Saturday, December 29, 2012

State of Indiana Public Court Records

Need to find out when you had that last speeding ticket? Want to review important court info? You used to have to pay for a subscription to an on-line database (e.g. Doxpop, etc.) to obtain this info. Now, the State of Indiana provides free on-line access to most Indiana court records, through Odyessey Case Management Systems. 

You will choose between two main categories: Criminal & Citations Case Records, and Civil, Family & Probate Records. There is also a drop down menu from which you can select specific Indiana counties to search.  

You can access this free search site by clicking the link below:            

State of Indiana Court Public Records Inquiry

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Glimpse of Wabash

I took this shot several months ago, and had forgotten about it. It seemed to capture an era from long ago.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Hope of Christmas

We are living in times of much uncertainty. One can easily compile a depressing list of events demonstrating the uneasy state of our economy--from the housing market collapse, bank bailouts, high unemployment rate, to the current acrimonious partisan debates involving the 'fiscal cliff.' I would argue that for the first time in a couple of generations our country is seriously questioning the legitimacy and realistic attainment of the "American Dream." People are questioning their future, and whether their children will be better off than themselves. 

Then there a moments that happen that seem to rattle our collective consciousness. Paducah. ColumbineTuscon. Aurora.  The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut a few days ago caused many folks to question what we've become as a society. The Newtown shooting was different, and would give many of us pause. The unimaginable massacre of so many innocent children, just days before Christmas, is horrifying and inexplicable. Cable news programs spent many hours and days analyzing the incident. Heated debates ensued about gun control, the 2nd Amendment, the NRA, and questions about why our culture has become so violent. 

In the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, our nation grieved deeply and sought answers. We sought comfort. In times of great loss and grief, people look for reassurance that humanity still has hope and meaning. It's as if, in the midst of our every day distractions, we are suddenly jolted back to reality. We are reminded of the fragile nature of life. And the reality of what's really important when faced with death and tragedy. 

I watched President Obama's speech at the prayer vigil in Newtown. He read scriptures from the Bible, and encouraged the families to "...find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort, and may He bless and watch over this community and the United States of America." Undoubtedly reassuring, comforting, and appropriate. 

In desperate times people look for reassurance, encouragement, and comfort. Christians view Christmas as the reminder of 'hope' for a lost and fallen world. There are, undoubtedly, times that we all question what we've become as a society. We really do live in troubling times. There may be fear, despondency, and trepidation of what tomorrow may bring. People worry about their future, and about their children's safety and well-being.  But for those who know their Redeemer liveth, there is hope. And the promise of a better time and place in which evil does not reign. A Savior was born, died, and was resurrected. He is the ultimate gift for humanity. Truly, the hope of Christmas.              


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advance Indiana blog post: Ponzi Schemer Tim Durham Being Held At County Detention Facility In Kentucky

What I find fascinating about this story is Tim Durham requesting a public defender.  From billionaire to alleged impoverishment. Wonder how many PD's will clamor to get his case? And would he get the typical representation afforded by a public defender? Pardon my cynicism. 

Click below to read Advance Indiana's Blog Durham post.


Wall Street Journal Article on the Link Between Food and Headaches

As a chronic headache sufferer, I sympathize for those who have severe headaches. Most of the time mine are not severe, and fortunately, migraines are rare for me. I do get them, and they seem to come in multiples. And they can be intense. I remember a time back in college just before final's week in which I was in bed for three days with a persistent migraine. I hugged a pillow over my face & head. With each beat of my heart I could feel pain pulsating through my cranium. Light was particularly intolerable, and I would say, cruel.

Nowadays the headaches I get are typically not migraines, and usually resolved by gulping a few ibuprofen and a large mug of strong coffee. Or it seems to keep them at bay enough so I can function. I have noticed certain foods do trigger headaches. Unfortunately, these are foods I tend to really like.

In an article this week The Wall Street Journal examines the controversy on the link between foods, headaches and what some experts believe about possible vascular responses due to certain substances (e.g. tyramine) in some foods.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Update: Annual Salaries of Indiana State Employees

I've had recent requests to provide updates to my previous post, "Annual Salaries of Indiana State Employees." The Indy Star link is good. However, it doesn't consistently work, and the information is somewhat outdated.

I recently found the Indiana Transparency Portal at This is an excellent resource, and it breaks down the numbers of state employees by agency/department, and even graphs the total number of employees by year. (And you might find it interesting that under Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration there was a significant decline in Indiana State employees--the lowest in 30 years).

Click below to learn more!
Annual Salaries of Indiana State Employees

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut

The horrifying tragedy that unfolded this past week in Newtown, Connecticut is hard to comprehend. Twenty young elementary children and six others, including the principal and teachers, were shot to death. As a dad it is difficult for me think about losing my children. Especially in such a terrifying act of violence. I can't begin to imagine what these families are going through. Our nation grieves for these families and their loss. This senseless act of violence against the most innocent is heartbreaking. I cannot wrap my mind around it. The agony that the parents & families must be experiencing is truly soul-wrenching. The massacre of these young children, their teachers and principal is virtually impossible to put in terms of the explainable. 

News outlets have said the killer had disabilities, and was on the autism spectrum. He also may have had a previous mental illness diagnosis. The media have, in some instances, been careless in their reporting by suggesting that autism and this man's premeditated violence are linked. Unfortunately, this kind of stereotyping perpetuates myths and falsehoods, and alienates a whole segment of society based one one individual's actions. 

There are approximately 1.5 million people in America who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The majority of people with autism are not violent. It's true that some folks with autism do have difficulties with aggression. But so does a certain percentage of the neuro-typical population. To make generalizations and to further stigmatize people with disabilities is wrong and needs to be challenged.

In the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting, we all want answers. We seek explanations as to why this man behaved as he did. Unfortunately, we may never quite know the full picture of what went on in his mind. In times of emotionally charged events it is tempting to assign blame and advocate measures that would seemingly help prevent future tragedies like this. Society often demands instant solutions to problems that usually aren't that simple. 

Take a cursory glance at Facebook posts or the comments sections in any of the on-line news stories relating to the Newtown school shooting, and you will find heated political exchanges about gun control, the 2nd Amendment, and lots of conjecture as to why this man committed mass murder. Already, politicians and lobbyists organizations are arguing for one measure or another in response to the Newtown shooting.   

Unfortunately, what's not being said enough is that our country is facing a serious crisis in social services. Funding for people with disabilities is constantly in question. Mental health services are woefully inadequate and often fail to reach those who need them most. And until we are willing to have a deliberate, sincere and earnest dialogue about these issues, it's likely that unthinkable things will continue to happen with alarming frequency. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Lincoln Sighting in Indy Article: "Everyone in US under virtual surveillance' - NSA whistleblower"

This fascinating article from alleges the NSA is eavesdropping on most Americans. For some, this is but another scary example of the ever-expanding government encroachment into our every day lives. Lots of folks will discount the seriousness of such claims, believing that as long as one doesn't do anything illegal, they have nothing to worry about. An educated society should consider the long-term consequences and progression of such power. Is a police-state acceptable in the post-911 world in which we live? Not to mention the enormous costs of capturing the huge volumes of data, and its related storage issues. I can't help but wonder what our Founding Fathers would think. A clever wordsmith surely could write a new Thomas Paine phrase.

I have been thinking about writing some future blog posts about the subject of balancing individual liberty & privacy and our government's 'need'  to obtain information from its citizens in the name of 'national security.'

What do you think? Does it matter? Is the loss of individual privacy mitigated by the promise of security and safety?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nostalgia and Grapefruit Dangers

From the time I was a young boy, I have loved citrus. Oranges, tangerines, lemons, tangelos,  limes, and grapefruits. Especially grapefruits and oranges. They all remind me of time spent in Florida during my childhood. My father worked for a citrus company on the West Coast of Florida for a short while in the mid-1970's. I remember the smell of oranges on his skin & clothes when he came home from work. I am one who can't seem to escape nostalgia, especially now that my father has been gone for almost three decades. Every-time we visit Florida now, I have to try to find one of those road-side orange and grapefruit stores. Citrus groves are common along the Indian River area where we often visit, and it is a pleasant thing for me to spend time checking out the citrus. I have family who live in Florida that had grapefruit trees in their back yard. I was so envious.  

Now I am a fat, middle-aged man, as a result of having fallen into the bad American lifestyle of being too sedentary (desk jockey?), and eating too many unhealthy foods and too few great foods. I find myself excusing the fast food or convenience foods as a necessary evil that goes along with the work life I have (yes, I did acknowledge that is a excuse). I take medication for the things that are typical with over-fed Americans. Many of the medications have unpleasant side-effects. Furthermore, consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice with some of these medications can be very bad for you. Consumed in enough quantity, it can even kill you. There's a paradox in this, I think. What is normally considered a healthy food is deadly when you're taking meds to counteract a diet of bad foods.

Of course, the ideal thing to do is to become healthier--eat better, exercise, lose weight, get the blood pressure and triglycerides down, and eliminate the need for the meds altogether. At least that's been my New Year's Resolution for the last several years. Perhaps in 2013 I will stick to it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

CNS Article, "No Thanks for Thanksgiving"

I came across this article today. Mr. Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says that Thanksgiving is a white supremacists holiday. He proclaims that we should reflect on our original "sin." Jensen comments that Thanksgiving would be better spent if it (and its 'self-indulgent feasting') were replaced "with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting."  He later claims that our nation's history makes us the same as Nazi Germany. 

I never cease to be amazed by some members of academia with such obvious leftist bias. And to think that parents have saved their entire careers to send their children off to universities, only to be 'taught' such nonsense. To make wide-sweeping generalizations and promote moral equivalencies such as America is the same as Nazi Germany is not only intellectually dishonest but is reprehensible and disgusting. It also angers me. As some you may know, I make no apologies for my patriotism and undying gratefulness to live in this great land of opportunity we call the United States of America. Call me a naive' traditionalist or whatever other epitaphs that can be pejoratively assigned. I really don't care.

And, yes, I did actually read Mr. Jensen's original article. I wonder if Mr. Jensen has ever read Paul Johnson's book, "A History of the American People." Doubtful, as it would not fit nicely into his presumptive world-view that the globe would be better off without America.

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
                                                                                                             ~Ronald Reagan

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"How To Ensure Your Nonprofit's Facebook Fans See All Your Posts," Article from Nonprofit Tech 2.0: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits

Great article for non-profit social media managers. The reality is that it's becoming increasingly more difficult for nonprofits/not-for-profits to maintain their reach, especially on limited resources and budgets. Change seems to happen rapidly, and it is critical to keep up with these changes. Furthermore, it's important to not put all your eggs in one social media basket...we've got to use more than just Facebook.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Indiana Policy Review Article: "The Promise of Jobs: Right Here in River City"

Of late, I've been listening & reading some interesting news about how certain entities that receive significant tax-payer funds operate largely in secret without any public scrutiny. In particular, my hometown newspaper, the Chronicle-Tribune, has requested to cover the Grant County Economic Growth Council meetings.

The Chronicle was told that the the GCEGC is a private organization, and is exempt from audits from the Indiana State Board of Accounts. Furthermore, the Chronicle-Tribune is not welcomed to attend meetings, nor investigate and report on how their $300,000.00 annual budget is spent. Although the funds are used under the auspices to attract & recruit businesses to move to Grant County & the Marion community (which in turn, should equate in more jobs for our local citizens),  there have been several disconcerting business ventures that have failed. Some of these ventures involves millions of dollars...resulting in unresolved legal & significant financing problems. The tax-payers are left holding the bag, all in the hopes we can land some jobs.

While I certainly understand the need for discretion in dealing with potential businesses that we are trying to bring to town, I commend the newspaper for asking the tough questions. Indiana law seems pretty clear on the transparency of how tax funds are used. Journalists are right to pursue this issue. Tax-payers have the right to know how & where their money is being used. The Chronicle-Tribune will not win many friends by pursuing this story, especially with some city leaders (some of whom I know personally and consider friends). But the CT is doing the right thing.

You can read the David Penticuff's (Editor for the Chronicle-Tribune) article in the Indiana Policy Review here for an insightful account of this controversial issue.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The 2012 Election

"...I see an innumerable multitude of men, alike and equal, constantly circling around in pursuit of the petty and banal pleasures with which they glut their souls. Each of them withdrawn into himself, is almost unaware of the fate of the rest. Mankind, for him, consists in his children and his personal friends. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, they are near enough, but he does not notice them. He touches them but feels nothing. He exists in and for himself, and though he still may have a family, one can at least say that he has not got a fatherland."
                                                                                                   ~Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America (1840)

In a less than one month, Americans will be heading to the voting booth to pull the lever for men who desire the highest office in the land. Several others are pursuing senate, congressional & gubernatorial seats. Times are increasingly tough for many of our fellow citizens. We are living in a season of high unemployment, a dwindling tax base, scarcity of resources, financial uncertainty, and global unrest. Passionate debates abound regarding the best ways to grow the economy and create jobs. Left & Right argue about the appropriate role of government. 

Many folks don't like to get into conversations about elections and the difficult topics surrounding them.  It's uncomfortable, and causes tension and divisiveness.  Understandably, people tend to avoid unpleasantries. And polite company who follow proper etiquette know to refrain from certain issues.    

We live in an incredible era in human history. We have unfathomable information at our disposable that previous generations could have never comprehended. In this digital world in which we live...from 24 hour cable news channels to live streaming news on your smart phone in the middle of nowhere, we experience what is referred to as 'information overload.' It can be just downright overwhelming. 

However, in spite of the ability to glean a wealth of information in seconds, many Americans are perfectly content being a part of the uninformed populace. Political scientists have a term for explaining disengaged Americans--something called "privatism." Essentially, it refers the behavior of people who are most concerned about their own self-interest and their own family. The issues outside of their immediate circle are not perceived as relevant.   

It's easy to forget about the problems and plight of others. But when large portions of the majority begin to feel the impact of tough times, it becomes a little more difficult to ignore.  

While previously focused only on self-interest, some will begin to have a better understanding for their neighbors and communities when they themselves are suddenly thrust into the midst of adversity. It is a quintessential paradox.  

For those of us who work in social services, we've always known the meaning of austerity. We know the folks who have nothing. We see the 'forgotten people' who are often ignored as the rest of society walks by. 
Among the frustrating realities of politics is those who have power & money have the most access to government. Their interests are clearly heard and understood. There is quite a bit of truth in the old cliche', "The squeaky wheel gets the oil." But what about those who have no voice. They often rely on others to help their voices be heard. We also encourage them, when possible, to speak up for themselves, to advocate for their needs and rights, and point them towards self-sufficiency. 

Those running for elected office should represent all of us fairly and equitably. But we don't live in a perfect world. For those of you who have disabilities, are parents or family of individuals with disabilities, and for those who work with people with disabilities, you MUST ask important questions of candidates who ask for your vote. Admittedly, it may not be the most comfortable thing to do. And we all have important things going on in our lives, often leaving us with little time to get to these kinds of issues & questions.     

Fortunately, The Arc of Indiana has put together an Election Guide that did just that. Take a few moments and read the responses of those who are asking for YOUR vote! It's that easy. 

And, of course, please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 6th. 


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Political Ads of Yesteryear: Part One

Lyndon Johnson's 1964 "Daisy" Commercial. Aired only once due to the controversy it caused.   

When I was college student at Ball State, I took a class on Campaigns (one of my degrees is in Political Science, so I assure you, dear reader, it really wasn't out of some twisted, sadistic desire for self-torture). It was also an elective for my degree, and I happened to like the topic.

We are right smack in the middle of a particularly contentious election cycle, and political commercials right now are as common as road apples at a horse track. And about as hard to avoid. (Side-note: my wife commented, "and they smell about as good.") But I digress.

Perhaps some will find this strange, but I love politics. And I especially enjoy following campaigns. There is something fascinating about the marketplace of ideas. Candidates need to explain what they stand for, and how they are different than their opponent.

Most folks are put off by negative political ads. They call it 'mudslinging' and are offended by it. Others argue negative ads are not effective. However, negative ads do work. Research shows that people tend to pay attention whether they want to acknowledge it or not. And negative ads tend to pique interest, and motivates some to find out more about the issue. If, at the end of the day, negative political ads cause the average citizen to show up at the voting booth better educated than before, perhaps that isn't so bad after all?

Thanks to the wonderful word of the Internet (which was created by a past Presidential candidate as I recall), there some web sites that have archived Presidential Campaign Ads going back several decades.

Here are some of the more popular ones.....

And one of my all time favorites.

Reagan's "It's Morning Again in America." 1984

Note: These ads are found at . A great webpage with several video footage of campaign ads!

Part Two will be have some more campaign videos, and even some debates. Hope you enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Hanging Rock

"Hanging Rock" is near the small town of Lagro, Indiana. It is an impressive sight, rising some 75 feet above the Wabash River. Scientist say this fossilized coral reef from the Silurian period is over 400 million years old! Definitely well worth the stop if you're in the area.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Election Truths, The Undecided Voter, and Saturday Night Live.

It is only 43 days until the 2012 Presidential Election takes place; for some it will come as welcomed relief so we can get back to our normal lives of watching mind-numbing television commercials and mediocre, synapse stealing, dribble that passes for Hollywood entertainment these days. But I digress a little here. I remain unapologetic.

There are few hundred thousand folks out there across the fruited plain, it is argued, who are the ones that are actually "the deciders" of elections. They represent just enough of the voting block to tip the election one way or the other, meaning either victory or defeat for the incumbent or his opponent. Each party valiantly tries to sway these "undecideds" to vote their way. Most candidate's top advisers encourage the campaign to channel their energy on states & segments of the demographic pie that could make up their minds during the last few weeks of the election.

With a nod to Romney's supposed "off the cuff" comments about the 47% who won't vote for him anyways, there is some legitimacy to what he said. Out of concern for my liberal friends, I want to clarify that I really don't wish to go down into the rabbit-hole of a debate regarding the rest of what Romney said, at least not here, right now. However, the point I believe to be important is that No candidate is going to win ALL of the voters. The best thing you can do is keep your base happy, and try to attract those "undecideds" who could, with enough votes, help you to win the election. Campaign advisers tell candidates all the time to focus on the things that will get them the election, hopefully picking up a few changed minds along the way.

Having known many who take pride in not knowing about their government, policies, candidates running for office, and basic info of which they should have had some basic understanding, they often leave me perplexed. Ignorance is bliss, I reckon. I understand not wanting to engage in a potential argument about heated issues. But one does not have to argue and discuss their own personal ideas with others if they choose to keep it private. But at least have some cogent thoughts and ideas about issues that are important to you, and become a little more educated on how legislation impacts everything around you.

Last weekend, Saturday Night Live had a skit called "Undecided-voter."  Satire, for sure, but I found just as much truth as humor. Humor, it is often said, is sometimes funny because it contains elements of truth.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Maximizing Personal Independence: Relationships

Take a moment to read this blog post. He is a gentleman living in a nursing home who writes about his experiences.

Maximizing Personal Independence: Relationships: Well, my aide Charlene made the brownies yesterday, but she forgot to bring them today.  She promises to bring them yet this week, though.  ...

Fictional Friday: Destiny

I often write about families and individuals with disabilities on wait lists for services, often struggling with the challenges of an inadequate and outdated system that leaves them without the services of which they so desperately need.

But today, I'd like to tell you about a success story. Let me tell you about Destiny, a young lady who is on the Developmental Disability Medicaid Waiver. Destiny is 29 years old, vivacious, with round, soft-brown eyes and shoulder-length brown hair and a contagious smile.

Destiny lives in public housing, with another young lady who is also on the Waiver. Destiny works a local fast food establishment, loves to attend concerts, Special Olympic events, and is a regular at her church. Destiny and her house-mate have 24 hour supports. Like many folks who share a home, they have the occasional moments in which they don't see eye to eye. But for the most part they get along extremely well, and consider themselves close friends.

Destiny regularly exercises at a local health club for women, and has lost some considerable weight. She is known by her neighbors and numerous people in her community (read: non-paid) who enjoy her lively and bubbly personality. Her staff are also fond and protective of her.

Are things perfect? No. But Destiny has a life in which she gets to make choices about her life. She is active in her community. She has people in her life, staff and non-staff, who genuinely care about and for her. Destiny has a life of quality, a life of real choices, and a life of meaning.

Doesn't everyone deserve a chance at that?


Note:   Destiny is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals. Composite 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.    

Departing the Text: WAY WRONG!!!

Interesting post from a blogger I follow....thought I'd share!


Departing the Text: WAY WRONG!!!: I find myself torn this week between two reaction posts and s o have decided to combine them under one heading...WAY WRONG.  One has to do w...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Top 10 Things to Do While Waiting in the Hospital

Ok, I'll admit the last 24 hours has not exactly been a party. We have had quite a scare & have been anxiously & nervously waiting for test results & doctors to speak to us about what's going on with my wife.

I am one who doesn't like to just sit and watch the minutes turn into hours. You've gotta pass the time somehow, why not make the best of it! Here are my suggestions:

10) Ask random strangers in the hallway if they've seen your red stapler.

9) Ask the X-Ray Tech if they can find that penny you swallowed when you were 4.

8) Ask the phlebotomist if they've ever practiced on a turnip!?!

7) Tell the hospital staff bad jokes, like "did you hear about the duck who used to practice medicine here? He was a real 'Quack!"

6 Hit the call button & ask for a #4 value meal, with fries!

5) Eat in the hospital cafeteria & do a review on Yelp!

4) Ask the ambulance drivers what happens when lawyers actually catch them?!?

3) Using the intercom, page Dr. Jekyll to the psych floor.

2) Think of funny blog topics to write about!

1) Pray & give thanks for the many amazing & wonderful blessings you have in this life. Remember & pray for those around you who may have not received good news today.

Article: Charley Creek Arts Fest Coming to Wabash, IN

Thought I'd share a blog post from the good folks at Indiana Insider Blog. Take a few moments & check out what's going with our neighbors to the north!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Ragged Edge

Forgot about these pictures I took last Spring at the Mississinewa, not far from Hanging Rock. I haven't had much time yet this summer to get out & take some pictures...hopefully things will slow down soon. Love getting away & catching the beautiful landscape around Indiana....sometimes it's not that far at all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Lady Statue-Marion

I have tried to locate some information about this statue....but have been unsuccessful. If you know anything about it, please feel free to share!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Do People Really Change?

Ask any room full of people whether they believe people can change...and you are likely to open up a Pandora's Box of discussion. Many will comment that people in general are selfish and only looking out for "Number 1."

Pessimistic, suspicious, and overall skeptical of others, some folks will tell you to trust no one. Their view of their fellow humans isn't very favorable. They'll argue that to think otherwise is naive and unrealistic. They will tell you that people are ignorant, lacking common sense and character, and undeserving of second chances.

I'll grant there is a lot of Evil in the world. One doesn't have to look far to find that the world is full of hurt and wrongs.

And...I find myself, very often, getting caught up in the stains and bleakness of life. Switch on the news, read the morning headlines, listen to the radio...and pretty soon, before you realize it, there seems to be a lot of stuff on the wrong side of the scale. And it can be downright depressing. People committing unfathomable acts of cruelties, against innocent victims.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about change. In my professional life, it seems the only constant is continual change. Especially when dealing with government entities. I am one who doesn't like change...I often find myself shaking my head as things around me seem to happen lightening fast. Guess it's just part of my conservative makeup.

Things around us certainly do change, regardless of whether we desire it or not.

But the concept that "people" can change really is important. Can we impact the world around us for the better? Can we change mindsets, behavior, and hearts? Is it truly possible for a man to turn his life around? Or does a person's history, personality and psychological traits set their course in life?

I once heard it said that libraries are based on the idea that people do change. Why write and read books, if words and ideas are futile in helping people change to their minds?

I am persuaded that people are not only capable of change, but the very heart of humanity depends on it. We must change from being self-centered, to a place where we put the best interest of others above ourselves. For many, becoming a parent is the first experience of that sort. Authentic, powerful love for another life to the extent we would die for them.

For me, I think the most poignant example of personal change is the story of John Newton. Yes, I do believe people really can change.

Business Insider Article: 11 Homeless People Who Became Rich and Famous

Thought I'd share an interesting article I found today at Business Insider about people who literally went from rags to riches. I wonder how these folks look back on their times of adversity and how it shaped who they are today.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Trickle Up Poverty: Part Two

Gone Are the Days of Leave It To Beaver

According to a recent study, 85% of recent college graduates have returned home to live with their parents. The dismal job market hasn't been kind, and inexperienced college students aren't exempt from this cruel economy in which we find ourselves. 13.5 million Americans are currently looking for work but remained unemployed. We currently have an 8.1% unemployment rate, relatively unchanged, (the lowest it's been over the last 3 years, but still much higher than in the previous administration. 1 in 7 Americans are on Food Stamps, with roughly the same number facing something called "food insecurity." Adding insult to injury, is the recent news that JP Morgan is the largest processor for electronic food stamp benefits in the United States. For every new person found eligible for food stamps in 26 states, they make money. Big money. 

Part of the impetus behind Occupy Wall Street crowd's battle-cry is income inequality--the fact that the people who fall in the 1% category have seen their wealth experience unparalleled growth, while for the rest of us (the 99%), our income has failed to keep pace with the growth of inflation, and in many cases, dwindled as people face job losses or salary cuts. Many working class/middle-class folks have not seen raises in years, while the cost of living climbs (and so does the bottom lines of Fortune 500 companies, and salaries of hedgefund managers, CEOs of large financial institutions and corporations. The bottom-line: the "Average Joe" has less and less money, and has to somehow figure out how to make due with less, while everyday costs soar. The middle-class have less disposable income, which exacerbates the struggling economy. People hold their money a little closer to their chest when they're fearful about what tomorrow holds for them.

"Daddy Warbucks?" versus "Spread the Wealth?"

Much has been made about the wealth of presumptive GOP Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. Money will be a crucial and deciding factor for many voters. Obama's campaign talks frequently about the plight of the working poor (or, depending on who frames the argument, "politically astute advisers" who know their targeted demographics, know that many of the working poor vote based on their pocketbooks). In fact, Obama's campaign has a new twist on Reagan's "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" question, turning it into a concern about the future, "Will you be better off in four years under a President Romney?"  Political pundits and talking heads digress into complicated discussions about euphemistic terms as "growth plans" versus "austerity measures" and proposed cuts in spending (or cuts in the "growth of future entitlement spending"---again, depending which pundit is talking). 

These politically divisive issues underscore some very basic things: Money is important to most of us. Scarcity of resources is a reality. Not everyone is going to have the same sized piece of the pie. Economic theorists argue the merits of one economic system over another, while mostly ignoring the true source of human misery and impoverishment (stay tuned for my take on that in upcoming posts!). Some argue that the goal should be to grow the entire pie so everyone has a bigger piece. Meanwhile, other egalitarians maintain that everyone should have the same size of the pie across the board, regardless of ability, talent or work ethic. Is the answer really some modern version of Robin Hood?

The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil and other Tales

Any casual study about wealth in the USA will reveal some very interesting statistics. There really is a huge disparity in wealth in America. The top 20% of the richest Americans own 85% of all privately held wealth. That leaves 15% of wealth for the remaining 80% of the population. Fully two thirds of all recent economic gains went to the top 1% of our wealthiest citizens.  Meanwhile, many are seemingly able to escape Uncle Sam. It seems that the cliche' that the rich get richer has some truth to it. Surprisingly, another study indicates that money really doesn't buy happiness. But that doesn't stop the elites from seeking more. The Biblical adage, "The love of money is the root of all evil" is no less relevant than today's news headlines. Story after story can be found about how avarice has lead to unfathomable heartache and broken lives.

So...the questions remain: why is poverty so prevalent? How do we fix it?


Friday, May 18, 2012

Fictional Friday: Nicholas

Nicholas is a 27 year old gentleman with wavy blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. He is thinly-built, lanky, a bit over 6 feet tall and maybe 140 pounds. He sports a thin goatee, and has a pale complexion with small scars on his face. Nicholas and his mother have come to my office to discuss the Medicaid Waiver program. His mother explains that she has put off requesting help for Nicholas for many years. However, she is now in poor health and worries about his future.

Nicholas has a moderate intellectual disability. He has limited reading and writing skills, and has never held a job. He dropped out of high school after 9th grade. Nicholas also has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Bi-Polar Disorder, and frequent anger outbursts. Nicholas's mother explains that although he seems "street-smart" he has been exploited several times. A couple years ago Nicholas disappeared. They reported Nicholas as a missing person to the police. He had a history of eloping when angry, showing up a couple days later. This time was different. For several months his family had no idea of his whereabouts or whether he was even alive. They called every extended family member and friend who might possibly know where he may have went. They prayed. They worried. And waited.

Then one day shortly before Thanksgiving, Nicholas called his elderly grandmother's home. It was the only phone number he could remember. Nicholas didn't know where he was. Fortunately, his grandmother had caller ID, and the family was able to track his location. Nicholas was in rural Georgia, living in a small trailer. He was befriended by a woman he met at a local fair, and after a series of unimaginable circumstances Nicholas was abandoned, without money, food, medication and the skills to survive by himself. His mother and brother drove for 10 straight hours to retrieve Nicholas. Their emotional reunion was powerful and overwhelming. Nicholas was sick, malnourished, and had open sores on his face and arms. The trailer in which he had been living had no running water or electricity. He couldn't remember when the last time he had bathed.

Nicholas's mother emphasizes that she is fiercely independent and reluctant to seek services, but acknowledges that Nicholas will one day need the assistance of others. She hopes his siblings will help out, but worries that Nicholas's behaviors have long worn out his welcome with them. His mother is exhausted, and the emotional strain clearly shows on her tired face. She has numerous health problems, and virtually no support system.

We complete the appropriate paperwork and Waiver application, and I explain that the Waiver wait list means that Nicholas is years away from receiving services, if he is even determined eligible for services. It's hard to be optimistic in circumstances such as these. I can't give false hope, and families need to have accurate and honest answers. Sometimes the answers are hard, and insufficient. There are many people like Nicholas with unmet needs. The difficult reality is that we live in a time in which needs surpass the resources available. But there are ways the system could be more efficient and effective. As a society we can, and must do better.


Note: Nicholas is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals. Composite 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, May 17, 2012

Article from 10 Worst Cars of All Time

Ever own a lemon? I have. Admittedly I've never owned any of the cars on this list, but I could offer a few cars to add to their list. I once owned a Oldsmobile 98 that had a diesel was the biggest money pit I've ever experienced. Beautiful car....horribly expensive to repair.

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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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