and be more cautious.
I most value my conservative friends who are able to provide information that demonstrates policy and practice that has a track record of success. These are the people who simply communicate what makes sense and what makes sense needs no label - conservative or liberal.
I find little to no value in the label throwers on either side. They are simply throwing spears that make no difference in the world except to raise mistrust and create greater division.
Call a falsehood, a falsehood. Site sources. Communicate policy and practice that makes sense. Quit with the spear throwing. We have work to do. Support people who understand that and hold higher standards. We need high standards right now. It starts with us.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Choosing a big pond or a little pond....

As I prepared to graduate from Slippery Rock University, many years ago, one of my professors said, "Now you just need to decide if you want to swim in a big pond or a little pond."
When we think of fish, many know that the smaller the pond, the smaller the fish. Fish will only grow large in large water. Somehow, genetically, they grow in relationship to their environment. Bigger ponds were in my mind. I had recently completed a tour in the Air Force where I had a taste of different cultures and bigger things. So, I swam on in search of bigger places and bigger things.
Within a decade, much to my surprise, I was right back in my little hometown of Franklin but working in a big pond company - Joy. For 21 years I swam in that big pond working on many international projects, traveling across the US and into a few other countries. As a little fish, I grew some. But I can say that people aren't fish.
The best thing that happened is that the "big pond" put me in my hometown which may seem like a little pond but I know the fish are bigger here. A small pond gives humans something more that doesn't correlate with the fish experience in small ponds.
In bigger communities - in cities - in large corporations - you can make a mark and you can make a name. You can build something. But you can never build the context and connection that you can in a smaller community. I've heard that there are only 6 degrees of separation from you and anyone else in the world. You know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone, who knows someone, who is a friend of the Queen of England. In a small community there is often only 1 or two degrees of separation. You know someone who is friends with the Mayor. You know someone who is a friend of the State Senator. Context and connection are close.
Many of the leaders in our community - the movers and shakers - never left. They are our Judges, our council people, our Mayors, our state representatives, our business leaders, our non-profit Directors, our Chamber leaders AND they are doing - HAVE BEEN doing - huge things in our community that impact many lives. They grew big in this pond and they inspire others - near and far. They inspire me.
It's not about being in a big pond or a little pond. It's about finding the place that allows you to thrive and a place where you can make a difference. In my experience, a small pond - a community of people like we have here in Venango county - provides greater opportunity for making a difference. It's because of context and connection. We support one another. We are close enough, with context enough, that we can do more, go further, and have a greater impact because of it. We care and are more aware of one another's strengths and yes, one another's weaknesses.
I'm not ashamed of having gone away and rambled in bigger ponds but I'm most thankful that circumstances required that I be here. I'm proud to be here and am committed to supporting the efforts of those continuing to make our pond a better place for all.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Border Wall Bailout

This weeks Government drama will be passing a budget to keep the government functioning. The president is threatening to veto any bill that does not give him 1.4 billion dollars for the border wall. During his campaign he insisted that Mexico would pay for it. Now the story is that Mexico will reimburse us for it.
Meanwhile, the building of the wall is opposed by 62 percent of Americans with only 34 percent in favor. So, he doesn't have taxpayer support and it appears he is far short of the support he needs in Congress. In reaction, his spokespeople are using a now familiar line of attack which is that people just aren't accepting that he won the election.
Actually, there are several things he is failing to accept. First, he did not win by a majority and second that this is a democracy, not an aristocracy. He was not crowned to rule. He is called to serve and to serve ALL citizens not just the ones who elected him. Many of his supporters appear to be quite confused about that as well.
While his policies are highly popular with a minority who voted for him, (except when they realize personal implications) they are extremely unpopular with those who did not vote for him. So unpopular, that a sleeping giant has awakened and is rising up against him. Unlike him, this giant represents the majority and congress is well aware of it. Many in congress are faced with a difficult choice, side with this administration and enact policies that are against the will of the majority and get crushed by the giant, or break ranks and start actually representing the whole of their constituents. They are not yet sure about this new giant.
Governing is not easy - especially in a democracy and in a way that preserves a democracy. It's hard and requires reaching compromise and consensus with a long term vision of what is truly best for the nation. Yes, there will be unpopular choices that are actually good for the nation. But if those choices are based in fact and reason, and show results, citizens can come around.
This border wall is not based on fact and reason. It's as irrational as was the promise that Mexico would pay for it. Now demanding that it be funded by taxpayers or he'll shut down the government is also irrational. Congress needs to focus on an actual budget that serves the needs of the country not the ego of someone who suddenly realizes that he needs taxpayers to bail him out of a campaign promise he couldn't possibly keep.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Collaboration

The collaborative approach is something that seems to be elusive to many. After reading numerous blogs, it seems even those writers struggle to put together a set of good tips. Collaboration is about team building. It's about discovering and unleashing the strengths of each member and helping them achieve more for themselves and for the team.
If you feel the responsibility or carry the designation of "team leader", you are then tasked with discovering and unleashing the strength of every member of the team. It's your responsibility to know and understand what they can do and help them to do it. You had better first understand them and where they are in their mind. Your expectations need to be in line with theirs. Your understanding of what they can achieve needs to be in line with what they can actually achieve. If your expectations and your understanding are not in line with theirs, you will break the spirit of the team.
In a collaboration, all parties feel heard, valued, and understood. Expectations are clear on both sides. There are words and phrases that lead to collaboration. "What if we", "Why not include", "Let's try", "Let's add," "Perhaps we could", "How about doing,".
Collaborative people offer to listen and exchange ideas. Collaboration offers an understanding of effort. Collaboration focuses on value of the other person. It's an approach that lifts everyone that's involved in the effort. It creates energy and motivation toward a common cause. If you're feeling that you are tugging a rope all by yourself, perhaps you need to consider how you are motivating - or not motivating - potential collaborators. In a successful collaboration, everyone feels valued.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

One of Aunt Linda's Kids

It's been a mantra for ages; "Don't do as I do, do as I say." I have watched parents cringe as they fear their children will make the same mistakes they did and try to steer their children in another direction. Not being a parent has put me in an interesting position of being an "aunt" to many young people - mine and theirs. I love the young people in my life, those real nieces and nephews and the ones who have entered my life by choice or chance. They are my "kids".
I will kick their butt in a way that a parent may not. I will have a blind eye for things their parent may not. But I will love them in much the same way a parent will. I look forward to seeing them. I want them to grow strong and thrive. I will likely open the door to them when others may not and many don't even know I will. My heart is tied to them in a way that can't quite be explained, except to say I am Aunt Linda.
When they are in pain, it pains me. When they celebrate, I am celebrating with them. I see my own mistakes in theirs. I see my own dreams in theirs. I see them as the hope for something more and something better in the world. They entered my life - by blood or by chance - for a reason and once they have connected, I am dedicated to them in some form. I want them to succeed and thrive. I want them to do more and do better than I did. They should not endure the pains I did. And when they do, I suffer with them. They are my "kids", no matter how short a time we spent together or how deeply connected we have been. They crossed my path. They are connected to me. I love them and believe I owe them whatever can be given to make their path stronger but not necessarily not easier.  It is not about things or money. I owe them what I know to be true and what I believe will help them. We grow stronger by struggle. I won't fight their battles. I only hope to share stories of battles I fought that were not well planned and executed. Sharing those things that helped me prepare for such battles will help them achieve more success.
They will struggle and fail as I did. My only hope is that they won't fall as hard or as far because of something I said or I did. And because of something I said or did, they can run a thousand miles farther than I ever imagined and do some amazing thing that they didn't think they could. At that moment I hope I'm sitting, in this world or the next, saying 'Wow! Look at that. That's one of my kids'.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Our tiny fragile seeds - Tomorrow

A seed is little more than a hope for tomorrow. It is tiny and fragile and needs just the right conditions to grow. It grows - tomorrow.
Every day we have on this earth is a time to plant seeds. We plant seeds that might grow - tomorrow. But we are also the keepers of seeds. We can provide just the right conditions for seeds to grow. We can be the fertilizer, the water and the sunshine. We can also preserve seeds for another season.
Tomorrow.
When we think of life cut short, we tend to focus on tomorrow not coming. But tomorrow always comes and then it doesn't quite come in the way we believe or expect.
We see life as what we know and want it to be. It's this cycle in which we live and breath.
We are seeds. We are water. We are fertilizer. We are sunshine. We are keepers of the seed.
Our time here is short. Many of us search for the meaning and a defining mission. But I'm guessing, the meaning and definition are simply ours to decide. Plant seeds. Be a keeper of seeds. Water seeds. Nurture seeds. Shine light on seeds. That's it.
If you are doing one of those things, without malice and with a kind heart, believing in a tomorrow - past you - you are finding your mission and meaning in life. You are no more or less important than the tree in the forest. You simply have more mobility.
Preserve seeds worthy of replanting. Plant seeds worth growing. Shine on seeds that will grow and spread more of the best there is to offer. Nurture what will make a better tomorrow. Be a keeper of the best seeds. Create more hope for tomorrow.
We are tiny and fragile. Our time is short. What will you do with this short time?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Force alone cannot sustain a nation

One of the most surprising revelations in the past week was that our military leaders are now fully authorized to use whatever means they deem necessary and simply need to let the Commander in Chief know about it. Meanwhile, foreign policy is really confusing right now. Our foreign policy objectives are very unclear and statements are conflicted.
When there is a leadership vacuum, something or someone will fill it. It appears that serious foreign policy decisions are now in the hands of the military. No congressional oversight and little guidance from the executive branch.
We have a very well trained military with seasoned leaders. As a veteran, I have deep respect for our military forces. However, their mission and focus is specific. They should be one component of our overall foreign policy strategy not the entire foreign policy strategy or even the central component of foreign policy.
There are long term and broad consequences for military actions. Foreign policy experts and diplomats understand a broader context and international impact of those actions. We have allies. If we want support from those allies, they deserve and expect to understand what we are doing. We cannot expect them to give us total support without knowing what we are trying to achieve.
We should expect our congressional leaders to be in the loop. They should be helping to drive foreign policy and most certainly weighing in on military action anywhere in the world. In theory, we elect leaders to lead. It now appears many decisions are in the hands of our military leaders who were not elected by us.
Perhaps you love a show of force and believe that, alone, is leadership. I would argue that if force is not reasoned and balanced, there will be an equally unreasonable and ill balanced reaction as a result of it. It may very well isolate us in the world - from our allies as well as from our enemies. Force alone cannot sustain a nation.
We spend more on military than any other country in the world - By BILLIONS - and there are plans to throw more money at it while cutting programs in the US. To what end? What is the reason? What will be left in the United States to defend? It's not sustainable.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Is Different not quite right?

Old folk songs are the absolute best in my assessment. There are so many variations of presentation. I listen to them and then I sing them in my own way. I hear something else. Often, fellow musicians hear me and I notice a quick odd look, as though that's not quite right. And then, they settle into hearing me belt it out my way. I sing it the way I hear it in my mind.
While I am aware that others interpreted differently - even the songwriter wrote it differently - I can't help but sing it the way I hear it in my mind. I'm aware of the "that's not right" looks but it is right for me. It works for me. It is my heart and spirit. It's just how I hear it and need to express it.
There is nothing more symbolic of my life than that. I hear it and see it a different way. I sing it a different way. It's just inside of me and needs to come out that way. Long ago I stopped minding that others think it's not quite "right". It's me. It's not meant to be unkind or uncaring in any form. I mean no disrespect to anyone who came before me - the songwriter or the performer. It's just how I hear it and am not afraid to share it.
Over the course of time I've come to enjoy that I hear things differently. It has made me a more introspective person. It has meant that the sharing is not more important than my own joy. I just own it for myself. If others connect with it, then it's a bonus.
The moral of the story for me is that creation is not accomplished by copy. Creation is something altogether different. And different is me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"Bait and Switch" - Airline overbooking

If I sell you something I don't actually have and cannot deliver, I risk serious trouble. It could be characterized as fraud, especially if I take your money then tell you I don't have it. If I tried to give you something you didn't actually want in exchange for what you wanted, it could be characterized as "bait and switch". Historically, these have not been good business practices and have landed many on the wrong side of justice.
In my many years of airline travel I've sometimes encountered "overbooked" flights. It's happened on multiple airlines and is somewhat standard practice in the industry. I didn't experience a lot of "overbooked" flights but enough to have a sense of how it works. In each case, I was traveling for business so I had a specific mission and schedule. Twice, I volunteered to take the next flight as it didn't mess up my mission but to the airlines benefit, I actually never took advantage of the very limited rewards they gave me. It was always flight credit and had to be used within a window of time. Since I rarely flew for personal trips, it was rather useless as the company had no way for me to apply these credits when booking flights.On other occasions there was simply no flexibility in my schedule to allow delays so I didn't volunteer.
Most of us don't fly more than once a year for personal reasons. The credits I got for the times volunteering to wait, required using the credits within 6 months. Even traveling for personal reasons, most people have a plan - a schedule - maybe a connecting cruise.
These days when we book a flight, we can even check in 24 hours in advance and select a seat if we wish on most airlines. We feel a sense of assurance that, short of emergency or weather issues, we will get to our destination reasonably close to our planned arrival. We have expectations - pay for something and we get the expected return.
In the past few decades, airlines have worked to streamline flights and assure that planes are full. They need to maximize their profits. When I flew in the 80's planes were rarely full of passengers. It was common to have lots of room and empty seats around you. Not so today. Now an empty seat beside you is a luxury. Airlines, working to ensure a full plane flies, overbook flights - sell more seats than they actually have - expecting that some passengers will change plans as often people do. In essence, they are selling something they don't actually have and gambling that, by flight time, they actually will. If they gamble wrong, they "pay" people to volunteer to take a later flight that isn't full. If enough people do, they are fine. And if their "payment" - the voucher for a future flight - is not used (like mine never were) they made a great gamble pay off. If, on the other hand, they have to physically pull someone off a flight and get sued for it, they just lost a big bet.
I'd venture that the overbooking of flights might be getting a second look in many airline boardrooms very soon. It's not a good idea to be selling things you don't have and betting that people will take the second option.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trickle UP!

"The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations." Jacob Lew
What values do you see with the current budget proposals and actions?
1) Protection of the environment - CUT (no value, no aspirations)
2) Privacy protections - CUT (no value, no aspirations)
3) Healthcare and Disease Research - CUT (no value, no aspirations)
4) Information and Education - CUT (no value, no aspirations)
5) Military - UP, UP, UP - to what value and what aspiration?
All of the above do, indeed, have great monetary value. Where's that going? Will it benefit you?
What are your values and aspirations? The budget is not just numbers. It trickles right down to you and I. It's time our values and aspirations start trickling up!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

America wears the Dunce Cap on Health Care

The health care legislation, ACHA, that just failed to pass the house of representatives was not going to help anyone I know obtain better health care. No ONE that I know. I know no one who was pointing at provisions in the act and saying it was good for them with one exception. I have one friend who wants no health care insurance at all. He simply believes he will never need health care - no broken bone, no accident, no need. I hope he's right but bet he's wrong. And I have other friends who would rather follow non-traditional health care methods. There's likely much to respect in their positions. But if they are in an accident - if they are in a public place and suffer some health emergency - I'm hoping responders take the measures needed to save their lives and not ask about their health insurance beliefs. But doing so will come at a cost to someone.
Yes, I still know people who generally and blindly support this administration. But no one I know was talking about this legislation and pointing to provisions that would provide them with better health care.
I also know that the Affordable Care Act, as it stands, falls far short of meeting the health care needs of this nation. A responsible governing body would be focused on meeting the health care needs of this nation. The ACHA was irresponsible and served only the needs of the very rich. It was more disastrous than the claimed disastrous ACA. A responsible governing body would be focused on reforming health care legislation to meet the health care needs of this nation.
But NO, the focus is to FAIL the needs so they can point fingers and place blame. They offer no better solution, cannot rally their own controlling party to create one, and in response to the failure, point to hoped failure of what exists to help meet the health care needs of our people. Failure should not be an option when we are talking about people's lives.
That's like saying the last administration did a terrible job fighting ISIS. We can't get our party to agree on a better plan, so we'll just follow the last plan and let ISIS win. When they win, it's not our fault. We're just following their plan.
America looks like the dunce in the class right now. Look around the world - Australia, UK, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Canada and on and on. They figured out health care. We keep failing and failing. The ACA helps a lot of people but it failed to fix what's wrong with our system. We don't need to reinvent the wheel here. Let's take the dunce cap off and get this done.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Step to the plate

There are really good people working everyday to do significant things in our community. If you have ever been one of those people or helping to support those people, you know it requires a lot of work. Every time we take on a project, we don't know what we don't know. If it's significant and it's new, it will be challenging. A project nearly always grows if it is worthy and significant. It's work!
If you have ever been one of these people or helping to support those people, you know there will be some arm chair quarterbacks. They will be the ones telling you everything you are doing wrong and doing little else. They will demand. They will denounce. They will criticize. What they won't do is actually DO. They won't take responsibility for actually DOING anything. They simply KNOW how it ought to be done by someone else.
This type of person can suck the life out of a project and waste energy in dealing with their nonsense. If you find that every conversation with a person includes criticism of how OTHERS are doing things and every time that person's name comes up in conversation you learn how they have criticized someone, it's time to assess the value of that person's contribution.
Doing significant things in a community is hard work. We need to work together and help one another. We need to step up and contribute our skills when others may be struggling. It's not enough to criticize and say "someone needs to". Be that someone. Bringing a wrecking ball to a project is not the same as contribution. You don't build a project by knocking over all the other contributors. You roll up your sleeves and DO what you insist needs done or build great collaboration with those that CAN do what you cannot.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Let's talk conservative and sustainable

Being conservative is virtuous.
We should be conservative in our judgement of others. Civility is a conservative approach. Holding back harsh words is conservative. It reflects pragmatism and an understanding that time often serves a person well in dealing with untruth.
Conservatism can be a virtue.
Conservation can be a path to long term sustainability. With that motive, being conservative is a virtue. We need thoughtful focus on sustainability. Sustainability is very complicated. It deserves thoughtful discussion.
We've really messed up the labels "conservative" and "liberal". They have been turned into divisive terms that now have little meaning and are counter productive in dealing with serious issues that impact us all. We need to stop that. Let's talk about what works and what doesn't and let's talk about the reasons - really talk about the reasons.
As an example, let's look at Social Security. When Social Security was introduced in this country and if it were introduced today, the program would have a "Liberal" label. If this program was being introduced in Congress today, it wouldn't even get a hearing. We'd be hearing LIBERAL, SOCIALISM, and a thousand other slurs.
But reality is that millions of Americans - conservative and liberal - depend upon and love Social Security. The general perception is that we paid into it and we have a right to expect a return on the investment we have made. That is both conservative and liberal. And why has it worked for decades?
It's worked for decades because it had a basis in sustainability and conservative oversight. It has been a lifeline for millions and millions of Americans. Those of us who have paid into it for decades feel ownership and rightfully so. Our expectation of a return on that investment is conservative. We expect that we are investing in a sustainable program and insist that it is because we paid into it.
Social Security is a government administered program. Yes, the government is controlling this program that is favored by both conservatives and liberals; that benefits both conservatives and liberals. Yes, we pay for it for years in social security taxes. Yes, we should expect a return. That is both a conservative and a liberal response.
Perhaps our taxes should be further divided so we can assess an appropriate response to return on investment. How much would you conservatively say would be an appropriate tax for military spending? How much would you conservatively say is appropriate for human services tax? Perhaps our entire tax payment should be specified so we are seeing exactly what category we are paying for so we can assess our expectation on return on investment. Most Americans would find it rather shocking. We are currently blind to it unless we educate ourselves.
The most liberal spending of our tax dollars lies in military spending. Here is a chart of YOUR tax dollar spending. Where is the liberal part and where is the conservative part?




Monday, March 20, 2017

Splinters and Logs

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
We have heard those sentiments often in our lives. These words are meant to guide us, to direct us and to cause us to reflect on ourselves before we act on others.
"Before removing the splinter from your brother's eye, remove the log from your own."
We have heard those admonishments often in our lives. These words are meant to guide us, to direct us and to cause us to reflect on ourselves before we act upon others.
These words are about setting standards. The standards we set for ourselves should not be higher than those we set for others. If we dismiss someone because they have not always been right, then we and those we accept and admire must always be right. We are directed to be discerning and merciful.
You cannot lift someone up who constantly lies and then dismiss someone else because you think they were not always right. There is no credibility in that. It is a twisted standard.
I'm absolutely mystified with the search for splinters to justify overlooking logs. People who seem to be rather sane are totally focused on splinters while the logs pile up in their path. Those logs are going to jam their lives up in ways that have grave personal consequences. I'm baffled.
They can't even tell where the splinters were sighted but insist they are out there and much, much more important than the log jam.
As much as it frustrates and baffles me, I do feel sorry for them. Their suffering will be no less than mine. The only difference is that they won't understand why and they will be more focused on blame than on solutions. They will continue to search for splinters while the logs pile up right in front of them.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Terrorism

How do we fight terrorism?
None of us wants to feel threatened by a radicalized person. Extremist ideology can and does cause unstable people to do unthinkable acts. We see it play out around the world. We have seen it play out in the United States. And, yes, it plays out in our own back yard. Unstable people will take an ideology to extremes. And sometimes those extremist, unstable people will seem to be simply people following a passionate viewpoint that appears plausible in the beginning. They adopt tactics to press their issue that cross the line into terrorism. They threaten with words or actions. And sometimes it leads to violent actions.
Where is that line? At what point does a group move from holding a position to creating terroristic tactics? Where does radicalization begin?
There are two parts to this question. How do we recognize the beginnings of radicalization and how do we prevent it?
But first we need to define terrorism.
Terrorism is the targeting of any group or person for the purpose of forcing an ideology through intimidation or violence action that causes a disruption of safety of the targeted group or person.
That may sound very broad to some. Many activists has walked right up to and crossed this line. But if you think of the very best, they did not. We need to be very aware of what Terrorism is.
We know it when we feel targeted.
We live in extremist times. Many of us are passionate about our views. We have need to voice our perspectives. Radicalism breeds radicalism. The more radical one becomes in one direction, the more radical another becomes in the opposite direction. You can actually help create the very thing you are fighting against.
We need to be careful in the words we choose and the tactics we embrace. If you don't believe in terrorism, don't become a terrorist in any form. Don't be radicalized. Stand firmly against violence. Speak up for the marginalized. Take time to know people and understand their challenges and concerns. That's how we fight terrorism.




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

How a community feels....

Friends visiting Venango County for the first time, especially those from cities and other countries, notice something that we may take for granted. Walking down the sidewalk, we tend to look people in the eye and share a greeting. "Hello." "Good morning." It's brief. It doesn't matter if we know the person or not. We tend to extend a greeting, acknowledging our shared existence to offer a pleasantry.
Another observation is that drivers tend to be less aggressive and sometimes are outright polite. We'll wave someone on allowing them to get ahead of us. Drivers here are more likely to slow down to let someone into our lane ahead of us.
Perhaps it's about context and feeling just a little more connected to one another. Newcomers soon learn that roots go deep here. A large part of the population has family history that lasts generations. Between family and classmates and people they've worked with through the years, there's often just one step between some connection to one another.
I cautioned a friend recently relocating here from a large city not to honk at people when driving. She could wind up across the table from that person in a meeting one day.
When you view strangers as somebody's cousin, possible neighbor or someone you may need to work with one day, you behave a little differently. Yes, we have aggressive and rude people around here. But our culture is generally gentle and polite so the aggressive and rude ones stand out as abnormal.
From my perspective, the world would be a better place if we greeted strangers as someone's cousin, a possible neighbor or someone with whom we need to work. If that's not your practice, try simply smiling and saying Hello to people. Then start adding a nice comment - "I like you hat." or "Don't you love this sunshine."
If you're having a bad day, it can change how you feel. When many of us are doing that, it changes how a community feels.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The light of truth shines on us all.

Aspire - to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value....
What are your aspirations? What we wish to see in others must first be our own aspirations.
Then we lift others who are clearly sharing many of our aspirations.

Aspire to:

....first be humble. Accept our own frailties and tendency to blind ourselves from our own short comings.

....be mindful that we don't know what we don't know.

....always strive to be better and do better.

....be present in our daily encounters, however, brief.

....walk confidently toward something greater and of higher value but walk softly.

....set high standards for ourselves and those around us by inspiration not consternation.

....be clear, honest and trustworthy.

....give more you take.

....desire for others the same benefits we wish for ourselves.

....shed jealousy and joyfully greet the good fortune of another.

....be cautious in absorbing or creating negativity.

The light of truth shines on all of us. Be one who continues to face it, reflect it and walk toward it.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What we didn't have when I grew up here...

Every once in a while there are posts about how things were "when we grew up" with a sense that kids today are missing something.  Today, I was thinking about things we now have in this area, that we didn't have when I was a kid growing up here.
In the early 70's, we tried water skiing in the river until Uncle Bill raised his feet out of the water with toilet paper dangling between his toes. We stayed away from the river after that. Today, our river is very nice and comparatively clean.
Today we have outfitters with kayaks and very nice riverfront park in Franklin. That would not have been desirable or successful when I was growing up here.
In the 70's, I loved the plays at the Franklin High School performed by the Civic Operetta - Little Abner, 1776, Fiddler on the Roof and many more. It was wonderful. But today, the Civic Operetta has a home at the Barrow Civic Theatre. That Theatre is now host for many more types of performances adding a wonderful selection of cultural entertainment experiences weekly in both the main theatre and the Little Theatre. We did not have that jewell when I grew up here.
Today we have miles of paved biking trails running in several directions out of Franklin. The trail is easy to get to and has a nice parking area with places to have a picnic if you like. I would have loved riding those trails when I was a kid, but they weren't there back then.
We looked forward to the 4-H fair and I recall 4th of July parades but the only downtown festival I remember is some kind of Centennial celebration. Dad tried growing a beard to win a competition. As I try to name all the downtown festivities today, I'll likely miss one. There's Franklin on Ice, May Mart, Taste of Talent, Stone Skipping, and Applefest. And, there are also free Thursday night concerts all summer long.
Meanwhile, year round, pubs around town have live performances on weekends featuring local talent. Our area is filled with talent! Add to that, the Debence Museum, which wasn't downtown when I grew up, features music and historical talks in their great room.
I know I'm only hitting a few of the highlights of things happening in and around town that weren't happening when I grew up here.
Yes, we miss some old ways but there are some wonderful things that have grown in their place. Let's celebrate them and help them flourish for years to come.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Patriotic Thing to Do...

Remember the story of the little boy who cried wolf? Most parents have told their children this story to try to help them understand that if they repeatedly lie, someday they may be telling the truth when they really need help and no one will believe them.
We all know someone in the community whose credibility is questionable. While their stories may work for a while - the first times they cry wolf - eventually they are known for being questionable. Their audience narrows down to the most gullible or equally questionable and those who have not learned yet that they are not credible.
Growing up. most of us heard the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, which he should not have done. When confronted, the legend says, "I cannot tell a lie." That legend and the tradition of moral high ground on many issues has been the cornerstone of the "American Brand". We cherish the memory of Honest Abe.
In the history of our nation, we've had many cherry tree moments. There was the "Trail of Tears" and many injustices focused on our native american brothers and sisters. Slavery was a horrible thing. We still struggle with a wide range of civil rights and equality issues. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII caused great harm to many of our brothers and sisters. Oppression and indifference continue to haunt us as a nation.
Deep within our national soul, there has also always been a great desire to seek truth. When indifference gave way to awakening, the lies were uncovered and we could no longer allow them. America stood for higher ground and we have always been a nation seeking higher ground. That's how we have seen ourselves and that is how we wanted to be seen throughout the world.
That "American Brand" - the very credibility of our nation - depends upon truth. We each have a responsibility as Americans to seek truth, to speak truth and to help guide our country toward higher ground. As much as credibility is the cornerstone of good personal character, it is the cornerstone of a great nation. Right now we are facing a crisis of credibility. We cannot solve any issue without first seeking truth. Making decisions based on lies will destroy us.
Liars will always attack those who expose their lies. They will attempt to silence those seeking truth. They will do it with broad strokes of character assassination while loudly proclaiming they can prove the lie but never providing credible evidence. Don't accept it! Don't respond with broad strokes of character assassination in return. Call a lie, a lie. Provide truth. Expect higher standards. Set higher standards. It's the most patriotic thing you can do.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Be the Adult in the Room

How we make our arguments, how we express our dissent, how we protest, is extremely important. Take heart in the words "when they go low, we go high'. It matters.
Over the last 8 years, I've repeatedly seen comments that pointed to a "visceral" reaction to the mere sight of President Obama and how horrible he was but never any sound reasoning behind what the "horrible" was. The closest to any specifics were that they hated having to pay for health care and food while other people were getting "free stuff'. I kept wanting to ask if they were offered health care and food for free, would they take it? If people can't afford health care and food, do you want them to be sick and hungry? What's the answer here?
They called him weak. What specifically was he supposed to do that would be considered strong? Go to war?
As we approach our thoughts about what number 46 is doing, we need to be specific. Don't use broad, sweeping, "visceral", reactionary language. Speak directly to issues and policy. Be specific about outcomes you would like to see instead. Don't insult. Don't generalize. Be specific and clear and focus on the issue.
Call lies, lies. Be specific and provide sources. If that isn't accepted, walk away. Don't argue. Don't descend into peripheral garbage. Be specific and stick on the specific issue. Don't insult. Don't generalize and don't descend.
Those entrenched in an opposing view are not the most important audience. Those on the fence are the most important people. They are watching. They are quietly watching. Your approach to the issue matters. You will be more credible if you are the adult in the room. It takes discipline and patience. It's going to matter a lot in the long run.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"Give him a chance" hmmmm?

If you see someone break into your house, are you going to stand aside and give them a chance to take things in, instead of taking things out? If that person said repeatedly that they planned to do damage, would you stand by and see if they really meant it? Of course not!
Many are saying "give him a chance" and doing a lot of name calling targeting those who are saying NO! When a person says what they are going to do, and you oppose what that person says they are going to do, you don't "give them a chance" to do it. You oppose it. You stand against it and you stand loudly against it. No one has to pay you. No one has to prompt you. You Stand!
If someone says they are going to do something you strongly disagree with, and you see them taking action to actually DO the thing you disagree with, you don't "Give them a chance" to get it done. You Stand against it. You act against it. You resist it.
If you believe what the person is doing is wrong, you do something about it. "Giving them a chance" is not an option. Wrong is wrong. You stand. You act. You resist.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Grandpa Charlie's Elks Club

Not long ago I wrote about Grandpa Charlie insisting that I take typing in high school. "I'm going to college," I told him. His response irritated me, "If that college thing doesn't work out, you'll have typing to fall back on."
In those days, typing meant you were going to be a secretary or a data entry clerk. I felt he was unsupportive of my aspirations but I took typing as he insisted I should. Of course, I've been forever grateful because it's served me well working with computers and especially with my love of writing. Thank you Grandpa Charlie!
Recently I was encouraged to join the Elks Club - Grandpa Charlie's Elks Club. In his day it was strictly a fraternal order. As I considered joining, I wondered what Grandpa Charlie might say. On Initiation day, the first thing I did was walk to the wall to find his name.
Now I've been nominated for an office - at Grandpa Charlie's Elks Club. I wonder what he would think. As I listen to the history of the club, much has changed. Much more than just women now included as full members. What has not changed is the organization's dedication to charitable endeavors throughout the region and to the community of members.
I will serve to honor Grandpa Charlie. Perhaps these typing skills will continue to come in handy.

Monday, February 6, 2017

In this my faith lies...Truth

Truth should always be our highest goal. We should always seek to be true and honorable. We should honor truth.
It's not easy. We make mistakes. We are often disappointed as events unfold differently than we envisioned. Most of us would like to re-write the difficult times in our history. But we are most honorable if we can hold truth.
We can have differing opinions concerning how something may play out in the future. But, even there, we can look to history to gain understanding. There are examples of how similar situations have played out in the past. There are truths to be found, if we seek them.
If we are faced with absolute falsehoods which we have believed, we have choices to make. Too often, our mistake is to say "yes, but". When we do that, we have been duped. We have been blinded to seeking truth.
I've been there. I've done that. And every time, I have paid a heavy price for failing to seek truth.
This nation needs to quickly seek truth and honor. We need to fact check everything and call one another on falsehoods. I want you to fact check me. I will fact check you.
We need to honorably hold one another to the highest standards. You and I! And we spread that expectation until it reaches the highest points of our land.
We need to applaud and support every journalist and every friend who does this honorably. We need to support and applaud truth. Narrow your focus to this and it will free you. "The truth will set you free". In this, my faith lies.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Thankful for the Veterans Administration in Venango County

In recent years there has been a lot of talk about the VA and a great focus on the need for improving services. As a veteran, this has been of special interest to me. I'm most concerned about the care provided to any veteran who has served in combat. While I appreciate when someone thanks me for my service, I've always felt a need to step to the back of the line in honor of those who have faced the most difficult service.
Because of that, the only veteran benefit I ever used was the Montgomery Bill. I was just a year behind the GI Bill. With the Montgomery Bill, the government matched every dollar I contributed toward my education. Thankfully, I contributed enough during my service, and the government matched enough, that I was able to complete college with no debt.
Recently, I learned that I was eligible for health care through the Veteran's Administration. With all the national news about the VA medical system, I wasn't sure what to expect. Here's my experience. In Venango County, we have a VA health clinic. I applied for health care at our local VA office. Within one day of applying, the Erie VA benefits office called to say I was accepted and that I would get a call to schedule an appointment within a few weeks. That call actually come within a few days.
My appointment at the local VA clinic was within 10 days of that call. I walked into the office and was greeted immediately. As we completed the initial intake, I prepared to sit but immediately, the door opened and I was greeted by Nurse Mary. As we completed the pre-screening and EKG, she said "I'll see if the doctor is ready," and within a minute, she was ushering me into the doctor's screening room. The doctor spent nearly an hour with me. Then, he sent me for blood work. Nurse Mary ushered me to the phlebotomist who was totally prepared and suddenly the visit was over.
The Venango County VA health clinic is beautiful and this first experience with the staff there was by far the most efficient health care screening I have ever experienced! We are very fortunately to have this resource. I am thankful!!!
Often, in reference to my career and the perspective gained from my short Air Force experience, I say it's one of the best decisions I ever made. I've always been thankful for the Montgomery Bill and the help with education. Now, I am quite thankful for the benefit of quality health care.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Context, Connection and Loyalty

One of my favorite aunts often said of our community, "if you fart, everyone knows about it." Venango County is a very close knit community. It's rural but it's not easy to hide here. Little is hidden. The transparency, exposure, connectedness, can be daunting.  A fart may go unnoticed in a larger space, but here it can become a point of reference.
Context and connections run deep and they run far. You could be sitting in a restaurant and mention a person's name in conversation believing that it's only heard by those in your booth. At a table nearby, unknown to you, is that person's cousin or uncle or best friend. Their radar is up. I've experienced that on both sides of the table.
Loyalties build over time. Context and connections run deep and they run far. To succeed in this community requires a longer list of references than the list of accomplishments on the resume. And you don't choose the references. The references come from anyone with whom you have had connection - in THIS community. You could have worked for the President of the United States and still be viewed with suspicion here. The first question would be "if you worked for the President, why did you need to come here?"
Local context and connections are most significant. As a community we struggle with that culture. We want new and fresh ideas but we are steeped in the need for building loyalty over time. The positive part of that is requiring a long term, collaborative vision. Loyalties build with time. Once built and developed they are difficult to break. It's about sustainability. Much comes and goes. Many new ideas have failed. Likely they failed because of the culture that demands context, connection and loyalty.
Like the river that runs through it, our community changes its path very slowly. We need voices that push progress. We need voices that offer greater vision. If you are one of those voices, build. Your power lies in your ability to create context and connections. Create local references that can help.
At times it may feel like you are paddling the boat upstream. Don't shoot at the other paddlers. Recognize and become a champion of those who are paddling in the same direction. You can build context and connection there. Loyalty is found there. Loyalty will be shared there.
Don't fart in public. One of my other favorite aunts would say, "if you have to fart, go to the bathroom". It's best to assume that every criticism you make is public. That's a public fart. That criticism will be shared. Context and connections run deep.
Build the context. Build the connections. Build the references. Loyalty follows.
It's a marathon, not a sprint. And once context, connections and loyalty are built, they are stronger than steel. There may still be trying times and moments of frustration but wait it out. It bridges unbelievable divides and is worth the efforts.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Rhetoric of Motives

Motives matter.
In any good crime drama, motive is the thing that captures attention. In an unsolved mystery, who had the motive to commit the crime? Why was someone murdered? Who had motive?
There is a motive behind everything we do. Motives matter. When we look to history we are most inspired by those whose motivations were not focused on themselves but rather toward leaving a legacy of betterment for many. Those who have created riches or sought power for themselves but left no legacy of betterment for many are lost in history or distained in history. We are most in admiration of those who sacrificed much to create something much better. Motives matter.
History is not kind to those who may have meant well but did great harm. History has a way of sorting truth from fiction. Time has a way of sorting things out. We see outcomes - in time. History has a way of bringing motives to the surface. Motives matter.
The two greatest motives that derail potential for greater good are power and greed. History should tell us if a person seeks great wealth and unquestioned authority, they will not work for the greater good. Motives matter.
Our rhetoric reveals our motives. A theme will carry through. Watch for the rhetoric that reveals the motives of power and greed. These motives matter and they will not serve a greater good.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Middle Ground Power

Currently about 30% of the country approves of the current administration's actions. It continues to fall but will likely bottom out and stay steady. About 30% of the country is outraged and concerned. The rest are somewhere between not sure and wishing everyone else would just calm down. That latter group will be the ones to determine what the country looks like in these coming years.
It's those people in the middle that need most to be engaged and make their positions known. They are the ones willing to hear both sides of an issue and try to build bridges, try to see the best of both arguments. They are our best hope for a future. They tire of conflict. They don't like name calling. They are truly the bridge builders and the ones consistently actually rolling their sleeves to getting things done. Don't expect them to march. While others are marching, they are working on something that helps someone. They feel no need to march because they are focused on the next need. They aren't marching on either side of an issue. They are doing things in the community. These community builders don't wear their political views on their sleeves because they care most about building across lines.
They are also the people who are simply uninvolved. As long as they have what they need to survive and live without interference, they just do their own thing. They don't join anything. They aren't connected to much beyond their immediate family. They just want to live their lives and not worry about the rest. These isolationists don't much care about joining because they care most about what's right around them.
The community builders and the isolationists don't want pulled into conflicts. Their reasons are different but they resist the same. If we want to speak to them, we need to speak to them in ways that don't involve drawing them into conflict. The more irrational, erratic and emotional our approach, the less they want to hear us.
Be careful in what you say and how you say it. It matters. Those in the middle will lean one way or the other - quietly. Which way do we want them to lean? I'd like to be on the side of builders and happy to help the isolationists be happy where they are. Let's help them. There's where the power lies.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Vent in Private. Build in Public.

What to do?
While we may feel need to vent concerning whatever disturbs us, the venting then becomes the central focus of criticism not the issue that concerns us. How we express our concerns is really important because those who disagree with us would like to focus attention away from the actual issue. Sometimes we make that quite easy for them. It's the "kill the messenger" approach and it works quite well, if the messenger provides an easy target.
We've become an emotionally focused culture. We are not generally a context or content focused culture. That creates great difficulty in getting voices heard as context and content driven information tends not be emotionally charged and is often ignored or overlooked. So, our challenge is to appeal to emotion without being ignorant of the greater perspective.
I am advocating a context driven, issue driven, content driven approach to all that we do. It's kind of the non-violent approach to written word, social media posts and "memes". I am an activist and an advocate but I am challenging myself to focus on a "do no harm", non-violent, non-oppressive approach.
I am a great admirer of those I follow who are clear and focused but never cruel in how they approach what they say, what they do or what information they share. They are not shy to share a point of view but very careful in how they share it. As a result of their disciplined approach, they have a seat at the table. Their voices are heard and respected. Slowly and carefully, they are making a significant difference in our communities.
They are looking a year down the road, 5 years down the road and 10 years down the road. They know bridges burned today could be important a year, 5 years or 10 years from today. Being so, they are context focused and context lasts years. Emotion is a flash; here today and gone tomorrow. Emotion evaporates and cannot create a solid foundation on which to build anything.
At best, emotion can generate the passion TO build something. But the hard work begins with the actual building. That require content - substance - something that sustains a foundation.
What do do?
Move beyond emotion and into the content that creates context. Be in it for the long haul. We need a 1 year, 5 year and 10 year approach. In the meantime, do no harm. Vent in private. Build in public. Be known as someone who applauds the positive and recognizes those working hard to create something better. Be known as someone who collaborates and builds bridges without doing harm.
Venting is a slash and burn approach. It sets us up to be slashed and burned. Think long term. Think collaboratively. It requires more discipline but it has greater promise of long term success.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Pro-life

In 1964, a young couple with two small children faced a heart wrenching decision. The wife was terribly ill with a leaky valve in her heart caused by rheumatic fever in her teens. Her weakened heart worked so hard to pump her lifeblood that it had grown to the size of a football. Though she fought to live a normal life, there were times she was so weak, she couldn't hold a plate while washing dishes.
The couple learned she was pregnant and the doctor's cautioned that she could not survive the pregnancy. The doctors were exploring options, rather new, for repairing her heart. There was great hope for her long term survival. She was young and determined. But carrying a child to full term would not be possible, they said.
It was an agonizing life and death decision. They chose life - her life. Together, they chose to preserve her life so she could survive to raise their two children. She was my mother.
Because of their decision, I had just a few more vacations to remember. I had just a few more birthdays and Christmas'.
Several years later as they prepared for the planned heart valve replacement, they performed a very new procedure - a heart catherization - a blood clot formed and broke away, stopped her heart, and she was gone.
In 1964, a young couple with two small children faced a heart wrenching decision with their doctors. They chose life. When I think about the many layers surrounding the abortion issue, I see my mother. I support that young couple making that difficult decision with their doctors. It may mean just a few more precious years. I chose life and their right to choose.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Suck it up"

Debating crowd sizes, who are the biggest hypocrites, or who is the nastiest, is wasted energy.
Without great fanfare, without creating personal drama, simply make your voice heard where it counts. Pay attention to the issues being acted upon in Congress, in State Legislation and in local government. Talk about issues that matter.
Call your congressmen every day at 202-225-3121 and let them know how you feel about specific issues that are being debated and soon come up for vote. Our legislators are not likely following Facebook and Twitter to determine what their constituents want. Emails and signing petitions won't have near the impact that actually calling will have.
Don't worry about the trivial stuff. Get focused and get active. Be clear, concise and respectful. Talk personally with your friends about it. Build informal alliances. Inform one another about what the congressional office had to say.
We saw the first action of the GOP to remove the power of the Ethics Office overturned due to collective outrage expressed by phone to Congress. My guess is that many of those calls included Republicans as well as Democrats.
Much of the anger and frustration felt by people of all political persuasion is due to a feeling of not being heard. The answer is to be heard by the people who are making the political decisions.
Telling me how you feel or what you think has no power at all even if I agree with you. Voting every few years is great but needs to be followed by ensuring your representative is actually acting on your behalf.
Don't "suck it up and shut up"! Suck it up and get focused. Get educated and get actively involved in the conversation. Don't wait to see if they will do a good job. There are important issue on the table.
202-225-3121!!! This is the general number for congress.
If you don't know who your representatives are, tell the operator your zip code. They will connect you to your representatives.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Respect is important....

Respect and being respectful are very important values.
Demanding respect despite very disrespectful acts, words and deeds is not going to happen.
"Just locker room talk" is not a respectable answer to someone boosting that they can grab women with benefit of celebrity status. It is not respectable. I cannot be commanded to respect that person.
Wealth does not command respect. How that person gained their wealth and what they did with the wealth accumulated, could be respectful.
Our sovereignty as a nation is an important value. It is our patriotic duty to protect our nation from intrusion by foreign invasion. I cannot respect Russian interference with our election in ANY way. And I cannot respect anyone who would turn a blind eye or think it is, in any form, acceptable.
For years we have heard the cries of "repeal and replace Obamacare" without a single replacement plan defined. I cannot respect that.
The highest standards of ethics should be the cornerstone of the purity of democracy. We should demand confidence that our elected officials are working for the benefit of their constituencies and not for personal gain. I cannot be commanded to respect anyone who refuses independent scrutiny - Independent Congressional Oversight, A free Press, divestiture of personal business/government relationships. I cannot be demanded to respect that.
Our public education system requires advocates that understand the challenges faced by educators. Education cannot be turned into a profit center or an advocate for religious ideology. I cannot respect anyone who advocates for that.
Respect and being respectful are very important values to me. Respectfully, I challenge the positions listed above. I respectfully challenge our nation to something better. I cannot respect less. I will not respect less. I believe we are better. Let's not lower our standards.
If you want me to respect your authority, my voice must be heard. If you want me to respect your patriotic vision, my full rights as a citizen must be fulfilled. If you want my respect, your ethics and your intentions must be honorable. I will respectfully disagree with your approach to a solution but I will not respect a total disregard for human dignity. I will not respect a disregard for social responsibility. I cannot and will not be commanded to do so. The health, dignity and respect of our country is at stake. I will not lower my standards. I will aspire to be better. I will demand better from our leaders.

The One President I saw in person...

Sometime in 1986, I had the most amazing opportunity to cover a Christian Broadcaster's Press Conference in the East Room of the White House. Yes, dear friends, I was working for a radio station and budding Television Station that was part of the Christian Broadcasting Network in Greencastle, PA. It was an odd and interesting experience. It's a multi-layer story and which part will unfold is happening as I write this.
Of course, I was oddly placed in that job. I understood them much more than they could ever understand me. But it was a good "foot in the door" job right out of college, working at a radio station and doing marketing for a newly developing television station. And, suddenly, I was on my way with the station owners (husband and wife) to cover a press conference with the President of the United States of America - President Reagan.
Of course, I was oddly placed again. I was not a supporter of President Reagan's de-regulation and "trickle down" policies. I had not voted for him. I was skeptical of the Christian Broadcaster's "agenda" and how he wanted to connect. But wait - there's another layer to this story.
We arrived early. Screening for such things was very different then than it is today. We had our letter of invitation but the actual credentialing was at the door. Mr. and Mrs. Station Owner and I signed in. I was soon ushered through, having been honorably discharged with a Top Secret Security clearance in recent years. Shortly after I was seated, Mrs. Station Manager sat beside me. Mr. Station Manager never came in.
The Press Conference began and I was sitting less than 50 feet from President Ronald Reagan! I was in awe. The aura of the room, the dignity of his presence, resonated in me. At the end of the Press Conference I hadn't the foggiest idea of what the purpose was of the event but I was feeling great respect for the occasion of it. AND I was wondering why Mr. Station Owner was not in the room.
Back at the radio station I learned why. It turns out that Mr. Station Owner had been discharged from service as "Section 8" and was not permitted into the Press Conference. Suddenly a lot of crazy experiences I was having while "trying" to work there made sense. I moved on soon after that revelation.
Two morals to this story. Don't assume you're the crazy one.
Second - yes we can respect a president who holds policy positions we oppose IF they represent some semblance of dignity and decency. Once upon a time, I could and did.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Long ago in Spain

Long ago circling for hours I felt aimlessly lost but certain I was near where I needed to be in order to find my way home. Then, suddenly I took a turn and saw an American Flag. I pulled over and cried. Home. I knew my home from here. I was sitting in front of the American Embassy in Madrid, Spain.
Many things happened in those two short years that loom large over my life perspective. There was that moment and the sight of the flag - my point of reference to "home" that day.
There was a rise in anti-American sentiment in those early years of 1980. Once I was with a Mexican American friend near the Plaza Mayor, and fortunately before I could comprehend, he understood the chants of the marchers coming down the street. He pushed me into an alcove and stood in front of me as we watched protesters march while burning an effigy of President Carter. In those moments I felt fear, but in the months to follow I experienced hope as I had opportunities to talk with students in Madrid and hear their questions and concerns. I learned much from those personal encounters.
In Torrejon where I was stationed, there were sections of town that were not American friendly. I loved some of those places because they were "authentically" Spain. Some nearby places exhibited America to be American friendly which is very nice but I sought Spanish culture.  When family visited, I took them into the pure Spanish area of Torrejon. We were surprised by two flat tires when we left the restaurant. This was a frightening situation and it was not solved with local help. Obviously, I live to tell the story.
A few months after the family visit, protests sprouted outside my apartment complex which was about 45% American and the remainder Spanish. They were shooting guns and shouting in the field just across the street from my apartment. I was afraid but again, I live to tell the story.
Then there was the attempted overthrow of the Spanish government. I was on duty as the first AP and UPI stories came across the wire with news that the Spanish Parliament had been attacked by military who appeared to be old Franco loyalists, military leaders, and they claimed to be in charge of the country. At the time, our radio station was the only station with power enough to broadcast throughout the country. As such, part of our training included plans to take the station off the air if anyone tried to take over our airwaves. We were obligated to use an ax to sever the lines to the transmitter - an obligation - a duty - that would kill the person doing it because of the the power lines. We had often joked about the need to learn to accurately throw an ax but that night, the three of us stood knowing one of us might be the one - our engineer, our television technical director and me with radio.
As news hour was approaching, we needed to know if we should run the story. It was late in the evening. Our Senior Managers were all gone for the night. In an odd Franco arrangement, long before as the base was built, NCO and Officer housing was separated by miles from the base. At that time in Spain, having a telephone was a luxury. We were not able to reach our superiors. But we knew any story about Spain had to be confirmed by our Ambassador before we could air it. I made the call and woke him up. He's call me back. Soon he confirmed the story.
Our base was a Spanish Base with a Spanish Commander. We were there as guests. Soon as we looked out the windows we saw that we were surrounded by Spanish Guards. Were they protecting us or were they soon coming in? The station had a security system to limit access but there were windows. There were ways. Was our Spanish commander part of the coup attempt? We settled in for a long night. By morning we knew that our local commander was not part of the coup attempt but we could not leave. Our leaders could not get to us. The roadways between the NCO and Officer housing were blocked. There was a stand off.
For several days we stayed on duty. A few other low ranking staff living on base were eventually able to come and provide relief and support. Enough of the Spanish military command had remained loyal to the existing government (including our Commander) that the coup did not succeed. I was able to return to my apartment, a few miles off base, in time to watch President Juan Carlos tell the nation the coup was over.
There is much about Spain that I loved and I often say if the Air Force had let me stay there, I would still be in the Air Force. (Perhaps holding the record for the longest serving AFRTS broadcaster.) But I also remember shocking things that I hoped would never be part of America. One was the military presence with M16's in airports and many public places. I was there during a peak of Basque Separatist activity in northern regions. It was also a time of great struggle between the authoritarian Francoist segments and the reform socialist segments.
It shaped me. It resonates with me still. I struggle to explain it other than to tell the story.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Stand out, Stand up or Stand down?

Over the course of time we learn who will Stand out, Stand up, or Stand down in our lives and in our community. There is a great mixture. Some who stood up, stand out because they stood down. Some who stand out are those who stood up. Some stand out because they knew when to stand up and when to stand down.
We remember those who stood out for some reason - up or down. We remember the big idea people. When someone is offering a new idea, we often remember the big idea people that stand out but went down. Any time I hear "somebody should," I am full of questions. Why? Who? How? When I hear "nobody is", I ask Why not? How? Who? It stands out because they stood up to raise the issue.
Ideas are the lifeblood. Ideas are so very valuable but only so if they are properly nurtured. That's the vision. It is crucial but no idea takes flight without wings. Why? Who? How? What? Where? When?
The most significant things have happened when someone stood up, stood out and did not stand down. They stood steadfast. They made a path. They drew followers. The path grew. Stand up. Stand out. Then lead the march. Let others stand out and stand up. What always stands out is what lifted us all the most.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sunshine, water and fertilizer

Think about a major project you took on or a major achievement in your life and consider what you didn't know when you started. If you knew all the roadblocks that you would face, if you knew about the setbacks, the challenges, and the "failure" that perhaps came, could you do it again? Would you do it again? If you knew what you didn't know then, would you do it again? If you knew what you didn't know then, could you have done it better or differently?
Always when we start something new, we don't know what we don't know. When we watch others, we are often tempted to point out the flaws in what they are doing but we aren't so quick to accept what others may see as flaws in what we do. We know what we know. We believe what we want to believe.
The people who have achieved the greatest success in the world defied conventional wisdom and created a completely new path. That doesn't mean they ignored everyone around them. They used what they had to chart uncharted waters. They went into a wilderness. They imagined something totally new and different. They somehow overcame the devastating effect that being wrong a lot can create. They did not quit.
But it's more than not quitting. It's about finding the right balance for the garden to grow. The garden needs seeds, warmth and sunshine, water to sustain, and fertilizer for growth and expansion. Your project needs these three ingredients to succeed.
The seed is the idea. An idea is worth absolutely nothing without warmth and sunshine, water and fertilizer. A seed - an idea - dies without those. A seed can do nothing on its own. All the other things - sunshine, water and fertilizer - grow nothing without the seed. A seed is the most magical ingredient. But don't get too egotistical about a seed. A seed is nothing without sunshine, water and fertilizer. It's the tiny part of the garden process. The rest requires real work.
Plant that seed. Then give it warmth and sunshine.
The warmth and sunshine are the passion and inspiration. GROW SEED GROW. This is the hope but hope must continue throughout the life of the nurtured seed. Passion and inspiration have to continue through the life of the project. Warmth and sunshine are always part of the lifeline. No project - no seed - will continue to grow without it.
Water is the day to day discipline. It's the invisible and clear sustainable thing that all projects require. It's the timing and the ebb and flow - just enough and not too much - routine of things. Give enough to grow and not too much to drown. While the sunshine - vision - steers and guides - the water weaves its path gently and drives the course of the current. Too much water will wash a garden away. Discipline - ebb and flow - easy course - is the answer.
The fertilizer is underground "shit". It's the quick jolt of energy needed to provide long term results. This is the PH balance of your project. Get that just right and the seedling is very happy. Overdo it and it can burn out the entire garden and no amount of sunshine or water able to overcome it. Be very careful with fertilizer. That can be start up cash, quick infusions of cash, investment in high cost staff, or any other high energy investment meant to jump start a project. Be careful handling fertilizer. It's very important. If you want your garden to grow, you have to add it. But just like too much sunshine and water, it can kill a garden.
Finally, not every seed in your garden requires the same amount of sunshine, water and fertilizer. They each have their own needs. They each have their own balance. The garden you grew some other place will have different balance in a new place. Seasons will teach you. Time will help you. Listen. Hear. Touch. See. And don't be afraid to learn what you don't know. None of us knows what we don't know.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Will you March?

Throughout our lifetimes we see historic moments unfold. . I was an observer. I remember the watching the aftermath of the Kennedy Assassination. I remember watching the news and seeing the footage of the civil rights movement as it was unfolding in the late 60's. I remember. I remember watching the news stories of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr, of Robert Kennedy, of Harvey Milks. I remember.
I remember the the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment and the feminist marches of the 70's seeking women's equality. I remember. I remember why Roe Vs Wade was important. I remember why Planned Parenthood mattered. I remember.
I remember the Stone Wall Riots. I remember the decade sthat followed and the transformative years I experienced with many others. I remember.
In terms of civil rights, women's rights and LGBT rights, - ANY "minority rights" - the supposed majority most wants to silence the voices. We need to UNITE! We need to unite around the central issue of being heard. It's WOMEN who can make that difference because we are not actually a minority or an actually minority voice. We can - we CAN - lead the charge toward a better way. We have a majority. We actually have greater power. We need to use it now more than ever. We remember. We know. We have great potential for influence. This is our time.
I will march with women. It's time to march. It's time to share our collective memory.
I did not march for civil rights. I was a little too young. I did not march for women's rights - again a little too young and timid. I did not march for LGBT rights - again too timid. NOW I want to march for all. I will March. I will March.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Replace ACA with Health Care Savings accounts?

A recent article reported that Paul Ryan has proposed Health Care Savings accounts as an option to the Affordable Care Act. We would all simply put money in the HCS and self pay for medical care. Absent a detailed explanation for how this would work, I can only draw from my own experience and analysis.
At work, we had an option for using an HCS. We could allocate an amount to put in the account each month and it was a yearly commitment. That seemed like a good idea. It could be used for out of pocket medical expenses, such as co-pays, over the counter medicines, prescriptions and such. The benefits were 1) it was deducted before taxes 2) Once I set the amount to be collected for the year, that amount of money was available right away. So, if I needed $300 in January but had only put in $100 so far, it wasn't a problem. I had a special debit card to use so if it was a qualifying expense, I could just use that card.
But then it became very complicated to use. Even if I obviously used the card at a doctor's office or pharmacy where they could see exactly what the card paid for, I had to submit paperwork within 30 days.  If they questioned the paperwork, they froze the card. But, of course, they still kept collecting the money from my paycheck each month. Then, at the end of the year, if I didn't use all the money collected, it wasn't returned to me nor was it rolled over into the next year. Some mysterious entity kept the money.
The first year it worked pretty well and I used every bit that I had put in the account. The second year, things got weird and it didn't work the same as the first year. I lost about $500. I never used the Health Savings Account again.
I cannot imagine putting enough money in a Health Savings Account to be able pay for any major health issue. My experience leaves me with a boat load of questions about how this could possibly work. Those of us who are older with higher risk of catastrophic illness would need to put a LOT of money in an HCS account each month. Those of us who are younger feel indestructible and cannot imagine even needing a Health Care Account. And what about people who already have a serious medical condition that would require much more savings than could possibly be put into an account each year? If, as I experienced, somehow the money wasn't used (perhaps due to odd restrictions) who gets the money?
If anyone has a link to a detailed explanation of this proposal, I'd be very interested in reading it. It sounds like a great plan for wealthy people and for those believing they are indestructible. It could be a GREAT plan for those administering the funds. It makes no sense at all to me in terms of a health care solution. It makes a lot of sense to me as a money making plan for someone.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Create a Wave!

The first action of the new congress is clear sign of what's to come. Attempting to take over the independent ethics board is a very clear sign. What happened next is a very clear sign as well. As we see action by this congress that is not in line with our will, we need to act and act fast. We need to call our congressional offices. We need to show up. We need to let them know how we feel about every action they take.
Perhaps this election is a wake up call letting us know that's it's not enough to go the polls and vote, then let the legislators have their way. We need to be engaged. We need to ask questions. We need to let them know how we want them to vote on every single issue. If we don't like how they voted, we need to let them know.
If you're aware of an upcoming vote or one that just happened - share it. If you plan to go to a congressional office express your opinion, enlist some like minded people to go with you. Be polite. Be specific. Be factual. BE ENGAGED!
Don't broadcast what you're doing. Be strategic and specific. Build coalitions. Create a wave.
It will work.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Our Collective Survival

"Conservative" friends and family offer much inspiration. It's important to pay attention to what they are saying and try to gain an understanding of how they think.
Here are a few of my observations:
"Conservative" people tend to be very nostalgic believing that the best is past. They seem to be more focused on getting "back" to a better time.
"Conservative" people tend to be more resistant to change. They view change with suspicion and look for the down side.
"Conservative" people tend to be focused on survival of the fittest rather than efforts for a common good.
Nostalgia, suspicion and a survival focus are not necessarily bad things. Those of us who love building something new, overlook risks and see survival as a common goal, need to find a way to engage with the best our "Conservative" friends have to offer. I'm certain there is a way to bridge these gaps.
Smiling as I write this; it's the liberal, optimist, risk taker in me that drives me to want to try. Our collective survival depends on it.