Thursday, April 30, 2009

House Sparrow Attack

Today I get serious about the attack of house sparrows that I have on my bluebird boxes and Purple Martin house. Again, this morning I tore out a house sparrow nest in my Purple Martin house. That house sparrow is rebuilding that nest as I type this. One of the bluebird boxes has two house sparrow eggs in it. I was going to toss the nest out with the eggs but thought there might be a better way. I checked the Internet and found out there is several ways to deal with a house sparrow infestation. Some good and effective and some not so good nor effective.

I have already found one bluebird egg pierced and destroyed. The bluebirds have since laid five more eggs and they are guarded by the biggest bluebird I've ever seen. Last year three Purple Martin nestlings were pecked to death by the house sparrows trying to take over their nest. This year three of the apartments have Purple Martins in it but I haven't checked to see what their status is. I'm trying not to disturb them. I also have a gourd that swallows are nesting in.

I checked all the methods for controlling an infestation of house sparrows and the best one seems to be oiling the eggs, thus preventing air from getting to the embryo. Other options are freezing the eggs and putting them back in the nest. Piercing the eggs but you have to be careful to pierce the egg thoroughly or else you'll have the birth of a deformed sparrow. I don't want to cause any more harm than necessary. What I do want to do is provide a safe and secure environment for my native nesting birds to have a place to raise their young.

Tearing out the nests and eggs apparently doesn't stop the house sparrow from building another nest. The best thing to to is to keep the little buggers occupied with their eggs. Thus oiling the eggs seems to be the best option at this time.

I've posted a picture of what an aggressive house sparrow does to a bluebird when they want their nesting site. It is not a pretty picture. As much as I hate to destroy a bird nesting site, it is necessary if we are to maintain at least some of our native bird species such as the bluebird and Purple Martin.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

Time for an upbeat blog posting. Too many of my recent blogs have been downbeat, reflecting my funk over the weather and the cold I just got over.

Pictured is my third making of Buttermilk Chocolate cake. I found this recipe on the side of a Swan's Down cake flour box. I've never made a good chocolate cake before (except my German Chocolate cake, my father's favorite that I haven't made since he died in August of 2000.) This one called for 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk. Two sticks of butter. Two cups of sugar. Low calorie it's not. But it is GOOD! In the past two weeks I've made it three times.

Company is coming tonight so this will be my piece de resistance (don't worry about the spelling, you know what I'm talking about.) On the menu is crock pot beef stew with mushrooms cook in Chablis wine. Vegetables are smashed potatoes and Caesar salad. Wine served will be Pinot Noir. Better than any overpriced Rehoboth Beach restaurant, that's for sure. And I don't have to worry about driving home after a glass of wine.......or two. Dining with friends while the wind and rain whips around outside. Doesn't get much better than that. Simple pleasures for a simple man. That would be me.

Swine Flu?

A couple of weeks ago I had the worst cold of my life. Now I'm thinking maybe I had this strain of Swine Flu. I had all the symptoms. Usually when I get a cold it lasts no more than three days. This cold was going on ten days and I was sinking fast. I had no appetite at all. I was sleeping all day and all night and still getting up exhausted. I couldn't eat. Not even a bowl of cereal. The third day of my cold I tried to eat my usual breakfast of corn chex and a banana. It ended up in the garbage disposal.

Finally, when I realized I couldn't eat and I was getting weaker, I decided to take the Big Step and go to the doctor. Never in my life have I gone to a doctor for a cold before. What really scared me was that I had trouble breathing. I felt like I was suffocating. I couldn't get a deep breath.

So I called the doctor's office, which is just down the road from where I live. Of course the weather outside was cold, windy and rain. Just the kind of weather conducive to making a cold even worse. I arrived at the doctor's office. Almost on cue, I coughed up a hunk of greenish, black phlegm. She said "This is serious." She examined me and suspected that I had pneumonia in my left lung. She told me to go to the nearest medical center to have an x-ray. She also commended me for "walking into the doctor's office instead of waiting to be transported to the emergency room on a stretcher." I understood exactly what she was saying. I felt like I was sinking fast.

I got the chest x-ray. I didn't have pneumonia but close to it. I was given a prescription for an anti-biotic. When I got home I took the first of the two daily pills. Then I went to bed.....again. The next day I woke up I felt like I was going to live. I was still very sick but I felt like I had rounded the bend. I would survive. It took me another whole week to completely get to the point where I am now where I can take a deep breath. I felt like I had a close call.

Every year warnings we are reminded to get flu shots, especially for senior citizens (of which I am one now.) I got my flu shot earlier this year but apparently it didn't prevent my cold. I read that this Swine Flu virus strain isn't susceptible to the standard flu shot. That's why I think I had the Swine Flu.

I hope I never get anything like this again. It was very scary. I felt like I was sinking in quicksand. I was getting weaker and weaker everyday. The really frightening part about it was that part of my just wanted to go to sleep to get away from all the coughing, congestion and sinus pressure. The only thing I can equate it to is stories that I've heard of people freezing to death. Even though they're in a great deal of pain and discomfort, they just want to go to sleep to end it. That's the way I felt. Very scary.

Well, I'm back again with all my strength. I'm working today from 12 to 3. This evening Bill and I are having over our good friend Bob C. for dinner. I made my special buttermilk chocolate cake this morning for the event. I have the Pinot Noir chilling in the refrigerator. The crock pot is cooking the mushroom beef stew in Chablis wine. Now I have to make the icing for the cake. Yes, it is good to be among the living again. Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Of Bluebirds, Purple Martins and House Sparrows

My battle continues with the house sparrows that continue to build their nests in the lower levels of my purple martin house. I've been tearing out all three nests every morning. As soon as I tear them out the house sparrows go back to building their nests. On the upper level there is one Purple Martin nest with eggs. I wish the Purple Martins were more aggressive in chasing away the house sparrows but that's not happening. This year one of the gourds has swallows nesting in it. There is a nest in the other gourd but I'm not sure which bird is nesting there. I suspect it is another house sparrow nest.

Tomorrow I'll go into a different mode in battling the house sparrows. I'll wait until they lay their brown speckled eggs then I'll throw the nest out, eggs and all. That's what happened last year when the birdman who put up my Purple Martin house discovered one of the bluebird houses had a nest of house sparrows. He threw the nest out, eggs and all. At first I was shocked when he did this, but now I understand why he destroyed the house sparrow nest. House sparrows, or English sparrows are a non-native species of bird who have taken over nesting location of native species. Along with the starling, another non native species of bird, many of the natural nesting locations of birds like bluebirds and purple martins have disappeared. I can't control the North American continent but I can control my back acre of yard. There will be no house sparrows (or starlings) nesting in my back yard.

I have three bluebird houses in my back yard but only one is occupied. It is the same bluebird house that was occupied last year that produced three batches of bluebirds. They came back this year and successfully fought off the house sparrows to reclaim their box. Maybe part of the reason they were so successful was one of the bluebirds is a big bird. It looks almost as big as a robin. So far that big bluebird has fought off all attempts to take over his bluebird box. Good for him.

The house sparrows remind me of uninvited guests who are determined to have their way, regardless of who they are putting out. They remind me of people who have horse blinders on and can only see their way, regardless of the damage they cause. Ironically I know people like this and they say they're just "focused." That's one way of looking at it. Of course they are wrong. It is just an excuse for not thinking. The sparrow doesn't think. It just does. I guess that's why they've been so successful in replacing many of our native species of birds. Well, I wish them the best wherever they decide to make their nest. One thing is for sure, it isn't going to be in my backyard. Buh bye!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hot Monday

Another hot day today. This was one of those rare Mondays I didn't have to work at the hotel. First thing I did this morning was clean out the three sparrow nests in my Purple Martin house. I've been doing this for the past week, daily. Purple Martins are occupying the top three apartment of the six apartment birdhouse but the English Sparrow insists on building nests in the lower three apartments. That's not going to happen. First thing in the morning I tear out the nests. I don't want to have to wait until they lay eggs then tear out their nests but if that is what is necessary, I'll have to do that. The man who put up my Purple Martin house last year did just that. He threw the nest, eggs and all, in the adjoining corn field. The pesky sparrows didn't come back. They got the message....go somewhere else.

I have three blue bird houses. Two have sparrow nests in them which I haven't bothered. They apparently aren't bothering with them either, preferring the Purple Martin house. The third blue bird house is occupied by blue birds as it was last year. There are five perfect blue eggs in their neat nest as I type this blog. Earlier, there was one egg (they lay one a day) but it was taken out by someone and tossed to the ground, punctured. I suspect it was one of the aggressive house sparrows. Fortunately, the blue birds have fought off the sparrows and have been able to lay their five eggs. This same blue bird house last year saw two batches of bluebirds raised. We're off to a good start this year already. I will keep the readers of this blog posted on the progress of the blue birds.

This morning I made my first plant trip to Peppers, a nearby local nursery. This is my favorite time of year, deciding what plants to buy and planting them. At one time when I was much younger I thought I would like to have a house with an in ground swimming pool. How foolish I was. I enjoy nothing better in my doddering old age than fussing around with my raised flowerbeds. It is my favorite past time, maybe even exceeding blogging.

This morning I purchased Roma tomato plants, impatients, sweet alyssum, sage, basil, and lavender plants. This is just the start of my planting season. Most of my perennials have come back from last year. I'm especially pleased with my Knock Out Rose bushes. I'm not sure about my Pampas grass. They're not looking "too pure" (as my Mother always used to say of plants that didn't look like they were going to come back.) I may have to replace them this year. I love the gracefulness of a full Pampas plant but they are a pain to cut back in the spring.

I received more comments on my blogs about my Census address canvasser job. Apparently I'm not the only one who had problems with the lack of training and high pressure of the job. Maybe I'm not the "lazy whiner" after all as one person called me after he/she posted a comment on my blog. Address canvassing for the census is a very hard job and I have all the respect in the world for those who are doing the job but it just wasn't for me. Not enough training, unreliable equipment, too many threats from the area manager, and I just didn't like tramping around strange people's front yards.

This evening was very pleasant. I met two friends in Rehoboth Beach for Mumbo Jumbo night at the Purple Parrot restaurant. Gone was the "Thundering Herd" as my friend Wayne calls them. The "Thundering Herd" are the weekend tourists of descend on Rehoboth Beach and the surrounding beach environs for a weekend of fun in the sun and a posing on the boardwalk. I shouldn't complain about them, they are the bread and butter of we the permanent year round residents. Unless you're into raising chickens in Sussex County, tourism is the only industry east of Route 1 in good old Lower Slower (aka Sussex County, Delaware.) We appreciate them and the money they leave behind but it is nice to travel roads not clogged with belching SUV's loaded down with bicycles, dashboards providing support for flip flopped feet, and dodging their aggressive driving. There is one sign as you enter Rehoboth Beach that says "Slow down, you are at the beach now" (or something like that.) These people need to relax. The ocean isn't going anywhere. They will get a parking spot. They're cool and they know it and they can't wait to show everyone else how cool they are, sauntering down Rehoboth Avenue with their oh so world weary attitudes.

Mumbo Jumbo Night at the Purple Parrot is a pound of char-grilled hamburger for $6.75 with all the fixins. The Purple Parrot is only one of two places that I know of in the Rehoboth Beach/Lewes area that cooks hamburger that tastes like hamburger. All of the other restaurants I've eaten in serve up the frozen, tasteless, overpriced, greasy beef patty delivered by the constant stream of Sysco trucks headed south on Route 1. If you want a good hamburger the only two places I know of are either the Purple Parrot in Rehoboth Beach or Gilligan's Restaurant in Lewes. Don't waste your money or time ordering a hamburger at any of the other restaurants unless you like grease burgers with no taste.

Yes, it was a good day today. Starting with my plants and ending with an enjoyable evening with friends. Nobody telling me what to do, nobody trying to save my soul, nobody putting guilt trips on me. That's one of the reasons why I moved to Delaware, to get away from all those toxic relationships. And I'm doing just fine.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hot Sunday

Just as I had feared, the cold winds and rain of our long delayed spring has morphed right into the August like heat and humidity. I sit at my computer now, drenched in sweat lightheaded from my short excursion a bit of yard work this afternoon. I cannot work outside in this heat and humidity. Perhaps the temperature will be more hospitable early this evening.

This morning I made another attempt to find the Odd Fellows' Cemetery in Milford to full fill a Find a photo request. This is the first cemetery I have visited that is not identified by a sign or some kind of marker. Bill and I asked several people who live in the area and they didn't know the name of the cemetery either. The cemetery is located at the intersection of several busy roads and next to a low income housing project. This is another "first." No quiet, tranquil country setting searching for peaceful souls in repose this hot Sunday morning.

I pulled into the unmarked cemetery and parked my car. Bill got out the umbrella to shade himself from the early morning oppressive heat. He went in one direction and I went in another direction, looking for the graves of John Marlarkey, Sr. and Jr. and Grace Patterson. It soon became evident to me that I was on a Fool's Mission. All of a sudden memories of looking for house numbers while address canvassing for my short lived Census job started to overwhelm me. Only this time I wouldn't be bothering live people watering their lawns or building handrails on their back decks.
This cemetery must have at least 10,000 graves, if that. Thousands and thousands of headstones. I made a quick run through (about an hours) eyeballing as many headstones as I could, think maybe I would get lucky. It didn't happen.

While I was in the cemetery I received a phone call from a friend of mine that I was supposed to meet for dinner tonight in Rehoboth Beach. The past year or so, a few of us have started an informal tradition of meeting for a burger at the Purple Parrot. I decided not to attend tonight's dinner and had sent him an e-mail informing him of the same. He wanted to know if everything was "alright" with me. Well, it's as "alright" as I can every be with the mounting frustrations I've had over the past few weeks. Some friends who I am interested in breaking bread with would not be attending dinner tonight. The one person who would be attending dominates the conversation and has little if no interest in anything I have to contribute to the conversation. As I stated in a previous blog, I have decided to move away from these relationships, be they down here in Delaware or my former home in Pennsylvania. I am tired of constantly defending myself for being myself. I am so tired of the constant criticism and unsolicited advice on how I should live my life. I am tired of it all.

Bill and I left the cemetery. I told him I would call the company who runs the cemetery and ask where these people are buried. I like trolling through cemeteries but not in the heat and humidity looking through literally thousands of graves. Those folks aren't' going anywhere. I'll be back.

We stopped at the Super Wal-Mart in Milford. The summertime crowd was there. Lot of heft folk pushing grocery carts. I went in and got my corn chex and romaine hearts of lettuce. I can buy these items for about half the price that is charged in any of the supermarkets in Rehoboth, Lewes and Milton. The trip to Wal-Mart is always cost effective.

After we returned home and were unloading our groceries, our neighbor stopped over to return a container that I have given him earlier full of home made chocolate cake. He and his wife are leaving this afternoon for Las Vegas. They will be gone a week. Tomorrow is his birthday. We wished him a happy birthday and a safe trip. Bill and I are very lucky to have them for neighbors. They're respectful and not demanding. I think they had second thoughts when they moved in here two weeks after we moved in and discovered they had two gay guys for neighbors. However, one they discovered that we mow our grass just like they mow their grass and we shop at the store just like they do, all is well. My neighbor's wife does have a tendency to tell me what plants to plant and is critical of some of my plantings but she has gotten better with her unsolicited advice. She means well and I think she realizes that I'm not her gardener but have my own property and may have different tastes than she does. Some people can't help themselves. That's always been a wonder to me why some people feel compelled to give me direction. Maybe it's me. It's not a habit of mine to give direction to other people unless they're working for me. Why other people feel compelled to try and run my life, I have never understood.

I'm off this week. I may have to go into work Wednesday for a few hours to fill in for the manager while he's at a food trade show. I'm sure this week's news will again be dominated by the torture question. It's all so depressing especially since nothing will be done about it. Thank God President Obama stopped government sanctioned torture.

By the way, just a short note to reiterate what I've said before about my blog. This is a personal blog. This is my blog. I write what I think. I'm not trying to pass a test of seek approval of anyone reading my blog. If a reader thinks I talk too much about myself or exhibit other characteristics the he or she finds objectionable then I would suggest they don't read my blog. It is not for them. I don't need the "drive by shooting comments." I know there are those "Anonymous" readers out there in the Internet community who take it upon themselves to criticize and pass judgement on those of whom they don't approve. To those people I say, I'm not an elected official. I'm not a paid columnist. I don't owe you anything. If you don't like my blog, then move on. I am tired. I no longer have the patience to be diplomatic with this type of person who has nothing positive to offer other than caustic and dismissive comments.

I am tired of people telling me what to do. Leave your comments if you must. I'll probably read them but they won't be published. Negative and toxic comments only prove one thing to me, that there are people who have nothing positive to offer the world. I would rather deal with people who are positive and life affirming. I have made friends with some readers of my blog who are like this and I appreciate them. They enrich my life and, hopefully, I can contribute something to their life my sharing my life's experiences as a retired 67 year old gay man in southern Delaware.

I enjoy writing my blog. It is a form of therapy to me. I'm not the type to pay someone to listen to me. That doesn't work for me. I've always preferred writing. From my early teenage days with over sixty pen pals, to writing letters to the editor, to keeping hand written personal journals. I can't exactly explain the lure for me of writing a personal journal such as this blog in the Internet where I don't know who will ready it. Perhaps I'm thinking there is someone else Out There like me who is experiencing the same life rhythms that I am experiencing. Maybe I can learn something from them. Maybe they can learn something from me. I am but one small grain of sand on the ocean front of this planet. I may be insignificant but I am of importance to a few people in this world. It is those people with whom I will continue to share my life. To the others, who criticize and try to control me, who wish me ill, who are jealous of me; I will move out of their orbit. It is my life and I am moving on.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Trouble in Mom Land

Enough with the torture blogs for awhile anyway. The whole subject is getting me depressed. I'm going to address another depressing problem. My Mom.

My Mother is 85 years old and lives with my younger brother in Pennsylvania at the old family homestead outside of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. She has lived there sine 1958, when she and my father built their one bathroom, three bedroom, 1,100 square foot ranch house on three acres of a former cornfield.

In Early 2006 I decided to move from my home one road away from my Mother's house in Pennsylvania because I could no longer afford to pay the high school property tax on my property. My Mother has never forgiven me for moving. Over thirty years ago my youngest brother moved to Greenville, South Carolina to pursue his calling to the ministry. She has never forgiven him for moving either.

My Father died of lung cancer August 22, 2000. My parents were married sixty years. My Mother has never been the same since he died. She lost a lot of weight and is beset with any number of ailments, real and imagined. Perhaps her worst affliction though is her single minded devotion to the Fox News channel and hatred of anything or anybody associated with the Democrats or the Democratic Party.

For many years she would rant and rail against Bill and Hilary Clinton. These days her new enemies are Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. She takes her marching orders from Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. It is impossible to have a reasonable discussion with her. She will scream and put both of her hands over her ears so she doesn't have to listen to any views that differ from hers.

My Mother is convinced that she is dying. Whenever I talk to her she says "Ronnie, I'm dying." I tell her, "We're all dying. We just don't know when." Her life is a series of doctor's visits. She is convinced she is at Death's Door. One time she got very angry when a doctor told her that she "was doing much better than her mother who died when she was only 27 years old." Mom did not like the comparison at all and is still get angry when reminded of the doctor's comment.

My Mother and I were always very close, especially when I was growing up. I guess I can lay claim to being her favorite child. My youngest brother John was my father's pet. Poor Isaac, the middle child, probably neglected by both parents. Perhaps the word "neglect" is too strong of a word but Isaac suffered the usual fate of the middle child, taken for granted although loved just the same.

For many years I could talk to my Mother more as a friend or a big sister than a Mother. I enjoyed those talks. However, since my father died, I find it very difficult to talk to my Mother. Even though she is hard of hearing, she doesn't seem to hear what I'm saying. She is more focused on herself and her endless complaints about her health and life in general. Her paranoia has gotten worse over the years. She thinks everyone is out to get her from the Democrats to the people who are always calling her on the phone and hanging up just as she picks up the phone.

Since I've moved to Delaware I haven't been able to visit her like I did when I lived only a road away. I used to stop in almost every day and have a talk with her. My talking seem to sooth and relax her. Now that I don't see her as often, I fear I have become one of Them. An outsider. Which is a shame.

I love my Mother very much. She has always been very kind and more than generous to me and my brothers over the years. As I mentioned earlier, my brother Isaac lives with her and takes care of her now at her home. I have a place for her if she wants to move in with me. My youngest brother also has a place for her in his home in Greenville, South Carolina. We leave the decision up to my Mother where she wants to live as long as she is able to get around.

Recently I've been trying to call her but I haven't been able to get through. She doesn't answer the phone. She used to get on her computer and check her e-mails but she doesn't do that now because she thinks the computer is out to get her with all the reminders for upgrades. I have a hunch she is upset because I didn't send her an Easter card. I forgot. When I lived near her I always took over an Easter flower and a card. This year I had the worst cold of my life and making an Easter trip didn't enter my mind.

Last year I made several quick trips to visit her when I sensed that she was upset with me for some reason unknown to me. My youngest brother, who is a care pastor, offered me some good advice. He said "Don't let her manipulate you. Once you do that, then you'll be running back and forth all the time, never pleasing her." As harsh as it sounds, my baby brother gave me sound advice.

I'm planning on making a day trip to Pennsylvania the next clear Sunday (I don't travel in the rain.) I have to return some family genealogical items to a second cousin in Pennsylvania. I'll stop by and visit my Mother. I'll give her a hug. Things will go back to normal, at least during my visit. Then I'll make the 2 1/2 drive back home to Delaware and I will be an outsider again.

The slow inevitable march of dementia is taking my best friend Big Bob away from me. Now I fear that something much worse is taking my Mother away from me.

The United State of America Tortures People

This morning I awoke at 4 a.m. I was wide awake. Something was on my mind. Normally I have no problem sleeping. When I go to sleep at night, I’m unconscious until about 6:30 or 7 in the morning. This morning was different. As I lay awake, I reviewed in my mind what was bothering me. Then it came into focus. Our country tortures prisoners. The United State of America tortures people. Never mind that torture has never proven to elicit useful information, our country tortures people. Yes, the United State of America, the self appointed “moral authority” in the world who lectures others countries on human rights abuses, tortures people.

Credit must be given to the Obama administration for releasing the “torture” memos. These twisted logic legal memos that attempted to legalize torture and thus provide cover for the Bush Administration. Last week an additional 2,000 plus photos were released of prisoners in Iraq being tortured and humiliated. What in the world did the Bush/Cheney and Company hope to accomplish by these criminal acts? Didn’t our country sign the Geneva Conventions against cruel and unusual punishment of prisoners or war? The Bush Administration claims that the “terrorists” are different than “normal” prisoners of war because they didn’t wear uniforms. Excuse me? What am I missing here?

The simple fact remains that Bush Administration officials instigated and condoned torture of prisoners. They broke the law. They water boarded prisoners. Cheney admits it. He’s proud of it. Our country executed Japanese soldiers at the end of World War II who water boarded our prisoners of war. How are we any different? Is it because the Bush administration had a legal memo “authorizing” torture and a doctor in attendance?

Barack Obama has a dilemma. He states that he “wants to look forward” and not “backwards.” How convenient. Maybe that’s what the Nazi war criminals should have used as their defense during the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. Maybe that is the defense that Pol Pot should have used when he was caught. No, it doesn’t wash.

Patrick Buchanan, one of the few well known conservatives who will actually listen to other arguments and isn’t brain dead, states that an investigation and trial “would tear this country apart.” He may be right. But the question remains, are we a country of laws or are we not? That is the question. All the conservatives can do is to attempt to drag Nancy Pelosi into the mix by saying she was informed of the torture.

I don’t know the answer. My heart says that we should be a country of laws and not give anyone a pass, even if they are at the highest levels of government. But reality is much different. There is a hard core conservative base in this country which is blind to the abuses, incompetence, and gross negligence of the past eight years of the Bush/Cheney regime. People of this mind set will never change. Most of them think that this country is God anointed for only straight, white people and the rest of us are only “tolerated.” When a complete idiot like the Miss California in the recent Miss USA contest states (response to legalization of same sex marriage) “… MY country and the family I was raised in……”, that tells you a lot about the mind set of these people. It is THEIR country and they don’t have room in their tent for anyone who differs from their views. The rest of us are outsiders. Don’t kid yourself this is the way THESE people think.

I didn’t want to post a negative blog on this beautiful, warm spring day but this idea that our country condones torture bothers me a great deal. Hopefully, as time goes by, I will become desensitized to it as much of our country is desensitized to violence in movies. But for now, I feel shock, shame and humiliation. But then I have always been accused of being na├»ve.

Here is one thing that really bothers me though, these people who initiated the policy of torture. These people who wrote the memos to make torture legal. And these people who carried out the torture. My question is this, how do they sleep at night?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture and Miss California

When I started this blog, my intention was not to have a political blog. There are more than enough blogs on the Internet expounding the whole spectrum of political views. What difference would mine make other than to add to the cacophony of angry voices?
However, recently several hot subjects on the political landscape have made it almost impossible for me not to add my voice to the range of opinions being expressed in the public forum.

One subject is same sex marriage. I will address that subject in a future blog. The other subject is torture. Ironically, the recent news has connected these two subjects. Last week, Miss California answered a question about same sex marriage this way:

At the Las Vegas pageant, Prejean, 21, was asked by judge Perez Hilton how she felt about legalizing gay marriage. "In my country, and in my family, I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman,"

Note the phraseology that Miss California uses: “in my county, and in my family” In the country I grew up in I was taught that we did not torture……………..anyone. It didn’t matter how reprehensible the subject of the torture was, WE DID NOT TORTURE. Our country was better than that.

This is an interesting country that we live in now. Many on the Right regularly warn about the end of civilization as we know it if same sex marriages are permitted. Yet, many of these same people see no problem with torturing prisoners. These are the same people who proclaim themselves “good Christians.” They go to church expounding on their “family values.” Hypocrisy is no stranger to their church pews.

Put aside the fact that torture doesn’t work. There is no valid proof that torture has ever provided accurate information. If someone tortured me, I would tell them anything they wanted to know just to get them to stop. It has been proven over and over again information can be obtained by much more subtle means than brute physical torture.

The Bush Administration went to great pains to rewrite the legal laws to provide cover for their torture polices. When the atrocities were first revealed at Abu Ghraib, I literally could not believe it. This was our country? We permitted this to happen? Then when the administration blamed it on a “few bad apples”, I knew they were lying. I was in the Army. Part of my training was not to torture or abuse prisoners. Why in the world would a “few bad apples” take it upon themselves to stack naked prisoners in a pile on the floor? Sic dogs on them? Smear them with feces? No, these were orders from on high.

Now the torture memos have come out. There is a great deal of scrambling for cover. The Republicans are saying the Democratic leaders of the house were informed of the “methods” used for “enhanced interrogation.” As if this justifies the torture. It doesn’t.

Obama is in a bad situation. He has stated that he wants to “look forward” and “not backward.” But, the simple fact is that laws were broken. It appears that the laws in this country against torture were broken from the very highest levels of the government. The highest levels of government means President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Under Secretary Wolfowitz, and Douglas Fieth along with others yet to be named.

I remember reading a book about the Nuremberg War Crimes trials in which the Allied judges refused to accept the “just following orders” defense before passing sentences on the German war criminals. I thought at the time, what would our country do if the situation were reversed? It seems to me, as bad as the Nazi’s were, somewhat unfair to hang the lowly soldiers for just obeying orders. What were they going to do, have a mass revolt? But now it appears that the “just following orders” defense will protect those who carried out the torture of terrorist suspects. What remains to be seen is how our country will deal with those at the top of our government who callously disregarded over two hundred years of American values and ordered torture that accomplished nothing but to put our country in further danger and almost destroy our moral reputation among the community of nations in the world.

Just as Miss California said “In my country and my family, the way I was raised…..”; I will also say “In my country and my family, the way I was raised you didn’t torture.” It is as simple as that. Our country does not torture. George W. Bush made that statement when asked at a photo op some years ago. He angrily replied “The United States does not torture!” Of course we all know he was lying now. Only one of the many lies the Bush Administration told this country.

I’m not sure what should happen now to those who ordered the torture and those who carried it out in the Bush Administration. A great deal of damage has already been done and some will perhaps never be undone. It will take a long time, if ever, until our country regains our reputation as the moral force in the world. One thing I am very thankful for though is that these practices have stopped. I am thankful that all this information is being made public. While it has been proven time and time again that most of the members of the Bush Administration have no shame (a common flaw all the religious self righteous have), the rest of us can show the world that we care and this is not the way our country operates.

Barack Obama was elected by the majority of the American voters. The majority of the American voters have rejected the politics of division that the Republicans so successfully ran over the past decade by using the fear of gay marriage to get their conservative religious base out to vote. So Miss California, same sex marriage is coming whether you like it or not. Torture is out. That is what is happening in “my country and my family” this time. We do not torture.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Big Bob Visits

My long time friend Big Bob visited me and Bill this afternoon. I've known Big Bob longer than I've known Bill, my Partner for Life. Big Bob and I met in April 1960 at Ft. Deven, Massachusetts while attending the Army Security Agency School.

Big Bob and I were not only friends, we were best friends. We did everything together from going to the movies to doing out laundry together. Now here is the ironic part to this story of our friendship. I didn't know Big Bob was gay (nor did he know I was gay) until I "came out" in April of 1963 (see my previous blog posting.) You see, I never thought about it because I was never sexually attracted to Big Bob for was he to me. We were just friends, albeit very good friends.

Perhaps we were friends because we came from the same area of southeastern Pennsylvania. I lived near Downingtown in Chester County and Big Bob lived in Norwood, Delaware County. We used to share rides home on the weekends with another fellow soldier, Richard Kley. I don't remember the exact moment we met, but we soon became fast friends.

After I got out of the Army in January of 1963 I got an apartment in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. In April of 1963, after my Mother discovered that I had an unexplained male friend visiting me one Saturday morning, I "came out" to everyone I knew. I figured "Let the cards fall where they may, I'll know who my real friends are are who aren't my friends." Big Bob was one of the first friends I heard from. He came rushing up from where he lived in Norwood, PA to talk to me. He said he "never knew" that I was gay. Of course I never had an inkling he was gay either.

Over the years we have remained good friends. Bob has been with his life partner Jim for 27 years now. I've been with my life partner Bill for 45 years. The past few years Big Bob has been slipping (I have been too.) His mental capacity isn't what it used to me (mine isn't either.) But our strong bond of friendship remains. I always feel comfortable when I'm around Big Bob. I could spend hours, days, weeks, months and years with Big Bob and never get bored. I've always wondered what our lives would have been like if there was a romantic attraction. But, alas, that was not to be.

I have always felt very fortunate that I went through life with a good friend like Big Bob and a romantic relationship (and good friend) with my life partner, Bill. Bill and I have had a sometimes temptuous, rocky relationship over the years but what relationship hasn't? The only one I can think of is Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Big Bob and I have had nothing but the most cordial relationship over these past 49 years. I used to call Big Bob almost every night on the phone and just talk about anything. I don't do that now. I seem to be doing most of the talking (all of the talking actually.) Thus it was with great pleasure that Big Bob accepted our invitation to come over for lunch and a visit today. I was able to show him the video of Susan Boyle on You Tube. Big Bob enjoyed seeing her surprise the judges and audience on "Britain's Got Talent" with her magnificent singing ability and personality. It was almost like old times today, just two old friends sharing a special moment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One of the Biggest Lessons in Life

A friend sent me this prescient message in an e-mail that I received from him this morning:

I think that one of the biggest lessons to learn in our lives is to be happy with who we are. We all spend so much time trying to be something or someone else and are never happy. When we can accept who we are and look at life through our own eyes, then life unfolds before us and we welcome the challenges and joys.

What a beautiful, life affirming message. This message has much more relevance to me than the “you are a sinner and you must be saved” message from my other friend and former classmate from my school days. My former schoolmate friend thinks that I should be attending church services in order to save my soul. I tell him that I cannot attend most Christian church services because they condemn homosexuality and since I am a homosexual, I am automatically discounted the moment I walk through those church doors.
My friend berates me by saying “Why do you always have to bring up the subject of homosexuality and play the martyr?” Apparently he believes in the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in church as well as our military. In other words, stay in the closet. Keep your homosexuality a secret. Don’t upset the “good” folks in the pews. Play along. Then if you admit you are a sinner and pray for forgiveness, then maybe you will be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Forty six years ago I broke down my self imposed closet door. It was the spring of 1963 and I decided to stop living a lie. I decided to stop substituting “she” for “he” when talking about relationships. I decided to stop sitting in church pews listening to preachers rant and rave about “fornicators, rapist, thieves, murders, and homosexuals” (notice how the bible thumpers always have a habit of lumping in homosexuals with the worst elements of society.) I told everyone; my family, my friends, my neighbors, that I was gay. Remember, this was before the Stonewall riots. This was before “Will and Grace.” This was before it was fashionable to be gay. I was stepping into Unknown Territory.

As a result of coming out, my Mother dispatched my brothers and father to “rescue me.” They appeared at my apartment and tried to physically take me to the hospital for the “cure.” Unbelievable as that sounds, that was the scene that chilly spring Saturday morning outside my apartment in Coatesville, PA. Both of my brothers pulling my by my arms outside while my father had his truck, motor running, waiting to rush me to the hospital. The scene played out that morning was bizarre, surreal, and out of this world.

They were unsuccessful in “rescuing” me. I resisted and they gave up. The struggle probably didn’t last more than fifteen minutes but it represented a irretrievable break with my former life of hiding, lying, fear, and guilt. I broke free in more ways than one. What followed were several years of estrangement from my family. Contact wasn’t made again until I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner. By that time I had moved from Coatesville, PA and was living in Pennsauken, New Jersey with my “lover” (now called "life partner".) By the way, I am still living in sin with my "lover", 45 years later.

I accepted their invitation with one caveat; I would only come if I could bring Bill (my partner) with me. They reluctantly agreed. I don’t remember exactly how that first Thanksgiving Dinner went other than it was somewhat subdued (except for me of course, I was my usual ebullient self – I always had a hard time feeling guilty about being gay because to me it seemed so natural.) Over time Bill frequently accompanied me on visits to my parents and brothers. In fact, both my Mother and Father became quite friendly with Bill, once they discovered that he didn’t have horns growing out of his head.

Gradually, over time I would encounter people from my “previous life” who would look at me in askance when meeting me again with this new knowledge about my personal life. I encountered the usual comments like “I would never know that you were gay.” “You don’t look gay.” “You don’t talk gay.” Then I would get the well meaning folk who would give, what they would think anyway, the ultimate permission statement “Some of my best friends are gay.” These comments have continued on over the years. Perhaps my favorite was my cousin who, upon discovering I was gay (hide the kids!) said after a telling pause “Will and Grace is one of my favorite programs!” Oh, that’s wonderful. Straight people playing gay but you will never see two men kissing on that TV screen (here’s a flash, gay men kiss in real life if not in reel life.)

Straight homophobia comes in all forms and sizes. Some well meaning and some just mean spirited. I’ve experienced it all. What I am getting very, very tired of is people trying to “save” me. Save me from what? Myself? As my friend said this morning (who, by the way is gay but also was married and has two beautiful, straight children – so much for “catching” the gayness):

"….be happy with who we are. We all spend so much time trying to be something or someone else and are never happy. When we can accept who we are and look at life through our own eyes, then life unfolds before us and we welcome the challenges and joys."

I remember a few months ago watching Ted Haggard (looking haggard by the way) on Larry King Live with his wife trying to explain away his “sickness” of being gay. I felt no anger towards this former preacher of the gospel. I felt pity for this gay man who is ruining his life by trying to be something he isn’t. Watching him through the TV screen, I wanted to embrace him in my arms and say “It’s alright Ted, be who you are. Don’t try to be what others want you to be.” But, unfortunately Mr. Haggard seems resigned to living the rest of his life as others in his church hierarchy have determined. They have already passed judgment on him. He will live a life of misery and denial. How sad to live one’s life by the will of a group of self righteous, dogmatic, self-appointed experts of a man made church. I feel profound sadness for this man and his family. My heart goes out to him.

There was perhaps no better display of the ugliness of this self righteous, homophobic bigotry recently when a contestant at the Miss USA contest (Miss California) was asked her views on same sex marriages by one of the judges, Perez Hilton:

Hilton, who is openly gay, asked:

"Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalise same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit. Why or why not?"

"I think it's great Americans are able to choose one or the other,"
Prejeans answered. "We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage.

"And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.

"No offence to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be between a man and a woman."

This is a perfect example of the self righteous arrogance that many Christians, especially those on the right of the political spectrum, have. They don’t see it. My friend brags about his horse blinders that I accuse him of wearing. He says it keeps him “focused.” To me this is a form of mental cowardice. He is afraid of being exposed to other ideas because he is scared to death he might change his mind and his whole world would come crashing down around him.

After Carrie Prejeans didn’t win the crown of Miss USA, Miss California responded to the ensuing controversy by saying:

..........she knew instantly after answering the question that she would not win, "because I had spoken from my heart, from my beliefs and for my God".

Note the usage of “my God.” Is this the same God that gays like me are supposed to confess our sins? Is this the all inclusive God or the God just for a select few?

This young lady has every right to live her life convinced that “her God” only accepts “opposites” in marriage. However, she doesn't have the right to tell me how I should live my life no more than I have the right to tell her how to live her life. What she needs to do is drop her self righteous attitude that God is only on her side and accept the world as it is, full of diversity and different views. Miss California may have been beautiful on the outside but she showed her inner ugliness by her answer which casually dismisses the rights of same sex couples to marry and enjoy all the legal and financial benefits that straight couples now enjoy.

It wasn't all that long ago that another beauty queen, who was also a runner up for the big prize, (Miss America) had similar warped views of reality. Anita Bryant had a very successful singing career and a role as a spokeswoman for the orange juice growers association until she decided to show her true ugliness and go on a crusade to wipe out homosexuality from America.

However, times have changed since Anita's crusading days against the "scourge of homosexuality." Carrie Prejeans, Miss California, runner up to Miss USA need not worry about where her next job is coming from. Fox News will be calling soon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why Does Susan Boyle Mesmerize Me So?

I dream a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung so wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

I continued to be enthralled by this modest, unassuming woman from Lothian, Scotland. What does the beauty of her voice and soul say to all of us? I find it hard to put into words my feelings of joy when I watch her video again and again. Susan is much more than the Pop Flavor de jour. She represents something in all of us, the desire to be accepted as we are and for our own unique talents whatever they may be. There is so much pressure in this world from the time we begin school to conform to someone else’s notion of what we should be that it is almost impossible to be ourselves. Susan, bless her heart, is Susan. She represents true beauty, the beauty that comes from within. It is the beauty of the soul.

We all have this potential to be ourselves. God made us all unique. I think what I find so appealing about Susan’s story is that she didn’t let the naysayers and people mocking her to keep her from her dream. And the way she did it, with grace and good will, is a lesson to all of us. After having come out of eight years of the divisiveness of the Karl Rove politics and resulting failure of the George W. Bush presidency, our world was ready for new leadership. Barack Obama is providing that enlightened leadership in our country even as the hard core Republicans and their Politics of No are melting into a green puddle on the ground like the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.” Susan Boyle is providing another kind of leadership, the acceptance of all people as one on this very small planet called Earth. The young and old; the short and tall; the thin and fat; the black, white, yellow red; the gay, straight, bi and transgender. Susan brings out the best in all of us.

Below are just some of the thousands of positive comments that I have taken from the Internet of Susan Boyle’s performance:

1. The power, present, interpretation put altogether is like nothing I have ever heard. Others sing technically perfect but miss the connection with the audience on a grand scale. She did it starting with just the first few words – an accomplishment seldom heard in a lifetime.

2. God shows himself in all shapes, forms, colors and genders.

3. Susan Boyle – plain of physical appearance, but angelically beautiful of voice and spirit
The music of her voice went straight through my chest and to my soul. One voice, one song, a few notes made me feel better than I had that whole day.

4. Susan Boyle has already won.

5. Why does Susan Boyle move us so:

Her performance was so perfect it felt like it came from Heaven
In one way or another we all have a less than attractive side to us – whether it be in looks, personality, quirks… name it…. that get in the way of us being appreciated for our special qualities. What Ms. Boyle demonstrated – rather profoundly I think – was that we can believe in ourselves in such a strong but healthy way – with humility dedication and humor – that we can transcend the stereotypes and challenges to be.

For me the past few weeks have been difficult. First the job I took with the Census Bureau that didn’t work out and the subsequent criticism I received from some for that decision. That was followed by the worst cold I’ve ever had in my life, from which I am still recovering. Then, on top of everything else my long time friend from Pennsylvania renews his proselytizing efforts to “save” me for eternity. I again remind him that I cannot participate in a religion that out of hand condemns me for being gay. Our ensuing conversation deteriorates to a point that I lost my desire to make the trip to Pennsylvania that I was going to make today for my class reunion committee meeting and to spend some quality time with my friend. That wasn’t going to happen since he accused me of “always bringing up the homosexual thing and acting the martyr.” That dismissive tone of voice and discounting of me as a human being belies an undercurrent of prejudice which is not conducive to a mutually respected friendship. It's just not something I can or will tolerate anymore. One of the reasons I moved down here to lower Delaware near the heavily gay populated community was to get away from this superior attitude that many straight people don't even realize they have. I don't need to make a trip back into that oppressive atmosphere.

As I said in a previous blog, I’m going to stop putting myself in situations in which people (friends included) bring out the worst in me. Those days are over. Instead I will watch this amazing woman and what positive lessons in life that she is giving us. Thank you Susan for bring a smile to my face, a lump in my throat and warmth to my heart. I, along with millions of others, appreciate the beauty that you have brought into our lives with your angelic voice and pure spirit. And please, please don’t change a thing about yourself. We love you just the way you are.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Choosing a Lifestyle

This evening a co-worker was having a discussion with me about his 12 year old cousin. He was telling me that he was correcting his cousin from referring to their gay Uncle Dennis as "that fairy." My co-worker (who is straight, I am gay) told me with self-evident pride that he told cousin "You shouldn't refer to Uncle Denny that way. He chose a gay lifestyle and he should be respected for the person he is." Uh.......chose? I quietly corrected my co-worker and said "Your uncle didn't chose the gay lifestyle." My co-worker's face crinkled up in puzzlement. He said "He didn't?." I said "No. He no more chose to be gay than you chose to be straight. Do you remember when you chose to be straight?"

I felt bad for my friend because he obviously felt he was doing the right thing by correcting his cousin from referring to their uncle as a "fairy." He asked me "Then, when did he become gay?" I told him "The same time you probably became straight." Now he's really confused. I further explained to him "Your uncle didn't chose to be gay. He just is. I didn't chose to be gay no more than I chose to have blue eyes (which I do) when I was born." I could see that he was struggling to understand. I told him that this is the problem, parents and adults pass down to kids these misconceptions about gays and lesbians. Through their actions and attitudes they pass down to kids that it is alright to discount a gay or lesbian as a human being because that is a "lifestyle that they chose." Sure, I decided when I was four years old (when I knew I was "different") to opt for a life of ridicule, hate and danger. Oh yeah, that's the kind of "lifestyle" I want to live.

This kind of misinformation that is fed to our youth is what contributed to the bullying that a caused 11 year old Carl Joseph Walker to hang himself rather than to constantly hear many of his classmates say "That's so gay" when referring to young Carl's naturally happy demeanor. His mother repeatedly told school officials that her son was being bullied but her pleas were ignored. This tactic permission by adults is what permits the term "faggot" to be used by young children and teenagers as the universal derivative term to put down anybody, gay or straight. A more appropriate piece of information to teach kids would be the definition of the term "faggot" - during the Middle Ages, homosexuals were executed by placing a bundle of sticks placed at the feet of the accused homosexuals to burn them alive at the stake.

Earlier this week I had another one of my frequent discussions with my longtime and former school classmate friend about the Christian church's condemnation of gays. I have to explain this to him because he doesn't understand why I won't admit my "sin" and be "saved." He says "Why do you always have to bring up the homosexual aspect?" I told him "Because the organized church condems me for who I am and calls me a sinner." He advises me to "stop being the martyr and confess my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my savior." Of course he is referring to ALL of my sins. The organized Christian church is very preoccupied with sin. But that's another whole new subject that I won't go into at this time. What I will say though is my response to the oft repeated "hate the sin, love the sinner" line that many of the far right Christian based church use in justifying their bigotry towards gays and lesbians - I hate the (organized) church but love the church goer. In fact, some of my best friends are Christians.

The fact remains that as far as this country (and world) has advanced in the knowledge that gays and lesbians are human beings just like their straight counterparts, there is still a lot of ingrained misinformation out there unwittingly being spread around with all the best intentions.

The look on my co-worker's face when I informed him that his uncle didn't chose the gay "lifestyle", it was priceless. It was sort of like the look on my cousin Elaine's face when I first informed her that I was gay. Momentarily she was puzzled and then she quickly recovered by saying "Oh, I love 'Will and Grace!" Uh......thanks but no thanks. And I bet some of your best friends are black too. By the way, I want to know that the "gay lifestyle" is. It sounds pretty glamorous to me but I must have been home sick from school that day when they gave that lesson at Gay High School. I have the same problem with the famous "Homosexual Agenda." I never got my copy. Of course there is no "homosexual lifestyle" anymore than there is a "homosexual agenda." Again, just more nuggets of misinformation that is spread out there in Straightville, USA every day.

Ironically, if I did have a choice, I wouldn't change a thing. I've been very happy with my life. You might even say I've had a very gay life.


“Then Susan opened her mouth and sang. Her voice was so powerful, so achingly beautiful, and so full of yearning that even the usually heartless Simon Cowell was blown away. As were the other judges, and audience, all of whom gave Susan a standing ovation. And now online and elsewhere, Susan’s voice and the story of her triumph on that stage are known throughout the world. (Dennis Palumbo 4-16-2009)

As most are aware of now I am referring to the You Tube sensation Susan Boyle, a 47 year old, unemployed, plain looking, woman who lives alone with her cat “Pebbles” in a small village near Blackburn, Scotland who appeared as a contestant on “Britain’s Got Talent.” I just finished watching her video again. It touches all my emotions. Joy in listening to the pure beauty of her voice. Inspiration in knowing that even someone from such humble circumstances as Susan can break free of the societal imposed rules that only those who are attractive enough and have the right connections can succeed in this world.

Already I have read comments from some that say “Well she’s good but she’s no Beverly Sills.” Say what? I have heard Beverly Sills sing. I guess she was a good singer. I don’t remember and the reason I don’t remember because there was nothing memorable about her singing. One could say that Barbra Streisand is a good singer too. Not to me. I don’t say she is a bad singer but to my ear, she’s too sterile. Too manufactured. When I hear someone like Barbara sing all I can think of are peculiarities. Not so with Susan Boyle. A pure soul with a voice of an angel.

I have since heard Susan sing "Cry me a River." She recorded this song for a charity back in 1998. It is simply the best rendition of this song I have ever heard. Susan Boyle has a beautiful voice. The only voice I have ever heard before from a female singer that even comes close was Dinah Washington. They both have a unique sound to their voice which makes it a pleasure to listen to them sing. And that what singing is all about? The pure pleasure of listening beautiful sound.

I hope Susan Boyle is around for a long time. I cannot wait for her first album. And please folks, don’t make her over. She is perfect just the way she is. Now excuse me while I watch her video again. I cannot watch it enough.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Gorgeous Spring Day

It had to happen! We finally got a gorgeous day at the beach. I just returned from my walk in Oyster Rocks. It was wonderful to feel the warm sun on my bare arms and to hear the birds chattering and getting things sorted out for their nesting season.

This morning Bill and I drove to Milford looking for the Oddfellow’s Cemetery to fulfill a FAG request that I received last week. I thought I would kill to birds with one stone this morning; do our weekly Wal-Mart Super Center run and take some cemetery pictures requests that I received from Find a Of course, as is usual, we couldn’t find the cemetery we were looking for. We found other cemeteries but not Oddfellow’s. Think of it, two “oddfellows” looking for the “Oddfellow’s Cemetery.”

Bill was getting agitated (he has no patience) so I cut the hunt short after the third set of directions we received were different from the first two. Even the map instructions we had from MapQuest were confusing. Again, there were no surprises here. Who hasn’t gotten driving instructions from MapQuest that were confusing? Rather than ruin the start of a perfectly good day I told Bill just to go on to the Wal-Mart store, which we did.

The usual suspects were at Wal-Mart and I got in the wrong long. I prefer the lines that don’t move while those on both sides of me are in and out while the lady in front of me is signing all her food stamp checks and haggling over one item that the food stamp doesn’t cover. If there was money to be made on predicting which line will stall, I would be rich by now.

Eventually we got out of the store, got home and I took my walk. Wonderful, wonderful, spring day finally. My cold is almost all gone. I’m going to have a light lunch, take a nap and work the 3 to 11 shift at the hotel tonight. The hotel is almost full. Guests expect good weather when they’re paying the big bucks to visit the First Town in the First State (Lewes, Delaware.) They won’t be disappointed today.

It was my intention to write a more detailed blog about the phenomenon of Susan Boyle (middle aged Scottish singing sensation) and how her “overnight” success is a perfect metaphor for our times, especially people like you and me who are so often laughed at and derided and told that we will never succeed no matter how hard we try. Susan is having the last laugh now (a good natured one too, and not a mean one) and we will too. If I should depart this earth tomorrow I go with no regrets for I have truly have had a very successful and happy life. From the humble beginnings from which I emerged and without any encouragement at all, and in spite of the slings and arrows of those who attempted to put and pull me down, I have managed to realize all of my dreams. Most of us can identify with Susan Boyle because at one time of our life we have been Susan Boyle. Beaten down, ridiculed, laughed at, not taken seriously. Susan is resisting a makeover and is going to continue to be who she is, a person who has more courage, strength and stamina than any self-important, puffed up so called "Super Star." Why I do believe we are entering a new era of peace, social acceptance and justice for everyone, no matter what they look like for their family beginnings. The next thing you know we'll have same sex marriages. Now wouldn't that be a miracle?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Five Steps to Not Being a Jerk

Recently several things happened to cause me to reevaluate my life situation. The most recent was my near brush with pneumonia (I'm still recovering from that one.) The second one being a couple of cruel and inconsiderate comments made to me about my personal blog. And the third being a continuing argument on religion I have had over the years with my long time friend whom I respect very much. And just yesterday I saw the You Tube video of Susan Boyle's amazing singing performance on "Britain's Got Talent." Ms. Boyle to me epitomizes the triumph of grace over circumstances and others attempt to pigeon hole her based on her physical appearance and social circumstances. In spite of all the strikes her fellow human beings have attempted to beat her down, her grace and goodwill and talent overcame all.

A friend sent me the following e-mail listing the Five Steps to Not Being a Jerk. While I would like to think that I don't fit into the Jerk category, the past week I have been very difficult with my life partner Bill because of my illness. I was becoming a Jerk. I think I caught myself in time. However, it is worth reading the following. I have attributed authorship of the article where noted:

5 Tiny Steps to Quit Being Such a Jerk
By Leo on Happiness

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.I was having a talk with my son yesterday, sitting him down and talking about consideration — how to think of others, and not just yourself. It’s a key concept that makes such a difference in life that it’s one of the few things I really want to teach my children.

It’s so sad because I see so many inconsiderate people around me every day — people who only care about what they want and don’t think of others, don’t see things from the perspective of other people. People who cut you off in traffic, who cut in front of you in line, who say rude things, who take your parking spot, who hurt your feelings. I try to brush these things off, but it’s unfortunate that so many people are so inconsiderate.

Thing is, they aren’t trying to be mean or rude … they just aren’t thinking of others. And I don’t think they’re aware of this. I think they think they’re being perfectly fine, and don’t think of themselves as inconsiderate.

I’m a good example — I think I’m fairly considerate, but there are plenty of times when I’m inconsiderate without realizing it. I realized, when I was having that talk with my son, that I had been rude to someone yesterday. Then I started to think of all the ways I’d been selfish recently. And I realized that I’m not as perfect as I think.

You probably aren’t either. While you might not be the “jerk” I called you in the title of this post, there are very few of us who are considerate without fail. I have an uncle who is the most considerate person I know — he’s one of my role models — and he can skip this post. The rest of us need it, I think.

What are the consequences of being more considerate? To start with, I think it feels good — we like being kind to others, doing nice things for others, making others happier. Second, it makes our lives better in so many other ways — people will treat you with more respect and kindness, will like you better, will be more likely to want to work with you and be with you. Third, it makes society better — when we all treat each other with consideration, we live better together, we work better together, we cooperate. Sure, there will always be jerks, but if we can make them a minority, society will be better overall.

At the very least, you can say with surety that you’re not one of those jerks. And that’s a good thing, right?

1. Admit you’re not perfect. I’ll be the first to say it: I’m far from perfect. I’m a jerk sometimes. I’m inconsiderate and selfish sometimes. And I don’t usually realize it until later. If you think you’re not a jerk, at least admit that you are inconsiderate at times. Try to recall those times. Think of how you could have acted differently. This is the first step, and it’s an important one.

2. Place yourself in the shoes of others. This is the key to consideration — to consider the feelings and needs and wants of others, to see things from their perspective. Try to think of what others are going through, what you’d want if you were in their situation. This isn’t always easy, but it gets easier with practice. And even if you’re not correct in your assumptions about what another person wants or feels or is going through … the important thing is that you’re making the effort, and it’s a transformative one.

3. Act with compassion and kindness. If someone else is suffering, even a little, try to ease their suffering in some way. Treat others with kindness, respect, love. Do it in little ways — a smile, a kind word, a thank you, a hug, doing something to ease their burden, going out of your way to be courteous, holding open a door, letting another person in front of you in traffic. Little tiny acts will make a huge difference.

4. Practice, practice. Old habits die hard, especially ones like this where we rarely think about it. Keep it in the forefront of your consciousness by making every interaction with another person a chance to practice being considerate. Every time you talk to someone, email someone, see someone on the street … make this an opportunity to practice consideration. Practice, and practice some more. That’s the only way you get good at anything.

5. Do 5 little things. As a way to practice, make it a goal to do 5 little things each day that are kind and considerate. It doesn’t matter what those things are — cooking something for a family member, tidying up a bit, sending a nice thank-you email to a co-worker, lending a hand to a friend, being there to listen to someone’s problems … I’m sure you could think of a thousand little things. Do this every day, and you’ll soon be a pro.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brush with Pneumonia

Thursday, April 9th is when the symptoms of my first major cold since 2001 began showing up. The usual suspects; chest congestion, clogged sinuses, coughing, runny nose, and body aches all over. Ironically just days before I was bragging I never get colds. Well, I can no longer make that brag. This time I got the worst cold I ever had in my life. In fact, it was so bad that, for the first time in my life, I went to the doctor.

After four days of trying to sleep the cold off and only seeing it get progressively worse, I called my doctor and made an emergency appointment. Of course the day I decided to go out it is cold, windy and rainy. Then I go to my doctor’s office, which is called The Clinic by the Sea and I find it has moved. Thus I had to wander around in the wind, rain and cold trying to figure out how to get in her new office. I find her office and await the good doctor.

She asked me my symptoms. Then, as if on cue, I cough up a hunk of green phlegm. She looks on with horror at the ugly mucus and says “You’re seriously ill. I commend you for walking into my office instead of waiting to go to the emergency room.” She examines me and suspects that I have pneumonia in my left lung. She writes out a prescription for Levaquin 500 mg tablets, which is an antibiotic for pneumonia. She then tells me to get a chest x-ray to determine if, in fact, I do have pneumonia.

I go back out in the wind, rain and cold. Thank goodness Bill was driving. I could not have driven myself. I was too lightheaded (more so than usual.) Bill takes me to the Beebe Medical Campus off of Rt. 24. They take several chest x-ray pictures. I then go to Wal-Mart to fill my prescription. The Wal-Mart in Rehoboth doesn’t have a pharmacy department. Only the super Wal-Marts have a pharmacy. I forgot I do live in Lower Slower. Back out in the wind, rain, and cold. I stumble over to Eckerd’s to get my prescription filled. The doctor had warned me that it would be expensive. For 10 tablets, the cost would be $154.75. Okay. That’s expensive. I normally get my prescriptions filled through the Wilmington Veterans Administration but there was no way I could wait three days while my prescription request traveled through that bureaucratic maze.

I called my doctor for a less expensive alternative. She said that the Beebe Medical campus had called and said that I didn’t have pneumonia……yet. Thus I wouldn’t need the Levaquin. The doctor instead prescribed Augmentin. For 10 tablets, the cost was $41.98. I purchased the Augmentin and was on my way.

When I got home I took the first of my two tablets a day. Before I went to bed last night I took my second tablet. Last night about 2:30 am I woke up in a cold sweat. My T-shirt was soaked. But, this was good. For the first time in a week I felt normal. I could breath. I had an appetite. My head didn’t feel like I was walking underwater. I was going to live another day to stir the Pot of Life. I changed T-shirts and went back to bed, thankful that I had my health back.

Since I’ve been sick I haven’t been on my computer. That’s how you know I am really sick when I’m not on my computer. This morning I got on for the first time in two days. I updated my Face book account, checked my e-mails, and checked my on line banking. Ironically, I noticed that the Census Bureau has made the deposit for my one week’s employment with them to my checking account. This made me think of what a mess I would have been in if I had continued to work for the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau told us that we were not to let bad weather deter us from working. What with the rain, wind and cold of the past two weeks and my march towards pneumonia I’m just thankful that this story appears to have a happy ending. My only concern now is that I think I’ve used up the last of my nine lives.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reevaluation Time

Last Thursday morning I woke up with a cold. Just last week I was bragging how I haven’t had a cold since I moved to Delaware in November of 2006. In fact, I haven’t had a cold since 2001, when I caught a horrific cold attending a Christmas memorial service at the Terry Funeral Home in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. I knew I was going to catch the cold of my life at that time when I entered the little room packed with folks of all ages who were coughing, sneezing and sniffling. Oh did I ever catch a cold. I thought I was going to die. At times I wish I did. But, I survived to tell the tale.

Now here I am again eight years later struggling through each day with deep hacking coughs, runny nose, watery eyes, and aching bones. Thank goodness I left my address canvassing job with the Census Bureau. There was no way I could be out there in the wind, rain and cold. I surely would have pneumonia. I think I caught this cold from a co-worker at the hotel. She came into work last Monday with a terrible cold that she couldn’t shake. Later in the week, when she couldn’t shake the cold, she went to her doctor and was diagnosed walking pneumonia.

As in the past when I’ve had colds, I’m trying to work through this cold by getting plenty of rest and drinking a lot of fluids. I’ve had enough sleep in the past three days to last me a month. This morning at 11:30 I have a dental appointment in Dover. My new bridge is in and this is for the initial fitting. When I get back home, it’s to bed again. I’m scheduled to go to work this Friday for four days in a row. I plan to get plenty of rest so when I go to work this weekend I’ll be healthy and alert and on my best.

Talking about being my best, these past few weeks have made me aware again that there are people and situations that bring out the best in me and bring out the worst in me. I had thought I had this situation under control sometime ago but, apparently I have not. It is time for a reevaluation. I am going to spend more time with those friends who bring out the best in me and who genuinely enjoy my company as I do theirs. They know who they are. Also, I will only participate in those activities that I enjoy. Life is too short to do otherwise. Just last week another friend of mine told me they had cancer. I have to make every day count before my number comes up. We owe it to ourselves and our friends and family who care about us to be the best we can all the time.

In the past few weeks I have encountered situations that have brought out the worst in me. I blame myself for allowing this to happen. In one situation Bill and I visited a longtime friend. Bill wanted to help him with his TV connection. I brought him a couple of books (extra copies that I purchased myself especially for him) as a gift. This friend has a partner who is very jealous. While Bill and I were visiting our friend, the partner comes out of his bedroom, heads for the front door and when we ask him were he is going we’re greeting with the F-word and GD’s. This is a typical reaction from this person to our visits. I think it’s time we stopped visiting. Life is too short for this nonsense. Ironically, I was also delivering a musical CD from the choir master of the choir Mr. Nasty was in. I wasnt' expecting profuse thanks but a simple "Thank you" would have sufficed. Not from this person though, he is so full of self loathing that he can't help himself when he spreads his negative attitude around.

Earlier in the week, I received a hateful comment on my blog that it was “too personal, boring, and detailed.” First, who asked this person? Second, why read my blog if it is too personal, boring and detailed?” What has always puzzled me is why someone finds it necessary to tear down someone else and try to control their life? Don’t they have their hands full with their own life? To me, this is just another example of a person with a great deal of self hate trying to spread his/her poison to others. I am so tired of this type of person. I’m done with them. No more. I remember something that Phyllis Diller (that great philosopher) said some years ago "I got rid of all the negative people and influences in my life and now I am much happier" (or words to that effect.)

Spring is almost here. Rebirth and new growth is all around. Once the temperatures warm up I will be outside enjoying the fresh air and working in my flower beds. There are few activities I enjoy more than working outside being one with nature. But first, I have to get rid of this cold.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

Finally, I think I am recovering from my week long bout with a cold. It was just a little over a week ago I was bragging about how I haven’t caught a cold since I moved to Delaware in November of 2006. Well, that is a claim I can no longer make. I caught a cold big time. I’m not sure where I got it from. One of my co-workers at the hotel was diagnosed with pneumonia last week. I didn’t know pneumonia was contagious. If it is, then that's what I got. Lovely.

When I lived and worked in Pennsylvania I caught my worst knock me to the floor colds from fellow workers (the phones are a notorious transmitter of germs) on the commuter train I used to take to my job in Philadelphia. Invariably I would catch a major cold after a trip with fellow passengers who were sneezing and coughing all the way into Philadelphia. We all would pass around and share those colds all winter and into spring. I thought I got out of that trap when I moved to Delaware. Apparently not as long as I'm around people.

Yesterday I got plenty of sleep. My normal afternoon nap is 20 minutes. Yesterday I slept about three hours while the rain gently fell outside my bedroom windows. After my Saturday afternoon slumber I got up and made dinner (left over beef stew and string beans - detail provided for "Anonymous" who thinks I put too much detail in my blogs.) I watched a Netflix movie (“On Becoming Jane” – a so so movie about Jane Austen.) Normally I take a shower before I go to bed but not last night. I was just too wiped out. Straight to bed I went. I was unconscious until this morning when I awoke about 7 am. Even though I’m still horse and feel like I’ve been hit and run over by a Hummer, I can feel that I’m climbing out of the depths of this awful cold.

On this Easter Sunday I have nothing planned except to enjoy the sunshine. I don’t remember the last time I attended Easter services at a church. Probably when I was nine or ten years old, before the time that a Pentecostal minister alienated me from an organized Christian Church by screaming that I was a sinner, was a sinner from the day I was born and will always be a sinner. I remember so clearly my ten year old mind thinking “What is the point? I have no chance.” I’ve never looked at the Christian church quite the same way since that horrific day in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1951. While I have respect for my Christian friends who find comfort in their church, I lost that comfort level listening to that red haired minister shouting his angry words that Easter Sunday so many years ago.

Easter to me represents rebirth and renewal. I believe in that more than I believe in thugs and bullies who tell me how to live my life. This morning I watched in awe as twenty or so purple martins swooped and swirled around the purple martin house I have out in my back yard. I watched with pleasure the bluebird sitting atop the bluebird house by the fence in my backyard as she prepares to lay her eggs and produce a new generation of bluebirds for next year. I look out my front door and see the cream white tulips blooming that I planted in the cold winds of last fall. Yesterday’s rains have left everything fresh and new today. Easter……spring…..a time of rebirth. I rejoice in it.

Caregiver Update

  Bill with his hospice nurse last week Regular followers of this blog have no doubt noticed that I haven't been posting on a regular ba...