Thanksgiving leftovers abound

We sent many leftovers home with our guests, but we also have samples of what they brought. So, we will have to delay the calorie reduction for a few days. The weight has creeped up the last week with the combination of casseroles, pasta, bread and the wonderful desserts. I hope I can find a walk in-between the possible rain today.

The weight is also increased by the diplomatic desire to sample everyone’s dishes. When I see my plate, it looks like a series of two dollops of everything. My rule for judicious eating is homemade stuff gets priority over heated purchased stuff. The one exception is a honey balked ham, which gives a great alternative to turkey, which I also like.

The fellowship was wonderful. We had sixteen in total and since it was the day after Thanksgiving, the rule was to sit where ever there is a place. We have a new niece who we saw for the first time. She was quite animated as she looked around the room while being held. I got my chance to hold her and sing softly like I did with my kids. My wife thinks she likes my voice coming through my chest for comfort. She seems to like the Righteous Brothers better than Elvis and Bread. So, “Unchained Melody” may be her new theme song when visiting.

Fun was had by all. We even called another niece and had a live chat with sixteen folks on our end. The final thing we do before everyone leaves is get a photo shot of all present. I think we have about ten of these pictures over the years.

I hope everyone had a great holiday. Have a wonderful weekend. Pick out a good tree if that is in the works.

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Let’s be different and call it an Orange Friday

Black Friday started as a day of shopping for others, but has turned into a month long inventory close out event for personal shoppers. Oh, a few gifts are bought, as well. I have never cared for Black Friday, so when we visited my grandparents for Thanksgiving, I would always take my cousin and sister to a movie on Black Friday. It was a lot quieter then.

So, rather than call it Black Friday, let’s call it Orange. As per the show about women in prison, “Orange is the new black.” I am not saying we are all prisoners of the retail engine, but we should just use a more fun color and do something different. Orange is brighter and more vibrant.

In our family, we have a larger dinner gathering with multiple siblings and cousins where we can knock out more leftovers after our smaller Thanksgiving meals. Yes, I will be eating more today. So, more hiking, Yoga and Pilates will be required.

A few odds and ends for this Orange Friday are as follows:

In Alaska, the votes are tallied and the results are favorable. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of the few Republicans with the courage to stare down and call out the deceitful actions of the former president, won her Senate race. And, Native Alaskan and Democrat Mary Peltola won her Congressional seat defeating former governor and vice president candidate Sarah Palin. It should be noted the former president endorsed the opposition in both races, so this adds two more to the tally of failed candidates under his purview.

In Oakland, a new mayor was voted in named Sheng Thao, a progressive who defeated the moderate Loren Taylor. What proves interesting is Thao was at one time a homeless person after a split up from her abusive husband fifteen years ago. Plus, she is the first woman of Hmong descent to ever be elected mayor. Her parents were refugees.

I find these two sets of stories very compelling. To me, they show more glimmers of hope that Democracy can survive when too many folks are trying to bully, lie and cheat their way into office. It is not surprising that outgoing Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro is contending his election loss (this was an easy prediction of a few weeks ago), nor is it surprising that Kari Lake won’t concede her Arizona governor race loss, even though the existing Republican governor is welcoming incoming Democrat winner Katie Hobbs. Both Lake and Bolsonaro like to emulate the former US president and his penchant for tossing the checkerboard when he loses.

So, let’s celebrate an Orange Friday. Enjoy your families, enjoy the day and enjoy that the candidates who emulate the orange hair guy did not win.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

Even for our friends who do not celebrate Thanksgiving, peace be with you. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, bar none. Sixteen of us will sit down to dinner and fellowship tomorrow with a smaller gathering tonight.

If the rain cooperates, we will do tomorrow in a picnic shelter as we have done the past two years. Otherwise, our house will be crowded once again. We moved outside when the pandemic hindered us but liked it so much we did it again.

This will need to be short as more preparation is required. We have been at this for a few days, but thank goodness people will be bringing food, drinks or ice.

Please remember this season all of the things to be thankful for. Also, note good news is vastly underreported and bad news is vastly overreported, so things are never as bad as they seem. With that said, there are too many who do without or less than we do in this country and world. There are too many that live in a more dangerous area than we do and are ostracized and disenfranchised daily.

Let’s be thankful for what we have and remember those who are not as comfortable as we are or are in severe need. And, let’s take time to remember the empty chairs at the table. This is a way for our beloved family no longer with us can be celebrated. All the best.

Welcome to America – I hope you are packing heat (a second reprise)

Second reprise in November, 2022: Two more mass shootings have occurred in America in the past few days. Maybe it will be easier to post when there have not been any shootings that day. Today, it was reported that seven were killed at a shooting in a Walmart in Virginia. Last week, five died in a nightclub in Colorado Springs. Yet, it is still early in the week. A watered down gun bill was passed earlier this year. It was something, but not enough. In the US, the real danger is not even the mass shootings. It is the everyday killings over a fight, crime, or escalated disagreement. Or, it could be when a four-year old finds a gun and thinks it is a toy. As for the mass shootings, it not ironic that the two that just happened dovetail the reference in the first reprise in May, 2021.

First reprise in May, 2021: The following post was written almost eight years ago, but as you read it, the events seem to come right out of today’s headlines. This is one topic I am truly tired of writing about, as lobbyists have hobbled the ability for legislators to act like parents and spouses and do something. Americans have said in surveys they want, yet nothing gets done. It reveals who butters the bread for these politicians. At this moment, one more shooting has occurred in Virginia. After Colorado. After Atlanta….

I have written several posts about our excessive gun violence in America. We lead the world by far in gun deaths and children gun deaths. Yet, we continue to do nothing about it. We have a parade of children led shootings at schools the past few weeks, yet we continue to do nothing about it. Pick up any US newspaper anywhere in the country and count the number of gun death or violence stories. I wrote a post about Googling a “six-year-old kills four-year-old” and counting the number of stories that pop up. Yet, we still do nothing about it. We have mass shootings, which are horrific tragedies, but dwarfed by the daily killings of kids, yet we still do nothing about it. And, Americans by virtue of reputable surveys, clearly want better background checks and more elongated waiting periods, yet we still do nothing about it.

Here are a few links to these previous posts.

I am thinking of the person who finally asked Senator Joe McCarthy during his communist witch hunt trials, “Senator, have you no shame?” That was actually the beginning of the end for McCarthy. I fully recognize the complexity of what is causing gun deaths, but the NRA and strident gun amassers would like you to believe that guns have little to do with gun deaths. Responsible gun owners know this not to be the case, which is why they take great pains to teach their use and put them away for safekeeping. So, using the McCarthy line above, “NRA, have you no shame?”

We are well past the time to act on these issues. It is a poverty issue, it is mental health issue, it is a lack of civil discourse issue, it is a violence in entertainment issue, but make no mistake about it, it is an access to guns issue. Without access to a weapon, the child does not kill his sibling or cousin. Without access to a weapon, the depressed teenager, college student or adult does not act on an impulse and end a life. Without access to a weapon a drunken patron at a bar or ball game does not go to his car and come back guns a blazing because they were offended.

NRA, have you no shame? You could have acted responsibly like the majority of gun owners, yet you decided to fan the flames of a fervent crowd and crow about Second Amendment rights, which I still have not seen anyone threaten. You have also usurped the leadership of the GOP and taken them down a darker path along with some other fervent misconceptions. As a result, we cannot have the long overdue civil, appropriate debate about this topic looking at all issues, including what Americans, even Republicans want by far – better background checks and elongated waiting periods. We should do more than that, but those two issues are no brainers and largely popular.

It is past time. NRA, have you no shame? NRA, stand down. We need to have a better conversation without your involvement, as you violated the trust of Americans and responsible gun owners, whom you no longer represent.

We need religious leaders not cult leaders

One of my pet peeves is witnessing bigotry from the pulpit. To me, it is one of the more egregious abuses of power, as we look to our ministers to be among our better angels. One thing I have sadly learned over my worship, volunteer and business life is just because one is portrayed as pious, does not mean they are without fault.

To be frank, we need our ministers, rabbis, priests, imams, and other faith leaders to be religious leaders not cult leaders. We need our religious leaders to inspire us, counsel us, and guide us to be on and remain on a good path forward. We do not leaders to tell us who to hate, who to distrust, or who is less deserving of grace, using religious text as a weapon.

Former president Jimmy Carter is arguably one of the best ex-presidents we have ever had. His good works and good deeds around the world have helped eradicate exposure to a parasite in some third world countries, have helped shape peace agreements, and have bolstered Habitat for Humanity as he has been an ambassador for his country and the disenfranchised. He has also written around thirty books and taught Sunday school on a routine basis.

He is the kind of religious leader that we need. He often cites the context of the Christian bible rather pulling excerpts to demonize people with. He notes, taken out of context, almost any religious text can be used to put people down. In his words, that misses the point. He would look to those words in red in the Christian bible that say something like he who is without sin shall cast the first stone.

There is a reason some churches are seeing fall off in membership. Some of it is a self-fulfilling mission – when you teach a message of exclusion, people feel excluded and stay away. Even those who feel included may stay away as they don’t like the exclusive messaging. Religion is at its finest when it includes, but it is at its worst when it excludes.

A religious leader can make that kind of difference.

There is a chill in the air

We have been alternating the last several weeks between turning the heater on, turning the air conditioning on and leaving them both off. It is cool one night, but we know it will get up to warmer temperatures tomorrow. Now, we are back to nice autumn weather. Let’s hope it remains for awhile.

My wife of course has the added frustration of does she put her summer clothes away or leave them be? So, we have boxes of clothes on the floor. Please do not even mention the volume of clothes, as I learned that lesson the hard way. We husbands can be taught, but it might require us getting banged in the head by a pillow to make it sink in.

Of course, the retailers have started Christmas and holiday advertising in earnest. I have always done my best to ignore these commercials as it slights my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving. The cooler days will help even more with that holiday, meaning we may be able to light a fire at our outside picnic, a tradition we started when the pandemic was waning. Cooler weather means you can take an extra bite or two of the offerings.

We are fortunate with our gatherings that we are all of a similar mindset politically, so we have been able to avoid louder discussions. It is not that we don’t have more strident folks in the family, they just are not part of our immediate family. Other families are not so lucky. So, be prepared to change topics and divert attention. Some folks just like to bait others, so those folks should be avoided. Vote with your feet and leave the room.

So, enjoy these cooler days. Have a fun holiday season. And, may your college or pro football team be victorious.

Troops To Teachers – an old idea with new legs

NBC News ran a piece last night on a program that has been around awhile but is getting more traction with teacher shortages. It is called Troops To Teachers or TTT for short. Here is a brief overview from a Veterans’ website.

“Troops To Teachers was created in 1993 to help service members, military retirees and other veterans gain education and start new careers as kindergarten through 12th grade teachers in public schools, charter schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

The general idea is for those leaving military service to get assistance to accomplish these goals, but in order to get financial aid from the program the applicant must start before retiring or separating from military service….

The Troops To Teachers official site lists a variety of program benefits, but the one most will initially be interested in is the $5,000 stipend or $10,000 bonus (depending on eligibility). We’ll cover more about that below but other TTT benefits include:

  • Transition assistance
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Assistance with state teacher certification and licensing
  • Connections with hiring officials
  • Mentorship

These services are free to the applicant and there may also be state-level Troops To Teachers programs or resources available depending on the state.”

This idea is terrific. With a shortage of teachers, especially STEM teachers, the program is much needed. Per the NBC News piece, the kids in a high school class with a Navy veteran were sharing lessons learned from their teacher veteran about getting stuff done and done on time. Accountability and responsibility are key tenets of the teaching as well. The teacher also spoke of what it means to him to help out with our most important resources – students.

From the website link (see below), the veteran must apply withing three years of leaving the service. To me, even if the veteran learns teaching is not for them, it puts them on a path to figure out better what they want to do. But, for those who stick it out, the lessons they can give could be dramatic. This is a very cool idea in my view.

https://veteran.com/troops-to-teachers/

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/troops-to-teachers-military-members-bringing-life-lessons-to-students-153108037750

A few Gumpish questions – a reprise from January, 2020

I have written a few posts on asking more why questions, but let me define a few dumb questions, in the spirit of a fictitious chatacter, Forrest, Forrest Gump. It is amazing how these questions don’t leap off the news pages or out of cyberspace.

In no particular order…

Help me understand how the president can cause a problem, then get kudos (or claim such), when he solves (or lessens) his own problem?

Forrest Gump answered his drill sergeant’s question of his purpose? “To do exactly what you tell me to do, drill sergeant!” The drill sergeant called Gump a “genius” for his answer.

Help me understand how one of the largest US Christian denominations cannot resolve conflict and will be splitting in two? What message does that send?

Forrest Gump’s girl Jenny gave Forrest the best answer to danger. What should he do? “Run, Forrest, run.”

Help me understand how legislators, presidential candidates and current president don’t seem to care that our annual deficit and debt are exploding?

Forrest’s mama answered her son’s question of what is his destiny? “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get.”

How can people not see the intense and elongated forest fires in Australia, Brazil and California and not think we have a new paradigm with our heating planet?

Forrest got a Purple Heart. When asked where he was shot, he said “I got shot in the buttocks. They said it was a million dollar wound, but I haven’t seen any of that money.”

How can people feel that putting a face on an opposing argument, then beating on that person can pass for reasoned counter argument (think Al Gore and Greta Thunberg)?

Lieutenant Dan showed up at dockside to honor his promise that he would be Forrest’s first mate if he got a shrimp boat. He told Forrest he wanted to get his “sea legs.” Forrest said, “But, you don’t have no legs.” “Yes, I know this,” Lt. Dan replied.

Help me understand why important people are so cavalier with their reputations by spending time with Jeffrey Epstein and underage girls (think Prince Andrew, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton)? The other sad part is Ghislaine Maxwell should have known better than sourcing underage girls for Epstein’s exploitation The truth would likely frighten and repulse us.

In the middle of all the Vietnam shooting, Lt. Dan offered this pertinent advice to his troops. “Take care of your feet and don’t get yourself shot.” Amen, brother.

One of the traits of a narcissist is a defense mechanism known as projection. In other words, to deflect criticism, a narcissist indicts others with his faults to paint others in a bad light before he is so painted. There is no better explanation as to why the former president name calls and denigrates others.

Forrest answered Bubba’s mother when she asked “if he was crazy or just plain stupid?” Forrest uttered his classic line, “Stupid is as stupid does.” That is a profound statement.

We need leaders to calm the tensions

Yesterday, yet another example of why we need civil discourse and leaders to emphasize it, occurred when an assailant broke into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home and injured her husband, Paul. Whether someone disagrees with Pelosi’s views or even does not like Pelosi, there is no call for such action. Full stop. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of Pelosi’s, but do respect her experience and capability.

Most of my phone calls and emails over the last two weeks to elected officials is to get them to help lower the temperature in our country. I even made a few phone calls to some of the biggest culprits who throw gasoline on fires stoking more tension. The calls before then, were more pleas to act to denounce those who are continuing to fuel The Big Lie.

Yet, leaders are not being listened to by those who need to clean out their ears. The few truth tellers in the Republican Party are vilified and threatened for daring to call out the former president who has been well documented for what he has done his entire life – act in a routinely untruthful manner

To me, two of the people in leadership positions in the Republican party need to speak up and denounce such behavior. We can disagree with one another without threatening or harming people. The first is Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell. Sadly, McConnell has long been overtly skilled as a politician and with the former president has tried to play both ends against the middle. He calls him out to a point, but does not want to anger the MAGA base too much. Yet, he can at the very least say important things like I noted in the bold sentence above.

The other person is House Minority Kevin McCarthy. After saying the right things immediately following the January 6 insurrection against the Capitol, he was summoned to Mar-a-Lago and apparently read the riot act. Since then, he has been the most obsequious of sycophants daring not rile the anger of the former president. My guess is he was told if he wanted to be speaker after the mid-terms, he better play ball. I say this as McCarthy has abstained from being the leader our country and his party needs him to be.

So, if I were in one of these posts for a day, I might say the following.

-Folks, it is OK for us to disagree with the policies of our opponents, but to attack people is a non-starter. We must not conduct, promote or tolerate violence on an opposing candidate official We need to treat them the same way, we would want our candidates and incumbents treated.

-And, it is long past time to bury this election fraud BS propagated by the former president and his allies. Donald Trump lost the election and to say otherwise, is simply unproven lies. Too many people have been hurt, killed and jailed by believing this BS. It simply is not true and the former president knows it, which makes it even worse.

Of course, that is what a leader might say.

You have a right to be bigoted, but your right has no standing

Standing.  “Standing is the legal right to initiate a lawsuit. To do so, a person must be sufficiently affected by the matter at hand, and there must be a case or controversy that can be resolved by legal action.”

It has a legal meaning as to whether your opinion against what I do matters in my ability to do it. The Supreme Court ruled that someone marrying a same gender partner or a different race partner has no bearing on what another may like or dislike or believes religiously. And, vice versa.

In other words, you have a right to your opinions, whether they are bigoted or not bigoted, but they have no bearing on me. You have no standing in what I do. Only when my words or actions are harmful to you, do you have standing to bring litigation, provided litigation can solve the rift. So, a gay, lesbian or transgender couple can legally marry, as it has no impact on another person, but if they drove over your mailbox on the way to their honeymoon, then you have an issue.

Within the conservative movement is an unhealthy embrace of diminishing other people’s rights who do not look, vote, worship, love, or present gender-wise within that person’s expectations and preferences. For the most part, they have no standing on the issue, whether their opinions are bigoted or not bigoted. And, from what I have witnessed, standing is some cases is created when it really does not exist.

So, a gay, lesbian or transgender person has the right to be a teacher, minister, work in a day care, etc. The only time standing would exist is if the person was being harmful to kids and others. In its basest terms, a gay minister is fine, but a pedophile minister is not. Standing exists by those harmed on the latter issue, but not the former.

Using examples from the news feeds, the kids sexually assaulted at a football camp sponsored by a Penn State football coach, the female gymnasts sexually assaulted by a Michigan State and Olympics trainer, the wrestlers and football players sexually assaulted by two different team physicians at Ohio State and Michigan, the boy scouts who were sexually assaulted by scout leaders and the women sexually assaulted by Southern Baptist Convention ministers all had standing.

These are the things we must watch out for, someone who is being harmful to another person, not what someone may do in their privacy of their own home or how they look, vote, worship or present. You have no standing there.