Category Archives: 250 words

Health Help

healthI disagree with people who will not share their tax dollars in order to provide health care for those without. I have seen too many honest and decent people who simply can’t afford the exorbitant costs of health care today. I am blessed – we were blessed – to have Cadillac coverage and, admittedly, it has and does bring great peace of mind. But I also am very familiar with people who can barely make it through the month and have given up health care coverage as one of their spending priorities.

It’s easy to blame people for not planning, preparing, looking ahead, and getting educated on the hows and whens to manage personal finances. I get it. But I also think it incredibly discriminatory and, in fact, downright evil to fault people – the ones who simply don’t know better – for not being prepared. Sometimes things happen that wipe out a savings account, sometimes people are fired from jobs and loose benefits, sometimes there’s a divorce, sometimes people spend their lives raising children or taking care of others and don’t have a nest egg. But even more than that, some people are the wrong color, speak the wrong language, or look different. Any and all of these reasons – and more – result in many not having any kind of decent health care.

I, for one, am willing to cough up my tax dollars to help people prevent health catastrophes instead of waiting until there are no options left. When it comes to health care in this country, if you can afford it then you get it. Oddly, though, if you can afford it, for some reason you don’t want anyone else to have it.

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Oasis Days

oasisisisI’m not sure what is happening with the weather patterns but the absolutely comfortable temperatures and low humidity here has made me a believer in either global warming or global cooling – I’m not sure which one is doing it. But the incredibly amazing days we have had the last few days are a break from a normal Jul and Aug here in Virginia. The last few evenings – I’ve been out a bit late – have actually been almost cool. I’ve been driving around with my moon roof open and air conditioning off (and music up loud!). This is the kind of summer I like.

Being out on the deck or over at Government Island or down in Richmond at a botanical garden are places to be with these beautiful days. Things are less panicked, people less irritable, kids and pets friendlier, and things seems to be happier. While it hasn’t been a bad summer at all, these days are like an oasis of refreshment – calming, cooling, easy, and inviting.

A pleasant day is like strong medicine, and it doesn’t make a person sleepy or groggy. Being out in the sun and breeze can heal many ailments. I’ve been overdosing for the last few days trying to heal a bit. And it works, for sure.

I suppose it’s important to try to take each day with the same attitude the days themselves maybe take. They come and go, they are nothing more or less than what they are, there’s always the promise of another one coming, and they can’t speed up or slow down. There’s something to learn here, I think.

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Boyhood Living

boyhood-ellar-coltrane-620Don’t see Boyhood if you want some kind of escape from life or some kind of happy sappy story loaded with feel good and images of two who ride off happily on a horse into the setting sunset. You won’t leave happy and you will have wasted your ten dollars. And, for sure, you won’t be coming out of the theater talking about how funny this or sad that. Oh, and you also won’t be talking about deep meanings and provocative messages and such after experiencing this almost three hour long movie.

Thing is, this movie is about life. Quite literally. And, for most of us, we probably go to movies to get away from life, right? So maybe it’s odd to enjoy (as I did) a movie about life. Specifically, this film took twelve years to make. Small bits of the movie were made every year – for twelve years – as two kids grow up from being little, silly elementary school students into some pretty hardened but surviving kids in college. It’s about the changes in their lives – physical and emotional – and it’s about the changes in their relationships, their family, their education, and their evolving views on life.

What is important to remember, I think, is that this is a film about one set of siblings in one family who live their story the way they live it. There can’t be any judging here. Your family is different than that family next door, right? This film is about a random family and what goes on for about twelve years.

It might be hard to watch because it might be too painfully true.

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Much Arguing

pushthroughGod and I have been going at it for several weeks. I’m very confused about some things and we have been going back and forth. I get tired and angry and tell him so. Other times, I’m weary and give up and tell him to deal with it – I can’t. My logic clashes with my emotions and it creates a crisis that we argue about. What is right? What is risky? What is the limit? What are the consequences? We go back and forth and back and forth. Something has to give and is it better to burn the bridges or is this all about being patient and somehow pushing through regardless of how hard it feels?

I’ve never seen God as some big gift-giving, father-figure who sits in a chair looking down at me with some kind of understanding (condescending?) smile. Rather, God and I have always lived in the trenches together. We talk with each other! I’ve never quite understood the whole problem some have with prayer and how much is not enough and all of that. For crying out loud, God and I are constantly reasoning things, arguing, being honest, or being sad together.

But as two who are together all of the time, we have our fits. He kicks my butt sometimes (in really hard ways that don’t feel good) and sometimes I simply open up on him with everything I’ve got. Sometimes we are gentle and other times we argue.

Right now, we disagree.

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Not There

rodeI’m not there yet. There’s lots of talk about being joyful, thankful, satisfied, and fulfilled. Frankly, when I hear talk like this it mostly shoots over the top of me in a meaningless fashion. It’s like fireworks, sometimes. There’s lots of noise and pretty colors and big bangs but, down here on earth, things pretty much are still just plodding along. I won’t begrudge anyone their own emotions and beliefs and I fully understand the ideas that are being presented – I’ve said them myself in other situations and in other times. But without context, all these words, when administered, seem like giving cough syrup to heal cancer.

When I was in a therapy session a few years ago, our facilitator was saying some wise and helpful things. She was going about her business in a professional fashion and, I think, we all appreciated her efforts. But there was something… After awhile, she told us that she had lost her spouse. Of course, this gave her words much veracity. But what struck me was this – she said it had been four years. And she said she was far from getting over it.

You probably grow weary of my commiserating. If so, you are welcome to move on and have a nice day. I will love you anyway. But where I am – not a day goes by and not a relationship happens without the ache of comparison and the wish that the free fall would stop.

No. I’m not there yet.

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Richard Jenkins

burtonMy collection of Richard Burton movies is growing. I received The Spy Who Came in from the Cold today. It’s one of my favorite Burton movies and one of my favorite Cold War movies, too. I’ve probably seen it ten times over the years and it never gets old. Admittedly, I am a child of the Cold War. The dark images, communism vs democracy, spying, the two Germanys, and the deceit. John le Carré is, of course, one of the best authors of espionage novels and his Cold is a classic, dark story about the politics of intrigue and the frailty of people.

Among a few others, I have Anne of the 1000 Years, Bitter Victory, Bluebeard, Equus, Look Back In Anger, Sea Wife, The Desert Rats, The Night Of The Iguana, The Taming of the Shrew, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Burton was in over 30 stage productions and 65 movies during his career from the late 1940s to the middle 1980s.

I suppose one reason I like Burton is because he is a paradox of compelling artisan and frail human. In his strength of acting, one senses the hurt of living. Of course, Burton died young at 58 from a brain hemorrhage. He had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, kidney disease, arthritis, and dermatitis. He also developed a significant limp during his 40s. It’s hard to tell whether this all was a result of his hard drinking. His personal life was difficult as well – he had married four times.

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Pain Scale

She asked if I was going. I said that I probably wasn’t. She asked why. I said that it’s hard to go alone and it’s hard to leave alone. She thought a minute. Then she said she understood and said that she wondered why things like this were so hard. I shrugged.

She is mostly alone. She does things with others only when people ask her to do things with them. Otherwise, she spends time with herself or with people she may not know like when going to dinner at a restaurant or a movie or something.

We understand each other. It’s hard to talk about some things but, at the same time, it’s easy to talk about those things, too. These are things we don’t have to say but we understand each other perfectly. And neither one of us – or anyone, for that matter – can come up with a solution.

It simply is a different existence. It’s not right or wrong. It just is. And each morning one rises with it and each evening, one goes to bed with it. There are ways to mitigate the sting when it gets too bad, but usually, one learns to live with the dull throb.

Have you seen those pain scales in the emergency room or in the hospital room? The ones with the smiley face at ONE and the increasingly painful expressions until, at TEN, there is the grimacing, hurting face? The pain I’m talking about can be anywhere on the scale, depending on the day.

It just is.

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Risk Decision

tukraskIn an on-going conversation with a friend, it’s easy for me to give advice but, I know, it’s hard for my friend to act on the advice. Isn’t that the thing about advice? Advice is cheap. Even really good advice is something that’s hard to take to the bank. It’s hard because, even if I have walked in their shoes, I simply am not them and I can’t know every, extenuating circumstance and issue the way that they know every little detail about themselves.

I know one bit of advice that I give to myself very often – it’s always easier to reflect on what did happen than actually being involved in what is about to happen. It’s the “hindsight is 20-20” idea. So for the person who has already jumped out of the plane, it’s easy to tell what it felt like, how long the jump took, and so forth. But having the courage to actually make the first jump – oh man!

I feel for my friend. I care deeply for this person and would do anything to make life more manageable for my friend. But as we talk, I understand the limitations that I have in our relationship. If I’ve done it already or if I think I might do it – that’s good to know. But it’s about my friend. And my friend has to make the decisions – will it happen and how will it happen, if it does? I can only guess how my friend will do it and then play it out.

It’s good to have a wingman, isn’t it? Someone to listen, empathize, and be a sounding board. A good wingman is invaluable – and sometimes very necessary.

But the wingman can’t do it for you. You have to make the risk decision.

I love you.

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Nine Years

ge-cfl-2I have a lamp in my living room that turns on automatically every evening from 7:30 until 11:30. I like it for when I’m out – I’m able to come home to a welcoming light. I also like it for when I’m at home – the lamp lights up the house automatically each evening when I’m puttering around.

Up until now, I’ve used incandescent light bulbs in the lamp. You know – the kind of light bulbs that Edison invented. They last several months then flick out in a little explosion of light. The bulbs are cheap at Giant. They come in a box of two or four.

But today, I broke down while shopping. I decided to spend many-dollars-more-than-incandescent-light-bulbs-cost and bought a box of two twisted and curly compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. They are supposed to replicate a normal 60w bulb in light and strength but are also supposed to last a very long time. Like nine years long!

When my next incandescent light bulb burns out in the living room lamp, I will install my first CFL bulb. Then the countdown begins.

I was thinking…

When the bulb finally burns out, Lilly will be 12 years old and Isaac will be 10. My recently graduated high school friends may well be beyond college and firmly focused on living a career. There will be a new US Congress and US President by at least two terms. The year will be 2-0-2-something.

There aren’t a lot of things in my house that will last almost another decade. Imagine if the little bulb could give a breakdown of all it has seen and heard when, finally, it gives out at the end of its nine year lifespan.

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Middle Ground

fuddlegroundA friend and I were talking. I commented that we need more diplomats and less hair-trigger, gunslingers in the world. My friend responded, “The only diplomacy that works is a young, armed Marine in polished boots standing on their beaches.”

We changed discussion topics.

And yet, this recent discussion seems to encapsulate the essence of today’s view on conflict resolution, doesn’t it? Can we talk through things or are we ready to come to blows? Is there the possibility of negotiating an understanding based on compromise or will this simply end up being a situation where the strong prevails over the weak? The adages “shoot first and ask questions later” and “my way or the highway” seems to often be the preferred ways of dealing with disagreement. There rarely seems to ever be any middle-ground.

I feel I can speak with some authority on this topic. After spending decades working in the military, law enforcement, and church leadership, I have come away very disappointed. I’m disappointed in the realization that high-minded, black-and-white, unswerving, binary thinking hardly ever affected anyone that I was associated with in ways that caused them to willingly change their way of thinking. Instead, all that often happened was that they capitulated from pressure in frustration and became less-than-convicted individuals with murky or hidden agendas.

These words are not shared lightly. And I share them with remorse and after much reflection. My regret is that instead of passing on principles through practiced and patient understanding, it seems much of my time has been spent in simply overwhelming people with the force of logic, power, and authority.

I yearn to be one who fills the gap.

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