Finding it Again

It seems like so very long ago, I was a young man running the back roads, the sweat running into my eyes as I put in the miles.  When I was a senior in high school, my home life wasn’t so great.  I ended up moving out of my Mom’s house and in with my Sister and her husband.  Unlike my Mom, they lived out on the edge of civilization, or so it seemed.  There were two lane roads that seemed to go for ever without leading to anything.  A runner could spend the afternoon or morning exploring them and enjoying the scenery.  I enjoyed being able to run those quiet Midwest roads.  It allowed me to get rid of the stress associated with being a poor kid with no future.  A five mile run in the humid Midwest evening was a relief from the stresses we all seem to have to deal with.  School, relationships, and money (or lack thereof).  I found solace in the run.  I found wisdom.  I found the ability to cope.  Strength.  Running gave my life purpose.  I was young and could run forever. 

Then my life changed.  I joined the military.  Don’t get me wrong.  The Air Force was a great career choice for a young man without a future and an economy that was stagnant at best.  The military pointed me in a direction and I followed eagerly.  I gave my life to the Air Force.  I traveled.  I saw stuff that others only read about.  It was exhilarating!  But somewhere along the way, my love of running slipped away.  I was in shape, and comfortable with my physical being.  And I ran, but I ran because I had to, not because I wanted to.  The enjoyment of complete solitude can’t be found when your running with the people you work with.  Your pace is no longer your pace, but that of the team.  It’s hard to get lost in the run when your focused on everyone finishing.  Running became a chore.  I ran because I had to, not because I wanted to.  I won’t say I did the minimum to get by, because that’s not who I am.  But I certainly wasn’t getting the enjoyment out of it that I used to.  After a while, the pace of the military, with all of the gear and requirements, began to take a toll on my body.  My knees have worn down over time from the constant wear and tear of supporting my body and the associate gear/weapons assigned to me.  I’m not complaining.  I’d do it again if given the opportunity.  But I’m not that carefree eighteen year old that can run forever anymore.

Now my life has changed again.  The military is no longer my master.  I’ve moved on to a great career in teaching.  With it brings new responsibilities and new stressors.  Not much different from joining the military when you think about it.  Any new career will bring with it new challenges.  What teaching doesn’t require is physical fitness.  Yes, it is a physically demanding job in that you’re on your feet most of the day.  But I don’t have to pass a fitness examination and I certainly don’t need to work out with my fellow teachers.  So, for me, that meant that for the past six years, I’ve not done a very good job of staying in shape.  The first couple years, I was fine because it’s kind of hard to lose your condition after 25+ years of training.  But eventually, the gut started expanding, and my ability to run more than short distances eroded.  The stressors of teaching started to build, and I didn’t have a release, other than alcohol.  My wife called it beer therapy.  I started wondering how I used to deal with it all.  I thought back through all of my time in the Air Force, what I did to survive.  In the military, you don’t need to figure it out, because there really isn’t time for that.  You just keep pressing and doing what needs to be done, including the workouts.  So I looked a little further back, to when the responsibilities of he military hadn’t corrupted my understanding of life.  I remembered when I used to run to give everything meaning.  I’m getting back to that now.  I have the time to invest in my mental health, and running seems to be paying the best dividends.  The miles don’t come as easily.  The wear and tear is still there.  My knees ache when I push them too hard. But the relaxation at the end of the run is back.  The roads and views are different.  Instead of the humid, green environment of the Midwest, I now have the dry, high desert environment of New Mexico.  But there are plenty of roads leading to nowhere, and I have glimpses of the wisdom and purpose that I once knew, allowing me to cope with this new existence.

I Was Making Me Look Bad

I’ve found a new motivator in my life.  Running.  I’ll gladly place the blame on a friend of mine for this change in lifestyle.  Over the past few years, we’ve completed the Bataan Memorial Death March, which is a marathon length event that allows the participants to memorialize the Bataan Death March endured by U.S. and Philippine forces during WWII.  In any case, after completing this event in March, my friend decided he needed to run a half marathon.  I commented to him that he was making me look bad.  His comment that will forever burn in my mind was that “I was making me look bad.”  Challenge understood and accepted!  Thank you Tim for this incredible motivator!  You have to appreciate tough love.

Since mid April, I’ve been focusing on getting myself in shape to participate in both half and full marathons in the upcoming months.  My endeavors have produced a person capable of running 6 miles at a 10:30 pace.  I’m registered for a half marathon in August and believe that based on my current schedule, I’ll be able to complete in 2:15 or better.  I’ll base my goal for the October marathon on how well I do on the half marathon.

Who knows, maybe by the end of the summer, I won’t be making myself look bad anymore.

The End of our Nation?

The signs to me are becoming clearer and clearer.  Our nation is coming to a crossroads and the path it decides to take will determine whether or not we continue as a democracy or transform into a socialist nation similar to our European counterparts.  A colleague of mine mentioned it to me the other day; that he doesn’t understand why the Supreme Court would strike down “Obamacare.”  He thinks the decision will be partisan and that the people of our nation don’t understand the need for reform.  I tried to explain it to him.  We need reform, but it has to be done within the constraints of the Constitution.  If we disregard the Constitution, then all of the reforms in the world won’t make a difference because our nation will cease to exist as a democracy and we’ll become a socialist state.  I explained to my colleague that to allow the individual mandate would be tantamount to saying the government can force anything on this nation by simply saying that something is good for us and therefore it’s OK.  He said it would never come to that, that we could trust our government to do the right thing and not usurp its power.  I keep thinking back to the movie “Demolition Man” where Sandra Bullock’s character Lenina Huxely explains to Stallone’s character John Spartan that various things that are bad for you have been deemed illegal.  Where do we draw the line?  Do we want government telling us what we have to have and when we have to have it?  The Supreme Court is going to decide an issue as momentous as Brown v. Board and if it decides in favor of the legislation, our Constitution will become a non factor.  The government will be allowed to make decisions without constraint and anyone who has studied government in any capacity will know that it’s just a matter of time before we become a dictatorship and the U.S. no longer exists.

Time For The Coffee Party

I have absolutely no illusions that someone in this world has recommended we start another political party out there called The Coffee Party.  The idea is entirely to simple.  Time to wake up and smell the coffee.  We’ve allowed ourselves to become partisan.  On the one hand, we have the hard line Democrats who want to keep spending like it’s going out of style, and to raise taxes in order to pay for it.  On the other, we have the hard line Republicans who think we can fix this mess simply by cutting spending.  The fact of the matter is, neither option is going to get it done.  There has to be a middle ground.  

But Republicans are still pissed off about ObamaCare being shoved down their throats and aren’t willing to give in at all on taxes.  And the Democrats aren’t going to give in as long as the Republicans stick to the hard line.  Who’s getting screwed in this deal?  I am.  I pay more and more in taxes and nothing gets done.  My wife is out of work and I pay more in taxes.  A whole bunch of idiots in Congress and I pay mor in taxes.  It won’t matter who gets elected next, the only consistent is that I’ll pay more in taxes.  It’s a lose/lose situation.  The only way I get out of this is if a new team comes in and cleans up the mess.  Time for the Coffee Party.  Why do we drink coffee?  So we can wake up.  Well maybe the government needs to wake up.  Maybe we need some real people willing to make some hard decisions.  Time for a strong cup of coffee and the ability to face the realities of the world.  I know its not the perfect solution, but dammit, it’s better than what we have now.

I Need To Feel Better About Our Government

I’m getting a little tired of all of the bickering going on in Washington.  Do we or don’t we increase the debt ceiling.  Do we or don’t we increase taxes.  To be brutally honest, I think we need to start over from scratch.  Start with a balanced budget amendment that does not include a deficit except in time of war or extreme emergency.  Cut out all earmark spending.  Cut the government by ten percent, including the military.  Once that’s done, we need to establish a flat tax rate for all.  The tax rate can be either ratcheted up or down based on the spending needs forcast in the budget.  On top of that, we need to increase taxes on fossil fuels by ten percent and use half of the money for research and development of alternative fuel sources and the other half for rebuilding the nations infrastructure.  We need to make changes to Social Security and Medicare that ensure it will be functional.  If not, then I want a refund of all money I’ve put into the system so I can invest it for my needs.  There needs to be a commision set up to rethink our position on Marijuana.  We’re spending too much in the fight against it.  We need to tax it like alcohol.

As for illegal immigrants, we need to think outside the box on that as well.  Let’s invite any nation in North, Central, and South America to become part of the United States.  This would be a one time offer.  The country would become a state, but would have to wait ten years for their ability to vote in national elections.  Any nation declining would lose any and all immigration rights for the next ten years.  All current illegal immigrants would be given a chance to become US citizens as well.  There would be a nominal fee per person (in lieu of taxes that haven’t been paid) and they would have a mandatory wait time of ten years before being allowed to vote in any state or federal elections.  That should settle the problem of the democrats reaping the benefit of the influx of new voters.

OK, I feel better now…but not about our government.

Call Me…

Call me a Tea Party activist. Call me a Libertarian. Call me anything but a spending liberal. We need to make some changes in this country. There is no way we can sustain the spending on non-essential programs. There is entirely too much pork.  The Tea Party had it right when it managed to get Representatives elected to the House with the idea that we cut spending.  They were able to force Obama out of his spending comfort zone and back to the reality of out of control debt.  Democrats suddenly saw the light.  Unfortunately, there were too many liberal-minded Republicans to force the issue as far as needed.  They buckled under the pressure and allowed Obama off the hook.  When are they going to figure out that we’re going to pay, whether it’s now or later.  I would like us to fix the problem now instead of forcing our children to fix it later.  Health Care reform was needed, but not at additional cost to the taxpayers. Why did the Government feel they had to expand and be the solution when they could have facilitated the private sector?  Big government is never the answer.  Alternative energy sources need to be found, but again, not at the expense of the taxpayers. This is a capitalistic society.  Let the private sector come up with the fixes and reap the benefits.  Stop supporting big oil with tax breaks.  Level the playing field for everyone and you’ll see this nation emerge as a leader in alternative energy.  We need to change the tax system so it doesn’t favor the rich, but that doesn’t mean the poor should be getting away scott free. A flat tax without corporate exemptions would be fair and provide this nation all the income it needs. Additionally, we need to review all government expenditures and ensure that we aren’t spending money on programs that aren’t essential for this nation.  And I do mean everything.  Defense spending needs to be reigned in, and I have no problem with cutting all aid to other nations.  Welfare needs to be looked at and reformed if not completely done away with.  There are plenty of areas that can be cut if we just take the time to look.  I’d be willing to help if Congress can’t figure it out.  All they have to do is call me.

The Splinter in the Catholic’s Eye

I went to my Niece’s conformation ceremony on Friday night.  The individual presiding over the ceremony was Achbishop Michael Sheehan.  It was held in Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church and, for the most part, was a nice ceremony.  Except for the comments he made.  You would expect a ceremony that confirms teenagers into the church to be one that focuses on and exalts Christ.  Apparently Michael didn’t feel that was needed.  His comments focused on the falseness of all the other Christian Churches in the world.  In other words, he spent 20 minutes speaking about the splinter in his Brother’s eye, rather than worrying about the plank in the eye of the Catholic Church.  I’m sure their is some mandate from the Vatican that requires the Archbishops to discuss/not discuss certian issues when they go out for the yearly confirmation ceremonies.  And if they wish to remain in their position in the Church, they had better toe the line.  But you would think that the leaders of the Church would put some time and thought into what they are going to talk about and try not to be too controversial.  Unless of course, they’re trying to kiss up to the big man.  Michael, you need to get your nose out of the Pope’s rear end and back into the Bible.

Mr. President, Stay Out of State Level Issues

Is it me or is the President getting involved in way to many state level issues?  The latest is the potential mosque in New York.  Why is he getting involved?  This is clearly a state level issue.  Heck, it’s more of a city level issue.  Sure, I realize the issue is politically charged and we have people from all over the country jumping in with their view.  On one hand we have the freedom of religion issue.  The Constitution is very clear on the issue.  Government must not be allowed to dictate which religions are and are not allowed to exist in this nation.  On the other we have the sensitive issue of a non-Christian religious building near ground zero.  This country was established on Christian principles, not Islamic, and the idea of a mosque being built so close to the site of an Islamic terrorist attack is appalling.  These are tough questions which will need to be answered by the people of New York, not the President.  He’s made it perfectly clear by his stance in Arizona that the Federal Government needs to deal with federal issues, and State Government needs to deal with state issues.  So why is he stepping in on this issue?  I’m not from New York, but if I were, I’d tell the guy to butt out of New York’s business.  The people of New York will make the right decision for New York.

Divorce, The Wound That Never Heals

I’m beginning to wonder if 2010 is going to destroy me.  I think I can survive it.  I hope I can survive it.  But as the days turn to weeks and the weeks to months, I have to wonder.  My latest trial is with my ex-wife and her continued push for more money out of my retirement.  If this were the only issue, it wouldn’t be so bad.  But there have been a number of other issues including a breast cancer scare for my wife, the Marine Corps going after my son for a hazing incident he wasn’t involved in, the deployment of another son to the Middle East, and a stolen identity issue that has all of my Mom’s retirement up in the air.  Every time I think I have a handle on one of the issues, another jumps back up.  In this case, it’s the legal issues with my ex.  One minute I’m painting a livingroom, the next I’m trying to calm my wife who’s just read the latest letter from my lawyer detailing my ex wifes attempt to steal more of my military retirement check.

I suppose it’s sad.  We were divorced over ten years ago.  It was a very angry divorce with a number of false accusations from her in an attempt to gain more leverage.  She made a few significant errors including leaving our home and two children, and then leaving the state to live with her boyfriend.  The divorce agreement gave her a portion of my military retirement assuming that I do the minimum 20 years and earn it.  I did, and she should have started receiving her portion in 2008.  Unfortunately, she didn’t complete the required documentation for DFAS.  She seems to think that I should have done that for her.  But division of military retirement pay is relatively simple.  If the marriage lasted more than 10 years (ours was just short of 14 years) then the spouse’s portion is paid directly to the individual instead of coming from the military member.  The requirement is stipulated in the Uniform Services Former Spouses Protection Act that the proper paperwork be submitted in order to start the payments from DFAS.  All the spouse has to do is complete the paperwork, which my ex failed to do until over a year later.  Now she wants me to pay her for her mistake.  Silly me, I thought that when the divorce was final, she would be responsible for her own actions.  They say that death is easier to live with than divorce simply because death is final and you have closure.  I have to agree.  This divorce has been extremely painful from the day she left until now.  Certainly, I should have expected a couple of years of hurt and anger, but time is supposed to heal all wounds.  Unfortunately, no wound will heal if it is reopened time and time again.

How does this all impact me?  In order to ensure I didn’t get taken to the cleaners, I needed to hire an attorney.  This required me to layout money for a retainer and hope that it was enough.  But the longer this case has taken to settle, the more I’ve had to pay out.  And there’s still no guarantee that I’ll win or that the status quo will be maintained.  The only winners here will be the attorneys.  This money I have earmarked for the lawyers is money that my family was going to use for vacation.  Needless to say, there won’t be any vacation this year, and maybe not next year either if this doesn’t get settled soon.

I still have to live my life.  I have to go to work and keep a professional demeanor even though my insides are trying to explode.  I have to stay positive in front of my kids and other family members.  I have to keep my family moving forward.  So when do I get a break?  Will there ever come a time when I can relax and enjoy my life, or am I destined to spend it handicapped by an open wound?

Living Outside the Box…or U.S. of A

Time to start thinking outside the box…or at least the United States of America.  I’m not retired…yet.  I have a few more years to go before I start thinking about that issue.  On the other hand, I don’t have a problem with the idea of an early retirement.  Retiring early is a great idea if you can do it.  (read if you can afford it and want to change your lifestyle)  Think about it, you’d be opening up a job slot to someone who needs it, and giving yourself the opportunity to delve into your hobbies and interests with full force.

I was reading an article yesterday about retiring overseas on $1200 a month on MSN by Liz Pulliam Weston.  The idea is that there are cities in some smaller countries that you could live in very inexpensively using only your social security check.  Housing is very affordable as well as food and entertainment.  Access to cable TV and high-speed internet available.  The only area that might be an issue is health care.  Even that is available at a reasonable rate.  The countries that interested me were Panama and Nicaragua.  Leon, Nicaragua is a decent sized city about 15 miles from the Pacific coast.  It is a college town with plenty of bookstores and coffee shops.  Teresa and I could find ourselves a nice sized apartment and settle into a relaxing life.  No, I won’t be receiving social security for a few more years, but I do have my military retirement check coming in, and that is more than the $1200 social security check that I would be receiving.  We could be very comfortable.

There are some problems that would need to be addressed.  One glaring obstacle would be lack of visitation with the kids and our parents.  Teresa is the type of person that needs to be involved in the kids lives, and living abroad might be an issue for her.  She needs to be able to take off at a moments notice and visit.  And our parents aren’t getting any younger.  They’re older and in constant need of medical attention.  This requires us to be available to assist on a moments notice. 

One of my hobbies is genealogy.  This requires me to travel to towns in the US to research family issues.  It would be nice if I could do that all on the internet, but that’s not the case.  You need to be able to visit remote sites like libraries and cemeteries in different parts of the country.  I suppose we could plan all of our visitation around the summer months and holidays.  The money saved by living abroad would give us a decent savings and allow us to travel extensively.  We could travel by car since Nicaragua is just down the road from the U.S.  We could leave a small trailer parked in the U.S. and pick it up for our visitation trips.  Not a bad idea! 

Another issue is food.  We enjoy the diverse culinary aspects that the U.S. provides.  Would we have access to traditional North American cuisine as well as the local fare?  I like steak and beer, and I’m not talking the cheap stuff.  T-Bone and Sam Adams is more my style.  What about seafood?  Chinese?  My life doesn’t revolve around food, but it is an important issue.  Certainly the lack of junk food would be a boon to our health and enhance our lives.  Besides, with a less chaotic lifestyle, we would have more time to devote to good eating.

What about our entertainment needs?  We enjoy the occasional movie and like to go to the theater for off broadway plays.  Will they be available to us?  Movies certainly would, and I suppose we could plan the theater trips for our visitation travel. 

Church could be a problem.  My wife is definitely a devout Catholic.  While I don’t see that as an obstacle, she is certainly concerned about it and might object to not being able to worship with family and friends.  Tradition is important in the Catholic Church.  I on the other hand am a non-denominational Christian.  I’m certain that I could find a way to meet my religious needs through self-study and worship.  Once again, we might be able to meet her needs of worshipping with family during our visitation travels.

All in all, I think the idea of living outside the U.S. is a good idea with great possibilities.  Comfortable living in a relaxed environment would be beneficial to our health.  Inexpensive housing would enable us to travel at our convenience.  I wonder if they have Samuel Adams beer…?