Can We Be Thankful This Year for What Really Matters?

banner_holidayHoliday time or Holy-Day time?  Each holiday season, I wonder what time people are really celebrating. Christmas becomes X-Mass.  Holy-days become holidays.  Days of remembrance become good days to host a backyard barbecue and Thanksgiving simply becomes the springboard to “the shopping season.”  The big kickoff being “Black Friday.”  Where is our soul? Where is the spirit in our natures?  Is time off meant to be simply another day to watch the “big game.” Are holy-days meant to be spent shopping? Is Black Friday now the most important day of the year? Is Santa Claus a Good Christian because he gives toys to tots?  Was that Jesus Christ’s message, to spend Christmas roasting chestnuts round an open fire singing Jingle Bell Rock?

1000x750-6holidays_grinch_tcm88-35406Please note, it is not my intention to sound like the Grinch or to “cast stones” at others. We all need time to relax and we all need time for fun and games. However, when do we say enough? What about the meaning of the time that we are granted? Do we simply see our time off as a holiday or do we embrace this gift of time to remember our dead, our veterans, our special leaders and those that helped pave the way for the lives we can live today. These “holidays” we are given each year, whether in remembrance of a religious or civic event should not pass by without our taking the time to remember what their true meaning is.

Thanksgiving in my opinion is meant as a time to remember the blessings that we have been given. Regardless of how much or how little we have, there is generally something we can be grateful for in our lives.

GW-IngratitudeI have so much but I am continually looking at people that are more successful, make more money, have more friends and are in better condition.  Yet once I pause for just a few seconds to reflect on my blessings, I realize that I have the greatest wife in the world and I am healthy and moderately well off.  I have six happy and wonderful grandchildren.  I have more friends than I have time to spend with.  In short, I have nothing to complain about. I have nothing to be selfish or greedy or jealous about.  I have been blessed with a wonderful life but I hardly ever stop to say “thank you God for what you have given me.”  I am usually too worried about what I have not been given.

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This Thanksgiving, take the time to say a prayer of thanks.  Ask all present to thank God or whomever or whatever you believe in for the gifts and the life you are living.  This year, I will also ask all present at my Thanksgiving table to take a minute to express what they are thankful for in their lives; then we will dive in on the turkey, stuffing, and dressing.

The true meaning of Thanksgiving lies in being grateful for what you have.

Time for Questions:

Do you know a prayer of thanks? What is your favorite prayer? Will you make time for a prayer of gratitude this Thanksgiving?

Life is just beginning.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  — Melody Beattie

 

The Day I Joined the Air Force – Part Two

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Our lives and destinies revolve around the choices and decisions that we make.  I had already made one of the three most important decisions that would change my life forever.  In Part 1, I described my decision to join the United States Air Force.  Some might argue, that it was fate that made my decision and that I really had no choice.  Others would argue, my decision was more reactive than proactive and thus was not really a choice.  I will not defend myself.  Like an artist who refuses to describe their painting, I will let you decide if I chose or did not choose in each of these decisions.

In Part 2, I will describe the second decision that changed my life.   But let’s go back to my plane trip first.

lackland tiUpon landing at Lackland AFB in Texas, I along with all the other new recruits was ushered off the plane where our T.I. or Training Instructor was waiting for us.  After telling us that we would address him as Sir, he ordered, screamed, yelled and instructed us until we were able to get into some type of formation.  You can imagine the chaos that ensued when a bunch of green rookie “boots” tried to form into a military squadron.  It was early morning and I was dead tired.  I had not been able to sleep at all on the plane.  I presume many of the other “boots” were similarly exhausted.  Nevertheless, it was going to be many hours before we would meet our cots and be able to get to sleep.  In the interim, we would march all over the base getting haircuts, clothes, food and taunts (known as Jody Calls in the military) from other squadrons that often went like this:

Rainbow, Rainbow, don’t be blue

Our recruiter screwed us too

Sound off – One Two,

Sound off – Three Four

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The term “rainbows” was applied to new recruits who had not yet received their uniforms or haircuts and were marching in civilian clothes.  Our civilian “uniforms” made us stand out like sore thumbs, much to the delight of the more “advanced” squadrons.  Their pointing and taunts made us wonder what was in store for us.

Basic training lasted 12 weeks.  It did not take long for me to develop friendships with the same type of guys that I did in high school.  This was generally guys who had little or no respect for laws, traditions, rules or anything getting in the way of a good time.  Needless, to say, one would quickly realize that guys like this (myself included) would not be a good fit for the military.

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Hanging out with my new friends, I soon became involved in a few minor infractions which broke rules and traditions.  Air Force basic training had many rules and my motto had always been that: “rules are made to be broken.”  My friends agreed with this motto and it seemed like we were on a collision course with the military.  My one saving grace was that I did not really find the physical aspects of the military very difficult to deal with.  I had always been athletic and drills and PT (Physical Training) were easy for me.  I even found them kind of fun.  Nevertheless, I was not sure of many of the other restrictions that chafed at my sense of independence.

Then it happened.  One night after lights were out and I was sound asleep, I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice saying, “Wake up, Wake up.”  I am a pretty light sleeper and I sat up and saw one of my three “good” buddies who was standing next to my cot.  Roger whispered, “get dressed, we are leaving.”  “Where are we going?” I asked.  He replied, “We are going to rob the BX (Base Exchange) and go to Mexico.  We can have a great time.”

A jumble of thoughts went through my head.   I had previously been arrested for breaking and entering.  The idea of getting away with a base robbery sounded like a stretch.  I was tired and it was late at night.  I responded with “Have a good time, I am going back to sleep.”  That was the end of that.  I did not see my three friends for another six or seven weeks.  I made the second major decision of my life, but I am still not sure what the deciding factors were.

Several weeks later, an officer requested that my T.I. send me to his office.  My T.I. told me to report to the JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corp office and to see Lieutenant Perry. I went to the JAG office and reported to the officer who requested to see me.  “Airman Persico,” he started.  “Do you know Roger” and he named the other two of my former friends.  “Yes, sir” I replied.  “Well, they have requested you as a character witness in their upcoming trial.  Seems like you were their only friend on base.  You are hereby ordered to report to this office in two weeks.  (I do not remember the date).  I am representing them at their court martial trial for theft and going AWOL (Absence without official leave).  Dismissed!”

Two weeks went by and I had a lot of time to think about what I was going to say.  I would wow the court with my elocution and polemics.  In no time at all, I would have the charges against my friends dismissed.  I was confident in my ability to persuade the court.  I left my barracks at the appointed time and found my way to the courtroom where the trial for my friends was being held.  I gave my name upon entering and took a seat that was assigned to me.  I was soon called to the stand and told to swear that I would tell the whole truth etc.

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An officer, I would never know if he was the defense or prosecuting attorney asked me my name and if I had any knowledge of the three men on trial.  I replied that I did and then I started in on my rehearsed defense.  I was quickly told to be quiet and to only answer a question when asked or I would be held in contempt and find myself in the brig along with my three buddies.  My questioning went on for five minutes or so and it seemed like everything I said only dug a deeper hole for the defendants.  When they were through with my testimony, I was dismissed and told to report back to my squadron.  I felt like a total failure.

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My friends all received time in jail and a dishonorable discharge.

I soon left Lackland AFB for my training assignment in Biloxi, Mississippi AFB as a Radar Technician.  I would never see or hear from my former friends again.  I often think back upon the decision that I made and the impact that a different choice would have had on my life.   Did I make a choice or was it destiny?

In Part 3, I will describe the third of my 3 most important life decisions and the impact that it has had on my life.

“We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.”  — Ken Levine

 

 

 

 

The Day I Joined the Air Force – Part One

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There is a prelude to this story.  I grew up with a father who was abusive.  He was six feet four inches tall and weighed 210 lbs.  I was five foot eight inches tall and weighed 145 lbs.  He had been a professional boxer with 21 wins and two losses.  I lived in fear of him for many years.  During high school, I seldom dated.  I never went to a single high school dance or prom.  Shortly after the end of my high school years in 1964, I finally found a girl whom I liked.  She also seemed to like me.  We dated a few times and I planned a Saturday night out with her.  I had my own car and had funded my own expenses ever since I was sixteen.  I had just turned 18 in the September of 1964.

I arrived home late Saturday afternoon.  It was the first week of October (the day of my planned date) and my father was sitting at the dining room table with a couple of friends.  He said he needed a fourth for a game of pinochle.  I did not want to play since my father hated to lose and I knew he would blame me if we did.  Nevertheless, my father demanded that I be his partner and so I sat down with his two friends for a few games.  Sure enough, we lost the first game and my father started to complain about my play and that I had really screwed up the plays.  We started the second game and he started right in again complaining about my play.  I finally had enough of his berating me and I simply said, “I quit.”  He blew his usual fuse and told me that I was grounded and that I should go to my room.

I went up to bed and woke up about 2 AM in the morning.  I don’t think I ever went to sleep.  I packed a few things in a bag and climbed out my bedroom window.  I went over to a friend’s house and knocked on the door.  Bobby Fandetti (AKA Rock) came to the door.  He was surprised but he let me in.  I told him that I needed a place to stay for the night.  He said fine and that I could sleep on the couch.

The next morning, I told Bob I was going down to military row (where all the military recruiters had their office) and that I was going to join the military.  Bob gave me a ride and I made him promise not to tell anyone where I had gone or that I had stayed the night with him.

I knew I had no chance of getting into any college.  I had poor grades and no money.  I had two arrests.  The first for breaking and entry (a stupid robbery with six other guys from my corner) and the second for a fight leading to an assault and battery charge.  Fortunately, both offenses were sealed since they had occurred before I turned eighteen.

Upon getting down to Providence, Bob dropped me off and left.  I had twenty dollars with me and a few clothes.  I walked down the block looking in the various military recruitment centers.  The recruiters were desperate and would have taken a warm body since the Vietnam war was in full swing.  I started looking at the various uniforms in the windows.  My biggest criteria concerned in which uniform would I have the best chance of getting laid.

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I did not like the Marine uniforms.  They seemed too gaudy.  Navy was out since their uniforms looked silly to me.  They were bell bottoms before bell bottoms became in.  The Army uniforms seemed too drab.  Green was never my favorite color.  Then I saw the Air Force uniforms.  They reminded me of my high school colors which were blue and gray. It was an immediate hit.  I could see myself scoring lots of babes in this cool uniform.

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At the time this all occurred, my father was an American Legion Post commander.  He was a decorated and disabled WW II veteran.  He saw service in Patton’s Third Army as a tank guard.  He won a Purple Heart for his combat injuries.  My father hated communists and had drilled me with the evilness of communists.  My motto when I went into the military was “Kill a commie for Christ.”

army uniform

The recruiter did all he could to make my day.  He was friendly and helpful and gave me a coke and some snacks.  I had to take a test called ASVAB that he said would determine which job I got.  I did not really care which job since I thought that I could get into some combat group and go to Vietnam to kill some “commie gooks.”  I got an AFSC or Air Force Service Code as a Nuclear Weapons Specialist.  For some reason, this was later changed to a 30352 code as an AC&W Radar Technician and I was switched from going to military training in Chanute, Kansas to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi.  But first, every Air Force recruit had to go to basic training at Lackland AFB just outside San Antonio, Texas.

air force

However, I was not in the military yet.  I had a bunch of papers to sign and then they sent me by car to an induction center where many other branches of the military also went.  At this center I was going to get a physical.  I remember fifty or more guys all in this big hall and all of us told to strip naked.  A few physicians then went around checking everybody out with a stethoscope.  Guys with obvious impairments were told to get dressed and go home.  Finally, about a half of the original guys were still there.  We were told to put our civvies back on and then we would be sworn in.  We went into another room, where we repeated some oaths and the Pledge of Allegiance.  We were now in the United States Military.

swearing in

I was then sent by commercial bus from Providence to New Jersey.  From the bus terminal I got a ride to the Newark Airport.  At the airport, I somehow (I do not remember how) met some other Air Force recruits.  We had all been given vouchers for ten dollars or so for meals while waiting for our flight to Texas.  We decided to go to a café at the airport for supper.   When we got seated the waitress came around with a menu.  We told her that we had these meal vouchers.  As we ordered. it appeared that even if the price of a meal was less than our vouchers, there were items that we (for unknown reasons) could not purchase with our vouchers.  I got pissed, since I felt we were being ripped off.  I gave my voucher away and left.

I had my twenty dollars and I went in search of another dinner venue.  The airport had this upscale dining area and I went in and seated myself down.  I was surprised that I was the only diner in the room at the time.  The waiter came and he gave me a menu.  On it was a boiled lobster dinner for $18.99.  I thought “Hell, I am going out in style.”  I had never had a boiled lobster dinner in a restaurant although I had caught and eaten many lobsters in Rhode Island.

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The lobster came and I put a bib around my neck and proceeded to eat the lobster.  I was quite adept at cracking lobster shells (having lived in R.I. from my 11th to 18th year of life).  After I was finished with dinner, I noticed a bowl with water and a lemon floating on it.  I was staring at the bowl thinking it might be some weird soup.  The waiter noticed my gaze and came over and very quietly asked me if I knew what it was for.  I said no and he told me that it was to wash my fingers in.  I will never forget his kindness for not embarrassing me or my own lack of knowledge of good etiquette.  This would come back many times to embarrass me in my later years even after I had obtained my Ph.D. degree from the University of Minnesota.

I then rejoined the other recruits and we waited rather silently for the plane that would take us to our new lives.

To Be Continued:

Sinner Man, Sinner Woman, Are You a Sinner?

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Sin has a special place in Christian society.  According to orthodox Christians, we are all sinners.   Most Christians upon hearing this will simply nod their head and agree.  The Catholic Church has two types of sin.  One is mortal sin.  This will get you a place in hell if not confessed before you die.  The other is called venial sin.  A venial sin gives you a place in Purgatory where you fry only for a little while until the sin is expurgated.  Then you can move on to heaven having been cleansed of “sinful” behavior.  Somewhat recently, the Catholic Church got rid of the idea of Purgatory.  It is either heaven or hell these days.

Now if you are of a more secular bent, you may dismiss the idea of sin.  In fact, you may be offended by the idea.  For myself as an atheist, I accept that the idea of sin holds some validity in the sense that some behaviors are so egregious they need strong condemnation.  The Ten Commandments depict several such behaviors that are evil enough to have been banned or outlawed in many societies.  Principally among these are murder, robber and adultery.  Even so, these behaviors are far from uncommon throughout the world.

seven deadly sins

Most of us have no doubt heard of the “seven deadly sins.”  The “seven deadly sins” were originally based on a list of eight principal vices.  This list was developed by the mystic Evagrius Ponticus in the fourth century CE.  In the sixth century, Pope Gregory I changed the list of eight vices into the list of seven deadly, or cardinal, sins of Roman Catholic theology.  This list includes pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth.  The only problem with this list is that you would look long and hard before you would find anyone who did not harbor at least one of these “sins.”  I suspect most of us are guilty of all of them at one time or another.  If sin is so common what good does it do to punish people with threats of hell and perdition?

When some behavior becomes normal, can it still be a sin?  Will most Americans go to hell for being greedy?  You are liable to say “no, surely not!”  There is no law against greed, gluttony or pride.  I am no sinner because I lust after the beautiful babe in the skintight yoga pants

Thus, it would be easy to argue that Pope Gregory 1 went overboard with his definition of these seven behaviors as sinful.  If these are not sins, should they even rank as vices?  What if greed were regarded as a vice, what would that say about modern American society?

“A worldwide survey found that majorities of people in the U.K., Canada, Spain and Australia think of Americans as violent, greedy and arrogant…The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found that a median of 54 percent of people in countries surveyed associated the negative trait of arrogance with Americans. Fifty-two percent associate greed, and 48 percent say Americans are violent. — The world thinks Americans are violent, greedy, arrogant — and Americans agree  — Teresa Welsh (2016)

I could make a case that each of these seven vices or sins is simply a normal manifestation of human behavior.  Any one of them can be taken to extremes and become dysfunctional but where is the line drawn between normal pride and excessive pride, where is the line drawn between envy and desire and who draws the lines?  My argument is that calling these seven characteristics as vices is almost as extreme as calling them sins.

Does this mean that all of us are perfect?  Can any of us be as pure at heart as Sir Galahad?  Very unlikely, I would think.  So, if we are not sinful or full of vices, then what are we?

I like the word flawed.  Vocabulary.com defines flawed as:

“Flawed objects have some kind of imperfection — a dent or a blemish.  No one’s perfect, so everyone is flawed in some way, but when this word describes a person it often means ‘weak in character.’  A Shakespearian flawed hero has some flaw or foible that will ultimately be his undoing: in other words, a fatal flaw.”

I do not accept that we are all sinful.  I do believe that we are all flawed.  However, I also reject the idea that it means we are weak in character.  Many common run of the mill flaws are more lapses in judgement than they are permanent attributes.  My own definition of a flawed person is “someone who has a behavior that often causes either discomfort to the individual or to those who interact with the individual.”

original-1328023-1There are things that bother other people which may not be flaws at all.  In fact, some so called flaws demonstrate individuals who are marching to a different drummer or who are defying conventional social norms.  To defy anti-Semitism in Germany during the early 20th century would have been considered a character flaw.  To be an abolitionist in the South prior to the Civil War would have led to persecution by your fellow citizens.  Who today would consider these character flaws?  History will often show that a “flawed” individual was a hero or heroine rather than someone with a character defect.

No doubt, some flaws are more serious than others.  Some can be “fatal flaws” depending on the culture and specific context.  Today sexism is widely regarded as being a very serious flaw.  To be accused of sexism can mean the end of a career or worse depending on the infraction.  Witness the number of recent trials for those guilty of sexism.  And of course, it is not only men who succumb to the lure of sex and power but women as well as evidenced by the recent debacle that ensnared former Representative Katie Hill.  No one should be surprised though to know that there are still those who harbor anti-Semitic, sexist or racist sentiments and many who regard these behaviors as normal.

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But sin including the concept of “Original Sin” is something that excuses the participant.  If you sin, you can simply confess to god or your local pastor and be forgiven.  If you believe that we are all sinners, when do you stop sinning?  A flaw does not give you the excuse that a sin does.  Saying “we are all sinners” is like saying “we are all racists.”  Even if it were true, so what?  What are you going to do about being a racist?  Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”  He did not say “go sin and come back again and be forgiven.”

A flaw must be addressed in a different way.  A flaw is something that must be acknowledged and not simply forgiven.  A flaw is something that you must work on.  If you are lazy or greedy, you can through diligence and discipline become “unlazy and ungreedy.”  History is full of examples of people with “flaws” who overcame them and went on to valued exemplary lives.

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A flaw does not imply any inherent ineradicable weakness.  There is no evidence that people have a DNA gene for the seven vices/sins.  A flaw gives you a choice.  Live with it and deal with the consequences or manage it and improve your character.

“When I pass, speak freely of my shortcomings and my flaws. Learn from them, for I’ll have no ego to injure.”  — Aaron McGruder

 

 

 

The 58th Running of the Greatest Race in America

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Ladies and Gentlemen, we are glad to see you here today for the 58th running of the Democratic Presidential Primaries presented by corporate donors and major international lobbyists.  We have a formidable field gathered this year for what portends to be one of the greatest showdowns of all time.  The winner of this race will go on to face the unbeaten stallion “Liar in Chief” in a match race of two miles on November 3, 2020.

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We are showing the largest assembly of competitors in the history of this race.  We have almost two dozen contenders for this high-stakes contest.  The stakes are high since only one horse will go on to face “The Liar in Chief.”  The odds-on favorites for this elimination race are currently Crazy Bernie, Pocahontas and Sleepy Joe but dark horses abound in this field of twenty-five hot-blooded contestants.  There are several bad actors who just might throw the leaders off their pace.  Each of these runners has a history of agility, speed and spirit.  There are only one or two maidens in the field.  At this time, no contestant can conclusively be ruled out, but you can look at the following chart to see the odds given by the bookmakers.  Racing forms are also available for those of you who want more history on each horse.

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Today’s race is a 1 ¾ mile flat oval.  The track today is dry and fast with an even surface.  This track tends to favor horses with more stamina and endurance.  It is a beautiful day here with an expected high of 80 degrees and sunny skies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise as the famous Darth Vader Group sings our national anthem.

The “Call to Post” and “Riders Up” have been sounded and the horses are now beginning to head to the starting gates.  In addition, to the large field you will notice as they parade by the stands that we have more diversity of saddle cloth colors here than we have ever seen before.  We have browns, blacks, pinks, blue, green, khaki, rainbow, yellow and lots of whites but still reds.  Speculation exists that Pocahontas is part red but others dispute this claim.

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Crazy Bernie is loading in post position 12.  Pocahontas is in post position 4 and Sleepy Joe has loaded with the inside track in post position 1.  Sleepy Joe is considered a Frontrunner so post position 1 will play to his strengths.  Crazy Bernie is considered a Closer who likes to let the other horses get out in front and then sneak up when the time is right, so position 12 will play to his strengths.  Pocahontas and the other mares in the race are mostly filling the inside positions as many still see their strengths as pushing the stronger stallions.

“Race Fans:  The 58th Democratic Primary.  They are in the gate and they are off.”

A great start.  Very Nasty, Pocahontas and Snowwoman all flashing early speed coming out of the inside.  Pocahontas in the lead and clearly setting the pace as they make this long and dramatic run to the Clubhouse Turn.

At the first turn, its Pocahontas, Very Nasty and Snowwoman followed by Allred E. Neumann, A Flake and A Horrible Mayor.  Twelve lengths off the lead and coming on the inside is Sleepy Joe and off the pace is Crazy Bernie trailing the pack.

Racing for the far turn is Pocahontas, Snowwoman and Very Nasty.  Very Nasty now dropping back.  Very Nasty now trails by six lengths.  As they round the turn, sixteen candidates are effectively out of this race.  It’s clear that they underestimated the strength and stamina that this race would take.

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Coming up strong on the backstretch is Sleepy Joe.  Sleepy Joe has passed Very Nasty.  Sleepy Joe is trailing Pocahontas by three lengths.  Snowwoman has gone to the outside but is losing her speed.  With 1/8 mile to go, it is Pocahontas, Sleepy Joe and Very Nasty.

Now with a strong move coming up on the inside is Crazy Bernie.  Crazy Bernie is making a bold run up the rail.  Crazy Bernie has passed Very Nasty and is now following Pocahontas and Sleepy Joe.  Very Nasty is falling back.  Snowwoman and Very Nasty trail by fourteen lengths.

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As we near the finish line, Sleepy Joe is losing the pace.  Looks like it’s going to be a race between Crazy Bernie and Pocahontas.  Crazy Bernie and Pocahontas are running neck and neck.  With only fifty yards to go, it is Pocahontas and Crazy Bernie.  Ladies and Gentlemen, it is going to be a photo finish.  But wait!  Pocahontas appears to be pulling up.  She is pulling up!  She has let Crazy Bernie take the lead.

It’s Crazy Bernie in first, Pocahontas in second followed by Sleepy Joe at the finish line in this 58th Presidential Primary.

Wow, what a race.  There are going to be a lot of questions at the Pocahontas Stables after this race.  Why did she pull up?  Did Pocahontas come out too soon?  Can a mare really handle the heat?

Stay Tuned for the match race between two old stallions for the President of America Sweepstakes.  Winner takes all in thirteen more months.

Writers Note:  

My skepticism and humor may be lost to some people.  The “nicknames” for the horses are names that our esteemed leader has bestowed on some of the Democratic candidates.  Since race horses generally have interesting names, I chose to use his “nicknames” rather than the actual names of the candidates.  If you are offended by my brand of humor, well just delete me from your blog list and accept my humble apologies.  Brands of humor can be like fish.  Not every fish is everyone’s delight. 

The main point of this blog is (in my mind anyway), the way this whole primary thing seems like a race rather than a process to select the best candidate.  It is orchestrated for TV to sell ads more than to inform the American public.  If you think these debates are informative, than I am happy for you.  I think the entire process is a waste of money and an ineffective way to select someone to run for the Presidency of the United States of America. 

 

Un toast à l’humanité: A Toast To Those Brave Men and Women, Who Call Themselves Americans

toast-of-the-week-black-friday-1101326-TwoByOneUn toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the jurors and prosecutors who decide to execute children until the age of twenty-one in America for crimes against humanity.  “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord” but here on earth we can decide who can live and who can die.  Who must be punished and who must be acquitted.  Death is the only justice for the evil and it only takes eleven good men and a prosecutor bent on political gain to decide who lives and who dies.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!   Here’s to all the righteous men who want to decide who can be married and who cannot be married.   Let’s not have a world where people who care for each other can choose who they can love.  Government and politicians know more about love and compassion and it is up to them to tell us what love is sanctioned by God and what love is evil.

JACK-23549-Chicago-Concert-Poster_rvsd-P-72dpi1-805x1024Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the brave men that want to send others to fight in the name of liberty and justice and the American way of life.  Let’s keep killing all those bastards who defame America or who don’t want Democracy.  The world will be better off with less of those evil people who don’t believe in Mom, God and the American way of life.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all those Americans who think voting and politics is a waste of time.  Kudo’s to those who are smart enough to realize that Monday night football and American Idol are much more important than who is elected Senator or President.  Let us never forget that all it takes are enough people who don’t care and we can all go back to the good old days.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all those Americans who are simply apathetic about what happens to other people.  Why give a damn if it does not affect your life or money?  Let’s only think about our own team and our own friends and our own family and the hell with all those other losers and deadbeats.   Let the downtrodden take care of themselves.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the religious people who are against other religions.  The world has too many religions as it is and we all know that our religion is the only right one.  Let’s persecute and denigrate other religions.  Let’s abhor those who are less sacred then we are. They have no right to contradict what we believe in or the God we know is ours alone.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the greedy people in this country who put profits before compassion.   Money is their God.  Money is their only God.  Greed is good.  Greed knows who the true and only true God is.  The rest are fools since they worship false Gods like kindness and love.  Jesus was misguided when he threw the moneylenders out of the temple.  We need to rectify his mistake.  God is Greed and Greed is God.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the men who put race before humanity.  White Race, Black Race, Race is the only thing that counts.  You must be true to your race.  Blood is thicker than water.  People who are not true to their race are cowards.  My race is and always will be better than your race.  Your race is so inferior to my race that it needs to be persecuted and denigrated.  Kudo’s to the race baiters and race haters for theirs is the Kingdom of Hell.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the people that believe that welfare, 3f139e06b0641f43a84f3af62faf0559--homeless-veterans-vietnam-veteranssocial security, Medicare and Obama Care are socialist plots to undermine the government of the United States of America.  Surely they are the only ones with eyes who can see that poverty and need are traits of people who have no discipline or honor.  Good people do not rely on the government for handouts; they simply pull themselves up to heaven by their own boot straps.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!   Here’s to all the people who can go to bed tonight secure in their gated communities that they will not be robbed or raped by the dregs of humanity.  Once we can wall ourselves in from other humans, we can forget about crime and poverty and concentrate on the really important things in life like golf and pickle ball.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the people in America who don’t inconvenience the rest of us with problems and issues that we don’t really care about.  The world will be a better place when the complainers all die with a stake through their hearts and stop pestering the rest of us about poverty and education and health care and jobs and the environment and gay rights and sexism and racism and immigration.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to those people who think nothing will ever change and that in a dog eat dog world, you simply take care of yourself.  Nothing any of us can do will make a difference. Nothing any of us can do will ever change anything.  So why bother.  Let the dead take care of themselves and we can take care of ourselves.  Good guys finish last.

Un toast à vous tous de braves hommes. Un toast à vous tous les politiciens. Un toast à vous tous, hommes religieux. Un toast à vous tous, hommes patriotiques. Un toast à vous tous les hommes qui ne se soucient que de vous-mêmes. Un toast en enfer pour ceux d’entre vous qui me rencontrer là-bas.

Time for Questions: 

Do you really give a damn? If so, what do you give a damn about?

Life is just beginning.

What if it isn’t’?

3494– Monday, October 7, 2019 — Can We Really Grow Old Gracefully? – Part 2

persico family with names

This is the continuation of an article I started which might have been called the “Top Ten Attributes for Growing Old Gracefully.”  In Part 1, I described attributes 1 through 5.  I also noted that two of my very good friends had been ill for some time and were not expected to live out the year.  One of these good friends, died two days after I published Part 1 of this article.  He was a unique individual about whom I wrote the following to some common friends the day after he died:

“I will always remember Sam for his brilliance and intellectual rigor.  I do not think I have ever met anyone with a greater knowledge of the world than Sam.  He was my first mentor out of graduate school, and I learned almost all I know about consulting from the work that we did together at International Nickel in Canada.  He was kind and gracious to a fool that knew little or nothing about the consulting world.  Over the years, we had our ups and downs, but Sam always helped me when I was in need of advice or guidance.”

“The world is truly less of a place for me and many others without Sam.” 

I must say a word about the validity and reliability of the ideas that I am presenting here.  I believe in them with my whole heart and soul.  Everything about life that I have learned up to this point says that they are the keys to a happy old age.  A friend whom I have found since writing my blogs left a comment in Part 1 where she said: “I hope you are following this excellent advice, John!  I replied: “Jane, I wish I could honestly say that I always do but that is not always the case.”

For me, I am somewhat like the alcoholic with good intentions who occasionally falls off the bandwagon.  Looking at each of these attributes, I have good days and bad.  But somehow, I climb back up out of whatever is bothering me, and I start again.  I have days when I am not grateful or have very little sense of humor.  I have days when I can find no joy in life and days when I can find no purpose or meaning in what I am doing.  But I know that “this too will pass” and that it is important not to give up.  Growing old is a journey that only ends when it will be too late for you to do anything about it.  But as long as we are alive, we can do our best to enjoy the journey.  So, here are the rest of the key attributes that will help you grow old gracefully and enjoy the trip.  Following are attributes six through ten.

one_kind_word

  1. Kindness

This is a simple one.  Do something kind for someone each day.  Make someone else happy by sharing your good fortune, knowledge, skills or abilities with another.  It is often easier said than done though.  We get so busy with our own problems that it is easy to forget the needs of those around us.  Very few people will wake up today and jump out of bed with joy at being alive.  For many people, the kind word or deed that you can do for them will give them the strength to live another day or to have a day with joy and happiness.

A funny thing happened to me this afternoon while I was on my way to see a play called Pipeline at Penumbra Theater in St. Paul.  An old rumpled homeless looking man on a bicycle asked if I could give him a few bucks for a meal.  I was feeling generous, so I pulled out my wallet and took a peek in it.  I had a five, a twenty and three one-dollar bills.  I grabbed the fiver and handed it to the old man.  He took it and thanked me, and I impulsively decided to give him another single.  He took the second bill I gave him and let out a rather exuberant exclamation of thanks and gave both me and Karen hugs.

He set off down the street and said that he was heading right to McDonald’s to get a meal to eat.  I was still surprised at his extreme gratefulness.  Later on, when I went to look in my wallet for some money to pay for some stuff, I found that I still had the three singles but no twenty.  I suddenly realized why the old feller had been so ecstatic.  I had given him the five-dollar bill and the twenty-dollar bill.  I could have kicked myself in the butt.  I told Karen about my unexpected generosity and we both laughed and wondered what he was going to get to eat for the money we gave him.  I felt a little stupid giving this much money away but on the other hand, how many times have I wasted three or four times this amount on some impulse purchase that I did not really need.  It felt good knowing that I had made somebodies day a little brighter even if it was by accident.

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight.  Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” — Og Mandino

benifits-of-physical-fitness

  1. Physical Fitness

What is the secret to living a long and health life?  Ask anyone who fits this qualification and who is in their nineties and do you know what they will say?  “Keep moving!”  “Keep moving!”  Stay active!  Garden, run, swim, bicycle, play Pickleball, walk, do Zumba, do Yoga, do anything but keep your body moving!

I have talked about the need for an exercise plan in many of my other blogs.  You have a choice.  If you live long enough and stay somewhat reasonably fit, then like our friend Joan, you can still play golf when you are ninety.  Or you can sit all day watching TV and become more and more dependent on walkers and canes and surgeries for your ailing joints.  Some of the problems of old age are unavoidable but some are due to a lack of good nutrition and good exercise.  Keep all things in moderation.  You will not be an Arnold Schwarzenegger at 80 but you can still be healthy enough to take trips and spend active time outdoors.  The key?  Right!  Keep moving!

For me, I love having an exercise plan that will adapt to my changing circumstances and that is fun.  If you are interested in more information on developing an exercise plan, see my blog at:  How Can We Set Realistic Exercise Goals as We Age?

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” — Edward Stanley

friendship

  1. Friendships

There is a story told about Thomas Jefferson who supposedly attended a fiftieth anniversary party for the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1826.  According to the story, Jefferson was not recognized by anyone at the party.  He was one of only three surviving members of the original signers who were still alive.  The other two being John Adams and Charles Carroll.  Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826 as did John Adams, so I am not sure when the party was actually held.  Nevertheless, Jefferson is reported to have said that he felt like a ghost.  That he felt like someone living in a time when he no longer belonged.

This story made an impact on me since as we age, we see more and more of our loved ones, relatives and friends pass away.  In the picture (top of blog) taken at a wedding for my father’s youngest sister, I am standing to the right in the picture.  The wedding was held in 1957.  The most remarkable thing about this photo (For me anyway) is that I am the only one left alive in the photo.  My sister died of lung cancer several years ago and my two cousins in the photo both passed away.  One died of a stroke and the other died younger of suicide.

My Aunt Mary, who is on the right in the picture, (She was my Godmother) died at the age of 103 about four years ago.  She too outlived almost everyone in the photo except me.  She outlived two of her sons and her husband who are in the picture.  I asked my Aunt a few years before she died if she felt like she no longer belonged and that her time had passed.  Her answer surprised me.  She said “No.”  I asked how she managed, and she told me that you must keep making friends.  She said that she had made many new friends who cared about her and helped enrich her life.  Could this be how she made it to 103 years of age?

The attribute of “Friendship” was mentioned at the Caregiver Conference I attended as one of the most important factors for a happy old age.  We cannot bury ourselves in pity or sorrow for the past.  Life must go on.  As someone said: “Life is for the living.”  You are never too old to make new friends.

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce.  If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” — Zig Ziglar

chronic_pain_treatment_continuum_jpeg

  1. Pain Management

Yes, you better believe it.  Pain management is a key attribute of growing old gracefully.  The older you get, the more pains you will have.  You will have pain and if you cannot deal with it, life will be one endless day of misery.  The sad fact is that people seem to only know two ways to deal with pain.  The first is to see a doctor who will often prescribe surgery.  The second is similar, you go to see a doctor, only in this case, the doctor prescribes some sort of pain killer.  If you want to know what is causing the pain, which should be the first step towards any diagnosis or remedy, the doctor will be very reluctant to order a Ct scan or MRI due to the cost of such diagnostics.  He/she might do some blood tests or other tests that will probably not tell you very much.

More than likely though, your doc will just tell you that the cause of your pain is “Old Age” and your remedy is to live with it.  The older you are, the more likely the latter will be your diagnosis and prescription.  A few years ago (until the opioid epidemic which doctors and pharmaceutical companies created), they would probably have given you an abundant supply of Oxycontin or Vicodin and told you to go home and swallow a pill.

Now the first step towards pain management is preventive.  You guessed it.  Exercise and weight control.  However, even with diligent exercise you will encounter problems.  The chronic pain treatment diagram (I have included above) is one that best fits my ideas of how we should deal with pain.  You start with the lowest possible tier with the least side effects and you work up.  You do not immediately accept that surgery is the solution.  There are more surgeries done in this country that are unneeded than I can count.  If you doubt my assertion, then see my blog on the subject where I have written about the epidemic of surgeries which serve only to make more money for doctors.  “Should we be cautious when seeing our family doctor?”

I could tell you true story after true story of pains that I have dealt with over the years.  Yes, I had prostate surgery and hernia surgery.  These required invasive medical procedures and some respite from exercising.  But I have had Plantar Fasciitis, Sesamoiditis, Morton’s Neuroma, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, back pain and several other neuromuscular pains.  I have not had surgery for any of these.  While several of these problems managed to derail my exercise program for some months, I have managed to deal with each of these without surgery and am still running and exercising regularly.

In all cases, I have used the pain management continuum as noted above.  Starting with diagnosis (sometimes seeing a doctor but often doing research on the web) and moving up to the first level of diet, exercise and nutrition.  My second level would include OTC drugs, lotions like Tiger Balm or now CBD cream and diet supplements like Glucosamine and Turmeric.  I have managed to avoid opioids except in one case of dental problems where some implants became infected.  My second level also includes things like knee braces and elbow braces to help stabilize the joint until the inflammation went away.  My favorite second tier cure is a great massage which if I appear to be in enough pain, my spouse will usually proffer.  A massage will not cure the pain, but it helps to alleviate the pain and with other pain management techniques can speed recover.

I will not say anymore about pain management except to be wary of surgery until you have exhausted other less invasive possibilities.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of physical pain, with a lot of emotional pain; anybody’s who’s ever been an alcoholic has handled both of those in extreme.” — Jason Isbell

hope and optimism

  1. Hope and Optimism

I have saved these two attributes for graceful aging for last.  I believe these are essential for a happy and complete life.  I also believe they are the most difficult to acquire and maintain.  How can we be optimistic or have hope when death surrounds us and is the most inevitable fact of our lives?  What is there to be hopeful for when your friends and loved ones are dying and you see a future where you are left alone?  Sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it?

They say hope springs eternal in the human breast but a simple observation of the people you know, will tell you that is a lie.  People give up hope when they are continually beaten down by the daily toil and challenges of life.  It should be a great deal easier to be optimistic when you are twenty than when you are eighty, but I doubt whether hope and optimism are linked to aging.  (True, the suicide rate for the aged is very high, but some of that may reflect practicality rather than hopelessness. The suicide rate for teenagers is nearly as high as that for the aged.)  The simple fact is that some people are more optimistic than others.  Some are more hopeful than others.

But hope and optimism are a choice we each can make in how to see life.

I can’t tell you what your hope should be.  My hope is that my writing will help you to lead a better life. I am hopeful that something I say and someone who reads what I say will find some value in my ideas.

I can’t tell you what to be optimistic about.  I am optimistic about my trip to Russia this coming year.  It will be a new adventure and I will go again with my spouse to our 40th new country.  I have always dreamed of taking an express train across Europe and we are going to take the Paris to Moscow Express for our trip into Russia.  There are a million things that could go wrong between now and then, but what gain do I have from being negative and pessimistic?

Find your hope and find your optimism.  Perhaps they will change each day but without them, your life will be like a life without sunshine

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

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