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Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Really?  I’m taking a survey. Vote for one or more.

  1. How many of you are done with your holiday shopping? You planned it out and spread the expense over the course of the year so it would not hit your budget ridiculously in February when all those credit card bills need to be faced. This actually happens rarely, although many of us have good intentions. For example, I had half my shopping done by October….but THEN received lists of needful things from my family. 
  2. You set aside money each month and stash it somewhere you hope you forget when an emergency comes up (new tires, dog is sick, etc). This was the budget to spread over 12 months and the shopping can get serious at this time of year, permitting you to catch the sales. Some stores market “BEST PRICES ALL YEAR”  but do you know that? Have you been checking prices earlier?
  3. You’ve told your family that there will be only one present per person from you.  And then you see something perfect for someone…..and get it..and soon you are breaking the rule you set up.  But they’ll stick to it and only get one for you. You will work on not feeling disappointed.  
  4. This year will be different. All gifts will be useful and sustainable.  The family will do a service project for the community to feel that your good deed has been taken care of.  Getting up at 6am to help cook breakfast for the hungry on Christmas morning is NOT a favorite choice. 
  5. This year you need to get serious to protect your family when the SHTF. Everyone needs a new semi-automatic weapon (I think there is a pink one that your  6-year-old daughter will love.) You will not tell the Christmas story to your children. Who needs all that “Peace on earth, good will to all” nancypants liberal garbage?  Oops, the 3-year-old grabbed the 6-year-old’s loaded weapon? Well, your aunt was always a bit odd, so not too big a deal. 
  6. You saw some snowflake on Facebook posted a list of stores that were starting their Black Friday sales on Thursday. Their corporate greed is not your concern, but you can make fun and find fault at the person’s post anyway.  After all, your cousin Bubba earns minimum wage (not a living wage) working at Wally World so he can use the money and no one likes him at the Thanksgiving table anyway. More pumpkin pie for you. 
  7. You really don’t buy much for anyone so this is no big deal. You might go out Christmas Even to the local drug store and pick up some toilet water. Then again, why bother. It’s not as if that person loves you. 

In my family, growing up, we celebrated Hanuka, but on Christmas morning, at the bottom of the stairs as we headed down to breakfast, my sisters and I would find a book, not wrapped, because the appearance of being a gift needed to be hidden. It was usually about a history of the Jewish people or a book about Israel. The only time we discussed this annual habit of my parents was when I was in college and dared to have a non-Jewish boyfriend. We had a loud discussion about mixed messages which, of course, was not resolved.

But what concerns me most of all is all the other hyped up messages that people receive this time of year.

  • Our Biggest Sale of the Year starts now! 30% OFF our entire selection of figure flattering, easy care dresses when you use the code GIVETHANKS at checkout. Proudly made in USA. Is giving thanks for getting a discount a bit self-serving?
  • Our Green Friday sale is here! Get 20% off everything plus a mystery gift*! 🌲ten trees planted for every item sold🌲 *while supplies last! Going GREEN makes you feel good…grab those bargains, keep the mystery gift for yourself, everyone wins! Do you live a sustainable lifestyle 364 other days a year?
  • Get in line early to capture the best! Don’t consider what you look like.  Don’t put any thought into this…just laugh…yup, you’ve been co-opted.pet smart

We know why the advertisements hit us nonstop starting  before Halloween. Retail earns over 50% of their annual income at this time of year.   Ever recognize the puppet strings attached to you?

You have taught your children to ask for toys they see in commercials and to eat foods they see advertised on tv. Your kids have behaviors that show they know only how to express the “wants” as “needs”. You have not been teaching them how to plan for a big purchase, how to defer gratification.  You criticize other people’s children while they are looking at yours with a stink-eye because of their fussing, their whining.

Even in the midst of the recession I was amazed at the people I would see eating out.  It is easier for people to wrack up credit card debt than to learn to cook. And bankruptcies are on the rise, so that explains why people who support Trump did not blink an eye at his multiple bankruptcies. The dream of being rich like him is not reality, but you can wrack up debt like Trump and blow it off like him. You admire him for showing you the way to not be responsible. That has become normalcy.

And meanwhile, we have numerous crafters and artisans who offer their efforts at affordable prices. and small local businesses that are owned by your neighbors.  They offer unique gifts that mean your loved ones will NOT be getting the same things as everyone else. This means that the artists earns pennies for all the hours s/he has spent to create, to share their talent. And most people scoff at what is shown, saying “I can do it” (but never do anything like it) and walk on.

I truly hope people find purpose and joy in their holiday celebrations. I just wonder if the message your children are learning is the one you are hoping to teach.

This video opens the door to fixing this need to buy more get more to feel worthy. My only addition would be, that if you don;t feel yourself as “perfect” as he wants you to feel, get to work! You can achieve a better place, but it starts inside.

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When the Family Fails

I want to share a story while providing some sense of privacy for the people who are at the center of this tale…..they are human like the rest of us. Like the rest of us, the choices they have made and continue to make seem to serve them but they are not happy people, so perhaps even they realize something is very wrong with their life path.

My birth family had its issues. My parents were very close, at times to the exclusion of my sisters and me. See, mom was not healthy. I have no idea what her diagnosis would have been but each of us kids have had our adult issues because what we were TOLD and what we OBSERVED were two different things.

My parents did a lot of good things for us that, for me, offset the negatives a lot. They took us camping around the United States. They encouraged us to learn musical instruments and we were all active in Girl Scouts. We received our religious education and while we did not go to Temple each Friday or Saturday, we went enough for me to understand my heritage and that doing good deeds was a part of making a good life.

But I always knew some of the things mom said were not based in the reality where I was living. I spent a few years in my early adulthood breaking many of those “rules”, proving my life would be just fine even if I rebelled.  I stumbled, and I picked myself up and I learned very quickly that no one, not even my parents would ever ever rescue me.

My sisters and I have compared notes over the years and they did not have the same perception I did. The rules were the rules and there was a lot of guilt over breaking them.  We had failed marriages. We had addictions. We grew through them and beyond them. We still probably continue to stumble sometimes but we have never ever said “stay away from me” because we are family.

dysfunctional-family

source: Lucky Otters Haven

Meanwhile, around us are a kazillion other families, each trying in their own way to do the right thing with their kids. But we know our society has been failing. We have kids who are out of control. Adults now, they want what they want when they want it. They don’t know how to plan for a goal and deferred gratification is a concept that they never learned.

Many adults were not taught life skills by their parents and do not know how to cook a healthy meal. How to plan a budget. How to get along.  How to TRY to get along. They feel what they feel and everyone else who feels differently is wrong wrong wrong. Even sick and maybe should be hospitalized.  Attack and deflect if you can’t get along…..make it the other person’s fault and never never assume any responsibility.

And it goes to the parents….and then to those adult children who continue the cycle by striking out at anyone who ruffles the waters, who disturbs the system that holds the status quo together.

Image result for shutting the door in someone's faceI have a friend I met over 20 years ago who needed a place when her family told her “don’t come here” and so, she came to me. Now, I know with my own mother, most people looking at our family never imagined we had anything less than “happy” going on behind our doors, but that’s the way it was. So I can imagine that it is hard for a 50-70 year history of aggravation to be set aside to rise and be a family, especially when there is a strong person in charge. Even if she is not healthy.  Especially if she is not healthy.

I understand how hard it is to confront an irrational person, even when it is apparent to all around her that things are not right. Weak people tend to hide. They do not want to be the next target.  So they are compliant and accept the way it is, and anyone who tells them otherwise, like me and this blog, is wrong.

Too many people would rather sweep issues that are difficult under the carpet in the attempt to ignore them. Too many people come on aggressively when they feel a horrible conflict with what they “should” do and what they “must” do.

And so, we see homeless people. We see people on drugs trying to make their world calmer, less scary.

When all they need is love and acceptance.

I know they will read this. I know it will not help calm the waters, but you know what, NOTHING I do would help. The only change that could happen has to be from them.

There will be tears. There will be anger. And you know what, it just is more of the same. A pattern that has gone on for over 70 years. People educated in psychiatry would be quick to tell me this blog is not wise.

But it is time for someone to speak up. Before more families do this to each other.  Maybe someone somewhere will recognize that they need some meds or counseling or something to heal the pain that grew. Image result for love and acceptanceMaybe……I hope so.

 


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The Most Important Job in the World

What’s the most important job in the world? Nope, not being the President of the United States, although we are learning right now how leadership in that role can influence how others think about us.   But few of us can do that job well, and so, not just anyone should assume the mantle.

I’m  speaking about parenting. Many of us are parents, have been parents, or want to be parents. Many of us should NOT be parents.

Ouch! Was that too nasty?  Perhaps….and perhaps not.

Let’s take an example from something on my Facebook feed today. Facebook is an excellent way to measure the values of your extended community. Some people who post on your feed are people you know well, others not so well, and others are “friends of friends” and you don’t really know them at all. It’s a microcosm of society.  Facebook is NOT good for trustworthy news….make sure to check everything you think is news there. But Facebook is good at understanding people’s viewpoints and that is what makes up society.

This morning a friend shared a concern that a teacher friend of hers had with parents of elementary school aged children. The teacher had posted that she starts the school year each year for the past 25 years the same way. She sends home papers for the parents to complete. We know this pile, and yes, it is an annoyance. But she sends home one more that she originates. She asks for information about the child: likes and dislikes, attitudes about going to school, family life and activities and more. She said she used to receive these essays from 98% of parents, she said in the last decade she has noticed a huge decline. Only 20% of parent’s participate in this.

Yes, I know we all work long hours. Yes, I know there is a lot that needs to be done each and every day.  But, this is parenting. You had babies. Now, the question becomes, what kind of adult do you want to grow?

About 30 years ago I had to make a decision about my marriage. I had two small children (ages 1 and 3) and a husband who was self-centered and diagnosed with several mental health issues. When I saw the toddler mimicking his father’s behavior I knew I was not raising those kids in a healthy environment. I knew that my job was NOT what made money and supported the family (he had stopped working) but to raise those children to be healthy adults who not only could function in society but contribute to it.

We have lots of complaints about kids’ behavior and lack of ambition. We hear all too often that some kids lash out in anger over disappointments. We hear that there have been three generations of families on support programs.  We have a problem and it IS us.

It is parents who are not emotionally mature enough to recognize that their priority for the next 18 years after giving birth is to raise a child who finds joy in life, is excited to be intellectually curious, and enjoys participating in community service to feel a part of solutions.

Image result for intellectual curiosity

source: http://www.smartbrief.com

What? No time?  Unless you are physically out of the house trying to earn a living 16 hours a day, that won’t fly. And if you are out of the house that much, who has your child? Surely you will place your child with a caregiver who will be teaching them how to tackle life’s challenges and embrace the wonderful things.

But I think most people are not away from their children. Most people may be struggling themselves with the burdens of everyday life and may be focusing on their own needs as their first priority. And that is still not the best.

Yes, you need some alone time to regenerate energy. No question about it. I chose 5am-6am. I asked no one to disturb me even if they were awake. That was MY time.

Then at 6am we could start the kids’ day. They had picked out their clothes (with my help as age appropriate) the night before so there was no “where are my shoes” emergencies. There is time for breakfast and packing a lunch before needing to be out the door for the bus or walk or car ride to school when you start early enough.

Can’t get up that early and be functional? Why not? What time did you get yourself to bed to sleep? What kind of “help” did you use to relax the night before that leaves you sluggish in the morning?  What are you teaching your children about responsibility and how they will be as adults?  They will mimic you.

When my youngest was in high school he ran cross country and track.  After the first track meet I saw I would be sitting in the stands for 5 hours between his first and last race.  The next meet I brought my camera and started taking photos. My husband did also.  We were recognized as team photographers and allowed on the field and for 4 years we captured photos of all 80 kids trying their best. HHS April 10 2012 1600m

I posted the photos on a site where (with a password) anyone could grab them and just about all the kids and some parents thanked us for our effort, but no one took over when we “graduated”.  It really amazed and saddened me when most parents never showed up to the high school track meets, even when they were held at our school. No car? There’s a bus and there are other people you can call for a ride.  There are ALWAYS solutions. It depends on you and what you want to do with and for your children.

Just as lust is not love, having sex does not mean you should have a baby.  But if you DO have a baby (and this is for men as well as women) you have just assumed responsibility to raise them. To be better than you are! To learn right and wrong! To develop solutions to problems! To recognized they are part of a community and receive benefits from that community so make time to give something back in service!

Because parents are ducking their responsibility, the concept of “life 101” classes to be held in middle school and high school needs to include a lot of things parents USED TO teach their children. How to develop a budget and live within it. How to balance a checkbook.  How to cook so you can make healthy meals and not need to depend on frozen options that are full of chemicals. How to sew so you can at least put a button back on a shirt. How to iron. How to change a tire. How to make a goal and work towards it. How to how to how to. The list goes on.

Image result for what parents should teach their child

source: http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2011/02/07/100-things-all-parents-should-teach-their-children/

How to adult. Just because you are over 18 and legally an adult does not seem to equate to maturity with many people.  My parents had a saying that irritated me but it was a truism. At that time 21 was the age of legal majority so they would say “You do not automatically become an adult and know how to do everything when you are 21.”

They taught me much of what I needed to know and yes, some of their concepts were outdated and I rebelled.  I failed and picked myself up again and went on. That is also part of what we need to teach our kids. How to be resilient.

So, when you look at that beautiful newborn and get teary eyed over his potential, develop your plan of action. When you catch yourself spanking the 2-year-old trying to explore her world, change your parenting discipline to one that teaches with reason, not pain. When your 7-year-old tells you he hates you, explain calmly you know that feeling because perhaps right then you are hating their behavior, but you know they can choose to behave in a way that is better. When your 10-year-old gets Cs, look to your own time helping with homework; if you haven’t been you should be able to help pull that grade up to a B at least.  Long before your 15-year-old gets pregnant tell her age appropriate information  about the physical and emotional responsibility of actions….ALL actions. (Get over it people….you had sex and guess what, they will too!)

It takes work to be a parent. And to be a good parent takes a lot more work than many people are putting in.

Look around you. How many people are lonely?  Their kids have flown away and hardly ever come to visit or have contact.  How many people are so judgemental that if the child had opinions that differed from the parent the kid was told they were wrong but not why the parent feels that way.  I talked to an elderly man who was trolling the parking lot of the church looking for his daughter who was homeless. He told me how he hated her having a Latino boyfriend and had told her she could come home but not with him. He did not see he had built the wall that his daughter would not climb over.  Do you know people like that?

It starts with babies. How you raise your kids makes a difference.  Remember that each time you are ready to condemn the actions of “kids today”.

Image result for what parents should teach their child

source: http://www.excite.com/education/blog/parents-need-to-take-responsibility-for-their-childrens-behavior

 

 

 

 


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You DO have time….you have today.

In the past seven years I have really been involved in the local farm-to-table food movement. I urge people to cook from whole foods. They will enjoy the flavor so much more and they can control ingredients, getting away from preservatives that very well could be influencing your health.  But all too many people have the same answer: “I don’t have time to cook.”

Years ago I was ecstatic that my oldest son’s elementary school offered a parenting course when he was in 1st grade. STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) helped me recognize nonverbal signs when things were heading south in the kids’ behavior or my own response. I learned to stop things from escalating out of control and how to talk in a way that taught and provided discipline instead of punishment. I helped my kids learn to take responsibility for their actions and how to communicate their feelings, especially when their emotions were roiled up. And it seemed to have worked, because even if the three of them are not perfect by any means, they are wonderful active adults contributing to their communities. I have suggested this course or some other to many friends who are frustrated by their children’s behavior, since it really helped us.  But all too many people have the same answer: “I don’t have time for a 10-week seminar, one hour a week.”

Each of us makes choices, many of them, every single day. We decide simple things, like what to eat for breakfast and what to wear. And we decide harder things, like identifying the goal of the day.

Some of us are planners; we think about what we want/need to do and figure out the various ways to achieve that with all their pros and cons. Some of us never plan; we are reactors. We respond to things that go on around us. And much of the time we are surprised and maybe a little bit (or more) angry because things are not always the way we want it.

 

I want to share with you the story of one woman I never got to know until after I moved from West Virginia. Having common friends, her comments on Facebook resonated with me in many ways. A few issues were not in agreement and it was in private conversation that I learned that this woman understood her position. That nothing about her was merely reactive.

Until the shit hit the fan. Already a breast cancer survivor, you would agree with me that that should be all Paige should have had to deal with, but no. Her beloved husband collapsed with a brain aneurysm and she had to explain to their two young daughters that Daddy was never coming home. You might agree with me that that is more than any woman should need to deal with in her life.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Paige Muellerleile

Source: Paige M – too long ago

But no, still more. The cancer was back and fully metastasized throughout her body. Paige, above all else, is a realist. She understands there is not much time left.

Image may contain: 1 person, eating and indoor

source: Paige M December 2017

The pain of knowing she will not see her daughters graduate gets eased for minutes as she makes memories with them. She’s getting things in place, knowing they will be well loved by others to reach their goals, but it is not enough. There is not enough time left.

And then she posted this photo, and I looked at her…..and I see it. Life. In the moment. Participating. Grabbing all of it. Pain. Joy. Achievement. Struggle.

Paige HD

source: Herald Dispatch

So please please please look at your own life. Are you living? Go. Do.     You DO have time….you have today.


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I Did Okay

About thirty years ago I had an epiphany. My job was not the activity I did that provided income. My job, it hit me, was to raise those little munchkins I had birthed to become healthy and happy adults who could function as contributing members of society.

It wasn’t an easy road, as anyone who has walked it can attest. Having a spouse who had a completely different parenting philosophy was harder, believe it or not, than when I was a single mom.  But trying to parent alone can be a constant struggle against fatigue and a slippage of consistency.

I’m not a deep analytical thinker generally but as a kid, whenever I chafed at the rules and restrictions imposed by my parents that seemed unfair, I thought about why. What was the purpose of the rule?  Was it fair? Could my parents have achieved my compliance more readily if they had presented the need for a certain behavior a different way?  It seemed to me that the answer was yes, life was unfair to me then. easier to build a child

I knew my parents, overall, were okay. I understand better now that they had their own issues and that they did what they thought was the best thing for my sisters and me. And despite some developmental restrictions I had to learn to overcome as an adult (i.e, how to deal with anger in a way where it would not blow up into World War III) they gave me a lot of experiences that many other kids don’t get.

Our family was in no way child centric, but my parents were involved in activities that provided for my exploration and growth. Scouting, encouraging my love of reading, camping and travelling, helping us learn to swim, and PTA were things they did. There were inconsistencies about religious training and practice which I now recognize was a struggle between the way my dad and mom had each been raised. They encouraged my participation in the music education program starting in 4th grade, something I did with my kids and learned quickly to appreciate that my parents had provided that model.

What’s fascinating is that when I discuss memories and issues with my two sisters, their experiences sometimes were considerably different from mine. If that can happen in the same environment, the whole nurture vs nature concept shows up more clearly.genetics-nature-vs-nurture-4-638

Looking back it is easy to see that each of my kid’s personalities was evident right from the beginning.  They were who they are even as infants and toddlers. The way they expressed themselves, their willingness to explore or need to stay close, and their responses to me were challenging and wonderful and scary, all at the same time.  I recognized that this was my biggest responsibility in life and I knew I wanted to give them something better than I had had.

STEPI knew I wanted to parent differently but also knew that unless I made an effort to learn a new way, the guidance I heard in my head and heart would be the way I had been raised. I was fortunate that my older two kids attended an elementary school in  the “poor” neighborhood of a town in Connecticut where education was held in high esteem. (in other words, we paid higher taxes for the school system there than any other place I have lived.) The principal of the elementary school was a consummate grant writer and we had an amazing array of programs, offered free. One was a parenting class called Systematic Training for Effective Parenting.  While child raising practices have moved on, this served as an amazing framework for me to teach my kids about fair communication, accepting responsibility, and understanding that there will be consequences for misbehavior.  One of the best parts, particularly after a year or two of practice, was that we all had fewer angry meltdowns.  Me too.

I know it would be interesting to read their perspective of the experience. Now adults in their 20s and 30s, I suspect I would hear about all the horrible things I did to them. But I also think there would be many more positive issues. (I recognize that statement might be self serving. LOL)

I just came back from a long weekend to celebrate my youngest’s 23rd birthday. The joy I felt was better than any drug. I could easily see that despite a pathway taken that was not the original planned, he is doing fine. He is healthy. He is supporting himself (well, almost). He has good friends who also are finding their way along their own pathways.

One important difference, I think, between my parents and me is that I do not expect my kids to live their life the way I would if I had their opportunities.  This son struggled in school, a surprise to all of us. Yet in today’s economic turmoil, a college education is not proving to be the answer it was to my generation, so understanding there are other ways to earn the money to live is part of my letting go.  After all, earning a living is NOT the same as building a fulfilling life. My hope for this young man is the same as it was when he was born and he is well on his way to being the healthy, happy, functioning adult I tried to aim for with my parenting.

 

 

 


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Really? You Think It’s a Joke?

I’ve never been a light hearted soul…..things just are not right so much of the time that it concerns me.

That’s not to say  I’m not a happy person or enjoy a good laugh. I AM a  happy person who is pretty positive but I don’t laugh easily. Most of the time, it seems that other people think is funny just don’t hit me the same way.

Recently, in an effort to still try to talk to people who have viewpoints on the conservative end of the spectrum I have begun to respond to comments they make, particularly if the reaction of their other friends is laughter and the issue is not funny to me.  If the meme or comment is a putdown, so the joke is at someone’s expense, I am the stick in the mud who points out that it is not funny. That perhaps they forgot to pull on their Christian compassion before making fun of someone.  ( I only say that because they post a lot of Bible quotes and also how important it is that Jesus is in their lives.)not a joke

Generally, my comments are not appreciated. No surprise there. Someone who uses humor at other people’s expense generally is not comfortable being told, even when calmly and with quiet language, that their choice of words is not healthy.  I suppose it is only a matter of time until I am unfriended. Not a biggie, but it will be sad because the more we stop talking to each other, the sooner we will forget we have more commonalities than differences.

Being told to “lighten up, it’s only a joke” is something I’ve lived with. My last blog I told you about my first husband. This time, the story is about my second husband.

Before I go further I want to say this marriage produced two beautiful children who are now healthy adults, participating in society and enjoying life. Despite all the angst that resulted in that marriage I would never say or feel it never should have happened. I am blessed to have those children.

The differences between that man and me, our views on what life can be and our ways of aiming for our goals were very clear. Still, I can appreciate a few things he gave me that were gifts of insight I never would have made because I just did not think the same way.

For example, when my dad had been living with Parkinson’s disease for 10 years and no one would talk about it, he called us out on it.

For example, I had been fighting my naturally curly hair all my life trying to make it straight and he suggested I get it cut well so it would be acceptable to me.

For example, when he asked me if I liked to dance and when I said yes, pulled over to the curb and pulled me out to dance to the radio on the grass.

But those were few and far between. Life with him was usually off kilter at best and downright fearful of what I might find when I came home when things were at the worst.

See, he is mentally ill. His diagnosis has changed over time but he never worked to “get better” because he argued the therapists wanted him to change. Well, duh. What you’re doing is not working. Maybe a change would be a good idea?

And his favorite expression, after he would denigrate me was “I’m only joking.” Sorry, forgot to laugh. In fact, instead of not laughing I had to work hard to stay calm because of his fragile mental state.

It was clear that he thought only of himself and how the world revolved around him.  He is unchanged to this day.

Now, I do not know this Facebook friend well enough to know if she also has some issues so making jokes like that helps her cope. No idea. But I won’t stay silent.  I will not be, nor will I permit someone to be,  the butt of a joke.

I read something else today on Facebook, also from a person who I don’t really know.  But I do know one of her adult children and that gives me a lot of insight about her. She noted that in times of recent crises we saw people ignore any political, religious, or racial differences and just pull together to help each other. She suggested we live this way. quote-getting-along-well-with-other-people-is-still-the-world-s-most-needed-skill-with-it-earl-nightingale-90-63-70

Think about how much better we would be if Congress, for example, sat down and said “yes, too many innocents are being killed. Let’s talk together to see if something we who have the power can do to make this country safer.”

How much better we all would be if instead of saying it is their own fault, that we pitch in to work with the homeless to provide safe housing and health care for what ails them.

How much better we all would be if we all could have a living wage with a 40-hour job.  Then we could afford housing, put food on the table and not have to run from our issues into drugs or booze.

How much better we all would be if we all could teach how to learn instead of how to pass a test. If we could all understand that not everyone is going to make an A and perhaps there are other skills the ones who have trouble in school could handle well.

How much better we all could be if we decided on what we wanted to be when we grew up and didn’t have to pay for the education to attain that the rest of our lives.

How much better we all could be if we stopped putting other people down. If we chose to recognize when someone makes us uncomfortable it is a learning opportunity, not a joke. And continue the discussion.

 

 

 

 


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How It Happened To Me

I met him when I was 10 years old; he was 16 and to me he was totally cool. He was dating my oldest sister for a short time and after a few months she felt uneasy so broke off with him.

We had an issue with communication in our family. My parents wanted us only to express “positive” emotions, so her concerns about him were never brought up.

Meanwhile, my mom had essentially noticed he was a bit of a lost one who could benefit from a healthy family and so, “adopted” him. My sister never said much of anything whenever he showed up for dinner, but she always had a lot of homework those days.

He went off to VietNam for not one but two tours as a Green Beret. Special Forces, rah rah. Mom was so proud. He never told us anything, just brought gifts for each of us whenever he returned to the hometown and ended up at our dinner table again.

So, when he proposed 12 years later, I sort of knew him but only realized later that I had no idea who he was. I thought since he cherished his “home away from home” at our house, he understood and believed in the kinds of ethics and love we exhibited.

I was eager to get away from New Jersey and he offered a route away. I was such a fool. Naive. Innocent.

And so I jumped in, prepared to love this man until death do us part.

But on our first few weeks of marriage he wanted to invite another woman to join the two of us on his boat on one of Nashville’s lakes. I suggested he should not; that we could enjoy some “special time” in a secluded cove, but he was not on the same wavelength.

I had a friend from college visit and after dinner I drove him to where he was staying the night and he asked me how I was. He saw clearly that something was not right. I denied it. All was fine.

Still in the reserves he would go spend his weekend up at Fort Campbell where he worked in the hospital. He was trained as a medic and had dreams of becoming a physician’s assistant but had no sticking power in his studies. He would leave the house to go to school but I noticed he never worked on any homework. One day a woman called asking for Sargeant X. I gave him the phone and he took it into the bedroom for a private conversation that included a lot of laughter and lasted over an hour. When he came out he told me that she wanted to know who had answered the phone. He had not told her he was married. npr_abuse_

One day while riding in his sister’s car we were struck by a truck. My head hit the side window hard but I recovered my wits faster and told her to put her foot on the brake as we were headed to a ditch. . When I called the place where he was hanging out (he should have been in school) he told the person who took the call to tell me he was in class. I told her to tell him we had had an accident and where it was. Believe it or not, he was there in about 15 minutes, an illegal driving speed was evident.  But he did not go to me. He enveloped his sister in a warm and caring hug.  She had started sobbing as soon as she saw him, and told me to get out of the way.  On the way home he told me her stomach was upset and I needed to make chicken soup…from scratch…and have it ready fast.  I was glad I had some in the freezer.   But he never asked how I was and since I had a raging headache for 3 days, I probably had a concussion.

I needed my wisdom teeth extracted. He came to pick me up about 2 hours after I called him I was ready and then dropped me at home and took off to join “the guys for a drink”.  I truly felt unloved.abuse power wheel

But I was raised that all issues in marriages can be worked out and that there would be no such thing as divorce in our family. So I tried all different things. I tried being nice and sweet. (okay, it was not as hard a stretch at age 23 as it might be now…quit laughing) I tried to be firm and strong back at him. He only raised his voice and got angrier.

My sister, his old flame, came to visit with her husband. She told me later that he hit on her, but at that time she shared a technique she had been learning while pursuing her master’s’ degree in psychiatric nursing. The treasured “When you do such and I such I feel this way” which is a fairly non confrontational alternative to “What the hell are you doing treating me this way!”  He got angrier with that one also.

There was no way to escape his anger. Basically, there was no escape.  He had the car and a motorcycle and never gave me a set of car keys.  He often would leave the house on a weekend day on the motorcycle, taking the car keys and not tell me when he would be home.

All this is classic emotional abuse. It was my fault there were red lights. It was my fault it rained. It was my fault if I did not automatically intuit what he wanted for supper. But I kept hoping things would get better.

My period was late one month, something that never happened. Yes, I prayed. I knew children with this man would be a mistake. The prayer worked a couple of days later.  Thank you Lord.

And then he announced we were going on a honeymoon, about 15 months into our marriage. He wanted to go scuba diving at Grand Cayman. Cool. I also learned to scuba.

But I anticipated a new beginning. I bought a new negligee and was ready to play the  excited and eager bride. He had selected a place to stay on the eastern side of the island, far away from all the touristy things. I loved it. It was a small place where each room had a slider out to the beach.

I suggested we go for a walk on the beach and he angrily said no. He then proceeded to rape me.

Some people believe that in a marriage there is no such thing as rape. I anticipate a lot of women snorting when they read that statement. We know, so without getting graphic, let me explain.

When you want to make love you spend a bit of time making sure your partner is relaxed and then titillated. That caresses and kisses help build the energy and help the juices flow.

When you have a man who has no concern other than where to put HIS body part, it can be a long, dry, painful experience.

The next evening, when he expected the same activity, I smiled in what I hoped was a sweet way and suggested we make love.n-WOMEN-VIOLENCE-large570-427x178

He hit me.

Immediately I knew he could kill me.  I grabbed my clothes and went out on the beach. I sat there, waiting for him to come out, to apologize, to realize he had chosen something very wrong.

After 3 hours I went in. He was snoring.

The next day he told me he would prefer if I would leave. From Grand Cayman. When he had the money and the tickets and was supposedly the man who had promised to care for me.  I stayed.

Grand Cayman has a bit of a volcanic section called Hell. It has a post office and I actually had enough chutzpah to send him a postcard at home that said simply, “The next time you tell me to go to Hell, I will remind you that you drove me there.”

He was not amused.

Everything came to a head about a month later when my parents came to visit and he was rude, even to my mother, someone who had always given him love.  She said to me “I don’t understand how you can stay with him” and the gates permitting me to leave opened.

I left the next day, after my parents were gone. Three weeks later he came over to my friend’s house where I was staying and tried to rape me again. I was able to get him to leave.

Valentine’s Day came and went with no comment from him, not even a “I know we’re in a tough place but we can work this out.” I filed for a divorce the next day.

I had nightmares for years.

So when I see women in a similar situation, particularly women I know and consider friends, I don’t avoid the issue. I want them to know I have been there and they need not stay there.

Most never make a move. Most continue the same way.

Someone posted today on facebook that about a third of all women have been the victim of domestic abuse. I think that number is low. no silence