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I recently saw this story about a little boy in Ohio who found a $20 bill in the parking lot of a restaurant, only to “pay it forward” to a military officer in uniform within that same restaurant.

Ohio boy’s $20 investment in kindness yields big return

The story quickly went viral after the it appeared on the nightly news. It was an amazing story, when you consider the boy lost his father while he was still an infant. A boy who literally never knew his father – just things he learned about his father from what his mother told him.

It was a tremendous story about the human spirit and how people rally behind a good cause.  

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I haven’t been here in a while, and a lot has happened in my life lately.  Most recently and the event with most profound impact, was the death of my mother.  It was in the early morning hours of October 12th, 2013, I got the call from my father that my mother had passed away. 

It was a crushing blow.  My family knew my mother would die – she had Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years. 

In the weeks leading up to her death, she suffered a stroke.  I can’t begin to share with you how conflicted I was after I got the news of my mother’s stroke.  I knew deep down that this was the beginning of the end for her. 

The conflict I had was this…  Do I travel back home to see her before she died – knowing she would be in a severely deteriorated state and have final memories of her in that condition?  Or, do I wait until she passes and go back to attend her funeral.  I deliberated about it for a couple weeks. Deep down I knew time was running out. 

It took a call I made to a old friend in California to get some guidance and direction.  He and his wife had his mother-in-law live with them once she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and could no longer live alone.  I observed how they took her into their home, how they cared took care of her until she died.  How they did it made them heroes in my mind.  My friend told me to look five years into the future and to ask myself this one question:  Did I do everything in my power to make every attempt to see my mother one last time before her death? My friend also told that that if I did decide to make the trip back home, that I should go back there with absolutely ZERO expectations of having a clear and cogent dialogue with my mother.  To be there with her physically, but predominantly in spirit.  That my mother would know I was there in spirit, and that we would be connected in spirit. 

That was all I needed to hear.  I got back there a week after our conversation that Friday in mid-September.  I was lucky enough to find a flight back home that following Friday and I went back to see my mother one last time.  I knew when I saw her it would be the last weekend I would see her alive. 

It was very difficult for me.  The circle of life is a very difficult thing to witness, especially when you are dealing the the imminent departure of a parent.  No one, I think, is ever prepared to see our parents in a diminished state and close to dying.  I soldiered on that weekend. 

When I first got to the assisted living facility, my mother was having lunch.  I went back to the lunch room where they had the residents eating lunch.  I walked up, got on bended knee, said “hello” to my mother and I kissed her hello.  She didn’t know who I was, but that was okay with me. After all, I went back with ZERO expectations.

It was great to see her blue eyes and her smile – both very unforgettable features my mother possessed.  I pulled up a chair and I commenced to help feed her the rest of her lunch.  I asked how she was doing.  I didn’t expect a long answer – maybe just a word.  I started to tell her what was going on in my life – a couple of big events happened since I last saw her (a new job and I bought a house).  She smiled.

I could tell things were not quite right this visit. There were visible and tactile signs I noticed immediately. It was difficult to see, but I tried to focus on “being there in spirit.”

I just wanted to let her know that it was okay to let go and she didn’t need to hang on any longer. I wanted her to know that she did not need to worry about me any longer. I spent the rest of the weekend just being in the now and appreciating her presence and I kept telling her how grateful and how lucky I was to have her as my mother.

My final goodbye was the most difficult. I couldn’t hold back my tears. I didn’t want to. Her departure was soon, I knew. My greatest teacher and protector was about to leave me. I had learned so much from her – directly and indirectly. She was the most powerful example of strength, courage and unconditional love I had ever known. I learned so much from her.

Fortunately, my sister got to travel back and have time with my mother the weekend she was rapidly declining and got to spend my mother’s last minutes with her before she left us.

I believe my mother left us peacefully and she didn’t suffer too greatly. My mother, Grace Frances Nitka, left us during the 3:00 AM hour CDT on October 12th. It was a graceful departure.

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I’ve been away for a while…

I don’t have a good reason why, it’s just I’ve been away. On a war break. On a political break. On a writing break. Since I’m not even close to being a professional writer, I am quite sure absolutely none of you ever even noticed. All truth be told, I have been really burnt out over the last few years on all the news coverage about our government, wars, budget talks, election, the constant bickering back and forth from our politicians, etc. Need I go on?

I guess I don’t have any real solutions to offer so why should I even bother to write about it, right? Yes, to some degree. But from what I have observed from our last four elections, I can’t help but think our country is on an irreversible course. We’re too far immersed into this path and it’s too late to turn back.

What I can’t figure out is why our media is so much a part of the problem. Where did their compass go? Where did their sense of responsible journalism go? Where did their sense of reporting the story go? The news is no longer news anymore. Instead, it’s infotainment. You would think responsibility to the general public would prevail, but these days it’s all corporate and profit-driven. Most all of the major news outlets would rather shape the news, rather than report it.

Do you know where I get my information from on a daily basis? Bloomberg Radio. I am so sick of the lack of choices, even though there are so many choices of ways to get your news it can make one’s head spin. I learn a lot listening to Bloomberg Radio. I learn how what drives our economy and the world economy. I’ve learned a lot about finance, money and economics. I like it, actually. It has allowed me to learn a lot and it has actually helped me in my line of work. Listening to Bloomberg Radio has allowed me to overcome my lack of having a college degree, and helped me to gain valuable knowledge of what drives business and what happens in the business world. Real-world news. Real-world analysis. I’ll take that any day over psychobabble, liberal vs. conservative political blather.

There is a lot we need to be wary of that is not nearly being covered enough in the regular news outlets. You really have to be a news junkie to be well-informed these days. We have simply grown to be too “busy” with our lives, agendas, relationships. The news we do see doesn’t help us gain information about what’s going on in the rest of the world. In the international community, people from other countries laugh at how uninformed we Americans actually are. I heard it when I served in the Navy and I was stationed in Rota, Spain. But, there are REAL things going on lately that we REALLY need to be informed about and take heed. If we don’t take these events seriously and learn all we can possibly know about these events, our lives will be affected in a major way. And, not for the better.

 

 


The other night while watching “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” I could not help but conclude that our war in Afghanistan is nothing but a huge inconvenience to Americans.  Here is the feature what caused me to think (COPY AND PASTE THIS LINK INTO YOUR BROWSER):

http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/the-forgotten-war-in-afghanistan/6k30zn8

At the 4:30 minute mark, Chris Matthews goes to the coverage by NBC’s Richard Engel – a man who lost his marriage due to his job covering our two wars.  Engel was interviewing Sgt. Louis Loftus of the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Loftus was conveying his thoughts about his fallen comrade.  No matter how hard he tried to hold back and hide the tears, he couldn’t.  We saw his human side.   A human side from one of our nation’s best-trained soldiers and one who has been weathered by war.   The soldiers of the 82nd Airborne are trained not to show emotion, even after the death of their fallen comrades.  They are trained to block it out mentally.  During that interview, we saw a very human side of Sgt. Loftus, no matter how hard he did not want to show us.

I get that!  I get that pain he felt over the loss of someone who you fight next to on the battlefield one second, only to lose them the next.  I’m sure Richard Engel gets it.  But, do we get it here in America?

It’s too bad and almost criminal that our media doesn’t get it.  And it’s unconscionable that the corporations who advertise on these networks are the ones manipulating what gets covered on the news.

There’s something going on in America that I just can’t stomach, and that’s the fact that we don’t see coverage like Richard Engel’s coverage on every network on the evening news.  At least not as the lead story, or not within the first 10 minutes of a newscast.  Why is that?

I get that the corporations buying the airtime to advertise wouldn’t pour their advertising dollars into running ads if the networks constantly covered the war.  It’s not sexy enough for them.  We are a country who demands to be entertained, not informed.

But, what I see happening is America is losing its moral compass.  We don’t get to see the war coverage, because it’s too inconvenient of a truth for us to see.  It’s not our daily reality, so why should we be shown what our soldiers’ daily realities are who are on the battlefront?

Or, are we too “busy” to even care?  Why is it that my friends on Facebook like to post their appreciation for our troops and those who died for our country only on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day, or whatever cause of the day may be?  Are these the only days they are capable of taking a moment to reflect and think about our troops standing watch at their posts and defending our nation?  Are we so inconvenienced by taking a few minutes to stop, reflect and pray for our troops and thank God for their dedication and service to our country?

The Hurt Locker won an Academy Award.  It was truly a brilliant film.  But nobody went to see it.  I felt the movie captured the rigors of what those soldiers go through on a daily and nightly basis extremely well.  Not only did the movie accomplish that, but I was most compelled at how well they captured the main character’s troubles he was having at home, once he got out of the army.  He was detached.  You could see the disconnect he had at home.  You know why?  Because he found is true purpose in being a soldier.  He found his job in the Army could not translate into getting a job outside of the military.  He missed his comrades he served with.

I get that!  I get how he found his true purpose in serving in the military and wearing the uniform of the United States Army.  I get how he felt disconnected and walked around disengaged from his wife and child when he got home.  I get how he felt he couldn’t get the same work in the civilian world compared to what he did in the military.  I get that, because I felt that same way when I got out of the military.  A part of me died.  A part of me was never able to recover what I lost by serving in the military.

I can go on and on about how our government and how our country fails time and again on helping our military troops assimilate back into civilian life.  But, I’ll save that for another day.

I strictly want to focus on the disconnect that we Americans have with our troops fighting over in Afghanistan.  Personally, I think it’s not just a shame, but also downright shallow.  I am quite sure that if enough people cared, spoke up, and stood up to the networks and news outlets that we are being deprived of seeing this war, that the networks may change what they show.  But, we Americans continue to consume what they give us on the television news, the newspapers and magazines.

It’s truly a sad day when we as a country can’t rally around our troops for a continued period of time.  But, we have been conditioned that it’s convenient to rally behind our military only when we get hit by terrorist attacks.  It took the events of 9/11 to wake us up as a country and rally that good ol’ American spirit and unite.  It was then when our troops had our strongest show of support.

But then everybody went back to their “busy” lives.  We became attached to our seasons of “American Idol”, “Celebrity Apprentice”, “Dancing With The Stars” and “Housewives Of  New Jersey”.  Americans became consumed with their statuses in life and their appearances among their peers.  Americans got tired of hearing about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You know why?  Because anything longer than “Shock and Awe” or the first Gulf War, and well, we just don’t have the attention span to care enough about those inconvenient truths like war.  We can’t take just a few minutes out of our day to pause, reflect and pray for our troops who are in harm’s way and guarding their posts tonight.  It’s too inconvenient.  We would just rather forget and instead take their service to our country for granted.

Somehow I think that America’s inconvenient and forgotten war is symbolic of the demise of our society in America.


It never ceases to amaze me what I observe in the work place and what I hear on the radio or television.  But, what has really stuck out to me lately is employee terminations and how they are handled these days.

At my former place of employment, a few of my co-workers were terminated by voice mail.  Voice mail!  They weren’t even given the courtesy being called into the sales director’s office and told face to face that they were being terminated.  Instead, this director thought it would be best to just save them the trip of coming into work that day by firing them over the phone and leaving a voice mail.

Or, maybe he just didn’t have the heart (and I’m being nice, since there are more harsh words I could use) to tell them face to face.  He didn’t have the heart to see the looks on their faces as he terminated their livelihoods.  He didn’t have the heart to say “We’re moving in another direction, and you no longer fit into the plans.”

I have heard news reports on the radio that terminations are even being done via e-mail.  E-mail!  Are you kidding me?

I don’t know about you, but if employees are dedicating themselves to helping the company achieve its mission or contributing to the growth of revenue by hitting their sales numbers, and they make the sacrifices of working late, working on weekends or even spending their own money for resources that will help them do their jobs better, I would think that when the day comes when they get terminated that it is done in person.

What have we become?  Is this the new corporate America?  The corporate America where upper management is driven by nothing but matrixes and numbers?  The corporate America where they are no longer capable of realizing the value of human capital?  The corporate America where employee “churn” is good for a company?

It seems to me that management in corporate America has digressed, and no longer values human capital and the sacrifices made by its workers.  It seems to me that my parent’s generation was much better at managing businesses, corporations and government.  But something has happened, and I can’t pinpoint exactly when this changed.

We as a country, have lost our way.  Yes, there are good-hearted people with strong moral compasses that are still in this country.  But greedy, shady people have now risen to the top and have ruined the principles America was built on.  In their quest for their own wealth and personal gain, these types have stepped all over good-hearted, honest Americans who make up Americas work force.

Will we ever return to those mores which made this country strong and unbreakable?  Or have the corporations (and the management of those corporations) done far too much damage that it is beyond repair?  If you take an honest look at what’s going on in the corporate world and in our government, my guess is that the damage has already been done and it’s beyond repair.  From what I have observed and can gather, I can’t help but conclude America has lost its heart.


It doesn’t seem too long ago that America was caught up in the euphoria and good spirit, amidst the election of President Obama. Less than a year, in fact. America, at the time, was open and thirsting for change. There was real hope in the air. We were in the throes of the worst recession our country has seen since the Great Depression. We all felt a change was upon us. The real spirit of “Yes we can!”, filled our hearts and fueled our inner fire.

Then, Barack Obama was sworn in on January 20th, as our 44th president of the United States. Then, he became a resident of our nation’s capital. Then, he found out just how hard the office of the presidency of the United States really was. Then, he found that dealing with congress and the senate didn’t fall in line with what he promised us during his campaign. Then, the media and public started to sour on our president.

All of this in less than a year.

I can understand Americans’ patience has grown paper thin when it comes to our government, or with politicians as a whole. Hell, I am right with most Americans in their anger and distust of politicians when I see a few of them making public apologies for extramarital affairs, getting exposed for corruption or manipulating the system for their own personal gain (google Charles Rangel to find out more). I am even a strong supporter of term limits for congress and the senate.

Who wouldn’t be? After all, don’t you think after a while, those people elected to congress and the senate who have been elected beyond two terms cease to be public servants and end up serving their own agendas and personal interests? Don’t you think, after a while, the ever so abundant lobbyists in Washington and corporations in this country start to permeate and take hostage the pockets of these politicians? Don’t you think, after a while, beyond two terms, these politicians outlive their useful life to those they represent and serve?

Here’s the problem I see with what goes on with this country… Democracy, as we know it now, is obsolete. The constitution, as we know it (at least those of us who had to know it in order to graduate high school), is obsolete. A country which doesn’t practice democracy, isn’t a democracy. Citizens who don’t vote, who don’t hold their politicians accountable, and who don’t care to be informed, only feed the building of the machine which is now known as our congress and senate.

Corporate greed is killing this country. Wall Street is killing this country. Lack of tort reform, is killing this country. Lawyers, are killing this country.

No wonder why President Obama has such an uphill battle. He has too many factors working against him.

Dare I say it? Racism is amongst one of those leading factors. Tragic! After what was perceived as real progress with this country in race relations, suddenly there is a real vitriol within this country I haven’t seen before. I have never seen such hatred erupt in such a short time against a political leader. Some of the things I hear in the news, see online, and read in the news are absolutely deplorable. It makes me ashamed to be an American and embarrassed overall.

Combine the racism element with the fact that there are six health care lobbyists for every one senator in Washington. No wonder why health care reform has lost it’s traction, and probably won’t get passed. Combine that with the fact that President Obama’s own party is working against him.

I like President Obama, and I hope he overcomes the challenges which are in front of him. I really want him to succeed.

And no, it has nothing to do with whether or not I am liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. It has everything to do with wanting to live in the solution and not contiuing to contribute with the problem.

But, in seeing what I am seeing on the news, hearing what I am hearing on the radio, and reading what I am reading in the papers or online, I can’t help but wonder…

How could something so good, go so incredibly bad?


A few weeks ago, President Obama went to a small town in Indiana to speak directly to those who are most affected by our economy.  The unemployment rate in that town surpassed eleven percent.  It was in a town hall meeting setting and President Obama heard story after story about how the economy was affecting those willing to discuss their dilemmas in front of their fellow residents and the media.

I could not help but to think something right then and there…

Here is a young and fearless President who chose to go directly to the people, to hear directly from them the nightmare they live through on a daily basis.  How come our other elected officials – congress people and senators – don’t go back to the towns and states they serve and take stock on how the economy has affected the people they serve?

As I watch and read the news and see the coverage of what’s going on in country, I can not help but conclude and think one thing…

I think those people we elected to serve us in congress and the senate, have chosen to insulate themselves in the chambers of our nation’s capitol, thus forgetting about those who elected them.  They live in this “Washington Insider” culture for months at a time – a majority of the year – surrounded by lobbyists, media, and “yes men/women” where everything is at their disposal.  I can’t help but gather how truly out of touch they are with the rest of us who pay taxes and who ultimately pay their salaries.  Talk about a waste of taxpayer money…

I think since we have an ambitious president who is willing to tackle this mess he inherited, he might as well take congress and the senate to task.

My idea is this…  Propose and pass some kind of mandate or legislation which requires all members of congress and the senate to go back to their communities and states, and require them to spend some face time among those people they represent.

After all, we are all in this together right?

Require them to see how the middle class has dissolved, or how much of a mess health care really is, or how the growing numbers of families are oh so close to losing their homes, or how the veterans who serve our country come back into their communities only to have sub-par veterans health care and programs to help them assimilate back into civilian life, etc…

Require them to see and hear firsthand how this economy has affected each and every one of those who they serve.  Then, go back to Washington for three to four months out of the year to propose and enact legislation which end up helping those they serve.

Something has to change so that those who serve us start to live in the solution, rather than continue to compound the problem.  I am really starting to think that a majority of them are so out of touch, they are hellbent on living in and compounding the problem.

Where are they getting their information?  How do they choose to be informed?  What stories capture their attention and have an impact on them?  Why don’t they see what we are seeing?

Or, better yet, do they even care to be informed?

It’s questions like these I would love to ask those who serve us…

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