Thursday, August 31, 2017
Far away from it all
For the past week dear "A" has been posting
glorious photos of Portugal. On a two week
jaunt, she's fallen in love with said beautiful
spot. Yesterday from her perch in Madeira
she announced that she wants to retire there.
Given it's fairly affordable and her husband
speaks fluent Portuguese such an idea seems
feasible. Part of me would love to join "A"
on a new adventure far away from it all. Yet
I'm skeptical that relocating far away from
home offers nothing more than a new set of
challenges. Made all the worse by language
and cultural barrier. So, is it really worth it?
It's human nature to want to flee from reality.
For most of our lives we're shackled by the
burdens that adulthood brings. No wonder
many consider responsibility to be a curse
rather than privilege. Fortunately life goes
on and we all grow up. Our children mature,
move out of the house and build lives of their
own. Yet somehow many of we boomers still
dream of nirvana. That magical place where
nobody has to do anything except enjoy life.
Often "retirement" is deemed as the ultimate
escape hatch. Yet I can't help but wonder if
it's nothing but a fantastical farce.
Wherever one resides, the daily wearisome
tasks of functioning continue. Someone has
to empty the dishwasher and load the toilet
paper dispenser. That is unless one has the
resources to move into a suite at the Ritz. Or
opts to live in an Assisted Living facility in
their early sixties. Almost all of us attempt to
lessen our load later in life. Often downsizing
or donating our silver and fine linens to some
local charity. Such gestures of elimination are
futile at best. That's because along with age
comes a plethora of new responsibilities. The
majority of which are simply unavoidable.
Drink the Kool Aid
Slowly but surely we all must face facts. Like
it or not our bodies slow down and ultimately
fail. Thus along with worrying about whether
the lawn has been mowed we must fret about
taking our pills as the doctor ordered. Thus I
consider the very idea of running away from
it all foolhardy at best. I find little benefit to
doing so way off in some distant location sans
an established network of friends and family.
Is a change of locale all that necessary for one
to enjoy their golden years? Or can a shift in
one's attitude more than fuel fulfillment? Plus
the budget and willingness to travel frequently.
Can anybody take a perpetual vacation? Even
with an ocean view your kitchen sink is going
to clog. Living on the beach only insures that
along with basic dirt and dust one must clean
up sand and bugs. Basking in the sunshine not
only fades one's upholstery but also brings on
skin cancer. And finally - maintaining two or
three homes doubles or triples one's liabilities.
All of which proves that if you really want to
live differently you must change your approach
to life itself. Which is rarely feasible given as
we age the majority of us descend deeper into
a self defined rut. Which isn't always that bad.
Room with a view
My plan is to live for today. Which requires
making the best of things as they are. There
are no easy outs. I try to embrace the adage
"less is more" given it only becomes all the
more relevant. Getting older doesn't change
the fact that we must continuously redefine
our priorities. What's vitally important a few
weeks prior may have NO relevance today.
In the end what matters is how, where, when,
or why we spend our time and energy. And
whether that's far or close to home - what
satisfies most is doing what comes naturally.
Which inevitably is the hardest task at hand.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Yesterday something crossed my computer
screen that I thought was quite compelling.
The Hechinger Report - an esteemed expert
on education issues - reports that America
is in the midst of a crisis. It seems there is a
dramatic lack and thus need for tradespeople.
In other words folks with the skill and talent
to keep this country running forward in the
right direction. Apparently we've a glut of
over qualified college educated candidates
unable or unwilling to turn up their sleeves
and do the dirty work. Suddenly the know
how to make something is a hot commodity.
Most of our generation's parents had but one
goal. Which was that their kids get a college
education. During the ensuing decades, most
high schools became focused on insuring that
the majority of their graduates went on to do
just that. Hence anyone who preferred to work
with their hands was subtly labeled a failure.
Many vocational institutions whose job was
training folks in the technical skills necessary
to keep society functioning struggled to keep
up enrollment. All as our government funded
more aspirational forms of eduction. Soon we
forgot just how important hands on training is.
Now we're suddenly confronted with the fact
that somebody has to keep things running.
Thus those who have the skills to do just that
are back in high demand. And having lived
through a major home renovation - I know
how just important tradespeople are. Without
our contractor, carpenter, electrician, plumber,
heating, and security experts - our "new" home
would still be a dysfunctional hovel. The same
applies to the factories and plants who build
all of the equipment that makes our lives easier.
What would happen if they stopped producing?
Truth is we need them more than they need us.
Back to basics
California is now investing millions back
into it's vocational schools. Driven by a
dramatic drop in enrollment since the turn
of the millennium. Mostly due to the fact
that few knew of nor understood just what
these programs provided. Now that we've
seen the light we realize that in order to flip
the switch - somebody has to design and
manufacture it - another then must wire
and install it - after which others have to
provide and maintain a conduit to transfer
energy from a far away plant to power it.
Otherwise we'll find ourselves in the dark.
Not all of us are college material. Nor are most
of us mechanically inclined. Frankly, I need the
services of those able to fix things much more
than I care to admit. Hence I have a deep and
abiding respect for anybody who is able to work
with their hands. Folks such as they have always
fueled the engine of growth that makes America
great. Without them we would be unable to get
anywhere or do almost everything. Thus it only
makes sense that our national, state, and local
governments should be doing their job. Which
is to guarantee that a steady stream of new talent
is constantly entering our vocational pipeline.
Lewistown is considered a manufacturing hub
here in central Montana. Several companies
produce a variety of innovative technology,
equipment, and related materials. For years the
leaders of these companies have struggled to
find trained workers talented enough to get the
job done. So much so that they reached out to
our local schools to support their vocational
education and training programs. Together
they're providing the next generation of young
Montanans with rewarding alternatives to just
sitting behind a desk. Insuring that Montana
keeps things keep moving in the right direction.
Made in America
Isn't it time we treated those who make things
with the respect they deserve? Without them
we'd be lost. Some of the smartest people I've
ever encountered were tradespeople. Capable
of figuring out problems and solutions that at
least to a novice like me were baffling. My
daughter-in-law plays a key role in keeping
her factory humming. Few are as passionate
as she is about doing the best job in the best
way possible. More important - she LOVES
what she does. And isn't that ultimately what
every parent wants? For their children to be
happy doing what comes NATURALLY?
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Lately I've been trying to clear my head. For
many reasons I've been distracted for most
of 2017. Politics consume as the debacle in
Washington shifts from comedic to horrific
proportions. Thus I continue to struggle with
said ever shifting strategies on a daily basis.
Add atop that a foolhardy move back into
the workforce and it's miraculous that I've
maintained my sanity. As of last week many
of said circumstances beyond my control
were resolved. Therefore at least in theory
I should be able to clear my head and think
out of my box. But will I be able to do so?
The problem is that really isn't as easy as one
might assume. Every headline is like a stake
into my heart. Today I'm committed to doing
whatever it takes to NOT sit in front of CNN
24/7 watching the decline and fall of Donald
Trump's western empire. Washington may be
aflame but Montana is literally burning. The
resulting smoke of which only increases the
haze that I find myself in. The question is what
do I do next. Or NOT do?! In theory anything
is possible and within my reach. In reality my
quandary is whether I'm up to the challenge of
starting afresh one more time. And so... I sit...
Getting the hang of it
Few if any of us thrive in uncertain times.
Perpetual purgatory is an untenable state.
Most prefer to have a plan and be amidst
it's execution. At times living in limbo can
be rather beneficial. Sans any true sense
of responsibility one can finally put their
priorities in the proper context. Simply
having a plan isn't enough. Thus dogmatic
adherence to a strategy only works if one's
situation never changes. Given we live in
a state of flux theres a difference between
yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We all
live in a perpetual evolutionary state.
Do you also have trouble letting go? Patiently
waiting for a divine smoke signal is a fruitless
endeavor. Nobody including you can tell you
what's in your future. Thus at any moment the
phone could ring with yet another opportunity
or confirmation of some failure. For most the
issue at hand isn't dealing with whatever crisis
we're confronted with. Rather it's being open
to whatever comes our way. Hence most of us
adapt easily. Our primary challenge is being
patient enough to accept that every question
doesn't have an answer. Nor does each and
every problem have a fast or easy solution.
Free and easy
For now I'm going to try to stop thinking. And
in that process savor the moments at hand. In
truth there is little I can do little except quietly
lick my wounds and then move on. If nothing
else I"m an eternal optimist. Therefore I know
that the best is yet to come. On the short term
my greatest challenge is being ready, willing,
and open to whatever the future brings. Hence
once again I must do my best to leverage any
newfound knowledge from my recent graduate
course in adult education. Who knows what the
future brings? It's time to make my dreams a
reality. That is once I figure out what they are.
Monday, August 28, 2017
Where theres smoke...
Summer in Big Sky Country often
means one cannot see the forest for
the trees or visa versa. Thats due to
the season's heat and dryness which
brings fire. As of today, at least one
hundred and fifty thousand acres are
aflame within our fair state. That's
.16 percent of the ninety four million
plus acres within Montana. And said
smoke travels quickly. Leaving us all
in a haze as we struggle to find some
way to catch our breath. Plus hope it
doesn't end up coming our way...
Force of nature
Mother Nature has it's way of naturally
maintaining her vast resources. In our
forests a bolt of lighting quickly cleans
out what we humans have come to love.
However almost as quickly, life returns
and soon blackened soil is covered with
sprouting seedlings. From the start man
has tried to control natural resources -
often for naught. Which is why Mother
Nature must occasionally bitch slap us
back to reality with something we can't
possibly control even if we wanted to!
So... why do we all keep trying?
One should never take anything for
granted. Yet mankind has done just
that since the dawn of our existence.
Whether plucking forbidden fruit or
poisoning ground water, we've no
problem doing what's obviously the
wrong thing. After generations of
abuse, it's finally catching up with us.
And while Donald Trump considers
global warming a "hoax" I doubt he
really wants Manhattan's streets to
become Venetian canals. However
stranger things have happened...
A few years ago the New Yorker
published an article entitled "The
Big One." Per experts an impending
earthquake in the Northwest will hit
over nine points on the Richter scale.
Soil borings show that approximately
every two hundred and forty years the
"Cascade" fault shifts. Given it's last
rumble was in 1700 - we're long past
due. When it hits, much of Oregon's
and Washington's shoreline may sink
into the ocean. Followed thereafter
by a one hundred foot tsunami...
There are many things we can't control.
Rather than live in fear, why can't we
be stewards of this earth's resources?
Many prefer to live in the here and
now. However our children's children
will be here long after we're gone. Big
business is focused on delivering the
maximum in shareholder value. As
most investors are at least in their
fifties, that means their scope for
guaranteeing R.O.I. is rather limited.
Thus they'll do whatever it takes to
make a buck now - no matter the risk.
Our planet is volatile enough even
without humans screwing with it's
delicate balance. Threatening our
terra firma via fracking seems risky
business at best. When are we going
to realize that going against nature is
never the right approach? What's here
here today, could be gone tomorrow.
Add the threat of natural disasters
and it makes sense to do everything
possible to insure there actually is a
tomorrow. That's what stewardship
is all about. Saving the best for later.
At some point it's all going to catch up
with somebody. And while I doubt any
of us will be here to see it, the result
will be devastating. However there is
hope. Each of us can help the other to
divert disaster by simply doing our part.
Whether that's recycling plastic, taking
the bus, or flipping a switch doesn't
matter. Trying to make a difference
will make the difference. I'm doing my
part in the tiniest (and frankly easiest)
ways possible. Whatever you do, do
something for our future today.