Plans for the Near Future

Last week my insurance license arrived in the mail. You can now find me on the State of Maine website for insurance if you do an agent search. I now feel “official.”

I once held an insurance license for both life and health back in the mid-1990s, but I let it lapse. At the time, I didn’t know the first thing about sales and in hindsight, the company I was selling for really didn’t have a very strong stable of products. Part of that was due to insurance laws in Maine at the time. However, other reps did very well because they kept it simple and worked their plan.

Passing my insurance exam was the first step for me. To be honest, I hadn’t thought beyond simply getting a passing score. I was tunneled in—selling our house, moving 26 years of belongings to a new location, and fitting work, study, and freelancing into what was a roller coaster three month ride. That was all I was capable of carrying to the close of 2016.

Yesterday, I received my year-end summary from the supervisor I report to at my part-time gig. She was pleased with my performance since May. I even received a slight bump in pay, what some might call the employment version of a COLA. The standard three to four percent that some people get barely keeps inflation at bay. However, in the first quarter of the 21st century, any scraps that workers receive from the boss’s table are supposed to be received with gratitude, and we’re also expected to be loyal in our servitude.

My session went better than his.

This isn’t intended to be a criticism or a critique of where we are in America, a place that long ago stopped being “great” for most workers. No, I’m simply acknowledging the reality. I could also frame it as a personal declaration that in 2017, I’m done allowing myself to be taken in by hucksters and charlatans promising things that they can’t deliver. That applies to employers, politicians, and people that I come across in my daily travels.

This week, I’m working on completing my first article of 2017 for one of the trade magazines that I contract with. The article I turn in will be well-written and informative. I will also go out four days this week and do a bang-up job for my hourly employer, always holding up my end of the value proposition. That’s how I roll.

But here in week three of 2017, I’m pondering if it’s possible to better leverage some of my own hard work and personal discipline. Can I enhance my opportunities? I’ve been doing some research and performing due diligence, getting up to speed on the insurance industry. I am beginning to think that I have a bigger bargaining chip than I thought I did two weeks ago. I also have a credential that not every prospective agent has.

The question is, how to I best employ it for my own benefit, and the benefit of others?

This is not a Movie Blog-Manchester by the Sea

In this time of fake news, depressing politics, and the melting of the polar ice caps, compartmentalization might be the only way to live and not to go nuts (or postal). Drugs are another option that increasing numbers of people are turning to in order to deal with pain, isolation, and a myriad of other social ills enhanced by capitalism run amok. Might I suggest a third way?

Finding an avenue of escape from the cares of this world (while waiting for Jesus’ return) by locating that rare local theater that hasn’t been boarded up due to the interwebs is getting harder and harder to pull off. Luckily, we now live in a town that still has one of these wonderful, big screen places hearkening back to the day when all movies were projected onto big screens. Seeing a flick in a theater—sharing sharing that experience with other human beings simultaneously—is still how I prefer to watch my movies. Not on off the face of my smartphone or screen on my laptop.

Winter time is movie-going time for Mary and me. Once we come out of the cave in the spring, we rarely step back into darkened movie auditoriums. It’s not like we see a ton of movies, but December to March is when we watch the bulk of our films for the year.

Last Saturday, we saw Manchester by the Sea at Brunswick’s Eveningstar Cinema. I love this space. It has a nostalgic feel partly because it’s a place that I’ve been watching Hollywood fare since the late 1970s. Fans of in-person viewing should thank their lucky stars for owner Barry Norman. There aren’t enough people like him keeping old-school escapist entertainment alive here in the 21st century. Continue reading

Less Dreck

When you begin your journey hosting a blog, the experience is a heady one. You—just a solitary individual armed with a keyboard—think the world and your readership will sit at your feet and hang on each and every word. Actually, you probably don’t have quite those lofty aspirations, but there is a certain confidence (arrogance) that what you set down for content matters. It usually doesn’t.

The start of a brand new run through spring, summer, fall, and then, the close of yet another year, offers a chance to revisit how/why you do things. I’m reconsidering my own blogging schedule and what passes for content.

For awhile now, posting twice a week—on set days at that—seemed like the best plan. I’m not certain that convention is necessary any longer. Since I no longer really care to serve as anyone’s paragon of a writer these days, self-imposed deadlines have become a bit of a drag. Continue reading

Restaurant Food

What makes Americans fear their kitchen stoves so much? Huh?

Well, it appears something is at the root of the rise in eating out. Just last year—for the first time, ever—Americans spent more on restaurant food (and bar fare) than they did on food from the grocery store. The data reflects a pattern hearkening back to our “halcyon” days in America, the 1970s.

Perhaps the paucity of exciting food from the decade when things began unraveling drove a generation to seek their sustenance outside their home kitchens. Experts tell us that much of this is due to females now working somewhere other than where they’re domiciled. I think one assumption that’s safe hold is that Johnny is pretty useless in term of opening a can of beans and throwing some rice into a pot. Or maybe, we haven’t evolved as far as we think we have and it’s still a woman’s job to cook (and clean), while bringing in half of the household income, women’s lib be damned!

Cooking doesn’t have to be a comedy routine.

Continue reading

Selling Insurance

Not much of a “ring” to insurance salesman. Writer is more romantic and sounds better. The latter doesn’t always deliver and leave you flush with ka-ching—or with any cash at all, for that matter.

The fall has been a blur. Readying a house for sale and then closing on the domicile that was your home for half of your life is a big change. So is acclimating to a new town. Of course that’s just part of the story. I also decided in August to become a volleyball ref, followed by enrolling in an online course designed to prepare me to pass the state exam leading to getting licensed to sell insurance. Yes, the cares of this world have been right there in my face each and every day for the past three months. Sorry if I haven’t returned an email or your phone call.

Can I be totally honest here? There were many mornings during the past three months when I just wanted to stay in bed, rather than get up and turn off the alarm clock when it went off at 4:00 am so I could shoehorn studying into what was my usual get-out-of-bed and brew some coffee period of the morning before shuffling of to work time. But as they say, sometimes perseverance pays off.

Driving into Westbrook yesterday prior to my scheduled Maine Life, Accident & Health Producers exam set for 8:00 a.m., I tried to steer my mind clear of any craters of negativity or sinkholes filled with anxiety. WMPG playing some vintage John Coltrane kept me focused on the road and task looming ahead.

Whole life, or term?

Continue reading

Life Isn’t a Movie

If you’re a sucker for what some consider a better time in America, especially viewed through the lens of nostalgia, then arguably, there may not be a better movie at this time of year than It’s A Wonderful Life. The final 8 minutes could be one of the best holiday segments of any movie ever made.

But life lived in the real world rarely follows the tried and true formula of a Hollywood script. As much as we adore George Bailey and root for him each and every year when we watch the movie, yet again, people these days are rarely that concerned about others in their own families—let alone someone from their hometown—like the people gathered at the Bailey residence in Bedford Falls.

It’s easy this time of year to become wishful, longing for a time that we might consider better than the America we’re living in today. That was surely part of the appeal of Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” even if it’s looking more and more like it will be nothing but empty words for most. Continue reading

People and Corporations

We hear a lot of lip service paid to cracking back on corporations. People generally seem to dislike corporations—except when they’re supplying a paycheck, or often, cheap, substandard products manufactured offshore, by exploited workers.

Corporations have more rights now than ever before. In fact, the Supreme Court has broadened the concept of “corporate personhood” considerably over the past decade.

Candidates for president say the darndest things.

Candidates for president say the darndest things.

Mitt Romney, when running for president in 2012, actually came out and said explicitly, “corporations are people.” Justice John Paul Stevens would disagree, as he did in his dissent in the Citizens United case:

[C]orporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations . . . and their “personhood” often serve as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established. Continue reading

Learning About Tides

I doubt most people pay any attention to tides, both low and high. Until about three weeks ago, I rarely consulted a daily tide calendar. Perhaps if you dig clams, or work along the waterfront, tides are old hat to you.

A mere three years ago, Mary schooled me about the Maine Tide & Everyday Calendar (probably available at one of Maine’s finer local bookstores). She started keeping one in her RAV4, in order to know when some of the various local tidal bodies of water would be experiencing high tide, so we could do some open water swims to prepare for that summer’s OOB triathlon.

Spending your life lived away from the coast save for an occasional beach outing renders you unprepared for that day when you wake up a mere stone’s throw from a picturesque cove, a tidal one at that.

Love my cove at high tide.

Love my cove at high tide.

Continue reading

Not Quite As Dark

It’s been awhile since I felt excitement coming home after work. No, I’m not sick of my wife of 34 years, and I have no intention of parting ways.

Actually, for the past several years, I’m usually the one who has been working at home, or coming home long before Mary arrives from her job, or evening workout with SheJAMS.

I adore the cat we added to our home slightly more than a year ago. Lucy is always happy to see me, whenever I return.

This time of year, when I’ve put away my umpiring gear (and volleyball referee’s whistle), as well as hung up the road bike for the season, the approach of darkness has elicited something akin to that claustrophobic feeling that makes breathing difficult.

We are now in week two in our new house. As we unpack the assorted boxes and crates and begin rearranging things into something that feels like home again, returning home after work elicits anticipation and a thrill as I head towards our place by the cove.

Yes, December is the darkest month, but this year, it doesn’t seem as bleak as years past. A new town and a new place to call “home” has a lot to do with that.

The Sweater

I’ve written about the place where I grew up. Various arcs incorporated baseball, my personal recollections about the town from an earlier time—as well as creating my own take on Moxie.

I once contemplated updating the history of the place, post-Plummer. I’m glad I didn’t bother breaking that rock, fashioning it into a story; the scenario of a significant investment of time and research without much of a return seems likely for that kind of project—people no longer seem to appreciate the necessary effort required to dredge up the past, and get at what’s behind the façade of the place where they reside.

After 26 years of living across the river from the place where I was born and put down my initial roots, just moving one community to the east feels just about right to me—actually, somewhat overdue. If my writing emanates from place (which I think it does), then my new home proffers up all kinds of new opportunities and material to mine.  I’m looking forward to learning more about a place I’ve observed as an outsider and semi-regular visitor.

But it is the holiday season. A period each year-end that delivers a personal mix of sentimentality, sadness, and even anger thinking back on Christmases past. Despite Perry Como’s musical refrain that there’s “no place like home for the holidays,” I’m apt to demur. Continue reading