Thoughts from Albert Einstein

From the most brilliant scientist, Albert Einstein,  who managed to see beyond his own gift of brilliance.

“Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in AWE when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a HOLY curiosity.”

A "Julia" alternative—meet "Joanie"

President Obama’s campaign web-site has given us the Obama Woman, a gal named “Julia” who we follow in cartoon form from age three through age 67+ . Julia’s life, from the formative years and onward, has been  guided, nurtured  and embraced by and through government programs such as: Head Start, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Obamacare, Pell Grants for education etc. There is never a mention of Julia having parents or siblings or any family at all (they had to be in the mix somewhere but I guess their impact on Julia’s life was minimal). Finally,  as Julia’s wonderful, carefree and orchestrated life winds down, she finds happiness in her senior years as a volunteer in a “community garden”. May I present the JULIA alternative–JOANIE.

Joanie Peach is 17. She did have parents but they died. Her mother, when Joanie was 13, and her dad when she was 17. She has an older brother, Teddy, 18, and three younger brothers aged 14, 10 and 6. They are orphans. Yup–Joanie has had multiple roles in her young life: daughter, sister, replacement mom, high school student, cook, house-keeper, household budget manager, grocery shopper, meal planner, and, of course, nurse in charge of all the cuts, bumps and bruises that little boys seem to attract. I have to be fair–this did take place “way, way”, back in the mid 1960’s. That was a time when the all embraceable and benevolent government was just beginning to get into the “nanny busines”. Consequently, folks (for the most part)counted on their family, friends and church to help them through difficult life challenges.

Joanie Peach and the parentless journey of her and her brothers begins in the YA novel, “The Priest and the Peaches”, the first book in a fictionalized (like Obama’s, Julia) series that will follow the life of these kids.  Joanie and Julia are quite different. Why not spend a few bucks (it is an ebook) to see HOW different and how the faith, strength and love of God and  family can be the foundation that binds and lifts folks together no matter what life may throw their way.

Billions & Billions & Billions– Oh My

 I had not heard from my good pal, Jumbo Feeney, in six months. Since the election is now only seven months away I was starting to harbor nervous thoughts about his well being. He always had plenty to say about most topics known to man, especially politics, so his silence was out of character. What was I ever thinking? He called last night and, as usual, was in mid-sentence by the time I had the phone next to my ear. “—and do you know—hey, Petie, you listening or what?”

“Jumbo, stop a second, will you. I just picked up the phone for crying out loud. You could at least wait until you hear me breathing or something.”

“Fine Petie, fine. Well you’re talking so you must be breathing so pay attention. You won’t believe this. Okay, okay, you paying attention?”

“Yes Jumbo.”

“Well, do you know what 16 trillion dollars means? It’s crazy I tell ya—it’s mind-boggling.”

“Jumbo, please—stop! Hold on. What are you talking about?”

“Petie, Petie, 16 trillion. That’s what I’m talking about. I just sat down and wrote it all down. Do you know how many millions make a billion? Do you?”

“Well, yeah. A thousand.”

“Exactly Petie, a thousand million to make one billion. And these politicians talk about billions like it is pocket change.”

“Well, you are sure right about that.”

“You bet I’m right. It’s not even their money–forget that, that’s not the point. Anyway, think about this. If one thousand million equals one billion then one thousand billion equals one trillion, right?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”

“No guessing, that’s right. So it follows that  one million million or one million times one million equals one trillion. Hey Petie, you getting all this?”

“I think so, Jumbo. Yeah, I got it.”

“So if the good old USof A has debt of 16 trillion dollars that means the government would have to take ALL the money that16 million millionaires have just to break even. And by the time they collected the money the interest would have made created more owed and it wouldn’t be enough and it would add 16 million more people to the food stamp rolls. And we don’t even have 16 million millionaires anyway.

“Jumbo, Jumbo, stop—you’re giving me a headache.”

“Yeah Petie. You and a lot of other people are gonna have headaches.. Gotta go. Call you next week.”

Launching "The Priest and The Peaches"

Just wanted to empty myself a bit. My first novel, “The Priest and The Peaches” has been officially launched and I must admit, it is a scary time for me. As an author you spend inordinate amounts of time putting the work together. From the original idea that danced around inside your head to scattered notes, onward to a first draft you go. You now have gotten wet up to your ankles. You read what you have and think, “This stinks”, and start over. Now you are in up to your knees and have to re-write again. Maybe six months has gone by or maybe two years. Some folks take ten years to actually write a novel.(It took me about a year and a half) When I finally looked at the finished work I knew in my heart I was done. I also knew that I should go back and make it “better”. But you have to know when it is time to get in the ‘”deep water” and see if you will sink or swim. That is the time you expose yourself for what you are as a writer. For me, I am in the deep water and, so far, I have not went under. It is hard to believe, but the book has received some wonderful reviews. A half dozen folks have contacted me and they have all told me that they “couldn’t put it down” and read the entire book in one sitting. That blows me away.

Anyway, I am humbled  by the fact that I was able to create something that brought enjoyment to others and simultaneously put forth the  good message of “Love your neighbor”. The book has only been out about a week so time will tell its future. Onward and forward. The sequel is in the works and  I am  almost up to my ankles.

"Hooray for Kelly Ripa and All You Women Who Agree With Her"

Television hostess, Kelly Ripa, of “Live with Regis and Kelly”, when asked for her thoughts about women picking up the tab after a dinner date said, “I’m sure a lady doesn’t want to pick it up. But because she thinks chivalry is dead already, maybe the guy should impress her and pick up the check. And maybe pull out her chair, too.” She added, “Any feminist who disagrees with me, I am sorry, but it’s gone ridiculous now. We give birth; you pick up the check.” Ripa also said that she tells her husband, “Raise your sons to pick up a check for a lady.”

Within a few hours the women’s website, Jezabel, slammed Ripa for her “antiquated social extremism”. WHAT? Are you kidding me? The writer was outraged, “A woman can buy a man’s meal any damn time she wants to—Ladies DO want to pay. Yours truly wants to pay, likes to pay, plans on paying etc, etc.”

So where do these diverse views from women leave us men in these modern times? How are we supposed to know what will happen to us if we have the temerity to hold a door open for a woman or offer her a seat on a bus or maybe offer to help her with her overflowing grocery cart while she is trying to lift her toddler out of its seat? Are we going to be thanked or cursed? Are we going to be accused of being one of those defiled
 “male chauvinists”? (FYI ladies: there are actually very few true “male chauvinists”. But it is sure a handy stereotype). We men do not know what to expect anymore. As for me, I DO NOT like it.

I come from a world where a boy was taught to do these things. I can remember men walking down the street and tipping their hats to ladies as they passed by. It was a sign of respect and the ladies ALWAYS nodded and smiled. We men view women as needing to be “looked out for”, protected, as wanting a strong shoulder readily available to “cry on”. It is our nature. We are somehow genetically programmed to want to take care of you.  It has nothing to do with mental acuity. In the IQ world many women are smarter than men. Women today are doctors, lawyers, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, accountants, IT experts, etc. Surprise ladies, men respect that. Most men also believe that women should get equal pay for doing similar jobs. But men DO NOT believe that women should become like men and strip us of who and what we were meant to be and mask it under the guise of equality. There are women out there who actually have this twisted notion that fathers are unnecessary. Just go to a sperm bank—who needs a stupid man. WHATEVER. If I were to pull your chair out at a restaurant it would be out of respect not because I would think I was better than you or was trying to control you or dominate you. I find it hard to believe that I  am actually explaining this but this is where our minds have gone.

Lord knows, I NEVER wanted to give birth to any of my children. But I sure loved being there to take care of and protect my wife and to hold my kids and feed them and even change their dirty diapers. I loved watching them grow, playing Santa and wrestling with my boys and teaching them how to throw a ball. The fact is, there are millions of men who feel the same as I do. Consequently, we deserve the same respect that you expect from us. “Hooray For Kelly Ripa” and all you women who agree with her.

The "Jack-O'-Lantern" (one version)

Long ago in Ireland, the land of shamrocks, leprechauns, soft winds and smiles, there lived a man named Jack. Jack was quite lazy and did not like to work. But he had the gift of “blarney” and could talk the peat off the moss. He would tell wondrous tales about his adventures as a world traveler and the people in his village would be held spellbound by his golden tongue; however, Jack outsmarted himself when he  stole money from the townsfolk. He thought that they were not very smart and would never find out. But they did find out and began chasing him down the streets of the village.

As Jack ran down the road as fast as he could he rounded a bend and ran smack into the devil. The devil smiled at Jack and told him it was time for him to die and that he was there to take his soul. Jack quickly convinced the devil that if he would let him go and promise to never take his soul he would give him all the souls of the folks who were chasing him. “And how do you plan to do that, Jack?” the devil asked.

“Well now, all ye have ta do is turn ye-self into a pot of gold coins. Then I will give the coins to the people and you will be in all of their pockets. They will be yours.”

Since many souls were better than only one, the devil readily agreed and turned himself into a pot of gold coins. Jack gave the coins to all the people and they went away smiling never realizing that they had given themselves to the devil in return for money.

So Jack lived on, grew old and, like all mortal men, finally died. His life had been so sinful on earth that he could not get into heaven and since the devil could not take his soul, he could not get into hell. He had nowhere to go. He asked the devil how he was supposed to see because he was in complete darkness. The devil laughed and tossed Jack a burning ember from the fires of hell, an ember that would never burn out.

Jack, using the ember to guide his way, found a pumpkin patch (some say it was turnips) and carved out a pumpkin. He put the ember inside and began carrying it around so he could see where he was going. To this day he wanders the earth seeking a resting place. And that is why he is known as “Jack-O’-Lantern” or “Jack of the Lantern”.


"Food: Give Us the Info—We Can Decide"

It seems that the war on childhood obesity has some new commandos entering the fray. Their purpose—to protect us and our kids and grandkids from sugar, fat and sodium, those little monsters that seem to get into most everything we eat and drink. Then these little demons trick us into thinking that what we are eating and drinking is good because it tastes good but they know it really isn’t good and they happily go about their business of making us fat. Since we are not nearly as smart as the government, a new bureaucracy called “The Inter-Agency Working Group In Food Marketed To Children” has been put in place.Their job— to protect us from these evil monsters because they know that we are not smart enough or diligent enough to do it for ourselves, no less our children. Whew!

This new arm of the “food police” is suggesting that the food industry “retool” recipes in order to attain new levels  of sugar, fat and sodium in the vast majority of food and drinks we consume. Restaurants are included. The consequences of non-compliance with new guidelines will be no more marketing and advertising allowed. Joining the ranks of the unemployed will be “Tony the Tiger”, “Count Chocula”, M&Ms, Girl Scout cookies, popcorn, pretzels, bagels, milk, sherbet, even water. I’m getting a headache—

It is very nice that this new age government loves us so much that they will even consider throwing themselves on a bowl of instant oatmeal to protect us but, golly gee, did they ever stop to consider that maybe, just maybe, we can decide for ourselves what is good and not good or healthy and not healthy. Hey guys, just give us the info–we can decide. The fact is if I want to give my kid a cupcake—it’s none of your business. If I want to give my kid raw carrots with fat free dressing—it’s none of your business. Give me the info—I can decide. You bureaucrats might find this preposterous but, we the people, are actually smart enough to disseminate the information which you provide us  (we really appreciate this info) and then feed ourselves and our little ones accordingly. Even the president, the top guy over all of these organizations, likes his cheeseburgers, drinks beer and smokes cigarettes. So what–he is an adult, has disseminated the information, and made his choices. Well, good for him. It’s called freedom.

Look, if my grandkids come over and I want to give them a plate full of home-made, sugar filled, butter soaked, chocolate chip cookies that’s my business. If I want to give them celery sticks with tofu dip, that’s my business. Give us the info–we can decide for ourselves. The vast majority of American parents know what’s best for their children, not the government. Just give us the info and let us decide.

"The Kids Need a Bed Tonight"

Three days a week from 9 a.m to noon they come and they wait. Three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday they come just to get a drop of  reprieve from the outreach hose bib. A bus pass to the VA or to get to a job interview, a bag of groceries, a voucher to get used clothes at the thrift store, maybe a small amount of money to help pay an overdue utility bill, and sometimes just to talk to someone, anyone who will listen.The homeless, the disabled, the sick, the unemployed, the downtrodden, the marginalized, addicts and ex-cons just out of the “big-house”. All are different yet all are living with one common denominator running their lives—survival.

It was 8:30 a.m. and the sun was already doing its thing, slowly roasting the folks as they waited patiently for the doors to open, some having been there since 7 a.m. Florida, ah yes, palm trees, blue skies and beaches–just another day in paradise.

Andre and Jessica had made the three mile walk to the St. Vincent De Paul outreach office and had arrived at 8 a.m. They signed in and were #11 on the list. At 10:15 a man opened the door and called their name. As they approached he smiled and said, “Hi folks, c’mon in. Sorry it took so long. How you guys doing today?”

He knew how they were doing and they knew that he knew but his friendly, unbureaucratic manner quickly put them at ease. “Okay, have a seat. I’m Joe. At least it’s cool in here, right?”

They sat, sighed and let the cool A/C soak into their overheated bodies. They said nothing.

“Well now,” Joe said looking straight at them, “I can see you have some heavy duty stuff going on. I hope we can help. So, what’s going on?”

They were a mixed race couple and they could feel inside themselves that whoever this man was it did not matter at all. You can just sense some things. They loosened up. Andre began to speak and tears quickly fell from Jessica’s eyes. “Look man, we got two kids, six and eight years old, and we’re getting kicked out of our place at 11 a.m. if we don’t come up with $58.00, and we ain’t got a dime.”

“Where are the kids now?” Joe asked.

“In school. Look, we don’t care so much about us but the kids need a bed tonight, know what I mean?”

“I do Andre, I do. And for what it’s worth, you guys need a bed too. Where you staying?”

“Barkley Motel over on—“

“Yeah, I know the place. Here’s the thing, Andre,  we don’t pay rent monies from this office. We just don’t have the funds. But let me make a call.”

He picked up the phone and started punching numbers. He smiled kindly at them and, as he waited for an answer, twirled his finger in the air as if to say, “C’mon–pick up already”. After several moments went by he said, “Yeah, hey, this is Joe over at the St. Vincent De Paul outreach office. I have a couple here who–What? What are you talking about? You have to be kidding me. These folks need help right now–not tomorrow. I have no time for this. I have to go. Have a nice day.”

Andre’s and Jessica’s hopes had risen and fallen in a matter of moments. Andre, a big man, said, “Man, what we gonna do?”

Joe asked, “What happens after tomorrow? Getting through today is almost like a stay of execution.”

“No, no, tomorrow I know I can get some work. Just gotta get through today. Plus, we got a place lined up for Saturday. Her mom worked it out. She’s up in Jersey  but knew someone and, anyway, come Saturday we’ll be okay.”

“No kidding, Andre. That’s awesome. But today is only Wednesday. Well, we can’t have the kids coming home today to no home at all. Now, here is a food voucher. Go across the street and get some groceries and bring them home with you.”

“They ain’t been too nice to us over at the motel.”

“Don’t you worry about that. Trust me, okay.You go back there, everything will be all right.”

When they arrived back at the motel and walked to the front desk the manger smiled at them. “Okay, I have good news for you. You’re paid up  through Saturday.”

Jessica almost collapsed from relief. Andre held her up and a happy tear rolled down his cheek. Back at the St. Vincent De Paul office Joe was smiling and handing someone a bus pass.