Thursday, April 19, 2018

You can "Do Something"

When the most recent mass shooting hit another school the papers became full of rage over the lack of actions from politicians. And I am not immune to the feeling that politicians do not always act when they should or that they are too persuaded by lobbyist etc... I realize that we would do well to focus more on what we can do rather than be outrage over what we have little to no control over.  The thought that I will "Do Something" is the motivation behind one of my recent articles (Click here).

I firmly by doing something we will be far better off then by simply complaining about what others are not doing.

Seeing the "other side"

I remember in seventh grade when my teacher made us argue the "other side."

This was not the last time that a teacher would make me look at others view and made me argue for them. I hated this. It made me feel like I was learning to argue just for the sake of arguing, not because I truly believed a given way.

Yet now many years later how grateful I am for being forced to see the "other side." The truth is, this can be used to improve your ability to argue, but what it is far more useful is to improve ones ability to understand.

I am very disappointed that we are surrounded by pundits who make it seem like most policy decisions are black and white, truth and error. They refuse to acknowledge or even give credence to the fact that the, "other side" has any idea what they are talking about or even understand their own views.

Recently our city council had to decide if we would change our voting cycle. (I wrote about the pros and cons here). I have my opinion but it is just that. If we are ever going to get beyond partisan politics we need to realize that both sides have valid points and there is more common ground then we realize.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Worry vs. Gratitude?

Today my last article for the Boulder City Review. For various reasons I have chosen to step back and stop writing for the paper. I have loved it and want to thank those who have let me interview them and mostly thank the editor, Hali, for giving me the chance.

The link to my latest column is Here. The purpose is to try to promote taking time to realize how grateful we should be. Since I was little I have been taught to control my emotions. Seems simple, do things like, think positively, avoid anger, count my blessings, develop an attitude of gratitude. These are cliche, yet wise. And if I were to ask you which feeling or emotion you should develop, worry or peace, discontentment or gratitude? Universally, I think you would answer, peace and gratitude. Unfortunately, many of the things we fill our lives with drive us to worry and discontentment.

I don’t care which side of the isle you are on but watch Fox News or MSNBC for a day and tell me which emotions this kindles or which emotions are they trying to evoke. For some reason politics is a realm where people are constantly filled with worry about future policies and politicians or discontentment with the current ones. We all seem to view politics from a negative light. Yet it is supposed to be a county, “for the people, by the people”. And mostly, that is exactly what we have. Is it perfect? No. Has it made an incredibly wonderful nation that has far more good than bad? I think so.

So, take some time to reflect on how wonderful our freedoms, policies and even some politicians are, once and a while. It will help you find more peace and gratitude, in a world that is truly worth being grateful for.

Monday, March 5, 2018

One arm? Homeless? No problem.

Between the San Diego airport and the bay is a thin strip of land that is filled with trees, grass, beach and rocks. It’s called Spanish Landing Park. It’s beautiful and many people walk along this preserved area. I walked down the park, the Sun had set but there was yet light enough to see, as I beheld a man running a piece of drift wood down the rough side of his skateboard.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

A common and truthful response to such a question may be, “none of your business.” But his first response was to look up and smile. What the smile lacked in teeth it made up for with contentment and acceptance.

“I’m remaking some tools. See I live on a sail boat and recently some of my tools for mending the sails and nets were stolen, so I am fashioning new ones. I made this earlier today.” He pulls out a much smaller piece of wood with a hole in one end. “That will act as my needle when I use a hemp thread to mend nets. This larger piece I’m workin’ on now is for the sails.”

Both pieces look very impressive but was is both most noticeable and adds to the richness of what he is doing is his obvious handicap. One is nothing but a stub and the other has a hand with a badly misshapen thumb and only three fingers.

“So, what is our name?” He asks.


“Mine’s Will. Nathaniel is the mane of my oldest son.”

“How old is he?” I ask.

Let’s see he was born in 1986. So, he’s 31. I always remember the year he was born because that was the year I met my friend the Bull Shark. He was very friendly and wouldn’t accept the fact that I didn’t want to dance. In the end, he died but it cost me an arm, a few fingers, and a hole in my side.” He lifts up his shirt to reveal a large scar and missing section on his right side. I was living in Florida, working as a carpenter. It was shortly after I recovered that my son was born.” I was ready for him to tell me that, this was it, shortly after this horrible accident and having a young family he was driven to homelessness. But I was wrong and he continued, “And then in 87 my first daughter, and then my second daughter in 88. That was the year my wife was killed by a drunk driver.” Now, that had to be it. Three young kids, disability and his wife is killed, that was the trigger.

But I was wrong again. “I took the three young kids and moved to the middle of no where Kentucky, It as where my parents had retired and I needed their help with the small children. I worked at a Harley dealer and owned a tattoo parlor with several employees. We stayed there until all my kids graduated High School and were off to college. That was when I started trying new things.

“What do you mean new things? I asked.

“Well the first thing I did after they all graduated was give the tattoo parlor to my employees and took a job working at the salvation army. My kids thought I was crazy, they still do.”

It was clear he was very proud of his three kids that he had with his first wife, and very proud that each had attended college. As the story continued it came out that he actually had six kids. The last three he noted, “I loved so much he gave them each their own mother.” It is clear that he was much more involved in the lives of his first three. The youngest of which is now in the Navy and it was following her that brought him to San Diego. When he came he had no place to stay so spent the first few weeks on a park bench. Eventually with the money he had coming in from social security he had saved enough to purchase an old dilapidated boat and moved in.

Since then he has been living partially on boats, either his own or others he helps fix up or partially on park benches. He recently got back from Ventura California. He sailed solo on a 40-foot boat that he borrowed from a friend in England, it was part of a plan to save on dock fees.
Will was very colorful, full of energy, jokes and advice, “Why does the Easter Bunny hide eggs?” He asked. “Because he doesn’t want people to know his girlfriend is a chicken.”

Some of his advice included: “Is the glass half full or half empty? If you have a glass and something in it, you simply don’t know how lucky you are.”
“Don’t buy your own bull, and never ignore what your core or gut is telling you.”

Will was happy, hardworking, tenacious, not a victim and…homeless. Here is a man who had his arm ripped off by a bull shark and now is spending his time sailing solo from San Diego to Ventura.
Will in many ways remined me of Job, not so much for his hardship as because of his faith and hope.  Through loss of limb, wife and all else he kept his head up. Before I left him, he asked, “Do you believe in God?”

“I do.”

“I do too, but my one issue with most people’s view of God is that they think God is a man. I think God is a woman. No man could be as loving, nurturing and kind as God has been to me."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Utility commission and Chickens?

Today I wrote about Cynthia Olsen and her work in getting Boulder City to have Chickens. (Click here to read it).

One of the things Cytnhia told me as she recounted her story was that she was not the only one working on this effort. She mentioned that others were working at the same time to get the Chickens law changed.  She was one of several that came together at the right time to make a change.

I feel this is happening again with the Utility commission. I give a lot of credit to many that are making this happen. Dale Napier may not have been the first but I remember distinctly his October article calling for a utility commission (Read it here). Warren Harhay has met with citizens to begin to get things in line to make this happen. I went to the last meeting he held on February 5th, and he, Councilman Mcmanus and many others began to do the very monotonous work of filling in details of how this commission will be set up. And this week our local paper editor, Hali Saylor, added her voice to those supporting this idea. (Read her article hear). Others have worked on this as well. I think these little side, non-noticed efforts are some of the most important work in community government. Long before the first city utility commission meeting is held, and before they can make their first controversial decision there will be hundreds of hours of work just to bring them into existence.

Just as the work paid off for Cynthia Olsen and many, like myself, get to enjoy our Chickens. I hope city council will do the right thing and set up this commission. I think they will and the utility commission will happen, and will be a great benefit to our city.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Mayor Harhay or Woodbury?

Today I wrote about why I think Warren Harhay should consider running for mayor. (Read it here).

One of the concerns I have heard is how can I write to support Councilman Harhay. After all, didn't I just write awhile ago about why I would like to see Mayor Woodbury run? (Read it here).

The truth is, I think there are several reasons why these two would be a great together on the ballot.

1. I think if these were the two options we couldn't go wrong. Both of these men love this city and would do what they feel is best. If they were the final two on the ballot I would eventually choose which one I felt would be best, but would be confident we would be in good hands.

2. These two offer different visions of the city and would offer the citizens a choice. Competition and options are good for our town. People shouldn't feel that there is only one choice or that they are stuck. Many people feel strongly that Mayor Woodbury is not a good option and these people have concerns and deserve a voice. I think Councilman Harhay would provide that and still be a strong, productive leader.

3. They both are true leaders who are willing to tackle the tough issues even if in the end it leads to them loosing power. Too often we base our vote on if we feel someone agrees with us weather or not they have true leadership qualities. (If you follow National politics today you can see the outcome of this.) I do not always agree with either Mayor Woodbury or Coucilman Harhay but I think they both care more about this city then their personal power, no quality is too be more desired in a true leader.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Getting out of...or back in "the system"?

Rob and Me and Jack in the Box

Being a single Mom is never easy. There is never enough money, time, or energy to get done what needs to get done. “My son would be better off without me,” often went through her head and when he turned 16 years old she left and he became officially part of “the system”. He did “okay” in the new life but his mothers ability to cope did not improve and by the time he was 17 she had not only left his life, but had taken her own.

By 18 he had graduated and the state funded group home he was a part of helped him land a job as a seasonal fire fighter. While he was working, they also helped him find a room in a shared apartment. At 18 with a job and a place to live, the State of Oregon was able to declare victory and clear the books of one more successful candidate who had left, “the system.”

A few months later the seasonal fire job ended, however he was undeterred and quickly found a job at Taco Bell. It was less pay but with the roommate sharing the bills, it was enough to get by. With work and a place to rest, he could sleep peacefully. That is until one morning at 2 A.M., when someone burst through his bedroom door yelling at the top of his lungs. Half asleep and sure someone was breaking in to attack him, he grabbed a small wood post that he kept near his bed, swung with all his might and heard a mighty crack that knocked the intruder both on his back and out. Fumbling in the dark, he turned on the light and saw his drunk, unconscious roommate lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

Rob grabbed some of his clothes as his roommate began to regain consciousness, within a few seconds Rob heard the return of the yelling, only louder and he was glad to be half way out the door before his roommate fully grasped what had occurred. The next morning, he returned to get the rest of his things. The bruised roommate apologized and asked Rob to stay. “I could have killed you.” Rob replied, “There is no way I am staying.”

A friend let him put his things in his garage, but after a few weeks of couch surfing, at the young age of 19 he spent the first nights of many on the streets. Taco Bell was enough to pay a portion of a room but not enough to get his own place, especially not when it required a deposit. A few weeks after being on the street he lost his job. “That first winter I would have froze, if it wasn’t for the truck stop. They’d let me stay inside. I get enough change for coffee and they would give me left overs and stuff. I had never tried coffee and by the end of the first winter I had lived off so much coffee that I vowed never to have it again. To this day the smell makes me sick.”

“I’d get a job for a while, get a place to live, loose the job, get a few months behind and by the time I found another job I would be back on the streets. That’s kind of the cycle I have lived for the last 22 years. Now at 41, I kind of found it easier just to embrace it.”

Running down the list of jobs he mentions a lot one might expect, waiter, construction worker, harvester, but building computers stands out.

“Yea, I built PC’s in Washington for a while. That’s what got me into gaming.” He gets very animated as he shows me his favorite game he plays on his phone. He is clearly very into it and by the sound of it plays most of the day. It’s a war, medieval, build castles, grow wheat, raid the neighboring village type game. He speaks of his guild mates, those he plays online with, as his family. “They are great, I look out for them, and they do the same for me. I have time to build up gold and food and I often give it out. They are very appreciative.” The symbolism of this last point is hard to miss.

“How do you afford the cell phone?” I ask. Oh, I have WIFI and power at 3 or 4 locations in town. I can always hang out at the library or here outside.” He was sitting with his cell phone plugged into an outside wall socket at Jack in the Box, when I first met him.

“How do you get by?”

“I get food stamps that I reapply for every 3 months. If I get sick the ER will see me.”

I am not sure now to ask the next question but fell compelled. “Do you have a plan to get off the streets or have you accepted it just part of your life?”

“I have narcolepsy, but since I’ve never injured myself it’s considered stage I. At some point I’ll fall asleep, hit my head, go to the ER, and get declared to be in Stage II, then I can get social security and finally have a steady paycheck and get off the streets.”

I was struck by the fact that, “the system” took a child abandoned at 16 who’s mother killed herself a year later, helped him get a job and room at 18 and then took him off the books, declared him prepared to live on his own. Now 23 years later the only path he sees to get off the streets is to once again through “the system”.

No one wants people to have to be on lifelong welfare. Everyone hopes people can get out of “the system,” and be on their own. But perhaps Oregon’s victory was premature? If you had Robs background would you have been ready to be on your own? Was a seasonal job and a roommate a recipe for success? Do our welfare programs at times simply shift the problem? Or hope to simply check a box next to someone’s name so they can be called rehabilitated?

Do we personally at times do the same to those who have been placed in our life, who truly need us the most?