Mother’s Day, A Day of Reflection

A photo of my mother and I in 2013.

Today is May 10th, Mother’s Day.  This is a time when the nation expresses their thankfulness and celebrates the gift of motherhood everywhere.

Mother’s Day was originally founded in 1908 by a lady named Anna Jarvis, who first celebrated it in remembrance of her dead mother.  She then decided to campaign her idea as a national holiday and eventually made it so.  And even though Mother’s Day has acquired a commercial angle to its significance, people still celebrate the holiday with the warmth and understanding it intended to have since its creation.

I myself am very fortunate to have had a terrific mother.  One that showed up and cheered me on at football games, even when I was performing poorly.  Sometimes, she would have to sit me down and assist me with homework that seemed too difficult a task for me at the time.  Not something I understood then, but is evident to me these days.

In spite of my faults and my occasionally deliberate disobedience, my mom was there for me when nobody else was.  I remember plenty of past moments wondering if I could indeed accomplish any of these life goals that I had set for myself; more often than not did I feel like surrendering to a defeatists’ attitude, but my mother convinced me otherwise.

And with my failures, mistakes, or unfortunate occurrences, my mother was and is still here to cheer me on, just like in those football games.  I’m truly thankful to have an amazing motherly guide to direct me down life’s bumpy path.

Mom, thank you and I love you,
Your eternally grateful son Joel

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The IRS, the Government’s Right Hand Man

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, I’m sure you’re well aware of the most recent scandal that has been circling this fraudulent agency.

From 2003 to 2014, about 1,600 IRS employees were caught supposedly cheating on their tax returns.  Some were disciplined, while others so far haven’t felt any of the repercussions that’s attributed to committing such an offense.  And despite actually disciplining some of their employees, various reports haven’t specified exactly what type of disciplinary action was taken.  So I find that rather hard to believe if any were indeed reprimanded.

So, where does the money from taxes we pay actually get funneled to?  Let’s delve into that curiosity a bit further.

From our taxes, some things actually make sense to be paid for.  Things like Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and governmental assistance for families facing hardships are all valid programs that require attention and funds to keep America running smoothly, but there are a few other programs that shouldn’t be as heavily compensated as they are.

For defense and international security assistance, American taxpayers paid up over 615 billion to this part of the government in 2014, which is roughly 18 percent from taxes collected.

To me, this figure is staggering.  There’s no way that America should be spending this much of our money towards “international security.”  The Defense Dept. alone spent around 92 billion dollars on operations in Afghanistan and other related activities.  Simply mind boggling.

Another channel where tax dollars are funneled to is the national debt.  America’s debt is now up to 13 trillion and climbing.  America’s interest payment for the 2014 fiscal year was 229 billion dollars, a sum that made up 7 percent of the total tax revenue.  You can pick up your jaws from off of the floor now.

These figures aren’t meant to frighten you, but if they do, then consider yourself  warned “my fellow Americans.”

Deflate Gate People

Oh Deflate Gate, I really wish you would’ve deflated as a news worthy story by now.  As people starve across the nation, lose employment and occasionally murder one another, you pick up steam and grab the headlines on major publications.  All over some athletic competition that’s completely meaningless to our daily lives.

I don’t blame you though.  After all, it’s the publications that are drawing this out, you’re just a victim like the rest of us.

The popular networks like Fox, MSNBC, to name a few, are mishandling the coverage by blowing it way out of proportion.  The attention that it has received thus far has been on par with the Baltimore and Ferguson riots, at least that’s how it appears to be.

I’m all for “freedom of the press,” but having this type of story take over the nation like it has is inexcusable.  Which begs the question, where are people supposed to turn to for news with substance?

Sure, there are alternative sources that people can check out and thumb through to gain a truer sense of what’s important, but why are we forced into such a difficult position?

I know there’s accountability on both sides.  American citizens are partially to blame for this, but in some ways I feel that regardless of what people want, the majority of mainstream media slings this into the public domain because it’s easier to supply us with “media”-ocrity.

So Deflate Gate, your five minutes are up.  It’s time you’re deflated for good.

The Oil Hiker’s Guide To Catastrophe

Picture By Noelle Hendrix

Oil is a natural resource all of us use in our daily lives, and it’s not merely something that we fill our cars with.  It’s in our food, a piece of furniture or in hair products, just to name a few of its applications.

But as a nation, we’ve become solely dependent on it.  You would think that we have alternatives, considering the new technologies that are being developed, but you’d be mislead.

It all began with Standard Oil, a Rockefeller creation that monopolized the oil industry and preyed on the American consumer.  For years this went on, but luckily president Theodore Roosevelt put a stop to it and forced Standard Oil to break up the company.

However, this didn’t stop Rockefeller from becoming the richest man of his time, nor did it sway the fragmented oil companies from buying up the once popular electric trolleys from around the United States.  The trolleys were disposed of shortly after  and replaced with buses.

Even in these modern times, Americans still don’t seem to have a choice.  Not with gas prices seeming to increase, despite the lower cost of oil per barrel.  In some ways, it is in fact due in relation to the energy output in order to the extract oil.  But just because you can define the oil equation with an explanation as to why it’s happening, doesn’t justify the equation’s relativity as essential to this economy.

But as everybody knows, there is no such thing as cheap gas, that just won’t ever happen.

Off the Grid Living, Not Practical Enough

An attempt at growing vegetables by reusing resources… Picture By Joel Lawrence

Since I can remember, I haven’t been able to extract much wealth from the effort I’ve put into making money. I suppose it’s the value I’ve placed on generating a large income; that it’s not an important part of life.

One passionate idea I’ve supported has been the mindful detachment from a society built around the accumulation of great wealth. People enhancing their lives by an off the grid lifestyle has grown in popularity for many years now and it only keeps getting larger. Families and single people alike are attempting to somehow rewrite their once mapped out way of life and that is definitely empowering, but what about the people who can’t afford to transition into this way of life?

Whatever materials you need for this venture, it will require a decent sum of money to make this a realization. Therefore, all of the inexpensive “how to’s” proponents and optimists are pretty much irrelevant here.

I’m not trying to rain out parades or kill off someone’s hope, but it’s an unfortunate reality that all of us will face if we decide to escape society’s leash.

A few facts that I’ve checked out that were very beneficial come from http://visualeconomics.creditloan.com/the-true-cost-of-living-off-the-grid/, written by Daniel Wesley. In the article, he states the cost of implementing an alternative resource for electricity and how expensive it truly is.

For instance, the cost of solar panel installation is roughly $38,000. That includes a 24 volt system setup, professional installation and a backup generator. These numbers are quite staggering, especially to those of us who don’t have much wiggle room when it comes to our finances.

And electricity is only one aspect to off grid living. There’s the cost of the house, maintenance, food retrieval, etc., but you get the idea.

This is in no way an attack on people with large incomes, it’s more about highlighting a modern day injustice that the poor people of America endure on a daily basis. After all, I’ve leaned on many a person in order to get through struggles in my personal life and having money in this system assuredly weathers plenty of storms.

So, is off the grid living a great idea, sure, but is it applicable to all of us at this time, not really…

Cuts and Bruises

Picture By Karen West

I’ve spent rainstorms underneath bridges,
have begged for money from strangers,
all of the poverty stricken weekends have
put me on this Wednesday train ride.

I’m aware of where I’m going, who I’ll see, but not of what the soil feels like under my feet,
or who I’m resurrecting from the shadows.

I’ve found love, or did it choose to find me?
I don’t dare be that presumptuous, thinking I deserve it.

One Night in Alpine

In Alpine, TX., 2015 Picture By Joel Lawrence

Trapped, with the simple joys stolen
from this life.

His eyes are soft, but weathered and beaten down, from exhausting days of working the rails and late night bar crawls.

I slap the cue ball hard against the colored ones, it lets out a fiery crack resounding off of the beautifully broken walls of the pool hall.

We play three rounds, each time his play gets worse, yet he makes no excuses.  He’s sincere enough to where you know he’s not a very capable liar.

By the third game, a dirty middle aged man sits down near our table with a pint glass of what I assume is cheap beer.

He’s fidgety and makes remarks about our style of play, mostly mine, but not in a negative way.

Danny, the railroad man, is getting sick of listening to what Lamont, the rock guy, is spouting off.

Danny excuses himself from the table,
anxious to make an exit for the door.
“What a nice guy,” I think to myself.

Now it’s just Lamont and I exchanging silly rhetoric to one another.  Although, his are more so due to him being pretty wasted.

He tells me he’s from Flagstaff, Az. and is neighbors’ with a skinhead that has the word “NAZI” tattooed on his forehead.

I think that’s terrible and tell him that’s unfortunate and that I’m glad I’m not him.

He then tells me about being a veteran, something I could easily pick up on just by his mannerisms and his directness, not as hygienically inclined as I would’ve imagined.

Thirty minutes go by and we eventually part ways, we wish each other well.

I exit the bar and enter another one a few blocks down the road.

I finish two glasses of the mystery Chardonnay the bartender gives me and sit huddled in a corner by the front window.

I overhear college students debrief each other with stories from their stay on campus.

Most of their stories I find to be very boring, but one where a girl slept with the whole floor of her co-ed dorm and was almost certain that she “didn’t enjoy the flower-banging,” I found very entertaining.

Despite the dulling normalcy of their responses, their enthusiasm and youthfulness is contagious, so I keep eavesdropping three tables away.

Only in a place so quiet does the world start to make sense again.