Empty Nest Syndrome

Our wonderful contributing editor, Sally Edelstein, adds more reverie to the thoughts on today’s graduates:


Thoughts in a Mothers Eye -Vintage Gruen Watches Ad 1945

To the click of camera shutters and the ring of stirring oratory, hundreds of thousands of students have stepped forward this spring to receive diplomas from the colleges and universities of our vast country, thus marking an age-old rite of passage into the American Dream.

Amidst the ivy-covered towers of venerable universities, that familiar ritual characterized by cheers and tears has been repeated for generations.

Like many parents of past generations, today’s teary eyed baby boomers are gripped with a host of feelings – sadness, depression, grief and worry. But for today’s parent their constellation of feelings is less about the loss of their child moving on as the fading dream of their own retirement.

Ever the ground-breakers, boomer parents are gripped by a new condition-empty nest syndrome.

Empty Nest Syndrome

Visions of that dream retirement home deep in the blue mountains of Asheville, North Carolina get dimmer with each day as savings are slowly dwindling between supporting their adult children and aging parents.

As more boomerang kids live at home due to the bleak job market, and the elderly life expectancy is ever-increasing, feathering the boomers nest egg becomes an impossibility, as much as an outmoded pipe dream as that high paying job is for their kid.

Sandwiched between the millenials and the greatest generation, baby boomers may soon go bust.

Now that’s something to get teary over.


Advice to Graduates

Yesterday as I traveled through our small town I saw a multitude of graduates, in caps and gowns, gathered with family and friends taking group pictures, selfies and generally congratulating each other for having survived four years of “education.”  The university in our area is part of the SUNY system – State University of New York at _________________, fill in location blank as there a multitude of SUNY’s across NY. In fact it is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States.

Today, the bittersweet vision of U-hauls filled with the possessions of our temporary residents were scattered all about town. These graduates full of hope and promise in anticipation of the real start of their lives.

To salute these graduates I share an article that was in the Spring issue of Our USA Magazine. Bill Watterson who gave this speech in 1995 at Kenyon College, concluded it by echoing Rilke: “Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself.” (Click on images to enlarge).

Advice to Graduates #1

Advice to Graduates #2

This is from a speech delivered at a commencement at Kenyon college in 1995, by artist Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbs. The cartoon is actually a tribute by cartoonist Gavin Aung Than.

Help give Americans a fair shot at getting out from under the burden of student loan debt.”

The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest

Suburban Growth

By David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

PA state archives - Harrisburgh

The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

LIS counts after-tax cash income from salaries, interest and stock dividends, among other sources, as well as direct government benefits such as tax credits.

The findings are striking because the most commonly cited economic statistics — such as per capita gross domestic product — continue to show that the United States has maintained its lead as the world’s richest large country. But those numbers are averages, which do not capture the distribution of income. With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.

“The idea that the median American has so much more income than the middle class in all other parts of the world is not true these days,” said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist who is not associated with LIS. “In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer.”

That is no longer the case, Professor Katz added. Continue reading

Nebraska Was the Good Life…

Nebraska was the good life

Art and Helen and their family on the farm. (Photo by Mary Anne Andrei / Bold Nebraska)

This article from Farm Aid profiles one of our neighbors from Nebraska. My daughter and  her husband live in the great state of Nebraska, and I have been to the beautiful Ogallala Aquifer. Are you for or against the Keystone XL Pipeline?

When Art Tanderup and his wife Helen envisioned their retirement, they saw themselves living a quiet, peaceful life on the 160 acres of Nebraska farmland passed down through three generations of Helen’s family. They wanted to tend to their corn, soybeans and rye, to be good stewards of their land, and to have something to leave their children and grandchildren. Then TransCanada Corporation arrived at the farm to tell the Tanderups the Keystone XL pipeline would run through their property. That’s when Art became a rabble-rouser.

Though Art grew up on farms and ranches, he didn’t think he’d become a farmer. He says, “My father was a poor farmer, and his operation wasn’t big enough to support both of us. So I went to college and followed in my mother’s footsteps as a teacher.” After a rewarding career as a teacher of English, journalism and speech, a library media specialist, and board member of the Nebraska National Education Association, Art “retired” to become a farmer. For fifteen years now, he and Helen have been farming near Neligh, Nebraska, on land that has been in Helen’s family for 100 years.

The Tanderups raise corn, soybeans and rye on their 160 acres. They use many conservation methods to protect the soil and water, including no-till farming, cover crops, and planting many trees. “Oftentimes, I compare the teaching and the farming as kind of the same. I like to see things grow, whether it’s kids or crops,” Art says as he describes his love for nurturing the land. “You try to do everything you can to protect it and make sure that it is well taken care of.”

That’s why Art is opposed to the 1,179 mile pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, crossing farms and ranches and lying above the Ogallala Aquifer, an essential water resource for the High Plains, both for drinking and irrigation water. “We try to be good stewards of the land,” Art says. “Allowing this pipeline would not make us good stewards.”

Standing in the Water

Wizipan Little Elk, of the Rosebud Sioux, and Art Tanderup risk arrest by standing in the Washington Monument Reflecting Pool in D.C. to protest TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline. (Photo by Garth Lenz / iLCP)

Art was in the field planting soybeans when a TransCanada representative showed up at the farm to deliver the devastating news that the proposed pipeline would cross Art and Helen’s property, a mere 500 feet from their house and 600 feet from their well.

“When they came, they told us this is going to be a wonderful thing for us and if you don’t just jump on this bandwagon, you’re unpatriotic,” recalls Art. “That was kind of the feeling you were getting. You needed to help lower fuel prices, you needed to get people jobs, you needed to make this happen and you needed to step up and do your part by letting them put it on your land.”

The Tanderups told TransCanada they needed time before making a decision and then sprang into action. Relying on his library experience, Art began researching the pipeline and went back to TransCanada with questions. When he asked what they would do in the event of an oil leak into the aquifer, he found they don’t have a cleanup plan. Art explains, “The pipeline can leak up to 2% of its daily volume before their detection system even detects it, meaning 400,000 gallons of tars sand oil could leak per day before anyone knows.”

Art is also concerned about what the pipeline will carry, which is not conventional oil, but diluted bitumen, a material that will sink to the bottom of a body of water, mixing with sediment and organic matter, making the oil difficult to find and recover.

“They say it’s the safest pipeline ever built but we all know what happened to the safest ship that was ever built,” says Art. Throughout the process of trying to save his land, Art has become an unlikely activist and hero for those who oppose the pipeline. “I get referred to around the community as ‘that crazy pipeline guy,'” laughs Art.

Crop Art Protesting KXLIn his fight, Art has done everything he can, from joining Bold Nebraska and connecting with the Nebraska Easement Action Team, to testifying at hearings and trying to get local zoning regulations for his community. He provided his land for the artist John Quigley to create the world’s largest crop art installation as a way to get out in the media the feelings of America’s heartland. Seen from the sky, the crop art states loud and clear where Art and the fellow fighters stand (and Art got to drive the tractor that made that statement!)

A crop art image protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline covers an 80 acre corn field on Art’s farm. (Photo by Lou Dematteis and Bold Nebraska)

Their values around land stewardship, combined with the fact that the planned pipeline will come so close to their home and well, made Art and Helen’s decision a no-brainer. For others, the pipeline won’t come nearly as close to their homes or water supply. Many landowners have agreed to offers from TransCanada while others have fought to protect their land. The end result, Art reflects, is that neighbors are fighting, communities are divided and families are being torn apart over disagreements.

“There are families that have gotten along for years and years and now all of a sudden one of them decides that it’s okay to take the money and pay off the tractor or the combine and the other one says no,” says Art. “It’s difficult to be in that ‘no’ position.” While Art understands why some farmers have settled (“We all have bills to pay,” he says), he reflects that those fighting are typically small farmers like himself—the ones who have the least money to fight. “And all the money in the world is fighting us,” he admits.

Last week, Art traveled to Washington, D.C. with other farmers, ranchers and Native Americans to protest the pipeline as a unified front dubbed the Cowboy Indian Alliance. The six-day “Reject + Protect” event called attention to the real people impacted by the pipeline with a clear call to President Obama to reject the Keystone XL. During the week, the Cowboy Indian Alliance raised tipis on the National Mall, led peaceful marches, held rallies, shared their stories, and met with White House officials. Reject + Protect culminated with a march attended by thousands, including Farm Aid’s own Neil Young.

Art with Neil Young

Neil Young and Art Tanderup stand up for the land in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Bold Nebraska)

“It’s important to be part of the people here, out on the front lines of this situation and try to show that these are real people and they actually know what’s going on out there,” says Art. “We are not a bunch of radicals. We are real people with concerns and it’s important that President Obama and Secretary Kerry can see that.”

Because the pipeline crosses an international border, the U.S. State Department must approve it. An announcement was expected after a public comment period closed on March 7, resulting in an unprecedented 2.5 million public comments. But in an unexpected win for those opposing the pipeline, President Obama extended the comment period and pushed back the decision.

President Obama’s delay is in large part based on a recent court decision in Nebraska that found that it was unconstitutional for TransCanada to acquire land for the pipeline through eminent domain, in which the government forces a landowner to allow development on their private property if it is believed to be in the public’s benefit. The ruling was important, not just for the delay, but for the real issue at the heart of the fight against the pipeline. As Art puts it, “How can the government give a foreign corporation the right to come in and take your land for their profit? It’s not for your profit; it’s not for the common good. It’s for their profit and it puts everything at risk.”

If the pipeline is ultimately approved, the permeability of the ground and the location of the Ogallala Aquifer along the current proposed route may require that it to be moved to another location. But the bottom line for Art is this: “The pipeline doesn’t need to be any place. It doesn’t need to be built at all.” When asked what it would mean to win this battle, Art replies, “It means we can feel good about leaving this land to our children and grandchildren. Like you take care of your kids, you take care of your land and water.”

The Cowboy Alliance at Art's Farm

Members of the Cowboy Indian Alliance at Art’s farm. (Photo by Mary Anne Andrei / Bold Nebraska) 

Vanishing Americana

Mottvile, NY Post OfficeResident Pat Spillmann checks her post office box at the post office inside the Mottville Emporium in Mottville, N.Y., Monday, April 28, 2014.

Photos and Article By Kevin Rivoli | krivoli@syracuse.com


Across rural America small town post offices are being closed in an effort by the U.S. Postal Service to stop mounting revenue losses.

Being an independent branch of the federal government, the postal service is mostly subsidized by postal fees. The fact that more people are paying bills and communicating online instead of mailing letters has forced the postal service to make deep cuts.

Many of the old brick-and-mortar post offices, slated for closure, could be morphed into village post offices. A village post office is one that is run by a small business owner as part of their retail operation offering limited postal services like selling stamps, PO boxes, or package services

-2a3ade7a10bff7e2Postal clerk Deb Holbein chats with Pat spillmann, right, and Maureen Bishop at the post office inside the Mottville Emporium in Mottville, N.Y. Holbein is also the owner of the Emporium.

Enter Deb Holbein, owner and operator of the Mottville Emporium. The Emporium offers consignment furniture, antiques, dry-cleaning and, of course, a post office, of which she is the clerk.

Mottville, a tiny hamlet in the town of Skaneateles, is made up of the fire department and a single two-story red building that is home to the Emporium and Tea and Treasures General Store.

That’s it. Blink while your driving and you miss it.

“Having a post office means we get to keep our zip code,” says Holbein. She’s quick to note that Mottville has had a post office since the late 1800’s. “We love our post office.”

-3b470a24df724eaePostal clerk Deb HolBein works in the post office at the Mottville Emporium in Mottville, N.Y. Holbein is also the owner of the Emporium.

Mottville resident Pat Spillmann agrees.

Spillmann makes her way through the small cramped overstocked shop to the back corner designated as the post office. She drops an envelope in the mail slot on the countertop, next to the greeting cards and bracelets, and then checks her post office box for the day’s mail. “I like to come in to chat and catch up on what’s going on around town,” she says.

The rural post office is an important fiber in the fabric of the community it serves, no matter how small. Like the 1980’s television sitcom Cheers – it’s a place where everyone knows your name.

-7ace04c55b93a896Mary Buttolph steps outside of the Mottville Emporium which houses the Mottville Post Office in Mottville, N.Y.

-7b4e1d275428835dThe Mottville post office shares space with the Mottville Emporium and Tea and Treasures General Store in Mottville, N.Y.

-6400045ea76176f4Owner and postal clerk Deb Holbein takes care of customer Ruth Klimek at the post office inside the Mottville Emporium in Mottville, N.Y.

This article first appeared in the April 30th edition of Syracuse.com America’s #1 Newspaper Website