Monday, July 11, 2005

Sometimes Bad News Can Be Good News

As Hurricane Dennis approached us Friday night, I got an email from our mortgage holders.

Our application for the refi is, for now, turned down.

I'll say it's on hold for 2 months instead, since they kindly asked us to come back then. Our credit scores are too low. They actually went down after we applied.

That's because just after we applied, Walter's employer decided to lay off everyone in his division.

Which was a couple weeks after he went back to active duty, after 15 months off on Worker's Comp, getting shoulder surgery.

But, true to form, he was only off for one week before getting hired by a larger company with a higher rate per mile pay, and he's getting more dispatch miles, too.

So I think we'll be able to improve those scores fairly quickly.

In the meantime...I keep wondering why I don't feel terrible about this.

It's probably because we weren't really ready. The house still needs a lot of work, and I can't keep rehabbing at the pace I've been. It's killing me.

Now, suddenly, this burden of time pressure is off my shoulders. I'm almost at a loss.


I still need to do a lot of work, of course. It's just that now, I can do it at my own pace. Enjoyably. Much less painfully.

I do still feel a sense of shock. Not such a big one, but it's there.

And one thing hurts bad: thinking of those three people we owe, that I want so much to pay back tomorrow, and can only repay with the refi: my mother, my father, and our friend and former employee H.

That one hurts.

Now, since I can't change it just yet, I'll have to chase it back into its box. Compartmentalize.

And do everything I possibly can - as fast as I can - to build up funds to get those scores back up.

Send me good thoughts, folks.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Declaration of Independence
July 4, 2005
The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1 Georgia: Button Gwinnett Lyman Hall George Walton
Column 2 North Carolina: William Hooper Joseph Hewes John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge Thomas Heyward, Jr. Thomas Lynch, Jr. Arthur Middleton
Column 3 Massachusetts: John Hancock
Maryland: Samuel Chase William Paca Thomas Stone Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe Richard Henry Lee Thomas Jefferson Benjamin Harrison Thomas Nelson, Jr. Francis Lightfoot Lee Carter Braxton
Column 4 Pennsylvania: Robert Morris Benjamin Rush Benjamin Franklin John Morton George Clymer James Smith George Taylor James Wilson George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney George Read Thomas McKean
Column 5 New York: William Floyd Philip Livingston Francis Lewis Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton John Witherspoon Francis Hopkinson John Hart Abraham Clark
Column 6 New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett William Whipple
Massachusetts: Samuel Adams John Adams Robert Treat Paine Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman Samuel Huntington William Williams Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire: Matthew Thornton

Page URL:
U.S. National Archives & Records Administration8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD, 20740-6001, • 1-86-NARA-NARA • 1-866-272-6272

Independence Day

Yesterday, for the first time in months, I spent hours outside. I weeded the front yard and started on the back.

Free. Free. Free.

We've been getting so much rain every single day for so long that everyone is swallowed up by plant growth. The water makes everything grow phenomenally fast. At the same time, you can't get out to weed or mow lawns - because it's raining.

And here we are, with a holiday upon us, and everyone is all embarrassed because their yards look like weed junkyards.

but WAIT! That surely means...I'm NOT the only one!

So me, I settled in to weed at my own pace, not worrying about what others thought of my efforts. (Or tardiness thereof.)

Not that I was so worried about that, anyway.

I stayed up way past my bedtime. My back yard fence neighbor, Peter, came out in his yard, oh I've missed him. It's Peter's mango tree. We talked mangoes, and squirrels and blue jays eating the mangoes, plus possums and coons, and the caterpillars eating up our Snow on the Mountain shrubs

He's one of these horribly overachieving multitalented people. He acts, sings, dances; he's handsome and sweet and funny and very, very smart. He's a jeweler in both gems and metals, and was a consultant to the Met in New York. He's also a world-class painter.

And broke.

Which is the only way I can say, Just like me.

So I told him about my plans to have a Yard and Plant Sale - which unbeknownst to Peter, include him too. I decided on the weekend of the 16th instead of the 9th; I'm slow, and I could have twice as many plants ready to sell if I waited just that bit. He said, Good idea, give it another week. When you push things too hard they break.

See? Smart.

I told him I want to do this twice a year, which is the limit where we live, and that I'd be happy to sell anything for him if he'd like, he doesn't have to be there. He has lots of plants he can put in. Lots of baby mango trees, coming up volunteer. ;-)

And...although as I told him, he's WAY too good for this...he might put together some simple inexpensive sketches to sell, too. And/or maybe bring one of his "real" works out. So many of our neighbors are blessed with both excellent taste and excellent bank accounts these days - no reason to assume a pricier work won't sell. Who knows, he may even get a commission out of it. I tell you, his portraits are breathtaking, extraordinarily fine.

I told him, --If not this sale, then the next one, in fall - we'll have a few months to get our plants growing big by then - you will make enough money to buy a computer. You must get a computer, Peter. You have to read my blog. And start your own.

What it all comes back to, you see, is independence.

Today I think of all of us who want more independence in our lives. Against the backdrop of our nation's Independence Day, that glorious ideal we grew up with, I put all of us as individuals. I say to us all, Be more independent. Be as strong and free as you can be.

Is it all entirely in our control? Well...Yes and no. Yesterday my health gave me my "Get Out of Jail Free" card. But when illness turns me into an involuntary shut-in, it still can't imprison my spirit. Even when it shuts me up. And I have this blessing that many other disabled people don't: sooner or later, I get better enough to get out of bed, and then to go outside again. I treasure that freedom, I treasure that day. I value it tremendously, when others don't even feel the goodness of what they have. So tell me: who's better off?

Poverty can have a perverse sort of freedom to it. In some societies, not even so perverse. But finding that key to not letting your possessions own you is much harder in our urbanized society. It's become difficult to even grow our own food, especially meat, much less get by without cash for rent or mortgage payments, electricity, water bills.

Almost everyone I know and care about has suffered real financial setbacks in the last few years. It affects our independence. We struggle. We try everything we can think of - work more, spend less, take classes, work out debt, even sell the house. Then maybe we think of having a Yard and Plant Sale, too. No shame in that. Fun, actually.

In the meantime, I send my thoughts out to all you people - millions of parents, certainly mine, are among them - who are working harder than they should because they're helping out their grown children and other loved ones who've been hit bad by economic setbacks.

kmom and kdad, I promise you, we're almost done, almost out of this 2 1/2 year hole. It won't be much longer now, and we'll have a good chunk of our independence back. Soon, soon, we can support our own selves the only way we really want to: by working. And when our independence returns, we can stop impinging on yours.

To those of you who came here to America seeking that independence - including my own fine man - I say, Welcome. Welcome to this great country. I don't care why you came here - I mean, as long as the reasons were righteous enough to exclude committing crimes here, or escaping punishment for crime there, of course.

If your reasons were economic, fine. That's why most of our own forebears came here, and it's hypocritical to say you should only come here to escape ideologies we dislike. You'll hear some say that immigration hurts our economy. Bogus. We really need it to thrive. You help us, not hurt us; and if your presence feeds into the competitive cycle, what's more American than competitive markets?

Some of those naysayers are the same people who believe this idiot called Laffer, who thinks that rich and powerful persons and companies let their money flow downhill to working people. (Have you ever seen them do that?) This is what happens when people with no training or experience in real-world economics are presented with something that Sounds Good. I won't tell you why just now, but I can claim some serious expertise in that field, and l'm here to tell you, that theory is so bogus it's actually not even an economic theory.

Don't want a degree in economics? I don't blame you. Here's a shortcut. I call it, Look In and Look Out. 1. Look In your wallet. Is there money in there? 2. Look Out to your friends, acquaintances, neighbors. Are they able to pay their bills?

The answers to those two questions will provide about 90% of the information you need to understand how the economy's going. And when you vote? (and DO. It's FUN!) here's a nice American saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. If a politician tanks a robust, healthy economy, don't vote for them again.

It's not all economics, of course. If you wondered if things like xenophobia and bigotry are behind anti-immigration feelings, sometimes you're right. Only sometimes, though, because really we're not all like that. Others may notice that immigrants - maybe believing in those principles of free speech and independent thought - tend to speak their minds much more freely than many Americans do these days. That'll scare some right there. Not me. That's another reason this country needs you all, and why I say welcome.

Sometimes it takes immigrants to remind us why we're a great country. Not perfect, no. But great. And seeing this country I love so much with clear eyes, including and forgiving her faults, means I love her at least as much as those who insist she's perfect, when no one on earth ever is.

To our forces, those in the armed services and contractors too: I know good and well that you're not robots who think with one mind and speak with one voice. I myself am adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq, and always have been. However, I have never, ever been opposed to you.

Whatever the reason you're over there, whether it's because you truly believe this is essential to our freedom, or for sympathy for Iraqis; for economic reasons, including that education awaiting you on your return; or because you were swept up in the fervor and are stuck there now; or never believed it was right but said, That's my job, it's time to go do it - I don't care; you are entitled, absolutely, to your own reasons, your own beliefs. I support you in your efforts - all your righteous efforts, understand - and I hope so much for your safe and whole return.

To those who felt their belief system tilt and shatter - including you who experienced it when you were told to shut up, to no longer voice your opinions to reporters - you have my special sympathy. You know there are those who would despise you, would call you unpatriotic, would say if you disagree with your president you aren't a Real American. I am not one of them, and I believe those people are quite wrong.

Thinking for yourself, speaking freely, believing in truth - those things mean independence. This day is for all of you, whatever side(s) you come down on.

To the little kid in all of us, eating our bar-b-q's and corn on the cob, running around with sparklers and spitting watermelon seeds - Enjoy the holiday. That's what it's there for, too. A real holiday is something for independent people; if you're not independent, you can't really let loose.

And enjoy the fireworks tonight. I love them, myself; but I can't go there any more, and I have to check out now. I'm afraid I've become a terrible killjoy over the illegal fireworks and shooting issue, so I won't burden you with my thoughts on that topic on this day of pleasure. Except to say I will try really, really hard this year not to call the cops unless the bottle rockets or bullets actually come IN one of the dozens of windows in my house. And I hope that Vietnam vet down the street can stay cool this year, too.

It looks like, here on the 4th, we're going to have the first day without any hard rain - a real-for-real Full Sun Day - since any of us can even remember.

Happy Independence Day!