Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Headaches

I woke up today with a headache.

Throughout the day, I still managed to have some level of headache and that is unusual for me.  I even ended up at Walgreen's staring at the expansive shelf of 100's of pain medications and wondering why we have so many choices for trying to eliminate Pain.   It's good to have choices, but I was really kind of overwhelmed at the task of choosing something.  You know the commercial for the Dr. Scholls brand orthotics?  Well, the customer steps up onto the platform and the correct fit for his particular foot problem is immediately selected for him.  That was what I wanted today - for someone or something to listen to my list of complaints and then present me with the ideal pharmaceutical.  I guess that's too much to ask.

On another note, I can't seem to find a shampoo right now that doesn't leave my scalp feeling itchy later on.  I've tried an expensive shampoo, cheap shampoo, herbal, medicated... too many.  I make sure that I  thoroughly rinse with cool water, but still seem to end up scratching later.   Maybe, I should have asked the pharmacist for his/her opinion.

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I met one of my neighbors this afternoon.  Her name is Nellie and she is about 85 y.o.  I was coming home with groceries and saw her bringing out her garbage can to the curb.  I saw that she walked with a cane, so I asked if I could take the garbage can from her all the way down to the street.  She was very thankful and I introduced myself and we talked for a few minutes.  She's been living there for 21 years she said.  I've only been on this street for six months.  She seemed to enjoy doling out some gossip on a few of the others on our street.  She pointed with her cane and told me that the painted brick house across the street was owned by a gynecologist and he had a young girlfriend living with him.  I got the distinct impression that this is a sordid affair - the girl being half his age.  Then, some mention of a slumlord owning the house next to hers.  Another story for another day.  I suddenly realized that I had melting ice cream and perishables needing to get inside into refrigeration so I made my excuse to leave.
I do like this neighborhood.  Everyone that I have met so far seems very friendly.  We can hear train whistles as they come through the city and that is something new to me.  There is a church close by that tolls the hours from 7:00 am until, maybe, 8:00 pm and it adds a certain charm.  I look forward to the cool nights this fall when we can have some windows open and listen to the night noises.
 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday_Aug30th

Well, tomorrow's the last day of August.  I can't believe that Labor Day is just one week away.

I got a call back today from a job application that I made over a month ago.  I'm pretty excited that this may be something with promise.  I made an appointment to go in for an interview on Thursday morning.  At this point, I have been out of work for 60 weeks, have applied for approximately 193 jobs so far and mailed out untold numbers of resumes.  It's too bad that postage and supplies are not tax deductible as a job hunting expense.  They're not, are they?

It's really hard to remain positive about any job prospects when you keep hearing the dismal news of the Economy and the stock market.  Oddly, people are still able to buy new cars and July has showed strong sales figures in that sector.  Practically everyone that I know is too afraid of taking on any new car payments, which would also mean much higher insurance premiums and higher personal property taxes.

I live in VA and here's a couple of added expenses for buying a new car:  $25,000 car - add $750 for (3%) sales tax and $1,062 for personal property taxes. (4.25% per each $100 assessed value)  The city that I live in also has the personal property tax due date of December 5th, making it just one more thing to check off on your Christmas list.  (Isn't that helpful?)

But, I digress...

I hear we're heading into the peak of the hurricane season here along the Mid-Atlantic coast.  Earl is expected to be here by Thursday night and Fiona is right behind him.  We could, actually, use the rain that usually accompanies a hurricane since it's been such a dry summer.  What we don't need, however, is the damaging winds and flooding.  The last severe hurricane for this area was Isabel in 2003.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dad's Birthday

Today is my dad's birthday.  He is 74.  Actually, yesterday was the real birth date, but we're celebrating it today because everyone call assemble today.  I am baking some oven-barbecued chicken (that smells delicious) and some butter beans.  My son and I are transporting our offering to my hometown where my older sister is preparing a big lunch and my younger sister is bringing a birthday cake.  It's about a 45-minute drive west from where I live now.  I sent my daughter a reminder text message last night before I went to bed, but I haven't gotten a reply yet.

I always have grand plans in my head, but they almost never get realized.  There's usually some time constraint or it's a money issue or just the simple logistics of getting everything to come together just doesn't meet my expectations.

My dad is a Railway Enthusiast (he loves trains) and I found a new 2011 calendar that just came off of the press this week for The Virginian Railway.  I got him a copy and I know that's going to be a good surprise.  I also bought a picture frame and printed out a train picture that I found and edited in Adobe Photoshop to bring out some extra details and I framed it last night before I went to bed.  You know, it's hard to get people gifts that have real meaning and not just to satisfy the requirement of getting them something.   

Well, I'd better jump in the shower and get shaved and dressed so we can get this show on the road.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bacon

You know, bacon makes almost everything taste better.  I just had a chicken salad sandwich and I put a slice of bacon on it and it was perfect.   

I watched Paula Deen on some cooking show once and she took two Krispy Kreme doughnuts, used them as buns and put a fried egg and bacon over a hamburger patty.  It sounds like an invitation to a heart bypass, but I am tempted to try it some day.  I'm not a fan of fried eggs, but I could improvise a bit.

Can't really think of anything else to top that. 

Frustrating Friday

I tried to get some things accomplished today and wasn't so successful.

My son had to be un-enrolled from one high school so that he can be enrolled in another one on the other side of town.  We actually live closer to the old one, but moved into town back in February and crossed the line into another district.  (We got a waiver to finish last year's term at the old school.)  Any rate -- in an era of wire transfers, emails, paying bills online, e-commerce, even fax machines and the good ole school system still requires you to come in person to conduct business.  And, they like leaving early on Fridays during the summer!  The lights were being turned off at 3:00 pm and I had to make my way through a dark office to get back to the main hallway from the guidance office.  Well, half of the task is done and I'll have to go to the new school on Monday to enroll my son.

My other un-accomplishment today was to go to the Unemployment Office and resolve the matter of benefits that haven't been paid for the last three months.  After seeing two different people and waiting in two different waiting rooms, I was finally told that I had to call Richmond to have it resolved.  I was finally given a sticky note with a "direct-line" 800 number to the appeals department, but when I came home and called the number, I was told I had to submit a letter requesting an appeal with my SS# and signature on it.

Oh, by the way...
Shopping for health insurance is almost as much fun as getting a root canal.

When I do business online, I want to be contacted by email.  I think that is only fair, don't you?  Well, when you are shopping for insurance quotes and you put your information into the "required" fields and submit it, you almost instantaneously begin to get a flurry of phone calls from all over the country from brokers trying to get you to buy their insurance package.  The commissions must be really something because these folks are like sharks around a chum bucket. 
I called my current health insurance provider (Optima) this week to ask how much my current policy would cost me without the COBRA benefits that expires in a few days.  I've been paying $130 per month for the last year since getting laid off.  Well, Shana informed me it would cost me $700 per month  and I almost had to laugh I was so shocked.  I've had this same HMO plan for 13 years and never knew it was such a "Cadillac" plan as I was to find out.  After some shopping around, I think that I can get something affordable that is enough for what I need. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thank God it's Thursday

I'll try and be a little more upbeat for the rest of the week. 

Only four months until Christmas!  Last year, I didn't even have Christmas (at my house) because I was packing everything up to move out of a house for which I could not longer afford to make payments.  It wasn't until February that we got it all moved, but everything was turned upside-down and I was very depressed about my state of affairs.  This year will be different.  It has to be.  It may not be as grand as it was in previous years, but I think we can pull something together that will be enjoyable.

Everywhere in the news lately, I read and hear about people learning to do with less.  One new statistic is that credit card balances have been cut dramatically and Americans are putting away more savings.  Not good for retailers, but it seems that the majority of everyday people are much more careful with their spending right now.  Even though I feel that I am living with a "bare-bones" budget of my own, I could find ways to cut out a little more.   High speed internet is my only luxury right now.

Did anyone read about the huge traffic jam in China this week?  On Monday, I read that it was 60 miles ling and people had been stuck for over a week on this particular stretch of highway.  Residents nearby were helping to feed motorists and probably provide restroom facilities, I imagine.  Authorities were saying that it was going to take several more days to get everyone moving again and then, late last night, I find out that some reporters went looking for the jam and it mysteriously has gone.  The traffic was moving along with out any major incidents.  Pretty strange, Huh? 

Also, in the news, there's this mammoth iceberg coming from the Arctic that's four times the size of Manhattan and its thickness spot is estimated to be more than half the height of the Empire State Building.  It's the largest single piece recorded in 50 years.  Some comment was made that if all of that frozen water melts quickly we'll see the ocean level rise noticeably.  Anyone ever left a glass of ice water full of ice cubes sitting out as an experiment?  Well, that glass of water doesn't overflow the glass as the ice cubes melt in the glass, does it?  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday_Already?

I can't believe that I missed checking in yesterday.  I had a eye appointment about 20 miles away and was running late getting there.  I had never been to this particular office, having been referred to an opthamologist  by my regular doctor a few weeks ago.  Nearly there, I got stuck behind some car that was creeping along in the same direction I was.   Try as I may, I could not get past that car in traffic.  By the time I found a parking space and got into the building and found the office suite inside, who should I see in the waiting room but the slow-poking woman from the Toyota Camry.  I couldn't believe that she had gotten there before me.
I was there for over two-hours and got a very thorough exam and everything's fine.  Fortunately, it was rainy and overcast outside at 5:00 pm driving home, because my pupils were dilated and I had to squint all the way home.  I usually have a pair of sunglasses in my car and the nurse asked me on the way out if I had some.  Turns out, they weren't with me, but it didn't matter due to the clouds.   Even by bedtime, my pupils were still like saucers and it had been 6-7 hours since those drops.

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We have a issue with my daughter's college financial aid this semester.  She graduated with an A.S. from community college in May and six weeks ago began at The Art Institute of Va. Beach.  It took several trips to visit with the admissions office, but agreed with a financial plan and we both signed.  She will have her Bachelor's degree in 35 months if she keeps to this schedule.  There was a little remaining balance each month after grants and a guaranteed student loan and other extras that left about $198 due, which my daughter thought she could handle.  Unfortunately, the school has sent an email informing us that they corrected our FAFSA and now her payment will be $248 per month.
First of all, they shouldn't have the authority to change my FAFSA.  That's something that is dependent on my 2009 tax return and is password protected.  Parents and students have their own password.
Secondly, this is a "for-profit" institution and I feel that they just gave themselves an extra $1,750 over the 35-month period.  You do the math: 50 x 35. 
Here's my analogy:  If I agreed to terms to by a car for 35 payments and signed the papers and drove off the lot and six weeks later the dealership called or emailed me and said: "You now owe an extra $50 per month on your car payment."  I would say: "Here are the keys, I'm returning the car ... No deal."  We wouldn't have signed the papers with $248 because she can't afford that much.

Am I wrong in feeling like there has been a breach of contract here or a voiding of the contract?
I left a message this morning and called again this afternoon and got no reply.
Next step may be to talk with an attorney and see what rights we might have.

I'd like to hear some response.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mon_Aug23rd

I have to go to a doctor's appointment tomorrow with an ophthalmologist because when I went to my regular eye exam a couple of weeks ago, the doctor wanted me to get a second opinion.  When I was supposed to look at a piece of graph paper and describe the vertical and horizontal lines, I saw double lines with my right eye on the vertical lines.  Hopefully, everything's all right.  I've always had many "floaters" in my eyes and, other than that, I see fine.  My health insurance runs out at the end of this month and I need to decide soon what I'm going to do to replace it with.  I hear a lot about Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and I'm looking into something like that to see if it's more cost effective.

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My mailman just came by and dropped off today's mail.  This is the first place that I have ever lived that has a mail slot in the front door instead of having a mailbox.  I wonder: Is it too much to ask that the letter carrier get the mail inside the door without it being all balled up?  Two items today and they are both all crumpled up.  I know that it's a thankless job, but they're certainly paid well enough for it. Sometimes, the flap stays open and hot, humid air comes in from outside.  In the winter, cold air comes in and makes the foyer chilly.  When I first moved here, back in February, the mail always got here by noon, almost like clockwork.  Now, I can never predict when he'll get here and he has come by sometimes as late as 6:00 pm.

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Oh, by the way.  In the current events/US news today, we hear about the recreation over the weekend of the Vacationer-In-Chief and his family and their expansive entourage to Martha's Vineyard.  This is number 6 for his vacations this year in a climate where most Americans are too worried about other more pressing things like: How can I keep from losing my home, How can I secure a new job, How can I afford to send my kids to college this fall, etc... than where they can go to have fun while on the government's payroll.  I can't help but think of the French Revolution: "Years of feudal oppression and fiscal mismanagement led to a revolt."  Well, we've had about 18 months of feudal-type oppression so far from the Supreme Leader and the Left and the fiscal mismanagement by the Congress is such that my great-grandchildren will still be trying to pay off the Trillions that we currently owe to the Chinese.  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Musings

I am sitting here listening to music by Jim Brickman, one of my favorite contemporary artists.  In my opinion, most of his works are very extemporaneous -- almost like he sits down at the piano and just lets his emotions come out through his fingers on the keyboard.  There's not very much that's technically challenging about it, but it resonates with me.  http://www.jimbrickman.com/
I first came upon his works years ago, after my marriage's separation and I was feeling very alone and adrift.  Well, twelve years or so later, I can still count on being dragged out of the dumps when I listen to one of his cds.   I believe I have everything that he's recorded.

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I talked with my daughter on the telephone this morning.  She called to ask me how I used to make my famous biscuits that she loves.  Not only did I begin with the printed recipe on the box of Bisquik mix, but I usually added some wheat germ, maybe some applesauce, a dash of salt, some plain yogurt if I had any and a lot of Love.  This is about the only thing my kids have ever asked me to make for them.  Usually, on a Sunday I'd get: "Dad, can you make us some biscuits?"  My signature is to use the last bit of dough left over after cutting out the circles and making a unique twisted thing to put in the middle of the circle.  I hope that her's today are as good as she remembers them being.

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My son was eligible to get his learner's permit to drive back in March and now it's almost six months later and he still doesn't seem interested.  It's really hard for me to understand -- I got my license on my sixteenth birthday and a lot of friends I knew did also.  Having your driver's license means "freedom" doesn't it?  It's a rite of passage of sorts and in an area that doesn't have dependable mass transit, it's a necessity to have a car.  (We live almost 30 miles from the nearest mall or movie theatre.)
What's different about this generation that mine, I wonder.  When I was sixteen, I wanted to be able to ask permission to take the family car to run errands and I proved myself to be a responsible driver.

Is it, perhaps, that young people today have already experienced so much more "grown-up" type things by the time they get to be teenagers that they are less likely to want the responsibility of being a driver.
There's also the fact that my son has been riding around with his sister for four years and complains about her bad driving habits.  They were in a pretty bad accident about 18 months ago that was her fault.  (No injuries, just property damage.)  It totaled my beautiful Mercury Sable and caused my insurance rates to double.  I'll have to ask my son if he has worries because of being afraid -- a kind of PTSD.  If he was still going to see his counselor, we could ask her to delve into that area.
 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Slept Late

Man.  I couldn't believe that I slept so late this morning.  It was almost 10:00 am when I finally got up.  I had been up earlier to feed my cat and take BP medicine and go use the bathroom.  Lately, I've been staying up till midnight and I used to go to bed by 10:00 pm. 

I recently got a 4" thick memory foam mattress topper for my bed and it has made it more comfortable, but not perfect.  What I really need is a new mattress set with a real box spring unit and not the cheap foundation that doesn't have any give to it.  When I finally get a new job, the first thing I'm going to buy is a new mattress set.  I've been looking at The Original Mattress Company.

I have about 8-9 pillows on my bed and each one has it's purpose.  There's one for between my knees to support my lower back, there's neck pillow, one for my cat to sleep on, one for my feet to keep them separated, a few behind my back as I sleep on my left side.  I clutch a "huggie" pillow, but I have to make sure that my right shoulder is relaxed to keep from waking up with a sore shoulder.  Also, I sometimes wake up in the night with a sweaty pillow from my neck and head sweat and I rotate to a dry cooler one so I can fall back asleep.

I have been using an air mattress for several years and loved it, but little pricks from my cat's claws have been causing me to have air leaks.  Repair and re-inflate as I tried, but I was waking up all flat after being just fine when I fell asleep.  I couldn't find all of the holes.  If I had the money, I'd like to try a Sleep Number bed to see if it's all it's advertised to be.   

Friday, August 20, 2010

Benefits of Drinking H2O

Drinking water at the correct time maximizes its effectiveness on the Human body:

2 glasses of water after waking up helps activate your internal organs.

1 glass of water 30 minutes before a meal - helps digestion (and makes you feel fuller)

1 glass of water before taking a bath - helps lower blood pressure

1 glass of water before going to bed - helps avoid stroke or heart attack

Friday_Aug20th

I made myself a Sloppy Joe for lunch today.  I can't remember the last time I'd had one, but it was good.  What I do remember is the first time I ever had one. 

Back, when I was in college, I went with three friends up to New Jersey for a weekend in the snow.  (It was the first time I'd ever been to NJ as well.)  My friend RenĂ© drove us in her Ford Mustang up the Eastern Shore (Delmarva peninsula) and we stayed at her parents house in Burlington County, NJ.  The next day, her sister had the four of us over for lunch with her family and served us Sloppy Joe sandwiches.  I was hooked.  Who knows why I'd never eaten one before.  Later that day, we went tobogganing down some hill that was close by. 

On the trip back to Norfolk, we unfortunately experienced car trouble and had to spend the night in a flea-bag motel in Salisbury, Md. and missed classes that Monday while the car was being repaired.

My second-only visit to New Jersey was a business trip in 1996.  I was working for a printing company and we got a new scanner so I was sent to Patterson, NJ for a week of training.  (Unheard of these days with video conferencing and online tutorials.)  I stayed at the Fairfield Ramada Inn and enjoyed taking in some nearby sights when I had some spare time.  I went shopping at the big mall in Paramus.  Back then they claimed it was the largest shopping mall on the East Coast.  I drove into NYC one afternoon through the Lincoln Tunnel and came back late that night.  That was quite an experience for me.  I went to the top of the Empire State Bldg and, looking back now, wish I'd gone to visit the WTC.  I tried a lot of good food like at Harold's New York Deli where the corned beef sandwiches were piled so high they could feed two people.  (Wendy F. knows what I'm tawkin about.)

Enough about food.  I'm so full just thinking about it.

TV shows

Here's my current list of TV shows I like to watch:
Fox -- Glee, House, Bones, Family Guy
NBC -- The Office, Parks & Recreation, Community, 30 Rock
ABC -- The Middle, Modern Family, Wipeout, Cougar Town
CBS -- The Good Wife, The Mentalist, Big BANG Theory
PBS -- History Detectives, Antiques Roadshow, This Old House and Masterpiece Mystery

Wal Mart Check-out

I went to Wal Mart for a few things this afternoon and today's trip reinforces my dislike for the place.
It's really not too much to ask that there be enough check-out lines open when you want to leave the store.  They have more than 24 check-out spaces, but only about 4-6 are open at any given time.  Farm Fresh used to have a guarantee that if there were more than two customers waiting ahead of you in a particular line, they'd open up another one.  (I think that was how it went.)  I wish that WM would get the hint and keep their customers from having to wait for so long to be able to leave. 

Is it a plan to forcibly keep people in the store?

Where I currently live, we don't have all that much of a choice when it comes to shopping.  There's Food Lion (3 different locations), Farm Fresh, and Wal Mart.  Also, there are lesser stores like: Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Fresh Pride.  If you want to drive 20 miles or so, there's Harris Teeter and Chesapeake Square Mall.  Also, the people that come up from N.C. call the shopping carts "buggies" and I absolutely hate that.

This concept of not having enough check-out registers open must be common WM practice.  I remember back a few years ago when I lived in Kempsville, I had gone to shop at the WM at the intersection of Princess Anne Rd at Lynnhaven Parkway.  It was late at night and I was tired.  If I recall, it was close to the Christmas holidays.  Anyway, I was in the check-out line with a cart full of things and it was taking forever.  After waiting, by my estimate to have been over 40 minutes, I just couldn't take it anymore and walked out and left the full cart sitting there. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cat throw up

I was in the shower earlier today when I heard the sound of my cat, Leo, throwing up.  For some reason, Siamese cats are predisposed to up-chucking, I believe, more than some other breeds of cats.  I've read about it, but I can't remember right now.  It's like Dachshunds and back problems.  I look at it as having a child with Special Needs.
Well, as I stood there showering and wondering what was going on with Leo, I thought: Is it too much to ask that he doesn't make a big mess on the carpet?  As it turns out, he got it all on an area rug just inside the bathroom door and I can just throw that in the washer.  (After all the chunks were disposed of.)
I'll do some more research on the cat symptoms and share them later.

State Bird

Where have all of the Cardinals gone?  In looking at the state birds of the US, I see that 7 states out of 50 chose the Cardinal, but you don't see them very often, do you?

Thurs_Aug19th

Wow!
We've had a lot of rain and thunder storms in the past two days.  After months of near-drought conditions, it's almost foreign to us to have rain running down the gutters and down the streets.  It's a very welcomed sight, but for the local farmers, it may be too late for their crops.

I watched a couple of squirrels in the Ginko tree outside and they seemed to be really enjoying themselves as they played in the rain.  Just a dew weeks ago, I found a young squirrel lying on the front porch, prostrate in the heat.  I almost thought he was dead when I opened the door.  I put out some cool water in a little dish and I saw him on two occasions drinking something.  I'm glad that I was able to quench at least one little thirst.

Well, I didn't get any grass mowed yesterday due to the rain.

I've heard that this summer is breaking heat records everywhere and is going to be in the record books.
According to the facts I've found: Virginia record 1954 - 110 degrees F.  I don't think we got that high this year.  Looking at the US records, 1934-1936 had the most high-temp recordings. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday_Aug18th

I found out last night that my toilet is leaking.  I was thinking that I was having higher than average water bills -- higher than I had anticipated.  Guess I'll be going to Lowe's today to get a repair kit.  Rather than call the landlord, I can just do it for about $10.

Also, I just got a replacement lawnmower this week to replace the one stolen from my backyard this summer.  I bought this one Monday after answering an ad on craigslist.  I tried it out before I paid for it and it looks almost like new.  If it doesn't rain today, I'll give it a try.  You know, it's been so dry this year that I got away with not trimming for the entire month of July.

It really bugged me that someone would come right up to my back door and take the other lawnmower while I was away at jury duty that Monday.  I opened the door to go out with a bag of garbage and there was this empty place and I just stood there and stared at it for a few minutes.   
Is it too much to ask: Do I have to chain everything down out there to keep it safe from robbers.

In my old neighborhood, I never thought twice about anything being stolen from my property.  My storage shed was never locked for over 5 years and nothing was ever taken.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Political Rant

With the up-coming elections only 78 days away --
Is it too much to ask that our elected officials be required to both Read and Understand what is in a Bill [before Congress] before they cast their vote on it?  I think Not.
I would like to propose some kind of enforceable accountability as part of the oath that these politicians swear to when they take office.  What about transparency in government.  What's up with that? 
I say: No earmarks, no vote-buying, and no voting for something in order to find out what's in it.

Also, we need term limits.  If our president can only serve two terms, then law-makers should only get two terms, in my opinion.  Our founding fathers had no earthy concept of anyone wanting to or willing to sit in Washington for 40 to 50 years on the government payroll. 

Don't get me started on Lobbyists and that whole debacle.

Everyone needs to Vote on November 2nd. 

Tuesday_Aug17th

When you send someone you know an email, a friendly letter, or a greeting card, or even a message on a social networking site -- is it too much to ask that they respond to you in some way?
I keep asking myself and I still don't have a good answer.

I've been told by some that most people are really busy with work, family, hobbies, et al.  Well, just because I have some time on my hands during the day, does that mean that I am not entitled to some reciprocity from my contacts?  Do I need to lower my expectations?

Hopefully, as I try to put some feelings into words here, I can achieve a better understanding of how I can be a better friend and fellow citizen.