Saturday, November 23, 2013

Switching Tracks

After taking a short break, I've switched tracks.  Currently, I am posting at

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Taking A Break

I'm busy and uninspired to write.  Even my photography has fallen off.  The wedding is about 9 weeks away so I'm putting my blog aside for the time being.  I'm going to look for those of you that I'm not connected to on Facebook.  I'm there daily and don't want to lose touch.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Backroading. Again.

It started out simply enough.  Marie picks me up.  We drive through Starbucks for coffee.  Hit the road for Modesto  and finalize the contract for the Common Core event we are hosting next week.  Walking in from the parking lot to the convention center, I am reminded that beauty is found in the smallest things.

After taking care of business, it was playtime and the beautiful weather had yard sales and rummage sales springing up all over.  One of the more interesting ones visually (but least successful shopping wise) welcomed us with a raised gate.

The front yard pasture had a few cows and steers that did not want to be photographed.

On the way back to the car, I accidentally pushed the video button and ended up filming my walk back the road . . .

  . . . where I spotted this big dairy operation across the road.

After we left, we went looking for the roadside shrine I spotted earlier in the week but didn't have time to stop for.  At the center of the cross is a picture of a middle age couple.  There is only one set of dates and the years range from 1993 to 2012.  A pink ribbon encircles the top of the cross.  Perhaps the picture is of parents or grandparents mourning their lost little daughter.

And finally, a while ago, I found anti-government signs Here and was amused at how adamant they were in their protest.  So, when we ran across THIS sign on our way home, I was struck by its simplicity.  Farmers and ranchers are simple and plain speaking folks.  The sign said it all.  'Nuff said.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Don and I went shopping this week and . . .

. . . bought a car.

We knew we (read that I) would feel better driving across the country in a car that was NOT 15 years old.  Our Buick Century is a good car and has served us well, but, it's a '98, has a lot of miles on it, and the idea of driving it from California to Texas, to Missouri, to Kentucky, to Indiana, to W.VA, to Pennsylvania, to Maryland, to Virginia, then back through Ohio and Indiana to Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois and after that, a straight shot home, well, I didn't think the old girl would be too happy doing that.  So, after some discussion, and then me going along reluctantly but resignedly, off we went shopping.

Where cars are concerned, Don and I have always been one stop shoppers.  Unlike many who are thrilled with the hunt and challenge of car shopping, Don and I simply want to get a car that works, ticks off the major specification we individually and together are looking for, and we know we will feel secure with.  We do a little checking around online; we discover what is out there.  We don't shop for a car for at least 10-12 years between purchases and THIS ONE was 15 years.

We considered an SUV and particularly looked at Jeeps.  It didn't take me long to determine that getting in and out of an SUV was not for me.  The vehicle is set too high.  The roof lines at the doors were too low and I felt like a pretzel getting in and out.  It wasn't until they were bigger that I got in and out with any ease and that made them TOO big overall and too expensive.  So . . .

We looked around the Hertz rental lots to see what else was available and I closed in on the Nissan Altimas.  That was when we discovered that the Nissan car and all parts was made entirely in the U.S.A.  Win/win.  The back end was very roomy; Don could load wood and boards in when he needed to; the backseats laid down flat.  The lay down seats were a big plus on my score card because this would allow me to lay out to sleep at rest stops when we stop for a few hours.  Don can sleep in an unmoving car in the front see.  I can't.  I have to be able to lay down.  Another win/win.

I think it can do some other fancy stuff to like syncing up with my phone.  I'm still trying to figure out how to do that.  It doesn't have GPS but that's alright.  I have it on my phone and Don has a TomTom (which may or may not work anymore.  We'll see).

No more car worries for a long time.  This baby hums and we have good mechanics we trust to do the right thing by her when she needs a bit of TLC.  All in all, I'm happy and ready to hit the road.  January is fast coming up on us.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Monday with Mary and learning to live courageously

David Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., has fought tooth and nail against the Obamacare mandate that his business must pay for employee insurance that includes abortion-causing drugs. For the deeply religious Green, this is a government intrusion in his faith, one that manifestly violates the First Amendment’s promise that the federal government will not interfere in people’s religious practices. Green has now published an open letter explaining the threats his company is facing from the Obama administration and the steps that Hobby Lobby is taking to protect its business and its religious integrity:

Sept.23, 2013

When my family and I started our company 40 years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assembling miniature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn’t much bigger than most people’s living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God’s word.

From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of the nation’s largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41 states. Our children grew up into fine business leaders, and today we run Hobby Lobby together, as a family.

We’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I’ve always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God’s laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week’s biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest.
We believe that it is by God’s grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We’ve not only added jobs in a weak economy, we’ve raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.
But now, our government threatens to change all of that.

A new government healthcare mandate says that our family business MUST provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs.
It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one.
If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3 million PER DAY in government fines.
Our government threatens to fine job creators in a bad economy.

Our government threatens to fine a company that’s raised wages four years running.
Our government threatens to fine a family for running its business according to its beliefs. It’s not right. I know people will say we ought to follow the rules; that it’s the same for everybody. But that’s not true.
So, Hobby Lobby and my family are forced to make a choice. With great reluctance, we filed a lawsuit today, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asking a federal court to stop this mandate before it hurts our business. We don’t like to go running into court, but we no longer have a choice. We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit.

My family has lived the American dream. We want to continue growing our company and providing great jobs for thousands of employees, but the government is going to make that much more difficult.

The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law. I say that’s a choice no American and no American business should have to make.
The government cannot force you to follow laws that go against your fundamental religious belief. They have exempted thousands of companies but will not except Christian organizations including the Catholic Church.

Since you will not see this in the liberal media, please pass this on to all your contacts.

David Green
CEO and Founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Years of Work Completed

We went to the dedication of our new Public Safety Building and it was a happy, community unifying time.  From before Don started working for the police department and then retiring, this building has been in the planning stages and construction.  A combination of grants and city renewal money paid for it.  No taxes on the community.  At all.  Cool.

Presenting Colors

Mayor John Lazar says a few words about the history of this building effort.

Michael Anderson from Congressman Jeff Denham's off presents a flag to Chief Rob Jackson and Mayor Lazar.  This flag flew over the Pentagon this year on September 11th.

Chief of Police Rob Jackson

Fire Chief Tim Lohman

The VFW and American Legion fund raised for a memorial to be erected to honor each of the armed services. The  American Legion Commander is at the podium.  The Vice Commander for VFW is at the far right. Unfortunately, I don't know their names.

American Legion Commander, Chief Jackson, VFW Vice Commander and Chief Lohman


The first phase of the Military Services Memorial

A fitting end to an uplifting hour.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mission Post #17 - Gifts of the Spirit

The First and Highest Gift of the Holy Spirit is Wisdom.  Wisdom is the perfection of faith. As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, "Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves." The better we understand those truths, the more we value them properly. Thus wisdom, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "by detaching us from the world, makes us relish and love only the things of heaven." Through wisdom, we judge the things of the world in light of the highest end of man—the contemplation of God.

I am nowhere near perfection and actually, the amount of wisdom I possess may be equal to what is needed to know when I've taken a step backwards.  Today I realized that I was taking forward steps towards wisdom without even knowing it and that bit of awareness lead me right to what I'm going to call "my error of the day".  Yeah.  Just one.  But wisdom tells me that an "s" can easily be added to "error".  So I guess I should count my blessings that today's insight came in one long protracted lesson.

Committing to going on a mission takes a lot of thought and later, preparation.  And then practical actions (like applying to be a volunteer).  And then there are recommendations, criminal checks, background checks, and online classes to be aware of child abuse and elder abuse.  Reality check time.  This just going out and doing something good for others is not a simple process in the 21st century. 

But with that all behind me, other areas started to open up.  I found myself praying more, becoming more conscious of my actions, and following breadcrumbs that pointed out behavior that needs to change.  Which brings me to today.

The Walmart Neighborhood Store was not very busy and I got everything I needed that was on my list.  Then I wandered around and decided to pick up a few more things that I had reserved for Raleys.  
Win/Win.  Then I got to the checkout stand. 

Stand one - there is a problem so I go to
Stand two - and met a big load of groceries to be checked so back to
Stand one - where I discover the problem will take a while and it's back to
Stand two - where a full basket from another shopper is now in line.

At this point, I start to wonder when they will open checkout stand three because people are gathering; everything else is Self-Checkout.   I make a comment about opening Stand 3 but it falls on deaf ears.  Then, Stand 2 shuts down too and still no one responsive about getting someone to open Stand 3.  I'm not shy about stating my feelings.  Then in undisguised exasperation, I go to Self-Checkout.

Self-Checkout at Walmart is easier than it is at Raleys; I'll give it that.  There is no machine beeping and speaking at you.  Nice.  BUT, reaching deep into the basket was hard on my back and by the time I was finished with my very full basket, I was a sore and crabby mess.

To add insult to injury, another couple who had been there with me when this mess started (and had only five items) was just finishing checking out at Stand 2.  Yes, they had finally reopened.  A few growling words later, aimed at the clerk, and I was gone.

Okay, so you had to be there.  Bad customer service at the checkout after a good in-store experience and a nice clerk at the meat counter, just plain soured me.  Walmart!

So, I went home, cooled off (literally and figuratively) and then headed out to Raleys.  First stop, Starbucks (and the beginning of my breadcrumb trail fed by my moderate supply of accumulated wisdom).  There, I ran into John, a young man I had not seen for a while.  We chatted and caught up and I admired his Spanish language Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I told him about my and Don's upcoming mission and what we would be doing and at the same time consider that I need to start paying attention to my Spanish self-studies again.  It occurred to me that reading the Catechism in English and Spanish might be a helpful learning aid.  It also got me thinking about Walmart and my actions there.  God was sending me a message and His Wisdom was moving in and taking over.  I then moved on to Raleys and quickly discovered that God wasn't finished with me.

So, no sooner did I go into Raleys than I saw two nuns.  Now, this isn't an everyday occurrence around here and to add to the recognition factor, they were wearing traditional habits.  One of the nuns was hurrying down the aisle and rounded the corner.  She disappeared but then I turned around and there was another nun, with a laywoman.  I had to speak and said "hello".  The breadcrumbs turned into an entire loaf of bread.
She was Sr. Maria Santana of the  Irmas Missionarios dos Pebres.  Their mission is to help and serve the homeless, sick and destitute among the children of Brazil.  This naturally lead to me sharing our upcoming mission to serve the poor in SE Missouri and our work with Sr. Darlene.  It was an amazing and unifying moment and God's message and His grace was received loud and clear.

Wisdom is teaching me take a deep breath.  Look at what is going on around me.  Take inventory.  Be patient.  Recall the wisdom of keeping your mouth shut when the words that want to come out will wound someone or, worse yet, make you look like an idiot.  And just to make sure that I knew who was in charge, He gave me one final test and after some thought and deliberation, I said just the right thing.  I spoke from my heart.  I was direct, honest and didn't compromise my beliefs.  End result?  A nice conversation with a former student and an opportunity to teach a little bit about taking information about the Church from the source, not from media or other uninformed interpreters.   Thank you, God, for the gift of wisdom that gave me just the right words to make everything end A-okay.