Monday, September 7, 2009

GOP hypocrisy: Video of Reagan’s 1988 address to students of America

All week I’ve been riled up about the GOP’s ignorant attacks on a speech President Barack Obama plans to give students across America tomorrow about the importance of staying in school, getting good grades, and working hard to achieve success.

Before anyone had even seen a draft of Obama’s speech, the GOP jumped back on the fast track of the Fear-Mongering Express to insight anger along partisan lines.

Members of the GOP have good reason to fear the power a president holds for indoctrinating children. They needn’t look any further than a speech the golden boy of their own party, former President Ronald Reagan, gave to students in 1988. I was one of those children forced to sit in a school gymnasium listening to the importance of “our duty to bring the values of the American Revolution to all the peoples of the world,” which Reagan defines as a rebellion against “economic restrictions, taxes, and barriers to free trade.”

Reagan’s full speech, which you can also view below, is a complete overreach and abuse of power to spread a political ideology. Of course, only being a second-grader at the time, I didn’t realize this. All I saw was a very important man, someone even more important than my teacher, the principal of my school, and my parents, telling me what my duty was. I didn’t know what the American Revolution was about, much less what economic restrictions were. All I knew is that they must be an important reason for me feeling secure and safe, and that if I wanted to continue feeling secure and safe I should never want things to change.

If Reagan’s remarks had been more like President George H.W. Bush’s speech to students in 1991, then there wouldn’t be a need to post my thoughts on this subject. However, I feel it important to point out the complete hypocrisy of the GOP on this issue.

The last thing our country needs is another division along partisan lines, and I find it completely shameful one was created that will keep American children from hearing a message they all need – stay in school, respect your teachers, and work hard to achieve your dreams.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A public servant to the very end

There is no tribute I could post or words I could write to truly encapsulate the loss our country has had in the death of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). He wasn’t a politician. He was a public servant.

Despite serving more than 46 years in office, the third longest of any senator in the history of our country, he remained passionate and diligent to his responsibilities. He was not swayed by special interests or power, and never wavered from his commitment to fighting for the working class.

Even when facing down certain death, Kennedy put the public’s interest first. Just last week he sent a letter to key leaders of the Massachusetts legislature urging for laws governing succession of office to be changed. This was to ensure the state would not lose a vote in the upcoming showdown over health care reform after the summer recess.

My heart aches tonight in a way it hasn’t hurt since the loss of my grandfather in May. Only the sadness I feel is not of a personal nature, but of realizing the void Kennedy’s death will create. When he knew things were blatantly wrong, he didn’t hide under a smooth veneer that was politically safe. He would speak from the heart, reminding his colleagues in Congress they were there to serve the public and nothing else.

So with that, I will leave you with the greatest tribute I can think to post. Kennedy, in his own words, fighting the fight he fought best. The fight of the people.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday’s Super Savings

With my hours at work being cut by one day a week starting in July and new job prospects slim, I’ve started putting some cost saving measures into practice.

Almost everything I’m doing to cut corners were lessons I learned during childhood when my parents were living paycheck to paycheck and raising three kids. There’s so many images forever branded to my brain of spending all day Sunday at the supermarket loading up five to six carts worth of food because it was double coupon day. Or waking up at 4 a.m. to hit the sales early for our back-to-school supplies in a town 30 miles away because the deals were better. And always guarding the mounds of clothes, toys, and household goods my mom would pile by me at rummage sales while I pilfered through the free boxes searching for hidden treasures of junk.

My mom probably doesn’t realize how much of an impression she left on me about how to make every penny stretch a mile more than it should. These of course were lessons she learned from her parents, who were farmers raising nine kids on next to nothing while having their income at the complete mercy of Mother Nature.

Never in a million years did I think I would be back to spending my weekends clipping coupons and strategically planning out my shopping trips so I could get the best bang for my buck. But with $500 less a month coming in, I don’t have much choice.

That said, I’m finding a bit of satisfaction in being frugal. It’s probably just the romantic in me thinking of it as getting a first-hand experience of what my parents and grandparents went through. I’m sure the nostalgia will wear off sooner than later, but for now, I’m going to be a bit of a braggart in how much I saved today.

After a day’s worth of coupon clipping and shopping, I ended up with a total of 64 items for $116. That’s less than $2 an item—even with the $1.50 I spent on Sunday’s paper factored into the mix.

My total savings at the end of the day came to 31 percent, meaning $52 extra in my pocket. So, what exactly did I get for less than $2 each?

Fresh Produce
  • 5 apples
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 4 cobs of corn
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 bags of salad
  • 2 mini watermelons
  • 1 bag of carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • 3 loaves of bread
  • 2 blocks of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 carton of eggs
  • 1 bag of marsh mellows
Nonperishable & Frozen Goods
  • 10 packages of Ramen noodles
  • 6 boxes of cereal
  • 6 packages of Morning Star sausages
  • 4 packages of Boca Burgers
  • 2 bags of brown rice
  • 2 packages of Morning Star crumbles
  • 1 bucket of Smart Balance
  • 1 jar of peanut better
  • 1 bottle of ketchup
  • 1 box of Hamburger Helper
Household & Pet Goods
  • 2 packages of razors
  • 1 package of paper towels
  • 1 bottle of dish soap
  • 1 box of dog treats
  • 1 post card
  • 2 shirts
Sure, I had to stop at six different stores, but they were all along the same street. Yeah, some of my stuff probably isn’t completely organic or necessarily healthy, but I’m living on a tight budget now and organic is luxury and non-healthy foods are comfort.

So there you have it. A penny saved is a penny earned. There’s still more I need to trim out of my budget, which is already as lean as it can be with $75 in reduced rent and putting all my student loans into forbearance, but I’ll figure it out. I am my mother’s daughter after all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A year ago today

Last year at this time I was waking up in North Dakota for a traditional Wheeler breakfast at my grandparents' farm--a pan of homemade caramel rolls and a selection of Grandma's jams and jellies to put on freshly made toast.

It was Grandpa's 80th birthday, and I had flown in the day before to surprise him. We ate our breakfast while talking about the upcoming presidential election. Of all the people I have talked politics with in my life, and there's a lot, my conversations with Grandpa were the ones I always enjoyed the most. He was a steadfast catholic and dedicated farmer who lived almost his entire life on the rural plains of a sparsely populated state.

Grandpa was also an ardent Democrat, but a man who'd only vote for the person he thought could do the job regardless of party lines. It was still early in the election cycle, and Grandpa and I had already made up our minds Obama was the man for the job--much to the dismay of many in our family.

While Grandma washed dishes, Grandpa and I got so busy gabbing about politics we didn't notice her trying to join our conversation. She finally walked over to the table with dish towel in hand and said, just on the verge of yelling, "That's enough talking. It's my turn to say something."

Grandpa and I looked up from our cups of coffee and caramel rolls surprised.

"Well Ma. You have the floor. Speak," Grandpa said.

"Well, you two have already said it all. I guess I just wanted to say I agree," she said.

Grandpa looked at me, smiled his big smile, and said, "She's getting assertive in her old age. I like it."

I think the impromptu conversations like this one that took place before, during, and after meals, are what I'll miss most about Grandpa. They weren't always about politics. Sometimes they were about my career, and other times they were about my love life.

Unlike most women my age, I took delight in talking about my relationships with Grandpa. Maybe because unlike most grandpas, he took an interest in knowing.

It's only been a few weeks since I lost Grandpa very unexpectedly in an accident on the farm, and today is an especially hard day. Even though I'm fairly certain he went the way he always said he wanted to go, fast and without pain, I think about and miss him every day.

An image of Grandpa bringing me solace during this difficult time is the picture to the right. I took it on his 80th birthday last year, the day that started out with the story above.  I remember taking it because the look of complete contentment on his face. He was sitting in the living room he'd built with his dad many years before while taking in his wife, children, and grandchildren all playing games and laughing.

It had been a long and wonderful day of surprises for Grandpa. Not only had his loving wife of more than 60 years planned a huge surprise party with many of his friends and family, but he also received a gift that fulfilled his lifelong dream of a fishing trip to Alaska. I also surprised Grandpa with a video montage of pictures showing the complete and full life he'd lived (full video below).

This photo, to me, encapsulates a quote I read yesterday in the book Mortalism: Readings on the Meaning of Life. I bought the book a few days ago to help me figure out all the thoughts and emotions running through me right now. The quote this picture reminds me of is from the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus:
"But the wise man neither begs off from life nor does he fear the loss of it. For life does not offend him, nor does not being alive seem an evil to him. And just as he doesn't automatically choose the largest amount of food, but the tastiest dish, he doesn't grasp for the longest span of time but the most pleasant one."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For Grandpa

It's amazing how a person's life perspective changes in the blink of an eye. Two weeks ago I was consumed by anxiety over being reduced in hours at my job and wondering how I was going to make rent and my student loan payments. Then on May 4, my life changed forever with the news of my grandpa being killed in an accident on the farm that's been in my family for more than a century.

I have grown in more ways during this last week at my grandparents' farm than I have any other time in my life, including recovering from the aftermath of 9/11. My grandpa was one of the closest people to me, and I never knew how I would cope with losing him. Now I know, and will probably share more of what I've learned in this last week at a later time. For now, at the request of several family members, I will leave you with the words I spoke at his funeral last Friday.

Lorne Wheeler
May 28, 1928 – May 4, 2009

When I got the news about Grandpa's accident on Monday, I was at work. My boss, sitting on the ground next to me in my cubicle holding me while I cried, said, "I never met your grandpa, but from all the stories you tell I think he left this world in a way fitting of him. He left strong and working on the land he loved."

Over the past two years, I’ve been in the process of writing Grandpa’s memoirs for him. As a trained journalist I'm supposed to be able to sum up a person's story and fit it all into a few inches of printed words. But when it comes to Grandpa, there's not enough paper in this world that could ever hold the fullness of life he lived.

The names of our family alone would take up several Sunday editions of The Fargo Forum, not to mention the names of the thousands of people whose lives were touched in some way by Grandpa.

We are his story. All of us, in our own way, have taken on characteristics of him that will live on for generations to come.

For some it's his irresistible humor and robust, hearty laugh that can be heard above everyone's in the room.

For others it's his incredible compassion and strength of spirit that can put anyone at ease the moment you quietly and gently reach for their hand, instinctively knowing the exact amount of time to hold it.

For others it's his sense of duty and diligent work ethic that inspires those around you to press on and press through, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

For others it's his appetite for adventure, and perhaps his appetite in general, in appreciating the here and now by taking joy in all of the simple day-to-day blessings life brings.

For others it's his shrewd business sense and honesty that garners the immense respect of those around you.

For others it's his selflessness and willingness to always be the bigger person who regularly sets aside their own needs for the sake of others.

And in all of these things, a characteristic held by each and everyone one of us in the Wheeler clan is knowing the importance of family. We are big, both in numbers and in love. The reason for this is because of the incredible love shared by two amazing people, Lorne and Libbey Wheeler, whose priority has always been and always will be the family.

So as we move forward with our lives from this incredibly sad time, we can take solace in knowing that Grandpa will always be with us so long as we have each other.

Monday, April 27, 2009

WTF Seattle?

Aside from the shooting on the corner of where I work the week before last, or the several strong-arm robberies in and around the University of Washington campus in the last month, here is run down of current headlines on the local section of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at this very moment:
These are in addition to news on Twitter from Wallyhood Seattle, the news and events blog for my neighborhood, that there was an altercation on Saturday a block from my house that may or may not have involved gun shots.

Am I the only one wondering what the hell is going on and why I no longer feel safe living in the city that I love?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

10 Sure Fire Ways to Creep a Girl Out with Your Online Profile

I've been doing the online dating thing for a little more than a year now. I may still be single, but I have stories. Lots and lots of stories mixed with frustration, exasperation, and perhaps some humiliation.

The good thing is that advents in social networking such as Facebook and Twitter have taken away the stigma associated with meeting someone online. This makes the selection of available dates a much more promising adventure. And I stress the word adventure here, because really, there's a whole smorgasbord of oddity that falls somewhere along the dating spectrum between blind dates and randomly meeting someone in a bar. Online dating would fall right in the midst of it all.

In these ups and downs of my many adventures, I've realized there's a slough of tips I could offer heterosexual men on what not to post in your profile for attracting those of the female variety.

10 Sure Fire Ways to Creep a Girl Out with Your Online Profile

  1. Including phrases such as recently single, just out of a long-term relationship, or newly divorced. Really dude? Why are you on here? Online dating is brutal, and it's just gonna make you hate your newly single life even more.

    While it's courteous you put up a red flag of major baggage on board, you're not going to get many responses from the ladies. It's a vicious cycle see, you post a profile hoping to get your ego stroked a bit so you can fill the newly found void in your life only to find no one will respond. This in turn makes you feel even lonelier, and then causes you to post crap like, "Prove to me that all women aren't users and bitches." That's an alluring headline if I've ever read one. So, do yourself and us girls a favor by taking some time to heal and come back in a year or so.

  2. Posting pictures of you shirtless in front of the mirror, much less multiple shots of these poses that don't include your face. The only time it's OK to post a shirtless photo is if you're on a beach, a boat, or something of that nature. And one shirtless picture is the limit or you're crossing the fine line between being hot and being a douche.

    Yes, you have nicely defined pecks and abs, but the majority of us women prefer charming over chiseled. So put your shirt on and stop intimidating the nice guys we really want to meet. Because you know that's the only reason you're posting those pictures in the first place.

  3. Starting off the description of yourself by saying you're an average guy, not really interesting, or that you don't know what to say because your life is kind of boring and normal. Wow, sign me up for a date with you! Sure, no one wants to be a braggart, but come on. There has to be something about you that isn't lame, and if not, well you have other matters to tend to than finding a date.

    Also, overcompensating for your lack of an interesting life by being too witty, which is just as irritating as not being witty at all, is kind of painful for us to read. It's like watching a horrible stand-up comedy routine. (Please note this tip also applies to your first message to us ladies.)

  4. Including pictures of you with girls, especially hot girls. The only thing creepier than this is a photo of you and a hot girl with her face cropped out. Seriously, even if these are the best pictures of you, don't post them.

    It doesn't matter if they have captions about her being your best friend or whoever, all that's registering in our minds is that there's a woman in your life who isn't your mother or grandmother that means a lot to you. You also share some kind of history with this woman that could be unresolved and messy. There's nothing wrong with having a girl as your best friend, honestly. Just don't show us who she is right away. Especially if she's hot.

  5. Only posting hiking, mountain climbing, or any other rugged outdoor type of pictures. Sure, you love the outdoors. A lot of guys love the outdoors. Yeah, I know. You want a girl who also loves the outdoors. It will suffice to simply include one photo of you hiking and stating, "I am an outdoor enthusiast.” I promise.

    While I might not be the type of girl you're after, because I think camping should include air conditioning and daily showers, these pictures are still a deterrent to the outdoorsy girl you want to snag. Not only do they tend be taken from far away and often only include scenery, they are down right intimidating. It also suggests you spend more time with mountains than you do with people, warning us that you're potentially lacking in the interpersonal skills department.

  6. Only posting photos of landscapes. Wow, you're an amazing photographer, if those are even your photos. The only guy creepier than you is the one who posts several sample wallpaper shots that come with Microsoft Windows. I love that you're creative and artistic. Really, I do. But if you're not willing to post a photo of the guy behind the camera, well, that says something. And trust me when I say this, it isn’t a good kind of something. Either you lack confidence in the way you look or you’re too embarrassed to show your face on an online profile. Either way, grow a pair.

  7. Posting a long, rambling description of you that goes on and on and on without really saying anything at all. In fact, the only thing I'm sure of in reading your profile is that you either have Attention Deficit Disorder or a serious caffeine problem. Hey, maybe you're going for the whole flow of consciousness thing. A third of me respects this as a writer, a third of me detests this as an editor, and another third of me is just seriously getting the creeps. While censorship is totally not cool, minding your own internal censor is. So, if this is a display of your internal censor, I can tell I'm not going to get a word in edgewise or that you'll even hear it if I do.

  8. Photos of you with guns, much less holding the gun above a dead animal. There is a place and time for these photos. Your online dating profile is not one of them. It's cool if you like to hunt and kill things that you will later eat. I'm not one to infringe upon someone's rights and beliefs (even as a vegetarian). But we girls, even the carnivores, really don't want to see a dead Bambi. We also don't want to see a guy flexing and posing in front of an arsenal so intense it could equip an army. This is equally disturbing.

  9. Describing yourself as a starving artist or still trying to find a career. Granted, there are shallow girls out there who only want to date a guy who makes more than $100K a year and drives a Porsche. Most girls, however, aren’t asking for this. We just want to know you aren't sleeping on your mom's couch or god forbid an ex-girlfriend’s. We don't need you to take us out on fancy dates or impress us with your stock options, but we do need to know that you can at least support yourself.

    Hey, I'm all for female bread earners and paternity leave for men. But really dude? We're not in our early 20s anymore, and yes Mr. 25-year-old, that means you too. Please note there is a direct correlation of creepiness between your lack of career to your age. The older you get, the creepier and sadder it gets.

  10. Defining what you're looking for as anything between casual encounters and long-term dating. Really? Wow. Just throwing it out there that if you're looking for a long-term relationship you might not want to be looking for casual encounters in the same place. I mean, if that's what you're into, great. However, I and many other girls might be leery about your true intentions for being on the site. I suggest you try the personal ads on Craigslist. At least the girls going to that site know there's a fifty-fifty chance you're a pervert.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

brilliant trace #10

I'm not sure who you are, or if we've even met. All I know is I’ve reached the end of a year-and-a-half journey in learning from those who came before you.

I originally thought that revisiting the brilliant traces of my life was going to take 10 days. It turned out there were more bitter layers than sweet ones left behind in the healing of my heart over the years. However, I’ve come out on the other side as a better, stronger person. Not just for me, but for you.

Maybe it's just the onset of my 30s, but I'd like to think that the self-awareness and peace I’ve found in this process also comes from being greatly relieved in knowing what was inside of me for so long. I will most likely encounter more traces along the way to finding you, but this journey has prepared me for them.

I know Cindy Lou Johnson, the playwright who inspired this path of self reflection, intended brilliant traces to be the tragic marks different experiences leave on a person. However, after retracing the indelible marks left on me over the years, I realized one of the most amazing things about human beings is our resilience.

Every time our hearts stretch to the point where we actually feel them breaking, it’s an exercise in endurance. Because of these past experiences, my heart is in better shape than it has ever been and is ready to endure with you – my most brilliant trace of all. Wherever you are and whoever you may be.

Current status of brilliant trace #10: Unknown