Archive for June, 2012


Over the past several days, and as the elections draw nearer, I have received several emails from one friend or another, or pages from friends on Facebook, with ideas about the upcoming elections or views on which candidate should be elected. First, for the record, I am NOT a political person, at all. That’s not to say that I don’t vote, or don’t care about my country. What I care about is not whether the Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, or any other conceivable political party wins, what I care about, at the end of the day, is whether the American people win.

 Our Constitution was not designed with political parties in mind, and personally, I think there was a reason for that. I think our Founding Fathers, through their experiences with Whigs and Tories, knew the dangers of political parties, and knew that they could deadlock a group of people more effectively than pretty much any other device in modern day elections. The parties seem to know this, too. They know that human nature is to be passionate about the things we care deeply about, and if they can make us care more about political affiliation than the issues, then they hold some power over us.

 I understand that political affiliation is supposed to represent a particular group’s view on each issue, but it seems that in a world of lobbyists and hot button issues, the parties think that if they show they are supportive of the right issue at the right time, we’ll go on our merry way and forget about the rest. It seems more important to them lately to be “right” and to win, than to find solutions that really work for their constituents.  I don’t subscribe to that. I subscribe to Thomas Jefferson’s idea that an educated populace will always legislate themselves better than anyone else ever could.

 I vote, and I care. I care about building better schools, giving our kids the education they need to compete with peers in the global job spectrum. I care about women’s rights, and whether politicians have the right to tell me (or anyone else) what we can or cannot do with our bodies. I care about our soldiers, and our deficit, and whether we remain on good terms with our allies, and the other countries of the world. I care about our environment, and what kind of world we are passing on to our children. I care about whether American citizens have the prospect of finding a job that allows them to feed their families, gives them a purpose, and allows them to hold their heads up and look with satisfaction at the person in the mirror each day.

 I care that there are criminals out there taking those jobs, and the government doesn’t seem to do anything about it because they are worried about losing votes. So, they call them undocumented workers, instead of what they really are, which is criminals, and they hope we’ll look the other way while they allow them to stay, excusing their behavior by saying that these people wouldn’t know how to get along in their own country, and our people wouldn’t take those jobs anyway. Well, of the people I know, who are out of work, most would take any job they had to take to feed their families. Don’t the undocumented workers have the right to feed their families, too, you ask? Yes, they do, if they want to either do it in their own country, or do it LEGALLY here. If that means going home and starting over, sorry, but that’s what they should have done in the first place, so why bellyache about it now?  There isn’t space here for me to mention every single issue that I care about, as I am a person who is passionate about many and varied interests.

Last night, I received an email from a friend, talking about how Warren Buffet would solve the deficit problem, and I began thinking again of something I have been pondering since last year, when I served jury duty for the first time. Why not choose our Congress as we choose our jurors? I realize there would need to be certain minimum requirements in place, which are not requirements for serving jury duty. Also, I don’t suggest this lightly, because I understand how important the right to vote is to a constitutional republic, and I wouldn’t see that taken away from us, knowing that once things are taken away, we sometimes have to fight to get them back. Having to fight to get them back, though, may be the wake up call that some of us need. When we become complacent about our rights, and not willing to fight for them, we tend to lose them. Perhaps we even deserve to lose them. Whenever a President or a member of any of the other two branches of government usurps his or her Constitutional Authority, it is a matter of grave importance. It means that our government’s foundations are slowly being chipped away, and the lines are blurring, and it is a shorter step to one branch trying to take all of the power, which has not, historically, worked very well for other nations. Our Constitution gives us a remedy to the problem, and it is incumbent upon us to use it. 

Later on, tonight or tomorrow, I will lay out my ideas for reforming Congress. It should be interesting to read, so stay tuned.

What issues do you care about? What would you change about our government, if you had the opportunity? 

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ImageImageImageThis past weekend, I hiked to the bottom of Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville, Georgia. “Hiked” might not be an accurate term, since I really walked down the 425 iron steps to the bottom of the main falls, and then back to the top. Amicalola is a Cherokee word meaning “tumbling waters”, and the falls are the tallest east of the Mississippi river, at 729 feet high. Starting from the top, the hike down was easy, but I found my legs shaking when I got to the walkway at the bottom, and I had to keep moving periodically because I felt I might fall if I didn’t. The hike back up was not as bad as it could have been, but much harder than it should have been.  My goal was to stop  two or three times during the hike back up, and I ended up stopping a bit more than that (think every landing). I had a stitch in my side, and I was breathing rather heavily. I made the mistake of being somewhat unprepared, since it was a spur of the moment trip that my family hadn’t planned on taking. The plan was to go to Tellus, the science museum in Cartersville, GA, but somehow we got turned around and passed the falls, and decided to go there instead, since we were lost.

 The weather was perfect for a morning hike, with none of the summer heat and little of the humidity indigenous to Georgia having set in yet,   and the scenery made the trek down as pleasant as any hike I’ve been on.  The signs marked the difficulty of the trail as strenuous. As much as I’d rather not admit it, with all the other things going on in life, I’ve become something of a weekend warrior. Seven years ago, when I returned from my two years of Peace Corps service, the trail would have been rather easy, but that was before the seven years of 60-80 hour weeks in the classroom, the fifty extra pounds I have found in the interim, and my grandmother’s illness for which she required round the clock care for two years before her death.

Since I am not teaching this year, I am making a special effort to get back to that same level of fitness I once enjoyed. This weekend’s hike reminded me that there is room to do more on that front, although I do try to stay pretty active. I walk regularly, play catch with my brother and my niece, and am learning to play golf. I had considered Couch to 5 k last year, but because of work, it didn’t fit my schedule, so I dismissed the idea. That was before I learned that iTunes carries podcasts of the C25k workouts, so I could do it on my own. So, I plan to start this week.  I’ll let you know how it goes, as the weeks pass.

What places do you like to visit with your family? What do you do to stay active? I’ll look forward to reading about it in the comments below.

<a href=”Wear Colors Proudly image
Flag Day Graphics @ dazzlejunction.com” title=”Wear Your Colors Proudly”>Wear Your Colors Proudly

Happy Flag Day, everybody. For those of you who might be from other places, this is the day Americans set aside to honor our flag. I loved the graphic of the eagle wearing his colors (and I am appreciative to Dazzlejunction.com for allowing bloggers to share it on their blogs) because these two symbols are so entertwined as symbols of American benevolence and freedom. The Eagle is a bird of prey, of great power, and yet he can symbolize either war or peace. Did you know that the direction the eagle is facing on our money and on the rugs in the White House is determined by whether the nation is at war or at peace? If the eagle is facing the arrows he holds in one talon, the the nation is at war. If he faces the olive branch he holds in the other talon, then the nation is at peace.

We are, traditionally, one of the most powerful nations in the world. Theoretically, we could wage war with just about anyone, and take whatever we wanted from smaller, less powerful nations in the world, but that isn’t what we are about. Instead we’ve become the longest lasting democracy on the planet, and in choosing to live at peace with others, and to help where we were able, we’ve become a symbol of hope and freedom for other nations. Despite our problems, and we have several notable ones, past and present, we are a family, and never do we stand more united than when we stand together to pay our respects to the flag of this great nation.  All that we are and all that we stand for flies high as a reminder wherever Old Glory waves. I would like to say a special thank you to all the men and women who have fought to defend her and everything she symbolizes. I would encourage anyone who reads this to do the same.

Ever in Peace may she wave.

A/N: This post was originally published last week, and for some reason, it disappeared from the feed. I suspect this had more to do with operator error than any mistake or inefficiency on the part of anyone else. I am reposting it in the event that potential future readers might like to see it.

 

Ray Bradbury died this week, y’all, and the world lost a mighty fine literary talent. I don’t know too much about him, other than the fairly obvious. He was a writer, a defender of books, and an opponent of censorship in any of its various forms. He was a true gatekeeper, and that’s one of the best compliments I can give him. Why a gatekeeper, you ask? Gatekeepers guard whatever is behind the gate, and in the case of books, it is thousands of years of knowledge and history passed down through the eons of mankind’s existence. All of what we are, all of what we have been, and all of what we have hopes of becoming lies there, behind the gates of the human experience. Thus, writers are gatekeepers.

Ray Bradbury inspired me to read, because it was through his books that I first began to understand that reading is important to an educated mind. Reading is its own type of freedom. It awakens the imagination, delights the fancy, and opens our minds to ideas we might not have considered before. Perhaps more importantly, reading helps us realize that we are not alone in the human struggle, but that our hopes and fears and adversities are the same hopes and fears and adversities with which man has been dealing since the beginning of time. Suddenly, we are no longer alone in the universe, but a small part of some larger something.  More than inspiring me to read, his books became a strange kind of obsession for me.

I don’t know how many people can point to someone else and say, “I do what I do because of him”, but in some ways I can. He wasn’t the only writer about which I can say that, but he was one of the first. Ray Bradbury inspired me to write, to create worlds beyond imagining, and to provide the social commentary that is the keystone of a free and democratic society. His characters were the voice of reason for several generations of our humanity. Rest well, Mr. Bradbury, and know that we appreciate your legacy.

 

I re-discovered Librivox.org with the help of my brother, Matt, this weekend. I have known about it for a long while, having been introduced to it several years ago by Matt, but I keep forgetting that it is out there. Last night, as we were listening to snippets of recordings of favorite works of literature, he suggested I volunteer to read something. This idea appealed to me largely because I did some voice acting in college, and I have been wanting to get back into it. Also, when I was looking at their catalog, I noticed there’s not much children’s literature on there.

Librivox invites anyone to volunteer, and doesn’t require any formal acting experience, and as a lover of books and literature, sharing that love with others appeals to me. So, I’ve decided to try one small project first, to get my feet wet, and then to read a children’s book, if I can find one in the public domain. At this moment, I am debating between three books to read for that second larger project. The first is Winnie the Pooh, the second is The Brother’s Grimm’s book of Fairy Tales, and the third one I am considering is Treasure Island.

I am visiting Amazon.com later today to pick up a noise cancelling microphone to use for recording purposes, and I’ll have to download some software to my computer, but that will pretty much be the only expense. I feel good about doing something for others, and since I am only working part time (from home) at the moment, it makes me feel more productive as well. I also want to volunteer because I think of the children who might benefit from hearing some of their favorite stories read by someone who enjoys the stories as much as they do. I will let you know how the recordings go while I work on them, and I’ll also let you know when I finish, in the event that anyone wants to listen.

I would encourage you to volunteer to do something you love to benefit others. If you are looking for a volunteer project, Librivox can always use more readers, but even if you choose not to volunteer there, please find a project and lend a hand. There’s no feeling quite like it. Peace Corps service taught me that we all must build the world we want to live in, and this is one small effort towards doing that.

Do you have a favorite volunteer project, or something you love to do that might help others? Please let me know in the comments.

The Greatest Adventure, Part 1

In the coming days, I will be publishing several posts on my adventures and misadventures as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania from 2003-2005. Today is the 9th anniversary of the day I boarded the plane to fly to Chicago for three days of staging before I took off with the 76 other people in my group to fly to Romania, where we would all live and work for the next 27 months.

My cat, Pisoiu was a gift to me from myself for my 29th birthday. Pisoiu is pronounced Pee soo, like pea soup, without the “p” on the end of soup. It means “little cat” or “kitten” in Romanian. He travelled back to the US with me when my service ended, and has been my happy, if somewhat lazy companion, since then. He has gotten much larger than he was at 11 mos old when we returned to the US together.

Well, summer has come again, and I am back to writing. Actually, I haven’t been away from writing. I can never stay away for long–not really. What I am back to doing is writing in an instantaneous digital format, without the opportunity for the extensive amount of proofreading I do with paper works. I have been working on my latest novel, finishing up a short story or two, and launching a new internet venture to raise some extra funds for the times in between. I’ve also been playing with (read keeping) my niece four days a week. My goal is to resume the once monthly posts to my blog, and eventually to increase their frequency to weekly posts. Thank you to all of you who have continued to follow the blog, and for those of you who lurk in the shadows and read without responding. I will be posting in two different categories. Mightier Than the Sword is the category I reserve for writing about life in general, and issues relevant thereto. My Stories are fictional stories I have written, which I post for fun and also for constructive feedback, which is always welcome.  Part of this process is seeking to make my writing better.  Again, thanks to all those who read and those who respond, too. Have a wonderful summer, and I’ll look forward to hearing from some of you.

Happy Summer!

K