Monday, November 14, 2016

My reaction to the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States

I've taken today off work to recover from our trip to Houston for our nephew's wedding and to get some stuff done around the house.  It was a fun trip, but tiring, especially after spending 6 hours at the airport yesterday!

I've  decided to re-start my blog, having been "inspired" by the election.  I'm not saying that my blog posts will be exclusively related to the Trump presidency, but that will be a common theme.  I want a place that I can elaborate more than is appropriate for Facebook, but will figure out a way to link this blog to Facebook as a means of letting people know what I am thinking (that is assuming anyone cares!).

I've been anxious and depressed since the election.  I am worried about equal / civil rights for women and minorities, foreign relations, economic collapse, but most of all, climate change. Trump is a climate change denier,  has vowed to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, and has put another leading denier in charge of EPA transition.  I am researching the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) to determine whether to donate and get involved thuere.  Having said all that, Trump is our next President, he was elected fair and square under the rules of our election system, and deserves to be given the opportunity to show how he will really govern.  Governing is different than campaigning and he has shown in recent interviews (I recorded his interview on 60 Minutes last night, and will watch it this evening) that he may be a more reasonable man than the buffoon on the campaign trail.  From what I've read so far, he told people to stop the harassment of Latinos and Muslims (although he should accept some responsibility for what is going on), he has moderated his stance on Obamacare, talking about tweaking it rather than repealing it, and he has softened his stance on appointing a special prosecutor to go after Clinton.  That would be a waste of time and resources and contribute further to the divisive atmosphere that pervades our country right now.  There's much more I would like to hear him say, but this is a start in showing that he can be reasonable.

I want Trump to succeed, because if he succeeds, then we all do.  I hope he is successful at unifying the country.  I hope he is deliberate and thoughtful, not rash and impulsive.  I hope he appoints good advisors and listens to them.  However, I will be vigilant in watching what he does, and will not be shy about voicing my opposition when necessary, via letters to my congressmen and to the Trump administration.  Godspeed Mr. Trump, but we will be watching.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reflections while reading the novel "Stone Arabia"

Reading this novel by Dana Spiotta is bringing me back to some sort of primal urge I have to blog and "document" my life. The character Nik does this in an extreme manner, creating an imaginary world wherein he is a rock star; his world includes fake album reviews and obsessive fans. The narrator of the book, his sister Denise, lives vicariously through the lives of others, getting lost in celebrity murder / suicides to the point of scouring the Internet trying to recreate the events that led to the tragedy that made the 24 hour news cycle for just about that long. What causes us to connect our lives to these stories, to become emotionally involved with the lives of people we've never met? I don't usually get deeply drawn into lives outside my own, but I did when John Lennon was shot and killed. I felt truly as if I had lost a friend and obsessed over every detail of that night, and the road his killer took toward that violent ending. For days (weeks?) I listened to nothing but Lennon / Beatles music. I'm sure there have been instances since then when I took a little too much interest in the life of some celebrity, but that is the example that allows me to understand the feelings when I see someone else go through that.

The novel explains this tendency as our attempt to escape our own subjectivity, to "give us a glimpse of ourselves connected with every human". That sounds like what draws me to wanting to blog, to connect to others in a way that affirms our own existence. Except that I feel that I rarely have anything interesting to say! I read other blogs, with their ability to tie random, seemingly innocuous observations into some greater truth. I envy that. It's the same ability that a good photographer has to capture the essence of a moment, or the simple beauty of nature in a way that speaks to all of us.

I've always thought of myself as a good writer, but I lack the creative spark to be able to turn these mundane moments into "art". I keep hoping I will be struck by inspiration. Part of my problem (or my excuse anyway) is that I am so busy with my job and my responsibilities, that any creative impulses I have are drowned out. I've been off work now for 7 days and I suddenly felt the desire to relate what I was reading into this blog, so maybe there is something to that?

For those of you who blog, how do you make the leap from the mundane to something universal?   Does it come naturally?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Stewardship Journey

I wrote this for inclusion in a Thanksgiving devotional our church is planning to distribute in November.  Since I haven't written a blog in forever, I decided to post it here as well.  Let me know what you think.

I didn't become a Christian until I was 30.   Before that, whenever I went to church, I was hyper-sensitive to any talk of money.   If you had asked me at that time, I would have agreed with the common perception that churches talked about money too much.

When I did join the church, I was happy to accept all the gifts that church could bestow on me; nice sanctuary, new classroom, beautiful gym for my son to play ball and roller skate in, etc.  As a token of my appreciation for these provisions, I agreed to be a "regular giver."  However, the amount I was "regularly giving" was not very much, certainly nothing near a tithe.  Part of me would still cringe whenever that passage about the "cheerful giver" was read aloud.  I continued to attend for years, but after the initial excitement of finding Jesus, I have to admit my spiritual growth became stunted, as did my attitude towards giving.

Then I discovered the Disciple Bible Study program.  Disciple I is a 35 week high level study of the entire Bible.  More than that, it is a transformational experience that promotes spiritual growth through daily Bible readings and in depth discussions with other Christians who are trying to deepen their faith.  I always think of Romans 12:2 where Paul instructs us to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind".  This is what it took for me to begin to understand what Christ is calling us to do.  He wants us to give all of ourselves, to hold nothing back, to "offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Rom 12:1).

So at this point, I knew what was expected of me.  However, I did not become a cheerful giver, much less an extravagant giver, overnight.  I wish I could say there was one moment, one sermon or one Bible verse that turned me around.  But just as my faith journey did not include a "road to Damascus moment" so too did my stewardship journey take time for me to internalize the head knowledge I had gained into a heartfelt understanding.  Continued involvement in Disciple, Sunday School classes, sermons,  service projects and personal Bible reading and prayer finally helped me to recognize all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me, but more importantly, I learned that being a Christian isn't about taking, it's about giving.  It's about sacrifice.  It's about taking the salvation message of Christ into the world.

I am happy and honored and blessed to be able to do my part.  Christian stewardship isn't an obligation, it's a privilege!  Thank God for trusting me to use the money, talent and time he has given me in order to help others and to reach others with the love and joy of Christ Jesus!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My dad, Keith Lohmuller

My first blog was about my dad.  I haven't written one since July of last year, so it is fitting that this blog be about him also.
My dad died in February. He lived 19 months with esophageal cancer. He maintained a positive outlook through the entire time, and we were blessed that he never really suffered much pain. Over time, he slowly lost any ability to swallow, and that produced complications along the way. He had trouble sleeping during his last months, and he spent 3 months getting all his nutrition from his feeding tube. He slowly became weaker, but he continued to play bridge at the bridge club, up until about 10 days before he died. He went into the hospital with pneumonia on Feb 1st, and got out in time to watch the Super Bowl at home. Jeff (my brother) and he had a Sunday tradition of watching football together. I joined them a few times in the past year, and on that last Sunday, both Kathy and I made it over to watch the game with him. We had high hopes that he would be in better health after the hospital stay. He had a stent put in his esophagus, and he was actually able to swallow some liquids and soft food. When we brought him home, we stopped at a McDonalds and got him a mocha frappe, which he loved and used to buy every day before he was unable to swallow. The day he died he actually had cheesecake and coffee for breakfast! Unfortunately, he continued to have difficulty breathing after he got home. We hoped that would improve, but Lisa(my sister) took him to the doctor on Wednesday and the doctor was so alarmed he sent him immediately to his oncologist. Dr D, as we called him (Dubovsky) recognized that he was end stage. Earlier, Dr D had told us that Dad had blown past the bell curve of expected survival rate for the type and stage of his cancer at diagnosis. Recognizing that we were near the end, I called and wrote friends and family and asked them to come visit soon if they wanted to see him. My intention was to celebrate his life while he was still around to participate in it. On the Friday he died, I called hospice, hoping that a portable oxygen tank would help him regain some strength and energy. I did not expect and was not mentally prepared for him to die just yet, I figured we still had several weeks left. But that was not the case, and he died peacefully about 11pm that night, with Jeff and Lisa by his side. His last conscious activity was to watch his beloved Jeopardy with Jeff and Lisa and Jeff reports that Dad still got more correct answers (or questions, actually)than either of them!

Since his death, I have been blessed to hear many tributes to the man that he was. When I called lifelong friends, they gushed over things he had done for them and with them. I called a boyhood friend in CA, and we talked about some of the mischief they had gotten into. I told him that Dad had always "blamed" him for being the instigator, and he agreed. Several of his coworkers from NCR have written tributes to him. All have talked about his generous personality, his compassion, his intelligence and keen sense of humor.  One letter called him a pioneer of the computer age, and talked about how he helped many companies move from mechanical accounting to the computer age.  Others have talked about how he helped them move forward in their careers, but also mentioned how much fun they had over their lives with he and Mom.  It's been such a blessing to hear about the lives he has touched and to know that he had such a positive influence on so many lives.  He also leaves a beautiful legacy in the lives of his children and grandchildren.  The tribute that touched me the most was written by my daughter, Rebecca.  I can't describe it, you have to read it. I will post it in a subsequent blog.  If you want to know who my dad was, take a minute and read it.

I am sorry to  run on so long.  I have probably violated all the rules about blog length!  I originally intended to write this about the struggles I have gone through since his death, but instead the blog wrote itself and turned into a tribute to Dad.  God had other plans!

Grandad Keith Memoir

I promised in my last blog that I would post this tribute from Rebecca to her Grandad Keith.  She wrote this the day after he died and we had it framed at his visitation.  Please take a minute to read it.

For my Grandad Keith:

It’s hard to sum my Grandad Keith up in any one word or category. He represents so many things in my mind. I have always considered him a man of refined taste—I picture him alongside nice restaurants with black napkins, fancy wines that I can’t pronounce, and classic Bloody Marys—almost a James Bond (he looks so handsome in the old pictures). He was also a philosopher; no conversation could remain surface level with him—he always expressed deep conceptions behind every notion—everything he believed had been pondered through and through. I can’t remember ever leaving a discussion with Grandad without feeling thoroughly outmatched and feeling like I had learned so much. But he never belittled anyone. I respect his wealth of knowledge greatly. He was also a historian in his own way--he remembered so many stories from his own life, from my dad and his siblings’ lives, from my life, about Nana…so many great intriguing stories from a life well-lived. His memoirs are fascinating and amazingly detailed. And he was a historian of things outside his own life as well—TV shows, movies, sports, books, politicians. No conversation with Grandad would be complete without a quote or story from a TV show, book, movie, or distinguished person.

But despite all these other things, Grandad has always defined love and sensitivity for me as well. The love he and Nana shared could inspire any great playwright. In one glance at Nana or even Nana’s picture, Grandad demonstrated more love than many feel in their entire lives. And this extended to Grandad’s kids and grandkids. He loved so deeply and fully and was not afraid to say it—joyfully or tearfully but always sincerely. From the way he answered the phone when I called or said my name to others I could always tell that I was precious to him and that he was so proud. And I have always so admired how well he preserves connections and friendships with others. So many people in this world let friendships fade or destroy relationships over small things, but Grandad always treasured every person in his life continually no matter what choice they made or what situation changed. So many of my memories of Grandad are not about events or places but are about people and family moments—heartfelt dinner conversations at Thanksgiving or Christmas, long quiet breakfasts of coffee cake with him and Nana, long casual chats in the sunroom over appetizers, playing games in the pool or the hot-tub or on the rope-swing, reading books in Lisa’s old bedroom…. In all these different places I can picture his smile, hear his laugh, and see his love-filled eyes. He will be sorely missed, but my life will forever be different because of the love he shared with me during his life.

With prayers and respect and so much love,

Rebecca Elise Wright, granddaughter of Grandad Keith

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Me and the Tea Party

I have seen the error of my ways!  I am joining the Tea Party!  All my conservative friends have finally had their influence on me.  No more nanny state.  No more ObamaCare!  Let private industry reign supreme, we can trust them (except maybe BP).

Government is Evil!  Government is Bad!  Let's start with the Feds - according to the Constitution, the only thing the Feds should do is protect our borders.  Heck, in Arizona, we (I say "we", because after all, we are ALL Arizonians!), we don't even need the Feds to do that.  Let's just form our own militia and keep the evildoers out of our borders.   Second Amendment Baby!!

Once we get rid of the Feds, we can go to work on the State Government.  They're just a bunch of fat cats anyway (especially in Georgia!).  Who needs the state to tell us what we can do with our water?  The water is in Georgia, we'll do what we want with it!

Next up is local, county and city "gummints".  Dump them as well.  Who needs fire and police protection?  If a house catches fire, let it burn.   As long as it's not my house, why should I care?  We'll fight our own crime with our own guns.  Once everyone carries, no one would be stupid enough to mess with us, right?  They can have my gun when they pry it from my cold dead fingers!

As the hippies used to say, it's time to go back to the garden, or perhaps the jungle.  Survival of the fittest - that's the Darwinism I believe in!  Let the strong survive, let the weak eat dust.  As Jesus said, "To thine own self be true" (maybe it wasn't Jesus, but it was SOMEBODY important!).

In closing, I ask for your vote.  Elect me, and I will go to work for you to start dismantling the government piece by piece until there's nothing left.   Trust me ...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Health care debate gets buried by hyperbole

This blog was inspired by seeing this billboard posted on facebook:

One of the comments underneath the facebook posting of that billboard reads "I have my gun ready."   This is ridiculous!  Methinks the rhetoric and hyperbole have gone too far.  I don't remember the reaction being this strong in 2003 when Bush involved us in an (IMHO) unnecessary war that killed thousands of Americans. Other examples just from this morning's read of the newspaper:

  • several states threatening lawsuit over the 'unfunded mandates' of the health care law (nevermind that the charges to states budgets don't kick in until 2017 and then only a small percentage)
  • protesters hurling racial and anti-gay epithets at Congressmen on Sunday (the irony being that John Lewis was one of the targets ... kind of takes you back to the '60s, doesn't it?)
  • Sarah Palin saying "Don't retreat, instead RELOAD"
  • all the comparisons of Obama to Hitler and Stalin
It's perfectly fine for people to protest our government and it is our right to vote against incumbents that we don't like.  But when people resort to violent rhetoric (and actions) a line has been crossed.   I am actually starting to feel nervous that we are headed for a violent split in this country.  Technologies such as twitter and facebook have helped to amp up the volume.  Our divisions seem to be deepening, and hardening and we are forgetting the many things that unite us.  Politicians on both sides contribute to this by demonizing their colleagues in the other party and by drawing comparisons to socialism, totalitarianism, even fascism!  Go and read up on those ideologies and you will see that nothing that we are doing today remotely approaches those forms of government.  Yes, the Obama administration believes that government has a role to play in the protection of the people; reasonable people can disagree with that and prefer to let the free market sort things out.   That's what elections are for.  My point is that we should engage in a reasonable debate over the role we want government to play.   Let's do that and drop the hyperbole.

As to the health care law, I have a couple of points I want to make, with regard to some of the reactions I have heard:
  • People are criticizing Congress for going against the wishes of their constituents.  They forget that Bush was praised for not being a slave to the polls.  They also forget that in 2006, Bush ignored a wide majority of the American public and the recommendations of his own blue ribbon, bipartisan panel, and he escalated the war in Iraq by going forward with the surge.  Guess what - that worked out pretty well!  Sometimes a politician has to do what he or she thinks is right even if public opinion is opposed.
  • The issue of the constitutionality of the individual mandate is very interesting.   Supporters cite the commerce clause as justification.  I read one blog that said that, while the current interpretation of the commerce clause probably exceeds the original intent of the framers, several Supreme Court decisions in the mid 20th Century expanded the modern definition of the clause to cover a wide range of legislation.  Other examples of individual mandates include Social Security and Medicare taxes, and income taxes in general.  So there is precedent, and the likelihood of the issue even getting to the Supreme Court is remote.  Most scholars that I have read believe that, despite the current conservative leaning makeup of the Court, if it did reach that far they would uphold the law as written.  As recently as 2005, Justice Scalia wrote "noneconomic local activity" can come under federal regulation if it is "a necessary part of a more general regulation of interstate commerce." 
  • The other constitutionality argument being made by several states is that the government is imposing an unfunded mandate on the states by expanding Medicaid.  Here, the "supremacy clause"(Article 6) states that "the laws of the United States ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land".
  • The health care law is not a "socialist" law.  A single payer system would be an example of a socialist policy.  Even with the "public option" this type of legislation was never part of Obama's recommendations.  The law Obama signed on Tuesday keeps private insurers in place, and is, in fact, a very moderate change in policy.  Yes it will cost more, and there are legitimate concerns about what it will do to the deficit.  However, it is not socialist.
OK, I've had my rant.  Feel free to comment / rebut as you see fit!