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Archive for the ‘family’ Category

When I was a kid in the 70s, we played kick the can.

Almost every night during summer, when the sun went down, kids in the neighborhood gathered in a back yard with the Folgers or Maxwell House coffee can — or a Well’s Blue Bunny ice cream bucket (gallon-sized) — for an hour or two of hiding and kicking and getting grass stains on our knees. Lots of debate on who was or wasn’t adhering to the rules would ensue. And honestly, I can’t even remember the rules. It didn’t matter then or now.

My kids never experienced the thrill of rushing into a wide open space and sliding into or kicking a can so they wouldn’t have to be “it.” Technology usurped those summer evening back yard games.

I marvel in both admiration and horror as my son now sits and spends his evening with a head set and portable computer chatting in real-time with friends as he plays computer war games.

While the Folgers Coffee can has been replaced with other technology, I’m not so sure it’s ALL for the better.

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Today, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Minnesota’s Roman Catholic bishops will launch a new effort against same-sex marriage. Their plan? To mail out a DVD to parishioners across the state, which explains the church’s teaching on marriage and describes the possible effects of allowing same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

Good luck with that.

As Catholic priests prepare to preach to their choirs, I find myself once again overwhelmingly happy that I left the Catholic church five years ago. The church and its leaders continue to fall on their interpretations of the Bible that have long since expired. I simply couldn’t stomach it when I was practicing the faith and I certainly abhor the intentions now.

With the issues facing our world, can the Catholic church honestly feel good about itself by perpetuating ancient thinking related to marriage? Gold star for trying, I suppose, but a big “Does Not Play Well With Others” goes in the comments section of their report card on this topic.

Two women or men who are in love and want to marry does not an apocalypse make. So please, bishops of the Catholic church, grow up and turn the other cheek once and for all.

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It’s an upward spiral that seemingly will not end any time soon.

I’m talking about the cost of health insurance and specifically the cost that you and I – Joe and Jane consumer – get to bear to have adequate health plans that take care of our families.

In this Wall Street Journal story, reporter Avery Johnson notes that the costs employees are expected to kick in to get health insurance through their employers continues to increase – at an alarming rate.

Knock on wood, I’ve generally been a healthy individual throughout my entire life. No broken bones. No chronic conditions. No major hospitalizations, save for a three-day stint of pneumonia that put me in a hospital bed in 2005. I didn’t like it. I’ve not gone back.

My two teenage kids and beautiful wife are also healthy people. So when we open-enroll for health insurance each October/November, it’s usually a fairly quick discussion and selection of the health care plan that includes a higher than average deductible and lower monthly premiums.

Pretty easy until now, that is.

Seems crossing the 45-year-old threshold has me thinking more about health costs as well as retirement planning (which needs to include saving for health care expenses needed after I end my career as a wage earner).

For the past several years I’ve worked in the health care industry. First for the world’s largest medical device manufacturer and now for the world’s largest health plan insurer. My eyes are open to the ways of health plan coverage and the costs associated with them. I’ve developed strong opinions on the use of medical technology to prolong life.

And as health care reform goes into the implementation stage during the next several years, I hope the very industry I work in gets smart at finding ways to help individuals manage their own care intelligently.

  • A focus on health and wellness early in life.
  • Assistance with the obesity epidemic in a way that makes sense (personal health coaches are already being offered through many work plans, but at a cost to everyone not just those who are affected).
  • Common sense approaches (and cost savings) for families and individuals who are above average on the health front and take the necessary measures to stay healthy.

By putting the onus on individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles, stay healthy and make smart health care decisions, Americans should be able to get the care they need when they need it at a cost that is affordable. Sounds so simple, but my gut tells me we remain a long, long, long way away from making that a reality in our country.

As with any major change, it happens in small steps. We first must get everyone pointed in the same direction before the big flywheel will start to turn (aka Jim Collins, “Good to Great).  This happens through various agents including our own federal government launching new laws and programs. But people, we can’t rely on the government to make the change for us.

In the end, our health and well being is up to each of us. Truly. We own it. And if we expect to have access to the best health care in the world, then we better start taking care of ourselves.

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A quick scroll of the page tells you the writing bug inside me went into hibernation as the cooler months began to envelop Minneapolis. What’s with the lack of posts, you ask?

Good question.

Without making excuses, I’ll just say the past few months have been good to me. My oldest made it through her freshman year of college with nearly a 4.0 gpa. My youngest, a freshman in high school, continues to mature and become an amazing young man (wondering where he gets it from ;)).  All this, plus I’m in a new home – living with an incredible woman who contributes to my life every day in ways I never even imagined. Throw in Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years celebrations, learning to cross country ski, and planning a trip to Mexico, and there you have it.

So much fodder for writing. And yet, writing has been the last thing on my list. I’m not even resolving to try to write more in 2010. It’s. Just. Not. That. Important. Right. Now.  Like Lennon when he left the Beatles, I’ve left my writing and the myth that I am one of the great writers to gather dust while other things in my life get my attention.

When my muse returns, it will likely do so with a vengence. Til then, I’ll poke around, observe and devleop thoughts for reference at a later date.

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I am going to tell you a story about a woman who lived her life striving to give what she had to those closest to her – unselfishly and without regard to her own needs. This is a story about each one of us as well.

The story begins — and ends — in Southern, Illinois, where, in 1910, Charles Snedecor married Lena Yates, and began to grow a family. They included Earl, and Phillip, and Mary, and Esther, and Chuck, and Wilma, and Louise, and Dorothy, and Kenneth.

Mary Elizabeth, my Mom, was born in 1919. Her family didn’t have much for material goods, but they had each other and they shared a lot of faith. That faith helped the Snedecor clan get through many events during their lives.  Mom quit school after the eighth grade to care for and help support her family during the Great Depression. She did laundry, cleaned houses and cared for her younger siblings. Then, as a young woman, she moved to Detroit and became a factory worker.

Mom survived the Depression, making ends meet during World War II, and raising two children.  She returned to her roots and her family in Southern Illinois in 1985 because this was the place she was suppose to be – near her family. I was with mom on her birthday about four years ago and Aunt Esther said something so profound as we sat and had lunch together.  After talking about how the Snedecor brothers and sisters migrated from Southern Illinois to Northeast Indiana and finally “back home,” Aunt Esther said, “Brother, let me tell you something.  We Snedecors sure know how to stick together.”

This stickiness lived in my Mom as well. In the ’80s she came to West Frankfort – and to the family she loved – so she could give something back to them. So she could care for them as they lived their golden years of life. And she gave all she had. Through her sheet cakes and refrigerator pickles, through her hugs and her tears, mom spent nearly 25 years giving what little she did have in very big ways – through her love.

She did for others because she could.

And when she faltered, when she couldn’t do the things she knew to do to show her love, it hurt her deeply – she didn’t want to give these things up. And she didn’t give them up easily. Her good deeds gave her significance. Each of you here today were significant in mom’s life.

Throughout my childhood, mom made sure I knew who my immediate family members were. I remember the Saturday morning phone calls she shared with Grandma Snedecor. They would reminisce, pray and plan to see each other. That copper telephone wire kept Mom connected to her family more than 700 miles away. And because they were so important to her, the aunts and uncles and cousins became important to me. They were – YOU are – my family, too. The trips we took to Eldorado, Spillertown, Hammond and Gary — and later Ashley and West Frankfort – left me with many wonderful memories. When mom left Iowa, she and I launched our own weekend phone call ritual.

Hers is fondly called, “The Greatest Generation” because of the great obstacles they lived through. And mom met head on many difficulties in life, but her meaning and joy for hard work, faith in God, and love for family stood strong. There have been many values that connected mom and me as I continue to work my way through life. Most importantly, I learned from her that when you give of yourself you have far less to worry about than if you only think of yourself.

She instilled a sense of pride in me. Pride, from a little woman who scrubbed apartment room floors on her hands and knees until her fingers were raw. Pride in giving of herself to those she loved – family and friends – even when she had very little. These are the values of a woman, a mother, a sister, a friend, an aunt, and a grandma who faced catastrophes in her life and stayed resolved to live a better day. She did her best for her children. She taught me well. She helped me understand the important lessons of love and family.

Of course, this is a story we sons and daughters know from personal experience. We share this story and we share the values passed on by our moms and dads. Look around the room today, or at a Snedecor reunion and it is obvious what we share. Look and you will see people who look like Aunt Esther, but aren’t Esther; people who sound like Uncle Chuck, but aren’t Chuck; people who quietly inspired us like Aunt Wilma, but they aren’t Wilma; people who tell stories like Aunt Dorothy, but aren’t Dorothy; people who grin ear to ear like Uncle Phil and joke like Uncle Earl.

I’m most proud of the Snedecor family because they shared their notions of right and wrong, and good and bad, and faith in the future and in church and in family.

And we also share their stories in life.  Each of those who have passed before us have lived storied, if not humble lives.  As their descendants, we’ve heard these stories many times. It’s these stories that assure us of who they were in life and what they stood for. It’s these stories that, today, along with all of you – my family – that comfort me.

So let me end with a quote by Harold Kushner…Rabbi Laureate of the Temple of Israel.

Kushner says…“If life is a story, we can wish it would go on forever, but we understand that even the best of stories have to end.  It would be a strange story if it did go on forever.  So instead of grieving that it had to end, let’s feel blessed that we were lucky enough to have been a part of it.”

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Elitists feel they have outstanding personal abilities, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or some other distinctive attributes, and therefore their views and ideas must be taken more seriously or carry more weight. In addition, they may assume special privileges and responsibilities and feel they have earned certain rights that others do not or should not have based on their level or position in society.

The proliferation of elitism has been underway since the dawn of human kind. What’s become worse in the past two decades is how many people automatically place themselves into this elitist category with no basis of reason. As populists in society strive toward breaking down the walls and barriers created by the elite (to ensure everyone has the same human rights and opportunities), elites attempt to further widen and deepen their moat protecting their belief that the privileged few have every right to make and enforce the rules.

What’s more, the new elites stem from recent generations of children who grew up expecting life to be handed to them in perfect order – further widening the gap between the haves and have nots. In fact, the common middle class that most of us grew up in, has now latched firmly on to the orbit of the elite.

The hard work our mothers and fathers once performed – the work that made our nation strong – has been tossed out with the bath water in the past 20 years. The yuppies, Gen-Xers and Millenials feel society owes them the vast rewards of life simply for waking up and putting on their socks.

And since elitism endorses the exclusion of large numbers of people from positions of privilege or power, this class in our society is essentially turning its collective head further and further away from its roots – away from the very parents or grandparents who worked two shifts so the family could enjoy a warm home, a reliable car and new shoes as the kids’ feet grew. Today, the 4,000-square-foot homes, Beemers, Audis and Mercedes are not the exception, they are the rule.

I’m sick and I’m tired of 20-somethings and younger walking around with their hands out – like baby birds waiting to be fed and chirping their beaks off until the mother Robin satiates their demands. These kids, our children, are clueless. They lack responsibility, respect and a fundamental concept of what labor is all about.

How are we suppose to begin fixing the recent economic malaise in the United States and globally, when our “most valuable asset,” our best and brightest, are entering the workforce with no concept of what work is all about? The learnings that once came with earning a decent wage for a decent day’s work are gone.

We’ve created the “gimme” culture of elitists and I’ve never been more personally disgusted and disappointed by a mind set than this one.

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Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year”

Plenty of Christmas childred-treehood memories float around my head this time of year. Like the several-year-stretch of purchasing flocked Christmas trees from Del’s Garden Center in Spencer, Iowa. Dad and Mom even bought a red flocked tree (around 1972, I think). It seems a heinous act, flocking a poor evergreen, but back in the ’70s it was the “in” thing to do and Del’s flocked Christmas trees like nobody’s business.  For those of you unfamiliar with the process, they basically stick the tree in a paint room on a stand that spins in a circle while a thick coating of foam-like, dyed flocking material covers every branch and needle. Instead of vacuuming up dried needles on New Year’s Day, we vacuumed red flocking attached to dried needles. It was stunning stuff.

One of my best Christmas memories involves Uncle Floyd and Aunt Evelyn. Floyd worked for my Dad who owned a machine shop and small-engine repair business. (Floyd and Evelyn were not actual relatives BTW). Floyd should have been retired, but Dad had a soft spot for Floyd who was a fountain of information when it came to mechanics.  The aged Floyd and Evelyn lived in a little town, Sioux Rapids, about 20 miles from our home. Each Thanksgiving and Christmas, we would collect them and host them for dinner. Evelyn made delicious caramel pecan rolls, and it would kill me to sit in the backseat of the car with those rolls waiting until we got home before I could indulge. A few years back, I began my own attempt in mimicking the creation of those pecan rolls. Both Floyd and Evelyn have passed away, so I turned to the Google and after trying a couple recipes and combining a few things, I landed on what I believe is a very close caramel pecan roll recipe that would make Evelyn proud. It’s a tribute of sorts to them both and the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners of my youth.

Some traditions fade away – while others remain or re-occur or begin. Gone are the days of flocked trees but those pecan rolls are back in my life. And my two kids, who practically peed their pants in anticipation of Santa’s secret visit and the  gifts he left them for Christmas morning, are teenagers. The excitement may be (mostly) in the past, but the spirit and intention that comes with spending time together making a dinner, playing cards or watching a movie remains anticipated and important.

Lead on!” said Scrooge. “Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!”
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

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