Thursday, March 27, 2008

Flawed Heroes

For some reason unknown to me, I don't have heroes or join fan clubs or put individuals on pedestals. One of my flaws is that I tend to see the world in black and white with limited shades of gray. Regardless, I look for models, for men and women who merit respect, trust, admiration and emulation. Here's a portion of a conversation between two such people who temper my cynicism and give me hope.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mr. President, what you’re proudest of?

JIMMY CARTER: I think the espousing and implementation, in many cases, of basic human rights around the world and raising high that banner so that many others could follow our leadership. And I’m proud that we were able to broaden the definition of human rights beyond just the right of assembly and freedom of speech and freedom of religion and trial by jury and electing our own leaders as political rights, but also to the other rights, the right of a human being to have healthcare and education and self-respect and dignity, a hope for the future. To the extent that we have been successful in some of those cases, not enough of them, I’m very proud that that’s what the Carter Center has been able to do.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush told his biographer, when he asked what he would be doing when he left office, that his dad can make something like $50,000 to $75,000 a pop for speeches, so he might go out on the speaking trail. Do you have any recommendations for him?

JIMMY CARTER: No. You have to remember that former presidents, just like four or five different people you meet on the street, are all different, and we have different motivations, different ideas. And, you know, I’ve chosen my career since I left the White House. I never have been on the lecture circuit, which is very lucrative. I’ve never been on corporate boards, which is also very lucrative and very gratifying. I’ve just decided to devote my life to the Carter Center. But President Reagan and way back to President Truman and Johnson and the others have done all different things. So I don’t have any, really, advice. We have made the Carter Center available as a potential model for presidents who have left office since I was there, and they have all sent delegations here to see what we do at the Carter Center, and in some cases they have emulated some portions of our chosen career.

AMY GOODMAN: To people who are in their eighties and nineties, your thoughts?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, you know, it depends on any individual’s mental and physical capability—I’ve been fortunate so far—and also what they think is best. I wrote a book about this a number of years ago that pointed out that after retirement there are unprecedented opportunities for the expansion of one’s life, to learn how to speak Spanish or to learn how to paint a picture or to learn how to be an expert on bird watching or to make furniture or to do different things, or to get involved in benevolent affairs.

I work every year for at least a week with Habitat for Humanity. We’ve done this for twenty-four years, my wife and I. And on many occasions, among the four to five, six, seven, sometimes 10,000 people who join us as volunteers for a week, there are people even older than I am. So I think there’s a good opportunity for serving your fellow human beings in benevolent ways. And sometimes even an older person can just go to a place like Grady Hospital and volunteer maybe two afternoons a week just to rock premature babies or something like that.

AMY GOODMAN: And your partnership with Rosalynn?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, we have survived pleasantly sixty-one years so far. We’re going on our sixty-second year, and we still get along quite well. That’s the best thing that happened to me in my life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Still Alive

I'm still alive but the weather is warmer, the sun is up longer and blogging is dropping on the priority list. I plan on posting more frequently but summers are always a feast of working and playing outside.

This year a new complication involves the change in my work schedule to four 10 hour days. After sitting at a computer for hours I have a desire and need to close the lid and do something physical rather than blogging.

Here's a quick, rambling, disconnected summary of the last month or so.

The winter is over and the solar room addition has exceeded my expectations. I need -- yes, NEED -- to get on my soap box and write more about that. Everyone should have one! Or, maybe two. I bought a used seven by four feet green house window with operable vents. The cost was $75 so I couldn't pass it by. I don't have a need for it at the moment but I'll build something and use it.

Julie and I spent six weekends in the valley. It was a good experience to leave the cold weather and our isolated life to live in the motorhome with neighbors surrounding us just a few feet away. I quick learned I'm not ready to retire to that life. Hot tubs, swimming pools, karaoke, dances, billiards, ping pong and other forms of recreation are enjoyable but not without a mixture of some serious work.

Last week was spring break. Months ago we made plans to spend the week in Death Valley but changed them in favor of a visit to Julie's family in Amarillo and Borger, Texas. It was an enjoyable trip. Her mother is fading into Alzheimers but during the time we were there she had good days.

A co-worked passed away last Saturday. About two years ago he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He took a trip to Ireland with his wife, has surgery in June of 2006 but was never able to return to work. He was in his mid-fifties at most. I feel for his wife.

My son came by unexpectedly for two days. I hadn't seen him for about a year and a half so I took vacation and spent time with him. It wasn't the longest visit but it was the best time we've had together in 20 years.

I bought a new toy! I owned two trailers but neither was suitable for heavy loads. I bought a 5 by 10 utility tailer with tandem 3,500 pounds axles. Now I can haul 500 gallons of water, pallets of stone, a couple yards of crushed glass and other materials. This trailer is part of my plan for a fun retirement and a slow healthy decline to death's door.

New Trailer.
New Toy. (Larger version)

Next week I hope to get 14 yards of soil delivered. By fall I plan on having raised garden beds, a tight fence and hungry frustrated rabbits. Wood rats can climb a fence but I'm planning a surprise for them.

This Friday Julie and I have a trip planned with four others to Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon. We'll hike down via the South Kaibab trail on Friday, spend Friday and Saturday nights in gender segregated dorms and come out on Sunday via the Bright Angel trail. Pictures next week!

Well, that's my world for now. Time to get back to work!