Archive for September, 2012


Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Think of your fellow man, lend him a helping hand put a little love in your heart. That is a line in a song by Jackie Deshannon.

Lately I have been in many situations where people are at their lowest point. They are trying and trying but nothing seems to be working out. They are losing hope. It’s easy to lose hope with them. It’s so easy to empathize with just about anybody today, people who have lost their jobs, people who have lost their spouses, people who still have their jobs but are miserable. With the economy the way it is life is really tough for a lot of people.

I was on the line at the supermarket the other day and was behind a woman using food stamps. My heart just went out to her as I watched the cashier condescendingly look at her groceries which she had compartmentalized to the point of 2 items at a time. She looked embarrassed, he looked condescending and I was reminded that no matter how bad we think our lives are the poor in this country have it so much worse.

Is it better to be poor in a poor country or is it better to be poor in one of the richest countries in the world? I might say the poor country because when that is all you know and it is all around you; you can find happiness in a flower or a bit of rain. There is absolute joy mixed in with the hardships of life. But when you are poor in a rich country you are constantly reminded of what a failure you are. When you can’t pay your bills, buy groceries with food stamps, or have to walk because you can’t afford gas in your car, these are all times when life reminds you that you are were not able to make the grade. You are a loser and there is somebody there to remind you of it every minute of your day.

Yes there are charitable organizations and churches to help out and that is a great, great thing but there is also an attitude of I made it why can’t you? The only people who seem to understand how bad things are at the moment are the people who are in the boat with you. The person who lost their job and is struggling to make the business they started stay afloat, the artist who sets up her easel and hopes that someone will buy something, the woman behind you on line at the grocery who is worried because she can’t think of any discernible way to live the life she imagined. We all have pain. We all have sorrow. We all need some help. We all need some kindness and compassion. And to be fair the person who is succeeding needs our kindness and compassion for some of the same reasons the poor do, they are sacrificing daily for their success.

In a few weeks we will decide which person will be the leader of the richest country in the world. I like to think that their policies for the poor and hurting in this country will be the thing that saves the day, but unfortunately I fear that it is our biases for the successful and our disdain for those who are not will actually rule the day and we will end up with more pain for the poor in this country. It’s hard to imagine things getting worse but unfortunately I think they might.

Be kind, be compassionate, the next time you are behind a person with food stamps on a grocery line buy some candy for their kids, smile at them while they try maintain their dignity through the indignity of separating their groceries, and most of all remember that but for the grace of god go I, because just as hard as it is to make it in this country, it is just that easy to lose it all in a heartbeat. Be grateful for every minute breathing also.

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Another School Shooting

There was another school shooting yesterday. Why on earth does a 13 year old have a gun in the first place? There has to be an answer to that question somewhere in our universe doesn’t there? Are the rights of an adult to bear arms really worth the emotional carnage that a kid shooting themselves in a school filled with impressionable minds worth it?

Every time I hear a story like this it makes me want to vomit. I don’t know how many times we have to read about a child who cannot cope with their life losing control and shooting a room full of people before we say to ourselves, the right to bear arms is outdated and written during a time when times were simpler. It doesn’t work in this century. Today kids are overwhelmed and overshadowed. The world is more chaotic and frenetic than ever. They have cell phones, computers, and mp3 players. Their minds are never quiet. A mind that cannot become quiet combined with a gun is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Back when I was young, a girl could break up with you and only your friends and schoolmates would know about it, now with the internet you can be tormented and tortured by hundreds of Facebook “friends” over the loss of that one girl. Pressure to succeed is also at an all-time high. With the job market the way it is a college education is a must have and some kids can’t handle the pressure of having to be successful at the age of 13, they have to grow into it. With such easy access to guns they might not get that chance.

Family issues are also a concern at the moment. With the high unemployment numbers, the loss of an income and poverty on the rise; families are under stress and that stress bleeds down to the young impressionable mind that isn’t mature enough to know that life moves in cycles. It goes up and goes down. Your life can improve in an instant. It’s hard to remember that as an adult but to the average 13 year old it’s downright impossible.

We are only humans; we can only do the best we can do in each moment. When you are 13 your world consists of learning about life, love and responsibility. Your hormones are raging, you are entering a new school, with a new group of friends, and the slightest word can make you feel horrible about yourself. Do you remember when you were 13 and had that feeling? Every 13 year old knows that feeling. Frankly that is why 13 year olds should not be allowed anywhere near a gun. Now I’m sure some gun advocates will be out there extolling the virtues of gun ownership and saying that they are not responsible for the actions of one troubled 13 year old, but when does that sorry lame excuse become their responsibility? In a culture that glorifies war and glorifies guns they are just as responsible as the kid themselves. I’m not advocating ridding the world of guns, there is a constitution, but when the rights of a 13 year old to live through their teenage angst is at stake can’t we at least have a better control of them?

Our Children

Children are our greatest resource. They are the shining beacon on the hill in which we can pin our hopes, dreams and aspirations on. There is nothing more delightful in this world than a child’s laughter and a beautiful sparkling smile. Children deserve everything wonderful the sun and the moon can conjure up for them. Children deserve the best that we can give them.

Childhood is not a time for the have and have-nots. It is time for the ALL. Every child is important, be it a young girl in war torn Afghanistan or a little boy in Beverly Hills, California. Every child is our collective child. Every child breathes the same air, drinks from the water of the globe and is made in God’s creation. Every child on Earth is here because God wanted them to be here.

So why is it so hard to understand that we must help each and every one of them reach their God-given potential and a chance at a meaningful life? Here in the United States we are caught up in the pro-life/pro-choice debate that happens every four years at election time, but what about the children that are already here on the planet. Don’t they deserve a meaningful life?

Should it really matter what your address is on Planet Earth? Shouldn’t all children be treated like they are an important contribution to society? Shouldn’t they all be allowed a well-rounded education, food to eat, a place to be safe, and a beautiful life? Who gets to decide these questions? Easily we could say God, but in reality it isn’t God it is the politicians who lead their governments. If you have a great town supervisor you can have an education the world would envy. On the flipside you can wake up every morning in a third world country and work in a sweat shop making things for those wealthy American children. Who gets to decide the answers to that question? Is it God or it is us? Unfortunately for the children not lucky enough to be born in the right zip code I think it is us.

So why is there a disconnect when it comes to feeding hungry children, supplying clean water, and providing educational funding? We aren’t looking at those children as our children. We often here of the analogy of a butterfly flapping its wings and across the globe the wind is blowing but what about the analogy of a child starving in that same place on the globe and what that does to our souls over here? I can’t really answer these questions but just felt the need to ask them. Who decides what is important to any child and why? A more important question is who decides whether a child’s life is important or not? I think the answer is obvious, we all do.

Lean On Me


Sometimes in our lives we all have pain, we all have sorrow, but if we are wise we know that there’s always tomorrow. That is a line from Lean on Me, a song by the great Bill Withers. Everybody needs somebody to lean on. We all need somebody to sit next to us in the middle of the night, to hold our hand and love us deeply. We need a voice in the darkness that reminds us we are dreaming when the nightmares come.

We live our lives in the daytime. We put on our masks and then we go to work. Hopefully we are people who are able to make a living doing something that we love, but even that entails parts of our job that we just hate. Life is filled with choices and obstacles, that is a given. We can choose to look at our day and question our very existence or we can look at the obstacles and realize they are the part of life that makes us stronger, that give us hope, and that show us who we really are. It would be wonderful if every moment could be filled with peace, love and happiness but that comes after we leave this world when we enter the pearly gates.

While we are here we have to learn to exist within the confines of being a mere mortal with mere mortal problems. It helps if we have a voice and a light waiting somewhere deep inside us that we can pray to and find guidance. Be that voice and light called God, or Buddha, or the Prophet or just a loving and abundant universe. For me that voice is God and Jesus Christ but who am I to say that is the only voice.

I am quite worried at the moment at how the voice is being interpreted. Certain groups of every religion are convinced that their God is above everybody else’s God. What that is doing is turning people away from religion and God in droves. Have you noticed how many churches are on the real estate market now? I have seen quite a few lately during my travels. Now if only the churches are gone that is probably not a huge problem, but if it is the faith in something higher than ourselves that is gone we are in deep trouble. I worry a lot that it is the latter, that people have lost their faith, their hope, and their connections to the divine.

Times are tough right now; there is no sugarcoating the problems of today. It takes five minutes of turning on the television to see something which is just gut wrenchingly sad. The problem is that during those five minutes we are missing the other fifty-five minutes of each hour that are filled with the sunshine of our child’s smile, the caress from our lover, the beauty of flowers blowing in the wind. Each of us has a responsibility to notice the other fifty-five minutes to breathe in the delightful air, to smell the roses.

Think about the alternative to real life, the kind of life where there is no adversity, it is filled with nothing. You wake up, your coffee tastes delicious, your eggs are perfect although in a perfect world you wouldn’t be eating eggs, you’d be eating oatmeal or a bagel. You go to the job you love and work with the most delightful people all day long. You do your job flawlessly and never make a mistake. Everyone loves you from the time you get up till the time you go to sleep. Everything is perfect. That my friend sounds very boring.

Think about real life, your coffee tastes awful, you burn your eggs, you can’t find your socks, you can’t find your shoes, you are running late and you didn’t have breakfast. While you are running to the bus you see a little coffee shop on the way, you stop in there order a sandwich and while you are waiting for it, you bump into somebody and spill coffee all over your suit. You turn around expecting to scream at someone and you see the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. You decide that you simply must stop and talk to her and you get her phone number and end up making plans for the rest of your life. That is God in action. That is the beauty of a loving and giving universe. That is life. That is the reason we go to church so we believe in moments like that.

I know that these days our lives are not what we wish them to be. We can’t seem to find ourselves out of a paper bag; we are worried about the world around us, finding a job, what to do if we happen to get sick. We stay up at night worrying about what should have been and then we find God, the small voice that calls to us and makes us believe in the future if we only have faith. If you are having a life where fifty-five minutes suck and five minutes are good change your life, ditch the hundreds of things making the fifty-five minutes suck and find hundreds of things to replace them with. Walk in the park and look at the trees, take a yoga class, take a CD out of the library that you’ve never listened to before. Find a life that you want to live and then give thanks that you are living in this imperfect moment in this imperfect time. And if you are looking for a song, you can find Bill Withers on YouTube and then find dozens of other songs by him that make you sing. Have a great day.

Let There Be Peace on Earth

And let it begin with me.

I’m in a bit of a quandary at the moment and that has created a tempest in my head.  But I know that if we all work together for the betterment of our planet and try to calm the overwhelming commentary in our own heads, that will go a long way towards world peace.  How?

First off our own voice when it is speaking to us, is usually negative.  I said too much, I didn’t say enough, I didn’t get the job, I didn’t make enough christmas ornaments, I don’t know what I’m doing.  I mean really when you are talking to yourself you are not usually saying what a beautiful wonderful person I am and the world needs me.   But we are all beautiful wonderful people and the world does need us.
In honor of international world peace day, I am going to say a prayer asking God and the universe for unconditional love, a blanket forgiveness for myself and everyone I know, a couple of hours of hand embroidery, a couple of hours of meditation broken up into small segments, a bit of help keeping the stress level down while I get ready for the big neighborhood garage sale, and the ability to manifest my dreams doing the things I love.

Doing what you love and getting paid for it is the American Dream and maybe if we remember that we can put away the guns, the rhetoric and the divisions for just one day and hopefully make something we love and get paid for it.  Or we can always remind ourselves that we are beautiful wonderful people and the world needs us.

Truly Offensive

I have been asleep for way too long. I listened to the infamous Mitt Romney tape (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/17/mitt-romney-video_n_1829455.html) and I simply cannot believe any politician in this day and age or any day and age can say this kind of stuff in public and think he can get away with it.   How did the Republicans end up with a candidate so clearly clueless about the people he wishes to lead?  Perhaps it hasn’t dawned on him, but everyone in this country not just the 47% either lives or has someone in their family who lives on the government roll.  He could be the child who is born to an undocumented worker, a farmer who receives subsidies for not growing crops, the elderly who receive Medicare and Social Security or the rich tycoon who gets massive tax breaks while he sends American jobs overseas.  Everyone lives off the government roll in one way or another.  Heck even wealthy oil barons in the Middle East live off the American government.

 

But it’s interesting that Mitt decided to single out the poor people in the United States, the country where he wishes to be our president.  Does he not realize that due to the unbelievable failure of the Bush Administration to do anything except wage war that 99% of this country is struggling to keep the American dream?  That is not victim hood, that is reality.  Does he not realize that even the heroes in this country are suffering daily because of the arrogant mistakes a previous administration made?  Does he not realize how insulting he is to women to crow about how 12 girls are locked into a factory and grateful to have the pennies on the dollar his business made possible?  Anybody who went to school 20 years ago knows about sweat shops and the working conditions in China.  That is what he is bragging about?  And then he cavalierly throws in a comment saying that if his father were born in Mexico he would be a more attractive candidate, is he for real?

 

You reap what you sow and when you consistently choose wedge issues to appeal to a very small minority of your party, you are going to end up with a candidate like Mitt Romney.  I’m sure Fox can account for at least enough votes for him to make this look like a race, but how many people are going to be able to go into the voting booth and pull the lever for a man so clearly clueless that it is truly unbelievable.  He would look good on a dollar bill though or perhaps even a $1000 bill, for that is what good old Mitt is offering the American people, a load of manure that is polished and nurtured and fake.

 

God Bless America if we are to believe the polls.  We are going to need God to come down personally himself and address the mess we have made in this country and the unbelievably bad judgement in character of the people we choose to lead us.  You would hope at least one of these right wing extremists who talk about Jesus all the time would share the New Testament with old Mitt and let him know some real Christian values.  But they are so blindly wedded to their ideology that they wouldn’t know the real Jesus or what he stood for themselves if he came dressed as a homeless person and shook their hands.  Just don’t raise our taxes, don’t let women decide what to do with their own bodies and never, no never, allow two gay people who love each other to marry.  Just wage war.  What would Jesus say?  I don’t really know but I do think he’d at least be offended.

 

Fortunate Son

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At the moment we have a clear choice for president.  We have one man who started his life in meager beginnings to a woman who had to deal with the stigma of having a child without a husband in a society that frowned upon that condition.  He went to school, studied hard, went to college, went to Harvard and became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.  He earned his experience the hard way working for people on the streets of Chicago, no easy feat.  He became a Senator, inspired the world and became our president.  That man is Barack Obama.  His running mate Joe Biden has a very similar background in regards to experience and overcoming obstacles.

 

Mitt Romney is a man who was born to wealth.  He made the majority of his money sending American jobs overseas and promoting trickle-down economics.  His running mate Paul Ryan would be very happy gutting every social program known to man and giving tax cuts to those very wealthy yet again.  If they win the nightmare of another fortunate son, George W. Bush will be revisited.  The parts of government that weren’t decimated during the 8 year Bush nightmare will be long gone by the time Romney is finished with us.  He doesn’t know about common people, he has no concept of the hardships the majority of the country is dealing with thanks to people like him and the Wall Street big shots who have a great time investing other people’s money in ruining the American Dream.

 

I guess we could all build bombs and guns.  That may be the way forward in this country. Everyone should join the military and we can become a police state.  That is the Republican mantra isn’t it, if there is a conflict anywhere in the world let us just exploit our military and start wars there.  I believe they are trying to use the World War II recipe for success but we do not even make weapons in this country anymore.  In my opinion that doesn’t seem like a recipe for success but if you think about it that is the choice isn’t it?  A man who actually knows what it’s like to be poor and who at least wants to help the poor and a man who wants to keep the poor and uneducated in this country poor and uneducated.

 

There really isn’t a choice and still it is a close election because people have ideologies today based on the heroes they grew up.  The conservative today is nothing like the conservative of yesterday.  The hero of today is nothing like the hero of yesterday.  My father was a veteran, he served in Korea.  He was proud of his service and I was proud of his service.  He liked Reagan but he was more moderate, conservatives were more moderate in those days.  My dad came back to a job and a dream.  Our soldiers today come back with unbearable wounds and not even a job or a home waiting for them in some cases.

 

Our current crop of Republican candidates has nothing in common with Ronald Reagan and his vision for the United States.  Reagan believed in a country that was a shining beacon for the rest of the world, the current crop think of the United States as a members only country where only those who have figured out that the ladder to success is paved in gold can enter.

 

It’s really quite simple take a look at a town like Whitehall NY, where government intervention has left an empty shell of a town waiting to be discovered for its inherent beauty.  It has been forgotten for its inability to move itself out of the sixties. That is where the current republican leadership would like us to remain, stuck back in the sixties when nobody had any rights.  Whitehall is a beautiful place steeped in American History and natural beauty but my time there made it seem like a place where they are just waiting until the old people pass on so they can write off the town.  No town in America should be waiting to fall into a canal.  They should all be valuable contributions to a new and rebuilding country built on opportunity as it was when our heroes came here hundreds of years ago.

 

The choice is so clear for women, students, children, minorities, immigrants and everyone else who doesn’t remember the 60’s quite so fondly.  We cannot go backward we must go forward.  Our American Dream needs to be nurtured and fostered and we need to move forward in a bold new way.  My solution is to vote Democratic all the way down the line until the government and I mean all of the governments from president down to my town supervisor realize they work for everyone and not just the fortunate son.

 

This is America

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This is America

 

Welcome to Whitehall, New York.  It is a place steeped in rich history.  It was one of the ports on the Erie Canal that was integral to our beginnings as a United States of America during the Revolutionary War.  It is a tranquil place with much natural beauty and it is a place that is waiting to be reborn in an economy which has passed it by.  It is an opportunity waiting to happen.

 

I moved here during a personal rebirth which required a fast exit one where I could find myself and this is the place I chose to find myself.  I am a little worse for wear myself so finding a place like Whitehall is a chance to find myself and maybe allow others to find Whitehall for themselves.  It is on the road between Upstate NY and Vermont so it is a lovely scenic trip and lovely place which needs investment and gentle loving care.

 

There is not a lot of commerce being done in Whitehall, it is a town which has been changed forever by a combination of technology and the way things used to be done.  Years ago it was a mill town but mill towns are kind of obsolete these days due to the way things used to be done and the materials they made with, chemicals and dyes, etc.  To be honest I haven’t stopped scratching since I got here and I can’t drink the water as the smell of it makes it unpalatable.  But that being said the pure beauty of the Canal and its location close to Lake Champlain makes it one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to visually.  There are old buildings everywhere waiting for new tenants and owners.  There are a handful of restaurants, a handful of stores, a handful of banks, a post office, and an Amtrak station (one of the few operating out of Upstate NY).  I can’t help but think that it is an opportunity for someone looking for a new start in a new place that loves history and has money to invest and the time to wait it out.  Whitehall is the kind of place all over America where the American Dream has died and is waiting to be reborn.

 

Unfortunately for me, I haven’t decided whether it is too close or too far from the life I used to have and I don’t exactly have money to invest myself at the moment.  I’ve taken pictures of many of the buildings that are for sale and many of them have the number of the local real estate agent on them.  Perhaps if you are on the road between NY and Vermont you will give this lovely place a gander and check out the antique stores along the way, they seem to be the only commerce that has staying power ironically.  I guess people want to buy old things they just don’t want to invest in them.

 

This reminds me that for us to rebuild our country we have to start somewhere.  Whitehall seems like the perfect place because of its place in American history.  The Revolutionary War started the American Dream, when a small bunch of patriots got together and built a country that became a beacon for the rest of the world.  What good is a beacon if it lets the early candles of our democracy burn out and waste away?  It’s time for all of us to see the beauty of the past, clean up the mistakes and move forward, kind of like my life at the moment.