Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Fitting Farewell for an Old Salty Fisherman

This past weekend we spread my father's ashes.

Only half of them actually. His wish was for half to be spread over his favorite fishing spot and the other half spread in his favorite deer hunting spot. That means he'll be split between the Chesapeake Bay and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's completely appropriate since that is how he spent his life -  split between two loves, separated by the seasons.

So, on the first Saturday of the Virginia cobia season, I boarded my dad's boat, the Alice Grace, for the last time. We sat the little black box containing what is left of my father's body in the Captain's chair while my uncle drove along Buckroe Beach standing behind the wheel and leaving my Dad to sit in his favorite seat. It was a beautiful day for fishing, with the wind turning mid-day to blow from the South West.

The old Buckroe Pier
When I was a kid on summer break, back before we had instant access to weather apps, I would religiously watch the afternoon news. Not because I was particularly interested in current events, but because I needed to check tides and wind direction.

When Daddy's truck came pulling up the gravel road in the late afternoon, I would meet him in the yard.

"South West at five miles an hour."

That was all I had to say. We'd throw the heavers and a bait bucket in the back of the truck and head for Buckroe Pier.

I can't tell you how many hours my dad spent on that pier. Some of the earliest memories I have are of me riding his shoulders out to the end or of my tiny body wrapped around his leg like a vise because I was afraid I would fall through the cracks in the boards.

I know he fished long before I came along. There are old black and white pictures of him with large cobia and the red drum that held the pier record for decades. But I know that half my childhood (the summer months of cobia season and the early bluefish run) was spent on that pier with him, watching storms brew up over the Bay, catching fish, getting sunburn, laughing at stupid jokes.

Most of the time we spent there wasn't spent catching fish at all. Fishing for big fish is a bit of a waiting game. You bait the hook, toss it out, and wait. We would go weeks without catching anything. But when a big cobia grabbed your line and headed for deeper water, the sound of a screaming drag would make your heart race as you rushed to grab your pole. You have to let them run just long enough to get a good hold before setting the hook and starting the fight.

Waiting for the cobia run
Photo Credit: Buckroe Fishing Pier
So, we scattered half his ashes, the half that loved to fish, just off of Buckroe Pier. It seems like a place he would want to be. It's a spot that must feel like home.

My father's sister has a bad back. For her, climbing into a boat was out of the question. Instead, she took her walker all the way out to the end of Buckroe Pier. She planned to watch from there as we spread his ashes from the boat. It takes time to launch a boat from a public marina on the first Saturday of the cobia season, so she got there long before we did. Which gave her plenty of time to chat with the cobia fishermen parked on the end of the pier hoping for a big one. Some of the older guys remembered my dad. There are still pictures of him up under the shack where you pay to fish.

It was pretty quiet fishing, not much going on in spite of the beautiful weather and favorable winds.

On the boat, I pried open the black box with a filet knife and sliced open the plastic bag inside. I had a moment of panic as I held the bag poised over the port side remembering that Daddy couldn't swim. But I dumped him anyway, figuring it was time, and his ashes floated on top like a good chum slick across the end of Buckroe Pier. Then he slowly dropped through the water and out of sight as we rode off down the beach.

Meanwhile, on Buckroe Pier, my Aunt watched from the railing. As the ashes hit the water, the lazy quiet of afternoon fishing erupted into excitement as people dashed for their poles. Because the reels that had been still and quiet all day were suddenly screaming with the first good cobia runs of the season.

And while you can chalk it up to coincidence if you'd like, I think it was probably something else entirely.  It was like a farewell 21-rod salute for an old salty fisherman. A fitting exit, don't you think?

Rest easy, Daddy. See you when I see you.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Problem with Women Infantrymen

On Friday, the United States Army graduated 18 women from the very first gender-integrated infantry basic training. This comes a full year after the Army lifted the ban on women serving in the armor and infantry branches, what many would consider the primary fighting arms of the US Army.

These 18 women are the first to earn blue cords and become junior enlisted female infantrymen.

Army photograph by Patrick A. Albright

I have mixed feelings about this.

I'm fairly certain that there are going to be people who come out of the woodwork like swarming cockroaches to tell me how behind the times I am. I'll be called a misogynist and a sexist and probably closed-minded. Internet bullies will shout about me being old fashioned and a product of the patriarchy.

I'm okay with that.

But before we go any further, let me just point out that I've always been one to bust through gender stereotypes. I can accurately shoot high-powered weapons without flinching. I've field dressed my own game and dragged my own deer over mountainous terrain. I can bait a hook, clean a fish, build a campfire, and skin a squirrel.

I'm also no stranger to combat sports. I hold the rank of second degree black belt, and I'm not afraid to scrap with the guys, even the ones who outweigh me and can out-muscle me. I can take a punch as well as deliver one, and I've currently got some badass bruises to prove it.

So there is a part of me that is cheering on these eighteen women, because they've completed some amazingly difficult training in an area that isn't exactly welcoming to anything feminine. I kinda want to fist bump them and acknowledge their strength, bravery, and general badassery.


I have a son in the infantry.

And everyday I pray that all 6 foot 2 inches and 220 pounds of him stays safe.

While all 18 of those female infantrymen have passed stringent qualifying tests of marksmanship and skill. They are physically women. Most of them are under 5'4" and weigh somewhere in the 100 to 120 pound range.

The Army has already lowered it's minimum requirements for Basic Training PFT in order to even the playing field and ensure women can actually make it into the Army.  As it stands, women are required to perform less than half the push-ups expected of their male peers and are given more than an extra three minutes to finish their two-mile run.

That's fine.  There are plenty of military positions for females where their weaker physical prowess is NOT an issue.  Shoot.  There are even combat positions where a woman's inferior physical strength might not be an issue. Flying planes and helicopters or operating other equipment, even serving as snipers leaves their typically weaker build out of the equation.

But this is the infantry. Some of these women, after they've completed Airborne training at Fort Benning, will be off to Fort Bragg where they will serve alongside my son. These women will be serving alongside men, potentially in fire fights and hand-to-hand situations, because in a fit of blind feminism and political correctness, we've turned our military fighting force into a freakin' social experiment. And it isn't the brand new physically fit, stereotype-breaking women infantrymen that will pay for it, either. It's the men whose ranks they are about to enter.

It isn't a matter of whether these women can handle the emotional stress of combat. It isn't about their skills with weaponry or warfare. It isn't about whether they are capable of earning the respect of male soldiers. It isn't even about how they will mange peeing in the field or dealing with Aunt Flo.

Under most circumstances, their gender means absolutely nothing.


As a mother, the thought of my son being injured in a fire fight with his only chance of survival being that one of his fellow soldiers carry his injured 6'2" 220 pound body, dressed in heavy combat gear, out of harm's way... that the only soldier available to perform that duty might be a 5'4" 120 pound female who made it through OSUT because the physical requirements were lowered for her gender to make things more progressive and politically correct...  that is something I cannot emotionally handle.

At the end of the day, does it really matter if she can shoot, or clear a room, or march in formation, or recite the Infantryman's Creed? Does any of that matter if she would have to abandon an injured soldier on the battlefield because she is physically incapable of getting him to safety?

It's not about being fair.  It's not about how hard women work or train. It's not even about whether women can handle the emotional or mental strain of intense combat situations. 

Because a woman, even a woman in top physical form, is still a woman. And a small 5-foot tall woman may not be capable of supporting her comrades-in-arms in necessary, life-saving ways.  We can't afford to sacrifice the safety of our sons for the sake of some feminist social agenda. Maybe the US military isn't the place for complete gender integration. At least not until we make the physical standards. at least for every combat MOS, the same for both men and women.

Because that's just not "fair" to the men who have to count on those women infantrymen, sometimes for their very lives.

Perhaps there is a reason the term is "infantrymen" and not "infantrypersons." Or maybe I really am just a product of the patriarchy. But just because we all have equal rights doesn't mean we are all created with equal abilities.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What This Mother Thinks of the "Mother of All Bombs"

Last year on Mother's Day, my oldest child was several hundred miles away. I got a lovely letter from Fort Benning, Georgia the day before Mother's Day. On the back, he had traced an outline of his hand.

His hands are huge now. Man-sized hands. My entire hand fit inside the outline of his. But I have his toddler hand prints, stamped in bright-blue acrylic paint inside of an old Mother's Day card, that prove they once fit entirely inside of mine.

This Mother's Day I'm lucky. He's stationed just 2 hours away at Fort Bragg, where he is a proud member of the 82nd Airborne Division, the primary fighting arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Chances are good that he will find his way home this weekend and, if I can tear him away from his girlfriend long enough, I might just get to eat lunch with him. 

I realize that I am blessed. There are plenty of military mothers who may only get a hurried phone call from their sons and daughters who are stationed thousands of miles away.

I still have a hard time reconciling the 6'2" man in combat boots, who walks toward me with purpose and an infantry swagger ,with the memory images of my son in a Thomas the Tank Engine T-shirt, strapped inside of his booster seat, happily tossing pieces of his cheese toast to the family dog. That dog loved him almost as much as I do. 

We buried that dog in my grandmother's flower bed almost 10 years ago.

This week, the American people are all kinds of pissed and upset and preoccupied with Trump's firing of FBI director, James Comey. Meanwhile, the fact that Trump is most likely planning to send another 5,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan is mostly being ignored. 

My son was five years old when the war in Afghanistan began.

He was busy tossing cheese toast to the family dog.

Since then, more than 2,200 Americans have been killed and another 20,000 injured fighting in Afghanistan. It has been the costliest and longest war the United States has ever been involved in. And yet, we really haven't accomplished much. So it seems logical to send more troops, right?

While large portions of the population have conveniently forgotten about the conflict in Afghanistan because it is old news, I am painfully aware. I suspect a lot of military mothers keep one finger on the pulse of the Middle East. Because our precious sons and daughters aren't tossing cheese toast anymore.

Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. military tossed "The Mother of All Bombs" on Afghanistan. MOAB actually stands for "Massive Ordinance Air Blast." But hey... Mother's Day is right around the corner and we need to be festive.

Critics of the move have asked the rhetorical question, "Would a mother ever conduct such an act of violence?" 


Yes, she would.

Let me explain. 

MOAB is a very destructive weapon, but it is precise. The 22,000-pound bomb leaves a large footprint of destruction, but that destruction isn't random. It is capable of hitting very distinct targets. The MOAB that was tossed on Afghanistan targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target U.S. military advisers and Afghan forces in the area. 

Just a week before the "Mother of All Bombs" was unleashed, Staff Sergeant Mark De Alencar, a Green Beret and a father of five, was killed in the same area. 

The MOAB struck the epicenter of ISIS operations and cleared the imminent threat so that Special Forces could go in with lower risk. The use of a MOAB meant Afghan and U.S. troops, which launched a mission in that region in March, did not have to fight in the areas where they were at a distinct disadvantage.

I'm guessing that Staff Sergeant Mark De Alencar's mother probably wishes we'd tossed that MOAB a week earlier.

That sounds exactly like what a mother would do - set forth all the power of Heaven and Hell to keep her child from harm.

We fly an American flag in our front yard. Not because we are proud of our government, but because we are proud of our son. While we try to paint our troops with all kinds of patriotic labels,  the truth is, the powers-that-be treat our troops like expendable faceless pawns in a game of political posturing. 

To them they aren't patriots. They are pawns in political games of power.

I watch the chess game with trepidation, holding my breath as our sons get moved around the chess board by egomaniacal world leaders. Some promised to send them all home and then yelled "Sike!" (Cough, cough... Obama), and others frighten and frustrate me in entirely different ways (I really have to question the decision making abilities of anyone with such a horrible combover).

While I question whether our troops belong in Afghanistan at all, if they have to be there... send in the mothers first, whether in bomb form or otherwise. Drop the "Mother of All Bombs" like so many tiny pieces of cheese toast all over the kitchen floor. Clear the way for our sons and daughters to go in so all that's left in their way is empty sand.

Because while I would love to see peace in our time, if it comes down to my child or yours... I would tear yours apart with my own two hands.

Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why the Yale Hunger Strike Makes Me Feel Old

I was beginning to think I was getting old. I figured I was turning into an old lady partially because I can no longer make out the letters on a restaurant menu without my reading glasses. There's also the embarrassing fact that I constantly have to ask the kids how to work the darned TV remote.

But mostly, I was feeling rather old because I just don't understand young people anymore.

You see, just a little over a week ago, eight Yale graduate students went on a hunger strike. They've parked themselves in front of the home of the university president in mild 65 degree weather to suffer for a cause. It sounds noble. Surely these eight brave students will go down in history right alongside other noble heroes of the hunger strike like Ghandi against caste system, Alice Paul for women's suffrage, and Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.

This has got to be serious stuff right?

But do you know what human injustice they are protesting? Their sweet $30,000 a year teaching stipend (for teaching about 14 hours a week), free health care, and a tuition-free ride to one of the world's most prestigious universities. The onerous conditions under which these poor privileged graduate students live makes me shudder in horror.

Back in my day, we had to work our way through college...five miles through the snow. Uphill both ways.

But then their handy little protest pamphlet hit the internet airwaves. It isn't a REAL hunger strike. It's only a symbolic one. If they get too deliriously hungry, they can just leave to grab a burger (although they would probably prefer some tofu, but I might be jumping to grand conclusions). Someone else will just hop in and take their place. It's like a tag team hunger strike. That way no one has to be too uncomfortable.

And that is why I was almost convinced that I am old. I read this news story and I just couldn't relate. And when you can't relate to people in their youth, when they annoy you, when they mostly bother and irritate you, you've become a crotchety old curmudgeon.

 I must be old because all I really want to do is smack those coddled, entitled, idiotic whippersnappers upside the head. Maybe it would knock some sense into them.

What is wrong with young people these days?

Older generations have traditionally scorned the ideas and attitudes of the young. Look at how our grandparents treated our hippie parents. It's tradition that the mature generation misunderstand and even scorn the simplistic idealism of the younger. It's the way the wheel turns.

Is it because young people are immature? Or that they just have a radical utopian vision? Or is it because the older generation understands life in a way that the young can't for lack of experience?

Or maybe those are all the same thing.

See? I'm becoming overly cynical, too. Another sign that I'll soon be taking up knitting and needing a walker. When I can no longer empathize or connect with today's youth, I figure I've just become an old crab... especially when I start using the word "whippersnapper".

But then I discovered that some of the protestors' fellow college students hosted a barbecue, complete with delicious-smelling beef ribs, baked beans, and corn on the cob. And they parked their barbecue directly downwind from the symbolic hunger strike so the hungry protestors could enjoy the smell of grilling meat.

And I thought, "Now that is a beautiful gesture."

That's when I realized I was okay. My kids are going to have to wait on getting me that room at the nursing home.Maybe I'm not getting old at all. There might still be a little spring left in my step after all.

Because this is young student action that I can totally relate to, maybe even support. Passive aggressive trolling.

I'm full of all kinds of warm fuzzy empathy for these young Yale barbecuers.

Ah, youth. Somebody pass me some barbecue.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Losing Loved Ones and Car Keys

"I'm sorry for your loss."

I can't even count how many times I've heard that platitude recently. It has been written in flowing script across sympathy cards, whispered by family, friends, and acquaintances with kind eyes, posted in digital form on my social media platforms. It's the go-to sentiment when people really don't know what else to say to relatives of the dead.

I "lost" my dad three months ago.

It's damaging verbiage, the language of loss. Because it isn't as if I lost my keys, or my wallet, or last month's bank statement. It wasn't an act of carelessness on my part. It's not like I set him down somewhere and forgot where I put him. It isn't even like that time I lost my daughter in Target, where I was frantic and panicky, in spite of the fact that she was safely reading in the book section.

I didn't lose my father. His death wasn't caused by any sort of error or personal shortcoming. It wasn't like losing a football game, where if I'd only played better I might have won. "Lose" is an action verb. It hints at responsibility. As if taking a different course might have changed the destination.

And by calling his death a "loss" it implies that I might be able to find him if I just thoroughly check between the couch cushions. If I were just more vigilant. Maybe if I tried harder, I could turn this lost into a found.

I didn't lose my father. He died.

But we are afraid of death. So much so that we sweep the word from our vocabulary. Instead of acknowledging death and its power, we trade reality for empty euphemisms about being "in a better place". By sugar-coating our expressions of death and grieving, all we do is perpetuate Society's phobias about death and dying. It is social decorum that keeps us from talking about death as a reality.

Maybe if we don't use the word, it's like it never really happened.

But it did. And the only thing worse than hearing the empty pity in the sorry-for-your-loss bromide is encountering the people who know but don't acknowledge. They want to avoid discomfort so they pretend they can't see the gaping hole in my soul. But it feels like they are actively denying that my father ever lived, that he ever meant something to me, that we can all just carry on as if nothing significant happened.

Our culture really sucks at coping with and acknowledging death.

We need better words. But we also need better ways of dealing with grief. My world is never going to be the same no matter how much we pretend, no matter how we try to act like life has somehow returned to normal. No amount of fluffy language is going to change that.

When my father first died, I fought the urge to slice deep grooves in the flesh of my arms, to somehow do something concrete and drastic with the emotional pain I was experiencing. Instead, I chopped off my hair. I cut it shorter than it has ever been, right up to the nape of my neck. It wasn't quite the drastic measure I desired, but it did seem a lot less destructive than knocking over a liquor store or punching holes in plaster walls.

My hair is growing back now. I don't think I'm ready to feel normal yet. I'll probably chop it short again.

I once lost my car keys at McDonald's. I frantically dug through my pants pockets in search of them. My oldest son dug through the soggy garbage and half-eaten burgers of the McDonald's trash can. The kids and I looked under tables and in the parking lot, thinking that the keys had been dropped somewhere when I wasn't paying attention. I was certain that I had lost those keys for good. We were stranded without them. Stuck alone in a dark fast food parking lot. I dialed my husband in tears to inform him of my loss, and just as he answered the phone, I found those keys.

They had been in my coat pocket the whole time. They were never really lost.

There's probably some grand existential message in that story. Maybe I'll think on it some more when my hair grows back.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Survive Your Oldest Child Leaving Home in 15 Easy Steps

One year ago today, my oldest child left home. With everything he needed packed into one small backpack, he boarded a bus (and then a plane) bound for Army Basic Training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Having a child grow up and leave home is a proud moment. It is that moment, looking at what amounts to a decent human being and a productive member of society, that you realize all of those poopy diapers, sleepless nights, grocery store temper tantrums, and insane grocery bills might have been worth it.

Having a child grow up and leave home is also a traumatic event. It is beyond difficult having someone you've been majorly responsible for keeping alive for almost two decades move hundreds of miles away, where keeping them alive is no longer within your parental power or control.

"How did I do it?" you ask. I have an easy 15 step program for surviving your oldest child leaving home.

Step One: Spend the last three weeks before he leaves trying to remember all of the important life advice you've forgotten to tell him over the past 20 years. Then tell him at odd moments.

Step Two: When the day of departure arrives, stall by taking copious amounts of pictures.

Step Three:
Attempt to put on a brave face and fail miserably.

Step Four: Hug the complete stranger, official-looking government employee who just put your first-born child onto a spite of not being a "hugger."

Step Five: When the complete stranger, official-looking government employee asks you, "Ma'am, are you going to be okay?" assure her that you will, even though you suspect you won't.

Step Six:
Wave at your son as the bus drives away. Remember when that very same hand waving at you from the window first curled around your fingers as you held him.

Step Seven: Have a good cry in the bread aisle of the grocery store, because sandwich rolls come in packages of six. You  realize you are now feeding only five people.

Step Eight: Express gratitude when your youngest child fills his empty seat at the dining room table with a large stuffed bear wearing a baseball cap.

Step Nine: Write to him every single day while he is in basic training, because you never want him to be without mail. (And it is the best kind of therapy to write about the things he is missing, and how much you miss him, and all of the memories that constantly flood you about when he was small.)

Step Ten: Linger just a bit outside of his empty bedroom every time you pass it.

Step Eleven: Tell yourself you won't cry when you see him at Family Day, but fail miserably.

Step Twelve: Feel like you will bust wide open at his graduation. Those aren't tears. They're liquid pride.

Step Thirteen: Brag about him incessantly to people back home.

Step Fourteen: Have him sharpen all of your knives, reach high things, and fill all of the empty spaces with his confidence and new muscles and his presence when he visits home.

Step Fifteen: Hug him tight every time you see him. Every. Single. Time.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dancing With Snakes in the Dystopian Age

"Where have you been?"

It's okay. You can call off the search party. Hold your emails. Call back the hounds.

I know I haven't posted much recently, and apparently some of you are upset about that. (Although I'm pretty sure that at least an equal number of people are excited and celebrating. You're welcome.)

I admit that I've been kind of hiding from social media. I didn't even know about the recent London attack until the bodies were already cold. I didn't witness any live streaming or hashtag campaigns about the incident. I think my sanity is in a somewhat better state because of my ignorance.

We are living in difficult times. My desire to be well-informed is in a constant battle with my desire to remain sane. Seriously, it's like an epic cage fight...terribly bloody. It would get great ratings on cable.

So, I've been kind of hiding under a rock, because every time I poke my head out, I seem to get blind-sided by some news story that leaves me feeling as if I'm trapped inside of a young adult dystopian novel.

Because now drinking milk is racist.

And the color of a teacher's skin is more important than his ability to actually teach.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, a teenage boy is told by his principal to "tolerate" undressing in front of a (biologically) female student . . . to make it as "natural"as possible . . . because, you know . . .tolerance and maintaining an illusion of enlightenment and forward-thinking is far more important than our children's safety or emotional scars. But that's on them . .. I  mean . . . they should have been more enlightened and tolerant. There's nothing that won't be tolerated quite like "intolerance".

Speaking of intolerance, an Iowa high school recently had to issue an apology to an opposing basketball team because its student body wore patriotic colors to a game. The apology was issued because the opposing team had some refugee players who are somewhat delicate, and deeply offended by the sight of red, white, and blue . . . even though they are currently seeking refuge IN THE UNITED STATES.  I would tell them to "grow a pair" but that is horribly offensive and insensitive on several fronts.

"Dance? But I have two left feet."
If I were a more religious person, like the kind who yammers in tongues and dances with snakes, I would swear that we are living in the last days. Although, "the last days" of what, I'm not sure.

Because this shit is crazy.

But I don't dance with snakes, because I don't really dance unless I've had a few beers, and all of that dancing is kind of unfair to the snakes. I mean, the least that holy people could do is buy the snakes a drink before they bandy them about on the dance floor.

Or maybe it's because I really just empathize with the snakes. Because snakes are pretty quiet, and just want to be left alone.They want to crawl up under a nice rock somewhere or hide out in the grass and not be messed with. And here these people are, snatching them up, forcing them out into the public eye, making them participate in a dance that they want no part of.

I feel ya, snakes! Solidarity, bros!

That's why I'm crawling back under my rock for a bit. Maybe lay around in the grass. Y'all enjoy the crazy dance. I'll probably be back after I've had a few beers.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

There's No Time To Spare

My youngest child is trying to leave me.

Maybe I'm being just a little dramatic.

My youngest daughter is in the process of applying to an Early College program. If things go the way she has planned, in the fall, my home will be empty during the day. If she gets in (and chances are very good that she will) I will no longer be able to introduce myself as a "homeschooling mom". Cue the imminent identity crisis... or the killer mid-day party. I haven't decided which.

She is a very goal-oriented person, in spite of only being thirteen. She wants to get into this program something fierce, so she is tackling every aspect of the application process with everything she has. This week she was called into the school for an interview. A bundle of nerves and anxiety, she asked me to help her prepare. So, we ran some mock interviews in the living room with me asking her some generic questions I thought the school staff might ask her.

"What do you do in your spare time?"

Seems like a pretty standard interview question, right? Maybe not for the average homeschooler.

She gave me several seconds of a blank stare, before she screwed up her face in frustration.

"I don't really do anything. Sometimes I read or watch TV."

Which left me giving her my own confused blank stare.

"What about karate? What about mixed martial arts? What about archery tournaments and volunteering with kitten rescue and fishing in the river?" She is an incredibly active teenager. I couldn't figure out why she was being so dull and vague with her answer.

"But Mom, that isn't spare time."

That's when I realized that her definition of "spare time" and mine are very different. To me, and probably any interviewer, spare time would be any activity she does that isn't school related.

But that isn't how she sees life, and I think I like her view better. To her, spare time is just the tiny spaces of time between the activities she wants to be doing. Time spent training in martial arts isn't "spare" because it's a necessary investment toward a goal. The same is true of the hours she spends practicing with her bow to prepare for an archery tournament. And fishing and nurturing abandoned kittens isn't "spare time" either. Because she's busy doing things she enjoys.

It is actually a sad testament to the rest of Society's general mindset that anything outside of work or school is "spare time," as if the only important time is what is used to make money. Or as a minor, it's the time spent in school getting ready for the real world, which is basically prepping you for a career and a job and making money.

Anything else we choose to do as human beings, no matter how magnificent or productive or fulfilling or charitable is just relegated to whatever time we have to spare from our jobs. It's a pathetic mindset, really.

The truth is we don't have any "spare" time. We only have time. And probably not as much of it as we think.

There are so many worthwhile ways to spend our time that don't involve making money or good grades. The time we spend doing the things we love, that make us come alive, that propel us toward excellence in any field, even when it isn't career related... Maybe that time shouldn't be considered just leftover time. It's all just time. A minute spent making a paycheck is just as long as the minute spent reading a book or walking the dog or painting a picture. We shouldn't consider one minute to be any more important than any other.

This week, I'm trying to shift my attitude about time. I want to think more like my young daughter. I want to spend my time doing things that give me joy, make me come alive, propel me toward personal goals. Because that time isn't any different than the time I spend meeting responsibilities, mopping floors, or working a job.

All time is equal.

And there really isn't any time to spare.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Way to Spread the Hate - On The Walking Dead's 'Racist' T-Shirt

Gratuitous picture of Daryl. Because... Daryl.
Image Source: Casey Florig
It's super easy to offend people these days. In fact, trying not to offend is like tiptoeing barefooted in the dark across a playroom floor strewn with Legos and hot wheels and maybe even rusty razor blades (I don't know what children play with these days).

I am a Walking Dead fan. This will likely offend someone. Surprising, right? That a fantasy show with mediocre acting and unrealistic survival scenarios would actually offend anyone?

But The Walking Dead is so obviously racist.

Or at least its merchandise is.

British retailer, Primark, has pulled a Walking Dead t-shirt from its store shelves because shopper, Ian Lucraft complained. The shirt in question featured Negan's bloody baseball bat, affectionately named Lucille, and the words "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe."

Image Source: Twitter

Hold on to your pearls, Nancy!

"We were shocked when we came face to face with a new t-shirt with a racially explicit graphic and text," Lucraft told a reporter. "It was fantastically offensive and I can only assume that no one in the process of ordering it knew what they were doing or were aware of its subliminal messages."

Um... Mr. Lucraft, it is quite impossible for a message to be both "explicit" AND "subliminal". You might not realize that is an oxymoron because you are an actual moron. But keep misusing big words in attempts to look intelligent. It helps those who are weed out the posers.

Lucraft's wife, Gwen, added, "If I were black and were faced by a wearer, I would know just where I stood."

Actually, your statements are rather racist, Gwen. You shouldn't presume to know what a black person would think. Your white privilege is showing. Might want to keep that in check.

But I kinda get it. If faced with a wearer of that shirt, I would know exactly where I stood, too... I would, in fact, be standing directly in front of a Walking Dead fan.

Actually, The Walking Dead may be one of the least racist shows on the air. One of the baddest, most kick-ass characters is actually a black female (You rock, Michonne! I love you!).

Sure the main character is an annoying Southern cisgender white man, but nobody really likes him. We all wish Rick had been eaten 5 seasons ago.

And of course, the second most badass character is also a cisgender, white, Southern dude complete with a great white trash backstory... but I'm beginning to think Daryl might actually be gay. I've caught him sending a few loving looks Rick's way. It is at the very least an incredibly intense bromance.

And Lucille wasn't even covered in the blood of a black person. That's the blood of an asian and a white man... but I know its hard to tell since we all bleed the same shade of red. Which really might be the moral of the story here, but some people are too busy being offended to actually see it.

So one man in England is offended by a t-shirt with four little words...of a children's rhyme...recited by an egomaniacal psychopath...on a television show...about the zombie apocalypse?

What kind of world are we living in?

But thanks there, British dude seeking 15 minutes of fame. Everyone with internet access now knows the racist version of the rhyme, so it's certain to be making new rounds on playgrounds everywhere. Way to spread the hate.

So of course we'll all have to ban it. And where does that leave my family? How will we decide who gets the coveted shotgun seat when we go to the grocery store?

Now we'll have to resort to Rock/Paper/Scissors. And we all know its only a matter of time until someone is offended by that one, too.

You've completely complicated my life, you pompous, self-serving, easily offended, English twat waffle!

Wait! Is "twat waffle" offensive? I think I might have stepped on a razor blade.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is DeVos Really The Greatest Danger to School Children?

According to my social media newsfeeds, we have something new to be upset about. I know that it's been difficult to focus. The atrocities keep popping up like so many kernels of microwave popcorn, the public ire and fear busting the internet wide open with each new Trumptopian development.

Betsy DeVos - businesswoman, billionaire, political campaign contributor, and grizzly-phobe - is the new United States Secretary of Education.  She is, of course, the bogeyman, striking fear in the hearts of teachers and parents across the country.

She lacks classroom experience, school administration training, or really any background in education. She has never taught in a public school, nor attended one, nor sent her children to one. It also seems unlikely that she has ever spoken to anyone who has. She has no relevant credentials or experience that would have prepared her for a position directing and controlling the almost 70 billion dollars in education funds this country doles out to public schools each year, not to mention the lives of more than 50 million public school students.

I can understand the desperation of parents and teachers. That's a lot of power and influence and responsibility for one unqualified, underprepared woman to wield. There is a real and tangible and founded fear that having DeVos in charge of the nation's public schools could inflict severe harm on our young people. The Department of Education with DeVos at its helm is obviously an agent of destruction.

But what a lot of people don't understand, or have conveniently forgotten, is that the Department of Education has long been an agent of destruction, that the country's public education system has a history of harming our young people through systematic failure.

Just in case you need some reminding:
If it isn't glaringly apparent that the entire U.S. system of public education is failing and failing hard, you're lacking some major critical thinking skills... which we can likely blame on your public school education.

The system is already failing our children, and it didn't need Betsy DeVos or Donald Trump to do it. 

Let's be honest, what's the worst thing that an incompetent, grossly inexperienced billionaire could cause? 

Only the complete and total collapse of the Department of Education.

Yeah... that's the "worst" thing that could happen.

Or is it really the best thing?


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