Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My first car

Sometimes circumstances lead you to someone who will have a lasting impact on your life though you only know them for a brief time. This is one of those stories. It came about because of my first car.
Many my age tell stories about great first cars; a Camaro, Mustang or Firebird, a VW bug or some kind of muscle car of the day like a GTO. My first car was a VW Squareback, a little station wagon that never shows up at classic car shows today. I was stationed in Spain (1980) at the time and bought it from a young couple on base who may have known the engine was on its last leg because shortly after I bought it, the engine blew. It had a fuel injection engine and was going to cost a small fortune to repair. My heart sank.
Then I heard about a VW guru on base who was a civilian contractor for Rockwell named Nim Wire. Yes, that was really his name. He was rather intimidating looking with long grey hair and an equally long and bushy grey beard, piercing eyes and a droll style of talking.
"Can you fix it?"
"No, but you can." He answered.
"Me? I never worked on an engine."
"I'll tell you what to buy. I'll tell you what to do."
"Can't you fix it?"
"No, but you can." He insisted.
And so, Nim Wire guided me through the process of tearing apart the engine and converting it  from fuel injection to a carburetor engine using a kit he magically knew about. While waiting for the kit to arrive, he gave me a book to read that I believe was the first Idiots guide to anything that was ever published; "The Idiots Guide to Volkswagons". On one of the opening pages was a drawing of a tool with a caption, "This is a wrench."
The base had a really cool garage where we could rent a stall and sign out whatever tools we needed. Nim would stop by every so often to tell me what to do next, then leave me to the assigned tasks. He loosened a few tough bolts for me, but he remained determined that it was my job. I tore that whole engine apart, using the kit, and put it all back together as carefully as I was instructed.
No one was more surprised than I was when I turned the key and it actually started.
The engine in the back cargo area was originally covered with a removable lid but the carburetor extended up too high to replace the lid. I didn't care that it look weird and sounded loud inside. it actually ran! For decades I continued to work on my own cars, largely due to learning from Nim Wire. I never saw him again but I have never forgotten him.
What happened to the car? Well, not so very long after that I bought a moped for transportation. And, of course, I have a moped story or two --- another day.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas Magic begins with you.

Are you creating the life you want? Are you creating your holiday dreams? Are you creating the community of your visions?
This time of year there are many grumbles. "Christmas is too commercialized." "Walmart is too crowded and lines are long." "People are grumpy."
Meanwhile, others are creating Christmas magic. Their holiday traditions revolve around adventures and experiences. They are creating life, dreams and visions. They are creating happy times by choice.
For them, no commercialization can overshadow the heart of Christmas. "Happy Holidays" simply means "lets be happy" this time of year. Checking off a shopping list at Walmart is not their primary goal. And a grumpy person can't steal their joy.
We live in a magical area and Christmas here is as close to a Norman Rockwell painting as you can find anywhere. Just before Thanksgiving, as I was driving through Franklin, the big tree was being lifted into place in front of our wonderful court house. As I look left and right traveling on Liberty street, store owners were busily decorating their windows. Franklin's annual light up night with the parade and fireworks was days away. As we neared that day, I began to see people preparing floats for the parade. The weather was mild and spirits were high.
The day arrived and my heart sank. It was rainy. In years past, hours before the parade people began lining the streets and floats were in place early as participants made last minute adjustments. This year with only several hours to go, there seemed to be empty spots where floats were in line years past. The streets were fairly empty.
Suddenly, even with a light drizzle, an hour before the parade, our store filled with people listening to our friend Deanna sing Christmas songs, the floats rolled into place, and the streets filled with people and umbrellas. The parade ran over an hour long and the fireworks with music were spectacular as usual. If the numbers were down, no one seemed to notice. And the rain could not dampen the spirit of gathering for this treasured family tradition launching the holiday season.
Soon after, the giant tree went up at Oil City's new park. And this weekend the ever popular Christmas Past celebrations will mark another favorite local tradition with craft shows all around town, music, a bon fire by the canon and you won't want to miss the Christmas Tree display at the Museum of Art, Science and Industry!
Meanwhile, in Titusville's Burgess Park, the fire department continues the local tradition of decorating the entire park. Gather up loved ones and take a drive. You won't regret it.
If we want all these things to continue and we want our community's to grow and thrive, all we need to do is show up! Stop in the local shops and find a treasure. Join in with a caroling group or create one of your own.
Pick up the Derrick's Good Times and find an event that lifts your spirit.
Check out the Chamber Calendars':
Create the life you want! Create holiday dreams! Create your community!
Christmas magic begins in your heart.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

I believe....

When I am fully embracing divine understanding, I know I have been given everything I need, every opportunity, to create my own life. It does not mean that my creation will be perfect. My imperfection will be part of my own creation because I will not always seek divine inspiration. And those I include in my creation may not be divinely inspired.
When I am fully embracing divine understanding, I know there will be divine intervention. Imperfections collide to create discomfort, chaos, and crisis. We are divinely nudged to adjust our creation.
When I am fully embracing divine understanding, I stop to listen. All around me there are divine voices. If I fail to listen, I will be divinely nudged - perhaps divinely pushed - to adjust my creation.
Lately, I have questioned the divine's role in mass violence, massive destructive forces and wars. The "manmade" ones are most certainly the result of a collective failure to seek and follow divine understanding. We fail to understand the balance that would provide peaceful coexistance.
The forces of nature and their divine purpose still baffle me. The Garden of Eden story includes no hints of a furious or destructive nature. Was earth actually once a place of perfect balance? Will discomfort, chaos and crisis push toward that balance again?
When I fully embrace divine understanding, I believe we have been provided everything we need to create....to create....to create. When we all fully embrace divine understanding, I believe......

Thursday, November 9, 2017

One Day - One Decision....

A day - one decision - can change things for better or worse. It depends on whether you are building a bridge or burning one. Building is better.
When life kicks me in the gut, I have one of two reactions. One is to curl up in a ball and hide. The other to is to do the Peanuts character Lucy reaction; "I'm mad as hell and somebody's gonna pay for this."
And then there's a third choice. Step away, step out of my comfort zone and do something for total strangers. Last week on a whim, I picked the third choice. On Thursday I learned that the Young Americans, coming to town on Sunday, were still in need of hosts for housing. So, without much thought, I emailed saying I could host a handful of young people.
Then I panicked! One room I needed had just been painted and was empty. The other room I needed was full of the stuff from that room and piles of "other" stuff thrown in. I needed to put the rooms together, make sure I knew where things were in the house, get food, plan breakfasts and two dinners AND would be required to be up about 6 am to cook and get them to the theatre in time. I am not fond of 6am unless I'm asleep. YIKES!!
It was exactly the mission I needed at a time I very much needed it. The three young men who came to stay were perfect gentlemen full of positive energy. They are nearing the end of a months long tour with a grueling schedule. They roll into town and start immediately with youth workshops teaching music and dance for area kids. They unload their truck and set the stage and do a second day of workshops. The next day they rehearse then do a high energy, wonderfully choreographed show that includes the kids in the second half. After merely hours of workshop time, they manage to prepare these local kids to help create a fantastic show.
Following the show, they pack up the truck, end the day late, and have just 8 hours to sleep before getting on the road to the next town where they will do it all over again. They do all this because once the Young Americans came to their town and they were in one of these workshops. They do it to inspire others to pursue music and performance.
While they expressed that they are looking forward to the upcoming break at the end of this tour, they quickly acknowledge that the experience has changed them. They find it hard to sit still. As they shared their visions for the future, I understood that the Young American experience has provide them with the confidence and discipline to accomplish whatever they pursue. They've traveled internationally and to many places in the US. They stayed in many homes and interacted with people from various walks of life. They know they have the power to touch hearts and minds.
I am thankful for decision number three. They touched my heart and set my mind in search of more positive outcomes. Thank you Young Americans.
Willie, Tyler, Christian

Monday, October 30, 2017

"And so it goes"

Most of my life, I've been a fan of exceptional journalism and story telling. My favorite journalists of a different style were Paul Harvey, Charles Kuralt and Linda Ellerbee. They had a unique viewpoint and way of telling a story.
Linda Ellerbee said in an interview that there is no such thing as an objective story because we all bring our viewpoint, but a true journalist will work to provide a fair story. In my early days as a broadcaster my supervisor said much the same thing. We decide what information to share, how to word it, and what to leave out. Always, we fail to see all the information surrounding a story. As he put it, all news is editorialized. Some are more balanced and fair in the telling. "And so it goes."
What was fun about Paul Harvey was how he would use words to paint a portrait setting us up for a reveal that turned it all upside down. His delivery style was totally unique and his ability to weave a story was wonderful. "And now you know the rest of story."
Charles Kuralt traveled the country in search of fun, funny, positive stories about little known people that did something special. His stories were lighthearted and touching. They left you feeling as though there was much good in the world to be sought after and accomplished with simplicity. He reminded us that life was a journey and we should open our hearts and eyes to seek the positive "on the road" of life.
"And so it goes", "on the road" and "then there is the rest of the story".

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Alternative health care and wellness....

Many believe in alternative health care and wellness programs. They are weary of the debate over health care and some argue that they want nothing to do with the system and certainly don't want to be forced to buy insurance for this system. They have a great point. Why pay for insurance you don't intend to use? It's an especially great argument when considering how the health care system is set up for profit. It can be argued that there is great incentive within the system to keep you un-well and using more and more of the "product" of health care.
There are times, however, when alternative health care is not able to respond. If you break bones, are in a major accident of some kind, have a heart attack or stroke, or some other emergency, responders will do what they feel is best to keep you alive. Our traditional health care system responds to these things. We are all at risk of something like this happening.
Still, my friends and family that prefer alternative approaches and wellness programs are correct that profit motives are getting in the way. If we can eliminate the profit motive in our health care systems, everyone benefits. There will no longer be great profit incentive for keeping people sick. Oh sure, there will still be practitioners that can only survive by treating people with whatever care they can "sell" but there will be less incentive for a system to be built around that motive.
If we want to make America great in leading the world relating to health care, we will seek to provide the best health care system in the world at the lowest cost. That will include "alternative" health care and wellness programs that actually work. We will put our best science to work to prove it. We will put our best practitioners to work proving it. We will raise our entire population up as proof of it.
That would truly be an alternative and exemplify wellness. How smart are we?

Health Care Learning curve

Healthcare issues are going to soon be lighting up the airwaves and social media as a new year begins with many Americans in search of new providers. Already I'm seeing social media posts from friends lamenting that their insurance is being phased out and they are discovering options that are much more expensive while covering less. For many, this is going to become a growing crisis. As those numbers grow, it's going to become a national crisis straining the system beyond sustainability.
As fewer people can afford healthcare insurance, and don't qualify for any assistance, hospitals will become more stressed dealing with critical health issues that could have been prevented. More smaller hospitals that cannot absorb those costs will be forced to close. Meanwhile, the cost to those who are insured will rise faster.
Doctors will face similar issues as many of their patients loose insurance. Some patients will wind up in their office with acute medical conditions that could have be prevented or treated early and at much lower cost. If these patients cannot pay, many doctors will be forced to turn them away as they cannot afford to absorb the costs.
Those without insurance will be forced to make difficult decisions about medications. Many will stop taking medications (good or bad) that they would have been taking. Those needing life sustaining medications such as insulin or heart medicines will first try stretching their meds, then land in the hospital (that they cannot pay for) or sadly simply die because they cannot buy what they need. Pharmaceutical companies will continue to raise their prices to ensure that they have rising profits for their shareholders.
Insurance companies will continue to raise costs to cover all of these and to ensure their stockholders make greater profits. There is no part of they system where costs are going to be lower.
Meanwhile, our society has so tied capitalism and profit to being American that they cannot see how it is literally killing us in the healthcare system and creating financial strain on a large portion of our population.
If we want to solve the healthcare problem in this country, we have to eliminate costs in the system. There is no other solution. That means that the bulk of the healthcare dollars needs to go directly to healthcare providers who are the major decision makers in the new system. Profiteering has to be removed from the system.
Oddly, that is a system that looks like every other major industrialized country in the world. "When will we ever learn?"

Monday, October 23, 2017

"You need to...."

Why do we tell someone "you need to...."?
Why do we talk about someone and say that he or she needs to do something?
There are two likely reasons. We think we know what's best for them or we want them to do something to our liking. Is it an observation, a judgement or a reflection of our own need?
I don't know about you but I'm not always very good at taking care of what I need to do for me. That's not anyone else's fault. Knowing that, it's not easy to hear someone say "you need to". I may agree with them, but I do wonder if it's an observation, a judgement of a reflection of their related needs. If I am not ready to do what they say I need to do, it stings.
Are we more likely to say "you need to" to a stranger or someone we know well? "You need to" can sound very harsh. It sounds more like a judgement than an observation. For example, if you see someone get out a car with a flat tire, you are most likely to say "Hey, you have a flat tire" and not say "you need to change that tire".
On the other hand, if we see a stranger with a cut on their forehead that appears dangerously in need of attention, we are more likely to say "you need to have that looked at". We want them to take us seriously. We add an emotional appeal.
And perhaps therein lies the answer to why we say "you need to..." So, is the need theirs or ours? About a month ago, I told someone that I've known all my life that "she needed to..." do something that I know she clearly does not want to do and likely won't do for, perhaps, the rest of her life. While I believe I'm right, I later regretted saying it. I know that I said it more for me than for her. I said it because I would like to be around her but avoid it because of her anger and bitterness. I regretted it because maybe I'm wrong about what she needs. Maybe she needs to be angry and bitter for a while longer. I said it because I feel helpless in easing her pain. I said it because I cannot help and it frustrates me. I said it more because of my feelings than hers.
Most of us don't want to see people we care about hurting. We want people around us to share our sense of wellness of some kind. If they share their pain with us, we will feel more compelled to tell them what we think they need to do. We may be right. But I'm hoping the next time I'll remove myself a bit. Perhaps next time I'll ask, "What do you think you need to do? Is there anything I can do to help you?"
That is something I need to do for me but I also believe it will serve them better as well.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Health Care is a very real problem

There are important issues rising to the surface in the health care debate. Insurance companies are showing record profits WHILE getting subsidies to keep premium costs down for low income people. That's a problem.
We should all agree that something is wrong with this picture. Next question should be; What's the solution? One "solution" has been enacted - eliminate the subsidies. I would argue that it does not address the core problem. And it does not provide a sustainable solution to actual health care system issues.
The core problem and the core issues concerning health care revolve around providing a quality health care system that is available and affordable to ALL Americans. We first need to make that our objective. That needs to be our universal goal.
Let's assume we actually share that goal. We all want to have quality health care that is available and affordable for us and our neighbors of all income levels. To do that, we have to view health care as a product and view the entire system involved in providing it. If you have ever worked in manufacturing you know that the first step in lowering cost of a product is in eliminating waste. Where is the waste in the health care system?
The "product" is health care. That is the front line providers; the doctors, nurses, technicians, social workers, care givers. What percentage of our health care dollars are actually going to the front line providers? Follow the money. Insurance companies are showing record profits WHILE getting subsidies to keep premium costs down for low income people. That should tell you something. Nothing they do is actually directly providing health care. It's all being paid for paperwork. Then add in all the time that doctors offices, hospitals, social workers and care givers spend trying to meet the requirements of insurers so they an actually provide health care. It serves no useful purpose in relation to actual health care needs. Waste.
That's just the tip of the iceberg of waste in the American Health Care System. It's likely that the amount of money spent on TV advertising for drugs could pay for a very large percentage of health care needs in our country. Waste.  It serves no useful purpose in relation to actual health care needs.
Tackling those two issues would be the first steps toward creating a real solution. In my opinion, we need to remove the profiteering from this system. If you have a better solution, it would be nice to hear about it. Preferably, let your Senator or Congressman hear about it. And let them know why it matters to you.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Revive and Resist!

We suppress much.
We overlook and excuse much.
It's what we do as a means of surviving.
We weave a path around control and submission.
We weave a path of least resistance.
We weave a path of lost control.
We submit.
It's not survival.
It's suppression.
It's overlooking.
It's excusing.
We are the care givers.
We are those who serve.
We are those who believe bigger.
We are those who wish for survival.
Out of suppression,
We hope for expression.
We survive.
We look beyond.
We recuse.
We resurrect.
We suppress much.
It's time to express.
It's time to shine the light.
It's time to revive.
It's time to resist.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Our words are prayers - all of them.

If we thought of our words as prayers, we might be much more careful with them. As that thought surfaced in my mind this morning, I'm considering the truth in it.
Everything we think - Everything we say - Everything we do - is either connecting us more closely or separating us from the divine. Often we see our lives as compartmentalized. There's the work zone, the personal zone, the church zone, the public or social zone with each having different rules of thought, words or deeds. There may be things we would say or do in one place that we would never say or do in another. That's out of line with the divine.
Our thoughts lead to words. Our words lead to action. All are either divinely inspired or not. All create something better or worse in our lives. If we want peace, fulfillment and to serve a greater purpose in our lives, we should see our words as prayers. All of our words! They will come back to us in exactly the way we prayed them. If we speak ill of anyone, the same will be done to us. If we speak that we "cannot", our prayer will be answered as "cannot".
No words are idle. They are the source of creation. That is the meaning behind the story of creation. "God said, let there be light and there was light." First the words, then the creation. The second most powerful truth of the divine is "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." What you would create for others, is your fate as well.
Let your words create in a spirit that reflects the divine understanding from within. We've all been gifted with the knowledge and power. It just takes a great deal of discipline and practice.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thoughts about Taxes

There's no good reason we cannot have health care for all.
Nearly all first world countries already have it. It's not a new thing.
And in our country, we have an example of how a collective system can work fairly well in providing a safety net for our citizens. It's called Social Security. It's not perfect. But the vast majority of citizens in our country would not give it up.
"Yeah, but that's different. We contributed to that," many say.
What do you think tax dollars are? Tax dollars are our contribution to society to provide the services and support programs needed in our communities, state and federal government.
The difference between Social Security tax and other taxes we see coming out of our checks, is that it's earmarked. Most of the rest of the taxes we pay are blindly contributed, with the exception of school taxes. And we grumble. Some want to eliminate taxes all together. That makes no sense.
When everyone is contributing a fair share, the burdens of society are fairly shared. Look at your school tax if you have property. Is what you pay enough to educate ONE child for a year. Unless you own significant property, it's not likely. We're sharing that financial burden. We're also sharing the benefits of an educated population. And we should all be concerned with the level of quality education that is provided. A poorly educated community is a problematic community.
Taxes are unpopular but we need to change our perspective about the reason we have taxes and focus on what our tax dollars are doing. Yes, we should talk to our representatives about what projects and programs are most important to us and expect them to be careful stewards of our tax dollars.
We need to think of our taxes as collective solutions to societal needs. And so, back to health care. There is no good reason we cannot have health care for all. Yes, it would be a tax and hopefully earmarked exactly the way Social Security is earmarked. If shared fairly, the majority of our citizens would actually end up paying less than they currently do for health insurance. Why? Because everyone is contributing. Why? Because we can eliminate a great deal of the administrative costs in our health care system. We can manage costs more effectively across the board, including drug costs.
It just makes sense. That's why nearly every first world country already does it. Hanging onto a health care model that is not meeting the needs of most of our population is not going to make America great.
Our current attitude toward taxes and government isn't going to make us great either. We need to stop accepting that greed and corruption are "just the way it is" and begin looking at taxes and government as our means for collective solutions to societal issues. We're already participating with our tax dollars. It's time to get in the game with our heads.

Monday, August 28, 2017

To be remembered this way...

How do you hope to be remembered? How are you remembered?
Every day we have opportunities to make a difference. It's there in front of us - every interaction we have. It could be that person looking lost a on the sidewalk. It could be the kid sitting alone in the cafeteria. It could be the elderly person you encounter who seems to want to chat. It could be the person looking into your storefront window and you just closed for the day.
When you take a moment to see those opportunities, it may just make the most difference with you. Take a moment. Slow down. See those around you.
Often I am TOO BUSY. The saddest words I often hear from friends dropping by the store or someone calling me on the phone are "I know you are busy, but..."
The sweetest thing that has happened in recent weeks is my sister has come to help at the store. Suddenly, I can visit a bit and then she becomes the hostess to carry on the welcome as I go back to those things that must be done. And I see visitors lingering longer. We have suddenly had a lot of new visitors. And I feel less stressed knowing and sharing in the atmosphere I always hoped would be part of the music store.
In other ways I'm feeling more able to connect and relax myself. Yesterday as one of my best friends and I were walking around the campground looking at our new sight, a new neighbor wanted to chat. The three of us sat and chatted a while. He was alone, enjoying a toasted marshmallow by the fire. We learned his wife of 56 years just died last January. He was cheerful and kind. We didn't stay long, but I know it was meaningful. It was meaningful for me and I will look for him next time.
Today, I had closed the store, walked to my truck a block away and realized I had forgotten something. So, I drove around to go back to the store. I discovered a nice couple looking in the store window. 'Would you like to come in? I forgot something.' They said, "Yes, for just a look around." I opened and turned on the lights. They were from Kentucky and often visit an aunt here. I told them about all the music happening now in town. They were pleased to have discovered the store and learn about all that is happening. I know we will both look forward to their next visit and I'm hopeful that they can experience the many musical events happening around town.
We all need to pay our bills and make a living. But we can't stop actually living. Living is about connections. Connections matter. I want to be remembered for the connections I make that make a difference in how a person feels. To care a little more, take a little more time, and to make a person feel welcome and valued - that's how I want to be remembered.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Protesting anyone?

What good does protesting do? Through the years my initial reaction to protests is the feeling that little benefit comes from people yelling at each other as typically happens when there's a protest. Peaceful protest requires a great deal more discipline than most people can exhibit.
Indeed peaceful protest has historically been very effective. In addition to discipline by the protesters, it required long term commitment. Major change to the status quo does not come easily.
The purposes of protest are to draw attention to an issue, gain support and get people talking outside of the protesting. It's meant to be a catalyst. The end goal is to gain enough support to gain enough momentum to ultimately create the desired change.
What's interesting is the effect of violence in relation to protesting. Violence changes the course of protesting faster than anything.
Suffragists marched and protested to gain women's right to vote. They marched peacefully for decades, held conventions, crisscrossed the nation lecturing on the topic but it was violence that created the greatest impact. Alice Paul led a group of protesters who were jailed. She went on a hunger strike and was brutally force fed. Once news got out about the brutality she endured, the tide changed.
In the 60's we watch protest after protest unfold during the civil rights movement. With the civil rights movement, a very small group advocated for violence to push change. That threat often overshadowed the work being done by Martin Luther King's follower who were very dedicated to peaceful protesting. Once we began to see violence and brutality used against the peaceful protesters, the tide changed.
We watch protests against the Vietnam War. The vast majority of those protests were peaceful. Their efforts had little effect until the students were killed at Kent State. Sympathy's changed.
Our tendency as humans seems to be to accept the status quo, even if we believe it may be wrong. We'll stick to it, quietly preserve it, until something happens that pushes us off balance and forces us to re-examine it. Most of us won't organize a march to change something. We certainly don't want to be standing in the minority to push for it. But until someone does, that status quo remains. Once someone starts beating the drums for change, it takes a while before the numbers grow in favor. Nothing serves a greater catalyst than violence. Take note! The side perpetrating the violence will lose public support.
How we protest matter! We need to quell the anger and replace it with resolve. While there is a temptation to be outrageous to gain attention, the message will become the outrageous. Fighting violence and hatred with violence and hatred will never work.
Yes, protesting matters and it works. There's a historic roadmap for doing it effectively.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Creations of the Divine....

We are all creations of and part of the divine - god - the great spirit - whatever name you want to attach. We are all creations and equally connected to that divinity. We were born in it. We were nurtured in it. We grow in it. We are ALL part of it.
If we fail, sin, it is that we loose our awareness of that truth. But our failure, our sin, does not alter that truth. We are all creations of and part of the divine. Our separation is not truth. Our separation is THE lie. It is the lie that causes us pain. It is the lie that causes us to loose our path. It the lie that removes us from understanding that everything we need has been provided. It steals our peace. It robs us of a love of others. Separation is the lie. Connection is the truth.
We are created. We are fully able. We are fully connected and have been from the beginning. Separation is the lie. When we believe that others control our ability to connect with the divine, to have happiness, or can "make us mad", we believe a lie. We are fully able. We are fully able to connect with the divine and be at peace. Our happiness - our salvation - our ability to live in fullness - is granted to us us in our creation. We need only claim it, live it and be in awe of it.
We have been taught many ways of separation that are based in mis-informed understanding about the gifts we have been freely given. From these, we often base our path of disconnection and judgements of others "not worthy" because they have not passed some man made rite of passage.
You are worthy. You have always been able. You are connected. You are equally connected. The person beside you is part of the same divine creation. Your happiness is not dependent upon another person. Your happiness is dependent upon your understanding and the search for divine truth. Start with love.

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.

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


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.
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


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.