August 27th, 2014
After some dreary fall weather, yesterday was golden. Almost like September, which is appropriate since it is almost September. I went door knocking. People were proud of their yards.
Health care costs are starting to be a theme when I visit with people. So many people end up in financial trouble due to health issues. In particular, some older parents end up helping out adult children to the point of damaging their own finances beyond repair. Hearing the real stories can be heart-breaking.
After each visit, I pause a bit, then enjoy the scenery and the sunshine and the weather on the way to the next house.
Here is an example of how difficult it can be to legislate: I visited with Bernie Lieder, former representative and an expert on transportation issues. Transportation is going to be the big issue coming up, according to the experts, but how do we pay for the roads?
The gas tax seems the fairest at first glance.
"Well," Bernie said, "Did you know that the biggest fleet of trucks on the road in Minnesota pays no gas tax?"
Turns out Schwan, in a wise decision for many reasons, equipped its trucks for natural gas--which is not taxed.
Electric cars also escape the gas tax, yet use the roads.
Bernie also lamented the "bleeding" of the transportation budget to make expensive bicycle lanes, some of which are mandated, again spending money on a form of transportation which doesn't contribute to the construction of its own roads.
So, what would be fair?
What would be a fair way to pay for the obvious needs of nursing homes?
Not easy questions.
It was cold enough this morning that I drove out to the nursery at sunrise to get my jacket from the break room at the nursery, where it has hung forgotten since May. What a rare thing it is to see the gardens covered in dew at sunrise in late summer. This picture does little to capture the magic, but I thought I would try.
Here is a Flickr page of photos taken when a photographer from the House DFL caucus came to visit.
We posed at the Veterans Memorial with Battle of the Bulge veteran Bernie Lieder. We went to La La ice cream to see Jen. We went to the nursing home to meet with administrator Barry Robertson. Of course, we met with Aunt Olive. And then we went out to the nursery where niece Champoo was eager to pose.
One of the saddest trends I have found while knocking doors is to find people who are at home giving care to their spouse with dementia. Yesterday, I sat in the living room of one such man for a long time as he told his tale. I won't relate details here, but he's trying to figure out what to do. Is she bad enough to be placed in a unit? He still values her companionship, but the work is overwhelming him.
The Alzheimer's Association has excellent help for people in such situations and just as I was about to suggest he call them, he handed me the card with their number. "I am thinking of calling here," he said. He held the card as if it were the number of a treatment center and he was contemplating turning himself in. He had great resistance to getting help.
"There are no support groups," he said, sadly. There could be, I know, because I know others in the same town in the same situation. If there is anything that can help care givers for dementia patients, to say nothing of the patients themselves, it is meeting with others in the same situation.
Here are problems with solutions that don't necessarily require government intervention or money.
I decided to knock doors the past two days, drizzle and gray non-withstanding. It isn't quite as fun when it is bleary, and the people are a little groggy. Fewer come to the door, I believe!
Another week gone by. They slip by fast.
Today, I decided to catch up on some visits I have promised to businesses and agencies. I learned a lot. It was a beautiful morning. Then, it got hot and wasn't so beautiful. I caught up on some work.
Summer is melting away. Due to the surreal nature of running for office, the summer has gone much faster than ever before, and has been more intense. Usually, August is a time of ambling around the nursery eating fresh fruit and vegetables. This summer, I am knocking on doors, and I am living in town so there is no place to amble. A different life.
I find myself completely preoccupied by campaigning and accompanying activities. I am unable to enjoy the Twins, especially when they lose as regularly as they have been. Other things I once enjoyed now seem trivial. I am glad there is an end in sight.
At its best, while campaigning I meet new people and learn new things, as I did several times today. At its worst, I get kicked off the porch for being from the wrong party, as I also did today.
The campaign moves on. Door knocking. A couple of parades. Meeting with groups.
This morning was beautiful with the fog. I try not to pound on doors before 10 a.m., but that is the best time of day to walk the streets when it gets so humid later. My limit is about 3 p.m. when the heat gets pretty oppressive, at least for those of us in the northland. I thought to myself today, "this is just too hot," got in the car and the external thermostat said 81 degrees, which really shouldn't be too hot in any circumstance.
While involved with this political race, I have been ignoring the national news completely. I overheard conversation about the Ferguson riots in the gas station today and thought to myself: What am I really missing by not keeping up on this event?
Wars. Too many wars. Ukraine, Gaza, Syria. Refugees by the 100s of thousands. More trouble in Iraq. Terrific inhumanity towards civilians.
Could we be any more blessed to be in the center of a huge, relatively peaceful continent where a relatively minor (compared to world conflicts) series of riots in Missouri dominates the news and makes us wonder if things are falling to pieces?
As I drive around the peaceful highways of northern Minnesota watching wheat harvest, watching the colors slowly start to turn tan, looking at the bumper crop of wildflowers in the ditches, I can only think that we are amongst the most fortunate people in the world.
So, if I get somebody who got up on the wrong side of the bed come to a door, it isn't the worst thing.
People ask, "How is the campaign going?"
My answer really is: We'll find out November 4 and probably not before. My work until then is cut out. I'll do the work and let the chips fall where they may.
I am keeping a detailed journal of my thoughts while campaigning, as naturally, I can't let fly with the details here!
But let's just say I've learned this: People have more dogs than I ever imagined. Most front doors are not used. Fewer than 60% of doorbells function. My Grandpa was correct: A house without at least some shrubbery or flowers looks as if nobody lives there. Sometimes I am shocked when somebody answers the door of an utterly unadorned house. Ironically, most of my houses have been barely adorned with plants as I got my plant fix at the nursery and didn't need one at home. That may change.
Pardon my infrequent updates: The campaign is all that is on my mind, and it doesn't lend itself to disclosure. I will write the story later.
Saturday was the annual Open House at the gardens and the nursery. By 10 a.m., cars were lined up down the drive. By noon, they were lined up down the highway. It was the best-organized open house we have had yet, which is a tribute to Joe's management. He even sprayed blue paint to delineate five handicapped parking spaces near the office, and they were used all day. Plus, there were signs to point out additional parking. All in all, the day went smoothly.
Our family did two musical performances. What had been a few songs by Joe and me about eight years ago has now evolved into a family affair with Dad learning the string bass, Mom joining in on harmony, sister Tracie playing a little fiddle, Joe's wife Kae singing a Thai song, plus Neil Young's Heart of Gold, and this year, Champoo joining on the final song. The only one missing was Lance, but his sister was married yesterday, so he was occupied, and I had to leave a little early to get to the wedding, where I was honored to do a reading. Busy day.
Truly enjoyed spending last evening knocking doors and part of this morning visiting the innovative food shelf in Crookston with Minnesota Speaker of the House Paul Thissen of Minneapolis. As you can tell from the picture, he probably got more of an earful than I remember giving him. It is difficult to help one's self when in the presence of somebody with the power to do something.
Pardon my infrequent entries into the weblog. It has been a busy time. When I look at the number of places I have to reach before Nov. 4, I get overwhelmed, and I am really not comfortable in the morning until I am out hitting the pavement.
And that, I enjoy it more by the day.
Yesterday in East Grand Forks, I ended up swinging through the highest-income areas and the lowest income areas. I went through some very sobering apartment buildings. I knocked on some double oak doors on mansions next to the prairie.
People have been kind.
The most universal experience: Knock, knock. Dog goes absolutely nuts. If there is no "shut up!" yelled at the dog, I know nobody is home. I hang my pamphlet on the door and move on. If I hear yelling at the dog, then I prepare for the battle to keep the dog from escaping through the crack when the door opens. I offer my pamphlet quickly to give the house owner the option of just grabbing it and going back inside to calm the dog (or dogs). Usually, they manage to step outside for a quick chat. Other times, the dog (or dogs) escape. Chase ensues.
Other random observations:
•Some housing developments have good doorbells, other developments and subdivisions (and this has apparently nothing to do with the age of the development) have worthless doorbells which almost never work. You know how the plastic on those doorbells gets yellow, brittle and breaks? I confess I have broken the plastic presser bar on at least six doorbells in the past week.
•I have come across several senior citizens with dementia who are staying with their children, who aren't home. I can imagine that is common.
•People love their flowers. I have been truly impressed with the gardening ability of people across all income levels. But oh, how they could use some peat to soften that hard ground. I do not bring that up.
•I have gotten several yard tours. I enjoy them all.
•I have heard a few sad stories, from people young and old.
•I prefer to knock doors in the day, from 10 to about 3. By then, I am tired. Today, I had a radio show first, so didn't get started until 1 p.m. I made it until almost 5 before tiring out in the heat. I knocked over 100 doors. An average of 31 percent of the people were home, which is good.
•Tomorrow afternoon, the Speaker of the House is coming to knock doors with me in Crookston. I am a little nervous!
The ACT program is an innovative and important way communities can prepare for those in their midst with dementia. First, the stigma of "losing it" has to go. Alzheimer's is common, and of course it is tragic, but with a few strategies in place, people with dementia can live rewarding lives in their homes for a lot longer than assumed.