Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Hero Lost

When I look at my husband I see his father. His father was a man who taught his boys everything he knew, raising them to be some of the best men you'll ever meet. His father had an injury as a child and contracted osteomyelitis (sp?) causing deafness and infections in his long bones lasting his entire life. He never let that stop him; despite being deaf and so ill from osteo that he had to endure about 30 surgeries over the years, he worked hard so his wife could stay home raising all 7 of their kids. Chris' dad could do anything. He owned a barbershop in GH for 35 years and after retirement made a hobby of chair caning he carried on for over 30 years making many friends along the way. He raised horses most of his life and was a champion rider. He could make or fix anything you can think of. He was hilarious and could always tell a good joke. He read lips and was very opposed to deaf people relying on sign language - it left them out of the main stream of life, he said. He read voraciously and has literally thousands of books, but his favorites were always the cowboy stories. He loved music and as a deaf man used to win the dance contests down at the dance hall. He could feel the beat, he said. He was a life-long Republican, effectively cancelling his wife's life-long Democratic vote. He was married to his wife Angela, a fiery little Italian woman, for 41 years and sang a love song to her every morning of their life together until Monday of this week when he died on his way to make her morning coffee.

Richard Baldus was a man that deeply affected the lives of all those he met, and he was the idol of many young boys who practically lived over at the Baldus house during their childhood. I watched big strong grown men weep in the last few days over the loss of a man who can only be described as a hero. And when I look at my husband, I see his father.

Chris arrived shortly after his dad went down. He spent the next 15 minutes desperately trying to save his dying father, begging his dad to breathe again, begging God to help him save his dad. He did CPR so long, he had soaked through his shirt and sweatshirt.

He called me after the paramedics arrived, sobbing, saying, "My dad is dead, and I tried to save him, but I couldn't."

We all know that a day is appointed for our birth and a day is appointed for our death. There was nothing Chris could do to save his father on that day. But this is the thing that matters most: there are moments in our life when we are faced with a gut-wrenching, horrific moment where our action will prove the kind of person we are. How we react in that moment will change our life; if we chicken out because we are scared and don't know what to do, we will spend our life regretting that moment, and who we are as a person will forever be diminished. But my husband, terrified as he was, got on his knees and did everything a man could possibly do to save his father, and in that moment proved the mettle within his soul.

I've only been a part of Chris' family for a few years now, but I feel his father's death as deeply as if it were my own father. This man meant so much to his family and gave every ounce of himself everyday to make everything ok for each of them, and that is the kind of man he raised, the man I get to call my husband. I love Richard Baldus for who he was, for what he represented and for the gift he gave to everyone he met and those he never met - his integrity, caring, never-give-up spirit carries on in each one of his children and for that I am so grateful. I am grateful to have been able to share in the few short years I had with him and am absolutely blessed to be with a man that learned everything he knows from his father.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ride on! Rough-shod if need be, but ride on! Ride on over all obstacles, and win the race!
-Charles Dickens

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shut your mouth when you are talking to me

I truly am sick of all the snarky t-shirts out there, but snorgtees has some of the best I've seen, and I just can't keep them to myself any longer.

What more can I say? Sometimes it's ok to just let the pictures do the talking.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama reads by blog, but Bernanke does not

Hooray for Obama telling the American people like it is (oh, if only we could get him to retract his "redistribute wealth" statement all would be well), but that Bernanke! We'll call him Big Boil Bernanke because he is a big boil on the butt of the American taxpayer.

I don't know how many of you caught this since it seems no one is reporting on it, but yesterday Bernanke came out in favor of a stimulus package and basically said the following:

1. don't worry about the national debt and go ahead and make it bigger because we need to make it bigger right now

2. Americans need more credit so they'll buy more stuff and get the economy moving again

Oh, and there was some other stuff, but seriously folks, after you hear those first two points, why aren't we shooting this guy? Let's see, we are in the worst financial crisis since blah blah blah and we got here by overspent Americans defaulting on their mortgages....we are now increasing our national debt by almost 2 trillion dollars to bail out the failing financial institutions that gave out these bad mortgages and were guilty of fiscal mis-management......I know! Let's grow our national debt even more with a stimulus package and encourage Americans to take on more debt and we can all buy our way out of financial crisis! Yeah, that's the ticket. Even my 10 year old daughter would know that won't work.

Ever notice how Bernanke sort of looks like Rasputin? He was bad for his country, too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rambling Ranting Raves

Thank you, dear readers, for your patience with my excessively long posts as of late. As I'm sure you could tell, there was (is) a lot on my mind.

The good news is that Obama did stand up like a man and say (to some extent) that cutting expenditures will be a top priority in his administration, and he also intimated that Americans also need to be fiscally responsible. That is the closest I've heard so far to no-nonsense, common sense, responsible economics from the candidates.

However, I am concerned about all the entitlements that Barack is proposing; he makes a good point about cutting the fat to beef up the underfunded-but-essential-and-effective projects. My overriding concern, though, is that he will slow down the economy even more with his tax increases. On the other hand, I like what he says about tax breaks for small companies that create jobs here in the US. That's good. I don't know, all in all it is really tough for someone like myself to extrapolate from all the various talk and proposals what has a chance of making it to actual policy and actually work for the country.

One thing is for sure, McCain's health plan would be a disaster. Taxing health benefits!?@? I would see my "taxable income" increase by $12-15,000 a year without having a dime more income - oh, wait. I'd have less because of being taxed. Duh! There are other troubling aspects to his health plan, but that's the worst aspect by far.

As I said in my earlier post, the bottom line for all us regular folks is figuring out a way to keep our heads above water for the next couple years while all of this stuff plays out. As for me and my family (and I'm talking extended family here, too), we should talk amongst ourselves about what we may be facing and how we can help each other. Don't you agree?

I love you, my readers (fans). You are more patient than I deserve.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thinking Time

Typically we all have our trigger-point issues that ultimately determine who we vote for on the Presidential ballot every four years (assuming, of course, that you, dear reader, actually vote). These are usually top-of-mind issues for most voters, and the guy that delivers the best position on our trigger-point issue gets our vote. This year the trigger-point issue for the majority of voters is the economy - no surprise there. However, the scary thing about voting on the economy as our trigger-point this year...the fact that no one - not even the smart guys - know what the hell we are doing, how it will impact the economy or what to do to make the economy better. We are virtually on an economic learning curve with the potential to permanently change the way we live our lives.

Yes, I do mean permanent. This crisis entails permanent change in governmental behavior and spending, institutional change at the regulatory and financial levels and all that trickles down to change in our personal fiscal behavior.

Oh, she's not beating that dead horse again!

No, I'm not, but I am going to beat on the permanent change drum. As a nation, there needs to be fundamental and permanent change to ensure that we never return to this state of economic crisis again. We need to become a nation of producers-and-savers, not borrow-and-spenders. That is like the old Sunday school song, "so-and-so built his house upon a rock" and his house stood the weather-beating. The guy who built his house upon the sand? Well, it all got washed away! (Comment if you remember who the guys were in this song - I can't remember.)

We built our economy on the idea that if people keep borrowing money, everyone gets rich. People borrow and then spend, and Home Depot's stock goes up, and the investors get richer, and the banks make m0ney on the interest of that loan, and the banks have more money to lend, and people go out and borrow more money and spend more money and everyone gets what they want...what a beautiful fiscal cycle! Ooops, didn't work out so well when Joe Six Pack stopped making his loan payments. And then a couple of his neighbors did the same thing and on and on throughout neighborhoods in America. Bad Joe Six Pack! He ruined the whole thing! Everyone could have kept making money if it weren't for him and his over-spent, over-indebted buddies.


Let's take a deeper look at Joe Six Pack. First of all, his wages have been stagnant these past eight years while costs kept rising. In a lot of cases, Joe Six Packs have actually taken pay cuts after being laid off because his factory went overseas, and the unemployment was running out, and he needed a job at any cost, even to the extent of working for less. Hey, some money is better than no money.

Here's another thing about Joe Six Pack. When he was on unemployment, chances are he did get behind on his bills since he was probably maxxed out on expenses for his income level. When that income level dropped to unemployment compensation something had to go, and it wasn't his grocery bill. When he took that lower paying job, it is doubtful he was able to get caught up.

Then there's the matter of health insurance. His family most likely lost their coverage when he lost his job. Oh, there's Cobra coverage, but at $1000 premiums for a family, chances are they didn't opt for it. So, the family only had a couple doctor's appointments while Joe was out of work, but it only added to the debt load. Now the creditors are calling about that, too.

So, Joe goes back to work and even with his annual 2% raises, he's not getting ahead; in fact, he's getting poorer. Eventually the pressure from creditors pushes him to make payments that he can't afford, and he begins to get behind on his house payments. Default. Auction. Foreclosure. And his family becomes the scapegoat for a society that placed their bets on way-too-long odds.

For Joe Six Pack, losing his job sucked, but the subsequent financial meltdown enveloped his family in misery for years as they struggled to keep afloat, eventually hitting rock bottom with the foreclosure of their family home...and their family dream. And all the banks have to say about it is he never should have fallen behind in the first place. So, you're out, buddy.

In hindsight, Joe shouldn't have maxxed out his income for nicer cars, a nicer house and the nicer niceties of life. He should have saved more, spent less and lived within his means. On that, I am sure we all agree.

But fundamentally, what went wrong in Joe's life? His employment situation. Gosh, doesn't it just make you wonder if there was something fundamentally wrong with the economy when so many Joe Six Packs went through the same thing?!?!

Ok, you know my answer to that question. But here's the follow-up: Ready for this? Ok, here it goes...

If the fundamental problem was an economy that could not support jobs and wages consistent with a middle-class lifestyle, how do you restore an economy that supports jobs and wages when the bottom just fell out of the economy, and no one has any money from Joe Six Pack all the way up to the Federal Reserve and all the financial institutions in between?

And that is where my theory of permanent change comes in. Look, folks, I hate to be the harbinger of gloom-and-doom, but we have not seen the bottom to this crisis, and while world powers scramble to restore stability to a fundamentally off-kilter world economy, we are left with the challenge if living day to day and somehow meeting the challenge of rising costs and lower wages. Or no wages at all.

And to make matters worse, we can't look to Washington to help us out since they've maxxed their credit capacity on bailing out our greedy rotten banks and such. Which means, folks, we are on our own in spite of all the Presidential candidates are proposing. There just isn't the money.

So, since the President and the Presidential candidates don't have the courage to tell us to change our lifestyle - in the absence of true leadership - we will have to take it upon ourselves.

God, that sucks.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Politics of Sacrifice, a diatribe in favor of prosperity

I waited for it, in fact I hoped for it. It was a moment whose time had come. In the debate on Tuesday night, Tom Brokaw dared ask the question that Americans most fear the answer to: Due to the extreme economic crisis facing our nation, what will you ask Americans to sacrifice after you become President? Essentially, each candidate’s reply amounted to the same thing: nothing much if anything at all.

It was the moment when a true leader would stand up and deliver the truth: “My fellow Americans, as much as we’ve talked about the role of Wall Street’s greed in the current economic crisis, we’ve been remiss in not talking about the responsibility of every American to exercise fiscal responsibility. Now is the time in which, instead of asking for more entitlement programs, Americans need to reflect on the words of JFK, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’”

The reason no candidate stood up and said that? The fear of political suicide.

But you know what I think? I think that deep in the heart of every over-spent American, he or she wants to hear that from the leader of our nation. They don’t want to hear George W. Bush’s “go out and spend for your country” anymore. Look where that got us in the last seven years! The average American household saves an average of -3% each year. Oops, I’m sorry. Let me re-state that. The average American household consumes an excess of 3% over their annual income every year. That means Americans increase their personal debt load by 3% each year. And we have the audacity to wag our finger at Washington.

Oops, let me re-state that. Americans have been doing what capitalists do: following the old “whoever dies with the most stuff wins” mentality. We consume. We’re Americans. It’s what we do. We no longer make anything – no, let the slobs overseas slobs do it for pennies on the dollar so we can go to Kirkland’s in the mall and buy the latest trendy resin house-thingy to make it look like we travel the world and have really sophisticated taste. And we buy our kids i-pods for Christmas and upgrade our computer and buy a new car and buy a much more expensive house than we know we can afford (‘Oh, but the interest rates are so low right now!!!!”), and we go to Hollister for school-clothes shopping so our kids can fit it and it goes on and on and on.

You see, somehow Americans have bought into the myth that consuming builds our economy and that it is our patriotic duty to do so. Um, talk to any economist or family credit counselor, and they’ll tell you that the responsible, patriotic and fiscally-healthy thing to do is to live within your means, and save or invest your money if you can afford to do so. Actually, that last bit might become absolutely crucial because it looks like our Social Security is going down man, dooooown.

Now, I realize it isn’t very fair of me to pick on my fellow Americans for living the way they have; my point wasn’t to criticize their lifestyle so much as to point out that Americans have been doing what they were expected to do and that expectation came from Washington. They snookered us into believing that we can have a healthy economy of non-producing consumers and that the bottom would never drop out. Ultimately, that is just NOT TRUE.

So, in that crucial moment in the debate where Americans needed to hear the ol’ tighten-the-belt speech, they got placation. They were essentially told not to worry about the economy and not to adjust their lifestyle. No, in fact it was implied that by remodeling your house to make it more green and efficient, and by buying a fuel efficient car, it would help the economy. Spend money and the economy can bounce right back.


Where is the leadership, I would like to know? Where is the common sense that says we can’t buy our way out of this crisis? Where are the persons of substance willing to stand up and say:

“My fellow Americans, get out of debt. Save some money. Invest some money. Live
within your means. It’s not enjoyable, but in order to get out of the crisis, we
are going to have pitch in and do our part to restore economic stability and
personal responsibility. I will not ask you to do something this federal
government is not willing to do, so you will see us tighten our belts. (And here
is where I DO agree with McCain) We need to put a spending freeze on all but the
essential programs such as defense and social security. Everything else must be
examined against its own merit, and the standard that it must be judged upon is:
1. Is it essential enough to
warrant the expenditure?
2. Can we
afford it?
3. Is this something
that Americans can provide for themselves through greater personal and fiscal
responsibility? Or…
4. Is this a
burden that is too much for one family or one person to bear and therefore needs
to be provided by a much larger entity, and if so, is the Federal government the
proper entity to provide the measure of this need?

“It’s not that
hard. American families indeed are doing it everyday in spite of the excesses of
some. It is something the Federal government needs to be committed to, and it is
something the people of America need to be committed to. And that, voters, is
the way to help America.”

Now that, my fellow Americans, is someone worthy of the Presidency.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I would just like to say....

Thank you to whoever peed on the toilet seat. I now have your pee on my leg.

If crouch you must, the least you could do is wipe the seat. That is, unless you don't object to me peeing on your leg.

I need a remedy

I have this yearning to write. Ideas keep floating into my head about topics I’d like to write about. I have a novel I started a number of years ago which I personally think is vastly entertaining, however…..I’m not really a novel writer. I could probably be a short story writer, but what I love most to write is essays. I’m an essayist. Like David Sedaris only not as funny and not as clever. And not as rich. You know, he recently took a 6-month trip to Japan just because he thought it would be interesting, and he wondered how his writing would be different there? Did you know that he maintains a permanent residence in France along with his number-of-residences here it the States? Yeah, I think I’m a lot like David Sedaris, and I truly hope to be as rich as he is someday.

Except that I’m not that motivated by money.

So, my dilemma is that my doctor wants me to exercise an hour a day which I was doing once upon a time but have now abandoned since the girls went back to school. I abandoned the exercising because they are at a time in their life where they need a lot of support – and taxi-ing (Taxying? Taxieing? WTFE). Also, there is the matter of our house we are remodeling. Chris and I had a serious discussion about it yesterday. We both agree that it is way behind schedule and unless we want to compromise and move into a house that is not finished (which I won’t do), we need to move our ass. Um….since he’s been very effectively moving his ass, it really means I need to move my ass and begin dedicating week-day evenings and week end days to the project. Which all begs the question, apart from the time I steal at work to blog, when in the Sam Hell can I possibly write?

I tell myself, when the kids are out of the house. That’s what I tell myself. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ok, watch now!

This is a shout-out to my brother who says to raise the flag when he should tune into the Presidential race. Ok, I'm raising the flag! The time to pay attention is now! There is a debate tonight! John McCain will probably lose! If he does, his campaign is over! And then the rest of the world can breathe a sigh of relief! And my whole family will be happy! Except Ray and Cindy cuz they like Republicans! I tend to swing both ways! But I don't like McCain! I think he's dishonest and a crook! And I hope he loses tonight! So tune into the debate! It's tonight! At 9 o'clock! Since you work 2nd shift, you will be able to catch all the re-cap after work and probably the debate too! So watch! Ok!