Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Am I One of the Last of the Middle Class?

The Press of Atlantic City carried a report that the number of rich, working poor is rising, the middle class is shrinking, and the rich get richer!  At the same time, companies such as McDonald's profits are in the billions!  (Yes that's billions with a "B"!).  I realized I may be one of the last people left in the Middle Class, for if things go as they are going, there will only be the Upper Class and the Poor!

I certainly don't feel like I'm poor, but I'm certainly not rich either.  I am comfortable, but there are many who sink deeper and deeper into debt and poverty each and every day!  Hard to believe this is the U.S. of A.!

There's something wrong when companies continue to make astronomical profits and CEO's make outrageous salaries, but the working class make less and less!  When is enough profit enough?  When is a salary more than enough!  When will companies start to give some of that profit and salaries to pay workers a decent wage?  And what is the U.S. Government going to do about it?

The Republicans led by the Teabaggers would say the Government should not do anything about it!  This is, afterall, CAPITALISM!   But enough is enough!  At some point the Government has to step in and level the playing field.  At some point, if nothing else, companies must be forced to pay their fair share of the burden.  After taxbreaks, many huge corporations pay little or no taxes! 

Stop!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Retired and Loving It!

It's been 3 months now since I have reported to work!  People told me I'd be bored!  "There's a pool in the office as to how long it will take you to get another job," said one coworker!  "You're used to the structure," said another.  But I must say, I LOVE RETIREMENT! 

There's something to be said for not having to be somewhere at a certain time!   I love the mornings when I get up (not that I'm a late sleeper), get my coffee, and just do whatever I want at my own leisure.  Read the paper!  Go on the computer!  Read a book!  Honestly, since not going to work, I have waken up the alarm clock maybe 4 times.  I LOVE IT!  However, I have to say that time is flying by!  These past 3 months seem to have moved at the speed of light!

I wish I could have taken all my coworkers with me on this "Retirement Journey."  But their time will come, as has those before me.  I wish all those left behind in State Government the best!  I learned a lot in my almost 32 years of Government employment! 

Firstly, good people have to work in a screwed up system sometimes!  Took me a long time to learn this, but it's true.  Staff bust their tails trying to serve the people of the State, and most times, staff get nothing but crap from the public as well as their employer!  There are those rare times when someone gives you a compliment, but the majority of the job is filled with complaints!  It seems personal!  But the staff are just trying to do their best working in the system they have.  In my particular area of government, most are social workers and people who really care about helping the clientele!  When this cannot be accomplished, it makes the staff feel bad just as much as the client!

Secondly, if you want to succeed in State Government, one needs to learn quickly that "its' not your company!"  Administration does not really care what you think!  The "owners" of the company set an agenda, and staff are there to follow that agenda!  Once in awhile staff's input may be sought, but this is rare.  The reality is it's no different than working for "John's Mobile."  John, the owner, hires employees to carry out his desires for the company, and the employees are there just to make it happen!    Learn this lesson quickly, and there's less headaches in the long run!

Working frustrating?  Yes!  However, there were those good moments too!  Times when I really saw my sweat pay off in getting a client something he really needed!  And of course I got paid, good benefits, and the opportunity to retire earlier than most.  For that I am extremely thankful!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My (New) Gluten Free Life


As I sit here watching the Phillies and drinking my Gluten Free beer, Redbridge, a Gluten-Free Sorghum (rice) beer, made by Anheuser Busch, I can't help but think of how this lifestyle has changed my life. 

On June 14, 2013 I went to my Gastroenterologist for a follow-up to an Endoscopy I had in April.  Although my blood work was negative for Celiac Disease, an autoimmune allergy to Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, a biopsy of my duodenum, the beginning part of the small intestine, showed indication of Celiac.  (For those with Celiac Disease, the small intestine does not digest the gluten which can cause all kinds of problems, especially for those very sensitive to gluten).  The Doc explained that for every person diagnosed with full-blown Celiac Disease, there are 3-4 like me who have some indication of this disease.  The Doc said it's hard to explain because they don't quite understand it, but it could be what I understood as a pre-cursor to, or a mild form of, Celiac Disease.  The Doc said I could come back in a few years and have full-blown Celiac Disease.  The Doc suggested I try a Gluten Free diet for 30 days and see how I feel.  Other than occasional heartburn and regurgitation, for which I take Nexium, I do not feel bad.  The Doc said that sometimes if someone lives with certain conditions they're entire life, they don't know what anything else feels like.  So, I decided to give the Gluten Free thing a try.  Doc said if I was feeling better I could try stopping my Nexium to see if I still have any gastro distress.

I left the Doc's office and immediately headed to the local ACME to see what Gluten Free stuff they had in stock.  I just happened to run into the Vendor who showed me where all the Gluten Free products were.  Quite a large selection of various breads, flours, snacks, candies, oatmeal, etc.  I was a bit shocked by the cost!  I bought a loaf of Gluten Free bread, which was about half the size of a regular loaf of bread with much smaller slices, and it was on sale for $5.49!  I bought some pretzels and other snacks while I was there.  I have been trying more and more stuff as the weeks progress.

Fortunately for me, a coworker is also on a Gluten Free diet, and she has been a big help in locating food items.  One of my first worries was what type of beer or alcohol can I have.  My coworker assured me that wine and any hard liquor is ok as any gluten is burned out during the processing.  She said they make Gluten Free beer, but it doesn't always taste that good.  I have tried several kinds, and I find them not too bad.  So I enjoy wine if I go to dinner and cannot have beer.  I was also very pleased to learn I can have regular potato chips, Doritos, and Cheetos, as they do not contain gluten.

Eating out at restaurants has been a bit of a challenge.  Most restaurants from what I have been told, will accommodate any allergy, including an allergy to gluten.  When ordering, I usually just try to stay away from wheat products the best I can.  One of the foods I seriously miss, however, is pizza.  I bought a Gluten Free frozen pizza today and will be having that for dinner.  I'll see what that brings.

Despite the difficulty with this diet, I have to say I felt better almost immediately.  (I'm not going to give you all the gory details about my gastro system that indicate I'm feeling better, but I have noticed several changes).  I have also lost about 10 pounds, not intentionally.  Since I do feel better, I really don't want to ingest any gluten.  I did try to stop my Nexium, but felt some indigestion so started it back up the next day.  I'll try stopping the Nexium again later.

So my Gluten Free life has begun.  It's an adventure, and I think I'll keep it up.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Moving On


As I sit here this Sunday morning, coming off a week's vacation and heading back to the office tomorrow, I count the number of days left to work:  54 calendar days, 8 full weeks.  I could probably get it down to the hours if I wanted to, but I am trying my hardest not to "wish my life away!"  (My Mother used to always say, "You're going to wish your life away" whenever I'd hope for some day in the future to come).  Confident that I am making the correct decision, I still occasionally get that uneasy feeling in my gut! 

My biggest concern is what I will do with the rest of my life!  I usually respond with, "Anything I want!"  I am still young, relatively speaking, and fortunately, in good physical shape.  I have no plans to just sit around and do nothing.  Although I am "retiring" from State government, I am not "retiring" in the true sense of the word.  Firstly, I do realize I'd go nuts with absolutely nothing to do.  No routine structure in my life would become boring.  I will do absolutely nothing the first month or two, but then, I will need to find something.  Secondly, I do believe I have yet more to offer society, in some form or another.

Last weekend was spent in NYC.  Love it in NYC!  The weekend in the City is pretty quiet, but on Friday and Monday, I got to see the "everyday" life of the people.  I watched construction workers doing their thing, watched the "suits" early Monday morning making their way to work, and from the hotel window I could see the hustle and bustle in the streets below.  And was I watched, the "What's-It-All-About" question kept creeping in my mind.  I know there are lots of answers that are given to that question, but seriously, "What's it all about?"  Day in, and day out, we go about our daily routine, rushing off to do a job, and for what?  For some, work entails performing a service for others.  For others, work involves having a service performed for them while they "create" things.  But in the end, "What's it all about?"  We live, we struggle to get more and keep it, we die!  That's how it's been since the beginning of time.  In olden days, men got more land and power, others tried to take it, men defended what was theirs, and then they died!  People build fancy houses, only to have them destroyed by fire, natural disaster, etc., then rebuild or move to a new place, only to try again to keep what they have built. 

After watching this, I realize I don't just want my next years to just be a "job."  I want to do something that adds to the life of someone else.  I want to make a difference.  Because maybe, just maybe, that's what it's all about: people helping people while we exist! 

Still doesn't really answer that question, "what's it all about," but, as I like to say, "It is what it is!"  We're here for hopefully 70, 80, 90 years.  I want to make the most of my next 30 to 40!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Here's to 2013!!


Hello 2013! 

2012 was a pretty good year for me.  Much good, little bad happened in 2012.  However, I am very much looking forward to 2013. 

If all goes as planned, it will be my last year working for the State of New Jersey.  The experience in my 31 plus years has been valuable.  I have met many good people over the years, and I believe I have helped many people over the years as well.  But, I have also come to realize just how screwed up government can be!  Government is just so big, with so many layers!  Most of the time the administration at the top has no idea how things on the ground work, nor do they care to find out.  They have an agenda, and come hell or high water, it will happen.  I equate it to the President of the US all of a sudden saying, "By April, we will have a car that runs on water!"  He has no idea whether this is realistic or not, but damn it, it's going to happen.  So it will be bye-bye to State government in 2013.

Leaving State government, but not really "retiring."  I will still work.  I will at least get a part time job doing something.  What that something is I really don't know yet, but it's out there.

Not big on New Year's resolutions, but I have two. One is to stop trying to be so nice by telling people what they WANT to hear, and tell them the TRUTH!  Stop beating around the bush and be a bit more straight forward.  The second goes along with the first and that is to be a bit more assertive.  While telling people the truth, saying things like they really are, I hope to assert myself a bit more in what goes on around me.  If I question something someone does, then say so.  If I'm in a store and a clerk does or says something I don't quite understand, ask for an explanation.  In my personal life, "tell it like it is."

So here's to 2013!  May it be a good year!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Got A Problem With It?

While at the mall yesterday I watched as to young guys strolled hand in hand, not a care in the world.  I thought to myself how cool that was.  Then I noticed two other younger guys standing up against a railing.  The one guy noticed the two guys holding hands, tapped the friend he was with, pointed, and both started laughing at the two lovers walking by.  Surely these two gentlemen would not have even taken a second glance at a male and female holding hands.  I thought we had come much farther along with diversity and acceptance, but maybe I am wrong.

However, the fact that a male-male couple felt comfortable enough to hold hands, may be a very postive thing.   The fact that they did not feel any "danger" in their public display of affection might indeed be a step in the right direction.  Afterall, seeing two members of the same sex holding hands, especially two guys, is an oddity and somewhat unusual, so it does draw attention.  The two lovers could just be waking up those around them to accept diversity a little better.

The mall is in the Philadelphia region.  Philly is known for it's accpetance of the LGBT Community, hosting many events and housing many LGBT bars, clubs, restaurants and other businesses.  Many advertisements for the promotion of this diversity appear with the slogan, "Get your history straight and your nightlife Gay."  It probably would not be so strange to see two guys strolling hand in hand in the Philadelphia "Gayborhood," a section of the city that houses many of the gay establishments.

Seeing this open display is truly the way in which acceptance is accomplished.  I have been to many "gay" places such as my favorite, PTown, Massachuesetts.  In NYC, seeing same sex couples holding hands is not that out of place.  Maybe even to me, the first time was a shocker, but the more one sees it, the less of a peculiarity it becomes.  Also for someone not accustomed to the "gay lifestyle," it takes a few times to get used to seeing this. 

So maybe I was wrong about how far we have come.  I applaud these two young men for having the courage to show their love for each other.  For they are showing those around them what is diffeerent, but really OK.  I applaud the kids that go to school each and every day and live as who they are!  Little by little, bit by bit, these are the groundbreakers!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

You cannot have the present without the past!  Wow!  Those words just came out of my mind when someone said how thankful she is for her beautiful life, and how thankful she was for all the little things, good and bad, that have led to this beautiful life. 

"If you could, what would you change in your past?"  That question is always asked by others and ourselves.  Quite honestly I don't like dwelling on this question because, as I always say, "If's never happen!"  One cannot change anything in his or her life no matter how much he or she would like to.  Since it cannot and will not change, why get caught up in it?  Besides, if one little thing changed in your life, then the entire course of your life would be different.

However, when I do think of perhaps being able to change some of the events in my life, of course I can think of some.  I admit I have absolutely no regrets in my past.  But again, changing things could never be a reality.  Movies are made, and books are written, with this possiblity, and they make for interesting fiction, but they can never happen. 

So on this Thanksgiving Day, that brings me to all the things I am thankful for.  Luck?  Good choices?  Destiny?  I'm not sure why my life has turned out as it has, but it has!  I have had a pretty easy life, and for that I am truly thankful.  I have a great family and friends!  I have a good job despite my frequent complaints.  I have been healthy all my life with the few minor afflictions that plague us all.  I'm not an ugly guy!  I have a warm home in the winter and a cool home in the summer.  Storms have come, but none have left me in despair!  I take trips now and again.  These are just a few of the many, many things, too many to mention here, for which I am thankful! 

As I approach another birthday next month, I also often think that it's half over.  (Maybe more).  I have made it this far, much farther than some have made it.  Again, not sure why me, but I am thankful to still be here! 

So on this Thanksgiving 2012 there are so many things for which I am thankful!