Friday, August 31, 2012

Family Trees

Trees are noble, majestic creations. They remain steadfastly implanted into the ground, secured by long roots and held in place by their own strength. It seems only natural that an image as robust and sturdy as trees should have become the symbol for family structures, with branches of lineage depicted as off-shoots of the main trunk.

We take comfort in imagining our family trees as durable and unwavering, standing through snowfalls and strong winds, continuing to grow stronger each year.

Unfortunately, family trees are far from indestructible. They are fragile and subject to unforeseen damage. Some don't survive the first breeze.

Recently I heard from a friend regarding a rather distant member of her family, who happens to have a lifestyle deemed unacceptable by rest of the family. This individual lives within a few miles of the family center but has been ostracized by the family until only recently when his mother passed away. Now finally the rest of the family is attempting to mend the fences and reconnect with him.

My friend's comment to me was, "How sad." Unfortunately, I know of several similar situations.

Families are supposed to be warm, nurturing and supportive structures. That is not always the case. Families can be petty, nagging and immovable when the situation calls for it. Family members can be uncompromising over some slight -- real or imagined -- and can let that injury fester indefinitely, often after the injury itself has been forgotten.

Perhaps it is due to pride that such conflicts linger. Whatever the reason, division in the family are injurious to all. Some relationships never mend.

In the 1950s, my mother and her brother had a disagreement over the care of their mother who was then in failing health. My mother had been the primary caregiver and my uncle happened to drop by from his home several hours away. A disagreement ensued and they didn't speak or communicate for decades. One day many years later, my uncle telephoned from a hospital room where he lay terminally ill. He reached out to his sister so that he could tidy up loose ends. It was a very difficult situation for everyone.

Another branch of the tree involved a woman who had passed away before I was born. She had married into the family, had a tumultuous marriage and died estranged from our family and her own. In recent years, I have attempted to learn more about this woman and her family, only to find that all photos of her were discarded and all traces erased. It is almost as though she never existed. It is hard to image how alone and ignored she must have felt.

When I was a kid, seeing my cousins was a big deal. We were close in age, liked each other and enjoyed playing together. But they lived in another city and seeing them was limited to some holidays and occasional visits. Their parents divorced suddenly and abruptly after the husband came home from work one day to find the house empty and all occupants gone. Many futile attempts were made to find out what had happened and where they were living. We essentially lost our cousins without explanation.

People may have their reasons for trying to remove certain branches from the tree trunk. Not all people are easy to live with and not all marriages permanent and happy. Ultimately, numerous branches are trimmed to help preserve the tree's survival. Many family trees have cut off so many branches that they are in danger of collapse.

Family trees need to be protected in order to survive. They need nutrients to grow and produce more branches. Unless new branches are allowed to form, family trees may be cut down and discarded.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Down the Road

I'll admit that I'm a big fan of all things vintage or antique. I'm intrigued by history, how things were made and used, and how they can be preserved. On the nights when "American Pickers" is on, I'm glued to the TV. (If you haven't watched the show on The History Channel, you should give it a try.)

Why are objects from the past so intriguing? Possibly because we remember seeing these items during our childhood. Possibly because those items are seldom used any longer. Perhaps we heard our parents talk about a thus-and-such but never actually saw one.

Many years ago, Americans seemed to lose interest in old things. Modernization beckoned! In a book about some of the mega stars of 1940s Broadway, I read that some of them had homes in far-off Connecticut allowing them to get away from New York for the weekend. These were some of the earliest "regular folks" to become interested in finding old lanterns and tables to furnish their get-away homes. It was a boom to the Connecticut storekeepers for wealthy shoppers to browse and purchase relics.

More recently interest in antiques was stirred by programs like "Antiques Roadshow," a staple on PBS for 16 years. People come to the broadcast bearing an item for the appraisers to inspect. Some people discover that the heirloom they treasured is actually a souvenir piece of minimal value. Others find that the old table now stored in the garage is a rare and valuable piece worth a great deal of money.

With the trend to so-called "reality television," several new TV programs have emerged. Unfortunately, many of those shows are contrived, showing stupid people doing stupid things and hoping to get rich in the process.

An antique dealer recently told me that, like many other dealers, he often attends auctions to acquire additional inventory. However, auction prices are rising rapidly as attendees of varying experience and savvy hope to find the big score and make a killing. It seems like many people are under the impression that if they shop often and take home enough care-worn items, they will come across some diamond in the rough.

Of course, that's rarely true. But they may find some items of interest, something made of quality materials and carefully crafted. What people should look for -- whether it's vintage clothing, household items or even toys -- is something that they like, that they might enjoy seeing on a bookshelf or kitchen counter, an item to make them smile. The item should be significant to them, not an opportunity to find a long-lost Picasso and cash out.

The thing I enjoy about shopping for vintage items, even watching the process on TV, is that most of the items shown or brought in for appraisal were originally created to last. I have cooking utensils that belonged to my grandmother, including a cast iron skillet and a covered Dutch oven. They have lasted over a century and will continue to last with minimal treatment. If you ever attend antique stores you will likely see mounds of cast iron utensils which, by the way, represent today's newest cooking trend.

Many vintage items available for sale resemble items that are currently manufactured, with one major difference. The vintage/antique items were made of quality equipment, perhaps assembled by hand, perhaps even in this country. My house contains many items that have served me well over the years and are still going strong. My favorite fabric shears are from JC Penney purchased in 1959. I have no sentimental attachment to the shears but they are simply the most reliable scissors in the house.

I'm willing to bet that your home contains items that have been with you a while and are still going strong. These work-horse items were designed and created at a time when careful thought and craftsmanship were valued. Obviously that was some time ago.

This got me to thinking about how many of today's creations will be around in 50 years or so. Clothing? No way. Clothing is so cheaply made now that more than one season is out of the question. Cell phones? Of course not. Cell phones will continue to evolve resulting in the constant discarding of each previous edition. Technology will cause the evolution and replacement of cars, entertainment devices, music and appliances. Perhaps a sturdy piece of furniture may endure but highly unlikely.

Too bad that so much effort in today's world is spent with trivial interests and temporary matters. The things that really matter appear to be substantial and thought provoking.

Hopefully some of those traits will endure into the future. But I wonder.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Faded Photographs

Recently I was sorting through a mountain of old family photographs. It was quite an accumulation that included portraits, formally posed occasions, school photos and a large number of snapshots.

Photos are such a remarkable, personal reminder of our past. A mere glance reveals captured moments from long ago. Looking at a photo can transport us to another time and place allowing us to relive a family trip, a special birthday or just enjoying burgers on our new grill.

There is something almost reverent about sorting through photos, like handling precious and irreplaceable icons.

Our family photos date back to the early 1900s, when taking a photo was a memorable procedure and reserved for special occasions. One early picture was taken at some type of family gathering when my father was about 5 years old. The setting appears to be my great grandfather's farm. Family members are gathered in a group, some standing, others seated in buggies, children down front on the ground. The photographer was likely a professional as the result was posed and staged so that everyone in the large group is clearly visible.

In the very early days of photos, neck restraints were used to prevent subjects from moving during the long exposure time. Generally photographs were taken in a studio setting. People often wore their best clothes. Occasions being recorded were such momentous occasions as engagements, christenings, landmark wedding anniversaries or military enlistment. Photos had yet not reached a casual level.

By the 1930s, cameras were smaller and found in many homes. The result was the snapshot, everyday events captured in an instant. Many cameras had become so easy to operate that the entire family could use them. Flash bulbs made it possible to clearly capture indoor events. Decorating the Christmas tree, dining with relatives or a sleeping family pet were fair game for snapshots. We could record what our houses looked like, how we dressed and friends we knew.

Organizing and sorting old photos reveals a cohesive pattern to our lives. We observe how people changed over the years. I was struck by how young my parents looked during a time when they seemed -- at least to me -- quite mature. Examining such photos now puts things in a new light. Kids are often busy being kids and miss so much of life as it goes on around them.

Photographs are private treasures. They record intimate events that we want to recall. I remember occasionally sharing family photos with special friends, carefully discussing the people in the pictures and how they fit into my life. Examining someone else's photographs is a special journey into that person's life, a privilege not to be taken lightly.

It does not seem logical that photos were intended to be displayed on so-called social media. Just because photographs can be shot with lightweight digital cameras on a moment's notice does not mean that large crowds of people need to see them. Nor do large crowds of people want to see them. Displaying photographs with total strangers is rude and invasive and demeans the nature of photographs.

Some years ago an article appeared encouraging grandparents to submit photographs of their grandchildren. I believe the occasion was some type of contest but I have forgotten the circumstances. Friends of mine were appalled that anyone would intentionally display a picture of a child in their family. After all, who might see it? Wasn't there a risk in having the child made known to the public? These arguments made a great deal of sense to me.

And yet, people now casually click photos and post them on social media for the world to see. The world.

Possibly posting photographs for wide distribution is not a wise decision.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Recently I had conversations with several friends, each of whom is approaching retirement. While retirement is an event most of us will eventually face, how we address the situation varies greatly.

Everyone has their own anticipation of what awaits in retirement. But today's women are a little more uncertain than men. Only a few decades ago most women did not work outside of the home. It was during the post-war years that large waves of women began to enter the work force.

One disadvantage that hits the newly-retired (both men and women) is not having a hobby or sport that they enjoy. Most men of my father's generation did not have hobbies. They worked long hours at their jobs and spent time with their family. Few had the time or money to indulge in hobbies. So when they retired, often they were at a loss to find something that interested them.

During one of the recent conversation, I said that I was busier now than when I worked full-time. The other participant in the chat laughed and said she can't imagine how she will fill her time.

"Do you have something you enjoy doing?" I asked.

"I like to read and take it easy," she replied.

"Well, you might want to think about how to fill your time when you stop working."

"Oh, I plan to help out my married kids. I really want to clean their houses."

This is not exactly what I had in mind. I pursued suggestions about hobbies like needlework, crafts, baking, etc. But she said such issues were of little interest. Subject changed.

If you are facing retirement, think about something that you might enjoy doing. The things that come quickly to mind include learning how to fix some new foods, cooking with more exotic items that may be unfamiliar (curry, peppers) or another cuisine entirely (Asian, Italian, German).

I have a friend whose husband discovered mid-life that he loves to bake. He truly has a gift for some fantastic creations and can't wait until retirement to open a small bakery. He has several years in which to perfect his technique and decide whether that is something he wants to do. Is there enough of a market for a bakery? Is running a bakery too confining in retirement? At least he is mulling over such a decision. That is the kind of foresight I would encourage.

I recently told another friend that she should allow herself significant time to figure out what she wants to do. After 46 years in the work place, I was glad to face retirement. But after all that structure, time constraints and personal sacrifice for the sake of the paycheck, at first I felt a little lost to make my own decisions.

It helped to continue keeping a written weekly calendar just as I had while working. It gave me structure and I still keep such a log. At the beginning of the week, I note upcoming events and then make a short "to do" list of things to accomplish. It may sound simplistic, but checking off the matters completed helps me use my time wisely.

Yes, it did take me a while to figure out what I wanted to do to fill my time. I think the key is that the chosen activity/hobby/interest should be something that you enjoy. After doing a job which you may not have enjoyed for decades, finding pleasure in every day is no small thing.

Chinese philosopher Confucius said: "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." He was right, of course, though other factors often come into play when choosing a job/career, including the current job market and economic conditions.

But when it comes time to fill your own free time, keep Confucius in mind and find something you like to do. Oh, he also said, "It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."

Wise indeed.

Friday, August 17, 2012

After the Storm

Weather in the Midwest this summer has been, well, grim. Temperatures have been extremely hot and rainfall a distant memory. The resulting effect was severe on people and even worse on the current crop of soybeans and corn. As the drought story dominated the national news, consumers became aware that food prices will rise accordingly in the near future.

Just when Midwestern citizens thought we were all doomed to dry up and blow away, what happened? It rained -- buckets. After a few lightweight showers during the past week, yesterday brought all the water that had been "on hold" for months.

A storm swept through our section of the Midwest yesterday at about 4 p.m. and rained like heck, wiping out thoughts of drought, dust and withering greenery that had become the focus of nearly every one.

Was the conversation today about how nice it was to get rain after such a long period? No. It was about the storm, the damage done, the end of summer and the onset of snow. Everywhere I went, someone was repeating stories they had heard about the storm.

It was quite a storm. Not a walk-down-the-street-holding-an-umbrella rain. The wind began to pick up mid-afternoon. The first thing I heard was a severe thunderstorm warning for counties far to the north of our town, spreading to the eastern portions of the state. Then a second warning was announced for counties to the south. Finally, a tornado warning was announced for our community shortly before the tornado sirens began.

The storm either changed direction suddenly and increased in strength or the weather forecasters were completely off point. For whatever reason, the storm was strong and headed right for our community.

The wind howled and rain continued for about an hour. Fortunately, my house is tight and the roof is new. But power was out at the onset of darkness as I pondered (1) was I really interested in eating anyway and (2) how long the power would be off. It was dark for only about a couple of hours as the power company figured out how to redirect service to everyone.

Our community has many lovely trees. We enjoy seeing them leaf-out in the Spring and change to bright colors in the Fall. However, the combination of full limbs and power lines has long presented issues when storms occur. Limbs get icy in winter and drop heavy limbs on power lines. Result: cold houses. In wind and rain, limbs get blown and snapped off, resulting in limbs on power lines. Result: no electricity.

By early this morning limbs had been dragged street-side for miles around. City workers picked up the limb debris and helped restore the appearance of our community. Multiple trucks and cherry pickers were visible all over the county today as crews worked to install new power lines and repair the damage.

Things could certainly have been much worse. Near the 4th of July this year, the news reported stories of families in the eastern U.S. which suffered power outages that lasted for days, even weeks. Hot weather and no power? Yes, we were lucky out here in the Midwest. Damage was minimal and thankfully no one was seriously hurt.

Unfortunately, most Midwesterners have a severe case of "my glass is half empty." They simply do not realize how nice life is here. Perhaps it's the result of isolationism, perhaps too much reality TV. For all the things that might have happened during yesterday's storm, most repeated stories involved people helping other people. Workers at a small business building near the center of the storm helping stranded drivers to safety. Cross country runners from the local high school who were given shelter in local homes along their running route. Such examples of concern would never occur at many other locations.

Whether it is help during a storm or assistance during dire situations, it's a shame that so many people have become blind to the good will that exists around them every day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's on the Way!

A few days ago I received an email from a long-time friend who lives in a neighboring state. Our personalities are similar and our opinions are the same on many topics.

So when my friend mentioned that she dreaded the approach of Fall, I was quite surprised. She said that autumn would arrive with a jolt and she would probably hear a loud thud as the trees dropped their leaves in unison. Thus would begin endless months of dark, dreary weather punctuated by occasional bouts with snow.


I love Fall. It has always been my favorite season. What's not to like? The weather turns cooler, yes, but that gives us an excuse to again wear socks and sweaters. I love cuddling on the sofa with a chenille throw or even lighting the gas logs for an occasion overdose of atmosphere.

Autumn alerts us to begin thinking about eating a new assortment of foods, like stews, homemade soups and warm, comforting treats. It's time to again plan meals (cooking!) after what has been a long and extremely hot summer. I can't be the only one ready for a change.

In many areas of the country, trees exhibit their brilliant foliage of red, orange and gold. It's an annual opportunity to observe nature's creative side. After my family moved to Arizona in 1960, we often trekked to Northern Arizona in the Fall just to see the changing leaves. This pilgrimage was a welcomed event and confirmed to us that there were still more seasons than the two that existed in the desert (those being summer and not summer).

Fall also means the start of football season, a big event for some. Personally, I lost interest in football with the retirement of Joe Namath but that's another story. Football continues to draw fans for the local, college and professional teams. From my house, I can hear the local football games on Friday nights. Sounds of the high school band and the crowd carry easily in the Autumn evening air. These events provides adequate exposure to football and remind of me of rooting for our team when I was a kid and associated fun like Homecoming and after-game dances. Football always seemed like a nice way to start another school year.

Of course, the Christmas holidays can't be far off once Autumn arrives. We launch into decorating our homes and porches with pumpkins, gourds and bright pots of mums. The colors of Fall flowers are rich and vibrant -- hues of orange, cranberry red, white, maroon and gold. What a lovely mixture of tones and a delightful change from the pale shades of summer.

Best of all, Fall signals that it's time to relax a bit. After summer vacations, activities of all kinds to keep the kids busy and families a bit frenzied, it's time to sit down and take a deep breath. It's been a busy time for the past six months. Spring meant there was a garden to plant, grass to tend, and household projects. Summer meant the kids would need entertaining and transportation to events, a vacation to plan, barbecues and cook-outs to host. Just about everywhere, families and kids keep hyper-busy during the summer. Time flies and suddenly there is talk about Back-to-School which includes buying clothes and supplies.

And this is where the magic of Fall comes in. It forces us to s-l-o-w down a bit and regroup. We should be like our friends the squirrels who store up nuts for the winter ahead. We must learn to enjoy the process of getting ready for winter. But we should also savor raking leaves, recognize the changing seasons and enjoy every day.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Good Ol' Days

There was a time when I hated hearing older people talk about the "good ol' days."
People who walked around spouting stories from the wonderful past seemed a little out of step with progress. Well, I guess it's my turn now.

Not everyone had a great time during childhood. Perhaps their family structure was lacking, perhaps they suffered a deep and long-lasting loss. Adolescence wasn't so great either with all that self-doubt and uncertainty about the future.

If we remove the big picture and re-examine the small elements of childhood from the 1940s through 1960s, it was a pretty nice time.

Television was new and fascinating. When we bought our first set, it was a magical occasion, like lifting a curtain on the entire world. TV provided increasingly novel television entertainment including American Bandstand, which spoke our adolescent language. It played our own music and dancers showed us the latest fashion from the big city of Philadelphia. Adults enjoyed television, too, but certain shows were designed just for youngsters.

Crime was low. We could ride our bikes to the movies, to the downtown Kresge's and even to school without locking them. Kids could catch the bus for a few cents and go all over town safely. If I came home after school and my mother wasn't home, I could get into the house without a key. If I stayed after school for band or Girl Scouts, I could walk home alone without being afraid.

Little events seemed like big treats. We could visit our neighborhood grocery and even walk into the store through the back door (which was always open) because it was closer to our street. We could buy a Popsicle for a nickel or a candy bar for a few cents more. It was a great treat to pick out what we wanted and become independent.

We were seldom bored. It may be hard for people raised on computers to understand but we could always find something to do. My brother and I never tired of playing Monopoly, Chinese Checkers or any number of other games. We played baseball in the street with other kids on the block or rode our bikes to explore new neighborhoods. My friends and I skated on the sidewalk, jumped rope, played jacks or otherwise entertained ourselves.

Going shopping for Christmas or before school started each year was a big event. Sometimes our mom drove us to nearby cities to shop. We usually "dressed up" and were treated to new restaurants and eating experiences. Going into a grown-up store with polite sales people was a thrill. They all seemed to know how to help us find what we wanted and were efficient and courteous. What fun!

Thinking back about childhood, I wondered if perhaps we had fun because we lived in a small town. But my cousins lived in Chicago and had many similar experiences. Rather than where we lived, I think it was when we lived.

At the end of the war, the country was bursting at the seams with prosperity. Millions of young families were provided mortgages under the G.I. bill, creating a huge housing shortage. Men returned to civilian life and the baby boom began. Jobs were plentiful and we made many products in the U.S. from photo flash bulbs to appliances to clothing. Towns from coast to coast boasted factories that produced nearly everything we needed. Imported goods stamped "Made in Japan" were thought of as inferior and shoddy. College came to be within reach and educational standards were raised.

It seemed like we were living in a perfect world.

Later as an adult, I remember reading the sordid details of the so-called Red Hunt as America came under the spell of Sen. Joe McCarthy. The story of fear and finger-pointing by otherwise upstanding Americans shocked me. I asked my mother what it was like to live during such an unpleasant chapter. She shrugged slightly, smiled and replied, "It really didn't bother me at the time. I was busy caring for my family."

Such was life in the 1950s. There were many unpleasant events going on at the time -- the Korean Conflict, the threat of nuclear armaments, growing civil rights issues -- but for most of us growing up, we remained insulated. I guess we were too busy enjoying the trees to step back and look at the entire forest.

The past is what we want it to be.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Calling Ben Casey

Remember years ago when television featured several well-written medical shows? When I was in high school, everyone watched Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare. Young hearts were sent aflutter by these kind physicians who always knew what to do. Ben Casey even started a fashion trend with his shoulder-button tunic and its obligatory open buttons.

Later years included Medical Center with Dr. Joe Gannon and Marcus Welby, M.D. Through the years, we came to respect television physicians. They could diagnose and resolve matters in an hour, saving lives and bringing joy before they moved on to the next crisis.

When I was young, I rarely went to the doctor except for a broken wrist and a knee gash that required stitches. In those days, kids experienced such childhood joys as chicken pox, measles and mumps. Everyone rejoiced when the polio threat was removed, although that vaccine was administered through public inoculation, not a doctor's visit.

As young working people, we were expected to be at work and capable of doing our job. That meant finding ways to cope with sore throats, flu and other annoyances. I remember finally deciding to find a primary care doctor. After all, it was the 1970s and medicine had progressed significantly.

Medicine may have come a long way, but physicians had not. As a newlywed, I recall having difficult adjusting to that role and visited my doctor. He told me that if I wanted to "hold my marriage together," I should have a child. I was 20 years old at the time and, fortunately, did not readily share his view. Clearly Dr. Kildare had been a fictional character.

Doctors can be a big help in treating conditions and serving as a sounding board for questions. But they are not all-seeing or particularly wise. They are available to be supportive but not to be obeyed blindly.

I'm a big fan of comedian/host Bill Maher and share many of his opinions. Maher often remarks about that the fact that so many Americans take great quantities of medication. If you have mature friends or relatives, you know this is true. People are now prone to take a pill for every ache/pain, skin condition, digestive disorder or mood swing to the point that they are pilling several times each day. This can't be a good trend. In addition, many medications cause side effects, some of which require additional medications to resolve. What's wrong with this picture?

A friend of our family was caught up in such a web. His original problem must have been an immune deficiency weakness. Over the years, he took fistfuls of pills to treat his various ailments. As a result, he gained weight, which weakened his heart, requiring additional medications… on and on until he finally died. Some doctors wanted to wean our friend off some of the meds but none of them could not agree how to go about it. The poor man seemed to be a victim of his own treatment. I don't believe my friend was an isolated incident.

Evening news programs are saturated with ads for various medications. These address such conditions as leaking bladders, high cholesterol and arthritis. As the commercials' actors laugh and bike through the countryside, a voice-over declares frightening disclaimers. If the narrator indicates that side effects could include coma and death, I doubt I would be asking my doctor for a prescription any time soon.

Doctors encourage their patients to ask questions. Whether that give-and-take is practiced would depend on the doctor and his/her relationship with the patient. But I know people who will drive all over the state to save a few hundred dollars when buying a new car, making sure they get exactly the best features at a fair price. These same folks will go to the doctor with some complaint and never ask a question. Newly-written prescription firmly gripped, they head to the nearest pharmacy.

Doctors are not perfect. Ask questions. Inquire about suggestions that he/she might make if you are unclear about the possible outcome.

Remember that half of all doctors graduated at the bottom of their class.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Who Do You Trust?

If you are over the age of 60, you may remember an early television show entitled "Who Do You Trust?" It was the first time most viewers had seen the young host, some guy named Johnny Carson. "Who Do You Trust" ran from 1957 to 1963 and our family often tuned in. It was a silly game show but like Groucho Marx in his own show "You Bet Your Life," the two guests and host often exchanged humorous quips. It was the conversation that caused most people to watch.

The title of that show came to mind recently and caused me to think about trust.

Trust plays an important part in our lives. Many of us have attended some type of conference which required interactive participation by all attendees. This often included the "trust exercise" in which one participant falls backward toward someone else, counting on the other person to catch him. Eventually everyone had to take a chance that someone would prevent their hitting the floor.

Complete trust is apparently unnatural.

At certain points in every life, trust is necessarily blind. Infants have many needs but are unable to make their preferences known. As a result, they trust that their parents will provide food and shelter and hopefully affection.

As we grew into childhood, we trusted many things. We trusted that our parents had our best interests in mind. We trusted that healthy food would be provided, that we would sleep safely in our own beds, that our parents were honest and forthright. We trusted that our teachers were there to guide us and if we goofed off in school, teachers would share that information with our parents.

We trusted in less significant matters, too. Our textbooks would provide correct data and information. The clock would tell us the accurate time to leave so that we would not miss the bus which we trusted would always be on time. Attending church and being involved in extracurricular activities were good for us. Susan and Tom would always be our friends.

When you think about childhood, there are countless situations and relationships that revolve around trust. Occasionally, those trusts are violated. Sometimes getting over such violations takes considerable time.

It is difficult for me to pinpoint exactly when my blind trust came into question.

When I graduated from high school in 1965, many boys in my small town shipped out with the military to service in Vietnam. Some boys enlisted and others were drafted. It was something they did without too much fuss, trusting that the future freedom of our country depended on fighting in the rice patties half way around the world. People supported the war and trusted that the government wouldn't ask us to do something that wasn't in our mutual best interest.

That is when some of us began to question whether everything we were told was to be trusted. Thousands of soldiers met their deaths in Southeast Asia and yet nothing seemed to change. Soon many people began questioning our involvement. By the time the war wound down and President Nixon resigned, big holes existed in our trust.

There is nothing wrong with questioning what we are told. A certain amount of cynicism is healthy. A friend of mine nearly died because he trusted his health to a doctor who happened to make a huge mistake. Many of us lost retirement funds to financial advisors who happened to make bad decisions during a dire period. Many of us trusted a spouse/friend/confidant when our decision making skills were lacking. Trusting matters without question is often a bad idea.

If we trust in every one and every option, we miss the opportunity to control our own lives. We should ask questions.

Like the saying goes, if something sounds like it is too good to be true, it probably is. If you are not a person who tends to ask questions, you might want to think about becoming one.