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Cara Mund [Human Interest]

It is now a good time to be from one of the least populous states widely known for only wind and cold. North Dakota is an assemblage of small towns surrounded by rich land and family farms. The largest town is about 1% of the population of New York City. However, there is another assemblage in North Dakota. An assemblage of a kind, insightful people with an almost unmatched work ethic and common sense borne out of rural agrarian roots.

I am proud to be a NoDak. And now . . . we have a Miss America! North Dakota’s first and only. Ever since the very first Miss America pageant, North Dakota has only three contestants to ever make the top ten and nary a single winner. Just to let you know how singular this is; California has over fifty times more young ladies to choose from, so this particular young lady, Cara Mund, must be pretty special – and she is.

At the age of fourteen when most teenage girls are majoring in intolerance, boys, I-phones and sarcasm, Cara turned her attention to philanthropy. In the next ten years, she raised over $78,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation. She granted 23 wishes for the children in her home state.

She is an Ivy League graduate and high achiever who sets her sights on an equally elevated plane. She wants to be the first female governor of her home state of North Dakota. You had better believe that when Cara sets her sights on something, that the governor’s office may be in for a redecoration with a feminine touch.

North Dakota, because of the extreme cold and flat plains, was always thought of as a place to be from and seldom a place to go to. Cara Mund may have changed all that. In talking to people from other states, the depiction of NoDak women was characterized as a typical strong milkmaid or the plain Jane pioneer out of Laura Ingalls novel. Cara Mund brings a new meaning to the word North Dakota strong. She has strength of character, she has a strong sense of charity, she has a keen intellect, and a sense of purpose.

There were many shied away from relating where we were from, myself among them, because of the caricature of typical NoDak, That of bib overalls with a straw between your teeth, and an “aw shucks,” hillbilly. But I will not shy away from telling people where I am from now. Not with Miss America holding the banner of North Dakota, the Peace Garden state.

Therapy for the Soul [SEO]

There is not a very well-kept secret in the mile high city, and that would be one the most distinctive neighborhoods in all of the United States. This is a place where you can enjoy the turn of the century architecture and where art and history blend to form a truly singular experience. It is the Santa Fe Art District in Denver, Colorado.

The sights, sounds and aromas of the Santa Fe Art District are unique in their assault on the senses. Nationally known, but distinctively local, (with a Hispanic flavor), with more than one hundred small shops, galleries, and restaurants, it is the best of Colorado. The colorful graffiti-lined streets are bright, vivid and intense with the cool old buildings bringing a sense of nostalgia. With all of the small shops, restaurants and galleries it is one of the great places to just wander.

You won’t find any corporate, pre-prepared, mass-produced, assembly line restaurants here. The restaurants are genuinely unique, home-style, cooked fares all the way from sushi to a succulent steak. Speaking of steaks – the Buckhorn Exchange is a place not to be missed. The winner of the Expert’s Choice Award for 2017, this is a rare treat. This extraordinary dining experience is set among the oldest neighborhood in Denver that seems alive with the many and varied wildlife from the mountain area. The meals are bountiful. They use only USDA prime beef. There is also buffalo, wild game, fish and even ostrich and yak. It is not to be missed.

But the main draw is dedicated to the arts. Visual arts, performing arts, even ballet is available for the art patron in the three or four blocks devoted to the Santa Fe Arts District. It is a place where you can wander aimlessly while examining and enjoying art and at times, even talk to the curator or the artist.

Fridays are special throughout the district. The first Friday of the month within this thriving community which is the hub of the arts is designated as the Friday Art Walks with free shuttle service from the light rail. The Art Walks are from six to nine pm. Over sixty galleries and restaurants, as well as some artists studios, are open and you may find various forms of art including sculpture, painting, photography and many more. Food trucks will line the streets with a varied array of special food treats and beverages, and free wine and assorted snacks are served at many galleries.

Every third Friday is a collectors preview where artists are more available to the individual patrons and the last Friday, (from June to September), is what they call a Golden Triangle Creative District from 5 to 9 and it is free. If you want to visit the Denver Art Museum, the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art and the Molly Brown House Museum, then this is the place and time where you want to be on the last Friday of the month.

In addition to the myriad of arts to take in and enjoy, the district is just an excellent place to enjoy a favorite cup of coffee. The are many coffee shops there invite you to relax and take all the sights, sounds, and aromas. How about shopping for vintage clothes and perusing the antique stores for treasures? These three or four blocks are just perfect for strolling. If you enjoy your solitude,  or you want to enjoy it with someone special, walking through such a vibrant and colorful neighborhood is therapeutic.

Make Denver one of your vacation spots. The view of the mountains is breathtaking, and a visit to the Santa Fe Arts District is therapy for the soul. 

Stroke! [Personal Memoir]

Little did I know as I crawled into bed that November 28th that upon rising the next morning, my life was going to change for the worse, forever.

I went to bed fairly late that Wednesday night because I stayed up to watch Sportscenter. After all, it was the middle of the football season. I even drank a couple of beers and read my own column in the local weekly newspaper to make sure it was free from errors. I went to bed sleepy but not exhausted and looked forward to a good night’s sleep and sleeping in until 9 the next morning.

I was awakened early when I heard my wife stirring around getting ready for her teaching job at the public high school. I was glad I didn’t have to get up at that hour and rolled over to get some extra shuteye. I didn’t feel rested at all, but as tired as I was, my sleep was fitful and restless.                                                           

When my alarm went off later, I couldn’t believe how lethargic and sluggish I felt.  I was even confused by my alarm clock. It was if I was looking at something new and strange on my bed stand. I was confused by how to turn it off, but I fiddled with the buttons until it ceased to chirp. I woke up perplexed and bewildered . . .  but most of all annoyed.

I put my feet on the floor and stumbled, and reaching for the bed stand to steady myself, I ended up spilling the glass of water on my bed stand and knocking the alarm clock over. I was irritated, exasperated, and angry, almost to the point of rage over my clumsiness. I am not a morning person, but my irascible and petulant manner that particular morning surprised even me.

My ox-like awkwardness this morning let me mutter, “son of a bitch” over the spilled water.  But “son of a bitch” was not what came out of my mouth. Instead, something like, mmmfffaabbbllll” was all that came out.

I remember thinking: “Whoa! Did I have too many beers last night? I can’t even talk right!  Maybe I should go back to bed.”

I went to the bathroom to urinate, wash my face and hands and brush my teeth. When I turned around to walk back into the bedroom, I noticed the dog bed.

Now as an aside let me tell you a little bit about my dogs because they essential to this story. I have two. They are both small dogs. A miniature dachshund and a mini dachshund cross. Less than 25 pounds of dog between the two of them together and neither one of them very smart. They sleep together in a dog bed on the floor of the bedroom. I like to keep the bedroom cool and these are short-haired varieties so they like to be covered up. Each night I would cover the entire bed with their very own dog blanket.

They are trained not to stir or come out until I tell them it is okay, or until I remove the blanket. Usually, that is the first thing I do. But today the dogs were not in their bed like they were supposed to be but were sitting up and peering out from beneath their blanket. They had never done that.

I realize that I had broken their routine for them. Usually, I get up and tell them “okay,” or I remove their covers – and then the dog’s race down the stairs together neck and neck. By the time I get down the stairs they are jumping at the sliding patio door so I can let them out

Funny thing — I didn’t remember that I even had dogs until I saw their bed. And even then, it took me a couple of seconds to sort it all out and do the whole morning routine. Dogs love routine. Dogs are comfortable with that and I had broken their routine for them. That’s why they were peering out at me from beneath the covers.  But . . . it was strange, how could I forget them? They were part of my routine too.

I chalked it off as not enough sleep and a beer or two before bedtime.

The trip downstairs was a bit surreal too. The dogs are usually way out in front of me leading the way and racing with each other to see who gets to the door first. But this time, they walked on either side of me looking up at me the entire time. As I walked out of the bedroom, I felt an unusual sense of disassociation. I felt a peculiar and detached feeling from my normal cognitive functions. It was as if I had forgotten the layout of my own home. As I rounded each corner, I recognized it and could tell where I was – but did not know ahead of time what lay around the next corner or beneath the stairs – in my own house! Not until I got there to see it for myself could I have told you the layout of my own home. It was like exploring my own home but knowing where I was going at the same time.

When we reached the sliding glass doors where I routinely let the dogs out, they didn’t seem to want to go outside. They usually can’t wait to get out there, their bladders full from a full night and eager to smell new scents. When I opened the door, rather than running outside, the dogs stayed on either side of me, all the time looking up at me. This was really strange and being somewhat unwilling to put up with their strange behaviors because I had awakened in such an irritable state. I nudged them outside with my foot. But instead of exploring the lawn for a place to do their job and looking for new scents the dogs just stood on the patio and looked up at me. Little did I know – the dogs were trying to protect me and they knew that something was wrong before I did.

As I was nudging them out the door, I tried to say “go on,” or “do your job,” or something else that the dogs would understand as a command. All that came out of my mouth was “mush.”  It was an mmmfffllbbing moment again.

My mind and body connection were no longer in sync. I thought my thinking was lucid, but I felt detached from what was normal to me. How bizarre!

I let the dogs back in and they walked along side of me wherever I went. I was more than a bit nervous and anxious as I retraced my steps back to the bedroom. As I approached the steps upstairs, I noticed my walk was no longer fluid – my steps had no finesse or grace, but instead felt premeditated and methodical, like I had to think about every step I took. I held onto the handrail.

When I was back in the bedroom, I stood in front of the mirror and tried to speak. I was going to carefully enunciate each word as I looked in the mirror. But I couldn’t utter a sound that made sense or could be distinguishable as a word or a phrase. The dogs remained on either side of me looking out into the next room as I was mugging in front of the mirror. They reminded me of the lion statues that guard the entryway to the major libraries. One on each side of the entrance.

I knew enough about the symptoms to realize, I was having a stroke!

I had to call someone for help. I had no idea where the phone was, only that I needed a phone. I looked at the bed stand for a phone. There was none. I looked in the kitchen. I found a wall phone. I picked it up and saw a grid of buttons. The buttons confused me. What should I push? The grid of numbers looked mystifying to me, like just a bunch of crooked and straight lines. Besides, how am I going to tell whoever answers what exactly is wrong with me? I can’t talk.

I really felt frightened and vulnerable. I knew that my mind was not as sharp as it was when I got up, I was losing my cognitive abilities more each minute.

I knew you could die of a stroke, and I knew I needed help yet I couldn’t call for help on the phone because the phone was strange in my hands. I knew that if I was going to get the help that I was going to have to get it myself.

I locked the dogs up in the laundry room, which is their regular abode for the day and remembered that they hadn’t peed yet. It was a strange thing to be thinking of in the near-panicked state I was in. I was going to have to drive myself to the hospital.

I opened a couple of doors at random before I opened the door to the garage where my car was parked. I didn’t know it then, but my wife had made a mistake that turned out to be somewhat fortuitous. When my wife left earlier, she left the garage door open. She never does this, especially when the weather gets cold and this was the 29th of November. She must have hit the garage door opener twice and re-opened it while she was driving off. I mention this because if it weren’t for this coincidence, I would never have gotten out of the garage because I wouldn’t have known where the garage door opener was located.

I got in my car, backed it out, but didn’t know how to shut the garage door after I had exited the garage. I knew there was something I needed in order to close the door and I searched the dashboard with no luck. (The garage door closer was on the visor.)

I thought, “The hell with it!” and drove to the St. Alexis hospital in much the same way as I found my way through my own home. As I drove, I did not know what I would see around the next corner but yet as I turned each corner I remembered. It felt familiar. I knew instinctively which way to turn and I arrived safely at the hospital.

But my journey wasn’t over at this point. I had driven to the hospital entrance that I was the most familiar with, and that was the regular visitor’s entrance. When I got in, I tried to flag down numerous people, but the fact that I had not shaved was unsteady on my feet, and couldn’t talk except for gobblity-gook coming out of my mouth – everyone thought that I was a drunk or a derelict. I wandered around that hospital for more than an hour without finding the emergency room or for that matter anyone who would help me.

The hospital I went to wasn’t necessarily large like one of the big city hospitals. It was a medium-sized hospital in a town of less than one hundred thousand in population. But it was certainly big enough for me to get lost. I wondered all over the place in that building. I entered rooms that were clearly off limits to anyone not working there. More than a few times I was ushered out of someplace where I did not belong, and every time I tried to explain my plight I couldn’t make the right words come out. My brain and my mouth were not connected. Somehow, I knew that the emergency room was what I was looking for, and I had been in enough emergency rooms for myself and my children that I knew how to recognize it. But I had been there for more than an hour wandering around like I was in a maze.

The frustration finally got the better of me and when I passed an open door, I spotted some chairs. I went in sat down and the tears started to flow. I didn’t see her as I walked in because she was behind a counter, but the lady behind the counter heard me crying. She apologized later in my hospital stay because she couldn’t think of anything to say other than: “Do you have an appointment with the lab.” 

I tried my best to answer but couldn’t. At that point, I don’t know whether I had scared her or she felt sorry for me and didn’t know what to do, but she left the room and came out with two lab technicians. They also tried to communicate with me, but all I could do was stutter and stammer. One of them asked if I thought I was having a stroke. I grabbed her hand and nodded my head. 

Both of the lab techs locked arms with me and led me to the emergency room. I was less than fifty yards down a hallway from it. One of them explained that I was having a stroke and it took less than fifteen seconds to get me on a gurney and a doctor waiting for me in one of the rooms.

I must say that the care I received was phenomenal and first class. They had enough presence of mind to pull my wallet out to see who I was. A “stroke advocate” came to see me while still in the emergency room and wanted to know who to notify. I couldn’t utter a distinguishable word – so she brought in a phone book and said I could point.

I opened the phone book and it looked like a dyslexic wonderland. I couldn’t read a thing – but this was my second lucky coincidence this morning – there was a picture of the Bismarck High School on the cover. My wife worked as a teacher there. After a few guessing games and me pointing at the picture, the advocate finally guessed that she was a teacher and matched my last name with hers and called the school.

There were two female teachers there that had the same last name as mine. As luck would have it, they reached the wrong one at first and scared the hell out of her before they reached my wife. She didn’t arrive until about four o’clock. By that time, I had already had a cat scan and an MRI. My Doctor came in about an hour after that and explained to me that I had had an ischemic stroke. One where there was a blockage in one of the vessels to my brain. 

He also said that the blood thinner should be working and the brain is a wondrous thing. We have so many brain cells that when some of our brain is damaged some other cells spring into action and a new “path” is found for the neurons. In spite of the fact that I didn’t get help within two hours; (the window in which the symptoms of most strokes are reversible), there would be good chance that that with therapy I should get much of my speech back and that I should be able to get a few words out right now.

I managed to say “how long?” He answered both questions that I had in mind. He said, “About a week in the hospital but many months of therapy.”

Then, I thought of the kindness that those two lab techs showed me and I was overwhelmed. After about three or four tries I got out the word “flower.”  “Fl…. flown … floor … flower.

“What about a flower?’ my wife asked.

With much effort and deliberation, I got out the words, “send flowers.”

My wife did not know who to send flowers to but had enough presence of mind to visit the emergency room and do a little detective work. She finally talked to the Stroke Advocate told her that two lab workers had brought me into the emergency room. My wife came back and told me of the two lab workers who had helped me. She said: “do you want to send flowers to both those two?”

I nodded emphatically and before the day was over, the two good Samaritans had flowers on their workstation. Every November 29th I sent them flowers for five years until I learned that they had both retired.  

I have heard the adage of “kindness to strangers,” but it didn’t mean much to me until that day, November 29th when I was the recipient of that kindness. From that point on, I understood completely, what it really meant and I have tried to live up that standard in my own life. All because two hospital employees took the time out of their workday to bestow it on me.

Grandpa [Human Interest]

Oh, happy day! I got a call today that my own lovely daughter has given birth to a daughter of her own. You know what this makes me.

I am excited.

She is a beauty in the purest sense with a cone shaped head, squinty eyes, puffy cheeks and hair to fine to tie a bow. Watching her grow will warm the heart.

She will be mother of the year, dragging her baby doll by one leg over the carpet.

She will tell stories to the dogs who will look at her with adoring eyes.

She will walk the runway of beauty pageants, clumping along in mommie’s high heels, with lipstick applied with unsteady little hands.

She will host queens, presidents, and movie stars at high tea using tiny chairs, miniature teacups and a proudly served menu of tap water and soda crackers.

She will rule an entire kingdom, all within the borders of a sandbox.

She will be a ballet dancer with the greatest of style and grace, adorned in a pair of baggy pants, stingy hair and a kool-aid mustache.

She will be in the front row of her class singing and wearing her first frilly dress and new shoes with her tiny fingers planted firmly in her nose.

She will melt your heart with a smile or a tear, and for as much as she will be like million of other children, she is unique.

Welcome to the world – I am your new grandpa!

The Ides of March [Human Interest]                                                                    

After my teen years, when I knew everything about everything. My old school dad I was sure hadn’t learned anything new since the Eisenhower administration and was leaking information ever since. But when I went off to college he seemed much smarter and when I crossed the stage to receive my B.A. degree, I thought he was a near genius. From that point on we had gained a respect and love for each other. He respected me for my college degree (“book learnin” he joked) and I respected him for his degree in life experience and street smarts. 

One of our pleasures that we enjoyed together was when “March Madness” started. We were both college basketball fan and the NCAA tournament was the crowning achievement is college basketball. We were looking forward to March it since it starting of the NCAA tourney. March 15, was the day the first tip-off of the tournament that we had so looked forward to. Unfortunately, the ides of March was the day my father got called to his heavenly reward. It was a tough time for me and I missed him. For years I would be lost reading the sports page in the newspaper and come across some interesting tidbit or news about his beloved “Cubs” I would pick up the phone and by the time I got it my ear, I realized that he was gone.

In addition to my other job, I wrote a humor column in a weekly newspaper. Dad was particularly proud of that. He loved to see my picture in every local newspaper and he was my biggest fan. He clipped the column that I wrote every week. After he died I wrote a column complete with his picture and entitled, “Remembering Dad.” It was a touching tribute to Dad and all the things we endured – and celebrated.

Fast forward to 25 years. I had left the town that both Dad and I called home and I had followed my daughter and granddaughter to Arizona. Far from the Dakotas’ that we called home for many years. I took boxes of the newspapers that he hadn’t got around to clipping but had saved for me. But from then on, I was too lazy to cut the columns out of the newspapers too, so I brought a big box of those newspapers, in tact, to my new home in Arizona, fully determined to do just as my dad did, cutting them out my articles and eventually making a scrapbook out of my writings.

Five years later, the newspapers were still in the box, in a little-used closet gathering dust. Five years later I was also in a relationship with a lovely lady, Kat, as I called her, who I loved very much and we had decided to move in together. Moving took a couple of days and we did it by ourselves. When you are making a change in your life and one that will impact you and loved ones, you have second thoughts and wondering whether you are doing the right thing.

 By coincidence, the last day of moving fell on the ides of March. I paid little attention to the date because I had a lot of other things on my mind. When I stepped on the stool to get that dusty old box that held all the papers, I lost my balance, stumbled, and the bottom of that old box gave way spilling all of the papers on the floor. I cursed my clumsiness and set out to repair the box and put the newspapers back. But there on the top of the pile, opened to page 4 was my column entitled “Remembering Dad.” It was a one in the thousand chance that paper would be on top, and opened to that particular page. It was a magical moment for me. I saw my dad’s picture, and it seemed like he was smiling back at me, just like I remembered when we agreed on something. That was when I realized that my dad’s smiling face was a sign saying that my plans were all right. I no longer had second thoughts, but I felt like I had spoken to Dad, and he had put his blessing on my plans.

Mere coincidence? I think not. I think that my dad truly visited on the ides of March again telling me that I had made the right decision. And I did, Kat and my relationship had never been better and we are very much in love.

Diamond Lil [Human Interest]

 I sit down to write this the evening after my Mother’s funeral. It is late and I can’t sleep, memories, both good and bad, are keeping me from the restful sleep I need. But I will sit down at the computer and try to hammer out something for this weeks paper.   In my writings, I referred to my Mom, whose name was Lillie, as Diamond Lil. She was still in the rough – but a diamond nonetheleMost of what I wrote about was true; although likely I exaggerated a bit. She was a rich source of humor and writing material for me because she was such a counterpoint to my own life and my own philosophy.

As a boy, I stayed true to the code of my youth. I considered Lil to be too strict and too rigidly judgmental most of the time. I knew all too well that her life experiences in growing up were far too removed from the present for her to know anything that could possibly be useful to me. I was, after all, growing up in a new, much more modern age and certainly didn’t need her old “horse and buggy” mentality controlling my life. Does that sound familiar to anyone.

Despite my youthful obstinance and disdain for the “know nothing” adults that were trying to control my life, I came to realize a few essential things. First of all, the decisions she and my dad had to make were always made out of concern for me and my siblings. What sometimes appeared to me as being an all-out effort to ruin my life was usually a gallant attempt to keep me alive and out of the clutches of the law.

Secondly, I learned that while times change, people are still people and human nature is a constant. It took me a while to figure that while I was railing against my parents for trying to give advice in a more modern age, that it was MY relationship with people that needed work.

 Diamond Lil only had an 8th-grade country school education. Yet even as she lay there in the coffin in which she was laid to rest, that it was me that was still learning something. I learned that people will love and respect you if you speak your mind honestly and clearly. That was so very apparent by the welcome sentiments that were written on ALL the cards that we received. I cannot recall a single card that did not have some sort of very personal message or remembrance of Lil. Lil had become sorta “character” in her old age.

 My brother, sister and I used to chide her often, scolding that she could not be so blunt or she would not have a friend left in the world. When scolded for her brash honesty, she would just shrug and say: “It’s the truth.” 

 Based on the fondness for Lil that was expressed in so many cards and letters, I learned that people do hold in high esteem those who speak their truth clearly and without hesitation. That is what Diamond Lil did. What we thought would cost her the affection of others, seemed to endear her to many. The time of fellowship following the funeral service was a healing experience as nearly every person had some sort of story to relate about Diamond Lil.

 It was kidney disease that was the ultimate culprit in her demise. But I can vividly remember going to her apartment one day late in August. When I walked in she was sitting in her rocking chair with a whole bowl full of cherry tomatoes in a bowl on her lap – eating them like popcorn. She loved tomatoes. But for a person with kidney disease, potassium is your enemy and not many things are higher in potassium than tomatoes.

“What are you doing? You can’t eat those! Those things will kill you!” I scolded.

“Oh hush up!” was her retort, “It’s August and what’s life without a few fresh tomatoes?”

 That was Lil, taking life on her own terms. She was a diamond all right. One still in the rough – there is no doubt about that. But a diamond neverthelesss.

It has been quite a trip!

Isn’t it Time We Scrapped the Outdated Electoral College [Historical Opinion]

History will tell us that there were very good reasons for the electoral college in the days when our country was very young and we were electing our first, let us say, 15 presidents. In the days following the revolution and our Declaration of Independence, the United States was quite different than we know it today. In those days each of the states thought of themselves as a sovereign nation (state). We still refer to them in our history books as “the Colonies,” but each state thought of themselves as an independent. A nation unto themselves.

In the time of our founding fathers, the “states” (as we now know it), was thought of more of a loose confederation of independent nations who united themselves for a common enemy; that of the British crown. Although there were a number of other things that the founding fathers and the colonies, in general, found troubling, the single biggest thing was “taxation without representation.”

The British monarchy, (George III was the King at the time of the revolution), levied heavy taxes on the colonies, but the colonies had no representation in the British Parliament. The colonies thought (and rightly so), that if they were subject to be taxed, they should have some representation in the government that was leavening such tax.

In essence, the British weren’t fighting the USA, (as we know it now) but were fighting 13 individual states. (individual nations as we called them at the time and colonies as the British crown called them at the time.) The view of colonists was that the war was against 13 individual sovereign nations. These individual “states” would each offer a Militia to fight a common enemy under George Washington because it suited the common good of each individual state.

When the colonies declared independence, representatives from each colony signed the declaration for their own respective sovereign state. A series of editorials called the Federalist Papers called for a central government, but defenders of states rights were concerned that a powerful, consolidated national government would run roughshod over the individual states. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the delegates representing state/colonial governments were already autonomous centers of power. This led to the 10th amendment to the Constitution, (the last of the Bill of Rights) which is often referred to as “states’ rights.” As you can see the states’ rights were vigorously protected. The electoral college was one of the items that preserved those states rights.

With the jealously protected states in mind, there were two overriding reasons for the electoral college. One, and the most important one was that each autonomous state was run going their own elections not give up that right to a federal government.

(Most of the states voted for a commander-in-chief rather than a president. So it was no surprise that George Washington who led the continental army was voted as first President. Washington gave a feeling of security because he had just defeated the British army. Even the states that didn’t want a federal government went along with it because it provided security in numbers.)

So, each “state” ran their own elections and counted their own votes. A procedure had to be set to elect the commander in chief. There were two main problems here. One being the logistics and the other fair representation.

The logistical problem was how do you get the results of each states individual election to the Federal capital where they could be counted. There wasn’t any telegraph at that point. No telephones. The only thing left was –a rider on horseback. There was no other option. This could take days and the roads were crude and there were bandits and murderers along the way. The telegraph wasn’t invented until 1837 and even after it had been invented, it was always an inadequate form of communication. Lines were continuously down and we were depended on so many individuals to decipher the code and pass it along. If only one agent along the line would mistake a message, it would render the message useless.

So it would take sometimes four or five days for some individual states to provide their tallies. A  far cry from turning on the television set and not having to wait for even the morning paper. Some networks give out the projected winner even before the polls close.

The problem of fair representation was a much more prickly one. There was much debate on this. Obviously, the smaller states did not want to have the more populous states suppress them, so they want equal representation for each state. The more populous states saw that as an unfairness because under this theory their votes were being “watered down.”

A compromise was soon proposed in the first Constitutional Convention. The idea for this compromise came from Roger Sherman, the delegate from Connecticut. This was called the Connecticut plan, (to be known later as the great compromise). The plan called for two houses of Congress, one that allowed each state 2 representatives and the other a representative for every 30,000 people. That formed the basis for how the electoral college are tallied. You get one vote for your 2 Senators and as many votes are there are in the house of representatives. It actually lured some of the smaller states to accepting the constitution because they wouldn’t get lost in the electoral process.

We have come a long way since the electoral college was essential. Many wars, including two world wars, has united the individual states into a solid nation.  A new nation. We sing: God bless the USA! We don’t sing God bless Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, etc.

Now, in the 21st century, we don’t have the jealousy of individual nations formed into a loose confederation. At this point, we considered ourselves the USA and are united under one federal government. And these are the days of telephones and lightning-fast computers. We can get data from one place to another in a millisecond.  There is no longer a 4-day ride by horseback. The reason for an electoral college has gone the way of the horse and buggy.

In the 19th century, there were 3 instances, 1824, 1876, and 1888 where the candidate lost the election but had more popular votes. This is not a democracy, it is minority rule. This country was not set up be that way, but that’s what the electoral college has done to the nation. It is an anachronism!

Two of our last 5 elections have ignored the popular vote. This happened in 2000 when Gore won the popular vote only to watch George Bush be sworn in as president. And the most recent and perhaps the shocking is the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump where Ms. Clinton got almost three million more votes than Trump. This is more than the entire states of Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska put together. This should scare us. There is no reason to keep this outdated rule by the minority.

But there is even a more significant reason, a reason for the for the nation to abolish the electoral college forever. And that is it flies in the face of the doctrine of one man – one vote. Take California for example; they have a population of 39,250,017 has 55 electoral votes. Wyoming has a population of 533,767 and has 3 electoral votes. So, if you do the math, the California voter has only one vote to 4 for the Wyoming voter. Every Wyoming electoral vote represents 177,0922 and very California electoral vote represents 713,636. This is akin to every Wyoming voter voting 4 times to every California voter. The same can be said for less populous states like the Dakotas, Rhode Island, Nevada, etc, as opposed to the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Florida etc. It violates the one man –one vote rule.

Shouldn’t all votes be counted as equal? One person – one vote seems to dictate that. If you would ask any citizen, of any state, or on any street corner, if their vote should count less than his or her cousin in another state, the answer would be a unanimous and resounding NO! But the electoral college system is letting that happen.

It is time to get out of this anachronistic way of doing things. We know that we can count the votes of any state equally with relative ease. With technology that we at our disposal it amazingly easy. We have the ability to make the make the results almost instantaneous and to count all of the votes. Equally.  Let’s step into the 21st century.

Grandpa Goes to the Doctor [Humor]

If you read the column three weeks ago, you know that I am a brand new grandpa, and if I do say so myself, I am getting pretty damn good at it. I like jobs that have a meaningful title but not much work. All I have to do is master a proud swagger in my walk.

There is a downside, however. Being old enough for the label of “Grandpa” means that you are old enough for some of your parts to be showing wear and tear, and unlike starfish and earthworms – we don’t grow new parts. Instead, we enlist the help of doctors to help us take care of the parts we have.

That is where I was a short time ago – at a doctor’s office trying to hang onto my various parts. A place that is as much fun for me as massive ale hangover. If getting older means spending more time in these places, then getting old is not for sissies.

My first encounter was one with this office-manager type, who I found was much more concerned with my insurance coverage and whether I could pay for my visit that he was about whether I was infecting the entire waiting room with the black plague. This person is usually hired on the basis that she is an honor graduate of the Nazi school of interrogation.

Once it was determined that I was not a non-insured deadbeat, I was handed off to the nurse. A nurse is a person who has had a life-long love affair with needles and who actually draws a salary for poking people and drawing out various quantities of blood. No one really knows what they do with all that blood. I have a feeling that every clinic has a coven of vampires living in the basement that demand room service.

The REAL problem doesn’t start until after you have been properly chilled, semi-naked, in a waiting room with a gown that exposes my gluteus maximus. Only then does the doctor finally walk in– after I have reached the proper frigidity. I have no idea what it is, but since attaining a certain age, these doctors have developed a habit of coming at me with scary white latex gloves and an acute interest in my personal regions. These conditions demand panic.

Nobody’s life will be enhanced by reading all of the details here, but let me say that the doctor told me he would be performing a simple procedure there in his office. I know all about procedures. Procedures are what doctors do when you have run out of blood for them to draw or if they can’t prescribe any bed rest or aspirin. Usually, procedures involve lots of those scary white gloves, along with metal hooks and needles that look like they belong on a shark hunt.

A different nurse brought in a tray with a lot of those things on it, and you could describe my concern as quiet—but very, very real.

My doctor stood behind me with this new tray of shiny, sharp objects like a child with new tinker toys and began putting on those scary rubber gloves.

“You may experience some slight discomfort,” the doctor said.

Now let me tell you all something. Those words may be a wonderful statement of hope, and a triumph for a pleasant bedside manner, unfortunately, it was a blow to truthful disclosure. Someday I am going to look up the words excruciating, agonizing, piercing pain in the dictionary. I expect to see “some slight discomfort” as the first definition.

The thing he referred to as “some slight discomfort” makes sticking flaming toothpicks in my eyeballs seem like a day at the magic kingdom. My teeth were clenched hard enough to get that my dentist a new Mercedes and I was making little high pitched noises like squirrels make when they are treed by packs of slathering dogs.

“How are we doing?” Doc had the nerve ask.

Don’t you just love that?  WE?!?   Is this like the hammer talking to the nail?

“You’re doing fine, Doc!  However, I am amid a whole sea of ‘some slight discomfort’ here.”

If there is an up-side to this, it is that it has allowed me to develop a personal relationship with God. I kept saying:  “Please God, make him go away.”

In the long run, I suppose it all ended O.K.  I walked out on my own leaving only small parts of me behind and none that I needed. It will likely take several different kinds of lightning striking the same place at the same time to get me back there.

The only antidote I could think of for my day was a warm, sudsy bath with a snifter of good cognac. Not a bad way to end any day. 

WELCOME TO QQQQQQQ’S PAINTING [SEO]

We are a family-owned business. That should be important to you as a customer as it is to us here at qqqqqqqq’s Painting. As it should be. We are not some faceless corporation who swoops into the community whose primary purpose is to make as much money as they can for their shareholders. Rather, as a family-owned business, we support our other local businesses, worship, pay taxes, support the local schools just like our valued customers.

Quality is the foundation of our business and we would do nothing to risk that hard and well-earned reputation. After 22 years of serving the area, you can count on us to deliver quality and excellence in each and every job that we undertake. We are the number one best painting service in Mission Viejo, California. Our service, workmanship and professionalism is the core to our success. Our company is licensed to do both residential and commercial, whether it’s new construction or a remodel, we can handle it. No matter what you need to be painted, we’ve got you covered.

Our People

As a family-owned business we know that to do quality work, we need to have a quality workforce. We could not do it without our remarkable crew. Because we are family-owned, our crew members are like part of our extended family. Most of our workforce has been with us for  close to 15 years. That is important to us because this amazing crew takes its responsibility to provide quality work very seriously.

The secret to delivering quality work, (and it should not be a secret at all), is attention to every detail. No detail is too small to be overlooked. You will know after we complete your job why we have absolute confidence in our workforce. We will not let our customers be less than 100% satisfied with the job we have done.

Picking the Right Contractor

Hiring a contractor can be a nerve-wracking and harrowing experience. We have heard all of the contractor horror stories. The anxiety in picking out a suitable contractor is understandable because there are a lot of people out there who give contractors a bad name. From painting contractors to plumbers, electricians, carpenters, to full construction crews, there are a lot of “bad apples” out there. There are contractors who would take your deposit and then disappear. Some start a job, but never finish. Others finish the job but do such shoddy work that it has to be redone (probably at double the cost!) by someone else.

We here at qqqqqqqq’s wish to help you weed out the “bad contractors.”  We don’t want one of these “bad contractors”  to take advantage of you. Besides checking references, which every good contractor should make available to you, here are some of the “red flags” that you should know and look out for.

•       Unlicensed or uninsured painters. What would happen if something goes wrong on the job? A worker getting injured . . . or something on your building breaks. .the work done isn’t up to code. .etc. If the contractor you hired is unlicensed or uninsured, you are liable and 100% on the hook. To be safe, before you sign on the dotted line, do an “instant license check” at the Contractors State License Board website, and then ask the contractor to provide proof that they really are suitably insured.

•       Under-licensed Contractors.  Many people aren’t aware of this, but a painting contracting license only covers a very specific range of services. It is not the same as a “general contractor” license. So, if a contractor offers to provide other services in addition to painting, make sure they hold the appropriate license to do so.

•       Requests for deposits over $1000.  By law, a California contractor can only request a deposit or 10% or $1000 – whichever is less. So sharpen those pencils or take out your calculator to make sure that the request for a deposit is in the range approved by California law.

So, before you hire a contractor, examine his references and be aware of the foregoing “red flags.” Because the people in this community are our friends and neighbors, and even if you elect not to choose qqqqqqqq’s Painting, we want you to have the best outcome for this experience.

INTERIOR PAINTING

When you hire qqqqqqqq Painting, you are hiring a trusted Orange County residential painting contractor who has been in business for over 25 years. That means your job will be done well by a skilled and experienced work crew that has been together for years. Our outstanding  team brings together exceptional workmanship along with efficient scheduling to take your needs and schedule into consideration. We use only quality materials and if a repair is needed, it will be expertly done before we start. Careful protection of your furniture, equipment and the surface is only part of our meticulous prep work. No detail is too small to escape our eye or overlooked.

The qqqqqqqq Painting pledge to you is:

•       To take good care of your home, which includes moving furniture, covering and protecting everything and cleaning up the work area at the end of each day.

•       To thoroughly clean and prepare all surfaces – because proper prep work (such as patching, cleaning, scraping and sanding) is absolutely vital to the outcome of your project.

•       To do an exceptional painting job that will beautify your home meet our high standards (and yours) and last for many years.

•       To finish on schedule. Barring inclement weather (for exterior painting jobs) or other act of God, your project will be completed within the promised timeline.

•       To stand behind our work. This is attained by providing a satisfaction guarantee plus an unheard-of THREE years of annual “tune ups.” (some restrictions apply).

So for all of your residential painting, qqqqqqqq’s Painting has been providing over 25 years of experience for all of your painting needs.

COMMERCIAL PAINTING

To get a quality painting job, you need an exceptional commercial painter. After  all, the first thing that your customers see is the building as your customers walk up or your walls when they enter the office. This is the first impression that you make upon your clients. You want it to be a good one. Something that is professionally done to keep in tune with your own professionalism. You need a painting contractor who lets no detail escape him, who is precise and exacting in any repairs that need to be done and is meticulous in his prep work. You need a contractor who only uses high-quality materials and can efficiently schedule the work along with your needs. You need qqqqqqqq’s Painting Inc.

Qqqqqqqq’s Painting does things right – the first time. We use our own crews. (no subcontractors) – so that everything is under our control. We trust our crews to do the best possible job for you. They have years of experience to do things right. You won’t need to call us back to do it again. Neilson’s painting has:

•       Over two decades of commercial painting experience.

•       A $2 Million liability policy.

•       A California painting contractors license.

•       Extensive experience with all types of paints, stains, and industrial coatings.

•       Government clearance.

•       Long-term, highly skilled employees.

•       Owner operated company.

The bottom line is you can’t go wrong if you call qqqqqqqq’s Painting.

GARAGE FLOOR COATING

You can turn your garage into a showpiece. Qqqqqqqq Which will be the envy of the neighborhood. Granitex has been on the market for 20 years. This durable product can withstand practically anything. 10-year-old boys playing scaled-down hockey on roller blades. No problem. Heavy tools dropping on the floor. No problem. The heat from your tires after you have been on winding summertime drive. No problem. Anything that you can imagine, Granitex can withstand. And we have been installing Granitex for 7 years and have become experts at it.

Granitex is high impact, stain resistant, and available in thousands of custom designs and color combos that will not fade or yellow. And. .we can install it in just 3 days. We have the tools and the experience and will do an excellent job for you. A job you will want to show off. Other Garage floor coating takes up to 10 days to cure. But Granitex installed by Neilson’s will be ready in less than a third of that time. You can make your garage an extension of your home. Create a “man cave.” Turn your garage into a much-desired family room. Run a business or day care center out of your garage. Or, you can have the perfect place to keep and use your tools and park your cars in style.

For a free estimate and an expert job, Call us at (949) xxx-xxxx