From the Bottom of My Heart

I am looking forward to the special sharing service at our church tonight. There will be two worship sets of four songs each, with an open mic opportunity for individuals to stand before the congregation and say what they are thankful for. 

In past years, there would be little chance that I would even be there, much less, opening up publicly in front of all those people. Not because it is one of the biggest party nights of the year, because I haven't really partied in years, but because it would be an understatement to say that I don't feel comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people (although I am OK singing in front of crowds, but that story is for another day).

This year, however, I feel compelled to give praise where praise is do and try to pass on the understanding and enlightenment that I have learned from my experiences over the past year to anyone else who will listen. I see it going something like this:

I am thankful that I had a stroke. I know that may sound a little strange as I could be thankful for so many other things like that I have had such a remarkable recovery and, although it was hard, I am here and I can walk and talk and do most anything that I could do before. I could be thankful that I have such an wonderful wife and awesome son or that we are going to have another little miracle in February and we are all happy and healthy for the most part. I could be thankful that I have family and so many, many friends that love and care for us and a decent enough job in these tough economic times that we can have all that we need and most of what we want. I could be thankful, as well, for hundreds of other things as little as the ability to play RockBand and as big as the giant hugs from my best buddy in the whole world.

Don't get me wrong... I am so very thankful for all of these things, no matter how big or small, but if it wasn't for that short time last November that I was sure that I had lost so many of the things that we daily take for granted, I wouldn't be up here thanking God for all that he has given me. To be perfectly honest, I would be sitting out there half-listening to someone else share and partly thinking about why turkey makes you so sleepy or what tight-end to start on my fantasy football team tomorrow or where I am going to find a Wii before Christmas.

I know this because last year I had just as much, if not more, to be thankful for. As far as I knew, I was on top of the world and everything was going great until a minuscule little piece of plaque became lodged in a blood vessel in my brain. I discovered that everything I had learned about control in my life was wrong because, before that moment, I thought that I was in control. From that point on, however, I didn't matter how strong I was, how smart I was, how determined I was or even how lucky I was, I knew that I was in control of nothing. 

Nothing I did made a difference of how quickly I was going to be able to do all those things I had been taking for granted for so long-- and I tried just about everything. Although we saw a little bit of progress with the rehabilitation almost every day, there were a few weeks of frustration before, with a broken spirit, I gave up on myself and gave it all to God. 

What took me so long? Stubbornness, pride, ignorance... all of the things that I had thought made me tough and gave me good character. I don't know for sure but I suppose I liked myself pretty much before the event and, honestly, didn't know that I was going about a lot of things in the wrong way.

I know that God doesn't give us anything we cannot handle. I know that what doesn't kills us will make us stronger. I know that God loves us, wants the best for us and that we should give all of our problems to Him. I know, even though I do not totally understand how, His grace transcends all worldly things. It just took a massive brain injury for me to truly understand what all of this meant-- God is in control and the more we fight that fact or try to take control from Him, the harder and more painful it is going to be.

I would not wish what I went through an anyone else but I think it was the most sincere learning experience in my whole life and I am truly a better person for it as I have three new Ps-- new perspective, new priorities and new passion. I hope that you too can find your little stroke that helps you see what we should be thankful for.

Be Thankful. Read This. Buy T-shirts. Peace.


Designs We Like 1.03


I am a little bit behind schedule for the November Designs We Like feature as, I think, we are supposed to publish on the third Wednesday of the month. It's not that I have been slacking that much because I actually started researching my current assignment a couple of weeks ago but the cafepress shop, Be Shirt Happy, has so many nice designs to choose from that I had a hard time narrowing down the one that I would write about.

After much thought and inner-debate, I decided to go with the shop Current Featured Product, the Terrible Thing to Waste T-shirt. Although, instead of a mind being a terrible thing to waste, this cute design plays on the words to remind the public that A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste! You just can't go wrong with mime humor... can you? And, believe it or not, there are more than several other mime designs.

A T-shirt or other available item with the imprinted mime designs would make a unique, custom gift for everyone on you list for the upcoming holidays. There is something for the young to the young at heart and gifts for your friends to man's best friend (including yourself). Design categories include Ninjas, Penguins, Careers, Sports and Human Beans as well as Holiday, Maternity, Kids and Adult sections and a Mommy and Me Collection of matching garment for Baby and Mama!

Be sure to visit the Be Shirt Happy for your holiday shopping this year as the Website declares: If you can't find a design you like here, you won't find it anywhere... and who am I to argue?


The Great American Smoke-Out

Today is the American Lung Association's annual Great American Smoke-out. When I was a teenager, a smoke-out was something completely different... but that's another story. 

I don't have too much to say on this subject that I haven't already written in my post: How to Quit Smoking Overnight, but because last year I almost considered participating in the well-meaning event and just couldn't bring myself to do it, I thought that it was worth a few minutes of my lunch hour to put together a few paragraphs.

I was a real idiot in that I didn't start smoking until I was 25-years old. It was just a game to me and the stupid carny tricks I did turned into a pack-a-day habit for 16 or 17 years. In those years, I tried more than several times and methods to quit, but never lasted any more than two to three weeks. One of my more successful attempts, however, was the Great American Smoke-out of 1998. The reason I had some success that year was not only that I had peer support, but the peers participating with me where mainly women-- there is that part of a guy that wants to impress the chicks and an even bigger part that doesn't want to be beat by one.

Most of my more successful attempts at smoking cessation involved women. My wife doesn't smoke and when we met I, first, tried to not light up around her. On our first date, I searched, unsuccessfully for a place to sneak off and get one in. Later, I told her I would quit but, after about six-hours with me and my mood swings she searched through all of my stuff until she found a stale pack and made me made me give up quitting that day.

Yes, I know it is hard because I have been there and I am not the kind of person that is going to preach about it or condemn you for killing yourself but I will say this-- you should quit and even more important, if you don't smoke don't start. 

The American Lung Association says if you can not smoke for one day-- you should be able to not smoke for one week and if you can make it a week-- a month should be a breeze and so on. I don't agree because I haven't had a cigarette in 357 days and I still want one. There are lots of plans and information and groups out there to help you kick the habit but, for any of them to be successful, it all boils down to you not wanting to die prematurely more than you want that one cigarette. That is the basis of my theory on How to Quit Smoking Overnight.

Sure, I had a extraordinary circumstance that scared the living stuff out of me but if you can keep that one thought in your head every single time that you want to light up I think it can work for you too. 


Monday Morning Quarterback 1.11

I really should change the name of this weekly post to Tuesday Morning Quarterback or something because I think it has been a month since I published on a Monday. I don't know if it is that I am too busy because of the time of year and all of the stuff that's been going on or if it is that I am getting a little bored and I haven't made it a priority to write when I do have the time.

Spare time is always hard to find around the holidays but this year I'm going to take advantage of the technology and use the internet to handle most of my shopping chores. From the looks of the reports on my Website, many other smart consumers are doing the same.

Top Five keywords that resulted in visits to SkeetzTeez or SkeetzTeez blog:

Top five designs sold at SkeetzTeez:

I have neglected the shop lately, hardly adding any new designs yet I have quite a few concepts started that I need to knock out before Thanksgiving so I can be included in the Holiday gift-giving rush. It is encouraging to see some interest in designs other than the political and baby stuff though. Many of my ideas are a little obscure but I am banking on there being enough interested customers out there, if I can just get the exposure on the shop so they can see what I have to offer.

If you know any of these, so-called, interested customers, forward this blog or tell them about my WebShop or, even better, just buy the gift and give it to them for Christmas! Here's the notes from the weekend:

• When I first opened the shop, I thought that most of my business would be from customers that requested custom designs for one or a few T-shirts but it was awfully easy to just throw a design up on the site and see who would buy it. I did, however, complete my first special order last week for a friend of MLW who is participating in a Walk for Breast Cancer. If you need a special event design-- just drop me a line.
• I'm a poet and don't know it.
Christmas shopping for M3S has been made very simple this year as he has so eloquently informed me that all he wants is... everything-- every toy he sees on TV, in catalogs, at the mall and in some other kid's dirty little mitts.
• Is it normal for three-year-olds to know the word humungous and use it correctly in a sentence?
Trivia is still a top keyword that is driving visitors to my Websites. I'm not sure why because I rarely write about trivia, but we have taken home two-firsts and one-second in the last three Trivia Nights we have competed in.
• My 20-year-old nephew's 19-year-old girlfriend said she has cleared upwards of $850 a day waiting tables at Hooters. You have to come up with your own punch line for this because there are just too many ways I can get myself in trouble with this one.
• Just for kicks, I was helping my fourth-grade niece with her Geography homework on Sunday. The first question was, "What is the capital of Washington, D.C.?" Who is checking the teacher's work?
• Unless your going to plan on making a career out of the military or as a travel agent, Geography is pretty much useless-- made that way by easy access to MapQuest and portable GPS units.
• If the feds are going to bailout the big-three automakers now, what's next? You can come up with your own punch line here too. I didn't mean it to be a joke... but it is.
• I can't imagine how one gets poison ivy this late in the year after more than one hard frost when all of the plants should be dead but, somehow, I managed to get a doozy of a batch. Pray that it doesn't get in my nook and crannies.
• It is going to be a tight race and come right down to the wire to determine if the Rams or our Fantasy Football team sucks more this year.
• My 22-year-old niece was finally convinced that I may "have something" with my theory that the stroke was caused by chiropractic treatment after seeing a video of a woman in Canada that had a similar story. Now that I have most (but not yet all) of the family on the bandwagon, I'm coming after you! Read my story, It Only Seems Fair, and then visit my Squidoo page, Stroke-Chiropractors to see all of the evidence for yourself!
• If you have a cause or even just an interest that you would like to get the word out about, Squidoo is an excellent, easy, free vehicle to do so.
• I'm sure glad Mimi is alright. Yes-- for her sake, but also Nanu's. He's a tough guy but I don't think he would get along very well without her.
• Can't say it enough... tell the people you love, that you love them... now!

No... I really mean it! Stop reading this blog and and call your Mom, Dad, Grandparents, Brother, Sister or anybody else that you care about, and tell them how you feel; step away from the computer and give your Wife, Husband, Girl or Boyfriend a kiss; find your kids and give them a big hug and then spend a few moments playing or talking with them because a time will come when you won't be able to do these things-- and I don't want you to blame me that you didn't take the time when you had the chance...

Then come back here and Read this. Buy T-shirts. Peace.


15-Minutes of Fame

In Entertainment News from Reality TV World:

Paula Goodspeed, a 30-year-old former American Idol auditioneer and Paula Abdul fan, was found dead in her car nearby the Entertainer's house on Tuesday evening. According to the LAPD, the death was an apparent suicide caused by a drug overdose.

Forget, for a moment, of how producers of the show went about exploiting this poor, obviously mentally ill (or, at the very least, unstable) young lady and thousands of other individuals, and tell me how, even if they are somewhat deranged or delusional, these kids with absolutely no vocal talent, either believe that they will not humiliate themselves or realize it and allow it to happen for a few moments in the national spotlight?

There are three types of people that try out for a show like this. Some have real talent and they usually know it. If they are lucky enough and things go their way, these are the ones featured, prominantly, in the final 20 or so. For every one of those 20, however, I bet there are 20 more with just as much talent that didn't audition or did and didn't make it that far for one reason or another.

The next group of makes up probably 90% of the individuals that audition. They are people like me 20-years ago. Some have training or experience singing in a band or in the choir at church. Others have fantastic voices but are lacking the training or experience. Generally, though, they all have some talent, can find a key and have enough balls to get out there and try. 

Although, I'm sure, this is the biggest group, I'm sure you see less of these people on TV than any of the others because they are, frankly, the least interesting to watch. You may see a few of them if they happen to have a gimmick, a personality or the right look and some will even get a ticket to Hollywood but, for the most part, the kids you're going to see on TV are the ones from the first group and the last one.

The auditioneers in the last group may have a gimmick or an interesting personality or look, in fact, many of them excel in these areas but they are missing a valuable trait that would prevent them from becoming your next American Idol... talent. I still think a few of them realize that they have no reason being there and just hope to be eccentric enough to have their 15-minutes of fame but so many of them seem so sincere that they would have to be the best actors in the world to play the part of a pathetic loony through the entire show.

There is no doubt that the producers of the show have some part in making the viewer see (and therefore believe) whatever they want them to just by, simply, editing out whatever they want but, like everything else in today's society, we want the drama and the tragedy. Similarly to the way we all slow down and try to get a glimpse of the automobile accident on the other side of the highway, the average American would rather watch the freaks trying to sing in the auditions the first few weeks of the series than see the final seven contestants' interpretations of Barry Manilow tunes from the decade that they were born.

I guess the formula works, though, because so many people are glued to the tube for all of the Reality Shows that fill up the prime time airwaves. The viewers get what they want, the makers of the shows are making money and the contestants... well what about the contestants? The winners have to appreciate all the hard work they put in as championship money on these shows start in the six-digit range and most are paying seven-digits to, at least, the champions of a season-long contest.

I don't here many complaints about the way losers were treated, either because, most of the time, they get what they are looking for too-- their 15-minutes. Some, like William Hung, in exchange for a little national humiliation get a bit more time and some can drag enough out of it to make a few bucks. There are some members of the early Real World episodes that have been cashing in on Reunion Shows and Follow-up Challenges for more than 15-years.

Maybe we can blame the whole politically-correct, everybody-gets-a-trophy, sense-of-entitlement, society that Paula Goodspeed was never told that she didn't have what it takes to be the next American Idol-- or maybe she knew and that really wasn't her goal. A posting on her MySpace page yesterday stated, "Rest in peace, the world knows your name."

That's a pretty big price to pay for your 15-minutes of fame...


Who's the fat guy talking to Mark?

A good friend posted some pictures of our visit to the pumpkin patch on Facebook. I was going through them looking for shots of my Son in the vast sea of children (most of them hers), not recognizing anyone until I caught a glimpse of her husband in the crowd. My first thought was, "Who's the fat guy talking to Mark?" but on closer inspection I realized it was me... I thought he looked familiar!

I made the mistake of standing, nakee, in front of the mirror on Friday. At home I know where the full-lengths are strategically located and I make it a habit not to get caught in front of one, but we stayed in a hotel this weekend and I wasn't paying attention. I woke up from an afternoon nap and dropped my clothes on the floor before darting into the bathroom for a shower and spun right into a full-frontal. I think it would be safe for me to say that you can ask anyone that knows me and they would say I am anything but vane, however, this was not a pretty sight.

What I saw made me disgusted to think that, not a year earlier, I stood in front of a mirror looking at a body that was mostly crippled on one side, promising myself that, if I regained my strength and coordination, I was not going to fall back into the bad habits that allowed me to get out of shape. I, honestly, don't know what happened. Although, I haven't been a fitness fanatic, I am still eating ten times better than I was before the stroke and working out more often also, yet I have gained more weight in the last 12 months than I have in any period in my life.

I have cut the salt, the fat, and the carbs and, as a result (and with the added help of some really good meds) I have brought down my blood-pressure and my cholesterol to acceptable levels but even with the additional exercise, I am still not losing-- and sometimes even gaining, pounds. My first thought was that the medications could be contributing to my difficulties, but nothing I have read would lead me to believe that any of them would cause a problem.

I tried to blame some of the weight on sympathy gain because my wife is pregnant with our second child. I could believe that was the problem until my sympathy gain exceeded her actual weight gain and M3S exclaimed that Dada was going to have a big baby when he understood that Mama's belly was getting big because it had a baby growing in it.

I know that some people pack on the poundage when they quit smoking but I would have a very hard time using this as an excuse considering I quit overnight with the only ill-effect being that I was tired all of the time. I continued to lose weight for the first three or four months afterward so I don't think the delayed nicotine withdrawal argument is going to fly.

My wife tends to think that it is all because of my age. 43 is not what I would consider old now, though, 25-30 years ago I certainly would. If I can't use my lost youth as a legitimate explanation for the stroke-- I can't use it for a good reason to be lazy and out of shape either.

During my rehabilitation, I fell into some excellent habits. I took my diet and exercise to the extreme-- partly because I was scared to death of dying, but mostly because I wanted to be sure to get a good head-start because it would be hard to keep up that pace and not start slacking. That slacking, however, came back way too quickly once I got back to a semi-normal routine. I went from being bored and looking for things to do with all of the free time I had to being worn-out all the time when I went back to work. In addition, sitting at a desk all day isn't very healthy either-- at least with my nicotine habit, I would get up to go to the smoking area four times a day.

I have always enjoyed working out earlier rather than later and, from what I've heard, this is much better for burning calories. I find it extremely hard to get myself motivated to go to the gym after work-- or even worse, after dinner. There is a group of people at work though that actually workout before they come in but I could just never see myself getting up before the Sun, dragging my butt out of bed, into the car and up to the YMCA, when I could do something much more sensible and enjoyable, like... sleep!

This was before the incident with the mirror, though, and my knee-jerk, paranoia, hypochondriac reaction to get up early the next morning, drag my sorry butt out of bed, down the stairs (instead of the elevator) and into the hotel "fitness center"-- two treadmills and a stationary bike. They weren't the best facilities but I got in an almost 50-minute session before MLW and M3S came down looking for breakfast and the other key to the room.

Later in the afternoon, I commented how it felt good-- mentally and, surprisingly, physically-- to get up and get in that workout early in the morning... and while on vacation to boot. My wife suggested that I should try it when we get home, and reminded me that I usually get up to load our Son in the car for her at 5:30 anyway. I never thought of it like that.

So, this morning, I gave it a shot. MLW, gently, woke me at 5:30 so I could carry 38 pounds of dead weight 50-feet to the garage and load M3S into his car seat and then I dragged my sorry butt into the car and to the Y. I got in a 5-minute warm-up and stretch, 18-minutes on the treadmill, a quick upper-body circuit and 16-minutes on the elliptical machine. I still had time to take a nice hot shower and stop back by the house to pick up a few things that I forgot before I was off to work.

I don't know how I will hold up the rest of the day. It is only lunch time now but I am already feeling a little tired. I hope that I will soon pick up a second wind, though, because I am committed to giving this a shot, at least, through the end of the week. I'm sure it will get easier if I get used to it.

Besides, I weighed in while I was at the YMCA and I'm a little embarrassed to say that I tipped the scales at 191. I'm embarrassed but still willing to post my weight here as well as my goal of 182 by December 31 and 175 by February 19 to better hold myself accountable. There is not a lot of people that are reading this blog but, probably, enough to get on my case if I start slacking again.

I will give periodic updates on my progress in the upcoming weeks. Until then... Read This. Buy T-shirts. Peace.


Monday Morning Quarterback 1.10

It seems like it has been weeks since I have written anything. I have a friend at work that always takes a post-vacation vacation day. It seems silly to waste an extra day off when you just had all of that time to relax but, whether it's due to me getting old or M3S being a handful to travel with, I could use an extra day to recover from the trip. It was only a three-day weekend, but I have a bunch of notes to write about so I am going to skip the Top Fives for now and get on with it while it is all fresh in my head.

• Used to be that when a young person went away to college they were gone until Christmas break unless they ran out of money and hitched a ride home for the weekend to get more. We went to Indiana to visit my sister-in-law for her school's family weekend and there was more family on campus than students because everyone went home. We were lucky she knew we were coming or she would've probably taking the five-and-a-half-hour drive home for the fifth time this semester and we would miss her.
• If the government is looking for a model of how to get dug out of this financial crisis they should look to the Colleges and Universities as it seems the several that I am aware of are in a financial boom with expansion and improvements running rampant.
• If you call someone from Indiana a Hoosier, do they consider it a complement.
• Indiana is proud of John Cougar Mellencamp. I heard more of his music in the last three days than I heard in the three biggest years of his popularity. I like his stuff as much as anyone but see no need for, WJCM: All Cougar-- All the Time.
• I have never worked in a fine eating establishment such as T.G.I.Friday's but I just can't understand how it can be that hard to split up a check, no matter how many people are on it, as long as you have already added in 15% gratuity.
• It's official-- M3S is my best friend now. We became blood brothers on our trip and he gave me some weird kind of brain meld.
• I will write in more depth on this in the next few months but I have a real concern that I have grown so attached my three-year old Son that it will be hard to not favorite him when the baby comes.
• Visited a church in Kokomo, Indiana on Sunday that was very cool. In addition to having a super amazing building and the most elaborate production of children's church that I could ever imagine, they were in the middle of a series based on The Beatles, of all things. I wish I could have heard more because everything that I ever heard says The Fab Four and God didn't cross paths very much.
• Did I mention, after starting 1-5 and then winning three in a row that our fantasy football team may be able to end up with a respectable season this year? If I did... I was wrong.
• After averaging almost 50 mpg in the Prius since we bought it, we got barely over 40 mpg on the trip, partly because of our speed, the weather, and having three passengers and their luggage for three-days packed in the space but mainly because MLW was in charge of the climate control and we would constantly be switching from heat to air-conditioning.
• Be sure to check SkeetzTeez often in the coming weeks because I have a ton of new design ideas that I will be adding in an attempt to get as many holiday gift sales as possible.
Did you know: you have 30,000 individual thoughts in your head every day?
Wall-E is a good movie with several interesting messages and an artsy essence that reminds me a bit of the Disney masterpiece Fantasia. Not really a kids' film, though, in my opinion.
• I have a theory that Cracker Barrel Restaurants, no matter how busy they are, always have at least a 20-minute wait for a table so you are stuck roaming around that silly craft store until you break-down and buy the $4.89 worth of stuff, just to distract the children (or wife) long enough to stop whining about how hungry they are.
• I am very proud of the attention that my Squidoo lens about Awareness of the Risk of Strokes with Chiropractors is getting. I am getting more and more hits every week as the word is being spread about the dangers of chiropractic neck procedures. If you have a loved one or a friend that is being treated by a chiropractor, make sure they see this before they are seriously injured!

I thought that I had a lot more than this to right but I am running out of time and can't think of anything else appropriate to write (I am trying to clean up my act). I hope to have something every day this week though and will certainly include anything I forgot in an upcoming article. Until then... Read this. Buy T-shirts. Peace.


Where is the complaint department?

Just a quick follow-up to yesterday's post... Yes-- I voted. 

After almost two-years of hype and an hour-and-a-half of waiting in line before the sun came up, the election is over for me except for the hours and hours of exit polls and reports on results as the votes are counted. I don't know what the next four years have in store but I thought today was, kind of, a let-down. The republicans didn't capture Osama Bin Laden at the last minute and there were little conflict between either candidate by anyone but the opposing party's leaders-- and those were not even as bad as a couple of kids on the playground, calling each other names. Although, when this is all over we are going to have our country's first African-American President or Woman Vice-President, at the end of the day, I think this is going to look like an ordinary election, albeit one with a really, really big turnout. 

I arrived at my polling place at 5:35 A.M. and found the top parking lot full. I still move pretty quick for an old guy but I lost a few places in line because I was unfamiliar with the shortcut between the buildings at the Catholic Church and went around the long way. I was number 79, as I found out later, but by the mass of voters started moving at 6:03, there had to be 300-350 people waiting because the line was longer than it gets for the Fish-Fry on Good Friday-- and they weren't even going to feed us.

I was expecting the process to take some time so I brought a book to read. I don't know if it was because I was not really that interested in the material so I was looking for reasons to stop reading and talk to people, that everyone else was jealous that I thought of bringing a book and they didn't so, in spite, they wanted to rudely interrupt me or a combination of the two things but I made little progress. The line, on the other hand, moved along through the serpentine path, made from arrows drawn on copy-paper with a Sharpee and masking-taped to the floor, at a surprisingly nice pace. In fact, I spent more time in line waiting for the polls to open than I did getting to the first election official-- that's were we grind to a complete stop.

The line, that was pretty unstable to begin with, collapsed when it reached the bank of four folding tables. Confusion set in with the voters-- most of which were more mature than I and had to have been through this a time or two before, and the officials-- who, I would be willing to bet, were even more mature than the voters, but acted as if it was their first time through an election, much less working at one.

I understand the reasons we need to have all of the checks and balances to keep everything on the up-and-up but I can't, for the life of me, figure out why they can't find a more efficient way to do it than with a handful of octogenarians, a couple of poli-sci majors and a part-time librarian to supervise them all. 

There were four stations set up a labeled on the front of the table with the same Sharpee-written, masking-taped, copy-paper that they used on the floor, so there were many individuals that waited in line, only to find out it was the wrong one when they got to the front. Each station had an official that had to sign-off on something and then handover the form to an official at another station to sign-off on it. I assumed that this was because it was early and they weren't fully staffed yet but, I would think, that early in the morning and late in the day would be the busiest times so they would have the most help at that time.

When I finally made it to the third station, I was delayed again as the official that was confirming my status had to wait for "the Republican"-- like there is only one in the building-- to get out of the bathroom. The polls have been open for 23-minutes and this guy has already got to take a leak? We are in for a long day!

If you read this blog yesterday you would know that, going into this election, I was concerned with the average citizen's ability to choose our next leaders. After my experience today, I was even more disturbed by the idea that the governing bodies declaring the winners after we Americans exercise our right to choose. I find it impossible to believe that we can count on getting everything even close to right after witnessing the disorganization and incompetence from the officials at my polling place.

There was no one person in charge, as far as I can tell. There was a woman that was walking around aimlessly with a manual of some kind, though I don't think she was doing any good as the many people I saw asking questions were directed in several different directions with little or no, reasoning. I saw officials that were having trouble seeing, hearing and just plain understanding what was going on around them.

A good example of this was the two types of ballot-- one, a paper ballot that the voter marked their choices and then run it through a optical scanner that tallied the votes-- the other a touchscreen computer that printed out a paper receipt that was placed in the ballot box. For some reason, the officials had a hard time understanding this simple concept, or even being able to determine the difference between the two. The old guy that was actually handing out the ballots must have worked part-time at Schnucks bagging groceries because he kept asking voters if they wanted paper or plastic.

Technology is a great and powerful thing! So why are we filling in little ovals on a ballot with a number-two pencil? If Americans are not smart enough to follow instructions and remove all of the hanging chad from the back of their ballots-- the vote doesn't count... easy!

I jest but, in all seriousness, let's find a way to make this process easy, efficient and effective. If we have to throw some dollars at the election process we can use a percentage of the billions of dollars spent on all of the candidates campaigns across the U.S. to hire qualified, nonpartisan officials, purchase equipment, technology and training and communicate how it all works to the voters.

As I finish my article late on election day, John McCain is giving his concession speech. I am somewhat disappointed-- not because the man I voted for did not win, but because it wasn't really much of a race. Not even 30 of the 50-States have reported any results. I sincerely hope Obama can turn this country around but he has his work cut out for him.

I did my civic duty, woke up early to wait in a long line and deal with a much less than ideal situation to place my vote for President of the United States. You would still have a extremely difficult time trying to convince me that my vote mattered, but I will be happy to listen to your argument and I will leave it at that for now because I'm tired and I have to load some new designs to the SkeetzTeez cafepress shop... now that the election is over, shoppers will be looking for unique, custom Holiday Gifts!


What is a bellwether state?

I live in Missouri, which is often referred to as a bellwether state, when talking about national politics. I have never lived anywhere else so this might be another example of, what I like to call, Soccertown, USA Syndrome but, whether it is or not I have always been interested in what it means and where it came from.

Although I tested as a gifted child, I am probably not as smart as I think I am but, although I am an artist, I am, by no means, a moron and I try to keep up with the important issues and educate myself about the things that impact my family. The Internet is a valuable tool to gather information on just about anything and something such as Geography, which is not one of my stronger subjects, I have no problem tracking down maps, guides and important details about any place that we would travel. Politics, however, a subject of much greater consequence that I have some clue about but lack a in depth understanding, is a much more complicated topic to research on the Web because most of the information available to the general public is biased.

It scares me a little bit that, in a democracy, they leave the decisions about who is going to run the country, make and interpret the laws, set the budgets and address foreign policy to one of the least qualified people to make them... me. Yes, me and you and all those other people that don't know what a bellwether state is-- all the individuals that don't understand how the electoral college works that have difficulties understanding the ballot or even the simple instructions on how to vote so we don't have a problem with hanging chad.

There are voters that will go to the polls tomorrow believing that Barack Obama is a Muslim or that John McCain used the C-word to describe his wife in a 1992 interview-- not that either one of these things would make a difference of how they would perform as president but it may influence the way some people will choose. Citizens will cast votes for their leader for the next four years based not on what they know about any of the important issues facing our country today, but on what they were told in 30-second partisan TV ads squeezed in-between staged segments of The Hills or from a friend of a friend of a friend who has so much charisma and sounds so smart that they must know what they are talking about. Some will vote for a particular candidate because they think it is the cool thing to do; some to make a statement that they don't like what is going on; some directly along party lines; and some for the lessor of two evils.

No matter how you choose which candidate you will vote for-- whether you study each one and seek out a poli-sci major to interpret the results or flip a coin-- you have the right, in this great country, to be heard. I would encourage every person in the U.S. that is eligible, to take advantage of that right, but I would also ask that you don't take that right for granted and make a educated choice, to the best of your ability.

I have tried very hard to keep this article as non-partisan as possible as to not influence any readers' opinion but it is difficult to find other sources of information that are not supportive of one side or the other. Here are a few sites on the Web that may be helpful in your quest for the truth:

Smart Voter by the League of Women Voters- provides nonpartisan election information including a preview of your ballot for unique district on November 4.

By the People Election Glossary- a glossary of election terms.

Public Agenda for Citizens- the smart voters' guide to what the politicians won't tell you featuring the Voters' Survival Kit.

Wednesday morning, when we get up, the country is going to look a little different than it has for the last 18-months or so. Besides having recycled all of the political signs in the front yards of all our neighbors and the TV and Radio waves being opened to regular stupid ads instead of political stupid ads, we are going to know, generally, what directions we are going to take to try to get us out of the challenges we are facing as a world power for the next four years. No matter who wins, I hope it is a good direction.

After much studying, I have made my choice and will cast my vote for that candidate tomorrow and then sit back and hope for the best-- not that my choice will win, but that whomever does can make a difference and we can all prosper from our decision in the future.

Vote Smart. Read This. Buy T-shirts. Peace.

Sorry... if you found this page looking for the definition of a bellwhether state, here is the definition from Wikipedia: A bellwether is any entity in a given arena that serves to create of influence trends or to presage future happenings. The term is derived from Middle English bellewether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading its flock of sheep. The movements of the flock could be perceived by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight.