Monday, April 18, 2016

Getting over it....

Mom and Dad brought 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls, into the world in a span of 14 years. We spent most of those years, and several afterwards, in an old farmhouse that was pretty big, but not always big enough for 8 kids. It seemed that quite often there was some reason, real or imagined, for someone to be mad at one or all of their siblings, or for the boys to mad at the girls, or for the girls to be mad at the boys.

            Dad, who turned out to be the default referee for most of those disagreements, would listen to both sides of the complaint if he had time, or shush us if he didn’t, and then simply explain, “Well, you have two choices. You can either stay mad, or you can get over it.” As it turned out, Dad was right as usual, and for the most part, whatever we were upset about passed in a day or two, and we moved on to being mad about, and getting over, something else.

            There were a few times when one of us decided to stay mad, but after a while, we forgot what we were mad about, and realized that nobody else remembered or cared what we were mad about, so we eventually got over it whether we wanted to or not.

            People all over the country seem to be a lot madder than they used to be, especially when they start discussing politics and the upcoming election. Some people got mad 8 years ago and haven’t gotten over it yet. Those same people might get over it if their party wins in November, but then all the people who were mad 16 years ago and got over it 8 years ago will get mad again and not get over it for a while.

            I was thinking about the reasons why my siblings and I were more apt to get over being mad than people than people today, and I believe a lot of it comes down to power and force. I might have been terribly upset with one of my brothers  because he wouldn’t help build a straw fort in the hay mow, but in the end I knew I couldn’t force him to help, and I also knew he couldn’t force me to help him on one of his projects if I chose not to.

            We don’t enjoy those options after the elections when the winners get to make the rules, and then use the government to force the losers to comply. Every law or program the government adopts is backed up with force, or the threat of force. The choices others make voluntarily as individuals might tend to upset us for a while, but as long as they can’t force us to make the same choices, we stand a chance of getting over it fairly quickly. When the government gets involved, our options and choices become very limited.

            It’s one of the things that attracted me to the libertarian philosophy. If a law doesn’t serve to protect everybody from the initiation of force or fraud, it really isn’t any of the government’s business. Anything beyond that is a matter for individuals to handle privately, and if people decide they want the government to regulate and manage some aspect of their lives, they need to submit to that regulation voluntarily.

            A lot of people get mad when Libertarians push for a smaller, limited government, but I’m convinced if we would give it a try, they would get over it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

A place for everything......

     When I traded trucks a couple of years ago, I opted for an extended cab model, so I could keep some of my daily use tools in the back seat. It seemed like a good idea at the time, since lifting them out of the cross-over tool box on my old truck was getting a little more difficult with each advancing year. It still seemed like a good idea when I organized them and loaded them into the bags, boxes, and racks on the floor and seat behind me.

      It didn’t seem like such a good idea after a couple of years of taking tools out and putting them back in an unassigned bag, box or rack, or in a different truck or trailer. It finally reached the point where I had to unload the tools, sort out what didn’t belong there, gather up what did, and start the re-loading process again. Afterwards, I made a solemn vow that I would be more diligent about putting and keeping things where they belong.

      I know this isn’t a new problem. When I was a young lad my Dad had some boards nailed up on the wall behind his work bench in the garage. It was before the days of pegboard, or at least before I had seen pegboard, so Dad would drive 2 or 3 strategically placed nails in the board, and hang his hammer, or pliers, or wrenches, or whatever other tools he had on the nails. Then he took a big pencil and traced around each tool so there wasn’t any question where each tool belonged. In the meantime Mom and Dad had 8 children, including 4 boys, and before too long Dad’s tool organizer simply became a display of what tools were missing, and where they were supposed to be. Although he hasn’t mentioned it to me, I’m sure Dad gets some well-deserved vengeful pleasure when I rummage through my back seat grumbling about missing tools.

       I read the other day that President Obama had submitted his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. It bumps federal spending up $223 billion over the current budget, to $4.15 trillion. (That’s $4,150,000,000,000.00 if you’re counting zeros.) I’m confident his opposition in congress will fight to limit the increase in spending to $221 billion or so, and then they’ll pat themselves on the back and expect the taxpayers to be thankful for saving us so much money.

       It kind of makes you wonder how the government ended up where it is nowadays. Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution was put in place to keep the government in its place. It lists the limited powers the people granted to the government, and all of them combined wouldn’t cost $4.15 trillion since the country was founded, let alone per year. And it wouldn’t have us $19 trillion in debt.

       Somewhere along the line, sometimes a little bit at a time, we forgot where government belonged. We stopped expecting it to simply protect us from force and fraud, and started using it to force our neighbors to provide for our retirement and health care. We stood by as it took our money and gave it to businesses that couldn’t or wouldn’t support themselves, and even when it taxed us for things it was granted the authority to do, it spent the money on things it wasn’t granted the authority to do.

         The good news is every once in a while we have the chance to clean things up and put things back where they belong. Our next chance will come along in November. Right now things are in such a mess it’s going to take a lot of effort to put things back in place. It’s probably not something we can do in one election, but it’s something we need to get started on right away.

          My Dad used to say those tools didn’t just walk away on their own, and they’re not going to put themselves back where they belong on their own, either.

          Dad was right.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

They're baaack.....

       I checked my records, and most years the buzzards return en masse to Hagerstown on March 12th, give or take a day. In 2009, they returned on March 5th. This year they returned on February 28th. I think it means we are going to have an early spring. Susan thinks I need to find another hobby.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Plan B....

I didn’t win the Powerball jackpot a couple of weeks ago when it was over a billion dollars. I honestly didn’t believe I would, knowing the odds of that happening were about 292,000,000 to 1.  But I also knew if I didn’t buy a ticket, the odds would be even higher. And since winning the lottery is part of my retirement plan, I thought I better give it a shot. I buy a ticket every week as part of that plan. I call it “Plan B.” But I also put a little money in the bank, and invest a little in the stock market. So far saving and investing have worked out a little better than the lottery plan, but I still think it’s a good idea to have some diversity in accomplishing your long range goals, even if the odds of some of those plans working out are a little longer than others.

            I felt the same way when I started a construction business 42 years ago. While I stopped short of naming it the “We’ll Do Anything For A Buck Construction Company,” we did offer a wide range of services to keep us busy in case the public decided paneling and ceiling tile were no longer in vogue. While that philosophy has managed to keep the family clothed and fed for 42 years, I’m still buying that lottery ticket every Saturday. And keeping my options open.

            227 years ago some people got together and came up with a Constitution that spelled out what our newly formed federal government should be allowed to do. They started out granting it about 17duties in Article 1, Section 8 of that Constitution, and then the citizens added a few more over the years whenever they felt the need for one.

            I think a lot of them also knew, as Thomas Jefferson warned, that “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” And being aware of that, they also came up with a “Plan B.” They put it in the Bill of Rights, and called it the Tenth Amendment. It states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”  So that when the federal government started making laws it wasn’t authorized to make, like maybe about education or healthcare, the states and the people could nullify those unauthorized laws.

            While we may not all agree on exactly what the federal government is allowed to do, just about everybody agrees it’s doing some things it shouldn’t be doing. And a growing number of us think it’s doing a lot of things it shouldn’t be doing. And there’s a better than average chance that after the next election, it’s going to be doing a lot more things that a lot more of us don’t think it should be doing.

            It’s a pretty safe bet the federal government isn’t going to limit itself. That’s why it is so important that the states and the people understand the power they have in the Tenth Amendment, and use it to nullify the federal government back within the confines of the Constitution.

            After all, what do we have to lose?



Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year,Again...

“Happy New Year!” That seems to be the popular greeting for the next couple of weeks. It replaces “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!”, which replaced “Happy Thanksgiving!” a month or so before.  After the New Year’s euphoria is over, we’ll probably go back to the more generic “hello” and “how’s it going?” until Thanksgiving rolls around again. I don’t know why “Happy Valentine’s Day!” never really caught on outside of our most intimate friends, and I don’t recall anyone ever wishing me a “Happy Memorial Day!” or a “Happy Arbor Day!”   I wonder if it’s because we have so many holidays, or maybe it’s because a simple “hello” doesn’t seem to require the obligatory smile the seasonal greetings do.

One of the many greetings I’ve heard in these parts for most of my life is “Are you staying out of trouble?”  I suppose, like most people, my answer to that particular question has changed over the years. In my younger days the answer most of the time would have been “no”.  As I grew a little older the answer changed to “I’m trying”, and eventually ended up as a “yes”, partially, I think, because I just don’t have the energy to get into trouble anymore.

I’ve also made a few adjustments in my lifestyle over the last 63 years, many times in the form of New Year’s resolutions, hoping to avoid different types of trouble. I gave up cigarettes and alcohol about 30 years ago. I replaced the cigarettes with chewing tobacco, and the alcohol with Mountain Dew, for a while, but eventually decided I could probably get by just fine without either of those vices as well. I read somewhere that if people who smoked and drank would add up all the money they spent on beer and cigarettes, it would be enough to buy a Mercedes-Benz. When I started they both cost 45 cents, so I probably would have to settle for a pre-owned model.

I don’t drive faster than the speed limit for the most part, and I try to obey most of the stop signs that I see. I got rid of our 40 foot extension ladder a few years ago, and last fall I decided our second story gutters on the house probably didn’t absolutely need to be cleaned out just because the first story gutters were full.

I don’t watch much television anymore, not necessarily because I made a conscious effort to stop watching, but more because it kept getting harder to find anything worth watching. Sometimes I still listen to it, but that’s not usually my choice or fault.

I decided to lose 30 pounds a few months back. I lost 20, but found 4 of them again after too many “Happy Holidays!” I think it will be easier to lose them again now that I don’t have to smile as much.

Last year my wife made a New Year’s resolution for me that I would see a doctor at least once a year. She also made an appointment with a doctor for me, and before it was all over I ended up seeing two doctors three times, and taking some pills almost every morning that are supposed to keep my heart beat up and my blood pressure down. I always thought one would just take care of the other, but everybody involved told me I wasn’t a doctor, and that I should just shut up and take my medicine, which I mostly do.

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to give up or take up this year. There’s a distinct possibility I’ve reached the age where I just don’t have that much to give up. And I guess I’m just a little disappointed that with everything I’ve already given up, I don’t feel any better or have more money than I do. Or that I’m not driving a Mercedes.

At any rate, whatever New Year’s resolution you decide to undertake, I hope it all works out for you, and that you end feeling better or saving money, or both.

 And good luck with your Mercedes.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christmas Miracle...

So I stopped in to visit with Mom and Dad a few nights ago to get Mom’s Christmas decorations down out of the attic so that she wouldn’t try to climb the ladder and get them down herself, and Dad was still wearing his new pants and a new shirt that he had put on that morning because he had two doctor appointments that day and Mom won’t let him wear his comfortable sweat pants when he has a doctor appointment. But after we got the decorations down and while we were talking Dad decided he had to go to the bathroom, so he grabbed his walker and headed back to the bathroom, and while he was in the bathroom he decided he might as well go on back to the bedroom and change in to his sweat pants since he didn’t have any more doctor appointments that day.

            So I was still in the front room talking to Mom when we heard Dad call “Phyllis!, Phyllis!” from the bedroom. So Mom gets up and hurries back to the bedroom, and in a few minutes she hurries back to the front room, past me, and out in to the garage where she gets a pair of pliers and then hurries back to the bedroom again.

            So I think I’m probably better off to just sit still and mind my own business, which I did, until I heard Mom and Dad holler “Rex!, Rex!” from the bedroom, so I hurried back and saw Dad lying on the bed and Mom standing over him with a pair of pliers in her hand, and Dad explained that after he went to the bathroom he tried to zip up his new pants and got his new shirt caught in the zipper, but he managed to hold his pants up with one hand and push his walker with his other hand until he made it to the bedroom where he sat down on the bed and continued to pull on the zipper until he gave up and called to Mom to come help, which she did, but she couldn’t budge the zipper either, so she went and got some pliers, and I told them I already knew that part.

            So Dad asked if I could get the zipper unstuck, which I tried to do, but couldn’t, so I tried with the pliers, but I still couldn’t, and Dad said it would be a miracle if we ever got it unstuck, so Mom tried to help again, holding on to the pliers with both hands and her feet propped against the footboard of the bed, and I was holding on the pliers with one hand and the knob on the Grandma’s big dresser drawer that they hadn’t been able to open for years with the other, and Dad was holding on to the headboard like grim death, and we jerked and pulled until Dad lost his grip and ended up on the floor with the drawer that hadn’t been opened for years on the floor beside him, but not before we managed to tear off the little hangy-down part of the zipper, but it was still stuck on his new shirt.

            So we helped Dad back up on the bed, and picked up Grandpa’s false teeth that fell out of the drawer when it came open that nobody had seen for 40 years, and Mom went over to her sewing basket and brought out a great big pair of scissors, and I asked Dad if he had done anything to upset Mom in the last few days, and he said not to the best of his recollection, so he decided it would be alright for her to use the scissors around the zipper area, which she did, and cut a hole in Dad’s new shirt, so he could get his sweat pants on.

            Mom thinks she can fix the shirt, since the part she cut on will be tucked inside of Dad’s new pants as soon as he gets them, but I don’t think anybody wants to try to save those pants. But Dad thought it was indeed a miracle that we got the shirt loose from the zipper, and Mom said it was a miracle that we got the drawer on the dresser open, and I thought it was a miracle that we found Grandpa’s teeth, and we all agreed that was exactly what it was, a Christmas miracle!

            So Merry Christmas, and God bless us, everyone.

And I promised Dad I wouldn’t tell anybody about any of this, so I’m trusting that none of you will mention it to him. Thanks.


Monday, November 30, 2015

I believe we ought to be a little worried....

          Santa Claus is coming to town! Maybe. My wife and I have seven grandchildren, and some of the older ones have been influenced by the naysayers at school, to the point that a mention of Santa by the younger ones brings on winks and rolled eyes. I knew it would happen sooner or later, although I must admit I was pulling for later, and grandchildren certainly make Christmas a lot more fun, regardless of what they believe.

            I know we don’t all believe the same things, and I know sometimes we change what we believe. Back at Millville Grade School, my old Buddy Stinky Wilmont believed he could predict the severity of the upcoming winter by the amount of black hair on a wooly worm. Of course, we all knew how silly that was. Max Hiatt up north of Mooreland was about the only guy around who could do that. But nobody said too much to Stinky about it, because it didn’t really matter what he thought, and we knew how to get ahold of Max if we needed to.

            Stinky also believed you could ward off arthritis if you carried a buckeye around in your left pants pocket. We had some buckeye trees in our woods, so I always gathered some up in the fall, both to pass out as gifts, and to make sure I always had one to carry myself. I believe it worked for 60 years or so, but here lately my knees have started aching pretty bad. I don’t believe buckeyes nowadays are as good as they used to be.

            Sometimes people worry about what some people believe more than they worry about what other people believe at other times. Most of the time I don’t worry about what other people believe, as long as they don’t try to force their beliefs on me, and as long as they let me believe what I want to believe, even if they don’t believe it.

            Right now, there’s a bunch of people who are trying to get nominated so one of them can get elected to be our president. Most of them are practicing Christians, (although some may be practicing more than others), which historically is a good thing if you want to get elected. A report from Pew Research last year showed that a majority of Americans would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who doesn’t believe in God. But one of the candidates found himself on the hot seat when he stated he believed in Creationism. Apparently there is a limit on what you’re allowed to believe, even if you’re a Christian.

            Now, like I said, I don’t really worry about what people believe, as long as they leave other people alone. I do tend to worry about what they believe if they won’t leave other people alone. So far, every candidate out there believes they have some pre-existing claim to your income and property. They believe they know better than you how you should handle your retirement and your healthcare, and they believe they know better than you which people and what nations are worthy of your charity. They also believe it’s alright to use the force of government to take whatever they want and to make sure you do what they believe.

            That worries me.