Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Giving Tuesday, Going Broke

I like the concept of Giving Tuesday. Truly, I do. Charitable giving has been part of my budget for many years, a specific sum I have committed to donate each month to a worthy organization. I have a small, trusted, set of charities that I support in a revolving manner. For example, I contribute to military organizations in May and November (Memorial Day, Veterans Day); food-centric charities in November (Thanksgiving); toy drives in December (Christmas). There's a margin built into the budget for unexpected disasters such as wildfires, tsunamis, and earthquakes.

I provide this painstaking personal detail to emphasize that, 1) I firmly believe in consistent support of charitable causes, and 2) almsgiving is an integral part of my value system and lifestyle. With all that said--I am bone weary of Giving Tuesday.

In a perfect world, all charitable organizations would be as meticulous in disbursing their donations as they are in maintaining contact databases. Every stray charity I have ever donated a dime to has been hounding me for weeks via every communication means available. I've been bombarded with email pleas, telephone solicitations, snail mail letters and donation forms. Even my workplace has, for the past several days, sent lengthy email entreaties to all employees for donations to "the Foundation." (Wait, I'm at work--aren't you supposed to give me money?)

My college wants money, too, and they have been especially persistent. In fact, this year they've been so annoying that I'm considering cutting them off permanently. My charity allocation for the month of June (graduation season) always goes to my alma mater, but evidently that's completely insufficient when Giving Tuesday rolls around. I'll think twice next June.

The accounting slates seem to be wiped clean of any remaining balances, and the hapless giver is accosted by an insistent army of demanding, self-entitled charities. If I gave even a modest amount to each and every request I've received this month, I'd have to tap my retirement savings to buy groceries next week. Is that the goal?

Come on, nonprofit organization people, back off. You don't have to explain this to me--or to most Americans. Do you realize that in 2017, Americans gave more than $410 billion to charity? Yes, I know--we're fortunate in this country, we're blessed with riches most of the world can only dream of, and we should give back to those in need. But I don't need a special day of the year to remind me to do it. For Giving Tuesday, I'd like you to give me a break.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

After the Fires

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The destruction left in the wake of California's November wildfires is mind-numbing in its enormity. Both Northern and Southern California face massive rebuilding efforts. But the town of Paradise in the Chico area, destroyed by the Camp Fire, faces especially daunting, discouraging challenges--it has been essentially obliterated by the flames.

How does a community go about rebuilding in the face of such vast devastation? I'm reminded of the old saying about how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. But even going one step at a time, the cleanup, recovery, and rebuilding of Paradise will take years. Our northern neighbors will literally begin at the ground, sweeping away ashes and beginning again. It takes courage, faith, determination--and a great deal of financial support and resources--to undertake such an overwhelming task. 

This week was Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday dedicated to being grateful for our many blessings. It's a good time to remember our neighbors who have lost loved ones, homes and all their possessions. The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, and many religious charities are among the many organizations assisting the fire victims in their time of need. All safe-and-sound Americans would do well to pause and make a donation, however modest, now that the fires have been extinguished and life begins to move on with its customary swiftness.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Riga's Goodbye

How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.        ~ A.A. Milne

Riga - 2004 - age 1

Last night I euthanized my 15-year-old Labrador Retriever, Riga. It was a hard decision, because she wasn't critically ill. She was, however, impaired by many pains, limitations, and indignities of old age.

Since summer, I have observed my old friend closely as one by one, Riga's favorite activities moved beyond her reach. She could no longer enjoy her daily walks. Twice each day, for so many years, we had walked together. We spent thousands of hours covering uncounted miles. Now, although she wanted to walk, she was physically incapable. I kept shortening the distance to adjust, but one day she fell. Riga looked up with pleading eyes, wanting me to fix things so we could keep going.

Riga - 2018 - age 15
But some things can't be fixed, only ended.

Riga lost her appetite and, with it, many pounds. I cooked chicken or beef to coax her, mixed soft food with her kibble, topped it with treats. But all my efforts were met with mediocre results and lots of leftovers. Towards summer's end, she sometimes couldn't get through her doggy dog in time. Riga would hang her head in humiliation. Not a fun life for a proud old girl who never had "an accident" since the age of three months.

Most evenings she would pull out her favorite toy since puppy days. But instead of playing, she'd drop it on the floor and wander away. The last few nights, I carried her upstairs at bedtime to spare her the brave, step-by-step struggle.

In past years I've put two dogs down, and both times it was during a medical crisis. That leaves you with an emergency rush to the vet's office and a sick dog dying on a cold steel table, without time for family to say a proper goodbye. I didn't want that ending for Riga.

All of her blood work was good. She didn't have cancer or any other disease--and she won't. Last week I called a veterinary service that comes to your home to euthanize your pet and made an appointment. I spent the week just enjoying time with Riga, my longtime friend and companion. My son and his wife visited the night before Riga left us to bid this special family member farewell.

Riga and I had been through so much together. We both loved Pete; we both lost and grieved him. We found comfort in each other's company as we walked on through the years, together. We watched the kids get married; we welcomed grandchildren. It was so hard for me to say goodbye.

But this decision had to be best for Riga. She deserved a peaceful end; it was the last thing I could do for her. My house is lonely now, and I'm not done crying. But I'm grateful that I found the strength to let her go.

Run free, my good girl. I'll always miss you.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

One Hundred Years Ago Today

Deterrence prevents war.
~ Victor Davis Hanson 

On the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918, at 11:00 in the morning, the Armistice ending what was called "The Great War" was signed into place. Nearly 20 million people, military and civilian, had perished in the conflict.

Victor Davis Hanson's article presents in clear and simple terms why The Great War was succeeded in a mere two decades by a far bloodier worldwide conflict. He also cites some ominous conditions in the current state of international relations, and notes that "It is also always unwise to underestimate a peaceful America."

Winston Churchill wrote of the "gathering storm," in observing the factors contributing to the second World War. Students of history would do well to study his writings today. We should all be tuned in to the current global weather forecast, and that's not a reference to climate change.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Monday, November 05, 2018

Rep. McSally Sings National Anthem at Arizona State University's Homecom...

The singing senatorial candidate, Arizona Representative Martha McSally. In addition to having a mighty set of pipes, you can add the fact that she was the first female fighter pilot in the Air Force.

Good luck tomorrow. I hope you win your Senate wings.