Monday, January 21, 2019

The Lies Our Media Tell Us

There was a time in my life that I really and truly wanted to be a journalist. I even went so far as to take journalism classes to fulfill that dream. It is funny though that in the course of one semester, I was both enamored with and disgusted by the whole world of journalism due to two very differently taught classes that I took.

I took a class titled simply Journalism. In that class I had a professor who had been a journalist turned teacher. He taught us that there was nothing greater than to be a good and honest journalist. You go where the story leads you and you let the facts tell the story. I remember him saying that no one was there to hear "your" opinion, unless your were writing an editorial or opinion piece. If you were reporting and writing on straight news, then stick to the facts, keep your bias and/or opinion out of it and do your research in order to make the story as factual and honest as you can. He also drilled into us the three sides of every story....yours, theirs and the truth, which usually hung somewhere in the middle.  He emphasized that although "yellow journalism".....that which is biased, misleading or dishonest.....had been around since journalism began and with a few well placed adjectives and a whole lot of bias and dishonesty anyone could be a yellow journalist and sell papers, but for him and other journalists who took pride in their profession and their ethics, there was nothing worse than a journalist without integrity. Sadly though, these types of journalist, with ethics and integrity are becoming as extinct as the dinosaur.

In that same semester I was also taught in a Mass Media class that you went after a story at all cost. The more sensational the story the better and if you could sway your reader with those well placed adjectives....well then all the better. This teacher also espoused the glories of getting in a bereaved parents face after their child had died or going after the most salacious angle of a story that you could find. After all, wasn't it about selling papers and getting people to turn their TV channel to "your" story. In this particular class, facts, ethics and integrity were glossed over for sensationalism and a healthy dose of selling your soul for ratings.

While my journalism professor gave me a huge push to becoming a journalist, my mass media teacher tainted the profession for me and all my dreams of being a true journalist were dead to this girl. I am glad I chose as I did because I am sad to say, my mass media teacher and those like him, obviously had greater pull when it came to forming young up and coming journalists than my professor did and if you don't believe it, then just look at our mainstream media today.

Yesterday, this whole journalism thing was brought back to me as I was reading through facebook early in the morning. There was a story that ran through my news feed over and over again as friend after friend of mine and news outlet after news outlet kept sharing it. The story took place in Washington D.C. over the weekend. This weekend had been the big March for Life Weekend in D.C. and people from all over the country were there to support pro-life and to peacefully protest Roe v Wade. It is a yearly event which draws thousands and includes churches, youth groups, families and individuals. It was however not the only march going on and D.C. was over run with people from all over the country. In the midst of all of this, two marches apparently collided and the media misinterpretation and bias, along with the help of millions on social media who pass news "fake" or otherwise on like it is written in stone showed us all how corrupt the news media truly is and how gullible and unwilling to fact check and how willing to jump on the "hate" bandwagon that most people are these days.

A young man named Nick Sandmann and a group of kids from his Catholic High School in Northern Kentucky were there for the March for Life. Many were wearing "Make America Great Again," hats. They were I am sure full of life, school spirit and the enormity of the crowd likely had an effect on everyone's behavior there. The kids were chanting their schools name and yelling and being kids. Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha Tribe was also there for the Indigenous Peoples March. According to many sources most of those from the Indigenous People's March had already left and only a few remained. Phillips, along with those from his group remaining were also chanting while he played his drum. What happened next was video taped and what was initially put out on social media and picked up by news outlets around the country was very unsettling. We saw Phillips, a war vet still chanting while Sandmann stands almost face to face with him....smiling. It was a short video clip and in it you can see Phillips continue to beat his drum and chant, while a sea of kids seem to surround him shouting their own chants above his.

The headlines and stories that accompanied this video were that Sandmann and his group of school friends surrounded Phillips and tried to bully and intimidate him by chanting racial slurs and closing in on him. Sandmann standing there face to face with Phillips smiling appeared as nothing short of arrogance and intimidation. Much ado was also made about the fact that Sandmann was white, Catholic and of course wearing the MAGA hat. Within hours, the internet was in an uproar and the video had been shared millions of times. People were calling for swift and strict action to be taken against Sandmann and his fellow students. Memes were being made brutalizing these kids and Sandmann's smiling face was seared into all of our brains. Sandmann's high school as well as the state of Kentucky, trying desperately to get ahead of this embarrassing and completely damning video were already denouncing Sandmann and his classmates and promising the possibility of expulsion for all of them.

I will admit, that the video was not pretty to watch and I contemplated writing a much different blog on it, but there were a few things bothering me about it and as I sat in church they kept coming back to me. The first thing that bothered me was the fact that Phillips, being elderly and having several of his own people still there, that they were not surrounding him and protecting him from these "bullying" teenagers. I know darn well that if I were with a group and this was happening to someone elderly in my group, I would be protecting him, not just standing by and watching it happen. And yes, why if this situation was as contentious as the stories said, were people video taping instead of stepping in to stop the intimidation and disrespect. Finally, in the original story it stated that there were 60-70 students in this group who were viewed as the culprits. That part is likely true as you can see many there. If that is the case then they were obviously there with chaperones. You don't let a bunch of high school kids room free in a place of thousands where you risk losing one. So why were those chaperones not jumping in and stopping this. You know there was at least one adult there. So yes....this all had me asking questions and I decided that before I wrote anything, I would do some fact checking. Thank God in what seems like a sheeple kind of world, I was not the only one with questions.

By late morning, other videos with an alternate view and story came to light. Apparently there was more than one person in attendance with a cell phone and these videos answered at least a few of my questions. In this new video, you see Sandmann's group chanting and being excited kids, while Phillips and his group were at a distance. Then you see some others who were obviously triggered by the kids MAGA hats and they started egging the situation on as Phillips started moving through the crowd towards the kids. It was Phillips in fact and not the kids who fueled this situation and it was Phillips who came face to face with Sandmann and not the other way around. I am sure it was unexpected to have an elderly man coming face to face with you with what looked to be the intent of intimidating a bunch of kids, while people in the crowd are cheering him on. Yes, Sandmann smiled because what else could he do? If he was truly a disrespectful bully as the first video claimed him to be, he would not have just stood there and smiled.....knowing teenagers.....he would have been running his mouth and firing back.....but he didn't. He merely stood there smiling. 

On viewing both videos, the whole thing made me sick. It made me sick because these kids who were there became the poster children of hate in the span of just a few hours. This version of the story told by the one who videod it in the first place, then had it perpetuated by the media and then further sold as gospel by millions on social media caused unnecessary and unfair embarrassment to the state of Kentucky, to the high school these kids were from, to the Catholic Church, to the other pro-life marchers there, to their chaperone, families and most of all, to the kids themselves. And because the internet is forever, this can cause the kids involved and most especially Sandmann, difficulty in getting a job, going to college and even out in the world.....and why?

Were these kids really being disrespectful and hate filled or were they simply being hyper, excited kids at a huge event away from home? Where they targeted because they were white? Because they were wearing MAGA hats? Because they were there to support pro-life? Because they were wearing clothes with their Catholic high schools insignia on it? My guess and from what I saw on the latter videos, the crowd was actually triggered by their hats. Sad.

Were these kids perfect, I am sure not but they were obviously not the instigators of this situation nor the hateful and intimidating bullies either. Who knows, maybe the kids were chanting "Make America Great Again," or "Build that Wall". So what if they were though, it is their right under the constitution and you don't have to like it but as American's we all have to support it, just as it's others right to chant "Impeach Trump", to wish him dead on national TV and to make fun of him on every late night show and sitcom. You may not like it, but as American's you have to support their right to say it. But how about we also hold the adults including Phillips and the ones egging the situation on, responsible for their parts in this situation. Did Phillips not fight a war so that people can wear any hat they want and chant anything they want? I think there was a whole lot of disrespect going on there that day and it doesn't sit only on the shoulders of Sandmann and the other kids there.....and if you watch all the videos, the facts don't lie.

So  honesty and ethics no longer walk hand in hand with journalism and it is getting more and more evident at the biased turn our news continues to take. When you have to fact check the news before you can decide whether it is true or not (and we are talking CNN, FOX and all the rest) then we have hit an all time low in yellow journalism. Of course though, part of the blame falls on us. We are so weak of mind anymore that things we would never have believed or fallen for 20 years ago, we pass along as gospel today without a seconds thought. The media has so much control that we as a country would willingly see a kid or kids expelled from school and possibly ruin their future without even bothering to check a fact.  And often when the facts are laid out in front of others, they choose the story which fits their agenda over the truth every time. That folks is on us.

Until next time

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

I Don't Need a "Bucket List"....I've Got Kansas

Yesterday morning it was in the 30's here and very foggy. I took a friend to the airport who was flying out to go to San Diego for a week. She proceeded to tell me that after looking at the forecast, the weather was going to be in the 60's while she was there. Yes, there would be rain....but THE 60's! 

On the way back from the airport, I was talking to another friend. She lives in Texas and she said the weather in the next week or so predicted temperatures in the 70's. THE 70's! We, meanwhile, are expecting snow and cold. Oh well, it is winter after all.

This same Texas friend and I were talking about her travels. Her husbands company requires him to do a lot of traveling and because of this, she gets to tag along from time to time. When I say traveling, I actually mean traveling. He goes to places like Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and domestic places such as St. Louis, Chicago and Denver too. My friend has gotten to be his plus one for some of these trips and I guess I have lived vicariously through her.

After I hung up with her, I tried hard to imagine what it must be like to get to take off and visit these places.....the planning, the packing and the final excitement of getting to board your flight to a new destination full of experiences that you may never get again. Travel I guess is why so many people have "bucket lists." They want to see and experience places that they have only seen on TV or read about in books. Being the history lover that I am, I totally get it, however, I have never been much into "bucket lists." This is partly because my life does not allow me to pick up and take long journey's away from home, nor does it afford me the luxury of the price of an international plane ticket.  Even if it did though, I am not sure I would be too excited about the whole leaving thing.

I was born in Denver, CO. We lived there until I was two and then we left the mountains behind for the flat plains of Kansas. Even though I am Colorado born, I have no attachment to it and I have always considered myself a Kansas girl. I have visited Colorado several times in my life and it truly is beautiful, but I have no deep desire to wake up to mountains everyday, to live where three foot of snow is not uncommon in the winter and where I might have to travel up winding roads towards the sky to get some place. I hate heights and frankly, crossing the Kansas/Colorado boarder gives me huge anxiety. Go ahead you Colorado me. The fact is that I may have been born in the Centennial state, but my heart will always be in Kansas.

As I finished my drive home yesterday, I watched the passing scenery. It is winter in Kansas and some may just see cold, dreary and nothing special outside, but I saw fog frozen to beautiful brown fields. Beneath that surface I know is wheat, just waiting for the spring to come and it's tiny sprouts to emerge up through the ground. There was also something very peaceful about the fog yesterday as it became just a light mist here and there and then dense and beautiful lying in spots and filling up the atmosphere. And even as much as I hate cold and winter, we are so blessed here in Kansas to be one of the few states that in most years, has four very distinct seasons. No matter how cold it gets (and it can get cold) we always know that spring is just around the corner and life will come back to Kansas in full glory.

I love spring for it's amazing storms and electric light shows that play across the sky. I love the electricity in the air when storms build and make their way towards us. Sometimes it is like watching both the fury and the glory of God at the very same time.

In the winter I long for the summer months where the temperatures can climb into the 100's and the humidity can make you feel like you are in the deep south. Everything is green and the fields turn golden as the wheat prepares for harvest. I love driving through the rural areas and seeing cattle and horses and farm houses dotted across the landscape, all in a carpet of green splendor. It gives us long days by the pool and warm evenings sitting outside and listening to the frogs, the coyotes beyond the train tracks and the breeze dancing playfully within the wind chimes.

Perhaps though, my favorite time of year is after several weeks of the cicada's sounding their call that fall is on it's way....its actual arrival. I love the cooler mornings and the crispness in the air and seeing the tree's begin to change color and the beautiful and bright array of yellows, reds, browns and even purples literally rejuvenates me and makes me excited for things to come. I love jackets and high school football as the world cools down and makes way for winter once again.

I see beauty and feel a sense of "home" every time I drive through the Flint Hills, smell a bbq or find myself on a dirt road out in the country. I love the amazing Kansas sunrises and I have been brought to tears over her sunsets.

Kansas is the place that I have grown up, lived, loved, lost, raised my children and am now watching my grand kids grow up. It is powerful and quiet, magnificent and awe inspiring. There is a sense of peace for me here and true sense of belonging. Kansas is my home.

So yeah, I could travel the country and even the world. I am sure it would be wonderful, but at the end of the day, I know I would long for the prairie and the wheat fields of Kansas. Perhaps this is why I don't do "bucket lists". I don't need one. I already have mine and it is full of all the things I love the most. I am home!

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

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Monster That Mark (Zuckerberg) Created

Many of you are too young to remember the birth of social media. It actually started with the likes of MySpace. It was pretty tame as there really wasn't a lot you could do with it, other than talk about yourself and add your favorite music. It wasn't a huge thing at first because not everyone had a home computer or the patience to hook up to the internet through AOL or any of the other internet land line hook ups. If anyone happened to be using the phone or in fact breathing in another room, it would take forever to access the internet and once you were connected, if said person in the other room picked up the phone receiver and/or breathed, you could easily be knocked off the internet and have to go through the pain staking process of reconnecting yet again. 

As the internet and the number of internet users have quadrupaplied over the years, social media has changed immensely. Even when I first joined Facebook, it was a much different animal than today and I was even fairly late to the game when it came to Mark Zuckerberg's newly created baby. 

In it's infancy, Facebook was kind of cool. Originally it was for college age kids to chat up, meet up and hook up via the internet. It was kind of a closed knit group trying to stay relevant and hip in the ever changing world of technology. Soon though, others were stretching the original Zuckerberg appointed boundaries and before the Z-man could say "billion dollar technology" Facebook had kicked MySpace to the curb and people of all ages from 9 to 90 were getting in on the this new form of social media. 

When I joined it was in 2009. Back then it was still a cool little place to be where you ran into family and long lost friends. At that time, they did not make it easy for you to find people though and if you spent too much time searching for people, they would lock your search privileges out. I guess back then, peoples privacy actually meant something to them. You also had to be extremely careful back then about what you said on this social media platform, as anything remotely political, hateful or too negative could get you put in a "time out" where you couldn't post for several days up to and/or including.....getting kicked off permanently. It also wasn't that easy to come back in with a new "fake" profile as they did their best to track IP addresses and locations. 

In the last decade, Facebook has transformed from this homey feeling little social group with straight across the board rules, to one of the largest social media entities in the world. The Facebook of 2019, allows people not only to search people at will, but also to stalk, harass and bully. Foul language, hate speech, threats and negative and hate filled posts now seem to be the bread and butter of the empire that Zuckerberg created. What is truly tragic though, is that this once cool little piece of technology that put us in touch with Aunt Gladys in Tuscon and our long lost boy friend in Poughkeepsie, has had a rather negative effect on society in general. 

I do honestly believe that in its inception, Facebook was created to be no more innocuous than an internet meeting spot where kids across the country could meet up and chat. They could exchange ideas and it would bring this big world in a little closer. I don't think than in his wildest dreams that Zuckerberg and his crew could have ever imagined how Facebook would take off or how it would change how we look at social media and how its very presence could literally change the actions and attitudes of literally the world. 

In the last few years, Facebook has become a breeding ground for political and religious upheaval. It has become the place where the main stream media has learned to control and manipulate the minds and reactions of the masses and it has become the place where crime is committed daily. Through Facebook, people have been stalked, cat fished, bullied and threatened. Pornography and pedophilia run rampant and many, many deaths and suicides can have their roots traced back to Facebook posts. 

In my opinion though, one of the worst things that Facebook has brought out in society, is the way people have started treating each other. Behind the computer screen, people who don't have the self confidence to be bold in the real world, take out all of their frustration and anger on social media. People use it as a sounding board for attention seeking behavior and when others "like" their negative and abusive posts or comment on them, it tends to unleash truly evil and hateful tenancies in them. 

Facebook has taught us that the only opinion that counts is ours and if someone disagrees, we can throw a tantrum and become hateful and threatening. It has taught us that we should be respected but we don't have to show respect to others. It has taught us that we can put our family and friends on blast when we are angry at them and that we can literally ruin peoples families, careers and lives by posting lies, photo's and innuendos. In other words, Facebook and social media have taught us to be the worst versions of ourselves with no remorse or willingness to accept the consequences of our actions. 

Again, I don't think this was ever the desired outcome when Facebook was created. I think though, that when money and billions and billions of people factored in, this train went off the rails pretty quickly and there was simply no way to pull it back on track. 

Recently I have been mulling over my love/hate relationship with Facebook and social media in general. I still love the ability to talk to people I can't see daily and the making of new friends. I like keeping up with family and the ability to help my community with group pages. I however, am becoming more and more disillusioned with the negativity that social media seems to unleash, especially in people that I know before social media weren't like this. I don't like the pages designed for nothing more than bringing out the hate and negativity in people and the constant barrage of fake news thrown at the masses in the hopes of causing even more unrest and yes....even violent behavior. 

Honestly, my presence on Facebook (the only social media I really use), is getting smaller and smaller. I am trying in my own personal life to keep myself peaceful and positive and just opening up Facebook can often get my anxiety going when there is little positivity or kindness on it  and yet so much negativity and hate. I am taking baby steps in my life and making small changes here and there and if Facebook continues to be the mecca of diseased minds and hateful hearts, then at some point, I may have to put this particular social media in my rear view mirror. 

Mark my boy, and all who run the Facebook machine, if money and the power of ruling the masses hasn't already eaten your soul, now might be a great time to reevaluate the monster you have created and change a few things. I am afraid if you don't, that we may be seeing the last few shreds of mans humanity falling away and what will be left, I don't think any of us wants to see. 

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

I "Have" To vs I "Get" To

I read an interesting Facebook post yesterday. To paraphrase it, it said something about life and perception and how we needed to look at things in our lives as "I get to" instead of "I have to." Then a friend commented that maybe that is why adults lose their passion about things, because as kids, we see everything as an "I get to," but as adults when the realities of the world sneak in and we have to adult everyday, our passion gets lost in the day to day responsibilities of "I have to." 

Have you ever noticed that the really truly happy people in the world live in what seems to be an almost child-like state of freedom? It is as if everything they do is joyful and exciting for them. To the rest of the world this attitude can be viewed as silly, unrealistic and down right irritating, but I am beginning to realize that this is an "us" problem and not a "them" problem. I really think that maybe they are doing it right because they are still viewing life as "I get to." They are going after their dreams and living their passions each and everyday and they are no doubt grateful for the opportunity to do so. They are not merely seeing the world through rose colored glasses, but perhaps they are seeing the world as it was meant to be seen. I truly believe that the negativity and feeling of "I have to" is man made and man is his own worst enemy.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying throw your hands up to the sky and say, "That's it. I'm done adulting for the rest of my life." What I am saying though is that maybe if we looked at our lives as gifts to be grateful for and really stopped and thought about what we have maybe the "I have to's" would turn into more "I get to's." To see the world as, I get to go to work and provide for my family says a lot. It says first and foremost that I am blessed to have a family and I am blessed to have a job. Not everyone is lucky enough to have those things. Because I do, I have the opportunity each day to love that family to the best of my ability and to take care of that family. Looking at it through those eyes makes our lives look more like we are living out opportunity instead of merely necessity. With opportunity comes gratitude and appreciation. With necessity can come ingratitude and a lack of appreciation. And if you aren't grateful and appreciative, you lose your joy and your passion for everything.

There is a common belief out there that we create what we expect. If we expect nothing good and  we view life as constantly a bunch of "I have to's," then we create negativity and a feeling of drudgery in our lives that keeps us feeling down, frustrated and even can push us to feelings of true discontent and anger. It is almost a self-fulling prophecy. We expect the worst and we get it. On the other hand, if we view each day as a gift and each task as a positive challenge then we can create that too. We can keep alive that child-like excitement of life and possibly re-ignite old passions and maybe even find some new ones along the way.

Since 2019 is still in its infancy, perhaps this is the way we change our lives and shake things up a bit. As I have already stated this new year, I am not making resolutions because those are expectations and when they are not met, they can take on the negative connotation of failure. However, changing my perception could possibly be doable, especially if all it means is looking at the world with just the change of one word. I will change "have" to "get" and maybe that will help me to see each task differently. "I have to pay bills," says it is a necessity and possibly an unpleasant task. "I get to pay bills," says that I have a home, a vehicle, food, electricity and I am lucky. Not everyone has them. Perception is everything in this world and right or wrong, how we perceive things becomes our reality. If we perceive something as negative, it will surely become negative. If we perceive something as good and positive, then it will surely become good and positive. It is really just that simple.

So today, I get to write this blog and reignite my passion for blogging, being creative and all things writing. I also get to be a mother and a grandmother. I get to take care of my house, do my job, run my errands and at the end of the day, I will be grateful because I didn't have to do any of it. I got to do it and that's just pretty great.

Until next time........

Saturday, January 5, 2019

January 1st (A Short Story Exercise)

I am doing a short story exercise from a writing course I found. I was given 10 words in which I have to use for the story. The following are the 10 words and my story. Please feel free to comment and critique. My working title is simply January 1st. 

1. Chopped
2. Home
3. Garden
4. Pig
5. Skin
6. Chalk
7. Black ‘n White Stripes
8. Rose
9. Bowl
10. Touchdown

Alvie sat silently staring out the window. It was spring now and he should be out in the garden readying it for the summer crop or helping his wife with the animals. Instead, there he sat…an invalid, confined to a wheelchair and lost from the world he once knew.

He looked out towards the pig pen as his wife emerged closing the gate and wiping the sweat from her forehead onto her shirt. Her skin was already a golden tan from all the extra time she had to now spend outside doing his chores and picking up his slack. Just another reason for him to feel emasculated and useless.

He thought of the home and farm he once loved. He gazed at the black ‘n white stripes on the bedroom wall. He remembered how much fun he and Sue had that day painting them, laughing at how gaudy he thought they were and secretly happy at how over joyed they made his beautiful wife.

Yes his wife. She, this home, the farm and of course football were the things he loved most in this world. At least they were. Now he could hardly stand the thought of the game as it was football that was partially responsible for bringing him here. That great all American past time left him forever an invalid, never again to be the husband, farmer or man he once was. 
As a running back and All State in high school, he believed that football would be his future with every recruiter in the tri-state area courting him. When he blew his knee out during a tackle as he made the winning touchdown at the state finals his senior year, gone were all his recruitment letters as well as his dreams of a career beyond high school. He had Sue though and with her help and a lot of physical therapy, he came back from the injury and began to focus on another dream…. starting a life with Sue on his late grandfather’s farm.

He and Sue had spent the last six years of their lives fighting insects, broken down equipment and drought and finally, last year their dreams of having a fully functioning, if not profitable farm were starting to take shape. He and Sue had never been happier and thoughts of adding to their family were starting to become an actual plan. Football was no more the dream that got away for Alvie as his real life, grownup dreams were starting to come true. Football was now just a sport he loved to watch on TV or head out to the occasional game when chores were done and time allowed. No more though. Not know and not ever again.

It was January 1st, New Year’s Day. It was a cold and wintry day, but Alvie and Sue were happy. Alvie was especially happy as he had just found out in spring that he was going to be re-homing 24 young calves to his farm. In time this would mean serious money in the bank for the young couple and he couldn’t think of a better way to start out the New Year. He was also happy that today the Rose Bowl was being played. This year his team and his best friend Clay’s team would be going head to head. Alvie had a few dollars bet on the game, but the real fun would be trash talking Clay during the game. It was going to be a great day on the farm.

As game time approached, Clay and his wife Jenny showed up. Jenny went in the house to help Sue and Clay headed to the workshop to help Alvie finish up so they could watch the game. Clay had already begun the festivities early as in, he was still a little drunk and a lot hung over from the night before, so he had a little hair of the dog to get the party started. As Clay walked in the workshop Alvie was in full snow gear heading out. The neighbor down the road had gone off the road just off the highway and was stuck with a trailer full of horses. He needed help immediately in the frigid January temps.

Alvie grabbed Clay and they climbed in the Ford and headed out towards the highway. The wind was blowing and the snow had begun falling again. The roads were icy and Clay was none too happy having to go pull a trailer out when his head was pounding and he was ready for some football. Alvie would have rather been getting ready for the pregame himself but in this neck of the woods, helping your neighbors came before just about anything….even the Rose Bowl.

Once on the scene, neighbor Henry Davis was squarely off in the ditch with mud clear up to the hitch. The horses were cold and would neigh their displeasure of being at an angle (which messes with a horse terribly) as the men worked to first dig them out and then tow them out.

After a good 45 minutes and a couple of other passerby good Samaritans stopped to help, the trailer was free, the horses were on level ground and Henry was preparing to be on his way.  By this time Clay’s post New Year’s Eve hangover was starting to rear its ugly head yet again. Luckily he had the forethought to bring along a rather large flask which he had been steadily drinking from. He was at a functioning drunk level, but his attitude had been less than jovial since this whole cold endeavor had started. He had continually let everyone know that he wasn’t going to miss this game, and that he had A LOT of money riding on it. Everyone there including Alvie was getting irritated, but Clay was Alvie’s friends and you make exceptions for friends, so Alvie handled the task at hand and ignored Clay as best he could.

As Alvie unhitched the tow chain and carried it around the side of his truck, Clay suddenly decided that they could get home quicker if he drove, so he side swiped Alvie and grabbed the keys hanging from his coat. Alvie was less than happy but kept his cool realizing that Clay was well on his way to being full on drunk. Alvie blocked the driver’s door with his body and stared at Clay. Clay ignored the look and tried to shove Alvie to the side and gain access to the door handle. The irritation was growing in Alvie as he waved the good Samaritans on their way. Once again Clay tried the strong arm approach and this time Alvie shoved back knocking his feet out from under him on the slick pavement and causing Clay to slide down the side of the truck sideways.

Henry Davis had done a final check on his horses and was back in his truck with the heat on full and the pregame on the radio. He was oblivious to the shoving match that was taking place behind him.

As Clay pulled his way back up the side of the truck, Alvie had grabbed the door handle and was making an attempt to climb into the seat when Clay suddenly lunged up and forward pulling Alvie back out of the truck. It was almost as if Clay had become crazed by the cold and the alcohol and he screamed at Alvie that he was not going to miss the game and he was going to drive. Alvie tried to block Clay as he made a final lunge, but Alvie lost his footing and as Clay shoved him a final time, Alvie went flying backwards just as Henry had put his truck and trailer into gear. The trailer made a thrust backwards on the slick surface just as Alvie went sliding under the rear wheel.

The days that followed were full of surgeries, specialists and Sue constantly at his side both day and night with a look of exhaustion, fear and ultimately resignation. His spine had been broken and he was paralyzed from the waist down. The first responders had told Sue that had Alvie slid a few inches further, he would likely have been chopped in half. Sue was just grateful that her husband was alive.

Now, in the springtime when he should have been out bringing in his new calves, working in his garden and tending to the thousand things that always need done on a farm, he just sat there looking at his legs…the legs with skin as white as chalk and as useless as tits on a boar as his grandfather used to say. 

Clay doesn’t come around anymore. Sue told Alvie that once he got to the hospital, Clay was more focused on the game than his friend hanging to life. Clay lost the bet that day and apparently his shirt with other bets he had made. He and Jenny had their house foreclosed on a few weeks back and the country gossip was that they were headed for divorce court as Clays drinking had now become a “real issue.”

The air was warm as it darted through the curtains and Alvie wished he could enjoy it, but his joy was gone.  Once again Alvie was living the pain of losing his dream and this time he wasn’t sure he would ever come back from it. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

We All Have a Story to Tell

Stories. We've all got one or many and we are all apart of one...or many. Our stories link us to others and tell us who we are as an individual, a family and even an ancestry.

I grew up in a family of storytellers. Hard to believe I know. From my earliest moments I remember my mother regaling me with tales of her youth, growing up as the eleventh child and also youngest child of farmers in the red dirt of Oklahoma. As a kid, I would rather listen to my mom tell stories than watch TV and ever so often I could corner her of an evening and prod her for hours about her childhood, her life and all that she was willing to divulge in story form.

My mom had a decided advantage over her other brothers and sisters growing up and that advantage was that she was the youngest. The baby. With there being a 20 year gap between her and her oldest sister and a three year gap between her and her brother who was the next above her in age, Mom pretty much had my grandmothers undivided attention whenever she wanted it and like me, she would corner her mother and prod her for hours to tell stories of her childhood, her life and all the stories she knew about the family.

From my mother and my grandmother by extension, I learned about my maternal great grandfather Henry Bennett Etier, who was a French Canadian and a roamer. He seldom settled for long, traveling all over from Louisiana to Oklahoma and areas in between. Even though settling in one place for more than a short while was not to be his life, he managed to marry three times, outliving all of his wives and through these wives he ended up with 14 children. All of his boys were named after presidents or famous men and all of his girls were named after flowers and states. My grandmothers name was Grace Missouri. She later change it though to Grace Mary after joining the Catholic church. My grandmother was also Henry's youngest child and she was the seventh daughter. My mother was also a seventh daughter which my grandmother always said that the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter was special and that my mom would have an understanding and knowledge of things that others do not. She was right. My mother did.

There were stories of how Grace married into the large and boisterous Dougherty clan and she would tell of my my grandfathers father and how he had died in a tragic horse and buggy accident leaving my great grandmother a widow. There were stories of how the Dougherty's came to the United States from Ireland and how once arriving here were looked on as "dirty Mick immigrants" and were seen as only good for hard labor such as working on the Erie Canal or working as chamber maids for the more affluent English immigrants.

There were stories of how the Dougherty's left the New York area and traveled by covered wagon  hoping to find a better life and land of their own. They were part of a wagon train heading west towards the promise of freedom and their own part of this vast and quickly developing new country. They settled in Iowa and stayed there until the Oklahoma Land Rush and the promise of an even better future beckoned them....and then it was Oklahoma with it's red dirt and land a plenty where they settled.

All of these stories handed down and told in great detail always filled me with pride and a sense of who I was and were I came from. I soaked every ounce of information in like the geeky little sponge I was and even at a very young age, long before the internet and I was researching even more of my family. Through this fascination and determination I broke out of my shell and began to bug other family members about their memories and even began long pen-pal relationships with distant relatives that I never met face to face but knew intimately because of the life stories they shared with me. It was a great hobby to have and I learned so much.

Now don't think that my mother was the only one that I would corner for these family history lessons. My grandfather Robert Castle Jacques on my dads side was still living when I was a young child. He had had an exciting life (at least by this small town girls standards), and he loved to spend hours talking about his life and the people he had met in his life almost as much as I loved listening to him. He was part of large family growing up in a tiny town in Kansas. When he was seven years old, his family could no longer afford to provide for him as times were tough, so he took out on his own. Over his life time he worked as a ranch hand at the famous 101 Ranch in Ponca City, OK which was owned and run by Buffalo Bill Cody. He of course met the man himself, not to mention Annie Okley and the famous Sitting Bull. He also worked on the railroad and in the oil fields for many years and met the likes of Howard Hughes Sr and his infamous son Howard Hughes, Lyndon B. Johnson before he ever even thought of the White House and various other famous and not so famous and yet extremely colorful people. I would sit for hours mesmerized by his life and the humility in which he told his stories. I don't think he had a clue how fascinating he truly was.

After my grandfather passed away, I would then harangue my own dad to continue the legacy started by his dad and to fill in the questions that one has after someone dies and you think "I should have asked that." My dad given the right opportunity and the right state of mind could tell a pretty good story himself and I would learn what it was like for him as a small town Kansas kid during the depression. He would tell of times when his family was well off enough to have housekeeper and then when the depression was full on, how they barely had enough to eat. There were stories of my dad as a young man with a dream to own his own farm and how he worked night and day to keep that farm up and running. When farming was no longer a viable way for him to make a living, he came to Wichita and went to work where he stayed until he retired. 

I guess you could say I am a story junkie. I love my families stories and I love to hear the stories of other families too. We each are so much more than the world knows and we all have a family legacy of sinners and saints, tough times and glory days. They make us who we are and give us something to pass on to future generations. Sadly, with the world as it is today, my kids aren't the story lovers that I was. They don't have the time and maybe the interest to sit down without TV, phone or electronic gadgets and just learn about who they are and about the people who came before them. Perhaps this is why I blog. Perhaps someday, long after I am gone, my kids and grand kids will be able to look back on my body of written work and learn a little about me, my parents, grand parents and about how their family came to be. My hope is that it gives them roots and a sense of the history that makes them who they are as both individuals and family. If that happens, then perhaps, my purpose here on this earth will have surely been fulfilled.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018....One of the Good Ones!

Some years I remember to close out the year with a "so long to the year" blog and some years I don't. This year I remembered and made time to do just that. While this wasn't a stellar blogging year, I did better than some years but this year, I actually did more "living" than blogging.

My 2018 started with the flu then amped up to the fight of my life when I learned my son David and I might lose our house. I had to look at family differently and realize that family doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. It was a truly sad and trying time, but in the all worked out. People keep saying "you saved your home," but that is false. My friends, neighbors, community and complete strangers saved my home, I just humbled myself to a groveling position and spent four months praying and literally begging for a miracle. I got one and in that four months I changed so much. I found what it was really like to be embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn't support my family and keep a roof over our heads. I learned what it meant to humble myself as low as I could possibly go and have to rely on the generosity of others to save my son and I. I also learned how much people around us love David and that there is still real kindness left in the world. Most of all though, I learned forgiveness. It was a huge lesson all the way around.

In April, David went through his scariest surgery to date and hopefully his last major one. He had rods put into spine from neck to pelvis due to his scoliosis brought on by his cerebral palsy. Previous to this surgery, I thought his hip surgeries were the worst thing he had gone through, but the verbal prep for this surgery scared me to death. We were told it would be at least a 6 hour surgery with at least 48 hours in PICU and then 7-10 days on the peds unit. David and long surgeries usually are a bad combination so when we went in that April morning, I was prepared for the very worst. His surgery was over in an hour and a half, he was in PICU over night and we were home from the hospital in 4 days. Everyone was shocked at how easy and quick his recovery was. He was even able to do a week of school before school was out. Yes, God was very good to us.

While time between April and July was pretty mundane, I was able to accomplish a lot on my house and I had a new found pride in it and love for it now that is was truly our forever home. Then in July the rug was pulled out from under me when I realized my middle son was a full on meth addict and not just using, but shooting up. My world once again was turned upside down and inside out and I had no idea how to correct it. I spent several weeks trying to fix, manipulate and control my son and his addiction until the day that I realized that I was running on fumes and if I didn't do something drastic, "I" might not survive his addiction. July 28th I found Al-Anon and my world took a decided change for the better.

Since July, I have found new focus and a peace that I don't think I have had in a very long time. I found a way to love my addicted son and not enable him and I have found a much healthier way to look at my entire world.

Life hasn't been exactly easy since July as there have been custody court dates with my older son and frivolous PFA's thrown in to keep us all on our toes. There was learning a friend wasn't really a friend and finding out that I had been stolen from and had my trust shaken to the core. Still though, I was learning how to handle it all and that some things I just simply had to let go of.

In August, David started back to school again and my granddaughter started kindergarten. Life was moving on and I was moving forward. I continued to grow emotionally and spiritually and I was learning how to mind my own business and focus on what I could control....ME! 

When November rolled around, I started a new blog....To Hell and Back an Al-Anon Mom's Story. It was my therapy and a little bit of service too. I tried to keep my attachment to it under wraps as it was as much my son's addiction story as it was mine and I wanted to be respectful.

In December, my son publicly posted on facebook that he was an addict and was trying to find his way into recovery. At that point I was free to post my new blog as my own.

Christmas this year was monetarily a frugal one as our gift was our home and this was the first time for me to pay property tax. That being said though, knowing that the money wasn't there for gifts gave me the opportunity to be creative and rather have a tree full of gifts, I only gave a few gifts that were special and from the heart. This year I gave of myself and gave gifts such as babysitting for special nights out, helping on projects and just being there as a mom and grandma whenever I can. It occurred to me that my family won't remember the expensive toy or game that I might have bought them after I am gone, but they will remember the story I read to them 100 times over or the time I spent with them on projects and shared time. Having a Christmas like this gave me so much less stress and so much more time and I truly found joy in Christmas this year.

So here we are, December 31, 2018 and a new year is quickly coming in. This year as I say goodbye, I don't feel the usual regret of what wasn't accomplished or what I should have done. No....this year I look back and feel like even through the worst of times this year, there was joy. There was a renewed sense of self and new found respect for the kindness and generosity of others. I learned so much about who I am and I know that I still have a lifetime of stuff yet to learn. This was a year of faith, priorities and acceptance like never before. It was a year that I will never forget and that I will forever be grateful for.

Going into the new year, there are no big resolutions or self promises. Instead, I am going to head into the new year just as I am leaving the old step at a time.

So good bye were one of the good ones,
Happy New Year everyone. See you next year!