Tag Archives: humanity

HUMANITY

Change for Good: Playing and Praying for Texas

I first started blogging on Myspace. It was my initial experience with writing online and I fell in love with it — I found a voice that had been buried since college creative writing classes and I discovered new things about myself every time I hit publish. As social media grew and how I connected with the world changed as a result of social and mobile technologies, I changed. I became bold and an avid storyteller. I shifted my “creative writing” platform from Myspace to Facebook to RecruitingBlogs to Blogging4Jobs to Intrepid.Media – it has been a 15-year process of progress and I can’t say I have enjoyed ever minute of it, but I have evolved and changed. Which is what progress is, correct? Here’s to progress…

Writing for Change

As I consider all I have written about and all that has occurred in my life since 9/11 – change and growth has been a direct result. I was not in NYC on that day of death, destruction, hatred, and fear, but I can easily trace significant personal change back to that morning, while I sat with my four young children and we watched, as did the world, what looked like the end of the world as we knew it. It was the jolt I needed to wake up in my own life. Less than a month later, I ended my destructive marriage and it was time for me to do what America and New York City would have to do – slowly, embrace life again, rebuild, love, and triumph – rise like a phoenix from ashes of terror.

This Week’s Wrath

While Harvey and nature have been the terrorists this week in Texas, I am seeing similar stories as those revealed on 9/11 – stories of heroism and love, trust and glory rise higher than the waters. Destruction, death, and fear have pushed out hatred — hatred will not win this battle.

There have been those who have lost everything. We have seen stories of tragedy and survival – there are many more to come as Houston, Beaumont, and the many areas affected by the hurricane come to the next place, the place where the waters recede and life and livelihoods begin the clean-up and plan for the next phase of recovery.

We are, we will…

We are humanity. We will survive. We will rebuild and renew. And we will do this together. Many have come together to help – to rescue, to donate needed items, to raise fund, to assist. It is easy to feel helpless – those that feel that way should only be those still standing in water. Give where you can. 

But I am so far away

I live in Laguna Beach, nearly 1400 miles from the devastation. Last night, I sat on a cement bench and watched 6 individual musicians busk on a street corner to raise money for those affected. #PlayingForTexas Dozens of people passed by, dropping money in their bucket. You are not helpless to give back. Find a way — even if it is just through prayer or sending positivity and messages of love and compassion.

Every Little Bit Helps.

HUMANITY

Racism and Bigotry: A Conversation

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees – Billie Holiday

What Happened to Us?

Growing up in a small town in the Southwest had its advantages I suppose. We were a small community, not terribly diverse by today’s standards, as the people were mostly the same. Kids could play in the cul-de-sac, ride their bikes down to the local pharmacy for candy and baseball card packs or comic books without fear of a drive-by or child predator in a “rape van” grabbing us to never be seen again or even worse to be found dead or broken. I often wonder what happened to us, where did we go wrong? How did we lose that hope, that fire? My generation was so close, right there in inclusion, we were joining hands across America and singing we are the world then something happened, and I honestly don’t know what it was. I have no intention of pointing fingers but maybe, just maybe I have an understanding of a history, and it is all in perception.

My Friend

A new friend of mine who is black or African American (or simply just an honest, smart, human being who has more pigmentation than me) were drinking margaritas, and he made a comment. We had been discussing race relations in the U.S., as it has been a conversation that has never come to a conclusion or that any one party has been able to come to consensus about.   He looked at me with sadness, yet with a withheld anger, and said, “I don’t think you will ever understand what it is like to be a black man sitting in a bar full of people who don’t look like you. I am always going to be different.” I pondered this, as I had no answer but then it hit me, I said “Judging a book by its cover never lets you get to read the story. There are lots of great books out there man, and I want to read them.” He smiled, raised his glass for a toast and we moved on to other conversations telling me, “Man, you are the whitest black man I have ever known.” I have to say it was one of the best compliments I have ever received.

A Story

We continued on with conversations less disheartening then a memory popped into my head from my childhood that only a handful of people ever knew outside of my family, it was a harsh memory to bring up, sadly, I have many of those. I turned to Malik and extolled upon him the story of when I was eleven years old and went to visit my cousins in Rochester, NY on one of our yearly family trips for Rosh Hashanah. My cousins lived in a small house near a canal in a more rural part of the town but within walking distance to the local mall and, more importantly, the toy store: a Toys R Us store, to be more exact. Other than FAO Schwartz, this was the holy grail of toy stores and since Star Wars had come out, it was my mission to get all of the action figures for my collection.

I begged my mom to let me go with the older kids because they were going to walk down and knowing  I could possibly find the missing pieces to my set, I really wanted to go. My mother was very protective of me, but she felt since I was with my cousins, I would be safe. She was right to be nervous about my safety, as I came to find out.

So, let me paint the picture for you. We arrived at the mall and I was overjoyed at finding two action figures that I had never seen before. It was well worth sitting around while my two older female cousins shopped for clothes. At one point, Charla realized it was getting late and we needed to head back for it would soon be dark and that would be unsafe for us. I remember wondering why it would be unsafe; the town seemed just like where I was from and that was safe.

We started walking home and on the other side of the canal that we had walked down heading to the house was a group of kids: one girl and three boys. They were shouting at us, I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying as they were on the other side and further down from us. Sasha, my other cousin, said, “We have to go, now!” She was panicked and kept yelling at me to walk faster than we sort of started to jog, which is tough when you have little legs trying to keep up with a teenager. I looked over, and the group that had been well behind us had now caught up on the other side, and I could now hear the jeers. “What are you doing outside, Jew?!?! Where are you going, you Christ killer!?!?! We want to talk to you!!!”

They crossed a bridge ahead and caught up with us just as we thought we could make it to the house. The girl grabbed Sasha’s hair and threw her to the ground. I yelled and rushed her only to find myself on the ground with one of the boy’s knees in my chest. He looked at me strangely and asked, “What are you doing with these two Jews??” You see I was a blond-haired, blue eyed boy that did not resemble an immigrant from the Middle East or Europe like my family that my mother married into. I told him that I was Jewish and these were my cousins and to get off me or he would be in trouble. I remember the hatred he had in his eyes as I finished my statement, they were burning. I had done nothing to this person yet here I was, on the ground, wondering what had made him so angry toward me and my kin.

Before things escalated, some of the neighbors must have heard the raucousness and came out to yell at our attackers and just like the cowards they were, they ran away. We were safe, but I often wonder what would have happened had those people not come out to disrupt our being attacked. Malik looked at me and said, “Book covers man, yeah book covers, I hear that. I feel that now man, damn.” He placed his hand on my shoulder, and we both just sat there in silence, each pondering the world.

Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son.
You know what he hates? Naps! End of list. – Denis Leary

I Never Understood It…

I have never understood racism, bigotry, and out-and-out hatred but it has made me confused for most of my adult life. I have written about perception and quick judgment before like The Music That Binds or Living Within Our Own Mythos, for example, trying to point out how inane it all is, hate is a wasted emotion. Hate is taught, it’s not anger, love, empathy, sadness, or kindness – we are born with those. We need to rise together to begin to teach each other that we are not ok with it and apparently we are failing at it right now; the anger is boiling over. Educated people are not teaching each other what we, as a society, are about. Instead of conformity, we need to embrace how diverse we as people all are we have one great thing in common: we are human. I will leave you with this last verse by one of the greatest poets of our time, Walt Whitman:

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects, mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds, I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

 

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

 

Can I get an amen?

#truestory #life #peace

HR, HUMANITY

The Danger of Living Within Our Own Mythos

“A myth, in its original Greek meaning- mythos- is simply that: a story, one which seeks to render life transparent to an intelligible source.” ― Jules Cashford

mythos

My Discovery

When I was a little kid I was a voracious reader with the imagination of a 10-year-old boy that thought magic was real and trolls lived under bridges.  Princesses needed saving and dragons were to be slain.  However, my greatest love was the mythology of the Greeks, Romans, and Vikings.  I remember reading every tome I could find in the library or begging my mother to buy me books that spoke of the mythology within the binders.  I did not understand, at the time, that these stories were to not only entertain people but also to deliver sarcasm and knowledge about life and how to live it.

I happened upon my own mythos just recently on a Sunday morning which literally saved my life and this, my friends, is the story.

PANIC!

At 9AM I awoke with angst, this was going to be the first day of our annual College Hire Interview Event and there was an all-hands-on event to start promptly at 9:45 am.  The recruiters were expected to be in the office by 9AM to prep and get any and all things out of the way and then walk candidates in to begin their interview process and hopefully impress us to start their careers. This was going to be my first time working this event and I was nervous as I don’t live close to the office and traffic in DC can and is a nightmare. I panicked when I looked at the clock. Clearly, there was no way I would make it to the office by 9 as it was 9 already. I scrambled to dress, no shower for me this morning; I sprinted to the door and was off.

Once in the car, I called my boss and co-worker to let them know I was going to try my best to get arrive before the interviews started.  I turned on the radio to listen to my favorite morning drive-time show and floored the pedal, going way too fast on an interstate. The Radio DJ was talking about his costume choice for Halloween, which was Monday, today, but was alluding to the fact that was, in fact, tomorrow.  I thought to myself, did you screw up the loop or something? Today was Halloween, not tomorrow

I focused on the task at hand thinking in my mind the strategy I would employ with parking and arriving to the meeting on time. The Radio DJ, after every song, was babbling on about Halloween, tomorrow. I got off I95 and turned onto the beltway to a surprise.  The road was clear, SCORE! I was, of course, shocked, Monday morning and there was no one on the road? Did Halloween become some kind of National Holiday now? Personally, I was ok with it since my commute was going to be easier than expected but there was a nagging thought in my mind, all be it a small one, that I might be missing something.

Reality

Just before I go to the office, my boss called, and I immediately answered with my heart in my stomach.  He said, “Dumbass, it’s Sunday, enjoy your day off, and I will see you tomorrow.”  He laughed saying, “It’s going to be a long time until you live this one down!” I sat at the red light staring off in the distance, humiliated and realizing I am getting old, how did this happen? Well, at least I have the rest of the day to reflect on this.
However, life was going to take a different direction.

More than I Bargained for

Earlier in the month, I had contracted a skin virus on my right calf leg. Not having a primary Doctor since changing jobs and insurance companies, I just went to the ER to get checked out. They agreed it was a viral infection, gave me a prescription and I was on my way.  Since the hospital was near my office and my leg was, once again, showing signs of the infection, I decided, since I was here, to swing by and get another dose of antidote and hopefully fix my leg permanently.
I was in for a great deal more than I had bargained for.

Reston Hospital is a pretty pleasant place, considering it’s a housing facility for the ill and dying. Plenty of sunshine in the lobby and lots of magazines and helpful, friendly nurses. Just as my previous visit, they checked me in and before I could sit down, they had me in a room taking my clothes off and asking me the same questions I answered before. I tried to explain that I just needed some antibiotics and they could look up my chart. Not to draw this story out, it turned out I had blood clots in my leg and in my lungs. Not good. I was told by everyone I was lucky to have caught this as I was a walking time bomb, and could have died at any moment, as time was not a friend in this instance.

My point to this story you ask?

Simple: my mythos saved my life, this time. I chose to believe that I was firmly correct in my assumption that it was Monday and I would not consider anything else, no matter what the facts presented to me were that morning. I had to be correct, and everyone else had to be incorrect.

After this election, I have struggled to determine the same thing within the United States and the world, in general.

Communication is defunct, we, being bombarded by email, Facebook, Linkedin, Reddit, etc. We are chasing each other around in a virtual fishbowl we cannot seemingly get out of. Why?

Listen, I have lost my shit at times, believe me, many of you have seen it or read it from me. I get it. As I glide towards seeming senility, I want to at least understand the human condition better. Seemingly, there are not two sides to this coin called human life, just the same ugly sides covered with a different coat of paint.

What I have seen in the last week from both sides of this virtual coin is more disturbing than I ever thought. People are unaccepting of reality, and are acting in a way that they despise or were called out for and are emboldened to show their true colors.  People who extoll mercy and acceptance when they don’t get their way turn to violence? Those who were afraid and silent, that were belittled by one group, now rise in anger and benevolence to chastise something we thought long dead? The ignorant and intolerant feeling embolden to act in inhumane ways in order to prove one side or the other correct? Protecting the mythos and it is shamefull.  The profiteers on both sides who are making money by extolling the anger and hate, always keeping us apart.  The mythos that we cannot and seemingly refuse to release is tearing us apart. 

My leg is going to be better, or so they tell me. My silly reaction to the arrogance that my personal mythos that day could have very well saved my life, yet that same mythos-type mentality is tearing our very world apart, and we, like sheeple, are allowing it to happen. That, my friends, scares me more than the loss of my own mortality.

Take the time…

Take the time to listen to all opinions and do so without bashing or rhetoric. Listen, truly listen, and check facts. We need more talking and less yelling, more understanding why someone feels the way they do, then demanding they think like you.

Both sides just need to make better choices.

#truestory

HUMANITY, WELLNESS

Get a Job: The Truth about the Homeless

The Truth about the Homeless

People will sooner aid a sick dog lying on the sidewalk than to try
to find shelter for a sick person. It’s too much to deal with.
–Michael Zaslow

The internet is an excellent tool used by millions to find information, share emails, keep in touch with friends, and share funny photos and memes. I am on the internet, it seems, hours upon hours a day. In fact, I am a serial Facebook, LinkedIn, blog-reading fool. Whenever I am sitting at a bar having conversations and discussions about something, it’s off to Google to prove my point or get info on the subject. It’s just too easy to gather information now, and it is so much faster. This being a political year, it seems that funny photos and sarcastic ones are popping up all over social networks, some funny – some disturbing.

job

I saw the above picture on Facebook a few days ago and then I saw something similar in LA, live. It broke my heart. The photo was meant to be satirical, yet what I saw on that corner was a reality for a human being that I passed by in my Uber to the airport. He had a sign out with the usual verbiage but here is the story. There was no man standing or photoshopped in, this was life. I thought about the pic when I saw him and thought, why couldn’t he find work at a Walmart or a McDonald’s? When I got on the plane, that picture still sat in the back of my head as sat down, in 1st class no less, and I wondered what the Walmart guy would really say to this man instead of trying to go viral on the internet with what would be perceived as a funny photo.

Getting Work for People

Being in the actual practice of getting people work for over 19 years, I would like to set up a dose of a little reality for him. Here are some of my G-rated questions for the Walmart guy:

1) Will you hire him if he doesn’t pass a background check or has committed a felony?

2) Will you provide him clothes to work in and when those get dirty will you help him get them washed or do you think that first paycheck will pay for an apartment, utilities, appliances, and laundry detergent?

3) Will you immediately pay for any healthcare including mental health care he might need? With medications?

4) Will you keep him as an employee if he has an exacerbation of PTSD, anxiety, schizophrenia, or anything else while at work?

5) Will you have someone watch his only earthly possessions while he is working, so no one steals them?

6) Will you provide childcare or transportation or a bed for a good night’s sleep or food to sustain him while he works?

7) Will you even take an application from someone who does not have an address?

Are the answers to my questions are “yes?” If so, I admire your corporation, and I will be more than happy to help drive candidates to your organization. However, we both know that the answer to every one of these queries is “NO!”

Just Get a Freaking Job

The “just get a freaking job” argument is not so easy to quip when you look at the facts. Many of those who are homeless do work or want to work. Many can’t. It is truly not a simple fix. Some homeless hold signs – mostly people don’t talk to them, they turn away, or tell them to get a job. Judging them helps in no way, at all. I am fully aware there are bogus people out there pulling heart strings on sympathies who hold signs and don’t have legitimate needs; I actually don’t advocate for giving cash to those “flying signs” unless they are creative.

Cheeseburgers?

Years ago, while in San Francisco visiting friends we ran across a black man with a sign that read, “please donate to the United Negro Cheeseburger Fund” we laughed hard, and I said if I give you 5 dollars are you going to go the McDonalds behind you and get some .99 cent cheeseburgers? He smiled and said yes, yes I am. I gave him the 5 dollars, and he ran in to get the cheeseburgers, came out and went around the corner. We followed him to see if he was, indeed, going to eat them. He did not, he gave them away to a woman & two kids, and another man grabbed his sign and went back to his post. I looked at my compadres and without a word we crossed the street and gave him all the cash we could.

The Faces of the Homeless

My point is, “just get a damn job” is not simple thing look what stands in front of those who have fallen and cannot get up. Please take some time to understand some of the most devastating underlying issues these people have is the lack of caring we have for them. Human resources used to be a middle man between employees and owners while helping fill vacant seats. Now, they are mostly buried with compliance, benefits, and just making sure they don’t get sued for not taking chances. They are more concerned about the bottom line than most CEOs.

These struggling people have feelings and worth, and they are not all junkies and alcoholics, many are just fighting to survive in a world that looks at them like trash. Some are veterans who fought in wars they did not start. Some are women who ran from abusive marriages, some are those who fell on hard times. Some are teenage throw aways who never even had a shot at life, and the spiraling effect of going down is like falling out of a plane without a working parachute. It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the fact there was nothing and no one there willing to catch you.

Paying it Forward

I hope this is where we can start to fit in. We, as a society, need to start actively start getting deeper in the game, we need to be more than order takers and more about effecting change. Stop giving them a dollar to pay for a coffee but get them somewhere they can get help. We need to start championing people we may not have in the past. I am using the homeless as an analogy just as there are other groups that need help, training, and, just some love. Join me in paying it forward, will you? Remember, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution, where do you want to be in history?

#truestory #life

HR, HUMANITY

Better off Dead: My Two Dollars Story

Better Off Dead

My two dollarsOne of John Cusack’s first movies was an odd spinoff of the wildly successful John Hughes films of the 80’s and 90’s called Better off Dead. Throughout the film, there is a running theme of a newspaper boy, yes, for those younger than 40 – we did not exercise child labor laws that strictly back then, chasing after the main character, Cusack for two dollars. You see, on top of delivering the papers to your front door, you had to do collections door-to-door, weekly for the money from the person getting the newspapers. Daily papers were .25c, and the Sunday paper was .50c, equaling two dollars a week. A few weeks ago, this came to mind one evening in a convenience store near my home.

A Wild Week

After what had been a wild week with candidate negotiations, allergies, and lack of sleep based on said allergies, something good finally happened. Sometimes, you just have to look past yourself to realize there is someone out there a little worse off than you. I had to run down to the local 7/11 for milk, as the carton in my fridge had spoiled. I drove down to the corner store, cursing that my craving for mashed potatoes and the need of milk to make the deliciousness that that dish is, forced me out of my home and into my car to procure this magic liquid.

When I arrived at the market, it was unusually busy, people milling around – looking at products deciding what snacks they wanted, etc. Now you see, I am not really a big grocery store guy, I eat out a great deal, so I know convenience stores well and how they operate. You have to move fast, or a line will form and then you are caught standing there pissed off because you just want to go home and eat mashed potatoes, and yet you are standing here, waiting. First world problems, am I right?

Two Dollars

better off deadI hate being right sometimes, and like a perfect storm, a line had formed, yet, not a bad one, there was a single guy and father there with his two young daughters in front of me, so I thought, oh well just a few more minutes. It could be worse with the sea of bachelors that were in the store. The first guy went off without a hitch, paid and off he went. Then, the father walked up with a loaf of bread and cheese. He was rung up quickly, handed the clerk his card, and the transaction was done. Boom, I am on the home stretch now! The youngest child then pulled a candy out of her pocket that she had been holding. The Father looked at her and smiled and said, “Sure, baby girl.” I stood there deflated and angry. I was tired, hungry, and just wanted to get back home to make the potatoes and eat my dinner. The clerk rang up the candy, and it popped up as two dollars on the register, he handed the man the card, again. So yet another transaction I have to sit through, great how much longer do I have to wait!!
Then, it happened, the card was declined, for two dollars.

His body language showed his humiliation that he could not afford two dollars, in front of his children, when he was told there no more funds available on his card which turned out to be an EBT card. Two dollars. For those who don’t live in Virginia, the EBT card is the equivalent of a debit card for food stamps funded by the Common Wealth of Virginia, and he had run out of funds. He scooped up the little one, who was crying that she wanted her candy, and took the other child’s hand, then walked out to his car leaving the candy on the counter in front of us. He said nothing but I caught his eye as he looked down and slowly left the store. The attendant took my milk as I watched the family with the sound of the words of two dollars ringing in my head, and I said, “The candy, I want the candy, too.”

Atonement Gained

The clerk’s expression was one of puzzlement that turned to a look of atonement for not doing what I should have done. I tried swiping my card but was having problems with the machine to complete the transaction quickly enough. Turning to look outside, I saw the Father getting into the passenger seat. Feeling my frustration, the clerk only said to me, “Go, Atonement gained, I suppose.” I nodded to the attendant and ran out of the store leaving both my credit card and wallet on the counter to catch the family before they left. When I got to the car door, his window was down so I handed him the candy and just quietly said, “Sir, you forgot something.” I turned to go back inside, and the father called out to me and mouthed, “Thank you, man.” Two Dollars.

A Very Good Man?

When I went back in, there was a line of people all staring at me, a long line. They were all men of different races, Black, White, Indian, and Asian. Not one person said anything, not one person was upset, in fact, they were all staring at me, some deep in thought, others smiling and nodding. As I reached for my carton of milk, the attendant held on to it for a moment looking me in the eye, smiled, and gave me a short bow and said, “You are a very good man.”

No, I really am not. I stood there in that line cursing the fact that I, a single man, who has enough money to eat out every night if I want, was angry that I had to wait in line. I felt anger toward a Father, caring for his progeny and, more than likely having cheese sandwiches for dinner, couldn’t afford candy, for two dollars. It is moments like this that remind me that we must look around and lift each other up, love each other a little more, and recognize that even though it can be bad at times, there is more than likely someone worse off than you.

Next time, I am going to be a great deal more patient with the world, I think we all should strive for that. I wish it would only cost two dollars to change the perception in the world, which would be amazing.

#truestory #life

HUMANITY

Guns and Mythos

Guns: What Are They Good For?

Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? – Ernest Gaines

I was twelve years old when I shot my first pistol. It was my Grandfather’s revolver, a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum six shooter. My Grandfather was good friends with the local gun shop owner, Mr. Sprague in Yuma, AZ. He had a personal firing range – underground, behind his shop – and only he or his friends were allowed to shoot there.

My Grandad took me there one afternoon to teach me, not only how to shoot a gun, but to understand its sheer power. He wanted me to learn to respect the weapon for what it could do. I remember not being nervous holding it, in fact quite the opposite. I was going to be the lone ranger, Shane – High Noon time is what I was thinking to myself. I was just a kid who  went to movies and watched TV shows. To me, this was the equivalent of becoming like my many heroes from those shows – shooting guns, killing the bad guys, and, well, getting the girl. I was just starting to like them at that age.

He showed me, with an unloaded weapon, how to aim at the target and how to breathe in while pulling back the trigger. The one thing he could not tell me, the one thing I had to learn on my own, was the power that this firearm had. I loaded the weapon, pulled back the hammer, and then squeezed the trigger just like I was trained to do. BANG! The shot rang out, and my arms took on a life of their own, going upward as by body hurdled backward from the shock of the kickback at the release of the bullet. I was terrified of the experience and the sheer power that this gun held and that I was the one who wielded it. The target we used was a watermelon, it became a pile of unusable fruit.

I asked my Grandfather why he had not prepared me for that shock. He only smiled and said, “How else are you going to learn?”

As the years have gone by, I have shot multiple weapons and began to enjoy shooting rifles, more than pistols, as there was a sense of accomplishment hitting a target 100 yards away with accuracy. I did some hunting but never really liked it. Killing animals was not high on my list of things to do as a kid, and it lowers the older I get. I understand the idea of it and why: in the 1800’s, it was a good skill to have – I just did not see the point of it now.

Eventually, the rifles were sold to acquire other baubles like art and collectible comic books. I had friends who joined the military, went to war, and used the education that we got, as kids, to amplify their talents with guns with unbelievably destructive power. Two of them, upon their return, sold the guns they had. They had more than enough of them and enough of violence. War can do that to you.

gunsThe Cause?

“Should we have background checks, waiting periods? To drive a car you have to pass a test that shows you know how to drive your car safely, you should have to do the same thing with guns.” – Michael D. Barnes

My Great Uncle took his life with a gun.
In high school, a former girlfriend took her life with a gun.
Two friends of mine, after high school, were murdered in a parking lot, by a gun.

Every day, there is gun violence int he U.S., and no law other than the total restriction of guns is going to change that. So, yeah – I have a pretty good reasons to understand that weapons take lives. I have lost my share, more than my share.

What we need to do is teach the destructive power a gun has and its effects on people who lose someone to this kind of violence. Children should be taught, like I was, what guns can and will do in the hands of the careless, unemotional, and mentally ill. It should not be taught by video games, movies, and/or TV shows.

We won’t be, though.

Hell, we don’t teach our kids anything now, it seems. The entitlement festers like a sore, unattended in this country, and we blame anyone else, other than ourselves; it’s the norm. Kids want to play violent video games, they want to be Stormtroopers, or Jason Bourne. Too many movies to mention, too many video games to un-see. I feel this is where the problem begins. These children are not educated on the meaning of life, what it means to take a life, and the devastating consequences of careless actions anymore. If it truly takes a village, ours is burning to the ground, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

gunsThe Solution?

So what do we do? How do we solve the endemic problem we are facing in this country without causing an all-out uncivil war? Have politicians hold sit-ins while bickering amongst their egos? Sometimes the solution to a problem is not to overthink it.

What I believe is you have the right to own a firearm, and I am all for you to have what my Grandmother called a “bang a bang”. However, there is nothing in the constitution that says you can have bullets. Nothing. I know, I looked it up. Collect all the high powered shit you want but you don’t get bullets for it.

See where I am going here?

Just like the prohibition days, this would cause a vacuum, so I get that. Let’s make a little money off this deal then require permits for bullets, which are renewed annually along with background checks annually, as well. Criminals are going to get their hands on guns; we already have too many already in this country, and no matter what you think, our borders are too porous. Hell, if they can get drugs or people across the border, think of how lucrative guns could be. However – when we control the actual gun powder, casings, and lead distribution, they will not be very useful, will they? Running bullets in the amounts that would be profit-worthy would be a costly venture for any cartel, since you cannot just grow rounds. They have to be made in a factory and then shipped; this can be accounted for.

Secondly, when you buy a weapon of this magnitude, you should be licensed. You need a license to drive, fish, hunt, own an animal in some states, but any ass-hat can buy a gun? We need to make it mandatory that they do get training, that they understand the depth of what a bullet can do. It’s not the guns, folks; it’s the bullets that do the damage. Proper firearm training is usually offered at any local gun shop, and it should be mandatory. I know many gun owners who agree with me on this point, and it is an easy sell if someone would just sell it. Knowledge is power, folks and having a well-educated group of people is never a bad thing.

The Gun Culture

We live in a gun culture and that, sadly, is not going to change tomorrow. The history in this country is just too vast, and frankly, the world is a scary place, and people want to be safe. Unravelling this is going to be tough but we have to start somewhere, or it is only going to get worse. And after the last few weeks, that scares me more than when I shot my first gun; I never thought that would happen in my lifetime.

#truestory #life.

HUMANITY

Absolute Accountability and Responsibility

Ugly irrationalism is not the way, but so often the path chosen by many.

Who had accountability? Who was responsible?

1989

In 1989, I wrote a letter to our local La Porte, IN newspaper, the Herald-Argus. They were running a week-long, front page series on the rise in the local infant mortality rateThe focus for this series was the new poor, as they were titled, and those who were unable or unwilling to get pre-natal care either due to ignorance or lack of health insurance coverage . It’s fair to say that, I was disgusted – this was supposed to be investigative journalism? Even at 25 years old, I recognized a possible shush up. Infant mortality and premature deliveries were, indeed, on the rise but instead of investigating potential real causes, there was just a lot of finger-pointing as a governmental blame game developed.

This was Personal

It was personal. Two weeks prior to this series being launched, I had delivered a baby prematurely – almost three months prematurely. As I read the series, my baby lay in a neo-natal intensive care unit thirty-eight miles away from my home. Because answers were important to me, I felt the series was wasted print space. I was not part of what had been described as the new poor, both my husband and I worked – we also had a healthy two-year old, we had health insurance, and I received excellent pre-natal care. No answers were ever offered. And because I was healthy and took care of myself throughout my  pregnancy – however short it was, my baby survived, unlike many other babies I sadly watched die in the NICU I visited daily.

What could I do?

I wrote to the newspaper, expressing my sorrow and anger that responsible, investigative reporting had not been accomplished.  Surprisingly, the paper actually printed my letter.  Many of our friends saw the letter and were shocked and surprised – we had not shared our misfortune, outside of family and close friends, mostly because we were unsure as to whether our baby would survive; she was very ill with many complications that included several pneumothorax procedures for collapsed lungs and a brain bleed of which we were uncertain.  Thankfully, after 87 days in the hospital, our tiny Renee Christine, born weighing just 2 lbs. 5 ozs., came home weighing just under a whopping 5 lbs. She had fought hard to live and we were so grateful for the support of an incredible medical staff and the hundreds of prayers offered in our behalf.

My Words Made a Difference

Maybe they didn’t immediately, and maybe not at first. But I had sounded off at two entities, our local paper and our community hospital, which was not the hospital where my baby had been born or stayed for 3 months. Neither of which provided answers to the public or addressed even who “the new poor” were. Family, friends, and friends of friends were supportive and in agreement with us. One person asked if my mother had written the letter – surprised that I, at 25-years old, could write with such directed anger and expressiveness. It was the first time I felt powerful or that my words mattered.  They did. They still do. As do yours!

Knowledge and Power

Opportunities abound daily which allow us to share knowledge, aggressively seek change, and dropping us in a place of discovery where we can open our minds and learn. Ugly irrationalism is not the way, but so often the path chosen by many. I think of the politics today that litter our airwaves and social channels or even phony religious fanaticism that dupes so many. Why? Because we want to have a place on high where blame or credit resides. Try looking inward to see what YOU can do, what YOU can change, how YOU can educate or be educated. Whether it is getting people to talk or encouraging people to listen, there is a place and a need for adult behavior. You truly can just scroll on by, as well.

And absoluteness lies only in mathematical equations.

BUSINESS, HUMANITY

Share Your Strength

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Shedding Light

I once spoke at a Women’s Conference called “Business in Heels,” a well-attended one-day event in a beautiful setting. I felt fortunate to be included in their agenda. Not only did I make several new friends, but I learned a bit more about women in business locally and what they are achieving.

The program cover featured slender beautiful legs donned by a pair of hot pink pumps – not exactly my attire, and at the top of my presentation, I told the audience that I hoped next year’s event would be titled “Business in Flip-Flops” – this warranted a low chuckle from the nearly all-female crowd but got me thinking about expectations and how business and life has changed over the last ten to fifteen years. Many women, like myself, and men are fortunate enough to work from home, for a company or running a small business.

Not one morning of my adult, working life have I awakened thinking, “Oh damn, I am a woman, therefore – my day in the world of business will be tougher than if I were a man. How can I fight this injustice?” I simply thought, “Oh damn, the price of Lucky Charms and gas went up again — I need to work even harder so I can afford to be a mom.”  Much of my struggles are no different than other single moms or dads, as well as multiple two-income homes.

Life is expensive, whether or not you have a family.

I Made Choices

Life as a single mom is not easy, but I never had time to dwell on those difficulties. Fifteen years ago, it was normal for me to fall asleep at my computer, writing and working until 1 to 2 am, only to rise by 6 am to get four kids out the door. The end of a couple marriages, surviving a couple controlling relationships that included all kinds of often unspoken abuse, returning to college to get my biz degree, getting a great job then losing my home to foreclosure, being fired from a job I thought was great, unemployment or underemployment for extended periods of time, being drugged but escaping sexual assault while on a business trip, and yet another broken heart….

It’s been tough and I have not been shy about writing and sharing these tough times. The best part? Others have let me know that I am not alone – men and women who have have similar experiences have messaged or connected with me to share their own stories. We all have our individual paths paved with thorns. I readily recognize the responsibility I bear when it comes to my lot in life and the cards I have been dealt. Some of my choices have added to my struggle, there is no denying.

I Am Becoming More and More Aware

With the continued fights against racism and bias, as well as other injustices like LGBTQ prejudices, domestic abuse, and un-equal pay, a resounding personal awareness has come to light.

The fight must be fought by ALL,
not just those who suffer from injustice.

No one who hears my story can believe that I was once an abused wife. “You are such a strong woman, how did you ever let that happen?”

It didn’t happen overnight. It was years of conditioning – of guilt, regret, of “this is my lot”, and how could I possibly ever leave? No academic degree and four mouths to feed. I never thought I could leave until a man, actually several men who were family friends, told me I deserved better. None of my women friends told me to leave. Afraid to get involved? Afraid to break up a family, like I was?

The decision to leave became real when I finally realized it wouldn’t change, it wouldn’t get better, and that one of us would soon be dead. That is a frightening realization. One of us would be dead. 

I didn’t want that someone to be me. I needed to be here for my kids. I had more life to live. And I didn’t deserve it, no matter what I had done or not done – I didn’t deserve to be beaten on a regular basis or fear for my life during the next drinking binge. I deserved better.

Sharing the Strength

The strength of those not subjected to abuses, racism, or discrimination must be shared with those who do suffer, undeservedly or not. If you can be a voice, a hand, a lift – please be that voice and that hand. It is not our place, my place, to remain silent when your/my voice or strength can make a difference.

One more thing…

My fire or passion may not burn within you – and that is ok — we are all in the place or getting to the place where we need to be. It is a journey. My journey – my path – is different than yours.

And if I can share anything, please remember:

Just because you do not see or experience injustice
or inequality yourself doesn’t mean it does not exist.

I never had a bruise on my face, but there were plenty on the back of my head and in my heart.  Lift where you can. Shed light where it is dark. You may be saving the heart or life of your best friend, your brother or sister, your child.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

HUMANITY

The Pursuit of Happiness: Like a Room without a Roof

The Pursuit of Happiness

The best way I have found for me, personally, to combat depression is to discover new levels / places where happiness can be found or discovered: an actual pursuit. Seems elementary, right? I suppose it is, at its base. I want to be happy – I think most people do. But do most people aggressively pursue happiness? Or do they wait for it to show up at their door, unannounced but welcomed with significant fanfare, given today’s social media-infused environment? We live in a strange time – it would seem that gone are the days of suffering in silence, of struggling alone in our heartbreak or addiction, and certainly gone are days of quiet celebration or humility.

Not a Professional

I am not a psychologist; I have visited a few. I am not a doctor of any kind; I have visited many different kinds. Most have wanted to prescribe a pill to help me sleep, to battle light anxiety, to keep me alert, to combat fatigue, to ease digestion issues, and reflux – an so on, you are most likely familiar. I am not against pills or drugs. I am, however, against the masking of issues or unnecessarily prescribing drugs.

Let me clarify, I do not suffer, as many do, from clinical depression or anxiety. I am a person with typical aches, pains, joys, and sorrows that accompany being a human. I’d call myself “normal” if I didn’t have so much trouble believing there is such a thing.

Bipolar Disorder

My father was diagnosed as manic depressive 25+ years ago, before Bipolar became the chosen name of his disorder. He was a light-hearted, loving man who taught me, not only the power of a solid handshake, but also how to see beyond a moment, a place, a person. He truly loved all people.

Even today, many years after his death, I receive messages from people telling me how much they genuinely loved my dad and what a difference he made in their life. That is quite a legacy of someone who suffered severely from mental illness for many years – of someone who made many mistakes later in life – of someone who hurt family and friends with those mistakes.

He never stopped loving people or trying to achieve success. He never gave up on happiness. Just two of the many lessons I learned from him.

The Pursuit

I think it is my responsibility to grow, to develop talents or learn new skills – these things bring me happiness or help me to see beyond a current level of status quo or a feeling of being trapped.

An example of this would be my current obsession with visiting cities or landmarks I have never seen on recent road trips. It’s easy to visit Carmel a dozen times and dine at the same restaurants on every visit. It’s another thing to step outside your comfort zone and take a bit of time to learn something new – you don’t know everything, as much as you would like to believe you do.

Dr. Daniel Crosby, author of The Laws of Wealth,  states in a recent article, “Eighty percent of the non-genetic components of happiness can be controlled by our attitude and by making choices that are consistent with finding true joy. The first step in this pursuit is ensuring that the goals we are setting for ourselves are consistent with finding true happiness.” – Can Money Buy Happiness? Sort of.

Pursuits can be as simple as discovering a new hobby or talent. A little over  a year ago, a good friend introduced me to mosaics. It is an art form very different from what I was accustomed to. I am still learning, even after re-tiling my hearth and a couple window sills, creating several decorative trays, platter, and plates. Expanding my horizons keeps me from being locked in old ways, with old, stale thoughts and same old experiences. For me, NEW = Happy.

Out of the Box

The unexpected in life, as well as meeting new and different people can enrich your soul and change perspectives. You are not done – you are not complete. The moment you find comfort in your own little, lonely box is the moment personal growth retards and doors close for lifelong learning and the actual search for happiness. I am determined to stay outside of that little box which has been my life until now.

Happiness A worthy pursuit, yet somehow, most of us fail.  And in our failure, of what do we miss out?  Does it affect our partners, spouses, families, or friends?  Our work?  Our lives?  Of course, but do we even notice?  We get so caught up in living that we don’t even realize or even care when we are unhappy – it has become our normal.  And then, we fail to recognize when we are happy.  Sometimes, the simplest things alter our attitude and mood enough to allow a little bit of joy to creep in. And sometimes, it’s just faking it – and hell, if it works, why not?

Don’t Miss It

Like grabbing the brass ring, it is easy to miss.  Life goes whizzing by so quickly that we can’t even see the joy we have found or slow down enough to embrace it and feel the difference between happiness and a droning existence or what we think we should be doing, how we think we should be feeling — what the world or our world expects of us.

My Little Tip

I use a fab little app called Sleep Cycle – every morning when I wake, it asks me how I feel. I started selecting the smiley face, no matter how I felt upon waking – guess what? It has made a huge difference in how I start my day. And why wouldn’t it? Perception becomes reality. If it works the opposite way, it stands to reason, right?

Happiness is contagious and NOT underrated. Share it. Like a room without a roof.

**Stay Tuned for my new 3-part Key Point Podcast series with Dr.Daniel Crosby: “The Pursuit of Happiness”