Cruz Missile

Last week Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, announced that he was running for President.  He consciously chose a venue and a topic that would help to define his campaign:  the speech was given at Liberty University, described as the largest Christian university in the world, and his speech was styled as being about liberty itself. In his announcement speech, Cruz staked out the unabashedly conservative position (or the far-right position, depending on your political perspective) on a number of issues.  He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, for example, and he’s against Common Core and wants to abolish the IRS.  Although Cruz is the first to announce his candidacy, the Republican field is expected to be crowded.  Other potential candidates include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, as well as Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump.  With President Obama ending his second term, other Republican hopefuls may be tempted to throw their hats into the ring. I’m glad Cruz has declared — not because I agree with his politics, but because I think we as a country would be well-served by a thorough airing of different positions on the issues of the day.  Cruz, and other anticipated Republican candidates, no doubt will present the various conservative and libertarian positions on the issues in a forceful way.  I’m hopeful that, on the Democratic side, too, potential candidates forget about the concept of Hillary Clinton and her inevitability and enter the race so that competing perspectives at the other end of the political spectrum also are thoughtfully explained and advanced. Elections should be contests of ideas, not coronations.  When candidates meaningfully joust about policy proposals they can expose flaws and sharpen concepts, as well as present voters with real choices.  But elections also are about the candidates themselves and their baskets of resumes, skills, and personal characteristics, evaluated in the context of the issues of the day.  I wonder whether, in our increasingly dangerous world, 2016 voters will be looking for a candidate with more experience, who is perceived as having a steady hand and sober judgment, to succeed a President who was elected as a first-term Senator?  If so, Cruz — a first-term Senator himself who was elected only three years ago, and whose resume includes playing an instrumental role in bringing about an ill-advised governmental shutdown that left Republicans with egg on their faces — will be out of luck.

Thank You For Being A Friend

Unfortunately, it happens to be the name of a less-than-great song — one that probably now will stick in your head for the rest of the day, sad to say — but the statement above is a sentiment that aptly expresses my feelings, so I’m using it anyway.

I’ve been amazed and touched by the kind words and comments we have received from friends and acquaintances in the wake of Mom’s death.  Whether it is memories shared by my best friend in high school and my college roommate, or a poem and expressions of sadness and support from colleagues at work, or a funny recollection from one of the very nice people who cared for Mom during her time at Mayfair Village Retirement Community, the outpouring of positive thoughts means a great deal.  They help to center the conflicting feelings that you experience when a loved one has finally succumbed to a long and difficult illness, and to focus and lock in on the positive memories that you will carry with you going forward.  It is affirming, too, to know that there are so many good people out there who will interrupt their days and act with a generous spirit when others are struggling with loss.

We will move on, of course, because that is what people do — and, in this case, what Mom obviously would have wanted us to do — but all of these positive and supportive thoughts will make the moving on process much, much easier.  I know that everyone in the Webner family feels the same way.

I am a strong proponent of saying “thank you” in response to offers of help and acts of kindness — so thank you to everyone.  We really appreciate it.

The Obit Writer (II)

Here’s the latest work of the Webner family obit writer:  Mom’s obituary, which was published today in the Columbus Dispatch and in the Akron Beacon Journal, Mom’s old hometown newspaperMom hasn’t lived in Akron for 40 years, but we know she still has good friends there who would want to know about her passing.

IMG_5049The on-line versions of the obits appear on legacy.com, which must be a kind of national clearinghouse for obituaries.  The website versions of Mom’s obit also include links to an on-line “guest book” where people can give their condolences and share their memories, and directions to the funeral home where we will be having calling hours later this week.

The website also offers a link to ancestry.com and information about how many Webners were recorded in the 1920 census and fought on the Union side in the Civil War.  Other links provide information on funeral etiquette, such as helpful advice that you shouldn’t wear flip flops or glittery clothing to a memorial service.  It all shows how news websites are far more flexible — and provide far more advertising opportunities — than print newspapers.  People die, but the wheels of internet commerce roll ever onward.

Our family would like to thank everyone who has shared words of encouragement and support and kind thoughts about Mom.  They are all much appreciated.

The Obit Writer

More than 30 years ago, I worked for the Toledo Blade.  Although I technically was assigned to the City Desk, my designated “beat” was writing obituaries.  Day after day, I took calls from funeral homes, interviewed grieving survivors to get facts about the departed, and then wrote the obituary as a news story.  During my six months at the Blade, I wrote hundreds of them.  It was not an uplifting job.

IMG_1777That long-ago job, though, has ever since defined my role when there is a death in our family.  My task is set — and it is a good thing.  Everyone wants to be useful and helpful when death comes calling, and writing the obituary (which most newspapers now treat not as a news story, but as a paid death notice) is something I know how to do.  You wouldn’t want me figuring out flower arrangements, but the obit I can handle.

I also remember an experience that occurred years ago, when my grandmother died.  The minister who presided over her service kept calling her by the wrong name – which as you can imagine was not well-received by the members of our family.  Ever since, I’ve vowed that when members of our family who have died are formally remembered, whether in print or in remarks, someone who actually knew them will help to do the writing or the talking.

When I write an obit for a family member, I always think about what made the person unique, and try to make sure that gets included along with the standard facts about age, education, and survivors.  If I do my job right, when I’m finished I always feel a bit closer and more connected to the loved one who has gone beyond.  That’s a good thing, too.

Thinking Of Someone Special

I am thinking today of someone very special.

tUp7Hbj_eRrm9ZbIIZSY9FBmsJGsR-VeouygXyLaKpU=w205-h207-p-noSomeone who brought me into this world.  Someone who took care of me when I was little.  Someone who brought me comic books and jello and 7-Up and put a cold compress on my forehead when I was too sick to go to school.  Someone who let me paint my room weird colors when I was a teenager and put up with my friends and our curious behavior when I was in college.  Someone who watched Richard when Russell was born and treated my wife like a daughter.

Someone who dutifully laughed at all of my jokes, no matter how bad.  Someone who always was in my corner and confident that things would work out well.  Someone whose life has touched mine in more ways than I could ever hope to count.

Now her pain and discomfort have ended, and she has moved on.  We will miss her.

Goodbye, Mom.

Hot Chicken Takeover

IMG_5027There’s a new sensation drawing throngs of diners to the North Market.  Called Hot Chicken Takeover, it appears on Thursdays in an otherwise unused space on the second floor, deftly serves thousands of hungry Columbusites eager to savor some delectable yardbird, then vanishes again until the next weekend approaches.

Yesterday when the Ex-Neighbor and I arrived the check HCT out the line was already long, and a look of bug-eyed chickenlust was on the face of every would-be patron.  A friendly worker handed us a menu, and the E-N and I scanned it as the line moved along.  We quickly decided on our choices — both featuring waffles — as the tantalizing scent of fried chicken hung heavy in the air and workers called out the names of people whose orders were ready.  In the meantime, some lucky souls were seated at long tables covered with red and white-checked table, already attacking their food with frenzied glee.

IMG_5028I got the thigh and leg combo; the E-N went for a chicken breast.  We both chose waffles over bread (which costs a bit extra) and selected the “hot” flavor (HCT has four seasoning options, with “hot” being second behind a mouth-burning level described on the menu only with a curse word) and took our seats.  After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, our styrofoam containers of crunchy goodness arrived, and we dug in.  The chicken smelled wonderful and tasted better than excellent — piping hot, juicy, with tons of flavor and a rising, accumulative heat level that left me greedily sucking my fingers and nibbling on bones searching for final scraps of meat until the E-N discreetly advised me, with just a hint of embarrassment, that I needed to wipe my face and start acting my age.  The spicy chicken goes perfectly with the sweetness a waffle and syrup, and the mac and cheese side dish, which is light and bright and not leaden with cheese, is a fine complement.

When we left a sign advised that HCT had sold out of two of its options, and by the end of the lunch hour it was all gone.  No surprise there!  When a place that serves fried chicken this good pops up — even if only in a mysterious, only-on-some-days, end-of-the-week way — it’s going to be ridiculously popular.  Now we know why.

Forcing Adherence To The Law

We may be on the verge of a new era in personal choice and personal responsibility:  Ford is getting ready to roll out a new car that simply will not allow you to exceed the speed limit.

From a technology standpoint, the Ford S-Max is an interesting step forward.  The car will come equipped with a camera that will read speed limits posted on roadside signs.  The S-Max will then automatically adjust the amount of fuel to the engine to prevent the car from reaching speeds above that posted limit.  So, rather than using braking action to control speed, the S-Max will use the operation of the engine itself to prevent any lawlessness by the lead-footed driver.

The Ford S-Max is in line with a recent trend to use technology to force adherence to the law, whether it is through electronic ankle bracelets that control where people can and cannot go or proposals for cars that require you to pass a breathalyzer test or to fasten your seat belt before the ignition will engage.  Leave aside the issue of whether requiring complete compliance with the law at all times is always safe and smart — there are circumstances, for example, when exceeding the speed limit to get out of the way of other vehicles in a merging situation is the only prudent course — and consider, instead, what such technological controls do to affect concepts of personal morals and to encourage governmental intrusion into personal choice.

If you have no ability to break certain laws, do you even need to develop a personal code of ethical behavior that will apply to your daily life and help to guide your actions?  If you can’t make the wrong choice, what does the concept of personal choice really mean?  And if we start to accept routine technological controls on our behavior, will government entities be tempted to increase the range of controls, by enacting new laws that regulate behavior and by requiring further technological limitations on our ability to act freely?

The Ford S-Max is a long way from futuristic, sci-fi worlds where computer chips are implanted into human brains to rigorously control behavior, but every journey begins with a single step.  I’m not going to be in the market for an S-Max — if the choice is left up to me.