Friday, October 21, 2011

Qaddafi Is Dead (by Ragean)

Qaddafi is dead. I have mixed feelings about this statement.

The first report I had of this fact was via an email update from I read the article (written by Julie Mason) associated with it and this statement became etched in my mind:

“The death of the flamboyant, deadly Qaddafi provides a welcome, definitive outcome for US leaders.”

It was the word “welcome” that struck me.

Next I followed a link provided on Twitter from Brit Comedian/Writer/Actor, Simon Pegg, which led me to this statement from a book written by Martin Luther King, Jr., called “The Strength to Love”:

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says ‘Love your enemies,’ he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

A comment was associated with this quote from Dr King’s book that really says it all:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives; but, I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.”

This statement was written by an English Teacher by the name of Jessica Dovey. Ms. Dovey is a middle-class, American English Teacher. Yes, you read that correctly – an English Teacher. (I bring this specifically to your attention to support a side-comment that most American Teacher’s are underpaid!)

When asked about this statement, which was written after the death of Osama bin Laden, Ms. Dovey further stated:

“I just felt incredibly uneasy after reading the news and watching my newsfeed fill up with shouts of ‘Hooray! The witch is dead!’ I think we should begin thinking about why we are at war in the first place. Is it for revenge? For many, yes. That won’t solve the problem, though, for reasons that were so eloquently stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., himself. What we are looking for is an end to terrorism, right? I don’t know how to create peace, or hope, but I know in my heart that hate isn’t going to get us anywhere. I know that this terrorist is dead, but I know that his ideas are not dead, and that the lies and hatred that fuel them are fires that are fanned by our approach to the situation.”

Further research and reading brought me to a blog writer that pretty much summed it up for me:

“I believe that in the 21st Century, military force and violence is not an effective means of achieving political change. This is less a moral position than it is a political one. Political movements that assume a military orientation tend to be subsumed by battle plan, military exigencies and military order. They lose connection to their principal goal of building a movement and speaking for and to the interests of their constituents. Additionally, the ‘collateral damage’ resultant from the direct engagement of the Imperial militaries tends to fall hardest upon those already oppressed. Imperialism in the 21st Century has refined the tactic of drawing out the battle in which the conflict itself becomes a further weapon of oppression as it becomes the justification for still further oppression. Ours is to evade this cycle rather than to engage it directly.

“I do not begrudge the right of Nations to self-determination up to and including necessary acts of self-defense against Imperialism. I think that most of the greatest political mistakes and State crimes of the 20th Century involved various attempts to manipulate or interfere militarily or otherwise with the natural historical development of Independent Nation States. I think that it should be obvious enough to most people now that these mistakes and crimes carried over into the beginning of the 21st century and are at the root of the situation…at the present time. Rawlin's View (emphasis mine)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not questioning the courage, strength and great sacrifice of our Military men and women. They, unfortunately, are the tool that I feel is being used in the political-economic conflicts that continue to plague mankind. And to reiterate something that I stated in my very first blog, this is MY opinion, to which I am entitled under the Bill of Rights. You may or may not agree with me, which is also your right; and I will defend anyone’s right to their own beliefs.

Again a repeat from my first attempt at blogging: Let’s try to stop the repetition of history and write it anew. Let’s create a world of love, tolerance and respect for all mankind. Let’s stop fighting wars to make other Governments believe or behave as we want them to do. Let’s change the way other Countries feel about America. Let’s change the way Americans feel about other Americans.

And just to show the somewhat ironic side of this story, a tweet I received this morning from Australian Comedian/Musician/Activist, Tim Minchin:

“Bloodied corpse on front of newspapers clearly visible to passing kids. I get in trouble for saying ‘bastard’ on the radio. Funny.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Family (by Ragean)

Family (by Ragean)

Last Saturday evening, my hubby, Charlie, eldest son, Tempe, and I drove the hour out to Lexington to spend the evening with my brother, Tom, and his family.  My youngest son, Dash, was working late and my daughter, Lauren, is in Boston at the moment, so they were unable to join us.  Tom and I live so close to one another, but with such busy lives, we really don’t get to see each other very often.  

I was extremely honored that my beautiful niece, Brenna, and my two gorgeous nephews, Dylan and Macklyn, were there as well.  As I mentioned above, it isn’t often we get to see each other.  Michelle, my amazing sister-in-law made a great meal.  We mostly hung out down in “Flannery’s Pub”, listening to music, watching YouTube videos and chatting.  

What never ceases to amaze me is the way the kids have grown.  Mine are now 25, 27 & 29, and in my mind’s eye, Dylan, Brenna and Mackie are still about 10-14.  Then they walk into the room and I see again how grown up they are becoming, how independent, loving and intelligent they are.  

Being part of a large, loving family is amazing, but at times it can be very difficult.  I haven’t seen Danny, Ginny and Kelly (belonging to the family of my younger brother Tim and his fab wife, Donna) in several years.  I was fortunate enough to see my older brother Greg and his sweet wife Cindy a year or so ago and was able to spend one evening with two of their three sons, Sean (and his beautiful wife, Melody) and Cody (and his amazing love, Cassie.)  Their eldest, Bryan, is living up in Portland with his lovely wife, Lizzie, and the first “great niece” of my life, Jameson.  

Yes, we try to keep tabs on each other, and emails from my mom and Facebook updates do help, but there is nothing like sitting down with them, looking in their eyes and just talking with them!  

One thing that was reinforced Saturday evening is that each of the many members of my extended family is extremely unique unto themselves.  Each has their own, sometimes controversial, opinions and beliefs.  Each has chosen (or is choosing) the path of Life that they are heading toward.  How we can all look so much alike, be so extremely different and yet love each other so much is overwhelming!

I know that the main reason that our family is so close and loving is because of our parents.  My mom taught us all that we were NOT to leave the house or enter the house without a hug and kisses all around.  My kids will still get in very hot water (Dash…) if I catch them trying to leave quickly somewhere without coming to find me for a goodbye hug, kiss and an “I love you.”  

This isn’t really what I would consider a well-thought out blog; but it is a very important reminder to hold those you love close in your hearts and ALWAYS make sure that the last thing you say or do when one you love is hanging up the phone, closing an email or letter, leaving the room, etc., is to tell them how much you love them.  You never know when it will be the last opportunity you have to do so on this Earth and I think you will find that they come back sooner if they know – truly know – just how much you love them!

Let Them Eat Fries! (by Templeton Moss)

My Ma has invited me to post on this blog from time to time on any subject that tickles my fancy. As I have a fairly ticklish fancy, there are a lot of things I'd like to talk about which I just don't get to address in my blog, "Once Upon a Time and Long Ago" in which I write new, funny versions of classic fairy tales, as well as original stories for kids and adults alike. It updates every Friday, it's here on Blogger and that concludes the first of many shameless plugs.

Anyway, as this is my first posting, alduce me to introlow myself: My name is Templeton Moss. I am 27 years old, I haven't worn matching socks in over a year, my favorite current TV show is Phineas and Ferb, my favorite book is "Winnie the Pooh," and my favorite places to be are, in this order, my bed and Disneyland. Some of you may think that this points to a severe mental problem and while that is, undoubtedly, true, it's not really the point I'm trying to make. I believe that all of the world's problems can be traced back to grownups who have forgotten how it feels to be kids. I think reminding people of their childhood is a good way to make them happier, more lighthearted and, therefore, better people. And if we could just scrape together a few more "better people," maybe the world wouldn't be in such a mess. That's what I'm trying to do with my blog every week, by telling stories we heard as children in a new way, it makes the stories seem new and, suddenly, we're kids again.

Or at least that's the idea.

Cuz, let's face it ladles and jelly-spoons: Being a grownup sucks beyond the telling of it! No, really. With the work and the responsibility and having to watch the news and eat salads and wearing neckties and voting and bills and chest pains and all the other little annoyances that make people grumble and moan all day, much to the chagrin of the child inside of all of us who just wants to come out and play every now and then.

And isn't that what being a kid is all about? Playing? Getting out into the world, using your imagination, learning by opening your mind to the infinite possibilities our world has to offer. I promise you, the important lessons I've learned in life, the ones that stay with me every day and have seen me through the hard times, did NOT come from a textbook or a classroom. More likely they came from a game or a cartoon or (time for another plug) a story being told to me by an author, an actor or a parent.

So, I grew up part of the way, but I never gave up being a kid at least some of the time. I work and I meet my responsibilities and I do what's expected of me and I shave and try to stay up to date with world events. But when I'm done with all that crap I watch the Muppets on DVD (sidebar: How psyched are we for their new movie next month?) and play as Princess Peach in "Super Mario 2" (trust me: The game is much better if you only use the princess). Because growing up doesn't mean you can't have fun anymore.

Which is just as well because, more and more, it's looking like our society doesn't want kids to have fun either. Every month or so, I hear some distressing news story or notice something in my town that makes me dysphoric about the life of a kid in our nation. And now that Halloween is approaching, I'm noticing that yet another time-honored childhood institution is being challenged: Tricks-or-Treats!

When I was a kid, on Halloween night, we'd dress up in our part store-bought/part home made costumes (highlights from my own experiences: Raggedy Andy, Goofy, Darkwing Duck [twice] and the Riddler the year Batman Forever came out) and Mom and/or Dad would take us door-to-door around our neighborhood with our pumpkin buckets to collect free candy from strangers; the one night of the year when such behavior was not only permissible, but encouraged. And that's what Halloween was all about, Charlie Brown.

But now, scared parents want to ruin this fun, ever-so-slightly-scary activity with rampant safety precautions: Reflectors and flashlights? Sure, that's not a problem. Always go with an adult? Of course, we're not stupid. Trick-or-Treat during daylight? Wait, what? No! That's no fun. Only visit people you know? Are you crazy? And what are these Trick-Or-Treat parties where you only get candy from six people who go to the same church as you? What am I gonna do with this giant pillowcase full of twelve "Fun Size" Butterfingers?

And it's not just Tricks-Or-Treats under fire. Have you seen Happy Meals lately? Apple dippers? Milk or juice instead of soda? You're at McDonald's!!! If you want your kids to eat healthy, have them stay home and make them a PBJ with the crusts cut off. It's a "Happy" Meal not a "Just Eat It, It's Good For You" Meal. Then I see a Newsweek story extolling the merits of eliminating summer vacation?

Parents, teachers, nosy people: I know being a grownup is hard (in fact I said so just a few paragraphs ago) and I understand that you want the best for the little ones. But the best doesn't always mean rigid, school-like discipline twenty-four/seven. Even in school, kids get recess. Life is a balancing act whether you're ten, twenty, thirty, or some other different number. It's work AND play. It's serious AND silly. CNN AND Spongebob Squarepants. So teach your children, send them to school, prepare them for the job market of the future. But let them have fun on Halloween night. Let them take three months off from school every year. And, by God, let them eat fries! least, every now and then.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Flannery Paradigm - Part One (Ragean)

Just because you sometimes hear voices in your head, or occasionally hear cartoon characters speaking to you, or the “mystical orbs” (that Ghost Experts seem to think are spirits, but are really dust) appear every now and again, it does NOT mean that you are insane.  It may mean you have some slight brain damage or epilepsy (my excuses), but does NOT mean that you are insane.  According to Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

According to Mr. Einstein’s definition, our Nation (possibly the entire World) is Insane.

I am sure you have often heard the phrase “History repeats itself.”  I believe that it is going to continue to repeat itself until we get it through our collective consciousness that things will stop ending badly when we actually cause things to be improved, be better, be acceptable:  when we change what we are doing!

Having been raised in the family of a Christian Church Minister who was exceptional at sermons, I have learned that the way to tell a story of any type is in a basic format:  Preface, Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Summation.  So, that is how I shall proceed.

Consider this the conclusion of the Preface.

PART ONE – The Beginning (or How My Upbringing Helped to Make Me Who I Am)
I am one of the fortunate ones.  The Family that I was born into was (and is) exceptional:  Loving, supportive, intelligent, kind, forgiving.  Let me give a brief summation of the participants:

My Father – Ragon T. Flannery
My dad was a most unique individual.  He pulled himself out of the hills of Eastern Kentucky, which I can assure you is quite a feat in itself, to become one of the most well-respected, well-known Christian Ministers in the Country.  Before becoming a Christian and subsequently a minister, however, he lived quite an interesting life.  But that’s another story. 

I have two very strong and vivid memories of my dad.  The first is when I was about 9 or 10.  I believe we were living in Portland, OR at that time and he had taken me with him to make some home visits to some of the elderly church members.  He told me that they loved seeing a young, bright, pretty face and that he just liked having me with him.  I also just loved being with dad, so I didn’t mind the cheek-pinching, musty smelling houses, and stale cookies.  Well, not too much. 

As we were between visits on this particular rainy day, we passed through a small downtown street and there was a young woman with her face in her hands, sobbing and running down the sidewalk.  Without any hesitation at all, Dad pulled to the curb, slammed on the brakes and told me to stay put.  He jumped out of the car and approached this young woman.  Standing in the rain in his suit (most memories of dad involve him wearing his business “uniform”) I heard him ask if there was anything that he could do to help her.  She started to turn and continue to run away, but he ran after her.  He got in front of her and simply wrapped his arms around her and drew her close.  She struggled for about 10 seconds, while he spoke softly in her ear, then settled into his embrace and sobbed onto his coat.  After several minutes, he handed her some cash and his business card, gave her a last hug and came back to the car.  We drove on toward our next visitation in silence until I finally asked, “Daddy, what was wrong with that girl?”  He said, “She was lost.”  I smiled and said, “I’m glad you found her.”  He just looked over at me and a huge grin broke out on his handsome face.  He said, “That’s what we’re here to do…find those that are lost.”

My other strong memory of dad from my youth is more personal.  I remember so many evenings when I would fall asleep on the sofa, with my head on Dad’s lap, and the television or radio on.  He would pick me up and carry me in his arms to my waiting bed, lay me down, pull the covers up, kiss me and say soft, “I love you.”  I can admit it now…I was usually awake and just loved the experience…and my dad.

My Mother – “Poochie” Joyce Flannery (nee Smith)
Mom will laugh at my including her childhood nickname in this subtitle.  At least I hope so, because it does fit her quite well.  Mother and Daughter relationships can be tricky at best.  Those of you who are a Mother, a Daughter, or both can understand.  I am fortunate that even through the rough patches, my Mom and I have a wonderful relationship.  My parents met at what was then called Cincinnati Bible Seminary in Cincinnati, OH.  Dad was a Senior and Mom was a Freshman.  The day before finals, they eloped and then came back to take their final exams. 

Those who have never been a part of a Minister’s Household will possibly think my “shaky brain” has me remembering incorrectly; but, there are those who can vouch for what I am about to tell you.  A Minister’s Household is never truly JUST his home and his family.  It is the Church’s household.  At any time of the day or night, people would call, drop by, even stay for weeks at a time.  Now, there are people who get energy from being around others and there are those that have energy sapped from them by being around others.  Unfortunately, I am one of the latter.  Fortunately, my Mom is one of the former. 

I like to think of my Mom as a Hummingbird.  She is tiny, beautiful and in constant motion.  Yes, even at her current age, she hardly ever stops and is involved in many peoples’ lives and those, of course, of her family.  With Dad being so involved in the Church, Mom had to care for me and my three brothers, much on her own.  I didn’t know it at the time, but most people don’t have Campbell’s Tomato Soup and crackers for dinner 3-4 times a week or peanut butter and jelly nearly every day for lunch.  Mom did what she could to keep us happy, healthy and on track.  What made it difficult was one of the things that she loved (and I think at times hated) about Dad:  His generosity to others.  If he had $10 left in his pocket and it was all the money we had for another week, he would give it to someone who he felt needed it more than we did.  I’m sure you can see how this would get on a wife’s nerves.

Ministers don’t make much money.  This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it does me.  I think a good minister is like a good teacher.  They are the ones that are helping people and should be given the financial compensation they need to get by.  I can’t count how many times I heard people say, “You will get your reward in Heaven.”  Believe me, if you are in a position to give your religious leader (or teacher) a raise – DO SO.  They also need the reward now.

Sorry, I’m getting off track on a bit of a rant, so will reign myself in a bit. 

I have many wonderful memories of my Mom and am fortunate to still be making them today; but, in order to introduce her best to those of you who have never met her, I will provide just two.  My Mom taught me how to “hide stuff.”  I don’t mean emotionally, but physically hide stuff!  My kids learned it from me, though we are fortunate enough not to have to do it as often as I did as a child. 

As I mentioned earlier, people were always dropping by the house unannounced and unexpected.  Mom would just yell out, “Hide stuff!”  That meant that the dirty clothes, shoes or toys on the floor, etc., were quickly thrown into closets.  Being the Minister’s Wife meant, to my mother, that our home had to be a perfect reflection of Dad and his work.  Now that I think about it this may have been what made my older brother, Greg, such a good cop in his adult years.  He knew about people hiding stuff and where to look for it! 

The other strong memory of my mother was how I would get up in the night to get a drink of water and find her on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor or cleaning the bathrooms.  There were never enough hours in the day for this amazingly hardworking woman. 

She did our laundry, kept the house clean, cooked for us, made sure we did our homework, got us to school and home again, took care of us when we were sick, spoke at any Church function when asked (which was often), was a member of the Church choir and sang solos at Church quite often as well.  At a Woman of the Year award presentation dinner in San Diego a year or so after Dad died, I mentioned that at Dad’s Celebration Service, my older brother had called him “Indiana Jones.”  I stated that I agreed with that assessment of Dad, but that we also had “Wonder Woman” for a mother.  How could we go wrong?  Well, I’m sure we tried on occasion, but we were always lovingly brought back into the Family Circle.

The Siblings – Sub-Part One – Big Brother, Greg, my Hero
My brother, Greg, was born in Athens, KY.  For those of you unfamiliar with Kentucky-speak, that is NOT pronounced like Athens, Greece.  Here in Kentucky, the A is pronounced as a long A, or as if it had an “I” after it as in the word, “Bait.”  This was the location of my dad’s first church as minister and my mother’s first experience living in KY. 

My older brother put up with a lot from me.  I remember making him eat the actual mud pies I made as a small child and following him around everywhere as most siblings will do to an older one.  He never pushed me away or told me to go home.  We are quite different, Greg and I, but I am very pleased that we have just continued to become closer over the years. 

Greg has had a difficult life, but that is not what he focuses on.  I call him My Hero, because of his amazingly positive attitude in the midst of much adversity.  As a young husband and father, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins’ Disease.  I remember taking him to his chemo treatments and having to pull the car over to allow him to vomit.  He was so ill.  I had never seen him weak before and it was hard to see it then, but he would laugh it off and just keep going.  Fortunately, he beat the cancer and has been free of it for many, many years. 

That’s not where his turmoil ends, however.  After beating Hodgkins’, he decided to follow his dream of being a police officer.  It took hard work and much determination, but he succeeded.  He worked his way up the ranks and was well on his way to being the Police Chief of the World (a very slight exaggeration), when he was hit by a little old lady broadside, while on duty on his motorcycle.  He shattered his leg and scared us all quite a bit.  You see, his treatment related to the Hodgkins’ included removal of the spleen, which is the main organ in the body that fights off infection.  He now has a leg full of metal and managed to make a great recovery; again, because of his positive outlook and determination!  But it doesn’t end there.

Greg worked as a Life Guard for a few years when we were living in Redondo Beach, CA, and continues to surf today (despite doctor’s orders, but that comes later.)  Unfortunately, the heavy exposure to sunlight left him with quite a problem with skin cancer.  He has had more surgery removing skin than I believe he has skin.  He may be just walking around like a skeleton, I don’t know for sure, as I haven’t seen him in about a year. 

Greg was, like my other brothers, fortunate enough to have met the love of his life at a very early age.  He and Cindy met at age 16, I believe, when we first relocated to Anaheim, CA.  They have 3 happily married sons and one newly arrived granddaughter.

Ah, but I haven’t mentioned the infamous year of 2009.  While I was undergoing various surgeries, including two craniotomies, Greg decided I was just getting too much attention and, as siblings will do, had to outdo me!  He was golfing with some friends, who just happened to be fire fighters, and had a heart attack.  Fortunately, they knew exactly what to do, got him to the hospital and he ended up undergoing bypass surgery.  Apparently, the chemotherapy and radiation he underwent from the Hodgkins’ permanently weakened the heart muscle.  After the surgery, which (of course!) he bounced back from with the same courage and optimism for which he has become famous, he was told by his cardiologist that he should not do much strenuous activity if he wanted to remain around for more years.  This included his beloved surfing.  As I can attest from seeing photos, he totally disregarded that recommendation and I can only imagine what else he is doing that he really isn’t supposed to do! 

Basically, I guess the reason my big brother, Greg, is my Hero is his positive outlook and strong faith.  I’ve never met anyone like him other than my Mom and Dad.  What an amazing man.  And he is my brother.  What a gift!

The Siblings – Sub-Part One – Younger brother, Tim
I must honestly say that the main thing that comes to my mind when I think of my brother, Tim, is that doors always appear to open for him at just the right moment.  I know that is not always true, though.  I realize that hard work, dedication and determination has made him what he is today. 

Tim and I were both born in Tulsa, OK, where my father’s second ministry began.  We were the two white-haired kids of the eventual four.  We looked so much alike during our college years, that I was often asked if we were twins.  Other than the fact that he loved to pick on me (more on that later) and all three of my brothers share my passion for music, we weren’t that much alike.  Ever since he was a tiny boy of 2 or 3, Tim has wanted to play baseball.  Our Uncle Hal Smith (mom’s older brother) had been a professional baseball player and had, in fact, hit the 3-run homerun in the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates that tied the game allowing Mazarowski the opportunity to hit the 1-run homerun that won the series.  So, baseball has always been a strong part of our family. 

I have pictures and vividly remember when, for his birthday present at age 2 or 3, he was given a catcher’s mask.  (Uncle Hal was a catcher.)  They didn’t make them for little kids.  I recall seeing him squat down in the backyard in Portland, put the full sized catcher’s mask on and struggle like crazy not to fall over. 

There was also the time when a policeman came to our door in Portland and very seriously told my mom that he needed to speak to her son.  She asked what about as he was sleeping and she didn’t want to wake him.  He said that apparently he had thrown a golf ball and had broken a window in a house 2 down from ours and needed to be reprimanded.  Mom just smiled and went upstairs to wake up Timmy.  He came downstairs, about 3 years old at this time, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.  The policeman was quite shocked.  Seems like Tim had been throwing some of Dad’s golf balls into the air and hitting them with a broom handle and one connected, breaking a neighbor’s window - two houses down the street!

Now to the picking on his big sister!  As my dear friend, Carla, will attest, Tim would frequently get goofy and decide to just pick the two of us up and put us in the closet.  Once, he “took me out in a double play” on the stairway of our home in Anaheim and I seriously sprained a finger.  (Not a good thing for a pianist.)  Never in anger; just Timmy being Timmy.  I guess it was just his way of showing affection at that awkward junior high/high school age. 

I remember driving Tim and his friends all over the place when they were too young to drive.  One summer in particular, I would go across the street to Boysen Park, where he would just be finishing a baseball game.  He would jump into the backseat of my little blue VW bug and change to his other uniform as I drove him to Fullerton College to play yet another game.  Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time at baseball games over the years. 

Tim was fortunate to meet the love of his life during his senior year of high school.  He and Donna are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year (they were married a few months after me and Charlie.)  I think “fortunate” may be too weak of a word to describe how Donna contributed and continues to contribute to the life of my younger brother.  You see, Tim signed with the San Diego Padres following his junior year in college.  Being a professional baseball player isn’t the glamour that many may think.  Tim was on the road at least 8 months of the year.  Donna was there at the homestead, raising their 3 children, taking care of the things that Tim was unable to handle while working in Baseball.  (Much like that of a minister’s wife, now that I think about it!)

Tim turned to music for solace on those long road trips.  Guitar in hand he began to write songs about his career, his family, his pain – his life.  He has so many CDs now, that I have lost count.  His lyrics touch the heart as they reach those emotions that all people have experienced at one time or another. 

“Retiring” from baseball, after a very full career with the Padres, Tim tried to stay away, but I guess it was just in his blood.  He returned as a minor league coach for the Padre organization and eventually as third base coach for the Major League team.  When his pal (and boss) Bruce Bochy signed to manage the San Francisco Giants a few years ago, Tim went along.  He is third base coach for the Giants now and has finally won the World Series Ring that is the “The One Ring” in that world.  (Sorry, I’m more of a nerd than an athlete.)

While several times in my life I have been extremely jealous of Tim and the opportunities that life has placed before him; as I have grown older, I realize that I was not made for that sort of life and I do feel sorrow for the days and months he lost with his family and the personal privacy that has been so greatly reduced as a result of his career.  I haven’t seen him in awhile.  Seems like we’re always on the other side of the Country, but I miss him dearly.  I even miss the middle of the night phone calls he would make to my apartment while he was in the minor leagues to tell me how he had done at that night’s game. 

One of my most vivid memories of Tim is sitting with mom and me at Dad’s bedside as Dad was leaving this world.  Dad had suffered from Alzheimer’s and prostate cancer.  The end was so hard on all of us, especially mom, in that he often didn’t know who we were or even who he was.  After he left this state of being, Tim called my other brothers.  When they arrived at the hospital, we sat around the hospital bed and sang a few last songs for dad. 

The Siblings – Sub-Part One – Baby Brother, Tom, My Baby
Okay, I know the subtitle here looks a bit strange, but I will explain in a bit.  We were living in Portland, OR, at the time of the “announcement” of the new baby coming to join our family.  Dad made the mistake of telling us that we had the choice of keeping our little dog, Peanut, or having a new baby brother or sister to join the family.  We immediately chose the dog.  I mean, what little kid wouldn’t, right? 

A year or so after Tom’s birth, we relocated again, this time to Redondo Beach, CA, by way of Inglewood, CA.  Dad had started a new business called the Church Development Fund.  This organization, which has since become Worldwide and helps churches everywhere, allowed Dad to do what he had done as a minister earlier in his career.  He would go to a struggling church; lead, teach and invigorate the congregation and community; get a new Church building built; then make sure a good minister came to fill his rather large shoes, and move on to the next needy location.  The Church Development Fund is a financial savings institution.  Individuals open savings accounts, even leave monies to the Fund in their wills, and the funds are used to provide loans to communities to start a church, rebuild a church, and support missionaries, etc.  I’m sure they do much more than that now, but that was the basic premise when Dad first started it. 

As this new venture kept Dad away from home a lot and the money coming into the Flannery household wasn’t as a consistent;y as that received as a full-time minister – Mom went to work.  Not only did she go to work, but she went to work as a Kindergarten teacher at a Christian Elementary School in Inglewood, which was about 40 minutes away in rush hour traffic into the Los Angeles area from Redondo Beach.  (Again, Wonder Woman at work.)  We would wake early in the morning, she’d get us all ready for school, drive through the traffic and after a hard day of dealing with kindergarteners, she would drive all the way home, fix dinner, make sure we did our homework, get everyone to bed, clean the dishes and start on laundry.  Most of the time, Dad was away, so I can only imagine how tough it was for her and don’t blame her at all for accidentally leaving the stove top on after frying up some bacon and nearly burning the house down.  (Another story for another day.)

Tom was just a little guy then and I sort of took him under my protective wing.  When we eventually moved to Anaheim, CA, as Dad had decided that he had the Church Development Fund up and running and wanted to return to full time ministry, Tom was elementary school age.  Mom continued to teach Kindergarten at a local public school.  I was now in my teens (Tommy is 9 years younger than I) and I could drive, so it fell to me to be a sort of surrogate mom, when our mother was either teaching, dealing with PTA stuff or doing her other work as a Minister’s wife. 

I admit that I probably taught “my baby” a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t have, but still love him today as if he were one of my own sons.  He saw every Barbra Streisand movie that came out as I was a big fan; was the only person under the age of 13 to see Cabaret, even though we got a lot of disapproving looks in the theatre; and was my constant “date” for dinner or lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant. 

I missed out on a lot of his older teen years as I was off at college studying to be a Concert Pianist, which I decided after 2 ½ years wasn’t really what I wanted to do at all.  (More on that later.)

Tom also met the love of his life at a fairly young age.  He was at Chapman College studying Music when he and Michelle met.  They also have 3 beautiful, intelligent, loving offspring.  (“3” appears to be the magic number in our Flan Clan.)

I distinctly remember Tommy asking me one afternoon when he was about 13-14 to show him how to play a chord on the piano.  Never suspecting what that would begin, I showed him by using an old Elton John songbook how to play the simple chords that Elton always uses.  Within minutes, he was playing (with three fingers on each hand) the chords and singing along.  As many of you may know, Tom now holds a Masters’ Degree in Conducting and is teaching others the excitement, beauty and NEED for music in this life.  To this day, I have never heard a more beautiful rendition of Ave Maria or our National Anthem than that performed by Tom.  He can usually pick up any instrument and, after a day at the most, is able to play it like he’s played it his whole life.

Happily, he and his family moved out to Kentucky about 18 months after mine and we are only about 90 minutes away from each other.  We don’t see each other as much as I would likel but with our busy lives, that’s not surprising.  We do keep in touch quite often though, which delights me!

Thus concludes Part One.

The Flannery Paradigm - Part Two (Ragean)

Part Two – The Middle (or Who Am I?)
Yes, I’m sure you’ve noticed that there is one character I pretty much overlooked in Part One.  Of course, if you are not that interested, by all means, just close the site as you have read about the Best of the Best already!  But as this blog was intended to explain, in part, how I became who I am now, I must continue.

As mentioned earlier, I was born in Tulsa, OK.  I am the only girl with three brothers.  Greg is 2 years older, Tim is 3 years younger and Tom is 9 years younger.  We have lived all over the country and were raised in a home where hard work and love were ways of life. 

When we first moved to Anaheim, CA, I was pretty upset.  You see, I had just graduated from the 8th grade and was going to be attending Redondo Beach High School, which was still a 4-year school.  Instead, I ended up at Fremont Junior High in Anaheim for 9th grade.  Not a good start for the new location. 

Dad started ministering at Anaheim First Christian Church on Broadway.  Very, very old building, but I think it had a lot of character.  Directly behind the church was a house with a big blacktop area, where arrangements had been made with the owner to use as a parking lot for the Church.  This is where I first met a kid who eventually became one of my best friends, Joe Hentges.  He and his parents lived in the house and owned the lot.  He was also in the same grade as I was, so I’d see him around quite a bit.  Mostly from running into each other in the parking lot, Joe and I became very close friends.  We eventually dated a bit through high school, but always remained close friends and I am pleased to say that we remain so today.

One of the best stories (that Dad eventually made into a sermon) had to do with Joe and I.  Joe’s step-mother was Catholic.  When she learned that we were dating, she would tell him as he left to pick me up, “Remember what you are!”  Whenever Dad saw me leaving on a date with Joe, he would always tell me to “Remember who you are!”  Eventually, Joe and I heard what was being said to each of us and we really got a kick out of it.  I told dad, and, voila! it became a sermon.  I know mom has some of dad’s old sermons lying around somewhere and I need to see if I can find a copy of that one to send a copy off to Joe. 

After graduation, being much too independent and stubborn to remain living at home, I decided to go out to Cincinnati Bible Seminary, the college where my parents had attended.  I knew I had dad’s family nearby, so I wouldn’t be too isolated and thought it might be fun to be in a different part of the Country.  My major was always Piano Performance in all the colleges I attended…yes, there were a few.  After a year of being away from home, however, and realizing that the main reason that CBS seemed to think a female was at their school was to become a preacher’s wife, I returned to the nest. 

I worked for about a semester and then attended a year at what was then Pacific Christian College and is now called Hope University, in Fullerton, CA.  I got tired of that and left to get a job and moved out again. 

After another semester off, I decided I really didn’t like working all that much (I mean, really, who does?) and enrolled in what was then called Chapman College and is now Chapman University, in Orange, CA.  Tim was attending there and I had heard they had a great Music program.  After one semester at Chapman, I thought “What am I doing?  I don’t want to be a concert pianist!”  So, once again, and finally, I dropped out.  I got two jobs initially to afford to move out quickly and buy a car.  After a year or so, I teamed up with my old high school and Chapman chum, Carla Clark (nee VanRy).

Carla’s parents had retired out to the Colorado River area and had left their home in Anaheim for Carla to live in for as long as she needed it.  I moved in with her and we lived together there and eventually in a few more places (I’ve lost count over the years.)  She has always been like the sister I really never had.  My parents loved Carla and hers, I think, loved me.  We had some wonderful times together.

Carla also helped me get a job at Disneyland.  I started off working at the NOBCAF Production Office (that’s Disney-speak for New Orleans/Bear Country/Adventureland/Frontierland.)  The office was above the River Belle Terrace restaurant and shared a back stairway with the Golden Horseshoe Review.  This was a wonderful time of my life.  I got to meet and spend time with Wally Boag, Fulton Burley and Betty Taylor of the Review and hang out at the Magic Kingdom nearly every day. 

Eventually I was promoted to Assistant for the Manager of Main Street/Parking Lot, Bob Gault.  My office was on the second floor of the Town Hall building, near the entrance to Walt’s private apartment.  Next I was promoted to Executive Assistant to Peter Alexander, the VP of Project Management Support at WED (Walter Elias Disney) the Imagineering arm of the Company located in Glendale.  But I am getting a bit ahead of myself…

It was while working in Main Street Production that I finally met the bloke that changed my mind about NEVER getting married and NEVER having children.  Charlie Moss was the lead of the Stroller Shop and would come up to the office to pick up his check.  One of the other assistant’s in the office (quite near retirement age) attempted to set us up.  I, in turn, tried to set Charlie up with another one of the assistants.  He was persistent, though, and we began dating in early August 1980, were engaged on Christmas Eve 1980, married on August 8, 1981, and had our first child on September 23, 1982. 

I am now realizing that this section of the book (Part Two) appears to be very boring, so I’m going to sum up quite quickly:

Charlie and I have three wonderful children.  As of this writing, Lauren is 29, Templeton is 27 and Dash is 25.  Lauren graduated from Hofstra University on Long Island, NY and then went to the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, England, where he sobtained her Masters’ in English Literature.  She is currently living in the Boston area.  Templeton attended 3 ½ years at the University of Kentucky and, much like his mother, dropped out just short of graduating.  Dash returned to California to attend UC Fullerton for one year before returning back to Kentucky. 

I do have an interesting antecdote regarding my boys and Disney.  When Dash went back to CA for college, he got a job at Disney;and.  Templeton took a semester off from UK to do some work experience at Walt Disney World.  For a few months, I had two sons working at Disney Theme Parks on either side of the Country, but BOTH were assigned to working in the Haunted Mansion.  Pretty good story for a "Disney Family."

A mother loves all her children equally.  But I have learned that a mother may love each child differently, as well.  The basic maternal love never goes away, at least in my life experience; however, each child, as they develop and grow becomes more “them” than they are “you” and you fall in love with them over and over and over again.  At the present time, I can define my “additional love” for my children by how I currently think of them.  Let me try to explain.

I think of Lauren as “My Soul.”  She and I have a connection that is unlike that of the connection with the boys.  This is natural and all mothers of boys AND girls can attest to this.  With our particular connection, however, there seems to be a link that we both feel goes back through time.  We say exactly the same thing at the same time – much too often; we have the same interests and often share the same beliefs.  She was my primary caretaker during the Great Medical Disasters of 2009 and my rock.  We became especially close during that time and I am really going to miss her now that she has moved on to her next adventure in the Boston area.  Lauren is going through some really frustrating times.  She has a Masters’ Degree in English Literature and wants to work at a Publishing House in an era when Publishing (and even spelling!) is becoming obsolete.  She is the smartest woman I have ever known, which is saying a great deal, so I have no doubt she will land on her feet and find a job that interests her.  That is my Lauren.

I think of Templeton as “My Laughter.”  Tempe (as I call him) is a writer.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that he is a writer’s writer.  He began writing poetry in 2nd grade.  His teacher Ms St Ange encouraged him, which is what a teacher is supposed to do.  Thank goodness my kids have each had a few good ones!  Tempe is ALWAYS writing.  He writes everything:  poems; short stories; novels; most recently fairy tales; and, my particular favorite, scripts for multiple seasons of some great TV sitcoms.  As with others in this field (like his sister), getting a foot in the door is one of the hardest things to accomplish.  He has gone back to take a course in Medical Coding (which is primarily on-line) as it is a high-demand job and a high-paying job, which will allow him to support himself while he does what he must do:  WRITE.  No matter what is going on in my life – and lately there have been a lot of tough times – Tempe ALWAYS can make me laugh.  He is so very like his father and amazes me with his compassion for others and the way he looks at life.  That is my Tempe.

I think of Dashiell as “My Joy.”  Dash (as he is usually called) is the musician in this branch of the clan.  He has an outrageous sense of humor, reminiscent of “Monty Python” (reference for us old folks), and I do not believe he has ever met someone who hasn’t immediately wanted to be his best friend.  Since he was born, he has reminded me of my brother Tom.  I believe they look alike, move alike and act alike.  (I didn’t mean for that to sound like the Theme Song to the old Patty Duke show…sorry.)  He is the one who started calling me “Shaky Brain” after hearing I had epilepsy.  He was very pleased when the name stuck!  This is a perfect example of how he looks at life.  If there is something out of kilter, ironic or just plain silly – he notices it.  He is a very hard working kid.  Taught himself how to play Bass for his band, Go Mordecai!, which had too many guitarist and needed a bassist.  He also has played guitar (obviously), accordion, I believe he tried trumpet for awhile – there is just no limit to what he will attempt and at which he will succeed.  Another example of the outrageous activities of this lad:  3 different locations in the Louisville area were having contests to give away Kayaks this summer.  So his bandmates (the 3 unmarried ones at least) entered each contest hundreds of times.  They won all three kayaks and now take days to kayak down the local rivers and sometimes on our lake.  If he puts his mind to it, it will happen.  That is my Dash.

I have been saving the best for last, though.  Charlie (or “C” as I call him) is the most amazing man I have ever met.  Being raised with three athletic brothers, I primarily dated athletes.  That is one of the reasons I tried to set C up with another gal in my office at Disneyland.  He just didn’t seem my type.  But his persistence wore me down and after our first date – I was hooked.  Unlike many of the athletes I had dated, C was smart!  So smart, in fact, that we could actually have a conversation that made sense without having to talk about sports!  The real clincher, though, was on our 2nd date when he met my Dad.  Dad immediately liked him.  This both pleased and frightened me.  Now this will mean more if I explain that on my very first date ever back in high school, Dad answered the door to the sweet young man (and a good friend of my big brother AND a member of our Church) with a shotgun in hand.  As you can imagine, that date didn’t go very well.  Between my dad and my brothers, guys had to jump through a lot of hoops to get too close to me.  Charlie sailed through them all. 

Charlie’s family was and is devoutly Catholic.  You can imagine the repercussions when his mother met the blonde Protestant preacher’s daughter her youngest child was dating.  Those were some interesting days.  I can honestly say, though, that I adore Charlie’s family as my own and loved his mom and dad with all my heart.

One day, in my late teens, mom and I were watching something on television and heard about some gorgeous guy marrying some dumpy looking gal.  I looked at her and said, “What’s with that?  What could he possibly see in her?”  Mom just laughed and said, “Honey, everybody’s weird.  The secret to a good marriage is finding someone who is weird just like you!”  Yes.  Charlie and I are Weird Alike.  (And Tempe has written a story called Weird Alike...can you imagine what it's about?)

Now don’t take that to mean that I think Charlie is some dumpy looking guy (I am assuming you don’t think I'm a dumpy looking gal, right?) – he is gorgeous; was gorgeous the day we met; was gorgeous the day we married and is still gorgeous today – 30 years later.  He has always been there for me through all of my weird medical problems, totally involved in the raising of our kids…basically, we can accomplish anything as long as we are together.  He is my other half.

That’s pretty much “me” today.  The people I have interacted with and who I have loved and have loved me. 

Just before ending Part Two and beginning Part Three, I must state that, although I was raised in a Christian home and as part of a very religious family, my parents’ beliefs were never thrust upon me.  I was always taught to think for myself.  Fortunately, I had that early guidance.  Unfortunately, I believe that most of America has NOT had that early guidance, but have been willing to follow whichever currently popular or charismatic leader tells them to believe. 

Thus ends Part Two.

The Flannery Paradigm - Part Three (Ragean)

Part Three – The Current (or Why Are We On This Earth?)
This part of the story is going to be more difficult for me to reveal and express.  Knowing that my family and friends love me for what and who I am, unconditionally, will make it easier; although, I hope it does not cause the concern for me that I believe it may for some.

As I previously stated, my parents’ beliefs were never thrust upon me.  I was encouraged to think for myself in all things.  I was raised with their beliefs, which fortunately were and are primarily based on LOVE.  I raised my children with the same beliefs.  I also encourage them to think for themselves.  Some of our best discussions and moments of greatest realization and love have come from our disagreements on issues that we each believe important.

We’ve all asked or been asked the question:  “Why are we on this Earth?”  I have believed since I was old enough to consider the ramifications of the question that the reason we are on this earth is to LEARN.  Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is Power.”  Never was there a more profound statement that has been overlooked throughout history than this one. 

I believe we are to seek out knowledge.  Not knowledge on our one particular belief system, but those of all peoples on the planet.  ALL. 

The Founders of our Country stated in The Declaration of Independence that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  The key word here, I believe, that is often ignored, is “pursuit.”  The Declaration of Independence does not grant the unalienable right of Happiness, but simply our opportunity to pursue our happiness.  In my experience and my ever-growing knowledge of history, people have to WORK at happiness.  So, just because you are an American, does not entitle you to whatever you feel will make you happy.  It does entitle you to pursue your happiness.  So get up and get out there!

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights states:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  What many people do not understand is that there is no place in the Declaration, Constitution or Bill of Rights that specifically says there should be a “Separation of Church and State.”  Where this issue arose was actually in a request in December 1802 from the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut to Thomas Jefferson requesting a more definitive explanation of the limitations of Government in religious activities.  In Mr. Jefferson’s written response to the Association on January 1, 1802, he stated:  “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

Jefferson simply quotes the First Amendment then uses a metaphor, the “wall,” to separate the government from interfering with religious practice.  Note that the First Amendment puts this restriction ONLY on the Government, not on The People.  This Amendment has in the most recent 50 years or so been reinterpreted to put the restrictions on The People – not the Government as originally intended by Mr. Jefferson and our Founding Fathers.

To put this in a more current perspective, in the present time, Governments can issue laws that prohibit praying in school, prohibit reading the Bible in school, prohibit showing religious displays in school, prohibit the teaching of Creationism and Evolution, etc.  This is not what was intended as clearly noted by Mr. Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut.  The PEOPLE are free to worship, believe, disbelieve, support, not support, speak on whatever topic they wish to speak – we are a FREE country.  What is NOT to occur, however, is the Government making decisions for the entire Country based on the belief of the most prevalent religious organization in the Country. 

I know that many believe that we should keep the words “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance.  I do not.  This is contrary to how our Country was founded and what the Founders stated.  We should NOT be allowing prayer at our Government proceedings, we should not be agreeing to “tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”  We need to stop the divisiveness of our own citizenry.  We must respect the beliefs of ALL the people.  I have friends who are Atheists, Catholics, Mormons, Christians, Muslims, Baptists, Lutherans, Agnostics, etc.  I trust them to decide for themselves what they want to believe and they need to trust me to decide for myself what I want to believe.  I respect them for allowing us to share our beliefs without censure.

Also, if a school is receiving Federal Funding, it is associated with the Government and a “specific” religion or belief system should not be pushed; rather, the freedom to believe in whatever entity, belief or lack thereof should be the agenda. 

The Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights states:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” 

Get ready folks, I’m onto my next rant.

The Defense of Marriage Act, enacted on 9/21/96 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, I believe is un-Constitutional.  Per the Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, since the subject of marriage, let alone the definition of what marriage is or should be, does not appear anywhere in the Constitution, the Federal Government has no authority under the Constitution to enact such a bill.  The Amendment clearly states that the power is then reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.  By saying that specific individuals of differing genders cannot marry is supporting, in my opinion, the Christian (and majority) belief, thus knocking down Jefferson’s Wall of Separation of Church and State, and continuing the divisiveness of the citizenry and the repetition of History. 

What I myself believe on this particular subject is moot, as it should be for all.  I have seen too many marriages fall apart due to hate and too few staying together because of love to feel that I have the right to say who should and should not be allowed to get married.  As long as it is two living humans, I think we’re okay. 

I actually think it would make more sense to have a Pre-Pregnancy Test done on prospective parents.  I know so many couples who should never have had children.  But that, as represented in my statements above, is not within my purview.  Obviously, this is just my personal opinion, to which I am entitled to under the laws of the United States.  The same laws that protect those who I may deem “unfit” for parenthood the right to conceive a child. 

The last of my rants has no supportive documentation, but is truly just my opinion.  I believe that ALL Government officials should receive a salary commiserate with that of the mean salary of the majority of the American Workers.  The only way they should be allowed pay increases is if they increase the minimal hourly wage of the American worker.  There are age limits for candidates to run for office.  There needs to be age limits for when they must step down.  Basically, if you wouldn’t feel safe in a car with them behind the wheel, why would you want them behind the wheel of our Country?

Actually, the Declaration of Independence does give us, The People, the right to change the Government.  Specifically, it states:  “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Thus ends Part Three.

Summation (or What Was The Point Of All Of This?)
Basically, I guess I’m just getting older.  I believe that humans go through very distinct stages in life:

Baby – know nothing, but trust everybody;

Adolescent – know a little bit, but only trust Dad and Mom;

Teenager – know a bit more, but don’t trust anybody;

College student – Know Everything, selective trusting (but usually follow Mom and Dad’s lead);

Young Adult – beginning to realize you don’t know much, and are starting to be a bit lacking in trust, having been a bit too gullible a few too many times;

Mid-Life – Think you know absolutely nothing and you shouldn’t trust anyone;

Senior Years (politically correct, right?) – realize that if you don’t know it, you should take the opportunity to sit down, read, think and learn!  Trust only what you believe, but only after you have educated yourself.  Let those you love, and even those you don’t love, choose for themselves what they do or do not believe.  And respect their belief as THEIR belief, if not yours.

Stop listening to one particular “news channel.”  You are only hearing one version of the facts.  Listen to as many as you can, even if they are those with which you may initially disagree.  Read.  First read The Declaration of Independence, then read The Constitution of the United States, than read The Bill of Rights.  Don’t just read them.  Remember them.  If you need to (if your memory is like mine), keep a copy handy in your home.  I know that in my home I have approximately 15 Bibles, 1 Book of Mormon, 1 Pearl of Great Price, 1 Koran, and a copy of each of the aforementioned documents. 

KNOWLEDGE must be the beginning to start a World of Tolerance.  Learn what others truly believe.  Don’t assume that you understand the beliefs of others from what Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, or the like, have told you.  Learn for yourself!  It takes a bit of time away from your television viewing, game playing, might even make you work a bit less (which would actually be good for us all), but it is well worth it.  Learn for yourself and you will learn about yourself. 

Let’s try to stop the repetition of history and write it anew.  Let’s create a world of love, tolerance and respect for all mankind.  Let’s stop fighting wars to make other Governments believe or behave as we want them to do.  Let’s change the way other Countries feel about America.  Let’s change the way Americans feel about other Americans.

Okay, I think I’m done now.