You know what they say about opinions…

Yeah, I know you do.  It may be a different version for you, but here in the south, the saying is that they’re like assholes…everyone has one.  Charming as that phrase is not, it’s nevertheless true both literally and metaphorically.  We’ll circle back to that thought a little later…

Mr. EMT and I (our whole family, really) are avid readers.  We enjoy a good story.  Our tastes differ drastically, but we work it out.  He has begged me to read some of his various favorites and I’ve never been able to do so before for fear of gut-wrenching pain searing me completely.  Mr. EMT reads a lot of non-fiction war books.   I did, however, succumb to one of his requests and read my first non-fiction war novel.  I read American Sniper by Chris Kyle.  Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or living in North Korea, you’ve heard about it at least by way of the latest blockbuster hit if not the actual book.

The book was incredible, much better than I could have ever thought it would be.  I’m always worried these books will leave a huge hole in my heart because of the death that comes with war.  There were sad parts in this book, don’t misunderstand, but it was told so well and with such character that I fell in love with his words, his duty, his family, and fell more in love with our country.  Yes, it really was that good.  It gave someone like me who has never seen war or had to make these type of hard decisions an insight into what they do and what they go through.  It gave me a real count of what the family they leave behind struggles with while they’re saving the country.

Fast forward to the blockbuster hit, and well I just had to see it, of course.  It didn’t disappoint, at least not too badly.  I’ve always been a book fan before a movie fan, though I understand the need to change things for the big screen.  Going into this, I tried to keep that knowledge and understanding in the back of my mind.  I tried to be open-minded about Hollywood telling the story that moved me.  I read about how Chris Kyle wanted Clint Eastwood to direct, how he was already speaking with Bradley Cooper about his book becoming a movie before his death in 2013.  After his life was taken his wife, Taya, stepped up and kept moving with the filming of the movie – making sure her husband’s story was told well enough to keep the pride flowing through his children.

Mr. EMT and I didn’t make it to the opening night of the movie and instead went four days later.  This gave me ample time to Google reviews and read the outpouring support for this man’s legacy.  It also gave me time to read the disgusting comments made by people who criticized his job, the work he did for his country.

This, my friends, is where I will circle back to that saying about opinions and include one that I’ve heard for as long as I can remember – empty vessels make the most noise.  I have to admit that I was pretty well outraged at the comments I read by some of Hollywood’s elite and many, many other lesser-known empty vessels.  My first reaction was, ‘How dare you’.  How dare you try to defame the name of a man who fought four tours killing the people who plot to kill us every single day.  How dare you try to take away the pride his family feels when they remember his sacrifice to this nation.  The comments about how snipers are cowards were even more upsetting.  These men and women train countless hours to be able to save us from our enemy’s wrath, the wrath that caused September 11, 2001.

After I calmed down a little (not too much, because I’m still violently disgusted in those who claim to be US supports/citizens who clearly are not) I realized that these empty vessels, these ignorant individuals obviously did not read his book, did not look further than the Hollywood movie, and therefore are fools with voices.  If they had read his book they would have a much better understanding of how very difficult it was for Chris Kyle to do the job he did.  He wasn’t a murderer, he was a protector and we are less safe without him in this world.

So, as the critics go on with their defamation of a hero and spew nonsense with their rights (freedom of speech, for example) that people like Chris Kyle fight to protect, I will know in my heart of hearts that these people are truly the ignorant, shameful, and absolutely are not Americans regardless of nationality.

By the wayside

There are so many positive attributes that have come from technological advances over time.  Computers have paved the way for personal growth instead of just being a big box in an office from which to run reports.  Social media has proven to be a means for people to unite from all over the world who would not normally do so.  It’s been a bridge that has connected people who would have lost contact for years, maybe even lifetimes.  Smartphones have made it easier to keep in contact, keep busy, organize life, and become more productive when used properly.  All these lovely creations have brought so much more depth to people’s lives by bringing others easily within reach – technically.

However, like all positives, there’s a negative somewhere.  It’s like my mom used to say, there is no hate without love and vice versa.  It’s the classic yin-yang of technology.  Because we’ve become so reliable on technology a lot of other areas of our lives have either changed or diminished altogether.

Tradition, as we knew it just twenty years ago, has all but gone by the wayside.  Ask the younger generations how many Christmas cards they receive, and of those how many are from their generation.  How many birthday invitations come in the mail for children?  Who, other than the ones older than generation X, sends birthday cards?  These simple traditions have been replaced by evites, texts, Facebook messages, posts, and emails.  The only letters I have hand-written and mailed in the last few years have been to my grandmother who is in a convent.  When is the last time you printed a picture to put in a photo album?  Personally, it’s been a couple years for me as I am just as guilty.

Never mind these simple traditions, what about the big ones?  We’ve become a society so busy with our technologically organized lives that we forget to plan for the big events or we’re too busy to do so.  Family reunions happen less and less.  One part of my extended family hasn’t been together for a holiday in years, and I mean years.  My children don’t even know who some of these people are and I grew up with them at every birthday, every holiday, and every family event.  Today, I see their posts via Facebook and pictures via Instagram.

Technology has begun to rob us of what we once held dear.  We may not be so wise of it right now, but it’s there creeping in slowly like the mist of morning fog.  Don’t let your traditions fall by the wayside, grab them and hold them and then pass them to the next generation like that old creepy doll collection from your great-great somebody or other.  You never know, one day they may be worth something.

This week, we borrow from Nonamedufus and his self-titled blog, “Taught By My Example.”

“I love to spoil them.” and/or “tradition”

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Robin Williams, a legend

I’ve stared at this blinking cursor for a while, I’ve saved and re-saved this draft, and I’ve deleted more than I’ve written.  My heart is heavy and I feel as if I have lost a part of my character, a part of my childhood.  The world lost a legend, a genius.  Robin Williams is a household name.  He was in so many shows, films, and on so many stages that I honestly cannot say there should be an adult alive (and even a child) who does not know his name, who has not laughed at his hand, who hasn’t absorbed some part of his character into their soul.  It is simply impossible.

I have never met Robin Williams, as I daresay most of normal society hasn’t, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t taken with me parts of him from the moments he shared with the world.  Great actors and great writers do that, they let you borrow a little bit of themselves to take with you on your own personal journey.  I cried many tears over the news of his passing.  Tears because he passed, and tears because of how he passed – that he felt so alone and so lost.  My heart breaks for the struggles he went through.

I’ve seen and fallen in love with so much of his work that it’s difficult to pinpoint a favorite.  However, there are a few that have touched me and have stayed with me just a bit more than the others.

My first date with my now husband, 22 years ago, was to see Aladdin.  I was 14 years old and loved Disney movies, not to mention that was the only movie playing my mother would let me attend with a boy.  I remember looking at my husband and thinking to myself, if he can laugh at a big blue genie with me then I’ll have to get to know him better.  In that sense, Robin Williams was there on my first date with my husband and brought us closer with his profound ability to make someone laugh.  Dead Poets Society instilled into me the courage I needed to write, to let myself be me, to go against the status quo.  It truly inspired me in so many deeply personal ways that I cannot name them all.

There is one movie that touched me so much so, I still call upon it to get over bad days.  That movie is What Dreams May Come.  If you’ve read the 100 things about me, then you’ve read that I have an irrational fear of dying.  Not how I will die, but dying itself and the fear of nonexistence – it’s a fear I’ve had as long as I can remember.  What if my faith is wrong?  I ‘what if’ myself into a panic attack that can only be compressed by my anxiety medications and the memory of this movie.  I never read the book because for one, I didn’t know there was one, but for two I didn’t want to ruin the movie.  My husband, knowing this very real fear of mine, introduced this movie to me years ago – back in the VCR days.  I watched it repeatedly and it captivated me.  I can’t say it healed me, but it has made dealing with that fear a great deal easier.  His role in that movie, his dedication, his faith, his love, his determination to make sure his wife wasn’t alone moved me leaps and bounds.

Yes, Robin Williams will always be a household name and his movies will live on in the hearts of millions.  Despite or even because of his illness, he successfully touched us all.

With every season

Sitting on my back deck, hiding from the kids whose water balloons I narrowly escape while coming into the house, I take a deep breath.  I smell neighbors grilling some delicious loveliness and my stomach growls to remind me I have to cook, but not just yet.  I take another deep breath.  It’s refreshing, even calming, the smell of rain that skipped our little neighborhood.  I can see the clouds through the tops of the trees and hear a slight rumble, and I’m thankful to see it from a distance.  I can smell the delightful tea olive trees that are just behind our fence, such a sweet fragrance that reminds me of my grandmother.

I close my eyes and I listen.  I hear neighbors talking, but I’m not paying attention to their words.  I hear dogs playing and conversing in their own right, but they aren’t too loud.  I hear giggles and squeals, and I chuckle and the sounds of water balloons breaking against the concrete.  I listen to the little carpenter bee trying to bore a hole into my porch and think I should take care of him, but I don’t and leave him at his work instead.

I lean my head back against the iron chair and open my eyes.  The blue just overhead is so rich and welcoming.  The white that I see reminds me of cotton balls and childhood.  The trees are so green, so vibrant and alive as they slightly sway in the warm breeze.  I catch sight of two birds dancing overhead, dipping and swirling to their own music.  As I scan the backyard I watch butterflies rushing and flittering through the bushes next to the vivid orange tiger lilies.  I’ve watched the lilies grow and now they finally bloom.  It’s at that point, when I’m so in love with their bloom, I realize they are a reminder that it’s closer to the time when summer will end taking with it the beautiful outdoor familiarity only experienced during its season.

 

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Slowing down

Image courtesy of freeimageslive.com
Image courtesy of freeimageslive.com

 

I confess that when I first saw this picture prompt, I was elated.  I was rushed with feelings from childhood birthday parties.  I was fully prepared to spit out witty reminiscences of happy days of youth spent drawing with sidewalk chalk, balloon tosses, eating strawberry shortcake cupcakes, and visiting Disney World, but I digress.  You see, my 36th birthday is next week.

I’ve heard often during the passing of another year, ‘it beats the alternative’, and indeed it does.  However, this year is one year closer to leaving my mid-thirties.  I’m not ready to leave them just yet, I’m not sure I’ve appreciated them well enough and I know I didn’t get to know them like I had hoped to.  I thought we’d be better friends before we parted.  I feel like we hardly know each other at all.

Oh, how I remember my 20s.  We became close friends, there weren’t these broken years I’ve come to know in my 30s.  My 20s were just my 20s, no early, mid, or late, just them and all their youthful glorious fun.  Hell, it wasn’t until last year that I learned my 30s came with sections.  I felt so ill prepared.  I would have tried to hang onto the early ones a little longer and certainly would have mentally prepared for the mids.

All that’s left are the lates.  At least I know now not to screw that up, too.  Oh, I’ll be bitter for a minute, I’m a woman and that’s what we do – or that’s what I do any way.  After the bitterness I’m going to get to know them, take them out on the town more often, compliment them and tell them they’re pretty.  I might even try to give them some healthier options, slim them up a bit, maybe go on more walks.  The lates and I are going to be besties.  Plenty of movies, laughs, and slow dances, it’s what the lates are made for, I think.  Though, I’m not really sure since I’ve yet to introduce myself, but I will and I hope they will be as grand as their predecessors.

All I know is I hope to slow down a bit and savor them like an old bottle of wine.

 

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From a child’s eye

Images courtesy of freeimages.co.uk
Images courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

I was 12 years old and my brother was graduating from Navy basic training in San Diego, CA.  I remember his going away party like it was yesterday.   This party, though, was one for the books.  We had a 3-floor split level home and one of my dad’s best friends brought a gas station sized American Flag to drape in front of our house. There were so many people, so many laughs, and so many tears.  I don’t really remember the day he left, but I remember the sadness that overtook the party at the end when everyone wished him well.

Fast forward 8 weeks and my parents let me know we were going to be flying to California to watch him graduate and spend a week touring.  California!  This was the summer of 1990, people!  Just after the movie, Pretty Woman was released.  You could imagine my excitement to see Rodeo Drive!  Of course, that was before I realized San Diego was not at all near Rodeo Drive.  (My dad, being the awesome man he is, later got us to Beverly Hills and the Hollywood sign for a day anyway)

After his graduation and after I melted over the fact that I used the same bathroom in the USO building from the scene in Top Gun where Maverick followed Charlie, my dad wanted to visit Mexico.  Wow!  Mexico? Another country?  This was quickly turning into the best vacation ever.

It wasn’t a long drive, I remember, and we ended up at what reminded me as the toll booths on our highways back in GA.  We go in and Dad gets us to Tijuana, Mexico.  Naturally, I had no way of knowing what to expect.

My dad wanted to go to the shops in the town to barter for items on which he knew he could get great deals.  We ended up going down a small open tunnel that smelled of urine, rotting food, and God only knows what else.  I was scared beyond any of my monsters under the bed imaginations I had up until now.  I remember women and men off to the side-eyeing us.  Luckily, my father stands 6’4″ so no one really talked to us.  Except this little girl who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old and there she stood with her coffee can looking at us with these huge sad, brown eyes.  My heart broke.  This was the first time I saw real pain and real sorrow.  She was hungry.  She was poor.  After much begging and pleading, I got my dad to give her some money.

The vacation ended up being very wonderful, but there are so many times in my life where I find myself looking back at that little girl in that tunnel, and for an instant, my problems seem so small.

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The ugly truth, as I see it

Soapboxes – everyone has them and here’s one of mine…

 

I am sure, by now, you’ve heard of the horrific California shooting.  If you haven’t, please go google, I’ll wait.  The twisted individual who committed these acts of violence stated he blamed the ‘cruelty’ of ‘vicious and evil’ women for his actions.  Moreover he blames his virginity for part of his hatred and that women would refuse him was shocking to him.  This man was vile and insane.  He was a misogynistic lunatic.

As with each new tragedy where the sick bastard uses a gun, the discussion comes up about more severe gun laws, mental health connections, and the like.  I don’t jump on this bandwagon at all, but I admit there’s a flaw somewhere.  Is it with gun control?  Is it mentally unstable people who purchase the guns?  Is it society and the news media?  Is it parenting?  These are the recent questions and comments I see after these events.  So, which is it?  I don’t know I don’t have the answers, just questions and my own opinions.

The recent events in California have caused the state to fight to restrict guns for people who are suspected of having mental health issues.  One report mentioned where they would like family members to be able to go to the police to warn them and then the new law would prevent them from purchasing guns.  Sure, that’s one step, but is that enough?  Is that going to fix anything?  The asshole who committed these acts of violence did so with a gun, killing 3 and injuring 13 more.  He also killed 3 with a knife.  Here in my local town, a man was recently beheaded in his home and the same happened a few years back to a young woman on a walk.  In Pennsylvania a kid went on a stabbing frenzy at a school.  Last week a 16-year-old was arrested in Oklahoma after stabbing another student.  Yesterday a young girl lost her life when her classmate stabbed her to death.  My point is these acts of violence happen all the time and with any weapon of choice.  Maybe it’s not a question of the type of weapons.

Let’s touch on the mental health issue.  Currently, unless someone is involuntarily held in a mental institution, there is nothing a family can do to stop a family member from purchasing a gun.  How do you get mentally unstable people involuntarily committed?  It’s harder than you think.  While it varies by state, usually either a court or doctor has to do it.  If you go to a court you’ll be asked some questions and they will decide if they feel there is an immediate threat, then there must be a hearing, then that person can get a second opinion, if they are declared mentally unstable.  Do you see where this would be a bit of a snag?  The family of the idiot in California went to the police who did a ‘care visit’ and didn’t find him a threat.  Obviously, this guy was a threat and obviously his family knew, but there’s not a lot that can be done quickly.  Keep in mind if the person is mentally unstable, but able to manipulate, a court or doctor or police may never be convinced they need to be detained.  It seems to be a pretty fair assumption that this part of the ‘system’ is flawed.

Now, what about society and news media?  It’s evident that the news media is covering far more than they used to 20+ years ago thanks to social media and new technology outlets allowing news to travel quickly.  I think it’s pretty clear, also, that the news media will paint any picture they want about a victim, an assailant, a business, whomever and whatever.  The most recent, in my mind, is that of Treyvon Martin who was shown in media as a 12 year-old, not a 6’2” 17 year-old.  Does that make the loss of someone’s child easier? Absolutely not!  At the end of the day he was a 17 year-old kid whose life was over way too early.  Of course it’s tragic whenever a family loses a loved one no matter the situation, but the truth of the media painting a picture, is no less true.  The media needs to be held responsible for fueling issues that their stories ignite.  However, freedom of speech is just that – freedom of speech and painting whatever picture gets the most views.

Lastly, parenting…I see many flaws in this particular system.  Parents need to step up and do their damn job.  Technology is fantastic and it’s giving us possibilities never thought of 20+ years ago, but it’s destroying the minds of our kids at the same time.  Computers, Smartphones, Tablets, Video Systems, and Televisions are NOT responsible for raising your children!!!  I am a mother.  I have every one of those items mentioned in my home.  I also, however, have restrictions set on them at all times.  To name a few, there are time limits, there are rules, and there are limitations to the types of games and movies allowed to be played or viewed.  There are 4 and 5 years between my oldest and my 2 youngest.  What we allow our nearly 17 year old to watch and play has changed as he has, but all of our rules are set based on not only age, but on what that particular child can grasp.  Do I think violent video games and movies cause all the violence we see, especially in schools?  No, obviously not – but it’s a contributing factor and you’re living in a fantasy world better than mine if you believe differently.

Parents are lazy now.  Not all, maybe not most – but enough for our country to notice the difference.  I don’t think technology is to blame, but I think it’s a huge factor.  Even ‘ol Eminem says it plainly in one of his popular songs he made with Rihanna, ‘Love the way you lie’.  Remember that song?  It went viral, after Rhianna was bludgeoned by her then boyfriend, as an anthem to those in abusive relationships.  The line I’m referring to is,

“You don’t get another chance

Life is no Nintendo game”

Kids don’t think like that much anymore.  They are too caught up in extra lives for their games that they are losing touch with reality, with life and how precious it really is.  Parents aren’t doing a good enough job instilling a sense of fear, of awareness, of responsibility, of knowledge, of love.  Parents are failing their kids.  I’m not perfect, I’ll never claim to be anywhere close to it, but at least I recognize what the real issue is – and haven’t you ever heard…it takes a village to raise a child.  If our village and our parents are flawed, what happens to our kids?

Location, Location, Location

I’ve heard it’s all about ‘Location’.  What ‘it’ is and where that ‘location’ is, well that’s a secret unknown to me.  I’ve never claimed to have all the answers, or even how to find them.  I have, however, discovered recently that taking a bubble bath is quite a thought provoking adventure that leads to questions and sometimes answers.  It’s like all those popping bubbles whisper things, or maybe it’s just the wine.  I digress.

We recently moved…again…for the 3rd time in 17 or so years.  See, we were the stable parents living in the same place for years and then WHAM we’re pretending we’re gypsies with no firm roots to any one place.  That’s not true.  We really aren’t pretending.  I never claimed to be a great parent, either.  What’s with all this rambling today???  As I was trying to say…we moved.  It’s been an adjustment for us all, but much more positive than I thought it was going to be.

Maybe that, too, is a lie.  Maybe it’s not so positive that I’m deliriously giddy about the fact my kids are all scraped up.  Again, no claims on great parenting.  But they are in this condition because for the first time in their lives they are outside on bikes riding around with other kids more than they are inside watching TV or playing electronics.  It’s like they’re real kids.  Real kids who ride bikes.  Real kids who come in sweaty and gross from a day of play.  Real kids who laugh and fall down a lot.  Real kids who learned to ride a bike when they were little and haven’t been back on them at length again until now so they keep flailing around like little drunk bicyclers.  It’s pretty fucking awesome.

The lesson today kids is that Location really is everything.  The only trick is you just gotta find yours.  Hey! Didn’t I say I don’t have all the answers?

To Dream or Not To Dream

I am blessed with a good memory of my childhood (which is strange in and of itself as I often can’t remember what I ate yesterday).  I lived in a time where we could leave our doors open, when there weren’t leash laws so dogs followed the children playfully throughout the neighborhood, a time where mud pies and ‘lightening bugs’ were the highlight of a summer, and a time where the biggest worry was what everyone was going to wear the first day of school.  The neighborhood I grew up in is now one that no one would want to drive through without being fully armed, but when I lived there it was full of young families where every mother knew every child and didn’t hesitate to scold you and send you home for dinner.

Summers were spent outside since there weren’t a lot of families with video games.  My family bought a Nintendo64, but we were the kids that would rather play flashlight hide and seek rather than be inside with the ‘old people’.   One of my memories isn’t just one at all.  Nearly every day I spent time laying at the top of the big hill of our driveway staring up at the clouds watching them morph from dinosaurs to Volkswagens.  I could do that for hours, and often did when time permitted.  It was laying there and looking into the blue sky that I began to dream of a future I could hardly imagine.  As a child, it was hard for me to think past Christmas that year, let alone ten or fifteen years ahead.  It wasn’t until the game MASH became popular that made me really start to give my future self some thought.  I had big dreams.  I was going to live in a Mansion, marry Donnie Wahlberg from New Kids on the Block, drive a red mustang, live in California, have 3 kids, and be a teacher.  Yes, I was going to be very happy and this little game started my most memorable childhood dream.

Naturally, I knew I wasn’t going to marry Donnie Wahlberg, but everything else seemed plausible in my mind though I later changed my idea of a Mansion to a really nice middleclass brick home.  The only thing that really panned out was that I am a mother to three children.  In my dreams, I never really considered becoming pregnant at 18, dropping out of college, spending three years as a single mom, eventually marrying the father of my son, and struggling to just stay within the lower-middle-class spectrum.  Those weren’t my dreams at all, even sans the MASH game.

For years I struggled with this.  I had to let my childhood dreams go and welcome reality.  I realized that the loss of my dreams didn’t change the quality of the life I’ve lived.  We have finally landed squarely in a decent home, have an SUV big enough to cart around a 10, 11, and 15 year old, a retirement plan, and while I’m not a teacher, I get to play one at home when homework is too hard.  Dreams have a way a making one feel inadequate when they don’t come true, but I’m just happy to have what I have.

This is my submission to the weekly writing prompt from Studio Thirty Plus

Life is a journey

I wrote this in 2008.  I find it as relevant now as it was then.

‘Life is a journey’; what an understatement that seems to be.  In and out of our lives come people who will inevitably change our entire demeanor; our entire existence as we know it.  Albeit positive or negative, who we meet and the issues with which we deal alter us most profoundly.  As ageless as time comes love; it speaks volumes to us in loud, dramatic screams and at times in sweet, erotic whispers. The choices we make are generally set in stone as it is in human nature; never willing to change, never willing to falter; we are creatures of habit, pride, responsibility, and nobility.

We find ourselves drawn to remaining true to ourselves as well as our decisions.  In an instant, our world can change, forcing us to reevaluate our previous actions and often times – our own selves.  At which point do we understand that our decisions, if true to our soul, are ultimately right?  At which point do you find yourself along the way and learn to live more selfishly and less self-sacrificing?  It’s the point when we find someone else who alters us so entirely, so permanently that we realize we would give our own life as we know it to spend an eternity with them just to make them smile; this is that point that we let go of our former self.  Someone whose love is so intense that we find it difficult to breathe without it, difficult to see the light of the sun without the presence of the other.  This love defines you.

From the wonderful words of William Shakespeare comes the truth in all our lives:  The sun itself sees not til heaven clears.  Not fate, not destiny but instead love and decision – this is what drives us and this is from what our decisions should be made.  We hold our fate in the palm of our hands, able to turn it, exchange it, or embrace it.  We are the masters of our own fate in order to aptly make reason of our destiny.  We are the owners of our own soul, able to share this with whom we choose.  Logic and reason no longer play havoc on our minds when love is present.  Love is not just a feeling that lives in our metaphoric heart; it’s a choice to give yourself over completely.

Know that if the love you have is true, all decisions based on it will undoubtedly be the correct path.  Love is natural, it should never be difficult or reluctant, it should never be hard to keep or something on which needs constant work.  Cars need work, love needs only to be given and returned.  If indeed it is true to our soul – it finds us, alters us, and never leaves us; hence logic and reason disappearing completely.  When two souls join as one nothing else can matter and nothing can stand in the way.  Love freely, be guarded less, embrace your happiness and care not who else this affects.  Life is a journey?  No, life is a series of short stories until we find the one who writes the never-ending novel.