Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We All Deserve Privacy

Have you ever watched the news on TV and seen one of those situations where a reporter puts a microphone in the face of a victim? It usually happens after some horrible crime either at the scene when emotions are most raw or outside of a courthouse when the reporter asks some ridiculous question like How do you feel about your mother, brother, sister, father being beaten, stabbed, killed, run over?

When I see that I usually think What a ghoul that reporter must be or Why does the family even respond. Then I think, The reporter is just doing her job, she's there to get people to watch her station/read her newspaper or The poor family, they are trapped and feel they have to answer.

I found out yesterday that neither has to happen. Two years ago a very high-profile murder happened locally. A young man killed both of his parents and disposed of their bludgeoned bodies on their property. They were not discovered for two weeks. Very gruesome.

Although the story was covered by the local media when it happened, it was interesting that there were no interviews with the immediate family. There was an extensive newspaper article but it was written from only the details of the police reports. There were interviews with former neighbors but nothing from the family, a large and local one.

Two days ago, almost two years after the murders of his parents, the son was finally brought to trial. On the first day there were no media present in the courtroom.

On the second day, which was supposed to involve jury selection, there was a large contingent of reporters from newspapers and television, videographers and photographers. In the spectators' section of the courtroom sat twenty members of the couple's family, filling up more than half of the benches. It appeared that the media had been placed in a position which made photographing or videoing the family difficult. The click and whir of the cameras was audible but they were all pointed at the lawyers and defendant, not the family.

Soon after the proceedings of the second day began, they came to an end when the defendant changed his plea of not guilty to guilty of all charges. Later it was learned that after the first day of the trial which included the viewing of one of the first taped interviews of the son after his parents were reported missing but before they were found, he decided to change his pleas to guilty and save putting himself through the ordeal of the trial.

With that change, the family was spared the ordeal as well. The trial came to an end, the murderer was escorted out and the family silently and solemnly filed out of the courtroom to an unknown location in the courthouse.

The reporters began falling all over themselves to get out of the courtroom no doubt to be the first to post their reports and be the first to get into the family's faces. Although the reporters milled around in the halls of the courthouse and stayed posted at both exits of the massive building, the family never appeared and the reporters finally gave up and left without their pictures or statements. The family's privacy would be preserved.

The story hit the airwaves immediately but with no photos or statements from the family. The public would have to be satisfied with statements on the courthouse steps from the Attorney General and head of the State Police.

On the evening news at the end of the report of the day's events, the reporter said "The family declined to be interviwed or photographed."

Bravo for them. I wish them peace.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Business of Yours Is it Anyway?

Recently I was helping a friend who is nearing retirement put together information to file for Social Security benefits. Although I don't know any more about it than he does I have a few more computer skills, and it seemed that doing it online was going to streamline the process.

That turned out to be wrong. He eventually called the local office of the Social Security Administration and after a long time on hold he spoke to a woman who interviewed him and sent forms through snail mail. I guess they figure if you're 65 years old you can't use a computer. While that may be true of many, it's not true of all, and they should make it a little easier to do this online if that's your choice. But that's just the beginning of what I learned that ticked me off about the government.

She asked about marriages, divorces, children, etc. Had he ever been divorced. Yes. Was he married to his former spouse for more than ten years. No.

Apparently if you were married for ten years of longer, your former spouse may be eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on your earnings record when he/she reaches retirement age. This is if you earned more and he/she is not married to someone else at the time. That does not diminish the amount of benefits you collect, however.

While going over the documents he got by snail mail, he began to question whether they had been married more than ten years. The marriage ended over 30 years ago. Who remembers these things, he said. If he was a woman, you know he would remember the time, day and date of the divorce but men aren't wired that way.

After much searching and aggravation he came up with the Petition for Divorce. They had divorced after 11 years of marriage. Obviously the people at SSA would have to be notified.

As I looked over his shoulder at this one legal sheet of yellowed paper that had been folded into quarters, the information obviously typewritten, I noticed that she was granted the divorce on grounds of "extreme cruelty." Having known this friend for a few years and knowing that he could never have been guilty of "extreme cruelty" in any situation, never mind against a woman he shared children with, I was shocked by this.

What is that about? I asked. He said that was the only grounds under which you could get a divorce back then. There was no dissolution of marriage as a result of irreconcilable differences even if the divorce was amicable and consensual. When I was divorced several years after they were, it was on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Very neat and clean. No one accusing anyone of "cruelty."

To make it worse, the last line of the details of the Petition of Divorce dealing with child custody, child support, house, etc., said that he...."be permanently enjoined from molesting, annoying or interfering with her." That seemed especially nasty language considering the decision to divorce was mutual.

Talk about extreme cruelty. The courts should have no business in determining who does and who doesn't divorce anyway, especially when it's something both parties agree to.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Are You a Good Storyteller or Like to Take Pictures?

It's been three weeks since Words of Wisdom (WOW) hit the blogosphere, something Pam and I find hard to believe. The first couple weeks were challenging but things seem to be working out. For more information, visit our Welcome Message.

After only three weeks, we have over 100 followers. It's been fun and encouraging to read the feedback and comments. We have been featuring a new "Blogger of Note" daily on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We look forward to finding more
“bloggers of substance" to share with our followers and visitors. If you want to know how to be a BON, you can find out how here.

We know that in
addition to writing great blogs lots of you out there enjoy photography and creative writing (fiction, poetry, essays, etc.). As a way to include those types of blogs and posts, we are now including two new features. Beginning today, every Sunday you can link your favorite posts of photos or creative writing.

If you want to share some of your writing, visit the Writer's Forum and put up a link. If you would like to share some of your photographs, visit the Photo Gallery and link it up. If you are looking for some new and interesting photography or creative writing, drop by and check it out. We really looking forward to what you have to share.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Hunter and a Conservationist

I've mentioned Paul's life-long love of the outdoors. A hunter since he was 9, Paul has literally hunted from the Arctic Circle to Africa. Lots of people are surprised to learn that he is both a hunter and a conservationist. That's when he tells them that hunters were the first conservationists.

Back in the 1800s, there were no game laws, and people killed indiscriminately year round. Because people still lived off the land and killed animals for food, some species of ducks, pheasants, deer and turkeys became endangered. So President Theodore Roosevelt, a man Paul greatly admires, created a law restricting what game hunters could kill. These laws were committed to wildlife restoration and allowing species facing extinction to survive.

As chairman of our town's Conservation Commission, Paul is involved with the state's Department of Environmental Management's wood duck nesting program. A program started in 1951 it involves the placement and management of wood duck boxes all over the state.

Beginning in January 2009, Paul began placing and maintaining wood duck boxes all over town. When the marshes are frozen, the boxes are set in or around marshes and adjacent to ponds. Wood ducks normally nest in trees because once their chicks are born, they want to be able to get to the water quickly to avoid predators.

Depending on where you live you might see duck boxes out in marshy areas. They look like ordinary wooden bird houses but on poles. The boxes are usually leaning forward. Many people think that means the boxes are falling down but it's actually intentional because that's the way the ducklings get out of the boxes when ready to leave the nest. Using claws on their feet, they are able to climb up the rough wood on the interior of the box and get out.

The survival rate for wood ducks is still relatively low. Paul had one box that was full of 15 unhatched eggs this year. It's impossible to know what happened to them. Others that hatch are killed by predators.

Paul checks the boxes to look for evidence of use in late spring during hatching season. Increases in wood duck boxes in prime locations result in an increase in the wood duck population. The population faced extinction in the early 1900s and many state conservation departments started to set up nest box programs using native pine wood boxes and wood shavings to simulate an actual nest cavity.

Part of being involved in the state program requires keeping records of where the wood duck boxes are and counting the numbers of hatched eggs as well as unhatched eggs and boxes where no activity is seen. When it doesn't look like a box is being used, Paul moves it to another location.

I've gone out with him to take pictures a couple times but since this all happens in the dead of winter when everything is frozen and I'm more of a walk-in-the-park-on-a-spring-day kind of girl, I really haven't gotten involved. But I enjoy seeing his enthusiasm and how much he enjoys being outside all year, and I'll be happy to have the fire going and a nice hot cup of cocoa ready when he and the dogs come home.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Best Things in Life Are Free

Paul and I are facing a monumental decision for us; whether to spend money. We have been married 23 years, as of today actually. Today is our anniversary. In the 24 years since we bought our house, we have always watched our spending.

There have been years when our income was up and years when it was down. Because he is a commissioned salesman we can't always count on Paul's income being the same from one quarter to the next. And because I am a realtor, also a commissioned income, we can have major fluctuations in our annual income and we have. If you have a good year you can't change your lifestyle to match because next year could be very different.

We drive nice cars but not luxury cars, and we usually keep them for several years. We have traveled. I love to travel, I would give up a lot of things to travel, and I have a rule: Every year I have to see somewhere new. It doesn't have to be exotic, just somewhere I have never been before. There have been some very nice vacations over the last few years, most out of the U.S. Although that may be coming to an end soon. It's gotten just too complicated and uncomfortable to fly internationally, and we talk about this next trip to Europe being our last out of the country. We'll see about that.

We still live in the same house that we bought 24 years ago. We don't buy expensive clothes or furniture. We eat out but seldom anywhere pricey. We have always been savers. We are not rich by anyone's definition but we don't worry about paying bills either. I think we are satisfied with the decisions we have made over the years.

Recently we have noticed that many of our friends and acquaintances are buying second, and in some cases third, homes. I often wonder "do that make that much more money than we do?" Although this sounds nice, Paul and I have always said..."that's not for us." The responsibility of maintaining a second home as well as the expense has just never tempted us. Until now.

Last fall while hunting Paul stayed at a relative's house in New Hampshire. It's about a three hour drive from us. Paul came home raving about the property saying how nice the house is and how gorgeous the view from the property is. He said it was a modest house, almost new, on a few acres of land, set back from the road surrounded by woods with frontage on a trout stream. Sounds nice I thought, how nice for them.

Two weeks ago I came home and Paul had a funny look on his face; funny happy, not stressed like he usually does. "You look like the cat that ate the canary," I said. He told me to sit, and said, "Diane is selling the house in New Hampshire!" Oh boy, I thought, here we go.

My husband, the man who hates to spend money more than just about anyone I know, thinks we should buy this property. And I'm not saying we shouldn't, but really, should we? It would require a small mortgage, taxes, insurance, you know the list. We all know the list. My question is not whether we can afford it, we can with a few adjustments, but will it be another burden? Will we say..."we haven't been to New Hampshire in three weeks, we need to go." Will it become an obligation rather than enjoyment.

It could be a place that the kids and grandkids would use. That would be nice. Maybe we could rent it to skier friends. That would help with the expenses. But are these good reasons to make this commitment? I just don't know. And it's keeping both of us awake at night thinking about it.

Then I think, we're not getting any younger. We all hear the stories, you shouldn't put things off that you want to do. You may never have the opportunity again....blah, blah, blah. But is it really blah, blah, blah? My father died suddenly at 68. Paul's mother did, too, at 72. You never know what's around the bend. See what I mean? I can't decide.

The plan is to go stay there for a weekend soon so I can see it. I've seen pictures, the location and view are really beautiful. Then we will have to make that decision: To spend or not to spend.

Do you own vacation property? Has it been a good experience or not? I could use some advice.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Highbush Cranberry--April

It's been eleven months since I began this project of monthly photos of the Highbush Cranberry. Some of the berries are still hanging on. We've had nine inches of rain here in New England over the last three days and still they hang on. Our yard is a total quagmire that I slogged through in Paul's boots to get these photos this afternoon. You can see a puddle at the base of the bush.

The berries are still a vibrant color but definitely have seen better days. There are still many bunches that just don't seem to want to give up.

The rain stopped last night and the sun came out this morning in this beautiful blue sky. Here you can see the new growth along side of the old berries.

By next month these buds should pop. What's going to happen to the berries? I don't know. Check back in May to find out.

To see the changes, go to June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January, February, and March.


Blog Design By Lindsey Joy Design © All Rights Reserved.