(not so) Compassionate

It is no secret that West Virginia has a problem.  Truthfully, the word “problem” fails to grasp the true magnitude of what is happening here in the Mountain State.

They call us pillbillies.  In the (not so) distant past, one of our larger towns, Huntington, was declared the opioid capital of the country.  We have more opioid related deaths than anywhere else. Check out this article in the New Yorker about the crisis.

There is another “problem,” though, and one almost as deadly and dangerous as the pills, and the heroine that eventually shows up on the scene. That problem is a little more complex, a little more deep rooted and hard to define.  There are several words that come to mind–cold-heartedness, pride, snobbiness, judgmental (that’s a good one), and down right cruelty.

Consider the recent story about some teenagers who not only watched, but filmed, as a man drowned.  The obvious outranged reaction of nearly everyone in the country has been everything from disdain to down right rage.  I’ve seen comments suggesting that the guillotine be brought back in to service. While I’m not calling for any beheading, the story makes me sick.  I think it is a sad testament to how this current generation of teens has developed empathy (or the lack thereof.) But that’s a post for another day.

At any rate, we can all pretty much agree that standing by and watching, laughing, and filming while someone drowns is not acceptable behavior.

The people of West Virginia are drowning, and yet somehow we have deemed it acceptable to stand by and watch.

There are conflicting reports as to where opioid addiction starts.  Some reports say that users start with prescriptions.  Others say that is not the case. It is generally accepted that opioid pill abuse leads to heroine, which is about one tenth the price of the pills, which, incidentally, have been shipped into this state by the truck load.

Let me sum up my feelings on this matter by paraphrasing a statement from the novel Warm Bodies: once you reach the end of the world, the road you took to get there hardly matters.

This post isn’t about the opioid epidemic.  It isn’t about the causes of addiction, which are as diverse as the addicts themselves. It’s about the rest of us–the non-addicts, if you will.

We’re watching our neighbors drown.

I’m as guilty as the rest.  I get frustrated and talk about “the druggies” and “the pill heads” and bitch about how law enforcement isn’t doing anything about it, and how you can’t even walk around in a small town that, by definition, should be one of the safest places in the world. I get it.  It sucks.

I’m not telling you to invite these people to sleep in your house at night. Maybe, though, we might do well to stop and realize that these “druggies” are still people.  Sadly, so many of them are young people who are following in the deadly footsteps of parents who were hooked even before their doomed children were born. They are moms and dads and grandparents and cousins and uncles.  In short, they are just people–people who are drowning.

And all we are doing is judging them. We are watching them drown, and lots of times we are filming it as well.

I see it every day, especially on the accursed Facebook, where the whole population feels entitled to the role of armchair quarterback. We wag our heads and make faces of disgust. Druggies.  Pill heads.  Worthless losers.

We are trying to do something about the overdose death rate.  Early this year, Naloxone was distributed across the state to be administered to overdose cases.  It reverses the respiratory depression caused by opioid overdose.  It is on hand for paramedics, police officers, and even in some schools.

Are people glad about that? I’ll let you guess.

Need more time? Or did you figure it out already?

The amount of negative commentary on this lifesaving drug is astounding, especially when you consider how many of these naysayers are “Christians.” Why should our tax dollars go to save these druggies? People are going without health insurance and are struggling to make ends meet, and you are taking our hard earned dollars and giving them to the pill heads.  Let them die.  They have made their own beds, let them lay in them, right?

Wrong.

Shame on anyone who feels this way. Shame on any who get on social media and brag about how they and their family exist on some higher astral plane than the rest of us sinners, how they and their sainted families have never dealt with addiction because they are Godly and the rest of us are not. Shame on Sunday morning “Christians” who sit in the pew and praise Jesus, then go out into the world and speak words worthy of the Devil himself.  Shame. Shame, shame, shame.

I think each and every one of us who hasn’t been stricken with this epidemic had better drop down on our knees right now and say a prayer that we have been spared.  I think we better take a minute to remember that if we live without compassion, we are living an empty life–a selfish life full of self-important goals and ideas.  We have forgotten that each of us has just a short time here, and each of us is fragile–as fragile as blown glass.  To judge and sneer and turn our backs on our neighbors seems to me the greatest sin of all.

I know I’m guilty, too, but I’m trying.  I’m trying to realize that I have no idea what struggles other go through every day.  I know what it’s like to have an addictive personality.  I know what escapism is.  If you go to the fridge or the pantry when you are stressed, you do too.  None of us are immune.

To the pseudo Christians out there, allow me to leave you with this, some verses from the Book of Matthew, chapter 25, starting with verse 40: Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Now skip ahead to verse 45: He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Cheers!


 

 

Prozac (not so) Me

Do you ever get the feeling that God is speaking to you? Maybe sending you a sign?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not those kinds of signs, but the kinds that only you see.  I’ll give you two examples.

Wednesday of last week was Ash Wednesday.  My sister was watching an episode of Roseanne.  It was from either the last season or the next to last season.  Roseanne is teaching some rich white folks how to be white trash.  She said, “Women who yell don’t need pills.  Pills were invented by men to stop women from yelling!”

It struck me as funny, but it also lodged itself unknowingly into my brain.

Fast forward a few days, and my best friend makes this casual comment to me over the phone:  “I’ve heard you laugh more in the past few days than I have for a long time.”

This has all been foreshadowing.  (See how literary I am? Don’t you just want to throw money at me for my writing?) Last Tuesday was my last Prozac. Absolutely not on purpose! Don’t be impressed! No indeed–my prescription didn’t have any refills, and we got hit with a massive storm that knocked out power early Wednesday morning.  Power was out not only at the pharmacy, but also at my doctor’s office, so I couldn’t call in for a refill.

Now, if you can follow the Tarantino-ish order of this post so far, here’s what has happened:  I have inadvertently given up Prozac for Lent.

It just so happened my last pill was on Fat Tuesday.  I couldn’t get it refilled on Ash Wednesday.  When the day finally came for me to submit the refill because the doctor was going to be in the next day, I hear that very, very important comment from my friend.

She’s heard me laugh more in the last week then she has in a long time.

The week I haven’t had the Prozac.

If that isn’t food for thought, I don’t know what is.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  In old fashioned terms, I’m hyper, nervous, neurotic, etc.  This is not revolutionary news to anyone, I assure you. A few years ago, though, it was moving past the point of comedy routine material into the land of serious issues.  Sleep was nearly impossible.  When I did sleep, I had terrible nightmares.  My first panic attack prompted me to talk to a doctor.  I didn’t even have a regular family doctor up to that point.

The panic attack was a thing I cannot describe. It happened on the way back from a beautiful, stress free vacation.  That was the most upsetting part.  It came from nowhere.  It wasn’t  a “break” or anything like that.  I was just riding along in the car on the way home from the ocean, and bam.  Well, more like BAAAMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!

I started to notice the semi in the lane next to us.  It kept distracting me from the ongoing conversation.  It kept catching my eye.  Suddenly, I started to get afraid.  (Although afraid fails to truly describe the feeling.)  I sweated.  I cried.  I shook.  My mouth tasted like pennies.  I became convinced we were all (me, my husband, my kids, and my sister) were going to die in a horrific accident.  I saw it.  A good imagination is a blessing and a curse, let me tell you.  My throat closed up and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I had to fight the temptation to literally tear open the door of the car and jump out.  Really.

Well, I confess to you now that I took one of my sisters strong narcotic medications to knock myself out.  I slept for a couple hours of the ride home, and when I woke up, I felt a little better.  It’s hard to describe, but somehow, that event made me more aware of the feelings that I guess had always been there,unacknowledged,  hanging like some sort of poisonous snake around my neck.  It was ready to slither up any time to whisper in my ear all of the tragic and terrible things that could happen, that were happening, in the world, and in my life, every day.  I had to do something.

So, to cut this long story slightly shorter, Prozac galloped onto the scene like my White Knight, and I found I could deal with daily stresses without being quite so “hyper” or “nervous” or “neurotic.”  To me, this was a good thing.  To my family, who loves me and worries about me and, to be frank, is a little afraid of me, it was a miracle.

I short, I squashed the bad feelings.

Here’s what scares me: have I squashed all of the feelings?

I am a loud woman.  I am passionate and sometimes overbearing and sometimes overemotional.  My temper has gotten me into more tough spots than I care to recall.  I love to laugh, and laugh loud and hard.  I have a hard time keeping my opinion to myself.  I think all of these things are what makes me Janice.  They make me Mom, and The (not so) Special Mother, and the woman whose husband said, “There’s no one like you, babe.  One’s enough,” and he said it in response to my query as to whether or not he was sure he really wanted to marry me.

So here is the question (the one that is keeping the stars apart): Have I, and other’s like me, medicated ourselves right out of living?

Life is supposed to be hard.  The hard is what makes it good.  It’s scary and tragic and beautiful and funny and horrible and everything. It is anxiety causing!!  Is it possible we are taught to squash feelings rather than deal with them? Are we in a cycle of denial and repression that sucks in not only ourselves, but everyone around us?

I don’t know the answer to these questions.  I’ll be frank–they scare the hell out of me.  The thought that God is trying to tell me something so specific equally scares the hell out of me.  I’m not the best Catholic lately.  Maybe God is telling me to rely on Him, and on my own faith, rather than chemicals from a bottle.  Maybe God is telling me that my life is a gift, warts and all.  My feelings and reactions are a part of that life.  They are a part of me.  I’m going to give them a chance this Lent.  I’m going to try and deal with them instead of trying to squash them.  Not to get too deep, but I’m going to feel them, then I’m going to try to let them go and give them to God.

Pray for me.  I need it.

We all do.


 

 

Disclaimer: In no way am I suggesting that every person who takes some sort of depression or anxiety controlling medication should just toss those pills out the window and embrace the agony.  It’s a story about my own life, and if it speaks to you, then so be it.  Cheers!

 

 

 

Judgy Turd Syndrome

“But people love a hypocrite, you know——they recognize one of their own, and it always feels so good when someone gets caught with his pants down and his dick up and it isn’t you.”
― Stephen King, The Green Mile

 

Why is it that we relish in the misery of others?

I suppose some would say that we don’t, or, if we do, we are in the sick minority.  All of us good Christian people have sympathy and empathy with those who are in misery. Those who suffer rely on our prayers and kind words to survive.

Except….

When reality crashes the party, that isn’t always the case, is it?

Take, for example, when trouble befalls a family.  Let’s say a child of said family finds himself or herself in trouble.  As Christians, our duty is to pray for that family, offer them our support (in private) and let them know we are there if they need us.

Seems simple, right?

Apparently not.

From where I’m sitting, it seems like everyone is just waiting for something bad to happen to a family, so we go can into judgy turd mode.

What is a judgy turd? Allow me to explain.

The JT folks like to act like they are so concerned about the stricken family.  They accept confidences and nod and give sage advice.  Then, as soon as possible, they start the gossip wheel a-turnin’.

Who can I tell?

Did you hear?

Can you believe it?

I always knew something like that would happen!

Isn’t it just awful?!

You know I’m not really surprised, he/she was never any good.

Look how the parents live! Is it any wonder?

And on and on it goes.

Here’s the worst part of it all–most of the folks participating in the public castigation of a family take a break from their Vitriol to warm a church pew on Sunday.  Priorities, right?

Jesus didn’t care much about the social status of the people he kept company with.  He was questioned about it openly a few times, and no doubt the JT’s of the time were giving him hell behind his back.  He hung around the worst possible crowds.  When he was asked about it, do you know what his response was?

The physician comes to help the sick, not hang out with the well. (My paraphrase.)

Digest that for a minute.

Maybe that implies that if we are truly Christ-like, we need to rethink our dealings with the “sick.”

My observations lately have shown me a bunch of holier than thou do-gooders who don’t want to get their lily-white robes stained by associating with the “common sinner.”

I am no theologian–far from it.  I am Thomas all the way.  There’s never been a greater sinner than me.  But I will tell you this–when I see someone struggling, there is a magical phrase that flashes through my mind:

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Indeed.

So maybe, when you hear that juicy bit of gossip, instead of calling the first person you can think of, maybe stop your day and say a prayer.  Thank God that you yourself aren’t dealing with such a thing, and then pray to ask God’s guidance as to how you might help those who are struggling.

And ask him to help you not gossip, and to not judge. Ask him for the guidance to look into your own home with as sharp an eye as you look into the homes of others.

Someone’s kid in trouble? Let’s talk about that.

What most of us fail to realize is that the majority of the young people we see getting into trouble are just regular kids, even good kids, who made bad decisions.  The career criminals, like we see on tv, make up a smaller percentage.

What can we learn from this? Well, how about that any of us could be a few bad decisions away from a real shit storm.  It happens. It is, unfortunately, our human nature to act first and think later, and it’s to our great detriment. Sometimes we narrowly avoid disaster.

Sometimes we don’t.

So instead of offering our opinions as to why someone’s kid got in trouble, or someone’s husband was caught cheating, or someone was dipping into the till at work, perhaps we can just be sorrowful that it happened, send good thoughts and prayers to those people, offer help if that is appropriate, and then, as one of those annoying ass Disney Princesses says, “let it go.”

Let’s put our focus into our own homes, and, more specifically, into our own hearts.  For the most part, we’re all pretty much fighting the same battles, with one or two of our own particular vices thrown in for variety.

I’ll say this: if you find yourself enjoying a peculiar sense of glee at someone else’s misfortune, even the misfortune of your enemy, then you need to take a hard look at yourself.  You need to pay special attention while you are warming that pew on Sunday (or Saturday.) And if still nothing strikes you, maybe you had better review your religious affiliations.  Because if your religion doesn’t teach you, at its core, to love others and always act with love and compassion, even when you are disagreeing or correcting, then you are following the wrong religion.

Who says so?

I do.

The original Judgy Turd.

 

 


 

 

 

 

(not so) Tongue Tied

Here’s an unusual way for The (not so) Special Mother to start a blog post: with some Bible verses.  Check it out.

James, Chapter 3, verses 3-9

If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies.  It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.

Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze.  The tongue is also a fire.  It exists among other members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. {Emphasis in bold is mine.}

Martin Luther called Saint James the “epistle of straw,” but between you and me, I think it’s because James upholds so many Catholic beliefs, and we all know how old ML felt about the Catholic Church.

However, this post isn’t about the differences between Protestants and Catholics (which are far fewer than you think) or about theology at all, really.

It’s about tempers and tongues in general, and mine in particular.

I happen to love the whole book of James.  You seldom hear anyone quote him, or read from his letter. In reality, though, he pulls no punches, and I think he pretty much spells Christianity out in black and white.  My extremely brief synopsis of James’ letter is this–stop telling everyone you’re a Christian and start acting like one.

As much as I love reading James, and as much as I sit and nod my head, as much as the Protestant in me wants to jump up and yell “Amen, brother!” I find myself quite the hypocrite.

Do any of you have a temper?

I mean, everyone gets mad sometimes.  That’s human nature.  But I’m talking about a temper.  TEMPER.  The kind that takes a whole lot to trigger, but once it is triggered, look out.  The kind of temper that explodes and splashes molten rage on whatever poor soul might be in the vicinity.  The kind of temper that causes normally nice, kind hearted people–people who would never say hurtful things to anyone, especially someone they loved–to spew forth angry words and actions, consequences be damned.

You know, that kind of temper.

Guess what? Yours truly has that selfsame temper, and it has been a plague my whole life.  I had hoped, as a younger person, that when I become older, I would learn to “control” this unpleasant facet of my personality.  That it would somehow fade into little more than an unpleasant memory.

Well, it hasn’t, and I daresay it has only changed its ugly form.  Now it takes much more for me to lose said temper, but when I do, it seems as though I have less control over what I do, and more importantly, what I say, than even I did when I was younger.

I can make excuses about this, but I’ve had a hell of an examination of conscience over the past couple of weeks, and I think a “temper” is little more than an excuse to behave poorly, and to speak cruelly.  Aside from a small percentage of the population who may have some sort of emotional or behavioral disorder, do any of us really “lose control” of our tempers, or do we simply give up control, because it makes us feel better to say all of the ugly things that can flash through our minds in times of upset and stress, and of course, anger.

Chew on that one for a while.

James says our tongues are impossible to bridle, “a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Oh, the harm we can inflict with our words, but oh, how easily we allow them to “slip” out.  All in the name of anger, and our tempers.

I myself have spewed deadly poison on more than one occasion.  And I am no rookie–I know just the words to hurt and cut.  When I get mad enough, I can fire with deadly accuracy right into the heart of anyone, even my nearest and dearest.  Right now half the country is clamoring for gun control, but sometimes I wonder if we’d all do a little better with some tongue control.  God knows I could.

My temper is no excuse.  I am a fully functioning human being–I have absolute control over all of my faculties.  Why should the tongue be different? What excuse should allow me to say horrible things? Because I got mad? How foolish.  How childish.  If we can’t even control the words the come out of our own mouths (or that we type on the screen), how are we better than even a child? James says we praise God with our tongues, then turn around and curse the very people who are just like us–human beings going through the same struggles as all the other human beings on the planet–and, more importantly, all made in the image and likeness of God.

So the next time I feel a temper tantrum coming on, I’m going to try to do better.  I’m going to remind myself of all of my own shortcomings.  I’m going to think of the feelings of the person I’m getting ready to blast.  Even if it seems like they have no feelings, I’m going to think about the awful, hateful taste those anger-fueled words leave in my own mouth.  I’m going to remember that James says our tongues are full of poison, and then I’ll realize that our tongues are in our own mouths.

So who is the one really getting poisoned?

Think about it.


 

 

 

Hillbilly Strong

To say the State of West Virginia has had a rough couple of days would be a massive understatement.

To make a long and extremely depressing story somewhat shorter, suffice it to say we received record rainfall amounts across much of the state, and as a result we had record flooding.

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This is just a glimpse of the widespread destruction and devastation that struck our state.  Over twenty lives have been lost.  Homes were completely wiped out, people have been displaced and are staying in shelters, and everything has been just generally awful in every imaginable way.

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It’s the type of situation that you think only happens in “other” places, to “other” people, but in reality, it happened all around us.  Small communities that we grew up in, that we have vacationed in or simply just driven through on a regular basis have been reduced to so much stinking, muddy, condemned rubble.

We escaped damage, thanks be to God.  Our driveway washed out and there a little water in the low spots of our basement that seeped in through the walls, but that’s it.

But this post isn’t about that.

What I have witnessed over the past few days, besides destruction and loss and devastation, is something I forgot about.  It’s something that is special about this place I live, this place which I catch myself holding in disdain from time to time.  It’s easy to look around, especially in small towns (which is really all WV has), and see all of the stereotypical things that people associate with our state.  As a lifelong resident, I find myself frustrated at times with the small town mentality, the fear of the unknown, and the unwillingness to change.  I lament the poor school systems, and even sometimes wish I could live somewhere else–anywhere else, where the people weren’t so backward and trapped in the past.

And so I forgot.

I forgot that any state is basically just geography, just a place, the boundaries of which were drawn out politically a hundred or so years ago.  The boundaries and shape of a state don’t define its personality any more than a simple snapshot of your face can define your personality.  A state–this state–is defined by the people who live in it.  We, like all humans, have our flaws.  We may be backward and fearful of change.  We may stick obstinately to our small town ways, even in the face of these global times.  Yes, we do have a drug problem here that has arguably reached epidemic status.  We are hicks, and some of us are rednecks, and we may sound funny to you when we speak, and yes, we are hillbillies.

But we are strong.

Like everyone else, along with our faults come an array of qualities that shame the rest of the world.  Over these past few days, I have seen people rally together in a way that I never even knew was possible.  Shelters were set up and donations were pouring in before some people had even been rescued from their homes.  People have taken in complete strangers right into their homes.  We are a poor state, and I know some of the people who have given had little to give, but donations have literally rolled into all of the shelters and staging points.

The National Guard is here, but they can’t keep up with us.

In the midst of this disaster, I am reminded of what this state, at its heart, truly is.  It’s people who take up for each other, and help their neighbor, and give of themselves, even when they have little to give.  The heart of a Mountaineer is as large as the mountains we call home. Some of the people who have been on tv have had some missing teeth, and horrible grammar, and maybe they didn’t really look like the type of person you would associate with a “good” person, but that’s just what they are.  This has reminded me that people are not defined by how they sound or how they look, but rather by their actions.  And the actions of my neighbors over the past few days have served to remind me that it’s okay to be who I am, and it’s okay to be from where I’m from.  It’s okay to be a hillbilly.

In fact, it’s freaking awesome.

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#hillbillystrong

 


 

 

Spoiled (not so) Rotten

You have to be careful when you are talking about other people’s rotten kids.

Even to define what it means to have a “good” kid or a “bad” kid can be tricky.  It’s broad terminology.

Regardless, I couldn’t help but ponder a comment I heard about an obviously “bad” kid who had grown into a bad man.  The comment was that his grandparents had raised him and they had “always bought him anything he wanted.”

There was tons of heavy implication within this comment, laid on with a skill that only the elderly Southern lady possesses.  I, being skilled in interpreting this clandestine dialect, understood what was really being said.  The boy had been “spoiled” by his grandparents and so had turned out to be no good as an adult.

This got me thinking.  Does buying too many things for our children turn them into bad people?  I have always seen the clichéd images of the over-indulged child throughout my life.  The greatest and most recent, of course, being Dudley Dursley.  This is archetype of the “bad” child.  He has too much of everything.  He is bought too much, fed too much, simply given too much. As a result, he (or she) is spoiled.

I’ll be honest.  This comment hit me on a personal level.

I have always been guilty of overbuying.  I’ve never mortgaged my house to buy my kids something, but if it was in the budget and there was something cool they wanted, or even something cool I thought they might like to have, I probably got it for them.

I love technology and gadgets, so we always have the latest iPhones and iPads.  The Boy likes Nike shoes, and I got him a pair.  I guess I just never really thought of it as a big deal.

Now, The Boy is 16.  He got his first job this summer and is working hard.  He does very well in school.  So, we got him a car.  It’s cheap, it’s small, and it’s not at the top of anyone’s dream car list, but it is new, it gets great gas mileage, and it is his.

So I ask, have we been doing things wrong?

If I go by what society (and some family members) tell me, then we have spoiled children.  But the funny thing is, they don’t act like spoiled children.

Obviously, my daughter doesn’t really fit into a simple mold, be it spoiled or not spoiled or anything else, but my son is pretty much a typical 16-year-old boy.  However, I happen to think he is an exceptional 16-year-old boy.

He is compassionate and kind.  Little kids are drawn to him like moths to a flame.  He pretends like this annoys him, but I know he loves them and it brings him joy.  He is one of the most generous people I have ever met.  I honestly don’t think he has a selfish bone in his body. He works hard and is so smart.

I don’t think it is what we buy our kids that makes them who they are.  I think it is what we teach them.  You could buy them things and they could be little brats.  However, you could also buy them things but still demand that they treat people with respect, and do their chores, and behave a certain way.

Ultimately, it really isn’t anyone’s business what you do or don’t buy for your kids.  I think we are all probably guilty of overbuying, especially in this modern age of “stuff.”  But the responsibility of raising respectful, responsible children remains the same.

It seems to me blaming the “stuff” is taking the easy way out.  It’s easy to blame something superficial like “spoiled” rather than say, “his grandmother let him speak disrespectfully to her all of the time” or “he was never responsible for anything around the house.”

So yes, I think you can spoil your children.  But I think you spoil them not by giving them too many material things, but by not giving them enough of what we all need to be decent adults:  discipline.

What do you think?

An Open Letter to Teens

Dear Teens:

You don’t know shit.

Oh, I know, I know.  You think you know everything. I am (not so) sorry to be the one to tell you that, in fact, as I said, you don’t know shit.

Also, no one in this world owes you anything.  Did you get that? NOT. ONE. THING. If you want things, buy them.  That requires money, which requires a job, which generally requires some sort of skill set, along with basic personal hygiene.  Some of you seem to be struggling with this.

It’s all pretty basic.  Take a bath.  Brush your teeth.  Make eye contact when people talk to you.  And, God help us all, smile.  

Here is another pointer for you–learn English.  Like, for real.  I’m not trying to be mean, but you kind of sound like morons.  You can’t spell, you can’t speak, and to be frank, you’re making us look bad in front of the whole world.  Try not to add “uh” to the end of every word, especially if you are doing so in a particularly annoying, whiny voice.  Examples: stop-uh, don’t-uh, look-uh, what-uh. (For those of you struggling to understand, just draw those words out.  Come on now, draw them out niiiiiicccceeee and loooooonnnggg and force the sound through your nose and then tack that “uh” at the end. Got it?)

Lastly, get over yourselves.  Look around.  This may come as a shock to you, but there are other people in the world besides yourselves. Who knew, right? Take a moment to realize that your words and actions might have some effect on someone other than you.

I give you these words in love, because I don’t want to see you make the same mistakes I made as a selfish, stupid teenager.  I want you to realize that there are certain decisions you only get one chance to make. I want you to look around an appreciate the value of the other people in your life.  Some day they might not be there.  And they love you.

We all love you.

P.S. You still don’t know shit, though.

P.P.S. The duck face and the kissy face in every picture look absolutely ridiculous.  Really.  I mean, people are making fun of your behind your back.  It’s that bad.  Stop.  Please.


 

Driven to Insanity

My son is 16 years old.

For those of you who do not have children, this number may mean nothing to you.  It may not strike fear into your heart.  It may not ignite inside your soul the devastating fear, the agonizing terror that lives in the heart of every parent.

My son is nearly ready to get his driver’s license.

I stalled the inevitable by making the boy take Driver’s Education.  That gets you a break of approximately $0.00000004 on insurance.  (Incidentally, I think it is crap that insurance is more for a boy than for a girl.  So much for equality, right?) However, in spite of my many attempts to pretend that my children are still small, the boy is nearly ready to get his driver’s license.

He will be able, according to the law of our great state, to operate a motor vehicle on his own.

(Who made these laws? Someone without children, I guarantee.)

I consider myself a very adaptable person.  In fact, it is one of my strong suits.  I’m not one of these people who get bogged down by the fear of change.  I laugh at those people.  Ha!  But someone I find myself ill prepared for my son to drive.  It isn’t just him–all of his buddies are also driving.  A few of them are older than my son and have already received their operators license.  A couple of them drive themselves to school every day. I still visualize these kids as the same ones who couldn’t tie their shoes without assistance, and they are out on the same roads as you and me, with no adult supervision, in vehicles capable of many thousands of dollars of personal property damage.

God help us.

The worst part of it all is that I’m not sure if I’m upset because my son is 16 years old and driving (and he is a good driver, very cautious and law-abiding) or if I’m upset because this is just another reminder of my own impending geezer-hood.

I am not ready for this.  I myself identify as a cool young person.  I listen to cool music and drive too fast (in a minivan) and have tattoos and all of the other stuff that makes people cool.  But how can I be a cool young person when a human being that I grew inside of my own body is now old enough to operate a motor vehicle?

Okay, I’ll tell you the truth.  I’ve been sly about it and pretended like it was about so many things that it wasn’t.  It isn’t really about my son.  It isn’t about him driving.

It’s about the fact that I’ll be 40 in a couple of days.

You read that right.  I will be forty years old.  Conceivably half way through my whole entire life.  If I’m lucky, that is.

I cannot stand to hear about people having midlife crises, especially men with the sports cars and the blonde mistresses and such.  But honestly, I have to seriously ask myself if I’m not in the throes of a midlife crisis right now.  Why else would all of this be hitting me so hard?  What other explanation is there that the contemplation of my life and the life of my son and his friends should cause me such distress?

I’m sure the wine has nothing to do with it.

Regardless, my son is sixteen years old, and getting ready to get his license.  No matter how much I piss and moan (and drink), time just keeps on slipping by.  I thought I had lots of time.  I used to complain about how slowly time passed.

I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry.  I didn’t know.  I take it back.  Just please, please slow down a little.  They can drive now, so let’s just take a breath.  Let’s take a minute to get our bearings.

Let’s realize how precious our time is, and how much we take it for granted, okay? I swear, we’ll do better from here on out.

Okay?


 

(not so) Happy

I have unlocked the secret to happiness.

Now hold on a minute.  Don’t just roll your eyes and walk off. Come back here! I’m serious.  I know the secret to happiness.

Are you ready to know the secret? Okay, wherever you are, go to a mirror. Close your eyes.  Stand in front of the mirror.  Take a deep breath.

Now, open your eyes.

See it?

You are looking at the secret of happiness.

For those of you who cheated and did not go to a mirror, I will give you the answer.

It’s you.

You are the secret to happiness.

Now, before you feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility, don’t misunderstand.  You are not the secret to everyone’s happiness.  Just your own.  Do you follow? I’ll say it plainly, with bold font, so you can get it.

You are the secret to your own happiness.

In my never-ending observation of people, I see everyone constantly searching for happiness.  They look for it in people and places and things.  They want happy lives and happy relationships and happy jobs, but they are let down over and over.

I spent more years than I am willing to count trying to find my own happiness in other people.  I was continually disappointed.  I was chronically disappointed.  Why? Because I thought someone else had the key to my happiness..  I placed impossible expectations on the people around me, and then held it against them when they couldn’t deliver.

I’m not sure what finally clued me in.  I can’t pinpoint one big “ah-ha” moment when I realized I had it wrong.  I think I just got tired of being such a drag.

Every morning I get up, and I don’t have what  people would  consider  a “fun” schedule.  I have to get my people out of bed and feed them and medicate them.  The daughter can be down right uncooperative.  Sometimes I have to hold her arms down with my leg so I can get her medicine in her.  That is not fun.  But I make jokes about it and laugh and accuse her of trying to kill me.  I sing songs and make faces to try to keep her from getting too mad.  When it’s finished, I make a big show of wiping my brow and then that’s that.  When she has a seizure, we sit together and bitch about it for a while.  It makes us feel better.  Then it’s over.

What if I wanted to make a different choice?  What if I decided to lament the difficulty of my life? What if I fussed at my daughter for her extreme hard-headed-ness (which she gets from her father) and started my whole day off on a sour, negative note?  What if I wanted to look at all of the things wrong with my life, all of the hard things that just don’t seem fair, and what if was mad or sad about them? Well, life around here would certainly be different, wouldn’t it?

No one can make those choices but me.  I can blame who I want.  Is it fair that things are the way they are?  Maybe not.  But guess what?  There’s not one damn thing I can do to change things, fair or not, and how in the hell does me being miserable help anyone?

Misery loves company–we’ve all heard it.  It’s true.  Misery is catching.  The beautiful thing, though, is that happiness is catching, too!

In our marriages, our relationships with our children, our jobs, every single aspect of our lives, we make the decision of how we are going to live our lives.  It breaks my heart to think of how much of my life I have lost being miserable.

Laughter is such a part of our lives now.  We have to laugh at ourselves and our lives–we just have to.  I don’t think we could survive day-to-day if we didn’t.  Look around yourself.  If you are with people, or, God forbid, if you are a person who can’t laugh at yourself, seek help immediately.  Put your head between your knees.  Call 911, something.  Just bail out.  You’re drowning.

You’re drowning in our society’s notion that happiness is something that is owed to us, that it is something therapy and medication can provide.  We have convinced ourselves that others should mold themselves into the shapes that make us happy.

We are deluded, and what’s worse, we are miserable.

If only everyone could decide to be happy.  If only everyone could see that each life, each relationship, each job, each person, can be a part of what our happiness is all about.  There is so much that is beautiful in even our hardest moments, so much that we should celebrate.  Even when things are hard, we can deal with them and move on.  There is so much to be thankful for, so much to appreciate.

So much to be happy about.

Go back to that mirror.  Look yourself directly in the eye.  Don’t take any bullshit.  Who is standing in the way of your happiness? Can you see them?

Now, what are you going to do about it?


 

 

 

 

 

Tear Jerkers (Sorry, Mr. Sparks)

I just watched a video which listed the biggest tear-jerker movies of all time.

I think movies based on Nicholas Sparks books made the list at least three times.  Maybe more.  I sort of lost interest about half way through.

We just can’t get enough of the sappy, drippy, romantic tragedies, can we? What is it? Maybe it’s the idea that love transcends tragedy, and exists even in spite of cancer and death and dementia.

Now, before any of you Sparks fans out there start planning my painful death, let me assure you, I think Mr. Sparks is a talented man. He knows how to tug on the heart strings.

But there are some of us (or at least me) who believe a real tear-jerker movie isn’t just sap from front to back and top to bottom.  It’s a movie that gets you.  It breaks your heart. And then someone gets stabbed in the eye with a sword.

Anyway, here are my nominations for the greatest tear-jerker movies of all time:

  • Last of the Mohicans. This  movie kills me.  Kills me.  It is a very violent movie at times, but it is also a wonderful story based on the book by James Fenimore Cooper.  The acting is top notch (we are talking about Daniel Day Lewis, after all) and there are true edge-of-your-seat moments.  It really hits the mark, though, because there are whole scenes with absolutely no dialogue. Guess what?  These are the scenes that are the most powerful and, yes, tear jerking.  Whole planets of emotion are shared between the characters with just eye contact, and of course the heart rending music in the background.
  • Cast Away. I bet you think I’m going to tell you I cried the most near the end, when Tom Hanks is getting ready to drive away and Helen Hunt comes running down the driveway in the rain (of course.) WRONG! Although that is a highly charged moment, the part of the movie that will crush you is when Tom Hanks loses his best friend.  That’s right–Wilson, the volleyball.  Wilson is tied onto the life raft, and he comes loose and starts drifting away before Tom realizes it, and then gets too far out of reach to be recovered.  Then we get to see Tom Hanks sobbing his heart out over a volleyball, and I sob right along with him.  Because it’s not really just Wilson he’s crying over, you know?  He’s crying because, well, everything. And that breaks your heart.
  • The Patriot. I can’t pinpoint one moment in this film, because it is brutal.  Let me just say, don’t get attached to too many characters in this film, because they drop like flies.  I will say the scene where Mel Gibson is leaving and his little girl runs after him and speaks to him for the first time in forever is over-the-top ugly-cry material.
  • Forrest Gump. You knew this one had to make the list, right?  Tom Hanks is brilliant, and this movie is all the proof needed to back up that statement.  How many times do I cry during this movie?  The Lord might know–I don’t.  Bubba dies, Lieutenant Dan has his “what am I gonna do now” moment, Momma dies, and let’s not forget when Forrest sees his son and wants to know if he is like him.  Then Jenny dies, and if you had any heart left, it gets destroyed by the whole “I miss you, Jenny” thing.
  • Braveheart.  I have never cried over any movie as  much as I cry over this one.  It would take a book to list all the tear-jerking scenes in this movie.  This movie uses the “no dialogue” technique, too.  When Murron is killed, and Mel Gibson leans over her right before they are going to bury her, he breathes in her scent like he did when she was still alive, and it’s almost too much to watch.  Then right before he dies, he sees Murron in the crowd walking toward him, and the music changes, and, and…..excuse me a minute, okay?

Okay, I’m better.  Sorry, but that one gets me every time.

So, what makes your list?  What movie rips out your heart?  And don’t worry if it is a Nicholas Sparks film.  I will only make fun of you a little.

 

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