Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Carriage Driver by Michael Friedman - Book Review

The Carriage Driver
Versatile author, Michael Friedman, writes from the heart about things that matter. In his book, The Carriage Driver, a collection of stories about the afterlife, he captures the hearts those who believe as well as those who only hope there is life after death.

His tales identify possible choices for each of us as we pass through the veil of darkness and our bodies outlive their usefulness. He presents options where we pick our new lives as we move out of this physical realm and into the after world. His tales provide possible answers to the eternal question: What if?

This gathering of stories incorporates individuals from all walks of life carrying on their hopes and dreams and moving them to the next level. Some arrive at The Castle for a sumptuous dinner; others conduct a symphony, perform an original musical masterpiece, paint a work of art or ride off into the sunset of our dreams. 

As the author explains in his Preface, “This work presents the instances where a person's life has led to a promised land.”

This book is one that the reader will turn to time and again with the passing of time as we long for the comfort of a future for ourselves and our loved ones. The closer one gets to our ultimate demise, we ache for a place, as promised in the Christian ministry and other religions, of "many mansions" where we might choose a resting place on our continuous journey. 

These beautifully written and uplifting stories provide insight into what might await us as we cross over into the unknown and pass through eternity. Peppered with wisps of poetry and driven by our favorite steed, Nuelle, we ride together into the storm as we face the future.

I'll Fly Away, Alison Krauss

Friday, September 23, 2016

Welcome to the White House or is it Animal House?

What happens when the support staff of a President vacates the Executive Offices and a new Presidential staff moves in? In 2001, there was an interesting transition when George Bush's staff took over the offices after the Clintons left. What they found was more startling than the $200,000 of furniture that mysteriously disappeared with their departure.

Between January 20th and the 22nd of an election year staff members vacate their offices and are replaced by members of the new President's administration. How much cleaning and refurbishing should be required? It has been suggested that a good vacuuming and dusting would be sufficient. But this was not the case in 2001 due to the extensive damages inflicted on the executive offices of the West Wing and the White House.

Imagine moving into a new job or resigning and leaving your office in a state where it is unusable. An official government report identified numerous examples of vandalism and damage to equipment like fax machines, computer keyboards, telephones, files, furniture, doorknobs missing and that six to eight 14-foot trucks were needed to recover new and usable supplies that had been thrown away.1  An investigation into who may have been responsible for any damage, vandalism, or pranks was not included.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report also states, We believe that sufficient, competent, and relevant evidence exists to support our conclusion that damage, vandalism, and pranks did occur during the 2001 presidential transition, and we have presented this evidence in our report...Regarding the specific contents of graffiti, messages, and signs, we did not believe that it was appropriate or necessary to report their specific contents, although they observed a total of about two dozen prank signs, printed materials, stickers, or written messages that were affixed to walls or desks, placed in copiers, desks, and cabinets, or placed on the floor.

There were signs comparing President Bush to a chimpanzee found “in a number of printers”; “laced” throughout the reams of paper. In locations where people “dumped” supplies, a sign read “Gifts for the New President.” Along with Writing in middle drawer of desk that reads “Hail to the Thief”

Even the offices of the First Lady showed signs of disrespect. A February 21, 2001, facility request form (Form No. 58369) shows a request to clean the carpet in the former First Lady’s suite (Rooms 100-104). At least four current staff members told the GAO that this office suite was trashed, including reports of pencil shavings, dirt, and trash covering the floor.

There were desk drawers that appeared to be intentionally kicked in, chairs with the backs broken off and upholstery slit on the seats. A number of the desks appeared to have been scratched with knives; multiple “big scratches with a sharp object”; other furniture had red pen marks and other stains. Glass in glass-fronted bookcase was broken with glass still sitting in cabinet." Even in the men's washrooms, messages were scribbled that read, “What W did to democracy, you are about to do in here” (observed by five persons).

The GAO report cites distinctions between the GAO's perception and the White House which seems to focus on the semantics of the report rather than the topic of their observations about the transitional damages, cost or accountability for the mess. Inside the real West Wing...

The new president’s first challenge, between election day and inauguration day, is to select some 30 people to serve in his cabinet and as his top White House staff. The cabinet includes the secretaries of the 14 executive departments plus an assortment of other top echelon jobs, such as the U.S. trade representative. The key White House staff includes the chief of staff, the national security adviser, counsel, press secretary, and the top economic and domestic policy aides. 2

Several veterans of tense transitions weighed in on the oft-told tale of the 2000-01 transition during which departing Clinton staffers were reported to have removed the “W” keys from the White House keyboards being inherited by employees of George W. Bush. When she moved in on Jan. 20, McBride said, she recalled no sabotaged keyboards but did encounter some messy offices and the empty hallways filled with trash and boxes from the departing employees. 3

In conclusion, The best way to avoid such partisan mischief, George Bush’s personnel director Clay Johnson once told Kumar, is to have adults there at the end.” Seriously?

  1. GAO-02 - 360 The White House
  2. First Impressions, A Look Back at Five Presidential Transitions, Stephen Hess, March 1, 2001
  3. Must Presidential Transitions End with ... sabotage?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Finding Leo

We were driving down a familiar road headed home to our cottage in the country when we saw something brown running alongside of the road. As we passed by the creature, it fell to the ground and turned over, legs up toward the sky. We pulled off the road and walked back toward the little thing and it started wagging its tail.

The pads of his paws were bloodied by the distance he had traveled on the blistering hot asphalt. We could tell he was some sort of toy poodle despite the filthy, matted fur that covered his entire body. We scooped him up and headed home.

I put him in the kitchen sink and ran warm water over his body, soaping him up with shampoo. He shivered nervously as I clipped the matted clumps from his frame revealing a soft coat of white fur. His ribs were showing through the short hair when I finished. We wrapped him in a soft towel and held him until he was dry. I’ll never forget the look of gratitude in his sweet eyes as he reached up to give me a kiss before falling asleep in my arms.

The veterinarian told us that he was likely around nine years old, about ten pounds, suffering a bit of malnutrition and from the normal parasites that go along with living in the wild. We got him his shots and medication for the flea bites and abrasions that were present on his feet and body. He went back home with us, immediately taking charge of my lap like a hood ornament, staring out of the front window of the car.

We weren’t supposed to have dogs in the small place we were renting, but we convinced the landlord that he wouldn't be any trouble. With tile floors, any cleanup would be minimal, we told them, and we would be responsible for any damage. The little guy never once messed in the house.

Shortly after that, we relocated to another city where we took him with us into an apartment in a new complex with lime green shag carpet and Harvest Gold appliances. We both found new jobs and Leo stayed home during the day. It wasn’t long before the neighbors stopped us on our way inside.

“Did you know that your dog howls the entire time you’re at work?” they asked.
“Well, no.” We had no idea that he was so lonely. “I hope it doesn’t bother you.” No, they didn’t mind. They also had a dog, a beagle they named Beagle, and he barked most of the time.

Leo seemed fine for a time and then he started howling so much he began to wheeze and cough up foam. We took him to a new veterinarian who x-rayed his throat and discovered he had a torn esophagus, probably from eating sticks and rocks when he was out on his own. His jaw was also broken and not repairable, according to the doctor. We were given little choice other than to put him down.

Still in my teens as a young wife, it was my first time to make the ominous decision to end the life of a pet. I could barely live with myself for weeks afterward. The gaping hole in my heart after he made the trip to Heaven was nearly unbearable. The only consolation was that his last few months of his life he was happy and secure and well-loved. I always wondered where he came from, why he was out on his own, who might be missing this little boy.

The only remedy to the lasting heartache was to bring another dog into our household, a puppy, whose exuberance and joy was a much needed blessing after losing our rescued pup.