Going Rogue

I so appreciate this post.  We have many teachers in our family and I watch them struggle with curriculum and regulations, testing and retesting.  Teachers are worn out.  They teach our kids all day then grade papers and write tests in the evenings.  They’re suffering.

Attend your local school board meetings, especially if you have children in school.  Meet with their teachers, ask questions, get involved and offer support.  Your kids will learn that you really care about their education.  Teach them to get involved.

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playground

They’re not my kids anymore, but they’ll always be mine.

True, I don’t see them day in, day out like I did the year that they were in my classroom. But there are still snatches of time during the day where we can reconnect–a quick conversation as we pass each other in the hall, first thing in the morning when my classroom has more former students than current students.

In my mind, they’re just slightly taller versions of the child I saw every day for ten months, maybe with a few more teeth and a different hairstyle. But then I’m reminded that they’ve been thrown into a whole new existence.

The testing world.

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Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


Tomb of the unknown
Tomb of the unknown
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery

 

This isn’t really a post.  It feels more like a dirge.  I’ve been organizing photographs recently – got ’em all in the cloud, ya know – and I came across some that my spouse had taken on the last trip he made to DC with Rolling Thunder.   The photo of Arlington (see the header pic) pulls my feet out from under me.  Note how the stones line up so smartly, the grass is as trim as a boot camp haircut and the quiet is deafening.

A few years prior our son made a trip to Afghanistan and then another to Iraq, courtesy of the U. S. Army.  It’s been ten years since he came back to us and I still find myself looking at his face wondering who is this man wearing my son’s dog tags, carrying his wallet, thinking he can fool this old woman.  Sure, he looks familiar, but I don’t know him.  The joy is gone from his voice, his smile is strained, dark circles always under his eyes.

His eyes – I look into those green eyes, within them the most amazing color of orange around his pupils, and I can’t describe the pain that cuts through me, takes my breath away.  It’s his pain I see in those beautiful eyes as they gaze back into mine.  Pain because he left others behind to continue the battle while he came home.  Pain because he saw body bags take friends away after IEDs ripped through their bodies.  Pain because of guilt he suffers from taking the lives of the sons of other women. But wait! There’s more!

The Working Poor

You know they exist, right?  I mean you know there are people who work that are still poor, people who sometimes work 2 and 3 jobs.  They’re real.  You just don’t see them.  Actually you see them but you don’t SEE them.  Don’t get defensive, I don’t mean specifically YOU.  I’m guilty too.  It isn’t that we don’t care. We’re busy, and that’s just not where our minds are when our paths cross.

Okay, now that we admit these people are real and we probably do have some contact with them throughout the day, can you pick out anyone who might belong in the category ‘working poor’?  You don’t need that defined, do you?  It’s fairly self-explanatory, but just for the sake of clarity, these are people who spend 27 weeks or more in a year “in the labor force” either working or looking for work, but whose incomes fall below the poverty level.  That’s the true definition according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Seriously, I can’t make this up.

Are you familiar with the poverty guidelines?  I had to look ’em up, and by the way the guidelines are different from the poverty threshold.  I’ve read about it several times and I still don’t understand it.  I’m pretty sure it’s a game the government plays to move your cheese (cheese here represents something of value to you) from one place to another..  A family of four making less than $24,250. per year is considered below the poverty level.  That’s just over a couple of grand a month.  For four people.  I was trying to imagine what bills a family of four might have, you know, people who are trying to live within their means (who does that?).  This is what I came up with:

  1. Rent – $400
  2. Car – $250
  3. Utilities – $200
  4. Groceries – $500
  5. Gas and transportation – $100
  6. School expenses – $50
  7. Daycare – $400
  8. Clothing, dry cleaning, misc – $100

There’s about $100 left.  What do you think?  Maybe they splurge and take the kids to the movies and out for a burger.  Or maybe they’re smart and they put it in savings.  I don’t even know if these are realistic figures.  I certainly don’t know where you can find an apartment for $400/month.  Not in a neighborhood where there are windows and locks on the doors that really lock. It’s a dangerous world!  As for the food, for crying out loud, my spouse and I spend more than that monthly on groceries and we have no kids at home!

It just occurred to me that if these people are working 2 or 3 jobs, that means their kids are probably home alone quite a bit.  Hmmm.  That’s not good.  I allowed for daycare but I don’t think that includes giving the little darlings dinner, a bath and a story before bedtime.  Pretty sure it doesn’t.

Oh, but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.  We still need to identify who these working poor are.  Once again, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is earning their keep!  The working poor predominantly consists of young single, minority women. With children.  So we have poor single kids raising younger kids and they’re doing it on a frazzled shoestring budget.  I don’t know about you, but this makes me feel nauseous.  Is it any surprise to you that education is directly linked to gainful employment and economic stability?  You’re smarter than a radish, of course it’s no surprise!

Friends, we live in the United States.  You know, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’!  Does that mean anything in the year of our Lord, 2015?  We sent foreign aid in the amount of $37B in 2013 and $14B of that went to foreign militaries!!  Can’t we send our own kids to school before we arm the rest of the world???

Okay, I’m winding down my rant and I’ll leave you with this bit of curiousity.  There were 46.5 million poor people in the United States in 2012, BUT, only 10.6 million were considered working poor.  So how do we classify the remaining 30 million?  Let me go ask the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  I’ll be right back.

“Thank You For Your Service.” What Do You Really Mean By That?

This is such a splendid post, it bears repeating here on my blog.  Many thanks to Forming The Thread! 



Forming The Thread

Instead of a thank-you, I’d like something different:  I want you to pay attention, stay informed, and get politically involved.

In recent years, more veterans are letting us know that they find it a little off-putting to be thanked for their service. The exact reasons vary, but I have my own, so count me among those who find it awkward at best.

I wonder just what people really mean when they say “Thank you for your service.” Maybe I should start asking. Why are you thanking me for my service? What did it do for you? What does it mean to you? I wonder how many of these well-wishers could even really articulate a solid answer to that question.

Here is what this veteran thinks: “Thank you for your service” is a pretty lame substitute for the public’s failure to be at all engaged, or even a little bit interested…

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The night can be so dark

This is a ‘What If”…did you ever play that as a kid?  What if I’m adopted and I’m really a princess?  What if there’s snow and no school tomorrow  What if I fail that Geometry test Friday?

Well, imagine it’s a Thursday night in August in the beautiful Lone Star State.  It’s about 10pm, your 8-year-old is smiling in her sleep…it’s quiet,  You start to smile, then remember your face is covered in a tightening mask, so your smile becomes somewhat frightening. Ahhh, a peaceful evening with a glass of wine in one hand, a bottle of Advil in the other.  The lights begin to flicker…after a minute or so of this, they go off altogether.  We’ll dispense with the invectives coming from your direction, and notice instead the sound of your toe hitting the corner of the door.  Wine glass shatters as it hits the floor and you’re groping blindly for the sink to pry off the youth restoring concrete mask, which you must do to find the flashlight, matches, candles – oh, dear Lord, where did you (not the Lord; you)put those things.  Think.  Maddie, said 8-year-old, was playing at camping in the backyard.  No!  Not waking her up!.

Okay, face is clean, careful not to step on glass shards, swallow the Advil dry.  You hear sirens…you could hear a pin drop without the power on.  The August heat is glistening on your forehead.  Grope your way to the living room, find the hall entry closet, top shelf…YES!  There’s a flashlight!  You press the button triumphantly, yet remain shrouded in darkness.  Pick up the phone, call your sister, Celeste, spend the night there.  Nope.  That’s not happening.  There’s no signal on your cell phone.  A bit of panic is creeping over you.  Grab your robe, rustle up the child and pick her up – ugh – when did she get so heavy???  Keys aren’t hard to find – always hanging in the same place by the back door.  Maddie rolls into the backseat, key in ignition…nothing.  We’ll leave you there for a moment to slam your head against the steering wheel.

Okay, let’s summarize what we know so far.  No electric, no flashlight, no cell phone signal, no car (by the way, no glass of wine, either)…is it coincidence?  What would be your first thought?  What’s your next step?  Go back to bed – the power will be back on in the morning?  Maybe.  But what if it isn’t?  What if your world just did a 180?  What if there was an EMP.  Have you read about the possibilities of an Electromagnetic Pulse?  Maybe you should.  Could it have been a CME?  Coronal Mass Ejection…familiar with that?  Is there a difference?  Yup.  An EMP can destroy the power grid and the electronics supported.  A CME impacts the power grid, alone.

Well, either will really wreak havoc with your life and cause a domino effect the likes of which we have never experienced.  Do you enjoy baking, gardening, sewing?  Yes?  That’s great, cause now you’ll want to get started on those things.  Of course, you’ll also have to use a wood stove, grind your wheat (do you know how to raise wheat), shear sheep, card wool, and spin fabric.  THEN you can sew, I think.  Do you take medication?  Anything that requires refrigeration?  That could be an issue.  But you’ll be a distracted for a while, as planes come hurtling out of the sky, cars stop in their tracks, our transportation system screeches to a halt, grocery shelves empty, the police lose the ability to keep you safe from looters, vandals, and violent criminals.

Sounds unpleasant, doesn’t it?  So, what are the odds?  Is it worth fretting over, knowing more about, or planning for?  Read Could an EMP send America back to the 1800s? and you tell me what you think. What about a CME?  Well, NOAA certainly spends a lot of time (and tax dollars) analyzing the conditions of the Sun, or, space weather, as they call it.  A very interesting Guide, not so scientific you can’t comprehend much of it, is available from their site.  One internet site that stands out, in my opinion, is The Preparedness Podcast.  This guy’s smart as a tack.  His writing is clear and concise and his advice seems well researched.

Of course, you can also find articles at Breitbart.com, or the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Bloomberg…there’s no shortage of information, and you’ll find it doesn’t just come from Preppers and survivalists living in caves in Idaho.  But those guys are smart!  I do believe in preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.  During hurricane season, you’ll find our shelves full of food and water, batteries and gasoline, in the event the something blows in from the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s happened before and we were blessed and happy that we had made preparations.  So, while I can’t prepare to the degree I’d be pleased with, I can still be aware, informed, and keep some items on hand.  I mean, if NOAA can predict it, I certainly want to take advantage of the warnings!

You may think it strange that I would write a post such as this but, you see, I read a lot and this is one of my favorite genres…post-apocalyptic, survivalist, end of the world (whatever you want to call it) literature.  This is another instance when you may say, ‘that’s it, I’m not reading another word written by this nut’, and that’s okay.  You don’t have to make my concerns yours.  Freedom…yep, you have choices.  But right now I’ve got a Faraday Cage to build, three months worth of blood pressure medication to box up and there’s always more canning to be done.  You take care of yourself, my friend.  It’s a dangerous world, my.

Reality

Yes, sometimes it’s a real drag, reality, I mean.  I started this blog with a few goals in mind.  First I’m going to be me – you know how you read some blogs and the authors are so perky and happy about everything you just want to puke!  Well, I have good days and bad days, highs and lows, and the blog is a form of therapy.  I write about politicians, my family, my hobbies, things I’d like to do or places I’d like to go…but no matter what, I won’t lie to you, I won’t try to convince you that I’m laughing and smiling, cheery and fun, 24/7.  That’s just not real, at least it’s certainly not me.

Next, I want to be helpful or at least entertaining, enlightening, educational…when you close my blog, I want you to take away something that enriches your life in some way, no matter how small.  That may seem presumptuous and you can laugh at me, disagree with me, revile me – I don’t care.  If I can just make a few of you think about how we’re all connected, how the ripples you make impact your neighbors, how we can work together to make life better for others – my life will certainly have been enriched.

Imagine waking one morning in a fabulous mood, feeling like sunshine on the inside.  You get dressed, grab a piece of toast, dash out the front door and you’re anticipating a splendid day.  You get to the curb, stand there, wait for the light to change, hum a little off-key tune.  It’s a beautiful morning, and a car goes by, hits the only puddle in sight, splashes you head to toe with oily, muddy slime.  You glance up just in time to see the driver’s face and she doesn’t appear remorseful or even surprised.  No, her face looks like a storm cloud, and the look she gives you is one of fury, daring you to suggest she’s at fault.  What do you think would happen to your sunny disposition?  Don’t tell me you wouldn’t be the least bit disgruntled.  You have a dress that’s ruined and you’re now delayed because you’ll have to go home and start the day over.  There’s no way to reclaim what she’s taken from you.

Ripples, my friend.  Her ripples just tossed your happy mood overboard.  And you didn’t even know her, didn’t even speak to her.  Think of the impact we can (and do) make on those who know us, those who are a part of our daily lives.  Think how many times we’re not even aware of the filth we’re splashing on them.  It’s a dangerous world.

As I get older I’m working so hard to have a more positive approach.  I want to create ripples that make people smile.  Imagine it.


What a world, what a world!

Poison_Ivy_in_Perrot_State_ParkWhile viewing a lovely rose this afternoon in the backyard I came across this virulent species documented at your left.  This innocuous seeming plant is not desirable for your garden!  It’s a part of our dangerous world.  For those of you who have been fortunate enough to have avoided this greenery in your lifetimes, this is POISON IVY.  Contact with said plant in any fashion results in an oozing, itching, miserable rash followed by an immediate trip to a medical practitioner for a shot and then seven days of steroids taken orally thereafter.  If fortune is smiling benevolently upon the afflicted person, the rash will then be reduced to a minor annoyance.  That rarely happens in our family.  No less than THREE medical appointments are usually required to rid said afflicted person of this heinous evil (note the photo to your right).  Now, there are those among us who seem to be immune to the hazards of this diabolical creation.  Once these persons are identified in your household, all gardening, yard work and, of course, poison ivy removal becomes the responsibility of that hapless soul.  There are no exceptions to this mandate.                                  .sub-cindymatchette-2-rash

Mine, mine, mine…

Wow!  This is my very first post…hmmm…I feel so powerful.  Do you?  Feel powerful?  That’s what this particular post is all about.  Power.  Yours, mine, hers, his, theirs.  Do you hold on to it, lose it, give it away?  You choose.  That’s the important part.  YOU choose.  Failure to choose means you abdicate responsibility and allow someone else to decide for you.  Don’t do that.  Don’t let anyone take your power from you.  Guard it.  With everything you have inside.  After all, when you lose it, you lose the ability to hold onto  – what?  Your purse, your keys, your jewelry, your identity…your life, the life of a loved one?  So, remember growing up, Mom would say ‘check the back seat before you get into your car’?  Well, mine said that.  And I did.  But my world seemed to be a kinder, gentler place.  That could be just my perception, but you know what they say.  Your perception is your reality.  What I KNOW is that when my daughter went away to college I didn’t just tell her to check the back seat before she got into her car.  I gave her mace, a whistle, a phone.  I would have done anything to keep her safe and I’ve been blessed.  Now, 20 years later, Darling Daughter is alive and well, sightseeing with her oh, so precious family at Yellowstone.

Am I upsetting you?  I’m so sorry.  I get very intense about this.  We’re losing our daughters – and our sons – to predators that should be abolished from our planet.  They’re stealing our children from us, as if we’re powerless to stop them.   Watch the news.  Everyday at 6pm there’s no end to the pedophiles, rapists, kidnappers, terrorists that brazenly stare into the lens, into our homes.  They’re in our churches, schools, restaurants, and businesses.  They’re plotting, watching, following.  As if that’s not enough, we have depression, loneliness, hunger, prescription drugs, and domestic violence to deal with.  Parenting is tough.  We raise them only to give our precious children up to a world gone crazy.  We have to protect them, yet allow them to be young and joyful.  So how do we take power away from those that would do harm?  Vigilance, my friend.  Refusal to surrender your power as a parent.

Sign your kids up for self-defense training.  Teach them that certain situations, certain times of the day or night, certain areas are more dangerous than others.  Ask for their help and their input.  Get them involved in church and civic activities.  Talk to other parents and verify arrangements for chaperones during parties and other events.  Know their friends.  That’s probably the most difficult to accomplish.  Years ago I would tell our children that if you lay down with dogs you’ll get up with fleas…you see the point I’m trying to make there, right?  Our daughter would insist that I was refusing to see the possibility that she might raise others to her level rather than sink to theirs.  I reminded her that gravity is a law which must be obeyed.  It will always be easier to fall rather than rise in our society.  Oh, another thing – pray with your children.  Let them know you pray for them.  Tell them how precious they are, how irreplaceable in your life they are.   Love them with your whole heart.

By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I must warn you there’s much hard work and heartache involved in raising children.  Just in case you haven’t become a parent yet, yes, they’re cute, cuddly, lots of fun.  Yours will, of course, be brilliant like you, but they’ll bring you grief you can’t imagine…and joy beyond your wildest dreams.   We must do everything in our power to care for them and keep them safe.  It’s a dangerous world.