Happy Thanksgiving

I hope that this Thanksgiving finds you wherever you wish to be. Around a table with friends and family eating a good meal, quietly enjoying a day to yourself, volunteering with the less fortunate. No matter how you spend the day however, I hope that you are thankful. Thankful to have the sun upon your face. Thankful to have food upon your table. Thankful to have people who love you and whom you love.

The following link is a brief video history of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. From its possible origins at Plymouth Rock to its declaration as a U.S. holiday by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. It is the creation of the staff at the History channel, but I thought it was worth a little publicity.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. Eat well, laugh, and take a few minutes to reflect on everything you have. Despite highs and lows in our lives, we are lucky indeed.

A video history of Thanksgiving in the United States

Happy Holidays

To everyone who reads my blog or otherwise see my posts on various social media, I want to wish you all a very, very happy holiday season.  Regardless of your faith or beliefs, I hope that you have a wonderful season and that the new year greets you warmly and offers hopes for a fulfilling New Year.

See you again in 2016!


To all my friends around the world!

Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-leggedy Beasties and Things that go Bump in the Night

When I decided to sit down and write, I had no topic in mind. What I decided to do was to venture out to www.pixabay.com, a site that has license free pictures that can  be utilized on blogs and websites (hint, hint).  I wanted to peruse the pictures until one “spoke” to me. One that evoked a feeling or an emotion that made my mind click and whir and say to itself, “there is something there, dig for it.”  I looked over dozens, maybe even a hundred photos. This is the one that grabbed me.

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween. ~Author Unknown

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
~Author Unknown

Two weeks ago, my blog post discussed my love for the Fall, or Autumn.  One of the things that I love about Autumn is Halloween.

Halloween is a child’s holiday, but it is for the child that still lives in all of us; for this holiday defies age. The children in their costumes evoke our own memories of being those children, of the experience of walking house-to-house on a dark, cool night, ringing doorbells and crying out, “Trick or Treat!” Of being rewarded, and the pleasure of dumping the haul on the family room floor after returning home. The memories I have to share here are my memories – memories from my childhood, and memories of Halloween with my children. The are my nostalgia. I miss these times with my kids in particular, but the memories of the joy will last me forever.

My earliest memories from my hometown of Orange, California are of being dressed as a tiger. I did the tiger thing for a couple of years and after Halloween the costume became my pajamas.  A few years later it was a cowboy: hat, chaps, and silver six shooters (loaded with a full roll of caps). My dad would take my younger brother and me out around our block. We would stop at every house, knock or ring and yell the magical, candy-producing chant. It always seemed so late when we got home. In reality, it was probably 7:30pm.

As I got older the thrill became twofold.  First was the actual making of the costume. No more store bought costumes. In the back of my parents closet was an old dresser full of “dress-up” clothes. These were the makings of great Halloween goblins.  My favorite was to go as a hobo. Old ripped jeans and a too large flannel shirt were topped off with a crumpled plastic pork-pie hat and a huge rubber cigar.  45 seconds with a charcoal briquette and my 10- or 11-year-old self had a respectable 5 o’clock shadow. Also, we had reached an age, in what was the more accepting 1970’s, that my dad no longer tagged along. We were ghouls on the loose.

Once properly adorned, and with the dark almost completely settled in (for my northern climes friends, it gets dark in SoCal much earlier than in Michigan) we set off with a goal: to reach the fire station on Shaffer St. This was the second part of the

Orange, CA Fire Station #3

Orange, CA Fire Station #3

thrill. Why?  Because they always gave out full-sized sugar daddy bars! It was several blocks of walking (or seemed like it anyway) but you got to hit up every house getting there, and as many as you wanted on the way back until either A) you were too tired; B) your candy bag was full or weighed too much; or, C) any combination of the above.

As a child you view Halloween from the child’s perspective – the costumes, the candy, the mischief.  Then I became a parent.

I have three children and each has given me the joy of seeing Halloween through their eyes. Costumes as unique to each child as they are unique to other kids. Vampire, pirate, executioner, dalmation, princess, clown, an elf, and on and on.

Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite, All are on their rounds tonight; In the wan moon’s silver ray, Thrives their helter-skelter play. ~Joel Benton

When they were little, like my father before me, I escorted them around the neighborhood, taking them to doors, reminding them to say “Thank you.”  When they reached the point where dad providing escort was “no longer cool” (and dad deemed them old enough) they were off in large groups of friends. I am sure their memories will be much like mine, and very different too. Perhaps the basis for their own story one day.

October and Halloween hold other cherished memories for me , also. Memories that I have no doubt are shared by my wife and kids through the lenses of their perception; but all good.


The Sanderson sisters have come back from colonial-era Salem and have plans for the towns’ children

Our family loves the movie Hocus Pocus.  I haven’t seen it now in a few years, but when the kids were younger, we loved to watch it together every year, particularly the girls.

Jack overlooking Halloweentown in A Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack overlooking Halloweentown in A Nightmare Before Christmas

]For my son it was A Nightmare Before ChristmasThe Jack Skellington mug in my office at work attests to my love of that movie also. I have always been especially taken with the musical score.

Another great Halloween movie memory is The Halloween Tree. Written and narrated by Ray Bradbury this animated film from the Cartoon Network tells unique stories of Halloween from the perspectives of different times and cultures throughout the world. It is done in such an enjoyable and charming way that it’s not until the movie ends that you realize that you just might have gotten a little education, too. Like Hocus Pocus, I would say that The Halloween Tree is one of those films that families refer to as “cozy” and can watch over and over again.

Witch & MoonNow remember this picture? Yes, it spurred me to write about Halloween, but it still says more to me, and I think that is why I chose it.  Often when I see a photo, I “feel” things from the picture. Black and white pictures in particular pull this sensation from me,

While still Autumn related, looking at this picture  makes me think of walks I used to take as a teenager, late at night, around the home we lived in out in the country.  I could take the dogs with me and let them off their leashes and listen to them as they ran through the undergrowth. It evokes for me the end of the growing season and the Harvest Moon.  I smell leaves burning and feel crisp air on my face. I see children bobbing for apples, and I hear the breeze rustling the red and gold dying leaves. I imagine the frost that will soon start to greet me in the morning.pumpkin-201077_1280

Pictures all tell a story, and sometimes our story is not the same as that of the photographer. But the beauty of art is that it is for any interpretation we want to give it.

All the best.

Happy Labor Day!

September 1, 2014. Labor Day.  It’s hard to believe that it could already be September. With all the rain and cool weather of the past several months it feels like Summer has practically passed us by. Except for mowing the lawn…that has faithfully returned as often as twice a week, thanks to all the natural water and cool days and nights.

Labor Day was the first nationally recognized holiday specifically for the American worker. Harkening back to a time of 12 – 16 hours days, often times 7 days a week in frequently brutal workplaces – factories, mines, steel mills, stock yards – Labor day became the “working man’s” holiday. That rare occasion to have a work free day, enjoy time with family, and relax.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s page on Labor Day,

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

So, what has happened to the labor movement in America as we have progressed through the 20th Century and into the 21st? Is the labor movement still as strong as it once was? Is there still a need for organized labor representation – Unions?

Well these are just my ramblings, but then again, this is my blog. As someone who spent half of their career in the private, non-union sector, and the other half as a union member, I think I do have some knowledge on which I can base my musings.

Without any doubt whatsoever, the organized labor movement has lost steam and thus power,  in the U.S.

Union’s were borne of the need to protect the American worker. As noted before, the hours were long, the conditions deplorable, the pay abysmal, and there were no protections for worker’s health and safety, or for their families if they became disabled or killed on the job. Unions stepped in and through organizing workers into groups, allowed the worker to have a stronger voice in demanding


An illustration of the first Labor Day parade, held on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. The holiday was organized by the Central Labor Union to exhibit “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, and to host a festival for the workers and their families.

better pay and benefits. The threat of having their entire workforce strike and halt production made many large companies find true benefit in valuing their workers more.

The effects of organized labor’s efforts have spilled over into other non-organized area’s also. Workers in most fields in the U.S. today  – unions  and non-union – enjoy benefits that were derived directly by the working class demanding better pay, benefits, and treatment. These actions led directly to the creation of the great “middle class.”

So why have Unions lost so much of their power and influence?  Because of what I would simply call Entitlement. Unions and their members have gone from being thankful for what they fought so hard for and rightly earned, to believing they are entitled to it. They believe that they no longer have to work to maintain those benefits, that they should simply be granted for life. Unfortunately, business doesn’t work that way, and truth be told, the world has a short memory.

As example, the American auto industry suffered greatly, and to some extent still does, because Japan (and now Korea) turned out cheaper cars that were higher quality than the Big 3. Why? They used cheaper labor and demanded higher quality. Meanwhile in the U.S., we had workers on assembly lines turning out a lower quality product while earning more money per year than teachers, firefighters, police officers, and many, many office workers. Adding insult to injury, American’s were expected to pay tens of thousands of dollars for an inferior product based on the marketing concept of “American-made.” In fact, consumers were made to feel un-American if they didn’t buy American when, in fact, they simply wanted a higher quality car. It pleases me, that today, we are reassuming control of that market again based on quality and not cajoling.

There are still many facets of the union mindset at play today that must be overcome. Horrible employees who companies find next to impossible to fire because they made it past their first year on the job and now benefit from unreasonable and extraordinary protections. Quality workers within the union itself, who suffer as lower quality and less productive employees invoke their “seniority” status for better shifts, opportunities, and work-free holidays – an entitlement based not on work quality but simply time on-the-job.

Well, as Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a changin…”  Union’s went from garnering much needed benefits for workers to being the purveyor of sloth, laziness, and poor quality. Union’s now suffer as American businesses and politician’s work to pass “right-to-work” laws all over the nation. Laws that say that just because a job once required an employee to join the union, that is no longer a must. The employee is now able to state, “No. I am not paying unions dues while my rights are eroded. I will simply go it on my own.” In time, this too will backfire, and there will be a rise of a new labor movement. Until that happens however, continue to expect quality in many products to lack, while costs go up and we continue to see imports from overseas eat away American market share.

For more information of Labor Day, check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s site at:  http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm