Saturday, October 15, 2011


It has almost been two years since my husband and I had our first date. Since then, we have had ups and downs just like any other couple. The good times far overshadow any of the struggles that we have had. Through it all, we have been in the middle of issues with the US Army. It sometimes feels like the eye of the storm with a whirlwind of crazy around us all of the time.

For a lot of people, all that they can see is the storm that rages around us....the delays, the separation, the frustrations, and the uncertainty. I have had a lot of people tell me that they could never handle it because they're not strong enough to do it. I know that they mean it as a compliment because they don't see the situation the way that I do. If they did, I doubt that they would say it.

Even though everything around me seems to swirl out of control, I'm in the center of that storm with an amazing man who brings calm into my life. This storm will pass soon enough, and we'll move onto the next adventure. The last 22 months have sometimes seemed to take forever. However, it's a whole lot shorter than the 30 years that it took for us to first meet, and they're both shorter than the time that we will have together after he's out of the Army (God willing).

I'm not saying that it's been's been really tough sometimes. I want to have it done and never have to do it again. The very first thing that I want when he gets off the plane and is home for good is a hug to know that he's really here and to hold his discharge orders in my hands to know that he's never going back. He's worth every bit of it though.

The next time you're about to say that you wouldn't be able to handle our struggle.....stop and really think about it. Are you really going to tell me that your spouse wouldn't be worth the struggle and the wait? Stop and think how wonderful that person is...wouldn't you do way more than this for them? Now....go and let them know how amazing they are and how much you appreciate having them in your life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saluting Illegal Activities

I work at one of those little neighborhood stores that you see on TV but don't think really exist anymore. We know our regular customers, and not just what brand of cigarettes they smoke. We know who is looking for a new job, who is dating whom, who got arrested and for what (it is one of those neighborhoods), and which parents to tell when the good kids start hanging out with the ones who cause trouble in the neighborhood. We chat with the folks who come into the store. If you stop for directions, we can help you find just about anything in town. If we don't carry what you want, we will let you know where the best place is to find it.

Because of this, and with the neighborhood that we're in, we get a lot of info on some of the not so legal stuff that happens. Some of it folks don't even realize is illegal. For example, folks go fishing for catfish and then sell it to people who transport it to Milwaukee (probably on ice in coolers) for sale. Now, I personally applaud the entrepreneurship of the folks who are doing this. They are providing a useful service for others, and they are able to support their families doing this. (I'm a little less comfortable with people who buy the fish not knowing that it came out of the Fox River. That's another story.) Here's the thing, if they were to take all of the steps to do this legally, it would be cost prohibitive. The guy catching the fish would need a commercial fishing license and a small business license and would have to comply with a host of regulatory requirements. The guy transporting the fish would need a business license, special retrofitting on the vehicle, to be specially licensed to drive a commercial vehicle, and to have all of the fish inspected before sale. The DNR would be involved. The USDA would be involved. The DOT would be involved. There's probably a whole lot of other bureaucratic agencies that would get their fingers in the pot too. This is the kind of thing that people are talking about when they say that the regulatory burden on small businesses is too great. We should be encouraging innovation and allowing people to benefit from it...not taxing it to death. The government needs to get out of the way and let people thrive.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wisconsin Toll Roads?

I grew up not liking toll roads. Why? Because my primary experience was with the toll roads in Illinois. The roads were in horrid condition (and always under construction - a strange combination) and the traffic was always bottled up because you had to stop every few miles and toss coins in the booth. In the years since, I have been to lots of other states with toll roads, and in those states, the roads were in good condition, and they had figured out how to collect the money without interrupting the flow of traffic.

Today I read an article about bringing toll roads to Wisconsin. It initially brought me flashbacks to digging through coins to go through Chicago. Then I finished reading the article, considered the points presented, and decided to give it a second look.

Roads cost money to build and maintain. Raising that money can come from a variety of sources. It is not unreasonable to expect the people who use and benefit from the road to pay for its construction and maintenance. It is actually seems pretty much in line with the idea of "user fees" that Libertarians suggest instead of taxes. I think that I could get behind the idea of toll roads here in Wisconsin under a few conditions.
  1. The gas tax (which is part of the current system for raising money for road repair) needs to be decreased. No double dipping into my pocket. Calculate the percentage of the current gas tax revenues that are allocated for the freeway system (the roads being considered for tolling), and the gas tax must be decreased by AT LEAST that amount. People in this state are feeling a pretty powerful pinch at the pump, and this would bring immediate relief.
  2. Open road tolling needs to be a part of it. The technology is already in place for it. People using the road on a regular basis should not have to deal with the nuisance of all sorts of stupid delays while everyone digs for change.
  3. The system must be able to pay for itself. The cost of collecting revenue plus the cost of maintaining the roads must be covered by the tolls and not require further subsidizing by taxpayers. If it can't do that, it's not a good system, and we shouldn't be using it. After it's up and running, there should not ever again be a dime out of the state or local budgets to run this thing.
  4. The funds raised must be segregated from the general fund. Toll money shouldn't be going to anything else.
If all of these conditions can not be met, then we have no business going any further. If they are met, then it will prove the viability of a privately owned and operated freeway system.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I can not count the number of times that people have said to me, "I could never do what you do," when discussing the situation that Lloyd and I have with the Army. It is a daily challenge for sure. Not seeing him for months, not having a firm timeline when it will all be resolved, not knowing how all the paperwork will turn out in the's not easy. There's a couple of things that people should consider.

First of all...I'm not that strong. I can't handle it on my own. I don't even have the strength right now to take another step. Any power that you see comes from outside of me. I am being carried through it all.

Second of all....distance and time can be overcome if the person is worth it. Stop and think about that. Do you really believe that your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse isn't worth the trouble? If you don't, I feel sorry for you. That's the one really amazing gift that Lloyd and I have from this whole mess....we know the value of our relationship. We know that it is work, and we know that we are willing to put forth the effort.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Help requested

Lloyd has really had a rough go of it these last weeks. I don't know the details of what is happening there, but I do know what's not happening. People aren't doing their jobs and moving his paperwork along, and he's not hearing promising news from the other folks in similar situations. He's also not been able to call home with any regularity, and that always puts him in a worse mood. He sounds so isolated when he is able to call, and it's hard to have to hear that in his voice.

If you want to help, there is something that you can do. It will only take you a couple of minutes, but it will show that you care more than you can imagine. Send him a note or card to let him know that you're thinking of him. (Care packages are very, very tricky. Just about anything you could think to send is considered contraband and will get him into really big trouble.) Every piece of mail that he gets is a lifeline to the real world, and that's worth more than gold. His address is:
SPC Sheffer, Lloyd
C-95th AG BN
2843 Davidson Road
Fort Sill, OK 73503-4443

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I have prepared and lived off a budget for the last two years. I start every month knowing where every dollar is going to go do the work that I want it to do. (Starting in October, I will be taking that knowledge to the penny....those little bastards add up to real money really fast.) I pay my bills and have enough left at the end of the month for saving and fun too, and my husband and I have zero consumer debt. I don't go to my income source (employer in my case) and insist on an increase in my operating revenues - if they feel that the work that I am doing merits an increase, they give it to me.

The federal government hasn't passed a budget in over 2 years and is over $14 trillion in debt. Every time I turn around, the federal government is trying to increase their revenue by demanding more money from me, and it doesn't matter if any of us think that they're doing a good job. They then take MY money and bail out losers. (Companies who lost the battle in the market place as well as people who lost their minds and promised to pay way more than they could ever dream to pay.)

Based on that information, does it come as any surprise that I have neither respect for nor trust in the government's handling of finances? Is it a shock that I am frustrated and angry with the way that Washington deals with money? Does anyone really question why Rick Santelli's rant heard round the world resonated with me and so many others?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why some people have such a hard time getting a job....

There is no question that the economy is in the tank right now. There are entire industries that are so depressed that there are no jobs in them, and it will be quite a while before they recover - if they ever do. (Some will just disappear as they should. There market for wagon wheels and buggy whips never recovered after automobiles took off.) There are a lot of people unemployed, and it can be difficult to find a "good" job. That does not mean that there are no jobs available. Lots of places are currently hiring and can't seem to find anyone to fill their openings. Part of the problem that they face is that their starting wage is less than what the government is currently handing out for unemployment checks. (I'll skip my rant on that for right now.) The other, much bigger, problem is that so many people are clueless about what an employer is looking for in an applicant. As a member of the management team where I work, here's some free advice from personal observation.
  • If you want a job, you can't consider a job/task to be "beneath" you. You need to be willing to do manual labor. This could range from working at a factory to scrubbing toilets.
  • Having names or stars tattooed across your face is going to be a major strike against you.
  • Do not list your special skills or qualifications as "I love being a mom" or "white water rafting" unless you are applying at a daycare or outdoors outfitters respectively. Those do not apply to retail, factory work, etc.
  • Purchase and use a belt. If your underwear is hanging out, you will not get the job.
  • Do not use your prison "offender" ID as your form of identification. Go the the DMV and get a state ID if you don't have anything else.
  • Use deodorant/antiperspirant.
  • Your hair should be neatly styled/trimmed and WASHED.
  • Do not wear a hoodie, oversized pants, and chains to an interview unless it's at Hot Topic - and even then it's questionable.
  • Don't show up reeking of weed.
Just a few suggestions....

Friday, September 23, 2011

True Story.

Where I work, the outrageous is ordinary. As a result, it takes a lot to get me to do a double take. It was accomplished today. Here I was, trying to sell the last day old donut to pretty much everyone who came through the line. A chocolate donut with chocolate frosting filling and chocolate icing on it. Instead of "selling" it though, I went with a humorous line that sometimes works. It is so over the top that even if people don't want the donut, they normally laugh instead of getting upset about someone trying to get them to buy stuff. Today, one of our regular customers decided to join the game and up the ante.

Me: Give a home to this orphan donut? It's sad and lonely because it was picked last....just like when the chubby kid wants to play kickball at recess.
Dude: Well of course he got picked last. He's up against some pretty stiff competition here. You've got cough drops and beef sticks right here next to it. He needs to get some buddies to help him out.
Me: That's the problem. They all got adopted and taken home. He's the only one left.
Dude: Yeah, I'll bet they were all white.

He went there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dress Code

Over the last couple of years, I have seen people come into the gas station in a lot of "different" clothing options. Most of them don't even phase me anymore. Weird costumes when it's not Halloween and outfits straight out of a Tyler Perry play are pretty common. Folks coming in slippers and pajama pants don't even register as anything out of the ordinary. However, there are limits.

In case anyone was wondering, it is NOT acceptable to go out in public wearing a wife beater tank top and a pair of boxer shorts torn halfway up the leg.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why on earth would you work HERE?

As a little back story here, I have a bachelor's degree in Spanish from a nice private university. After school, I got a "good" job at a large company that is pretty prestigious in its field. My family was happy for me and thrilled that I was "doing so well in a career that used my degree." I was really good at my job. All of my reviews were positive, and I was the one that got called on to fix the big problems or teach people how to use a new tool or product offering that had been developed. The problem? I hated it there. The people were nice, the pay was fair, and I was miserable. I tried different managers, shifts, and departments to see if it was people, schedule, or the kind of work that I was doing that was the issue. I hated being stuck at a desk all day. I hated having to talk on the phone instead of face to face. I hated that I rarely saw sunshine because I couldn't even look out a window. I woke up every morning feeling like Office Space where every day piles on the last making each new day the worst one possible. 

It was not a good fit for me, so I decided to make a change. I tried a few different jobs for about a year and finally ended up at my current job where I have been for over two and a half years working at a gas station convenience store. Yes, it pays a lot less than I could get elsewhere, but it's enough to put clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and food on the table. Plus, I never have to sit at a desk, I rarely take a phone call, I get to talk face to face with people all day, and I have a big bank of windows where I can see the world pass me by. It's fast paced, always changing, and pretty good exercise most days. In order to do the job well, it's a lot harder than it looks. The company isn't perfect, but the pay is fair and the people are nice. I don't mind going to work either.....the only time I have to persuade myself to go is if I'm overtired or just feeling under the weather. (That's not to say that I love it enough to go even if I wasn't getting paid....) The only thing that I really hate about the job is listening to people tell me how I should get a "better" job as if the place where I work isn't good enough. And like there's only one set of standards to determine how good a job is.

As an aside, this is probably something that you should consider the next time that you go to a gas station, grocery store, or any other retail location. The person who is scanning your purchases at the store could very well be a Mensa candidate. (Not that I am....just saying - they work in all walks of life.) Don't look down on them for "lack of ambition." It just might mean that their ambition and purpose are outside of their employment. Sometimes, it just comes down to quality of life or home/work balance that leads folks to a certain job. Don't demean the work that they're doing. Frankly, aren't you glad that the person who is running the cash register or helping you with your purchases isn't an idiot? You've found those too on many occasions - isn't a smart, efficient, and capable person a refreshing change?

Back to the point of it, I am tired of such a stupid question. I have tried a lot of different "canned" answers to it, and none really hits the point of it. Either it's too long, not strong enough, or has enough sarcastic zing to it that in a normal store, I might be in really big trouble for it. (We're given a lot of leeway where I work. It comes with the neighborhood.) If anyone has suggestions for me, I'd appreciate it. Here's some of the previous answers to "what are you doing working HERE?"
  • Because here I get more windows than any CEO at a Fortune 500 company.
  • So I get the pleasure of your charming company.
  • I like it here.
  • Have you SEEN the movie "Office Space"?
  • Because every once in a while someone gets tazed in the parking lot.
  • This is more interesting.
  • Doing freelance translation work is inconsistent which makes it hard to pay the bills.
  • Because this is the only place that I've ever worked where I've called a customer a dipshit to their face in front of my manager.....and not gotten in trouble for it. 
  • You don't get secretary spread if you're on your feet and moving all day.
  • Reality TV has got nothing on Friday and Saturday nights in here.
  • I'm going Gault.
Any other suggestions?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

¡Feliz Fiestas Patrias!

A mis amigos Chilenos ojalá q tengan un día divertido y seguro por las Fiestas Patrias. Pásalo bien - toma un pisco, disfruta el asado, y baila la cueca.

Ten years ago today, I was privileged to experience and enjoy Chilean Independence Day with a group of amazing people. Tín, Sandra, Caro, and Benja trying to show me how to dance the Cueca....hours and hours of playing Uno with the fastest paced and craziest set of house rules that you'll ever imagine...a delicious asado cooked up in the back yard....pisco sours.....watching the sun come up before going home for the "night."

The thing that I remember and hold most dear to me is the time with friends. I think of that time and those friends often. These are not ordinary friends. They were what made my time in Chile one of the most amazing and wonderful experiences of my life. When I first met them, it didn't matter to them that I couldn't understand anything that anyone was saying (no amount of classroom time can prepare you for the Chilean dialect and accent) or that they had to repeat themselves and sometimes translate for me. They were patient and never made fun of me while I tried to speak, and they graciously corrected my grammar and (occasionally embarrassing) translation errors. They made sure that I knew what time to be where (and how to adjust for "tiempo Chileno") and that I got safely back to my house since the buses don't run all night. Most importantly, they made me feel included.

To all of my favorite Chilenitos, I can not begin to thank you enough for the blessing that you have been in my life. Doy gracias al Señor por amigos como ustedes. Q Dios bendiga su día y su vida.

Monday, September 12, 2011


There is a lot that I don't know. Some of those things, I know that I don't know. Others, I don't even know that I don't know. There are even things that I think that I know where later I find out that I didn't know anything at all.

All of this doesn't discourage me. On the contrary, it inspires me. There is so much in the world to learn, and I get to spend my life in a quest to start to learn the things that I don't know yet. It's exciting when a new nugget of truth is uncovered that opens a door to all sorts of new questions and shines light on more areas to learn. I never want to be an expert. I never want to believe that I have "arrived." I hope that you don't either.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Post Office

So, the US Postal Service is claiming that they are in dire financial circumstances. They probably are. They're run like everything else that the government touches. I think that before we call it a day and let the whole thing go under, they should try a few reforms and see if that doesn't correct the system. Here's a few ideas
  1. Pay structure - especially that of the "higher ups" needs a major overhaul. Two years ago there was an uproar when folks found out that the postmaster general made about $800,000 for the year even though the USPS was in trouble financially. That's about twice as much as POTUS makes, and I'm pretty sure he's got a bit more on his plate.
  2. The unions need to make some concessions. Big ones. The pay and retirement packages need to come in line with similar private sector positions. (FedEx and UPS manage to make money.) They also need to be able to lay off workers when there isn't enough work for them to do.
  3. Drop Saturday delivery. It would mean that you could have one carrier per route and not need to juggle schedules to figure out how to get that sixth day covered. 
  4. Quit offering discounts on bulk mail. You would see a significant decrease in the amount of crap that was going through the mail if these companies had to pay regular price for it. Less volume equals less cost to process, ship, and deliver it.
  5. Require all mailboxes to be curbside. Delivery would be way faster and more efficient if you didn't have carriers walking the entire route every day. All that they would have to do is drive up and down the streets dropping off mail and picking it up if the flag is up. Combining this with the lower volume in mail due to increased bulk mail costs, and I wouldn't be surprised to see labor costs cut in half. 
  6. Outsource to private business partners. A lot of the uproar over closing neighborhood post offices is that in some cases the people who use their services have a hard time getting to the larger central office. Find local pharmacies, convenience stores, coffee shops, or whatever who are willing to help provide some of those services. All that you would need is a small store with a little extra bit of counter space to set up a scale to mail packages. That and to buy stamps are what most people go to the post office for anyway. Pay the store a percentage of their postal service sales, and everyone is a winner.
Supporting the USPS isn't just clinging to nostalgia. There are still people out there who receive and write letters. The post office just needs to streamline its business.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs

By LTC (RET) Dave Grossman, author of “On Killing.”

Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always,even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for? – William J. Bennett – in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997

One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me:

“Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident.” This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another. Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful.? For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

“Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy.” Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

“Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.”

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed

Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, “Baa.”

Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.

Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population. There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, “Let’s roll,” which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers – athletes, business people and parents. — from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. – Edmund Burke

Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church.? They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs.? Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, “I will never be caught without my gun in church.” I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy’s body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for “heads to roll” if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids’ school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.

Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, “Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?”

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn’t bring your gun, you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: “…denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling.”

Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.

And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be “on” 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself…


This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why Star Wars Is Better Than Star Trek

It's amazing what you find while sorting through everything that you own....for everyone's enjoyment.

1. "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...." sounds much cooler than "Space, the Final Frontier."

2. Ships in Star Wars always realistically look used and beat up; ships in Star Trek always look clean and shiny.

3. Aliens in Star Wars don't look like humans with bad masks. (Actually, they look more like muppets, but are yet more believable.)

4. Not one Star Trek film has ever made it into the top 50 movies of all time; the first 4 Star Wars films made it into the top 12.

5. Star Wars is epic mythology; Star Trek is episodic mediocrity.

6. Star Wars has actual starfighters

7. In Star Wars, ships cross the galaxy in a matter of weeks; in Star Trek, it takes 75 years.

8. "Kuat Drive Yards Impetus Class Imperial Star Destroyer" sounds much cooler than "Federation Galaxy Class Starship"

9. Those pesky warp cores keep on blowing up.

10. Imperials wear uniforms; Federation officers wear pajamas.

11. Ewoks are not as annoying as Tribbles.

12. Star Wars has less stupid, useless Treknobabble

13. George Lucas doesn't have to resort to Q to cure writer's block.

14. Star Wars doesn't have a new time-travel episode every two weeks

15. People actually line up to see Star Wars

16. Droids in Star Wars have way more functionality than Data

17. Chewie could kick Worf's ass

18. Star Wars "I sense a disturbance in the Force..."
      Star Trek "Captain, I sense hostility"

19. Star Wars "The mighty Jedi Knight pulled forth his trusty lightsaber and prepared to do battle with a dangerous foe."
      Star Trek "The officer in charge of security on deck 12, section epsilon-beta-tau took out his reliable and puissant phaser, aiming at his currently explicated antagonist."

20. It took Star Wars 3 movies and 6 years to accomplish more than 4 series and 9 movies in 30 years could ever hope to accomplish.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Space Aliens!!

Have you ever wondered why people question the "experts" in a field? Maybe it's because "experts" so often come up with lunatic ideas. Don't believe me? Paul Krugman is a Nobel Prize winning economist. By just about anyone's standard, that qualifies him as an expert in the field. Recently, he stated on CNN that what we needed to get out of the current economic mess is......the threat of a space alien attack.
Paul Krugman: If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, oops, we made a mistake, there aren't any aliens, we'd be better –
Ken Rogoff:  And we need Orson Welles, is what you're saying.
Paul Krugman:  No, there was a Twilight Zone episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace.  Well, this time...we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.
Yup. The solution to the problem is space aliens. He's not the only "expert" to resort to space aliens. Francis Crick, Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix, found it impossible for the complexity of DNA to have evolved naturally. So, he proposed a theory that Earth was originally seeded by space aliens.....the fancy term for it being "directed panspermia."

Just because someone has some award or is considered an "expert" doesn't mean that they don't ever come up with stuff that's totally off the wall nuts. A lot of times there is very good reason to question what the "experts" are saying.

Shouldn't you all be at work?

The more stuff I read, the more baffled I become. Let me see if I have this straight.
  1. Someone said that government is too big and wants to cut some of the non-essential jobs. 
  2. A hundred people or so who presumably have government jobs show up at his office to protest his statement.
  3. The protest occurred on a Friday morning when government offices are supposed to be doing the government's work.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that folks wanting to trim some fat off the budget without reducing services to taxpayers might want to start their search in the places that are running just fine with 100 employees not at work today. Even with a conservative estimate of $50,000/year spent on each employee (wages, benefits, etc.), that would be $5 million in savings a year.

I'm especially amused by the AFL-CIO chick who said "Just listen to what people are shouting: Good jobs! They want good jobs, better jobs. Not just jobs where the company only cares about profits and not the payroll of its employees." News flash you bimbo. The reason that companies care about profits is because they want to be able to stay in business...which will continue to provide jobs for people. You just want to get paid a ton of money without it being tied to any actual value that you provide.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Comparitve analysis of major religeons

I came across this while cleaning out old files.

Taoism                  Shit Happens
Confuscianism      Confusius say "Shit Happens"
Buddhism              If Shit Happens, it really is not Shit
Zen                        Shit only Happens when it does not Happen
                              What is the sound of Shit Happening
Hinduism               This Shit Happened before (and it will Happen again)
Islam                     If Shit Happens, it is the will of Allah
Protestant              Let Shit Happen to someone else
Catholic                 If Shit Happens, you deserve it!
Judaism                 Why does this Shit always Happen to us?
Atheism                 Shit Happens for no apparent reason.
                               No Shit
Agnosticism           I think that Shit Happens
Baptist                   I believe Shit Happens! (Amen!)
Jehovah Witness   Let us in and we will tell you why Shit Happens
                               Knock, knock. Shit Happens
Scientologist          Feces Occurs
Hare Krishna        ShitHappensShitHappensShitHappensShitHappensShitHappens
Existentialism       I Shit, therefore I am (Defeco ergo sum)
New Age                Shit came to me in a vision....
Rastafarianism     Let's smoke this shit.
Paganism              If you send Shit out into the world, it will return to you threefold
Mormons              If Shit happens, the Church gets 10%
Stoics                    This Shit doesn't bother me
Hedonists              There's nothing like a good Shit Happening
New Life Christian   Pay us money, or Shit will Happen
Branch Davidianism  David Koresh: I am the Shit
Occultism              I see Shit Happening in your future
Bahaiism               Same Shit, different pile
Lutheran              What does it mean when people say Shit Happens

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Public Service Announcement

A lot of companies nowdays require that their sales folks attempt to sell you additional items. If they fail to do so, they'll get written up and eventually fired for it. The cashier probably couldn't care less if you buy what they offer, but they have to ask. Whenever you are at the checkout and are asked if you want something else remember this.....

Your "witty" comeback probably isn't. Unless you are 100% confident that you can deliver a line that the cashier hasn't heard before, just politely say no and then shut the hell up. "Why, is it free?" is not original. The person at the register has probably heard that same dumbass line a dozen times in the last hour. The only reason that he/she is still smiling is because they need the paycheck. If they are more than 4 hours into a shift and are still smiling, you really should worry. They are probably trying to figure out how much trouble they'd get in for ripping off your thumbs and jamming them up your nostrils.

Also, if you shop at a location regularly and tease the cashier about it enough, you will probably regret it. At the convenience store this week, I have asked one of the guys who gets his coffee and cigarettes from us if he wants 1) shampoo, 2) deodorant, and 3) toothpaste. He's going to wish that I would go back to just asking about a lighter or the newspaper. The next time that there are people in line to hear it, I'm going to ask if he needs tampons. I kind of wish that we carried hemorrhoid cream.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bite tongue until it bleeds

Witnessed today at store. Young guy, maybe 20ish wearing woodland BDUs that looked like they were brand new from Army Navy surplus and walking with a strut like he was the shit. (Not military bearing mind you. Poser thinking he's cool.) He had a scraggly goatee and mustache, his hair in a pony tail, and he was wearing sandals. Now, if he had been on his way to or from going to play paintball in the woods with friends or something, it would be understandable. We also have guys come in all the time in uniform because of drill and other such things. This wasn't that. This was about being an attention-whore. The reason that people give attention and respect to soldiers isn't because they wear a uniform. It's because that uniform represents a level of sacrifice, commitment, and discipline that most of us are unwilling to make. People who try to cash in on that without paying the price should be made to suffer for it. I'm in favor of bringing back the stock and pillory in instances such as this.

Just my two cents.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Poverty in America

There is a lot of talk out there right now about what government should or shouldn't do for the poor in the US. Let's take a moment and see what are the things that we can all agree to be true. #1 Being poor in the US is not like being poor in New Delhi. Being poor in New Delhi (or really most anywhere in the world outside of the US) sucks way worse than being poor here in the US. #2 It sucks when you don't have as much money as you would like. It isn't that people want to collect pictures of old dead dudes. It's because money represents choices. More money equals more choices. Less money equals less choices. Agreed?

Now, a couple of weeks ago, the Heritage Foundation published an article about poverty in America relying heavily on Census Bureau statistics. In this article, they spent a lot of time highlighting point #1 from above. Of the poor in America, most have a roof over their head, running water and flush toilets, and basic cooking amenities. Is this the description of a lavish lifestyle? No. But it isn't the description of the poor in other countries where thousands live in horrid conditions with no potable water, a piece of cardboard or (if they're lucky) corrugated tin for a roof, and they cook what little they can find to eat over a dung fire. The Heritage Foundation is simply pointing out that for all the media caterwauling on the subject, the poor in America do, for the most part at least, have many of their most basic needs met and a little bit more.

Last week, the Center for American Progress responded to the article by the Heritage Foundation with a straw man argument about how selling their refrigerator and microwave would not raise enough money to feed a family more than a few meals. Well...duh. That's not the point. And that's a big part of the problem in this discussion.

Before I go further, let's pause and discuss "poor" versus "broke." "Broke" means that you have no money. "Poor" is about your thinking. There have been times in my life when I was broke, but I have never considered myself poor. Even though I had no money, I understood what it would take to change that situation and was willing to do the work.

How does the distinction between poor and broke apply to this national discussion about poverty in America? When people in this country experience a cash shortage, the government steps in to make up the shortfall but does not do anything to correct people's thinking. In essence, they are keeping people poor - and causing generational poverty. (The current spending habits of the federal government demonstrate why this is....they can not teach what they do not understand themselves.)

Every single day, I see people who are poor, and it breaks my heart. Why? It is not because they do not have the resources already available to them. It's because they have the means to improve their situation but are blind to the solutions. The choices that they are making are what keeps them poor, and the government handouts take just enough of an anesthetic to keep them numb to their plight. The following examples are not to condemn the choices that people make. It is to express the reality that is out there and how those choices are keeping them poor.
  •  I went to deliver some basic cooking food supplies to a family who expressed that they did not have enough money to buy these basic groceries. As I walked to the kitchen counter to put the things down, I had to go past the TV that was playing a cable TV show. (The most basic and inexpensive cable package in Green Bay is about $40/mo. and does not include that channel.) The price that they were paying was almost twice the cost of the groceries that I was delivering. Based on the conversations that I have on a daily basis with people who are poor, the majority of them do have cable.
  • One of our local thrift stores has a voucher program where the Red Cross and other such organizations can refer people who have no furniture in their apartment/house to get a few basic items like a bed, dresser, table and chairs for free. These aren't junk either....they're what they normally sell at their store. When I worked at one of those referring organizations, we would frequently have people turn down the voucher furniture because it wasn't nice enough for them.
  • Every day at work, I see people on food stamps who are smoking 1-2 packs of cigarettes a day. Neither of those things in themselves are offensive to me, but the combination is. Our number one selling brand of cigarettes are about $7.50 a pack. A pack a day smoker will spend about $225 per month on cigarettes. Many of our customers easily smoke double that. (The "cheap" cigarette brand is about a dollar a pack less, so it will only cost about $200/mo. for a pack a day habit.) 
  • We also see a lot of people on food stamps who buy come in and buy one or two 4 packs of beer per day. Beer is a lot less expensive than cigarettes at about $3 for each 4 pack. That's still $90-$180 per month being spent on beer.
  • Lottery tickets. I see the reports on sales versus winnings. The lottery is a voluntary tax on stupid. There is a reason that I have gotten a property tax credit every year for the last 7 years. If you want to play some scratch offs because it's fun. Fine there are worse vices....just don't leave the scratchings on my counter. If you enjoy spending a buck here and there because you like daydreaming about what you'd do if you win.'s less expensive than going to a movie. If you can't afford to buy your own food, not fine. 
  • One of our regulars (who smokes, drinks, is unemployed and not looking for work, is on food stamps because of her 3 kids under 5, and who's baby daddy just got out of prison), was complaining that $15 at McDonalds didn't go very far to feed her kids lunch. Now, nothing against McD's...but $15 will feed 3 small kids lunch of PB&J with fresh fruit and a glass of Kool-aid....for a week. Maybe not the most exciting meals, but they're fed and it's healthy.
  • Prepaid cellphones are very popular and frequently run about $50-$60 per month. Yes, a phone number is a basic prerequisite for getting a job. A cell phone is not. A land line can cost as little as $15 per month, and the initial cost of the phone is in the $1-$15 range depending on if you get it used or new.
Ok, pause again. I want to take a moment to point out that all of the examples that I have given are of people who are poor. Not just broke. There are a lot of people who are broke who don't do any of these things. They have been hit hard by economic realities and are facing very real struggles. Their "safe secure" job may have disappeared suddenly, and they are barely keeping their heads above water. They may need to turn to organizations like Paul's Pantry (which has never and will never taken a penny from any government funding) here in Green Bay. (Lots of communities have food banks to help people who have no ability to pay for their food. Most, admittedly, do not come close to what Paul's Pantry is able to do, but they are a huge help to folks in need.) My heart goes out to them in their pain. This is not a permanent condition for them though. They have been knocked down but will get up, brush themselves off, and go about doing the work to make things better for themselves and their children. They will learn from what happened and guard against it happening again while teaching their children valuable lessons about how to succeed in life.

Un-pause. What these folks need is not more money from the government. It's not expansion of entitlement programs or new ones. They don't need "the rich" (aka, those who are working to provide goods and services to people) to pay more money in taxes. What they need is help to change how they think. There are places and groups out there who try to do just that. I've visited two shelters in Green Bay who have education as the core of their outreach. They have drug and alcohol counseling available, work with people on developing basic job skills as well as helping with how to apply and interview for jobs, and teach about budgeting and how to live within your financial means.

It seems to me that when it comes to results in actually helping people up out of poverty, churches and private charities have a far better success rate than the government. I don't have empirical evidence or studies to support that.....just my personal observation. I see churches and charities healing lives, and I see government programs growing generational dependence.

Just my two cents.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Debt ceiling

There has been a lot of talk about the debt ceiling lately. Most of it has centered around the idea of the federal budget and the national debt. However, as has been pointed out very nicely, the budget, while important, is not what should be the center of debate. It's really about transparency and accountability.
A national treasury is only accountable when the people have real power over the government.  When the people don’t hold such power – when they can’t remove officeholders at will, or expect to have their electoral choices respected – the accountability of the national treasury is one of the first casualties.  Honesty and transparency with the public is not the natural state of affairs when it comes to public treasuries.  Those qualities have to be guarded with the vigilance inherent in consensual, electoral systems of government, where the citizen’s rights are respected, and the rejection of incumbents results in peaceful transfers of power.
 The people of this country currently do not feel that their federal government is respecting their electoral choices or being transparent about how things are being run.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Today, I hate (some of) my coworkers.

Normally, the idiots that I work with don't bother me too much. I know that they're immature and too stupid to insult. Then, they step up their game. Here's the scoop.

So I got a phone call asking me to switch shifts on Sunday, so my coworker can go to her boyfriend's work party with him. Now, I have just finished making plans with family for next Sunday, so I say no. I would have had no objection to helping, but I have already made plans with my brother-in-law. No dice. That should be it...right? No. She gets this whiny-ass tone and asks if there's any way I can change or cancel my plans. Um, no. I already told you that. Now, I hear that a third party is upset because I won't change schedules - and someone had the audacity to call her to see about switching schedules to work when she has off.

Do I work in the freaking Twilight Zone here? One person is pissed that I won't cancel my plans, so she can go to a party. Another is pissed that I won't cancel my plans, so she got a call asking if she'd mind working on a day that she normally has off.

What is wrong with these people? This is only the third time overall and first at our store since I started working that I have not agreed to switching hours or covering an extra shift for people. I take calls and answer questions from home. I agree to cover for someone who couldn't make it on 15 minutes notice - and that includes getting changed and driving. Have I just been so accommodating for so long that everyone expects me to automatically drop everything? I've got news for you folks. I'm done with covering for your stupid asses. Piss off.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lipstick Feminism and the Fly Lady

I used to want to be Donna Reed...the clean house, baking yummy stuff, nutritious meals, and handsome husband. I've updated that. I want to be Laura Petrie instead. She did everything Donna Reed did except she got to wear capris instead of dresses all the time, and she had a wonderful handsome goofball of a husband.
Enter reality. Baking, cooking, and the wonderful handsome goofball of a husband....check. Even remotely clean and organized house...not a chance. Now, I've seen people in real life have clean and organized houses, so I know that it can be done outside the magic of television. However, it has always seemed like the harder the perfectionist me tried, the worse things got until it reached a totally out of control point.

Enter the fly lady. It's about two weeks into things, and the major milestone here is that it's the longest EVER that I have been able to maintain any sort of cleaning/organizing routine. The coolest part is that the clean areas are growing just like the cluttered mess used to grow. Don't get me wrong. The house is still a mess, and there's no way that I'll be hosting a party any time soon. The point is that it is slowly getting better and staying that way. (Sure, boxing some stuff up for storage has helped too even though they're still sitting in the living room. However, clutter is not going in the boxes. We know that we are going to be moving in the near future, and getting a jump on packing should ease that stress when the time comes.) Pretty soon the only thing that's going to be keeping me from being Laura Petrie is having two twin beds in the master bedroom - and I think that I'll skip that part.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Casey Anthony Trial

The recent trial in Florida makes me wonder a few things.

#1 Why have so many people obsessed about it? I did not pay any attention to this trial. Why? Because the people involved have nothing to do with me or anyone that I know, and the entire situation is outside of my ability to influence or control it in any way. Why do people make such a huge emotional investment in stuff that has nothing to do with them? Instead of watching all of the TV coverage of a trial like this, turn off the boob tube, hug your kids, and tell them that you love them. Call your parents and let them know that you appreciate all that they did to raise you.

#2 Why is it that many of the people who are up in arms about the fact that a mother would kill her kid are the same people who do not see a problem with abortion. Just because a baby that hasn't been born yet doesn't have cute dimples or pigtails doesn't mean that it's any less a human being. I'm not saying that people are overreacting. I'm saying that they should be more upset. Thousands of kids are killed by their mothers every year, and people aren't as upset about it as they should be. Life is life.


I thought that giving myself permission to speak my mind freely would be fantastic.There are so many things that have been bottled up for so long that it is hard to know where to start. It's probably going to take a little time to get used to the idea that I can say what I want to say.