Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Should We Try A Collapse? (More on the Dutch)

I’ve learned a little more about the Dutch government. “Collapse” isn’t the word for what happened there over the weekend. “Revitalization” would be a more accurate description.
This change in government is actually a provision which is intended to be used when the people currently in office aren’t able to work for the benefit of the citizens. The government intentionally dissolves itself to make room for more effective personalities.
WHAT?!? That would never happen here! American officials would NEVER collectively remove themselves from powerful offices for the benefit of the country. Imagine what could be accomplished if our representatives shared this view of their citizenry . . .
It’s frustrating that we refuse to look beyond America’s shores for better ways of handling things. Working toward continuous improvement is, in my eyes, much more patriotic than blindly chanting that we are the best, the fastest, the biggest, the first. How many lessons have we refused to learn while clinging to our national ego?
Our government has nothing to do with our citizens. Except to garner our votes and our money, I really don’t think we are even considered. I once had an Irishman ask me why Americans didn’t do something about our government. Sadly, I couldn’t think of one thing that we could do that would truly make a difference. We just don’t matter.
We are living in a society that manipulates us to spend, spend, spend so that corporate and political greed remain financed. There is no way out of this with our gridlocked, two-party system. We need more parties, so there is no majority and officials are forced to work together. (Check out the 12th Amendment to the US Constitution and consider its impact. It should be repealed.)
Unfortunately, it’s the American people who have created this mess. We are apathetic and have blind faith in our leadership. We are either die-hard Democrats or die-hard Republicans, neither seeing that we don’t mean a thing to either of these institutions. It's easier to identify with a party than to think for yourself.
I admire the societies which hold massive demonstrations and strikes to get the attention of their governments. I just don’t see Americans caring enough to make that happen.
I love my country; the principles on which she was founded are upstanding and pure. The founders of the USA had tremendous foresight and were able to think beyond themselves and the world they knew. The US Constitution is an amazing document.
We were on the right track at one time. Yet, somewhere along the line, we lost Lincoln’s ideal: “ . . . government of the people, by the people, for the people . . . ”

It's Never The One You Need

I can’t believe that I had to buy a screwdriver . . .
If there is a screwdriver in my garage, there are 200 of them. This is not an exaggeration; there were 9 boys raised in my husband’s house and there’s an unbelievable amount of tools here. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of screwdrivers: L-shaped, Z-shaped, S-shaped, star-headed, square-headed, ratcheting, magnetic, you name it. I plan to put together tool kits of hand tools and take them to halfway homes for residents who will soon be on their own.
None of the kits will include a Phillips screwdriver that extends over 5.5 inches beyond where the shaft connects to the handle, because I don’t have any! I needed to replace the walking belt on a treadmill and have to access a screw that’s way back into a recessed cavity. Who designed this? And why?
I ended up with an extension shaft that fits onto a screwdriver with interchangeable bits.
I never thought I’d have to buy another tool!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Je Maintiendrai

The Dutch government collapsed?!? I just can't fathom that!
Because they are the cradle of American political philosphy, I consider western European nations as or more stable than us. I still believe that. This doesn't mean that the government in The Netherlands is less stable than ours, but that ours is less stable than I had believed. I'm anxious to get the perspective of my Dutch coworker . . .
Here's a shot of the buildings which house the Dutch government, the Binnenhof (inner court). Uncommonly, they are not located in Holland's capital, but are in The Hague.
I doubt anyone's surpised that the military coalition is failing. Bullying generally doesn't last in the long run.
Trivia Question: What settlement was previously founded as "New Amsterdam"?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fountain Fun

I went to the Cleveland Clinic with a friend yesterday. Wow, it's huge with lots of interesting features, such as this beautiful fountain at the main entrance!


Mom’s allowed to swim! She loves the water, but doctors told her earlier that it would be some time before swimming was an option. She’s very pleased that her doctor has cleared her for a trip to the pool.
I love old natatoriums; it’s fun to see how architecture has been used to create atmosphere in them. This is a shot of the Amalienbad, which is a beautiful old public spa facility from the 1920’s in Vienna, Austria. My girlfriend lives across the street from it. I was in Vienna a few years ago when they were having record-breaking temperatures all over Europe and I stumbled upon it while looking for a way to cool off.
The socialist government of 1920’s Austria built a number of these places in an attempt to improve the health of commoners who were, at that time, quite poor. It’s a beautiful art deco building with baths, steam rooms, saunas and this gorgeous pool. When it was first built, the glass roof used to crank open for ventilation.
I wish Mom would go here with me, but she has vowed to never fly again.
Below is a rendition of the Amalienbad by German Artist, Johannes Schramm. Can you believe that this is a painting??

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Presbyterian Honey

This is an eave of the 100+ year old Presbyterian church in my hometown. Take a closer look to view the yard-high wild hive dripping honey down the brick exterior. This hive has been here for a long, long time.
My first piano teacher was married to the preacher at this church when I was very young, so our recitals were held here. Isabel used to parade each of her students to the front of the church for a display of what we'd learned that year. I remember being mortified in some pretty new dress.
The church currently has 23 members; I don't think any of them live in town.
There are five beautiful old churches in town. It would be fun to get a brief history and interior and exterior shots of each of them to frame as a series. I guess I'd better get on that project, with membership figures like that.
I found this place while searching for info for this post: http://www.wildhivefarm.com/. It's about halfway between NYC and Albany and I'm going to visit there someday.

Got Cooperation?

I was taught to be my own person. I can’t think of one time that my mother ever held me up for comparison against someone else. Even when she implied that I should or should not be doing something, her reasoning never held reference to what anybody else was doing. I can’t think of a time when she did this to herself, either, although plenty of people tried to do it to her.
I think I’m happier because I wasn’t taught to compete. It seems to me that women with sisters and men with brothers have a leg up on others in this regard; we learn to manage same-gender competition earlier in life through sibling rivalry. Of course, a lot of people never get beyond that.
Usually, I don’t notice right away when someone has positioned themselves as my rival. I don’t understand people who are hypercompetitive; I’m satisfied with this lack of understanding, too.
At the same time, I really enjoy intentional, organized competition. I have no shame with games and sports and talk a lot of smack with or without the talent to back it up. I think this is endlessly fun, even when I lose. Maybe I get this from my grandmother’s generation? My mom says she doesn’t care for card games because of the die-hard competitiveness of the generation who taught her to play. She’s right, those people were relentless. (I say this with admiration.)
But, off the field or table, competition damages a lot of relationships. It’s sad to watch what happens to individuals who compete without limits. I used to work for a really nice man who evolved into an untrustworthy boor when he “rose to the occasion” with a newcomer to our organization. How can you be happy when you constantly have to prove to yourself that you’re the smartest, the fastest, the cutest, the highest-paid, the endless list of other superlative modifiers? Are you going to have them engraved on your tombstone?
What does this to people? Didn’t they get what they needed as a child? Did that third grade incident with the playground bully leave them wounded? Is this mentality born or created?
The oddest thing about hypercompetitive sorts is the way they underestimate others. When that happens and you inevitably breach their low expectations, they start to resent you. You’re not fitting into the compartment they’ve created for you. That’s when envy pops up.
The older I get, the more amazed I am by the number of people who are motivated by and make decisions based on envy. wtf? What has that ever done for anyone? I once had a lady tell me that she was jealous because I was willing to wear clothes that hadn’t been ironed! (Ok, she was aware of how silly that was, so her envy was managed, but too funny not to share!)
What I have learned is that when people aren’t good at something, it’s usually because they don’t like it. And when they are good, it’s because they do. It really doesn’t have anything to do with ability; it’s all about preferences. So, what’s with the competition?
Yet, I trust the philosophy of duality. I don’t think that we have strengths and weaknesses; we just have traits. In one circumstance, a trait may be advantageous to us, while in another situation, it may serve us poorly. Without uber-competitive people, there would be no Olympics.
I love to watch Yevgeny skate, but I’d bet that he doesn’t cooperate with others well.
Thanks, Mom, for not doing that to me!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

BIG Sigh of Relief

The class went great! I really couldn't have asked for anything to have gone better. The attendees were interested and engaged, my evaluations were great, it ran perfectly on-time and each of them expressed that they were happy with the information they received.
I put this class together with information that I could use myself and needs assessments conducted with others, but you can never be sure. It was so gratifying to hear, "This is exactly the information we need."
Now, I have some judges and trainers to thank for their up-front input.
It's funny - when I got home, Mom (who recommended that I only do this once) said, "So, what are the next steps?" And, she's back to calling me "Professor" again. Sheesh!

Uh, Oh

Mom fell. It could have been quite a setback, because she ended up in the emergency room with a gash in her head. However, she’s taking it pretty well, referring to “my $1,000 ambulance ride.” Thankfully, “Sarge” and I had already decided that she shouldn’t be showering when she was home alone, so my sister was there at the time. Mom finds it hysterical that when my sister responded to her call for help, she came into the bathroom, saw her on the floor of the shower with the shower curtain wrapped around her, the shower head squirting water all over and said, “Mom, what are you doing?” She’s been telling people that she responded, “I’m scrubbing the floor,” but I don’t know if that’s true.
We’ll be replacing the shower chair from which she slipped and making sure she has secure footing, but you can’t think of everything.
I know this has nothing to do with the stroke and that it could happen to anyone. It’s still scary.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Big Day

Tomorrow is my class. I can't believe I'm actually doing this. My cousin told me tonight that it seems like I just had the idea, but it seems to me like I've been planning this for ages. Tonight, I pulled apart probably a dozen notebooks with little inclusions jotted in them that I've been saving for about 5 years!
And tomorrow, I'll see if it was all worth it.
I'm an idea person. I am just full of great ideas, without the resources (or often, the commitment) to do anything about them. This is one of the few times I've actually done something with one and it feels just great!
Mom doesn't understand why I want to do something “on the side.” She thinks I'm too busy and I never relax; last night she said, “Make this the last time you teach it!” What?!? This is the first time!
Regardless of the outcome, it will be an accomplishment. I hope it's a good one, since I'm already scheduled for two more sessions and the Program Director told me that she wants me in the summer semester!
Wish me luck!

Lots of Snow!

I have a lot of space to clean when it snows – a long driveway, a good-sized parking area and a corner lot in the city at my rental property. It’s not usually a big deal, but we got 10 inches of snow!
I have a snowblower with an electric start, but I’ve had a lifelong love/hate relationship with pull-start yard equipment. Nothing can reduce me to tears as quickly as an inoperable pull start. Of course, it’s a big sense of accomplishment when they work for me, too, so I try to pull start it if I can.
In preparation for the upcoming season, I tried the snowblower in November and it started the first time. When the driveway was full of snow and I had misplaced the cord, however, it wouldn’t start. I sighed and got out the shovel.
After 90 minutes of shoveling and a back injury, I realized that maybe there wasn’t anything special about that misplaced power cord. Maybe just any extension cord would do? Sure enough, an adapter allowed me a complete, albeit scary-looking, electrical connection and it fired right up.
My friends from Houston (Carrie & Fred; she's the girl pictured on the pony) gave me the snowblower when they moved south. I am so happy to have it.
Clearing the driveway had always been something my husband did and he thoroughly enjoyed it. He had a huge piece of equipment with a dangerous-looking auger. He would be outside for hours, dressed for a trek in the Yukon. He would return looking like the Yeti, clearly pleased with himself for, once again, having overcome the power of Nature.
I never learned to run his big snow-destroyer. I think it’s pretty funny that one of his dying requests was to be sure that I had a snowblower – one that I could put in the back of the truck to take with me. That concern shows what a great guy he was and the request shows how well he was aware of my limitations. I couldn’t count the times he rescued me by starting whatever pull-start piece of equipment I was crying over at the time.
Thanks, Fred!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saturday Evening

My sister and I attended a concert Saturday and heard Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. While it’s always a treat to hear good music, a piece so familiar and universally-loved is especially enjoyable.
I am by no means a critic, but Beethoven had such a gift for blending listenability with majesty.
Here’s a shot of our symphony’s home; it’s a beautiful venue. Someday, I will hear the Vienna Philharmonic at The Musikverein.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mom's Cooking Again!

She chops up all the goodies while sitting at the table, then rolls her wheelchair up to the stove.
Nothing like Mom's chili. YUM!

What's Your Comfort Zone?

I don't really think of my mom as “old.” When it sneaks up on you slowly, you don't notice it. After all, she is only one year older than she was last year . . .
But, when you're confronted with something that typifies age, it's tough to overlook. Mom is always cold at my place. I keep the thermostat on 70 for her; that's 5 degrees higher than before. Yet, she's always, “just freezing, honey!”
Man, I'm 45 years old! There are things happening to my body, and none of them requires more heat! Add to that my substantial weight gain after my husband passed away and I'm walking around the house in tank tops.
Last weekend, I came home from my Saturday errands, put away my purchases and started sweating. I thought it was just from running around, keeping my coat on too long, whatever. But, it didn't go away! I was burning up, flush with heat. I finally checked the thermostat – 74 degrees! Sheesh!
I asked Mom about it. “I didn't do it! I can't even reach that thing!” I know this will sound suspicious to those who don't know my mother, but she did not say, “I didn't know it was turned up that high.” Guilty, no doubt. She talked someone into it while I was gone, surely. My mom is horribly devious, and you have to read between the lines with her.
My old Honeywell, similar to the one in the pic (sans case and lock), has an additional feature. There's a “Comfort Range” marked on it. It spans the area between 72 and 78 degrees! Are you kidding?!? It must have been made before the 1973 Energy Crisis.
Thanks to Richard Nixon for redefining the comfort range.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Beautiful Friend/Another Happy Child in the 50's

This is my friend, Carrie. This dear woman taught me so many things; the one I remember the most was emblazoned on a refrigerator magnet: “When you love someone, you love him as he is.” My friend realized many years before I did what lessons I still needed to learn.
Carrie recently passed away and her daughter included this pic in an online album. I stumbled upon a far-too-similar one that someone had posted to Facebook and started poking around about kids (in realistic-looking western wear) on ponies. I learned that there are thousands of these pictures, thanks to traveling photographers in the 1950’s who strolled the streets with ponies and cowboy accoutrements. The kids were enthralled and begged their parents to have their pictures taken. The portaits are all wonderful; a child on a pony is always going to be smiling.
A slice of life from a simpler time . . .
Check out Victoria Randall’s “A Pony In The Picture: Vintage Portraits of Children and Ponies.”