Wednesday, September 10, 2014

If it is Justice You Seek - A Vision of the End Times

From a Waking Dream

Early Tuesday Morning, September 8, 2014

Statue of The Bruce, at Stirling Castle

Girdled in the plaid of the Bruce they laid their swords before Christ. Kneeling, their faces still glazed in the blue of battle, they pledged fealty to Him as they promised their souls to war upon the demons which oppressed His people.

Knowing from ages past this was appointed Christ accepted their duty and oath, blessing them and their battle for souls otherwise lost to God, His Father.

The Fall of Lucifer and his demons to Earth had penetrated the substance of God's people and this taint would be removed and His people purified.

These kilted men had been tempered by battle, marked with scars and the wounds which do not show on the skin.

I watched them from a distance through time, knowing them for kin. Heart to heart. Mind to mind and soul close to Him who died for all of us, yet in this shining moment stood before us, hands raised in blessing of their battles yet to come.

And I could feel the winds of Scotland cleansing me of care, leaving only the certainty those fallen with Lucifer, the demons who have afflicted us since the Fall, would be brought to choose. They would either turn to Christ, the Spirit and God, or be ripped from Earth, returned to their Master in Hell.

These, my kinsmen, knew I was among them, though divided by the roil of generations and centuries. In this moment we had made the same pledge.

Then, the Bruce, who they had followed to this place of peace and sanctuary, which also drew me, turned and spoke.

Daughter,” he spoke it soft and gentle but with the knowing which penetrates past bone to soul, “You have come to point us to them. This is your battle, not one of revenge but to carry to them the choice between salvation and the gnashing of teeth and flames of Hell. “

Nodding, I bowed my head, wondering, but accepting. Heads still bowed, I felt the Bruce, newly sanctified by Christ, touch my forehead with his hands, the same I had seen placed between the Hands which bore the wounds of the Cross.

Those who had followed the Bruce to this place of consecration rose, turning to me.

I found that my mind, which had been trapped in anguish and pain, was eased as I listened to the words they spoke.

I sensed, knew, and rejoiced. There would be justice even it if lay beyond the limits of their lives and mine.

The Time is Come.” I heard the echo of Christ and saw its strength and truth on the faces of these kinsmen who stood with me. “As they choose, so shall their fates be decided.”

And the Bruce smiled. “Your weapon is the truth. Use it.”

And as the glaze of morning light enveloped us I rose, consecrated to battle for the souls of Man, stolen by evil for this age.

My eyes opened and I found myself laying on my bed. The air around me seemed charged and different. Touching my forehead my finger found a something unexpected. Then, my eyes wondered at the tiny residue of blue.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Integrity - The Life and Values of Mark Palmer

Integrity – The Tool which enables success and prosperity.

                moral soundness; "he expects to find in us the common honesty and integrity of men of business"; "they admired his scrupulous professional integrity"
  1. Integrity as a concept has to do with perceived consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcome. People use integrity as a holistic concept, judging the integrity of systems in terms of those systems' ability to achieve their own goals (if any). Wiki
Through our choices we touch the world around us, changing the world through example and through the power of choices lived consistently. This is integrity, a measure of soul, spirit and mind.

Integrity in our choices, living transparently and accountably, allows those around us to know we can be trusted. When we choose to live in this manner we are free to experience ourselves without fear, we see the world differently.

This is the story of Mark Palmer, and how living with integrity allowed him to survive and prosper.

Mark Palmer suffered a brain injury at age15. In late1964 he was nearly killed in a collision with a bus, suffering a nearly fatal brain injury. He and his friends should not have been there, sixty miles from home. Telling their parents they were snow skiing they instead took a trip to downtown Detroit during rush hour. The driverhad been licensed to drive for only three days. They were enjoying a novel sense of freedom from parental oversight.

Mark was an ordinary young man who, in the aftermath of the accident, faced an extraordinary challenge.

Most people with TBI accomplish very little. Facing often-overwhelming problems, little is expected. Many commit suicide or care so little about the life remaining to them they recklessly throw it away, blaming others for their bad luck. Mark chose another way. Taking responsibility for the problems he faced while still in the hospital he began to take control of his own choices.

Even today little is known about traumatic brain injury, the challenges are too diverse and complex for anyone to predict with reliability what the TBI survivor will face.

During the first late night surgery the doctors opted to remove the splinters from Mark's brain, saying he had a 300 to 1 chance of living. Mark was in a deep coma for weeks afterward. He would remember nearly nothing of what had transpired during those weeks and nothing of the accident.

As Mark regained consciousness he became aware his parents wanted him home. Normally happy people, they were clearly distressed. Mark remembers wanting more than anything to see them smile. He was filled with the wish to make up for being someplace he was not supposed to be. He vowed to make up for his lack of responsibility.

Mark decided he would do whatever necessary so they could take him home. To be discharged, Mark had to feed himself, walk, and urinate.

Mark managed to walk by hanging on to his IV holder, pushing it along like a walker, each step a painful struggle. Urinating was the next item on the agenda. Mark discovered he no longer knew how to urinate. Refusing a catheter, he taught himself to go. It was excruciating, the first pain he remembered from the accident, and he had been in a coma for so long. The memory of the pain would remain with Mark for thirty years.

Taking a bite of food on his own also proved to be a challenge. The hospital required Mark manage at least one bite of food for himself. It took many tries for Mark to hit his chin with a spoon still full of oatmeal. His right hand was in a cast, but the left was paralyzed so his right hand did the work. Mark hit his shoulder, then his chest. After many attempts he got the side of his mouth. No oatmeal made it in, but it was enough. Seven people were standing there watching.

When he was carried in to his home the hole in his skull was still covered only by newly healed skin. His parents had shuffled bedrooms so he would not have to climb the stairs. Mark does not remember who fed him at home, but he knows it was not him. Over the next months he slowly taught himself to walk, very badly. Mark overcompensated in every way. Receiving no rehbilitation, he laid down a pattern for misusing his body which would result in years of excruciating pain.

His body had lost the fluid ease of youth and he leaned to one side, as if still expecting the impact of the bus.

Mark then experienced his second crisis. Everyone told Mark he would now live a, normal’ life, he was nearly recovered and had only to return to his old self. But there was no normal, old self in Mark. Instead, Mark now experienced the world through lenses which had changed forever. The hole in his head was healing and the hair on his scalp was beginning to grow again. Inside his mind, he was a different person.
Friends veered off and the new Mark found himself often alone.

During his weeks in the hospital he had received hundreds of cards from the people to whom he delivered the morning paper. Nurses read these to him, beginning before he was conscious. From a great distance he had heard the words. He knew he had been valued for doing a good job, for being reliable and contientious.

Mark was the kind of paperboy who makes sure your paper is close at hand and in good condition when you go out to pick it up. It was his job and he diligently tried to do this job well. Knowing this sustained him, becoming a measure he was to use over and over again.

Mark learned while still in high school it could be worst.

While sitting in his doctor's office, waiting to be seen, another patient, near Mark's age, also a victim of TBI, noticing his Algebra book told him sadly he could no longer do Algebra. Mark had his ability with math, even if his other classes had become much harder. Hearing this, Mark felt a surge of happiness at finding something intact.

Mark's problems were different. It took a long time to relearn the use of his muscles. His failures forced him to identify and work with each small muscle, individually, bringing it under his control. In this way he learned something very valuable. To accomplish the task at hand he had worked tirelessly. First, with help, Mark broke down each task by identifying smaller and smaller groups of the muscles and then learning all over again to control each one and then all of them together.

His body was one set of tasks. His mind was another, even more complex. At first he tried to believe when he was told he was now 'normal,' that his mind was working as it had before the accident.Then he accepted that the people he loved most were lying to him. .

When he returned to school he could see he was not keeping up with his class. What had been easy was now a struggle – but his teachers passed him anyway. He would have liked to believe all would be well but when he started college he knew parents, friends and teachers had lied to him for the kindest reasons. But these were still lies.

When Mark was 17 he began looking for a part-time job. He sought a job processing 100 lb sacks of newspapers but found the supervisor doubted he could do the work.

The papers, produced by the Catholic Weekly, were addressed to all subscribers, according to zip code and delivered to post office. The job was transferring the sacks to the delivery truck, which would then take the papers to the post office. To prove he could do the job Mark offered to work for free for a week. Half way through the day the circulation manager,Doug, said, "Mark, you can expect a check."

The muscle issues were solved first. The full impact of tthe damage hit Mark when he began college. He flunked out. Mark made a pact with himself. He could not discuss this with anyone because the people he loved, and who loved him, would have been shocked and hurt. But he would accept no lies, no matter how kind or hopeful. He would break all learning into smaller and smaller parts until he could understand, learn, and master the task at hand as he had done with his body.

Mark broke every task into smaller and smaller parts until he could understand and master each tiny, incremental bit. Each part would be completely understood, transparent. He would be responsible for making each part work.

The challenges continued to appear.

Grand Mal Seizues started a few months after Mark had returned home. While still in high school and college Mark suffered through seizures so violent every incident brought with it a new injury. Over the next years his seizures caused hundreds of dislocations of his arms, and other injuries almost without number. Working by himself, as usual, he learned to use pressure and gravity to pop the arms back into place.

The pain of urination continued. Mark learned the location of every rest room in any city he visited.

Mark's contined back problems and a ruptured disk, complicated by his seizures, resulted in back surgery. The levels of pain were immense, constantly with him. Despite the unremitting pain, for two years Mark refused mediation for pain. Blood levels for the medication for his seizures were never checked Only years later discovering that his body burned the medication at a rate that rendered it useless.

When Mark began work he automatially applied the same principles which had helped him survive. He ascertained the facts, did not evade the conclusions, and accepted it was up to him to find a way to make things work.

Mark married in 1969 and began to build a professional life for himself and his family. The couple had two sons and the same principles were applied to being a father.

Mark became an ever more observant student of the world around him and of people. Understanding others, what stopped them from successfully, carrying out their jobs, achieving their goals, the strategies they had adopted , received his dispassionate and intense attention.

Mark began categorizing these and determining how he, first as computer operator, a small company executive, to salesman, mnager and executive then consultant, could help them change their personal stragegies to successfully meet their goals.

In 1992 Mark was in Tokyo when both his shoulders went out at the same time. He remembers the taxi driver, who Mark told to pull over. The driver's shock as he watched Mark was palpable.

Mark got out of the taxi, braced himself on the hood of the car, and using gravity, popped both shoulders back in place, one at a time. Returning home, he decided it was time to have them fixed surgically. Before finding a physician Mark became an expert in the tecniques which would be used during his surgery.

Surgery was followed by another year of therapy.

Then Mark discovered how his pain impacted those he loved most.

Mark's wife came home one day and told him she had hired a landscaper. The next week she sold the lawnmower. She could no longer stand watching his struggle to cut the lawn, sleeping on ice, to alleviate the pain. Mark realized, for the first time, he was causing his wife pain.This was unacceptable to Mark.

The search for another physician, untried therapies and techniques, began anew.

The new physician laid out a regimen. X-raying Mark's shoulders the doctor prescribed massage therapy and recommended Mark begin a regimen of Rolfing. Rolfing, a technique to break up the adhesions between muscles and organs caused by trauma, continued weekly for 15 years.“You don't have a shoulder problem,” the doctor said, “you have a compensation problem.”

The physician was the first person who referred to Mark's condition using the words, 'brain injury.' His parents had never told him. Asked about this, Mark's father said harshly, “You didn't deserve it” His parents had concealed the truth out of a wish to protect their son, finally explaining to Mark why they had told him he was 'normal.'

Mark immediately went on line and began reading about brain injury. Again,he became an expert.

In 1996, now 47 years of age, Mark began rehabilitation for the first time. He relearned crawling and walking. His doctor suggested use of more diverse protocols. A Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation ( TENS)Unit became Mark's means to distract him from the pain brought on by the new regimen. Mark wore a TENS unit continuously for three years as his rehabilitation continued.

To force Mark to stand upright his Rolfer would stand on the table and pull his hair, excising old trauma from his body.
Understanding he could change himself gave Mark a wonderful sense of freedom, pride and accomplishment Ever since the accident Mark had stood and sat with a lean to one side. During the rehabilitation process he realized this originated from his attempt to brace for the impact with the bus. His body had remembered the moments he could never recall. Now, the lean was gone. His kids noticed he was standing straighter. Mark did not quit. He could see that, no matter how painful, the new techniques were working.

Pain is no longer a constant distraction in Mark's daily life now. But he has to work hard to keep it that way.
Mark still approaches life in this way today. Using the same techniqueS he had originated for his recovery had brought him far in business. In business, Mark used transparency and accountability, developing protocols to show others how to analyse their plans and practices with uncompromising honesty and transparency. They must, he told them, be accountable.

As a business consultant Mark teaches businesses how to become more profitable. He puts them through a process similar to the one he used on himself. Some find the process exausting. Others, frightening. But the process produces highly positive results.

While waiting for a plane Mark met a young woman when she spilled her coffee on his. She was, she explained, nervous, trying to rehearse her responses for a job she desperately needed. As they talked, Mark explained his approach. She thanked him. Some time later he received this note from her.

Dear Mark,
I wanted to thank you for all your support, after a lengthy and complicated job hunt there were plenty of people suggesting tactics which would not have been me or would have appeared fake.  You encouraged to play to my strengths by simply being me with some thought applied and it has certainly paid off.”

Working with sales staff, management, and company officers, the process forces them to identify the facts which kept them from succeeding. Using carefully designed protocols they hone in on the issues which have prevented or limited their success.

Mark's least successful sales management position left his client's company with 90% revenue growth. His most successful experience was a 400% ncrease in revenue growth.

Today, Mark is a highly successful consultant. He is also pain free for the first time in 50 years and he understands himself and those around him, their motives, their evasions, and their fears.

Each day his own regimen continues. Many normal body functions remain a struggle. If Mark becomes over tired his speech slurs. Over the years he has continued to lose his hearing. Each problem is approached with the same unrelenting tools. Mark still allows himself no excuse. He keeps researching developments in rehabilitation and on TBI, both for himself and for others.

Mark's sons grew up prizing their own self-sufficiency. Five grandchildren brighten Mark's life.

Mark's approach to his brain injury became his career and also a spiritual discipline. Using the same standards in all parts of his life Mark has lived a life founded on integrity, spelled out in action. By so doing Mark has demonstrated to thousands of people the power of these values to our lives.

Robert Frost's, “Two Roads Diverge in a Yellow Wood,” is Mark's favorite poem. Instead of taking the first road, Mark says he took the second. Assuming nothing, Mark has accepted only the facts since the moment he realized transparency was his only path to a life not limited by his injuries. Mark accepted no limitations, instead embracing his own power, something sensed the moment you meet him.

Far too often we ignore the power of the values and ideas we choose to shape both our lives and the future all of us will share. One choice, one value at a time, we are building the future today.

Mark Palmer's consulting site is Mark has also written a book for the victims of traumatic brain injury and their and families titled, “Realistic Hope.” Mark discovered early that all parts of our lives need integrity. Mark serves on the board for Jodi House, a not for profit in Santa Barbara serving the TBI community there.

This series takes real stories and people, using them to illustrate the principles of Integrity.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

You're Not Paranoid – The IRS is out to get you.

This April 15th Remember the Sad Saga of Craig Franklin

The IRS lurks out there for all of us. Like a vampire of legend it hovers, rapacious teeth gleaming, waiting to pounce, sucking the life's blood from our veins. Most people experience a shiver of fear when a letter from the IRS arrives. Given the propensities of that institution, passed into law though never actually ratified in 1913, the fear is understandable.

But some people are more frightened than others.

One such individual was my former husband, Craig Franklin. Craig not only feared the IRS as other people do he was phobic on the subject. That phobia took a form that made it impossible for him to file his yearly return. This is not to say someone else then had to do it for him. He made sure it was not done no matter what.

I found out about this state of affairs very early in 1997 while going through the 29 boxes sequestered in his office at work. I had found out there was a problem with the IRS and State Franchise Tax Board when Craig came home and announced that he had paid thousands of dollars to a legal firm, Brown & Associates, to save him. Craig collapsed onto the bed. It creaked.

That explained a lot. For instance the irregularity of his paychecks. I realized he, we, were being garnisheed. We were approaching foreclosure, bankruptcy, and emotional melt down. Craig had paid the folks at Brown & Associates and then refused to give them information so they could do their job, saving him from his own non-filing.

When a husband is sobbing, whimpering and fouling the coverlet no decent wife does anything but figure out how to fix the problem. I did that. Eventually, the IRS would refund the nearly $200,000 they had grabbed over the years, making up returns when no money had ever been owed, even by their standards. But when Craig was laying there burying his leaking face in the pillow I did not yet know why the problem existed. I thought we had filed. Craig had made sure that all correspondence went to his work; he had kept every piece of mail from both the IRS, the State Franchise Tax Board, and various other institutions in the previously mentioned boxes along with dirty underwear, personal correspondence, old food, and a truly astonishing selection of other items.

Do we ever really know anyone?

But still, he was my husband and, tas he mother of five, I did not intend to let any bully on the face of the Earth reduce him into a cowering and quivering bowl of jelly. In box No. 9 I found the unfiled tax returns I had insisted be filled back in 1987 when he and I were first married. We were a merged family and, both Libertarians, were well aware of the threat represented by the IRS.

All rational people are afraid of the IRS. I was entirely rational on the subject. Craig was not.

Over the next three months I had many conversations with IRS agents. Slowly, a pattern emerged. I discovered from that series of cheerful thugs that people, like Craig, who cannot file the return are not at all rare.

Finally, having listened to another story of a suicide and the dissolution of another life I asked, “So, you are saying this is like a...the person has an emotional disability?” “Exactly!” Said the agent, cheerfully as we went on to other subjects, for instance why we were now being dunned for more money we did not owe.

As soon as I had compiled the information in those 29 boxes and managed to get the material to my tax accountant the completed returns began to be filed. I continued to beg for time. I interject that the IRS is not a fount of compassion. I began also to reflect on Craig's life before we married. The tax non-filing was of long duration. He had never filed previously, not once since graduating from Stanford with a shiny new degree in Mathematics.

He had not filed while at NASA, Data General, SAS Institute or any of the other impressive places that employed him. But he had gotten stock options, options he had never stayed long enough to exercise. Pause to consider how much money he left behind when he moved on after just two years or so after receiving major chunks of options. Huge. That explained many things, for instance his inability to produce the tax loss documents for Liberty Services, the 'company' founded to fail but provide computer services for the Libertarian Party in 1979 or so. Ten years later, when I was on the National Committee, angry investors/donors were still putting the subject on the agenda. Craig had no answer, he just refused to discuss the subject.

Finally I realized that Craig had a disability. He was emotionally incapable of filing. By ignoring this disability the IRS was oppressing him, forcing him to do something of which he was provably incapable. Just like insisting a paraplegic run the Triathlon.

I made an appointment for Craig with a well-reputed therapist. The letter below was the result.


Re: Craig Franklin

To Whom it May Concern

I have been asked to write a letter to explain the behavior of Craig Franklin regarding his failure to file tax returns. I have seen Mr. Franklin several times and believe I have a thorough understanding of why he is not filing even though it is costing him money not to do so.

Mr. Franklin is extremely intelligent. But he cannot deal with authority figures. He uses several rationalizations to justify this behavior including an arrogant assertion that, “he should not be bothered with every day tasks.” But the source of these attitudes is imbedded in his early childhood. He cannot deal with authority. Anything is preferable. The more authority and pressure he feels the more he is compelled to respond with inaction.

He is extremely angry, and expresses that rage through his refusal to bend to others wished, rules or demands. The IRS and Franchise Tax Boards being just two more authority figures he is compelled to resist.

What is most remarkable about Craig’s behavior is the compelling nature of his resistance. He is literally incapable of paying his taxes. He realizes that he has paid far more money to the government than he would have is he had filed. However, he is still adamant over his refusal to deal with the reality of taxes (and other compelling realities as well).

He has now turned over the responsibility for the taxes to his wife, and arrangements have been made for her to receive and handle ALL correspondence.

If I may be of further assistance in understanding Mr. Franklin, please contact me.”

Then I wrote to the Collections Agent. Here is the letter.

“Dear Sir,

I was directed to contact you regarding my husband, Craig Franklin, and his non-filing. Craig has never filed a tax return. He is unable to do so even though, with levies and penalties, he pays much more than he owes, because of an emotional disability. I enclose a copy of a letter I wrote a few weeks ago that gives a run-down of the situation as I understood it then.

Since that time I have learned that the phobia is actually specific to authority figures. Craig cannot deal with authority figures. Finding this out explained much of his employment history. He left company after company because of conflicts with his employers. This has also cost him because he was never able to cash out when the company went public - and yet was so valuable an employee that he often received large shares of stock options. Craig has made many people wealthy.

I enclose a letter from Craig’s therapist. Craig will never be able to file taxes or do many other things that are normal and expected. But because of his enormous intelligence he has been able to conceal his problem.

I have worried from time to time that he was an alcoholic or on drugs - but I had never heard of anything like this and neither had his therapist. We are considering a conservatorship for him. But I now handle all matters relating to his taxes. It is the only way we can function.

You might well ask why I didn’t notice what was happening to our finances. Craig has proven to be a skilled liar and manipulator willing to do and say anything to conceal his problem. Also, we together have six children and I have always had my hands full with the them and with a series of disasters. These included the death of my mother to cancer in 1987, my own near death in 1989 and the death of our last child., Abigail. In 1992 my father died, in 1993 Craig’s mother died, in 1994 we suffered severe losses on our home in North Hills. The estimate for repairs was $250,000. It took two years to have it repaired during which time we were paying the costs of both houses. Then just months after the earthquake my older sister had a heart-attack in Japan. I flew over to find that she was brain dead. And that was only the beginning of that story.

I tell you this not to elicit sympathy but to explain how I could have overlooked what was going on.

We have four children in college and another in junior high school. We are still supporting our oldest daughter, Morgan, who has never entirely recovered from an automobile accident in 1991 and who was unable to work at all for four years. She was rear-ended by a school bus at a school crossing. Craig’s brother handled her claim and consequently she received nothing. (He filed too late.) She is now somewhat better and trying to find employment. My middle son also had a drug problem in 1993 - that took an enormous amount of my time for I don’t know how long.

So, this is what was happening while Craig’s weight swelled and his health plummeted. Since he couldn’t deal with the problems his disability raised he escaped into work and eating. When he was diagnosed he looked terrible. We re really fortunate that he did not die of the stress.

Since I have taken over he had improved enormously. But this has not been good for me. Both of my sisters died of heart attacks, Anne, as I mentioned in 1994 and Carol in 1974. Their ages were 59 and 36. Two years ago my younger brother had open heart surgery. I am now under a doctor’s care for my heart.

What I want is to resolve this so that we can have a normal life, or as normal as possible given Craig’s condition I really wish that the IRS or the Franchise had charged Craig with non-filing. I thought that was what happened eventually. If the IRS had charged him he would have received the care he needed years ago - and spared all of us incredible suffering.

Craig’s non-filing arose not from any unwillingness to file but from an inability to file. If you read Dr. XXXXXXX’s letter this is clear. Since that is the case we should not have to pay any penalties - or interest.. Most especially since we never owed anything.

This is what I want. I want out from under the mountain of debts that Craig’s condition has caused. A refund of the excess payments would help.

People like Craig who are disabled from childhood are unable to do certain things. Some people have no legs and therefore cannot dance. Craig cannot deal with authority in any form and so cannot file his taxes.

This had been a very difficult letter to write. Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter.”

We had been told by various professionals that we would be paying additional penalties for years, the time ranged from three to five. No one, especially Craig, could believe it when the checks, one for each year, began appear in the mail box. Craig had said to me, “If you can make that work then you should get the money for yourself.” But to our son he said, “Your mother is nuts!!!! No one can beat the IRS.”

But I was pretty darn sure that this was a case the IRS would want buried, and I was right. But what I did not realize that in the convoluted mind of Craig Franklin, I, having beaten the IRS had shamed him and would now play a very unwilling part in the next portion of the disaster movie that is his life.

We call that segment, Divorce, Misho Style for reasons that will become obvious. The Sad Saga of Craig continues to clarify with astonishing and nauseating insights. Go here for the story.The IRS is scary but not nearly as much so as some people I know.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Glories of Christmas, gifts past and yet to be.

We all go through some hard times. Perhaps not like we are about to experience, but hard. Hard times teach us things that otherwise we would not probably learn.

This Christmas many people are buying less. Many families are buying just one gift for each child instead of filling up the places under the Christmas tree. All of us will learn unexpected lessons in the months and years to come as our nation is humbled. If you had not guessed, that is going to happen.

I suspect that those lessons learned will eventually be viewed not as deprivation but as experiences that refocused us, enriching our lives in ways we did not imagine possible. Hardships bring their own kinds of gifts.

Many children are now learning what it means to have a job far earlier than they imagined it would be necessary. And yet the most significant correlation between future success and experience is how early you held a job and carried it out successfully.

Working is no hardship.

You could say that my first job was ironing handkerchiefs and shirts for my sister. I received $.01 per kerchief, $.15 per dress shirt. At first it took a long time for each kerchief and shirt. I got better and faster.

This was before anything was permanently pressed. I was around seven years old then and my mother used to move the ironing board down as low as possible to accommodate me. I piled the kerchiefs up carefully and buttoned up the shirts so they would not wrinkle.

My next job was selling lemonade and candy bars. The lemons were free. I walked to Savon to buy the candy bars; three for a dime, selling them for a nickel each. We had a lemon tree in the back yard at that point in time. The lemon tree figured in a special part of my life when I was young. Not only did I climb the tree and pick lemons to make that lemonade, I learned important things there.

Along with working I learned the most important lessons life held for me from things I saw, experienced, and learned from people around me.

There were lots of reasons to climb the lemon tree. I climbed that tree for the smell and for the hidey place that Mother had not figured out yet. In a large family alone time is hard to come by.

The tree did not fork for about four feet so at that point in my life getting up to a branch was a little tricky. This involved either a running start or jumping. After getting a firm grip on the lower branch I would haul myself up and into the cocoon of leaves that made a small cave. I had discovered that I could not be seen when I was there if I was quiet and remained still. I had pointed out this advantage to my friend, Jimmy.

Jimmy is James Dean. To the world at large he is an actor but he was my best friend when I was little. Sometimes, though not nearly often enough, Jimmy came over for lunch and to talk to my mother and to me. A visit usually meant a walk in the back yard to view the roses; Mom was always fighting mighty battles with the aphids there and Jimmy was one of the few people who was interested in those battles. I had told him about the hidey place in the lemon tree. He had nodded. Hiding places were things he had enjoyed, too. But living on a farm he had many more than were available to me in a house in the suburbs.

After I was in the little cocoon I would curl my feet into the crook between the branches and put my face against the bark. That was where the smell was strongest, but I knew that when I climbed down I would carry the smell around with me for the rest of the day, taking it to bed with me.

I think of this as the afternoon of the Lemon Tree. I climbed the lemon tree while Jimmy was finishing up drying dishes with Mom in the house.

I could see out when the wind moved the leaves. While I was lying there soaking up the scent of lemon Jimmy came out and looked around. I did not move. Then he laid down on the grass just where the Avocado Tree cast its shade onto the lawn. It was very green then and the longest it was allowed to get because the next day Father would cut it. The dandelions had been busy and several golden little crowns of flower were nodding right there in the grass. Jimmy put his arms behind his head and sighed a big sigh. His eyes closed. I kept watching him, not speaking. He made snoring sounds but I knew he was not really asleep. He liked to pretend.

Then he sat up. He looked right at me in the lemon tree though I was sure he couldn't really see me. Then he said, “Trees breathe.” He said it long, dragging out the sounds of the words and making them kind of scary. I looked around me. The tree had not changed. I could not hear anything that sounded like breathing. He said it again. “Trees breathe.” This time he made little gasping and choking noises like he was dying and collapsed down onto his back.

That was too much. I jumped down and walked over to him. He sat up as soon as I dropped out of the tree. I put my fists on my hips and said, “Trees do not breathe. I have never heard any tree breathe.” I was annoyed. Jimmy was saying things that were not true, I thought.

Jimmy said for the third time but this time he said it differently, smoothly with no scary in it at all. “Trees breathe; they breath in light,” he glanced up, not looking at me but past me to the sky and the sun, “and breathe out life.” With that he looked back at me and gently blew right into my face.

I sat down on the grass, still looked at him, waiting for him to say more. I knew he would. Jimmy did not just say something and expect me to accept it without explanation.

Jimmy went on to explain to me that trees use the energy of the sun to make oxygen, which we breathe in to our lungs to keep us alive. Oxygen, he said, is like the sun flowing through us and since it comes from trees and other green, growing things, it unites us with the lovely green world of grass and trees and all of the growing things on Earth.

“That includes dandelions,” he said. He plucked one right then and handed it to me. I looked at it. It had so many slender little petals reaching out from the middle like tiny arms. I touched the center with my finger and then with my nose. The center was soft like a piece of velvet I kept in the bottom of a little box in my bedroom for storing precious things.

Dandelions are nearly the same color as lemons, I thought. I smelled it. It did not smell like lemon but I liked it. I sniffed again, smelling for the life it had breathed in along with the sunlight.

Gifts can come in boxes under the Christmas Tree but they come in other ways, too. The Story of the Lemon Tree was a gift from Jimmy.

Jimmy stopped coming over to the house in 1955 due to unavoidable circumstances.

Making gifts out of not much was something Jimmy taught me. I had the dandelion for many years, until it fell into a pile of dust.

When I was still in college and the economy was grinding to a stop in 1970 I faced one Christmas with just $5.47 for buying presents for family and friends.

At that point in my life, as you can see, I counted every penny.

I loved giving presents and spent a lot of time thinking about what would please the person to be gifted.

Fortunately, I was handy with a needle, although I did not have access to a sewing machine.

Since I had so little money I innovated, making little rosettes filled with highly aromatic, rose scented powder out of scraps left from other projects. I stuffed then with cotton left over from bottles of pills I had thriftily saved. These would have served, just as they were to lavishly scent drawers filled with delicate hosiery and such but I looked at what I had available and bought for the three ladies on my list, my mother and two sisters, clear glass containers into which I poured bath salts I had bought in bulk for $.59. The three glass containers I got on sale for $.39 each.

I tied the cachets on the tops. They looked very nice and delighted their recipients.

I don't remember what I made for my brothers, but it cost less than $.56 each. For my father I bought a plastic butter dish, filling it with scrolls of jobs I would do for him, when he needed them. One was sweeping out the garage, I remember.

Dad had once told me he wanted a butter dish like this for the cabin. He understood, though no one else did. They all scratched their heads. He smiled. Dad always understood.

The best gifts are the ones that become part of who you become. The people in our lives are, themselves, gifts.

Have a Merry Christmas, filled with glorious gifts, given and received.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

From a Tiny Tear to the End of America's Fascist State – How to extract yourself from the Web Corporate Greed.

Halloween, 1976 was special. I had made princess outfits for the girls, then two and three. They were excited by the promises of sweets to be plopped into their own little plastic pumpkins. Dawn, the oldest, dressed as a small version of Snow White, asked what she was to do when the pumpkin was too full. I told her I would take a pillow case. Pausing, she told me to take two. Dawn remains an optimist today.

Trick-or-Treating was always fun. The kids and costumes always made you smile. But that Halloween we had a special added feature. Mom, that was me, had made special Halloween literature to pass out with the Trick-or-Treat announcement. The kids had that down cold. They had passed out their first literature with their first anti-tax rally the April 15th before.

Our Presidential candidate was Roger MacBride.

Roger was a jolly candidate. The adopted grandson of Laura Ingalls Wilder, he was then often in Los Angeles working on the TV Series from the Little House Books. He had promised to have the National UnVictory Party right there in LA if we got him on the ballot in California. The Party was planned for the old Ambassador Hotel. We all went.

This piece of literature was brown and the front read, Caught in the Web of Higher Taxes and Inflation?” It went on to urge you to vote for Roger MacBride for President. I knew the pieces would be read. No competition and the recipients were curious, you could see that; mostly they were reading while still dropping candy into the upheld pumpkins. We did well in that precinct.

My kids were raised Libertarian. That meant that Victory Parties never were held because of the hope anyone had won, but because the campaign was finally over. Dawn and Ayn, Ayn was just 13 months younger than Dawn, were 11 and twelve before they realized that sometimes candidates won. That was a shock.

When she was 12 Dawn would insisted that 'her' candidate, Ed Clark, be included in First Lutheran Northridge's Mock Presidential Election. Ed did better there than anyplace else in the county, coming in with 20%. Dawn was always eloquent. She remains so today, but today she has moved Green with Market Attitude. Ayn is still Ayn, which means I named her correctly.

The kids knew how to fold, staple and mutilate literature, how to sort mail for bulk mailings, how to lay out newsletters, and the rudiments of boothing by the time they were eight and nine. They also could unerringly choose the right answers for what is today known as the World's Smallest Political Quiz on line. Then, we knew it as the Nolan Chart, for its originator, David Nolan, the founder of the Libertarian Party.

A stalwart Libertarian Activist, Ed Ogawa, made up the box with electronic components and switches to be used at the L.A. County Fair. It was used there, but its heaviest usage was between times at home.

Dish washing was occasionally punctuated by questions because of the Nolan Quiz and literature, as the kids got older.

“Mom, what is drug legalization?” “Mom, why do you want to get rid of people after they eat?”

“What?” Actually, I knew Libertarians who had stranger views than that. “It says we want to abolish the FED.” Oh. Explanations were always forthcoming. Had to be.

Raising children is always a challenge, especially when you persist in being different. But sometimes that political experience came in useful for real life, for instance, one day when Ayn was in 7th grade.

Ayn had a tiny glistening tear just beginning to roll down her cheek when I picked her up from school that day. The year was 1986. Ayn had been attending First Lutheran School, Northridge near our home in California since she was two years old, beginning at their pre-school, for four hours a day.

At that point she was just a few weeks from graduating into the 8th Grade, which was as far as First Lutheran went.

“Honey, what's wrong?” I has always been the kind of Mom who wanted to know about all ouchies so I could fix them. If possible.

Ayn sniffed, wiped her eye and began. “They are having the election for school officers for next year. I want to run for Secretary, but I can't.”

A campaign! One of my favorite things.

“But Honey, why can't you win?”

Ayn was and is a very intelligent girl. She received excellent grades, was diligent, hard working, responsible and full of lots of other virtues that qualified her for election to a position of responsibility. She also managed to come back in from playing still clean, no matter what she and her siblings had been up to. Ayn always looked just perfect. With long gold hair that hung in ringlets that Fra Filippo Lippi would have wanted to paint and her startling blue eyes and perfect skin she looked like a little angel. All that biological capital would be a real asset when running for office. My mind leaped ahead to the possibilities.

“Because I am not one of the IN GROUP.”

I paused, considering for a moment what to say to this outrageous assertion.

I had at that point been politically active for a long time. Starting when I had barely put down my copy of Barry Goldwater's “Conscience of a Conservative,” when I was eleven I had been on one continuous and unending campaign. The campaigns came in various kinds. I passed out literature for Goldwater, later for any candidate I thought stood for the principles of freedom, free markets, and civic rectitude. I had left the Republican Party, along with thousands of other people in 1971 because of the outrage of Nixon's Wage and Price Controls, announced on August 15th of that year. I found the LP a short while later and joined, reregistering Libertarian, while I was actually pregnant with Ayn.

Losing causes obviously did not faze me. An election that was winnable was impossibly intriguing.

Ayn thought she could not win because of a few erroneous ideas. She had accepted those ideas as true because the other kids did. I knew the four girls she was referring to. They were not stupid but neither were they particularly intelligent. One always seemed to need lots of extra tutoring. They were all blond, not ugly, and had no visible infirmities; their parents did spend a little more money on irrelevancies, like buying them far too many toys over the years. One, I recalled, had gotten no fewer than ten Cabbage Patch Dolls that she displayed to her less fortunate friends from school.

Like all cliques their 'in power' depended on ideas linked to 'things' that represented status and the assertion of same. Human social ordering is very changeable if you understand the underlying principles. Changing ideas is like changing your underwear. Easy if presented persuasively.

“Honey, you are going to run and you are going to smash the opposition.” Ayn looked up at me doubtfully. The election proved me right.

The girl Ayn ran against cried when she lost. Changing the usual practice school officials refused to announce the vote totals.

Ayn had run her campaign against the bullying presence of cliques with my help as her campaign manager. Fortuitously, this tiny clique had been very obnoxious for many years. Like I said, the kids had known each other from the time they had been in pre-school together. Voting for Ayn became an opportunity to give those in 'power' a slap down. That is irresistible to oppressed majorities.

I injected humor, picking a campaign graphic of the ugliest old woman you can possibly imagine.

Every day Ayn took a few campaign buttons to school using variations of this graphic and a joke and gave the buttons away. She reported that people were buying the buttons from each other.

Check. Attention was riveted on Ayn, the installer of a new school paradigm.

I had tried to persuade Ayn to run for School President but she had resisted the idea she could be elected to such a lofty office.

The whole election was very disturbing for the school administration; they changed the rules for elections immediately. Not that it would have mattered if I had wanted to do it again. More rules create more opportunities.

That election did persuade Ayn that she was not consigned to the nameless mass of betas. Ever after, through High School and college and today, Ayn is an alpha.

The lesson I was trying to illustrate was that ideas can change and when ideas change so does everything else, immediate circumstances and the prospects for the future.

Ideas hold lots of things in place over time. The idea that some small group of people are inherently destined to rule is just an idea a small group manged to sell to the majority. The more recent idea set wholesaled by Bush Co. and the corporations have lot to answer for. The assertion that they have some kind of special decoder ring and are therefore destined to rule are just as silly as Ayn's IN GROUP.

Change the ideas, you change the outcome. Naturally, making Bush Co., their friends and employers, cry because we eliminated their streams of income and power will be just a little more complicated but it can be done.

Project: Installing better ideas. Better ideas are those that let each of us hold our own power and build our own futures.

Doing that is not rocket science.

Centralizing all power and money through streams of income that delivered money into the hands of a bunch of people who act like cases of arrested moral development was a scheme that it took generations for them and their employees to work out. But changing it can be pretty quick.

You need to lose your illusions.

Those illusions are many; they all take you to the mind set that allows others to control you.

“Baffle them with your bullshit.” That is the strategy they have been using for longer than you can imagine.

Those who want to control you will always assume the robes of authority. Question ALL authority. That is how they sold so many trusting people on the idea that a nation founded on the idea that each of us have an absolute right to autonomy somehow ended up being subject to a government that acts like a monarchy.

Silly when you really think about it.

We can in fact change our ideas and so change the whole structure of how we organize ourselves. Doing so will cost less, leaving much more for the things we want to do for ourselves and our communities.

The tools are readily available and more are coming on line all the time.

Start looking for the alpha within. It is there, you just need to recognize it in yourself. Ask Ayn.

And this Halloween, do your own Trick-or-Treating for Ron Paul.