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No room for whiners

June 15, 2009

by Herald Journal & Enteprise Dispatch Editor Lynda Jensen

After spending a few weeks wailing and moaning about my recent bone graft surgery, I stumbled across a few people who re-calibrated my point of view when it comes to health.

First, I bumped into a gal who is about the same age as me, who has rheumatoid arthritis. This means her own body is attacking her joints. Everything she does causes her pain in some way. She has to take drugs all the time.

Even so, she remains active and involved in the community. She’s a go-getter, and won’t sit in the corner and cry about her condition. She makes it work.

How can I possibly whine on my Facebook account about being in a “catatonic state after the physical exertion of planting veggies in my garden,” with someone like that running around?

How can I complain about the onset of old age and having disc surgery years ago, when someone is running around with such a condition and doesn’t complain about it?!

Next, I heard that our former columnist Jim O’Leary (Waverly native) had open heart surgery recently.

What a shock. I told him that I thought his heart was like a butternut squash, ticking like a clock. Not so. He went under the knife and can’t even drive (yet).

It’s hard to tell what people are going through. Nevertheless, it’s a good lesson to pause before you whine, and think that “It could be worse.”

The language of government

Speaking only one language (English) puts me at a disadvantage, especially when I write articles that pertain to – say, the government – since they seem to speak a language of their own.

First, I was the recipient of a phone call from the US Census Bureau, which received my change of address request.

I sent a correction to the address on the outside of the envelope, which was also the only address that existed on the press release.

I didn’t know that whomever sends the press releases is working out of a different state than the address listed.

We had a weird conversation that resembled Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on first?” because she insisted that I initiated the contact, even though my letter contained the actual envelope that was sent to me from the bureau cut out, with the address correction clearly marked.

I said “You can keep sending me things, but eventually the post office will turn them away.” She didn’t get it.

We didn’t get the problem resolved, and I am expecting to receive (or not receive) plenty of misdirected US Census Bureau stuff in the coming year, since there is a large-scale census every 10 years (next to be 2010).

The next government contact I had was with a guy from the Department of Natural Resources, in response to a question about the dry fire conditions we’ve been having. Actually, he made a lot more sense to me.

The question on our blog was “Would someone clarify what is meant by ‘open burning’– does that include recreational campfires in fire rings?”

So, I asked a DNR official, “What is the definition of open burning?”

He said it’s defined as anything that does not go through a chimney or smoke stack. Pretty simple, right? Not exactly.

After speaking with him for about five minutes, he added at the end, “Of course, this doesn’t include campfires.”

Silence. I sat there with my mouth open, thinking “Wasn’t that my question?”

Actually, I didn’t phrase my question right because the blogger specifically asked about campfires. I should have asked directly about them. (But if that’s true, then what else am I “not” asking that also doesn’t pertain . . .?).

He proceeded to tell me the following:

Campfires are not included in the “open burning” definition — it’s OK to have a campfire, as long as:

1. it’s done in a designated burning pit or fire ring,

2. the total area cleared is five feet around, with the actual burning pit being three feet in circumference,

3. the fire isn’t stacked higher than three feet.

In retrospect, I must say that the DNR official actually did make sense, because if you think about it in a purely “permit” sense; you would know that you don’t need a permit for a campfire.

So, it does make sense if you think about it from permit, and not a “fire” point of view.

But still . . . it made me wonder.

Today, I received a news release from the DNR about firewood restrictions on state land because of the Emerald ash borer threat. But what exactly is firewood?

Quote of the week

“The next time you are called to suffer, pay attention. It may be the closest you’ll ever get to God.” – Max Lucado