Sure. Let’s Destroy Our Waterways.

pollutionnavigationimage400White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, stood behind the lectern and stated very emphatically,

We’re going to put the safety of Americans first, we’re not going to wait and react, as I said in the statement, the president is going to be very proactive in protecting this country.

Donald Trump’s America First Energy Plan specifically states,

…our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.

Sean Spicer’s statement is shortsighted, red meat for the White House’s narrow constituency, while the statement about the EPA’s responsibility is now an outright lie. Or can be an outright lie, should the President sign the latest environmental regulatory review decision that Paul Ryan and the Congress have decided to do.

There’s this little thing called The Congressional Review Act. It was instituted in 1996, part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, and signed into law by Bill Clinton, himself. This allows Congress to review and roll back any regulations, instituted by any administration, recently enacted (within the last 60 days the legislature has been in session, currently this means that they can review all regulations enacted back to June, 2016). It works just like a law. If they disapprove with a simple majority and the President signs it, the regulation goes away. If the President vetoes it, as Obama would have done, they can overturn his veto by a 67% majority and the regulation also goes away.

Back in December of 2016, Obama finalized a regulation that requires surface mining companies (not just coal, as Paul Ryan is trying to make you think…heavy metals, as well) to not pollute waterways outside of their permit areas. After all, any kindergartner knows that water runs downstream and dumping waste into a stream, river, or lake, will end up polluting ecological communities downstream. This is just common sense.

We have Superfund sites that have been operating for years, decades even, where the entire mission is to clean up the downstream pollutants. Superfund sites are reactionary. Much like disallowing visas from Saudi Arabia would be, after the attack on September 11, 2001. A mining company comes in, legally pollutes the land and waterways, and then leaves or goes bankrupt, and the government (the EPA) is left holding the bag. The citizenry of the United States pays billions of dollars a year to clean up the environmental damage to our water and land.

Much like the current administration states that the “extreme vetting” refugee rules are proactive, rather than reactive, an argument that can be proven (and debated) on its merits, they also say that the “mission of the EPA is to protect (should be read: proactively) our air and water.”

But Congress is now using the Congressional Review Act to completely eliminate that rule, rolling back the proactive protections of our environment, going back to only worrying about the permitted areas, or at least removing the protections from regulatory oversight, making it easier for a mining company to circumvent responsibility for polluting our downstream waterways.

This will not only continue to cost America’s taxpayers billions of dollars in Superfund cleanup, but will fly in the face of the forcefully proffered “intelligence” of the Trump Administration to govern proactively. And it most definitely will disallow the EPA from carrying out its White House defined “essential mission.”

 

Felicity is fine, considering

reliefSo yes. It was just a migraine. Sure, that seems like a terrible thing to say, being that a 9-year-old little girl may have to suffer severe and debilitating headaches for the rest of her life, but it’s much better than the alternative. Brain bleeds, strokes, and large tumors that cause the head to be shaped like that cone headed family in that one show from long ago all went through my head.

The doctor gave her a cognitive test, mixing up numbers and having her repeat them backwards. Then he checked her extremities and balance, examined her eyes, checked vitals, and went through a thorough analysis of what happened and what we can expect. The fact that sleep and Ibuprofen made the headache go away was an excellent sign. She was diagnosed with a classic migraine that begins with an aura, causing vision to be distorted.

I get those. They’re fascinating. I first see a bright spot in my vision, then text goes awry. After a few minutes, everyone around me is walking around headless. I completely lose vision in my right eye, replaced by a pulsating light. The light comes directly at me, my glasses melt from my face in true Salvador Dali fashion. Then, about 20-minutes later, it all evaporates. If I haven’t already taken Excedrin Migraine, I will begin to feel a dull pain in the front of my head, then it will build, and keep building, until I’m stumbling around, speaking incoherently, and bumping into walls.

I usually like to continue coding my medical device control applications at this point. Powering through a migraine is a rite of passage for a pace maker developer. (That was a joke, by the way.)

If I do take migraine meds, the headache is meh. Nothing doing. Thus, I don’t usually complain about them, being that I have dear friends, including my bride, with pain that is much worse and more frequent.

After the doctor, I ran home and grabbed The Boy, Fred. He’s 12. What happened next is causing me great fear and worry. He was home because he didn’t want to go skiing with his class, and one of the options was to stay home and rot on your iPad. So we went to McDonald’s.

“Young man. What would you like to eat?” the nice woman behind the counter asked him.

“I’ll take a Big Mac Meal with a side salad instead of fries. Make it large, with a Coke.”

My little boy who can get a cheap kids meal, even a few items off the Dollar Menu, now has tastes. And opinions. Both cost money. Soon, the bloke will be ordering caviar and schnitzel.

I need a second and third job.

It’s Just a Headache, Joe. It’s Just a Headache.

How-to-get-rid-of-a-headache-naturallyWhen I was in the second grade (for all you Canucks, Grade 2), I had a friend named Amy. We sat together, talked all the time (only when we were supposed to, of course), and I still remember what she smelled like. She was my best friend.

One day, I walked into class, and she had her head down on the desk, laid into her folded arms. She was moaning about something. I asked her what was wrong and she informed me she had a headache. A bad one. Asking her if there was anything I could do, she told me to go get a wad of paper towels, soak it in cold water, and bring it to her. I obliged.

Thus started the new dance of our lives together for the next few months. In those few months, she was diagnosed with a fast moving brain tumor. She had surgery, leaving half her head shaved and a massive scar. The shaved head didn’t matter so much because she lost her hair – just before she died.

I remember her death and life, vividly, but not my response to it. I probably looked at it through the lens of religion, worrying about her eternal destiny, being her family belonged to the Mormon Church. Mormons were bad. Hell-bound. I lost my opportunity to grieve for my friend.

But, at the moment, grief doesn’t really hit me. Right now, it’s worry.

My 9-year-old daughter, Felicity, woke up this morning with a headache.

“Daddy? I keep looking at things and they disappear. I can’t see.”

It quickly devolved into a very bad headache where she needed to skip school, lay down in bed, and keep the room completely dark. I have a doctor’s appointment at 12:45 PM today, and am hoping it’s just a headache.

I want to tackle my memories of grief, focused on Amy, and not discover them anew with something more recent, and even closer to tearing my real heart out.

Fake Tears: How to Gaslight, 101

timthumb“Gaslighting” has to be the most overused word of 2016, a close second to the decades-long overuse of “unprecedented.” Most recently, it has become the flippant argument du jour of everyone who has an issue debating legitimate arguments with their opponent. Nonetheless, the term (and subsequent concept) has its merits. And now, that concept is no longer a theoretical idea, but front and center in the Oval Office, uttered in person and on Twitter by Donald Trump, himself.

“Daddy!” Felicity (9) wailed at me through tears.

“Stop your fake tears and act your age!” I loudly ordered, not caring what she was crying about, but just wanting peace and quiet.

Felicity’s crying deepened, the corners of her lips becoming more curled as I threw away any sense of dignity she may have thought she possessed at the moment. Turning on her heels, she swiftly bounded up the stairs and disappeared down the 35-foot hallway to her room.

For a brief few seconds, I breathed a sigh of satisfaction. I had rectified the situation and brought peace to my lair. Then, realization hit me that I had crushed my daughter. Climbing the stairs, I began to hear the faint and muffled sobs of a broken little girl. The crying became louder as I headed toward her room. Recognizing my footsteps, Felicity lifted her head from her bed and threw her voice into the hall, “Go away!”

“No. I came to apologize. I’m very sorry for disrespecting you downstairs. I want to know why you’re crying.”

Sitting down on her bed and putting my arm around her, we began a small conversation that had no earth-shattering ramifications, but I was taking advantage of the opportunity to love her. It didn’t matter if I felt that her tears were unwarranted. That was how she was expressing herself at the moment and, if I wanted to teach her a lesson in what I saw as a better way to approach life, I could do it in a calm manner, without the use of humiliation.

Wow. It’s been a while.

I haven’t written since October. It appears that I went off in an angry huffle and puffle, but that isn’t the case. Sure, my last one-liner post seemed angry (and I was, but I don’t remember why). I was anticipating a slam dunk win for Hillary.

I invited people over for election night on November 8th. Two couples. The husband of one couple was a rabid Donald Trump fan, though he claimed that it was out of necessity (one-issue voter and all). His wife was mysterious and shows signs of pragmatism and a good heart. The other couple was a lovely woman whom I was becoming good friends with. She was very worried about things from the moment she walked through my door. Her husband always has eyes that twinkle, seems nearly always happy, and never betrays his feelings, should they be deemed even remotely controversial.

Early on in the evening, I knew it was bad. I ran numbers in my head and called the race by 8PM CST. As did this new friend of mine. She fell very silent and I could see her non-existent soul crushed. She was devastated and retreated to my kitchen to wash all my dishes and scrub it from top to bottom.

My wife wept uncontrollably for an hour. I became a very sensitive person while I watched human being mock those with tears flowing down their cheeks. It fucking hurt me to have my hand wrapped in my bride’s hair, the woman I loved more than the air I breathe, and see people I considered friends, mocking her, cackling, and indirectly calling her names – even if they were on her side, politically.

To too many people, politics is a game. Donald Trump tapped into this idea and abused it, bringing along the electorate that saw this as a sporting contest, rather than a prescription for the future of our country. Sure, many who voted for Trump actually did see his prescription as the way forward, and I don’t fault them, I just disagree mostly. But that’s not why my wife and my new friend were so shaken to the core.

They saw a nation look at them and consent to a man who looked upon them as a pussy to grab. A woman to mock, bleeding out of their wherevers. A vagina in the boardroom to pleasure the real people (the men) under the table – their rightful place in the world of the Orange Jesus. In fact, both of them could have actually agreed with some of his policies and yet rejected him completely, desiring respect and equality, rather than sub-male status.

And now we must live in this world that we created. We must watch as those who rabidly and gutturaly screamed for this man to lead them, laugh at our pain and worry – sometimes even feel terror at what his victory can bring upon us.

So yeah. Those were some of the thoughts rolling around in my head over the last few months. But I’ve been doing a lot more thinking. My own autopsy for those I consider “on my side.” And I have deep disagreements with plenty of good people. And even deeper disagreements with plenty of very bad people. I’ll be sharing those as I write more.

Love you all,

I. C.

Best Coffee in the World: Jasper Mini Mall, Jasper, Minnesota

coffee-groundsIn 2005, I drove from Pipestone, Minnesota to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, every single day, to work as a phone banker at the Wells Fargo Phone Bank. I loved my job, especially the drive. It was 45 minutes of heaven, driving through the hilly lands of Southwestern Minnesota and Eastern South Dakota, the land dotted with cattle and dead motorcyclists.

About 10 minutes into the drive, the town of Jasper, MN would come into view. My heart would skip a beat and I would turn the car into the large parking lot of the Jasper Mini Mall. Jasper Mini Mall was just a gas station, but had all the trappings of a small town. A coffee dispenser sat in the back, right beside a pile of homemade cinnamon rolls.

I did the same thing every morning. I would grab a cup, fill it with coffee and grab a cinnamon roll. A breakfast of champions. The coffee had a very distinct taste. Not bitter or weak. A bit sweet, maybe hinting of maple syrup. It never changed and I loved it.

Then, last September, my marriage was struggling, and I took my wife out to the country for our anniversary. We drove through around the dirt roads, she taking pictures, me rolling my eyes at her need to take pictures (yes…that was part of the reason we were struggling…me, with my disrespect) and looking at windmills.

We ambled our way to Jasper and I pulled into the Mini Mall parking lot. This was 10 years after I drank my last cup of coffee and I wanted to see if it still tasted the same.

I walked through the door and was flooded with memories. Everything was exactly the same. The same coffee dispenser that had been there in 2005 was still sitting there. The cinnamon rolls were gone and in their place sat banana bread. I grabbed a cup – the same cups as had always been there – filled it to the brim with coffee and lifted the cup to my lips.

The coffee hit my tongue and tasted the same as it always had. I slurped it down, finishing the cup before I hit the door.

Consensual Conversations

6986d-6a00e54ed0df528833013480965ceb970c-piI’ll put a GOOD! behind good conversation and a BAD! behind bad.

Man sees a woman who is having a bad day/week/year/life.

Man: “Hello! How are you? I see you are down in the dumps. Let’s talk about it?” GOOD!

Woman: “Sure!”

Conversation ensues. As the woman shares about her life, the gentleman shares things from his. Over the next few days, they get to know each other. Feelings begin to flower. The gentleman is falling for the woman and the woman, though skeptical of his intentions, is feeling flutters within her…wait…I know nothing about women’s feelings. But let’s just say she’s into the bloke.

Man: “So, wanna get together and cuddle?” GOOD!

Woman: “No. I’m not really into you like that. That’s not what I’m here for.”

More conversation, lasting over the next few days. Nothing changes from the woman’s side. She has still not suggested that she is willing to be anything other than platonic or non-sexual friends. In her mind, when a gentleman suggest cuddling, it is just a precursor to what he really wants.

Man: “So, wanna get together and cuddle?” BAD!

Dude…you’ve crossed boundaries here. Stop.

Man: “So, wanna get together and cuddle?” “So, I’ve really gotten to know you on a deeper level and I know you said no to cuddling a few days back. Has anything changed? And if not, would you appreciate me never bringing it up again?” GOOD!

Now, the gentleman could just go ahead and never say the above at all and take the initial NO! as a final answer. Many women actually appreciate that approach. But being honest and open about his intentions and where he wants to go with the conversation/relationship is just fine, as well.

Finally, a woman (or a man) is not obligated to explain why they are not into you. Keep that in mind. It’s very important. (Speaking to you, MRAs). Additionally, it is perfectly reasonable for the woman to be angry at the second attempt, no matter how civil or well-reasoned it may be. This is the thing about personality. Everyone is different.

In short, we learn about each other so we can know how to respect them. No human being has an obligation to reject us in a certain way. Their life experience will dictate how they go about doing it. Do not take offense. Consent is easy. Practice it.

And for god’s sake, don’t belittle and shame the one doing the rejecting. Oh…one more thing: Rejection of a physical or sexual relationship is not necessarily a rejection of you.

The Art of the Deal: A Broccoli Cheese Soup Tale

broccoli-cheese-soup_5992At the end of August, my bride and I surprised the kids, waking them up at 4:00AM, having packed the previous day, and told them to get dressed and get ready for a week in Colorado. We were taking them on a plane for the first time in most of their lives. The older three had vacationed to Maine many years ago, flying on the old Midwest Airlines (I miss them so much), but nobody actually remembered the experience.

They were so excited.

During that week, we stayed on a ranch in south central Colorado, about 12-miles from a horse ranch where you could ride horses – and eat. The place was owned by a lovely couple and their mother cooked the food for the guests. One morning, when my wife and girls got back from riding, we sat down and ordered food.

Laura (13) ordered a large bowl of broccoli cheese soup, The Freak (6) ordered some nondescript sandwich  with a pile of large fries, and Fred (11…also, he has decided he does not like to be called Frederic anymore) ordered another forgettable sandwich with massive onion rings on the side.

Fred and Laura despise each other. Their personal hatred for one another is greater than the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“Fred, can I have some of your onion rings? I can trade some soup,” Laura asked.

“No.”

That was it. No explanation. Just a quick and dirty rejection with no fanfare.

“Laura, can I have some of your soup? I’ll give you some fries,” Analisse (The Freak) piped up.

“I don’t want fries. I want onion rings! Daddy! Fred won’t trade me his onion rings!”

I shrugged, ignoring the tattling. It had been like this the entire vacation and I was simply tired of it. Ignoring it didn’t make it go away, caused me even more stress, but gave the semblance that I was actually indifferent to the pointless non-issues at hand.

Laura slumped in a huff and made noises of disgust.

“Fred, can I have an onion ring for three of my fries,” Analisse asked.

“Sure!”

Over the cries of unfairness by Laura, The Freak crossed to Fred’s table, summarily dropping four fries (one more for a reason you’ll soon see) on his plate, grabbed the largest onion ring (which Fred couldn’t argue about now, being she gave him extra fries), walked over to Laura’s table, dropped the onion ring on her plate, grabbed the spoon without so much as a polite request, and slurped down an ample helping of soup.

Fred was pissed. Here, his archenemy got an onion ring, when he had worked his rear  end off keeping it from Laura. He made it quite clear that he didn’t want Laura to have it even then.

“It’s not your onion ring, Fred. It was mine,” Analisse giggled.

Fred had no case and was left mumbling under his breath. He had been bested. Everyone had been bested.

And The Freak’s stomach was full of warm soup.