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Batten down the hatches?

We’re almost a week into the New Year.

Are you back at work?

Things gotten back to normal, whatever that may be in your world?

The holiday season certainly gives us our best excuses for getting out of the routines of our lives. Trying to watch what you eat? Forget it; it’s the holidays. You can always begin that diet after the first of the year.

Trying to live within a budget? Don’t be a scrooge! It’s Christmas. You can pay that credit card off in installments that are just a little larger than normal. Fifty dollars a month more won’t matter next year.

Trying to get your work done? Don’t worry. No one keeps regular hours during the holidays. Get in a little late; leave a little early. People will understand.

Now that all those good times are over, it’s time to pay the piper. You know what means, don’t you? It means those cookies and cakes settled in all the wrong places and with much more gusto than you expected.

It means that the monthly payment you thought you could handle so easily now looks like it is kin to the national debt. Reckon you could petition the new prez or congress for a bailout? Yeah, right!

And all that work that you pushed aside thinking that there is always next year? Guess what, it’s next year! You did know that it would eventually get here, didn’t you?

Pay the piper or the fiddler depending upon which instrument you like the most is a funny saying sometimes, but not necessarily so right now. It’s really something we’d like others to experience, but everybody has to pay the piper sometimes.

As I think about sayings for the new year, pay the piper might be a good one. Another popped into my mind also. How about “batten down the hatches?”

I don’t have any experience aboard a ship that might have hatches, but that saying was borne out of a nautical context. When the one in charge looked out toward the horizon, he might have seen dark clouds or felt a warning of a wind.

He would give the command to the mates to prepare the ship for the coming storm.

“Batten down the hatches, fellows, looks like it’s going to be a nasty storm.”

I don’t know what this new year might bring our way, but, as I stick my finger up to the wind and try to discern its direction, I seem to feel that this year might be quite a challenge. Of course challenges are to be met with discipline, courage and willingness toward responsibility.

I’ve never doubted the courage of the American people. I continue to feel that there are more hardworking Americans than ever before. They will not back down from this situation that we face and, if anything, they will double their efforts. These are strong and courageous people; the backbone of America.

The backbone, however, is getting smaller and smaller. That’s the problem that we face in 2009 and the future.

This upcoming year is going to call for great discipline and an acceptance of personal responsibility. There is a percentage of Americans who will understand this and move forward. I’m just not sure that they are in the majority.

Too many Americans have forgotten what discipline and personal responsibility mean. We have our government to thank for this predicament.

Consider the word discipline. Although I wasn’t asked and I usually don’t offer advice where I am not asked, I ventured a little advice to a young couple over the holidays. In the context of talking about this new year, I simply said, “Work hard and don’t spend more than you make.”

I’m no economic genius, but that seemed to me to be sound advice. That simple and sound advice should be the foundation of a good year.

Wouldn’t it be nice if individuals and government policies traveled along in the same direction? There might be some real improvement in the way things are.

But discipline and personal responsibility is not what we hear from Washington. They are as far from discipline and personal responsibility as the Rudyard Kipling poem, “The Ballad of East and West.” Never the twain shall they meet.

To paraphrase Will Rogers, Washington never met a dollar (of yours) that it didn’t want to spend. It never met a hatch it wanted to batten down.

I’ll end with a saying every mother in the world has used for a long time. Remember when you were caught doing something wrong and you used the excuse, “Well, so-and-so did it.” Remember what you mother said?

“If so-and-so jumped off the cliff, would you jump off too?”

This new year is going to take you and me doing what we know best, and just because Washington forgets discipline and personal responsibility, it doesn’t mean we do.