Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hi! I'm Dandaddy

In this house that’s how I’m known! Call me Dandaddy.

Since our oldest daughter, Laura, gave birth to her daughter, Alyssa, eighteen months ago, they have lived in our home. If you had told us just how much fun this was going to be I dare say Isaura and I would not have believed it. A year ago Laura met a special man. Next month Laura and Ken will be getting married. This also means Laura and Alyssa will be moving out of our home. Trust me – there will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth around here for a while!

I consider that Isaura and I were both very blessed to have been close to our grandparents. For both of us, we were strongly influenced by their lives. I can say that Bambi (Yup! That’s what we called her – my step father’s mother) was my best friend while I was growing up. She moved in with us when I was ten and she was seventy. She passed away at age 94. I was pastoring my first church in Fresno, and hers was the first funeral I performed as a minister. I miss her as much today as ever before. I would love to make her a cup of tea (She was from Boston, don’t you know!) and then just sit and talk.

As grandparents, Isaura and I have taken to our roles rather naturally. We have two granddaughters now, but with Brookie living in Turlock with parents Josh and Jenny, we don’t have the time to spend with her that we do with Alyssa who has lived in our home this past year and a half. Ken brings two children into the marriage, Daniel and DeziRay, so our number of grandchildren instantly doubles. We’re liking this grandparent thing!

The evenings are particularly special. Alyssa, who is as precocious as they come, will take one of her books out of her basket stored under the coffee table, hand it to me, then proceed to climb into my lap on the couch. She sits up against the crook of my arm with calm expectancy that I will then begin to read to her. She turns the pages as I intone whatever story is being told. When we’re finished with one book, she’ll climb down to get another. This one may have lots of pictures of vehicles, so we identify them by name: Truck – Car – Tractor – Ambulance. Or maybe it’s animals. We name the animal in the picture, then Alyssa makes the sound that animal makes. One of my favorites is CAT. Alyssa makes the sound, MOW (like cow). Another is for the ROOSTER. “Do-do-do-do-do!” says my little imitator. That’s what “cock-a-doodle-do” sounds like to her. Anyway, you get the idea. Then I ask her, “Alyssa, are we pirates?” She responds, “Arrrrrrgh!” It kills me!

Her next book is a favorite. It is a variety of Bible Songs. She has begun to sing with me recently, seeming to pick up on two words in particular: Jesus and Bible. There are some twelve to fourteen songs in the book, like “This Little Light of Mine,” “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” “Kumbaya,” “Do Lord,” and of course her favorite, “Jesus Loves Me.” I began singing this song to her when she was a newborn in Intensive Care fighting an infection. She had tubes and wires hooked everywhere. I used to go into the hospital just to hold her. It was winter, so I was wearing my black Marine Corps jacket. I would open the jacket and nestle her inside up against my chest as if to protect her from harm. She would sleep peacefully with the odor of the leather jacket finding its way into her little pushed-up nose.

When she wakes up in the morning she goes looking for me. “Dandaddy! Dandaddy!” can be heard throughout the house. Usually I have already left for work so Laura will take a picture of Alyssa with her cell phone and send it to my phone. I’ve even received some short video clips of Alyssa on my cell phone. Great invention, cell phones!

Laura and Ken bought Alyssa a child-sized plastic golf bag which has three clubs, three balls and two putting holes with a flag in each. Well, seeing as I love the game of golf, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass, so into the back yard we went to show Alyssa how the game is played. She’s a natural. LPGA, look out!

Among the many things I enjoy doing with her, my favorites are filling the hummingbird feeder, watering the potted plants in the back yard, and going for long walks with her in the child’s back pack.

Isaura loves being Grandma, only when Alyssa says Grandma, it comes out as “Meema.”

So, it’s Dandaddy and Meema around here anymore. And that’s just fine by us!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Showdown is Coming

It is quite apparent to me that we are heading for a showdown in this country over what is acceptable and what is not. Political Correctness is challenging even what a person believes and thinks. The self-appointed, so-called “Thought Police” are waiting for any and every opportunity to pounce on the unsuspecting should something be said that doesn’t quite fit within the politically correct rules for living.

In particular, I’m referring to the brouhaha raised over the comments made by Miss California, Carrie Prejean, during the recent Miss USA competition. Let me state for the record that I am no fan of beauty competitions. I find them unbelievably boring, not to mention they are demeaning to women. But then, I’m a guy, so what do I know about such things?

You’ve no doubt seen the news stories surrounding this controversy. In short, Miss California was asked a highly controversial question by one of the judges during the competition. Did she oppose Proposition 8 in California’s election last November which defined marriage to be between a man and a woman? This proposition is often referred to as the anti-gay marriage bill. This is a misnomer. Instead, it is a clarification of what constitutes a marriage. And Californians for the second time in the last ten years have stated they believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. For the uninformed, the reason we Californians have had to vote on this issue a second time is because the California courts ruled it unconstitutional the first time. Proposition 22 was passed by California voters in 2000, only to be struck down by the California Supreme Court a year ago on May 15. Currently, we in California are waiting to see what action the California Supreme Court will take regarding Prop 8. They have 90 days to respond once a challenge has been submitted. We’ll know by June 5.

What I find disturbing in all of this is that Miss California was simply stating what she believed about marriage – only to find herself roundly criticized and vilified for stating her personal beliefs. If the judge who asked the question didn’t want to hear the answer, then he shouldn’t have asked the question in the first place! My suspicions are that this particular judge knew exactly what he was doing and was looking for an opportunity to make a point, as evidenced by his web site video diatribe. Shame on him!

The other side of this coin has to do with Miss California’s right to say what she wants. This is one of our cherished freedoms. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that expressly prohibits the United States Congress from making laws respecting an establishment of religion, or that prohibit the free exercise of religion, or infringe the freedom of speech, or infringe the freedom of the press, or limit the right to peaceable assembly, or limit the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In other words, as Americans, we have the right to say what we want, to freely express our beliefs. However, there is a downside to this. People do not have to agree with you or like what you say. Therefore, when we speak, as Ms Prejean did during the competition for Miss USA, expect that there will be those who will not like what you say. She has said as much in interviews since then. She could have given the bland, politically correct answer and perhaps have assured her winning the crown. But for her, this was a matter of conscience. She could have taken the easy way out. I applaud her for not violating her conscience.

My concern is that our country is heading for a major confrontation between those who want to mold public opinion and the way people think, and those who believe we have a right to express our beliefs even if they are not politically correct. This is at the heart of the “Hush Rush Bill.” Conservative radio talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh, is being targeted by some in Congress who believe he should have a counter-point to his daily program of conservative views. This would force radio stations to schedule liberal hosts as a counter-balance to Rush, or Hannity, or any of the other conservative hosts. On the surface this sounds “fair.” But as has been sufficiently proven, there is little to no interest in liberal talk radio. It would be nearly impossible, therefore, to draw advertisers to buy airtime for these liberal programs. This would effectively shut down all talk radio and the stations that run them.

I have many friends and family members with whom I disagree on any number of issues. However, such differences have no effect on our relationship. But, when the people who are in power attempt to dictate what is acceptable, don’t be surprised when there is a backlash! After all, it is an attack on one of our fundamental freedoms! And Americans should not stand for it.

Those military members we honor this Memorial Day who rest beneath the sod of our nation’s cemeteries, fought for our freedoms. We owe it to their sacrifice, and to future generations, to carry on the fight.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cell Phone Follies

Last July the state of California began to enforce a law that says you cannot use a cell phone while driving a car unless it is set up as “hands free.” To be “hands free,” you have to have a Blue Tooth hook-up so when you are talking to whoever it is on the other end of the line, you are not fumbling with trying to hold the ever smaller cell phone to your ear. Sounds reasonable.

Not so fast. If you’re like me, and I suspect that you are, the difficult part of making calls on your cell phone while driving is not holding the phone while zipping down the freeway at 75 miles per hour. The problem is initiating the call in the first place! Even if you have speed dial you still have to glance at the phone, even if for a moment or two.

I haven’t checked this out, but I’ve heard the fine for using the cell phone incorrectly while driving is pushing two hundred dollars. Ouch! Yet, I see more and more people driving around with their cell phone pressed to their ear. They’re yammering away without a care in the world. I’m particularly aware because I often see them make driving errors. It isn’t necessarily that it is a life-threatening mistake behind the wheel – it’s more likely to be one of those slight hesitation moves that makes the drivers of the cars around you wonder what’s going to happen next. Everyone is suddenly on their guard.

Wanting to be law-abiding, I initially started using a Blue Tooth ear device. I quickly became frustrated with this piece of hardware. I couldn’t find one that had a comfortable earpiece. It either would not stay in my ear, or if it did stay, it was uncomfortable. My wife bought a separate unit for me that does the same thing except that it is a small box that rests on the seat of the car and is connected through Blue Tooth. You speak as if on a conference call. It works marginally well. Often folks tell me they can’t hear what I’m saying to them. So I pick up the box and speak closer to the transmitter. “That’s better!” they say. Well, nuts! That doesn’t help anything on my end! I now have a hand that should be helping control a hunk of steel rolling down the road occupied holding this box up to my face! My eyes immediately begin to scan the road to make sure there isn’t a policeman just waiting for me to slip up.

Then there’s text messaging. This has become an art form which I will admit the young are much more adept at performing that I am. They let their fingers fly over the keypad sending and receiving messages ad nauseam. It would seem they don’t even have to look at the phone to accomplish this task. Ah! But they have to read what’s being sent to them. There’s the danger!

But let me ask you – is it any less dangerous for a person to drive a car while actively engaged in a conversation with someone in the passenger’s seat, or the rear seat? Some people are very animated talkers, with hands flying around and head turning to make eye contact with the other person who always seems apprehensive to me, watching the road more intently than the driver. Are we going to see legislation forbidding people from talking to their passengers?

I suspect this law forbidding folks from using their hands to hold a cell phone while driving will go the way of other laws that are archaic and were silly in the first place. Like in Illinois, a car must be driven with a steering wheel! California law prohibits a woman from driving while dressed in a housecoat. In Memphis, Tennessee, a woman is not to drive a car unless a man warns approaching motorists or pedestrians by walking in front of the car that is being driven. In Tennessee, it is against the law to drive a car while sleeping! In New York, it is against the law for a blind person to drive an automobile. You get the idea!

I will conclude with this suggestion. If you are going to use a cell phone while driving, please respect other drivers and pay attention to what you’re doing. Otherwise, make the call later after you’ve arrived at your destination. If the call is that important, pull over!

One last silly law for your amusement: In Utah, birds have the right of way on any public highway! You gotta love it!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Flu and You

Like many of you I have been watching the news stories concerning the supposed outbreak of the “Swine Flu.” How much of this is hype on an otherwise slow news day? How much of this is government agencies attempting to deflect criticism and responsibility? How much is fear-mongering? I have no idea, but I suspect there’s a lot of all of these and more.

As I was considering what to write for this article, an e-mail on this topic came in from a friend. Will Harrison is a retired Navy doctor who has spent many of his retirement years traveling (on his own dime) to such places as Darfur, the Sudan, offering his services as an expert on infectious diseases. As this story of the swine flu was making headlines, he decided to give his take on all the hubbub, sending his learned insights out to family and friends. I asked him if I could use some of his material for this article. He not only agreed, but sent me even more useful info.

The first thing in all of this is what this flu (short for “influenza”) should rightly be called. It is being called “Swine Flu.” The official name for this flu virus is the “H1N1 Flu.” But my friend says it should be called the “Mexican Influenza,” because that is where it is coming from. Dr. Will says, “The vast majority of cases are in Mexico; most of the US cases can be traced to exposure either in Mexico, or to someone who came from Mexico. The same applies to other international cases.” Case in point, the five year old little boy who died in a Texas hospital lived across the border in Mexico.

Because the nature of such illnesses often are frightening to people, they aren’t exactly sure how seriously they should take the grave warnings that are coming at us so fast. The term “pandemic” is being bandied about causing even more concern. Allow me to explain this term “pandemic.” If you break this word down into its simplest form, you will find it is the combination of two Greek words. First you have “pan,” which means “all.” Then you have the word “demic,” which means “people.” The idea behind a pandemic is that it affects, or in this case, infects an awful lot of people. As of this writing, Dr. Will says there are fewer than 500 documented cases worldwide! Hardly a pandemic. He says, “When we have 100,000 proven cases of the Mexican strain of H1N1 Flu on all five continents, then it will be a pandemic.” So why are some people dying in Mexico, but the confirmed cases in the US are non-fatal at worst? Experts are strongly suggesting that it is directly related to the inadequate Mexican health care system.

What can you do to avoid this flu problem? Here are some of Dr. Will’s ideas for your consideration: “Don’t Panic! Be sensible. If you don’t need to go to the mall, or the movies, or travel by air, then don’t. Avoid crowded, congested, poorly ventilated places. This virus is spread by AIRBORNE and DROPLET contamination. Simply stated: if someone coughs or sneezes into the air, droplets of infected material drift around until they fall. The virus is relatively short lived (a few minutes). It doesn’t hang around on inanimate objects waiting for a victim. The one caveat to that statement is doorknobs. After airborne contamination, doorknobs are the second most common means of transmitting respiratory viruses. If a person coughs or sneezes into their hand, then they open or close a door, some infected secretions cling to the doorknob. If you touch that doorknob within a few minutes, and then put your fingers in your eyes, nose, or mouth – you could transmit the virus. So when you go to crowded, public places, always make sure that you have some antiviral handy wipes to clean doorknobs, toilet handles, etc, before you use them. Failing a handy wipe, a tissue will do.”

What about things coming in from Mexico? Is it safe to eat the meat products (particularly pork), and produce? Again, Dr. Will’s insight on this concern: “You will not get infected with H1N1 influenza by eating pork; pork products; or fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Mexico. (You might get infected if you kiss a pig, however!) On the other hand, all fruits and vegetables from Mexico, Central and South America should (always) be thoroughly washed before eating, primarily because of the risk of Hepatitis A and Cyclosporidiosis, which are much more hardy than influenza.”

Should the border with Mexico be closed until this influenza is under control down there? “It’s probably a good idea,” says Dr. Will, “at least medically.” But the border is likely to be kept open because of the political fallout that would come if we closed it. The medical experts advising this administration say we should keep the borders open. May I remind you that these medical experts are government appointees?

As is almost always the case, those most in danger of influenza are young children and the elderly.

Follow the advice of Dr. Will and you’ll be just fine!