Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's Just Too Complicated

On Saturday my daughter and I were driving home from Utah after taking the whirlwind tour of her chosen University; my daughter will forever be a Ute.  Driving down from Salt Lake City past the pastoral gardens of central Utah and the greenery of newly sprouted crops of untold variety we finely left this garden of Eden but only after passing the grandeur of the canyon highway just past St. George, a little slip of land that sits in Arizona but creates a meaningful passage from one realm to another.

The deserts and openness that follow the Gorge really do exhibit a stark difference in what was before and what follows.  Not only visually but culturally and geographically as well, the passage from one existence to another might be more appropriate and the gateway as it abruptly ends leaving the traveler with a sense of loss and a sense of excitement as the deserts beyond beckon and gesture with the sheer size of what is ahead, the road goes on, far beyond our ability to see so do the possibilities of life and choice.

Between the gorge and the next city is nothing but land, unused, un-blemished, clean and pure making driving on that single asphalt road an afterthought of the real reason for being there.  Nevada is a beautiful state but near the border of Nevada and Arizona there exist turmoil of significant proportions.  I had read about the problem, the rancher and his claim to the land that the BLM has tried to alter.  The standoff is between what the government claims and their desire to usurp control and the ranchers right to continue grazing his cattle as he and his family have apparently done for generations.

As far as I know these are the facts:  The Rancher, the Clive Bundy family has grazed their cattle on these lands for generations.  The BLM (the bureau of land management) has imposed grazing fees for those using those lands.  Mr. Bundy did not want to pay fees for lands he had been using for years and years and decided he had rights that were grandfathered.  In some ways it’s similar to a path through the back yard of a neighbor that goes unchecked for years and that path eventually turns into a well worn and daily used causeway for the neighborhood.  After 15 years the owner of the property starts to impose restrictions on the users of the path.  I may be wrong but I believe there is a provision of acceptance that creates a use permit that cannot be interrupted by the land owner if nothing was done prior to interrupt the free access of those users….

Our current government is trying to gain more control over what was in the past an open invitation especially for people like Clive Bundy who used the land without charge and without notice of issue or warning.  After years of acceptable use the rules changed and our government expects us to acquiesce and kneel down and pay, giving up our rights of passage as has been accepted for generations.
For Clive Bundy, even deciding to pay the “new” fees abrogates his rights toward land usage and places his age old practice into a new fee structure of permission by payment.  It further degrades his standing making him subject to the new laws, taking the old rights away.

In a similar situation our founding fathers discovered that they were being used and the laws abused with no regard to the past.  New tariffs, new taxes, more restrictions were arbitrarily imposed upon the colonist, making their lives less predictable and the rules of the king only benefiting the king and not the concerns of those who worked hard to achieve success and autonomy within the colonies.  They revolted, they fought and they eventually won the right of self governess. 

The Bundy issue may not be at the same scale but the principle is the same.  There is an oppressive government flexing its muscles and wanting the citizenry to simply acquiesce and give in.  The Bundy’s and his supporters have had enough.  The streets, the hills and canyons around his ranch were covered with private citizens, with guns in a standoff against the BLM police who were also well armed and aiming their assault weapons on their own citizens. 

In a show of solidarity the citizens decided to advance slowly on the BLM position, hoping they would not fire the first shot.  I’m sure it was a very tense and scary proposition to be on the front line moving toward a well armed and trained line of officers.  In the end the BLM faded and let the people have it today, but the real fear is in the future.  Our government as so constituted in this day and age is not one to give in.  Other methods will be found to undermine the peoples stand and force them into compliance.

Bundy and his supporters may have won this battle but the war it seems is only just beginning.  Perhaps through taxes or late night raids Mr. Bundy will be confronted again.  Perhaps with leaked and unsubstantiated claims or an uncovered “news” item liking him to some illicit affair with drugs or …let your imagination wander…I don’t feel as if our government is moral enough not to consider any alternative to bringing this issue to a successful end in their behalf.

Most it seems have lost all faith in the promises of a government who has consistently changed the rules of the game and failed to support the consistent foundations of a free and stable constitution.  Maybe it’s just that I watch too much TV or read too many articles on injustice that my mind is too skewed to rationally believe that good will prevail as long as we work hard, keep our noses clean and obey the rules.  It’s very hard to obey the rules when those rules continue to change.

Too many legislators making rules, too many rules to follow and too many people telling us what to do, it makes doing anything almost impossible.  You may or may not like Donald Rumsfeld but he recently wrote an open letter to the IRS telling them that he and his wife cannot be certain if they were in fact paying the taxes they actually owed and blamed the complex tax code as the problem.  Like Mr. Rumsfeld I consider myself to be somewhat intelligent, that may be a character flaw but regardless of others opinion of my mental capacity I like most others do not understand the current tax rules and therefore have to rely upon others to file my returns. 

It seems that most laws and rules are following suit, becoming complicated and unbelievable wordy with specific requirements for some and changes that preclude other requirements for others depending on their race, eye color, disposition, time of day and the current cycle of some unknown star billions of miles away.  It’s time to simplify and shorten our rules and laws so that everyone can understand.
Like Mr. Bundy we all want to be able to rely upon the promises of the past and go forward with the faith that those rules are the same today as they were yesterday and will continue, unchanged.  But in almost every civilized society the natural trend for government is to obfuscate, complicate, bureaucratize and manipulate so that the few who govern can continue to govern and control.  This is not a nation of the people.  This is a nation of the few who use the people to further their own political ambitions. 

I may not have a herd of cattle nor followers to assist my cause but I do understand the severity of the minutia amassed against us to keep us from fighting in mass. We need to stand as one against the obvious tyranny of our current leaders before they confiscate our lives in total through the use of some new and obscure rule made just for that purpose…Fight on…     

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What Day is it?

Easter Sunday has always been an important day but trying to figure out when that day will actually occur can be quite difficult which is why I, in all my wisdom continue to refer to the Roman Calendar or the Julian Calendar,  introduced by once great Julius Caesar as my ultimate guide to all things date related.  In truth I would forget my own birthday without the use of some outside devise to remind me.

But unlike the set date of a birthday or event in history, Easter has a peculiar set of rules that determines when it can be celebrated.  There are various holidays that have a “floating” date, meaning that the specific day changes from year to year with only a general range of time specified for that holiday. 

Christmas for example is always on the 25th of December, while Mothers Day is held on the second Sunday in May.  Presidents Day is held on the third Monday of February, the specific date changes from year to year, while St. Patrick’s Day is always held on March 17th.  There are a lot of Irish wannabes that would prefer a floating holiday so that this momentous occasion could occur on the weekend of every year but they continue to make due.

Cinco De Mayo always happens on the 5th of May, it kind of has too but Ash Wednesday falls on the specific day of 45 days prior to Easter Sunday, so if you messed up the Date of Easter you would have had to disregard your Ash reserves and forgo lent all together, maybe next year?
Determining the exact date of Easter Sunday requires a PhD in numerology, a Master in Chronology and a good sense of humor. 
Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon, not just any full moon mind you…) following the March equinox. 
Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on 21 March (although the astronomical equinox occurs on 20 March in most years, so even though it’s fixed it varies…), and the "Full Moon" is not necessarily on the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies from 22 March to 25 April inclusive. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian calendar, whose 21 March corresponds, during the 21st century, to 3 April in the Gregorian calendar, and in which therefore the celebration of Easter varies between 4 April and 8 May.  That was easy, don’t you think, with Wikipedia’s help.
Regardless of the date, the determining factors of the planets and the gravitational pull of Pluto  on the sands of Hawaii beaches the Easter Holiday is even more difficult to comprehend now that  governments demand a retraction of the word “Easter” replacing the very name with “spring break”.  The essence of our beliefs are being strategically stripped away and whitewashed with the secularism of “political correctness”.
As a student I looked forward to the “Easter Holiday” even if I didn't understand when it would be.  I knew it was coming and and like many of my friends I looked foreword to the time off.  I could count on having the week off prior to Easter Sunday or the week after, with the added anticipation of friends and family gathering together for massive meals, laughter, Easter egg hunts and a religious event that gave me a substantial understanding of the importance of that day.
Today is Saturday, the Saturday prior to Easter Sunday and I have to admit I was a little surprised when I realized that Easter was tomorrow.  Each of my kids are still in school and each it seems have  different holiday break.  Some had off two weeks ago, some had their break one week ago and our German exchange student has her break next week.
The confusion of the date of Easter is bad enough but when the perplexity of the very holiday is bastardized and reduced to an afterthought then perhaps we have gone too far.  Easter is the culmination of all our Christian beliefs and encapsulates all that we believe.  To the Christian Easter is in remembrance of His resurrection and the pinnacle of His Divine nature.  Without Easter we have no Son of God, we have no hope for an afterlife, we have no reason to believe.
  Easter is perhaps the most important holiday that Christians have, so why have we allowed for its demarcation?  Why have we allowed it to be minimized and marginalized?  Perhaps it’s time to start actually defending this holiday, demanding that this holiday be reinstated and that the word Easter be used to define and describe this Holy Day rather than the insubordinate “spring break”.
Culturally we are in the fight for our souls. We may be losing the battle to secularism but we can still fight for the sanctity of our beliefs and at least be given the time off under the label for which it used to be, a religious holiday.  Perhaps if we take a stand on this we may learn to stand for other important events and who knows, maybe, one day we might start to see that needed change that brings to pass the pure message of love that was so eloquently and simply taught by the one and only Jesus Christ, the true Son of God.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Building a house into a home

For the past three weeks I've been restoring an old house, not extremely old but older than me.  Built in 1930, I could tell because on the old cracked plaster in the living room there was a written note from a Plem Peller, the Designer, I think, with the inscribed date of May 1930.   His or her, it’s hard to tell with a name like Plem wrote in bold cursive that had a flair for the dramatic in a style long forgotten with flowing letters and large P’s that started each word of his or her name.

I have been trying to uncover some of the history of this old house (not to be confused with the TV show) but interested in how the house was built, by whom it was built and why.  The history of who we are is so important and some of that has to include the things we create.  Knowing the history of a house changes the very essence of that building from a house to a home but so far I've been unable to even verify or substantiate the name Plem Peller.

Up one street and further east is another grand home and when I say grand I may be understating the fact.  This home was built in the 1920s by the Vice President of Perfection Stoves and heaters, William Clapp.  Doesn't ring any bells, it didn't for me either but the house is or was spectacular.  9 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, slate roof, copper gutters and built as a Pennsylvania Colonial Revival, I didn't even know that Pennsylvania had a Colonial Revival let alone a home style.

With nearly 16,000 square feet of living space, yes sixteen thousand the rooms are huge and spacious, the accouterments are spectacular and easily on par with the estate at San Simian in California built by William Randolph Hurst.  It goes to show I guess what real money can do.  The history of that old house is really quite nice with only three owners over the past 90 years, two with large families and the last a pair of older, non married Las Vegas high rollers, an uncle, who continues to dye his hair and kept referring to me as “kid” reminiscent of the Vegas of days past, and his nephew who apparently sold a tech company for millions a few years past. Both it seems the house and the pair has had better days.

I could go on about that grand palace of a home and the current owners but the salient point is in the process of making a house into a home.  It really has nothing to do with the building style, the architecture or trappings of wealth nor those difficulties of poverty.  A home is a creation and must be built in almost the same fashion as the actual construction of the building.  A home needs to be orchestrated and planed using solid materials and techniques that ensure stability and safety.  Failure to follow the plans will ensure instability and eventual failure of the very thing one is trying to build. 

Whether it be a castle or a humble four wall lean to the plans needed to build a home are essentially more important than those to build a house.  I look at my own life and the homes my wife and I have created.  I've built or remodeled every home we've lived in trying to make the structure of that house more livable, nicer and more in line with our dreams of building a home.  During the process of constructing that superficial life the building of our home continues.

Even after the last nail is driven or the paint has long sense dried the process of building a home never ends.   Even when the children are grown and gone the necessity of a home built on a substantial foundation should never be overlooked.  It is in that foundational process that a home continues to survive and thrive. 

I can build a house, I could probably build a castle, and I would need some physical help at this point in my life but I have to admit that I could not build a home by myself.  The partnerships needed, the cooperation of time and effort, the designation of love and companionship, the humility and compassion required to sustain others is a full time job and for most require the help of another.  To this I thank my wife eternally for she has been there with me to drive each nail of love, lift each and every wall of sanctity, and sustain the foundational principles that ensure that what we've built remains standing.
It can be done alone and many courageous men and women have stepped up to carry those burdens.  They have done a wonderful job but the real fight to maintain a home is so much better with a loving, devoted husband and wife, male and female, creating that essential balance that life requires in order to successfully excel from one generation to the next.

Next time you have to make a repair to your house, a loose door knob, a broken window or even a complete remodel, don’t forget the lessons learned.  We need to tighten the bolts of our foundations, repaint our interiors and tune up our minds and spirits in order to maintain the integrity of the spirit that is ultimately the gauge of whether we live in a house or a home.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Unequal pay

Today is the day that the salaries of Men and Women are compared.  I guess you could call it salary day or lack of salary day for the many women who get short changed by the “system” or perhaps clap your hands in joy and smile allot with a stupid grin day if you’re a man.  It takes approximately 15 months for an average woman to make what a man makes in 12.  The question is why?  Why do women make less for doing exactly the same work as their male counterparts?

One suggested reason is the inability of many women to negotiate properly for themselves.  Many women undersell their own abilities, fail to negotiate using their strengths and are hesitant about promoting themselves, fearful of coming across as crass, or insensitive, leaning more toward the desire to be accepted and liked rather than rock the boat for better pay and benefits.

There was a study done recently regarding the position of women as negotiators and an interesting pattern emerged; women may not do well negotiating for themselves but when they fight for another woman the salaries tend to be equal to that of their male associates, helping researches to understand the underlying motivations of women.

Women really are the nurtures and caregivers, thinking of others before themselves.  They routinely use compassion and rely upon their feelings when making decisions.  The analytical aspects are not left out but the bonus of empathy creates a balance that perhaps brings a more rounded and long term solution to any given problem.  To many this may sound like a push toward segregation of duties and a push back to the days before “women’s lib”. 

There are many, both women and men who pine for the old days when men would go off to work, slave all day in the preverbial coal mines of industry, leaving the wife to care for the kids, leaving her dressed in peals and high heels, her day solely dedicated to her husband and the care of their offspring.  There is some credence to their arguments for societal reasons with one being that if more women stayed home the children of this world would be better suited for today’s challenges.  Another is that if women stayed home the jobs they currently possess would have to go to the men letting them be the primary breadwinners and providers with the end result being a more stable family life.

The reality however is much more complicated and controversial than a simple fix of all women quitting their jobs and donning aprons over dresses.  Women were essentially forced to work during the Second World War, when production of war materials was needed and available men were not available.  Women stepped up and liked the independence and freedom and have been a major force in the work place ever sense.

I wonder how many women would like to turn back the hands of time and revert back to what used to be.  How many would opt for a life of homemaker, help meet or handmaiden or more appropriately domestic partner.  Wondering is only that a dream of insignificant proportions for the reality far exceeds the desire for most, even for those who wish fervently most women have to work regardless of what they truly believe or desire, and that brings us back to the essential question of why women get paid less for doing the same job as men.

As suggested above it’s primarily a negotiating issue and in a large part only in relation to the salaried employees.  Hourly pay for men and women are essentially equal.  Men do get promoted easier and that is still an issue to overcome but for salaried employees and only those in private industry the issue of pay is due to a woman’s inability to sell herself.

It has been suggested and studied that when women stop looking at themselves as the target of negotiated salary discussions and start using their spouses, their children and even their pets, their mortgages, car payments etc…as the motivator the salary negotiations turn out to be more in line with a mans. 

Obviously men and women should be paid the same for doing the same job, really no discussion there.  Should women stay home, are they better suited for domestic life, perhaps but those realities of our own making have made that scenario very improbable.  Kudos for those who accomplish that goal and also desire to live that life but for many women and I know this is hard to do, stop thinking of yourselves when negotiating  your salary, start thinking of others first.  Stop being so selfish and start thinking about your husband’s retirement or your kid’s college or your pets, they all depend on you to bring home the bacon.  If you’re going to work you might as well be well paid.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The grandeur of the watchful gander

In a solitary field covered mostly with snow, the faint lines of the football grid could be seen but no players, no fans, no concessionaires hawking their wares.  Almost in the middle of this vacant field sat two birds, one slightly larger than the other, the other sitting, its legs folded gracefully underneath its body its long neck curved in an arch allowing its head to curl into the warmth of the feathers on its back.

Presumably as it rested the other, larger bird stood erect, its head straight up, its head moving slowing from side to side, its body only inches away from his resting companion.  The occasional piece of trash would fly over the once green pastures of competition causing the larger goose to follow its path but it never moved and only watched, waiting for a real threat.

The busy road passing the football field had hundreds of cars driving by in all directions, there were students leaving school, ignoring the field and the sole occupants of the grid iron, more concerned with the thoughts of boyfriends, homework and getting across the street to the bus stop to worry about the two birds on the field.

Had they looked they would have easily seen the two geese, the two devoted companions resting in this place of supposed solitary protection.  They would have seen the resting one and the one standing guard and would have seen the lesson of life that many of us forget.  They were too busy, too rushed, too involved to notice the profound example of life at its best.  They without the eyes to see could not fathom the fidelity of one to another and the glory surrounding that emotion of service.

Vigilant and attentive the geese stayed and rested, too weary perhaps to continue on their southward migration.  They sought out a refuge of land and found the football field, right in the heart of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and right on the edge of two major streets, protected only by a thin fence.  As I watched waiting for the light at the intersection to change two students jumped the fence and entered the field.  Their goal was not to harm the geese, it seems as though they only wanted a short cut from one street to the other but as soon as the two entered onto the field the guarding goose moved into action and without fear or hesitation moved its wings to their full width and honked its loud cry in warning to the approaching students, they quickly altered their path, staying on the rubberized track and taking the long way around.

The sitting goose never moved, its head still buried deep into its feather, knowing the other would watch and protect.  Knowing that the rest it needed would be reciprocated soon for her companion and she would stand tall and watch while he slept.  In concert they fly, they feed and live almost as one, a marriage of nature and perhaps of God though design they follow their genetic blueprint as most animals do but in their adherence we learn the true purpose of life.

“Chose this day whom ye will serve…” for that service will determine who we become.  Who is it that we truly wish to be?  The geese may not have a choice in the matter, a goose is a goose and a lion is a lion but man has the ability to be whatever he chooses and therein lays the mystery of life.  Some choices are obviously very difficult and some are almost impossible based on circumstances and past choices but in all cases a choice can be made.  An incremental decision to change the past, alter the future and start the move toward the divine nature that is inherent in all of us.

The goose may be only a goose but that devoted trait is laudable and admirable, not only to other geese but to those who had the privilege to witness nature performing at its best.  Following the natural path is best left for the animals but for man who has the beautiful and wonderful ability to choose regardless of genetic predisposition and past habits or circumstances, he can change his life in an instance and do so for good or ill, never really being bound to the genetic powers that control the migrations or habits of the animal world.  He is completely free to change whatever he will change the only problem is in his will to change and in that desire to want to seek the truths that set him free.

I chose to be more like that goose, proudly watching and serving my companion, doing by duty regardless of the threats and discomforts of life, staying the course despite the pressures of life pulling me and swaying me toward more pleasurable option, short term fixes that only ensnare and eventually enslave.  I want to be free to fly away, free to choose to continue to choose knowing that a wrong choice only limits those future choices and limits my essential ability to progress.

Those geese did eventually leave, having rested and regained their strength but their short visit gave to me a renewed and inspired view of my own need to be vigilant and at the same time being with others who can watch over me while I need to rest.