Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Sister, Amy

What can one say about a sister that one has grown up with? There are contentions, certainly, through the childhood and teenage years as both of us sought to define our space within the household. Let any come between us though, and you will see us jump to one another's defense. There are idiosyncrasies and habits that remain throughout our lives that both annoy and endear us to one another. We have shared secrets and difficult times.

As children, we pretty much got on one another's nerves in a game of one upmanship that is common with any family household. What does not kill us makes us stronger, however, and I feel this is the case with Amy and I. I am indebted to Amy for learning understanding, patience and love. I have not always been the easiest person to get along with. I have been at times, selfish, spiteful and isolated.

We used to play a game involving macaroni and cheese. We would cook the macaroni, leaving one elbow out of the boiling water. Then when the macaroni was done, we would mix the milk and butter in with the powdered cheese sauce. After that we would replace the uncooked macaroni into the pot and stir vigorously. After the macaroni was evenly divided (one of us would divide the macaroni and the other one would get first choice, ensuring that no one got preferential treatment) we would sit down and eat, staring at each other with passive-aggressive glee, waiting in trepidation either to get a hard crunch or to erupt in laughter as the other got a surprise.

As we matured into the teenage years, I went through a period in the 8th grade where every other comment flying out of my mouth was sarcastic and rude. Amy had to deal with the receiving end of this usually as she was the closest target, and my parents got a little concerned. Basically, I was angry and upset and mad about my lot in life. Being a teenager is rough because one yearns to break free from the rulership of their parents and establish ones own identity. However, one is still treated in many ways like a kid. Amy had no one really to shift the blame onto vicariously when she went through it, as I was the older brother. Her experience of high school, I understand, was not as rosy as mine in retrospect, just trying to survive on a daily basis. Two experiences stand out, however- both occurred when I was a senior and she was a sophomore.

Amy came to me at one point during the school day crying and told me that a young man in her class named Glen was saying things about her in the hallway. Spreading rumors that she was a slut, saying bad things about her, etc- the thing that young girls fear as it causes ostracizing and social difficulties, and this means the world to them. I decided to find this guy and set him straight. Now, at the time I was known around campus as a Christian. I carried my bible around school, was involved in youth groups, was the chaplain for FCA and basically tried to get along with everyone. I discovered a most violent reaction within me that was not Christian at all, however. When I finally saw this guy in the corridors, I pulled him off to the side. "We need to talk, Glen." I basically told him that I had heard he was saying things around the school about my sister. He denied it. As I spoke my voice got quieter and I basically started growling what I was saying to him as I stared into his eyes and invaded his personal space. He backed up against the wall as I continued stepping forward making my point. "If I hear... that you are continuing to say things about my sister... I am going to PERSONALLY turn your FACE into HAMBURGER. GOT IT?" He did and I moved with my personal hurricane of rage slowly away, to make sure it stuck. NOBODY messes with my sister!

The other incident occurred after school hours. My sister was a party animal and one night when I was out on a date with my then girlfriend, we decided to visit a party at a person's house. When we arrived I discovered Amy was there, soaking wet in her clothes, and had been drinking (the drinking was not uncommon for the time- it had not yet become politically incorrect.) I told Amy I was taking her home and she wanted to stay and have fun. We had a disagreement and I started to drag her out. Well, Amy sat down next to a car tire in the garage (that was still attached to the car) and grabbed hold and would not let go. "Nooo! I want to stayyyy and have funnnn!" At that point my girlfriend and I (whom I had taken to the senior prom earlier in the year) had a miscommunication. She suggested that I just leave her there. To me, that was translated as: "Allow her to stay and get taken advantage of by the repulsive, horny, male, teenage, slimy dregs of humanity that were slouching around the house looking for a target."

I turned on her. "Don't you EVER come between me and my family!" I yelled into her face. Well, that was the end of that relationship. I continued to try to take Amy home, but she would not budge from the tire. I finally took my rapidly deteriorating girlfriend home, not caring how she felt. I was stinging because I had to leave my sister in harm's way.

As Amy has grown and matured, however, that stubborn-ness has served her well. It has changed into an incredible work ethic, which I think she got from Dad. She has rebounded from near bankruptcy shortly after college, finally establishing herself as a mortgage broker of some repute. She is on at least one regional committee that represents the mortgage industry to Congress, having gained the trust, confidence and recognition of her peers in the mortgage industry. She has met and socialized with Newt Gingrich and other Washington elites. She has won Businesswoman of the Year twice from the Business Advisory Council and was recognized with the National Leadership Award from Tom Delay in 2003.

She has been more than successful in her business, and has made it a success with her hard work in a field where large banks are cutting the legs out from under independent brokers. It's similar to the situation I read about with Wal Mart one time. Wal Mart was purposely underpricing the gas pumps at their stores, driving stations out of business because they could make up the profit with other merchandise that they sold inside, in bulk. They stopped this practice (I understand) when it started earning them a lot of bad publicity. The large banks, however, have no such worries about simple things like ethics.

I am in awe of her business achievements. In comparison, I am sort of a goofball, going day-to-day in a rather whimsical manner, not motivating myself very well in any endeavor I direct myself to. But there is more to Amy than that.

Amy has blossomed into a woman who is both beautiful and strong, compassionate with a heart that is tender, especially towards animals. She has survived through the difficulties of a very painful divorce, and come out stronger because of it.

As I examine our relationship as a mature teacher of 19 years, I think I can summarize it this way: Amy and I are like Ren and Stimpy. Yes, those two crazy cartoon characters who stretch the limits of decency. Amy is a bit like Ren the Chihuahua. Passionate about everything! Driven! Explosive! Filled with energy! I, on the other hand, am a bit like Stimpy the cat, who pauses to examine the fuzz that has accumulated in the navel of my belly, a bit introspectively and naively. It's ying and yang, but we understand each other and gain strength, wisdom and perspective from one another's counsel.

I am very proud of my sister, Amy, and am thankful to God for her presence in my life.

armchair coach
amateur historian

John, John, John

I just finished watching the presidential debates tonight- I must say that I am disappointed with the performance of the candidate I am leaning towards, Senator John McCain. He was not as polished as Obama, not listing points as answers to questions and explaining them well. He also looked a bit of a fogy with that striped tie, as opposed to the thin satin red tie Obama chose. But, enough about appearances, let's move on to the discussion.

I think part of the reason why I was disappointed was that McCain did not pin down Obama on the issues regarding the platform of the Democratic party. He basically just gave him a free pass. For example, when they started the debate discussing the economy, McCain did not point out that part of the reason for the housing bubble bursting was lack of fiscal conservatism on the part of lending institutions. Yes, part of the reason is greed- banks (like Wamu) gambling on lots and lots of risky loans to make a buck, but the other part of it is the government mandating many of those bad loans. Obama characterized McCain with the blanket statement that all regulation is bad. No, Senator Obama, BAD legislation is bad, and in this case, it was bad legislation on the part of the Democratic party.

McCain also let Obama make many unchallenged statements. Among them, that Obama wanted to cut taxes for 95% of all Americans, and that he wanted to ensure health care for all Americans. He could have come back with such statements as, "I'm sure all Americans will enjoy the lines they have to wait in and the 6 month to 2 year wait for surgery that others in countries with nationalized medical practice enjoy, especially when the choice for nationalized medicine is made without their consent. Where will the Canadians go if they need immediate surgery?" Regarding taxes, he could have said "I was not aware that 95% of all Americans pay income taxes. How can you cut taxes for those who don't pay?" (This would have been a beautiful time to inject the argument for the fair tax- shame he does not support it.)

Obama has not effectively lead *any* legislation in the senate. Any time he referred to legislation he sponsored, it was with connection with another senator. Additionally, there was not one mention on the percent of "present" votes Obama has cast. "A vote for being 'present' is not the change we need, nor the leadership we deserve."

The Democratic party is the one that until very recently has *NOT* wanted to drill offshore, has *NOT* wanted to drill in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, and does *NOT* want to tap our oil reserves from shale. These are things that can help our gas prices. Why are you letting him skate on that issue, John?

When it came time to talk about overspending, McCain missed an outstanding opportunity. He mentioned a moratorium on spending, to which Obama replied, "Sounds like you are using a hatchet when you should be using a scalpel." He could have countered, "The hatchet worked quite well for President Reagan, thank you for the comparison."

Additionally, there was the discussion of North Korea and Iran. It was the Democrats under Clinton who sent a nuclear reactor to North Korea, and as a result they developed the bomb. North Korea tried to help Syria construct an atomic bomb facility (before the Israelis destroyed it.) Regarding Obama's desire to use diplomacy, he could have pointed out that it's dangerous to go into long drawn out talks when time is of the essence, and to have compared Obama's diplomacy to Jimmy Carter diplomacy. We remember what happened when Jimmy Carter tried diplomacy with the Iranians.

Last but not least, the issue of Pakistan, where he really could have scored points. To direct a question towards Obama: "What sir, will you say to the American people, when after we have launched an incursion into Pakistan's sovereign territory, and blown up Bin Laden and his crew, when Pakistan then lobs a nuclear missile or two at the heaviest concentrations of our troops across the border? What will you tell them then? I am interested in knowing what you will then say. You oppose the 4,000 deaths of our troops so far. What will you say to America if you start a nuclear war with Pakistan?"

McCain did score some points with experience, but he was far from polished. Get with it, John- show your intelligence, wisdom and ability to handle the office of the president. Get a new suit that's a little more slimming. Attack your opponent on his vulnerable positions. Make your arguments concise and to the point. Emphasize your strong points, and don't let your opponent go unchallenged.

"Your ploy of tying me with Bush due to his unpopularity is getting a bit old, Sentaor Obama. Let's drop that and I will stop calling you the second Carter administration."

That's my take- what about yours?

armchair coach
amateur historian

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fall Break 08

[Above- the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten]

Oh, wow. It has been a while and I am ready to write again. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and had thought of writing an article in support of Bush on the single issue of our country remaining safe in the years since 9/11, but Ann Coulter beat me to the punch. It's fine; I usually don't read her stuff, but she was very eloquent and wrote a much better article on the topic than I ever could. (link)

Fall break is here and it could not come soon enough. I am enjoying working with the students and faculty this year at my new school. Here are some ideas that I have been planning for my blog, that have been simmering on the back burner in my shining, buffed head:

1. Semper Paratus- about my life and times in the US Coast Guard.
2. Factions- discussion of the apostles and the role of different Christian denominations and how they each individually fill a place in God's purpose for the church.
3. Danger, Will Robinson- a discussion of character analysis in writing fiction.
4. Update for the story, "Modern Slavery" (already done- corrected names and uploaded picture from 1988.)
5. Amy- a letter of appreciation for my sister, Amy.
6. Maddening- a rant about EA Sports.
7. Cantstandja- a comparison between George Kastanza, from Seinfeld, and myself.
8. Rockytop, Tennessee- a lighthearted practical joke I played on one of my colleages at work.
9. Graham Crackers- how the daily devotional by Billy Graham is food for the soul.
10. I Love the Barefoot Contessa- discussion of the cooking show, "The Barefoot Countessa."

That should keep me busy this week. In the meantime, my main computer is down and out for the count as the registry seems to have a glass jaw. It's at the repair shop again.

That's all for now. Let's see if I can get these articles done.

armchair coach
amateur historian