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Where Is Excellence?

Earlier this month, I posted a video of the most honest “commencement” speech young graduates of today should be required to hear. Almost every day this week, I’ve talked with at least one person (most of whom were educators) who expressed his or her deep concern about the current state of education and learning in our country.Scholarship-clip-art-300x264In my state, there’s been an ongoing discussion about Common Core and the state Board of Education has been re-evaluating. Earlier this week, it appeared they’d be adopting another curriculum. However, decision-makers have ruled against the recommendations of a review committee and the process is dividing educators and reviewers. Continue Reading →

Flying Solo

An item in my email this week caught my attention. With wedding season gearing up, my credit union sent an email hawking what they characterized as “EverydayLife Loans” providing extra cash for the big events of life. Naturally, the promotion drew my attention.Wedding Loan

Yeah, those “big events” tend to be costly nowadays and the credit union is there to help … including “expenses for your wedding, honeymoon and all the little things along the way.” With rates as low as 8.75% APR, the picture (shown below) showed a celebratory bride and groom and the tag line:  “One less thing to worry about.

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Taxing Day

Some Saturdays are entertaining and filled with fun. Today (for me) wasn’t one of those Saturdays. Attempting to get a head-start on my usual April 15th scramble, I carved out today to get the annual torment completed. And, much as I expected, the tedious exercise took the best part of my day. (Can anyone say Fair Tax or Flat Tax?)taxesNo, I’m not going to moan and complain in this space. I probably couldn’t because after spending the day with my eyes glued to a computer screen and to a variety of small-print tax forms and instruction booklets, my brain is fried anyway.

Besides, it’s National Poetry Month! Would I really allow myself to be driven into the doldrums by taxes when they’re not the only game in town? Continue Reading →

The Shocking Lure of Celebrity

Usually, I take less than minimal interest in the ways congressmen or women choose to decorate their DC offices. It’s mostly trivial to me. However, when a congressman decides to go with the Downton Abbey motif (at a cost of $40,000), that piques my curiosity (and causes me to question his wisdom). The unfortunate revelations surrounding U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) have gradually surfaced, leading to his resignation announcement today.

FROM:  http://tiny.cc/6o0nvx

FROM: http://tiny.cc/6o0nvx

Schock made a pretty big impression in the nation’s capital. He recently was described this way by Politico:  The guy might just be America’s most photogenic congressman. The Men’s Health cover (above) dates from June 2011. The congressman rose quickly through the ranks and enjoyed wide margins of victory in his most recent elections. Continue Reading →

New Wrinkle in Care Packaging

For as long as I can recall, sending a “CARE package” meant you were sending a parcel of food or supplies (toiletries, socks, lotion, shampoo, etc.) to needy people in distant lands, mostly during emergencies. Under the CARE trademark, this humanitarian organization was originally named Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe and adopted as its mission (in 1945) sending food relief to hungry Europeans following World War II.CARE-37Over time, the organization continued its core activity but revamped its name to the more encompassing Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere. Today, CARE is active in 87 countries and engages in fighting poverty and assisting during emergencies. Continue Reading →

List Mania

It’s a challenge to get away from college football today … and for the rest of the weekend. Plenty of people are reluctant to leave the couch while games run non-stop until late tonight. (I’m not one of those, but I’ve come to accept my Beloved and our grandson are going to stay glued to their seats, smack-dab in front of the television.)

AlaOhioTurning away from college football mania, I’ve been scanning the vast resources of the worldwide web. I had already noticed in my email the number of lists that abound in 2015. There are lists of (1) things to do, (2) things not to do, (3) places to go (4) places not to go … and there are multiple other lists focused on retrospection (1) what we got right in 2014, (2) what we got wrong in 2014, (3) what we need to do to get it right in 2015, etc. Continue Reading →

Eight Day Frenzy

Here’s a news flash for readers who’ve been hibernating in a cave somewhere … the shopping season is upon us. Should I say THE Shopping Season? Or perhaps The SHOPPING Season? Anyone with an email account has no doubt been suddenly besieged (as I have) with a flood of new and tempting messages hawking this or that great deal.

so-haute-black-fridayThis year, I can’t remember when my inbox began to overflow, but any retailer/ wholesaler with whom I’ve ever done business (dating back to 1992 I imagine) presented their “can’t-miss” deal for my consideration. Lots of them personalize the deals:  since you purchased a potted plant for J____ last year, we’re giving you an extra $10 (or 15%) off this year! (Lucky me!)

Of course, until you’re ready to submit your order, they don’t mention the $12.99 handling fee (over and above the initial price, the upgraded containers and sales taxes which have already combined to break the budget!) on each of the four or five items you’ve already added to your shopping cart! No, if I wanted to spend a total of $50 to $100 for handling fees, I’d think about delivering them myself! Continue Reading →

The Devil’s Details

For most young people today, having a Social Security number (and its accompanying identification card) is normal. Since parents wishing to claim their dependent children for tax deduction purposes were required to obtain Social Security cards for each child starting about 1986, many of those young people don’t remember ever not having a number.SSCardWhen the government’s Social Security program was first instituted in late 1935, the intent was for the issuing agency (the Social Security Administration, SSA) to track lifetime wages for individual citizens in order to calculate eventual retirement benefits. Few people in those early days understood the program. For example, when a leather company inserted a sample SSA card in the wallets they sold, as many as 40,000 people adopted the “specimen” number as their own!

ElvisSSAOver the years, the SSA number has taken on greater significance. Though the actual card warned “Not For Identification,” this caution was mostly ignored (and has been removed from the newer generation of cards). See the card above for an early, notable example.

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A Fine Love Story

Romantics (like myself) yearn for sweet and tender love stories. We’re nurtured by narratives of youthful romance, blissfully energizing and intoxicating … or narratives of the brokenhearted who learn to love again and to love more deeply. For myself, I find if a story reduces me to tears, it’s a story I will return to again and again; I will long remember its emotional impact. Oftentimes, though, the stories that move me the most are the stories based in truth … especially when the tales revolve around people I know personally.lovestory01Several years ago, I posted about one such tender love story, the true story of my friends Jim and Lynda, who were near to celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary when Lynda died. She and Jim had suffered together for thirty-five years as multiple sclerosis plodded slowly through Lynda’s body and eventually claimed her to the grave.

During Lynda’s illness and in the years since her death, Jim has always been refreshingly candid about his personal struggles dealing with what often must have seemed a very wrong turn on the shared road of life he had anticipated their lives would be. They were in love! As one songwriter put it, they shared a fine romance! Life was good! Who could have predicted when they married in 1964 that little more than a decade later, an MS diagnosis would deliver its cruel and debilitating blow?

Mother Teresa once said:  I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. Indeed, in the marriage Jim and Lynda shared, hurt went deep … but love grew deeper still as God’s refining fire showed them both (and everyone around them) the genuine treasure of sacrificial love.

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The Vilification of They

The message often starts out with an urgent statement: You Need To See This Now! In one form or another, the information that follows urges you to consider special, often proprietary, information they’re anxious to reveal to you … for a price of course … IF you respond NOW. Don’t wait, drop what you’re doing, get it now!

Because this offer isn’t going to last … Really, this is the last day or last week. So don’t miss your chance for the best value!!!!

urgent

During the virtual strong-arm pitch, there’s often a veiled (or in other cases quite direct) reference to an unnamed but nefarious enemy ‒ the ubiquitous faceless They ‒ an entity who’s on the trail to have “this video” taken down. Don’t let this happen! Watch the video now BEFORE THEY MAKE ME TAKE IT DOWN.immediately

Know what I’m talking about? The videos might be “investment” pitches or work-at-home “opportunities” or even an individual selling a self-published book or supposedly a one-of-a-kind “health and fitness” routine … to name a few I’ve run across. The purveyors play on your fear of missing out … or having to pay triple after the offer expires. They don’t let you take time for due consideration. It has to be NOW … and if you don’t believe them, don’t be surprised when you come back tomorrow and the video’s gone … because THEY MADE ME TAKE IT DOWN!
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