On the Eve of the Election – Some thoughts on the US While Living Abroad….”

Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Blog | 6 comments

On the Eve of the Election – Some thoughts on the US While Living Abroad….”

On the Eve of the Election – Some thoughts on the US and Norwegian Culture, and my Families Future….”

(Update as I woke up at 3:30AM to finish this and see results it appears Obama has won, but this was written before knowing and was more about appreciation for my country and what good things I’ve learned while living a year abroad)

When I moved to this part of the world it was the end of a long period in my life.  Astrologically, a 12-year window of time, moving me into a new era, and literally in a very Earthly grounded way, an end of one chapter of a book and the complete birth of new one.

On the eve of the election that puts Obama back in the White House for 4 more years, or Mitt Romney in…I reflect on a great deal about my own country that I’ve learned in my year away.

I’ve been very vocal about things that are important to me in my country; education, health care, same sex rights, the environment, etc.

I also used my freedom of speech to voice a lot of concerns, a lot of angst, and with a year of being outside the border I need to say, “I’m sorry.” My rants before were more personal, and less objective.  I’d get in sparring matches on things the media did a great job of dividing us at versus philosophical ideas on how each side sees things, and even more importantly how much they are the same. (Room to improve this two party system I think most agree)

The United States of America, in my eyes, is still one of the greatest countries on the planet.  We do not have healthcare YET that covers everyone (although I personally don’t know many who don’t have exceptional care, more on this later), we do not have the highest health statistics YET, we do not have the highest education marks…YET, we do not treat same sex couples the same as married YET, and we tend to jump into foreign issues as the global police a bit quicker than I think we should instead of putting that money into education, but what I value the most about my home country as we are in the middle of a pivotal and heated election year, are several things I’ll touch on below.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT- Maybe I’ve been lucky, but whether being Chairman of the “Down on Main Street Festival” when I was operating a business back in my home town that took 6 months of planning, negotiating with various business leaders, ultimately leading to the largest fireworks display in the history of the county that year with 73 vendors for families of all cultures to enjoy, I love being involved! I’ve been head of Chamber of Commerce, Planning and Zoning Commission appointed for a two-year term as Vice President and Secretary, picking up trash as part of Keep Nacogdoches Beautiful as a few more reasons to show I care to get involved. It charges me and the United States has tremendous ways to do so.

INNOVATION- I come from a family of innovators and success stories. I don’t know of anyone not owning their own business on my mom’s side and many creators on the other as well.  Most of my core friends are lawyers, doctors, business folks working for Wal Mart or one of the 1300 vendors, successful in Advertising and PR, heads of state wide education programs like STEM, and the list goes on and on.

Maybe that’s why I never feared drifting away a bit, because much of what I SEE is success in America.  My grandfather carved out one of the most successful manufacturing businesses in that part of the country, passed on the innovation bug to my mom, his son who owns a global trailer-manufacturing firm that the governor of Missouri just toured a couple weeks ago! My point is hard work and education can lead to tremendous opportunities in the states and as a National Honor Society Nerd and University educated guy, every one in my peer groups is doing what they want and earning tremendous livings doing it.

America was founded on a capitalistic idea of innovation and while corporate interests have gotten too much of a hold in our government it doesn’t keep businesses like Solgave Animal Solutions, or thousands of others from starting up, having resources and support to help foster and create growth.

With that said, the recession in 08 hurt man, more out of work that I care to think about but again, I didn’t personally know of many, but I know the numbers were large and I fought to stay educated on how to move that trend.

With our baby we are shifting to me entering the work force again. I’ve written a lot about this, but important to touch on it again because having a child of your own forces many psychological changes and long term vision that means you think 20 years out.

My history is working for companies that I sought out, the best in the country in terms of doing what they did, from my biased eyes.  One was a private label apparel company I started out with in college part time and in my early 20’s managed the Northwest corner of the state.

I was lucky to get involved with the next company as they were building what would become a very blessed few years of my life.   Hungry to get on I was just in sales with the bike department, as cycling was my passion, and quickly moved to Sales Manager and then Department Manager in another area.  An extremely experience based economy, culture enhanced vision model; this company was led by one of the great minds in business and would be my next mentor and boss. A 35,000 square foot store with bikes, apparel, outdoor, shoes, kayaking, and climbing gear, these were years I always look back on fondly.  You had a rock-climbing wall free to the public, free sodas and coffee for everyone coming in the door and a Nordstrom’s philosophy of taking service to new levels.

With a chance to run my own business after many years of management, I did just that.  Running your own ship means wearing many hats and those hats included team building, marketing, hiring and firing, community involvement, accounting, and service based on changing lives of every customer we encountered as taught to me by the mentors that shaped me the 8 years prior.

As life gives you sudden turns at times and a business model that made it hard to create much profit, I got into wireless for a few years.  First on the corporate side of ATT and then back to multi unit management the on the indirect retail side of Verizon Wireless.  Winning awards and excelling is just what we did. Not being arrogant here, just stating the pride and confidence of my working career in the states as I think there are some misperceptions of working life in the US.  My career path was exciting, blessed to work for companies I felt were shaping the future and grateful to be part of that shaping.

While I was ready to leave for a bit after a painful, extended end of a relationship.  it had nothing to do with my desire or ability to excel in the US. Quite the opposite.

One perception I realize people in Europe have about US is how hard it is to get good healthcare, how expensive it may be, etc. With a baby on the way, trust me in that it’s something we think about, but the least of my fears based on my 39 years of living.  My main concern is a healthy baby and making sure my wife is comfortable with an area of the world I find charming. She’s made sure I felt as comfortable as I could and as welcome as I could while here and I’ve vowed to make sure she feels the same.

I have to say to people in Norway that ask about me about insurance, killings, etc.  just puzzles me.   I’ve never had a situation where I wasn’t covered in extremely good comprehensive coverage.  I had to carry insurance for my manager at the store I owned, but was taken care of in big ways with every job that I had.  I’ve always been given a 401K or great package of options, it’s what you expect with a college education and even without that you are going to find that if you desire to be part of working society whether it be a Tyson poultry facility in the debone department or Wal Mart, if you work full time you’ll get good heath benefits.

I think where the media can portray things and get peoples vision skewed is thinking the masses are without coverage based on the Obamacare movement and media’s slant on it from Europe.  It’s very interesting that our media here does a horrible job of honest assessments of things, but I’m realizing the media here can spin things the other way to the extreme as well.

Make no bones about it, I am one who fights for EVERYONE to get coverage, but just about everybody does, and in the world I’m from I don’t know of anyone who has struggled with this. In every city in America that leans forward or back, in some way people help those than for some reason can’t help themselves.

Some real life examples I know of are this; say someone struggling with no insurance, or no job has a house burned down, and because of no home owners insurance, as I told my wife, all I’ve seen is that communities rally around them, set up accounts locally, donate an open apartment, and through donations end up getting them right back on your feet.  That entire process brings communities together. Shows us that what we care about is helping each other.  That’s just the only reality I know.  Whether a surgery for a child from a poor family, to a fundraiser to get a local class to Europe for a field trip communities just help each other, it’s the American way.

With my 13 years working in Northwest, I’m excited to get back to work.  The only factor that would bring us back is if my wife or Gabi for some reason did not feel comfortable. Have very little fear of Gabi as she loved her time in Mexico, and adapted to life in US during our month there with summer with the grace of the international star she will be.

My career potential is huge in the United States and everyone in my life knows that. This phase of life is about starting a career, helping Sunniva launch and run Solgave Animal Solutions that we have spent months planning and only setting back because of the baby, and my god are we excited to get going!

Skype sessions, virtual business meetings, and resumes are already being tossed around by people that know me from New York City, to Little Rock, and in what is now one of the fastest growing economic areas in the country, Northwest Arkansas. I’d be willing to substitute teach; get into sales for a bit in any capacity to get my family covered with insurance while looking for the “dream job” or starting our own company. Time will tell, how all this plays out.  In 78 days we leave for an extended stay in the US on a tourist VISA for them to see how things feel on a deep level and I explore a variety of job options I’m working on as we speak.

EDUCATION- I love education and I have been vocal about how some countries in the world are doing some things better, but I loved the education I got, am getting, and hope to extend in graduate school one day.  You have people like my best friend from childhood who is now a principal at the tiny town on the border in Missouri, doing very progressive things because of her creativity and hard work by teachers.  You have private schools, charter schools, and in the Fayetteville area I know best, some of the best-ranked school systems in the country. Options are diverse and we’ll know doubt find a great fit for Gabi if that’s where we spend Chapter 2.

CHARM – We are charming bunch of folks! Some of the things that used to bug me are now the most endearing. When they say, “Have a nice day sweetie!” They mean it man!

When they see a car in the parking lot that needs a jump or a boat in the water that had a fuel line break (us this summer) you have people rushing over to jump the car, and we had a guy in a boat as fast as you could say “Razorback” as a neighbor at our lake house yelled from the shore “Ray, you need help?”

Five minutes a later a man speeds up, toed us up to our slip and gently waves “Have a great day folks!”

You just find a charming bunch of people who will work well into to the night to help you whether it’s a tornado that came through, an injured family member that needs work on a truck, you JUST HELP YOUR NEIGHBOR.

GEOGRAPHY – We are a vast land with 50 states and every type of geographical formation known to man. From NYC and South Beach in Miami, to Joshua Tree, Redwoods, Yellowstone Park, Grand Canon, the rich vibe of Memphis, TN, New Orleans and 100 other examples

It’s like Europe in some ways with each state being that of another country.  I love the diversity of cultures and geography within the US borders.  The fact that you can head up to Cape Cod, or down to the Keys in South Florida, or drive up Interstate 1 and do the vineyards in California is part of how vast the experiences and cultures are. Impossible to blanket the US with an idea of what it’s like without living there and traveling a great deal across the land.

You can spend months and never fully touch what the US has to offer. I was lucky that my grandparents had me many weekends and would take me on random road trips to see sites all over the US, and each summer would take me on a pretty big trip.  I think if/when we plant roots there, the epic nature of grandparents from Europe seeing sights like the arches in St Louis, the culture in Chicago, the arts center in Kansas City, will see an entirely different shade of US they see in CSI shows.

One blog I read recently had an American living in Norway had a person seriously ask him “I’m planning a Route 66 trip but worried about all the guns and serial killers.” —crickets chirping. 😉  As the writer said, “I don’t own a gun and have never met a serial killer. Are you serious?”

The point was made clear; sometimes the media, TV, and movies make us look a bit scarier than we are. Perspective again, for me has shifted wildly.

Norway- What I love about a country so small and so homogenous in many ways they have allowed rich traditions to stand true to form. They are still an oil state and have underlying issues if you look deep at conflicts with tar sands and a variety of other issues but as a socialist modeled country, they do a helluva job making sure those in the middle feel safe.  You don’t have to do super well, or excel to have a good life, a really good life. They pay taxes and expect people to work to make sure there is fairness in the method to the madness that makes sure no one is not hungry and people are taken care of with health benefits, free education through college, etc.

They are an active and healthy country in ways we can learn from A group full of pride and because of their geographic location have been able to kind of carve out a society and culture all their own without much need to adapt from their ways.

They are, at times, a bit hard to reach as an outsider. Known to take care of their families in big ways, it’s harder as an outsider to “get in” but not impossible, and once you do you are welcomed in very warm ways. It does take time though, but with patience you’ll see a great bunch of people.  Being an American citizen gained me no immediate extra attention and coming from the “How are you YA’LL!” land, this took some adapting.

On a hotly contested election night, I am reminded of how we come together after events like 9/11.  Memories of us working together after tornado-ravaged areas struck so close to home.  At that time nobody gives a rat’s ass how you vote, if you are an atheist, or Christian, they just bloody want to help you in any way they can.  It’s HUMAN INSTINCT and tragedies show us this.  That’s what we do. My 69-year-old step dad (at the time) made 3-4 trips to the Mississippi area Katrina ravaged to rebuild homes because what we do best is rally, is support, is come together with nothing expected in return.

Tonight’s election makes you feel like it divides us.  Social media can especially get some people fanning flames, others quietly proud of their candidate or in some cases prepared for a loss.  In Norway, I love the multiple party system they use and the fact that you can’t run attack ads. You can only run on what solutions you would offer!  What a novel idea for us in the states to think about, eh?

Only during these hotly contested years do we see brother against brother not speaking for a few days because of how emotional it gets. Most of this is due to the media and water cooler chatter that happens those final months and weeks leading up to a race that again, is exciting if it’s your guy.  But unless you are 18, you’ve lived long enough to appreciate we have had Presidents of all parties and had times of thriving under each and areas of disappointment under each. But today versus 1964 we have made progress. We are becoming more aware. We are moving forward.

I woke up at 3:30AM to check results and decided to brew coffee and see results come in and try to finish a blog or two.

This one has turned into a very non cohesive one that is more a Jackson Pollock style splattering of ideas based on how many times I started it, emotions that got so high my wife dealt with some hurts from a post she made about apathy of not voting due to losing a friend we cared for. My hope is that like neighbors and brothers at odds, as electorates come in they will come back as well.

A socialist model works really well here in many ways and protects all. It incentifies you to really stay in the middle, and believes in a philosophy of it not being appropriate to “excel” above others.

My problem here is that if you have a child who’s the best in the world at acting, or writing, or designing a computer company, for example, this could be tough for them. In odd ways they face being an outcast in ways our country deals with socially awkward kids in high school feeling like outcasts.

It’s just INTERESTING that’s all.

What I hope you take from this very loose blog on an election night is that I love my country more than ever before.  I love it if Mitt Romney wins and I love it Obama wins.

I do think we should have a third party with more power. I think it’s got so much to improve upon, but what I don’t forget are about how our communities help each other, support each other, and in my lifetime I don’t see cases where people fall through very often.

Do they? Yes, it’s why I want to see a nationalized health care system eventually but in my 18 years of being a working citizen or student I had incredible health care, including eye and dental that would likely be better than what my wife gets. It’s part of our salary packages in the professional working world I was part of, and part of factory workers, dock waters, or full time cashiers at most stores.

I don’t know many who are in their elder years struggling to make it, but I do believe we can do better for them. Take care of them in a deeper way as I see Norway do a great job of doing.

I think we can do better at recycling and educating our kids about the impact throwing a bottle out the window has on Earth. It DOES MATTER.  This planet is not here to serve us, but for us to realize we are a wonderful part of the web that connects all.

The future to me is still a bright one with eventual shifts to clean technology as oil power gets diminished, the need and price for manufacturing green technology gets better.  I see education getting more progressive and willing to change by looking at some of the Nordic models and results they achieve.  No shame and glancing around the global room and seeing areas we can improve.  No shame there….

I had the greatest childhood I think you could have. Sleepovers with neighbors I knew, we didn’t lock our doors back then, more friends than I could ever imagine and many I took for granted. We laughed, we played hard, and coming out of high school everyone I know got a college education that wanted it.

My parents have a foundation where they paid for schooling for kids that worked for our business, communities and families step up in the land of America and folks like my family who have more than they need give back in ways they think can impact the most.  My grandfather set the same example.

Yep, I am very proud of my country. One year away should be a mandate to serve either in military or a peace corp type experience to help bring you back with a slightly different lens.  I’ll never forget the gravity of what a year away has done for me in every area of my life.

Also proud of what I’ve learned from Sweden and Norway. Man we can do things better in the United States in so many areas and I hope to be part of that change.

The most important thing you and I can do though is change us.  Love your family and neighbors, respect your friends, and keep seeing that the world spins madly on…no matter who wins the election tonight.

Looking forward to see what the future holds for Jared, Sunniva, Gabi, and our next born. We are optimistic, and prepared to take a big step into the future and hopefully, in tiny ways every day be part of the change we try and live by.

Goodnight, good morning, and however this turns out after the emotions settle down! Hug your family and friends………it’s the American way.

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6 Comments

  1. Well written man!

    I would say that we have had our share of troubles with the healthcare system – Both as insured and unable to afford it (college).

    In Denmark we ran into similar misconceptions about guns in America. Then there was a shooting that was all over the news…two officers shot but not killed. It was breaking news covered at about the same level as an airline crash…it just didn’t happen there.. So from that perspective their misconception wasn’t as far off as it seemed from our point of view.

    Glad to have you out there spreading the word that “this works too”.

    • Appreciate the extra insights and you bring up some great points on perspective in the situation you saw in Denmark. Miles Law Theory is powerful in how we view things around the world.

      Thanks for taking time to comment. That means a lot to us!

  2. Great perspective:-) there is a vast amount of space between New York and Los Angeles and that space is called, America……and thanks for the snaps!

    • Love that line “There is a vast amount of space between LA and NY and that space is called….America” Touche’

  3. Great article!

    • Thank you!!

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