Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mom Learns Patriotic Pride from Her Marine Son


Previously published in 2008 or 2009 on Associated Content / Yahoo Contributor Network, stolen from another website and reported! Please keep in mind that this article was written several years ago.

I wasn't always patriotic. Although I stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, held my hand over my heart, and even said the words, I didn't FEEL as strongly for my country as I suspect my grandparents did. Having grown up during the Viet Nam War era when vets were condemned, and pacifists, along with protesters and anti-war activists, hid behind the borders of Canada or Mexico, I decided long ago that if I had a son, he would never join the service, whether he was chosen by lottery or chosen by self. I was on the side of the pacifists.

Then, in March 2001, my son joined the Marines – against my will. I should have guessed Greg would become a Marine. Even as a toddler in the early-1980s, my son liked order and organization.

When he was about four or five years old he asked me to cut his long curly hair. A former hippie-type, I couldn't understand how anybody would choose a Marine-style haircut – especially MY son, and especially at such a young age. I loved his long curly hair.

But I cut it anyway, into the popular mid-80's style of Bears Quarterback, Jim McMahon. Greg looked absolutely adorable. He was so proud that his choice resulted in something he liked.

For his graduation from boot camp, two of Greg's sisters and I flew to California to be with him. Though all the uniforms would be the same, I knew I would be able to find my son among the hundreds of Marines graduating in Camp Pendleton, California, that June 2001. After all, he had always walked like a Marine – straight and powerful, with a stride that commanded attention.

What I didn't foresee was that by graduation, every Marine would walk the way my son had been walking since he was nine months old.

In his finest Dress Blues, carrying the United States Flag, my son stood proud and tall. I suddenly knew how the Viet Nam War families felt, the indignity they suffered, the crushing spirits their sons, husbands, and brothers endured, and the pain that lingered. I felt the anxiety of all those mothers who waited, before home computers, for any word of their son's well being during both of our world wars.

And I knew what it felt like to be the mother of a Marine and to share the glory of pride that all Marine parents feel in a son grown up.

I wanted the world to see in him what I saw, his growth, his maturity, and his resolve, after years of having been raised with only females in a single-parent household, to make something of himself.

The years between his birth and that graduation ceremony felt as if we had both been running a marathon. At the finish line, a hand reached down and pulled the man out of my little boy, making 18 years feel like one day.

And then, like the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center, our lives crumbled on September 11, 2001. My son was home on leave the week after Labor Day that year. After having been hooked to my computer screen at work all morning, I came home to spend lunch with my son. Our eyes locked in a moment of silence, followed by Greg singing words from an old Beatles song, "I read the news today, oh boy."

When Greg was an infant I held him tightly in my arms to comfort his cries. Now he held me tightly in his arms to say good-bye. We didn't know that in the months to follow, Greg, along with thousands of other military personnel, would be traveling a road to Baghdad because our president took it upon himself to punish one dictator for the behavior of another.

I was angry that my son's choice to join the military was perfectly timed with a president who waged war without absolute proof that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction. I wanted my son home. What sense did it make to wage war to protect peace anyway?

And then I saw, "The Pianist," a moving account of survival during World War II. I credit that movie for testing my beliefs about peace and war. Could we allow another Hitler to bully and torture his own people? On the other hand, could I handle losing my son to that cause?

I heard everybody from the Pope to local demonstrators advocating peace, but not one of them offered a viable alternative to war that would convince religious fanatics to stop killing themselves for insane causes.

As a mother who suffers from separation anxiety, I had already endured a difficult time watching my son leave for Japan and Thailand, but I had an especially difficult time when he was in Baghdad. The thought of losing him forever was a daily struggle when even the mundane was stifled and filled with fear. Every day I had to envision him coming home. Every day, several times throughout the day, I had to pray for him and for all service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan just so I could get through my day.

I couldn't allow myself to think of his conditions, their conditions -- being away from loved ones, some of whom were pregnant; enduring sweltering heat; living in fear every millisecond of every second of every minute of every hour.

I couldn't help but wonder why, after all these centuries of continued primitive and barbaric wars, we didn't have a more civilized approach to dealing with dictators. When will an intelligent leader provide a viable alternative to war? Until that time, because we are intelligent human beings with consciences, we cannot allow ourselves or our neighbors to suffer if we can do something to prevent it.

My love for my son and my love for my country were in perpetual battle with one another. I was grateful for any diversion. During one of my son's tours in Iraq, I attended a local high school's Spring Concert. In a moving tribute to the men and women in our Armed forces, Veterans were asked to stand when their branch's theme song was played. Wild applause greeted each service person who stood. And when the theme song for the Marines played, I found myself engulfed in tears.

During these past 7 years, time often seemed agonizingly slow as I awaited my son's return. But lately the years feel like they are speeding into overdrive.

When my son joined the Marines, he was single, and no matter where I moved, I kept a bedroom open for him. Greg just returned form his fourth tour in Iraq. I now hold two open rooms for him, his wife*, and their three children when they visit me in Illinois from their home in Camp Pendleton.

Like their parents before them, Greg and his wife* are discovering that no matter how much time or distance separates parents from their children, love never waivers. Though parents may sometimes grimace at the choices their children make, they will stand beside them to offer support so that when their children fall, they will be met with loving arms, a warm embrace, and encouragement to try again.

They will reward the right choices their children make or institute consequences for wrong choices. They will offer guidance and pray their children make the right decisions. And they will start by accepting little choices, even those that don't meet with their approval, like haircuts.

Before they know it and before they are ready for it, one day, on their own Independence Day, like their forefathers before them, their children will leave to begin their own little colonies.

I thank my son for teaching me the meaning of patriotism. And I thank every man and woman who has volunteered to protect the freedom of our country and the freedom of other countries.

No matter what my personal opinion about this war is, I admire and respect all of our uniformed men and women who are performing their patriotic duty.

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli...
is a mom who's very proud of her United States Marine.


*ex-wife now

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Can You Say, "Specific"?

Three of my grandchildren and I were playing the popular television and board game, Family Feud. When my granddaughter read one of the prompts, she stumbled over the word specific.

Her experience reminded me of earlier times when my younger sister couldn't pronounce, cinnamon or aluminum, and when my sister and I found new pronunciations for caterpillar – pillicator, patakiller, callapitor, our mother doubled over in laughter.

Anyway, after numerous attempts at trying to pronounce specific, I grabbed my camera to record my grandchildren trying to pronounce it. Enjoy!

Say Specific

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How Does Jim Carrey Calm Down Long Enough to Meditate?


We all think we know celebrities enough to assume certain things about them. I’m guilty of doing exactly that! I just naturally assumed, for instance, that Jim Carrey was too high-energy to calm down long enough to meditate. To discover that he engaged in transcendental meditation astounded me.

The reason I came to that assumption was because I made the mistake of comparing Jim Carrey’s energy level to my own energy level. I couldn’t imagine how any one with Jim Carrey’s energy could slow down long enough to meditate. When my oldest daughter took me to a meditation event held at a nearby spiritual shop, I found the whole experience so confining, I felt the need to leave.

An hour? I was supposed to sit still for an hour? I found my feet bobbing up and down and my mind wandering so fast, I wished I had something to record all my thoughts before they entered oblivion. My heart beat so wildly in my chest that I might have thought I was having a panic attack. Time slowed to a near halt around me where motionless bodies “got it” and became one with the meditation field around them. I, on the other hand, wondered how quickly I could jump out of my seat and escape this aggravating ritual. 

What good was meditation when I had so many things I needed to do? This experience was more an invasion of my time than it was a welcome relief. How do you calm an erratic mind?

A few years later I again attended a meditation event, this time with a male friend. Once again I found myself practically jumping out of my mind. I enjoyed the music, but I couldn’t relax into the meditation. And that, I’ve come to understand, is my biggest problem when it comes to meditating – I can’t relax.

So how does anyone with high energy calm down long enough to receive the benefits of meditation? How do people prevent their minds from paying attention to every single thought that enters their heads? 

Maybe those thousands of ideas that pop into my head all the time are worth the attention I pay them. Obviously not all of them are great ideas, and obviously I can’t remember all of them, but what if I miss a great idea for a book, a blog, a screenplay, or I’ve come up with a great idea for a new craft item? How can I filter out everything long enough to slow down my heart rate and benefit from meditation?

I’ve read and heard about the benefits of meditation. I know that meditation would be good for me, but I need to know from somebody who has – not just high energy – but erratic high energy how to settle down long enough to meditate. 

You see what I did? I assumed that Jim Carrey’s high energy was similar to my erratic high energy. Maybe Jim Carry’s energy is not erratic at all, but focused, which makes his energy very different from mine.

I honestly believe that meditation would help me, but I may have to wait until somebody with my kind of energy comes along to tell me how he or she is able to successfully meditate. Maybe a massage before meditation would help, but I'd like to learn how to meditate without relying upon massage to do so. 

If you have high – erratic high – energy, if you get distracted way too easily, and you have been able to bypass your erratic mind successfully, please tell me how you do it. I’ll even accept links as long as they refer me to a legitimate meditation blog, video, or website.

Thank you for visiting!


Related:

Jim Carrey’s Commencement Speech (short version)

Jim Carrey’s Commencement Speech (long version)


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson – Something in Common


In Memory of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, who both died, June 25, 2009
Previously published on Yahoo Contributor Network June 5, 2011

I don't know you
or maybe I do 

but we have
something in common because

at some point

today
tomorrow
whenever

like Farrah Fawcett and
Michael Jackson 

we will move beyond this life
into time everlasting

leaving behind 
life
friends
and family

and when we leave this Earth 
we will depart


on the same day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fight Bullies by Embracing the One Being Bullied


By now we’ve all learned that we can’t fight bullying by bullying the bully, but so far not a lot of remedies have been able to curb bullying effectively.

Until now!

The best example I’ve seen is the way a community of loving individuals embraced a man who was bullied online for dancing. Yes, you read that correctly – dancing. His crime according to the abusers? He was fat. Instead of shaming the bullies, though, some Hollywood celebrities took it upon themselves to embrace the man by throwing him a star-studded party!

Sean O’Brien, known as the “Dancing Man,” became a victim of cyberbullies, who posted a video of him dancing. Some warm-hearted individuals, after seeing the vicious attack, searched for him by posting a social media campaign using the hashtag #FindDancingMan. The hope was to fly him out to California so that he could attend an event focused on raising money for a variety of anti-bullying charities. 

Writer Cassandra Fairbanks, music artists, Meghan Trainor, Ellie Goulding, Moby, Pharrell Williams, Andrew WK, and anti-bullying advocate Monica Lewinsky, banded together to throw Sean O’Brien a party he would never forget.

What a great lesson for all of us! Don’t attack the bullies! Embrace the ones getting bullied! If you see somebody being bullied, stand up for him or her. Don’t participate in cyber-bullying – ever. Don’t get caught up in “mob-mentality” and join forces with the lowest common denominators of society. And if you are being bullied, TELL SOMEBODY YOU LOVE about the crime and try to learn how to stand up for yourself!

For more information on how you can prevent and put an end to bullying and how you can respond to bullying, visit StopBullying.gov.


Related Reading: Cyber Bully Compassion Crisis and Empathy Deficit (Monica Lewinsky)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Avery’s Hotel California

Photo taken May 5, 2014

My delightful 3-year-old granddaughter is a forceful, bright, engaging, intelligent, and imaginative little girl. Because she is so young, everyone who plays with her is either her brother’s or sister’s ages, 7 and 10, or adults. So when kids come to play, Avery is so excited and happy, her little eyes brighten with glee and she asks, “Wanna play in my room?”

Her room is her favorite place to play. Under the canopy bed is a room all its own, complete with a small table, lamp, and couch. A book shelf filled with books and miscellaneous toys, a doll house, puzzles, games, a basket of stuffed animals, and a glider (for grandma) are all so inviting to anybody who wants to “play” in Avery’s room 

But once you enter Avery’s room, you are commanded to play whatever Avery wants to play. We celebrated Avery’s 3rd birthday at her house last September where several people attended, two of whom were young neighbor girls who were enticed into playing in Avery’s bedroom. Once there, though, the little girls found they couldn’t leave. They fell victim to Avery’s guilt trip, and that kept them captive for quite a while.

As I climbed the stairs to her room, I noticed the two of them playing with Avery. Avery told me nonchalantly that they were playing house and promptly closed the door in my face while the two little girls who, I believe, are between the ages of 7 and 9, begged with their eyes to be let out.

I smiled wickedly and ran downstairs. I too, have been “captivated” by Avery as we play, “picnic” and “park” and “Dora” – among other games. We also read books in her “house,” the space under her bed. Leaving her bedroom is an assault against Avery who thinks that once you enter her boudoir you must play for a significant period of time before you’re allowed to leave. Nobody is quite sure how long that time is though. Once there, Avery believes she is in charge of whomever enters her room for as long as she wants them to stay.


Her little friends didn’t know that all they had to say was, “It’s time to go downstairs for (whatever),” and they would have been let go. Somehow Miley slipped out unnoticed, but Savannah was left to her own devices. After a while, it was time for cake, so I opened the door and Savannah let out a huge sigh of relief, “Finally! I can escape!”

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How Alcoholism Affects Loved Ones


Originally posted on Yahoo August 5, 2008, later posted on and then removed from Persona Paper

(All stories with names changed came from various Alanon meetings.)

Linda scrambles to finish the dishes after dinner and quickly dresses her children in warm fall jackets. She rushes outside to a spot behind the bushes and bends low, embracing and shushing her four babies who by now are so accustomed to hiding, they know the routine.

Daddy's car pulls into the driveway. He ambles into the house and walks directly to the refrigerator. He opens a beer and gulps it down. One can after another finds its way to the mound of empty cans piling up on the floor next to the recliner.

In their position behind the bushes, Mom and kids watch Daddy pop open each can and flip through the channels. Nobody moves in the bushes until Mom gives the signal. She knows how long it takes her husband to pass out in front of the television. Once again she has successfully managed to avoid the beatings and emotional torture she and her children have been suffering for years.

Linda's children are only four of the millions of children whose parents are alcoholics. She wonders if staying with her husband will build character in her children or if leaving him will be more painful for them. She wonders how many of them will become alcoholics themselves.

Jerry's wife, Amber, has blessed her husband with a child. Sadly, Cassie's facial deformities announce her disability, fetal alcohol syndrome. Amber is pregnant again – with Cassie's sister. Amber admits she drinks too much, but says she can't handle the stress in her life without a couple of glasses of wine each day. Unfortunately "a couple" to Amber is actually four to six to anybody who counts.

Literature from a variety of sources on fetal alcohol syndrome recommends that pregnant woman drink no alcoholic beverages whatsoever. Many alcoholics refuse to admit they have problems, though, so denial feeds into the continued problem. Though she feels guilty, Amber will continue to drink. The more she drinks, the worse she feels. The worse she feels, the more she drinks.

Unaware of the cycle that revolves around her, she sinks deeper and deeper into depression, oblivious to the fact that alcohol itself is a depressant. What she doesn't know is that she is also a candidate for breast cancer.

Resources such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, Alateen, therapy, hospital admission, rehabilitation centers, and prescription drugs exist to help the alcoholics and their family members deal with the effects of alcoholism. All the while, through whatever help they hope will work, loved ones wait for their alcoholic to hit bottom.

"Hitting bottom" is a phrase used to indicate the moment when the alcoholic suddenly discovers he needs to change, the moment when he finally admits he is an alcoholic. Bottom, it turns out, is different for everybody.

Forcing the alcoholic to hit bottom, without clinical support, can result in disaster. And support groups admonish people who try to reform the alcoholic without help from a knowledgeable therapist. What loved ones learn is that people can change only themselves and only if they want to change.

At one open AA meeting many years ago a former alcoholic defined his moment. While shaving and combing his hair in the bathroom mirror he saw, in the reflection, a miniature tuxedo hanging on the shower rod behind him. The suit belonged to his young son who was to be a ring bearer in a wedding that day. Having already lost one family due to his addiction, this father decided in that moment that he was not going to lose another family. From that moment on, he never had another drink.

Friends and family members pray for moments like that. They ask when their alcoholic loved ones will experience their own epiphanies. The emotional torment loved ones endure becomes unbearable.

For all the pain and suffering the alcoholic inflicts upon his or her family and friends, however, no greater pain is felt than that which the alcoholic inflicts upon him-or herself.

Despite efforts made by loved ones, despite fervent prayers to help the alcoholic, despite all of the resources available to people addicted to alcohol, alcoholics sometimes die, leaving in their wake sadness, confusion, destitution, loss, chaos, and unresolved anger. Most of them will never know how much they were truly loved.

The best anyone who loves an alcoholic can do is to change the way he or she responds to the alcoholic. Repeated arguments manifest in the form of a hideous dance where one partner follows the other in predictable and exasperating patterns. Change the pattern and the response changes.

Hating the disease but loving the alcoholic places loved ones in a different frame of mind. Loved ones must learn how to draw boundaries and be firm about not allowing unacceptable behavior.

The effects alcohol has on the entire family are often devastating, but compassion and a commitment to forgive even seemingly unforgivable behavior lifts a burden from the minds and hearts of the people who love their alcoholics the most.

Forgiveness is a choice. It doesn't absolve the alcoholic from past behavior and it doesn't erase memories loved ones will never forget, but it allows the soul to free itself from the misery it has been carrying around and it changes the dynamics of the relationship.

"Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are cause by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” (Eckhart Tolle)

photo courtesy of MindExpansi0n on Morguefile