Reflections on a bad dream

There are so many thoughts running through my mind after seeing Donald Trump elected as the 45th President of the United States, I don’t know where to begin.  Sometimes I feel nauseated just thinking about it.

trump-speechRight now as I write this is one of those times.  But that’s just one of many negative adjectives that describe the feelings I’m going through.

I’ve felt shocked.  Stunned.  Disgusted.  Amazed.  Deeply saddened.  Betrayed.  Angry as I can be.  Several hours after the victor was announced in the wee hours Wednesday morning, I went to a grocery store to buy a few things we needed.  Just before approaching the cashier to pay for the items, I prepared myself for a simple question that the cashier might ask.  I gave it some thought and came up with a couple of simple words close to what Read more

Oh, someone, please stop this crazy ride! I wanna get off!!!

You know the feeling, right?  You’re on some crazy carnival ride that’s twisty and turny with lots of ups and downs and loop de loops, putting you upside down and sideways.  The kind of ride where you get so dizzy and disoriented, you just feel a nearly overwhelming need to upchuck.

coasterSometimes you’ll laugh your behind off.  Other times you’re teetering on the edge of being overwhelmed with fear.

The 2016 election’s been a lot like one of those crazy carnival rides.  It’s at least promising to stay that way right up to the time winners are declared on Tuesday night, and the way just the presidential race has gone, the ride might not even stop then.

After all, one orangeish presidential contender even said for the world to see that he’d keep people guessing on whether he’d concede if he didn’t come out ahead.

Oh, someone, please, for the love of all that’s good and decent and holy, for cryin’ out loud, stop this crazy ride! I wanna get off now!!! Enough!  Or I’m gonna hurl!

My lovely wife and I have already done our civic duty.  We sat down on the same day in the comfort of our couch with black ink pens in hand and filled out our mail-in ballots.

Into the mailbox our ballots go. (Photo By John G. Miller)
Into the mailbox our ballots go. (Photo By John G. Miller)

The next day, during some break time from my job, I found a convenient U.S. Postal Service mailbox and dropped those ballots in, with a feeling of accomplishment and pride.  Just a couple of days ago I took an extra step and checked online at my county clerk’s office just to make sure those ballots had been received.

Who did I vote for?  You’d like to know, wouldn’t you?  Well, I’m going to take a page from the orangeish candidate’s playbook and “keep you in suspense.”  I could throw you off even more by honestly saying I was a strong Bernie Sanders supporter, and I didn’t appreciate Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s games during the Democratic primaries which helped hand a nomination to Hillary Clinton.  And, no, I’m not throwing my vote to Gary Johnson when he comes across looking like an idiot by not knowing what Aleppo is, among other zany stunts Johnson’s pulled.

Here, I’ll let HBO’s John Oliver pretty much sum up my view on this election’s third party presidential candidates, including Jill Stein.

So, who did I pick for president?  For all you know, it could have been Joe Exotic.

One thing you can take to the bank, though.  There is no way in hell I’d vote for the orangeish candidate.  That’s one candidate that truly makes me want to barf out a multicolored rainbow, one candidate I’m so sick of that I’m doing everything in my power not to even mention his name.

The reasons why I’m sick of the orange-tinted candidate increase by the day.  Why, just in the last couple of days we’ve seen how this (lack of) character can take a speech where the sitting President can be interrupted mid-speech by a protester, strongly urge the crowd to show the protester some respect while having to raise his voice over the noise, and have the tangerine guy turn it into the President shouting at the protester.

But this one item is less than a tiny blip on the radar screen when it comes to why the Tang-tinged one can make me laugh and turn my stomach at the same time.  Just like a wild carnival ride.

And then comes the fear.  Just like the face of that kid on the roller coaster.

I fear a candidate who can pull the kind of strings that it takes to get the chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ignore things like the Hatch Act, guidance from his superiors, and common sense in general by getting voters riled up by Anthony Weiner emails that probably have nothing whatsoever to do with the grapefruit-colored candidate’s opponent in order to try and influence the election in the final days, making puppets out of people like Rudy Giuliani and Jason Chaffetz in the process.

I fear the logic of followers of the apricot-colored one — people who once feared that the Soviet Union would swallow the world up whole, but now seem to totally ignore the growing evidence that the flame-colored egomaniac they feel so great about has been playing a bit of patty-cake with Russian leaders.

I’ve never been a fan of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but that’s changing when I listen to what this truly successful billionaire has to say about the citrus-stained one.

cubanA (Vladimir) Putin, or an (Julian) Assange, would say to him, ‘Donald, if you do this, I will give you $20 billion.’ What is 20 billion to them? What is 30 billion?” Cuban asked. “For them, that is nothing. If Donald Trump, who rips off people for thousands — do you think he is going to do what is right for the country, or do you think he is going to take the money?

“Do you think he has the temperament to do the right thing? Do you think he has the fortitude to do the right thing? Do you think he cares about you or his bank account?”

Anyone who searches for the truth and looks beyond the candy-colored one’s cons and knows his history is awfully nervous right about now.  Just as frightened as they’d be if they were riding on the wildest damn roller coaster in the world.

Wild rides can make us laugh, or turn us a ghostly shade of white with fear.

Hell of an election, isn’t it?

I can’t wait ’til the ride’s over, and the joker’s fans give up any foolish notion of a real civil war should things not go their way.

This ain’t funny.

Hey, Donny defenders! What the h*** is wrong with y’all?

Let’s do something a little creative with words, shall we?

My aggravation with anyone defending Donald Trump and his recorded pride while he was boasting about forcing himself on any and all females who strike his fancy because he’s a “star” — lame apologies notwithstanding — has reached a boiling point. I swear, if I see one more Donny defender saying his critics are hung up over mere words … well, let’s just say my adrenaline level’s at a definite high lately.

locker-roomI feel the need to vent, and in order to get my meaning across I may need to come across like I’m sinking down to Donny’s level.  Bear with me. You’ll see a lot of asterisks here, making it appear that I’m using the same kind of “locker room talk” the orange one claimed he was uttering when he bragged to former Today Show fractional host Billy Bush in 2005 about how he could get away with grabbing women by the genitals after sucking on Tic Tacs because he’s, well, Donny Trump, and apparently that makes him entitled (in his own f****** ** mind) to do whatever he pleases.

The question you need to ask while reading this is … am I diving down into the Trumpian pit of misogyny and predatory behavior by showing a side of me with a potty mouth, or am I actually using real or nonsensical but clean words in the potty mouth’s place?

hulkYou should see what I’m getting at more clearly when it’s all said and done. I’ll confess, I’m no angel when it comes to language, especially when I’m angry. Even when I’m angry, though, I can be fairly capable of controlling my tongue. That’s more than can be said for a certain Oompa-Loompaish presidential candidate.

Donny defenders cross a broad g****** spectrum. They include men and women, people of no religious affiliation and a select group of a****** evangelists who fall back on the “we’re not electing a pope or a saint here, we’re electing a President” argument. Well whoopty-f******-doo, Religious Right evangelists, I guess that argument of yours in this case pretty much blows a big hole in your claim that you’ve used for years that you’re supporting candidates with the finest moral values now, doesn’t it?

carsonAnd along those lines, how about that d****** Ben Carson, a guy who’s a member of the same religious faith as me, twisting himself into a new pretzel shape by saying on CNN that Trump’s “locker room banter” is wrong, and then turning around and suggesting that maybe the problem is that such talk isn’t heard more often.

Okay, Trumpians, can any of you explain that logic to me and have it make sense, or do I just need to face the fact that Ben Carson is looking more like a d******* all the time, especially since backing out of his own candidacy and offering up his **** and selling off his values for the sake of the orange muppet?

Don’t go thinking that all women all over the land are wishing they could line up and kick Donny in the n*** for offering up the stupid-*** testimony that he can grab ’em by the ***** any ol’ time and get away with it either.  In fact, some are outright encouraging him to do it to them if the opportunity ever arises, as is shown in this sad-*** display that’s gone viral over the past few days, part of the renowned “Trumpettes” …

trump-shirt

Yeah, I get it, Trump defenders. You’re mad at the f***** government, mad at the p**** liberals, mad at Mexicans, mad at blacks, mad at Muslims, mad at this h******** concept known as “political correctness,” and that’s why you’re tossing aside any sense of your own decency to support an a****** who has not a shred of decency to show for himself. I have my own frustrations over the way things are, the games that are played in Washington and how it affects the poor and the shrinking middle class. I wasn’t thrilled with how things turned out on the Democratic primary side and the games that were played there, but I’m not about to sell my a** to the devil because of it.

And, please, your “hero” is a ******* coward. When the heat gets turned up by female accusers who say that the apricot-toned ******* actually did force himself on them, he runs around saying the election’s rigged a few ******* weeks before it even happens? Grow a pair of *****, Donny, and while you’re at it shut the **** up (like the latter suggestion will ever happen), Donny.

I’ve seen excuses for Donny like “yeah, that stuff’s said all the time in locker rooms” (been there, heard it all, but not the way Donny said it), or “if you’re offended by Trump’s words, try working in [insert male-dominated career here].”

There was a time when I worked for a brief time in car sales, new and used. Yeah, the ******* language is rough, to say the least. Pretty much every other ******* word is a ******* expletive, and among the “bombers” was a young man who’d soon go off on a church mission. Glory ******* be! The worst “bomber” was the sales manager, who’d tear apart salespeople for inspiration and congratulated me on my first big sale by saying I’d “popped a ******.”

For that matter, in my current line of work driving people around, I still run into people where every other ******* word is some ******* form of crude language. Like I say, I’ve been around the ******* block in this world a few times, heard a lot of **** spoken, and depending on my mood or the passenger load I’ll let some of this **** slide. On the other hand, even if I’m the only person around who’s not involved in a particularly crude conversation, it can wear on me and I’ll advise the offender to knock that **** off, just give it a **** rest, I’m tired of it.

I have that ******* right.

But not once — NOT ONCE — in any locker room or any workplace that I’ve been around do I recall any “locker room banter” reaching a point where anyone ever boasted about forcing themselves on anyone who wasn’t open to it, or groping anyone, or anything like what Donny bragged about to **** near equally offensive Billy Bush. And here we are, just weeks away from deciding whether this ****** Donny Trump should be elected as the “leader of the free world.”

Are you ******* serious?  You have got to be ******** me!

Listen up, Trumpheads, and listen up good. I don’t give a flying **** whether spoiled brat Donny Trump uses foul language. He’s a ******* salesman, therefore it pretty much has to be part of his ******* DNA. I’ve lived 50-some years listening to and speaking foul language myself. Not something to brag about, but my ears aren’t ******* virgins.

My point when all is said and done is this: Like an edited version of the notoriously foul-mouthed “Glengarry Glen Ross,” you can take out all or most of the asterisks in what’s being said. You can take out the words, whether they offend you or not. What’s the message that’s left behind?

Now, Trump defenders, repeat after me until it sinks in …

With Donny Trump, it’s not the words, it’s the message.

With Donny Trump, it’s not the words, it’s the message.

With Donny Trump, it’s not the words, it’s the message.

With Donny Trump, it’s not the words, it’s the message.

Show your values. Don’t sell your a** to the monster in our midst.

The monster in our midst

There are memories from my life that haunt me to this day. They’ve shaped the way I view things going on around us today.

It’s like facing monsters, both real and imagined.

The first “monster” I faced popped up nearly four months before I was even born, when my father died an accidental death while working to support a wife and 2-year-old twins — a girl and a boy — with me in my mother’s womb.

My father, John, with twin babies, Lynda Kay and Curt.
My father, John, with twin babies, Lynda Kay and Curt.

My brother suffered with cerebral palsy. His disability was severe. He could only say one word — flower. He couldn’t walk. I remember his smile, it was bright. I remember countless visits to hospitals in Boise and Salt Lake City. His body wasted away. A “monster” visited again in 1968 when my brother died at the age of 10. I don’t even have to close my eyes to remember the scene the morning he passed away: the bedroom we shared, the glare of a light waking me up while it was still dark outside, the screams coming from my mother as she found my brother’s lifeless body face down in his bed.

For whatever reason, the thought came to my mind then that I needed to be the man of the family. I called an aunt down the street to start spreading the news. I was 7 years old when that “monster” came along.

Maybe it was from loneliness after living around eight years without my father, maybe it was from a deep need to feel some happiness after my brother’s death, but my mother remarried in 1969. That’s when the next “monster” came along.

There was nothing fancy about my mother. She was raised on farms. She rode a horse to and from school. She wasn’t big on dresses and styling her hair in a fancy way. But she married someone who expected those things on a daily basis. I remember calling the man “dad” on their wedding day, but it didn’t feel right. That was the last time I can remember using the word with him.

Heated arguments between my mom and her second husband were common, even starting during their honeymoon to the San Francisco area to visit — of all people — the man’s first wife, who was “more stylish.” My mother soon got the impression that she was being shown an example of how her husband wanted her to be from then on — hair piled high, perfectly neat; dresses, there had to be dresses worn daily; dinner served promptly after getting home from work, right down to salads being served in a black plastic bowl. If salads weren’t served in that black plastic bowl, there’d be hell to pay.

The man seemed to look at himself as God’s gift to humanity, or at least a gift to members of the opposite sex. He’d look at himself often in a mirror, and if any hair was out of place he’d lick his fingers and put it back in place.  He’d take me out to breakfast at a coffee shop on Saturday mornings and flirt with the waitresses.

I learned to pray late one night when I almost lost my mother during a particularly heated argument. Maybe she was tired of being objectified by the “monster.”

On more than one occasion, my mother, my sister and I spent the night sleeping in our car out in the woods or in a motel room when the “monster” got to be too much.

abuseThe haunting came to a head one night in 1972. I was around 11 years old at the time, my sister was 13 or 14. A particularly frightening argument made its way from the master bedroom to my sister’s bedroom. The abuse was both mental and physical. When my sister stood up to the “monster,” she was slapped down. At that point, I felt the need to be the man of the family again.  I was big for my age.  I stood face to face with the “monster,” not saying a word but looking at him in a way that dared him to try something with me.

The “monster” apparently got the message and left the house. The locks were changed the next day. I still remember him yelling at that discovery, demanding to be let in. That was the beginning of the end of that “haunting.”

I swore that I would never allow myself to become like that “monster,” and if I ever showed any signs of it in me I’d vow to change my ways.

That experience alone brought about an anger in me that lasted into my teen years. I’d find myself imagining beating that “monster” to a pulp.

I lived most of my formative years around my mother and sister. It gave me a respect for the opposite sex that a lot of men will never know.

It’s that respect that makes my blood boil when I see anyone objectifying women in a blatant way.

This all leads me to Donald J. Trump.

Trump’s actions have made my skin crawl for a lot of years. His run for the presidency of the United States has been … monstrous.  He has become the monster in our midst.

Trump needs to experience a loved one with a disability dying and the horror that surrounds it before mocking someone with a physical ailment. I remember my brother whenever I see Trump acting the fool in mocking someone with a disability.

I remember the abuse my mother and sister suffered at the hands and words and attitude of someone acting like less than a man when I see and hear the way Trump views women, especially with the 2005 video released last week which found Trump boasting about how he could get away with being a sexual predator.

I can honestly say at the risk of being contacted by the Secret Service for publishing threats against a presidential candidate that if I heard Donald J. Trump speaking that way about my wife or daughter or any woman I loved, I would kick his butt around the block numerous times. And he’d deserve it.

I’m sick of people falling for the Trump excuse of this being “locker room talk.” I’ve been around that setting enough to say there’s bawdy talk in locker rooms, and then there’s boasting about making unwanted moves against women that classify the person doing the boasting as a sexual predator.

Women should look at Donald Trump this way, only not with adulation but disgust instead. (Esquire photo)
Women should look at Donald Trump this way, only not with adulation but disgust instead. (Esquire photo)

Trump fits that mold. And yet some people buy into his excuse. I’m sick of this game.

I’m sick of hearing people talk about how refreshing Trump’s “not-so-politically-correct” approach is. To hell with the term “politically correct.” How about just practicing common decency? What’s political about that?

It’s amazing to have people talk about American values and morals eroding, and yet so many of those same people defend Trump over “words.” It goes well beyond words, it goes to an attitude of entitlement that people like Trump haven’t even come close to earning throughout his drama-filled life.

trump-nopeIt’s humorous to find people who get up in arms about a fear of transgender people using women’s bathrooms because women and children could be groped, yet so many of those same people still support a presidential candidate who’s been caught on a hot mic encouraging the act of groping women.

This monster is in our midst, front and center. It needs to be rejected.

This is a strange frontier.

Oh, the times we live in this Presidents’ Day

To whom it may concern,

Here’s a question for Presidents’ Day: Would George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have approved of the current political landscape?

MountrushmoreFor that matter, let’s step through the rest of the faces found on Mount Rushmore and ask a couple more questions.

Would Thomas Jefferson have approved of the role religion has taken in American politics?  Come on, now, if anyone’s initial response is to answer in the affirmative, please do some seriously objective research.  Really.  I mean, how weird is it that such an obvious non-evangelical candidate as Donald Trump is topping the polls among evangelicals in the Republican lead-up to the South Carolina presidential primary?  That should be all the proof anyone needs that politics and religion — like oil and water — don’t mix.

How would Theodore Roosevelt — a Republican — have felt about something like Citizens United?

teddy

How messed up are we when we see Republican leadership and conservative pundits claiming that a sitting President should not nominate a replacement for a deceased Supreme Court justice (who helped give us Citizens United) during an election season because they’re so afraid of the balance of judicial power suddenly shifting to the “dark side” of evil liberalism, only to find that the truth is it’s been done before under presidents like William Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, and a guy named Ronald Reagan?

yogiAnd let’s not save our questions just for the conservative side.  On the liberal side, you’d think Hillary Clinton would have learned her lesson about the end results of not being totally honest about her fiercest presidential opponent’s actions after seeing what happened to her chances in 2008, wouldn’t you?  Check out the video below from just over eight years ago and see if an old Yogi Berra quote still applies today.

And Hillary thinks Bernie Sanders is out of line to criticize Barack Obama?  Really?

Or how about the Democratic National Committee deciding it would be a good idea to roll back a ban on donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees?

Meanwhile, as political games are played, middle class America is still being hit squarely between the eyes by reality.  Such as when United Technologies executives announced that 1,400 employees of Carrier Heating and Cooling Systems in Indianapolis would be out of a job starting in 2017 so they can move production to Mexico.  But it’s all just a “business decision.”  Right?  And if you think Trump is going to turn that all around, I’ve got some nice parcels of swampland to sell anyone who wants them.  Make me an offer, I won’t refuse.

It’s political business as usual.  Are we up to the challenge of changing that?

Happy (censored) Presidents’ Day.

— Sincerely, Angry Americans Not Supporting Donald Trump

Getting lost in the eyes of my precious valentine

This is my wish for my children: to find and feel the same love, the same happiness, the same trust, and share the same commitment with their life partner that I have with their mother Amy.

If they can do that, they’ll be set for a lifetime, no matter what comes along.

The words of a song bring out a lot of memories, feelings and experiences in me when it comes to Amy, especially on Valentine’s Day.

Amy and her good friend Cheyenne. (Photo by Randy Kroll)
Amy and her good friend Cheyenne. (Photo by Randy Kroll)

Right from the day we met, I’ve always gotten lost in her eyes.  Her soul shines through in her eyes.  Those eyes of hers captivate me, and they always will.

Amy came along when I was lost.  Emptiness filled my heart.  In times when I’d be feeling down or stressed, I’d go driving off in my car, stereo blaring away, playing the perfect music to fit the mood I was in.

But then Amy came along, and I could turn to her to soothe me just by being there to talk and be with.  She’s been strong medicine for the emptiness.

It’s a medicine that can burn through any facade I put up, the kind of facade only pride can put up.  She can bring out what’s deep inside of me.

All she has to do is look deeply into my eyes.  It’s there that I find light, heat.  They make me feel complete.  They bring me peace like a thousand churches.  All my fruitless searching ended the moment I first looked into Amy’s eyes.

It’s in those eyes that I can feel her pain.  I’ve seen too much of that in the struggles we’ve experienced in the past few years.  It’s contributed to moments between us slipping away.  We both work very hard just to survive, and she’s contributed a lot to that survival.  Our hours may not complement each other, and we yearn so much for those moments when we can keep each other awake and alive.  We never stop praying for that day when the struggle subsides.

All she has to do to make me feel complete is look deeply into my eyes.  It’s there that I find light, heat.  They make me feel complete.  They bring me peace like a thousand churches.  All my fruitless searching ended the moment I first looked into Amy’s eyes.

I love my children down to the marrow of my bones.  That’s why the love that I feel for their mother is the kind of love I want them to experience.

Demanding more from Americans, and from each other

All too often, I feel the need to weep for the people of America.  It hasn’t always been like that, at least not to the degree it’s at today.

All too often, I find myself getting into discussions that have to do with politics and the person on the other side ends up saying something like “I really don’t follow politics, I just go by my feelings/emotions.”  All that tells me is that the person on the other side hasn’t taken enough time to search out some basic facts to help form a logical conclusion which could lead to a more informed decision.  How often do feelings/emotions betray us?

argumentAll too often, I find myself getting into discussions with people so deeply locked in to their political ideology that they refuse to allow themselves to look at any other view, even when that view is based on facts and not opinion.  It would be nice to discuss something like raising the minimum wage and have the main argument against it not come from some far right-leaning opinion website saying that raising the minimum wage in Seattle cost 1,000 restaurant workers their jobs, so it can’t be a good idea.  I then reply with some fact-checking — including information from a source in the Seattle area who’s also not in favor of a $15 minimum wage — showing the argument about Seattle job losses was not true.  Do you think the facts made any difference in the discussion?  No.  I often wonder if people that locked in to their ideology even bother to read the information I share, simply because it’s felt that I’m “too liberal,” one of those “libtards.”

All too often, we find ourselves getting into discussions involving politics in which the other person ends up saying something along the lines of “All politicians lie.”  This happened most recently in a discussion about Donald Trump, coming from someone who’s been supporting another candidate for President but who now seems prepared to throw their support behind Trump should their first choice not make the cut.  So I try to wrap my brain around this: This person is sick of politicians lying, yet they’re ready to back a lying, bloviating real estate mogul with the persona of an egotistical used car salesman who’s played a large role in multiple bankruptcies involving his business holdings, flushing a professional football league (remember the United States Football League?) down the toilet through serious misjudgment driven by his own ego, etc., to be the leader of the free world?

Bill-Clinton-I-Did-Not-2Yes, my friend, politicians can and do lie.  Politicians on each side of the aisle have been known to lie — from “Tricky Dick” Nixon to Bill “I Did Not Have Sexual Relations With That Woman” Clinton and beyond.  But not all politicians lie, and that’s where a tremendous responsibility falls upon each one of us as citizens — the responsibility to put in the research, the effort to seek out the facts and the truth, to put aside political ideology and personal biases at times, to ask ourselves whether our feelings and emotions make sense, and make the most logical choices possible.

Are we up to that task?

“Better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.”

— President Barack Obama in his final State of the Union address, January 12, 2016

 Speaking of lying …

Here’s a challenge.  Can anyone name one President (at least in recent memory) who’s had more lies spread about them than Barack Hussein Obama, had them shown to be untrue, only to have the lies not just continue but grow?  He’s Muslim … he was born in a foreign country … he’s going to declare martial law and appoint himself dictator … he’s going to take everyone’s guns away … he’s been the biggest spending President in history … he’s misused his executive powers … he’s always on vacation …he’s been terrible for business … he’s tanked the economy … Benghazi … Operation Jade Helm … all just the tip of the iceberg.  Can anyone offer any factual evidence to support claims like these without going to some far right source?

 Even when honest facts are presented, they get heavily discounted.  It’s that “Alex Jones mentality” that’s way too prevalent in America’s political discourse today.  That’s what makes me feel the need to weep.  We used to be a better nation than this.

Obama closed out his last State of the Union address with his most important point, issuing a challenge to the American people that should be seen as the equivalent of JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” demand.

“(D)emocracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Obama-State-Of-The-Union-2016-640x427Too many Americans feel that way right now. …

And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a congressman or a senator or even a president; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.”

Trump’s mantra is “Make America Great Again.”  Yet it’s candidates like Trump who bring out the worst in Americans.  It’s candidates like Trump who play on people’s fear and anger, offering no sensible solutions.  The truth is, America’s still great.  It’s great in the fact that we are still free to disagree, and if we’re smart enough we can work through those differences and find solutions.  But we are on the crest of a slippery slope.  “Compromise” in government is becoming a dirty word.  Not only can Democrats and Republicans not seem to agree, but Republicans can’t agree amongst themselves.  And they’re the ones holding the keys to solutions to the problems that face us with control of Congress.  So is it any wonder Obama feels the need to push through executive orders on issues like immigration and gun control, only to see criticism for him doing so?

We look to our politicians to fix things, and then gripe and moan when we elect people incapable of even trying to fix things.  We look at people like Trump and get excited because he’s “not politically correct,” he “speaks his mind,” and we ignore the question of whether the man is capable of showing so much as a shred of common decency.  We look at people like Ted Cruz and get excited when we think of him as someone who’s not afraid to piss off leadership on both sides of the aisle, and we ignore the question of whether he can come up with any solution to a problem other than a costly and useless government shutdown.  And, yes, we look at someone like Hillary Clinton and get excited by the things she could do, and we ignore troubling signs coming from her camp when a race gets tight and untruths come from her or her daughter about Hillary’s main opponent.

Yes, it can come from both sides.

So, what do we do to make things better?  How do we go about “fixing Washington?”  Too many people get the urge to throw up their hands, and either refuse to participate in the process or just go with the lesser of the “evils.”  They refuse to believe there is truth out there, when it can be staring them right in the face if they’d only wake up and do a little searching.

Obama said it himself toward the end of his State of the Union address.

“If we give up now, then we forsake a better future.”

And that’s true not just on a national stage, but on a global stage.  The truth is out there.  We need to find it with our own eyes.  We need to put aside preconceived notions, strip away biases, and take a look at what’s really going on around us.  There’s too much at stake.

Finding a place to call home, needing some time to relax

Can we begin to feel like we can relax a bit now?

A photo our son Grant took of the house where he'd spent all but around three years of his life, as we were in the process of pulling up those roots. (Photo by Grant Miller)
A photo our son Grant took of the house where he’d spent all but around three years of his life, as we were in the process of pulling up those roots. (Photo by Grant Miller)

It’s been over two weeks now since we locked the doors for the last time on the night before Thanksgiving and walked away from the four-bedroom, 1 1/2–bath house that we called home for close to 20 years.  For a few weeks, Sundays and Wednesdays — my days off from my full-time job — were spent loading big, heavy items into a rented moving van or our two-horse trailer, and then moving them to either our two-bedroom, one-bath apartment less than half the size of what we were used to, or to a friend’s large and mostly empty basement for storage.

On most other days, I’d drop our daughter Alicia off at school early in the morning and go to the house before sunrise to haul off smaller items before rushing to the apartment to unload items and get ready for work in the afternoon, driving a bus into the late evening.  If we weren’t working our regular jobs, a lot of our time was spent moving or getting settled in to our new place.

We were burning both ends of the candle.  It was taking a toll in every possible way — physically, mentally, emotionally, temperamentally.

After one particularly grueling day between moving and work, I was walking through the bus stalls toward the dispatch area just before heading back to our new home for a few hours of sleep when a co-worker stopped to say hello and chat for a bit.  He noticed that I looked tired, and he said so.

It must have been that apparent.

During the process, we sorted through items gathered through a lot of years.  Right up until the last week or more, there was still a chance — albeit a small one — that we might be able to stay put, one way or another.  At the same time, I was combing through local apartment rental magazines or keeping my eyes peeled as I’d drive a bus for the names of what looked like decent places to live so I could do more research later … just in case the last-ditch efforts to stay in the house fell through.

I got a phone call from the realtor we’d been working with on a short sale on a Wednesday afternoon after picking up Alicia from school, letting me know that our efforts to work with a bank to stay in the house were not looking good because the bank was moving slowly on paperwork, and the date for the house to be auctioned was looming large.  Based on the apartment “shopping” I’d done up to then, I applied online at a nice place that night, just to see if there was any chance of getting approved.  My stress level was sky-high.

While filling out a long paper application form from another complex the next morning, I got a call letting me know that we’d been approved from the online application.  We had a place if we wanted it.  It provided a small sense of relief.  We put down a security deposit less than 24 hours after getting the call.

Things had become very hectic very quickly.  We’d start moving just over a week later.

The home that we'd worked and fought to keep for close to 20 years, shortly after locking up and leaving it for the last time, with a large dumpster ready for the new owner to collect and haul away both junk and perhaps some memories as well. (Photo by John G. Miller)
The home that we’d worked and fought to keep for close to 20 years, one week after locking up and leaving it for the last time, with a large dumpster ready for the new owner to collect and haul away both junk and perhaps some memories as well. (Photo by John G. Miller)

We had plenty of junk to get rid of, our dumpsters filled up fast.  So many of the things we were sorting though brought back memories.  The things that meant the most, we’d keep with us or in storage.  There were also memories we’d have to leave behind to either be given to charity or thrown out.  We were running out of room and time.

Some things were harder to part with than others, but the separation had to be done.  At times, I’d look around rooms that were emptying more by the day and see what was left.  I’d find myself choked up with emotion.  But we had to move on.  As much as we hated the thought of losing our house — something the realtor told us happens in sickening numbers to other people in our area — we had the desire to move on, to get on with our lives, to start over.

One thought would get us through.  One thing to focus on would help to ease the pain of losing the house we’d fought to keep for a lot of years.

We may have been losing a house, but we were in the process of making a new home.

There would be new memories to build there.  At least we still had family to make memories with.  Everyone’s still around, a little more scattered than before, but we still have each other.

The morning after locking up and leaving the house for the last time — after dividing up cats between us and our sons at their own apartments — we got up early to give the dogs a chance to relieve themselves in the big dog run outside, all part of the new apartment routine instead of just opening up the back door and letting them go out on their own in our fenced back yard.

Football on TV with feet propped up. Finally, a chance to rest and recuperate after an exhausting few weeks spent moving. (Photo by John G. Miller)
Football on TV with feet propped up. Finally, a chance to rest and recuperate after an exhausting few weeks spent moving. (Photo by John G. Miller)

Then, it was time to start getting a Thanksgiving turkey ready to cook.  There was football to watch, family to have over for a holiday meal.  It felt nice to be pretty much settled in to a new place to call home.

We may be able to relax just a touch now that we have a place to live that’s clean, warm, bright, in a decent neighborhood, very close to everything and every place we’d need to go — with the exception of Amy needing to drive a farther distance to work with her horses, and getting Alicia to and from school.  We’ve gone from living on the west side of the valley to the east side, nine miles from the house we called home for so long.  Instead of making a long drive to and from work every day, there are days when I can choose to make a short drive to a nearby light rail station to get where I need to go for work and back.  There are inconveniences, but there are some nice conveniences.  We’re adjusting.  At least we have a place to call home.

Now we have to continue fighting to hang on to it.  That’s where the real relaxation still needs to take place, we’re not at that point yet.  The move and adjustment to a new place has been costly, and we’ve received much-appreciated help along the way.  A better-paying job would still be nice.  We have a budget that’s doable but leaves little in the way of wiggle room, and financial emergencies are frightening to think about.

A longtime friend strongly on the conservative side once shared a thought that “the rich stay rich because they live like they’re poor, and the poor stay poor because they live like they’re rich.”  That would be laughable except for the fact that beliefs like that have strained what had been a nice friendship.  It would be nice to tuck some money into savings, but that’s awfully tough to do when you’re fighting so hard to make ends meet just on necessities alone.

Amy does what she can and helps out quite a bit with her music and horse business.  If it weren’t for her income, we’d be lost.  Alicia just started a new part-time job at a clothing store where her sense of style comes in handy, and that can be a help to us.  But the financial battle continues, even now that we’re in a new place.

The tree we got last week is helping to make our Christmas more cheery in our new home. (Photo by John G. Miller)
The tree we got last week is helping to make our Christmas more cheery in our new home. (Photo by John G. Miller)

We’re doing what we can to give ourselves a decent Christmas.  A very full tree — shorter than what we’re used to — has been placed in a corner next to the glass door going out to our balcony.  I spent part of my Sunday afternoon stringing Christmas lights on that balcony, getting into the spirit of the holiday.  It’s those kinds of things that will make this small apartment seem even more like a home.

We’ll miss that house we called home for so long.  It was our first home.  It grew on us.  It pains me to drive by there now and see the memories that are being thrown out in that big dumpster, like the big plastic fish pond that was once a proud addition to the back yard complete with a waterfall, and then filled with dirt and turned into a strawberry patch.  It was the place where our sons spent a large part of their lives, where our daughter lived for her entire life, where Amy and I raised a family, where we shared some very memorable Christmases with some beautiful trees.

We have now experienced the feeling of seeing our names in the legal notices section of the local paper, giving notice that our home is up for auction at a trustee sale.  Nearly 20 years worth of payments have gone down the drain.  And we’re not alone.  Just in our local paper, there are an average of about 12 such notices of trustee sales on homes every day.

How many of those are the result of people staying poor because they’re living like they’re rich, and how many of them are the result of people just trying to survive with the basic necessities?

We just need to move on.

AMY’S ANGLE: What to do with our furry friends?

I have always been the kind of person to want to keep the whole family together, including the furry friends that we have.  However, when John lost a decent paying job twice within the past four years and now that we are facing the loss of our home because John’s income is much lower,  we have to face the reality of renting an apartment and no one seems to want pets — or, should I say, no one wants as many as we have.

Buster and Sami ready for a morning walk. (Photo by Amy Miller)
Buster and Sami ready for a morning walk. (Photo by Amy Miller)

My beautiful Buster is a large 85-pound dog, a red-haired border collie cross.  I love him and I want to stay with him all his years, but the chance of him staying with us is threatened.  Most apartments don’t even accept dogs that are large or as many dogs as we have.  The town where we live allows four dogs per household.  We have three dogs, but we also have three cats that would live with us.  So that makes six critters. However, apartments don’t hold the same standard — it’s up to two pets per apartment if you can have pets at all.  So what are we supposed to do?

People do get angry with animal lovers who do have to separate themselves from their pets.  But if people are in situations such as John, Alicia and I are facing now, I am beginning to see that some people have no choice.  We have been fighting hard for our pets and I feel as if we are losing.  In all honesty, I want to keep every one of them, they are my “kids.”  But we can’t be homeless either.  What are we supposed to do to keep this bunch together?  I would love suggestions.  John, Alicia and I would be devastated to part with any of them.

This is a plea to help us stay together somehow.  Sami is a 9-year-old American Eskimo who we’ve had since she was a puppy.  We put her through obedience training and she got her Canine Good Citizenship award.  Buster is almost 6 years old, we had him since he was six weeks old and he went to advanced level in dog training with me.  Fancy is another American Eskimo who belongs to Alicia, she is her dog because Fancy’s original owner died so we took her to foster until a new home could be found.  After a period of literal mourning on Fancy’s part, Alicia and Fancy became fast friends and they’d be devastated to have to live apart from each other now.  Then there are our cats.  I would love the idea of fundraising so we could find a place to keep them all together.

Any suggestions would be helpful because we are a family who wants everyone together.

AMY’S ANGLE: ‘Scary times’ to be the parent of a lovely girl

We went to a parent-teacher conference today with our daughter, Alicia, to check out how she’s doing in school.  It is a nice time to get acquainted with what her world is like on a daily basis in her school.  Most of her life for the next three years is going to be in a high school classroom setting, so we as parents need to see that part of our kids’ lives.

To start the day, I went out to be with my horses to show one potential student what great horses are like to ride.  It took time in getting them ready to ride, but the sad thing was that this potential student didn’t show up.  I do hate it when I work so hard to be at a place on time and ready, it takes a while to get horses ready and saddled, only to be stood up.  So then I decided to work on my horses by myself and enjoy my time with them.

Alicia with her dad.
Alicia with her dad.

Then I came home and we went to Alicia’s school to meet with her teachers.  After our many discussions with her teachers, we learned that she is doing great in certain classes and trying her best in other classes.  It is not easy with so many different classes, and there are classes kids like better than others.  A person’s natural gifts become more apparent in schools and certain classes spark interests, if you know what I mean.

Then we went out to eat with her to become acquainted with a fellow who wanted to take our daughter out on her first “real” date.  Letting a daughter date is a very scary time to me because it is hard to get to know what guys are like before we dare to let our precious girl go out.  Again, this is really a first “true date” for her, and I guess something to get used to is this period where we might pace floors to wait up for her to come home at night.  I am sure there is a lot of understanding on that among other parents.

Nonetheless, we really enjoy Alicia, she is a joy for us and great to be with and have around.  It is not a day for me to get excited about when she will someday move out and not live with us any more, just like our two sons have already done.  But we know this happens when kids grow up and then move out and leave mom and dad to their own worlds.  These are times when we wonder if we have raised them up the way we hope for.

If anyone would love to share their experiences with parenting please feel free to write.