Month: March 2015
In 1989 my life changed forever. I did not realize yet, as I awoke from a coma, that I would never physically function the same again. I did regain walking with the help of adaptive aids but remained weak from nerve and muscle damage which remains. After I was home recovering I wrote the musings below but I have since learned hindsight is worthless except for beautiful memories. My life turned out to be wonderful with joy and successes I could have never imagined possible.
Every once in while I drag this prose out because it now makes me smile that I have come so far in my ability to appreciate life with no regrets.
If I would have known,
I would have ran one more time
I would have raced until the wind took my hair,
Until the landscape was but a blur
Until my muscles were used up with joy and exhaustion
My heart beat thundering in my ear
My skin glistening with sweat
My eyes burning from salt
I would have jumped with abandon
Every stump, every fence,
every moss covered rock
I would have hiked a lonely trail
And walked after dinner until sunset sent me home
If I had known,
I would have ran one more time.
“According to a recent survey”….blah, blah, blah. I’m so tired of hearing those words on the news, in commercials and in conversations. Stop eating that, don’t play this, drink more of this instead of that and on and on. I wonder who takes these surveys. Are they educated in the product or service they are giving their opinion on? The fact is survey data is usually biased because it depends on the subject’s motivation, honesty and expertise. Also important is the agenda of the survey designers to sway public opinion for or against a product or service. It’s known that if you can get as little as 10% of a social network to strongly commit to an opinion, that it is enough to rapidly convert the uncommitted 90% to adopt their point of view. This is called the “tipping point” after which the entire social network does the job of converting everyone else toward being a believer.
When the agenda is to “manage” and “control” people through fear or false promises then it becomes dangerous. The pharmaceutical industry, for one example, is guilty of “fear marketing” using survey data to scare potential customers into thinking they must take certain medications. Their data states they can prevent future conditions and better cure others than what they are taking now.
Then there are the food and drink scares. One year they warn not to eat butter, drink coffee or eat spicy foods. The next year butter is good and margarine is bad, caffeine is beneficial and spicy foods are good for circulation. All this based on stats, data and surveys. I would accept this data easier if the facts were listed and by who then I could draw my own conclusions.
Unfortunately the usual agenda is product marketing. It’s good to know what potential harm or options are available. But, when the general public are used as puppets and led like lemmings to the money pit it becomes manipulative. Next time you hear “a recent survey states” ask yourself where they are coming from and what are they trying to sell. If you see a competitor in the shadows who will go down if those 10% sway the 90% then you can make your own conclusions.
Do you know what the most dangerous emotion is? It is depression. There is no way to use it. Like a car that has run out of fuel you can try to push it forward but you just can’t get anywhere. You can keep trying to crank the engine over but nothing ignites it. Soon you realize it is worthless as it is. What you need is fuel and that fuel for humans is anger.
I’m not talking about the anger that hurts other people as that is completely counterproductive. I’m talking about the anger you can use as a tool to fire up the engine of motivation that can get you down the road and on your way to success. We were not given the amazing range of emotions so they could control us but so we could use them to enhance our lives.
You know you are using anger to your advantage when you see it turn into will power, strength, endurance and determination. These are not passive feelings, they come from being fed up with apathy toward your environment or your own stagnate self. Anger is at the opposite end of the spectrum of victim.
Throughout my life I have experienced many crisis, divorces, betrayals, near death experience, coma, death of a grown child and a grandchild, homelessness and living with several disabilities and much more. But my life is a success because at each crisis I became stronger, smarter and more pro-active. The first divorce shattered me and the dark cloak of depression covered me until I felt I couldn’t breathe. Then one day I became angry at myself for letting a temporary speed bump jar me off my journey. I made plans and goals and got back on the road. I let anger fire my engine to move forward.
I’m certainly not perfect and every once in a while life deals me a new blow like my sweet granddaughter being diagnosed with leukemia at 14 and for a day or so I allow depression to seep in but the stress is never worth it. By now I know what is needed. I get fed up, I get angry at the situation and I reach for my blue steno pad and I make a plan, a PLAN B. I research, learn my options then go forward.
Can you imagine humanity without the emotion of anger? It motivates progress, competition and achievement. It is a tool that once mastered can push you forward to opportunities and goals beyond your expectations.
My Dad loved and I mean loved to travel and explore the states especially the lower coast-to-coast ones. Every school vacation off we would go. But don’t misunderstand this wasn’t a typical road trip. We moved. There was our 1953 light green Ford sedan, my dad’s 1949 Chevy pickup that pulled a 30 foot trailer with plywood sides and an army green canvas tarp pulled taught over everything we owned. Toward the end of school break we would settle in a house in one of the states from Florida to California.
My mom, sister, and two brothers and I traveled that route for many summers stopping at each attraction along the way and never missing the welcome rest stops in each state. We would read everything about the state’s history and all the attractions offered. My dad was a house painter so jobs were picked up everywhere along the journey. This was not a rich man’s vacation, not even close. But we survived and even had fun because of the roadside rest stops all along the highway. These were places you would finally get to go to the bathroom, run and play and eat your picnic lunch and ice cold cool-aide held in the big metal Coleman cooler. Dad more often than not took a little nap on the cool concrete picnic table bench covering his face with his hat or a newspaper and wake refreshed and ready to roll. My little brother and I would run, play checkers, jacks or anything else we found to entertain ourselves.
There was no worry that someone would rob you or you would get accosted in the restrooms or there would be drug deals in the parking lots. We were all travelers on a journey to different destinations. It was the place to get free water if your vehicle overheated or a helping hand from another traveler if you were broke down. You made friends for an hour or two knowing you would probably never see them again but you remember them in your stories along with the experiences and the sites that you encountered.
Now the rest stops are quietly disappearing. Budget cuts and people’s preference for fast food in place of picnics are causing these wonderful scenic places to fade away. Nowadays it’s about getting there fast as possible. Destination is the only goal. As the highway system expanded the off-ramps take you off the speeding interstate leading you directly to fast food and huge service stations. For years I did not notice that the road side rest stops were almost gone. Much like the phone booth and big blue neighborhood mailbox they just slid out of sight in the name of progress. But I have memories that weave into stories that come alive as I tell them to my grandchildren of the sights and sounds and smells and feel of the places we experienced that no book can match.
There are so many changes communities could do to be more pro-active in protecting their ecosystems. Some communities have started this process slowly. Everyone understands it should be a priority but getting the money to peruse it is always difficult. I began to do some research on what some options are and things a few cities are doing now. In examining large and mid-size urban cities I have located environmental areas that are at risk of becoming damaged beyond repair. These risk areas are biological habitats, clean air and water pollution. A city’s rapid growth and continuing urban sprawl is currently endangering indigenous plants and animals. However I feel with implementation of the recommendations I have found any city will see a substantial improvement on their ecosystem and a lighter footprint on the environment as a whole.
Regarding air quality – City buses and large construction equipment owned by the Department of Transportation need upgrading to newer engines or equipped with emission control devices such as idle reduction technology. Cross country locomotives going through communities can also be retrofitted to cut down on the mission pollution. This is a big concern since a major train yard often sits right in the middle of a highly populated area. Idling diesel engines not only omit harmful pollutants but waste fuel and cause engines to wear.
Promote transportation choices – Cars as transportation options are slow, dangerous and frustrating especially when you’re in the middle of a big city gridlock. They are also a huge user of oil. Taxpayers cover the load of road maintenance and constructions of new roads. Moving people by bus, train, bicycles or on foot is more efficient and kinder to the environment. These options are under used because communities are not actively diverting funds like the gas tax from road construction to Greenway construction. If it’s inconvenient most people will not use it. Working with your local park board to design and maintain a bicycle pedestrian trails that crisscrosses the city will encourage people to use them. It is also recommended that City Council consider a fund or pursue grants as a way to keep these trails and public transit terminals safe such as well lighted crosswalks and patrols coordinated by local police. City buses can be fitted with bike racks on the front so riders can take their bike in inclement weather. Employers could offer to pay for bus rides to work and create a more flexible schedule coinciding with the bus schedules. In Manila the Philippines, the Asian Bank is providing $300 million toward a ground breaking project that gives its people a lease to own E – trike. This kind of concept would be a great solution on a smaller scale for the various universities in your city. Parking is always an issue and with 1000+ students using cars it would make a huge difference in greenhouse gases.
Establishing green spaces and urban forestry – Urban forestry and green spaces should be developed and maintained wherever possible to promote a diverse and healthy environment. You could start a committee of interested residents to create an action plan for potential land preservation. They could also develop partnerships with local nonprofits who are engaged in land conservation like the local Park Board or conservation department. Green spaces are important to our health, mentally and ecologically. These green spaces could be intermingled with the Greenway bicycle and pedestrian trails to encourage people to use this as a form of transport.
Fuel-efficient cars – Everyone knows fuel-efficient cars get much better gas mileage but there are also other important environmental advantages such as releasing fewer emissions and carbon dioxide is cut in half. Electric cars are the most fuel-efficient. There are no tailpipes so no omissions can escape. Their motors convert 75% of the chemical energy from the batteries to power the wheels. You can compare that to conventional gasoline powered engines which produce only 20% of the energy stored in gasoline. Carpooling Promoting carpooling is another recommendation that could move your city toward a more eco-friendly community. Studies have shown that the average American car emits 23,600 pounds of CO2 a year. If four people shared rides in one car the emission savings would be three times that amount. The riders are also saving on gas, wear and tear on their car as well as maintenance. Encouraging large manufacturing companies to promote carpooling with their employees could help implement this system. They could offer incentives such as prime parking spaces.
These recommendations are good in theory but difficult to implement. Retrofitting and upgrading the city’s public transportation and heavy machinery will take additional funds or diverting funds from other necessary projects. Urban forestry and green spaces like creating bicycle pedestrian trails also take funds to complete and a lot a promotion to get community buy-in so they will be used. Carpooling has to work on many levels like similar work schedules, riders need to be compatible, the sacrifice of independence of doing errands on the way home and the number of riders needs to stay consistent. And promoting fuel-efficient cars would need funds for marketing plan to justify the initial cost which is more than traditional gas engines. In addition electric cars have no infrastructure built in to refuel electricity across the country yet. Nothing worth having is usually easy but in this case well worth the effort.
It will be a slow progress to turn the environment back to a safe and sustainable world but in the process we are saving ourselves. A look into 50 years from now could see big urban cities decaying from the inside out if a pro-active stance to save their ecosystems were never taken. We need to keep that in mind when voting for and supporting these positive changes. It’s our own humanity we are saving.
Why is self-advocacy so under used in our society? I think because it gets confused between aggressiveness and assertiveness. This confusion is just as misunderstood by the business you are dealing with (usually more so) than the individual trying to assert their rights. In the process citizens get pushed down, intimidated and managed into silence.
Not all is lost however because there is a weapon you can use and it is the absolute key to your success. That weapon is knowledge of the guidelines, goals and mission of the business or organization that you feel is treating you unfairly and denying you services, programs and respect. You will almost always find the employee who denies you and disrespect you does not represent the business or organization you are trying to access. Government and state programs have employees who are overwhelmed and burn out runs rampant. If you do not learn to advocate you will most likely be shoved to the side and forgotten. Businesses like wise expect employees to do twice the job for the money with no incentive to build the business through customer relations.
However, there are people who care and they are the business owners and the directors of federal and state programs and non-profits. The first group is invested in profits and the rest are vested in the goals through mission statements they agreed to uphold when they took their positions. The “key” to advocacy success is understanding what is important to them. For business it’s pretty easy because customer satisfaction and word of mouth marketing equals profits. You already have power here and employees who drive away customer will not last long.
Non-profits, federal and state programs are a little more difficult and intimating because you don’t have a choice weather you do business with them or not. But, it is worth the fight and you can win. First research the organization and find out exactly what they are supposed to be providing and how. If you do not have a computer to research then go to the public library. They will assist you in your research. Letter writing is always the first step to good advocacy but know not only who to send it to but include what happened, how you felt you were treated and where they had not complied with their goals, mission statement or program guidelines. Think of it as verbal litigation. Keep it factual. Emotional letters smack of victimization. Ask them to respond within a certain date. End with thanking them for their consideration and place the ball firmly in their court by stating what outcome you expect in clear and factual words otherwise it is just a complaint letter.
For federal and state funded programs that you get no or unsatisfactory responses do not hesitate to talk to your congressman and ask for their help in intervention. Above all keep your focus on the facts and avoid emotional drama at all costs. State what you want and what you know, based on the guidelines, you qualify for.
What is a non-profit exactly? A nonprofit organization (NPO, also known as a non-business entity) is an organization that uses its surplus revenues to further achieve its purpose or mission, rather than distributing its surplus income to the organization’s directors as profit or dividends. They have a tax exempt status granted by the Internal Revenue Service after conditions are met such as purpose, limitations on spending and external safeguards.
The main purpose of a nonprofit is to serve the needs of the communities they have indicated in their application. They are not “agencies” or “businesses” they are private as opposed to governmental, self-governing, voluntary and of public benefit. In the United States there are three main economic sectors that serve the citizens “wants” and “needs”. These are the government, the for-profits and the nonprofits. For- profits supply our “wants” based on supply and demand. These profits are based on delivering those products and services to the consumer for a price. These are the community’s desires beyond their needs.
The non-profit is responsible for “needs” that the government does not have a direct responsibility to deliver. These needs and a goal to achieve them should be instilled in the mission statement. The problem that often raises its head is when the aggressive hunt for money wedges itself between the mission and the survival of the organization.
Nonprofits begin their noble causes no doubt with services and programs to fill those gaps of need but they must be ever diligent they do not get engulfed by their collaboration with the donor class to the extent it offers only token assistance to the people it serves causing it to smack against their mission. Once they demoralize that, you must ask why their doors remain open at all.
Not all nonprofits fall prey to the irresistible security money and power offer. However, those that do, make you wonder if the acquired wealth they accumulate is for the advancement of who they serve or who serves them.
Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man’s character,
give him power. — Abraham Lincoln
I’ve done a lot of contemplating this year about my life now that I’m retired. It’s been an undertaking and sometimes felt like I was walking on the edge of a tightrope in a raging storm. So, now I appreciate this kind of cruising you get to do as age creeps up on you. I’ve earned that for sure. Now, I sit back and watch my adult children walk and fall and stumble then dust themselves off again and carry on. I think most of them are at least looking for those speed bumps and slowing down a little while going over them.
Yes, I had exciting and interesting life experiences but not one moment of it did I not secretly yearn for stability. I so wanted the same home, the same man, getting ahead, belonging, it continued to allude me no matter how I tried to sneak up on it. And when I thought I caught it, I would find only dust in my hands. Many tears of despair and dangerous depression would be waiting at the door and I knew of only one way to scare it away and that was to allow anger to open it. It gritted it’s teeth and breathed fire leveling everything in its path. It took me and my little troop down roads where we “bucked up” to survive. And when the crisis simmered down we began the chase for contentment again.
I bargained, I gave in and almost gave up. I spoke affirmations, I stood my ground but again and again it slipped between the walls of illusion and reality.
I understand now why this had to be for experience has been the lantern I hold for others to see. Still, my face sometimes presses against those windowpanes of homes that have held the same families for generations. And, I wonder what it would have been like even though I did not choose it.
Then, for old times sake, I turn to take one more look of longing when I see a woman’s face pressed against that same windowpane, with that same look of longing, looking out at me.