Saturday, November 22, 2008

It must be Christmas, the Leg Lamp has returned

One of my all time favorite movies is "The Christmas Story." One of the sub plots in the movie involves the Dad and the arrival of the "major award" he won. It arrives in a beastly sized wooden crate and he excitedly but carefully opens the crate and unpacks the items to see what he has won. The Dad discovers he has won a lamp. But not just any lamp. To him, this lamp is a thing of beauty, a masterful work of art that proudly needs to be displayed in the front window for every passerby to behold. To Mom, she sees nothing more than a ticky-tacky lighted leg with a fringe trimmed shade that would do better sitting on top of a trash pile at the city dump than on her living room table.

I tell you this story to bring you back in time with me to Christmas six years ago. My Mom, being ever the impulsive shopper , decided to pull over and purchase some Christmas gifts from a van turned into a makeshift roadside stand. Most of the year that "stand" sells turtles and hermit crabs with airbrushed decorated shells that are guaranteed to teach your child about The Circle of Life within two weeks. They might even throw in the Ziploc baggies and shoe box for your back yard burial for free if you ask them.

But a month out of every year they sell something else. They sell a Christmas decoration. My Mom saw these decorations and decided all the kids in the family needed one. That Christmas rolls around and my gift is unveiled as I pull it out from a kitchen trash bag. What Bill saw when I opened this gift was a thing of beauty. He saw superior skilled craftsmanship of a perfectly geometrical orb and entrancing multi-color lights dancing in symmetry and precision. He was in awe and immediately plugged it in to find just the right setting to showcase the work of art.

What I saw when I opened the gift was a couple of clear Dixie cups cobbled together with a dollar store string of Christmas lights. While I could appreciate the work that went into making the piece, I couldn't get past the fact that it was still just Dixie cups glued together. I smiled at my Mom and thanked her for the gift and made a mental note to drop it off at the first Goodwill drop off point I passed going home.

But it never made it to Goodwill. Bill overrode me. He made a spot for the piece in the front window the moment we walked through the door. He futzed with the angle, the height, and the light settings. He turned it on and walked out to the street to see how it looked from a passersby eye. I think he was prouder of that light than his first car.

This Dixie cup art has become known amongst all of our friends and family as simply, "The Leg Lamp." Six years later, Bill has once again pulled out The Leg Lamp and put it on display in the front window just as he has every other year. He futzed with the settings, adjusted the angle, and stood out in the street to see how it looked to passersby. But rather than wanting to destroy it in a furious dusting accident (yeah right, who would believe that one from me?), I just smile and go with it knowing the holiday season has officially begun and Christmas will be right around the corner.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The End of an Era

Since Bailey will be one next month, we are getting to the point that we no longer need the exersaucer, walker, jumperoo, bouncer, and all of the other mass amounts of gear that seem to absurdly be necessary for something so small and helpless. The gear went through two girls within a fairly short period of time and was just getting to the point that it was all just taking up space.

So on Sunday, we pulled every piece of baby gear out and gave it all to some friends of ours expecting their first baby. Two Jeep Cherokee carloads later, our friends were well on their way to having everything they needed to prepare for their impending arrival. And we celebrated taking back our rooms and being clear of big bulky equipment that gets used for five minutes at a time.

Well, I celebrated for a minute anyway. Then I had a moment of sadness I wasn't expecting. We've pretty much been in baby mode for 2.5 years now. We are at the cusp of having no more babies, only toddlers that seem to growup by months at a time in just one night of sleep. No more new baby smell, no more swaddling, no more nighttime rockings, no more bottles. Just girls that want to take on the world and be older than their little bodies will allow.

While the door has not been 100% closed on more children in our future, it is unlikely I'll ever carry another. My uterus ruptured with Bailey and to have another carries great risk and danger. We may consider adoption in the future, but that would be much further down the road and is just a remote thought.

I've been very happy with our two girls and content that our family was complete. That was, until the baby gear drove away and it really sunk in there really may never be another. I hated the baby stage--the crying, the sleep deprivation, the colic, the acid reflux, the crying, the late night feedings, the sleep deprivation, the crying, the sleep deprivation, the crying. Did I mention sleep deprivation and crying? Yet as the bassinet and bumbo headed down the road, I suddenly felt sad. I wanted the stuff back. I didn't want to be done with it all.

But we are done with it all. The gear has all gone on to be used and loved by a new family. And our baby era has come to an end.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Gratuitous Bailey Photos

Bailey at 10.5 Months

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reagan's Magnadoodle Art

Reagan was hard at work on the Magnadoodle tonight. Here are two of her pieces.

This one is Daddy. Can't you see the resemblance? What I'm most impressed with is that she has two eyes, a nose, a mouth, two legs, two arms, a body, a head. You have to kind of squint to imagine them, but the parts are generally in the right place. Overall, I'd say not bad for a two year old.

This is a heart. I think this is a better heart than I can usually draw.

Proud Moments

It is the dichotomy of life. The busier you are and the more life events you want to share, the less time you have to share them. This is where I've found myself for the last while and will probably continue to be until the end of the year. I was already quite busy in my current role, but now that I'm officially an employee and not a consultant, I have the additional burden of taking on my new role as well. That is, until December 31 when my old role goes away and I am down to doing just the new employee gig.

I'm really optimistic that once the new year comes I'll have more time for family, friends, my blog, and myself. I just keep thinking, "just get through the end of the year and life will calm down." I'm finally at a point in life where I realize that won't just happen on it's own. I know I have to make time for the important things and not let other little things fill whatever new found time I may have after the first of the year. I'm saying that more for my benefit than yours. I constantly have to remind myself that I have to consciously make the time and set boundaries in this new role or I will end up just like I have every other year. This year I want to be different; unlike the last ten years where I said the same thing and I made no change.

So all of that to explain why wonderful things are happening with my family, random light or deep thoughts are occurring with me, yet nothing seems to materialize on the blog. Again, just let me get through this year and things will be different, I think. I hope. No, I commit! In the meantime, let me tell you about the girls and some of their latest milestones...

Bailey is now ten months old and continues to be the happiest, cutest joy to everyone she meets. She now waves, signs "milk", throws her hands up in the air when you cheer, and crawls and cruises almost fast enough to keep up with Reagan. She says bye-bye, uh-oh, da-da, and ma-ma. She's just starting to test her boundaries by knowing "no" but continuing to do something while watching you. All with a big a grin on her face and waiting to see how you'll respond.

Now on to Reagan. Can you continually talk about a two-year old without at some point mentioning bodily functions and the control or lack thereof? Well, I'm going there. Reagan is nearly potty trained and for better or worse, has done it pretty much on her own. We just started putting panties on her one day, put a baby potty in the play area, and said if you have to go, go. We don't put her on at any intervals and never ask her if she needs to go. Yet she has probably had three accidents ever. However, she would never poop on the potty. She would just hold it as long as she could or would even ask to have a diaper on so she could go.

So this past weekend Bill was on the computer across the room and got a whiff of something. I saw him scrunch up his nose and start looking around for the cause of the offending smell. About that time Reagan proudly said, "I pooped in the potty!" Bill realized then, "Oh, why yes, yes you did!" as he kind of half gagged.

Proud moments are not always rose scented.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Well That Didn't Go Like I Hoped

Let me just be gracious enough to congratulate Obama and all of the Obama supporters on his victory tonight. I truly hope he lives up to your expectations.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Vote

I keep politics largely off of my blog and will likely continue to do so after this. But Tuesday, our country makes an important decision, one with serious implications and consequence. I am sharing my views with you not to sway you or tell you you're wrong if your decision has already been made and you don’t agree with me. In fact, I'm happy to hear comments and opinions of the matter, I just ask that we keep it a civil, healthy debate. But I decided I do want my children to know how I felt about these decisions and this election and in so doing, I am sharing them with you…

This Tuesday this country will make a decision and the world will hear our voice. Our voice will indicate whether we embrace the concepts of Socialism and take the largest step toward a Socialist society this country has ever seen. Or it will indicate that we choose our Capitalist society and try to reform what may be broken. As far as I'm concerned, this is the most important election of my time and my vote will be heard. As for me, I chose Capitalism, freedom, individualism.

I think Obama has some good points and says things quite eloquently. He is a wonderful public speaker and I've actually sought out and read or listened to word-for-word, many of his speeches. He has a way of moving people and speaking to people that is a rare gift. I think he may go down as one of the best public speakers in history. But once I begin to dissect his speeches, I find things that I don't agree with. There are some things that downright frighten me. Don't get me wrong, I think his heart is in the right place and he has good intentions and I agree with many of the issues he brings up. I just don't agree to his solutions.

At the heart of Obama's plan is a "spread the wealth" campaign which promises to offer affordable health care, education through college for everyone, require automatic workplace pensions, provide cheaper drugs, and lots of other social and welfare type programs that really do sound like a great idea. Here's the problem, how they are funded:

Obama wants to increase taxes for the "upper" class
(this definition seems to be a moving target- was once $250K but the number is going down). The top 2% of the country's income earners already pay 90% of all of the taxes. Is it really fair to continue to impose more tax and on those that have worked hard and been successful and punish them for getting to that position?

He wants to reinstate the estate tax. This means that if your parents pass away, 55% of the money they would have passed on to you will instead go to other people you've never seen nor heard of. When I die, I promise you, I would much rather my money go to my children so I can ensure they are taken care of, rather than to have it go towards contraceptive education or some other program I don’t care about or support. If we take care of our families first, maybe they won't have to rely so heavily on government programs.

He is putting the burden on corporations to foot part of the bill. Many corporations are already feeling a hit during a time of recession (let's not argue whether or not there is one, the economy is definitely not great now). Many people are finding themselves victim of pink slips as companies just can't find profitability. Obama plans to pile on to that strain by requiring companies to fund even more money towards healthcare, more money for leave of absences, and offering pensions where they previously didn't have one. Here's the deal. If I don't like my benefits and what I'm being offered, I can go somewhere else. That is part of a free market. That is part of competition. If companies want to attract and retain the best and brightest, they will offer these benefits. If we force businesses to provide all of these great programs, here’s the ugly side effect, even more pink slips or lower salaries. I’d personally rather have more money and let the decision on where to spend it reside with me.

When it comes to welfare programs, there seems to be no end to the outreach of what the government should provide in Obama's mind. Don't get me wrong, I think there are people in this society that need to be taken care of and given a hand. But there are far too many that put themselves in that category because they have a sense of entitlement or just plain don't want to work. Surely we don't want to continue to perpetuate and even increase a society of people who are lazy and want to be taken care of?

In my opinion, we should continue to allow the private sector and places like churches to provide these welfare programs, not the government. And they should be a limited time during a rough period, not a lifetime sustainment. Programs that teach job skills, interview skills, provide clothing and residence to get established are all well and good. But of you've been given these things and two years later you've still gotten nowhere, one has to start to believe the problem is your lack of will and desire rather than opportunity. Then the programs need to start to be cut for that person. Obama has stated that he would want to model Marian Wright Edelman's prioritization in welfare programs. Funny thing is, even she believes that these programs should be privately funded and has largely dedicated her life to the collection and distribution of private funds for these types of programs.

The fact is, Obama's plan nurtures the lazy and punishes the hard working. That certainly isn't the intention, but a nasty side effect. Just look at our own Pilgrims. They started out in a Socialized society. Everyone pitched in and shared what they earned or grew. Their first Thanksgiving wasn't the pretty picture we paint it to be in the kids school plays each year on Turkey day. They nearly starved to death. In fact, many did. But when they decided to give everyone their own little plot of land to tend to and own and when they told them keep what you grow and trade your excess, they flourished.

If there is any question we would raise a generation of children feeling entitlement (some say we are already there-- just wait), just look at France's problems two years ago. Chirac signed a bill intended to help them be more capitalist and to compete in a global society. The bill gave a one year trial period to anyone under the age of 26 and allowed an employer to fire him/her within that year provided they provide reason. Sounds reasonable, right? That's no different than most right to work states. Well, France's youth didn't think it was so reasonable. That labor law resulted in strikes, riots, cars being upturned and set on fire, businesses being pillaged. All for the sake of stating that the country was removing protections entitled to them that had been in place for generations. Is this really where we want to be headed?

Obama also staunchly supports anti-discrimination laws. I understand the intent. I too want everyone to be treated fairly. However, does anyone not understand that by enforcing anti-discrimination laws you are ironically causing discrimination? An employer should be able to hire the best person for the job regardless of the color of their skin, what their sex is, or who they have sex with. Conversely, they should be able to fire anyone regardless of the color of their skin, what their sex is, or who they have sex with. Anti-discrimination laws lend themselves to preventing companies or schools from choosing the overall best and brightest and prevent them from losing those that are not up to standards. This creates a myriad of problems from decreased productivity and efficiency and increased costs.

I also oppose Obama’s plan for reducing costs for medicine. He wants to force pharmaceutical companies to cap their costs and provide more affordable medicine for everyone. Sure, they could do that easily. The actual cost of the pill is usually pennies, if that. But again, there’s nasty side effects. For starters, that means companies would have far fewer dollars for research. This means fewer new drugs being available and smaller hopes for finding cures to diseases that continue to elude us. We would also force their hand in removing many of the programs they already offer to the poor and third world countries. We would see a huge decline in worldwide vaccinations and increase in disease. This just adds more risk to us as we continue to be a global society and travel to these places.

I could go on and on and talk about gun control, Social Security, the war in Iraq, Foreign Policy, and Homeland Security, but I’ve already written a novel and I think you’ve gotten where I’m going with these things. In the end, my biggest concern is not for me, it is for my children and my children’s children. I don't want to leave my grandchildren holding the bill for my retirement and standard of living because I failed to plan for it. Obama is creating a plan that is not sustainable long term. If you look at many European countries, with each passing generation they amass more debt and tax to continue to sustain their lofty programs. Some countries are already turning more towards Capitalism and away from Socialism because it just doesn’t work in a pluralistic society long term.

Obama wants to eliminate the poor altogether. It’s a good goal to have, as is world peace, but does the end justify the means? Will these means even get us to that end? I don’t think so. I think Obama is too much an idealist and not enough realist. He’s got a good heart and good intentions, but ill directed solutions that will impact generations to come.

John McCain, President
Sarah Palin Vice, President
November 4, 2008