Amazing!?

Amazing!?

It made the pages of many a newspaper back in 2012 when they reported on Lake Superior State University’s annual List of enough-alreadyWords Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness: “Amazing” received the most votes of any on the list.  But as far back as 2010 the Chicago Tribune noted it as an overused, “run of the mill” discriptor, and it has remained on lists of “the most annoying, overused words,” most recently in a 2014 Huffington Post article on “words that are so overused they become meaningless.”

Even the Pulitzer Prize winning Tampa Bay Times has hopped onto this bandwagon with the jingle/tagline “the amazing stories”… To be fair, I’ve copiously tried to find a better word to fit the rhythm of that jingle, and have admittedly come up blank (“the stupendous stories just doesn’t make it…).  So, OK, they get a pass, as does the TV show “The Amazing Race” (first aired 2001), Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” TV series (aired 1985-87), and “The Amazing Spiderman” (first comic book published 1965).  But WordPress does not; I just received an email touting ways I can “make WordPress Sites Look Amazing!” – nor does every talk-show host, news anchor, (professional) writer, and public figure, all of whom use the word more often than they use their Iphones.

So, I put it to you: Listen for it in conversation, in the media, anywhere that talking, writing, or communicating in any format is involved.  If you find it seldom used, let me know…and if, as have I, you get to the point that if one more person finds something “amazing” you’ll smack them upside the head, let me know that as well.

Then, let’s work a bit on our lexicons.  There’s “fabulous,” “extraordinary,” “fascinating (thanks, Mr. Spock!),” and “wonderful”: there’s “marvelous,” “surprising,” “remarkable,”incredible”; but no “awesome” or “excellent” – also tired.

In reality, “amazing” doesn’t adequately describe many things that deserve better.

And, unlike we Boomers, this descriptor is old, tired and ready for permanent retirement.

How I Realized Poverty is Self-Perpetuating

couponsThis past Sunday, I found the following in the coupon section of the paper: “Buy a $50 Visa Gift Card and receive $10 off your order of $50 or more!”  Well, hey, I can put together a list of things I need, or can use in future, that adds up to $50, and I can use that gift card to buy gas or other necessities; in the process I’ll save $10 on things I’d buy anyway!  Good deal!

Then it hit me.  I am fortunate enough to have sufficient disposable income to take advantage of the offer.  If, however, I was eking by from paycheck to paycheck, thus was unable to pay $100 all at once to garner the great savings (10% of the total), I couldn’t take advantage of it, and I’d have to pass on saving an extra and sorely needed $10.

In other words, too often you must have money to save it, or make more of it…too often, those who most need the savings or increased income literally can’t afford to take advantage of the typical means for getting it.

We in the middle class can relate to this on a different level: we can’t take advantage of the same investment vehicles available to the wealthy because they require a million dollar buy-in, for example.  We must pay an ever increasing chunk of our paycheck to insurance premiums with ever increasing out-of-pocket costs, increasing our cost of living with no concomitant increase in salary – another example.

But even more systems are set up in this same “no-win” way for the “working poor” – folks who work hard at the kind of low-wage jobs that keep us going (maids, clerks, lawn care, home health aides, social service workers, maintenance workers) yet still live in poverty.

Here just a few of the myriad things that work to keep the poor, poor:

  • can’t get a car loan, so, presto, no car to get to work, daycare, grocery store, etc.
  • no health insurance so must pay out of pocket for everything – costs that are far higher than those charged to insurance companies; add to that living in substandard housing which exacerbates asthma, allergies, some still with lead paint, causing more illness
  • neighborhoods with “D” or “F” rated public schools…so much for a decent education
  • lots of coupons are found in the daily paper…unless you can’t afford the subscription, then that option is out as well
  • vehicles for saving for the future (IRA’s, investments, even savings accounts) require a minimum deposit and balance to qualify

We hear, often, of folks beating poverty and making it big.  Unfortunately, that is a very small minority, and the ticket up and out is usually through professional sports or the film/music industry.

As an executive with large social service agencies, I know what those who care for your profoundly disabled son’s/parent’s care are paid, and it’s not a living wage.  We all know what the hotel maids and all service workers on whom we depend are paid, and we know it’s insufficient.  Even teachers and bank tellers are paid ridiculously low wages given the skill and education required.

So, please keep this in mind the next time you see headlines about workers at MacDonald’s and Walmart fighting for a decent wage.  They have lots of company in folks with jobs that are far more crucial.

Then keep in mind that the only way out of poverty – or the lower-middle class for that matter – is through wages paid.

So…you think you love animals?

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Our furry friendsAmericans have tremendous affection for their “other species family members” – we will spend over 55 Billion on our pets this year according to the Animal Health Foundation, with Boomers leading the way, literally: according to the AHF we were the first generation to normalize pet ownership (who knew?!)

Cool!

But, many folks who adore their dogs, cats, iguanas, fish, hamsters, or (fill in the blank) aren’t the total-package animal lovers they think they are.

That’s because these same folks will, without a second thought, inadvertently do a host of things that harm animals.

Worse yet, many will do the fingers-in-the-ears-“la la la I don’t want to hear that!” when the topic of animal mistreatment/cruelty is raised.i don't want to hear it

So, how can so many profess to love all animals so much yet do so little within their power to protect them?

Many say it’s too painful to think about, or believe there’s no way around some forms of abuse (like in medical research).  Lots (like to) think the animals in entertainment venues are well cared for so no harm done.

All are excellent excuses.  None are good reasons.

If you fit the above bill, it’s past time to take a critical look at the breadth of your love for animals.

If you love only animals living in your home, be honest with yourself and others – admit that your love of animals is conditional.  love all animals

But, if after some consideration you believe you really are a lover of all animals everywhere, then you have a bit of work to do…

So, to make this a bit easier for anyone ready and willing to show their love for all animals, here’s an easy reference short list of ways to show it:

training a baby elephant for the circus

training a baby elephant for the circus

  • Stop going to the circus, Sea World, Busch Gardens, or any other venue using animals for our entertainment; other species were not put on the planet for our entertainment, and as we’ve learned by recent national headlines, they really don’t like it
  • Buy meat that is humanely raised – it is a bit more expensive, but doing so both shows care for food animals and gets you meat that tastes better
  • Don’t get pets from commercial animal breeders or pet stores, aka “puppy mills – their animals are often poorly treated in order to improve profits; you local shelter has plenty of critters anxiously awaiting a good home, and btw, shelter animals make much better family members; probably because they really appreciate the home and your love.  Petfinder.com is an excellent resource.
  • Always take a few extra minutes when purchasing any product to ensure it was not tested on animals (those that don’t will proudly state so on the label) – to get you started, Johnson & Johnson refuses to end its use of animals to test its products; here’s a more complete list of companies that still use animals
  • Join one of the numerous organizations/groups that work tirelessly to stop animal abuse and take a few minutes each day to sign their smiling dogpetitions; donate to them when you can (why not take the money you would’ve spent on an extra toy for Fido and make the donation from him?!) (I’ve provided a starter list below)
  • Insist that medical research on animals be discontinued: research has come a long way from last millennia techniques – researchers no longer need to use animals but do so only because it’s been “standard practice” (hasn’t changed since Aristotle’s time) – and more importantly, outcomes on animal research often do not correlate to outcomes with humans… in other words, such research is far less effective than other options (computer models, for instance)
  • Forward this article to all you know who consider themselves animal lovers.

Do these things, and all creatures all around the world will love you back for it.

Links to the top animal welfare organizations:
The Humane Society of the United States (USHS)
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) – helps species at risk of extinction
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – helps animals in need throughout the world
The Non Human Rights Project (NhRP) – defends the rights of non human species
The Animal Rescue site – one click a day provides help to animals in need – do it every day…it’s free!

Boomers Make Poor Legislators…

The 70th anniversary of D-Day got me thinking about our parents’ “Greatest” generation, what they lived through, and how bad Congress has become.

The connection?

bob doleWhen they were in Congress, bi-partisan work got done, taking care of our needs seemed to more often trump taking care of their own careers, they were not quite so easily bought.  Nothing like making it through a great depression and a world war to build character…

In contrast, today’s Congress is made up of mostly Boomers… best at living up to our “me” generation moniker.  Now Congress gets john-boehnernothing of import done from a preference for over-the-top partisanship, takes care of their own careers rather than the country’s needs, and are quite easily bought.  For those of us who like our Social Security and Medicare, be grateful those programs were created during our parents’ tenure.

The conclusion: Boomers make poor national leaders.  In Florida, our children as leaders aren’t faring much better.

I’ve always believed that anyone wanting to run for Congress is most likely not a good candidate because the ego it takes to want such a thing will most likely outpace his/her ability to truly lead.  And the folks I’d like to see in Congress don’t want the job.

Ah for the Founders’ concept of “citizen legislators” – folks who had a life (other than politics), went to Washington for short periods (Jefferson envisioned terms of no more than 9 years, with Representatives rotating out every 3, similar to the current practices of Boards of Directors) to represent their constituents’ needs, then returned home to continue their real lives.  Here’s an example provided by Thomas Jefferson in 1797:

“All [reforms] can be… [achieved] peaceably by the people confining their choice of Representatives and Senators to persons attached to republican government and the principles of 1776; not office-hunters [stressor mine], but farmers [the main vocation of the day…notice he didn’t say lawyers and doctors, who make up most representatives today] whose interests are entirely agricultural [eg of their main profession]. Such men are the true representatives of the great American interest and are alone to be relied on for expressing the proper American sentiments.”

He also envisioned representatives be uncompensated, to ensure their motives were to serve, not to become enriched themselves:

“I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service and of retiring with hands as clean as they are empty.”
Jefferson to Diodati, 1807.

Let’s find a bunch of the latter (true citizen legislators) and convince them to run, so we can eliminate the former (what we have now).

Some of them may even be Boomers.

 

Why “Child Protective Services” are Not

Prior to focusing my professional attention to advising my generation, I ran programs in NYC for homeless/runaway youth many of whom were in the child protection system at some point (drug addicted/AIDs infected/imprisoned parents) or had their own children in the system. I’ve been a Guardian ad Litem here in FL. I’ve been a foster parent (of a teen) in New Jersey. I know first hand what’s needed to vastly improve the safety of children removed from their home due to abuse/neglect.

children killed by abusersBe warned, it is a solution historically ignored as it unpegs our blind devotion to keeping children with (clearly dysfunctional) biological parents, no matter how incapacitated those people are as individuals let alone parents; our culture’s foundation for failure.

As obvious as this faulty reasoning is in the aggregate (recent series by the Tampa Bay Times & Miami Herald here in Florida as example), when it comes time to set, by law, extreme limits for such people to have the children returned to them, we simply don’t do it. Biology trumps proven incapacity to parent.

Although some parts of the country are ahead of the curve by ensuring quality/innovative solutions to their child protection problems (some major cities like L.A., others less so like Omaha, Nebraska) through the adoption of models that emphasize the child’s well-being over the “rights of the parents,” unfortunately most States, including Florida, currently hold parents’ rights, no matter how unearned, to be paramount.

So to start, we must accept two painful realities: 1) that the ability to procreate does not automatically make someone fit to parent, and numerous attempts to “rehabilitate” a parent while the children continue to suffer is not an approach worth keeping; 2) the systems are grossly underfunded and the funding they have poorly utilized.

Then, we must call for proven alternatives to the current system that fails children miserably.  That means passing laws that use added protective services dollars to make adoption far more desirable and affordable (as do programs like New Life Village in Tampa), and fund highly successful, well researched models of community care that provide safety, professional care, emotional and peer support, and an environment in which children can thrive, such as Girls & Boys Town in Nebraska (you may remember the 1938 movie, Boys Town, starring Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy) and SOS Children’s Villages.

We Boomers must no longer be party to embracing mid-20th century solutions to 21st century problems.  And as a member of the most influential cohort in America, you can insist on far better for these hurting children in your State.

Only then will we be able to pick up a newspaper and not read of horrific deeds by disturbed individuals who have been given the State’s sanction to continue abusing their offspring.