Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I Finally Feel Comfortable Being Who I Really Am and Living My Life

For the first time in my life, I can declare that I am totally comfortable being myself.  With that comes the ability to enjoy being alone.  For the longest time, I desperately wanted to find another relationship.  I hated being alone and would get depressed more often than I care to remember.  This feeling caused me to pursue people who were not best suited for me.  You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole apparently.  I wouldn’t say I had been being fake up until that point, but I did want to project the best image of myself in an effort to maximize my appeal to the opposite sex.  Truthfully, that’s no way to live.  Not only did it cause me unnecessary stress, but it caused me to lose the focus needed to be the best parent I could be.  So, a little while back I decided ‘fuck it’.  I no longer feel the need to pursue a relationship.  By letting go of that need, I was able to learn how to enjoy my time alone, rather than dwell on it.  It is one of the most empowering feelings of my life.  With this transition, my anxiety has been improving dramatically.  I have shifted the focus that I was putting in to finding a relationship into my parenting.  This means more movies at night with the kids, more board games, more time to just goof around and be silly.  My kids only have one parent, and it is vital I give them the very best childhood I can.  It would be selfish of me to start a new relationship at this point.  Relationships take effort and I don’t believe I am currently able to give both my kids and a mate the effort required for all parties to thrive.  My kids do not deserve to feel one but of neglect from me.  Things may change in the future, but for now this is the best path for the three of us.  With me no longer trying to project the best image of myself, and instead just being my actual self, I’ve been able to really learn a lot about myself that I really hadn’t known before.

I’m now more comfortable with parts of who I am, that everyone may not like.  I recently quit hiding my atheism, and it feels great.  I don’t make any effort to promote it or wave it in anyone’s face, but simply being myself is such an amazing change of pace.  Religion had always been such an uncomfortable subject for me.  My beliefs have evolved throughout my life.  I was raised a Christian, but most of my family didn’t attend church often at all.  I gave it a fair shot.  I learned a lot about the religion and did read the Bible.  I really tried to make that a part of my life, but only because I thought I was supposed to.  It never felt right to me, but I never knew quite how to explain it.  This led me to just avoid the subject for a number of years due to my discomfort with my own beliefs.  A few years back, I decided that I was Agnostic.  This basically means I thought people were not capable of understanding what higher power there may or may not be.  I went on with that for awhile, but then I came to the conclusion that it is just a label for people who can’t make up their minds.  Simply put, I just don’t believe in any of it.  It’s okay to be an atheist, because that is who I am.  I thought admitting this would hurt my chances of finding a relationship or make me look bad.  Maybe it will, but why would I want to be part of a relationship where I am hiding parts of who I really am?  I may not believe in God, but I’m a good person and I know right from wrong.  That is enough, as far as I’m concerned. 

In the time that I have adapted this way of living, I have noticed improvements in both of my kids.  It may or may not be coincidence, but you can’t argue with results.  Brennan rarely gets in trouble anymore and has become one of the sweetest boys I could have ever imagined.  Brianna has gotten better with her stubbornness and mood swings.  It’s hard to explain, but they are just so well behaved and happy.  They don’t fear discipline from me, but rather they genuinely just want to be good in an effort to make me happy.  I think the extra attention I have given them has made an incredible difference.
Sometimes, life deals you a tough hand.  The best bet is to just quit fighting it and embrace it with everything you’ve got.  I may have not found the right person for me, but I did find myself.  That has to count for something.   Every day is a new day with exciting possibilities.  The only way to reach these possibilities is to just be yourself and live your life the way you see fit.  I now feel more free than I ever have at any point in my life.  Now that I really know myself and what makes me happy, the future is unlimited.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

One nation, divided.

This feels like this country is divided.  Divided among the previous generation who can't seem to adapt to a changing world and a new generation that places the greater good ahead ahead of their own self interests.  The old conservative guard is both frustrated and desperate.  They realize the country is not the same as it once was, but they fail to see this country needed to change.  Their obsession with guns, religion, the Confederate flag, and having a black President is not only annoying, but dangerous to our society.  It promotes segregation among the public, which is exactly what modern liberals are fighting to eradicate.  Fox News is a culprit in this as well.  They manipulate the news in order to keep this group of people scared.  Unfortunately, it works.  Fear not only sells guns, but it keeps these people voting against their own interests without even realizing it.  GOP leaders know how to play to the fears and stereotypes of less intelligent hard working people.  They distract them from the real issues and get these people to focus on far less significant things, like this obsession with poor people.  When will these people educate themselves and realize the poor, even when receiving government benefits, do not affect the national debt much at all, especially when compared to things like subsidies to big oil and tax breaks from the wealthy?  Obama is coming to get your guns!! No...he isn't.  He's been President for 5 years, I think it's time to realize you've been played by these fear tactics.  The NRA plays off the fears of the stupid because they are a puppet for the gun industry.  Fear sells guns.  This has been proven by record gun sales after each latest mass shooting.  Change is happening in this country, and change is always met with a certain degree of resistance.  Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  For proof of this, look at the south.  It is not a coincidence that the most conservative states are also the most religious and least educated.  They also have the highest teen pregnancy rates and the highest numbers of people actually on welfare than the more liberal states do.  It's not complicated when you spend any amount of time researching this subject.  Changes are coming.  Same sex marriage will soon be legal, marijuana is trending towards legalization, and religion is being realized to be a sham used to control people and eliminate free thinking.  Atheism is no longer a stigma, and in fact many of the most educated people subscribe to this way of thinking.  Instead of blaming the 'damn liberals' I think it's time you take a break from your hate-filled, insecure life and realize you are being left behind.  Turn off Fox News, learn some world history, and realize no one is knocking on your door asking for your guns.  Change is coming.  Don't be scared.  The sooner this generation either adapts or slowly dies off, the sooner these states will once again be united.Growing Marijuana: How to Plant, Cultivate, and Harvest Your Own Weed (Google Affiliate Ad)

Monday, April 8, 2013

I can't respect what DRose is doing

When Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, Bulls fans knew there was a very real possibility he would miss the season.  I even entered the season with the mindset that this was the most likely scenario, and was ready to accept that.  Derrick vowed to return as soon as he was able and even used his Adidas brand to promote "The Return" on television.  Ever since Rose came into the league, I thought he was one of the most ferocious competitors I had seen since MJ.  Things have changed.  Derrick is scared.  As most fans know, Derrick has been cleared to play for at least 6 weeks that we know of.  He still won't play.  He insists he isn't 100% and feels he shouldn't play until he is.  There is one major problem with that line of thinking: he won't ever be 100% until he plays.  He doctor said it when he had the surgery last year.  Playing in actual games with limited minutes is the last stage in the rehab.  You can only simulate so much game action with practices with your teammates.  Derrick's doctor and the Bulls want him to play, yet he does not.  The Bulls have had 4 doctors meet with Rose to convince him that this is a mental hurdle and his knee is fine.  Yet he doesn't play.  The Bulls even tried to add pressure to Rose by releasing this information to ESPN to make public.  Yet he doesn't play.  I get that Derrick is scared, this is normal.  However, he is waiting for something to happen on its own, when it just isn't possible.  An ACL tear is such a common injury, that there is no medical debate here on how to proceed.  Yet Derrick would rather listen to his brother Reggie than to the doctors that do this for a living.  I think he is scared to play limited minutes and not be the DRose we are all accustomed to seeing.  He needs to get over that.  By refusing to play, he is refusing the rehab on his knee.  He would benefit from playing 15-20 minutes to finish out the season just so he will know he can do it this summer.  What good is a summer off with the exact same issues we have now?  Fans will not turn on Rose for coming back and not being great right away.  We understand.  Refusing to play because you are scared, however, is not okay for a multi-million dollar athlete.  Make no mistake, it has nothing to do with this season.  The Bulls aren't going anywhere with or without Derrick.  This is about getting his mind right so he can have a great offseason and hit next season rolling.  I don't understand why so many fans are giving him a pass on this.  He's refusing to rehab or play at this point and I just can't respect that, scared or not.  Do the right thing Derrick, suit up!
UPDATE** video of Derrick dunking last night further validating my point.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYZNoG4l4fM&feature=share
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Friday, April 5, 2013

What is success? It depends...

As someone who is over-analytical of most situations, I often find myself wondering if my life has been a success or failure to this point.  In some ways, it's been an epic failure.  I was once near the top of my class and thought anything was possible as far a career goes.  I already have a failed marriage under my belt.  I don't have much money, work a job with no future, and struggle to get by.  In other measures of the term, I have achieved a degree of success.  I saved my two kids from a self involved, destructive mother and now raise them entirely on my own.  I once had two of the most timid kids you could ever imagine.  They were behind in both mental and physical development due to the issues at home.  Now, nearly two and a half years later, I have two social butterflies on my hands.  Both are now ahead of the curve in the schooling.  They don't even seem like the same kids.  Hard not to reflect on that and feel I've been successful as a parent to this point.  This isn't the same kind of success I imagined having as a wide-eyed youth, but it is success that is no less rewarding.  I've come to peace with the fact I'll never be rich, and along the lines my priorities have shifted.  I'd much rather be a successful parent than a success financially.  I see how rewarding it is everyday.  You can't take money with you to the grave, but you can leave the world in the hands of good people that you raised.  It's easy to get down on ourselves about the things we have not achieved, but it's so important to remember the good we've done as well.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Make no mistake, the Cubs fight with the city over stadium renovations is very much partisan politics.

Since Tom Ricketts and his siblings purchased the Chicago Cubs in 2009, he has had one very large project at the forefront of his mind.  Wrigley Field is crumbling.  This is apparent to anyone who has attended a game.  There are nets in place just to keep concrete from falling on people's heads!  He knows this field must either be renovated or torn down.  He already lost his leverage by saying he would not move the team, so his focus has been on a major renovation to allow baseball to continue at Wrigley for generations to come.  Originally, Ricketts presented a plan asking for approximately $150 million in public funds, using projected future revenue from the 'amusement tax'.  The timing could not have been worse as Chicago was strapped with all kinds of debt and the country was still deep in a recession.  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was very vocal in his opposition to this plan.  While this was going on, Rahm Emanuel's close friend President Obama was in the middle of his first term as President and preparing to run for reelection.  Joe Ricketts is a conservative billionare who made his money as founder of TD Ameritrade.  He is also Tom's father.  Joe Ricketts spent millions of dollars funding a Super PAC that made very personal attacks on President Obama in hopes of preventing his reelection.  While Tom is the owner of the Cubs, Joe's involvement in the Super PAC obviously did not sit well with Mayor Emanuel.  Since the original request for public money, the Cubs have since announced they would drop this request and spend their own money on renovations, provided the city would relax landmark restrictions on the ballpark to allow them to renovate as they see fit.  The rooftop owners across the street from the ballpark are fighting this tooth and nail.  The rooftop owners don't want more night games and they don't want any major signage, or even a jumbo-tron like the Cubs have proposed. You may ask why the rooftop owners have any say in the matter? Enter Alderman Tom Tunney.  An Alderman's only real power in the city is in regards to zoning restrictions, and he is exercising every bit of his might and siding with rooftop owners.  The reason is simple.  Rooftop owners have been making significant campaign contributions to Tunney over the years and he will not turn his back on those people.  It's amazing that this is allowed to go on.  These rooftop owners are nothing more than leaches.  They are making money off someone else's product and should have no say in what the Cubs do with the ballpark they own.  Especially when they have committed to using their own money.  At some point, Mayor Emanuel will have to get involved and allow the Cubs to get mostly their way, even though this has gotten very personal with him.  How can Mayor Emanuel turn away the Cubs and all of the jobs that would be created for a renovation this significant? Can he afford to be the Mayor that allows the Cubs to leave the city and move to a suburb such as Rosemont?  Quite simply, no, he cannot.  If the Cubs leave Wrigleyville, that neighborhood will die, as will many of the local businesses.  Along with those losses would be the massive tax revenue that the Cubs provide the city.  This should have been worked out long ago, and Rahm Emanuel's reluctance to get involved in the fight between Tunney and Ricketts is little more than Chicago Politics as usual.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Baseball is back! This year is about the kids for the Cubs.

With spring comes baseball, which I always think of as a new year officially renewing.  The weather is coming around (slowly), plants are blooming, and the sun stays up until a decent hour.  Monday was opening day for the Cubs, and it couldn't have come at a better time for me.  This marks year 2 of the Theo Epstein era of Chicago Cubs baseball.  I know they won't win anything this year, but the future still looks bright.  For years and years, I had always wanted to Cubs to take the approach of drafting and developing their own talent to build a consistent winner.  I got my wish a year and a half ago when the Cubs hired Theo, along with Jed Hoyer and Jason McCloud to do just that.  I'm tired of seeing money wasted on players like Milton Bradley and LaTroy Hawkins.  The goal has been to get rid of the bad contracts that Jim Hendry signed players to, while stockpiling prospects.  To do this the right way, 2015 is a reasonable expectation of when we could expect the Cubs to compete for a title.  It takes a lot of patience as a fan to know that your team may lose 100 games again this year, but having faith in both the plan and the people implementing it is vital.  I have taken the approach of following the young prospects acquired to this point and hopefully following their careers all of the way to the big leagues.  Talent is definitely coming.  Javier Baez is just 20 and could supplant Starlin Castro as the stud shortstop of the future (forcing a decision of whether to move Castro to 2nd or 3rd).  Jorge Soler is just 21 and looks to be a possible 5 tool player with power.   Players like Samardzija, Rizzo, & Castro are already here and are appointment television.  When I watch the 2013 Cubs, I will not spend much time worrying about players like Nate Schierholtz or Brent Lillibridge, who I know won't be here when the team is good.  I'm awaiting the trades of both Marmol and Soriano, and the implementation of Fujikawa as the closer.  A World Series is never guaranteed, whether you try and buy it like the Yankees have done with ridiculous free agent contracts or you try to grow players organically like the Red Sox did under Theo.  I think the difference is that if and when the Cubs finally get that ring, it will be that much more satisfying with a team whose players I followed from the time they were drafted onward.  Plus, doing it that way allows for sustained success.  I've never been so excited to watch 162 games of potentially bad baseball!  I encourage my fellow Cubs fans to understand and embrace the plan.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Looming Fiscal Cliff

So, we are only 32 days away from the fiscal cliff.  It's been in the news a lot lately for obvious reasons, but many people don't seem to grasp what it is and what it actually means.  In short, at midnight on December 31, 2012, several laws will go into effect as a result of congress's inability to compromise and find a reasonable solution to our deficit problem.  Among these automatic law changes are the end of the temporary payroll tax cuts, the Bush-era tax cuts, certain business tax cuts, and the beginning of new taxes related to the ACA. In addition, there will be spending cuts to both Medicare and the defense budget. These changes are actually self imposed by congress, which was hypothetically supposed to force them to work together to find a compromise to avoid the issue all together. Clearly that didn't happen and now we are forced to rapidly come up with a solution that won't destroy our economy.

There appear to be 3 viable options, however none seem to be attractive. The first option is to just allow this to happen. That would mean tax increases and spending cuts. The good news is that it would cut the deficit roughly in half.  The potential downside is a lack of economic growth along with a possibility of another recession. The next option is to cancel the tax increases and spending cuts. This is what happened in Europe and triggered a major economic crisis.  Our debt would continue to grow under this scenario. A third option is simply taking the middle ground would involve trying to balance addressing the the budget with limiting the effect on the economy's growth.

Like it or not, this is a very partisan issue and lawmakers have had 3 years to figure this out with both sides holding firm to their beliefs. Conservatives still latch onto the myth that spending cuts and tax cuts are the solution, pretending that the 'job creators' would would cease to be, just by paying more taxes.  History has proven this not to be true. Democrats are looking for a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. 

One of the big reason conservatives have refused to compromise with any tax increases can be traced back to a man named Grover Norquist. He is president of Americans for Tax Reform, which was a group founded at President Reagan's request in 1985. Their goal is to limit the size of government by opposing all taxes at all levels of government. Norquist organized the Taxpayer Protection Pledge which aims to get any candidates for office to commit in writing to oppose any efforts to increase any tax increases. For a long time, nearly every conservative in office has signed and held to this pledge, which is the source of a lack of compromise in congress. In recent weeks since President Obama's re-election, several members of the GOP have begun to distance themselves from this pledge and are realizing that increasing taxes on the wealthy is the only viable way for the economy to function at a level suitable for all. The tax code has often favored the very wealthy, who often pay as little as 10-15% in income taxes, partially due to the capital gains tax. Many middle class Americans pay as much as 30% income tax.  This is counter productive to growth and only serves to line the pockets of the very wealthy.  

For years, conservatives have tried to deflect attention from this issue by placing the blame on the very poor and 'entitlement programs'. It's really easy to blame a person on welfare if you know yourself to be a hard working person who pays their taxes. The fact is that if the wealthy 'job creators' paid their fair share (30% is more fair) then many of the issues we face would disappear. At our country's peak, the wealthy paid as high as a 91% tax rate and those were some of the times of the most growth in our nation's history.  There is precedent for other nation's doing exactly what conservatives want.  Look no further than India, where the top 5% control everything while roughly half of the population lives in poverty.  'Trickle down economics' has always been and always will be a myth. 

Taxing the very wealthy does not prevent them from being wealthy.  When the economy grows, so does their overall income, which offsets the tax rate increase. This has been proven time and time again. The the three decades after World War II, taxes were far higher on the rich than they are now. The American economy grew faster during those years than it has at any point since 1981, when tax rates were slashed. Also, look at the Clinton administration when tax rates were increased on the wealthy. The economy produced faster job growth and higher wages than at any other point since 1981.  Also, the country enjoyed a healthy surplus until W spent it all (and then some) in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, look at other countries. Germany has far higher tax rates on the wealthy than the US, yet they have a much faster average annual growth than we do. 

Higher taxes allow for investments in education, health care, and infrastructure. This is what creates jobs and grows the middle class, which is the backbone of any successful economy. Economic growth moves upward, it never 'trickles down'.

It's time for conservatives to distance themselves from Grover Norquist and his anti-tax pledge. Some are beginning to, but it needs to happen much more quickly.  We can save this economy and get America back on track as one of the world's economic leaders and break our dependence on China. Congress needs to act in the best interests of the people of this country. The solutions are there, and backed by history. Don't worry about losing your wealthy donors.  They will continue to be wealthy, but everyone else will also get a fair shot. Hard work should be rewarded and that hasn't been the case with a broken, deadlocked congress not acting in the best interests of our country.  Don't buy into the myth that cutting programs is the answer. This country has a had a safety net in place for people ever since FDR enacted the 'New Deal' in the 1930's.  Conservatives also opposed this, yet it led to a very successful period in our country's history. We can easily get back to this if congress does the right thing. The clock is ticking...