Monday, August 24, 2020


I have often suggested that the forces who advocate for the GOP agenda and conservative perspectives, are far better at framing the issues than those who write and opine for the viewpoints supported by the Democratic party and liberal perspectives.

The debate over guns is a prime example.  When the topic is cached in phrases like gun control and taking away the guns of the citizenry, and when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns, many Americans in the middle or on the fence, lean towards less gun control.  It doesn't seem to matter that all freedoms come with caveats, and that no freedom is absolute, any proposed restriction on owning guns is met with the claim that once we restrict ownership, we start down the slippery slope of losing the protections of the 2nd Amendment.  The fact that we don't allow the citizenry to keep a tank, or bazooka, or any of the mass destruction implements that exist, that we, in fact, do have limits on how we interpret the 2nd Amendment, doesn't seem to eliminate the all or nothing attitude of those who cherish their right to own a gun above all other rights.

My suggested answer to this problem, is to address the problem we have with phrasing of the issue.  It is clear from most polls, that the majority of Americans prefer a few more common sense restrictions on gun ownership as related to mandatory classes which address care, usage and storage of a gun, a national data base which links illegal use of guns to the actual weapons being employed, more stringent rules on who can purchase a gun, and how many guns are reasonable for someone to own, and the expansion of gun free zones, i.e, schools, churches, national parks, theaters, concert venues, night clubs, etc.  I believe that if we were to stop engaging in debates over gun control and begin talking about violence control, we might see those in the middle of the topic, nod their heads and agree that we need to reduce the level of violence which is occurring in our streets and our homes.

Violence Control

Similarly, I believe we continue to lose the battle of phrasing over climate change.  First off, it is too vague since some climate changes can be described in terms that will benefit mankind.  Secondly, too many proponents of actively addressing climate change, appear too uncaring in their reaction concerning how the millions of people currently employed by the fossil fuel industry will cope.  And, finally, although this is not all the areas that keep some from signing on to the dangers of climate change, is the viewpoint that the problem is too big and too expensive for us, especially as individuals, to make any real difference.

For these and all the other important but unnamed reasons, we need to shift the discussion to the term sustainability. 

When presented as a sustainability problem, it is much easier to get ranchers, fishermen, hunters, and other people who use the land for subsistence and pleasure to become part of the solution.  Telling them they can't do this or can't do that, gets us no where.  Showing them that their opinion matters, and that the goal is for them to continue to enjoy the benefits of the land they love, for now and for generations to come, invites them to the table and creates cooperation rather than confrontation, compromise rather than conflict.

Sustainability says, we value our resources, and how we use them, and wish to continue to use them in a manner that will not devolve into a time when they are depleted.

Sustainability results in new jobs and opportunities as the outdated ones disappear, just as the arrival of the automobile created a chance for a new job for those whose livelihood was dominated by the various businesses and vocations involving horses.

Sustainability provides a framework for businesses who worry that they will be left behind in any "green" revolution, or who are scared that they won't be able to develop a profitable version of their business with the coming adjustment, because it recognizes that we want as many people to be part of the solution as possible, and that entrepreneurs, are nothing, if not flexible to the always moving and
evolving goal of creating an idea or business model that will be profitable.

Sustainability suggests that the solution will evolve over time, allowing for most people to adapt to any new requirements, as opposed to the word change, which seems abrupt and definitive.

Sustainability denotes a plan which extends beyond just one administration or generation.  It feels much more long term, which seems more applicable to a problem as big as the dangers of our changing climate.

Sustainability asks the older folks to put aside the selfish phrase "well, I will be dead soon anyway", by connecting what they do now to the fate of their children and grandchildren.  I can't imagine anyone over 60 saying, "oh well, the next generation will deal with the Nazi's, I will be dead soon anyway", yet they do not seem as alarmed when dismissing the threat of climate change.  It becomes an immediate issue but with a softened label that makes people feel more a ease with the changes to which they might have to adapt, because they are changes that everyone will adapt to, everyone they know in their families, their neighborhoods, their country. 

This is not to say that we need to make some significant changes in how we view, and use, the natural resources of our planet.  We do, and now!  But we need more people to acknowledge the problem and become part of the solution and so by continuing to lose the battle of phrasing, especially in light of the anti-environmental attitudes of the current administration and those who enable him, we continue to waste precious time.

At the end of the day, it is the strength of our democracy that will be the telling point as to whether we begin to make in-roads in addressing the negative consequences of how we have treated our planet and its resources.  Because even if we convince more of those who straddle the middle of this issue, waffling one way and the next based on the last opinion show they watch, it will only be through an extreme increase in the voting percentage of Americans, that we will be able to reduce the influence of those who are the most threatened by climate change, not because they fear for their lives and those of their progeny, but because they fear they will lose the advantages that their wealth and influence provide them by denying the dangers of climate change. 

We need to invoke the idea of sustainability in reference to our democracy so that every vote matters and is counted, and the forces who bombard us with false equivalencies and attacks on our institutions
will be rejected, allowing our democracy to flourish, and allowing a new culture of concern and action to address the sustainability of human life on Earth. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

A House, a House, my kingdom for a house

For the past few years, Nora and I have been working toward moving to a new home.  We spent a fair amount of money and time improving the look of the house, especially the first floor, so as to present an attractive first impression.  We also began sorting through our possessions, donating, throwing out, and storing, in expectation of our eventual move.

By early this year, we had narrowed our search criteria and were seeing some nice homes, but COVID put a stop to that and our search was placed on temporary hold until late May, a time when we thought we might already be in a new home.  As May turned to June, it was clear that my plan to get the summer things into the storage unit, at the very back, was poorly conceived, and I spent half a day digging out the fans, air conditioner units, and other summer related items.

In late June, we put a bid on a house, and to remove a large obstacle that might negatively effect our bid, we put our house on the market.  That afternoon, as we awaited a response for our offer, we received the first request to see our home, and by the next day had shown the house to 4 prospective buyers, then 3 more the following day.  At this point, 2 days after putting the For Sale sign on our front yard, we had 4 offers, 2 at full list price.  We decided to accept one of the two, but were disappointed to hear that our offer for a new home had been rejected.

Motivated, we continued to see homes that next weekend and the following one, finding one that checked almost all our boxes.  We made and offer and it was accepted.

Closing date for our home to sell was set for July 27th, closing date for our house to buy was set for
July 31st, but since we were scheduled to be on vacation from July 24 to 31, we were confident that we could make it all work.

While that first weekend of vacation was spent pushing to empty our home by the 27th, except for a few things in the barn, we went to settlement, and officially signed over ownership of our house, the house we had spent most of our married life, raised our children, and worked so hard to make a "home".  Truly, it was the hard work and love that Nora had expended all those years that made the home a wonderful place to live, and an attractive place which sold so quickly.

The next day, Tuesday, was walk through for the new home, but a few things were not finished per  remediation from the home inspection, so we decided to do another one the morning of settlement.  Wednesday marked the only true day of "vacation" for Nora, as she had to work on Thursday.

Friday morning, we packed both cars with the food which had been transported from our now ex-house to vacation, plus some other things that had been "moved" to our vacation spot.  We did another walk through of the new home, noted a few things that still needed attention, and even emptied the cooler into the refrigerator, and some clothes into the closets of the new house.

At 1:00 we arrived at settlement in one car, having left the other in front of the new house, and began the arduous task of signing the papers.  As we finished signing the papers, I handed over the certified check for our portion of the closing costs. Since we were separated from the seller due to COVID precautions, we made a call to my son and daughter and told them to get the U-Haul truck and begin loading it in anticipation of meeting us at the new house. 

At 1:30, while sitting at the table, Nora received a call to schedule a quote at the new house for a tub/shower update, so she scheduled a visit at the new home for two weeks hence.

At 1:45, a representative of the title company apologized for the delay, saying that there was some negotiation going on between the title company and seller over the size of the escrow account which was required for various reasons.

At 2:30, the same representative entered the room, handed me the check I had given her an hour earlier, and told us to go home; the seller had left the settlement table without signing the papers.

After pulling Nora back across the table, she having leapt halfway across it yelling "We have no home", we left the room, left the office, and went back to our car.

To say we were stunned, devastated, upset, bewildered, is an understatement.

We called the kids and told them to turn around, go back to the storage unit and empty everything back.

We discussed where we would stay, Nora and I, and the kids who were to stay at our new house that night after helping us move, we reviewed our options, we sought alcohol.

After discussing our options with the kids, we took their advice and stayed at a hotel (which allowed dogs since Piper was also with us), so as to relax, eat a nice meal, and drink heavily.

The next day, we completed the 2nd part of the plan, loading Rachel's things in a U-Haul so she could take her large items to Pittsburgh where she had recently found an apartment.  We said good-bye to the kids as they drove away in JW's car and the U-Haul truck, then drove back to our now ex-new home to retrieve our other car and the things we had put in that house. 

Our real estate agent met us there, but was unable to open the lock box to get the key to open the door.  I remembered that in our walk throughs, I noticed that the Bilco doors from the basement to the backyard had never been latched, so I went around to the back and, fortunately, found them still unlatched.  We retrieved our belongings and spent the weekend at Nora's dad's house. Thanks, Bill.

We both had to work that Sunday, and while getting ready for work, I realized I was missing some clothes.  Those of you who know me, know I don't own many clothes, so I thought hard about where they could be, deciding that the only logical place would be the new house.

On Monday, I drove back to that house, went around the back, but this time the Bilco doors were latched.  As I was driving away, I noticed a car pull up behind me so I circled around, but when I returned, I realized it was a neighbor, not the owner.  As I sat in the car in front of the house, it dawned on me that perhaps, the lock box was still in place.  I walked up to the front door, found the box, spun the dial, and it opened.  So, for the 2nd time in as many days, I broke into my ex-house, although one might say that it was not breaking and entering, only entering, since I had a key.

In my ex-closet I happily found my pants and 2 shirts.

We had extended our offer until Monday, in hopes that the seller would evaluate his position with the title company, and choose to come to terms, but that was not to be.  We also floated the idea of renting the house while he resolved his issues, but when he responded  with a rental fee that was almost twice as much as my mortgage payment would have been, we cancelled the deal and requested our down payment be returned plus 3 expenses; the home inspection fee, the U-Haul cost, and the hotel stay.

The following weekend, we began the new search, although a search with a little more urgency.

On Sunday we saw a nice house, decide to make an offer, but received an email that it went under contract.

Since my mom was still on vacation, and her house was closer to both my and Nora's work, we toggled back and forth between my mom's house, work, and Bill's house.

On Wednesday, I saw 4 very nice homes, and we decided to make an offer on the best one. On Thursday, we submitted our offer, and I scheduled an appointment for Nora to see the house, as she had only seen pictures of it. 

On Friday, two days ago, Nora saw the house and was told by our realtor that our offer was accepted and,  at that time we received a check returning our down payment.

So, today, Sunday, we are back to the beginning of buying a new home, scheduling a home inspection, getting all the paperwork together, etc, while still living with most of our possessions in storage.  It has been a whirlwind, but also one of those experiences in which you find incredible amounts of love and support from those who matter in your lives. 

More than one person told us that everything would work out for the best, that God had a plan for us, that the universe would turn and something better would come along, and other versions of good wishes.  For sure, this 2nd "new" house is much nicer than the first.  Hopefully, in 6 weeks we will be home owners again, and will be able to laugh about the last few weeks while enjoying the company of family and friends (in an appropriate socially distant format) in our new home.