THANK GOODNESS FOR MOMS


Barbara Bush passed away this week at the age of 92. She had a full, wonderful life that was filled with a stint as First Lady of the U.S. She also had a son who later became president. A second son was governor of Florida. Her husband was with her when she died, and her family now grieves for her, even though she’d had a long and full life. The fact is that our mommas are the individuals who mean most to us in this life.
Dads, don’t despair. Our children love us completely as well. They look to us for protection against the scary things under the bed; we’re the ones who serve as bucking bronco rides in the living room
floor in the evenings. Our sons look to us as the role model for their lives. If something breaks, it is we dads who puts the item back together with glue and duct tape.
Still, the moms of this world are the folks who make life all right. When we were small, moms took care of us when colds or earaches or stomachaches attacked. They administered doses of medicine, and supplemented them with long hugs. Soothing hands rubbed our backs or heads, and laps provided comfortable places to ease the throbbing in our heads.
Mothers are the ones we went to when problems in school arose. Dads would more often prepare for war with anyone who troubled their children, but moms had a better tactic. They simply listened without saying a word to our woes, and let us tell all the horrible things details. Then, those women assured us. What followed were either words of sympathy or suggestions for dealing with the problem. On some occasions, moms traveled to the school, and there they expressed in the clearest of terms what they expected to be done to resolve any bad situation.
We men take home our girlfriends or fiancĂ©es to meet the family. Many times, those visits are made so that that our mothers can conduct the “smell test.” We want our moms to like the girls we’ve fallen in love with because, no matter what is admitted, what the women of our homes like matters to us. The lasts thing men want is to live in the middle of a mother and daughter-in-law battle. It’s a no win situation.
Most of all, children want to make their moms proud. Through so many years, those women worked to teach us what is wrong and right. They instructed us about making our lives full with a balance of
work and fun. Most of all, moms tried to encourage us to live life on our own terms and never to let someone else have sway over our thoughts or actions.
Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my mother. I wish I could have just one more time to sit with her and hear her voice. I’d tell her “thank you” for all the sacrifices that she made for my two brothers and me, especially after our dad died when we were teens. My dear wife has sometimes wondered if she has been a good mother, but that question is always answered when Lacey and Dallas parrot the words that she spoke. At other times, they let her know that she has been successful by the way they make decisions and live their lives.
Our moms are blessings from the good Lord. I hope everyone takes a minute to remember them or to tell them how much they mean. Mothers deserve such high and worthy praise.


ENTITLEMENTS


I listened as Speaker Paul Ryan talked about his tenure as a U.S. representative He regretted that he’d not been able to tackle the problems with “entitlements.” The more politicians talk about entitlements, the more my hackles react. Yes, that means I am growing angrier about the rhetoric that the folks in Washington spew.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, entitlement is defined as “a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.” Most often, they are identified as Medicare and Social Security. The
fact is that all of us have been paying FICA (Federal Insurance Contribution Act) taxes from each and every paycheck we’ve received over the years. These two things are considered entitlements, but they shouldn’t be viewed in negative ways.
A bit of research provides some interesting data. The average employee pays 7.65% of his or her paycheck into FICA. Employers pay another 7.65%. So, that equals a hefty 15.3% is going to Social Security and Medicare. If we calculate the average salary for an individual is $35,000 over his work life and that he works from ages 18-65 ( total of 47 years), then the total contribution to the system is $5250 a year and $246,750 over that 47-year period. The average employee in this country has contributed one quarter of a million dollars toward retirement and Medicare.
If the money were invested in typical financial planning products with a return rate of 10.3% (the average since 1970), the total contribution per individual would equal $4,516,150. That is what the government would have for the average person when he or she reaches the age of 65. I’m confident  Now, many of us don’t count on entitlements for our sole income. We’ve scrimped and saved to put away and invest just a little each month. If over our work life we have managed to average $100 a month, then we’ve amassed another $1,031,083 at 10.3% return. (http://www.bankrate.com)
that most of us could survive on that amount over the golden years of our lives.
No senior citizen wants to feel the sting of congressional comments that “entitlements are killing our country and will lead to its ruin.” Better management of collected funds could have and still can lead to better returns on investments of FICA taxes. Don’t say payments to citizens are entitlements in a negative way. As I understand it, the money that the government pays out is what we paid in. It is not citizens’ faults that our government has been such a poor steward of the money we entrusted to it. Yes, life expectancy has increased, and perhaps a rise in the FICA taxes are necessary to cover the shortfall that is occurring because the government hasn’t handle the money in our best interests.
A word of advice to those younger folks who don’t believe they will ever see a dime from Social Security payments. Take some amount of your income right this minute and invest it. Each time you receive a raise, put a percentage of it with the monthly investment. Make sure you are getting the best
rate of return on your money and DON’T touch that money unless a catastrophe befalls you.
Elected leaders, stop whining, complaining, and belittling and start making better decisions for everyone and the country. The funds we send for FICA should be more wisely used so that Social Security and Medicare can remain solvent for future generations.

QUILTS


One of our church’s new stained glass windows made by Leslie Little reminds my wife of a quilt. The patterns on it are similar to those used for generations by women who have sewn the covers. I’ve never met a person who didn’t love quilts or who didn’t want one or more.
When we were young, Mother covered our beds with quilts that her mother or grandmother had sewn. Back then, quilts weren’t considered art. Instead, they were necessities for families. Cold weather arrived; money was tight; the best way to keep beds warm was to take scraps of cloth and
bind them together on a backing and then stuff the whole thing with some kind of material that might knock off the chill.
We all had quilts and never thought much about them. Sometimes, we would strip them from the bed and use them as mats for wrestling matches in the living room. We also drove our toy cars across the terrain of the quilts and made believe we were in the desert or some other wild place. My brother Jim wrapped himself in his quilt before slipping into a night of violent sleep where he stretched and kicked and yanked the material.
My mother made quilts for years. It seemed to us to be a torturous activity, but the projects provided her hours and days of entertainment. She’d spread out the batting and material and scraps and put them together while watching an episode of “Matlock.” Her bony, crooked fingers worked needles through layers of cloth in intricately created stitches. She wore a thimble on the one finger that was most in danger of being stabbed with those needles.
Even in her last months, Mother sat on the enclosed porch off the kitchen. She worked on a hobnail quilt that was the most intricate pattern she’d ever tackled. Sometimes, her shortness of breath forced her to put down the work, but she never quit for long. Many evenings Mother sewed until she was exhausted, and at that point, she’d pull the project around her, lie her head on a decorative pillow and
sleep until the next morning.
By the time Mother passed, she’d made a trunkful of quilts. She made sure that each of us boys had one and that her grandchildren had the chance to choose one. They are special items to us all. More than anything, those covers represent the love Mother had for us and the dedication she gave to making these special items. Hours of her life poured into the making of the quilts we now have, and in some small way, they keep her a bit closer to us, even though she has been gone more than twenty years.
Today, folks shell out piles of cash to purchase a handmade quilt. At any estate sale, the first things that are sold are those patterned bed covers. Yes, quilts are special to most folks. They are even more important to family members who have one made by a mother or grandmother.
We probably should use them for everyday use like the one Jim did years ago. That might be the biggest compliment we can give to the maker of the quilt, but doing so might wear them out and leave us wishing we’d have preserved that special item produced by our loved ones. So, many quilts are hung on racks for decorations or are stuffed in chests for safekeeping. I suppose the main thing is to enjoy a piece of artwork that can even be used in a utilitarian ways.

THINK!


Polls show that more and more Americans believe in the theory that the government is being influenced by “the deep state.” Those same polls show that nearly 3 out of 4 individuals don’t know what “the deep state” actually is. The situation is just another example of citizens surrendering their God-given ability to think. That failure to think can have serious consequences.
Most of us have simply become lazy. Instead of researching a topic through reading and exploration, we allow all sorts of electronic media to do our thinking for us. How many of us are guilty of watching 24-hour news stations and blindly accepting what its commentators, whether liberal or
conservative, say? If a person is a Fox Network fan, he isn’t about to listen to a different point of view that airs on CNN. The same holds true for those who choose CNN as their news deliverer.
Social media delivers too many individuals’ news. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all shotgun news bites and ads and links with information we might find interesting. Of late, the discovery that Russians and even some political factions in our own country have corrupted those outlets with misleading stories has come to light. Still, too many people take the bait and swallow made-up lies as gospel.
Even more of us unquestioningly accept information from the Internet. I’ve heard so many times individuals say that something is a fact. When I ask how they know that, folks reply, “It says so on the Internet.” People have assigned the same divine qualities to the Internet that they give to the Bible or the Koran.
The simple truth is that too many of us have grown intellectually lazy. We don’t have the desire to discover for ourselves. Reading isn’t on the top ten list of activities. As children, most of us found great joy and entertainment as we delved into a topic to find as much information as possible. As little ones, we made buttercup flowers from egg cartons and painted them a beautiful yellow to celebrate spring and the coming of Easter. In fourth grade, we students worked in groups to build replicas of the Matterhorn and report on Switzerland and the Alps. In 6th grade, Mr. Fowler instructed all of us to make a scrapbook of the events of John Kennedy’s assassination, which had occurred in the fall of that year. I still have pieces of that project in a drawer somewhere.
The safeguards against foreign intrusions and subversion are continued pursuit of the truth. That comes when people invest in reading and examining information for themselves; they never merely take the word of a third-party source. At the same time, a well-informed person listens to both sides of an argument and finds the salient points from both.
Our country is more polarized each day. Folks buy into the side they like and close their minds to anything the opposition proffers. Such single-mindedness leads to a loss of moderation, and in the end, paralyzes leaders from acting in the best interest of the entire country. The time has come for each of us to reclaim our intellectual curiosity so that we no longer can be blindly lead to believe that only one answer is the right one. We owe this to ourselves and to our children. Otherwise, an authoritarian form of government will take over because of our laziness and lead us far from the democratic principles that Americans love.