Saturday, November 26, 2016

Family Mirrors the Nation

Thanksgiving begins a season of giving thanks. It is supposed to be a time of reflection, but most of us have little time to reflect, instead spending oodles of time cooking, cleaning, shopping, entertaining, and spending time with family…

The past two weeks hub and I visited both sons and their families. Amidst the tumult of kids, grandkids, extended family and feasting, we are recovering from my mother-in-law’s death in October. Hub was busy with funeral arrangements, emptying her apartment and closing the lose ends of her life so she – and we – can rest in peace.

Life does not always proceed as planned. A simple, chaos-free conclusion is not to be. We all hear stories about sibling fights during emotional times. The death of a parent often triggers ugliness, and we are living through such unpleasantness now.

The argument over one possession is causing dissension. Hub became so distraught following one heated phone conversation he almost ended up in the hospital emergency room.

This particular conflict is not about money, and it is not a singular event, but the culmination of years of sibling strife. Attempting to resolve the latest fracas, reaching back eons to King Solomon’s solution and offering to divide the item in two, a possibility, will not satisfy one party. It is all or nothing, the individual adamantly refusing to negotiate a compromise.

This season we are supposed to make an effort to bury disputes, at least temporarily, and come together. This year has been particularly challenging following a divisive political battle between two passionate sides unable to agree on anything, acting like two parties permanently divided by an extraordinarily messy divorce. In our family, and in our country.

A determination to dig in by one sibling has resulted in distress for other family members. The conflict will be resolved to no one’s complete satisfaction. There will be bad feelings and probably permanently severed family ties. Living through the turmoil, attempting to deal with the intransigence and bull-headedness, stirs feelings of despair when thinking about our nation’s current political situation.

Open-mindedness, a spirit of compromise and respect for adversaries are fundamental values of a successful democracy, ideals currently lacking in some family members, as well as too many of our nation’s leaders and their constituents.

I have no faith the rupture in our family can be healed, but I like to think our nation’s wounds will eventually heal. I have hope the younger generation will one day look at their elders (as many probably are doing already) and say, “what the f**k is happening?,” take over the reins and center the country’s wildly swinging pendulum (hopefully soon enough so I will live to see it!).

But just as they did in Philadelphia when they were writing the constitution, 
sooner or later, you've got to compromise. You've got to start making the 
compromises that arrive at a consensus and move the country forward.
- Colin Powell

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Spending Time With the Future Part 2

Less than a week after spending time with the Florida grandkids, hub and I drove to Vermont to visit our other grandkids.

We briefly checked the weather report before packing. Temperatures in the forties/fifties, possible flurries. Nothing to be concerned about.

We should have known better. Driving north the temperature dropped steadily from the high forties to the low forties. Soon it was below 40, then the car thermometer informed us that outside the vehicle's heated environs the temperature registered mid-30s. The wind howled. Then the precipitation began, a little rain turning to snow flurries. By the time we arrived at our destination roads were snow covered and snow continued falling silently, relentlessly.

The following morning fresh white stuff covered the landscape. The temperature ranged in the mid-30s.

Hub and I have warm gloves, snowshoes, boots, wool sweaters, winter jackets safely stored in the closet at home, hundreds of miles away. I thought about our winter wardrobe while donning my lightweight sweater and jacket.

But hub and I withstood the cold while bonding with the youngest generation before driving on to Boston for turkey, tofurkey and additional delicious dishes.
There was serious arts and crafts at the library...
Gym time...
Outdoor in the first snow of the season fun time...
Grandpa training a future engineer.
Adult time at a Bernie Sanders talk. I received a copy of his book, "Our Revolution."

And now...on to Boston.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Spending Time With the Future

Future leaders, teachers, scientists, Moms, Dads, even a mermaid fairy.

Hub and I returned home following a long weekend with the Florida grandkids. Long because it lasted four days, and long because the kids wear out Grandma and Grandpa.

Hub and I ventured south the fastest way (usually), a 2 1/2 hour plane ride if everything goes right. When researching flights it always seems a good idea, when discussing alternatives in the comfort of our home long before departure dates, to book an early morning flight. But when the time comes to set the alarm and prepare for early morning activity, we have second thoughts as our bodies begin rejecting the idea.

Originally planning to fly home Monday afternoon, we outsmarted ourselves. Monday flights were unusually expensive, no idea why. We booked our flight south and decided to wait before scheduling our flight home. Prices sometimes decrease as take-off day approaches.

This time, however, prices soared as the day we hoped to travel home approached. The Monday flight listed at $250 per person. The Tuesday morning price: $85 - total cost for both of us. We booked the cheaper, early morning, one day later flight.

Home now, we recover before our travels begin anew. Meanwhile pictures summarize Grandma and Grandpa's weekend with the youngest generation.
We met the newest member of the family,
Teddy Bear (yes, that is his name),
10 weeks old.
Halloween costumes were modeled.
We attended our granddaughter's
cheerleading Showcase.
She is the one elevated in the center, holding the hands of
two teammates held high.

All dressed for a princess birthday party.
Coffee time!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Sky Is Not Falling

The good news following the 2016 election is that the sky is not falling. At least one acquaintance firmly believed when Obama became the 44th President the country was going to collapse. It did not happen. This acquaintance hated Obama so much he could not look at the situation objectively. He was an avid birther. He sold assets and hunkered down as the end drew nigh.

Fast-forward eight years and the country did not crumble, although my acquaintance continued to believe in the inevitability of the country’s demise – until Tuesday’s election. Now he is breathing a sigh of relief as his hero, his savior and a man I cannot respect, prepares to take the oath of office as the 45th  President of the United States.

I hope my faith in our democracy trumps my fears for the country’s future.

Trump’s bombastic rhetoric was a negative one playing on people’s suspicions and hatred of the ‘other’. Traditionally our politicians’ messages have been upbeat. Sure we have problems, but we faced adversity before, defeated our demons, the result a better nation.

The months Trump spent manipulating seeds of hatred energized previously marginalized individuals and groups espousing extreme hate-filled ideas. His ascendancy corroborates their view that they have a right not only to hate, but also to act on their beliefs. Trump’s candidacy gave David Duke, ex-KKK leader, white supremacist, Holocaust denier and anti-Semite, the impetus and legitimacy to run for a Senate seat from Louisiana. Duke lost badly, but his hateful speech spewed forth for weeks. In the long run that may be the scariest scenario facing our nation.

America’s long march towards liberty and justice for all has been a rocky one. The country enslaved blacks until the middle of the 19th century. Following the Civil War negative forces unleashed white-robed goons intent on terrifying and killing. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act ended Chinese immigration for ten years and forbade Chinese immigrants in the U.S. from gaining citizenship. The law, renewed in 1902, was abolished in 1943.

The American government confined Indians to reservations beginning in 1830.

The Quota Act of 1921 limited the number of immigrants from each country. In 1922 Japanese were declared ineligible for citizenship. The U.S. placed individuals of Japanese ancestry (living on the West Coast) in internment camps during World War II. (The 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act eliminated race as a restriction for immigration.)

Our country’s march towards liberty and justice for all may be sharply curtailed under a Trump Presidency and Republican Congress. Time will tell what happens, but it will be difficult stuffing the hateful forces unleashed over the past year and a half back in the bottle anytime soon.

I would not feel bad if proved wrong and Trump changes his persona (something he has done in the past) and attempts to unify a deeply divided constituency. The man is 70 years old. Can he transform himself? Does he want to change? Or is Trump a relic of a mythic past America he (and his supporters) desire a return to?

I will end on a note of future optimism. A post on Facebook by a group of high school kids said something like, ‘Trump can build a wall, but we will tear it down.’ I don’t doubt that the younger generation will exert its influence when their time comes. I have hope for them and our country’s future.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Presidential Election Day Trivia Quiz

FYI: The following quiz has NOTHING to do with the current Presidential election. (answers below)

1. Who was the oldest elected President?

2. Who was the youngest elected President?

3. Who was the youngest President to take office?
4. Who was the tallest President?
5. Who was the shortest President?
6. Who was the heaviest President?

7. Who was the only bachelor President?
8. Who was the only divorced man elected President?
9. Which President fathered the most children?
10. Who was the first woman to run for President?
11. Who was the first President to be born in the USA?
12. Who was the first President to live in the White House?
13. Who was the only President elected four times?
14. Which President served the shortest amount of time?
15. Which President served two non-consecutive terms?       
16. Who was the only President to resign from office?
17. Which state boasts the most Presidents born in the state, and who were the Presidents from this state?
18. How many Presidents won the Presidency without securing the most popular votes?

19. Where is the sculpture picture below?

20. Who are the four Presidents depicted on the sculpture?
21. How many Presidents have been assassinated?
22. How many Presidents died of natural causes while in office?
23. How many former Presidents are still alive?


1. Ronald Reagan, 69.
2. John F. Kennedy, 43.
3. Theodore Roosevelt, 42, sworn in upon the death of William McKinley in 1901.
4. Abraham Lincoln, 6'4".
5. James Madison, 5'4". He also weighed the least: 100 pounds.
6. William Taft, weighing as much as 350 pounds. He got stuck in the White House bathtub the first time he used it. A larger one was installed.
7. James Buchanan.
8. Ronald Reagan.
9. John Tyler, 15.
10. Virginia Woodhull, 1872. Her running mat, Frederick Douglas, was the first African-American nominated for Vice President.
11. Martin Van Buren, born 1782, elected President 1837.
12. John Adams.
13. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
14. William Henry Harrison, March 4, 1841-April 4, 1841, 32 days.
15. Grover Cleveland won the 1884 election, lost in 1888, won in 1892.
16. Richard Nixon.
17. Virginia, 8. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Woodrow Wilson.
18. Four. John Quincy Adams (1824), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888), George W. Bus (2000).
19. Mt. Rushmore (National Monument) in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
20. (left to right) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln.
21. Four. Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, John F. Kennedy.
22. Four. William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
23. Four. Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, William Clinton, George W. Bush.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Pre-Election Day Trivia

The 2016 presidential election strains nerves, creates tensions among friends and family, subjects us to endless media hype, and appears never-ending. The good news is the campaign will end soon. One remedy to survive the circus is ignoring the 24/7 media deluge and avoiding political discussions. Or temporarily relocate to a remote island, iceberg, or mountaintop, an alternative unfeasible for most of us.

The following collection of Presidential election trivia, presented to brighten your day and forget for a few minutes the craziness, includes NOTHING about the current election, but will hopefully make you smile.

A few antics and anecdotes from the political past:

The only "clean" campaign in American history occurred (most likely) in 1789, the first Presidential election. George Washington was the only candidate. Yet the election was not without its seamy side. Nine individuals vied for Vice President. At the time no distinction was made between Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, so technically everyone on the ballot ran for President. Alexander Hamilton (the Hamilton of current Broadway fame and the man killed by Aaron Burr in a duel) worked behind the scenes to undermine the Electoral College vote for a potential vice president, John Adams.

 Although the only Presidential candidate, Washington indulged in old-fashioned political campaigning. He purchased 160 gallons of liquor, depleting his campaign budget of 50 pounds. (How much would 50 pounds be in today’s dollars? About $7,500.) The alcohol was supplied for a number of Virginia voters on Election Day – 391 people. Washington followed a Virginia tradition of rolling barrels of liquor onto courthouse lawns and polling places on Election Day.

Democrats use a donkey as their mascot thanks to Andrew Jackson. When critics called him a “jackass” because of his populist views, he adopted the image, using it along with his slogan, “Let the people rule.”

The Republican mascot is an elephant. The reference dates to a Thomas Nast cartoon published in 1874 where Nast used an elephant to represent the Republican vote.

The John Quincy Adams/Andrew Jackson election of 1824 sunk to the level of bathroom language. Jackson called JQ Adams a pimp for prostituting an American girl to a Russian Czar, and JQ Adams called Jackson's wife a convicted adulteress.

The term 'O.K.' probably originated in the 1830s as an abbreviation for 'all(orl) correct'. When Martin Van Buren entered politics he became known as 'Old Kinderhook,' referencing his hometown Kinderhook, New York. People began using the term O.K. when referring to Van Buren; eventually the word okay became part of the American lexicon.

Congress designated the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November for Election Day in 1845. The day and date allowed people to observe the Sabbath, travel to vote, and return home for Wednesday, the traditional Market Day. The date was designated only for presidential elections, but it started a trend. The earliest Election Day can be November 2; the latest November 8. In 2016 not only must we endure an excruciating campaign, voting is scheduled on the latest possible date.

During the 1872 campaign President Ulysses S. Grant ran for a second term against a corpse. His opponent, Horace Greeley, died before the Electoral College finalized election results. This was the only time a candidate died during a Presidential race.

Susan B. Anthony was arrested for attempting to vote in the 1872 presidential election. Sojourner Truth, a former slave and activist, also demanded a ballot. She was denied the right to vote. American women of all races won the right to vote in 1920.

The secret ballot did not become a universal Election Day practice until the 1890s.

One of the worst campaign slogans in history, if not the worst, belongs to Al Smith, 1928 Presidential candidate (he lost to Herbert Hoover). Smith opposed prohibition (the law of the land from 1920-33). To show his support for the abolition of Prohibition and the production and sale of alcohol, he (or one of his genius advisers) created the rallying cry: “Vote for Al Smith and he’ll make your wet dreams come true.”

When George H.W. Bush was elected president, it was the first time since Martin Van Buren a sitting vice president had been elected. Van Buren succeeded Andrew Jackson.

Vote on Election Day.
To help get through the traumatic day
I will post an Election Day Trivia Quiz.
Stay tuned!

A favorite political quote: