Friday, August 28, 2015

Not Becoming a Member of the "22 a Day Club"

Many people don't realize what that horrible statistic means: 22 soldiers committing suicide each day.  Many have pointed out the number is an average, not a true daily total, just a statistic adopted by the media and politicians to grab attention.  Bottom line...ONE is too many.

This week has been horrible, news wise.  It was especially troubling when the nutcase who shot his former co-workers live on air tried to bring my state into his lunatic ravings.  Meaning?  His diatribe claimed he was taking on the "race war" challenge of that other nutcase who killed the 9 church members in Charleston, South Carolina. 

However the news which brought me to tears was the death of a total stranger.  I never met Austin.  One of the CWWAF soldiers I'm friends with, Tracy, has frequently shared his video clips.  I don't know how many tours he did in Iraq/Afghanistan, but his "rantings", as he called them, were equal parts of truth and funny.  Austin knew how to tell the hard truths so that they smacked you between the eyes if you hadn't been paying attention...and yet he left you laughing.  His last video was on Aug. 22nd....he decided to exit on Aug. 23rd.

I was beyond shocked.  Did no one close to him see it coming?  Was he so adept at covering with laughter that friends shook their heads, muttering, "That's so Austin"?  I checked for a Facebook page and found a photo, a week earlier, where he was serious, eyes almost dead.  Only one person had written, "Hey nephew, why the long face?  What's up?"  There was no reply.  I yelled at the screen, "Did you call him to find out?" 

Tracy was beyond shocked.  Angry.  Hurt.  Overwhelmingly sad.   She confided that he had been HER ear when times were tough.  That when she'd lost a job he'd teased that some people would do anything to take a vacation.  There was an ocean wave of mixed emotions which had overtaken and floored her because he hadn't allowed her to return the favor.  Hadn't said, "Hey, you got a minute?  I need to talk."

I admitted to Tracy that I hadn't been able to sleep that night.  This stranger I didn't know but who made me laugh was gone.  Why?  Why couldn't people reach out when they needed help?  Why are we always so blind to it until later?

Tracy did a stint in the Marines and the Army: as a combat photographer.  She's seen things I don't even want to contemplate and told me stories that made me cry.  When Austin died, several of us made sure we touched base with her, because her grief/anger was so deep.  Last night she sent several of us a message:

"I'll be off the grid for a while.  Don't worry.  I'm checking myself into the VA for a little mental adjustment.  Can't call for 24 hours.  Don't panic.  I'm okay."

And I sighed in relief.  Tracy is doing for herself what Austin couldn't bring himself to do: taking a proactive stance.  I slept better last night.

This morning, I found something odd outside my back door.  My beautiful Don Juan climbing rose only blooms in the spring.  I was thinking the other day that I need to trim it back before Fall.  This morning I found this:

 I think it's for Tracy.
May love and hope will find a way.  
We've got your six.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Defining Real Leadership

Recently someone posed the question, “If you could sit down with just one person for an hour, who would you choose?”  I assumed they didn’t mean  the dearly-departed relative-of-choice.  At the time, I didn’t have a clue.   Today I do.
George Washington.
Given today’s pre-Presidential circus, I’d like to sit down with George and ask how he managed to pull people together in times of trouble to form “a more perfect union.”  Since I can't ask, I did a little reading.
The Washingtons were a wealthy English family who came to America after receiving land grants from King Henry VIII.  By the time Geo was born, the wealth had been lost.  The eldest son from his father’s 2nd marriage, Geo’s family was known as “middling class”.  Mostly home schooled, he learned math, geography, Latin & the English classics from a local schoolmaster. His  continuing “education” however, came from friendships with backwoodsmen and the plantation foreman.  By the time he was a teenager, Geo had mastered growing tobacco, raising livestock and surveying. 
Geo was 11 when his father died, leaving him the ward of his half-brother Lawrence.  Lawrence’s wife took Geo under her wing, teaching him “social graces”.  Lawrence died of tuberculosis.  Two months later his only child died, leaving Geo to become head of the prominent estate, Mt. Vernon.  He was 20 years old.
Geo would go on to prove a natural leader during the French & Indian War. Even though he was forced to surrender and was embarrassed at being captured, Geo re-entered the fight.  By age 23, he was Commander of Virginia’s forces.  But between a Legislature unwilling to assist with his needs, impossible military assignments, and being turned down, ironically, for a commission in the British Army, Geo resigned his commission.  He returned to Mt. Vernon completely disillusioned.  
Once home, Geo married Martha Dandridge, a widow with considerable wealth.  He embraced her children. Patsy, age 4 and Jacky, age 6, as his own.  When Jacky died during the Revolution, Geo adopted his children.  At Mt. Vernon Geo found his calling: farming.  It’s said he loved every aspect of it, often taking off his coat to labor alongside his workers.  Yes, Geo had 100 slaves.  He reportedly hated the institution, but accepted the fact as slavery was law.  It was about this time he entered politics.
Originally Geo was opposed to the colonies declaring independence.  But he didn’t like what he viewed as violations by the Crown to American rights.  Calling for the Continental Congress to convene, Geo asked that armed resistance be the last resort.  You know what happened next.
Fast forward to Geo’s presidency, an office he never sought.  No, he was sought after for his military experience and charisma. America had its freedom, but each state had their own interpretation, often squabbling over borders and contributing funds to the nation’s war debt.  At the Constitutional Convention, Geo was unanimously chosen to address not only the nation’s immediate problems, but to plan for the future.  Geo received a vote from every elector in the Electoral College…the only American President in history to be elected by unanimous approval.
Many wanted Geo to be called “King”, but he chose the title “Mr. President” to further his belief that the cause of Liberty was larger than a single individual.  Initially he refused the $25,000 salary, to protect his image as a selfless public servant.  In the end he accepted it when Congress pointed out if he didn’t, only the wealthy would believe they were entitled to serve. An Administrator who surrounded himself with capable men, he delegated authority wisely. Geo consulted with his Cabinet prior to making decisions and exercised power with restraint.  Having served 2 terms, he refused a 3rd.  Geo set the bar so high many who followed couldn’t reach his standards.  It’s a shame that today’s politicians don’t even try.
Geo adopted measures which not only reduced the national debt, but put the country’s finances on more stable footing.  He approved the bill placing the nation’s capital in a permanent district along the Potomac River and established peace treaties with Native Americans.  Was he perfect?  No.  His tax on “distilled spirits” brought about the Whiskey Rebellion.  Yet rather than send in troops, Geo personally took command and marched troops into town to illustrate federal government would use force to enforce the law.  His last official act?  He pardoned the participants of the Whiskey Rebellion.
Geo had a very strong opinion on creating a political party system.  Washington despised political partisanship, believing that ideological differences should never become institutionalized. He strongly felt that political leaders should be free to debate important issues without being bound by party loyalty.
And how did we show our respect to the Father of our Country,  our first leader and, let’s face it, guinea pig, for steering our new nation?  We put his face on the lowest denomination of currency: the $1 bill.  Yet maybe that’s the most fitting tribute.  Most people have a dollar to their name.  I hope when they see Geo’s face, they might, for a brief moment, remember where we came from and who honorably led the way.
In the meantime, I wonder if we can clone another President Washington from a $1 bill?

Friday, August 21, 2015

I Didn't Forget Thank You Thursday....I forgot to post it

Thank You Thursday salutes my favorite four legged family member: Boudreaux. 

Sure, I may be Bou's chauffeur, maid, cook, medic and Chief of Belly Rubs, but he knows how to put a smile on my face.  Thanks Bou, for those gentle "kisses" on the cheek after a long day at work...even if it's partially a bribe to get me to the kitchen to fill your dish. Sometimes you're smarter, and more compassionate, than your 2 legged counterparts. Best of all, thanks for making me laugh. I can't believe you were ever that small. 

I swear it looks like he's Line Dancing.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Working Another Saturday Rental

Guess that button won't work until 6 p.m. when this rental is over.  
Have a good weekend y'all!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Still The One

35 years ago today I said, "I do".   And I still do.  Ever the traditionalist, I wore my Mom's wedding dress (minus the 1950s hoop that came with it), my sis-in-law's wedding veil (plus the garter her husband didn't want her to wear which became my "something blue") and our wedding cake was topped with the same topper my in-laws had on their 25th Anniversary cake.

So here's to high school sweethearts who only grow closer with time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


On Tuesday I cook lunch for my senior citizens.  Today one of them asked how long I'd been at the Center.  When I replied, "22 years on Aug. 3rd," one of them said, "Huh.  That was yesterday."  Without missing a beat she glanced at the kitchen and added, "So, what are we having for lunch?"

(Insert deflated ego here).

No, I didn't expect a standing ovation for doing what I get paid to do.  After all I chose the job, it didn't come looking for me.  But her reply, in a nutshell, sums up why I've been feeling so..."whatever"... about my job lately.  I'm not in love with it any more.  Her quick transition of it's-not-about-you-it's-about-my-stomach-and-I'm-hungry-NOW! was the exclamation point on what I've recently discovered.  For some reason, I came into the job with the somewhat romantic notion that senior citizens are wise, kind and just want someone to listen.  I'm a good listener.

Truth is, for every one of them which fits that description, there are 3 who are   cranky, demanding and two year olds who missed their nap.  Usually I let it flow over me like water and keep swimming.  Lately, it feels like I'm swimming upstream and the more I fight, the stronger that riptide of "go another way" seems to pull.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized over the years, I've had different "types" of senior groups.  The first one, mostly female and in their 80s, were full time wives/mothers.  Their world consisted of home, church, PTA, the grocery store and the Center, which they called "The Club".  The first time I was in the kitchen cooking for them, one lady literally got in my face and snarled, "Your generation only knows how to order out.  Can you cook?"  Now I was raised to be polite.  And I'm guessing my reply came from having 20 women tell me 20 different ways to cook the same thing.  With a smile on my face I said, "Do I look like I'm starving?"   I was instantly horrified but she started laughing.  Group 1 was set in their ways and not very adventurous, but as long as I prepared lunch and called bingo, they were happy.  Happy to do pretty much nothing.

Group 2 was just plain FUN.  They were up for any and every thing.  I jokingly would tell them, "Look, as long as it's not illegal or immoral we'll try it once.  If we don't like it, we don't have to do it again."  They were mostly Moms/Wives but at least I knew their kids had fun.  We went places, did crafts, helped others...we even took a group of 12 Central American college scholarship students on a 3 day trip to Florida!  They told me wonderful stories about their youth...and their misadventures too.  One told me her friends drug her to see, "some skinny, rat faced kid singer.  I didn't want to go but there was a dance too.  He was okay.  He got better with age."  His name?  Frank Sinatra.  One of the men was from Louisiana and actually rode the streetcar named "Desire" to work before joining the military.  He was so much fun we bet that he'd live to be 100...and he did!  A widower, he went bowling with us every week and dancing every other week, where he danced with ALL the ladies because he believed, "it's not fair to let anyone be a wallflower."  In the spring, he brought all of us flowers off the Camilla bush he'd planted for his wife because she loved them so.

Group 3, the current batch, is a handful.  They are between end of baby boomer status to old enough to be my parents...although one will be 95 next month and she's the most interesting of them all!  Their thought process is completely different. Many of them worked, the majority of them have traveled or lived elsewhere before settling near the Center.  They are extremely opinionated.  I'm not talking about, "Let me share with you what I think."  I mean, "Let me tell you why what you're thinking/saying is wrong."


Group 3 seems to believe my brain is a giant wheel of Things-To-Do.  I propose something, they consider it for 30 seconds, dismiss it with a wave of the hand and yell, "No.  Next!"  While other groups were willing to work together, they are entirely too proud of their independent status.  It's like herding cats one wants to go the same way and each one thinks he/she is the ONLY one who is right.  This week I canceled a proposed beach trip because not enough of them had signed up.  Were they mad at those who didn't want to participate?  No, they were mad at me...because I failed to convince enough people to go.  Ironically when I point out they are adults who make decisions, it's always my fault when it doesn't go their way.

Technically I qualify for retirement, but I don't have a salary that allows me to contemplate that right now.  And although I'm not old in terms of years, to perspective employers, they'd see me less as possessing knowledge than the fact they could employee 2 inexperienced people for the price of just me.

So I sit at my desk and ponder.  I'm creative.  I can make the best out of the little I'm given to work with.  I think people deserve a second chance.  I can do this.  I will figure it out.  I will find something they can agree on.  Something fun.

Who am I kidding?  I'm tired of their whining and complaining.  Public servant doesn't translate into personal assistant.  But they don't get that part.

Oh, I'll muddle through.  I always do.  

But I sure miss the days of Group 2.