Posted in Education, Relationships, Writing

Who Can Afford a Mid-Life Crisis?

Citizens registered as an Independent, Democra...
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As an entrepreneurial minded person, I have always enjoyed observing different environments and assessing what could be done to make things better, more efficient, more pleasurable and rewarding.  So much of my adult life has been a path of least resistance trek…settling some might say.  I have decided to finally fulfill my motto for this year, “Passion with Purpose!”  But man, what a time in life to be engaging in such tumultuous choices!  Nevertheless, if you want different results, you have to make different choices….so, next month I finally begin to finish what I started YEARS ago!  That’s right, when I should be having a mid-life crisis–I’m sharpening pencils, buying new lined notebooks, making sure my laptop and printer are ready to support me in the role of student!  I’m going to finish my bachelors degree in Business Analysis and Management through an accelerated program at Bellevue University!

We have twin daughters who will be needing braces soon, will start driving and going to college; a house that we’re pulling off the market to rent out until the housing outlook improves; and aging in-laws with health issues.  Our elected officials seem bent on allowing the economy to tank while arguing the correctness of standing proudly on party principle.  I don’t even bother to turn on the news anymore.  Election campaigns are spinning up and nobody has anything nice to say about anyone else.  My party is more correct than your party–this party holds the monopoly on perfection–please, we do not allow our children to behave that way!  Is responsibility and stewardship forgotten after being appointed to Congress or the Senate?  That may seem a rather harsh or unfair question, but from the “common folks” perspective, seriously, how are we supposed to believe that common sense is being applied?

I do not for one minute think that only Republicans are capable of appropriate size and responsible stewardship of the government, nor do I believe that Democrats are the only people who care about social programs or topics that fall into the pro-choice bucket.   The Tea Party (a loosely leaderless group) is also not the only sect of people who would like to distance themselves from the Republicans and Democrats.  Its hard not to feel lost and disenfranchised by these cliques that truly no longer represent me or my views/ideals.

I’m reading a book titled “Not Quite Adults”  by Richard Settersten, Ph.D., and Barbara E. Ray.  My wife has already read it and recommended it to me.  Its an eye-opening look at the harsh reality of why our youth of today and the country are in the situation you see when you look around.  How many children have moved back in with mom and dad because they can’t afford to buy into the American Dream?  How many retired couples are having to return to work because their nest eggs have dwindled to nothing since the recession of 2008?  In order to get ahead, many go into debt to achieve the higher level degrees required to earn the income necessary to support all their obligations and subsidize their children’s successful launch into adulthood.

Where does it end?  Where did we go wrong?  But more importantly, how do we stop the insanity and get on a path to health?  The other book I’m reading right now is “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain” by Ryan Blair with Don Yaeger.  A very interesting story about a young kid from a troubled childhood who found himself in juvenile detention centers, but with the help of a few good mentors, managed to turn his life around and rise to the top.  His book challenges you to be persistently looking for ways to turn unfortunate circumstances into opportunities for success.

As for me, I’m starting to consciously plan for a new direction in life–one with more options…starting with going back to school!  I’m also starting to think that there’s got to be a better way for preparing for retirement/future than Wall Street.  Something is majorly wrong when bad news on the other side of the world can cause your stock value in an American company to plummet!  Is it just me?  Am I alone in feeling discombobulated?

 

Posted in Education

How to Recoup Bookshelf Space

Okay, call me a throwback for suggesting that people still like hardbound books and magazines.  I am one of those who will always treasure the look, feel, smell and tactile experience of page turning.  No matter how technologically advanced we get, I’ll always prefer the portability of a nicely bound window into another persons view of the world without worrying about my ability to read due to dying batteries, a virus, or electronic dependencies. Consuming Shelf Space

So, if you’re like me and my family, bookshelf space is a valuable and limited commodity.  Since we recently moved, I have found several boxes of year’s worth of magazine subscriptions to some of my all-time favorites like Handyman, Organic Gardening, Mother Earth News, GRIT, and others.  However, as you can see from the picture I’ve included, just one season alone can consume a good deal of bookshelf real estate!  So, I’ll share with you a simple, yet practical solution to save what you treasure about your magazines and allow you to reclaim some of that shelf space!

Take those stacks off the shelf and bring a few with you the next time you have to go to the dentist office or the emergency room with a sick child.  Make sure you also bring along an empty folder with pockets.  Your task is simple, as you go through each magazine, tear out the pages that have articles or pictures that you know you’ll use or refer to later.  Here are a few examples of pages I’ve torn out and saved from several of mine:

  • Cute pictures that you may use to make homemade cards, embellish pages of a scrapbook, or craft projects for the kids
  • Recipes that you want to try
  • Pages with instructions, parts lists, supply sources and pictures/diagrams to help you build projects for your home

In the process of performing this task for myself I’ve discovered that for many of my magazines, 80 percent or more of the pages are filled with advertising or articles that I don’t wish to keep.  I chose the articles that I know will be of benefit and relevant to how I spend my time.  Buy a couple of binders to hold those reference articles, how-to instructions, pictures, and recipes.  You’ll quickly increase shelf space, eliminate years of accumulation that you won’t have to store and move anymore, and have what’s important to you at your fingertips.

Posted in Education, Relationships, Writing

What We Leave Behind They Inherit

The western front of the United States Capitol...
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This afternoon on our way back from my 16 year old daughter’s Inter Generation Orchestra practice, she asked a very unsettling question.  I must paraphrase due to the scrambling my mind was doing because of the feelings of surprise at such a question.  “Doesn’t anybody (adults & elected officials) care about the impact of their choices and the job they are doing?”  She was referring to her future, her sister’s future, and the future of all her peers and those who will follow.

One of the benefits of schooling children at home (or supplementing public school education) is the depth of study and discourse you can engage with the student.  Our three children have been schooled at home since kindergarten.  My 16 year olds are studying Latin, Spanish, English, Science/Biology, World History, Civics, Saxon Math (Algebra), Logic, Critical Thinking, Creating Writing, Music, Drama, as well as numerous other self-study topics (Poetry, Art, and Classic Literature).  They have easily surpassed me in the number of books read, composers studied, instruments played, and stories written.  The result is well-rounded, alert minds that let nothing slip through their reasoning filters.

A little more context before I address my response/reaction to her question.  The backdrop for this interchange is:

  • Anniversary of 9/11
  • Struggling American economy
  • U.S. unemployment at 9.1 percent
  • Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid Programs sustainability in question
  • Potential for a repeat circus on Capitol Hill regarding the Debt Deal
  • A politically charged/divided House and Senate more focused on party for party’s sake
  • Drama of upcoming Presidential Election Campaign
  • Waning Consumer Confidence
  • Bipolar Stock Markets
  • Questions about the safety of Nuclear Energy
  • Hurricanes, Floods, Fires, Earthquakes

I could go on but it would only depress you.  Needless to say, our teenagers across the nation are steps away from taking their place at the ballot boxes, finding their place (careers) in the world, and starting families of their own in an uncertain future.

My wonder at her question comes from the reality of the question.  Everything we “adults” do (based upon our thoughts/feelings and choices) has a consequence.  Those consequences not only visit us, but ripple to all generations that follow…like outwardly expanding rings on a pond after throwing a pebble.  Basically, it starts with you, me, and the people we elected to help administer and govern our rights and freedoms as Americans!  Our children didn’t have any choice about their entry into this world.  We chose them!  With those choices come great responsibilities that never expire.  We are examples to them and each other.  Our actions say much more about our values, principles, humanity, and respect than any label we may adopt or profess.

As parents, bosses, elected officials, friends….when you make a choice, do you ask yourself “What impact will this decision have upon my children, this culture or our way of life, and the subsequent choices necessary by those who follow in my footsteps?”  Perhaps, if we all spent a little more time taking inventory of how well we are executing our responsibilities, we might be more inclined/motivated to judge ourselves and make better choices with the time and resources gifted to us.  None of us are guaranteed longevity, and as misfortune would have it, today is an awful reminder that “the American Dream” isn’t promised to any of us, it must be earned, worked for, valued and protected.  Even then, there are those who would deny us our way of life.  We must be vigilantly mindful that all eyes are watching!  What we do and say matters!

The daily rate of change across the globe, the influence between cultures, economy, dependency and cooperation is exponential.  As biology teaches us, those who adapt quickly in states of rapid transformation are those who remain.  We must value our children as individuals who have thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and will someday be carrying our burdens and cleaning up our messes.  Invite your child to talk to you about how they feel about the world, their future, their opportunities.

My daughter feels very frustrated with her observations of our current political climate.  I encouraged her to do something about it.  If you’re a teenager and you’re reading this, I encourage you to not wait until you’re eighteen to begin exercising your rights as a U.S. Citizen.  Start now, write your Congress and Senate Representatives and let them know your concerns.

Posted in Writing

Writer’s Rapture Unrequited

The alluring mental cinema flickers;
visiting just long enough to hook me
then vanishes like a dream upon waking,
when I attempt to preserve in prose

Places with smells from yesterdays
Foods embedded with maternal memories
Feelings rise without warning of the flood
Injecting hair raising literary adrenaline

These brief encounters of sight and smell
trigger boldness and resurrect confidence
driving instinct and insistence without apology
holding hostage my rapt attention and wonder

A dog barks, a siren sounds, the door slams
Suddenly, the spell is broken and time begins again
Torn by the fading story line and the present crashing in,
with sadness I address reality and mourn the flash

Oh fleeting phantom who overpowered me
where are you now, you teasing haunt?
So palpable and demanding, you possessed me!
But now render me rubbish and discarded

I sit staring, trying to recall the essence
retracing my mental steps in hopes of recapture
for just a moment I know I felt complete! Tick tock
The crickets chirp and the screen stares back at me…

Original Poem Written By:  Ed Milligan, 9 September 2011

Posted in Writing

Life – A Mixed Bag

Donald Hall
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Good Evening All,

Lying here in bed…the glow of my laptop screen providing a sleepy ambience, the smell of Vicks rub for both me and my wife who occasionally pulls out a kleenex for her leaky, dripping nose!  Sigh, yes its that time of year again.  The kids got hit with the cold first, one at a time finally visiting us!  The tickle in the throat, the wheezy flitters in the nose, it all seems to accompany this time of year when the night temps drop into the 50’s and the daytime temps make you wish you didn’t have to go to work.

We’ve settled into a new rhythm, sort of…now that we’re back in the burbs. Life is more convenient than the 40 minute one-way commute I had daily to and from work.  The kids are closer to friends and my wife doesn’t feel so isolated.  I have made designs and schemes for the future of our yard and already begun work to frame the future.   Somehow, it doesn’t seem that we’ve only been here two months!  The first couple of weeks I had no problems getting out of bed early in the morning…plenty of time to putz around the house doing odd jobs, etc…but that has worn off.  I’m lucky to get up and go through the motions in time to arrive on time!

I almost can’t watch television or look at news much without getting depressed.  Doesn’t anybody report anything good anymore?  Isn’t there anybody doing anything commendable, worthwhile, rewarding, inspiring?  Why does journalism have to take the low road as the norm and the uplifting as the exception? I would love for just one day all news, radio, paper, etc to report nothing but useful, positive, good news….perhaps we could have one day a week where that was all that was reported? You’re right…that’s fantasy, but I can dream.

To kick off a bit of good news reporting myself, I have to share that my son has begun soccer practice and all three kids are rehearsing weekly for a local homeschool production of Broadway Dreams.  Many homeschooled kids auditioned and were selected to sing several solos, duets, and ensembles.  They will have four performances in November consisting of selections from musicals, movies, and television shows.  We’ve been making use of a bigger kitchen and cooking a lot of homemade meals and treats.  This time of year is perfect for culinary curiosity and exploration.  Right now, my family is my bright spot in these uncertain times.

They say that “its all about perspective!”  One personal coping technique I use to deal with a less than optimal reality is to read real life stories of people who’ve had far worse stories to tell than me.  The book I’m reading now to give me a different perspective is “The best Day the Worst Day” (Life with Jane Kenyon) by Donald Hall.  The story is about two authors who marry in spite of their huge age gap.  They are passionate about poetry and writing.  Jane gets Leukemia and the story is his detailed account of his daily routines, his thoughts, and observations.  I’m more than halfway through the book and read a bit each night before going to sleep.  His writing style is thorough and contemplative.  It will definitely drive me to read more of his works.

How do you cope with the daily grind and mullygrubs?