Monday, March 10, 2014

A Year Later...And Learning To Live

Today, March 10th, 2014, marks the first anniversary of my wife's death.  How strange it feels to even write that.  I will say, however, that the title bears witness to where life has taken me these past 12 months and how her passing taught me, and teaches me still, how to live.  I've learned much, experienced even more, and have come to accept that things do, in fact, happen for a reason.  I think it's safe to say I was not prepared for this in any way.  Who is?  Did I think that I'd bear the title of 'widower' before I was firmly in my 50's? No way...though I know there are those, close friends included, that have experienced it at a younger age than I.  Yes, this 'death & dying' thing is an ugly, nasty, cruel, mean villain, however I've also come to fully understand that life is more how we react to our circumstances than the circumstance themselves.

When I wrote a year ago, I said that I had no idea where life would lead me, though I knew I did not want to waste any time.  Doing what?  I had, and at times still have, no idea.  I came to realize, maybe somewhat subconsciously, that when an opportunity presented itself, I was taking it.  When the annual call came to spend time with friends going to a NASCAR race, I took it without question.  When friends suggested that they were going zip-lining and might I want to tag along and try it, the answer was a certain, "I'm in," almost before they finished the question.  When the time came to go to Tuscaloosa on Saturdays to watch the Crimson Tide, know that was going to happen.  Most importantly, when the opportunity to spend time with friends or family presents itself, I am there.

In all fairness, I stopped writing a moment ago (a pause indiscernible to you reading this, I realize) to ask myself what I am doing.  What I thought might be a long, poignant post....will not be.  I can abridge this and, today at least, feel I need to.  So what do I have to write about (rather than my usual rambling)?  It's a few simple truths I've learned - not Mom's Rules for Living, mind you, but it's what I've gleaned.

  • Family & friends are the most important things in the world.  These relationships should be cherished, loved, and nurtured.  Make time for them.
  • Everyone grieves at their own pace.  I, personally, had issues with this and was frozen with indecision at times.  I now realize you get to choose and decide what and when is right to move forward.  This is YOUR journey - no one else has to walk your path and they do not know what your life is like.  To say they do is ludicrous.
  • Do your job, do it well, but do not get lost in it.  Again, for me it was easier said than done.  it was my comfort zone and provided normalcy when I needed it.  That, and the people at work are family so it was easy to migrate to 'that place' at times.
  • Life is short - play hard.  Okay, in fairness, this is nothing more than reiterating the fact that, when presented with an opportunity to try something new, different, or fun, take the chance.  Not only will it keep you occupied, but you might just find something you really enjoy, as well as learn something.
  • Be gentle with others.  Okay, now I'm sounding like a Hallmark card, but hear me out.  Nothing makes you feel better than offering help to the elderly, holding a door for someone, picking up dropped packages, etc.  Kneeling down to talk with a child or to make them smile?  It's a feeling like no other.  Momma taught you to do good deeds - do them.
  • Act a little crazy and laugh at yourself.  In light of what happened, I can tell you it gives you a different perspective.  Things you might have worried about previously, don't seem that significant.  Hey, listen, I'm always going to be the guy that trips over that crack in the sidewalk, then jumps up to see if anyone saw me.  Always.  It's just that now, I've learned to get up and see if anyone saw me....then view them as an audience.  I don't pirouette yet, but why not, right?
  • Plan and prepare - PLEASE!  I said it last year and will again - make sure you have a will and that your beneficiaries are updated.  One thing many of you do upon seeing me now is either A) tell me how you've planned, or B) tell me how you're going to plan.  Do it.  Today.  Trust me, your family and loved ones will be glad you did.  
  • Don't let loss make you fear losing again.  Okay, even I read that several times to make sure it sounded right and made sense.  I'm pretty sure one of the 'Grammar Gurus' will point it out if I erred, however an explanation might help.  Just because your spouse/significant other died, you shouldn't be frozen with fear that you'll experience that pain again.  Because here's the harsh reality - you will.  No matter what happens, we are all going to experience this at some point.  Refer back to earlier points - live, laugh, and love.  You'll be glad you did.
These are but a few, albeit most important, of the lessons and realizations I've had in the past year.  I said it before and will share it again - I was blessed to have had Sharon in my life at all.  To love her, and be loved by her, was something I will carry with me always and will smile with every memory.  You've all taught me, though, that life goes on and this was a chapter in the book, not the end of the story.  There are many....or several, at least...chapters yet to be written, I hope.  I'm counting on many of you to take an active part in those chapters as well.  Thank you for being the amazing friends and family you've been, and for the love, caring, and kindness you've shown me.  I truly do not feel worthy, however I promise to do my best to show you, through actions, how grateful I truly am for all of you.  You've helped me learn what it is to truly live again.

Until next time.............

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Dying Country, Its Beliefs...And Our Apologies to Our Children

Many of you reading this know that, lately anyway, it takes something drastic for me to write.  Something that is so incredibly appalling or makes no sense to me whatsoever.  Something that, I'm fairly certain, will make most of you want to scream.  Now is such a time and refers to the insanity gripping our nation.  I know there are probably many of you already saying, "Gee, don't you think you ought to be more specific?"  True, there are many things happening right now that would make people think the situation is dire.  It is.  More specifically, though, I am referring to the situation in Morgan Hill, CA, a suburb of San Jose.  The events that took place at Live Oak High School have outraged many and have me, at least, wondering where our common sense has gone.  When did we 'sell out' and why?  Before going there, however, let's recap the story in case you haven't heard it.

Live Oak High School, from what I've read, seems to be an ethnically-diverse school.  That certainly doesn't make it different from most schools these days.  As a matter of fact, in the not-too-distant future, whites will be in the minority in the United States.  I get it.  Still, I'm not sure that our forefathers imagined this 'melting pot' to be as divisive as it is...or will be.  So, American students at Live Oak decided to wear American flag t-shirts to school during the Cinco de Mayo Mexican heritage celebration last year.  These students were ordered by the school administration to either turn the shirts inside out or were sent home from school that day.  Let me say that again - American students, wearing shirts that represented the United States flag, were ordered to either remove the shirts or leave school.  This is the same flag that, when parading past the reviewing stands in the Olympics, will not be lowered for ANY country in the world.  It simply isn't done.  In this case, however, school officials expressed concerns about racial violence based on previous problems between white and Latino students.

The case quickly gained national notoriety when the American Freedom Law Center, as well as other similar organizations, joined the cause and sued the school district.  They lost.  Yes, you read that correctly - they lost in court.  Not to worry, though, as our legal system has that most wonderful option - an appeal process - that will allow a higher court to review and rule on the case.  Thursday of this week, February 27th, 2014, the ruling was handed down by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.  In their view, the school district acted appropriately when they made the students remove the shirts or leave school.  Again, based on past instances of racial violence, the school thought it best to send students home.  This ruling, handed down by a unanimous 3-judge panel, can also be appealed by an 11-judge panel.  Already, the lawyers are planning such an appeal.  Okay, so there are the facts of the case.'s my turn.

Are you kidding me???  How dare you trample the right of our citizens and The Constitution?  Before anyone starts to argue, hear me out and let me summarize what I've said above, as stated by one of the American students lawyers - "The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled and upheld the rights of Mexican students celebrating the holiday of another country over US students proudly supporting THIS country."  Let me also say that I, as well as many of the people I know, are certainly glad to celebrate the holiday along with our Mexican friends.  Should it ever come to violence if a student wants to wear an American flag?  Certainly not.  If the students of Mexican heritage find that offensive, let's deal with that. the name of all that is precious and right, WHY do we have to keep concerning ourselves over not wanting to hurt the feelings of other nationalities here at home?  This is the United States of America.  I can understand if we were in Mexico...or France, or Spain, or Germany or.....the list goes on.  I could understand why we'd have to be respectful of their heritage and customs.  This isn't, however, any of those countries.  Again, lest anyone think I (those that know me, know better) am a bigot or racist, let me reiterate my personal stance - I am fine living in a mutually-respectful environment where we all can, and do, get along and live in harmony.  Let's be honest, though - if there were previous problems and the school district feared it happening again, they made this decision so that the Mexican students would not be offended and start any racial violence.  

Here is my ultimate question - when does it end?  When do we start concerning ourselves with how Americans feel rather than foreigners?  We, as Americans, have been told we need to be tolerant.  In actuality, it is demanded that we be tolerant.  There are ongoing issues and legal cases involving those of Middle Eastern descent.  My message to those folks is quite simple, and I will say what many think - People of your nationality hijacked several planes for the sole purpose of killing Americans on our home soil.  Those same people make it known, daily, that the only good American is a dead American.  I know I am generalizing, however this is America - please do not act incredulous when we feel this way.  As a matter of fact, if it is so horrible living here, there are options, though I assume there is a reason you are here and not in your country.  Please, too, acknowledge that fact that if this were in a Middle Eastern country, there is absolutely NO WAY we would be given the same considerations you are being given by our government.  Do you seriously think those governments and courts would side with an American or rule that their own people were discriminating against us.  If you say anything but, "Hardly," I will call you a liar.

The same goes for this situation, so let me ask a different way (as I am a big fan of analogies) - If we were in Mexico in July and decided we wanted to celebrate the 4th of July, do you think Mexican school officials would make Mexican students remover THEIR Mexican flag t-shirts?  How do you think it would be accepted if the American students resorted to violence?  Would they send them home and consider the rights of American students over Mexican students.  Again, if the answer is anything other than, "Absolutely not," I will say you're either lying or naive.  It would not happen.  So what do we, as white Americans, have to do get the same consideration guaranteed by the Constitution, as those living here from a foreign country.  Better yet, what do we, as white Americans, have to do to get the same consideration as any minority?  Is violence the answer when someone disagrees with our own personal beliefs?  it seems to work with others so why not us?

Perhaps we need to start a revolution, again, to take back our country.  Our elected officials are overly consumed with bowing to the demands of these groups, while neglecting the needs of their fellow Americans.  At times like this, I think how fortunate I am to be older as I will, eventually, not have this as a concern.  I worry, though, for our next generation.  Something has to be done and, I believe, it has to start soon before we give away our identity as a nation.  Perhaps revolt is needed.  Unless we give in to the demands of these groups, there is little peace anyway, so what remains?  How can this change?  I really have no answer other than reevaluating our (apparently) outdated ideas on how we allow immigrants into the country and what we give them that costs us much.  I've said it before - our forefathers came to this country and were expected to learn OUR ways, OUR language, OUR heritage.  I can almost say, without hesitation, that they never envisioned a world where we had to, "Press 1 for English."  We need help and we need it now.  Our government, as evidenced above, MUST start using common sense and punish the offenders, not those that might fan the flames of violence simply by being themselves.  I only hope we can find our common sense before our children live in a country we do not recognize and whose beliefs and values have been trampled all in the name of not offending our 'guests'.

Until next time...............