Friday, December 30, 2011

Fictional Friday: Rebecca

Rebecca is twenty-three years old. She has autism and a mild intellectual disability.  Rebecca is a slender, small-framed young lady, with shoulder-length brown hair and chestnut colored eyes.  Her delicate feminine features highlight the tender feelings that she sometimes displays (which is unusual for many people with autism).  Rebecca is quick with a smile (or can just as easily break into tears).  She is inquisitive, friendly, and loves art.  Rebecca is very routine oriented, and being on a tight schedule is extremely important to her. If things deviate from that schedule Rebecca has a difficult adjusting. Rebecca loves music, and enjoys listening to her favorite music on an Ipad. In fact, she is quite techno-savvy and easily navigates the device and her favorite websites. She wants a boyfriend, and maybe someday to get married. She wants to eventually have a community-based job. Rebecca essentially desires the same things that most young ladies her age want. Rebecca shares more similarities with young women in her age group than the differences that seemingly sets her apart.  She wants to belong, and deserves to be included in a world that often segregates people that are 'different.'

Rebecca's parents were very proactive once Rebecca received the autism diagnosis as a small child, reading and researching everything they could get their hands on relating to autism. They joined support groups, attended seminars, and became vocal advocates for their daughter at school IEP meetings. They are very protective, but realize that the day will come when she will need additional assistance beyond natural supports.

Rebecca was on the wait list since she was eleven years old, and is one of the fortunate individuals who is now on the Medicaid waiver program. She has what is called the SS Waiver (Support Services). It is limited in scope, and has a capped budget of only $13,500 per year. Although is does't allow for any community-based residential supports, it does provides provisions for day services programming and gives Rebecca an opportunity to attend a sheltered workshop and participate in meaningful life skills classes. Rebecca is learning how to better interact with her co-workers and adapting to real-life, changing scenarios that are beyond her control. She is learning important skills that will help her become more self-sufficient down the road. Rebecca also belongs to a group at the local community arts program. She attends a program which is geared towards those with autism. The program teaches socialization skills through the use of acting and singing. She regularly sings and participates in their major shows twice each year. And she's actually quite good.

Rebecca is one of the success stories, and is very lucky to have some supports that will help her be more independent. She has talents, skills, and deserves to have a place in our world in which she is accepted and included.











Note: Rebecca is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals I regularly encounter. Characters who appear in my "Fictional Friday" posts are based on people with real stories with particular details, names, and certain specific circumstances changed so as to protect privacy.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Trivia Tuesday: December 27th, 2011 Answers

10.  There are only 4 common words in the English language that do not rhyme with any other words. Three of these words share a common characteristic. What are the 4 words? Month, Silver, Orange, and Purple

9.  This animal's eye is bigger than it's brain. Ostrich

8.  These two men, who were Founding Fathers, previous US Presidents, and  signers of the Declaration of Independence, died on the same day, July 4th, 1826, fifty years to the day after the birth of America. Answer: Thomas Jefferson & John Adams. There is a rich history involving the acrimonious relationship between these two men. It is often repeated that John Adams, on that fateful July the 4th, at the age of 91, collapsed into his favorite reading chair, saying, "Jefferson still survives!" before he dying around 6:20pm.  He was wrong, as Jefferson had died earlier that day around 1pm.

7. What was the first man-made device that caused a "sonic-boom?" Answer: A bull-whip. The crack you hear from snapping a whip is caused by the end of the whip traveling faster than the speed of sound, breaking the sound-barrier, resulting in a small sonic-boom.

6. This is the only known animal that can contract & spread leprosy to humans. Armadillos

5. This future Soviet dictator studied for the priesthood at a Jesuit seminary, with ambitions of serving in the Orthodox Church, before he was drawn into revolutionary circles and Marxism. Joseph Stalin

4.  This famous bank robber also played semi-professional baseball in Indiana. John Dillinger.

3.  What did Al Capone's business card say? His business card read, "Alphonse Capone, Secondhand Furniture Dealer, 2220 South Wabash Avenue."

2.  Indiana was home to one of the world's few female serial killers. Who was she? Belle Gunness. This a fascinating story, and an intriguing part of Indiana history!

1.  Facebook has how many users? Over 800 million active users, 75% of which are outside the United States!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Trivia Tuesday: December 27th, 2011


10.  There are only 4 common words in the English language that do not rhyme with any other words. Three of these words share a common characteristic. What are the 4 words?

9.  This animal's eye is bigger than it's brain.

8.  These two men, who were Founding Fathers, previous US Presidents, and  signers of the Declaration of Independence, died on the same day, July 4th, 1826, fifty years to the day after the birth of America.

7. What was the first man-made device that caused a "sonic-boom?"

6. This is the only known animal that can contract & spread leprosy to humans.

5. This future Soviet dictator studied for the priesthood at a Jesuit seminary, with ambitions of serving in the Orthodox Church, before he was drawn into revolutionary circles and Marxism.

4.  This famous bank robber also played semi-professional baseball in Indiana.

3.  What did Al Capone's business card say?

2.  Indiana was home to one of the world's few female serial killers. Who was she?

1.  Facebook has how many users?



Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dave's top 10 Christmas Songs

Ok, believe it or not I'm not really one for lot's of Christmas music. I find many musician's Christmas albums gaudy, somewhat annoying, and ringing a little hollow.  But I do have a few that I do really enjoy, and some, without which would just not be Christmas to me. Here are my picks for the top 10 Best Christmas Songs:


10. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) by Nat King Cole

9. White Christmas by Bing Crosby

8. A Mad Russian's Christmas by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra

7. Christmas Canon Rock by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra

6. Silent Night by Mannheim Steamroller 

5. O Holy Night by David Phelps

4. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Morning by Casting Crowns

3. The Carol of the Bells by Mannheim Steamroller (If you've ever seen them in concert, you know they have a superb light show...spectacular!)

2. Mary Did You Know by Mark Lowry

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Mannheim Steamroller (there's actually 2 parts of this song, this is the 2nd part). 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fictional Friday: Teddy

Theodore sat in his wheelchair, watching the family cat swat at a toy ball on the floor. There is a glint of amusement in his hazel colored eyes as watches the tabby cat chase the bright red toy across the room. Theodore, or "Teddy" as he is called by his parents, is twenty-eight years old. Teddy has cerebral palsy, is intellectually disabled, has significant speech deficits, and numerous health problems. Teddy is a pleasant young man, friendly to all who meet him. Teddy has a boyish, round face, a medium build, short-cropped dark hair, and it's obvious his parents are fastidious about his appearance and hygiene. Teddy is particularly fond of the Indianapolis Colts and Pacers, and today is wearing a Colt's sweatshirt and new sneakers. Teddy has a wonderful sense of humor, and a great laugh.

Teddy's family is quintessentially blue-collar. His parents both work full-time, and are struggling to keep their heads above water. Teddy's father is a truck-driver, on the road several days each week, and his mother waitresses at a local restaurant. Teddy's father had a good paying job at a local factory, but his job was one of thousands eliminated when manufacturing closings struck the area about ten years ago. His company moved operations across the border. After unemployment ran out, the family found themselves walking a financial tightrope and filed for bankruptcy. Teddy's care and health needs became increasingly challenging, and Teddy's father struggled to find steady employment with affordable health insurance. He finally landed a job driving a semi-truck after several stints at minimum-wage jobs with no benefits.

Teddy needs assistance in almost every aspect of daily-living, from the time he gets up of a morning until he goes to bed at night. Throughout the night, his parent's get up to turn him (to prevent bed sores) and assist him with toileting. Teddy requires assistance with bathing, getting dressed, meals, and almost everything else that most of us take for granted without thinking twice. Teddy's mother provides the majority of Teddy's care by herself when the father is on the road, and relies on extended family members to help when she is at work. They also recently started receiving some home health care assistance a few hours per week.  Teddy's parents do not easily ask for outside help. The family just recently learned about the Medicaid Waiver, and were encouraged that they may someday receive some much-needed in-home supports for Teddy. Unfortunately, he will be almost forty-years old and his parents will be in their sixties before his name comes off of the incredibly long wait list.

His family is protective, and ask lots of questions about the kinds of staff that might come into their home someday. Teddy's parents are hard-working, and pride themselves on their self-reliance. It's awkward for them to seek out help, but know in the long-run they won't always be able to provide for Teddy's needs. They acknowledge difficult scenarios down the road. They feel they have already relied too much on their extended family's generosity, and worry about what happens to Teddy if something happens to them.

Difficult questions, for a difficult situation. There are no quick and easy solutions. I do my best to give them helpful answers, but honestly, none really will help them anytime soon. What I do know is that Teddy is genuinely loved by his family, and they just want the best for him.

Note: Teddy is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals I regularly encounter. Characters who appear in my "Fictional Friday" posts are based on real stories with particular details, names, and certain specific circumstances changed so as to protect privacy.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's in a Name?

"A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, and favor is better than silver and gold."                   
                                                                                  ~King Solomon, (Proverbs 22:1)


A name is an interesting thing. Expecting mothers can spend hours looking at lists of names in baby name books. When you hear certain names, they often conjure up mental pictures instantly. Theodore. Vladimir. Elvis. Wilbur. Orville. Madonna. Alfred. Lucille. Edgar. Katrina. Bono. Adolf. Fidel. Ernest. Benjamin. Enrique. Barack. Newt. Ebeneezer. I think you get the picture.  Most people would wisely refuse to give their children certain names that have negative associations, and gladly name them after those they admire. 

Popular names in one generation can quickly fall out of fashion in the next. Some celebrities have given their offspring very unique names. Can you image when these kids get to be 16, and trying to keep a straight face if you were the BMV employee issuing these kids their driver's license after they show their birth certificate? Uh...so, "Moxie Crimefighter Jillette" is your real name?!?  

A name is something that one typically has forever. A few years ago, my wife and I spent some time researching our family's genealogy. As was often the case a few generations ago, families were quite large, often consisting of thirteen, fourteen children. It was fascinating to read the list of the children's names, many that died in infancy. Many names are seldom heard today, like Eli or Elam. 

As a person of faith, I've always found the many names of God intriguing. As we celebrate Christmas, we often hear several names in reference to Jesus (at least 198 different names and titles). Biblically, there is usually great significance in the meaning behind names. For example, the name Nathaniel means "Gift of God." 

Let's just say I'm glad my parents didn't name me "Azmaveth." He was one of King David's famous warriors. Some say it means "he-goat" (other sources interpret it "strong as death", which isn't so bad, I guess). Or try out "Nergal-Sharezer the Rab-Mag." Pity his time on play-ground!

Anyhow...I thought I would list some interesting websites relating to names and their meanings. Kinda fun, especially if you're nerdy like me (don't let that discourage you!).






Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Trivia Tuesday: December 20th, 2011: Christmas Trivia Answers

10. This item is sold more often at Christmas time than at any other time of year. (Hint: it's been around for thousands of years).  Diamonds. I bet most women wouldn't mind getting this lump of coal in their stocking! And it's believed that diamonds are approximately 3.3 billions years old, and some are actually from star dust, the remnants of dying suns much older than than our solar system! How's that for a mind-blower?

9.  What movie appears more often on television than any other at Christmas time? It's a Wonderful Life

8.  Rudolph was originally created for this national store for their holiday promotion in the 1930's. Montgomery Ward

7.  Who was the first US President to have the White House decorated for Christmas?  Franklin Pierce

6.  This city on our East Coast banned Christmas. Boston

5.  This state was the first to officially recognize Christmas as a holiday. Alabama, in 1836.

4.  This Christmas song was originally written for Thanksgiving. Jingle Bells

3.   If you received all of the gifts in the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," how many gifts would you receive? It's not 78 as some commonly believe. It's 364. And if you include the Christ Child, and that make one for every day of the year!

2.  What historical group of people banned mentioning St. Nicholas, lighting candles, singing Christmas carols, and exchanging gifts. The Puritans. 

1.  What is the significant symbolical meaning behind each of the gifts from the wise men?

Many Christians believe that the three gifts held important symbolism. 


Gold was not easily obtained in biblical times as digging instruments were primitive. Gold was precious and extremely valuable, as it is today. It represents kingship, and is one of the only metals that does not lose it's natural color and other properties when heated by fire...much like our faith, if it's genuine.  


Frankincense is from the sap of the arbor thurisfrom tree, found primarily in Persia, India, Arabia, and the East Indies. It is sweet, and can be used in a couple of ways. Besides its obvious use as a perfume, it was most commonly burned as an incense during worship. Being very fragrant, it surely helped with smell of the stable. Frankincense represents the divinity of Christ---the Hebrew people burned it as an offering to Jehovah, and serves as a reminder that our worship should be pleasing to Him.  


Myrrh is also made tree sap (from the balsamodendron myrrha tree), but is bitter. It was used for both it's perfume and medicinal qualities, and the latter would have been helpful for Mary and Joseph as they traveled. It's also interesting to note that myrrh was also used as an embalming preservative. Many believe myrrh represents the "bitter cup" of suffering from which Christ drank, and our healing that comes from his suffering and death. 


And thanks to my fellow blogger, Valerie, I re-read the verses to "We Three Kings." Read them carefully, if you dare.

Trivia Tuesday: December 20th, 2011: Christmas!


10. This item is sold more often at Christmas time than at any other time of year. (Hint: it's been around for thousands of years).

9.  What movie appears more often on television than any other at Christmas time?

8.  Rudolph was originally created for this national store for their holiday promotion in the 1930's.

7.  Who was the first US President to have the White House decorated for Christmas?

6.  This city on our East Coast banned Christmas.

5.  This state was the first to officially recognize Christmas as a holiday.

4.  This Christmas song was originally written for Thanksgiving.

3.   If you received all of the gifts in the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," how many gifts would you receive?

2.  What historical group of people banned mentioning St. Nicholas, lighting candles, singing Christmas carols, and exchanging gifts.

1.  What is the significant symbolical meaning behind each of the gifts from the wise men?  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Time's 50 Best iPhone Apps in 2011

If you've got an iPhone...then you're probably an Angry Birds addict. There's nothing better to kill time while waiting in line at your local Wallyworld then sling-shotting birds through the air at little green pigs! But there are several other great apps out there for your iPhone, many of which are free. Time Magazine is known for their annual year's end list...and they list their top 50 Best iPhone applications for 2011 here. Enjoy! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fictional Friday: Carla

Her long, stringy grayish hair swept across the shoulder of her worn, tattered second hand winter coat. The crows feet bordering her eyes reflected a lifetime of hardship and worry. She has a certain look in her eyes that makes you wonder what all she has seen. She is missing several teeth, and badly needs to see a dentist. Her name is Carla, and today has no where to live. Carla is what we call "dually-diagnosed"...she has both an intellectual disability and a mentally illness. Carla has bounced around from place to place, and most recently ended up in my office looking for help. She has difficulty conforming to societal expectations. Carla is strong-willed, suspicious of others, a bit anti-social, and pretty much burns every bridge she encounters.

Carla is 63 years old. She lived in a state institution in Northern Oregon for several years after her mother was murdered by her father. Her father died in prison while serving a life sentence. There are no other interested family members. Carla's life has been far from perfect, and is well acquainted with dysfunction and abuse. After being released from the state facility, Carla lives a weary, nomadic life. At one point she lived with a group of gypsies who traveled the country who scammed people along the way. After being left behind somewhere in Iowa, she somehow made the return to her home town.

Carla has a difficult time following rules. She has been kicked out of various shelters for non-compliance and 'behavioral issues.' She has difficulty with maintaining her Medicaid benefits, and often finds herself without the ability to pay for her prescription medications (which are much needed for her stability). She has been exploited in almost every way imaginable: financially, sexually, and otherwise. Carla's IQ is below the curve of 'normal' but just high enough to disqualify her from being eligible for the Medicaid Waiver. If given the right supports, Carla would still be a challenge wherever she lives, but she could be given the assistance and oversight that would ensure her health, safety and stability, and she would perhaps have some measure of a quality of life.

After making several calls to places out of town, I locate a women's program three counties away that agrees to take Carla. A faith-based program that is long-term. I am sure Carla will be back...but there are no easy answers.  


Note: Carla is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals I regularly encounter. Characters who appear in my "Fictional Friday" posts are based on real stories with particular details, names, and certain specific circumstances changed so as to protect privacy.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Edsel

Old Edsel sign in Marion, Indiana

Trivia Tuesday: Dec 13: Daver's Top 10 Trivia Questions

10. The Gerber baby was thought to be the baby picture of what famous actor?

9.  When this famous musician's album first came out in the 1980's, many fans believed the seven digit UPC code on the back of the album was actually the artist's telephone number. Thousands of people all over the country dialed the number in hopes of talking to this famous singer (resulting in many frustrated people in various area codes who were receiving numerous calls everyday just because they happen to have this particular phone number). Who was this famous singer and what album? (Small hint: the number wasn't 867-5309).

8. What person, a non-cast member, makes an appearance or is mentioned in every Seinfeld episode?

7. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go to find the letter "A"?

6. What is the only food that doesn't spoil?

5. What occurs more often in December than in any other month?

4. The average American drinks how many sodas per year?

3.  What famous inventor was afraid of the dark?

2.  Although it is often said that President Kennedy was the youngest US President, this is inaccurate. Who was the youngest person to ever serve as President of the USA? (If you know me very well, you knew I had throw this in!)

1. Prior to becoming President, this man never lived in the same place long enough to register to vote. What US President never voted in a Presidential election until he voted for himself?




Monday, December 12, 2011

Trivia Tuesday: Dec 13th Answers


10. The Gerber baby was thought to be the baby picture of what famous actor?  Humphrey Bogart. Bogart's mother (Maud Humphrey) was a very successful commercial illustrator, and had drawn & used baby Humphrey's image for a company that made baby food (Mellins). But not Gerbers. Humphrey was almost 30 years old when Gerbers got into the baby food business in 1928.    

9.  When this famous musician's album first came out in the 1980's, many fans believed the seven digit UPC code on the back of the album was actually the artist's telephone number. Thousands of people all over the country dialed the number in hopes of talking to this famous singer (resulting in many frustrated people who were receiving numerous calls everyday just because they happen to have this particular phone number). Who was this famous singer and what album? (Small hint: the number wasn't 867-5309).
Michael Jackson, "Thriller"

8. What person, a non-cast member, makes an appearance or is mentioned in every Seinfeld episode?  Superman

7. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go to find the letter "A"? Thousand

6. What is the only food that doesn't spoil? Honey

5. What occurs more often in December than in any other month?  Conception. 

4. The average American drinks how many sodas per year?  600

3.  What famous inventor was afraid of the dark? Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb. Ironic, isn't it? It is also said that when he died every light was on in his home. 

2.  Although it is often said that President Kennedy was the youngest man to ever serve as US President, this is inaccurate. Who was the youngest person to serve as President of the USA? (If you know me very well, you knew I had throw this in!)  Theodore Roosevelt. He was William McKinley's VP and became president after McKinley's assassination in 1901 at the age of 42.  President Kennedy was the youngest man ELECTED president. 

1. Prior to becoming President, this man never lived in the same place long enough to register to vote. What US President never voted in a Presidential election until he voted for himself?  Zachary Taylor. 

Starbucks gift--12 Days of Christmas

Ok, this is kind of an appropriate post considering my previous post earlier today. While at Starbucks this morning it was brought to my attention by one of their very kind baristas that today is the last promo for their 12 Days of Christmas. Today's promo is a 16 oz tumbler, and if you purchase it today, you get free coffee for the whole month of January (if you bring in the tumbler). It is $20.00, and if you drink as much coffee as I do, you will be ahead of the game. This is a great Christmas gift idea if you're looking for something for someone who drinks coffee. Since today is the 12th, today is the last day to purchase the tumbler. Happy Monday!

http://merry.starbucks.com/en-us/#/12-days-of-sharing/day-12

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Manic Mondays: Coffee is more than a necessity!



Ok....I am an caffeine addict, and also have a bit of OCD.  Certain things are a must, without compromise.  As sure as Mondays are long, and hard (especially getting back into the right frame of mind to get the work week started all over again), there are a couple of things that must accompany that Monday morning ritual to make it, well, a bit more tolerable.

First, there must be good coffee. Not just any coffee, but really good, strong, fully leaded, dark roast coffee.  It must be strong, but not bitter. It must be made in a good pot, with fresh, cold water. The pot must get hot enough to ensure it brews to just the right temp.  And the coffee can be whole beans, or recently freshly ground. But beans that have been ground just a minute or so before being brewed is really great. And it really should be dark roasted for a good, strong taste.

I started drinking coffee when I was around 8 years old.  One of my fondest memories of drinking coffee was with my grandfather, at his kitchen table.  He had an old yellow rubber-maid sugar container, with a lid that opened on one end.  And his coffee cups were old Fire-Kings, and I remember some of them being green and others being maybe milky-white.  My first memories of drinking coffee were with him, at his kitchen table.  He drank Folgers. And only Folgers.  My grandfather was a World War Two Veteran (US Navy).  He was pretty much no nonsense, and rarely spoke many words. I felt privileged to be with him. I was a boy, not yet really old enough to drink coffee, but he nonetheless welcomed into the adulthood ritual of coffee-drinking.  My grandfather was a man of his generation, and smoked non-filter Camel cigarettes with his morning coffee, and the rest of the day for that matter (perhaps that helps to explain his massive heart attack early on Father's Day morning in 1986 that resulted in his mortality).  This stoic man from the "Best Generation" taught me more than his lack of emotions and words might suggest. And love of good coffee was one of them.

My grandfather usually drank his coffee black, but I think sometimes he may have used a half-teaspoon of real sugar.  Being 8 years old, I drank mine in a way that was probably more akin to a melted coffee milkshake, with enough milk & sugar added to the caffeine-laden drink that surely would have given me such an energy buzz that I probably was bouncing off the walls the rest of the day.

Nowadays, I am perhaps a little more elitist in my quest for the great mug of coffee. I am a Starbucks regular (I only drink the Bold coffee, usually a Venti, and no, I typically don't ever do the froo-froo drinks. I guess I'm boring and predictable in more than one way!). Today I really must have good, strong coffee first thing in the morning. It does more than help me ease into my day, it gives me hope that I can conquer the day. I can't imagine a day without it. It's a rare site to see me without a coffee in my hand.  And perhaps that explains my insomnia later at night!

It's funny how the smell of certain things brings back memories. For me, the smell of black coffee and strong cigarettes (especially Camels) and I am instantly and automatically transported back some 30 plus years, sitting in my grandfather's kitchen. I also think of my father, who usually had a pot of coffee ready at almost anytime of the day. These men who've been gone for many years, but their memories live on, especially when I take the time to savor a great cup of java.

Coffee allows me to return to a place of civility. I readily admit I am a java-junkie. Without it, I would be unbearable. On the few occasions I am not able to have a morning cup of Joe, I struggle to not commit some awful and evil act of hostility.  Instead of a Coke, I'd like to buy the world a cup of freshly-brewed, hot, strong coffee. I think it just might be the thing needed for world peace. Visualize it: Palestinians and Jews drinking espressos together, finding common ground(s). Can you imagine the OWS folks sitting down with Wall Street brokers, and they end up singing the coffee version of Kumbaya (KumJava!), resolving their differences in some miraculous way? Wouldn't it be nice if Democrats & Republicans could meet at Starbucks and agree to mitigate their disagreements over lattes' and cappuccinos? Oh well, guess it's just an elusive dream, evaporating like the steam over a cup of hot coffee.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Open Secrets



It is said that money makes the world go around. In the world of politics it is no different. 250 current members of Congress are millionaires. Ever wonder how much your neighbor, friends or co-worker gave to President Obama's campaign? Want to know how much money Mitt Romney has raised so far in Indiana? Want to know which corporations gave money to your Senator or Congressman? Interested in knowing how much Dan Burton's investment portfolio is worth?  Find out more about them and the money that follows them here at Open Secrets.org!






Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Tyranny of the Urgent


"Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important."                                                                           ~Charles Hummel


 MP900444333

I recently read Charles Hummel’s classic essay, “Tyranny of the Urgent.”  He begins by asking the question, “Have you ever wished for a 30 hour day?”  Hummel characterizes our modern life as one in which we have become so busy with day to day things that we have essentially become ‘slaves’ to the tyranny of the urgent.  It isn’t so much that we don’t have the time, but we have misplaced important priorities, lending our time and energy to things that really, in the scheme of things, are temporal.


We are so often focused on the mundane and trivial.  Urgent things have a way of dominating our time.  A million different things compete for our attention. Most of our modern conveniences are supposed to create more time for us. Ironically, however, it can be easily argued that today we have a incomparable 'poverty of attention.' We can have volumes of information at our fingertips in an instant, something unimaginable a few short years ago. Google, the 24 hour news cycle, instant accessibility via cell phones, Email, text messaging, social media, etc., have all helped make our world quicker, more connected and smaller. But are we really better?


MP900438482

Hummel wrote his essay over 40 years ago and believed that the home telephone was an intrusive device that invaded our peace and sanity. Fast-forward to 2011 and the intrusions into our homes are unimaginable by 1960’s standards. Many of us would rather text & tweet than have a real conversation. (And may I add, @Mrs. Cleaver, that is a great dress you’re wearing in your Facebook profile).


Several weeks ago we had a power outage at our home. Admittedly, a temporary inconvenience. Having no TV, no radio, and no WiFi created an unusual calm in my home. Forced solitude. Refreshing, but kind of weird. I have become so acclimated to background noise and dependent on electronic accessories that when these things are temporarily gone, it creates a strange void. Solitude. It is unusual to have quiet time in our house. On those rare occasions where I find myself enjoying a few moments of silence (usually early mornings before anyone else is up), I try to focus on finding that elusive inner peace that seems to evaporate so quickly as the day unravels and becomes increasingly chaotic. But most days, there isn't much time for quiet. So when it happens, the silence is almost deafening. And surprisingly welcomed.  


19 Jan 2005 --- Row of Old Books --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis


I can remember growing up as a poor kid, having very few “things” to pass away the time. There was a lot's of stretches of time that I had to fill. I sought out those things that were free. I spent countless hours reading books, many borrowed from my local public library (one of my fondest memories, actually). I played softball, catch, and basketball with neighbor kids until we were absolutely exhausted. Homework and church activities also filled a great portion of my youth.


Video games, 24 hour cartoon and movie channels were non-existent in my home (we had an old antenna on our TV set, and on clear nights could get three Indy stations). I can remember the distinct monotone sound of the T.V. stations and test pattern after they signed off the air for the night (usually not too long after the close of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show).


MP900387594 


Now I have literally hundreds of cable stations at my disposal, at any time of the day. And then there’s Netflix! Never again to be bored, I guess. Sadly, most of what passes for entertainment today is lost on me.


I really am not a Luddite. I love my gadgets. It’s hard to imagine life without a smart phone, the internet & social media. But when forced into situations where I have no gadgets or ‘things’ to keep me distracted, and solitude completely envelopes me, it is a strange but not entirely un-welcomed experience. 


Recently, while reading a business travel magazine I came across a piece on a private Caribbean Island beach resort which caters to executives. There are no televisions, in-room phones, cell phone coverage, or WiFi. If an emergency develops, family or employers can call the front desk at the hotel and the staff will notify the guest. The purpose of the resort is to be so secluded that the overworked executive can recharge and truly be away from it all. Perhaps not surprisingly, such places are in high demand. 












There is a place in Florida my wife & I absolutely love. It’s right on the beach, and although not nearly as exclusive as the aforementioned resort, it’s still pretty darn peaceful. Not much on frills, but you can’t beat the morning sunrise. I can almost hear the waves crashing on the surf! It is one of the few places I have been where I can just sit and do absolutely nothing for hours. A guilty pleasure. There is something about sitting in silence, watching the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. It really does seem to restore my soul, sense of balance, and perspective.  



We Americans (and especially Hoosiers) pride ourselves on our Protestant work ethic (nothing inherently wrong with that, in my humble opinion!). Although I think many would disagree, I also think we place too high a premium on being busy for busyness’ sake. We will scurry and work ourselves into a frenzy, running from one task and place to another. Read any recent employment surveys about work-life balance and you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that well over 70% of employees believe they don’t have enough time.  Listen to any number of work-related conversations, especially those of managers, and you will find a common refrain: lack of time, lack of sleep, too many things to do, too many Emails, voice-mails, and meetings.




















All the while, we talk ourselves into doing more and more, competing to out-do peers on how much we are working, and we are seemingly proud of how little is left for our personal life. It’s a non-ending competition in which we believe the top prize goes to the person who can do the most without a break. In an economy in which employers have no room for any slacking, there is legitimate concern and fear in not keeping up with the frenetic pace. 




















Nonetheless, I question the logic of being so busy that we fail to evaluate whether we are really being good stewards of our lives and time. Hard work? Yes. Being dedicated, honest, and loyal employees? No question. Giving it our best? Absolutely. Sacrificing our precious and limited time to the extent that we misplace our priorities? Maybe all too common. It reminds me of a scripture that says "for what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul."  





I confess to being a recovering workaholic. I think I’ve done better in recent years, but I still have an obsessive streak in my personality that pursues perfection. But sometimes, it really is Ok to just go home and agree to tackle it the next day. I know all too well what it is like to be a stranger to my spouse and children. I have entirely missed birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries, and a number of other important events because I was “too busy” with work responsibilities. I missed out on a lot of my kid’s lives as they were growing up. After facing a serious health crisis a handful of years ago, I made a commitment to myself that I would keep the proper perspective, and as Hummel says, not “letting the urgent things crowd out the important things.” 














Not as easy as it sounds. But sometimes it can be just as simple as a power outage that forces us to disengage from our worldly distractions and remind ourselves to enjoy the solitude, and reflect on what is truly important.  






Thursday, December 1, 2011

Buddy Roemer



One recent morning, while rushing around getting ready for work, I caught MSNBC's Morning Joe interview with Buddy Roemer. "Buddy who" you may ask? If you've never heard of Buddy Roemer, you are probably not alone. Better yet...did you know he is running for president? If not, that is not surprising either. And as I see it, that IS part of the problem with our political system today.

Buddy Roemer served four terms as an US Congressman and was the Governor of Louisiana from 1988-1992. The former conservative Democrat is now a Republican. He is not a typical GOP presidential candidate. He is an outspoken critic of the bank bailouts, and is sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Although I am not necessarily saying I would vote for Mr. Roemer, his candidacy for president has captured my attention. His absence from the GOP Debates is a peculiar thing. PoliSci 101: You've gotta have a lotta money to be a successful presidential candidate. PoliSci 102: You must play by the rules to win. That is, the elite's rules. Buddy Roemer isn't playing by their rules, and has been penalized by being excluded as a legitimate participant in the race. He is perhaps a little too forthright in his opinions. His populist streak is probably more than a little off-putting by the "Blue-Blood Country Club & Trust-Fund Baby" types. Mr. Roemer persuasively argues that money has corrupted our political process. He has decided to limit all individual donations to his campaign at $100.00, which severely limits his ability to raise comparative and competitive sums of money.

A lot people naively believe that our democracy is as straight-forward as a person throwing their hat into the ring, stating what they believe, debating the important issues, and then voters deciding who wins. Sadly, it's more about raising hundreds of millions of dollars, garnering the support of the real power-brokers and acquiescing to the gatekeeper's demands and expectations. Violate these rules, and you have a candidate like Buddy Roemer.   Censorship by any other name. Mr. Roemer will not be invited to have a seat at the table unless he does it "their way."  So much for real and substantive political dialogue.







Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Annual Salaries of Indiana State Employees

Ever wonder what your favorite state employee is paid? It's actually a matter of public record. Thanks to the Indianapolis Star, any state public employee's salary can be determined. Interesting thing is....education DOES pay!

Click on this link to find Indiana State Employees Annual Salaries.

Wordless Wednesday: Miami Beach Crime Scene Van



Saturday, November 26, 2011

Civility at Christmas?


Good tidings! Blessed peace and all those good things. This is the time of year for us to turn to the better 'Angels' of our nature. To believe in the triumph of Good over Evil. To aspire to live lives of gratitude.  There is a sense that we are looking for something better than the mundane and ordinary, and believing in something bigger than ourselves. We celebrate the concept of giving and sharing. And, of course, there's the story of the ultimate gift to humanity.
Today, as I was walking near the entrance of one of our "mega-stores," a car drove slowly past with a young man yelling out of the vehicle's window. His comments were directed to a bell-ringer and another middle-aged man standing next to him. His less than eloquent parlance consisted of a particular two-word vulgarity that should never be used (especially in polite company, although I know it is spoken often in certain places). A couple of older ladies were walking out of the store at the time, and three or so senior citizens happened to be waiting nearby for the city bus. I was momentarily stunned, and I briefly looked at the man in the car as they drove on, shaking my head at the crude, callous and obnoxious behavior.
As I proceeded to make my way into the store, I thought about recent news stories involving trampled customers on "Black Friday" by inpatient shoppers racing to be the first to get the various "incredible sales." Nothing like literally running over granny and stepping on someone's neck just to get a Blue-Ray for $50.
And then I think about recent headlines in my local newspaper about a mother & father arrested for the 'alleged' neglect and abuse of their 9 month old baby. The child is still hospitalized from the multiple skull fractures sustained from blunt force trauma. It's reported that the child's road to recovery will be long & difficult.
I want to believe these things are not typical but isolated examples of the fringes of our culture. But I am persuaded to believe that sickening behavior is more commonplace than ever.
Christmas-time has a certain magical quality that suggests, at least for a brief, fleeting season, we can be better. We should think and act on the needs of others. We should try to put others first. As well, can't we just try to be civil to each other, for at least this one time of year? Perhaps underlying this incredible naiveté on my part points to a more simple and innocent age known as childhood, and all of the altruistic charm it once held.
As I am tempted to believe in the "Spirit of the Season," the over-commercialization of Christmas quickly pulls me back to reality. It's more about Madison Avenue slickness appealing to our greedy, materialistic, and self-indulgent lifestyles. It's not about "giving" but "getting." We've become a culture that worships at the alter of materialism. Priorities are misplaced, and life is cheapened.
Is it really no wonder that we have a generation that lacks an appreciation of a day's honest work,  the value of a dollar, or basic respect for others? Billions are spent on bank bailouts, wars ($2 billion a week in Afghanistan alone), earmarks for pet pork projects, and foreign aid for countries who may be more foe than friend. Meanwhile, our most vulnerable citizen's basic needs can't be met. Taxpayers are told it's their "patriotic duty" to blindly acquiesce to such waste, and overlook the "least of these" in the name of scarcity of resources. Hmm....come again?
Civility at Christmas? Maybe in a long by-gone era. Meanwhile, grab all that you can at the local mega-mart, for tomorrow the credit lenders may need another bail-out. And anyhow, the young man yelling out of his car window needs a new set of bass speakers to drown out his voice.
Note: This blog post was originally written last year (Dec. 4th, 2010) on my Wordpress blog. Thought it deserved re-posting. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fictional Friday: Carl



"The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
                                                                                 ~Hubert H. Humphrey






The relentless August sun bore down on the single-story ranch home.  Corn fields surrounded the rural Indiana home, and stretched as far as the eye could see.  Within this Hoosier farm-house, a middle-aged man name Carl, who has an intellectual disability, lives with his ailing 79 year-old father. Carl is in his mid-50's, and has had a rather meager  and hard existence.  As a poor farm family, they lived far below what is considered frugal.  Carl has never been to either a dentist or a doctor.  Carl is not able to read or write, he has difficulty with simple math, and requires frequent reminders to bathe and do laundry. Carl's mother passed away two decades ago of a heart-attack.  Carl's father has been in and out of nursing homes during the last year or so, is on dialysis, and uses a wheelchair.  Carl helps takes care of his father, but is barely able to care for himself.  Carl's parents never sought any assistance for him, and had always been his primary caregivers.  And now that Carl's mother has passed, and his father's health in serious decline, Carl's life is rapidly changing.  Carl has a difficult time understanding where his is life is heading, and where his future lies.

Carl has never received any government assistance or help.  He has no income.  Carl has done hard, physical labor most of his life, and nowadays most area farmers have little for him to do.  He lives a barely subsistent  life.  This summer, I received a call from one of Carl's siblings, asking about what kind of help might be available for him.   It seems that once the inevitable happens with their father, the farm will be liquidated to pay for medical expenses, and Carl will have no place to go.

I helped Carl complete applications for Vocational Rehabilitation, the Medicaid Waiver program, Medicaid & Food Stamps.  The State of Indiana has yet to find Carl eligible for the Waiver program, which would provide crucial assistance with things like helping him find an affordable place to live, accessing community resources, shopping, budgeting his money, maintaining his health care, and in-home supports like helping him maintain his personal hygiene and keeping his home clean and livable.  Since Carl is verbal and ambulatory, and can do some minimal self-care tasks, he may not qualify under the state guidelines for the Waiver program .

At best, Carl would be placed on a 10 to 12 year waiting list with some 20,000 other Hoosiers with intellectual disabilities.  If he is fortunate, he might start receiving services around the year 2023.  Carl remains hopeful that he may someday have some help meeting his needs and becoming self-sufficient. In the meantime, what happens to Carl?

There are numerous "Carls" in the State of Indiana.  Many of them are among our most vulnerable citizens, and often can't speak for themselves.  And a good number of them have fallen through the cracks of our society. In a world where we gladly give pop-culture icons our undeserved time and attention, it's easy to overlook and ignore the "least of these."  Sadly, Carl and those like him can't compete with the likes of the Kardashians, Snookies, and Charlie Sheens of the world.   Perhaps someday, our society and leaders in government will be more interested devoting their time and attention in making sure people like Carl get a chance at having a decent life and becoming self-sufficient, and not fall the cracks of a very flawed system.

Note: Carl is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals I regularly encounter. Characters who appear in my "Fictional Friday" posts are based on real stories with particular details, names, and certain specific circumstances changed so as to protect privacy.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where are the Gentlemen?



















I caught part of a segment on MSNBC's Morning Joe a few days ago in which the topic of discussion was "What makes a gentleman?" The guests were GQ's Chris Mitchell and Jake Wood, the winner of GQ magazine's "Better Men, Better World" search. It seems to be a worthwhile endeavor. Aspiring to make the world a better place is noble & honorable, and the men who strive to do such deserve recognition.  Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly rare to find men of character who stand above the rest and make a real difference in the world in which we live.  


What kinds of traits make up a gentleman? Who do you think of? For me, the word gentleman conjures up images from my grandfather's generation. I think of men of Hollywood fame, like Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper, and Humphrey Bogart. 



Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezenzki thinks Robert Duvall is the quintessential gentleman. I agree. He is definitely old school. He has charm and the timeless qualities that define a gentleman. He seems like the type who would pull out a chair for lady, open doors for them, and would, if necessary, kick someone's butt (as Mika so eloquently put it).


I found Bryan William's depiction humorous. Corny, but funny. But it does seem chivalry is a thing of a by-gone era. My wife, when asked who she thinks of, said Sean Connery. Of course, who oozes coolness and gentlemanly qualities better than 007 himself? Who can compete with the tux-wearing, martini-sipping, villain-fighting Sean Connery, the one who made all the 007 women fall under his spell?













In today's culture, rudeness, misogyny  and vulgarity are commonplace. The question has to be asked: "Where are the gentlemen in today's world?"  In contemporary America, coarseness and disrespect have displaced manners and politeness. Behavior that used to be considered fringe and reserved for tawdry daytime television can be seen in almost any public setting. It is as if boorish behavior is a contest, but no one really wins.



I am not trying to open a Pandora's box of feminist wrath, but I think in spite of what some women say, they really do want a knight in shining armor. Women like men who are confident, self-assured, and assertive. Weak, milquetoast men need not apply. Cowardice and timidity are not traits of gentlemen, and I would guess most women are put off by these traits. I think a gentlemen is one who is manly, fearless, and courageous. And all the while demonstrating respect and a special tenderness to their woman and family. Maybe for women to admit the qualities they really like in men suggests a level of vulnerability, but I think that's OK. At the end of the day, well-disciplined masculinity wins over weak, passionless souls, and indifferent, obnoxious brutes. 

I have seen men whose behavior suggests they've never been taught the right way to treat a lady. I believe many confuse gentlemen-like behavior and politeness for weakness. Perhaps part of the problem is an increasingly fatherless society. And maybe some of it is a culture that tolerates behavior that devalues and dehumanizes others. Regardless the reasons, men can and should do better. 





Sunday, November 6, 2011

J Edgar





"There's something addictive about a secret." ~J. Edgar Hoover



Ok, another confession. I happen to love history. I am fascinated by certain eras and figures in history. J. Edgar Hoover was one of these intriguing personalities that has captured my interest. J. Edgar Hoover's name often conjures up images of the long by-gone gangster era, including infamous characters such as John Dillinger (and who can forget the famous death mask?),  Ma Barker, Machine Gun Kelly, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and "Baby Face" Nelson.  J. Edgar Hoover's reign as Director at the FBI covered multiple decades of the 20th century, a couple of which were during some of the most tumultuous times in American history.  I've read a number of biographies on J. Edgar Hoover, very few of which were flattering. Most biographers accuse Hoover of extreme infringements on civil liberties during his years as Director. Many characterize it as the quintessential abuse of power. Others defend Mr. Hoover as a patriot who did what was necessary to combat threats and enemies to the American way of life. Regardless of the views of him, those who have studied him pretty much all agree that his power was unprecedented.




















J. Edgar Hoover collected secrets.  He collected all types of secrets, on all types of people.  He had personal dossiers on presidents, members of Congress, writers, Hollywood actors, journalists, government employees, musicians, civil rights leaders, political activists, and many, many others.  Electronic and physical surveillance were used to gain sensitive information.  Telephone lines were tapped, and FBI agents were used to watch unsuspecting individuals, often catching them in very compromising positions.




















The story of J. Edgar Hoover is one of the most fascinating to me. Some say he yielded more power than the President of the United States.  Most of the presidents he served under feared him. The majority of them had skeletons in their closets, and weren't exactly sure what all Hoover knew about them. Hoover was an extraordinarily disciplined man, one who knew how to keep a secret.  Most could only speculate what dirt he may have had on them.  Sometimes Hoover would give a sly, subtle hint when he needed to gain cooperation.  Hoover would leverage that knowledge to his advantage, time and time again.  Whether it was to keep his job from one presidential administration to another (or to stay on as Director, well past the mandatory retirement age for government employees), to ensuring large budgets to the Department of Justice continued without question.  Hoover's enemies gained special attention. Critical journalists often found themselves the target of FBI investigations, sometimes being forced into silence. Sometimes members of Hoover's inner circle would fall out of favor (a few remained loyal for the duration, especially noteworthy was his forever faithful second-in-command, Clyde Tolson).  Many former G-Men describe Hoover as capricious and vindictive, oftentimes demoting agents without true just cause.  Hoover is said to have harshly retaliated against those who dared to cross him.

















Hoover was vehemently anti-Communist, and was renown for targeting political groups that were considered subversive. The middle part of the twentieth century proved to be fertile to a number of politically and culturally volatile events, entities and figures, like the House Committe on Un-American Activitiesthe Alger Hiss/Whittaker Chambers case (another great political story of which I am fascinated), the execution of Julius & Ethel RosenbergSenator Joe McCarthy, and Hollywood blacklisting.  J. Edgar Hoover wrote & spoke frequently on the Red Menace. Anti-Communism provided Hoover with a forum to sustain and grow his power. And that, he did very well.























Clint Eastwood's new movie, J Edgar, is set to be released next weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio plays J. Edgar Hoover. From the previews I've seen, DiCaprio's physical depiction of Hoover is uncanny. I've read a few articles on the upcoming movie that indicates it will be an excellent film. However, like Hoover himself, the film is not without controversy. Clint Eastwood has come under fire from both sides of the spectrum, mainly over the issue of how the films depicts Hoover's sexuality. Among the more tantalizing rumors about Hoover involves speculation of his sexual orientation, and in particular, the nature of his personal relationship with Clyde Tolson.

Clyde Tolson (left) and J. Edgar Hoover



Here is the official movie trailer for Eastwood's new movie, J Edgar.



I will be watching the movie this upcoming Friday evening...hopefully with a review to follow shortly thereafter. I am very curious as to how it will portray him. Hoover really was an enigma, and much more complex than most people would think. It is easy to demonize him, but a fair and objective analysis should involve more than a cursory condemnation. I am looking forward to seeing this movie. Being a history geek, I hope that it does a good job of providing an accurate historical context and captures the societal and cultural differences that existed in Hoover's era.














Feel free to leave your thoughts, especially if you see the movie!

Click on the links below to either rent the movie or purchase it. These links below are Affiliate Links!











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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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