Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Windows of the Soul?

Ask people who know me for a character description and you’d probably hear, “dependable”, “organized” or “diplomatic.”   My answer? “Boringly normal.”  Yet normalcy feeds my curiosity, allowing me to see the world from a point of view other than mine.  Living vicariously on the curb as the world parades by isn’t a bad thing as long as you’re learning.   My curiosity is like an odd curse, pushing me to truly understand why people make their choices.  I’ve always been a “rest of the story” person.  I like closure, even if it isn’t, “And they lived happily ever after”.   At least I’ll understand why.
I’m still baffled by war.  Although nations have tried to “perfect it” for eons, war still solves nothing.  Lots of people die unnecessarily, including innocents who have no say about the argument in progress.  What “World leaders” continue to view as a viable option, I see as incredibly stupid.  Which is why I was so surprised last week when I stopped to watch a 2006 National Geographic documentary about Green Berets in Afghanistan.
I know.  Weird.
All it takes for my curiosity to kick in is the simplest flicker of intrigue.  I landed mid-story as a small group of Green Berets rotated between helping local villages and picking off the Taliban.  Shaking my head in dismay, I was about to move on when a pair of dark eyes captured my attention.  There were so many conflicting emotions parading across them that my curiosity demanded we find out why.
Somewhere between chocolate and black, those eyes were intense.  Focused.  Bottomless.   Conflicted.
If Hollywood needed a “War Hero”, this guy was a Casting Agent’s dream.   Ruggedly handsome, with a boy-next-door likeability, his darkly bearded face and shock of unruly hair lent an air of mystery.   Expecting a gung-ho, stereotypical bravado, I had to lean forward as this Captain softly spoke.  Calmly relating his job as group leader, his face wore a polite, forced smile. Diplomacy on the edge.  His by-the-book military explanation was issued confidently, yet his tone bore a hint of weariness much more than physical fatigue.   The men walked a thin line in the sand: try to help, but shoot back if necessary.  If that wasn’t enough, there were always IEDs waiting to blow you to kingdom come if you stepped wrong.
The story moved on to include others in the group, but the Captain’s gaze stayed behind, nagging at me. Dark. Bottomless.  Troubled.  Someone’s son.  A husband.   A father.  A total stranger.  Oddly, I felt an instant connection, an immense concern for him on a level difficult to explain.
Maybe it’s that being human stuff.
During the documentary, we meet two soldiers who are “Americans by choice.”  Naturalized citizens, both were eager to defend their new homeland.   One a father of two, the other a newlywed.  A single IED killed them both.  Worse yet, I had a ringside seat.  In my darkened living room, the green glow of night vision cameras suddenly blazed wildly, leaping off the screen to encompass everything in its path.  Including me.   Then everything went dark.
Like those eyes.
      As my heart lodged in my throat, a cacophony of calls sounded in the darkness as the men checked on each other.  I almost expected someone to grab my shoulder and question if I was okay.  I wasn’t.   As my nerves jangled we learn the blast injured several men, including the National Geographic crew.  The Director later added, “We never imagined we’d become part of the story.”
        I knew exactly how he felt.
Green Berets lived at Firebase Cobra.  It sounded so macho.  Tough.  But watching a soldier kneel, place a hand on the coffin of his buddy and silently cry brought home the true horror of war in a way never before possible. 
The lump in my throat reappeared.
“Leaders” want us to believe soldiers are coldly professional, clinically terminating the enemy without losing sleep.  The enemy wants us to believe the same men are heartless murderers.  The irony was disturbing: a soldier trained as a sniper had become the Medic making house calls in the village.  I saw men who are only human being expected to handle on a daily basis what no one should ever be asked.
After the IED incident, the Captain confessed he felt responsible, even though 14 other IEDs had been previously destroyed the same day.  He softly admitted although they had to move forward, it wasn’t possible to put it all behind him.  “However I can tell you that I’m probably just storing it somewhere for later, so that when we get back, I can just finally let go.”
Intellectually, I understand.  Girl Me, however, wondered how you take the worse-day-ever and shove it aside, knowing that one day in the future, when you’re safely home, it might tear you apart?  As a film of pain and despair floated across the Captain’s eyes, that lump in my throat returned.  The narrator intones there’s no time for grief when the mission must go on.  Inside, in a most ungirl-like fashion, I scream, “That sucks!”
        Being human ain’t easy.
After the shock and awe, came anger.  Mine.  What the hell are we still doing in a place where the only tangible goal is kill or be killed?  I don’t recall America being sent an invitation to invade and rearrange the sandbox.  Two hours later, I was still unsettled by the documentary.  As long as there are disagreements, some idiot will suggest war as a solution.  The answer to “why?” is not “because”.  There are only more whys.  And why does it feel as if I care more for these strangers in uniform than the government which employs them?
Closing my eyes to sleep that night, I saw the dark, bottomless eyes of the Captain.   Staring into them, I wonder if he made it home okay.  I wonder if, after he got home,  he was finally able to just let go.  I wonder if those eyes that haunted me for days will ever let go of me.   

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thanks to G-man and the Bearded One!

Sometimes you just have to do something for yourself....maybe just to prove you can.  And although it's not as exciting as having a publisher declare your words the "Next Great Thing!" it is a book.  And the words are mine.

But it wouldn't have happened without the help of two bloggers: the g-man and photographer Kim Ayres.  To g-man, for making me...I mean, encouraging me to write 55 word stories every Friday (well, almost every Friday).  And to Kim, for helping me find a way to publish those words without having to sell a major body part.  

Yes, I did block out my last you the first one is bad enough perhaps.  (Although I use the photographer's version, not the formal one).  And g-man, I hope you won't sue me for the "55" graphic...I only made one copy.  For me.  This is what I'm sharing with y'all.

What?  You don't need a've been reading this stuff for free since 2009.  ;)

1.  Yes, I did take the cover my back yard...before a storm finally got the tree.  Or was that Hubby with a chainsaw?  I forget.

2.  Yes, that kid is me.  What?  Doesn't everyone put on their shoes like that?  "Munchkim" is a play on the nickname a group of very tall co-workers once gave me: Munchkin.  Hey, they were state police and had guns, who was I to argue?

3.  Yes, I did take the time to explain what the book was all about...and to give the g-man credit  (and Irish Susan too!) for making me start down this path.

4.  No, it does not put me in the same class as my famous poet friends, but it made me feel good when I opened the package.  Besides, where else can you combine a love of writing with silly stories and the occasional baby photo. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday 55

 Okay, so it's already Friday morning but now that Hurricane Irene is passing me by, I had time for a 55.  Make sure you share yours with the g-man.   And if you're in Irene's path, I'm thinking good thoughts for you!

Good enough to cook the meals.
Good enough to clean the house.
Good enough to raise the kids.
Good enough to sew or read.

Sorry ladies, that’s all you’re good for.

Until 91 years ago today, when you earned the right to vote.

So ladies, kindly be good enough to use that power in 2012.

Our local League of Women Voters is today celebrating the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.  Bet those good ol' boys didn't think we'd use it, much less run for office and win.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Personal Report Card

I met my soon-to-be best friend Claudie (Claudette) in college, when I signed up for the newspaper staff.  When she called to announce our first staff meeting, Claudie came off as a very cool, calm, together sounding woman.  Hanging up, my 18 year old brain proceeded to  conjure up a mental composite based on sound alone. I envisioned a tall, leggy blonde with Hollywood good looks.  A southern Daddy's Little Princess use to getting her own way.   With a sigh, I headed toward our first meet.

As I walked in the door, a short (hey, I'm 5'1" and I can say that!) woman with dark hair and a huge smiled stuck out her hand and said enthusiastically,  "Hi!  I'm Claudette.  It's nice to meet you!"

She came off as sincere and genuine.  I felt very bad for mentally prejudging.  We became friends instantly.  Sure, people claimed it was because we were the only two on campus short enough to look each other in the eye. Oh, and for the record, her Dad wasn't the Sugar Daddy type I'd envisioned.  He was a native son and stationed in my hometown thanks to the Air Force. I really must write the Air Force a thank you note one day: they provided both my best friend and Hubby, whose Dad was an AF pilot.

Claudie and I did LOTS of talking.  We still do, even it's mostly e-mail.  We live in the same state, but on opposite ends.  Plus we both seem to be the "go to" person in our families, which keeps us busy.  Too busy at times.  When she reminded me today that her son is 28 and single, I realized that by the time we were his age, we'd both been married for 6 years....and that son was 4 years old.

It was one of those "where in the world is time going?!" moments.  But instead of deep reflections or Bucket Lists (which I refuse to make), I often wonder how we decided at 18 what we wanted to be when we grew up.  Because, obviously, we didn't become that.  I have a degree in Early Childhood Education, with a teaching certificate I never used because they were no teaching jobs.  And now?  I'm Director of a senior citizens center.  Some of you will see the irony in that.  Unfortunately, if a senior misbehaves, I can't send him/her home to their mother.  Claudie got a degree in Journalism and runs the Billing Department of her local hospital.  Our friend Chuck, who sang at my wedding, stayed an extra year to get a degree in Music.  Guess he came close: he and his wife own an award winning Video Production Company in our state.  Bobby, our former Student Body President who I'd known since 1st grade, was "the smart one".  Recipient of a Harry Truman scholarship, he received a degree in Political Science.  Upon graduation he worked for his hero, one of our state's Senators.  That lasted a year, as he soon discovered a backbiting side to politics of which he'd been naively unaware.  Now he teaches history to high school students.  I'm guessing he came closest to utilizing his degree.

This all made me wonder: if you went to college, what did you major in and how did that work out?  If you went straight from school into the Big Bad World, what did you envision at age 18 vs. what did you ended up doing?

You know me.  Always curious.  :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Girl Can Wish..right?

It's been hot for long enough.  The humidity is like walking underwater.  For someone with mild asthma, that's like trying to walk outdoors with an elephant standing on your chest.  And now Hurricane Irene is eyeing our coastline.  Rain....good.  Wind...BAD!

Is it any wonder that this is the photo I chose for my current screen saver at home?  Good ol' Baby Bou.

Why yes, that IS snow.  You saw the title of this post, 
didn't ya?   

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time to share those 55 word stories with the g-man.  Have a good weekend!

Tall and stately,
she stood with outstretched arms, welcoming them.

Beckoning them to join her,
they sat in the shade,
enjoying the peaceful quiet of the country.

The younger woman looked up and smiled.
“That’s it.  We’re home.”

Only in America could you buy a tree
and have an old farm house come with it.

 For the record, that's a PECAN tree, not an oak!  
She must be over 150 years old.

And The Weird Continues

Yesterday I was mentioning to friends about the website, which is a great site covering emergency weather as well as national (U.S.) situations. You may not live in America, but it often has international information as well.  The site is free and I get a daily e-mail, but you can sign up for phone alerts, etc.  The great thing about them is you often read the results of a press briefing, say on Terrorism, before it makes it to main stream media...sometimes days before!

I'd found a new page on the site which was quite eye opening: Threat News. This is broken down into different weather situations (hurricane, earthquake, etc) as well as topics like Hostage, Lockdown, Power Outages/Blackouts, Hazmat, Gangs, Nuclear, Borders, etc..   Clicking on a topic sends you to a list of news stories. One of the most eye opening was on "Cell Phone Outage", which included a story about a local government agency blocking cell phones in a BART (San Francisco) subway system in fear of a possible riot over a local incident.  It struck me how there's a fine line between public safety and having the ability to let your family know you're okay.  
Evidently, I wasn't the only one to have that thought.  However, my reaction wasn't as mean spirited.
Last week I shared about the group of hackers known as "Anonymous" here.  Well, THEY didn't like what BART did either, so they hacked the site and shared all the employees personal information on line!

Makes you wonder: who hacks the hackers?  Will someone target them before their next attack?
Tomorrow, I promise only a lighthearted 55, which makes for a better beginning to a weekend than mischief and mayhem.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Just Curious

Anyone tried Google+ yet?   (Besides Thom)   ;)  Seems like a good place to link everything in one spot.  Except when you don't want some folks in the "real world" to know who you are in the Blogging community.  ;0

It appears to be more friendly than Facebook...why yes, I did say that out loud.  If it wasn't for those of you here still commenting, I might've given up on Blog World and switched to Google + totally.  

You ARE still out there, right?  Ponita, you just nod.  Let that shoulder heal.

Have a good week!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friday 55

It's time to write a 55 word story and share it with the g-man.  Here we go.  Can you help solve my mystery?

“Pat H.”  is scratched in pencil above your head.
Or is that “Nat”?

Discarded in a box of photos, I rescued you. 
My thanks? 
Mental torture.

Experts agree you’re not a Civil War soldier, Train Conductor, 
Mailman, Riverboat Captain, Policeman or Fireman.

So, who ARE you?

Besides a snappy dresser.

Currently, you remain a mystery.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Although I'm not a big Facebook fan (yes, I know..blasphemy), I think launching a plan to hack it to death, literally, is an odd hobby.   However, a group of hackers calling themselves "Anonymous" plan to do just that.  They've even given you the date: Nov. 5th.

Not all of the group is in agreement, but they have done their share of cyber damage in the past: they failed to take down Amazon recently,  but Monday they hacked the Syrian Defense Ministry and posted their own anti-government logo.  They've issued one of the creepiest sounding YouTube videos I've ever listened to.  Yes, "listened".  In order to give you that "Big Brother is Watching" feel,  there's no picture, just an electronically disguised voice.   I suppose that mix of horrified mystery is suppose to heighten the message.  

Why share this if I don't even want to stink up my playground with their video?  Because sometimes you need to know exactly who is out there in cyberspace.  You can find the whole story, and link to the video,  on the CNN website.

Thank heaven I have YOU people to converse with!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday 55

Did you write your 55 word story this week?  Then don't forget to tell the g-man.

Something old: Mom’s dress
Something new: Shoes (NEVER wear 4” heels again!)
Something borrowed: Veil
Something blue: garter that sis-in-law’s controlling husband wouldn’t let her wear.
Lucky sixpence in her shoe: Hard enough walking in heels!

And the key to 31 years of happily ever after?
And no one shoved wedding cake.

Photo taken 8/8/80
Date picked only because another bride beat me to the church.
Still have groom.  
Sadly, I have no idea where that tiny little waist went!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Subliminal Fashion Statement?

One thing stood out as I watched Pres. Obama make his statement about the two political party leaders finally coming to a compromise:  his purple tie.

Red + Blue = Purple.

Think Obama was trying to tell the parties NOW is the time to get it together and act as one nation?