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).

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 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 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?