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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Impressions of a Novice Traveler - Part 1 - Preliminaries

   
 At the ripe age of 59, having never left my home country of the U.S.A. except for brief childhood jaunts across the Canadian border to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side,  I recently took my first trip abroad. While raising a family, vacations always were of the camping variety, always within driving distance.  This year when my youngest son was invited to be a part of a traveling concert band touring Europe, my husband decided this was a good time for all of us to take the trip. We would be traveling with a group of 120 young choir, band, and string orchestra students, plus numerous directors and chaperones.
    We signed up well over a year in advance which gave us plenty of time to obtain passports and assemble the appropriate gadgets and paraphenalia for a 2 week whirlwind tour of Europe. We were to visit 7 countries, stopping to perform concerts in about 5 of them.
     It also gave me plenty of time to fret and worry about certain recent terrorist events in and around London and Paris.   My husband finally convinced in the end that, although horrific to those affected, the likelihood of any one person  being caught up in one of these incidents was slim. Nevertheless, when another deadly attack occurred a few weeks before our departure, I visited my family doctor and got a prescription for non-addictive anxiety medication which could also be used as allergy pills and for motion sickness. I was set.
     I spent much time prior to the trip reading up on smart packing and travel capsule wardrobes, which focus on color coordinated separates that can be mixed, matched, and layered to get the maximum number of outfits from the minimum number of articles of clothing. The majority of my wardrobe was bought in s second hand store, where I also purchased a Travelon  purse which doubled as a carry on bag. I also bought a money belt, travel lock, an inflatable neck pillow, and travel insurance that covered multiple issues including trip cancellation, lost baggage, and repatriation of my remains were I to suffer an untimely demise while traveling (a sobering thought.)
     Having done all the necessary preparation well in advance, all that was left was to wait for the day of departure. I packed and unpacked my bags weeks in advance to make sure it all fit, with room left over for souvenirs.
     Finally the day arrived. We were up at & for the 4 hour drive to the Detroit airport. Our flight left at 2 p.m. which meant we had to be there by 11.  Upon arrival, we met the other members of our group, said goodbyes, and proceeded through baggage check and security. Having not flown since before "9-11-2001", the intense scrutiny required today was a bit disconcerting but understandably necessary. We finally boarded the plane, made the short hop to Minneapolis, and settled in for a 7 hour layover where we passed the time by window shopping, sitting in sports bars, and walking the huge airport with it many moving sidewalks.
      Next: "Long Night Crossing the Pond", and "London Arrival"



   

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Let's Make Donald Trump a Figurehead President

     Let's face it   Donald Trump never wanted to be a real president.  He was attracted to the position by the glitz and glamour, the appearance of superiority to other human beings, the ability to rub elbows with the rich and powerful, and to fire people.   He thought it would be like the ultimate reality show, with him as center of attention and people hanging on his every tweet.
     But as for actual governing and policy making, he is not interested.  He does not want to bother with daily intelligence briefings which are a bore.  (Why hear the same thing over and over again?)  He never realized that issues like health care and national security could be so complicated.  And he had no idea it would all take so much effort and be so difficult!  Running his one-man real estate business, with the help of his children, was so much easier.
     Due to all these reasons and more, his presidency so far has been a miserable comedy of errors. He has made one grievous error after another, the latest of which involved inviting the Russian diplomats (spies) to his office, kicking out all the American press, and then proceeding to spill classified information to the Russians.  He has no clue his responsibilities and boundaries are.  He does not understand his role or the consequences of his actions.  He has no plan.  The more time passes, the more obvious it becomes that there is the real potential that he will do serious damage to our democracy sooner or later.
    There is already talk circulating in Washington of impeachment, but given the spinelessness of the Republicans in Congress, it will be difficult to garner enough support for that to actually happen.  And it's such a messy, long, drawn out process. He could do lots more damage in the mean time.   I have a better solution: let's make Donald Trump a one time only figurehead president, much like the royalty of England.
      He can live in the White House surrounded by all the opulence and air of importance that his ego craves and feeds upon. He can act as the welcoming committee to foreign dignitaries, posing for photo ops, sitting in the wing chairs before the fireplace, flying them down to Mara Lago to play golf and eat chocolate cake and lots and lots of ice cream.  (One for you, two for me.)  He can do all the "fun" things he envisioned he would be doing as president, without the bothersome responsibility.  He need not sit through any more boring intelligence briefings.   In fact, the less he knows the more secure our country will be.  He doesn't need to hold any more press conferences and be asked impolite questions by nasty journalists.
   But who will run the government?  Well, we have Mike Pence and Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders.  We have Congress. There are hundreds of people in Washington D.C. that have spent their careers doing just that.  They'll do fine without him.  Just keep Trump busy golfing, eating cake and ice cream, watching himself on t.v., and "playing" President, and when he has time he can pop over and have tea with the queen.


Friday, May 12, 2017

A Sinkhole of Lies and Deception


    Our U.S. government is embroiled in a quagmire unlike any in the history of our country.  The man who said he was going to “drain the swamp” in Washington is now involved in one of the seamiest scandals ever to hit the front pages of our newspapers.  Even before Donald Trump took office, there were questions about his relationship with the Russians. Why was he so unwilling to express any criticism of dictator Vladimir Putin, when he had no qualms about berating and ridiculing just about everyone else? Just what did the Russians "have" on Trump, that they were the only group he seemed to respect.

     I am convinced that the investigators looking into Trump’s ties with Russia have only begun to scratch the surface.  There must be some kind of political bombshell he’s hiding.  Otherwise why would he have such a visceral reaction anytime someone gets close to uncovering something?  His recent firing of FBI Director James Comey is just one example of that reaction. 

     I shudder to think of how much time and effort is going into meetings of the White House staffers trying to figure out how to do damage control.  It makes me not want to pay my federal income taxes, to think that I am supporting such behavior.  Sean Spicer has been reduced to hiding in the bushes and asking the press to turn the lights out before he will give them a briefing.  Other surrogates including once-banished Kelley Ann Conway regularly appear on news shows to spew the latest "official" White House version of events, only to be contradicted hours later by other surrogates.  When one fails to be convincing, even more able liars like Sarah Huckabee Sanders are trotted out with brand new updated smoke and mirrors, saying anything they can to obfuscate the truth and confuse the issue.  Journalists are having a field day trying to keep up with all the twists and turns in the story.

     Meanwhile all that grandiose rhetoric about “making America great again” is echoing down empty corridors.  Nothing much is getting done in that regard. The Great American Experiment has gone off the tracks and is barreling toward a chasm of self interest and coverup, dug by those occupying the highest offices in the land.  Someone with courage and conviction and a knowledge of the Constitution and governmental checks and balances needs to grab the helm and direct our country back onto the road that the Founding Fathers set us on some 241 years ago. Unless that happens we as a country are headed for certain destruction.

Friday, March 17, 2017

What's In YOUR Wallet?

    As anybody who has reached a certain age can tell you, the older you get the harder it is to remember things.  It could be that our brain cells are wearing out and just aren't as nimble as they used to be.  Or it could be that we have tried to pack too much information into what is most certainly a limited storage space in our head.  By the time you've reached middle age, you have already had to remember a vast amount of information such as all the names of all your children's teachers from kindergarten through high school; passwords for 27 different accounts and systems that you only log into once every six months; how to do every job you've ever worked at since the age of 16; the birthdates of all your friends and relatives and their favorite colors; all the state capitols that you memorized in the 7th grade; how to program a VCR in the 1980s; combinations of 11 different combination locks used at various times in your life - the list goes on and on. 
    It's time to admit that your memory bank is maxed out.  You just can't cram one more bit of information in there if you tried, so you resort to cheating.  You write down your passwords in a secret location, even though every security expert advises against it.  You start leaving yourself post-it notes in conspicuous places.  You call yourself on the phone and leave yourself messages to remind you of appointments.   You set reminders on  your cell phone and your tablet, and write them on your calendar.  You find a hundred different ways to compensate for your dwindling capacity to remember things.
      Personally, I take this even further.  For random bits of information that I just may need someday, I have resorted to the habit of writing them on small slips of paper and sticking them in my wallet.  My wallet is in the same condition as my memory bank - it is already jammed full of too much stuff.  First, there are the normal things everybody carries: a few odd pieces of paper money, which takes up hardly any space at all;  my driver's license; credit cards; insurance cards, stamps, and receipts from my latest purchases.  There's a library card, courtesy cards from stores that I frequent, a few business cards from local businesses and my doctors.  But now there's a stack of papers containing random bits of information that started out small but seems to be growing:  one slip of paper contains the names of my senator and state representative, in case I feel the urge to contact them.  Another contains the name of a rare medical condition that a friend told me she has.  There are a couple business cards of new acquaintances at church who I readily admitted I would not be able to remember their names to.  One slip contains the brand and size of aquarium filter I use. Another contains the row and seat number of my husband's season ticket at the local high school football stadium.  I used to have one that held the brand name and size of xylophone mallets that my son wanted me to buy in the 8th grade.  I kept that one for about 3 years before tossing it.   For the last 3 months I have been carrying  around a product warranty card written in hilarious Ching-lish that I will pull out in case I ever need something to entertain somebody with.  I also have a want ad for a job that I decided I could not afford to leave my current job to take, but I'm saving it in case something happens to change my mind.  (I'm sure the job will be long past filled by then.)   And last but not least I have the "I Love Voting" sticker that was handed to me at the polls in the last election, to remind myself that even thought I did not like the election outcome, we still live in a country where we have the right and the privilege of voting for our government officials.
     My wallet is more than just a place to carry money.  It's a depository of bits and pieces of my life, some important and critical, some random and perhaps unimportant.  But you never know when you're going to be stuck in an broken down elevator with three strangers, and need to lighten the mood and kill some time by pulling out that hilarious Chinese-butchered-English product warranty manual.  It's certainly worth carrying it around for five years, just in case!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Signs of Spring....Robins, Taxes, and New Grandbabies

    It's been awhile since I have posted on this blog. I apologize for that, but I have been so befuddled by the antics in Washington of our newly elected officials that I haven't been willing or able to comment on that or anything else. There are just so many crazy things going on right now, it's beyond my ability as a mere amateur to provide any meaningful insight. I will leave that up to the professionals, who are having a tough enough time making any sense of it themselves.
    But that unhappy situation for the professional frees me up to focus on more lighthearted topics, like the impending coming of spring.  February's unseasonably warm weather in this part of the country has heralded an early return of one of the earliest signs of spring - the appearance in our yards and neighborhoods of robin redbreast! I saw 5 or 6 of them while out and about today. The warm weather of late has brought them back north a bit early.  (For those outside of the U.S. who may not know, "robin redbreast" is a cheery little grayish bird with bright orange underbelly and breast feathers that return to these parts every spring.)  Unfortunately the summer-like temperatures we enjoyed a few weeks ago have reverted to more seasonal winter-like weather. The robins looked rather chilly hopping about in the snow today. I hope they can find enough food and warmth to survive the next few nights which are predicted to drop down into the teens, with more snow on the way  Hopefully the blizzard which is predicted to hit New York will bypass us and the warmer temps will return soon.
     Along with robin redbreast, another sure sign if spring is the looming April 15th deadline for filing our taxes. Tax day seems to roll around more quickly every year. (Didn't  we just do this???) I hope you have your paperwork in order and the tax gods smile on you.
     I have vowed never to turn this blog into grandma's brag book but I would be amiss not to mention the birth of my first grandchild last month. For those who have experienced it, you know what I'm talking about.  Pure joy!  There is nothing else like it!  Seeing your children have children of their own is a fascinating thing and opens up a whole new world of possibilities. I hope you indulge me for bragging just this once!   
    I've heard it said the a new baby is God's affirmation that the world should go on.  Even with the crazy shenanigans going on in Washington and the whole world seemingly in an uproar, we can still take solace in the sure knowledge that, just like last year and every year before it, spring is on the way, with robins, daffodils, and walks around the block with new grandbabies to look forward to.  As mixed up as the world sometimes seems, the circle of life continues, as sure as birth and taxes.  God has affirmed that life in all it's craziness and beauty should go on.  Hope your spring turns out to be wonderful, as I'm sure mine will be.

photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/Jillian-McKenzie-Photography-165381480265318/

   
    

Friday, February 3, 2017

Old Protest Song Seems New Again


      For some odd reason, I woke up this morning with this old Pete Seeger song in my head.  The words used to seem kind of corny, but in this new political climate they seem oddly appropriate.  If someone would make a new recording, they could have a hit on their hands, and it could become a new rallying cry for the "opposition."  The popular version in the 1960's was recorded by Pete, Paul, and Mary.

If I Had A Hammer

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land, uh

If I had a bell
I'd ring it in the morning
I'd ring it in the evening
All over this land
I'd ring out danger
I'd ring out a warning
I'd ring out love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land, oh

If I had a song
I'd sing it in the morning
I'd sing it in the evening
All over this land
I'd sing out danger
I'd song of out a warning
I'd sing out love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land, oh

Well, I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's a song about love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land
It's a hammer of justice
It's a bell of freedom
It's a song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land