Month: March 2009

Things I Think are Funny

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.  ~Francis Bacon

I decided to do a lighter post this time.  My posts of late have been a bit serious.  I have had a great deal on my mind, and so many issues  I feel passionate about. I want to get my voice out and try to make a difference. I am very gratified for the responses to these entries. My blog posting on Glen Beck alone has already had over 400 visits.  My Affluenza posting 250. The stimulus package over 300.  Visits to my blog have increased from 1900 to 3100 in the month of March alone.  I know it is still small in the world of blogs, but it makes me feel good.  Thanks for reading and making comments!

For this post I am writing about the things that make me laugh.  It is such a hard thing to quantify.  I have had so many times when I think something is hilarious but when I show it to friends I get nothing but a courtesy laugh.  I’ve also been in the reverse situation where I am the only one in the room not laughing.  For instance, I do not think Weird Al is funny.  One time in college everyone was watching him, cracking up and I didn’t laugh once.

Given the subjectivity of humor I will try to describe what makes me laugh.

Let’s start with stand up…

My favorite routines are from Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby and Ray Romano.  All 3 of them take ordinary situations and bring out the insanity.  I love to make mix CDs of these routines and play them on long car trips.  On one such trip my cousin Ellen was in the car.  She was 8 or 9 and we laughed and laughed.  My aunt Cindy told me when they got home that she asked for more comedy CDs and said “I am addicted to comedy!”.  My thoughts exactly!

My favorite routine of all time is probably the Dentist by Bill Cosby.  I hate going to the dentist, and he captures the experience perfectly.  I particularly love the way he mimics the sound of a dentist working on your teeth. I’ve heard this probably a hundred times and it still leaves me in stitches:

Next we have animated humor…

For some odd reason there is a group of mothers in Utah that think the Simpsons is some evil show.  I grew up with it.  It has been on the air since I was 8 years old, and from about 1994-2000 it made me laugh every week. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Simpsons because it was one of the only things I remember doing with my brother every week where we laughed.  Picking a favorite Simpsons episode is tough- I have all 11 seasons currently available on DVD.  There are so many good ones.  Some of my favorites are the Frank Grimes episode (Homer’s Enemy), King Size Homer (Homer gains weight to get on workman’s comp), Bart the Mother (Bart becomes the mother of a nest of birds that leads to complicated problems), Homer the Great (Homer is made head of the “Stonecutters” a mason like group), and the Monorail episode (where the town is conned by a Harold Hill-like monorail salesman voiced by Phil Hartman). There are plenty of Simpson’s haters out there but let me just say in its defense- it is about a family that always makes up, they pray together, they go to church and they make fun of everyone equally.  It has been making me laugh for 20 years and will continue to do so until 2012! Hurray!

Here is a clip from the monorail episode:

Moving on to sitcom television…

Since television is weekly its humor can be based more on the chemistry of the stars than on the material itself.  There may be jokes that fans of the show love but those unfamiliar with the characters don’t understand.  For example, on the Office many of the jokes made by Michael Scott are funny because we know the character and understand his wacky perspective.   Arrested Development is another show that those unfamiliar with the characters will probably not grasp most of the humor.  The sitcoms that make me laugh the hardest are probably the Office, Cosby Show, Mary Tyler Moore, Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, and the Nanny.  Seinfeld can be very funny but it is more hit and miss to me.  Also, My Name is Earl was great in the first two seasons but has gone down hill since then.

I want to have a clip but a lot of my favorite episodes are not available online.  For instance, one of the funniest moments on television is from The Mary Tyler Moore episode Chuckles Bites the Dust.  The plot is about the TV station’s clown Chuckles who dies from being stomped on by an elephant after wearing a peanut outfit in a parade.  Because of the odd death of the clown everyone at the newsroom laughs and cracks jokes except Mary.  She stays serious until the funeral.  While listening to the eulogy Mary gets the giggles and everyone can’t believe her rudeness.  The more she tries to hold it in the worse it is.  Here is the eulogy that gets her going:

“Chuckles the Clown brought pleasure to millions. The characters he created will be remembered by children and adults alike: Peter Peanut, Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo, Billy Banana, and my particular favorite, Aunt Yoo Hoo. And not just for the laughter they provided—there was always some deeper meaning to whatever Chuckles did. Remember Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo’s little catch phrase? Remember how, when his arch rival Señor Caboom hit him with a giant cucumber and knocked him down, Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo would always pick himself up, dust himself off, and say, ‘I hurt my foo-foo’? Life’s a lot like that. From time to time we all fall down and hurt our foo-foos. If only we could deal with it as simply and bravely and honestly as Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo. And what did Chuckles ask in return? Not much. In his own words, ‘A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.'”

I have had many times when I get the giggles and am about to pee my pants with laughing.  One time on my mission this lady started playing the piano super loud, in a rather vitriolic fashion- so much so that it made our cute little Chinese investigator jump about a foot in the air.  For some reason it made me start to laugh and finally I had to grab my companion and leave to the restroom.  Doesn’t everyone have those moments?  That’s what makes the episode so relatable.

Another show that makes me laugh is How I Met Your Mother.  It is probably my favorite comedy on TV right now (the Office has become more hit and miss lately).  One of my favorite episodes is called Spoiler Alert.  It is all about how friends have annoying habits that we ignore because they are our friends; however, once these habits are pointed out to us they drive us crazy!  Have you ever experienced this?   Here is one example from the episode:

One last category- the sketch comedy show…

The sketch comedy show has a style all its own.  Unlike the sitcom, the jokes are not based on long-term character development, nor are they as deadpan as stand up.  They are based on short-term character development and scenarios built to prove one singular point.  Of all of the categories the sketch comedy skit is perhaps the most subjective.  For example, my sister and brother in-law do not find Will Farrell funny.  I think he is hilarious most of the time.  I have met people that hate Chris Farley- others that love him.  Again, most of the ones I find funny are because I relate to them in some small way.  I’ve never found Chris Rock to be very funny but others disagree.  Adam Sandler is more hit and miss.  Monty Python kind of invented the genre and to me this routine is just about perfect:

Anyone who has had an uncle or aunt wailing about “kids today…” can relate to that!

So, that is some of the things that make me laugh.  I would go into movies but that becomes even more subjective.  I will have to do a separate entry just on funny movies.  There are certain movies like Clueless, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Stranger that Fiction,  and Office Space that I could  write entire posts on- one of them I have.  They are hilarious!

I hope this post made you laugh!  There are so many problems right now it feels good to have a good laugh!

Ron Paul, Tom Clancy, terrorists, militias and FREEDOM!

OK.  I promise this will be my last political post for a while. So just skip it if you don’t like those posts.

Today I heard about a report made by the Missouri Information Analysis Center. In this report they study the dangers of the “Modern Militia Movement“.  Now this is not just an analysis of radical groups such as those that follow the Turner diaries.  This is a study of anyone who forms a group to protest the government.  The study even includes those who read Tom Clancy novels and watch the movie Rambo. The report says such things have “glorified white males and portrayed them as morally upright heroes who were mentally and physically tough”.  Given this definition I suppose Jack Bauer would be a terrorist and the 12.92 million viewers as suspects! For goodness sakes Tom Clancy has sold 55 million books.   That’s a lot of people to be tracking, a lot of potential terrorists.

Now there are certainly groups in the United States that are worthy of observance; however, this report focuses its attention on “right wing extremest and militia leaders”.  I contend that left wing extremists such as the wack jobs at PETA could be equally dangerous.  With all the surveillance the study could only find 6 examples since September 11th of potential threats caused by right wing militia groups.  Most, if not all, were instigated by individual members- not the group itself. Fortunately such attempts were thwarted and no damage or deaths occurred.

The report goes on to point its finger at Libertarians and “third party groups”  such as the “Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty or Libertarian Party.  These members are usually supporters of former Presidential Candidate:  Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr.”  The report actually names these three candidates as being the source of “anti-government propaganda”.  Since when was having an opinion considered propaganda?  Plus, isn’t the whole point of free speech the right to speak out against your government? I believe it is- and that is true for both sides the right and the left. As long as we are obeying the law and are not conspiring to do harm to others we have the right to assemble and believe whatever we want to believe.

As far as Ron Paul goes- I want to stick up for him a little.  I was impressed with what he said during the election and out of the candidates I actually agreed with him the most.  I am proud to have voted for him in the Primary election.  I certainly agreed more with him on the economy and on the war in Iraq than I did with either President Obama or John McCain.  Here are Mr. Paul’s main positions and you see if it sounds like a terrorist or just someone who cares about our country?:

Ron Paul talking points (as taken from his website)

On the economy he supports an ending to the congressional pay raise through 2010.

He does not support deficit spending and entitlement programs.

He believes “economic freedom is based on a simple rule: everyone has the right to his or her life and property”

He thinks the bailout are unwise, unfair and will eventually make the economy more sluggish.

On foreign policy he believes:

We need to stop policing the world. He hates preemptive war and interventionist war

We need to bring the troops home from the 700 bases in 100 countries.

We need to protect our borders

On civil liberties he believes:

Economic freedom means economic activity should be free and voluntary and “that government shoudl stay out of personal affairs…and out of our wallets”

Government should protect our right to privacy and to bear arms.

Family should be the instructor of moral character not the government.

Those are just a few of his positions.  Now really does this seem like a domestic terrorist to you? Do these positions really seem so out-of-wack?  I actually agree with most of his positions and there is nothing but full patriotic blood running within me.  I love my country more than almost anything else.  Like Mr. Paul, I feel we are going down the wrong track  and it scares me.  It scares me enough to speak out in anyway I can, but I don’t want to be grouped as some potential terrorist.  It’s just nuts!

Whether you agree with his ideas or not, I hope you can see that violating his right to say such things hurts everyone.  Policing and analyzing such behavior, looking for unpatriotic holes, only ostracizes the legitimate followers of Mr.  Paul and makes the radical nuts more radical. Part of being a democracy is the right to speak our minds- even if it is crazy! The government certainly has the right to monitor such individuals.  However,  let’s hope in the future they spend their money on the people that could be truly dangerous- not on those they may disagree with or find annoying.

Some may argue that such policing is the result of the Patriot Act, and there may be some truth to that claim.  This is the danger in such acts.  My main argument here is not on the legitimacy of such surveillance but its intended targets.  The government has the right to watch Ron Paul and his fans but is it necessary or pertinent?

Certainly if Ron Paul  is the standard of suspect than Bill Maher, Rush Limbagh, Sean Hannity, Al Franken, Oprah Winfrey, Bill O’Reilley, Reverend Wright, and others must also  be under constant surveillance for statements they have made.  Who knows I could be under surveillance for the posts I did on this blog, which I feel are consistently well thought-out and patriotic.  The fact is that me and all of these people have a right to say what they wish, and that’s what makes America great.  In China people are limited to what feelings they can express against the government partly because they are monitored on a daily basis.  America is better than that- it should be better than that!

Let’s also remember that most of the great movements of change in this country were started by charismatic individuals who fought the status quo.  The Women’s movement, the civil rights movement, and even the beginnings of this democracy were all started by radicals who pushed for change.  I wouldn’t even put Mr. Paul in such a revolutionary category but this report treats him as a near-fascist instigator.

So to Ron Paul, Tom Clancy, and yes even Sylvester Stallone keep doing what you do.  To the government- stop wasting our time and money and get things done!

Here’s an interview with Mr.  Paul that I wished we had listened to last year.  It makes a lot of sense to me.

I also thought this interview with Penn Gillette was good.  By the way, he is no conservative that’s for sure. Glenn Beck also explains in this clip the Missouri Report.

Affluenza

logobig

So, I heard a term today that just made me laugh out loud.  It is called affluenza.  This is not a joke.  It is an actual psychological diagnosable condition and to me it says a lot about how out of wack our society has gotten.  How can something so obvious be a cause for debate and study? It’s another one of those scientific endeavors that can be summed up in old colloquial sayings such as “Money doesn’t buy happiness”.  Listen to the wikipedia definition of affluenza and tell me if you don’t think it is crazy:

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (de Graaf [1])
affluenza, n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. (PBS [1])

This isn’t just overspending.  No it is a contagious socially transmitted condition of overload and debt! So now if we are in debt it isn’t our fault, merely the cause of a contagious condition we inherited- like strepp or AIDS. Watch out my friends!  Watch out for your children!  Affluenza may spread!

I certainly hope that Congress doesn’t hear about this condition or they might start claiming bouts of affluenza caused them to vote for the spending bill!

I hate to sound preachy on this blog but to me it is things like this that show how far off track our country has gotten from the religious foundations it was started with.  Affluenza wouldn’t happen if you had a society based on brotherhood (and sisterhood), charity, freedom, independence and faith.  It’s no accident that Jesus said ” It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).

Now, I came from a family with a middle to high class lifestyle.  I certainly got everything I needed and most of the things I wanted. However, we never suffered from affluenza because my parents had us grounded in Christian values- focusing on service to others, the importance of family and the value of hard work. I could list lots of examples of how my parents demonstrated to me that money was not the purpose of life.  One example is how my father has always been an avid home teacher.  Home teaching is a program in our church of visiting fellow members and helping them in anyway possible.  Many good home teachers still do it out of obligations or duty- not my dad.  He loves it!  He loves getting to know and serving people and most of them become his life-long friends.  He’s even spoken at some of their funerals. For the record, my mother is also a diligent visiting teacher.

Another example is how both of my parents were always opening their home to friends.  For instance, we had a number of foreign exchange students and visitors while I grew up.  This enriched all of our lives and created great relationships all over the globe.  Another memory I have is of our friends always being welcome to eat with our family.  We had family meal every night.  Even when I was in high school and my parents had two little ones and I was busy with activities, I still remember eating together most nights.  Often one of my friends, or my brother’s friends would join us for dinner.  They were always welcomed as one of our family.  My parents weren’t perfect but in simple ways they taught me how to serve others and keep a heart free from greed.

As my sister and brother have gotten married they have also been good examples of reaching out to others and cultivating a non-materialistic home.  My brother is passionate about many causes and has allowed friends to stay at their home, sharing meals together.  My sister is great about giving of her time to other young mothers around her.  She was just telling me yesterday about a small act of service she had planned for two of her acquaintances.  She found out they were traveling with kids and decided to make them little kits to help the kids with the journey.  It is such little acts of service that keep each of us grounded in what matters.  Our country needs the same grounding.  We certainly don’t need an excuse for our excesses like an affluenza epidemic.

I served my mission in Indiana and while there I met one of the richest ladies I have ever known.  Her name is Sister Mary Turner.  She lived in a tough part of Indianapolis and had very little material possessions.  She actually lived off of social security and some welfare assistance from the church.  Because she loved the missionaries she had a strong desire to feed all of us every week (4 elders, 2 sisters) but she refused to use any assistance or welfare money to do this.  So to make a few extra dollars she started gathering soda pop cans and then turning them for cash. Eventually her neighborhood and our ward (congregation) joined in and everyone had a stash of cans to help Mary Turner feed the missionaries.  With the few dollars she got every week she would then go to Aldee’s (a discount store in the midwest) and buy whatever was on sale.  This usually led to some odd meal combinations including spaghetti and mashed potatoes or french fries and egg rolls.  After the meal she would usually have some type of food gift for us such as a gallon of milk or a half gallon of ice cream.

I will never forget this sacrifice made in my behalf.  She did not have to feed us.  There were others who would have gladly done so, but she wanted to give to a cause she loved.  The entire cycle of her money from creation, to spending, to giving was based on Christian values. It is a great example of charity and a wonderful way to live our lives- full of worry about how you can afford to help people, not how you can compete with the neighbors.  Mary Turner suffered from the opposite of affluenza- giveluenza! Something our country could use a lot more of and that our leaders could work to develop.

In my life I try to do at least one day of community service a month.  This has just started but already I have had some neat experiences including delivering cookies to the lonely and working at Festival of Trees for Primary Children Medical Center. Such endeavors have not only brought me happiness but hopefully helped others in my small way.  They also keep me grounded in what matters and in the community I love. I think we need to write a similar prescription for anyone suffering from affluenza- find someone to serve, look at a neigbor as a friend not an enemy, and help someone accomplish their dreams.   This is what makes life great not money!

59

Bowling Alone and the Great Good Place

goodplacescvrbowling-aloneIn my last post I mentioned how inspired I felt by Glenn Beck’s new 9/12 initiative.  Normally my posts are viewed by a handful of family and friends (15-35 visits a day). Both of the political posts I did caused huge upswings in visits- especially my last post.  I was shocked to have nearly 500 visits in the last 3 days! That post also had a record 11 comments.  It was great!

Clearly this discussion has touched a nerve with people and it caused me to wonder why?I asked the same question during the Democratic primaries- why was the country more interested in a community activist from Chicago than the slick experienced Clinton machine? I believe the election of President Obama, and to a smaller extent the initial response to the 9/12 project, shows the desire of the American people to connect with a cause- to be gathered together for a greater good.

This is an interesting trend because for years America appeared to be in the opposite direction.  Throughout the 80’s and 90’s individulaism grew along with a new sense of self-suficiency.  Without a major war or conflict to gather citizens, group behavior declined- particularly political action.  Such involvement became more of a hobby, rather than a necessity.

These trends are demonstrated in two of my favorite non-fiction books:  The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg and Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.  They are both excellent reads with eye-opening ideas.

In the Great Good Place Oldenberg says that every human being needs three places: the home, work, and the third place.  The third place is the focus of the book because in it “neutral ground provides the place, and leveling sets the stage for the cardinal and sustaining activity of third places everywhere.  That activity is conversation.  Nothing more clearly indicates the third place than that the talk is good.”  Examples of third places include bars, pubs, coffee houses, bookstores, cafes, parks and even lobbies.  While these places may seem superficial and unnecessary, Oldenburg argues that they provide “precious and unique benefit” to those who frequent them including “the leveling primacy of conversation, certainty of meeting friends, looseness of structure, and eternal reign of the imp of fun all combine to set the stage for experiences unlikely to be found elsewhere.  These benefits also derive from the sociable and conversational skills cultivated and exercised within the third place”.  Basically the third place provides attendees an unpredictable and free environment of sharing that you just can’t get at work or in the home.

Having established the value of the third place Oldenburg goes on to explain their decline with the rise of suburbia.  Actually it’s not so much a decline, as it is a replacement with mediocre substitutes.  The carefully planned and placed Starbucks, Borders, and Chilis of the world attempt to create community but  feel pretty lame in comparison with their traditional counterparts.  I should know because I live in Utah- the home of chain everything.  Especially in Utah County, it is hard to find any unique restaurants or stores- and if they aren’t chains then they are rapidly becoming one.

The best community involvement  I seem to be able to do is sign up for a class at JoAnn Fabrics or look for a book club on Craigslist.  There is almost nowhere I can go by myself to just hangout.  The movies is the best I can come up with but still that’s kind of lame.  The problem of not having a third place is that you end up either alone or  surrounded by people who only think like you do. You never feel a real sense of belonging or sacrifice for the group.  Oldenburg says “The effect of the third place is to raise participants spirits and it is an effect that never totally fades.  Third place interaction is a matter of ‘making other people’s day’ even as they make one’s own in a situation where everyone gains.” As you interact together the patrons of the third place also get to see one another in a positive, happy light, instead of the grim view often found at work or are in other interactions together.  Think about it if you had shared a Coke with a new friend- would you feel as inclined blow up at them if they cut you off in traffic?  No.  We have lost both a sense of authentic community and an outlet for free expression in our country, and I think it has consequences. For one, President Obama’s election (for better or worse) was certainly helped by the underlying need for community activism that he successfully tapped into.

In Bowling Alone, a similar vein of thought is followed.  Instead of third places Putnam follows the registration numbers of civic organizations, clubs, and bowling leagues.  Groups such as the Lions Club, Masons, Elks Lodge, League of Women Voters, etc have all seen declining memberships  since the 50’s when they peaked.  Putnam says the old members didn’t drop out “but community organizations were no longer continuously revitalized as they had been in the pst, by freshets of new members”.  Even membership in the PTA has gone down every year since the 1960’s.  This may seem like a meaningless statistic but it has many ramifications.  For instance, the philanthropy encouraged by such organizations declines. “Altruism of all sorts is encouraged by social and community involvement.  Churchgoing and clubgoing, for example are among the strongest predictors of giving blood…To predict whether I am likely to give time, money, blood, or even a minor favor, you need to know, above all how active I am in community life and how strong my ties to family, friends and neighbors are”.

The isolation that Putnam talks about has gotten so bad that most of us do not know our neighbors or have even introduced ourselves (myself included).  We click the garage door and then are shut away in our little world.  We then gather only with people that we have similar tastes with (which brings up another good book I just finished- The Big Sort by Bill Bishop but that’s for another entry).   Even on the internet we communicate in social networking sites such as Facebook only with like minded friends who we agree to come into our lives.  In the old civic organizations, clubs and churches a variety of people could participate and find common ground. In addition,  people that in previous generations would have been included in community discussion- even begrudgingly- are now left alone (unless they are able to find other nerds to hang out with!).  Instead of uniting our country, we keep dividing and dividing.  Its no wonder the politicians in Washington are so diametrically opposed to each other’s policy.  They have been living in a society where they are surrounded only by like-minded individuals and rarely have to branch out. When the founding father’s met they were able to find livable compromises within a diverse group of people.  Perhaps this was partly due to the spirit of community they had been raised in?  Perhaps if they had been isolated and only fed political dogma from one side, the compromises would not have happened and our country would not exist?

Who’s to know! Both authors have forced me to look at the world I live in differently.  Maybe it is because I have lived on the east coast, west coast, Midwest and in Utah, but I pride myself in being open minded.  In listening to every side of an argument and trying to find common ground.  This seems to be a lost art and part of the blame goes to the loss of the third place and the community spirit.  People like President Obama and Glenn Beck (to a smaller extent!) have tapped into this fundamental need and are allowing citizens to speak their peace- or at least giving them that feeling.  It is a shame such attempts at community activism are not more diverse in opinions and ideas but they are a step in the right direction.  Hopefully we will learn and find ways to expand our reach within the community.  I know the few attempts I’ve made have benefited my life.  I have a goal to do at least one act of community service a month.  Plus, I also look for ways to reach out to new friends.  I go to book clubs where I don’t know anyone, cake decorating classes, and even cruises!  I am better person because of such endeavors and I challenge each of you to do the same! Also, read those books.  I hope I explained their ideas in ways that make sense. They are great!

Glenn Beck- 9/12 Project

Before reading this post- if you get annoyed at political discussion stop reading now.  This is just my opinion.  I simply found something that motivated me to be a better person, and I wanted to share it with all of you.  Take it or leave it!

Everyone knows I love politics.  I enjoy hearing different opinions and arguments on all sides.  I have always liked the passion behind a good debate.  I am not sure why- just have.  If the opportunity presents itself I would love to someday be a public servant in some small way.  This would not be for my personal glory but to serve my country and support the values I believe in.   Why does the idea of public service seem to be lost on our society?  The early founders were practically forced into service and now the career path of a politician often feels like the journey of a Hollywood celebrity.

I think both parties are equally guilty of this game, which is why neither seems to care what public opinion currently thinks.  For instance, nobody cares that the public has resoundingly opposed the stimulus package- from November on this has consistently been the case.  A recent poll said the support for the package was below 37%.  Another sign of discontent is that President Obama’s poll numbers have fallen dramatically in the first 100 days and they are now below President Bush’s at the same time in his presidency.  Despite such disapproval nobody in Washington is listening.  In fact, many of the politicians seem to think the  American public is not educated enough to understand such tough economic conditions.  If that is the case than your job as politicians is to educate us!

The problem is  many in Washington not only think we are too stupid to understand what they are doing to our economy, but they think we do not care. In my last entry on the stimulus package I posted a video with Senator Charles Shumer.  In it he calls the American people “the chattering masses” and says “the American people don’t care”.   I found this statement shocking in its candor and disgusting in its implications.  And remember this is not some no-name senator.  It is the 3rd ranking democrat in the senate.  My fear is that he was stupid enough to say what all the Senators and Congressional Representatives feel. They think we don’t care.

What if they are right?  There are certainly a lot of people who don’t care enough to vote.  The ones that do, rarely take the time to be informed on issues- even though such efforts only take a minute or two.  It has always boggled my mind!  Do they not understand issues like the stimulus bill effect our lives?  They effect ALL of our jobs, investments, property, families and certainly our education.

I am not saying that everyone has to agree with me but CARE! If anything was gained by the election of President Obama it proved that American’s could get excited about a candidate and politics.  For several months people watched debates instead of sitcoms and commented on interesting issues.  Although I did not vote for President Obama, I felt the excitement of a candidate of change.  Now I wonder- what has he changed?  Not much.  What promises has he kept? Not many. To name one failed promise, he swore time and again on the trail to stop earmarks in bills. Now the spending bill he signed has over 9,000 of them! 9,000! With the President’s current popularity I do not buy his excuse of needing to sign an “imperfect bill”.  He had the political capital to at least reduce the earmarks and he failed to do so.  I will also add that 40% of these earmarks came from Republicans, so they are equally guilty in ignoring what America wants.  In fact, the Republicans are trying to make the Democrats seem like the bad guys while still sneaking in whatever spending of their own they can get in.

I am not writing this to bash President Obama or any other politician.  I have hope for them all.  Perhaps foolishly, I believe most of them are good men and woman with the right intentions; however, many have forgotten who they work for, and what we as Americans stand for.  They have gotten so caught up in money- that it has become a type of panacea for every wound.  Just throw more money at a problem and it will all be made better! Selfishness, greed and a loss of vision is leading us into debts both morally and financially.  In a sea of money and political correctness, these politicians seem to have forgotten the fundamental values  of honor, freedom, integrity, faith, justice and hard work that our government is there to support.

To be honest,  this spending bill was making me depressed.  I felt like no one was listening to me and millions of other Americans who find it crazy and irresponsible. Even the socialist nations of France and Germany are refusing to go along with the big spending!  Now China has expressed worry that the $1 trillion in US treasury bonds they own is a bad investment. The Chinese, the French, the Germans, the majority of Americans all seem to think this is a bad idea! Why doesn’t anyone care?

Well, I found someone who does.  I am not usually a talk radio/ tv news person.  I love NPR and feel I am an Independent on most issues.  However, I happened to catch the latest Glenn Beck Show on Fox News, and was very inspired with what I saw.  I have heard Beck speak and been impressed in the past but this was something special.  In the program he talks about his feelings after 9/11 (thus calling it the 9/12 project) and then contrasts with his current feelings.  He talks about how no one is listening and how nobody in either party can be trusted.  He asks every American who still believes in this country to send in their photos- he gets millions.  He interviews Iraq veterans, 9/11 victim families and gives 9 principles and 12 values that exemplify the American spirit.  I agree with every one of his 9 principles and 12 values.  If I worked for a year to summarize my own values and principles in regards to this country they would end up the same as Beck’s.  I love that he isn’t afraid to declare his belief in God, family, and America!

He actually gets emotional at several points, and I found the whole thing very moving.  He tells us to remember how we felt on 9/12, and how we just knew what to do, and how we could help.  Those feelings came out of our core beliefs and values.  It is these values that will save America- not spending more on lavish programs or shopping to boost consumer confidence.  Real confidence comes from an understanding of why we matter- why each of us matters to this country and to God. I can’t recommend the program highly enough.  During the broadcast there were crowds all over the country watching and cheering. I wanted to cheer too! Put it on your DVR this weekend or watch it online if you can.   It’s not just a political rant.  It’s a reminder of what is good about America, and I felt validated by it.

Beck is a member of my church, so perhaps he presents his program  in a way I understand.  However, this basic message of integrity, service, friendship and courage is one any American can relate too. I promise it is not a partisan attack. Check it out!

The Nine Principles

1. America is good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

12 Values

  • Honesty
  • Reverence
  • Hope
  • Thrift
  • Humility
  • Charity
  • Sincerity
  • Moderation
  • Hard Work
  • Courage
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Gratitude

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

Dieting is so miserable at least I found this funny

My friends, I am once again dieting.  This time the main reason is to help boost my gall bladder health.  While that might sound odd, I have good reasons. My nurse friend keeps pointing out that my gall bladder might be heading for problems.  This would not only be painful but since I only have a high deductible insurance plan I can’t pay for surgery right now.  Hopefully everything will be fine but in the meantime I am trying to stick to a diet I found on a website for gall bladder problems and praying that will solve the problem.  I figure it couldn’t hurt.  The main things it suggests are items high in amino acids such as grapes, celery, berries,  carrots, fish (it says wild fish but I can’t afford that) soy milk, prunes (yuck!)  and whole wheat breads- yummy, hah….not so much? At the same time you are to avoid dairy (except for yogurt and cottage cheese), meats including fowl, pork and beef, nuts and oddly all cabbage type vegetables.  In general low fat is supposed to be good but omega 3 fatty acids such as fish oils and olive oil are recommended.  The diet is big on organic foods but again those get into money.   All fast food is out- especially anything that is fried.  I have also been working on the wii fit to try and get in shape.  That blasted animated trainer is killing me!

Anyway, I have been trying the diet this week and am doing okay.  I’m on week 2 of consistent work on the wii fit.  I wish I could say I never messed up but there has been an improvement from weeks previous.  Today I started out strong with a turkey (just one slice) sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and mustard.  On the side I had some a few corn chips without trans fats and some strawberries.  This was pretty good.

Unfortunately things went down hill from there.  I met up with a friend for a late lunch (my hair stylist Grace who got me sweet deals on a new flat iron and hair product).  I loved chatting with Grace but the Cafe Rio meal was definitely off the diet. I did try to minimizing the damage by only eating half and getting half chicken/half pork instead of just pork.  I also got the burrito without any cheese.  I haven’t quite figured out how to stay on a diet and be social and have fun.  I felt like I did the best I could but still feel frustrated.  Any tips? Be nice!

The other confession…I had some ice cream later on in the evening.  In my defense it was lower calorie ice cream (6 grams fat for 1/2 cup), but still I shouldn’t have.

At least I am trying, and I mean to keep updating my blog regularly with how I am doing.  Any motivation you’ll can give me would be great.  I really don’t want to have  surgery for my gall bladder, and I want to be healthy.  I suppose I should celebrate the small victories and keep pressing forward.

I did have a nice phone call from Miriam and a pleasant visit from my Uncle Tom today.  Plus the lunch with Grace- so I would say I did pretty well socially today! Still, I felt a little discouraged on the dieting front.  However, this made me laugh.  I think it encompasses dieting to a tee.  At least I didn’t end the day eating cheesecake from the freezer!:

This is a specially formulated diet designed to help women cope with the stress that builds during the day.
BREAKFAST
1 grapefruit
1 slice whole wheat toast
1 cup skim milk
LUNCH
1 small portion lean, steamed chicken
1 cup spinach
1 cup herbal tea
1 Hershey’s kiss
AFTERNOON TEA
The rest of the Hershey Kisses in the bag

1 tub of Hagen-Dazs ice cream with chocolate chips

DINNER
4 glasses of wine (red or white)
2 loaves garlic bread
1 family size supreme pizza
3 Snickers Bars
LATE NIGHT SNACK
1 whole Sarah Lee cheesecake (eaten directly from the freezer).

dbrn159l

One last comment- I am very sad Jorge got voted off Idol.  I thought he would last longer.  I am a big fan of Danny and that’s pretty much it.  I think all the girls are bad except for Lil.  I can’t believe Megan  Corkey stayed on after her song.  It was terrible. The judges were definitely too soft on her and too hard on Jorge.  Oh well!  That’s a reality singing competition for you!

Happy Birthday Mom

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” — Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

A few weeks ago I did an entry on my dad for his birthday.  Now it is my mother’s turn for today is her birthday.  Its almost hard for me to write on my mom without it sounding too effusive.  Simply put, she was born to be a mother.  It is her gift.  She’s a natural nurturer- patient, kind and understanding.  Naturally it took me a while to appreciate all she did for me but now I marvel. Some of the specific things I love about my mom are:

1. She is always there for me.  My mom has 6 kids, which is a daunting number by most standards but these 6 range in age from 30 to 9.  Such an age gap requires my mother to balance the needs of older children with kids, single me, a teenager in high school, a middle school aged boy and a young girl.  Not every mother could multitask her mothering as well as my mom does.  Even though I am very independent I still need the care of my mother.   I am so grateful that we talk almost daily on the phone and visit whenever we can.  The greatest thing is that my mom doesn’t make me feel that the time she spends on me is a sacrifice even though I know it often is.  It might be something as simple as asking her about a recipe or a laundry tip, but I appreciate that she is there for me whenever I need it.

A perfect example of my mom’s help and loving nature occurred last December.  It was the day before our tenants were to arrive at our new house.  I was growing increasingly stressed out because a snow storm was preventing furniture movers, cleaners and other people from arriving at the house.  I had a picture of the people arriving at the house without furniture in a construction zone.  By 4:30 I had all I could take, and I called my mom in tears.  Whatever it was she was doing, she dropped it and helped me calm down.  With the help of my dad and mom, we solved the problem and everything worked out. Not everyone has someone to turn to when they are stressed out, and I am grateful for such a blessing in my life.

2. She actually enjoys her children.  This has always been a great trait of my mother.  When other mom’s were counting down the days for summer vacation to end my mom was sad.  She not only loves her kids but genuinely has fun with them.  When I have exciting news, a funny story or a meet a cute guy, the first person I want to tell is my mom.  We used to tease her that she couldn’t tell a joke or a story to save her life but that never stopped her from making the effort!  Both my parents have always set an example  on how to enjoy life- how to accept who you are and gain pleasure from whatever phase you are in.  They are not worriers, moping about looking for pity.  They are happy with their life’s and taught me to conquer challenges while still remaining happy. I have particularly noticed this trait lately as it seems many unhappy people often surround me- people that are miserable with their station in life.  My mother is great at enjoying the journey of life.

3. She is always learning.  My mother has the intellect to be a college professor, a senator, or any other educated profession; however, she decided to be a mother. Defying stereotypes of the soap opera watching housewife, my mom has always been a self-learner.  My whole life she has been up-to-date on current events  in practically every field.  In addition, she is well-read in philosophy, literature, political theory, horticulture, the arts and every other topic.  It took years in college before I took a class that my mother was not only familiar with but well-versed and informed- sometimes more so than my professors.  When we used to get sick, my mother was the first one to the library (or now the internet) researching the condition, quickly becoming a mini-expert.

She was also  great at creating learning experiences for her children.  I remember going on walks and her pointing out trees, bugs, or birds and then describing something interesting about them- how they live, grow, what colors they become etc.  In college I would often call my mother and go over material with her because I knew if I could explain it to her than I knew I understood the topic  well enough for a test.  On such calls the emphasis was always on what I was learning, not on the grade (both my parents have never been grade-focused, which I am grateful for). I used to think all mothers were like this but have since learned to appreciate the emphasis my mom made on learning and improving oneself.

4. She is always sacrificing.  When I was 10 my mother announced to us that she was pregnant.  As excited as we were, pregnancy meant she  would have to go on full bed-rest.  She underwent this trial two more times- making almost 2 1/2 years of my mother’s life in bedrest (not including what she had for us older kids). I can’t even imagine how difficult this must have been.  It was hard enough for our whole family, but it must have been a nightmare for my mother.  It’s one thing to sit in bed when you are ill but for most of the pregnancies my mom felt fine, yet she still had to sit day and night.  This type of sacrifice is emblematic of the way my mother has lived her life- always thinking of others needs ahead of her own comfort.  She has given countless hours of her life caring for new babies, working on school projects with us, making costumes for school plays,  babysitting grandkids, cooking meals, and making traditions special for her family.  In today’s society we seem to think there has to be an equal link between work and rewards.  The sense of sacrifice previous societies accepted has practically gone away- except with my mom.

5. She is a wonderful nurturer.  Again, when I was growing up I thought all mothers were like my mom- warm, kind, sympathetic.  I have learned that she is special.  She knows how to comfort a crying eye- even at the age of 28! She listens better than anyone I know, and she does it while doing a hundred other things.  Her and my dad would read to us every night growing up and then we would say prayers together.  Rituals like these are all about comfort and love for children.  My mother is wonderful at such things.

6. She is patient.  When I was in high school I felt different from my entire family, including my mom.  Thankfully I never really rebelled, but I am sure there were plenty of moments where she was frustrated with my attitude.  I think the reason I didn’t rebel is because my parents were patient with me . They gave me the space to be myself- to figure out what I wanted.  I have never felt that my parents had preconceived notions of who I was to become or what my life is supposed to be like.  They have just let me be me and accepted that.  Such growth requires patience on the part of parents, and my mother is the ultimate example.

It really is hard to write about my mom and make it sound adequate.  Let me just say- she is wonderful and I love her.  I could not have been more blessed. I don’t have any pictures of my mom by herself (probably because she was busy preparing a meal or taking care of a kid!). Here is one of my mom and dad with my newest niece Nelle Lloyd.

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“By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class.” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honorable profession in the world and one that demanded the best I could bring to it.” — Rose Kennedy

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” — George Washington (1732-1799)