What is Washboard Express?

Washboard Express is a way for me to express my own opinions, to be a provocative gadfly, by writing a "letter a day" to the President. I may miss a day here and there, because sometimes my family with be my first priority, but my goal is to write a total of 365 letters, representing one full year. To say I have opinions about most things would be to understate the obvious. Those of you that know me, know this is true, those who don't know me, will learn that it's true. The Washboard is a reference to going back to basics and "keeping it clean," so if you would like me to post your comments or opinions on this blog, I only ask that you be respectful. So go ahead, express yourself, and I look forward to an exchange of ideas and opinions.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 85...Dear Mr. President... More Good News for August.

Day 85

Dear Mr. President,

This is the last day of August… my ‘Good News’ only, month of LTTP’s… Letters to the President. I have to tell you, it hasn’t been easy finding good news that rises to a Presidential level, but yesterdays letter regarding Larry Powell was the best, most inspiring, and uplifting news I’ve found all month.

The next time anyone mentions ‘shared sacrifice’ or you need to remind people what it means, I suggest you use Larry Powell as the ‘Poster Person’ for your talks. I have sent Mr. Powell an email thanking him for giving so much to the children in the Fresno County School District. If you, or your staff would like to send a personal thank you too, Mr. Powell’s email is: lpowell@fcoe.org. I know he would appreciate knowing that people notice when someone steps up to the plate and actually puts their money where their mouth is… too few do.

Marilyn Gray Mensinger, of Modesto, forwarded a copy of my letter to Berkshire Hathaway for Warren Buffett. This is what Marilyn said: “Please share this story about a true American hero with Mr. Buffett - Larry Powell in Fresno, California represents the best kind of educator who truly cares about the children in his school district. If everyone paid their fair share of taxes, our children would be able to look forward to a much brighter future through better education.” Thank you, Marilyn Gray Mensinger, Modesto, CA.

There is some more good news I want to share with you on this last day of August… UPS is buying 100 all-electric deliver trucks for deployment throughout California. A Stockton-based electric vehicle manufacturer will have them ready for deployment by early next year. These vehicles will not only be zero-emission, but they will save 126,000 gallons of fuel every year. Governor Brown declared: “This innovative partnership is proof positive that California businesses can boost their bottom line, put Californians to work and chip away at our environmental challenges.” Now that’s some good news you might want to share too.

Along that same vein, Delta announced its plan to buy 100 Boeing 737 jets with delivery set for 2013 to 2018. These too are designed with roomier cabins, more room in overhead bins and less engine noise. In addition, they have huge benefits for airlines because they are more efficient, burn less fuel and require less maintenance.

So although ‘good news’ is sometimes hard to find, it is out there, it is happening all around us each and every day… we just need to open our eyes, minds, and hearts. We need to see even simple things, like someone comforting a child, or holding the door for someone in a wheelchair, as good news. Being kind to one another is contagious, if we all practice kindness, that will be good news indeed.

Most Respectfully,

Marcia Reimers
Your Gadfly Granny

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 84...Dear Mr. President... A Real American Hero!

Day 84
Dear Mr. President,

The other day I asked you what kind of country we are living in and what kind of America do we want for ourselves, and our children? I used several examples of how and why we are definitely headed in the wrong direction. One of those was the way this country treats it’s children and how it’s failing them in so many ways.

It is also well known that teachers contribute countless amounts of their own money to make sure their classrooms are pleasant and conducive for learning. Many buy all the supplies the students will need because the schools can no longer afford to provide the necessities for learning and achieving success at school. This money comes right out of their pockets, and they do it because they care about our children. Even as they lose benefits, collective bargaining, and take pay cuts, they still teach and support and provide for our kids. Each and every teacher out there deserves our appreciation and thanks, because where would any of us be without the teachers that taught us the skills to be successful working adults.

But today I want to bring to your attention a man that exemplifies what it means to sacrifice for the greater good of children. This man is Larry Powell, Fresno County Schools Superintendent. Superintendent Powell has voluntarily taken a pay cut of $800,000 over a four-year period until his term expires in 2015. Instead Powell will be making just $31,000 per year, $10,000 less than a first year teacher – and with no benefits.

When asked why, Powell responded, “How much do we need to keep accumulating? There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money.” Powell’s generosity will ensure that some of his pet projects will survive more California budget cuts. A man who has made anti-bullying his mission, and says he hopes that his gesture will help restore some faith in a government that he once taught his students to respect.

The best part is that Powell will be able to direct those funds where he wants them to go: to programs for kindergarten and pre-school, the arts and a pet project that steers B and C students into college by teaching them how to take notes and develop strategy skills. Powell and his wife Dot agree that, “their goal has never been to have things, we want to give back.”

Now if Warren Buffett will just write a check for the taxes he agrees he should be paying then maybe we could see some others step up to the plate and share a little of their wealth. When an educator making a 6-figure salary can give back $800,000 then surely those making millions and billions can part with a proportional amount.

So today Mr. President, I salute Larry Powell, a real ‘American Hero’ – and I ask that you salute him too, and thank him for what is assuredly, more than his share of the ‘shared sacrifice’ – and nobody had to ask him, he just did it.

Most Respectfully,

Marcia Reimers
Your Gadfly Granny

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 83...Dear Mr. President... Is this the America we want?

Day 83
Dear Mr. President,

What kind of country has America become? I know that August is my ‘good news’ month, and at the end of my letter you will learn the good news, but for now I have to ask a few questions that have really been bothering me.

What kind of country puts corporations ahead of people, allowing untold amounts of money to be raised for one candidate or another?  Is it the kind where we allow the Supreme Court to select our President, and to declare that Corporations are people? Why are we allowing this in our America Mr. President?

What kind of country allows its police department to roust the homeless, not only displacing them, but shredding their tents with box cutters so they are not able to relocate. That just recently happened in St. Petersburg, Florida, and was video taped on someone’s cell phone. Why are public servants allowed to destroy public property even if it only belongs to the homeless? Is this our America?

What kind of country allows such severe cuts to education that many states are forced to move to a four-day school week? How is cutting education going to allow this country to compete on an international level? What is the message we are sending to our children? How are they ever going to feel valued, if we cut all the programs that make them want to remain in school? How should we expect to be treated when we’re seniors when these kids are making political decisions that will affect our well being? Will they remember how we failed them, and in turn fail us?

What kind of country wants to expel or deport young people starting college just because their parents brought them to this country illegally? These are the best and the brightest of the immigrant population, is this the group we really want to target? Why are we penalizing kids for the sins of the parents? Do we deny our kids a drivers license if one of their parents have a DUI record? Why do we allow such discrimination of the children of immigrants, whether they are legal or illegal? Is this the America we really want to live in?

What kind of a country convicts children as young as 10 or 12 for murder? What kind of a society have we become when we incarcerate children without possibility of parole? It’s a scientific fact that the human brain does not develop the ability for understanding the long-term consequences of actions committed when we are children. Some say that doesn’t develop until our 20’s at the earliest. Is this how we want the rest of the world to view how we treat our children?

I ask these questions Mr. President because these deplorable acts are going on in our America today. The good news is it’s not too late to do something about it. It’s not too late to decide the kind of America we want for ourselves and our children… the choices are ours to make.  Please let us know what kind America you want.

Most Respectfully,

Marcia Reimers
Your Gadfly Granny

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 82...Dear Mr. President... It's time to break the law.

Day 82
Dear Mr. President,

I just love it when ‘real Christians’ break the law… and that’s just what several brave ministers in Alabama are doing. Pastor Mitchell Williams of the First United Methodist Church was the first to announce that he was going to break the law.

The law that Republican Governor Robert Bentley signed was an immigration enforcement law that empowers law enforcement to try to determine immigration status after stopping people for a traffic violation. The law also makes it a crime to transport, harbor or rent property to people who are known to be in the country illegally.

United Methodist pastor Matt Lacey said there are all sorts of reasons that Alabama Christians are opposed to the law… one of those reasons is to make amends for the past inaction of religious groups, referring to the civil rights movement of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s when many state churches didn’t join the fight to end the Jim Crow laws or racial segregation. In addition, an Episcopal bishop, a Methodist bishop and a Roman Catholic archbishop are suing on the basis that the statute violates their right to free exercise of religion, making it a crime to be a Good Samaritan.

The politics of this issue are unusual in that those who support the law, coming mostly from the right, say that secular laws and biblical laws do not always run on the same track. I find it interesting that ‘Christians’ can so easily explain away very un-Christian like behavior. I thought that ‘Gods’ laws are indisputable, and should never be superseded by and any man-made law that goes against His teachings.

The Rev Al Garrett said, “Thank God that I’ve been here to see the way people of faith are taking a stand on this” because as he explained, he was old enough to remember some faith communities sitting on the sidelines during the civil rights movement. In addition, after a prayer for wisdom, the City Council of Birmingham passed a resolution calling for the repeal of the law.

So this Sunday on the National Mall for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, let us not forget that he broke the law too… He broke the law to overturn laws that should have never been made in the first place, and if Dr. King was alive today he would most assuredly have broken this reprehensible law passed by the Governor of Alabama too.

So to all the pastors, ministers, bishops, and city councils that plan on breaking Alabama’s immigration law, I say, “Congratulations.” Congratulations on being on the right side of history and actually doing the ‘Christian’ thing… by showing a little compassion, and a little love for people the Bible calls “the least of these.”

I know you swore to uphold the laws of the land Mr. President, but sometimes laws are meant to be broken, broken because it’s the ‘Christian’ thing to do.

Most Respectfully,

Marcia Reimers, 
Your Gadfly Granny

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 81...Dear Mr. President...Twenty-seven years ago... still grateful.

Day 81

Dear Mr. President,

We really do live in a remarkable country with advantages that other people, in many other countries can only dream of. A country where parents have a measure of control over what happens to their children. A country and a time where we’re not forced to make a “Sophie’s Choice.”

On the 14th of August I received a call from my son Jeff, not unusual for a Sunday, as that is the day he typically calls to chat. Jeff lives in Pahoa, Hawaii so we don’t get to see each other very often, but, we do have a special connection… 27 years ago I was able to donate a kidney to Jeff, and he is alive and well today.

Jeff was only 19 at the time he was diagnosed with total kidney failure… just starting his life really. He worked at the corner store, had lots of friends, played the drums, and had been trying to go to college… just a typical kid.

He started dialysis right away and we began the process of seeing who in the family was a match. Dennis, Jeff’s brother was in the Navy at the time, but he was able to send a sample of his blood for testing too. In the end it was my kidney that was a match.

Naturally, Jeff wanted to know one thing… “Why me?” He could name any number of others that he encountered at the corner store that were old, alcoholics, grouchy, unpleasant, or just plain mean. Why not them? To me it was simple… don’t those people have enough misery in their lives already? Who would be there to help support and take care of them? Even if they were miserable human beings by their own actions, would you want to trade places with them? Of course not, who would?

So after making arrangements for my friend Helene, to not only sub for me at my job for six weeks, but stay at my house to watch the other two kids, Jeff and I trekked up to San Francisco’s UC Hospital for the transplant procedure.

Twenty-seven years later I’m still grateful that we lived in a place, and a time, where all this is possible. Where a parent can actually save a child’s life without sacrificing another child in the process. A place and a company where you have a job that you can leave for six weeks without worrying about whether it will still be there or not. At a time when everyone in the company had insurance that paid for not just it’s employees, but our children as well. Yes, we have been very fortunate in every way possible, just living in America.

So every August 14th I get a call from Jeff saying… “Thanks for the kidney mom, I really appreciate it.” “You’re welcome,” I say… “It’s what any mother would do.” It’s what any mother would do if she is lucky enough to live in a time, a place, and a country where it’s all possible… a country like America.

Most Respectfully,

Your Gadfly Granny
Marcia Reimers

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 80...Dear Mr. President...Long ago and far away, in a land that made me, me.

Day 80

Dear President Obama,

The good news is it's been about a week since my last letter to you, I thought I’d give your staff a break from reading what the Gadfly Granny has to say.

I promised to write only positive messages. Well it's been a struggle. You celebrated your 50th birthday meaning you were born in 1961. Since you’re not much older than my son Dennis, born in ‘64, you may not be able to relate too much of what I remember of the 50’s. A truly "happier" time… less complicated, less rushed, and less saturated with 24/7 repetitive news communications.  Less sensationalized headlines and sound bites, and a lot less hysteria.

Oh, social networking existed… we called it talking to one another, usually face to face. Of course the 50’s were far from perfect, because many of our American citizens also suffered from inequality and social injustice.  It took the Civil Rights movement a decade beyond to generate the momentum that was required to instill fairness and equality. But the sentiment is still worth reviewing, because there were many basically good people who just wanted the best for their families.  They wanted to live in a peaceful and successful society, to work hard, to give back, and retire with their benefits secure… much like Americans today.

Long ago and far away, in a land that time forgot, 
Before the days of Dylan , or the dawn of Camelot. 
There lived a race of innocents, and they were you and me,

For Ike was in the White House in that land where we were born, 
Where navels were for oranges, and Peyton Place was porn.

We danced to 'Little Darlin,' and sang to 'Stagger Lee' 
And cried for Buddy Holly in the Land That Made Me, Me.

And only in our wildest dreams did we expect to see, 
A boy named George with Lipstick, in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We fell for Frankie Avalon, Annette was oh, so nice, 
And when they made a movie, they never made it twice.

We didn't have a Star Trek Five, or Psycho Two and Three, 
Or Rocky-Rambo Twenty in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Miss Kitty had a heart of gold, and Chester had a limp, 
And Reagan was a Democrat whose co-star was a chimp.

For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be, 
And Elvis was forever in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We'd never seen the rock band that was Grateful to be Dead, 
And Airplanes weren't named Jefferson, and Zeppelins were not Led.

And Beatles lived in gardens then, and Monkees lived in trees, 
Madonna’s name was Mary in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We'd never heard of microwaves, or telephones in cars, 
And babies might be bottle-fed, but they were not grown in jars.

And pumping iron got wrinkles out, and 'gay' meant happy and fancy-free, 
And dorms were never co-ed in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We hadn't seen enough of jets to talk about the lag, 
And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag.

And hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea, 
And rocket ships were fiction in the Land That Made Me, Me.

And middle-aged was 35 and old was forty-three, 
And ancient were our parents in the Land That Made Me, Me.

But all things have a season, or so we've heard them say, 
And now instead of Maybelline we swear by Retin-A. 
They send us invitations to join AARP, 
We've come a long way, baby, from the Land That Made Me, Me.

So now we face a brave new world in slightly larger jeans, 
And wonder why they're using smaller print in magazines. 
And we tell our children's children of the way it used to be, 
Long ago and far away in the Land That Made Me, Me.

I don’t know who wrote that, or I would certainly give them credit. But, I can understand is why it would be nice to step back for a minute and remember a time when Sunday’s were for church and family. Back to a time when people listened to one another, and understood that while we may not agree, we showed respect for the other person’s point of view.

We’ve had enough name-calling and ‘labeling’ to last us all a lifetime. It’s time to come together for the good of our country… I know you’re with me on this, and rest assured… I’m with you too.

Most Respectfully,

Your Gadfly Granny ~ Marcia Reimers

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 79...Dear Mr. President...What we can learn from reading the Obits.

Day 79

Dear Mr. President,

Usually you don’t find much ‘good news’ in the obituaries, you’re mostly hoping you don’t recognize anyone that has recently passed away. But in today’s obituaries there was an article about the passing of former Senator Mark Hatfield, who died on Sunday, August 6th in Portland, Oregon.

I’m not suggesting that his passing was ‘good news’ because it clearly wasn’t. The good news was that he was one of the few Republicans that was often at odds with his fellow Republicans. Hatfield served five terms form 1967 to 1997, and was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War. His courage in voting against party lines was legendary… in 1995 he was the only Republican to vote against a balanced budget amendment, which left it one vote short of passing the Senate.

In short… Hatfield’s ability to think for himself and vote according to his own beliefs is what’s missing in Washington today. The parties are so entrenched in what they believe, that they have lost the ability to do any critical thinking on their own. They are so intent on ‘the next election’ and how to position themselves, that they no longer represent the people that sent them there. Too many are afraid to go against the ‘big money’ that put them there, too many have signed one pledge or another that says they have to vote a certain way, and too many have lost all sense of independent action in thought or deed.

Hatfield believed that one of his major accomplishments was to help push through the 1987 ban on U.S. nuclear weapons testing. He said that, “Every president other than Eisenhower has been seduced by the military concept that that is our sole measurement of our national security and the more bombs we build, the more secure we are.” He went on to say, “That’s just not true. We are vulnerable in our national security today and we are vulnerable in many ways we are not addressing – the needs of education, the needs of housing, the needs of nutrition, the needs of health, the needs of infrastructure.”

How right he was then, and how right that still is today. So the ‘good news’ is that we still have an opportunity to learn from this very wise man. We still have time to vote for things that will lift the American people out of the abyss into which we have fallen, pushed there by short sighted politicians intent on having their own way come hell or high water. We need to stop the ‘my way or the highway’ mentality.

We are better than that Mr. President, we can honor the legacy of Mark Hatfield by dropping our guard, extending our hand across the aisle, and working on accomplishing the thing that this country needs most… Jobs, Jobs, and more Jobs.

Most Respectfully,

Your Gadfly Granny
Marcia Reimers

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 78...Dear Mr. President...White Hats and Good Guys

Day 78

Dear Mr. President,

Remember in the cowboy movies you could always tell the good guys from the bad guys by the color of their hat? The good guys always had the white hats, while the bad guys wore black hats. I think there may have been an exception to that rule and that was Paladin from Have Gun Will Travel.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the good guys are these days… it used to be that those people who went to church regularly and professed a love of God, were good people. Today I’m not so sure anymore. It seems the ones who shout the loudest and the longest about their ‘Christian’ ways, are least apt to follow basic Christian values like do unto others… or judge not… or love thy neighbor… etc…

Yesterday was Friday, which is ‘date day’ for my husband and me, so we decided to go to the movies. Last week I chose Midnight in Paris, which was great, and this week Gary picked Cowboys and Aliens… staring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. I figured with 007 and Indiana Jones as the heroes, it couldn’t be that bad.

Even though both characters were ‘bad guys’ in their own right, they had to team up and work together to defeat the evil and dangerous aliens. The aliens came to earth to steal all the gold and snatched the good people of the town so they could study them to discover our weaknesses before they took over the planet. In the end the cowboys and Indians won the day, the heroine blew up the mother ship, the people were rescued, and the gold remained. Our heroes turned over a new leaf, and everyone rejoiced with singing, dancing and drinking in the town saloon.

I couldn’t help but think of what’s happening in politics today… you’re trying your best to save peoples jobs, their houses, their Social Security and Medicare, while the Republicans try to keep more and more for themselves and the richest Americans.

So while the Bible says, it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven, I have to wonder why so many people think they need so much more than they do? The old saying, ‘you can’t take it with you’ is true… the aliens found that out, they came to rob the earth of it’s gold, and instead they were blown to smithereens. The guys in the white hats won the day.

So Mr. President, I don’t want you to worry yourself completely gray… greedy people that have tons of money, are no happier then those of us who have a lot less. They can’t take it with them, it cannot guarantee good health, and it will not get you into heaven. Essentially money buys you freedoms, freedom to go where you want, buy the ‘things’ you want, and do what you want within the law… and that’s about it.

The “Good News” for today is… you may be the first black man in the White House, but you are also wearing the “white hat”… yes, you’re one of the good guys.

Most Respectfully,

Your Gadfly Granny
Marcia Reimers

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 77...Dear Mr. President... Happy Birthday... here's my present to you.

Day 77

Dear Mr. President,

It’s been about a week since my last letter… during that interval I’ve had my granddaughter, Sophia with me for the week, the debt ceiling fiasco is over, you’ve signed what’s necessary to enable the FAA workers to resume work, and you’ve had your 50th Birthday. It’s been quite a week.

On the 4th I received an email asking to sign a card wishing you a Happy Birthday, which I was happy to do. I also added my own personal message… In many of the other 76 letters to you I was often critical of one thing or another, so I promised that for the whole month of August I was only going to write ‘positive’ comments. You’ve had enough bad news and bashing about by one group or another, and you certainly didn’t need additional negativity on your birthday.

I can tell you this much… it’s much harder to find good news than it is to find bad news, but I will not be deterred in my search for the ‘Good’ the ‘Positive’ and the ‘Beautiful,’ as opposed to the good, the bad and the ugly.

The first thing I did was to look in my local paper… uummm, not much good there. Next searched the web news… uummm, not much good there. Then I decided to Google “Good News” and guess what… there is actually a Good News Network! I have to tell you, I feel better already. GNN was founded by Geri Weis-Corbley in 1997 and they currently have 13,706 people that “like” them on Facebook.

A few of the top headlines for GNN are:
“American Soldier Just Back from Iraq Wins Million Dollar Lottery.”
“Good Karma: Buddhist Liberate 500 Lobsters Destined for Dinner Plates.”
“Boston Rolls Out New Bike-Sharing Program.”
Each of these stories brought a smile to my old and wrinkled face, but I’m particularly happy for the Air Force Staff Sgt. who won the million dollar lottery, and I’ll bet he won’t complain about having to pay the tax on it, because he knows what it’s like to be grateful and thankful to just be alive.

I got to thinking about my own ‘Good News’… Here’s just a sampling: My husband and I will get our Social Security checks this month, thanks to you. My husband was told by his doctor that he could stop taking some heart meds that were making him dizzy and causing him to cough. Doc said that his heart ‘plumbing’ was excellent and not to worry. Now that’s good news! All the kids and grand kids are healthy and doing reasonably well compared to many others. That’s good news too.

More “Good News” to follow in the coming days… Cheers, and Happy August Birthday month Mr. President.

Most Respectfully,

Your Gadfly Granny
Marcia Reimers