Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Birthday "Celebration"

My brother on his birth day, August 9, 1985

My brother celebrating his final birthday, August 2009

You should have had two more birthdays here with us since then. Instead, you're celebrating with the angels in heaven.

Happy Birthday, George Ross.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Debt Ceiling "Compromise"?

I know that I've neglected this blog over the past few months; there have been a myriad of opinions flitting through my mind during this time, but for some reason, I have been hesitant to sit down at the computer, and attempt to organize these thoughts for your reading pleasure.

That said, the urge to comment on the debt ceiling crisis, that has been looming over our heads for the past several months, has grown too great to ignore.

For weeks, the threats of a downgraded credit rating and skyrocketing interest rates, among other consequences, has made it impossible for a day to go by when I have not worried about paying my bills, especially with a baby on the way. And I know that I am no different from thousands of other families across the country, who work hard to pay their bills on time and keep their heads above water, and whose economic wellbeing has been held hostage by greedy, hypocritical, petty politicians willing to sink the American economy for their own personal gains, to be placed solely on the backs of the average working Americans. I, along with millions of other Americans, have watched this political game of "chicken" play out on international television, watching an elite few vehemently refuse to place another cent into the American economy, either through fair taxes or through the so-called "entitlement programs" into which we have paid thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars for years, even decades, in order to insure that we would have those benefits, as valuable members of society, when we needed them. We have been repeatedly told that it's more important for the rich to stay as rich as they possibly can than for the rest of us to be able to feed our families, stay in our homes, or pursue higher education in an attempt to achieve the American dream of bettering ourselves.

Today a deal has been reached, between the feuding, increasingly partisan Republican and Democratic parties. And I have mixed feelings about this deal. On the one hand, I feel relief that a default on our debt obligations has been avoided; on the other, there has been no abatement of the resentment I feel about being used as a pawn in this political game of chess, a game that the rest of the world has been watching, while shaking their heads in disbelief.

Both sides have made significant concessions; the Democrats have agreed to refrain on imposing any tax hikes in the immediate future, while the Republicans have taken cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security off the table. In this sense, the deal is a true compromise. However, it only pauses the bitter showdown in which we've been embroiled; a bipartisan committee must present a list of program cuts to both houses of Congress by the end of November, and if their recommendations are not approved by both houses, it will trigger massive cuts from all programs, including Medicare and Social Security. Nowhere in this agreement is mentioned the possibility of automatic tax hikes for those whose income is over $250,000 a year. And in the meantime, over a trillion dollars' worth of spending cuts will be made in other areas of the federal government, a victory for the less-is-more perspective held by Republicans.

So, what have we learned from this? We have learned that, in this political game of "chicken," the Democrats have blinked first. We have learned that Republicans, specifically the Tea Party, have no compunction against holding the entire country hostage in order to achieve short-term, personal gains, regardless of the possiblity of causing the downfall of America. And we've learned that, because of their success this time, Republicans surely will resort to such terroristic attacks during future debates.

I'm not sure I like these lessons.

Growing by Leaps and Bounds!!!

This is my sonogram picture from June 13th. You can see that the baby's starting to "chub out" somewhat, pumping his little fist for the camera. And it is, most definitely, a "he"; the doctor's exact words to us were, "My, he certainly likes to stick it out there!!" LOL But then, we'd known for about two months that we were having a boy; the baby gave us a very clear shot at the previous ultrasound. This time, the technician was surprised that she'd discussed gender with us then; our response was, that we really hadn't needed to ask the last time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow: A Metaphor for Life.

I've wanted to blog about my reaction to this year's winter so far for a long time, but have had trouble working up the energy to do so. This seems symbolic for a lot of things over the past five weeks.

Since the Christmas blizzard of 2010, winter has been one long battle against the elements. With the threat of snow constantly hanging over our heads--and each promised storm delivering on these threats--even the simplest tasks, like getting to work, become much more difficult. Forecasts contribute to this dreadful sense of anticipation days beforehand, so that people are consumed by a sense of anxiety, as they ponder the various "what-ifs" when trying to work out how they'll manage to fulfill the everyday tasks that will still be expected of them. "How will I get to work?" "How will I get home?" "How will I walk my dog?" "What if my car gets stuck?" "Will public transportation be running?" "Will daycare/schools be open?" All of these things, so mundane and taken for granted on a regular day, can bring an entire family, and even an entire city, to a standstill. The sense of helplessness and frustration has become tangible, a living, breathing entity hovering around everyone, something that refuses to be ignored as one storm is dealt with and the next threat materializes.

This seems to be a metaphor for many of the issues I've struggled against for years. I have MAJOR control issues, and constantly rage against my feelings of helplessness over the things I cannot control, and how I seem to be held accountable for them anyway: how can I get my students to study for exams? How can I get my students to do their homework? Why won't some of them even show up to class, or for their Regents exams? Because I cannot answer these questions, because I have VERY limited control over these things, I am left with feelings of frustration and anxiety: how will my passing percentages affect my job security, and so on? These feelings of helplessness and frustration are only magnified by issues affecting the city at large: Mayor Bloomberg hires TWO bureaucrats to run the Department of Education, yet says that he needs to fire six thousand teachers, among other city employees, in order to balance the city's budget. The United States Congress is taking aim at Social Security, Medicare, and pensions, things that I have paid into since I first started earning a paycheck at 16 years old--things that I have had no choice BUT to pay into. And now there are people who want to take these things away from us, essentially stealing the thousands of dollars that I and other Americans like me have paid for it. The federal government talks of removing mortgages as a federal tax deduction, making it just that much more difficult for homeowners to keep their homes. And those people who are most affected by these issues are the ones who have the least control over the outcomes.

This is a very difficult time in which to live, financially. Perhaps the snow is a physical manifestation of this difficulty. Certainly, the unhappiness etched on the faces of millions of Americans is a familiar sight, mostly because I know that it's mirrored on my own. And yet, as I watch the children enjoy playing in the snow, I wonder if there isn't a message in that for us all; children's lives are not without worry, but are still much simpler. Kids take such delight in the little joys of life, and do not worry about the things over which they have no control. They just take things like snow as they come, and make the most out of each joyful moment, rather than worrying about what may be in the future.
Maybe we all should try to be more like our children.