Back to Normal? Not Really…

This morning some 500,000 federal employees are finally heading back to work, as are hundreds of thousands of federal contractors. Those who had been working without being paid are still on the job but breathing a sigh of relief because they’ll now at least be paid for their efforts.

For three weeks. Three short weeks, most likely, before they may be put back in the same situation.

And if that happens, what next? Where does it end?

The president has already said that if he doesn’t get his way during this time, “it’s off to the races!” What an awful thing to say! Obviously, he fairly well knows he’s not going to get everything he wants, and he’s threatening the American people he’ll do this again. And reports from the White House have said they’re once again prepared to play the same horrible game with hundreds of thousands of federal employees being at risk again.

Why? The president wants what he wants, no matter what he has to do to get it. He wants to fulfill a campaign promise. Half of it, at least, because Mexico isn’t paying for his wall; the American people will, IF he gets his way.

And the federal employees are already in limbo over what the next month will bring, even before they get back to their offices this morning.

Employees shouldn’t have to put up with that from their boss. Working under threats does not cause increased productivity. It creates a hostile work environment. It creates stress. And causes mistakes to be made, some of which could have dire consequences.

These employees have enough facing them right now. Not only the stress of wondering how soon their back paychecks will come, and how many of their bills they’ll be able to pay with them, but trying to figure out what they’ll do if it happens again.

Save some of the money they get? I’m sure some will try, but it depends on how far in debt they already are because of the past five weeks.

How in the world will they be able to concentrate on doing their jobs to the best of their ability under those circumstances? Could you? I know I couldn’t.

Plus, after being away from their desks for five weeks, can you imagine the enormous backlog of work they’re facing? It’ll probably take all day just to prioritize what needs to be handled first.

Yes, they’re back to work for now, but it’s not going to be as simple as it was when they left their offices on that last day before the shutdown started.

Many are probably already looking for new jobs, and may continue doing it while they’re at work. And I really cannot blame them. Many may be close to retirement age and have already decided to leave now, while they can. And when they do, who’s going to be there to adequately train the new hires for their particular position? If any one even wants to work for the federal government right now, that is!

It’s not really a simple problem. It’s a complex situation for which there’s no easy solution.

Three weeks isn’t a long time to solve this. And there shouldn’t be a time limit on people’s livelihoods.

And if it does happen again, it’s going to be worse than before. Because it could make the longest government shutdown in the history of our nation, the one that just ended, look like a walk in the park!

And don’t try to tell me it’s all worth it, and it’s all for the greater good, and as one of the president’s family members said, “future generations will thank us!”

Nothing good will come out of this if it happens again. Too many people will be hurt in the end.

Please, BOTH SIDES, please sit down and negotiate in good faith. No walking out if things aren’t going well. No starting out by saying “I either get what I want or I’m not talking any more.” Negotiating is give and take. A good negotiator knows how and when to compromise. And a good negotiator doesn’t constantly belittle the other side, especially in the national news or social media.

Everyone needs to ALL work together before our federal employees, and our country, have to go through this mess again!

Where is the Compassion?

This is a blog I was hoping not to have to write.

Foolishly I thought our selfish and egotistic politicians holding the federal workers hostage as pawns in a game of “We’re going to win no matter what it takes!” would be over by now and things would be starting to get back to normal.

Far from it.

Back in Washington, both sides are still at a stalemate, one side saying they’ll give a little bit here and a little bit there, but without the “wall” there’s no deal.

The other side says there’s not going to be funding for “the wall” but we’ll give you other things instead.

So instead of sitting down at that impartial table and negotiating in good faith, and working out a compromise that both sides can live with for now, neither side is willing to give on the one thing they’re each adamant about.

While 800,000+ people remain furloughed or working without paychecks for the fifth week. While these people are wondering how they’re going to make it thru this week, and the next, and buy food for their family, keep a roof over their heads, heat their homes, and put gas in their cars and trucks.

It’s not a minor matter. It’s not a matter of saying “oh well, they’ll be ok. They’ll eventually get paid. They can just tighten their belts and live with it. Somebody will help them. They’re at home relaxing, enjoying their kids, and saving money on child care! It’s like a vacation for them!”

Seriously????

They’re on vacation?? I beg to disagree.

“And the ones who’re working without pay right now, they’re really the good guys because they know it’s all worth it in the end, and they’ll be fine as well. There are food banks out there they can go to.”

This makes me ashamed. It makes me sad. It makes me furious. And it disgusts me.

There is no excuse for any of this, and there is no excuse for the lack of compassion for those affected that I keep hearing from the mouths of so many who are NOT affected. Except for the few who say “one of my family members is affected and he/she is fine with it because he/she knows it’ll eventually be ok.”

Well that’s great for them. But most of these workers are not lucky enough to afford this shutdown to go on any longer. And then what will happen to them!? Yes they can take out a loan, possibly, but most cannot qualify for a large enough loan which will cover all their bills. What then? Another loan? Probably not going to happen.

Personally, if I didn’t get paid for five or more weeks, I’m sorry but I’d be having a really tough time. I’d be stressed, worried, and wondering if I could pay any of my bills with the meager unemployment checks I finally started getting. And it would certainly affect my job performance if I were working with no paycheck!

By the way, let’s not forget that many of these workers who are on the job with no pay are working under Homeland Security, which is the agency responsible for border security. Which is what this shutdown is supposedly all about. Explain how that makes any sense.

I know many of you reading this will agree with me, and many sadly will not. We each have a right to our opinions, but recently many people have told me in no uncertain terms how horrible I am that I don’t support what’s being done “for the greater good.” I don’t understand how this is the right thing to do.

Well I don’t support it. And I certainly don’t understand it.

I don’t support leaving hundreds of thousands of people suddenly furloughed or working without pay while supposedly mature adults argue like spoiled children. And if this continues there will be thousands more affected because of decreased spending at grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses, which can affect those employees’ jobs. It’s going to become a vicious cycle.

Depending on how long it continues people could lose their homes, their vehicles, and have to choose between life saving medications such as insulin or chemotherapy or eating. No, they aren’t being given a pass, my friends. This is serious.

I don’t support causing the stress in these families’ lives.

I don’t support using these people as pawns to get someone’s way.

If another country was doing something similar to their government employees, our political officials would be outraged. They’d be condemning that government. But I guess doing it here is different, because it’s for a “good cause.”

There’s no good cause that justifies this.

And what’s even more frightening is the lack of compassion I’m seeing from those very people who should have it. There’s no real concern, and no empathy. They don’t think about the big picture because it’s not affecting them personally. At least not yet.

It’s a sad commentary on our country. And it’s a sad commentary on so many who profess to have a huge heart for those who are in need, yet think it’s ok for our elected officials to put so many people in need for their own political objectives.

This country is losing its compassion; its heart. It’s forgotten, or ignoring, the principles our country was founded on.

Many of you who read this will continue to call me names, accuse me of not understanding, and tell me if I’m so concerned about other people I should pay their bills for them. Well unfortunately I’m in no position to do that. I wish I were.

All I can do is speak my opinion and urge the two political parties to stop this senseless game, put our people back to work, and start the healing process.

If they don’t, I’m scared it will be more than a loss of compassion. It may very well be the end of our nation as we once knew it.

Republicans and Democrats need to end their allegiance to their particular political parties and give it to the people who they’re supposed to be serving.

The Human Crisis of the Shutdown

The Human Crisis of the Shutdown

It’s not what a lot of you think. That is one thing I’m sure of.

A huge part of the crisis is the way our country is treating its citizens, using them as pawns in a battle that neither side is going to win.

But even worse is the attitude of so many who are demanding the “wall” that will most likely never be built, and saying it’s all “for the greater good!”

Really? Our hard working citizens and their families who are either furloughed without pay or having to still do their jobs without pay are doing it “for the greater good?!” The government contractors and their families who can’t work and may not get any back pay when this mess is over are suffering “for the greater good?!”

The “greater good” doesn’t pay their bills. Any more than it would pay yours.

It just amazes me. I’m heartsick. I’m appalled. And I do not understand how some people can be so cavalier, so uncaring, even cold hearted. Like they really don’t care, as long as they get their own way and are not personally inconvenienced.

Why? What’s happening to our country? How have we become so insensitive to others who are caught in the middle of a controversy not of their choosing, and certainly not caused by anything they’ve done, except be employed by the federal government?

The end does not always justify the means, and certainly not in this case. Not when it’s hurting so very many American families.

Comments I have heard have amazed me. When i mention how these employees are being treated unfairly and how they’re having trouble paying their bills, I hear “yes it’s a shame, but illegals have taken our jobs away and people can’t find work because of them so we need a wall.” So what about the families who now can’t pay their bills? That question wasn’t answered.

Talking about how wrong it is for these families to do without paychecks and the problems they’re having deciding whether to pay rent or their mortgage, or buy food…”they can take out a loan or get food stamps. They’ll figure it out. We need a wall.”

Then there was, “If you’re so concerned, then help them find a new job, pay their bills, and buy their food. We need a wall to stop drug smuggling, human trafficking, and murderers and rapists from entering the country. We need a wall.”

But many of these employees can’t pay their mortgage or their rent. They’re in danger of losing their home if this continues. “Then the banks should work with them and their landlords forgive their rent til it’s settled and we get our wall. It’s important to our security.”

It doesn’t work that way. Mortgage companies need their money as well, and most landlords aren’t in a position to let the rent go unpaid, because they have mortgages to pay as well. If this continues then their employees could be affected as well. Vicious cycle, isn’t it? But we need that wall!! The heck with everything else!

“The workers can get unemployment. And food stamps. All they have to do is apply. What’s the problem there? We need a wall!” The problem is, they’ll make far less on unemployment than their regular paychecks, and it takes awhile to get food stamps as well. It’ll help some, certainly, but it takes 2-4-6 weeks to get that first check, depending on where they live. What do they do in the meantime? And just remember they have to pay all that back when they finally get paid.

Many of these furloughed and unpaid workers are having to take out loans to survive. Some are interest free. And some are not. Is that fair? Oh, I forgot. “We need that wall! They’ll figure it out.”

Many of these workers are having to choose between food, utility payments, housing, and medicine, some of it life saving insulin. Plus they have health insurance premiums to pay. “Lots of people can’t afford health insurance because of illegal immigrants. They can apply for Medicaid. We have to have our wall!”

I guess the wall is far more important than someone’s insulin, or blood pressure meds, or other drugs people have to take regularly. Is this that “greater good” thing again?

And this is not like being laid off from a job because of an economic downturn. They can’t go out and look for other employment very well, because most employers will assume, and rightly so, that as soon as this shutdown ends, they’ll go back to their other jobs. And finding new employment is not the easiest thing to do, contrary to those who say “stop complaining and just deal with it! That’s life, and that’s too bad. And oh, by the way, we want that wall!”

Our country is in crisis. Our elected officials aren’t negotiating. Each side blames the other, and as of this writing, neither is willing to compromise, which leaves all of these 800,000+ people and their families, plus all of the government contract employees, in a state of limbo, with no financial security at all. They are at the mercy of others who don’t seem to really care about them.

I am greatly concerned for these families, for what this shutdown is doing to them, and how the entire matter is dividing our country so deeply. It has now reached a point of extreme division, often pitting friends and family against each other in a sometimes vicious war of words and name-calling.

I have yet to hear a valid argument as to why it is ok to leave these federal employees in this situation indefinitely. It seems all we are hearing from each side is either “We have to have a wall!” or “We will not fund a wall!” It’s time for BOTH sides to sit down and negotiate an end to this stalemate. These employees do not deserve this treatment by either side.

And to all of you, no matter what side you’re on in this, please try to put yourselves in these people’s places. Actually picture yourselves being there. No income, or worse, working for no paycheck, with a promise to be paid later. Trying to figure out how to meet your expenses, feed your family, afford your medications, and try to keep a roof over your head.

And for those working for no pay, imagine how that feels. No, really imagine it. Don’t the majority of us really need the money we’re paid for the job we do?

How would you feel if you were actually in that situation? No end in sight, and running out of money? Having to try to get loans, beg landlords or mortgage companies to give you a break, and then being told “no”. Then having people tell you it’s all for the greater good, and you’ll get by somehow.

I’m sorry, but this is a real human crisis we’re facing right now. Where is the compassion we’re supposed to have for others? I’m not seeing it here. And until we stop being on one side or the other, no one is going to win. We’re spending too much time criticizing the “other side” and not enough time trying to solve the problem. Yes, I want illegal immigration stopped, but not at so many peoples’ expense who have no say in the matter. Enforce the laws we have, add more border guards, but for everyone’s sake, stop this shutdown madness.

Our federal employees are caught in limbo, and it’s going to start affecting a lot more people if it continues.

They deserve better. Don’t you agree?

For once let’s put politics aside and do what’s right for everyone concerned.

So What Next?

It’s now Day 19 of some 800,000+ people, not counting their family members, being held hostage by the administration’s refusal to re-open the government until the president gets his way.

There are still no compromises unless the other side gives in. Meanwhile citizens’ lives are being disrupted more and more on a daily basis.

For what? So that a man elected to run the country and who swore to protect the people of the country and do so with the best of his ability can continue to play “I’ll show you who’s boss?!” while thousands of his constituents continue to suffer with no paychecks? While some on the other side sort of try to compromise, while others in their party just want to impeach the man so they can say they’ve gotten what they want?

Neither side is right, and neither side is acting in the interest of the American citizens.

And neither action re-opens the government and puts the real hard-working people back to work and earning a living.

Yes, we watched Tuesday night’s speech and the other side’s comments. And we saw no real emotion, no passion, on either side. Just a conglomeration of more political posturing and rhetoric that solves nothing.

One side wants what he wants and nothing less. The other side wants what they want as well, but at least actually said let’s re-open the government and then negotiate from there.

And that is the only sensible thing we heard during the whole speech and the other side’s rebuttal.

The “crisis of the soul” that was mentioned I can agree with totally, but not in the context in which it was delivered.

As one of the speakers last night stated, there is a choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice.

And right now, wrong and injustice are winning. The real losers are the federal workers who can’t get their paychecks. If that isn’t wrong and unjust, what is? They’ve done nothing to deserve this, yet no one seems to care about what they’re going through. They’re sort of forgotten about in the midst of this mess.

I haven’t forgotten them. And neither should you.

This has got to stop, and stop quickly. Our country wasn’t founded on a government hurting its own citizens to get what it wants.

Please, all of you, grow up, stop this political game of “chicken”, and do what’s right for the people of this country.

Is that too much to ask?

The Real Victims of the Shutdown

It’s now Day 18 of some 800,000 Americans being held hostage by a situation they have no control over. And a situation which appears to have no end in sight any time soon.

There seems to be no good way to end the situation, because it’s been caused by our elected government leaders who can’t agree, who won’t compromise, who won’t negotiate, without using threats and bullying tactics to get what they want. Each side blames the other, while innocent hard-working Americans are paying the price for this shameless behavior.

And by the way, these elected officials are still getting their paychecks. They can still pay their bills on time. Do you think that’s fair? And don’t tell me how the president isn’t taking a paycheck; that’s his decision, and a political one. He and his family have plenty of money and has no idea what it’s like to live paycheck by paycheck. After all, we all remember him telling us how his father gave him a small loan of a million dollars to start his business. How many of us can say that? I certainly can’t. And saying he empathizes with those receiving no paychecks? I doubt it seriously, because to my knowledge he’s never had to live paycheck to paycheck. He’s never had to “adjust” to the situation.

My husband and I are not personally affected by this. Yet. However, far too many of our friends are. These are good hardworking people who need their paychecks on a regular basis, like most of the people in this country. They don’t know how they’re going to make ends meet, or put food on their table, until this is over.

I hear so many people making comments about this is important and “we” have to have our border security. “We” need to be firm in our positions. Or, “it’s not that bad because they’ll eventually get their back pay.” Really????? What do they do in the meantime? Use whatever savings, if they have it, to try to get by? And if there are no savings, what do they do?

How have we gotten to this point that we don’t care about the lives of so many American citizens who have done nothing to deserve being treated this way? I wouldn’t want to be told I had to keep working, but would get an IOU instead of a paycheck. I wouldn’t want to be told I’m taking an “unpaid vacation” for awhile and they’ll call me back when they can. And oh, we’re sorry….

Let’s look a little further into this, and before you start saying how wrong I am, and how “we” need to make a stand, and “we” need to secure our borders, put yourself in these people’s places.

There are approximately 420,000 essential federal employees who are working but not getting paid; another 380,000 furloughed with no pay. And it’s not just the workers themselves who are affected; their families are as well…husbands, wives, children. That would conservatively increase that number to 2.4 million, instead of 800,000.

Social security payments are being paid, although at first many of us were concerned about that. Our military, fortunately, is getting paid. Except for the Coast Guard, which is a part of Homeland Security, which is not getting paid but still working. Congress was able to pass legislation to pay the Coast Guard through December 31, but they cannot be paid on January 15 unless either the government reopens, or another stopgap measure is passed. How wrong is this?

This whole thing is supposedly about border security, but the Homeland Security agency isn’t being paid during the shutdown??? Can someone explain the sense behind that one?

It is estimated that $1.4 billion in salaries per week is being held up because of this ridiculous shutdown. And before someone says, just take those salaries for 5 weeks and build the wall and let them go back to work, let me ask you…could YOU afford that? I didn’t think so. I know we couldn’t.

There are also some 4.1 million government contractors laid off who are not assured of being paid back wages when the government reopens, and at this point most likely they won’t be paid. Multiply that number by 3 to include their families, and see how many people are actually affected.

It’s not a pretty set of statistics, is it? And it’s even uglier if you’re one of those people.

Yes, they’re eligible for unemployment. Most of them. But they have to apply, and it takes 2-6 weeks to get your first check after you’re approved, depending on the state where you live. And that’s not going to pay all their bills.

Get part time jobs? And how long will it take to find something? Who’s going to hire someone part time who could be called back to work at any time? Sure there are probably some such jobs out there’, but not nearly enough. And part time positions won’t pay that much, but they might at least put food on the table.

Mortgages and rent probably won’t be able to be paid. Possibly the mortgage companies may make arrangements, but maybe they won’t. Property management companies may do the same for their tenants, and maybe they won’t. Or can’t. But that also causes the landlords who have their own mortgages to pay on their properties to also be put at risk. And contrary to what many of you may think, not all landlords can afford to wait for their rent without putting their own finances at risk, which means even more people are affected.

Many of these workers have car payments to make as well. Again, their creditors are most likely not going to be able to cut deals for them either. Then there are utility bills, credit card payments, etc. Late and missed payments affect credit scores, and without numerous phone calls and letters of explanation, those lowered scores can affect future financial transactions.

Many of these employees or their family members need monthly medication for conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy, cardiac related medication, etc. Depending on co-pays, they may not be able to afford their medicine, and I doubt seriously that pharmacies are in the position to take their IOU’s.

As I mentioned earlier, let’s not forget that these families have to eat. Food expenses are a big part of every family’s budget, even if they’re not eating out. Grocery stores don’t take IOU’s either.

There are families who owe tuition for their own or their children’s school. How is that going to get paid? Will the students be allowed to continue their studies or forced to withdraw?

Then we have the home buyers, the ones who are using FHA loans. New FHA mortgages will now take much longer for approval, and will only for available for single family homes. Not condominiums. Existing loans in process may not be able to close on time and may be delayed. This affects the real estate agents and loan officers as well as the buyers and sellers. And contrary to popular opinion, the majority of real estate agents are not rich. They work hard for their money and don’t get paid until a sale is finalized.

Think about it. The affects of this shutdown are snowballing every day.

This is the reality of the shutdown. Its not an “inconvenience” as radio/tv commentator Sean Hannity said. It’s not doing anything but hurting people who don’t deserve it. They’re being bullied, being used as pawns in a political chess game, being held hostage in a political game of King of the Mountain, and no one is willing to pay the ransom to rescue them.

This is wrong. Just plain wrong.

Let’s forget about what side of the political spectrum we’re on. Forget the “we have to do this or else” way of thinking and do something to take care of our American citizens who have been put in a financial crisis that they are powerless to escape from. Let’s stop the Republicans vs. Democrats way of thinking and think about what’s best for the people of these United States. The longer this shutdown lasts, the more financial damage that will be done and the more American workers that will be hurt.

I care about them. Who else does?

Sources for statistics: CNBC.com

And It’s Almost Over

How many of us are saying that this year? I know I am! It’s been a rough year for a lot of people, some much more than others.

At times it seemed this year dragged in forever, and then suddenly were wondering where the year went!!

Life has changed for lots of us, in so many ways, and not always for the good.

Sure, there have been some happy and wonderful events in 2018. Engagements, weddings, new babies, expected babies (our daughter and two of her best friends are welcoming baby girls in the spring), graduations, new careers, and new beginnings.

But it’s also not been so easy for so very many. There have been unwanted and painful separations and divorces. Unexpected deaths of loved ones and friends. Life changing diagnoses and accidents. Job loss and continuing unemployment. Financial struggles.

There are now 800,000 people affected directly by an unnecessary government shutdown, 420,000 working with no pay and 380,000 furloughed, which means they may or may not get paid eventually. Plus many thousands more who are being secondarily affected, and wondering how they’re going to pay bills and put food on the table until the mess is over.

Then there are the catastrophes hitting thousands of people at once Disastrous hurricanes and torrential flooding. Catastrophic wildfires. Earthquakes. Tsunamis Loss of thousands of homes with people left wondering “now what do I do?!” Mass shootings for absolutely no reason except hate.

Now you may say these thing happen all the time; we just hear about them more because of the times we’re living in. That may be true, but to the people affected, it doesn’t make it any easier.

You may be directly affected, or you may not. If not, what if you were? Put yourself in their places for a little while, and your circumstances aren’t quite as bad.

Personally our year has been ok, but it’s had its moments. We’ve had medical issues with my husband, actually a couple of times this year. We’ve had friends going through extremely difficult situations, including job loss, serious illness, and loss of family members. We’ve stood by them as they stood by us, because that’s what friends do.

Some weeks it seemed like all we got was bad news. I almost didn’t want to answer my phone or read text messages because it was probably more bad news coming.

Did you feel that way? Do you still? Are you as glad as I am that this year is almost over?

But just remember, we felt a lot like this last year at this time.

We entered into 2018 with hopes of a bright future. Changes for the good. New beginnings. Some of us had them. For some of us, it was more of the same.

So this year let’s try something different. Instead of looking and waiting for change in the new year, let’s help make it happen. Waiting and hoping and doing nothing won’t cause the change we want.

There are 365 new days coming in a new year. 365 opportunities to make something better happen. Sure, a lot is dependent on others, but you still can make a difference by changing the way you look at your circumstances, changing the way you think about them and deal with them. Some problems may not be solveable that easily, but making plans and goals to get you where you want to be is a great start.

And your attitude is the beginning. If you start by saying “I can’t do this without that.” “Someone else will have to do it for me,” then you’ll not get anywhere. You won’t be able to make your plans and hopes and dreams for the new year become a reality.

You may think the grass is greener on the other side, but I can almost guarantee those people with that greener grass think their grass isn’t nearly as green as THEIR neighbors’!

“If I just had __________________.” isn’t the answer either. There’s no magic solution that’s going to make your new year automatically better. It’s planning and attitude. It’s how you see things and how you deal with them. Perhaps, like us, there are a few things you know you’ll be facing in 2019 that are somewhat out of your control, but still, it’s how you handle them.

Because you can’t control everything that happens in the coming year. There will still be losses we will have to face. There will still be natural disasters that we can only prepare for as best we can and hope for the best. And we certainly cannot control the actions of others, and how they affect us, but we CAN control how we react to them and how we deal with it. And not let them get the best of us.

Yes, I’m glad 2018 is almost over. And I’m hoping 2019 is a much better, much more prosperous, and much healthier year.

Yes, there are sure to be tough times as well, but overall I’m looking for good things for this year for all of us.

That’s how I’m going to look at it.

Happy New Year!!

Reflections on a Tragedy

Yesterday morning I woke up, a bit earlier than usual, with a heavy heart. Something was on my mind and I just couldn’t stop thinking.

As I lay in bed listening to rain falling on our skylights, all I could think was, “Lord can’t you please send this rain to California? They need it so desperately….”

And I starting thinking about the tragedy that is ongoing in that state, all the way across the country from where we are. How so many, many people’s lives have literally been ripped apart. Entire towns wiped out, burned to the ground, with nothing left to salvage but ashes. One minute you’re in your comfortable cozy home, and the next you are fleeing for your very life, with nothing much more than the clothes on your back, your family and hopefully your pets thrown in the car, and praying you can get to safety before you’re engulfed in a massive conflagration.

I cannot even begin to imagine it.

My mind started imagining hoards of people…families scrambling to pick out just a very few items to take with them, knowing it was the very last time they’d see their home standing. Their possessions, their memories, being stolen from them by a force completely out of their control. Children crying and screaming, not understanding any more than their parents. And not knowing whether they’d make it out alive, or if their friends or family members would either.

The pictures we’ve seen are horrible, but I’m sure they are nothing compared to being there, in the middle of it, and experiencing a nightmare that is unimaginable, and one in which you know you will not wake up from. These people who made it out, and the ones who are still fleeing, have literally lost everything. Their homes, their possessions, their very way of life. They’re now faced with picking up what pieces can be salvaged, and trying to figure out how to start over.

Not only have they lost their homes, but the clothes they wore, and in many cases their vehicles, many of which had pieces of plastic literally starting to melt off as they frantically drove away to safety.

We’ve seen the pictures; watched the videos. We’ve seen the firefighters, exhausted beyond belief still trying to stop this inferno and prevent even more destruction.

People have died horrible deaths. From smoke inhalation to bring burned alive. Many are still missing and feared dead. Families and friends are waiting for news of loved ones, praying for the best, and fearing the worst.

It is literally hell on earth out there.

Over 11,000 structures have been destroyed, the majority being homes. Hundreds of people are in shelters, not knowing their future. The death toll is riding and hundreds more are unaccounted for, and may never be found.

And it’s not over yet.

Imagine yourself suddenly faced with this situation. Your home is gone. So are your clothes. Your family photos, any and all of your treasured family mementos.

You probably don’t have your insurance information, and even if you do, how long will it take to process your claim amidst the thousands of others that are out there. And how long will it take to find a place to live, even a tiny apartment or camper?

Most likely your place of employment is gone, and may never be there again. You have no source of income and no

idea when you’ll have a paycheck again.

Your doctors’ offices are gone and so is their medical equipment. Hospitals have been destroyed. Your medical records hopefully still exist on line, but cannot be accessed right now. If you’re out of medication, chances are you have no quick way of getting refills because the pharmacies are gone. Those who rely on oxygen to stay alive, or other electrical powered equipment…what will happen to them? The critically ill patients who were in those hospitals in harms’ way, whose terrified caregivers struggled to get them to safety…what about them?

Food will have to be brought in from other areas, and you’ll have to be satisfied with whatever you’re given, whether you like it or not. Shelters are full and overflowing. There’s no privacy, and already survivors are getting sick from the smoke, the living conditions, and lack of medication.

Pregnant women are facing giving birth under conditions they never imagined. New parents are trying to figure out how to feed their infants, provide diapers, and keep them safe in a world turned upside down.

Schools are gone, and parents are worrying about educating their kids, giving them some sense of normalcy in a situation that has taken away their childhood innocence.

Think of your day to day life. Now imagine it ripped away from you in a matter of minutes. And now looters are going around and stealing what little is left in the abandoned homes and businesses that have somehow survived this holocaust.

Nothing will ever be the same for these victims.

And next week is Thanksgiving. What do the survivors have to be thankful for? Besides being alive.

That’s a big thing to be thankful for.

And then there’s Christmas soon to follow. And I can guarantee each family is, instead of wanting gifts, merely wishing for things just to be the same before the fire. I wish that, too, and if I could make it happen I would.

What is being done to help these thousands of wildfire victims? Actually I have no idea. I’ve seen very little so far about what is being done to help. There is bound to be a housing crisis, food shortages, medical needs we can’t even imagine, and psychological counseling that will likely be needed for the survivors for years. The monetary effects will be astronomical, let alone the human toll on the families affected.

What I continue to hear in the news though, are people still complaining about election results, congressional leadership, anti-Trump vs. pro-Trump infighting, fake news, and how the caravan of immigrants is going to ruin our country. And let’s not forget those who are blaming each political side’s views on climate change and forestry mismanagement for causing the fires. Or even worse, those who are saying California is burning because of their sins; how God doesn’t really care about them. I have no words except “please shut up!”

Why don’t we spend more of our energy on planning what to do to help the people affected by this ongoing tragedy than this so-called election fraud? Or arguing about who should have White House press credentials? Or continuing to insult the other political side for everything they can possibly be accused of, just to stir up trouble and keep their names in the news?

Where are our priorities? Are we that self-centered that we don’t let such things concern us until it threatens to happen to us?

I don’t know what I can do to help, other than donate to various fund raising organizations, but how long will it take those funds to reach and help those who need help right now? And they do need that help. Now. And for months and months to come.

Let’s not forget. It could be us.

Now that the Election is Over

What now?

Your candidates either won or lost. You’re either ecstatically happy, or angry and discouraged. You may have stayed up late listening to election results, hoping your candidate could pull off a win, or went to bed early because you didn’t want to hear the same things over and over.

So what now? After all the hoopla, the name calling, the predictions of gloom and doom if the “other side” wins…

I was so very pleased to see the number of people on social media bragging that they’d voted! I was pleased there were long lines at polling places. People actually went out and made their opinions count! Whether their candidates won or not.

But now…what next?

Even though the House will now be one majority party and the Senate another, don’t look for a lot of changes. That’s right. Because none of them got along before the election, and I certainly don’t expect them to now.

I’m afraid we’re going to have a lot more of the same old, same old. In fact, I’m afraid it may even be worse. I’m afraid each side will start blasting the other for the things they’re going to attempt to do, before the newly elected representatives even have a chance to take office. Before the first legislation is even proposed.

I’m afraid there will be more bottlenecks with legislation that’s needed, because neither side really wants to get along with the other. They’re both too busy being on one side or the other, rather than trying to figure out how to come together for the good of our country. They may claim they want bipartisanship, but I don’t see it happening.

We’re already hearing people talking about how “this one person” who just got elected is one of the most stupid people they’ve ever seen. Nice! That’s coming together. We’re hearing people say that “this person” will be impeached before they even have a chance to take their seat. Seriously? Before they’re sworn in? That’s not even legally possible.

And let’s not forget how one person being the new Speaker of the House will single-handedly destroy our country, so all is lost forever. Yeah…one person has that power.

And of course there are all the people already saying the votes were “fixed”. That certain people’s votes weren’t counted because they were cast for a certain candidate. That the voting machines registered their vote the opposite of what they selected. There were more votes in certain districts than registered voters. Illegal immigrants voted but registered voters couldn’t. Their voices weren’t heard.

I’m sure lawsuits are already being filed because this or that candidate didn’t win. So we’ll keep hearing this same old story for months to come. I’m thrilled. Not. I’ve heard this story too many times. I’m sure there are some problems out there, but enough to change the election results? I seriously doubt it.

And once the new representatives and senators take their seats in January, I’m expecting nothing to really change. Each side will paint the other as bad for the country. Each side will try to stop legislation the other side introduces and introduce their own which will then be stopped by the other side. And very little will get accomplished except more bickering and arguing. Because they’re more concerned about politics than what’s good for the country. Sure, some of the newcomers truly want to make a difference, but once they’re seated, once they see how it all works, they will probably become like everyone else in their particular party, their ideals put aside for the sake of re-election.

Cynical? Probably. But I’m tired of the same old, same old.

Who’s to blame? Both sides. Yes. Both. Sides.

I hope I’m wrong. I really do. But all I see happening is more division; wider gaps between sides, with each side claiming it’s the other side’s fault.

And can we please stop already with the “fake news” claims on an hourly basis? Sure, there are stories out there which are purposely slanted one way or another, and it’s been that way for years, but I do believe the majority of our news outlets and their reporters are honest, hardworking people who try to accurately report the truth. Continually calling certain new stories “fake news” tells me there’s a lot more to the story that hasn’t been uncovered yet.

At least the political ads are gone for awhile.

Or are they….? The next election is coming, and it’s never too early to start slinging accusations at the other side.

Can we all just try to come together for the sake of our country? Try to find common ground? Try to act respectful and professional? Set a good example for others? Maybe show our children and grandchildren that adults can respect each other like we tell them to do?

No, it’s not “I will if you will.” It’s “I’m going to make the decision to respect others, to stop name-calling, and to act civil and dignified. Whether I’m the only one or not. Whether I get re-elected or not.”

What a novel idea.

Can we please see how that works for a change?

To Vote or Not to Vote…Here are the Options

Tuesday is Election Day across this nation. A day when millions of people will go to their polling places and cast their vote for the candidates of their choice, exercising a right we are assured of in a free country. To vote for the people we want to represent us in our houses of government.

I have not missed voting in a state or national election since I was old enough to vote, some 45+ years ago. I have voted for winning candidates as well as losing candidates. I have voted Republican, Democrat, and third party. I have been overjoyed at some election results, and deeply disappointed by others. I have voted the same way as friends and family, and I have voted the exact opposite, where my vote canceled theirs.

In my younger days I even volunteered on a few political campaigns. I made phone calls and passed out literature. Right now that feels like a lifetime ago.

But I was proud to be able to cast my vote, to exercise my constitutional right. Far too many citizens of other countries do not have that right. Our forefathers fought for that right, many of them dying for that right. Voting is my constitutional right; it’s a privilege. And to me, it’s my duty as a U.S. citizen.

Sadly, millions of people will NOT go and vote on Election Day, for a variety of reasons. They say their vote doesn’t count. That’s just not true. Every vote counts. Elections have been won by one or two votes as well as by hundreds or thousands. EVERY vote counts. Every vote is important.

Many of these non-voters say it’s not important. It doesn’t impact their lives at all. They obviously don’t realize that the individuals who win elections are the ones who make the laws that dictate so many things in our life. Taxes. Health insurance. Gun laws and gun control. Immigration. Housing. Discrimination. Human rights. Keeping our country and its citizens safe. And let me add that word TAXES one more time…

Other non-voters, as well as voters, are simply tired of and disgusted by the rhetoric of the majority of the current political ads in which both parties do nothing but spew forth angry and accusatory statements about their opponents, most of which cannot possibly be true, and never bother to say a word about what they stand for and what they would try to do if elected. I refuse to vote for any candidate that does that, because all it tells me is that they are running on nothing but their own dislike of the other candidate and have no desire to really take a stand on anything.

I may be wrong, but that is how I feel, and I daresay many others feel that way as well. And before you start accusing me of partisanship, both sides are equally guilty. Whatever happened to running on issues instead of a smear campaign against an opponent? No wonder potential voters are turned off and refuse to cast a ballot. I’m turned off as well, but I WILL vote, but not for candidates who use those tactics. Whether the candidate I vote for wins or not.

This election, as with all elections, is important. It affects not only national government, but state governments and local jurisdictions as well. I have heard many people say they only vote for national issues; how foolish a statement that is, because local governments can impact your daily existence much more than the national issues. It’s all important.

If you don’t vote, you have no right to criticize or complain about what our government is doing. You have no right to complain about who’s in which office if you didn’t voice your opinion by voting. Don’t complain about high taxes or other issues you don’t agree with if you don’t vote; those of us who do vote will do it for you, and if we don’t like it, we will vote in new people, and it would be nice if you helped us do that. Otherwise, you still will have no right to complain.

I very rarely tell anyone about my political views, which have certainly changed over the years. It’s my business. And I am not going to try to convince people to vote my way, or chastise them when I find out they didn’t. That’s their business as well. At least they voted! Whether I agree with their choice or not.
This is your country as well as mine. We each have an equal say in what happens, BUT only if we all vote.

I vote. I hope you will, too. Your country, as well as future generations, including your grandchildren and mine, are counting on you.

On a Saturday Morning

Saturday morning in the Pittsburgh suburb of Squirrel Hill started like any other. Families prepared breakfast, read parts of the newspaper, got themselves and their family dressed, talked about what their day was probably going to be like, the plans they had for later, and then headed to their place of worship.

Some probably squabbled over trivial matters. Some probably even said they’d rather have stayed in bed because they’d stayed up too late the night before.

Many were extra excited about the morning, because they were attending a baby naming ceremony, and kept talking about that little baby and what the future held for the family…

And then just a few short hours later, 11 of those people…3 women, 8 men…including a 97 year old man and a married couple in their 80’s…lay dead in their beloved synagogue, along with many other injured who were screaming for help, crying for their family members, already mourning those who had already died, praying, and asking “why”??? A special holy day had been destroyed in that massacre, along with many families who would never be the same again.

Why, indeed?

One man, filled with anger and hate, had decided these worshippers had no right to live any more. They had no right to worship their God, no right to exist in his world. Not remembering or even caring that it was their world, too.

And he screamed “All Jews must die!” as he opened fire on a synagogue of innocents. Who had done nothing more than gather to worship the Lord.

It could have been any of us in our own houses of worship on any given Saturday or Sunday morning.

Because hate does not discriminate. Hate is an evil monster who consumes everyone and everything in its path that does not agree with its twisted way of thinking. Hate is rational only to itself.

This is a national and humanitarian tragedy. It has destroyed families and relationships that will never be mended because there are missing souls who will only be reunited in heaven. All because one person decided these individuals that he had never even met didn’t deserve to live because of their religious beliefs.

Those of us who have compassion and a sense of love for our fellow man grieve this senseless tragedy. We feel tremendous sorrow and sympathy for families we cannot begin to comfort; families we don’t even know.

We are thankful for the first responders who rushed in to try and stop this senseless massacre, and pray for the officers who were wounded as well. Who knows how many lives were saved because of their response?

And who can begin to imagine the fear and the horror in that synagogue Saturday morning? I can’t. I cannot even begin to imagine.

Many are already using this attack as a political tool. Never mind the devastating act of a cowardly and hate-filled, and yes, mentally ill man. Never mind the lives which are shattered, the families destroyed, and the faith of the worshippers that I’m sure has also been shattered.

Those who are using this event as a political tool are as bad in their own way as the shooter. This is not a political platform for either side to jump on to win an election. It’s not a basis for screaming once again for gun control, because the bad guys get them whether there are laws or not, because the laws in place aren’t being followed.

This is the act of a deranged person, and unfortunately there are many more out there who are not appalled by this act, but are secretly praising this man, possibly trying to get their courage up to do something similar.

This is the time to start realizing the hate and discord in this country has to end. Politicians cannot continue to use such acts to push their agenda. Their supporters on either side cannot continue the hate-filled, angry talk that we hear on a daily basis. Both sides condemn the other while they refuse to look at themselves and realize they can be just as bad as the other side.

Where is the tolerance for others who aren’t like us? Where is the love of our fellow man that we people of faith profess to have, but then rush to put down others who don’t believe as we do? Whose lifestyles don’t agree with ours?

I’ve even heard from the mouths of some so-called Christians that these murdered Jews didn’t make it to heaven because they didn’t know Jesus! I’m sorry but I cannot imagine our Lord turning these massacred people of faith away from His kingdom any more than He did during the Holocaust. Who are we to make that decision? And by saying such things, hurting those who are hurting even more.

None of these reactions, my friends, is love and compassion.

I am sickened by the events of Saturday in Squirrel Hill, and I am tired of seeing brother against brother and friends against friends because we have to be sure we are right and everyone who disagrees with us is wrong. There can be no place in our country for this, and it needs to stop now.

Before someone else decides he or she is the only one who is right and tries to take matters into their own hands. Again.

Unfortunately I have no answers that I’m sure will solve all of this. But I am sure of one thing.

Enough is enough.

An Epidemic of Hate

This has to stop. It has to stop now.

Our country is being torn apart by it. More and more every day. Our very way of life is being threatened by it.

And before you start saying, “That’s right! They have to stop!” you’d better read the rest of this blog.

I seldom write about politics. My political positions are my own personal business. Everyone has a right to their own political leanings, whether I agree or not, just as you may not agree with mine. Our country is thankfully guaranteed freedom of speech in the Constitution.

But that freedom should not be confused with the hate-speak that is becoming so rampant in this country.

Friends are turning against friends because they don’t agree with their political or social views. Whatever happened to agreeing to disagree?

Families are divided because of it as well, with parents and children refusing to speak to each other because of their differing views. In many cases they’re unable to even have a simple conversation without it turning mean and hateful.

Many of us, like myself, refrain from even mentioning certain subjects in order to avoid potential arguments which in today’s times can escalate to not speaking to each other for a few days or even longer.

Why write this now? Because I’m sickened at heart with what has been happening in this country. Threats against an attorney doing her job as a public defender of the latest school shooter, and yes, I know he has rights to a defense, but personally I would have resigned my job before taking on that case. But that’s my opinion, and I’m entitled to it.

Now we have people across our country tweeting and posting how they hope a very talented and popular skier loses out in the Olympics because she said she won’t go to the White House to meet the president because she’s not a supporter.

Really, people? You’re that petty? This is an athlete representing our country in a foreign country!

This has got to stop.

And it’s both sides. BOTH SIDES. From all levels. I’m not even sure at this point which side is worse; which is more embarrassing.

When did it become so popular – and so acceptable – to speak hate against each other; and against our own country?

When did it become acceptable to mock someone, make fun of them, belittle them, because of their faith? Are they not entitled to their personal beliefs? Are they trying to force them on others?

Why is it acceptable to hate an entire group of people because of their sexual orientation? Unfortunately I’ve even heard pastors say privately how they hate gay people, when they are the very ones who should be offering them a hand of love and grace. Didn’t Jesus say to love each other? He didn’t make exceptions. Why do they?

Why is it acceptable to hate someone because their skin is black? Or brown? Or white? When are we going to get past that? And when are we going to stop the derogatory name calling of others who are a different nationality or ethnic group?

Why do so many people say it’s justified to shoot policemen because they believe some of them are bad? And they may be, but there is never a reason to shoot someone just because of their job.

Why is it acceptable for some of our news media to adjust the news to their own political beliefs? And yes this happens on BOTH SIDES! And why is it acceptable for our president to keep using the term “fake news” all the time, which further exacerbates what I’m talking about? Yes, we have freedom of the press, but does it encompass slanting news in one way or another?

When did it become acceptable to have a double standard of conduct for public figures and political leaders? That it’s ok for one person to have done something wrong because he apologized for it, or it hasn’t been proven yet, when leaders on the other side are condemned by the same people for the exact same behavior, the exact same allegations?

And when did it become acceptable for pastors and other religious leaders to condemn certain groups of people because they don’t agree with their views? Once again both sides are guilty. And that is not the definition of preaching love; condemnation is the same as hate. Our Lord told us to love each other as ourselves. He didn’t add “except for these people….” I don’t get it.

I could go on and on, but it still won’t change anything. In fact, nothing will change until each and every one of us realize that our views, our ideas, our standards, are not the only ones that can ever be right. Until each of us realize that we are all entitled to our own opinions.

What we should not be entitled to is hate. Hate towards those who have opposing views. Hate towards those who are trying to live their lives the same as we are.

There’s an epidemic in this country. And it’s not the flu. Unfortunately there’s no vaccine against it. It strikes each and every one of us at least at one point in our life.

I’m tired of hearing all the hate. It has to stop. It needs to stop now. Before even more people become victims of those who think they’re the only ones entitled to their opinion.

And as for our Olympian, I hope she scores the gold! No matter what her political views!

Do You Remember?

Like you, I remember it well. Being at work for just a half hour or so when one of my co-workers said, “Did you hear what just happened?!!” Going into the kitchen area for my morning coffee I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A plane flying into a building in New York City? How in the world….

Then the announcer talked about it possibly being deliberate. How?

Then another co-worker came in, and in quiet disgust said the words I still remember….”Bin-Laden.” Little did we know how right he was at the time.

Our daughter was in school; we didn’t know what was going to happen next, and if we needed to go get her, or what. After all, living in a military area such as Hampton Roads with the world’s largest naval base, if it were an attack, would we be next?

I called a friend whose daughter was in the same class as ours. She was still active duty Navy but had that day off for some reason. She didn’t know what had happened until I called her, and told her to turn on her television.

That’s how I heard about the second plane, as she watched in horror as it happened. “I have to call the base!” she said. “I’ll have to go in. The kids? What about our kids?” Because they attended a private school at the time which had many military families enrolled, that school, like most of the others in our area, was most likely being dismissed early as a precaution.

She agreed to pick up our children and take them to our house, with overnight bags just in case. Since the girls were old enough to be by themselves as well as take care of our daughter’s friend’s younger brother, I didn’t have to rush home, as much as I wanted to.

By that time rumors and stories were flying around the office. Some true, some not. But at the time we had no idea. A plane hitting buildings in Washington. One crashing in Pennsylvania. Planes being shot down? Los Angeles under siege? Trains being derailed?

Fortunately most of those stories were just that…stories and rumors. Because the truth was bad enough.

Not much work was done that morning, and most of us had left the office by noon. Like many others, I spent the afternoon numbly watching the horrific events in New York, as people tried to find friends and loved ones. I watched people running up and down streets in fear, and watched over and over as the brave first responders tried desperately to save lives, and in many circumstances losing their own in the attempt.

I still remember sitting there with our 12 year old daughter, her best friend and her younger brother, trying to explain that we’d be ok; no one was coming here to attack us (or so I hoped), and trying to reassure my friend’s children that their parents, both who were active duty military at the time, wouldn’t be in danger.

None of us knew that day what the future held. We were stunned, shocked, scared, and angry. We held our loved ones a little closer that night, especially as we listened to the stories of those who’d lost their friends and loved ones so tragically, recount their last conversations with them, last emails, last cell phone messages….so many who knew they weren’t going to make it, and had to to say goodbye…

It was a horrific, awful, and totally unexpected day. We were all in shock and disbelief. Our country had been brutally attacked. For no reason except that others hated what we stood for. They hated our freedom, our lifestyle.

I cannot imagine hating someone or some group of people so very much that someone else would be willing to kill themselves so they could kill the others they hated. The entire idea is incomprehensible to me.

The images that we saw that day will forever be etched into our minds. We just cannot forget them. Nor should we.

One thing did come out of all of the misery and heartache. We were, at least for awhile, a nation united. United in our grief and our disbelief. United in our desire to help those who were suffering so badly. United in our desire to see those responsible brought to justice.

Today, on this 16th anniversary of the day that changed our nation, we remember those whose lives were lost, simply because they were in buildings or on airplanes that were targeted for destruction by people who hated us. They had no idea who any of these people were, men, women, and children, and most likely they did not care that they, too, had families and friends who loved them; that they had no say in the decisions that were made by others to end all of their lives, just to prove their point.

We remember the first responders who risked their own lives to save others, many of whom died in the process.

We remember the survivors of the buildings that were hit, and wonder to this day how they feel on each anniversary of this tragedy.

We remember the spouses, friends, and children of those who were lost. Especially the children who were deprived of the opportunity to grow up with both parents in their lives. Many of whom are most likely married by now with children of their own, children who were deprived of grandparents who never had an opportunity to know them.

Today let us remember not only what happened, how it made us feel, and what it put our nation through, but remember the people who were personally affected by this tragedy. The people who lost those dear to them, in a senseless act of terror. Whose lives can never be replaced. They sacrificed all, most without volunteering to put their lives at risk for their country. They were people just like you and me, who left home for a normal day at work, with plans for that night, the weekend. They had birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate. Weddings and graduations to attend.

None of that was to happen. Their plans were changed by others.

Today, let’s remember everyone affected by this tragedy. Let’s not let these lost lives be lost in vain.

May God bless their memories, their families, and may God bless our United States of America.