DON'T STOP ME NOW

Take A Moment To Reflect on 9/11

As we take a moment to bow our heads in prayer and remember the victims of 9/11, and how this event changed the course of history in our country, let us not forget the spirit of unity we also felt during those days immediately afterward. We came together as Americans - white, black, yellow, brown, Christian, Muslim, Jews, etc. We are a nation of diversity - which is what makes us great. Hate for a people simply because of their nationality or religion, is not who we are.

Raising the Minimum Wage - Good or Bad?

I want to first preface this article with the fact that I am not taking any political side on this issue. My opinion about raising or not raising the minimum wage is based on observations I have made over the past 40 years, my personal experiences, and what I believe to be common sense. If you agree or disagree, I would love to hear what you have to say about the issue.

In 1970 I started my first job with a finance company. Granted, they are not the best payers, but at that time a base salary (before taxes) of $325 a month, plus benefits, was a good deal for an 19-year-old living at home. It was not enough to live on if I had to take care of myself, but sufficient for my circumstances at the time.

Later, after I had my first child, there was no way I could take care of us both on that amount of money. I spoke to my boss and he gave me a raise of over $200 a month, which was enough for us to get an apartment.

Over the next few years I continued to take lower end of the scale jobs (because I had not completed my college education), but always worked hard to get promoted quickly to earn more money. It was a matter of pride, and necessity. There were even times when I held down more than one job at a time. In most cases I was ambitious, and got promoted quickly, often faster than anyone else had ever done in that company. I never stayed on the lower rung of the ladder for long. When you are motivated, you do what it takes.

When they instituted the minimum wage it was a good thing for those who were on the bottom, but those who had worked to get ahead and make more were forgotten. They ended up either getting a raise just to bring their salary up to minimum wage, or ended up making just a few cents more than those on the bottom. They didn’t get a raise if they were making more than minimum wage.

What did working harder get them?

Although I, personally, never wanted to remain on the bottom - often many people became discouraged and stop trying. The minimum wage continued to go up, but those who put in the time and effort still remained at the lower rungs of the economic scale. This still holds true today.

In addition, when minimum wage goes up, SO DOES EVERYTHING ELSE. Grocers have to pay their stockers and baggers more; growers have to pay their workers more; fast food place has to pay higher wages, etc. This increase is passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices, so even though wages for the working poor are higher, so is their grocery bill and the cost of living. The poor remain poor - and nothing changes. What positive in there is that?

I am all for making sure people make a living wage, but as I see it - the best way to get more money is to work harder. Sometimes that may mean taking on more than one job, or having another person in the family working. I know there are some who can not legitimately work - for whatever reason, and they DO deserve assistance. As a matter of fact, there was a time that, although I wanted to work, the cost of child care would only make us break even.  The majority of people making minimum wage, however, don’t have to be there. They can move from up with more effort. The rest of the country should not have to pay for unmotivated people who are content on the bottom.

My solution, those who deserve help due to incapacity or special circumstances should be able to get it, but those who do not should have to find a way to make their living by motivating themselves.

In my opinion, raising the minimum wage is not the alternative for the working poor. There should be more job training programs; more affordable or creative day care (like day care co-ops) so people would be able to have money left over after paying child care; flexible work days; etc. would be some solutions.

The United States is one of the few developed nations that does not offer public education over and above secondary school. A better educated population better positions us in the world economy.

Am I far off the mark? I really would like to know.

 

When One Door Opens - Walk Through It

Eighteen years ago I lost my husband in a hunting accident. I had four children, three of whom were under 14, and I had just started working for a local weekly newspaper the week before his death - doing cut and paste ads and layout.

Although I had college credits, I did not have a degree, nor any education in design, or experience in advertising or with newspapers.  To make a long story short, I took a small portion of the insurance money and purchased a computer, teaching myself graphic design and layout. It came in handy when two employees sabotaged the newspaper's new computers when they were fired, and the paper was due to go to print that day. They underestimated my ability to get it out - but I did! 

After a couple years of learning behind-the-scenes of newspaper publishing, and because I saw people were influencing the owner's editorial and paper content toward their personal agendas, I decided to go out on my own and start my own weekly newspaper - one that was meant to inform and help the community, and not influence policy. I informed my employer of my intentions, and assured him I would not take his advertisers. I wanted to be above board with him (and because I kept my word we remain friends today).

With the help of a couple friends, I ran the paper out of my home for the first year, and it was successful, and popular. I then moved to a small office. Unfortunately, even though I did the majority of the work myself print newspapers were becoming dinosaurs and financially it became too much, so I changed gears.

I never thought of the closing of the paper as a failure. It was a free paper, and most people at the beginning didn't give me a month before I would fold. I never let someone tell me I couldn’t do something, it just spurred me on to prove them wrong.

I had to earn my acceptance into the Michigan Press Association, and I was able to make some significant changes in the community, expose graft and corruption in the local landfill, and save some jobs by getting people together to mediate instead of argue.

My tenure as a newspaper publisher may have only been four years, but it was the most gratifying time in my life. I learned I could succeed at anything if I wanted it badly enough. I set a goal, and attained it. It brought me the confidence I needed to become an entrepreneur in other ventures, and gave me the confidence to strike out and pursue one of my life’s passions, to become a writer.

Life is comprised of challenges, and I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. If my husband hadn’t died I may never have had the confidence, or the funding, to strike out on my own. It may be a cliché, but for every door that closes another one opens. You just have to be ready to walk through that door.

Standing On My Soapbox

I am listening (figuratively) to people whom I know are better off now financially in the last couple years and am in awe of the hatred that seems to spew from their mouths. Since when was there a cultural difference between Democrats and Republicans? Don't we all work at the same places, and go to the same churches?

Political disagreement is one thing, but HATRED for people who don't agree is absurd.
Since when are family values reserved for Republicans? We fought wars against genocide, yet we continue to retain hatred for cultures that are different from ours, or people who don't vote the way we think they should.

I am a registered Republican, and have been all my life. I worked hard for Republican candidates in several elections - but saw a change in our country in the last decade that scared me. I now work for the candidate and not the party. Anyone who knows me at all knows I do my homework, and research everything I can. I weight the pros before I make my decisions, and don't base them on Fox or MSNBC news, nor other people who have money or agendas. I am opinionated, but hopefully I am respectful of other people and their views (even if I think they are wrong).

I grew up in an upper-middle class home. Looking at the house we lived in, some have said we were rich. My siblings were adopted, and were lucky enough to have ambitious and loving parents who taught us a good work ethic. We all were able to attend private schools as well as public ones. I understand the mentality of those who have money, and how they look down on those who don't.  I understand they want to protect their earnings (either earned or inherited), but there is more to life than money - like satisfaction in giving value to the lives of others.

I do understand the idea that everyone should pay their "fair" share, which is why I believe a straight across the board flat tax rate makes the most sense for everyone. We all pay the same rate, and no exemptions or loopholes to set the poor apart from the rich.

I was lucky enough to have lived, and seen, both sides of the coin, and understand that just because someone is not wealthy, or has had a tough time, doesn't make them any less significant - nor lazy and unambitious. Where does that attitude come from?

I have worked hard all my life, sometimes working 2-3 jobs at a time. I raised good children on Marine Corp bases, who are grown and hard-working, and have good values.  We did pay taxes, even while in service. When my husband died young I raised these children by myself.

I consider myself included in the 47% that Willard (Mitt) Romney does not see worth his time (Please don't insult my intelligence when you say he didn't mean what he said. Words said in private are truer than those on the campaign I only know of a handful of people who look to the government for help if they don't have to. We didn't create this economy - the politicians did, and not just one party! I think we all want to return to the time when the middle class actually existed - we were prosperous then.

I am close to retirement age, and when the banks went belly-up my partner and I were among many older Americans who lost the majority of our retirement money. So, Social Security is important to me, and I don't want them to raise the age I can start receiving it - I will be dead by then. It was never meant as the only means of survival, but to help supplement. When there is no retirement money left after the banks screw you over, and no interest on savings to speak of, what is the recourse?  I definitely do not want to trust my small income to the banks or Wall Street - you saw how that worked out in 2008! If they would take Social Security out of the general fund, where it is now, it would be a viable entity (and it is not a handout).

Women's rights are being trampled upon, and we are regressing in our culture. I visualize going to having to wear a sherpa in the not-too-distant future with the attitude I hear from some politicians. Real criminals - Wall Street, politicians, bankers, etc. are not even getting a slap on the wrist for their wrongful acts, and politicians are getting rich on the backs of the middle class.

We watched as Republicans refused to work with the administration the last four years so they can come back and say the administration did not do what it said it would. They wanted him to fail so they could retain power. What real American does that? We all lose an election to someone we may not agree with, but we do what we can to work together for the good of the country, not the good of the party.

We are one country, one soul - yet power seems to be the divider. Look at the facts, do your homework. Read the bills you are about to vote for. Look for the ulterior motives behind them and who is supporting them - what is their agenda? I don't see anything wrong with electing people who try to do right for the majority of the people - and nobody can please everyone. If you don't know what you are voting for, how can you make an educated decision?

We are a nation built on the will of the majority of the people. We do not buy elections (at least not until recently), and we embrace our differences as much as we are allowed to disagree with those who oppose our decisions. We don't have to hate to do this. One bad person out of hundreds of thousands does not make everyone bad.

My grandparents came from Ireland and Germany. I am second generation immigrants. The crazy things is, we all are immigrants (except for natives, who may or may not have immigrated here too). I don't agree that everyone living here now should be granted citizenship right away, but I think they should be allowed to earn it. I think the better things to do, because we have reached a saturation point, is to encourage other countries to keep their people there. If, however, they become citizens they should learn the language we speak, and not expect us to learn theirs. They should still be able to retain their own culture, but they are not (blank - Americans, they are Americans - one country, one language.

America is still the greatest country in the world. If it weren't, everyone wouldn't want to escape to here to emulate us. We are blessed that we live here, and should show respect for the people of all cultures who live here as well.

I will step off my soapbox now, but this isn't the end of my rant.

Educate Young People on Marijuana and Developing Brains

I am of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with recreational use of marijuana. I think is is much like the use of alcohol, in moderation occasional use of cannabis is fine. As with any "soft" drug, which includes alcohol, the key is not carrying it to excess or dependency.

There is, however, the issue of usage by minors that should be brought out and examined. Educating your children on the evils or benefits of marijuana use is not limited to adult experiences, but should be done from the vantage point of real, solid evidence. Not only is it damaging to the lungs, it is damaging to the brain.

An interesting study was reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry indicating convincing evidence has been found to indicate adolescents’ chronic use of marijuana can damage brain cells and slow down their mental and memorization capabilities. Chronic marijuana use before a youth’s 15th birthday can contribute to a long list of chronic health problems and an elevated risk of neuro-psychological problems.

Marijuana is the most common non-prescription drug used by adolescents, and it blocks the brain’s activity level, putting it into a lower state of consciousness. Each year, 100,000 teens are treated for marijuana dependence, and the number is rising while the age they start to smoke it is decreasing. Teens who smoke marijuana heavily experience much the same symptoms of withdrawal as users of nicotine.

Those who regularly use marijuana often develop breathing problems much like a regular smoker does – chronic cough and wheeze.  The same chemicals that are harmful in tobacco (THC  or tetrahydrocannabinal) are present in marijuana, and the carbon monoxide levels absorbed by marijuana users is three to five times greater than that among tobacco smokers. In addition, behavior exhibited by introducing THC to the brain are similar to those demonstrated by alcohol consumption and abuse.

Because the brains of youth under 20 are still developing and immature, researchers have found that early use of marijuana causes lasting delays in cognitive function - especially in those chronic users under 15. Youths are especially fragile to the neurotoxin effects of cannabis, which leads to lessened mental flexibility and poor memory function.

The study was conducted using 104 chronic marijuana users, and the goal was to determine whether early exposure to marijuana could cause damage to a teen’s developing brain. Among the subjects, 49 started smoking marijuana before they were 15 (early-onset users who averaged 10.9 years of use), and 55 didn’t start until after they were 15 (late-onset users who averaged 8.7 years of use). A control group of 44 teens that did not use marijuana was also studied.

Each subject was asked to participate in brain exercises designed to gauge the neurological impact of early cannabis use. There was no significant IQ level difference, but early marijuana users did poorly in areas that involved cognitive function, concentration, coordination and endurance. The early-onset group made more mistakes, and had trouble completing tasks in categories that related to card-sorting. The scorecard of non-users and late starter marijuana users did not show any significant difference.

The study concluded that exposure to regular use of marijuana while the brain is still forming, prior to age 15, is indeed damaging to the overall mental health, and the effects can have lasting effects throughout life.

It is still unclear if moderate marijuana use in adult life poses any long-term neurological harm, but the evidence is growing that chronic use before the age of 15 definitely poses a problem in memorizing and cognitive functions. This is what you need to tell your children.

Forever Love

The other day I received a call from a dear friend of mine telling me his wife of 50+ years had passed the previous evening. I listened to this wonderful, kindhearted man as his voice quivered with grief.

It was not a shock, her passing. She had Alzheimer's and had been battling it for several years. No matter how much you realize the end is near, however, it does not take the pain away or make it any less devastating.  Even worse, the ones left behind always seem to experience some guilt that they didn't do enough, or if only they had looking in on them earlier. We always seem to beat ourselves up for things that are out of our control.

Passing from one life to another is normal, and inevitable. What is important is what we do with the life we have before we move on.

This pair raised three lovely boys, and have several grandchildren. They lived a full and active life - and affected so many lives they will never know about. They both are in their late 80's. He is a survivor of World War II, and I found out quite by accident after knowing him for many years that he had received a Bronze Star as well as several Purple Hearts while fighting in France. He married his wonderful wife after returning from war.

They had their share of ups and downs in their marriage. There is no such a thing as a perfect marriage. You have two people with their own ideas, beliefs and opinions, so they are bound to clash. When I once asked them their secret to such a long marriage I got the same response from both - "respect for the other person and communication."

In life, these principles that everyone should live by. If we can learn to respect others, even if we don't always agree with them, you have moved mountains. By learning to open communications, and expressing how you feel, even if it may not be easy, you will be able to mend many fences.

This couple stands out in my life for a variety of reasons. They had gotten to know me when things were very difficult. Had stood beside me when my husband of 14 years died tragically, leaving me with four children - three of whom were in early puberty. When I decided to jump outside the box and start a local newspaper they came to me and offered me seed money, and didn't want anyone else to know. They supported me in anything I chose to do, just like parents would, sometimes even if they didn't agree with my opinions.

I came to know them as the real deal - those who put into actions what they preached. They never asked for anything in return, and gave of themselves freely. There are so few people like this in the world!

What is even more outstanding is the love they had for each other, and it was never more obvious than in the last few years. He refused to allow her to leave home and go to a care facility. He took care of her himself, refusing any help offered except for an occasional call to one of his sons who lived in town. Even in his advanced age he never once considered her not being with him until the end.

Being of the generation he was, and his staunch determination to not be a burden on anyone, giving the love of his life over for someone else to care for was not a consideration. This is the kind of love spoken of in vows - "until death do us part."

I will probably not be lucky enough to experience such a love. I've only witnessed it a few times in my life, and am not ashamed to admit that I envy those who have it. Unconditional love. It's not just what you read about in story books. It does exist, but it takes a certain type of people to pull it off.

Remember The Past, Or You Are Doomed To Repeat It

Yesterday was the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack on American soil. It was an event that will never be forgotten by anyone old enough at the time to understand it. It showed the world that the United States is not impervious to attack, and has since caused our citizens to be fearful of airplane travel and people whose culture we don't understand.

That is sad! If we live in fear we miss out on opportunities. There is always going to be some madman/woman who is mentally deranged, for whatever reason, and thinks innocent people are just collateral damage for their own fears and prejudices.

It seems, sadly, that we have not learned anything from the past. Hatred of people whose religious beliefs and culture were different from them brought on the Holocaust, World Wars I and II, the Crusades, and almost every other war that ever was. Prejudice and hate against people who are different should be a thing of the past - especially in these times where we have access to all sorts of information that would allow us to get to know and understand people of different cultures. We can find out that they are not so much different from us after all, and we can find common ground on which to identify with them.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana,  Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, (Vol.1),

You would think that the world had come to be smarter, and learned from past mistakes by ourselves and others. It doesn't appear to be so if you watch election rhetoric and listen to people who "hate" others because they don't do, worship or look as they do.

I realize there will always be immature, fearful and ignorant people who listen to what others tell them, and do as they are told. After all, how would the spin doctors in an election keep their jobs if the lies they told didn't have an effect on so many people?

Do we want to be looked at by future generations as simple bumpkins because we were too lazy to take the time to learn the truth for ourselves, and not let others dictate how we should react?

If we allow insanity and manipulation to rule us, like being fearful at every turn because we are told lies and distortions, we will not move forward. Yes, 9-11 was a great tragedy, but we should learn from this that hate and prejudice is insane, and not the act of rational people. If we continue to allow their actions to influence ours we are doing exactly what they want us to do - and will continue to be under their control, even if they never make another attempt to attack us again.


Sometimes You Have To Let Go

There are times in our lives when we have to make difficult decisions. We can hold on to someone we love, even though that relationship is toxic, or we can release them and let them learn to stand on their own.

I had to make that decision this week, and although I feel less stressed and more relaxed, I have regrets. Perhaps there was something more I could have done, or maybe I should have done less. No matter, the decision will hopefully make everyone stronger.

I have lost many people in my life - my parents, my husband, friends and pets, and the longer I live the more loved ones I will lose. It all is a part of the life process. When you have to let go of someone you love because holding on is not good for anyone, that is maybe more difficult. Death is final, there is no choice. Separation is a choice, and no matter who you are there will always be a sense of loss.

Sometimes tough love is not limited to children. It means that in order for your life to get back in balance you have to allow someone else to work on getting theirs back on track too. That can be done with you, if they are willing to accept they have a problem that needs to be repaired, or it may have to be done without you. You have to determine what is best for your overall health and well-being, and that of those around you.

This post may be cryptic, but it is because I am still working on reconciling my decision in my own mind. The fact is, I have been living with an alcoholic for many years, and the problem has escalated. He has refused to get help, and his condition has caused problems with everyone. As a matter of fact, it has caused problems for many years before I met him, but I always thought I would be able to help him get better and repair the damage. If he chooses not to get help, and is satisfied, then he will have to live with that decision - but without me.

Alcoholism, and depression, are diseases. If, however, the person with the problem does not see it as a problem - even though everyone in his life has pointed it out to him, he is not ready to try to help himself, and no one can do it for him. Forcing him into treatment when he is not ready will not do any good, but you are doing more damage to yourself and those around you. In order for some people to get better they have to do it alone.

If you find yourself in this situation, and need support, I will be glad to help. I could use some too.

Senseless Tragedy

Our world is full of too much senseless tragedy. It is hard enough to maneuver in life without being afraid to go to a movie, or to school, without fear of being shot down.

There probably will be no changes in the gun laws, even after this terrible tragedy in Colorado. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is too powerful, but common sense should prevail.

I am not against the Second Amendment to the Constitution's right to bear arms. The Constitution was written in a time when everyone need a rifle in order to fight off attacks, and to feed their family. In our dangerous society we have the right to protect our family and home, and we can still hunt to put meat on the table (grocery prices are so high that it may become necessary more and more soon). I still believe this is our right, and should not be taken away.

What I don't believe it that assault rifles are necessary for civilians. Assault rifles, uzis and semi-automatic weapons are not for protection and hunting. They are not your basic protection accessories - they are only used to slaughter and destroy. These should be outlawed!

Currently, guns are not in the hands of the average citizen who wants to protect his home or shoot for his meals. They are in the hands of those who seek to destroy - the drug runners, gangs, and mentally ill.

Nothing will get changed with the gun laws because the people will not band together to speak out, and those in power are at the mercy of the lobbyists. If you want change you have to make it, and that may including ousting those in power in order to achieve it.

It's time to take action.

I don't want to get a call one day that my grandchildren were killed in school by another student who was able to get a weapon and bring it to school.

What Mark Will You Leave On This Earth?

From time to time I sit back and wonder if my presence here left any impact at all, with the exception of my children. It's not an ego trip, but a desire to have done something that benefited others than myself. Do you feel the same way, and do you think about this too?

I believe that we are all put on this earth to perform a function - one that leads a footprint. Once that function has been accomplished we die, and move on to another assignment. What other reason do we exist? We never leave this earth until we have completed our mission, so there must have been a purpose for our existence. Do we realize it while we are alive, or does the ripple we made in the ocean of life just spawn other ripples and our existence just disappear into oblivion?

When I attend a funeral I look around the room to see how many people are there, and how that person impacted them. Did they give them comfort during a bad period? Were they honest with people, even though their honesty could be a source of pain? Will any of these people remember this person a year from now?

We pass through this earth for such a short time. Some people do great things, and some do small things in great ways. Others seem to leave a negative impact. Does a negative impact turn into a positive one, where lessons can be learned, or does negativity continue to spawn more negativity?

Most of my writing is ghostwriting, so my name does not appear as the author of the articles. Even though I think they are good pieces, and hopefully they are useful and people learn from them, does my impact continue even though people will not know it's from me? Does your impact have come with a name tag, or can it just be anonymous and still matter as your life's teachings?

Have I done something to someone that started a change in their life? I know there are people who have come into my life who impacted it, and often it was in small ways. Have I done the same for someone else? I try to go back and let people who impacted me know they have, it's always good to know.

One example in my life was a woman named Elaine Cripe, a professor at a local college. The subject was Interpersonal Communication - learning to understand what other people are trying to say, and getting your point across in order to communicate with others. It was a great class, and I learned a lot. As a matter of fact, although I only got a "B" in the class (and I had an "A" average up until then), it was a hard-earned B, and was the most memorable class I ever took. At some point in the middle of the semester, after we had to turn in an essay or paper of some kind, Mrs. Cripe announced to the class that there was a real writer in the class, and in her 20+ years of teaching she had only encountered two or three real writers. She encouraged me to pursue my writing. It was not something I had considered before. I knew I was decent at putting thoughts to paper, but didn't have the confidence to pursue writing as anything more than a hobby.

Years later I ran into Mrs. Cripe at the grocery store. I decided to go up to her and tell her the impact she had on my life. Reintroducing myself, I told her that her words of encouragement were an inspiration to me, and I went on to write for magazines, newspapers, and other venues, and even started a newspaper of my own. She was so touched, she cried and thanked me. She said she remembered me, and was happy that I had taken her suggestion. She added that she appreciated my telling her, and that was one of the highlights of her life. We both walked away changed. It seems we both impacted each other.

Do you have any stories like this? How do you feel about making an impact on others, and leaving your mark? Please feel free to comment.

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