Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why We Don't Take Vacation

Many of us return to work today after a long weekend vacation. If you are like me, you are returning to a pile of work that will leave you to wonder "Why did I even bother taking time off?" It's that post-vacation avalanche that deters many people from using all of their vacation time every year. I haven't used every vacation day that I've had coming for five years. And the only reason I did that year is because I took a two-week honeymoon trip to Hawaii. You should have seen the effort required to catch up on my work after that one.

The ability to take a truly "relaxing" vacation has been reduced even more in the "New New Economy"--as there are even fewer people to pick up the extra work. Some of us may actually feel guilty about taking paid time off--while those we leave behind struggle to take on even more work--thanks to us. Of course if you don't like your co-workers--then it probably won't bother you a bit to add more to their piles.

It would also help if we could all stagger our time off so that we don't all end up in the same vacation spots at the same time. When my parents started going "Up North" there was hardly anybody else up there. But then, the Milwaukeeans and the FIBS found out about how great things are up there and the next thing you know--they were flocking to the "Hottest Vacation Spot in the Midwest". Now the highways are jammed all weekend, the lakes are filled with boaters, jetskiers and fishermen and it no longer seems like you are "getting away from it all". Ironically, things might be slower and more relaxed at the place you left behind--since everyone is trying to get away from there.

That's why I have to chuckle when lawmakers introduce bills to require companies to provide paid vacations to their employees. I imagine the full-time, seasonal employees of the resorts and restaurants in Wisconsin's vacation destinations using that required time off to "get away" from all the people on vacation.

I'd love to discuss this some more--but I need to get caught up on all the work I missed while I was gone.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Brett Favre's Back and Your Defense Is In Trouble

Admit it Packers fans, you want Brett Favre to come back (again) as a Minnesota Viking. ESPN is reporting that the retired-for-the-second-time, I've-got-nothing-left-to-give, I've-got-nothing-left-to-prove, ruining-my-hall-of-fame-legacy quarterback will meet with Vikes Head Coach Brad Childress to discuss joining the purple this season. According to Ed Werder, Favre is telling friends that he remains angry with the way the Packers treated him in his first retirement--and that he wants to play in Minnesota to "exact his revenge".

I'm guessing there are more than a few fans of the Green and Gold who are saying "Bring it on, Brett". Only the most ardent "Brett is bigger than the Packers fan" is unwilling to admit that it was time for the team to move on and turn over the reins to Aaron Rodgers. And most of those fans are over the fantasy that somehow the team would have won eight more games last year if only Number Four had been at the helm. By signing with the Vikes and vowing "revenge", I doubt Brett will be winning back any of those fans. In fact, I forsee a Philadelphia-type situation where the Packers defense knocks Brett out of the game at Lambeau--and Packers fans cheer as Favre writhes in pain on the Frozen Tundra.

But as I have stated in previous My Two Cents, that is not what Brett Favre is about anyway. He's not about building fan loyalty, or being a good teammate or even always doing what is best for the franchise. Brett Favre is about Brett Favre and that is it. I'll be interested to see if people turn out at the Lindbergh Airport in Minneapolis or the Metrodome with signs of support for Brett--or with signs telling him to get the hell out of town and not treat our team as your latest self-serving prop.

Brett's favorite cheerleaders are behind him once again. The talking heads on ESPN seem to agree that the Vikings are "a quarterback away from winning the NFC and going to the Super Bowl". Is the quarterback the Vikes need the one that led the NFL in interceptions last year? The "leader" who talked to basically no one in the Jets locker room last season? The QB who admitted that he had injured his arm about halfway through the season--yet refused to undergo surgery? I can't believe that every team but Green Bay isn't blazing a trail to Kiln, Mississippi to sign this guy.

So break out the old-style, soap opera organ music, as we get ready for another season of "As the Brett Favre Turns"--every day on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNNEWS and ESPNRADIO.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thanking Teachers

Responses to the "My Two Cents" blog often throw teachers under the bus for the financial problems schools have across Wisconsin. But today, I am going to praise teachers for the difference they have made in my life. This is National Teacher Day after all.

It all started with Sister Clara in first grade at St Mary's school in Clarks Mills. She encouraged me to read to the class and to take on extra credit work doing third and fourth grade level math. She made it okay to be the smartest kid in the class-and didn't require me to work at the pace of the others.

I also remember Mr. Kavanaugh at St Mary's--who fostered my first interest in politics during the 1984 Presidential election--and who played a great weekly Current Events contest that got me watching the nightly news and paying attention to the news on the radio in the morning.

I can't forget Mrs Alexander at St John the Baptist School in Howard who was allowed to teach the Big Bang Theory and Evolution at a Catholic school--opening my mind to the real scientific source of our universe and our species--and rescuing me from the confines of religious teachings.

And finally, my thanks to Mr Schadewald at Bay Port High School for furthering my interest in politics--especially those on the local level--and for organizing our trip to Europe--which gave me great perspective on how great it is to live in the US.

I'm sure that all of us who took our education seriously have a teacher who made a difference in our lives--and who we would never consider to be "overpaid", "lazy" or "greedy". Why not think about them today and give them a silent "thank you" for their efforts.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Tough Week

As someone hoping to adopt a child, this has been a very frustrating week. First, we had the story of the Kewaskum couple accused of selling their baby. The couple got six-thousand dollars for the child from a Missouri woman--who is also facing criminal charges for unauthorized adoption. Then we had the story of the newborn girl found dead in a garbage bag, abandoned in the woods in Dodge County.

In both of these cases, legal and less deadly options were available to the parents. In the case of the Kewaskum couple, I think that just plain old greed was their motivating factor. I don't know of any adoption agencies that pay parents to give up children. Adoptive parents can help an expectant birth mother with medical and legal expenses during the pregnancy--but no cash changes hands for the baby. Perhaps that's why the couple didn't go to an agency.

A quick search of the internet finds thousands of couples (and single women) desperate to be parents. They make any and all offers to birth parents--including financial guarantees that adoption agencies do not make. There are swindlers out there who like to prey upon those parents--promising to give up a child at birth, then "changing their minds" at the last minute--after the other couple has paid for thousands of dollars in expenses. I'm guessing the Missouri woman is one of those wannabe parents--driven by desperation and not really the right reasons to adopt.

The Dodge County case is even more heartbreaking. Wisconsin makes it so easy for women to find safe, loving homes for their kids. In addition to dozens of adoption agencies and charities there is the Safe Haven Law, that allows parents to leave a newborn child at any number of secure places (hospital, police or fire station) no questions asked. Instead of placing her child in a blanket--or even a cardboard box--and leaving her at the hospital, this mother chose to put her in a garbage bag and leave her along the side of the road.

I can't ever know what was going through that mother's mind. In a way I think she too was being greedy. Maybe that baby would have been an embarrassment to her--or it was going to keep her from living her "dream life". Either way, that little girl didn't deserve to die like that--alone and cold in a plastic bag.

Obviously, I can't think that one of those infants could have been "our child"--but as I said, there are thousands of other families that would gladly take them in and give them all the love they deserve. If you know someone who is dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, please steer them in that direction.