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Thursday, October 25, 2012

I've often heard it said that our vote honors a veteran.  As we approach this upcoming election, how many of us really think about the men and women who have given their lives so that we can have the priviledge to be able to vote?  I was fortunate, having spent ten years in the U.S. Air Force, that the need to fight a war never came up during my term of service.  But I still am filled with gratitude for those who answered the call and I try to make it a point to vote whenever I can...  out of respect.

Many people find it a bother to vote, particularly in the bigger elections like the one approaching in two weeks.  With The Office of The President of the United States on the ballet, the lines will be long and some will balk at the time investment required.  Will their one vote even matter in the long run?  I know here in Kansas, many people believe it is pointless to vote in presidential elections since the Kansas electoral votes always go to the Republican candidate.  You know that before the election even begins.  Presidential candidates don't even campaign in Kansas and many folks see no point in the whole affair.

Myself, though I am a diehard voter, I also feel no great desire to stand in long lines so this election I requested an advance ballot as did my husband.  This week, our ballots arrived in the mail and we immediately sat down to complete them so they could be returned in time to be counted.    The first few offices were easy.  They were federal offices... choose your candidate, fill in the dots, easy enough.  Then there were the states offices (senate and house of representatives) in our district along with a lengthy list of local races.  For each of the state offices as well as the other choices on the ballot (except for one, I believe), there was only a Republican candidate running unopposed.  The other parties had not offered a candidate.  I cannot speak for the other districts in Kansas, or even in Wichita, but that is what was offered on the ballot in my district.  I was stunned.

Now, this does not necessarily bother me because I favor one party or the other but rather because it speaks of a larger loss of participation in the process as a whole.  Where are the choices and what has happened to the two party system?  This goes way beyond voter apathy.  Is anyone else disillusioned by this?

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Get out the Lederhosen and Steins!  It’s time for Gemütlichkeit - the festive spirit of Oktoberfest.  This Bavarian festival originated in Munich, but has become so popular it is celebrated in countless cities around the world. 

Oktoberfest, 16 days of drinking, eating, singing and dancing, originally began in October.  Because of the bad weather at this time of the year, the festival schedule was changed in 1880.  Now Oktoberfest begins on a Samstag (Saturday) in September and ends the first Sonntag (Sunday) in Oktober.  With the exception of wartime, Oktoberfests have been held in Munich for almost 200 years.  On opening day, the festival comes alive just as the clock of St. Paul's Church strikes twelve noon.  The Burgermeister enters one of the beer tents, taps the first cask, and heartily drinks the first Stein during a 12 cannon salute. 

The first Oktoberfest occurred October 17, 1810 when King Maximillian of Bavaria gave a reception to celebrate the wedding of his son, Prince Ludwig, and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Held in a large meadow (Wiese) in Munich, the entertainment included a horse race staged for 40,000 people from all over Bavaria.  The party was so successful that King Maximillian decided to hold one every year in the meadow, which was then named Theresien-wiese after Ludwig's bride.  Eventually, the horse races were replaced by agricultural shows and parades.

Oktoberfest is not just a festival…it’s also a style of beer (Bier).  As it happened, the 1810 wedding festival occurred just about the time the spring's stockpile of Bier had to be depleted to make room for the fall production. March (März) was the last month that Bier was made since Bier made in the warmer months usually acquired a foul taste. Being that alcohol is a natural preservative, this Bier was made with a higher alcohol content (about 5%) to get through the warmer months.  Full-bodied, they are known as Oktoberfest or Marzen, contain almost no hops and have a sweet, malty taste.  An Oktoberfest is brewed much like the reddish-amber Marzen that was served at Ludwig's wedding in 1810. Before refrigeration brought about a revolution in brewing, Bier was brewed in March, lagered or cold-stored in caves for 10-12 weeks, and ready to drink by the late summer or early fall.

The Oktoberfest celebration is steeped with tradition.  In the Biergarten, if a stein is in one hand, the other usually holds a Wurst or sausage.  The keg is tapped while the oom-pah band plays Trinklieder (drinking songs).  Polka, yodeling, and a Maypole dance (Webentanz) can be seen around the Fruchtsäule (a harvest monument constructed of seeds from fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables).  Schuhplattler, a dance from the alpine country, is also performed wearing the traditional Bavarian costumes, Dirndls and Lederhosen.

As German immigrants came to the United States, smaller Oktoberfests were held in their communities and today, Munich and Cincinnati compete to be the site of the world's largest Oktoberfest.
Whether you are planning a trip to Munich or just looking for a local celebration, you should take the time to experience the warm friendliness, or Gemütlichkeit, of Oktoberfest.  As they say, all work and no play…

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

As a former foster parent for the state of Kansas, I wanted to write a book describing what life was like in a foster home and how children are affected by the way the system functions.  This week I made my recently published book, A Sibling Group of Three, available for free download to all our elected officials in Topeka in the hope that they might gain better understanding of the problems to be tackled.  This book is fiction, but I believe it is very representative of reality and I was quite pleased to see that 144 people took me up on my offer.  This was quite a lot more than I expected.  It gives me renewed faith in our state lawmakers that they care about these children and are interested in doing what is best for them.  It encourages me in this election year.