Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy Birthday

Hello Fellow Campers,

The sunburn is fading; the muscles ache a bit less this morning, we have nothing but praise for God’s blessing of good weather all weekend. It was a very good party.

Deb was 50 on June 15th, but we waited to celebrate until Father’s Day and all the graduation parties finished.

I had never considered making it a surprise party, as I knew I’d need help with the guest list and the arrangements, and I would be challenged to approach the competence Deb exhibited in 1995 when she threw my surprise 50th birthday party.

So we planned a pig roast with all the trimmings. We used Billy’s restaurant in Spring Grove for the catering and ABC rental in Round Lake for the tent, tables and chairs and some emergency help Friday night.

We invited family, friends and Deb’s co workers, and a few neighbors. I knew it would be a terrific turn out, and it was. It was wonderful to see so many good people having a happy time.
People brought appetizers, side dishes and desserts, and lots of hugs for Deb and me. We saw friends on Saturday that came a good distance to be with us, and people that we have neglected over time, as our path and theirs crossed less frequently. Uncle Johnny was there at 84, the senior statesman to attend. There were kids and Strider the Wonder Dog too. We also had a surprise visit by Little Miss Peanut, Hailey Fish, daughter of Perry and Julie Fish.

Our good friend John Puleo came over Friday and helped set up the tent, a 20 foot by 30 foot beauty from ABC Rental. Our friends and next door neighbor, Paul and Karen Sorenson own ABC, so we have always used them for tents and just about anything else you could want to rent. John and I were a little confused about the center poles in the tent, so Paul and his grandson Zak came over and helped tune up the installation to withstand the high wind Friday night.

Saturday morning Deb was a whirling dervish, making beds, picking up, putting the ubiquitous pillows shams on and doing last minute weeding. The weather was post card perfect and Billy’s arrived about 2:30 in the afternoon and proceeded to exceed my expectations completely.

They carved and served the pork, some with BBQ sauce and some plain. The pork was the best I’ve had, period. Their baked beans reminded me of my mom’s beans, and the potato salad and slaw was delicious.

Prior to that, there were plenty of things to snack on and after dinner there was cake and ice cream and singing. Plenty of other desserts were there too, including brownies, cookies and pound cake.

The party continued until about 9 PM when the mosquitoes became overwhelming.

During all of this Strider, our cocker spaniel was a real lady, trotting around with the kids and looking for hand outs. A week ago she developed a pain syndrome, perhaps caused by some nerve or orthopedic problem. It scared us a lot. We were supposed to keep her quiet until she healed, but on Saturday it was an impossible task. Sunday Strider paid the price. We had to carry her down stairs to go out, and she laid in the yard most of the day looking sad. Her eyes seemed to ask the question, why? We’ll be getting x rays and hopefully she will return to 100 percent soon. She will be seven years old in September.

Deb and I cleaned up Sunday, stacking the chairs and tables and taking down the tent. We took our time and started the day (at 8 am) with a cold beer and birthday cake. Who says the Harrell’s don’t know how to party.

We probably had seventy five adults and twenty kids at the peak. Music was provided by John Puleo’s speaker system and my Ipod.

Too many times the only way to get this kind of turn out is at a funeral or wedding. We forget how many wonderful people we know and sadly lose track of in the rush of everyday life. It is too easy to get wrapped up in our own problems and activities until something happens to bring us together.

We thank everyone for the gift of their presence, sharing their favorite dishes in the feast, and the many hugs and smiles that still light our way.

I thank God for the gift of Deb all these years, as she is the leavening in my life, the ying to my yang and my wonderful partner.

God Bless.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Health Care-Everyone Has Thoughts


You either have to be living under a rock, or senile, not to follow the intense debate on health care. One of many initiatives before the country now.

In a perfect system, the patients rights and concerns would be paramount, but always with a nod to sensible economics and end of life issues.

President Obama tonight tried to address the misinformation about his health care proposals. He tried to check the hysteria being fed by those who would profit by the status quo. His plan will not raise the deficit nor will it mean less care or will it mandate government provided care as the only available option, he says, and I have no reason to believe he isn't less than sincere in what he says.

Make no mistake, when someone tells you they have only your concerns before them, count your fingers and change when you are finished, because if there is money involved, you can bet that the primary purpose of the transaction for them is making a buck.

Only insurmountable public pressure or legislation can regulate health care and reduce the enormous cost we pay for it by changing the way health care is delivered. Sadly, even the best intentions are doomed to fail if we can't get the politics out of the debate.

No one, republican or democrat, disagrees that health care has become too expensive for many people, and and unavailable at any cost to many more.

Deb is fifty, I'm sixty four. It stands to reason that with her exposure to cancer she will have trouble getting good health insurance on her own. Which means we either get a high deductible policy, she finds a job that provides health care, or I work another 15 years.

The thought of working until I'm 79 seems a bit unrealistic to me. Think of how my boss would feel about having me another 15 years. Reporting to work with my walker and in my depends.

Back to the theme though. We have to make hard choices and understand that we can't have unlimited options for health care without paying for it with higher premiums. Employers pass along benefit costs dollar for dollar to employees by limiting our paycheck compensation. And it is a tragedy in a country such as ours that so many people, including little children, go without not only basic care, but do without health education and nutritious food.

Some things should exist without debate.

Every person in this country, and I mean every person, should have access to affordable, competent health care. Secondly, every person should have access to mental health care and counseling. All Children should have three good meals each day, however they are furnished. Every student should have a safe school and good teachers. Children should be clothed for the season and we should have enough DCFS employees to make sure children are truly safe.

And while were talking here, or I guess I'm talking, lets get rid of property tax as a barbaric means of funding schools.

How do we pay for this? Take the cost for the basics and develop a graduated tax without any loop holes and let all income be subject to it. Then trot out these other optional programs, that really are ear marks and pork, and let the people understand their true cost and have a say in what gets funded.

We live in a land of plenty, yet we have become self absorbed and selfish. That is, you all have, because all of you know, I'm a truly wonderful altruistic person.

We do very well, with our charity, even in times of hardship. And there are government programs that reach out to the poor and the sick. But we could do so much better. Private programs only go so far. We need the boost only our government can provide, when it not hogtied by bureaucracy and red tape.

There are a lot of people in need out there. Most of the time they don't have a face we can see, and that makes it difficult to respond to the need.

Many children lack food, clothing and with a new school season around the corner, we're reminded that many do not have the school supplies they need to start a new year. There are a lot of good programs out there that will furnish those supplies to needy kids.

I think Deb is doing very well. We have been working on the yard it seems, every free minute and there is still more to do, but it is taking shape just in time for her birthday celebration this Saturday. She loves working in the yard. Our new kitchen counters and sink look. We go on vacation in August, so we are anxious to have the free time.

Today, hug a friend, call someone you miss, write a thank you note and make sure that you tell everyone how much they mean to you and that you love them. What if tomorrow never comes?

There is no one that can't use a smile and a cheerful word. Someone's day may completely change for the better with your small kindness.

I tell Deb each morning as I leave that I love her. Then (and this is sad) I go around the bed to where Strider (the wonder dog) is now laying on my pillow, and pat her and say goodbye.

Finally, I ask you, where is the sin in sincere, and what is the good in goodbye? (Music Man 1957)

God Bless