Friday, March 28, 2008

Grandma's House

I spoke to my mother last night. We were talking about my grandmother's house and the fact that something really needs to be done with it. My grandmother has been in a nursing home for a couple of years now with Alzheimer's and the house has just been sitting empty. Well, not exactly empty. My grandma lived in that house for close to 50 years so it has 50 years of assorted stuff in it. And it looks like my grandma will not live to see her next birthday in September. She has to be strapped to her wheelchair because she is falling out of it all the time and she hasn't been able to speak for almost a year now. Mom said that she isn't awake very much and when she is, she just sits and smiles. I just hate it. I haven't gone to see her because I cannot stand to think of my Grandma that way. She would know who I am anyway. But that is a completely different rant.

Grandma was born in 1919 and like every person who lived thru the Great Depression, she has never thrown anything away. If I had to guess, I would say that there are probably 50 fruit jars full of buttons scattered over the 2 or 3 acres the house is on. There are probably 5 and 10 dollar bills tucked away in every book in the house. For all I know, she could have a couple of thousand dollars worth of pennies buried out in the garden. And the really bad part about it is that before she went into the nursing home, she would get very paranoid that someone would steal things from her, so she would hide stuff. Anything that she thought someone would want, she hid. Then promptly forget where she hid them.

Anyway, my mom and aunt are going to start going thru the house this weekend and get rid of stuff then is just plainly trash. 20 year old plastic butter bowls, newspapers that were used to wrap empty fruit jars, magazines from the 80's, that sort of thing.

Mom is aware that there are some things I would like to have from the house before it gets sold or destroyed by the roof on one of the many sheds falling in. I remember a wood stove in the shop from when I was a kid. I don't remember if it was a cook stove or a Franklin stove, but I told her that if it wasn't rusted out, I would like to have it. Any cast iron cookware will have to be split amongst the kids I am sure, but maybe I will be able to get a piece or two. The stuff I am interested in really is the stuff that I cannot see my aunt or cousins really wanting. I want the old time stuff. Milk churns, crocks, fruit jars, wash boards, flour bins, salt cellars, all of the things of every day living from three quarters of a century ago. There is an iron bedstead in the house but I can't remember if it has been claimed or not. It has been painted a few times but the last time I saw it, it was still sturdy. It won't fit my bed but it would be just awesome for a guest room.

My aunt and cousins all live near St. Louis and have for as long as I can remember. They are city folks. Wouldn't have a clue how to cook without a microwave. They will not want any of the things that I would be interested in. Even the hand pump we used when my dad drilled them a new well when I was a kid would be useful. All of this kind of stuff is very handy around the farm that I will have some day.

My grandpa had an old forge out in the yard that we used to play with when we were kids. Now, I cannot see any really need for that, but it was a really interesting relic of the time. Mom said that she thought it had belonged to Poppy, my grandma's dad. He passed away at the ripe old age of 94, when I was a teen. But I remember the forge from when I was a little kid, so who knows.

I would like to take about a week to go to the house and help Mom and Aunt Janie with the clean up and inventory. I don't know that I would be much help really since I really can't pick up anything but mom said the shop is about to fall over, and pump house and smoke house are having roof issues, so if there is still anything worth keeping, it needs to be moved into the house at least so it doesn't get ruined.

It is tough having to think of going thru all of grandma's stuff. But that house is so packed with random crap that if we don't start sorting it out now, it will never get done.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Personal Responsibility

One of the many things that really bother me about the direction we are headed as a country is the sheer apathy that most of the country is falling under. No one really cares about anyone else, no one cares about anything but immediate satisfaction of a momentary urge, and no one cares about long term consequences of their actions.

I am a firm believer of Karma, what goes around comes around, and the Threefold Laws. As a country, we are all paying for our past actions. My generation grew up with the belief that we are owed everything by others, that we should be given given what we want and if we don't get it, we should just sue someone to get it. Now there are a few problems with that mindset. I am a bit different that most of my generation. First and foremost is that no one OWES anyone anything. If you do not wish to work, you should not be entitled to benefits that one would expect to receive by working. Those people who work all of their lives and barely make enough to live on expect to get Social Security benefits when they retire. Then there are those whose sole job is to get as much Social Security benefits as possible so they never have to work. There are even those people who have babies out of wedlock just so that they can draw a bigger welfare check. Our country is now paying for the excesses of corrupt society. Our banks are collapsing because they gave risky loans to risky people in the name of greed. Our factories are exporting jobs to third world countries as fast as they can because of wage inflation and over regulation. Bankruptcy courts are being flooded with people who can not pay their credit card bills.

Are we all so conceited that we believe that throwing money at a problem will fix it? Money is not going to fix what is wrong with our country any more. The problem is that corruption has spread into every facet of our lives. We have people who worship the all mighty dollar. We have people who believe that the one with the most toys, wins. And we have people, and corporations, who have no conscience at all when it comes to business matters. No one cares if their next door neighbor is getting laid off because his job is being outsourced to India or Poland because they are too worried about their own job.

We all want the luxuries that the media tell us we should have so we sell our souls to the credit card companies. But when it comes time to pay the piper, we can't. So to pay the credit card bills, we get a second mortgage to pay off the bills. Then, we lose our jobs to someone in another country. Now we have 2 mortgages, kids in school, a couple of car payments and no job. What do we do? File bankruptcy. Now, individually, it doesn't affect society as a whole. The problem is when thousands of people are in this situation. Mortgage companies are having so many people declaring bankruptcy that the banks that underwrite the mortgages are having solvency problems. Banks going bankrupt is bad. Very very bad. It causes everyone who can pay their bills to lose money. It causes stock prices to fall, the dollar to lose value in international markets, and it causes inflation to rise. Inflation, along with a higher unemployment rate, increased fuel prices, and tanking consumer confidence, is adding to the pressure on the government to bail everyone out. The problem with that is the government can't really pay for any kind of bailout without raising taxes. Taxes that are already bordering on the extreme.

I don't know if all of these are just symptoms of the disease that affects our country or if it is the cause. But it will not get any better in this country until we all just take a deep breath and own up to our responsibility.

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