Voting the lesser of two evils

I never wanted to write anything about politics in this blog. I didn’t want to be that guy. I still don’t. I’ve always been a political junkie, though, so the temptation is always there. It’s been tempered lately by the fact that this presidential election season has sucked out of me any joy, interest, or fervor that might have prompted me to write. The second presidential debate changed that.

I was, and still am, embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that Trump and Hillary are the best that this country’s main political parties can come up with. I’m embarrassed by their behavior, their snippy asides and ad hominem attacks. I’m embarrassed by the continual drudging up of dirt by both sides that substitutes for substantive policy debate. I’m embarrassed by the fact that, for both of them, there IS so much dirt to be dug. Finally, I’m embarrassed that, in order to do my civic duty as a citizen of this great country, I’ll have to push a button and vote for one of these two.

Of course, there are other options, but I want to circle around to that. I think a little personal disclosure is in order. I lean more fiscally conservative and socially liberal, which, most of time, aligns me most closely with the Libertarian Party. I’ve never voted for them, though. I’m much more conservative than liberal, so I end up voting for the Republican ticket every election, because they represent the candidate(s) that more closely align with my beliefs and have a chance of winning. But that’s settling. I vote so the Democratic candidate doesn’t win, because I almost never agree with them, and less because I want the Republican candidate to win. I vote strategically, as opposed to voting my beliefs or my conscience. I vote for the lesser of two evils every election.

To be honest, I did consider voting for a Democrat once. During the 2006 Senate race here in Tennessee, I really did want to vote for Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN). He was part of the “Blue Dog Coalition”, a group of conservative Democrats. I liked his stances and his voting record. I liked him, personally, more than I did his opponent. However, it appeared leading up the election that the Democrats were going to take the Senate, and I didn’t want to contribute to giving them more of a majority, as Harry Reid (D-NV), who I very much disliked, would be taking over as Majority Leader. So, I ended up voting for Bob Corker (R-TN), who won the seat and has mostly been a disappointment ever since. In this case, I didn’t vote how I wanted because I didn’t want to give additional power to the more liberal Democrat Senators from states in which I can’t vote.

So, after years of compromising away my vote, I was excited about this year’s presidential election. The Republican primary field was full of promise. Some were lackluster, but there were a few that raised my hopes. I honed in on Ted Cruz, although I would have been happy with a couple of the others. I initially regarded Trump as something of a sideshow, a loudmouth out to get some attention. What I liked about Cruz was that he was transparent. You knew what you were going to get with him. His record and stances were mostly consistent. To me, he seemed the obvious choice if you were a conservative.

Likewise, for liberals, there was Bernie Sanders. You knew what you were going to get from him. Sure, he’s a Socialist, but it’s been my contention for awhile that most modern-day Democrats are simply Socialists that can’t come out and say it. Bernie says it. His stances and his record were mostly consistent. I don’t agree with anything he says, but I can at least respect him. Meanwhile, Hillary was…well, Hillary. A shrill, pant-suit wearing carrier of scandal -ridden baggage. Whitewater, Benghazi, Deleted emails, trashing of Bill’s rape victims, flip-flops galore…all out there, available for public knowledge.

And yet here we are, less than one month from the election, and the Sideshow and the Baggage Lady are our presidential candidates. There were very clear, consistent primary candidates to choose from on both sides, in terms of voting records, stances, and ideology,  but the country went the other way and we ended up having a Jerry Springer episode as a presidential debate. I really don’t think a Cruz/Sanders debate would look like that. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that with those two there would have been much less mud-slinging and much more substantive debate.

Which brings me back around to the Libertarian Party.

In studying Gary Johnson’s stances and record as Governor of New Mexico, as well as taking the test at I Side With, I’m right there with him on almost every issue. He’s a proven governmental administrator with a solid track record. Too bad that he wasn’t allowed to be in the debates. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, is who I’d actually like to vote for. But the consensus is that voting for Johnson is throwing my vote away. It’s voting for Hillary by not voting for Trump.

I wonder, how many other people would rather vote for Johnson but are voting Trump? What if all of us voted Johnson anyway? Are there enough to take Trump? Probably not, but what a shake-up it would be for the next election, provided that there is a next election after four years of President Hillary and First Lady Bill.

So, I’m going to go into the voting booth with a choice to make. I don’t want Donald Trump to be President. I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be President even more. I have to once again decide who’s the lesser of two evils – the evil we know or the evil we don’t. I feel like there’s the thinnest margin between the two of any election in my lifetime. If I choose to vote my conscience, well, then I’m voting for the evil we know by proxy. It’s a tight corner into which I, and many others, I’m sure, have been forced.

And I resent the living hell out of it.

POST SCRIPT 1/17/17: So, I feel like I should probably add a post-election comment and maybe even eat a little crow. As I noted above, Donald Trump did not impress me at all pre-election. I paid rapt attention and kept waiting for something he did or said to win me over, but it never happened. I never heard anything that I could think of as more than a platitude, something of real substance to reassure me that he was the right pick. That said, I’ve been turned around in the interim between election and inauguration. His cabinet picks have been impressive, his organization tight and streamlined, and his conduct presidential (even with the tweets). I’m finally optimistic.
That said, I still think that credible third-party candidates should have easier access to the electorate than they do in current elections.

 

 

Photo:
photo credit: billy3001 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/50708465@N00/29931631671″>Adversaries</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

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What to expect when your chest is sawed open

My previous blog, I discussed my impending open-heart surgery and posted it that day. Needless to say, I’ve been indisposed since then and haven’t felt like doing much of anything; but now, two months later, I’m recovering quite well.

I purposely did minimal research prior to my procedure (aortic valve replacement and aortic arch graft). I’ve worked in clinical healthcare for years, and knew enough to know that I didn’t want to know any more than was absolutely necessary. Besides, my wife and my mother did plenty of research and were more than nervous enough for everyone involved (which I guess comes with the titles).

That said, what information I did see was fairly dry and clinical. I thought I’d provide an honest and thorough personal account. So, if you’re facing an open-heart procedure yourself and want to know what to expect, or are just interested in what happens, here’s a walk-through of the things I discovered and/or were surprised about along the journey. Granted, everyone’s experience will vary, and, at 41 and in very good health other than the defective valve, I’m outside the demographic of the average heart patient. Some things, though, are certainly universal.

  • Yes, there’s pain, but… – Not as bad as I thought and not all where I thought it’d be. Coming right out of surgery, of course your chest is painful where your sternum has been sawed, separated, and wired back together. You figure out quickly how to move so as not to aggravate it further. However, your arms almost hurt more at first, especially around the armpits. This is because your arms are spread and pinioned out to the sides during the surgery, to be out of way. This fades and goes away after about a week. The chest pain gets better, but very slowly. I have no idea how long before it goes away. I’m not there yet. Although, now at two months in, I’d call it more “discomfort” than pain.
  • Tubes – You’ll be full of them at first, and most of them come out at about the same time.
    • The breathing tube -I was wheeled into the operating room, told to breathe into the mask and count backwards, and almost immediately I was aware that I was in the CCU and they wanted to take the breathing tube out of my throat (of course, over 12 hours had elapsed between one and the other). I was still pretty out of it, but I knew I really wanted it out. They gave me a countdown and ran water down the tube as they pulled, which caused me to feel a slight moment of panic, but the tube came out and it was over. Your throat’s a little irritated afterward, but not that bad and not for long.
    • Chest tubes – Three of them, inserted under the diaphragm up into the chest cavity to drain out fluids, and stitched into place. The pinkish liquid is collected in a box with a clear front so you can examine it. These tubes are removed right before you leave the CCU. They’re pulled out as quickly as they can be, which is very slowly. It feels exactly like you’d think a tube being slowly pulled out of your chest through a small hole in your abdomen would feel like. Three times.
    • Arterial line – This ran up into my groin inside the left leg, into the femoral artery. Honestly, I never asked specifically what it was for. It’s pulled out right before you leave the CCU. It’s not too bad, but then they put a 10 lb. sandbag on the site to make sure it closes, which stays there for an hour as you lay flat. Laying flat is highly uncomfortable for quite a while after a sternotomy.
    • Foley catheter – So you don’t have to get up to pee. You can figure out where it goes. It came out right before I left the CCU, and the nurse yanked it out like she was trying to start a lawnmower. I’m pretty sure, however, that’s the best way to do it. I’m also pretty sure I involuntarily said some bad words.
    • Central line – This goes into your left shoulder into one of the major veins in the chest. Meds can be administered through it, as well as blood taken. This stays until right before you leave the hospital.
  • They want you up – I was helped to get out of bed and to sit up in a chair before the sun came up my first night in the CCU. When I moved to a regular hospital room, there was someone there within 30 minutes asking if I wanted to walk. I had use a walker and only made it halfway down the hall, but it felt good. It got much easier as the week progressed. I would have walked out of the hospital the last day if they’d let me.
  • You’ll be weak at first – Amazingly so. I was helped out of bed to sit in a chair that first night because I couldn’t have done it otherwise. Walking was hard at first, but it came back quickly. Still, you learn that you can’t pick up jack. That lasts weeks and months. Either you don’t have the strength or it hurts. You can’t drive for several weeks because you don’t have the upper body strength to turn the wheel, plus it hurts at first. Take it slow. It will come.
  • Bodily functions are your enemy – My chest hurt, yes, but I figured out how to move and position myself to minimize the pain. Then I started hiccupping. One nurse stated that it was not uncommon, but they don’t know why some people do it and others don’t. I just knew it was painful. Sneezes are the worst. I sneezed hard about five weeks post-op, and even then it about made my knees buckle. Anything that builds up internal pressure is bad. There’s a reason you’re given stool softeners.
  • Hospital food – Actually not that bad, but I didn’t really want to eat much of the time. However, if you don’t call to order, they call you. I was on the “heart diet” which is low salt and fairly bland.  I lived on veggie omelets, tomato soup, and chicken salad wraps. Aside from the day I was discharged, my favorite day of my hospital stay was when my wonderful wife brought me Starbucks (decaf, of course).
  • It’s downhill after three weeks – The first three weeks are rough. The first was in the hospital. During the next two, at home, there were some issues and subsequent adjustments in medication. My heart started palpitating wildly. I got really weak and dizzy. After an EKG, it was determined it was part of the process of my heart finding its rhythm again as the inflammation decreased. Meds were upped, no more problem. Meanwhile, I gained 14 lbs. in water weight in 6 days. I was bloated like a stuffed sausage. Meds were adjusted, and I peed out about 20 lbs. of water weight in 7 days. Good times.
  • You won’t look good… – The first time I saw myself naked in the mirror after I got home, it was startling. It looked like I’d been in a train wreck. My chest and abdomen were mottled purple and yellow from bruises in various stages. The inside of my left leg, down to my knee, was entirely purple from the arterial line. Aside from the vertical scar from the sternal incision, there are the three small horizontal ones from the chest tubes, and another long one on my right shoulder from the bypass machine, so my brain wouldn’t die while my heart was stopped.
  • …but everyone will tell you that you do. – Most times I’ve seen someone since the surgery, I’m asked, “How are you?” I answer, and then am told, “Well, you look good.” I’m starting to wonder what I’m supposed to look like. Whatever the case, I’m happy for the compliment, and know that it’s probably exactly what I’d say to someone else in the same situation.

Other than all that, it’s really just a matter of moving when you can, and resting when you don’t feel like moving. Life’s almost back to normal. I’m working out now (very low weights) and building back my strength. I actually lost upper body mass, and my right shoulder is weaker from where it was cut through for the bypass. You couldn’t tell I had heart surgery two months ago, unless you hear me clicking. My heart clicks now due to the mechanical valve. I thought it would bother me, but it doesn’t. In fact, it’s kind of comforting.

 

 

Photo: photo credit: djwtwo <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/40761412@N00/26401286012″>…and It’s Okay</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Don’t be still, my beating heart

I was born with a heart defect. The medicalese is bicuspid aortic valve with aortic stenosis. My aortic valve, which controls the flow of blood out of the heart into the aorta, has two flaps instead on the normal three. This causes it to open less wide than it should. The average diameter should be at least  3 cm, and I’ve held steady for most of my life at 2.7. My pediatric cardiologist once referred to it as “trivial,” but of course something I needed to monitor.

I’ve never been restrained or limited in anything I’ve wanted to do. Growing up, I went on countless hiking, caving, climbing, rappelling, and other high adventure activities in the Boy Scouts. I marched across football fields with 40 lbs. of sousaphone on my shoulder, while blowing every bit of air I had through it. I’ve done consistent 5-10 mile runs. I’ve bicycled 100 miles on numerous occasions. Most recently, this past Feb., I earned a 4th degree black belt.

So, when I tried to take a run a couple of months ago and almost blacked out on the side of the road, I just knew it wasn’t my heart. I shortly afterward noticed that I constantly had this weird, out-of-breath feeling. It had to be my lungs. I waited it out a month, giving it time to clear, but it didn’t. So I went to my primary care physician and he started checking out my lungs, eventually finding that they work great.

At the same time I did that, I also checked in with my cardiologist. I hadn’t been in a couple of years due to another medical issue that had popped up and since resolved. I did what I’ve always done – got an Echo with doppler, and then went to my cardiologist a few days later for my visit. So I could check it off my list and figure what was really going on with me, I just needed him to say what he always said…”Looks great, keep watching it, and come back next year.”

Except, that’s not what he said.

The “trivial” 2.7 cm valve is now at 0.7. It has to be replaced, which means, for me, open-heart surgery. I’ve known all my life that there was a possibility upon hitting early middle-age that the valve could go. It’s been this surreal, out-on-the-horizon idea that I’ve never fully appreciated. That’s probably why now, at age 41 when the timing was right and the symptoms were all there, it still took me by surprise.

Maybe I knew and just didn’t want to admit it. Having worked for years in healthcare, I know that it’s everyone’s natural tendency to immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion, so I equivocated and rationalized everything away:

  • Shortness of breath – “Well, I had asthma as a child. It must be coming back.”
  • Left shoulder pain – “I’ve pulled it out of socket three times. It’s always hurt.”
  • Left arm pain – “I must have hurt it in karate.”
  • Chest pain – “Indigestion.”
  • Fatigue – “I work long hours, and I’m not sleeping enough.”
  • Heart skipping beats – “It runs in my family.”

Of course, reading this list, it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback and ask, “How did he not put it together?” The short answer is that it’s very easy to do when it’s yourself. I’m sure some women reading this are thinking, “That’s just a man for you,” and maybe there’s some validity to that. A hot button issue of mine is that way heart disease in men vs. women is treated, but that’s a separate issue that maybe I’ll get to later, once I’m able to do so. I’ll have about 14 weeks of recovery, so I don’t know what I’ll be able to do, and when. My entire sternum is going to be opened up, as my aorta has to be repaired in addition to the valve. The pressure of the blood coming through the narrowed valve dilated the ascending aorta.

It’s going to be an ordeal, but I’m ready for it. Maybe not so strangely, I’m far more calm and positive about all this than many of my family and friends. There’s a certain serenity that comes with having no other options. Either I do this or I die. Although I haven’t been told expressly, I gather I have probably less than a year, untreated. That doesn’t work for me. I need to be around to assist my son on all those adventures he dreams up, and help him become the man I know he’ll be. I need to be there to support my daughter, scare boys away from her, and eventually walk her down the aisle should one of the little punks actually be worthy of her. I need to grow old with my wife, and to finish out everything we put in motion when I asked her out to my senior Homecoming 24 years ago.

And while I intone that dying is not an option, and it is a very slim possibility, I’m prepared for it nevertheless, and with that also, I am fine. As the hymn goes, “It is well with my soul.” I accept that everything goes according the Lord’s will, and if it’s in His plan that my time here is over, then I know it’s going to be alright. I am not afraid, regardless of the outcome.

I’m timing the release of this blog to coincide with my surgery. As this blog hits, I can’t communicate.  If I need to say anything at this moment, it’s that I’ve been so touched at the outpouring of love and support for me and my family. Sometimes it takes a dark moment for you to see the light all around you. I have complete faith and confidence in my surgeon and the medical staff. I can tell you that I’m doing fine, and there’s nothing to worry about.  Everything’s going according to plan.

 

Photo:
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/41513150@N00/25744479574″>Heart</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

 

 

 

Cycling through cycles

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in front of the keyboard. I’ve had a series of events, planned and unplanned, keep me away; in other words, life happened. Personal obligations, a search for and gaining of employment, my son’s surgery (he’s doing great), and other things have kept me busy and not writing. Also, there’s the fact it’s been gorgeous outside, and I’ve taken every chance I can to get out on my bicycle.

I’ve been donning the lycra bicycle shorts and jerseys and hitting the roads most of my adult life. Actually, most of my life. Growing up, my family lived in the country, and I spent many days out riding the back roads. Then, I strapped a radio to the handlebars and played tunes as I idly pedaled the day away. Today, I have a tiny cyclocomputer that tells me my current speed, average speed, ride time, distance, and all sorts of other numbers – I ride now with definite purpose, keeping those little numbers as high as possible while thinking about things like gears and pedaling cadence.

Of course, I still love being outside on the road, just me and the bike. I think the sense of freedom and adventure that makes you fall in love with the bicycle as a child is what keeps you riding it as an adult. It’s exercise, sure, but it’s also a constant competition. Your time today vs. your time last ride. You vs. a certain climb. You vs. that dog on that one road. Your will to keep riding vs. the desire to quit and go home on a day when it sucks.

And some days, it really does suck, but you just have to push through the bad days to have good days later. For example, I can tell you when I got hooked as an adult. It was about a month after I started riding, and one day the hill that always kicked my butt, didn’t. I’d gotten stronger, lighter, and had figured out how to climb it. I’d conquered it. It was a rush.

I believe that internal competition, the outdoors, and the thrill of speed are what gets bicyclists addicted. That’s a good word for it – addicted – because sometimes it does feel like a sickness. I’ve been on large organized rides like a metric (62 miles) or a century (100 miles) and listened to cyclists talking at the rest stops, happily saying things like, “Can you believe that hill at mile 36? That was so hard! I almost fell over, and I thought my legs were going to blow!” Other cyclists nod in commiseration and agreement. Then we all get back on the bikes and keep going.

Some years I’m strong, other years not so much. Some years I ride a lot, others not. My weight has gone up and down. But I just keep coming back to the bike. I haven’t ridden much over the past couple of years, for various reasons, and it feels great to get back. I trained on a recumbent exercise bike over the winter, concentrating on pedaling in full circles, and now my pedaling is much more efficient. (Confused? Most people, even most cyclists, mash down and apply most of their power on the downstroke. I’ve gotten better at pushing down and pulling up simultaneously.)

What I’m finding now is that I’m running out of roads. I live in Middle Tennessee, where we’ve had tremendous growth over the past few years. You can see it if you go to downtown Nashville, where it’s now a zoo. Construction is everywhere. Masses of people are always out on the sidewalks, every day. I don’t know who they are or where they’re going; maybe they’re all tourists looking for Connie Britton.

In the surrounding counties, you can see the growth in the new subdivisions. They’re popping up everywhere. Back country roads that I’ve been riding for 15 years are all being crammed with subdivisions with precious names like “Burberry Glen” or “Whittemore”. (I think developers have figured out that they can ramp up the prices of homes just by calling the subdivision something at something else, like “The Reserve at Arbor Glen”, or by putting an “E”, or even a “U”, in a word that doesn’t have one.. for example, “Harbour Pointe”.  But I digress…) The point is, if I get hit by a car, it’s likely that it’s going to be on a road I’ve been riding for well over a decade by someone who just moved here six months ago from Michigan or Pennsylvania.

Most drivers are respectful of bicyclists. Of course, with more cars on the roads, it increases the chances of running into the jerk who wants to see how close he can come to you. (Tennessee, as with most states, has a “3-feet” law). I’ve only had a couple of run-ins, most notably the landscapers who blew through a Yield sign and came within inches of me as I went through a green light in a bike lane, then decided to yell at me about it. We traded pleasantries.

It’s a scary thing, and I know bicyclists who have quit because they didn’t want to deal with cars. A bicyclist was hit this morning in Nashville in a hit-and-run. Do a search for “bicyclist killed” and article after article come up. The worst part about it is that, if you read through them, most of the bicyclists were acting responsibly – riding predictably, lights and reflectors used, out when the traffic was light, many even in a marked bike lane – and someone on their phone or just not paying attention hit them from behind. Even scarier is that most of the drivers in these cases are not really penalized. In an article from a couple of years ago, a reporter asked, “Is it OK to kill cyclists?” and found that the answer was mostly “Yes”.

I get agitated with bicyclists who get out to ride during peak traffic hours on the busiest streets. I used to see a guy routinely cycling on one the main thoughfares in my town during rush hour, weaving in and out of cars and ignoring traffic laws. That’s just asking for trouble, and builds up resentment with drivers towards all cyclists. I’d like to advocate for bike lanes, but, at least here in Middle Tennessee, they seem to be put in with little forethought. They start and stop randomly, and tend to disappear in intersections and other places where a clear delineation is most needed, leaving cyclists and drivers guessing as to what to do. Also, as the examples above and my own experience show, bike lanes don’t really provide safety.

For now, though, I mostly stick to what’s left of the country roads, stay to the right, signal, and ride responsibly. It’s still a rush after all these years, and I’ll do it as long as I can. In fact, I think I’m probably going to go for a ride right now.

 

Photo credit: Brian Kuhl

 

 

Sympathy for the Devil

I was a little shocked to see a promo on Fox recently for its new show “Lucifer“. The premise of this new series is that Satan decides he’s tired of ruling hell, so he retires to Los Angeles to run a nightclub full-time, and helps a police detective solve crimes on the side. The tagline on the promo spot: “He gives bad a good name.”

I promise I’m not making that up. Check the link.

Of course, the devil has been portrayed numerous times in television and film. Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino have both played him (“Angel Heart” and “The Devil’s Advocate”, respectively). He’s been a reoccurring character on the CW’s Supernatural for some time now. And while sometimes he’s represented as something else initially – a lawyer, an antique store owner, a carnival leader, Jar Jar Binks – he’s usually just the devil, evil personified.

Except now, he’s not, and that’s what bothers me about Fox’s new show. The devil now has his own TV program in which, while labeled as an “antihero” in reviews, he’s still a good guy out punishing crime for the purposes of this show. I’m all about creative license, but in this case it’s gone too far.

There’s an obvious biblical misrepresentation here that goes far beyond just muddying the religious waters. That goes without saying. Satan surely delights in being repackaged, relabeled, and presented to the masses in his new, user-friendly representation.

However, if don’t believe in God, you’re likely to think, “Hey, it’s no big deal, it’s not real anyway.” OK, so let’s take religion out of it. Even if you don’t believe he’s real, Satan is still the personification of evil in popular culture. Think of all the cultural references to the devil and hell – they’re universally bad. Except, now with this show, the symbol for ultimate evil is, well, not really that evil.

We are living increasingly in an age of moral relativism, where there is no objective right or wrong, and disagreements over beliefs can be summarily dismissed with, “That’s your truth. My truth is different.” So, if there’s no right or wrong, only relative truths, then anything goes, and no one has the moral authority on any given subject.

– Abortion is killing babies and is therefore wrong.
It’s not really a baby. Abortion protestors kill people, too.

– People should not be allowed to enter the country illegally.
No human is illegal. Everyone was once an immigrant.

– Muslims should be monitored for potential terrorism.
Christians can be terrorists, too. And remember the Crusades!

– Hiding classified emails on a secret, unsecured server is wrong.
Depends on what the meaning of “is” is. And a woman should be president.

And so on. The point is, if we’ve reached the point where we can’t even say that Satan is evil, where do we go from here? Is anything evil? Are we willing to overlook the wholesale persecution and slaughter being committed by ISIS because, hey, that’s their religion. That’s their truth, it’s just different from our truth. How about the human trafficking of young girls and women all over the world for the sex trade? Sure, it’s horrible, but that’s a different culture. We don’t know where they’re coming from.

I’m sure someone reading this is thinking, “Hey, man, calm down. It’s just a TV show.”  In and of itself, sure, it’s just a show. But it’s also a big slide down a slippery slope. There has to be a point at which we say, “This, right here. This is absolute evil.” It used to be the devil. Apparently not anymore.

For the record, here’s my truth. Evil exists, and we should call it out. We should not excuse it away or sugar-coat it to make it more palatable. And we certainly shouldn’t reimagine it in order to deny its reality.

 

Photo:
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/54169140@N00/6930586632″>Fuentes del angel caido – Fountain of the fallen angel</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

What I want to be

I know it’s a bit behind to be discussing resolutions halfway through January, but, hey, life happens. Besides, I wanted a little bit of time to flesh these out. Introspection is hard, and I thought it important to thoroughly self-examine.

The impulse to change one’s self with the new year seems easy to explain. New year, new you. Nowadays, it’s easy to stumble out of the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s period thinking, “Once things get back to normal, I’m going to make some changes.” Of course, the problem with that is that once things get back to normal, so do we, most of the time, year after year. As the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Making a new year’s resolution goes back as far as the ancient Babylonians, yet history is a series of repetitions.

Maybe we shoot too high. With that in mind, I’ve come up with three resolutions that I can work upon on a daily basis, meaning every moment of every day is a blank slate. Since I was told recently that writing them down increases your likelihood of achieving them, they are:

Get healthier – I list this first only because it’s such a gimmee. Everyone wants to be slimmer and in better shape. I come into 2016 having been previously told that I had an incurable progressive movement disorder. It turned out to be an incorrect diagnosis (understandably), but it’s obviously changed my perspective. While I’m now mostly back to normal, at its worst, I was incapable of standing still without my legs shaking violently. You really don’t realize how many things you do standing until it’s taken away from you.

Now I’m exercising every day, whether I feel like it or not, and thinking about everything I swallow. I feel like I got a reprieve, and I’m going to make the most of it. Our bodies march forward through time into inevitable decline. I intend to go down swinging.


Emulate Jesus
–  Really, this should also be a gimmee, but it’s not, not even for most people that profess faith in him. I’ve been listening to a series of sermons on the apostle Paul, and one thing that’s stuck with me about Paul’s ministry was his refusal to denigrate. Surrounded by pagans and hostile Jews, Paul never sought to convert by tearing others down and telling them how they were wrong, but by patiently explaining the truth of Jesus. Emulating Jesus, he persuaded rather than argued, and showed understanding and compassion for his persecutors.

Lately there seems to a massive lack of patience or understanding for anyone that doesn’t share a similar worldview. Democrat vs. Republican,  Christian vs. Atheist, Conservative vs. Liberal, Muslims vs. everyone else, etc. Maybe it’s always been this way, but I believe it’s worse now than it’s been in my lifetime. We’re all polarized, fed by internet and cable news chosen to reflect and reinforce our beliefs, with little tolerance of anyone who believes differently.

I don’t want to be like that. I can hold firm to my beliefs and still have understanding and compassion for those who don’t believe the same or have the same standards, rather than go for the easy knee-jerk reaction of denigration or derision. I can seek to persuade and build up, rather than argue and tear down.

I believe this is especially important for Christians, some of whom have a habit of ruining Christianity for everyone else. Anyone ever know that “good church person” who looked down their nose at others because they drank, or were divorced, or had non-Christian friends? Jesus met with lepers and tax collectors while the “good church people” of the day rebuked him for it. Would that aforementioned “good church person” have shown kindness to the woman at the well, who had five prior husbands and a live-in lover, as Jesus did, or gossiped about her from afar?

Of course I’m going to fall short. As Paul wrote, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19 ESV). But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to be better every day.

Make time now – I know every parent hears the constant, “Daddy, come look at this!”, or , “Mommy, come play with me!” just as we’re getting into something that needs to be done. I reply with “In just a minute!” most often. However, sometimes that minute stretches into an hour, and sometimes it never comes.

My kids were babies last week, and today they’re six and nine. Soon they won’t care if I see what they’re doing, or want to play games, or ask me to cuddle and watch TV. Soon they won’t even be here.

Surely whatever I’m doing can wait until later, because a moment with my child today, at this age, will not.

 

Photo:
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124348109@N01/15977313497″>Last Light of 2014 on America, driving into the clouds from above</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

 

 

 

Road Rage

Tis the season! Every Christmas, in this time of joy, peace, and goodwill toward men, we also all get on the roads together in mass numbers to honk, scream, and piss each other off in a last-minute effort to buy gifts to make others happy.

I was out-and-about yesterday in all that, and it got me thinking about the every day driving pet peeves that get exacerbated with a large amount of cars on the roads. So, I took mine, prioritized them, expounded, and came up with this list. Maybe you have others. I’ve probably not thought of something because it hasn’t happened to me recently.

This is my top ten.

10) Wrong way in parking lots – Many parking lots have one-way lanes. Stores don’t try to be tricky about this, either. The direction of travel is denoted by large arrows, and, to the astute, by all the parking spaces slanting in one direction. Still, many drivers just don’t get the concept, leading to near slow-speed head-on collisions as cars try to avoid each other in a cramped lane.
I actually got into an argument with a guy about this once. It was early on a Sunday morning and the parking lot was empty, so I thought it obvious that the driver coming toward me in the wrong direction would move across the empty parking spaces into the proper lane. He didn’t, and circled around to yell at me as I got out of my car for not moving over enough. When I pointed out the direction of travel, he screamed that it didn’t matter and that I should have moved over. I apologized, saying that I didn’t realize he was royalty and got to do whatever he wanted while the rest of us had to follow rules and move out of his way, so I’m not sure why he was still mad when he drove off.

9) Halogen headlights – Yes, I realize how wonderful these things are for the person driving the car. However, if you’re driving toward, or, even worse, in front of a car with these headlights, they’re a nightmare. I’ve pulled over before and let a halogen head-lit car go past me so I could stop squinting at night.

8) Crotch rockets – I like motorcycles, really. I wouldn’t mind having one. That said, there’s something distinctly disconcerting about driving down the interstate, seeing nothing in your rearview, then suddenly hearing a buzzing noise one second before a motorcycle rocks your vehicle passing at 150 mph. There’s a reason state troopers call those guys “organ donors.”

7) Turn-lane zombies– So, traffic’s backed up, and the car in front of you starts to move into the turn lane.  Thirty seconds later, half the car is in the lane. By the time it’s finally putt-putted over and out of the way, you and everyone behind you has missed the green light.

6) Blind parkers – Seriously, it shouldn’t be that hard for anyone with a driver’s license to put a vehicle between two lines, but it really is for some people. On the line, over the line, diagonally…I guess as long as the car’s stopped without hitting something, they consider it a successful park.
An adjunct to this would be the guy with the massive diesel duelie who squeezes it into a space with five inches’ room on either side. Just park out farther and walk, man.

5) Failure to signal – There’s nothing like missing an opportunity to turn out into traffic because the car coming toward you doesn’t indicate that it’s turning onto the road you’re trying to turn from. Or almost getting hit because someone turning left in an intersection doesn’t understand that not signaling is telling you that they’re travelling straight.

4) Not driving a consistent speed – I really don’t care how fast other cars want to travel, just as long as they keep a consistent speed. I hate having on my cruise control but repeatedly passing the same car. There are subgroups to this category:
Competitive obliviots – I almost made “obliviot” its own category, with obliviot meaning a driver oblivious to the fact that there are other cars on the road; however,  it encompasses too many behaviors. In this case, the competitive obliviots are those who don’t realize how fast they’re going, or even how fast they want to go, until you pass them, at which point they floor it and pass you, or turn into a blindspot ninja.
Blindspot ninja – The competitive obliviot who speeds up but doesn’t pass, preferring instead to hide in your blind spot. So you’re driving along, need to switch lanes, and suddenly there’s the car you thought you’d passed miles ago, forcing you to contend with it.

3) Tailgating – I live off a road with a 30 mph speed limit. Everyone knows the limit, it’s clearly posted, and cops patrol the road frequently, so it shouldn’t come as a shock when people drive 30 mph. Still, there are always drivers that come roaring up and ride far less than a car length behind others. I’ve had cars so close to me that I can’t even see the front of the car in my rearview. There’s no call for it, on that road or any other. Stupid. Just stupid.

2) Rubberneckers – It’s human nature to gawk at tragedy; however, it can be controlled. Wrecks back up traffic in large part because of people staring and driving slowly past. Keep your eyes on the moving lane of traffic and off the wreck…it’s really that simple.

1) Obliviots gunning lights – This is the most infuriating thing. You’re behind a slow-speed obliviot, who has nowhere to go and all day to get there, when the light ahead turns yellow. Naturally, the obliviot, not knowing anyone else is on the road,  floors it and runs the yellow or red light, leaving you stuck at it. You both could have gone had the obliviot been travelling the proper speed, but now you’re trapped at the light as you watch the obliviot drive away.

Photo:
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/73187183@N02/8144739319″>Post Hurricane Sandy Traffic</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;