There are times when I'd like to share something with you but my Voice in the Garden site does not seem the appropriate place, thus, this blog.

There are experiences, thoughts, views... and for anyone lurking/waiting to pounce (as has occurred on several occasions), please do not attempt to turn what I post into a political statement. This is NOT a political site, but IS about occurrences, reality, and personal opinion concerning what I see in the world around me and my family. There are many excellent writers whose works "speak" to me, and I shall include some of them. At times it may be
something I think you would enjoy or simply whatever ails you (me).
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

No One Owes You Anything

A Gift for My Daughter

by Harry Browne

December 25, 1966

(This article was originally published as a syndicated newspaper column, dedicated to my 9-year-old daughter.)

It’s Christmas and I have the usual problem of deciding what to give you. I know you might enjoy many things books, games, clothes.

But I’m very selfish. I want to give you something that will stay with you for more than a few months or years. I want to give you a gift that might remind you of me every Christmas.

If I could give you just one thing, I’d want it to be a simple truth that took me many years to learn. If you learn it now, it may enrich your life in hundreds of ways. And it may prevent you from facing many problems that have hurt people who have never learned it.

The truth is simply this:

No one owes you anything.

Significance

How could such a simple statement be important? It may not seem so, but understanding it can bless your entire life.

No one owes you anything.

It means that no one else is living for you, my child. Because no one is you. Each person is living for himself; his own happiness is all he can ever personally feel.

When you realize that no one owes you happiness or anything else, you’ll be freed from expecting what isn’t likely to be.

It means no one has to love you. If someone loves you, it’s because there’s something special about you that gives him happiness. Find out what that something special is and try to make it stronger in you, so that you’ll be loved even more.

When people do things for you, it’s because they want to because you, in some way, give them something meaningful that makes them want to please you, not because anyone owes you anything.

No one has to like you. If your friends want to be with you, it’s not out of duty. Find out what makes others happy so they’ll want to be near you.

No one has to respect you. Some people may even be unkind to you. But once you realize that people don’t have to be good to you, and may not be good to you, you’ll learn to avoid those who would harm you. For you don’t owe them anything either.

Living your Life

No one owes you anything.

You owe it to yourself to be the best person possible. Because if you are, others will want to be with you, want to provide you with the things you want in exchange for what you’re giving to them.

Some people will choose not to be with you for reasons that have nothing to do with you. When that happens, look elsewhere for the relationships you want. Don’t make someone else’s problem your problem.

Once you learn that you must earn the love and respect of others, you’ll never expect the impossible and you won’t be disappointed. Others don’t have to share their property with you, nor their feelings or thoughts.

If they do, it’s because you’ve earned these things. And you have every reason to be proud of the love you receive, your friends’ respect, the property you’ve earned. But don’t ever take them for granted. If you do, you could lose them. They’re not yours by right; you must always earn them.

My Experience

A great burden was lifted from my shoulders the day I realized that no one owes me anything. For so long as I’d thought there were things I was entitled to, I’d been wearing myself out physically and emotionally trying to collect them.

No one owes me moral conduct, respect, friendship, love, courtesy, or intelligence. And once I recognized that, all my relationships became far more satisfying. I’ve focused on being with people who want to do the things I want them to do.

That understanding has served me well with friends, business associates, lovers, sales prospects, and strangers. It constantly reminds me that I can get what I want only if I can enter the other person’s world. I must try to understand how he thinks, what he believes to be important, what he wants. Only then can I appeal to someone in ways that will bring me what I want.

And only then can I tell whether I really want to be involved with someone. And I can save the important relationships for those with whom I have the most in common.

It’s not easy to sum up in a few words what has taken me years to learn. But maybe if you re-read this gift each Christmas, the meaning will become a little clearer every year.

I hope so, for I want more than anything else for you to understand this simple truth that can set you free: no one owes you anything.

Bipartisan Crisis And A General Failure of Ethics and Stewardship

Since we attempt to keep abreast of what is going on around us, early morning will generally find us perusing headlines from various newspapers around the world; additionally I like to review that which is being opined by some of my favourite writers. Although one may not always agree with something said (written), understanding the reasoning is an important part of any discussion. I found this of interest and thought some of you might also.

Jesse of Jesse's Café Américain writes:

Obama's Failure to Reform: A Bipartisan Crisis And A General Failure of Ethics and Stewardship

I hope everyone has the opportunity to see "Inside Job" in the months ahead.

The issue is not settled. As someone who watches the markets closely every day, often tick by tick, and speaks to market participants around the world, I see an accident waiting to happen in the US financial system. And it is surprising, almost shocking, that it receives so little attention while there is so much focus on the relatively trivial.

We have just witnessed one of the greatest financial frauds in modern history. Where are the indictments? Where is the reform?

It concerns me greatly because it is such a important economy. Such a failure would have unsettling collateral damage on the rest of the world not only because of its size, but through the transmission mechanism of the dollar reserve currency which is pervasive in trade and in most central bank holdings.

Like its cronies on Wall Street, the government in Washington thinks it is Too Big To Fail. It may very well be. But propping it up is probably too great of a task for the rest of the world to bear indefinitely. And so we may have an uneasy year or two ahead.

INET's Interview with Charles Ferguson, the director of "Inside Job",
Sony's documentary which exposes the truth behind the economic crisis of 2008.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rhetoric Rides Again

Thomas Sowell writes:

"Let's face it, politics is largely the art of deception, and political rhetoric is largely the art of misstating issues. A classic example is the current debate over whether to give money to the unemployed by extending how long unemployment benefits will be provided, or instead to give "tax cuts to the rich."

First of all, nobody's taxes -- whether rich or poor -- is going to be cut in this lame duck session of Congress. The only real issue is whether our current tax rates will go up in January, whether for everybody or nobody or somewhere in between.

The most we can hope for is that tax rates will not go up. So the next time you hear some politician or media talking head say "tax cuts for the rich," that will just tell you whether they are serious about facts or just addicted to talking points.

Not only are the so-called "tax cuts" not really tax cuts, most of the people called "rich" are not really rich. Rich means having a lot of wealth. But income taxes don't touch wealth. No wonder some billionaires are saying it's OK to raise income taxes. They would still be billionaires if taxes took 100 percent of their current income.

What those who are arguing against "tax cuts for the rich" are promoting is raising the tax rates on families making $250,000 a year and up. A husband and wife making $125,000 a year each are not rich. If they have a kid going to one of the many colleges charging $30,000 a year (in after-tax money) for tuition alone, they are not likely to feel anywhere close to being rich.

Many people earning an annual income of $125,000 a year do so only after years of earning a lot less than that before eventually working their way up to that level. For politicians to step in at that point and confiscate what they have invested years of working to achieve is a little much.

It also takes a lot of brass to talk about taxing "millionaires and billionaires" when most of the people whose taxes the liberals want to raise are neither. Why is so much deception necessary, if your case is good?

Those who own their own small businesses have usually reached their peak earnings many years after having started their business, and often operating with very low income, or even operating at a loss, when their businesses first got started.

Again, having politicians step in with an extra tax at that point, when later incomes compensate earlier sacrifices, is sheer brass -- especially when real millionaires and billionaires have their wealth safely stowed in tax shelters.

Another fashionable political and media deception is making a parallel between giving money to the unemployed versus giving money to "the rich."

When you refrain from raising someone's taxes, you are not "giving" them anything. Even if you were actually cutting their tax rate -- which is out of the question today -- you would still not be "giving" them anything, but only allowing them to keep more of what they have earned.

Is the government doing any of us a big favor by not taking even more of what we have worked for? Is it not an insult to our intelligence to say that the government is "giving" us something by not taxing it away?

With unemployment compensation, however, you are in fact giving someone something. "Extending unemployment benefits" always sounds good politically -- especially if you do not ask the basic question: "For how long should they be extended?" A year? Two years? No limit?

Studies have shown what common sense should have told us without studies: The longer the unemployment benefits are available, the longer people stay unemployed.


If I were fired tomorrow, should I be able to live off the government until such time as I find another job that is exactly the same, making the same or higher pay? What if I am offered another job that uses some of the same skills but doesn't pay quite as much? Should I be allowed to keep on living off the government?


With the government making it more expensive for employers to hire workers, and at the same time subsidizing unemployed workers longer and longer, you can have as much unemployment as you are willing to pay for, for as long as you are willing to pay for it."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Madness Of A Lost Society

There is no commentary for the following video. I think it speaks for itself.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Euro Game Is Up!

First Greece, then Ireland, and who will follow? I found the following video to be... well, you decide.

To the European Parliament, The Euro Game Is Up says Parliament member Nigel Farage, and it's pretty clear that none of you have learned anything.





Speaker: Nigel Farage MEP, UKIP, Co-President of the EFD group

Transcript:


"Good morning, Mr van Rompuy,

You've been in office for one year and in that time the whole edifice is beginning to crumble, there's chaos, the money's running out - I should thank you; you should perhaps be the pin-up boy of the Eurosceptic movement.

But just look around this chamber, this morning. Just look at these faces. Look at the fear. Look at the anger. Poor old Barroso here looks like he's seen a ghost.

They're begining to understand that the game is up and yet in their desperation to preserve their dream, they want to remove any remaining traces of democracy from the system. And it's pretty clear that none of you have learnt anything.

When you yourself, Mr van Rompuy, say that the euro has brought us stability. I suppose I could applaud you for having a sense of humour, but isn't this, really, just the bunker mentality?

Your fanaticism is out in the open. You talked about the fact that it was a lie to believe that the nation state could exist in the 21st Century globalised world. Well, that may be true in the case of Belgium, who haven't had a government for six months, but for the rest of us, right across every member state in this Union - and perhaps this is why we see the fear in the faces - increasingly people are saying, 'We don't want that flag. We don't want the anthem. We don't want this political class. We want the whole thing consigned to the dustbin of history.'

And we had the Greek tragedy earlier on this year, and now we have this situation in Ireland. Now I know that the stupidity and greed of Irish politicians has a lot to do with this. They should never ever have joined the euro. They suffered with low interest rates, a false boom and a massive bust.

But look at your response to them. What they're being told, as their government is collapsing, is that it would be inappropriate for them to have a general election. In fact Commissioner Rehn here said they had to agree their budget first before they'd be allowed to have a general election.

Just who the hell do you think you people are?

You are very very dangerous people, indeed. Your obsession with creating this Euro state means that you're happy to destroy democracy. You appear to be happy for millions and millions of people to be unemployed and to be poor. Untold millions must suffer so that your Euro dream can continue.

Well it won't work. Because it's Portugal next, with their debt levels of 325% of GDP, they're the next ones on the list, and after that I suspect it will be Spain. And the bailout for Spain would be seven times the size of Ireland's and at that moment all of the bailout money has gone - there won't be anymore.

But it is even more serious than economics. Because if you rob people of their identity. If you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the Euro project is destroyed by the markets before that really happens.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Animated Quantitative Easing Explained

QE2 or Quantitative Easing was written about here,
but this is an entertaining explanation about it
and who benefits from it... simply stated...
and it made me laugh.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day: God Bless Those Who Give All

Americans have not stood alone in their fight to keep freedom alive
Sacrifices are made by people and countries around the world

Take Time to Give Thanks To Those Who Give All





Every American is
Blessed
To Be Represented By
Our Best

Friday, November 5, 2010

QE2

No, I am not an economist, but have varied interests, am a student of learning, have been blessed with common sense and logic (at least most of the time... wink), and understand the basic principle of economics: if you make more of something, you increase supply, and therefore the value is lowered.

In October, Caroline Baum, Bloomberg, wrote: Gold prices continue to set new highs. The U.S. dollar, the global reserve currency, keeps sinking amid expectations the Federal Reserve will dilute the existing stock starting at its Nov. 2 to 3 meeting.

And so they did! The Federal Reserve announced another round, nearly $1 Trillion dollars more of Quantitative Easing, QE2 they call it: buy $600 billion of Treasuries through mid-2011 and another $250-300 billion of coupon reinvestment via the Desk.

QE1, you ask?
When completed, the Fed had repurchased about $1.7 trillion in Treasury and MBS/Agency securities (Mortgage Backed Securities).

Cotton futures surged to $1.392 a pound yesterday in New York, the
highest price in 140 years of trading, on signs that dwindling global supplies won’t meet mounting demand from China, the biggest user. Cotton’s 79 percent gain this year was the biggest on the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of 24 commodities. So what happens now to the cost of fabric and clothing?

Silver hit a new all time record of $26.03. Gold is currently trading to the level of $1394 dollars per ounce, and oil is heading back toward $100 a barrel.

Here is a chart of interest supplied by Casey Research showing year-over-year prices, The Real Cost of Living.

Some say we are facing hyperinflation, others stagflation.

There are 40 + countries pegged to our dollar and already countries have begun to counter inflation by raising interest rates: Australia and India have done so and yesterday morning the BOE (Bank of England) said they will NOT follow the U.S. Are countries beginning to decouple from the U.S. dollar?

The printing presses roll, and with a Fed induced stock market rally, Wall Street speculates, pushing up the price of industrial and agricultural commodity prices while people struggle with a higher cost of living, unemployment, and foreclosures amidst the dwindling of the dollar. Think of what the high cost of commodities does to countries less fortunate than we.

Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO, the world's largest bond investor, addresses the unintended consequences of this Fed's actions and the reasons QE2 blunderbuss likely to backfire.

And if you haven't been entertained enough, here is a Wall Street Journal article on translating some of the Fed speak.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Voting Rights For Non-Citizens?

The U.S. Constitution allows for only U.S. Citizens to vote in elections, but residents of Portland, Maine will soon vote on giving voting rights to foreign nationals, as will San Francisco.

This July 2008 National Review Article addresses the widespread problem of illegal voting that has been experienced in states across the country from California, Texas and Utah to Arizona, Illinois and Florida. The GAO (Government Accountability Office) estimated that up to 3 percent of individuals called for jury duty from voter registration rolls in just one U.S. district court were not U.S. citizens... After a grand-jury investigation of the 1982 Illinois governor’s race resulted in the conviction of aliens for illegally registering and voting, the U.S. Attorney estimated that there were 80,000 non-citizens registered to vote in Chicago...

And now states such as Oregon are allowing voter registration via the internet.

What is your stance on foreign nationals voting in our elections? Why even register to vote? Just line up. Even dead people might be able to vote. No wait, that already happens.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What The Hell Is Wrong With People

So, we head down the hill from our house this morning, a beautiful winding country road that is about two miles outside the city limits. This is an area where I have to stop the car as the local deer and turkeys take their time to cross the road. It is a somewhat older rural neighborhood and with a county zoning restriction whereby parcels cannot be smaller than 5 acres. Over the last several years a few newer homes have been built, but basically there are several farms with horses and a few families with beehives, sheep, and cows.

When we got to the bottom of the hill and crossed into the city, the road was littered: a woman's shoe in the middle of the highway, a plaid shirt, t-shirts, another shoe on the side of the road, more clothing in the center, hundreds of empty CO2 cartridges... scattered all over the highway. What an absolute ugly mess. And this isn't the first time.

About once every couple of months someone uses this section of highway as their personal garbage dump: mattress and box spring, computer display, office chair, the frame of an automobile, washer, dryer, tires, black plastic bags of garbage...

In this instance it is evident that the person/s responsible were not just dropping off their trash, especially since it was strewn at various points along the road, but intended to cause a problem. Many bicyclists, walkers and joggers also use this area.

Yes, the world is filled with wonderful people, but there are also those who are destructive and want to cause problems. There always has been, and I guess there always will be.

Do they want to cause damage and personal harm? That seems obvious. Did they accomplish an objective and pi$$ someone off? I guess so... look at this blog. Is there no pride? In some there is not.

What the Hell is wrong with people?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Distant Sounds of Children Playing

As I worked in the garden I could hear voices in the distance, those of children yelling, screaming, laughing... they were playing. What a wholesome and heartwarming sound it was, and it reminded me of the play between my cousins and me when we were children.

We had no television when I was growing up in the 50's. A small part of our entertainment was a radio. On an occasional wintry Saturday morning after we had done our cleaning chores, we would sit around the Warm Morning coal stove and listen to some of our favourite radio programs: Roy Rogers, Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, and even... Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men, The Shadow knows.

Once the snow melted and with the first signs of spring, we couldn't wait to go outside. Run and jump, skip and shout, we played hopscotch, hide and seek, leap frog and tag, cowboys and Indians, and Simon Says. Our toys consisted of crayons and paper and chalk, scissors, cardboard boxes, balls and jacks; marbles and yo-yo's, Lincoln Logs, jump rope, pick-up-sticks and spinning tops. We sat on our grandmother's porch swing and played guessing games, told stories, and counted cars passing on the highway below. We made mud pies behind the old coal storage shed then explored whatever we could on foot.

There were times we would go next door to Mary Jo's house: her parents had an old shanty where they stored some old clothing and jewelry, odds 'n ends of cups and saucers and dishes; we would dress up and play house. Our asset was our imagination.

We loved going to school and enjoyed gym (Physical Education) and playing ball, and we never seemed to mind having to walk a mile each day to get there and then return.

But it wasn't all play for we had to work. Whoever heard of an allowance? If I wanted to buy something I had to earn it; thus, a babysitting job was found as soon as I was old enough. We helped cook, clean house, and do the laundry.

So times are better than they were with our generation and those before. The affluence is around us as we listen to parents speak of their children and their activities: they need new Nike shoes, cell phones, Ipods, computers, their own television sets and video games; one has soccer practice while the other has to be at a piano lesson, another to gymnastics; and then there is Disneyland and camping and basketball beginning next week, and ....

Where are the moments of silence whereby one is at peace with his or her own thoughts? When was the last time you heard your child or grandchild say, I am sooo bored. How did we reach this level of entertainment?

My husband and I traveled to the coast some time ago and stopped at a restaurant for lunch. Seated at the table next to us was a family of four, presumably mother, father, teenage brother and sister. For the entire meal, the young man did not speak, but had his head looking down at his lap and at his phone, texting. There was no face-to-face with his family.

It is not my intention to paint this picture with a broad stroke, but rather present that which we have observed over the years. When you walk down the street notice how many passersby are hearing only the sounds being uttered into their heads by way of headphones and/or earphones. Notice the passing car with children riding in the back seat and how they are being silenced with video games. There is such limited observation of the sounds and sights around us. The environment seems to have shrunk. Ears and eyes are being fed - input. Where is the reflection and the output?

My husband was talking with some company sales person who told him that some of their younger customers are not able to interact with other customers and suppliers; they lack communication and face-to-face verbal skills and cannot deal with difficult communication because they have not learned how. They may be intelligent, internet savvy, but are devoid of mental agility.

Tis a sad commentary on this electronic life we live and the marketing that convinces that everyone needs one. Each generation thinks they know better than the last, and there is no going back. I don't know the solution, and unfortunately, believe much of this began with the breakdown of the family.

There are still those families who know who they are, refuse to be led by the masses, know what is of most value to them and maintain a balance in their lives. I just hope that we continue to hear some distant sounds of children playing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

$62 Dollars For 5 Items

After coming back from the grocery store one day, I wrote on my Voice in the Garden blog about some regulations we are facing and the rising costs we are experiencing, especially in food.

Yesterday, my husband and I went to pick up 5 items at the grocery store for which we had discount coupons:

2 regular bottles of vitamins: one Vitamin D and a Vitamin B complex,
a package of (3) women's socks,
a 2-pack of heavy duty aluminum foil, and
body lotion.

He handed me the receipt as we walked from the checkout register, and I was aghast: $62 dollars for 5 items!

I don't need to tell you that prices are rising. The U.S. dollar doesn't go very far anymore, and with its steady decline and the increasing commodity prices, our purchasing power continues to decrease and especially so for people with moderate and/or lesser incomes. For those interested in some of the data, here is an article from BusinessInsider.com which includes the following statement on the CPI (Consumer Price Index) versus the PPI (Producer Price Index).

JP Morgan's Charles Grum writes: "... Looking ahead, with recent spikes in commodity prices already reflected in the producer price index, we’ll be keeping a close watch to see if the gap will widen (potentially negative for grocer margins) or if retail prices will "catch up" to wholesale prices."

We are vigilant of what we spend and living within our means, and there is a time, and I think now especially so, when you must ask: do I really need this... should I spend the money. Most of the time when I ask that, the answer is no, we can get along without it.

In a world where some people live on $4 dollars or less a day, a ten to fifteen percent rise in food costs is catastrophic.

Reported in the Guardian.co.uk: UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) called an emergency meeting for 24 September to discuss the food crisis. In Mozambique, riots broke out following the government's decision to raise bread prices by 30%, leaving seven people dead and hundreds injured.

From Johannesburg, the AP reports: A few pennies' increase in the price of a loaf of bread can mean the difference between getting by and going hungry — and erupting in anger — in the world's poorest countries.

Some may not be aware of much of this, for if your local networks are as ours, most of them take their cue and report the same thing from one channel to the next. Therefore, we spend several hours a day each morning looking at headlines and reading newspapers from around the world in order understand the global issues of which we are a part. And although there are those who choose to not hear about it, for us being aware allows us an opportunity to be forewarned and hopefully be better prepared for our future.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Parable: The Good Life

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying
to make you something else
is the greatest accomplishment."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyone knows that making life's choices has been and can continue to be difficult. How do we figure out who we are, what we want, and how we get there... while holding true to our values and principles?

This is a simple but thought provoking parable that has been seen in various forms, and Mark Albion, author, includes it in his book More Than Money.

The Good Life

An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.

Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied only a little while. The businessman then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?


The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.


The businessman then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”


The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, señor.”


The businessman scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.


You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you will run your expanding enterprise.”


The fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”


To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years.”


“But what then, señor?”


The businessman laughed and said “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”


“Millions, señor? Then what?”


The businessman said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Money often costs too much." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, October 11, 2010

Our Values Reflect

I believe, Our values reflect what is important to us,
and with each generation those things appear to change.


When I am not in the garden and am out and about, which is seldom, I will have a list of things needed, and try to get in and out of where I'm going, for I loathe to shop. If the world had to depend upon me to boost the economy, well, it would be in a lot of trouble. A zealous consumer I am not.

I spent many years in suits, dresses and high heels in the corporate arena, but once I retired, it was like burning your bra and liberation. Simplicity and a focus on the finer, more important things of life was all I could think of. Fiscally, I am conservative and have no need to impress. I do not chastise those who want more and who can afford to buy what they want, but as for myself, I want little outside of providing for our family and enjoying them and our circle of friends and community. That which I seek is within. Besides, just how many pair of pants do I need to impress the birds and bees?

Four days a week I swim, do water aerobics, and yesterday morning was one of those occasions. Following that and with an overcast rainy day, it seemed to be a good time to shop my list and then return home to process the tomatoes just picked from the garden. Mid-morning, rainfall increasing, likely people would be staying warm and dry and preparing for Sunday football.

As I reached the parking lot, I could not believe how packed it was... vehicles waiting in every area for someone to vacate a spot. A family had gotten into their van at the farthest point from the entrance, and that was good enough for me. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, a little rain never hurts you and no one carries an umbrella.

Inside, an arrangement of disarray: a group of six standing and blocking part of the entrance, a social moment encountered; a worker at a table several feet away attempting to sell a family of five on upgrading their membership; wide aisles featuring families of four, five... walking slowly astride one another gazing aimlessly left, then right and making it difficult for anyone to get by. Aisles have been rearranged with items for Christmas. (Actually Christmas has been on the shelves since the end of August, but that disgusting practice may be for another post.)

Many stores are now serving product to taste in order to entice the consumer to buy prepackaged food items; employees are positioned at little carts with microwaves and/or grills serving up samples of tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwich bites, mashed potatoes and gravy, ravioli stuffed with mozzarella and spinach... I thought of turning around to leave, but, I am here, get the few things we need and head home.

There is little room to pass as people have positioned and abandoned their carts, not in an out-of-the-way place, but diagonally across the aisle as they get in line for their taste. I dodged many a cart, and in one instance went around one such stray, stopped, reached inside a cooler to access some eggs, and was ramrodded by a middle aged man (old enough to know better) and knocked forward. I could have been hurt, was not, but someone much older could have been. I gained my balance, turned to see who had done this, and he said, "Are you hurt?! Well, you went around and I thought you would keep on going".

I simply shook my head, turned and walked away. How did he make that my fault?

At the checkout, carts were lined and filled to the brim, some overflowing, and I wondered how many people will be fed with all that food... are they the same as we in that shopping is only done once or twice a month... how is all of this affordable and can debt-strapped households continue in their trajectory of spending and charging and living on borrowed time (money).

Pushing my cart outside into the heavy rain, I quickly walked past several sections of parked cars and passing traffic, and as I turned to cross over to my vehicle, I was startled by a horn and quickly moved back. This thirty to forty-year old woman, warm and dry behind the window of her huge Suburban, was laughing at having nearly run over my cart and me. The next vehicle motioned me to cross.

I ask myself: What has happened to us? Where is the consideration and respect for others? How did we evolve into it's-all-about-me? Do our values not outwardly reflect who we are and what is important to us? Where do we go from here? Can anything put us back on track?