Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pensions and other scary thoughts.

The L.A. Times Opinion section, yesterday, had an article about pensions, Day of Reckoning on Pensions, quoting the Little Hoover Commission'a  study on the future of pensions and how the cost of providing them will tax every single government agency. 
I do not doubt its facts.

I doubt the conclusion that the only solution is to reduce the benefits that current employees are entitled to.

We have become obsessed with the idea that government ought to reduce all services and do as little as possible. Some people want to go back in history and get rid of all programs that we have put in place that support the least able among us, as well as programs such as Medicare and Social Security which are helping a majority of our people who, without these programs, would impose undue burden on their families.

After we just bailed out Wall Street?
After Wall Street took the government money and gave themselves bonuses?

Are we stupid or blind?

I can't talk about all government services, how efficient they are or aren't. The problems with Social Security, however,  would not be there at all. I remember there was a big surplus that was used to support other priorities. A surplus that should have remained in place to continue to grow.

The Republicans insist on Tax Cuts, tax cuts that strip the government from maintaining programs that are necessary and are part of our fabric of life.  We barely have enough regulations to keep us safe.  I do know that education, for all its costs, is not funded adequately. Just go look at how  school buildings have crumbled because there has been no new moneys for school buildings.

In my little town of Port Orford, buildings that were over 30 years old, were finally upgraded last summer, thanks to the stimulus package. Now, with new heating and ventilating system, fewer students will suffer from respiratory and asthma attacks.  And I can't even put a price on the pride factor in that school after the place was renovated.  Children have been forced to attend debilitated and crumbling buildings for decades. No. We do not fund our schools adequately. And the current budget is even scarier.

Yet, we have just extended Tax Cuts for the rich who can afford to send their children to a fancy private school anywhere in the world?  Who have money in Swiss Banks and will invest the same in off-shore business where they will not pay any more income tax?

The public sector are not the greedy ones.  They worked their whole lives, without bonuses, without fancy stock options, without the opportunity to use hundreds of loopholes to shelter their moneys. All they have is  a modest pension that was part of their compensation.  By the way, the pension is taxed!

So, they live longer than anticipated.  Fine, do the math, adjust the columns, and charge what needs to be charged to keep the programs solvent. 

But the government has no money?
It will, if we stop the tax cuts for the rich.
It can, if we demand that every body pays according to their income.
It should, if we want to continue to be a great nation, where all people live and grow old with dignity and respect.

We're are not an autocracy, or a money-grabbing-wild-west lawless desert.

We are a humane democracy, a beacon to people in the world.

Money should not  buy the  conscience of our legislators; working for the people does not mean working for  people that support you. 

Legislators work for all of us, rich and poor, young and old. They should promote and  insure our liberty, our prosperity, and our pursuit of happiness.

If they leave us behind, they have not done their Job.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Attractions that won't sink your wallet.

This is  one of the many replicas at the Maritime Museum in San Pedro, one of the many places you can visit with the children in L.A. that won't send you to the poor house.
The nice thing about this place, besides the wonderful replicas and brochures to explain what each item is and how it stands in  maritime history, are the prices. For this event, we paid $1 each, and free parking.

Now, parking alone, anyway in L.A. can cost as much as a lunch entree. Finding these resources is a stroke of sheer luck.  There are many historical places that cost little to get in.

On this particular day The Oceana had landed in a berth nearby, on its transatlantic voyage that started in Genova. Imagine my joy! I spoke with a few passengers, all nattily attired, all retired people, and asked about their adventures. One of them was the photographer, or one of them hired to take those portraits we all love, with the Captain, in the ballroom, etc. He told us that most people do not care to have such pictures anymore. They want privacy and solitude, and no photo will entice them to part with either. Interesting how times change.  I still have a photo of our first cruise to Ensenada, a three day event that worried me to no end, thinking I would be sea-sick the whole time.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reverie, Speed and Traffic on the L.A. Freeways.

I'm in Southern California, visiting with my boys, and their families. I'm in the foreground, in a blue jacket. My husband and grandchild are at the end of the harbor. My daughter-in-law is taking this picture. On this day, we are all visiting the Huntington Gardens and Libraries, a delight of art, architecture and landscape. Here, we are in a part of the Chinese Gardens, on a sunny afternoon.

We could have spent a couple more hours here. But, in L.A. you have to ponder traffic in all your decisions.

To go anywhere, to see and do anything in Southern Cal. you have to drive on freeways.
Well, on good days, you get places on time and without a lot of stress.
On this particular day, the return trip took us two additional hours, not because of traffic problems-though there were a few-but because of our assumptions about things. We travelled on the commuter lane,  for two or more passengers. Most of these lanes take you straight from one freeway to the next.

On our trip, we were on the San Gabriel Freeway ready to go south on the Long Beach Frwy. We stayed on our commuter lane anticipating an option. No! We ended up on the Santa Monica West. So, we promptly looked for a way to go south, and the Harbor showed up in time. From the Harbor south, we had to go east to get back to the Long Beach Frwy.

You get my point. It was after 3:00p.m. and rush-hour traffic was beginning.
That  calm reverie at the Chinese Garden?
Trampled on the freeways.
And we knew these things ahead of time!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Seeds of Neglect.

In any corner of the garden there are markers, stumps, vegetation
you planted on purpose, for a desired effect.
The garden will evolve. 
These roses will send out new shoots and
native grasses will spread as far as they can.

A gardener has to be vigilant,
 control invasive plants

Neglect your garden, and you will have nothing but weeds.

Everything  in life suffers from neglect.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Are We Protected?

Remember this picture? It's from the White House files, The President signing the new health care bill last year.  This post is not about health care per se. It is about health, safety and homeland and national security. My mind is exploding just thinking about all the things I want to relate to you this morning.

But, if you check out Michelle Obama's fashionable look, you too will swoon over her flawless taste! (Sorry, my digressions are very appropriate, as a matter of research now that I'm down here in buybuybuy land.) Oops, I should have made that my topic, so much to say about shopping habits that never die. (Again, sorry, for another time, perhaps.

If you have not read America The Vulnerable by Stephen Flynn you don't know much about our security/safety status here in the Land of Oz.  Remember the report that came out of the 9/11 Commission? No? Well, neither do I.  I only know what I must do when I get to the airport. The airport in America is the only place where we are reminded that Terrorists lurk at every corner; that Terrorists hide in every body; that Terrorists look like you and me. 

I'm not complaining about the pat-downs and what-nots. My Hubby has to go through a special one because his pacemaker sends off all kinds of strange alarms. If you have knee replacements, you too know the drill.  I get to watch my shoes and stuff, and his shoes and stuff, while breezily moving through that special door and giving up my special shampoos, creams and jells even before I reach the conveyor belt.

Wait. Don't we want to be secure? That is not the question.
Are we any more secure now, with all that we know?

What about all the hazardous materials on our shelves? On our highways? In our factories? Are we protected when our fire-departments are not equipped properly; our police and first responders do not have the protective gears to respond to any and all calls; when chemical and biological attacks are probably being planned as we sleep easily after our pat-downs at the airports?

We are hearing our government is taking over! What kind of thinking is that? I want my government to be alert, responsive and forward thinking. I want my government to prevent me and my neighbors from harms I don't see and wouldn't recognize. I want government to do what governments do: Legislate, Regulate, and Protect!  An Alert and Vigilant government that does not sway with the political winds.

With so many people in economic turmoil, we just want to be able to pay our bills and keep our houses.

Let the government worry about the big things. Isn't that why we have governments? 

Friday, February 18, 2011

You Never Know with Climate Change...

A couple of times a year we go south for a few weeks, to soak in the sun, catch up with our two boys and their respective lives in Southern California.  We crave the sunshine by November, and by February we are desperate for warm temperatures, opportunities to shop, dine, visit, enjoy all the attractions big cities provide.

The weather was winter watch  conditions on the drive down to Eureka where we caught our small plane for L.A. Snow and ice and hail and nasty rain made the drive uncomfortable. Plus, Hubby had a cold that developed into a nasty chest- head-throat disability.

It's raining hard here too.
People are speaking of much rain in the forecast.
We are not deterred.
There are so many great bookstores, and Nordstrom Rack, and In-N-Out, and.........
I may be too busy to visit or post, or notice, or take photos.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Send me your devils and other signs of trouble.

As a school principal in a small middle school, I never saw the good kids except at graduation, when they picked up the medals, the awards, the applause of their families and friends.

I sat mostly with the devils, the troubled, the misfit, and their parents.
Double trouble, children and their care-takers.  Usually, they acted and thought the same way.

I don't have many memories of angelic events, the great sports and musical performances, the national and regional awards  such events brought to our school and were immortalized on the halls of our institution.

No. I only remember those children/adolescents who had worn out their welcome, and their teachers' patience, and were sent to the office to see me, The Principal.  Sometimes, the secretary had them waiting for me in the reception hallway, between boxes she was emptying, keeping them in a useful mode of sorts. When I'd ask her why she hadn't send them to me right away, she'd admit that they were good at helping her out, and that I needed a little respite between cases.

I remember my first suspension. A young man in a ceramic class.  The substitute on that particular day was young and delicate, her first assignment in middle school. When the noon bell rang, she walked the young man to the office with the evidence he had created, a perfect anatomical representation of a male part.  The assignment was to make a vase.

The secretary got him lunch, and then put him to work emptying boxes until I was available to see him.  His art work sat on the front desk the entire time!
When I returned from lunch duty, that art work was the first thing that I saw.
"What's this?"
"Oh, it belongs to ...He's waiting for you."
"Send him in!"

Now, you know that the artistic merit of that work of art is not and was never in question.  When his mother was called and the situation described to her, you know what she said?
"He must have been bored to death!"

Ah, these scenes have not left me yet.
Perhaps I should write them all down and.....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oh the pressures of Valentine's Day!

Up and down the path to Coast Guard Hill and the Heads, are benches like this one. This one reads Deborah Jennie Beck, a young neighbor across the lake here, who died of cancer. She and her husband had moved to Port Orford to enjoy this very hill, these wonderful beach views.

These benches can be purchased to memorialize a relationship, a life, an event.  They bring needed respite on those steep climbs especially on cold and wet and windy days so frequently esperienced here in Port Orford.

If you do just one thing for your loved one today, make and keep medical appointments and follow ups.
Many maladies are preventable if caugtht early.
As a partner in love, in life, in walks and in prayer, you're also the partner in sickness and in pain.

Valentine Day is about celebrating your partnership.
Go on, smile and make your own Hallmark Moment.

You bought roses and candy? It's a start!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Egypt Rocks!

No, this is not a square in Egypt. I have not one picture of what we all saw on television. The three weeks of demonstration looked like nothing we had ever seen:

1. Friendly
2. Clean
3. Peaceful
4. Clear Message
5. Polite people

No crowd of this magnitude has ever behaved this way.
No revolution has ever been this focused on the message.
No revolution has ever been this peaceful and rational.

Egypt, You Rock! You deserve a government that represents who you are and who you want to be!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Of news, printing, reporting and free speech....

To see this scene, a photographer has to ascend Coast Guard Hill, and travel a few miles down a steep path to get to the end of the Heads,  headquarters for the  now defunct Coast Guard that used to protect the mariners from these outcrops and provide rescue to those too brave or too foolish to stay out of these rocks.

Before technology mapped the seas and provided sonar and equipment to spot dangers and map routes, mariners relied on human skills to spot land  and avoid dangerous waters.  Humans put their lives in danger to protect other humans.

That brings me to reporters, still needed on the beat, still the first contact people have with someone who will tell the story as he hears it, and someone who is not the spokesperson for a certain point of view.

Now, if the paper or television station the reporter works for is controlled and managed and only certain ideologies are embraced, then the work and the product that will be printed/reported will suffer, will be diminished of its freedom and unbiased content.

Let's ask ourselves when we hear, see or read a piece of news: how is the content interpreted?  How are the voices we hear selected?  How are we being manipulated?

Just a simple question to ponder over.
Dangerous waters and dangerous rocks are still there. Who is warning us?

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Most Beautiful Day for Egyptians.

Congratulations, Egyptians!
a peaceful revolution,
a lesson for the world.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dear Egyptians

Greetings from the Far West, the westernmost point of the United States. 
We've been watching television and reading the papers, following your situation and learning more and more about the issues that have taken you to the streets in protest.
We are in awe of your courage!
We are hoping your demands and interests are met with dignity and expediency.
It's a wonderful world if and when we can communicate openly and without fear. We have certain rights as human beings, we teach our people, and these rights cannot be taken away by anybody. 

I stand with you, if only in a virtual way.
Thousands and millions of people in the world are thinking the same way!
May your struggles come soon to an end.

Port Orford, Oregon,United States

Monday, February 7, 2011

Every day is not Monday.

On the docket today, Monday. The sun is shining!

1. Meet with the Bandon Writers. Share a story, a poem, an observation.
2. Lunch with writerly friends.
3. Talk about what we talked about in the group. Disagree softly. Agree loudly.
4. Home-continue talk with Hubby. Share and share......
5. Walk on the beach if the day turns out to be as clear as it promises to be this a.m.
6. Chew over the comments from the Bandon Writers.
7. Attempt changes suggested by the Writers.
8. Eat, clean, read, ponder those suggestions.
9. Dream about the suggestions made or implied by the Writers.
10. Wake up a couple of times to adjust heating unit, and any other units needing adjustment. Tell myself that Mondays are too much like work days. Heck! You're retired! You don't need anyone to approve or disapprove your work. You don't work!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's all Good!

This is  how life would  look like as time goes by.

First, sleep.................................... fun.................................
Second... master skills for living, seek a mate .......................................
Third... marry/have a family, establish career......................
Fourth...balance you family needs vs career needs..........
Fifth...children grown,  ..........................................................................
Sixth.. HEALTH worries, MONEY worries.............................................
Seventh...changing eating and sleeping habits........................................
Eighth--- everything that doesn't work may be exchanged, hips, knees, etc.
Ninth-------Eat, Yeah, Sleep, Wow, Anything, Wow! Alive, Wow! Loved! AMAZING!

I had fun building this list. Make your own.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Preparing for the Inevitable.

I married my opposite! I plan in great details. He jumps right in the water without a floating device. I make lists and maintain a timeline. He sees a  place and we stop and enjoy it and give up the  list. I go shopping with a list. Then, I add what's fresh and on sale, things that are too good to pass up.

Preparing for something inevitable is a no-brainer.  With a bit of preparation and backup you will be more comfortable and ready for any eventuality.

You'll need to do your homework on a few fronts:

1. financial security
2. health
3. physical comforts
4. mental stimulation
5. social outlets

And the list could be quite lengthy.  Most of our time will be spent on financial security first. Without a source of steady income retirement will be dismal.

You don't need to retire to enjoy "the retirement lifestyle". You need to identify your priorities at this time of your life. Take long weekend vacations to destinations you might enjoy. Spend more time with your interests.  Cut down your other obligations. Tell the kids you'll be building your nest egg and they need to be more responsible with their finances too, since you can't bail them out anymore.

Travel the world. Don't wait for time.  Make time.  If there is one thing we wish we had done more is just that.  We could have done it too.

Take classes, in whatever you want. The more hobbies and interests you can pursue, the more interesting your life will be.

 As a matter of strict financial perspective, the longer you work, the more secure you will be, the more money you can set aside, the fewer obligations you will have to contend with in your golden years.  Financial advisers (certified and fee-based) will guide you toward financial security at a time when you can put aside more money and need fewer goods to get by.

Don't wait until you're in your fifties. Do it today! At whatever age you are. Every dollar you put away will grow and be available to you those days when you cannot work anymore.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If my friends could see me now...

Darryl and Me, on my deck, on a sunny day last spring, when he suddenly showed up to visit me in Oregon.

Darryl and I worked together at Almondale Middle School, in the Antelope Valley of Los Angeles County, for a dozen years or so.  He retired after I did, and this visit of his brought back lots of memories.  He and I spent hours talking about our years and the changes we had seen together.

I've changed since Darryl knew me. Now, I take time to eat, to talk, to indulge in reveries. Back when he knew me, I never took a proper lunch break. It was lunch duty for me, time to walk around campus, supervise the five-hundred middle graders whether they sat and ate in the cafeteria, played soccer on the field, or roamed the halls.

I was not any thinner then, even with constant running around, and a forced diet of carrot sticks, yogurt and nuts to last me through the day. On my drive back home though, sixty plus miles down to the San Fernando Valley, I'd stop at In-N-Out joint and splurge on a #2 combo, cheeseburger, fries and coke, to relax, to fill my empty tank, and leave my cares behind.

Our work was demanding:  all our energies were focused and concentrated from the time we arrived in the morning to the time we left for home.  We ran to the restroom; we ran back to our rooms. No water-cooler conversations; not much idle talk of any type. Like  athletes  on a basketball court, we were focused and aware of everyone's place and function at all times.

Now that I'm retired, I'm making up for all the lunches I missed, all the water-cooler conversations I never had.  I go into reveries for hours, on this deck, watching the Ocean in the distance.