Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, oh my!

With all the talk about California having little input on the presidential primary race, with the nominee almost always being decided before our primary comes due, I am glad about one thing; we are not first. Can you image living in Iowa for the past few months? One can hardly imagine the amount of direct mail campaign flyers you must have received by now. If everyone in Iowa saved them, and put them in a pile to burn, you could probably see the fire from space. How about the radio and television political ads? I would imagine the sales of iPods and subscriptions to Netflix have doubled in Hawkeye state just to avoid broadcast radio and television until after the caucuses January 3.

Mitt Romney is a liberal Massachusetts politician with a dangerous religion. Newt Gingrich is a liberal Washington lobbyist with three wives. Ron Paul is a crazy old coot, emphasis on the crazy part. Rick Santorum is Tim Tebow without the athletic ability, etc.

I am paraphrasing these adds, but I'm sure that these are the messages that are getting out to the voters. As with all politics, we cannot overlook the fact that a good number of people do not pay that much attention to the candidates, and just vote based on what they hear at the coffee shop, at work, or at home. Which maybe why Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for President in 2012.

Before you go sending me emails about Romnecare, and all the other conservative sins Mitt has committed in the past, I will just tell you this. He is a known quantity. Unlike the numerous "Soup of the day" candidates whose meteoric ascendency to the top of the polls have all been followed with a free fall crash, Mitt Romney has never been everyone's darling. Mitt is pure vanilla. Scratch that, if there is an unflavored ice cream flavor, it should be named after the former Massachusetts governor.

Mitt is about as exciting as finding three, one dollar bills in your coat pocket; sure its nice, but it's only three bucks. Herman Cain and Rick Perry were like finding a two hundred dollar bill in your coat pocket, only to realize that we don't print two hundred dollar bills, and that they are probably worthless. I think the Gingrich campaign will suffer a death by a thousand cuts. He has said way too many outrageous things, taken money from some questionable sources, especially from a conservative's point of view, and frankly the three marriages do say something about his character. 

Just for full disclosure, I voted for Mitt Romney in the 2008 primary here in California. Not that I was enthusiastic supporter, I just could not vote for "the maverick" John McCain. To be sure, there are plenty of things that make me squirm a bit about Romney. Sometimes, when I hear him talk, I have flashbacks of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the wish-washy, global warming, ever-increasing government, brand of Republicanism that I have grown to loathe.

The one thing I would bet on is there will be no female co-worker from Mitt's past, coming forward to claim an affair, or that he was busted for cocaine possession in the nineties. He is a clean cut all-American guy, looking to do good. Maybe that, along with his religion, is why the left hates him so. He is not my ideal candidate, but he is a proven quantity. There are no surprises with Mitt.

He is the nice, average looking girl you know will say yes when you ask her to go to the prom, after all the popular, semi-trashy ones shoot you down. You know you will not get past first base, but you will have a good time at the dance, get some nice photos for your mom, and not pick up an STD. (How's that for a ringing endorsement?)

Now, Mitt can give a good stump speech, and he knows how to wind up a conservative crowd, but I know deep down that he will play ball when he gets to Washington. He knows he will have cut a few deals, sign bills he opposes, and water down ones he likes, to get anything through the Democrats in the senate. I know this full well, and that gives me a leg up on the people who voted for Barack Obama last time around. They actually thought that he was going to change the nation, change the world, and make their lives better. I have no such illusions. I am just looking for someone who will do the least amount of harm.

Would I like to have another choice? Sure. The candidate that I most closely agree with, in terms of policy, is Rick Santorum. Will he have a chance to be the anti-Romney choice coming out of Iowa? I think he might. He may grab a surprise third place finish in Iowa, stay alive past New Hampshire, where his pro-life stance will hurt him, and make it onto South Carolina where he may catch a second wind. It's a long way to the nomination, I just think slow and steady wins the race, and the epitome of slow and steady is Mitt Romney.

So we only have a few more days until the Iowa Caucuses, much to the relief of Iowans.  Who will come out the winner, who will drop out, will anyone care? Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Three prayers

I was standing in a waiting room of the south tower at UC Davis Med Center; I was tired of sitting. I had been there for most of the past two days. It was a clear day, a warm day in May. The sun filled the room with light, fighting back against the dullness of the florescent bulbs. My wife was with me, along with my sister and mother. I remember the blue striped shirt my wife was wearing that day. It's strange what your mind holds on to all these years later. I remember I was praying, praying hard. 

I remember hearing the overhead page for the Code Blue. It's the call they use to say someone is dying, come quick. That had been two hours ago. I remember praying to God that he let my father live. Let him live, and I promise I will change, I will be good from now on. I could not imagine life without my father; he was such a big part of my life. My mind was running countless scenarios where my father pulled through and my life would go on in a way I understood. Please Lord, don't let him die. I'll do anything you ask, please don't let him die. 

I knew by the look on the doctor's face my father didn't make it. It was not a sad look, or the look of apprehension about telling a family the bad news. The doctor had the look of a man who had been fighting hard to save a life for the past two hours, and had lost the battle. I had so many feelings coursing through my body. I felt this numbness, I guess it is like being in shock. I could hear my heart pounding audibly as my mind raced. Why God? Why? 

I was in my mid twenties at the time, married to my wife of almost three years, and completely dependent on my father. 

Since high school, I had worked for him. I had worked on our cattle ranches, and had just received my real estate license to work at his real estate business. Not only had I just lost my father, I had just lost my employer and benefactor. As we drove home from the hospital that day, I couldn't help but thinking how God had let me down. Didn't he know that I was on my own now? What was I going to do? How was I going to pay for the house I just built? Why would he do this to me when he could have just saved my father and made my life so much easier? Why? 

Although I had been a Christian for most of my adult life, I had walked far away from God over the years. In fact, my life looked nothing like the walk Christ would want me to have. I had little responsibility, little thought for others, my life was all about me and what I wanted. Prayer for me at that time was like a 911 call. God, are you there? Something terrible happened, I need your help, get me out of this. This was not the prayer of someone who had a deep relationship with God. This was desperation. This was 'Let's make a deal' prayer. 

A decade later, I was at the hospital again, and again, I was praying hard. This time my wife was heading into surgery for an emergency caesarean section. She was seven months along at the time, and for the past two weeks, we had been told we had to do everything to keep the baby inside; she was not ready to come out. That all changed when my wife's platelet count dropped through the floor and her system started to crash. 

I remember driving behind the ambulance going from the hospital in Roseville to the one downtown because they had the best neonatal care unit in the area. I remember praying, Lord, I don't know what this is all about, but if it is your will, please let my wife and baby live. 

I remember being in a set of medical scrubs, in the surgery room, holding my wife hand as she had her c-section. Her mother, Lois was there too. When they delivered our daughter, my mother-in-law said I should go with the baby, she would stay with my wife. Lois had lost a premature baby once, and thought this might be the only chance I have to see her. 

Abigail was tiny, just over three pounds. I thought, looking at her tiny hands and feet, she was too small to make it. I was whisked out of the way as a team of doctors and nurses swarmed over her trying to keep her alive. I was again in a daze, as things and events blurred all around me. 

I thought back to my father's death, and how it shaped my life going forward. I had to grow up fast after his death, and I did. We had to sell the house we had just built. We move to Sacramento with a newborn son, a start-up business, nothing in the bank, and not much else. Ten years later, we had a nice little house, my wife was running our business full time, and I was making a good living in the tech industry. 

I don't try to guess at God's plan any longer, but at that critical moment, our daughter was in the best place, and in the best hands for a baby in her situation. I continued to pray in those first few hours. Thank you Lord for all the blessings in my life, thank you for seeing us through so far, your will be done Lord, your will be done. 

My wife was not out of the woods at this point either. This had started with her having a variation of pre-eclampsia, and she was still having complications. I bounced back and forth between the neonatal unit and my wife's recovery room, giving her updates on little Abigail. 

The first few days were the worst. They had to put Abbie on a ventilator, and she had a hole in her heart that they were monitoring, hoping it would close as it should. I have a picture of her with my wedding ring around her ankle; she was that small. There was not a lot of time for sleep that week. After a frightening setback with my wife, she finally stabilized, and now Abbie was our main concern. 

The nurses at the neo-natal intensive care unit are remarkable people. I am not sure how you work in that environment without your heart breaking regularly. There were maybe two dozen babies in NICU, many very ill. Some make it. Some do not. It is not a happy place to be for a parent. We listened every day as they would give us updates about Abbie. We would cheer when she gained an ounce, we would worry if she lost one. We spent many hours sitting there, just watching her breathe. In those weeks, I spent more time in my Bible than any time I had prior. 

I learned a lot about the nature of God in those weeks. Who he was, about his love for me, his love for us. I kept coming back to a verse in the Old Testament. Numbers 6:24-26. 'The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.' I printed these verses out and taped it to Abbie's incubator, or "the hut," as we called it. 

I drew such peace from this verse and the words that were very real to me. In all the chaos, worry, and doubt of those first few hours, days and weeks, I had a peace that I had no right to be feeling. I just knew that whatever happened, God was with me and with my family. 

Fast forward another decade, and I find that I don't get too excited about many things. I think I know what's important, and what is just part of life. I think the source of my understanding comes in two parts; my understanding of who God is, and the understanding that material things; houses, cars, career, status, are of absolutely zero value when you are holding the hand of someone you love dearly, praying they will live. 

My wife and I have been truly blessed. Our son is now in college, our daughter, once so tiny, is now a head taller than most of her class and is a beautiful, vibrant, ball of energy. Our family has come a long way, and I am certain that without God's love and his strength, we would have fallen apart. While I still have a very long way to go, my faith, and my walk with God are much different than they were as a new Christian. 

One of the things that concern me about the American church is the way we present Christianity. We talk about forgiveness, everlasting life, peace, the power over sin, the love of Christ that is ours when we accept Jesus as our savior. These are all true; these are the very essence of being in Christ Jesus. I think where we as the church go astray is the misconception, especially with new Christians, that faith in Christ is a magic force field against bad things happening to us. I don't think we do this on purpose, but we always focus on the positive traits of Christianity, as if we are somehow immune to tragedy and sorrow. 

Many who raise their hands on a Sunday to accept Christ, may think that once I am a Christian, all these bad things, all these bad situations will just go away. I don't believe I have read that anywhere in the Bible. Maybe you will be 'unfired.' Maybe the bank will not foreclose on your house as they said they would, or the doctor will tell you that everything is fine now, or your spouse will not move out. Everything may turn around overnight, I have seen it happen; but what if it doesn't? Is God not real then? Does he not love you enough to make your problems go away? This is where new believers need the church to come along side them, for support, comfort and prayer. Powerful prayer. 

As someone who would love nothing more than all souls coming to Christ, I think we should tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what the journey with Christ is all about. Not having gone through seminary, and being a rather poor example of the Christian faith, I may be completely and entirely wrong on this, but here is my 'Idiots guide to God', written by an aforementioned idiot. 

God is not a magic Jeanie in a bottle. Yes, he is all knowing, and all powerful, he is not however, ours for the commanding. He is the one who makes the commandments, it would serve us well to know these commandments, and keep them. 

I take Jesus at his word when he says, "In this world, you will have trouble." I have had lots of trouble, and I will have more of it, this is certain. The key is to hang onto the next verse, "But take heart! I have overcome the world." 

It's not that your life with Christ are all sunny days, filled with fluffy clouds and butterflies. There will be days that make you cry out for his mercy. Days, if left to your own understanding and your own power, would simply overwhelm and crush you. But with God's power, through the Holy Spirit living in you, you will know that ultimately, God is right there with you. He gives you strength when you feel you cannot go on, he gives you peace when you need it most. His heart breaks when yours does.

As you come through the other side of a crisis, you grow closer in your relationship with God, and your prayers seem to change. I still want the outcome I have in mind, however, I understand that there are things that I simply cannot understand, not in this life. I will have to trust God. Even when it makes no sense, even when it hurts, even when it is the opposite of what I wanted. I must trust in God's infinite love for me.

This last prayer is one I hope I have the strength to pray in my next crisis, which is surely on its way. "Lord, in all things, I give you the glory. Use me, use this, to bring people closer to you. Lord, lift up your countenance upon me, Lord give me peace."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy Cancun

Can't believe how crazy those people were at club last night. I'll bet we walked past a dozen people passed out on the beach on the way back to the resort. 
 
 
Dude! It was awesome!



 Man, this is way better than the spending Thanksgiving break at Zuccotti Park. I'm glad your mom had an extra suite for us. I'll bet those homeless dudes are freezing their butts off back in New York, but that's the price you have to pay if you want to change the world. 



Yea! We're changing the world!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Eject , Eject, Eject!

Eject, eject, eject! That line come from the movie, Flight of the Intruder. The Navy pilot is giving a ride to a corpsman and goes over the procedure for an in-flight emergency. He tells the doc, the command for eject will be, eject, eject, eject! The doc asks, "Do I say Roger or something?" The pilot replies, if you even say "Huh" you're going to be talking to yourself.

Sometimes you have to know when to bail out before you crash and do permanent damage. At this season in my life, I have reached that point. Don't worry, I'm not going to run off to join the circus, or move to Scotland to distill my own brand of whiskey, I'm just readjusting my priorities.

As a younger man, my life was completely self-centered. To be totally honest, I still fight that trait to this day, and some days, it wins. However, when you're young, your life is all about what will make you happiest in the very near future. By near future, that could be weeks, days, or even hours. What other people are doing, feeling, or experiencing is of relatively little value, unless it's a means to getting that next dose of happiness. If you have kids at home, especially teenagers, you know this all too well. If this reflects your own life, and you are past your twenties, you are doing it wrong.

As you get older, you are supposed to grow up and be 'responsible'. Being responsible, as a wise friend once told me, is being able to choose your response. As life gets more complicated with relationships, work, family, and other things, they all start to bide for your time and attention. This is when 'responsible' feels more like being on the hook for everything and less about choosing a response.

As I approached my forties, I began to take inventory of my life. I hear this is normal, and even healthy. As long as don’t divorce your wife for someone half her age, and buy a convertible Corvette. Knowing that you may have just hit the apex of your lifespan, that you may have fewer sunrises ahead than are in the rear view mirror, can bring you life into focus. It did for me. I wanted to start making a difference in the world surrounding me. I began to say yes to things that I had resisted in the past. Community groups, church, politics, I began to serve on all types of committees, leadership teams, boards of directors and such.

I want to be as clear as I can here, these are all wonderful organizations, and worthy causes. My hat is off to those who serve in these roles. There is a lot of hard work, long days (and nights) no pay, and very little recognition. I hope in the future I can find a balance in my life that allows me once again to serve those around me. Right now, I am turning my focus elsewhere.

In an earlier piece, I wrote about my daughter and how I wanted to spend more time with her as she enters her pre-teen years. When I looked at my calendar before, it was filled with meetings, volunteer days, and other activities. I began to realize how much I rely on my wife when it comes to Abbie. They are two peas in a pod, and while this is great for their relationship, I can't just be a bystander in my daughter’s life. I want to be as involved in her life as I am in my son's life. This will be a challenge for me, as the thought of a car load or house full of giggling, screaming, eleven year old girls gives me the hives.

The other reason for my disengagement with my volunteer activities is a bit more personal. I need to do a little work on myself. Well, maybe a more than a little. That mid life, self assessment left me with a few areas where I need to improve. My health, my spiritual maturity, my family life; I need to invest my time and focus on these things right now. Not that you can ever master these areas, but you only have a limited amount of resources, and when I am spreading myself a mile wide, I find that I am only an inch deep.

To boil it down, I guess I am doing too many things, and I'm not doing any of them well. I hope this winter is a growing season for me; as a husband, a father, a man, and as follower of Christ.

I hope sometime in the future, I can re-engage in some of these areas. This time, I will give the opportunity a very close look, and talk it over with my family. They will have final veto power. For now, it’s out to the workshop; I have a lot of work to do.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A day of days

Sleep used to be one of my strong suits. Not to boast, but I could sleep with the best of them. To put it another way, if there were an NSL, the National Sleeping League, I would have been a first round draft pick. So it was that morning, my head, buried in my pillow, was dreaming pleasant thoughts, waiting for the rude blare of my alarm clock that I knew would be coming soon, when I dreamt the phone rang. Was I still dreaming?

One of the drawbacks to being raised on a cattle ranch are the calls you get at all times of the night informing you, "Your cows are out." Most of the time it was the CHP dispatch, how they came to have my phone number is still a mystery, but any cattle on Highway 16 between Esparto and the Lake County line somehow became 'my cows'. Having answered many of those calls over the years, I have a strange ability to go from dead asleep, to coherently awake it three rings of a telephone.

A little before 6:00AM, my mother in law Lois called to say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York, and to turn on the television. I turned on the news and watched as the events of that horrific day unfolded. We all remember the shock, the confusion, the fear that gripped us as we watched what seemed to be an unending stream of terrible events. It was, as I think back on it, a day of days. A day I will never forget, ever.

With all the images of that day flashing across the television, I could not imagine the experience of being in lower Manhattan that morning to see, to hear, to feel and even to taste the gray ash of those demolished towers. The high definition images from the television or the pixels of a digital photo cannot reproduce the emotion, the terror, the anguish of that beautiful, clear, September morning that devolved into a hell on earth.

It is fitting the ten year anniversary of September 11, 2001 falls on a Sunday. It is the Sunday following 9/11 that I would like to take you back to if I may. Like many other semi-regular church attendees, I am pretty sure I had not been to church in a few weeks. At the time, our daughter was still a toddler, and church was a hit or miss proposition depending on how frazzled we felt come Sunday.

I did however, make it to church the Sunday after 9/11, and I wasn’t alone. I had to park quite a distance away that morning. The church was packed, and you could see the anxious looks on people’s faces. Gone was the friendly chitchat that usually precedes the start of services, in its place were quiet, concerned conversations about the previous Tuesday. Tears were met with reassuring hugs and a comforting word. It is in these times of crisis you find out just how hard you can lean on your church. There were a lot of folks leaning hard that day.

We were attending Bayside Church in Granite Bay at the time, and Pastor Ray Johnston delivered a powerful and very relevant message that Sunday. A message of sorrow yes, but also one of confidence, strength, and hope. A line that stuck with me that Sunday was God is still on his throne. He is still in charge, and we could draw close to his strength in the midst of this crisis.

In places of worship all over the nation that day, uncounted millions emerged from Sunday services with a renewed faith, and a sense of hope in the face a very uncertain world. On this tenth anniversary of September eleventh, I will remember the fallen, the heroes, and especially our soldiers, but I will also take heart that we are still one nation, under God.

God bless America.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DC EARTHQUAKE!


"And now Wolf Blitzer with breaking news"





"We have reports coming in of an earthquake in our nation's capital. We are trying to get live images to you as soon as possible, but from early reports, we have an artist's rendering of what the damage looks like. Let's show the graphic."




"How terrible! This earthquake happened on a previously undiscovered fault line, it is being called 'Bush's Fault' because of catastrophic damage it has caused."




"Ok, I am getting word that we do have a live shot of the devastation from the earthquake in Washington DC. Here is the live view of DC"










"Hmmm. Things look a bit better than we had feared, but I'm sure there is terrible damage down on street level., Wait, we do have a live shot from the Lincoln Memorial"






"Hmm"



"OK, well I guess we dodged a bullet there. While most of the government buildings are being evacuated and workers are heading home, this could have been much worse."




"Wait one minute, I am now getting word of a giant cat, that's right, a giant cat attacking the Washington Monument. Here is an artist's rendering of the attack."








"As always, stay tuned for more breaking news, as it happens."







Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Hitler/Stalin 2012!

I can already hear the keyboards out there clicking away, writing letters to the editor about how I have finally lost my mind. Hold that thought for a minute, you may be right, but hear me out.

No, I am not looking for the next murderous, genocidal, national-socialist leader to nominate for president. Nor am I looking for a mass murdering, genocidal, communist leader to run as vice president. No, what I am looking for is someone who is prepared for, and strong enough to take on, the worst kind of vilification yet to be seen in modern politics. Someone who is ready to be described as Hitler, Stalin, Satan, and even worse, the second coming of George W Bush.

To fix this nation, we need a president with the courage to endure relentless character attacks at the hands of the media, big labor, the beltway pundits and even those in their own party. Someone who will have the strength to tell Americans the unvarnished truth, and be able to take the heat for it. Let me unpack this for you.

Did you enjoy the three weeks of political theater that went on during the debt ceiling crisis? I didn't think so. Let me explain in very simple terms what just happened last week, why we were downgraded, and what it will take to fix this mess we are in.

The federal government is borrowing forty cents of every dollar it spends this year. Let that sink for a minute; forty percent. If the government were a family, they would have a household income of $55,000. However, they would be spending $96,000 a year. They would also be putting the difference, $41,000 (their deficit) on the family credit card. That family credit card (the federal debt) already has a $366,000 balance. Now let me ask you, do you think this family is a good credit risk?

But what about the debt ceiling deal? Didn't that fix everything? Nope.

What happened was the family said they would cut HBO from the cable TV package, but then went out and bought new iPads for everyone. In short, they are going to spend more next year than they did this year, just not as much as they wanted to. To put it another way, this was an ace bandage on a broken leg. No wonder our credit rating was downgraded for the first time in our history.

As disappointed as I am in the Republicans for agreeing to spend more every year than the one past, I am really disappointed in the current batch of Republican presidential candidates. In the weeks leading up to the debt ceiling debate, where were Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty or Michele Bachmann? Anyone who wants to lead this nation in the next four years better have a real plan, and be willing to share it, early and often.

I am sure their handlers, media advisers, and strategists were telling the GOP hopefuls to keep their heads down, let the congress and the president sling the mud and take the heat. That is a huge mistake. What Americans are craving right now is real leadership. What they want is someone to tell them the truth, and to be very specific. We are up to our eyeballs in talking points, generalities, platitudes, class warfare, and slick speeches.

What we need is a presidential candidate to explain how we get from taking in $55,000, spending $96,000, and bringing those numbers into balance. President Obama and the Democrats want to tax the American people up to the $96,000 level, and even higher. The current crop of Republicans seem resigned to keep the built-in levels of increased spending and occasionally trying to take bits and pieces off that growth.

We need a president who will lay out his or her plan to directly to the American people. That plan must be in two parts.

First, we are going to cut government spending back to its historical levels, about eighteen or nineteen percent of our Gross Domestic Product. Every department is going to get a haircut, and it's about time we eliminate some government programs all together. For those of us under 55, the retirement age for Social Security will have to be raised to keep the program solvent, and Medicare will have to be means-tested to continue into the future.

Secondly, we must do everything in our power to get government out of the way of America's small businesses. The private sector must get back to hiring new workers, building new factories, and expanding their markets. The only way we are getting out of this mess is to grow our economy through the private sector. Just think of what a five or six percent unemployment rate would do for our economy. We have done it before, and we can do it again. Like I've said before, you can't print jobs, the vast majority are created by small and medium sized businesses.

We must also simplify the tax code. We cannot have Exxon under Bush, and General Electric under Obama, pay no federal income tax because they can hire better lobbyists than the local pizza shop owner.

None of this is going to be popular with the media elites, newspaper editorial boards, public employee unions, democrats and even some leftover, big-government Republicans. The outcry that will come from these groups will be viscous, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign cash, and absolutely unrelenting. The Hitler and Stalin labels will only be the beginning of the character assassination heaped upon the person who makes this case to the people. Paul Krugman, Jon Stewart, Chris Matthews and the rest of the gang will be foaming with outrage. But then again, how long can you be wrong, and have people listen to you?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Happy Independence Day.

What do you remember about Fourth of July celebrations when you were a kid? I am old enough to remember when we celebrated the bicentennial of our founding in 1976. It was a big deal; lots of speeches, the parade of tall ships going through the harbor in New York, and the fireworks shows on TV. Living in a very rural area of Northern California, we had no fireworks displays in my hometown of Oak Run, but we did have a parade. If you wanted to see real fireworks, you had to drive up the road a few miles and watch the fireworks displays of Redding and Anderson from Bullskin Ridge.

July was always a busy month at home. Truckloads of hay from our ranch in Oregon would have to be unloaded in the barns, and there were always cattle to feed in the feedlot. I'm not sure if we did anything special for the 4th, we would have a BBQ and maybe go swimming. As a kid, the Fourth of July was a blur of red, white and blue, firecrackers (if we could get them) and maybe a drive down to Redding to watch a fireworks show from a distance closer than 40 miles away.

This was my understanding of July fourth for most of early life. I had a thumbnail sketch of Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and the Liberty Bell, but that was about it. I didn't know the story behind the events, I didn't know the why behind the what. In that, I don't think I was alone.

As with most things historical, we are doing a terrible job teaching our children about the American Revolution. I believe the root cause lies in the fact we were not taught ourselves. In a recent Marist poll, only 31percent of adults under the age of 30 knew the year in which we declared independence. Only 67 percent knew we declared independence from Great Brittan. Like so much in life, you cannot teach what you do not know. As Americans, we know very little about where we came from. Nevertheless, back to the Fourth of July.

We may look back with hindsight on the Continental Congress' Declaration of Independence and say, well of course they declared independence, America should be its own nation. Oh, if only it were so easy. The struggle for our independence, as well as the very survival of our fledgling government and revolutionary army, was hanging on by a thread as the delegates in Philadelphia met to address the question of independence.

Only by understanding the situation as is stood in early summer 1776 will we be able to appreciate the boldness and courage of what happened on July 4. Commander of the Continental Army, General George Washington was trying to hold off an invasion of New York, as every day more British ships arrived in the harbor. He was low on munitions, flints for rifles, while the British had full command of the sea. On July 2, British General Howe landed 10,000 men on Staten Island, and was expecting 15,000 more. With these long odds, those gathered at Philadelphia knew that the war, their independence, their fortunes, and even their very lives were on the line. It is not a small miracle the Declaration of Independence was signed at all. This was after all, high treason, punishable by death.

By winter’s onset, New York would be lost, Washington would be down to 5,000 soldiers, and the British would be within striking distance of the rebel capital in Philadelphia. One must wonder if the delegates would have signed such a declaration at that time. If you don’t know the story of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River in the dead of winter with a half –starved, half-barefoot army to stave off certain defeat in the spring, you should learn what they did there. It truly is the stuff of legend.

This July Fourth is almost over and in a few days, the fireworks stands will be taken down, the spent tubes and sparkler sticks will have been cleaned up, and most Americans will start planning a Labor Day party. I wish more people knew what we celebrate on these holidays, but I’m not sure how to get people interested in their history. I’ll bet more people know the name Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, or Casey Anthony, the woman accused of killing her child in Florida than know who Nathanael Greene, or John Adams was.

We must do better at educating our children; we must do a better job of making our history come alive to them. I am open to suggestions, but if our schools fail in this, we must teach them at home. As I stated earlier, you cannot teach what you don’t know, so pick up a few books at the library and start learning about America.

In this, you may come across books written by people who don’t like America very much, Howard Zinn comes to mind, but then again, he was a member of the Communist Party USA , don’t take my word, his FBI file was just released. It’s your choice, you could read Zinn, but I would suggest David McCullough’s 1776 and John Adams for starters. If you want a more complete history, warts and all, read Bill Bennett’s’ wonderful books, America: The Last Best Hope Volumes I & II.

There are countless other great books on every part of our history, but to get a sense of how we became who we are is a life-long journey of discovery; one worth taking.


Happy Independence Day.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

18 months; a political lifetime.

There is a great joke about a kid asking his dad what a light year is. His father, who was not too bright, answered that a light year has a third less calories than a regular year. While we know that a light year is a actually a measure of distance, there are many definition of a political year.

In politics, one year can seem like a lifetime, or it can seem like three months; depending on whether you are ahead or behind in the polls. In reality, a year is very, very long time. Eighteen months in politics is almost too long to measure.

A month ago, how many people thought Donald Trump would actually make a viable candidate for the Republicans? I ran into a lot of them. I would tell them to look past the terrible comb-over and look at what the man has done in the political world. He has given money to Chuck Schumer, Rahm Emanuel, Charles Rangel, Harry Reid and other liberal democrats. That is more than enough for me. Thankfully, his fifteen minutes of candidate driven fame is over. However, for a brief instance, Trump was front-page presidential news.

As the presidential election season kicks into high gear this fall, the race on the Republican side is slowly taking shape. Right now, the media is talking about a weak Republican field and how they are desperate for a fresh face to rally the troops. I must admit that no one stands out as head and shoulders above the rest right now, but the race is still in its 'look presidential and don't say anything stupid' phase. As soon as Labor Day rolls around, people will start demanding real answers, real policies, and digging deeper into the beliefs of the candidates.

So, here is my two sentence recap of the declared Republican candidates so far.

Former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney; A very competent, successful businessman and Governor, but the healthcare plan he passed in Massachusetts will be millstone around his neck. Is the nation ready for a Mormon president, and does that even matter to voters right now?

Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich; Bright, charismatic, idea man, with a very flawed personal life. I think he is in there to sell books and raise his future speaking fee.

Former governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty; Fairly solid conservative, with a good record as governor to fall back on. Not the most inspiring guy in the field, but a solid candidate; he needs money right now to make it in the top tier.

Former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum; The social conservative's choice in the race right now. Very outspoken, passionate, and not afraid to mix it up, but he would be trounced in the general election.

Congressman Dr. Ron Paul; Basically a Libertarian running as a Republican. His followers are extremely dedicated, very smart people, and once again, Ron Paul has zero chance of winning. (Sorry Pauliacs)

As for Herm Cain, Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, Tom Miller, Buddy Roemer, Vern Wuensche; good luck fellas, you are going need it.

Who is still on the sidelines? Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is out, New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie is being recruited big time, and there are rumors of a draft Paul Ryan movement in certain GOP circles. There are also many folks who wish Governor Rick Perry was from any state other than Texas. Another Texas governor may be a little too soon for the country. If former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush's last name was Smith, he would be front runner right now. Again, the anti-Bush feeling would be too strong in a general election.

Everyone is waiting to see what former Alaskan governor, and Tea party star, Sarah Palin will do.

I think Christie would be great for the Republicans right now. The man tells it like it is, has no tolerance for BS, and would make whoever comes out of the primary race a stronger candidate for the general election. He may even take the nomination, if the stars align for him. Paul Ryan is great, but like Barack Obama, he has no executive experience. Palin is the wild card, in more ways than one.

If she declares, she sucks all the air out of the room for the other candidates. She goes straight to the top of the polls, and she will be the headline on the front page of every newspaper, magazine, news show, and blog for months. She will also split the GOP right down the middle. The Republican power structure, with the money and political power, will do everything it can to destroy Palin. She will also come under immediate, viscous and unrelenting attacks from the media. She will be a framed as an illiterate, backwoods, she-devil, and that is just from the people at CNN and MSNBC.

Will Sarah Palin run president? I don't think she will, but I could be wrong. Would I vote for her in the Primary? Depends on who is left in the field when California votes. I think Palin could be a great help in the election, raising money, whipping up people who are not politically active right now, but I don't think she has a chance of winning the presidency.

The Republicans are going to make this into a 'you tried the slick, polished novice, why not try someone who has actually created jobs and balanced a few budgets in hard times' contest. Governors Christie, Pawlenty, Perry and Romney can say I know how to get this done, I have the record to prove it. Palin's chances for president took a huge hit when she resigned from 0ffice as Governor of Alaska. We don't like quitters, and whether it's fair or not, she will has that image to overcome.

One thing is for sure, November 2012 is a long, long way away. Remember, in June of 2008, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton were leading the polls. How did that race work out for them?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Seasons.

We all have seasons in our life. Some pleasant and calm, some crazy and tragic, and some are somewhere in between. I have been experiencing one of the latter variety lately.

In many ways, this past year has been one of amazing change. Yet as summer approaches, I find myself right back where I started. It has been a wild, anxious, frustrating, scary time, but also a season of spiritual growth.

Last summer, our family was in negotiations with the County of Sacramento to continue our concession of the equestrian services at Gibson Ranch Park. My wife has been the general manager of the equestrian facilities for eighteen years, and we had been operating without a contract for the past two years. It seems the new parks administration did not know what to do with us.

As a private contractor inside a public park, we were always trying to find ways to bring in more revenue by offering more services, all the while it seems the county was trying to find ways of offering as few services as possible. We had always payed a percentage of our monthly income to the county, so if we were successful, the county made more money also. Seems simple enough, it's called a win-win situation. I guess they don't teach that in public administration or recreational management classes in college.

To the parks department's way of thinking, the only real way to find revenue is tapping the counties' general fund, or trying to pass a new parcel tax. The mindset of each side was foreign to the other. We were trying to offer services the public wanted, in exchange for a fee, and the parks people just wanted to get enough money from the budget to pay for its staff and administration. It's hard to find common ground with so little in common.

It's a shame, but in the end the County closed the park. We had to move eighteen years worth of ranch stuff back to our place in Esparto in one month. Tractors, trailers, hay wagons, horses, cattle, panels, feeders and saddles, they all had to come home in thirty days. It was quite a task. The whole time I was thinking, (while lifting the 200 lbs corral panels) if we have to move all this stuff back, I'm going to cry, or kill someone, whichever comes first.

At home, the fall rains came, followed by a very wet winter. Our fields turned to mud pits, and two barns worth of hay were fed down to the last bale, and then some. The hardest part was losing a few newborn calves and goats with the weeks of steady rain. It was a miserable winter on our place.

In the midst of all this, our son became ill. We had gone through something similar the previous year, but this was different, harder, for all of us. Trying to get a proper diagnosis was a trial of hope, and disappointment. He finished the second half of senior year on home study. In the end, we still do not have a final answer, although he has been doing well for the past month or so. Having a sick child is the hardest thing for a parent, even when that child is six foot three, and two hundred fifty pounds.

Through this past fall and winter, my lovely wife had no full time job for the first time in her adult life. If you have ever met Dawn, you know how much this is outside her comfort zone. She works hard, and she likes stability. This winter, she had little of either. As bad as it was for all of us, this past year was much rougher on her. Looking back, I wish I could have done more for her.

Through this season of our lives, we have some great friends step up to help and support us. We were kept in the prayers of many of our friends at church, and especially our small-group Bible study. Having been through a tough time or two, I am still learning to trust God. Not trusting that He would make things work the way I wanted, but that no matter the outcome, trusting in His love for me. Knowing that love, the love of Christ, gave me peace in the midst of this stormy season. That peace kept me going, as the months past and brought new challenges that seemed to come at us in rapid succession.

So, as the hills to the west turn from green to a dark blonde, we find ourselves particularly blessed once again.

Our family has formed a business arrangement with the new private operator of Gibson Ranch; Doug Ose and his family. My wife is back at work, knee deep in horses, cows, employees, soaring hay prices, voice-mails, emails and chaos. In short, she is back to normal, and loving it.

Our son is finished with high school. He is looking forward to working this summer to buy more guitar gear. In short, he is back to normal.

Me? I guess I am back to normal, whatever that is. For me, normal is just a setting on a washing machine, not a way of life. We even moved most everything back to Gibson, and I did not harm a single person. I am however, taking the month of June off my calendar. With the exception of our wedding anniversary, I am clearing my meeting schedules, and my weekends. I need to find a little quiet time, catch my breath, spend some time with my wife.

I may even find time for a little writing. I hear there is a presidential election coming next year....

Monday, March 21, 2011

The heart of the Republican party in California

When I covered the California Republican Convention two years ago, the crowd was in a foul mood. Republicans were just digesting the news of former state senator Abel Maldonado's vote to cross party lines and sign onto a tax raising budget deal. The governor had worked out the deal with Democrats and needed one more Republican vote. Both Schwarzenegger and Maldonado would have heard an earful that day if they had the courage to cross L Street and meet up with the convention goers. They did not.

This year, it is hard to get a sense of the crowd; they seem divided. Many in the GOP are uplifted by the national midterm elections, as well as being deeply disappointed with California’s results. While some are buoyed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and his victory with his state's long-term fiscal reforms, many feel another sellout coming in the golden state's GOP caucus. Time will tell.

As this year's convention rolls out of town, many feel two competing emotions, hope and fear. The hope comes in the form of redistricting, and the opportunity to make a deal with the governor for real, long-term budget reform. The fear is Brown will pick off two moderate Republicans in each house in an effort to put a five year extension of higher taxes on the June ballot.

The redistricting effort could make for many more competitive elections in 2012. Last year there were really only a handful of truly competitive seats up for grabs. Both sides poured huge amounts of money into these races. The hope is that many more districts will have new representatives in the next election cycle.

As for the budget deal, that could be a make or break deal for the GOP. Having a handful of Republicans sign on with Jerry Brown's one year of budget cuts, at the expense of extending higher taxes for five years, could make the Republicans a minority party for another decade. If Republicans stay united and force meaningful pension reform, and other long-term budget reforms, in return for putting Brown's tax measure on the ballot, the party could become relevant again.

Pinning your hopes on the backbone of California's Republicans is a three-to-one bet at best. Three being they cave in, one that they hold fast, but at least we are having this discussion. If the voters did not pass 2008's prop 11, just imagine the closed-door meetings Democrats would be having with vulnerable Republicans right now. "Here’s the new map of your district if you vote with us, it's still a Republican majority district, here’s the map of your district if you don't, it takes in this new area and turns your district to a Democrat majority."

Right now, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is busy drawing those lines; the maps will come out in May. No matter how they draw the new district maps, they will be better than the legislature drawing them for their own political advantage.

As far as Governor Brown's plan to put the tax extension on the ballot, there is an all out effort to get his message out; let the people decide. Okay, I am all for letting the people decide, so let's make this a pro-choice election. Let's have one proposition for the tax extension, one for a spending limit based on the last three-year’s average of revenue, and one for pension reform for public employee unions. Let the people decide! Democrats are opposed to putting these on the ballot along with taxes; I guess they are only pro-choice if that choice is higher taxes.

As Republicans try to come together after a drubbing in the last election, they will have to do a better job at getting their message out. What should their message be? Here is what I think it should be;

Imagine California being one of the best places in the nation to start a new business? What would it look like if California welcomed new companies into the state with incentives, not driving them out with over-regulation and sky-high taxes? What would the unemployment rate be if we sent people to Sacramento who knew how to grow California's private sector economy? What would our housing market look like if the unemployment rate were cut in half? What would the dropout rate, and test scores look like if you gave parents a voucher to send their children to the school of their choice? Imagine a California where we actually tackled our long-term fiscal outlook and put the state on track where the budget is balanced on time and with little effort.

Image that.

Republicans need to start going on offense. If you only speak the local chamber of commerce, small business round tables, and Republican events, you are preaching to the choir. Getting your base out when only thirty one percent of Californians are registered as Republicans, means you lose, every time. Democrats have a thirteen percent advantage right now; you need to move those numbers closer together. You do that by showing up in places you have never been before.

You need to get out, to reach people who don't know you, and don't know your ideas. This may be uncomfortable. This may mean you are the only dissenting voice on a public panel in a liberal town hall. This may mean you are alone in a sea of students at a college campus. This may mean you have nasty editorials written about you in your local paper. This may mean dealing with angry, rude people. That is in the job description of growing into a majority. If you are not up to it, if you don't want get out there and fight this battle of ideas on their turf, then you should not run for re-election. I'll guarantee you will have primary opponent who will.

This could get interesting.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Governor Haley Barbour at the CRP

I was able to ask a question of Governor Barbour at today's convention.
This is what happens when you give a press credential and a camera to a cowboy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

California Republican Convention, Spring 2011

It was a cold and dreary day; well it was raining, but far from dreary. As California Republicans come together in Sacramento to meet, many things are stirring in the air besides the rainclouds.

The budget battle still looms as the Governor looks to find two Republican votes in each house to get an extension of the tax hikes from two years ago put on the June ballot. Interesting times indeed. Along with the fallout from the Wisconsin budget fight still making headlines, California's GOP delegates wonder what is next for the golden state.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Francis Chan - The new middle road

For my believing friends; so simple, yet so powerful. Francis Chan is my mew favorite author. I have read his two books, Crazy Love and Forgotten God. Great reads, but beware, he will challenge you.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Girls.

I guess I could start with my favorite "how women think" joke, but I will resist for the sake of brevity, and my own personal safety. Say what you will, but the reason these jokes are funny is they are based, in some part, on reality. Women think differently than men do. Go ahead and start writing your letters to me now, but deep down you know it's true. I'm not saying the way women think is better, or worse, it's just different. To pretend otherwise is to deny reality.

I am not saying there are no exceptions to the rule, there certainly are. They are some of the most interesting people I have ever met. However, in most cases, women are wired to "feel" more in their thinking than men. Most men are wired to stay on a linear thinking path, a little more detached from their emotions. Except House Speaker, John Boehner, that guy cries all the time.

If you are already on the second paragraph of your hate-mail to me, just listen for a minute. It's not about intelligence, it's not about ability, it's about how our brains are wired. I have met, worked with, and worked for, some brilliant, strong, successful women. I have also met, worked with, and for, some men who were dumber than a sack full of hammers.

My point is I understand how most men think; I'm one of them. Women on the other hand; I have no clue. Dawn, my wife of 22 years, God bless her, can attest to this fact. Now, add preadolescence to the mysteries of the female mind, and I am so out my league it's not funny. This is where my daughter comes in.

There is a pretty big gap between our children, Steven is 17 and Abbie is 10. Steven and I have a close relationship; we share similar interests in music, guitars, sports and most other things. Abbie is her mother's daughter; they are two peas in a pod. I call her my wife's mini-me. They even look alike, which is good news for my daughter, and they have many of the same personality traits.

They are the true animal lovers of our household. Abbie and Dawn can spend all day out in the barn with the horses. While I love all the critters on our place, being raised on a cattle ranch, their charms have worn off a bit for me. I have the scars to prove it. The closest Steven wants to get to our cows is sitting down at the dinner table with a bottle of A1 steak sauce.

Our family schedule has always been crazy. Being a co-owner of a small business, Dawn has worked on Sundays for many years. Abbie would usually go with her to our business at Gibson Ranch Park in Sacramento. They spent most Sundays together from the time Abbie was a baby. Steven and I would usually go to church, go shooting, watch football, or just hang out together on Sundays. This fall, all that changed. When the park closed this August, we moved all of our animals back home. For the first time in years, I have been able to spend the whole weekend with the entire family. It has been very cool, but we have had to adjust to the new routines.

One thing I am learning about parenting is its ever changing job description. I was getting pretty good at being the game-watching, question-answering, ball-throwing, chauffeur guy. Now I am the ATM/dispenser-of-wisdom-to-be-ignored guy. At least I am for my son. For my daughter, I am not sure what my direct role is, other than being someone to snuggle with on the couch, being the lifter of heavy things, and being the one going outside to find out what made that loud noise at three in the morning

Spending more time with Abbie has been very educational for me. Still, if the kids are doing separate activities, I usually take Steven and Dawn usually takes Abbie. I guess it is just a natural mother-daughter, father-son thing, but I am going to make an effort to change that.

As a father, spending time with you daughter is a big deal. I have spoken to many women whose fathers were not present in their lives growing up, even when they lived under the same roof. It can have a terrible effect on a young woman's self image, and the way she relates to men as she grows into adulthood.Boys and girls need both parents fully involved in their lives. I should be just as involved in Abbie's volleyball as I am in Steven's music.

I have my work cut out for me because Abbie is into everything; softball, volleyball, piano, 4-H, and about a dozen other activities. Steven is into music. Playing, recording, editing, the boy loves music and wants to make a career out of it. They are very different individuals. Both have different talents and distinct personalities. While I can relate to Steven easier, I once was a 17 year old male, I have no idea what it is like to be a pre-teen girl. I guess I'll just have to be the best dad I can be for her. The first step is just being there.

I don’t think I will ever understand Abbie the way I might understand Steven, but that's not what's really important. I’m supposed to love her for the person she is, the person she is growing into, and to be there for her no matter what.

I'm trying to do just that, but I need to try harder.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I can't hear you

I discuss and debate politics quite often, maybe too often. Over the years, my views have changed as I read, learned and participated in the world of politics. Growing more conservative in my views over the past twenty years or so, I have had plenty of practice debating, defending and rethinking what I believe. This is a good thing. Some of the greatest insights and discoveries I have made came by this process.

Socratic questioning is one of the best ways to uncover how you came to believe what you believe, and whether your beliefs are logical. After all, what good are beliefs you really don't understand, and cannot defend?

Having political discussions at work usually consists of me debating everyone else. That's fine. The truth is the truth, and facts are facts no matter how many people are saying you are wrong. That’s the issue I have the hardest time with. When you debate people who "feel" and "believe" something using their own set of assumptions, along with their own personal facts, the debate breaks down.

When you talk about federal spending and spending cuts with a person who thinks half the budget goes to the pentagon, you are in for a long, frustrating conversation. When you point out that Medicare will be broke in a few short years, the person you're debating says the solution is to put everyone on Medicare and eliminate private health insurance. Oy vey.

To quote the warden in Cool Hand Luke, "Some folks, you just can't reach."

Sometimes, the folks hardest to reach are those supposedly on your side. A great example of this was the first draft of budget cuts proposed by house Republican leaders last week. After winning in November on a platform of cutting 100 billion from President Obama's 2011 budget, the House leadership proposed 32 billion in cuts. Many conservatives hit the roof, myself included.

You don't understand they said, the budget year is almost half over, and the 32 billion was all we could cut right now, blah, blah, blah. Seriously? 32 billion is a rounding error when you are looking at a 1.5 Trillion dollar federal deficit out of a 3.8 Trillion dollar budget. When the stuff hit the fan in Speaker Boehner's office this week, the leadership magically found the 100 billion in cuts they promised.
Now, that is a really big number right? That is going to make a huge dent in the deficit right? No. Let me explain.

If, and that is a big if, the house gets their 100 billion in cuts, the deficit for this year will go down from 1.5 Trillion to 1.4 Trillion. It is like having congestive heart failure, being 150 pounds overweight, and your doctor telling you to lose that extra 150 pounds or you are going to die. Losing 10 pounds in a year is a start, but you should be losing much more, much faster. At this rate it will take another 14 years to reach a balanced budget, let alone reducing our overall debt.

I'm sure even the ten pounds is too much weight to lose for some groups. The SEIU and NEA and every other public employee union will be fighting these reductions tooth and nail. I’ll bet you will soon hear radio ads in scary voices telling you the Republicans are trying to balance the budget of the backs of "X". You name it; teachers, the elderly, children, police and firemen, polar bears, we just can't afford these draconian cuts, call you representative now!

At least that is what they'll say. Just remember, in 2006 the entire federal budget was 2.6 Trillion dollars, with a deficit (the difference between what the government takes in taxes and what they spent) of 249 billion dollars. Ah, the good old days. President Obama's 2011 budget is 3.8 Trillion with a budget deficit of 1.5 Trillion dollars. What the Republicans in the house are asking for is to cut the budget from 3.8 Trillion to 3.7, and the deficit from 1.5 to 1.4, isn't that horrible?

How will the federal government manage?

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Paul's Letter to American Christians" - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I have always found the speeches of Dr. King to be inspirational and thought provoking, even if I didn't always agree with everything word he wrote. His thoughts on socialism etc; but his sermons are where I have always found his true fire, and brilliance. Again, even if there are a few thoughts I would love to have discussed with him. Here are few excerpts from one of my favorite sermons, a fictional letter from the Apostle Paul to American Christians.
"But America, as I look at you from afar, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been commensurate with your scientific progress. It seems to me that your moral progress lags behind your scientific progress. Your poet Thoreau used to talk about "improved means to an unimproved end." How often this is true. You have allowed the material means by which you live to outdistance the spiritual ends for which you live. You have allowed your mentality to outrun your morality. You have allowed your civilization to outdistance your culture. Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but through your moral and spiritual genius you have failed to make of it a brotherhood. So America, I would urge you to keep your moral advances abreast with your scientific advances."

"I understand that you have an economic system in America known as Capitalism. Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders. You have become the richest nation in the world, and you have built up the greatest system of production that history has ever known. All of this is marvelous. But Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism. I still contend that money can be the root of all evil. It can cause one to live a life of gross materialism. I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheel base on your automobile, rather than the quality of your service to humanity."

..."Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence."


You can read the whole sermon here, it would be a few minutes well spent.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The price of advice

We all receive advice. Sometimes we solicit this advice, sometimes we do not. Usually, it is given free of charge and in most cases; it is worth the price paid. There are the times when you think back on a bit of wisdom you were given and say, that was truly good advice; I wish I had followed it.

The degree to which you follow advice usually depends on who is giving it, and the state of the relationship between you and the giver. Let me explain.

I remember some rather sage words of wisdom passed down to me from my father. Some of which I followed, some of which I did not. Here are a few.

"There are plenty of broke horses in this world, why don't you go find one." This was told to me while I was wadded up in a heap, stuck halfway under my father's truck, after being bucked off a green two year old horse.

"Well, you better learn fast, I want this hillside cleared of brush by noon." After I said I don't how to drive a D-8 bulldozer. I think I was still in grade school.

"What the hell are you thinking; you don't use a gas engine inside a barn full of hay." It didn't seem that stupid at the time, but I was fourteen.

"Don't drink on an empty stomach; you won't worth a damn in the morning." He was right.

His advice was meant to be informational, or inspirational, or something. I took most of it, mainly out of sheer terror. Being a father, he was trying to keep me alive, when he wasn't putting my life in peril. I did learn a great many things from my father, but when I was a teenager, I started to think I knew it all. Fast forward thirty years, and now I am the one dispensing advice to my kids.

I remember a few years ago I was talking to my friend Butch; he asked how old my son was. When I told him he was fifteen, he said, “Walt, you are about to become the dumbest person on earth." Well, at least I was warned.

I believe this metamorphosis happens innocently enough. It all starts one day when your kids find out something you told them is not true, or they know something you don't. The gears of rebellion begin turning.

They think if mom and dad are wrong about this, I bet everything they tell me is a load of beans. When this new paradigm sets in, as a parent you just turned the corner from smart person to dumb person. Enter the know-it-all friend or worse, the know-it-all teacher who finds glee in bursting their young intellectual bubble. In many cases, these new influences are the ones full of beans, but they have convincing arguments, and point to "facts" or other sources to back up the point of view. It can be a confusing time for young people.

This is when their cool, slacker buddy tells them to forget their engineering degree to wander across Europe for a year. Forget about college and go to work for a non-profit so they can help save the world. Conversely, this might be the time when you as a parent tell them they have give up on their dreams of becoming an artist, musician, professional athlete, mime, kangaroo trainer, etc, and get a "real job."

Somewhere in the middle of all this, they ask for advice from people they know and trust. Here is where it gets tricky; sometimes they go looking for the advice they want to hear. Honestly, there are no right answers, but there are some that are far worse than others.

College can be a great decision. However, working as an assistant manager at Taco Bell to pay off your sixty thousand dollar college loan for a degree in art history may not be the smartest move. Earning a degree with "engineering' at the end of it, probably will. Passing on college for a career in a field that you are passionate about is a tossup. If you can pay the rent, and keep the bills paid doing something you love, that is a wonderful thing. When you are sixty five and have no retirement, this might be the price you have to pay for all those years of enjoyment.

When you finally hit twenty five or thirty, you start to rethink the advice you took, and the advice you passed up. I have found the best advice comes from people who have been down the road you are traveling. Or from folks who didn’t and regret it to this day. Sometimes there isn’t any substitute for years of experience from a wise person.

Here are two things I do know; don’t take diet advice from a fat guy, and don’t take financial advice from a guy living in his car.