Friday, June 23, 2017

Naked to the world...

I’m not sure when your private parts cease being private. Until I had a stroke about 8 months ago, I was a fairly modest guy. Except for my mother, my wife, and a few close friends, not many people had seen me buck naked. Outside of when I was in diapers, and that half-hearted streaking incident when I was much younger, I had managed to keep my private parts mostly private.

When the stroke hit, they stripped me of my clothes and cut me out of my underwear, but I wasn’t really in any shape to be overly concerned about it. By the time I got my wits about me, an untold number of nurses and orderlies had hooked up wires and inserted tubes in places that weren’t, in my opinion, made for wires and tubes. And while I remain extremely grateful for the excellent care I received at both hospitals that worked on me, I was also grateful when they told me I could put my pants back on, go home, and cover up what needed to be covered up whenever I felt like it needed to be covered up.

I knew I would have to go back in for some maintenance. They installed a sending unit in my chest, and cut my throat open to stick a wedge in beside a paralyzed vocal cord. I figured I could at least keep my pants on while they were working on my chest and throat, but it turns out I was wrong. No matter what they were working on, I had to put all of my clothes in a bag and put on a drafty and not very fashionable or flattering gown, a one-size-fits all creation with some fabric in the front, but lacking in the back and bottom.

By the time they got around to going in after a kidney stone, I was pretty well resigned to the notion that I had been exposed to just about everybody in the healthcare field in Richmond and Indianapolis, and it was getting to the point that it didn’t bother me much more than it seemed to bother them. As I said earlier, I’m not sure when my private parts ceased being private, but I figure that by my third trip to the operating room, most of the mystery and all of my modesty was gone.

I know they were all doing their best to keep me alive and mobile, so I didn’t complain too much about the over-exposure, but it did make me think about the loss of privacy in other parts of our lives.

When our national and state legislatures met this year, they decided to intrude a little further into private areas and private property. In Washington, a bill was introduced requiring persons who hold currency in places other than a registered bank, to report it to the IRS. Grandma’s secret butter and egg money would no longer be Grandma’s secret.

In Indianapolis, a law was passed requiring anybody under 18 years old to wear a helmet while driving or riding an off-road vehicle. And while it’s probably a good idea to wear a helmet when jumping over tree stumps, it’s a little over the top if Grandpa wants to cruise around the yard with a couple of Grandkids for a little Sunday afternoon relaxation. It falls in the “sometimes a good idea, but never a good law” category, aside from the fact it applies to private property.

For years, I’ve been asking people to name 3 things the government doesn’t tax or regulate. I’ve always hoped it would get to be a little easier. Just between you and me, and the government, it just got worse.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A little more time....

       I had to do a little work on the playground/tree house this weekend. I had planned on doing it before, because the timbers around it had rotted away over the years. It doesn't really seem like it's been there that long, but my oldest Granddaughters turned 11 this year and they weren't very big when we put the playground in, so it's been longer than I thought. And like I said, I'd planned on replacing them before they got in such a shape, but I just never seemed to find the time.
The playground was kind of a sandbox, except that we put pea fill in it so it wouldn't track in the house so bad, and so Dawson wouldn't throw it (accidentally, of course) in his sister's or cousins' eyes. When I put in the new timbers, I also added a real sand box with real sand. I never really liked the pea fill all that much, and I always thought someday I'd get them some real sand, But I just never got around to it, and now Maebry is probably the only one young enough to appreciate it very much.

        I'd always planned on building a tree house when my children were younger, but all they ever had was a sandbox with a roof over it, and we put a floor under the roof so they could have a clubhouse, but it was mostly a home for wasps and hornets, and they weren't too crazy about sharing it with the kids. I always thought I'd take some time and seal the bugs out, but before that happened the kids outgrew it, so it didn't matter anymore.
        About 7 years ago the Grandkids and I built the tree house. We put a lot of thought and hours into it, and we built it right over the pretend sandbox. We started with one level, and then we added a second floor and a crow's nest with a telescope so you could see clear over to the neighbors if you took the notion.

           Barkley has been keeping an eye on visitors and photographers for a long time.

We always planned on putting a 4th level on, but that's just another thing I never found the time to do. Most of my Grandchildren are too old or too far away to get much good out of another floor nowadays, so I'll probably just stick to replacing the timbers and sand as needed.

   I think my kids probably had some fun in the clubhouse, and I think the Grandkids had some fun in the tree house, but I sure wish I would have taken more time when it mattered, and when my kids and Grandkids had a little more of it, and when I had more of it left. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Peas and Carrots...

           Forrest Gump liked to say that he and Jenny Curran went together like peas and carrots. While a couple of my Grandchildren might argue about how well peas and carrots go together, or even how well they stand alone, I do appreciate Forrest’s sentiments. Jenny didn’t always seem to share his views, though, and Forrest spent a lot of time being disappointed whenever she moved off in a different direction.

            I imagine we’ve all experienced some type of disappointment in our lives. The first disappointment I remember was when I was about four years old and our Cocker Spaniel, Cindy, became a casualty under the front wheels of our John Deere tractor. The next 61 years brought more frustration, but never anything I couldn’t eventually get over.

            Being a Libertarian, I’m usually disappointed after our nation has an election. I don’t think that is anything new. As far back as I can remember, members of the old parties have felt frustrated and upset when the party other than their own won. And most of the time, most of them got over it.

             I’m not convinced that is going to happen this time around. While a lot of people were upset with Barak Obama, it seems more people are more upset with Donald Trump. And the people who support Trump are upset with the people who don’t. Some disagreements can get downright dangerous. In Scranton Pennsylvania, the YMCA banned cable news programs from its workout rooms because it was leading to fights between people of different political persuasions.

            It’s bad enough that Hillary Clinton has offered to “come out of the woods” to reunite us. Anybody who believes that Ms. Clinton can fix this obviously didn’t pay much attention to the last election. And then again, maybe reuniting us isn’t something the government should worry about.

            Most of the disagreements people are having with Donald Trump, or would have had with Hillary Clinton, are based on the way government wants to use force to control us. Perhaps we need to let the government worry about protecting us from force and fraud by others, and allow all of these upset people to decide how they want to run their own lives.

I understand there are a lot of people who want the government to handle their retirement. There are also a lot of people who don’t.  But if we consider that there are more people alive in the United States today who are in favor of that type of system than the total population in 1935, it’s not such a stretch to believe that system could survive on a voluntary basis.

And out of the 320 million people in the country today, it’s not infeasible that part of them could join a national health care plan while others abstained.  And since we’ve seen support for both choices from all ranges of the social and economic spectrums, it might be easier than the politicians and lobbyists in Washington would have us believe.

It wouldn’t take a lot of taxes for the government to provide only essential and constitutional services for all, and then let people voluntarily use and fund everything else as they choose.

 That way whether we go together like peas and carrots, or oil and water, at least we wouldn’t be so disappointed and upset all the time.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hope springs eternal.....

            I don’t know when Grandpa Bowman’s hair fell out. He was bald as long as I could remember, and even in his wedding picture. When I became old enough to think about such things, and when somebody told me that baldness is inherited from your Mother’s side of the family, I realized that someday I might be follicly challenged myself.  Grandpa had spent almost his entire life not knowing where to stop washing his face. I hoped the same fate wouldn’t befall me. And even though I hoped that it wouldn’t, I always expected that it would, and it did.

            I buy a couple of lottery tickets almost every week, hoping they will draw my numbers on Saturday night, and I will wake up a millionaire on Sunday morning. Truth be known, even though I hope I will win, I don’t really expect it, and so I always keep my alternative plan, which involves getting up and going to work in order to keep us fed, clothed, and housed.

            I imagine we all hope for some things with a reasonable expectation that they will come true. If you have children, you hope they will be successful and happy. We hope it doesn’t rain everyday of our vacation, and we hope our plane lands safely. We hope we have enough money to get through our retirement. With a little forethought and planning, none of these hopes seem to be out of reach. Except for the plane. Most of us don’t have any control over that. And the rain.

            And we probably all hope for some things we don’t really expect to happen, much like I hoped my hair wouldn’t fall out, or like my hopes of winning the lottery.

            The other day, I was chastised when I admitted that I didn’t have much hope of anything good coming out of the new administration in Washington. The only semi-reasonable expectation I have is that perhaps the anti-war left will awaken from its 8 year slumber. I had a brief but fleeting thought the left might come to a better and fonder understanding of the Tenth Amendment in light of some of the new president’s executive orders, but it passed quickly when I realized they probably realized they would be back in power in a few years, and they wouldn’t want that hanging over their heads when they were.

            I know I could be an optimist and hope our current administration would reduce the federal debt, champion individual rights, bring our troops home, and reduce the role the federal government has in our lives, but I don’t really have any expectation any of that will happen. I’m convinced my hopes would be better spent on lottery tickets and hair restorers.

            Just like when we buy lottery tickets, and hope doesn’t seem to be enough, we need an alternate plan when Washington gets out of control, which over last few years, seems to be all of the time.

            In his book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein wrote  I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

            We have reached the point where can’t expect much out of Washington, and we need to stop pinning our hopes on the federal government fixing anything. We need to take control of our lives, our hopes, and our expectations.

 I hope people understand that.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Happy New Year, I hope.....

My wife’s uncle Fred owned a bar in Hagerstown years ago, and up against the front wall sat a juke box. I don’t know if anyone has a juke box anymore, since you can listen to about anything you want to hear on your cell phone, but back then you could put a quarter in the slot and listen to three songs. I think towards the end of the juke box era, (and probably one of the things that contributed to people listening to music on their cell phones,) they raised the price to a quarter for one song. I also think when you had to pay a quarter for one people paid a little more attention to their selections.

A man came in about once a week and took out the quarters and split them with Fred, and sometimes he would put a new record or two in the line-up. The juke box had a mixture of some old and new country, and some old and new rock and roll. I thought it needed more rock and roll, but a lot of the more mature patrons thought it needed more country. Fred didn’t really care, as long as somebody kept putting quarters in the machine. He used to say “Different strokes for different folks,” which helped explain why he kept different brands of beer in the cooler and different brands of cigarettes in the cigarette machine.

Since I worked as a bartender, and spent some leisure time on the other side of the bar, I learned to enjoy some of the old country music, but I’m not sure some of the patrons ever came to appreciate the new rock and roll.

I’m sure different people still enjoy different things. Take 2016, for instance. I imagine Donald Trump will have fonder memories of it than will Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. The people that hit the $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot probably thought it turned out okay, as did Bill Gates, who was  the year’s and the world’s richest man with $75 billion.

It turned out to be a pretty good year for Cubs fans, but not so good for Harambe, who discovered that just sitting in a pen minding your own business can be fatal under some circumstances. I’ve heard people say the election in 2016 was the best we’ve ever had, and I’ve also heard people who are convinced it was the worst we’ve ever had. Whether it was the best or the worst, or somewhere in between remains to be seen. I prefer to think that while our choices were the worst ever, I’m more afraid they may only turn out to be the worst so far.

From a personal standpoint, I’ve had better years. I met my wife and started my business in 1974. That was a pretty good year. There have been years along the way when I got married, had children, had grandchildren, bought a home, made a profit, and wrote a book.

 But in 2016, we lost a sister and a sister-in-law to cancer. Our brother’s cancer reoccurred, and my wife lost 3 months to an illness the doctors couldn’t diagnose. I had a stroke, and Roy Johnson’s service station on Main Street in Hagerstown closed.

Trying to look on the brighter side, I googled “good things that happened in 2016.” My best advice to everyone would be “don’t do it.” Sure, the wild tiger population increased, and the Juno spacecraft made it to Jupiter, but other than that, it’s pretty slim pickings.

I don’t doubt that some people will look back on 2016 with great fondness, and on a personal level, some people may have had a good year, but overall, I’m ready to say goodbye to 2016, and good riddance.

Happy New Year 2017, and welcome.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Wish Book...

Back in my Millville Grade School days, before there was an internet or cyber Monday, we had something called the Sears Roebuck catalog. Every December, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and I, along with my brothers and sisters, spent hours going through that catalog circling what we wanted for Christmas. Since there were 8 of us kids, we also wrote our names by the items so there wouldn’t be any confusion about who wanted what. The really popular items usually ended up with several names beside them.

            Since we only had one catalog, we all had to take turns looking at it, and we couldn’t look at it while we were eating, since it also served as a booster seat for one of my little brothers or sisters then, or while we were getting a haircut. Still, by the time Christmas rolled around, there were names on something on about every page. I don’t know if they still make those giant catalogs. I haven’t seen one for a while. I think nowadays instead of writing your name by something you go on line and click “Add to wish list” or “Add to cart”. I don’t know what you sit on if you can’t reach the table.

            I know at the Bell household, and I’m pretty sure at the Wilmont household, nobody ever got everything they marked in the catalog. I don’t think any of us thought we would. But, there was a period of time, from Thanksgiving dinner until Christmas morning, when, much like Schrödinger’s cat, anything was possible. I never received a Mister Machine, although I wrote my name in great big letters by it every year. But one year I got a gas powered BB gun with a wooden stock. I had written my name by it, and even drawn a circle around it just to make sure Mom saw it, but I never really thought I’d get it. One of my little brothers wrote his name by it to, but I always figured he did it just to aggravate me, because I’m pretty sure he didn’t have any more idea he’d get it than I did. It remains to this day the best Christmas gift I ever got.

            There were 8 of us kids, and it seems like we always received at least one thing we had marked in the book, along with a couple things we hadn’t. And then there were always those socks, but what are you going to do?

            We just went through a contentious election, where it seemed few people were overly happy with the choices we had for president. I think a lot of people voted against a candidate instead of for a candidate, and we’ve seen some evidence that some voters chose a candidate just to aggravate the people who chose the other candidate.

            We’ve all heard predictions about how bad it’s going to be or how great it’s going to be when the new president takes office. I don’t believe it’s going to be all that bad or all that great. I think that like after every election before, everybody’s going to get something they want and something they don’t want, except for us Libertarians, who always get a whole lot more government than we want.

            So between now and inauguration day, just like at Christmas, we don’t know for sure what we’re going to get, but we can wish for anything, and it might come true.

            No matter what happens, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, even if all your wishes didn’t, or don’t, come true.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I left my modesty in Richmond Indiana…

            November got off to a bad start at our house. I was on my way to Richmond when I got a funny feeling in the left side of my face. I found out later it was what they call a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. It’s a type of mini-stroke, I’m told. I’d heard of them before, but I’m pretty sure I’d never had one before.

            At any rate, I wound up feeling better in a short while, and continued on to my scheduled interview with a local reporter. In the course of our meeting, I had a couple more TIA’s, at least that’s what the doctor said, culminating with a full blown stroke as the grand finale.

            I kind of lost track of things after that. I regained consciousness long enough to realize that a bunch of guys had removed my pants and boots, and were in the process of cutting my shirt off. I also noticed Rachel the reporter had turned her back on the proceedings. I’m not sure if she did it for my benefit or her own, but I remember thinking I sure was proud that I had taken Mom’s long standing advice and taken the time to put on clean underwear before I left home.

             I came to again with somebody yelling “Stay with me buddy” in my face. I couldn’t really answer him, but I do remember thinking “Hey, you took my pants and my wallet, you cut off my shirt, and I’m strapped to a gurney in the back of an ambulance in my underwear somewhere in Richmond. Just where would I be going?”

            When I arrived at Reid Hospital, they ran some tests, and called a helicopter to take me to another hospital in Indianapolis. When the pilot asked me if I had ever ridden in a helicopter before, I told him 50 years ago I rode in one at Canal Days in Cambridge City for 10 bucks. He said this ride would probably cost a little more than that. I hoped the reason it was going to be more expensive would be because this helicopter was a little bigger and had a heater, because it was becoming apparent to me that I was going to fly from Richmond to Indianapolis on November 3rd in my underwear.

            The hospital I landed in was IU Methodist close to downtown Indy. When we arrived there they put me in the intensive care unit, and cut off the rest of my underwear. I tried to tell them it was probably my best pair, and that I had put on special for today, but I had lost my voice by that time, and besides, everybody seemed to busy sticking stickers on me and hooking wires to them to be concerned about my underwear. I was later able to get a note from one of the nurses verifying the condition of my late briefs, so at least I have that for Mom, even if I am short a pair of shorts.

            They had a lot of doctors in that hospital. They came into my room a lot. There were brain doctors and brain surgeons, heart doctors and heart surgeons. They all seemed to know what they were doing, but I was awfully disappointed that none of them knew where they were, or even what day it was. They asked me every time they came in. I didn’t really mind telling them every day (some of them I had to tell twice a day), but I thought surely somebody would remember at least once in a while, them being doctors and all. I think they appreciated my help, because they asked me when my birthday was. I told them it was March 12th, and figured they would probably get me something nice, but then I realized they probably wouldn’t remember when my birthday was either.

            I guess a hospital is a good place to be if you need to be there, but I wasn’t overly happy about all the tubes and hoses sticking out of places that weren’t really meant to have tubes and hoses sticking out of them. It was flattering, though, to have so many people suddenly interested in my bodily functions. Even passing gas brought reactions of encouragement and approval, although now that I am home, my wife Susan’s enthusiasm for it seems to have waned a bit.

            Still, I think there were some good things that have come out of this experience so far. I was lucky or blessed to be where I was when it happened. If I had been at home alone I probably would just have laid down to let it pass. I rediscovered how wonderful our community, my friends and family are when you need them. My sister-in-law reflected on my incident, and went out and bought my brother-in-law all new underwear, just in case. So we have that.

            I think I’m getting along pretty well now, doing therapy at home and at the therapy place. I still don’t have very good balance, and I can’t swallow or talk very well, and I missed out on two Thanksgiving dinners, but other than that, I think it’s going to work out.

            So thanks for all the thoughts and prayers, and to all of you who manage to keep society rolling along when some of us take a break. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I can come back and tell you that everything worked out fine.

Running on Empty...

          A couple of weeks ago I was running a business, running for governor, and running over to Richmond for an interview with Rachel at one of our local newspapers, the Palladium-Item. In the midst of all of that, I could swear that I was also run over by a large truck. As it turns out, what actually ran over me was a stroke.

     Thanks to some quick action by Rachel, the Richmond Fire Department, Reid Health and countless others, I am well on my way to running as well as I ever did, which may or may not have been as well as I hoped, or even as well as I remember.

      The business I run is a contracting company, and we were just finishing up one job and getting ready to start on another. Thanks to my brother Ross, who has been with me for 42 years, and some understanding customers who are also our friends, it looks like continuing to run the business may come off without a hitch.

       I spent election day and week flat on my back in a hospital bed in Indianapolis. It’s the first time in nine elections that I wasn’t standing at the polls asking for votes all day. And while I would have preferred to spend the day at the polls, it turns out the results were about the same wherever I spent the day. Much as I suspected, I didn’t win the election, just as most Libertarian candidates on the ballot didn’t win the election.

         Libertarians are running on a platform that most people don’t want to deal with. We advocate for a constitutionally limited government. I attended a lot of forums and meetings in my campaign for governor, and I found most people who want limited government only want to limit it in ways that benefit them. The general consensus seems to be “it’s only pork if someone else is getting it.” Believe me, I understand how seductive that line of reasoning can be when it goes up against the personal responsibility that is necessary for a limited government to succeed.

        Libertarians run for office because every election, more and more people understand why we run. More than 86,000 voters cast their ballot for me this year, and more than 4 million voters gave Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson the nod. Some because they value personal freedom and responsibility over the stifling nanny state, and some because they recognize the unsustainability of a system where more people want to ride the wagon than want to pull it, and the fallacy of a government that rewards sloth and punishes initiative.

         At one of the forums I attended, a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives expressed his concern that people were being released from prison, and were then being forced to wait up to four weeks before they started receiving their government checks again. He promised to do something about it.

           I hope one of these elections you will promise to do something about it also. I know I have.

           Thank you all for your prayers and support.

            I’ll see you when I’m up and running again.