Happy Birthday, Peanut

A good visit with the doc today. Got some reassurance on my stress related symptoms and issues. He’ll run a quick test just to be sure no damage has been done (he’s confident it hasn’t and says the test is more for my reassurance than anything…) and we’ll go from there. I’m happy about it.

I took a long and vigorous walk today with Scoop and it was a great bit of exercise. We did about 2 miles and a good chunk of that was uphill which was good. Scoop, however, turning 10 tomorrow (sort of) is beginning to show his age. As early as 6 or 7 months ago, he’d have relished that walk and been ahead of me the whole time. But the illness he suffered this past winter and the accompanying weight gain really bit into him and he is showing his age. He’s still tough–but he’s not the same physical specimen he was a year ago. C’est la vie, no?

But more importantly–and most prominently, Peanut turned 8 officially today. The party was this weekend and so was Disneyland, but today was the official day. She was born at 8:33 P.M and she usually goes to sleep around 8:00, but we’re allowing her to stay up until 8:33 tonight just….well….just because.

We went to dinner at the local favorite Italian restaurant this evening and Peanut took two friends along. We had a great meal and a good time and it was one of those memories we must have–warm and loving, funny and simple. I need more of that in my life.

This whole anxiety thing is over-rated, by the way. I’ve decided. It’s foolishness to waste one’s time on ambition if all the ambition does is feed the stress level to incomprehensible levels. It’s painful, it’s dark and all it does, in the end, is destroy your ability to be happy or even content.

My friend Bill commented below that I ought to be careful–people might think I’m an adult. He’s right, of course. Welcome to the world. Still–there’s no point in wasting energy on too much seriousness. What will be—well, blah blah blah.

Peace-

Mark as a confessional writer

I am working on the letting go of stress. I find that once I have crossed that threshold (and I crossed it, unfortunately) of letting the stress become a part of everyday life, it turns to anxiety and then it simply feeds on itself. Whatever I was stressed about–and that’s all in posts below–is mostly gone now, dealt with and moved on. But because I let it get the best of me, I’m still dealing with the after effects and I’m trying to now let go of that. Sheesh, but I know better!

I’ve known for sometime that I am vulnerable to stress related symptoms and what happens is the terrible spiral: stressed out, so much so that any number of physical symptoms may appear. When they do, they worry me and then the stress is about the physical symptoms building on and feeding on themselves.

So, I’ll visit with the doc about it and get cleared about what I need to do–whether physically, mentally or both–or neither, and then move on.

What’s hard here, and perhaps most important, is what I’m learning. These are simply stressful times there is no question. But our response to these times is far more important than the events. I simply cannot allow myself, nor my family, to be beaten down by the absurdities of what’s going on in the world. I can rather simply embrace what is closest to me, what is mine–and make it mine. I can live with the love and patience of the most wonderful family a man could ever have. And I can accept that this reality is all that matters. What I choose from there is then all God wants me to choose, yes?

I know–you’re not used to confessional blog posts. I’m not either. But this is what I have been about for the past week or so and it’s time to really let it all out, well–sort of, here.

I believe that I’m at that point in life, middle age really, where you get a couple of choices. The ones you make really do define you for what is to come. I’m an ambitious guy in some ways, but not so ambitious that I want to turn away from the very simple and basics of life that make me happiest. I’m not a corporate climber–though I have no problem with you if you are. I’m not a rock star, though I wanted to be at one point. Who didn’t? I’m not an airline pilot or a ship’s captain or any of those things.

I’m a husband. I’m a dad. I’m a teacher. I’m a writer. And those things make me pretty happy, I’d say. I’ve worked very hard at all four of them and out all of them, I can say that I have a great deal more to learn every day. So–I’ll keep doing that.

My career has never been as important as my family and I intend to keep it that way. I love to write and I like writing for the magazines and the paper a great deal. I’m blessed that I get to do those things along with my teaching career. Those things make me happy and rightfully so. But again, the best part of all the work I do is that it affords me time to be with my family and for that, I feel blessed.

OK–confessional tone over. I needed to write that. Needed to vent out into the ether this stuff, if only to look back at it a few years from now and realize how true it all really is…

Stressed. Out. Letting. Go.

The comments from friends and family below have had a sobering effect. There is much truth in what they write–that ultimately, a leap into the Libertarian party is a leap into a world-view that must be adhered to. Scott in particular pointed this out–that Libertarians, even more than Dems or Reps are “my way or the highway” people. This, of course, makes the independent track a bit more attractive, too.

Whatever the case–it is a weekend for letting go. The stress of the past few weeks, Sue’s job, my tooth problem, financial woes, the Journalism Education Association write-off competition that was today (and that I’ve been working on for the past 4 months, has caught up with me in a big, big way. I’m tired, worn out–stressed out and I need to let go of it all. So maybe contemplating how to vote will be less stressful…

Then again, maybe forgetting about all of it will be less stressful. I have no desire to deal with anything heavy this weekend. Peanut’s 8th birthday is Tuesday and so we’re having her party tomorrow. I’ll think about that instead.

Oh–and, the fruits of some of my stress can be found here–my fourth article for Decanter magazine. I’m pretty proud of it.
Good night to all…

Has the Time Come?

I think the answer to that question is entirely based on whether or not I want to admit the truth. The truth is we are in the midst of a great upheaval in republican (note the small “r”) politics. Democracies are in the throes of radical and fundamental changes. At their core, they are shifting like tectonic plates, rumbling, shaking, causing a great deal of consternation–and then, when they settle down–changing the landscape forever.

I have not wanted to admit this to myself. My brothers, by virtue of their own inherent conservative-ness (for lack of a better phrase) realized it some time ago and both quit the Republican party. I listen to Hewitt and Medved and I think them both smart guys who are right on a lot of items. But I am not convinced that their belief in the Republican party is at all valid. After all, it’s because of the Republican party that we have Barack Obama as President…and as life-changing and culturally sweeping as it is that America has elected an African-American President, and I think that’s a good thing from a simple race conversation point of view, it would have been better if the first African-American President we elected were…well…competent.

Now, it’s true, 24 hours is a lifetime in politics, but it has become apparent that we are going to bumble through the next four years like we did in the 70’s with a President who wants to talk (read Peggy Noonan’s piece) rather than govern. When he does govern, the markets quiver, totalitarians laugh and the American people have to open their wallets. It’s disheartening.

The result of all this, IMHO, is going to be that the Republican party will not need to have a “come to Jesus” moment. It won’t have to because if the President keeps on his course, he will invariably guarantee that Republicans will be elected in 2010 without working very hard for it. The system will still be broken, the corrupt and nefarious will still be in control and the country will continue to founder.

I will say this for the Republicans–what I miss more than anything–is the way President Bush spoke about our men and women in uniform. Now that President Obama is in office, it’s as if he wants to sweep the military under the rug. He doesn’t talk about them, he doesn’t discuss them–he doesn’t thank them. It’s annoying. He held a press conference the other night, for no apparent reason, and here on the brink of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and a belligerent Iran rattling the saber, not only did he not address those issues-but the reporters didn’t even ask.

So, I will probably vote for Republicans in 2010 and I will probably vote here in California on May 19th not to pass the budget items that the Governator and the Assembly passed. But in the end, I just cannot help thinking that the system is busted. And if we don’t make a fundamental and sweeping change, we are in for more years of feckless and craftless leadership.

How to deal with this? Simply: Do the best I can at all times, strive to be creative, inventive and focused. And lastly–seek to alter the political system by quitting the Republican party and becoming a Libertarian. Medved calls them losertarians and he does so for the simple reason that they hardly ever win elections. But if I want to put my earthly faith in the something, then let it be in the words of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both of whom decried political parties as a corrupting force and even though they disagreed on issues themselves, their bottom line was that what was good for the country is what was best. Jefferson in particular made clear that he sought to free people from the shackles of government, not bind them.

Blah blah blah. But here’s the thing. I haven’t done it yet–and something stops me. Not for too much longer, though. The time has indeed come. Tea parties are taking place all over America. I may declare my very own soon.

Words and Wine

Well–the tooth is a bit better. Still sore from all the drilling, digging, needles and the like.

A busy day in which I did a bit of marketing work and then wrote an article on a most complicated issue for Decanter. I’m hoping they publish, we shall see. It seems the European Community likes to trademark words when it comes to wine. Words like Chateau, Clos, Noble, Vintage–all of these the EC wants to say are regulated by them. So, they said they wanted to stop American wine imports from using these names, but of course, some of these names are already trademarked by American winemakers. That was in 2006 and they gave the US a three-year exemption to figure out what to do. The time is up….

So, the US Trade Reps are arguing that you really cannot regulate adjectives (say, I wonder if my unique role as a certified wine guy and an English teacher might be useful here, no?) and that the EC is going to have to change its ruling. They’ve made a formal request to the EC asking what places like Chateau Montelena or Clos Du Val are supposed to do with their trademarked names. They haven’t received an answer, though.

So–it’s all up in the air and I’m guessing that the Obama administration is a little too wrapped up in other matters just now. We shall see.

Mom comes out tomorrow as we begin the ascent to birthday week for Peanut. My daughter will be 8 years old next week and it absolutely amazes me. Tempis fugit, etc.

Good night, gentles.

Little Shop of Bad Teeth

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Yes, gentles, that was me today. It started during second period this morning–or really, before that. I had a crown put in some weeks ago and it never really “gelled” you know? It was never really comfortable and I had trouble chewing, lots of sensitivity, etc. Well-this morning, it rather came to a head when I was teaching and felt the darned thing come loose, or so I thought.

Wound up calling the dentist, getting a couple of colleagues on prep. period to cover my classes and running out to the good Dr. David Neumeister, husband of a friend and colleague of mine and one of the finest dentist’s it’s ever been my pleasure to know. A good man–and a good dentist.

Root canal work began around 11:00 this morning and he did a temporary as he got the nerve roots cleaned and covered with medication. Next week, I’ll go in and he’ll finish the job up. Oy. I’m just now–some 10 hours after the procedure, getting feeling back in my very swollen cheek. It’s been wonderful because there hasn’t been much pain. Until now. But even now, it’s not all that bad.

It’s my first–and hopefully–last root canal. But I have to say, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as everyone said. I am quite swollen (my sister in law says I look like I’m storing food for the winter) and there is some minor discomfort, but–it’s not the end ‘o the world. That’s good of course because with a financial crisis and a President who seems at the very least uncertain about what to do, the end ‘o the world it may well be….

OK–nevermind. I’m not that pessimistic.

Tylenol P.M. for the tooth, a glass of water–and I’m off.

I Miss Bill Clinton

It would simply be too cliche to say I told you so or that I knew this would happen. I cannot go there, I think. Yet, I marvel right now, particularly among my left-leaning friends with whom I work, how blissfully unaware they are of the serious gaffes, problems, serious signs of incompetence and downright manipulation of the Obama administration.

I miss Bill Clinton because when I look back on all his silly rhetoric about being a New Democrat, I see that it wasn’t, in fact, silly rhetoric at all. The man was a charlatan, yes–but then so is just about every politician at that level. Clinton, to his credit, though, understood two things clearly: That his clout was not forever and that free markets were generally the better way to do things. True, he had to be led there by the sound beating he took in the election of 1996 when the GOP took back the House and the Senate. But President Clinton allowed his financial team to work with the GOP at that time, ending deficits and even providing surpluses. Give the man his due.

To say that President Obama looks like the Carter Administration is being kind. As my friend Jason likes to say, at least Carter was humble.

This AIG mess is a mess precisely because of what brother Doug likes to call “downstream thinking.” In other words, the problem occurred well before AIG gave the bonuses. The problem occurred when the government agreed to bail the company out. This process, begun under President Bush, of bailing companies out because they were thought to be too big to fail, is fallacy at best. The failure of the companies is precisely what the country needs. If indeed derivatives trading, done the way that it was, led to the downfall of the company, then allowing it to fail would make other companies think twice about engaging in the practice. Instead, CEO’s are learning that they can go for broke–quite literally–and receive little, if any, consequences for their actions.

While we will never truly have a full free market–that’s just not going to happen–we could be a lot freer. If President Bush had not started the T.A.R.P, the country may have suffered some more deep cuts–but ultimately, the strength would have come back and when it did–it would be even stronger. Instead, the country has bailed out the companies who simply deserved to fail.

And now, with AIG on the chopping block–President Obama cannot look back to President Bush. AIG is his mess–and his alone and it’s not going to give him any comfort to lay it at anyone else’s feet. As Eleanor Clift wrote this week…who’d have thought that 55 days into President Obama’s hope and change filled Presidency, we would be asking, “what did he know–and when did he know it…” Eleanor Clift? Turning on President Obama? Believe it…

I guess I did. I just didn’t want to believe it. Now, as I wrote earlier, let’s hope his National Security team is working a little smarter than his economic one.

Sue's big day.

All is pins and needles and propriety as we await word of Sue’s first interview. She has another one tomorrow and maybe another one next week. Hard to tell at this point what may come of it–except that she felt good about today’s interview–on top of the world, actually. When she had time to reflect on it at lunch today, she realized that it’s the first real interview she’s had in nearly 10 years. She had a couple of different jobs, but as a dietitian–and as I mentioned before, those were not jobs that she had to interview for. She’s the past President of the local Dietetics Association and so, it was fairly easy to hook into meaningful part-time work. But, those days are gone for now. The nursing homes for whom she worked have no money, one closed and the other hasn’t paid her in months. It’s a mess.

So, now it’s a matter of waiting–and hopefully not long. The director of personnel says no later than Monday and we’re hoping that she’ll know by tomorrow. It’s everything she wants.

Meanwhile, I’m pooped again. Happens every week about this time–Friday comes and I can barely stay awake. It’s only Thursday, too. The good part is that before I wrote this, I sat down to sort out some notes I’ve got for a piece I’m doing for the local paper–and I fell fast asleep. Pleasantly, too. When I awoke, I felt good–rested even. For about 15 minutes. I’m writing this on my upstairs Mac because I’m ready for bed now, and just wanted to get something down for Sue’s big day.

Summer cannot come soon enough….Really. It can’t.

Change in the Weather…

If you read this–and you’re a layman like me, it’s got to be clear that it makes no sense, doesn’t it? This article discusses a British explorer team in the North Pole who have been stranded by extreme cold and bad weather. Supply planes could not get to them after trying three times and being turned away the conditions. Key graphs:

Global warming is believed to be the main culprit in the rapidly melting north polar ice cap that is freeing up new sea routes and untapped mineral resources on the ocean bottom…

Three earlier flight to drop food supplies to the team had to turn back because of bad weather.

In an earlier statement, Hadow described the team’s desperate plight.

“We’re hungry, the cold is relentless, our sleeping bags are full of ice and because we’re not moving, the colder we get,” he said.

So, let’s follow that logic: Global warming is thought to be the “culprit” in rapidly decreasing arctic ice–but, this explorer group cannot function properly because it’s too cold. Do I need to interpret–or does it seem pretty self-evident that this makes little sense?

OK, scientists say that the ice is melting. In fact, they sound it like Paul Revere from horseback. But–the past couple of winters has seen a drastic drop in temperatures in the north, a replacement of Arctic ice and the deepening of Antarctic ice.

So, I know–I’m no scientist. I’m just a lowly English teacher–probably as stupid as the apes that the global warming alarmists say I’m descended from. But–it sounds to me like it’s pretty cold up north. Like the temperatures have actually decreased and that the scientists who claimed the CO2 is destroying the planet were…well….wrong.

But hey. What do I know?

3:00 A.M.

I awoke at 3:00 this morning, unable to sleep very well. I don’t mind waking at 1:00 or even 2:00, but 3:00 A.M. is a real drag. It is so because it’s a long way until morning, and last night is a distant memory. It’s no man’s land in terms of times of day…

I’m not entirely sure how to feel just now. It’s odd because all of my emotions are straining at the slips. They seem hemmed in, unfocused and tied down. It’s the first time I’ve felt this way in a very long time and my reactions are second guesses at best.

If I could maybe find a way to drop into a groove of some kind, then maybe that would make it easier. But I can’t. It’s the tension of the past few days and it’s the resulting aftermath, a kind of let down after a fiery build-up of at first, fear–and then a sense of victory and contentment. Once we got hit with the problems of the past few days, what with Sue’s having to move into another job, we found ways of dealing with them and the problems turned into inconveniences, then into opportunities.

Sue has the opportunities now and I know she will respond with aplomb in all of them. So far, she has two set up and it looks like a third is on the way. That is good news and that’s what we were in need of.

But there’s the other side of it which is the burning reality of what I wrote about last night–the need for work, the knowledge that our lives depend on a rather substantial income that is based entirely on our very best professional abilities.

Shouldn’t that be a good thing? Shouldn’t I be happy that both mine and my wife’s professional abilities are being used to their fullest? Sure, I suppose I should. But I am also aware that we have put ourselves in a position where we are dependent on that reality–and there is not a lot of cushion underneath us. That’s a bit disconcerting.

So, as I said, I don’t know how to feel. Hell, I can’t even write eloquently about it. It’s times like this that Fitzgerald works very well–as he did last night. Well, why not call on the old boy yet again….“In the real dark night of the soul it is always three o’ clock in the morning, day after day.”

Thanks, Scott. I think that about covers it.