I’d Like More Peace in Today’s Bloody Politics by Sandy Semerad

I’ve been reading a book on nonviolent communication, hoping to achieve more harmony in my life.

I write about murder, but I prefer to live in harmony and get along, rather than argue. This particular book gives the following advice on how to do that: Don’t judge. Observe and listen. Mirror back what the other person is saying. It also provides tips on how to express feelings.

When I express my feelings, rather than keep them bottled up, I’m less likely to get angry. It’s helpful to use words like I’m feeling happy, sad, frustrated, angry, etc. and not use judgmental words like rejected, abandoned and attacked, this book advises.

As I was learning how to communicate better, my mind wandered to the tumultuous political climate and the heated rhetoric spouted by some of our Presidential candidates. I’m wondering what the experts could do to diffuse their anger.

What would they advise Republican front runner Donald Trump? He wants to “Make America great again,” he claims. “Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.”

While his supporters agree with him, the Republican establishment would like to stop Trump. Former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Trump “a fraud,” but Romney’s denouncement didn’t seem to hurt Trump’s campaign.

Many of Trump’s adversaries have entered the fray. Even popular author and liberal democrat Stephen King has criticized the billionaire businessman. King wrote this slogan which he thought best represented Trump’s philosophy: “If you’re white, you’re all right. Any other hue, I don’t trust you.”

Trump usually fights back, going for the jugular. He shouts, “Get them out,” referring to protesters attending his rallies. Or he might yell, “I’d like to punch him in the face.” Recently, a Trump supporter did just that at one of his events.

Supporters of nonviolence have recommended a much more civilized approach, but I doubt the angry rhetoric and name calling will stop anytime soon in this heated political climate.

Trump called Texas Senator Ted Cruz a liar, and referred to another competitor Marco Rubio, as “little Rubio,” and the battle escalated. Rubio responded by saying Trump’s hands were small, insinuating his manhood was also small.

Ohio Governor John Kasich wants to position himself above the fracas with his “positive vision for America,” he says. But Kasich’s message doesn’t seem to resonate with the majority of voters. He won his home state, but trails in the polls, and claims he wouldn’t accept a Vice Presidential nod from either Trump or Cruz. Senator Rubio failed to win Florida, his home state, a death knell for him, so he dropped out.

Cruz says he’s “Reigniting the Promise of America.” But I’m uncertain as to what this means. When I think of America, I think of the American people, a conglomeration of men and women and children, all nationalities, all races, religions, enjoying the freedoms stated in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and the Emancipation Proclamation, although I would add the word women, to insure all women and men are created equal.

Cruz also wants to “Take America back.” Does he want to take us back to the time when the thirteen colonies declared independence from Britain in 1776? I have no idea.

I prefer clearer messages, and I cringe when I hear name calling and combative words coming from someone who wants to be hired as our next President.

On the democratic side, the candidates appear more cordial. They focus on the issues and the differences between them. Although Senator Bernie Sanders has riled up voters by saying, “A political revolution is coming.” When he asks his packed audiences of young voters “Are you ready for a revolution?” they yell, “Yes.”

While I don’t “feel the Bern,” I see his appeal. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I wanted to be a rebel, too.

Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton offers a more practical approach. “I will work for you,” is one of her slogans. “I’m fighting for you,” is another one. She has also countered Trump’s message. “America is already great,” she says. “I want to make America whole,” and recently I saw this sign attributed to her: “A woman’s place is in the White House.”

When Hillary Clinton ran against Barack Obama and lost to him in the 2008 election, her slogan was, “Solutions for America.”

President Obama, a dynamic campaigner, used this saying, “Yes we can.”

In President George W. Bush’s campaigns, he had several different slogans: “Compassionate Conservatism,” “Leave no child behind,” “Yes, American can,” “Moving America Forward,” “A Safer World and More Hopeful America.”

President Bill Clinton used these: “Building a Bridge to the 21st Century,” “Putting People First,” and “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow.”

One of my favorite Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, used this catchphrase at a time when we were embroiled in a Civil War. “Don’t Swap Horses in Midstream.”

But as far as avoiding conflict, many of these political figures, past and present, seemed to have subscribed to the adage, “Politics is a blood sport.”

As for me, I prefer to avoid bloodshed and combative behavior. I’d rather leave that to the characters in my novels.
Please visit my website to find out more: http://www.sandysemerad.com/

Posted by Sandy Semerad at 1:00:00 AM
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A Story of Hurricane Survival

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back by popular demand, I’m reposting this account of hurricane survival from Jerry Semerad, my father-in-law. It’s amazing he and Mary escaped the storms. They now live in the Top of the World Community in Ocala, FL.

August 29, 2005
September 23, 2005

Mary and I had evacuated to the New Orleans Hilton Hotel two times in the last 12 months because of threatening hurricanes (IVAN on September 14, 2004 and DENNIS on July 9, 2005). Both times New Orleans escaped without damage, and we had a mini vacation at the Hilton. So, when hurricane KATRINA entered the Gulf of Mexico we decided to reserve the Hilton again and avoid the grid lock traffic of everyone evacuating the city. BIG MISTAKE !

We checked in the Hilton Sunday afternoon, August 28, as the wind picked up with the hope that KATRINA would miss us. We spent the night watching TV. About 3 AM Monday as the wind picked up and the hotel began to sway (we were on the 7th floor) there was an emergency announcement for all guests to move to the corridors. Windows began to blow out. The roar of the wind was frightening as was the sound of metal crashing below in the streets. After about an hour of this with no further announcements we went back to the room and tried to sleep listening to the roaring wind and driving rain. Our window with heavy drapes faced a parking garage which afforded some protection but we stayed away from it. KATRINA came ashore about 7 AM near Buras, LA and blasted our city all day Monday, 8/29, with catastrophic damage. Besides the rocking sensation felt on the 7th floor, similar to being on a large cruise ship in the Caribbean, the hotel lost power. No air conditioning, no lights except emergency hall and fire exit lights, no elevators, and no running water. We brought our own bottled drinking water and the night before KATRINA filled the bathtub while the Hilton still had running water in case we needed it for flushing the toilet. We sure did need it and used it all.

For breakfast during the storm I walked down 7 floors using the fire exit to the lowest floor, then up one floor, through dark tunnels dripping water to a large dark room where I got breakfast on trays to carry back to room 705. During that journey back the same way I came I was bumping into people (and dogs on leashes) going both ways on the stairs and through the tunnels while the hotel shook. Same thing for lunch, supper and breakfast Tuesday morning. There was no circulation in the rooms and the temperature was rising making it intolerable . On Tuesday we decided we had to get outside to breath air. Temperature was in the 90’s outside. During the entire time people were orderly, no panic, and as courteous as can be expected considering the horrible situation. Everyone was exhausted.
The hotel left a message on our room voice mail that all guests had to vacate their rooms and those who had no place to go could stay in one of the large convention rooms (still no AC, lights, phone service or water). We had made up our minds to get out earlier but were not sure where or how to get out of the city. During our stay there was only one radio station (WWL) operating which I picked up with my portable radio. But there was not a lot of information available which is understandable. We didn’t know how bad the damage was. So, I made 3 more trips down 7 floors carrying our luggage then across debris in the street to the parking garage, up 3 floors to the car. The car started, thankfully. Mary maneuvered down 7 fleets and sat on the curb waiting for me to pick her up.

After the horrible Monday we were very glad Tuesday, 8/30, arrived with sunshine. We were exhausted. A local policeman at the hotel told me that Algiers was dry and told me the open route to the bridge. We didn’t know about the 17thStreet canal levee breaking and the water coming down Canal Street. We left before the water came and went past the Convention Center before the mob got there.

We were able to travel Gen. DeGaulle to the Bocage entrance but had to dodge downed poles, trees and debris. All telephone and power poles were either down or half way down on DeGaulle. Carlise Court entrance was blocked by down power lines and trees. Brunswick Court entrance was also blocked so we went down Eton, riding on the wrong side of the street or on the median to get within two blocks of our house. Mary stayed in the car. There was no one on the streets. Temperature was now in the 90’s. I climbed over branches, reaching 3527 Rue Colette and was greatly relieved to find the roof still on and only minor damage to the siding. Our beautiful red maple in the back yard was down, but none of the trees appear to have hit our house.

I made 2 trips getting some clothes, ice and what was left of the ice cream bars. After slipping and falling in the mud I made it to the car and we made our way back to DeGaulle. We wanted to stop at Rally’s to make peanut butter sandwiches on the outdoor tables before continuing our escape but did a u-turn when we saw the looters climbing out Rally’s windows with pillow cases full of loot. We stopped at another deserted spot on DeGaulle and left quickly after Mary made sandwiches to eat on the way.

Deciding to travel to Jackson, MS, I crossed the Crescent City Connection but there was a road block at the Camp Street exit. No travel on I-10 West or East. Roads were underwater and the Twin Span over Lake Ponchartrain was down. So back across the bridge to Westbank Expressway to the Lulling bridge across the Mississippi River to !-55 to Jackson. There was very little traffic.

However, Jackson had no rooms, no power. But Mary begged the manager of one of the motels to find us lodging for the night which she did in Granada, MS, 100 miles north. Thankfully, I had filled the Buick gas tank the Friday before the hurricane and had the car serviced with new tires, etc. 2 weeks before. We settled in about 9 pm.

We planned to go to Mary Ann and Marvin’s home in Marietta but I didn’t want to travel the direct route (I-20) because of reports of power and gasoline shortages, so we headed for Memphis and Nashville. We stayed in Nashville at the Radisson for 2 nights and then moved to the beautiful Opryland Hotel for 2 nights. While there we saw our first Grand Ole Opry and had very good meals at the Cascade Restaurant and excellent Veal Marsala at Macaroni Grill in the mall, where a man from St. Louis heard about our evacuation and paid for one of our dinners and left before we knew he did. We were treated royally there.

Finally made it to Marietta and Mary Ann’s on Labor Day, September 6th and greatly relieved. What a nice surprise when we saw the large bedroom they prepared for us (about 25′ x 25′) with queen size bed, desk, chairs. We spent 22 beautiful days relaxing with and being comforted by the Fishers after our ordeal.
We felt completely at home there. Our activities included many baseball games watching our grandsons perform. Max (11), Ray (9) and Sam (7) do well on the ballfield. Mary played the Old Maid card game almost daily with Sam mostly but all 3 boys enjoyed the games. I helped the boys with some of their homework. Mary and I heard them recite their homework. All of them are doing exceptionally well. Max was invited to join an accelerated program because of his high IQ Max and I practiced the trombone together. He was excited about playing a concert in his school band in the near future. I bought Max a new music stand while in Marietta. The OLDS horn I gave him has decent slide action since it was serviced and I am glad he is using cream instead of oil on the slide. This is the horn I bought from the Navy in Pearl Harbor while I was stationed there and used for years including the first 5 or so years when I came to New Orleans.

I did some work around the house and got Marvin’s lawn mower fixed. Marvin treated us to dinner with the family at Maggiano’s Little Italy to celebrate Mary’s 80th birthday (9/11). We took them to Houlihan’s to celebrate Mary Ann’s 47thbirthday. I enjoyed shopping at Publix, particularly for the seeded rye and Taylor’s Pork Roll. Love that store. Also went to the movies.

Mary Ann made delicious barbequed shrimp one night. We were invited to two parties at the neighbors – Robin’s birthday party and a dinner party at Patti and George. Went for a swim at Patti and George’s outdoor heated pool. Patti and George really made us feel at home.

Mary and I went shopping, I got a haircut, Mary went shopping with Mary Ann, got her nails done and also got an appointment with Dr. Ho, Ophthalmologist, for an eye irritation. He wrote a prescription and did not charge a copayment .

Jim decided to go to New Orleans while we were in Marietta and clean up our home. He flew to Baton Rouge from Detroit on 9/15 and stayed there until 9/21, when hurricane RITA was closing in on Louisiana. While there Jim moved the refrigerator outside to the patio, cleaned out the stinking, ugly mess of rotten meats, fish, etc. washed it repeatedly, scrubbed, bleached, baking soda, etc. and moved it back inside by himself. Amazing! He cut up and removed the red maple tree, cleaned up all debris and even cut the lawn. And he found time to help the neighbors clean up debris, cut up downed trees and assembled neighbors in our yard to explain where they could get water, shop, etc. His U.S. Navy Commander credentials and uniform helped him past check points and into National Guard stations. What a guy! And all this while we were in Georgia.

He left before RITA devastated Lake Charles area and flooded New Orleans areas again from the Industrial Canal levee breach-again.

We left Marietta on Tuesday, 9/27, for home, stopping overnight in Greenville, AL. Arrived about 3 pm Wednesday, 9/28. Streets were passable but debris 8′ high in some places on lawns. 3527 Rue Colette was clear with a cut lawn. Some siding off and possible water damage to the kitchen tile.

We are so fortunate to have children who came to our rescue during this terrible storm. After the first 3 days of the hell we went through it was like we were on an extended vacation. A very happy ending for us but not so for the thousands who lost homes and possessions and those who died in the flood. Many of our friends are homeless, living out of town and not knowing what they are going to do. Algiers did not flood. We were very lucky. Many parts of New Orleans are in ruin and the future is uncertain.

By Jerry and Mary Semerad

Posted by at 11:37 AM


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Every father’s day I suffer from regrets—regrets because my father died when I was a child—regrets because I wish I’d known him better and more regrets because I certainly could have used his strong guidance when I was growing up.

My father died of a heart attack when I was 7-years-old and with every passing year my memories of him become more precious. I only wish I had more of those memories.

I remember how I used to pester Daddy on those rare afternoons when he’d come home early from work. I’d snuggle up to him and chatter endlessly, even though Mama told me, “Don’t bother your daddy. He’s trying to rest.”

On those rare afternoons, Daddy seemed to be listening to whatever nonsense I was spouting as he smoked his unfiltered Camel cigarettes. I must confess, though, I didn’t always listen to him, like the day he brought an old car home from his hardware store.

One of the doors—on the passenger’s side—was missing. Unaware of the danger, I begged Daddy to let me ride along in this mysterious old car.

“Okay, but you have to stay away from the open door,” Daddy cautioned.

I hopped in the car beside him, but soon managed to wiggle away and fall out as we rode up the hill in front of our house. I landed at the bottom of the hill, tousled and breathless.

When I glanced up, I saw Daddy, staring down at me. He didn’t scold. Instead, he said, “Are you all right?”

I felt half dead, but I wanted to impress Daddy by being tough. So I brushed myself off and answered, “Yes.”

“Okay, come on. Get in the car and let’s go,” he said.

Occasionally, Daddy would take us to a movie, but mostly he worked. He wanted to provide his family with the finer things in life: a huge brick home, a fishing pond, a swimming pool, tennis courts and our own merry-go-round. But I would have gladly traded it all for a few more years of sharing moments with him.

I’ve told my daughters their granddaddy was a great guy, but I wish they could have discovered his greatness on their own. I’ve told them of the time when I was a teenager, a strange man was wandering around our house. I called the police because Mother wasn’t home and I was afraid.

When the police questioned the man, he said he used to work for Daddy many years ago: “Whenever I needed work, Mr. Ira would always give me some.”

I’ve shared this story with my daughters because I wanted them to know their grandfather was a good man. I wanted them to know he tried to help others. I wanted them to know he was generous in giving of his time and money.

I only wish he’d had more time for me. And on Father’s Day I am again reminded of how much I miss him.

Posted by at 2:51 PM

P-Nut Loyalty

Sunday, May 29, 2011

As I pull out of the driveway, I see P-Nut’s furry face watching me from the window. When I return, my little Shih Tzu is still at the window.

I travel quite a bit with my job. I’m now in Wimberley, TX and P-Nut is with me here. Unfortunately, I can’t take her to my appointments during the day and it’s too hot for her to wait in the car. So I tell her, “Stay in the air conditioning, P-Nut, and I’ll be back soon.”

I hope her entire day isn’t spent waiting for me to return and for that reason, I shouldn’t have watched “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. It’s a Hallmark movie about Hachi, an Akita , a loyal companion to a professor, played by Richard Gere.

The professor finds an Akita puppy at a train station. He tries to locate the dog’s owner, but no one takes Hachi. So the professor brings him home to live with his family.

As Hachi grows up, he follows the professor to the train station every day and waits at the station for him to return in the evening. One day the professor has a heart attack and dies while teaching class.

Hachi waits and waits at the train station for his master to return. In fact, Hachi waits for years and years. Sadly, the dog dies waiting for his master to get off the train.

At the end of the movie, there’s a script telling us this is a true story about Hachiko, an Akita, who continued to return to the train station in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo where his master traveled to and from his job. An actual statue of Hachiko was erected at the station to celebrate his extreme loyalty.

Needless to say, I cried and felt sad for days. I wondered what P-Nut would do if anything happened to me, and then I remembered what she did the time my neighbor Joanne came to my door. “I want to show you the apple pie I made,” Joanne said. “Do you have a minute to walk with me to my house?”

I told P-Nut I’d be right back. Then I walked down the road with my neighbor. After I left, P-Nut ran upstairs to my husband. She barked and barked. He thought something horrible had happened. I didn’t tell him I was leaving, because I planned to return soon.

Larry followed the barking P-Nut to the front door. When he opened the door, P-Nut dashed out of sight. He had no idea that she was going to my neighbor’s house, where she ran up the stairs and pushed the door open.

My neighbor Joanne and I were shocked to see P-Nut in all of her doggy glory. Meanwhile, an upset Larry drove throughout the neighborhood looking for the wayward P-Nut.

When P-Nut and I got back home, Larry wasn’t there, but he eventually called my cell phone. “Sandy where are you?”

“I’m home,” I said.

“I can’t find P-Nut anywhere,” he said.

“She right here with me.”

“Oh, God, I thought we’d lost her.”

Later, he wondered why P-Nut has such separation anxiety.

I don’t know. Is it extreme loyalty? Is she like other dogs superior to most humans in that regard? I think so and I also think they deserve our love, kindness and loyalty in return, don’t you agree?

Posted by at 9:14 AM