Category Archives: Ramblings

Declawing Cats


I should not be writing right now for a few reasons.  First, I have had two very full glasses of wine (I am a lightweight).  Second, it is very late, and while I have the day off tomorrow I don’t like indulging this particular bad habit.  Third, I have been holding in a lot of anger.  And by holding in, I mean ranting to my husband and friends, but not writing it down.

I write for a lot of reasons, I think.  Sometimes things just don’t make sense in my head until I make them solid on paper/screen.  Other times, I can’t sleep because my brain won’t stop talking about something.  Rarely, I am genuinely inspired by the Muse of Fiction.  I’ve written to fulfill New Years Resolutions and personal vows and school requirements.  I write because I am a writer.  I am also a baker and a hooker (crochet) and a napper.  To that end, I bake food I shouldn’t eat and stuff it in the faces of people I know to validate my own irreplaceability in their lives.  I crochet projects that interest/challenge me to stave off boredom and half-heartedly sell them (or rather don’t sell them) on the internet.  I nap.  This is my life when I’m not working.

I think I’m averaging three times a day that someone remarks on the fact that my name is Jo and I work at Joann’s.  It blows their minds when I tell them my middle name is Ann.  I say the same jokes over and over again.  “It’s probably why they hired me.”  “My mom must have KNOWN.”  “I’m Undercover-Bossing it.”  They all love my St. Pat’s apron, which I made as Irish as possible without resorting to using potatoes.  I am either the best person with the brightest personality and the most charming customer service or I’m the rude girl who merely pointed to the part of the store you needed without holding your hand to take you there.  I try to be the former because a narcissist needs everyone to love them and I NEED YOU TO LOVE ME.  I’m sorry if I was rude.  I hope there was a reason and not just that I was tired from standing for 5 hours because Americans don’t believe you can work and sit at the same time.  Or that I hadn’t eaten all afternoon because I decided we were too busy for me to take my 15 min corporate-obligated break.  Or I’m dehydrated because I left my water at the register and the past 5 times I went up to grab it, someone needed my help.  But thank goodness I have a cute apron and a bubbly personality and gave you the coupon you didn’t have or the discount you misread because losing money is less important than losing customers but more important than staffing the store well enough to properly serve customers.

To be clear, I do like my job.  I meet amazing people.  I get to help people be creative, which is kind of what I want to do with my life anyway, just with books.  I am inspired everyday to buy more yarn and fabric and stretch the boundaries of my skills.  I want to learn to do everything and I want to teach people to do those skills which will while away the hours of the Zompac.

Here is very important advice for casual conversation with retail workers.  It doesn’t happen frequently at work, but among new friends and associates and strangers at parties, the conversation gets around to, “And what do you do?”  Often this is after conversations about education or crazy college stories, but here’s a template of one conversation I had a bit too frequently over the last few weeks.

“Yes, I have a Bachelors in English with a minor in Medieval/Renaissance Studies.”

“And what are you doing with that?”

“I work retail.”

“Why?”

“I needed a job.”

Anything you say after that which isn’t along the lines of, “Oh, okay, the economy, blah, blah, blah, change the subject,” is going to lead down a dark road.

What can I say?  I am registered on several job search sites.  I get multiple daily emails about jobs available in my area (within an hour commute).  Most are crap.  Many are not even related to the field I’m interested in.  I realize that Barnes & Noble sells books, but the Starbucks barista job has absolutely no relation to publishing.  Nor does a managerial position at Food Lion count as a writing position.  Or I could take one of the many jobs selling magazine subscriptions to strangers.  A few, a very few are worth applying to.  Some fall under the “I need a job” category.  Like, okay, I’m not sure this is the type of job I want, but it does involve writing, a salary, and a full-time position.  Just bite the bullet, send in your resume, and wait for them to never, ever respond.  Not even to say you aren’t qualified or we went with someone else.

So when asked why I’m not working in the field I want, there is a little voice that starts screaming.  I don’t know.  I don’t know why they don’t want me.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me that I’m not good enough when EVERYONE who has ever taught me has said that I am above average.  What am I doing wrong?  Why don’t they want me?  And the only answer I always seems to come up with is that I’m not trying hard enough.  I can’t possibly be trying hard enough because in this country, if you work hard and stay positive and pull on your bootstraps or whatever, the opportunities just pour down.

It’s probably true.  I don’t walk my resume into publishing houses nor do I plan to move to LA or NYC in order to get an unpaid internship that could easily be done via email.  I don’t write constantly and send submissions in everywhere.  I don’t email 10 resumes a day to different employers.  Would that help?  Maybe.  Should I pay someone to look over my resume?  Because 6.5 years in the Army and a Bachelors degree aren’t evidence enough that I’m worth an interview?  Or even a rejection email?

This is why I don’t blog as much.  What shall I write about?  There was some woman who expected us to open up nearly an hour after we closed so she could buy something because we were the only place that had it and she needed it that night.  Or the woman who waved me down like I was a taxi.  Or the questions about whether or not I have anyone to help me with the line, which imply that I simply love keeping people waiting while my coworkers lounge in the break room or something.  No, I’m alone here.  I called for help and no one can come because everyone else is busy helping other people.  Or asking me to find a fabric you saw 2 months ago but don’t have a number or even a picture of, but you just loooooved it so much.  Is that all your buttons?  Why don’t you sell this obscure thing I’m looking for?  What are your hours that I could easily find with a quick internet search?  Do you have this yarn I bought six months ago with this lot number?  Do you have a senior discount (after I have asked if they have military or teacher discounts, because I would absolutely not mention senior after saying those)?  That person wasn’t chipper enough ringing me up, I want to complain.  I don’t understand why I can’t get cash back for a return, even when I don’t have the receipt.  Why didn’t I get full price back for stuff I returned six months after I bought it?  Where does it say 90 days (on the big sign right above your head and on the receipt)?  Why do you have to handle my fabric (because you were trying to smuggle out $30 in remnants folded in your fleece)?  What do you mean you don’t have it?  It’s on your website.  Oh, it says online only.

And that is only the nasty 1% of our customers.  Everyone else is either a joy and a pleasure to see or they’re new and just need some hand-holding.

For new people:

  1. Please be patient.  There are a lot of draws on our attention (other customers, because stocking the store and cleaning up the messes inconsiderate people leave always come after customer service).  We will help as much as we can, HOWEVER, we are not personal shoppers and should not neglect the rest of the store unnecessarily.  We will because we want your positive experience to bring you back, but other customers will suffer.
  2. Please be prepared.  Know your measurements.  There is no average size for anything, not chairs, not showers, not blankets, not clothes, not ANYTHING.  We will help you, but without correct measurements the best we can do is make guesses which can lead to you buying the wrong amount of supplies.  This will unnecessarily complicate your project and make you less likely to take on another.
  3. No questions are stupid or silly or unusual.  Within six months of working there, I had already heard all the weirdest projects (#1 was a reusable feminine pad) and cut the most fabric (2 1/2 hours cutting 50 1.5-yd pieces of fleece).  Do not be embarrassed to ask me anything.  Dumb questions are things that could be directed to Google before stepping in the store.  If Google can’t help you, ask away.  Even if Google could help you but you don’t want to ask a faceless search engine, ASK AWAY.  I will answer with a smile and if I can’t answer your question, I will ask my colleagues.  And yes, if desperate, Google it.

For Regulars:

  1. We love seeing you because you understand how long it can take to cut fabric.  Your patience and understanding are a Godsend, especially when we are slammed and understaffed.
  2. When we aren’t busy, we want to see pictures of your projects because in a little way they are our projects, too.  We also want to talk about your families and upcoming events, but not politics.  When we are busy, we still want to see pictures but we may have to be walking and stocking at the same time.
  3. Have your coupons loaded before you get to the register.  If you need help, as all phones can be tricky even to the most experienced, just ask.  If there is a long line at the register, I’ve noticed my regulars engaging other customers in conversation.  I love you for that.  It makes the line less threatening to me AND less annoying for others.
  4. Please, please, please, go to the website and fill out customer reviews.  A lot of people will take the time to fill out a review for a bad experience (and yes, I want those too, because how else will I learn?).  Most won’t bother if they had a good experience.  Every once in a while, I want to hear someone say we did a good job.  I know we do a good job and I know we aren’t perfect.  When all you hear are the negative reviews even though all I hear in person is how wonderful I am, it’s very confusing.

I didn’t mean for this to be about work or about my failing job hunt or how much retail can suck.  I was going to make some nasty remarks about declawing cats and maybe something political.  But since I’ve been listening to audiobooks in the car, I haven’t felt the boiling need to spew about stuff that doesn’t affect me on the daily because I am white, cis-gender, military spouse with health care through the military, and no children (yet) for which the future death of the planet holds any threat.  For the time being, I can selfishly ignore the toxic waste that festers a mere 3 hours away, plotting to drain the swamp through the effective means of increasing the white supremacist alligator population.  And honestly, what more is there to say that hasn’t been ignored or called fake news by the people I most need to hear me?  The people who will listen already agree with me.  The people who will call me a bitch and a snowflake and naïve are rooting for a creature who lies to their faces on a daily basis, or has his flying monkeys do it for him.

Bottom line, don’t declaw your cats, except in cases of medical necessity (for the cat).  Declawing can actually increase aggression in cats, causing them to lash out by biting rather than scratching.  A cat bite is far more likely to send you to the emergency room than a scratch.  It is better to treat the cat for aggression, either by finding healthy outlets (play and personal territory), behavioral medication, or rehoming if you are unable to give them the attention they need.  Declawing a cat because you don’t want it to scratch your furniture/carpets/curtains is animal cruelty.  It’s not like removing fingernails.  It’s cutting off the top knuckle of their hands.  It is the equivalent of binding women’s feet (Google that if you don’t know what I’m talking about).  I will never care more about my carpets than I do about the living creatures I agreed to care for.

 

And now you know why I don’t drink and blog.

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Filed under Ramblings, Rants

You Cannot Hate Yourself Thin


Dear Mom,

You cannot hate yourself thin.

And I mean YOU, not the general you.

Lots of people hate themselves thin.  They have eating disorders, mental illnesses that distort how they view themselves to such an extreme that they torture themselves to reach an ideal that will never be achieved.  They will die before their twisted standards can be attained.

More accurately, no one can hate themselves healthy.  The difference between healthy and thin is not always apparent, especially in an image-obsessed culture.  Thin is an insignificant number on a scale.  Thin is visible ribs, flat stomach, stick arms.  Thin is fragile and weak.  Thin can’t raise five kids.  Thin is the opposite of Fat.  Fat=bad, Thin=good.

Healthy doesn’t rely on numbers to be true.  Healthy is how you feel.  Sleeping better, moving better, breathing better.  Being healthy is about loving yourself so much that you want to take care of yourself.  You’ve heard obnoxious people say how their body is a temple so they don’t want to eat that trash, right?  We all know them, so superior with their spinach smoothies and coordinated yoga pants.  Or are they kale smoothies?  Arugula?  Whatever.  Healthy is the opposite of Morbidly Obese.  Healthy is meeting great-grandchildren.  Morbidly Obese is “Mom, I’m afraid for your life.”  This is a new feeling for me with you.  I’m used to it with Dad.

Yes, obnoxious.  But right in an essential way.  Your body, yes YOURS, is a temple.  It is sacred.  And you perform sacrilege every day.  I grew up listening to you fat shame yourself.  I know you can’t help that.  I know your father contributed and that unburdening yourself from the judgements of parents (however well meaning) is impossible.  I know you hate being fat.  It frustrates you because it doesn’t seem to matter what you do, it doesn’t go away.  It doesn’t get better.  You’re still fat, you still hurt, and it works for everyone else, why the hell doesn’t it work for you?

I don’t know, because I’m too far away and way too busy to monitor you 24 hours a day.  But I have a few theories, because how could I not?

Regularity.  Do you work out consistently?  Same times and days every week?  Do you have sufficient recovery stretches?  Do you have established refueling rituals?  All of these things help.  Consistency means you can keep track of progress and regularly increase difficulty.  Knowing how to recover means making sure a good workout doesn’t knock you on your back the rest of the week.  And having rituals reinforces the habit.  Finish a workout, get an awesome protein smoothie to help repair muscles and boost energy.  And then have an ounce of dark chocolate, because damn it you deserve it.

I hate working out.  Hate it.  And I have excuses up to the moon to not do it.  I’m tired.  I work part-time, but the last few months I’ve have 30-hour weeks (part-time my ass).  And I have a migraine-a-week habit.  Migraine if I have a glass of wine.  Migraine if I have too much heavy dairy.  Migraine if I don’t drink enough water.  Migraine if I sweat for five seconds moving stock in the back room.  Migraine if I wake up in the morning.  Migraine if I wake up.  But definitely a migraine if I work out.  For the next day or three.  (I did finally talk to a doctor about my migraines and she gave me new drugs that make me a space cadet and don’t work.  I’m planning on following up soon for other options.)  Me working out happens under three conditions.  I’m angry.  I’m having an Up week.  I’m terrified.

You told us that Dad was skinny as a rail until his early twenties.  Dad is no longer skinny as a rail.  Your daughters have been living in abject terror of genetics for our entire lives.  I am not exaggerating.  I’m afraid that I will look at myself one day and see you and hate that I let myself do that to myself.

That is the truth.

And its not for the reasons you think.

This last summer, I had to help you get home.  I had to give you support when muscle failure trapped you on a public toilet.  I had to steady you into the shower and help you dress and undress.  You said I shouldn’t have to see you this way.  And I laughed.  You didn’t know you were insulting me.  I’m your daughter.  I’m the only one who has the right to see you this way (ok, me and the rest of your children and your husband).  From that body you hate came my life.  It’s not a duty to care for my Mom.  It’s a privilege.

You look at yourself with loathing and shame.  Because you’re fat.  I see my Mom.  I did not feel disgust or shame when I saw you.  I saw my Mom.  And I love my Mom and wished she loved herself more.  That is what I’m afraid of.  I’m afraid I will look at myself and see a fat, ugly slob instead of the strong, intelligent woman YOU raised me to be.  I won’t see a loving mother or a successful business woman or a talented leader.  All I’ll see is FAT, UGLY, WORTHLESS.

This is why I think you fail.  You work out because you hate being fat and nothing changes.  So when it comes time to eat, you either don’t or you eat whatever because it doesn’t matter.  I know you try to make smart food choices, because I read your blog.  But under everything you write, I see the self-hate.  Dieting is punishment.  It means you can’t eat.  One piece of pizza.  Half a glass of soda.  No cake.  And then you accidentally have bacon, eggs, and grits for breakfast.  Oops.

That’s not an oops.  That’s a choice.  And I am tired of your choices.

Your body is a temple.  And the startling change you expect from working out will not ever happen, not if you keep sh*tting in your temple.  Eating healthy is an act of self-love.  It is not a punishment.  Food is sacred.  It is magical and wonderful in so many ways.  It brings people together, builds families, makes friends.  And it should never be a loathsome experience.  Not ever.  Not even when you are surrounded by people you hate who are all arguing over religion and politics and the latest family scandal.  Food is how Jesus explained to his disciples how they could remember him.  Within you is the body and blood of Christ.  And it has to share space with junk food.

You want extreme change, you have to start with extreme change.  Which means NO pizza, NO soda, still NO cake, and ABSOLUTELY NO accidental bacon, eggs, and grits.  No baked potatoes or clam chowders or bagels or sweet tea.  No seconds.  Hell, no complex sugars or salt or red meat or starches or processed foods.  Just bread and water, with the part of bread being played by steamed broccoli.

Which sucks, sure.  But it isn’t hell.  It isn’t even Limbo.  You stayed with me and ate my food.  Did you suffer?  Did you starve?  No.  I am a good cook and I like good food.  I would never feed someone bad food.  It would be sinful.  I am also a realist.  I have weaknesses.  Bread is a big one (all those empty carbs).  And pasta.  And potatoes.  Lots of things cannot be in my home because I can’t trust myself to always make the right decisions.  (The list is one that my husband and I made together, since marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship.)  I still indulge in all those things, but it happens much more rarely since I don’t have easy access.

There are a lot of things I don’t miss.  Excess salt and sugar in my diet is one.  Making a lot of my own food means I control what goes in it and I like being in control.  Sometimes this involves using slow cookers to make a week of meals in advance.  A hassle, yes.  But better than eating at Panera for the third day in a row.  I don’t miss the stomach bombs from fast food or the sluggishness from greasy chips or being bloated from over-salted premade dinners.  I don’t miss chain restaurants or drive-thrus.

I love myself.  So I taught myself that the foods I used to love just make me feel like crap.  And they don’t even taste good.

I slip up, true.  Five Guys, a piece of pizza from the grocery store, SO MANY DONUTS.  But when I sit down to steamed veggies and a chicken breast, I don’t wish it was a Big Mac and fries (vomit sounds).

I’ve noticed something, though, with your menus.  I don’t think you know what “healthy” food is.  A sandwich is not automatically healthy, nor is soup.  I think you need to have a nutritionist give you a full run down on the type of diet that would best suit you.  Which includes portion size and a template for daily meal planning.  Regularity is key here, too.  Keeping to a schedule, tracking your water intake, planning ahead so you can’t deviate from your diet.  And having cheat days.

One day a week, or maybe just one meal, where you can ignore some of your rules.  You can go out for dinner.  You can have seconds.  You can have bacon.  That one day breaks up the monotony.  Nothing kills a good habit faster than boredom.

And on your birthday you eat whatever the hell you want.

Then you go to the gym.  Not because you are guilty about what you ate, even if you did slip up.  And NOT because you hate yourself.  But because you want to be strong and healthy.  Because you want to be independent, not imprisoned by a wheelchair or walker when your body starts giving up.  Because you want to feel better.  Ask your trainer why she works out.  I bet she won’t say it’s because she’s a fat, ugly pig who deserves pain.

I know it isn’t easy to give up, that hate.  After a while, it’s your best friend.  The only one who has stayed with you, who knows the real you.  The rebukes come naturally.  FAT.  CLUMSY.  STUPID.  WORTHLESS.  UGLY.  A regular chant I have memorized.  I say those things now and it shocks me back to reality.

The fat doesn’t make you ugly.  Hate makes you ugly.  Especially to yourself.

I LOVE YOU.  I don’t see Fat.  I see Mom.  And I want to help you.  I just don’t know how.

I can’t make you love yourself.  I hope you’ll try, though.

Your loving daughter,

Me

 

P.S.  Dad, this goes double for you.

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I am Depressed


I am depressed.

I always hesitate to use that word, like it is a really awful racial slur.  What if someone with depression hears me?  Will they be offended?  What if a normal person hears me?  Will they hide all the sharp things?

Depression is a serious mental illness and I don’t want anyone to think that I’m making light of it.  Understand that being depressed is one thing and having Depression is a whole other country.  Probably Russia.

My uncle died last week.  I wasn’t especially close to him.  The last time we spoke was four or five years ago.  He never accepted my friend request on Facebook.  Though he was invited, he did not attend my wedding.  I have never met his wife.  His widow.

We found out about two and a half weeks ago that he had Cancer of the Everything and that he had a month to live.  Bit of a shock.  My husband came to tell me at work because he didn’t think I should hear about it in a text.  I was going to finish my shift.  Then I thought about my Mom and I almost lost it.  He’s her little brother, says my treacherous mind.  So I went home and called my Mom.  This wasn’t about my loss, it was about hers.

I have told you all before that I’m a narcissist.  I’m not kidding or exaggerating or fishing for assurances that I must care about other people.  The only reason I started feeling grief was by finding a way to make it about me.  What if it was my brother?  My husband?  And once I got that focus, I felt grief and could sympathize with my Mom.

As a narcissist, I do have to remind myself that the pain of others is not done to punish me.  I don’t need this reminder all the time, but sometimes at the worst moments Narcissist Me gets really insistent.

I told my Mom that I would come home immediately if she wanted me to.  She said, no there’s nothing I can do.  She was going on a business trip to Orlando the next week and then heading up to see him and get his financials figured out.

And when she was entering the Marriot in Orlando for the conference, she mistook the exit of the revolving door and when the back door slammed into her, she was knocked to the ground with a broken hip.  So along with her artificial hip (the 3rd, actually, but who’s counting when you’re born short a joint) she now has a metal appliance that runs from her knee up to her hip.

This happened Monday (15 Aug).  The plan was for my Dad and sister to drive down to Orlando to pick her up Saturday.  It’s a two day drive from where they live and they had to get off work and everything.  Meanwhile, my Mom has an operation and the whole week to sit in a hospital alone and I am only 11 hours away, 13 with traffic and rest/gas stops.  So on a whim, I got off work the rest of the week and drove down to be with my Mom.  This is a blend of altruism and narcissism at its best.  I don’t like her being alone and I get to be the Hero.

On the way, the plastic cover under my car came lose and dragged itself to pieces.  When I got to Florida, I used a Gerber to remove the last three bolts holding it up and shoved it in the back of my car because FAMILY CRISIS I HAVE NO TIME FOR YOU.

I arrived Wednesday evening.  Mom was very happy to see me.  I was very happy to see her.

Thursday, I was sick most of the morning.  It’s called travel tummy and is what happens when you drive almost non-stop for 13 hours and eat gas station sandwiches and hotel Cup-O-Noodles.  But then I spent the afternoon leisurely crocheting while Mom and I talked and watched Animal Planet.  I was worried about how much help she needed getting in and out of bed, how slowly she walked to the bathroom (with a walker), how the HELL she was going to navigate her home with its split-level layout (3 staircases and the bedroom and only bathroom on the third floor).

Just as I got up to head out for dinner, she gets a call from my Dad.  We have been getting updates from him and my sister since they started their drive that morning.

The car stalled in Kentucky.  They have to get it towed and get a hotel for the night.  It might not be done until Monday or Tuesday.  But the repair shop is lining up a rental car.

Mom, in her despair (it has been a rather rough week for her), gives up.  They’re gonna just go home.  The hospital wants to discharge me tomorrow and they’ll just go home.  Which is stupid and I told her so.  According to my sister, Dad is super scary when he is driving desperately to reach his wife.

(I have a pet theory that my Mom underestimates how much we care about her because she doesn’t value herself as important enough to love.  This insight comes from my own sinister distrust for the regard my husband has for me.  What is wrong with him that he loves me?  When is he going to realize the MONSTER mistake he made?  Then the thought passes, but this is the kind of evil low self-esteem can insinuate if you let it.)

However, desperation can lead to fast thinking.  I’m in Florida, I don’t have to be back to work until Sunday.  I can drive Mom to them in Kentucky.  Or we can meet them midway between here and there.  And then my sister suggests that we meet at my house.

Remember Narcissist Me?  Its the one who, instead of leaping at the chance of having my family home for a few days, thinks only of the imposition of having guests with almost no warning?  They would be getting there before me.  Would my husband feel put upon to play host to MY family when I’m not even there?  (The answer is no.  When I told him, he just said, “Okay, I’ll get the house ready.”  I really don’t deserve him.)

So I hedged.  You guys head to my place, I’ll get Mom out of the hospital, and we’ll finalize plans when we find out what’s wrong with the car.  If it’s a quick fix, we meet, exchange hostages, and go on our merry ways.  If not, then I suppose my house is big enough for everybody and has no stairs.

And I know I was short and snappish with my sister on the phone.  Because the hospital was taking so long to get everything settled (considering they were the ones insisting on kicking her out) and a part of me was angry that my family had failed to do this in such a way that it didn’t inconvenience me.  Now I had to drive Mom alone and there was so very much to worry about and what if I couldn’t handle it?  Or what if I had to do things I didn’t want to do?  What if something else awful happened and I had to deal all by myself?!?Instead of confronting these ridiculous fears, I lashed out at a natural target (my sister).  Whether or not she noticed doesn’t really matter.  Narcissist Me is still an asshole.

The hospital took forever to check Mom out, as I said, so we didn’t leave the hospital until after 2.  Then we had to go buy her a wheelchair, which took more time.  Then there was traffic.  We got from Orlando to Savannah that day.  It was stressful.  Traffic, construction, and Mom in the backseat (because sliding doors made for easier entry).  Sleeping a lot (good).  Not eating or drinking water (bad).  We learned that the wheelchair was a must for rest stops unless we wanted to face muscle failure on the toilet.  We learned to back down ramps so we wouldn’t slam her bad leg into the ground.  We learned that grocery delis never have fried chicken when you need it most.  We learned that hotels can and will put handicapped rooms on the third floor and put the bed as far from the bathroom as possible (but thank gawd for bathtubs with built-in seats).  I remembered that I’m not squeamish about things like nudity.  (Remember Basic Training?  Showering with a bunch of naked women is only sexy in the movies.  In reality it’s all stretch marks and C-Section scars.)

I learned that it is okay to be stressed by the enormity of the situation, but it is not okay to bring that stress to the bedside of your broken, grieving mother.  Deep breathes.  It is going to be okay.  Or if not okay, it’s going to keep going.  She doesn’t need your negative energy.

Narcissist Me had to be reminded that she didn’t break her hip just to vex me.

Saturday, Mom rode in the front seat so we didn’t need the walker to get her into the chair.  It was nice because it was easier to chat and I didn’t have to worry that she wasn’t getting air from the A/C and could hear the audiobook (I let her pick the new one).  We got home safe, though later than I wanted because stupid Fayetteville.  How can there ALWAYS be traffic, Fayetteville?  And where are your Panera signs?  I know there were two right off of 95, but not a single freaking sign!?!  Rude.

I hugged my husband.  I hugged my Dad.  I lost it a bit with my sister because we kind of bear the burden of responsible older siblings.  It isn’t an evil burden and not one I regret.  One day, it will be up to us to take care of the most important people in our lives, which is only right since they are the reason we grew to be responsible adults.  It’s still not something one likes to be reminded of too early in the game, though.

Mom said, “You shouldn’t have to see me this way.”  By which she meant, so helpless.

I said, “I’m your daughter.”  If not me, then who?

The family left Sunday (21st).  They arrived home Tuesday.  Uncle Ted passed Wednesday night.

And we found out Thursday.  I was at work on my break, finally able to check my phone, though I had heard it go off earlier.

I have an Android, by the way.  My family mostly have iPhones.  When they send a group text, their texts stay in the group.  I get individual texts.  And even better, I actually just get the message “You have multimedia ready to download.”  Every freaking time.  So I get fifty individual texts from all my family that I have to go though and “download message” for all of them, most of which are responses to the original text, which may or may not have downloaded yet.  It is fracking frustrating.  Especially since I can’t seem to leave the group, so continue to get any and all messages sent between members of the group to each other.  Also, I don’t know if when I’m sending a message whether it is to the individual I intend or to the entirety of the group.  Dozens of messages all at once, none of which I can read.  It could be anything or nothing.  Hey, Mom broke her hip.  Just random banter between my brothers.

Anyway, when my phone went off, I looked at the screen.  This is not something I normally do because it’s against policy.  But I had been expecting news of some sort.  My screen said it was my Mom and the message was (MMS), which meant it was another G-D group text I’d have to download just to read.  This was actually a good thing, since that meant I could read it in the privacy of the break room and get all emotional.

I was very sad.  And then I was horrified.  Here’s how we found out that my mom’s brother had died:

A coworker of her other brother, Joe, had seen a post on Ted’s college Facebook page (he was a percussion instructor) announcing his death.  Joe called my Mom.  Mom texted us.  My youngest brother posted on our sibling Facebook group just to make sure that everyone heard.

This is not how anyone should learn of the death of their brother, however estranged.

His widow, who I imagine is not in a good place right now, has not returned my Mom’s calls, so we don’t know when the funeral is.

I shouldn’t be this bitter and angry.  As I said, we weren’t close.  Still, it hurts to realize just how “not close” we were.

I told my siblings to swear that this wouldn’t happen to us.  However far away we are from each other, that is not how I want us to lose each other.  Not through the Social Media Rumor Mill.

So I am depressed.  Sad was that awful half an hour of me crying in the break room.  Because he was family and I missed my chance to be closer to him.  Because I read touching tributes to all the lives he touched, all his grateful students and fellow professors, and I had barely given him a thought until this all happened.

And since then, I have had a weight of grief on my chest.  It is harder to smile and be chipper.  It is a challenge to care about other people and their problems.  I don’t want to hustle anywhere or do anything.  And when people ask me how I’m doing, I have to lie when I say I’m fine.  I’m not, obviously.  But no one wants an honest answer when they’re in line to buy fabric or whatever.  Some of them don’t even respond when I ask them how they are.  (Which hurts, by the way.  Please have the common courtesy to at least look at the person at the register.)  Even with coworkers and friends, I don’t just come out and say it.  I want to say I’m fine so I don’t ruin their day (I think?), but I hesitate because I’m a naturally forthright person.

How am I?  My uncle died.  How are you?

I’m feeling complex emotions.  Grief and remorse and regret and anger and shame.  And I’m taking notes on all of this because I’m a writer and this is good material.

How am I?  I’m depressed.  That is absolutely the perfect word for the stage I am in.  Sad is an adjective with strict boundaries of place and time (in my head, anyway).  And sad is also insufficient and two dimensional.  Depressed, well that can be a verb and so very complex.  It is a heavy cloak I wear that sometimes shrouds me from all light, and sometimes billows out in a breeze of humor, only to settle again moments later.  Hilarious tickle fight followed by an insidious whisper in my head.  Don’t forget your uncle died.  Oh.  Right.

It’s a cloak I want everyone to see without me pointing it out.  I don’t want to tell people that my uncle died and it’s complicated.  I want them to know, obviously, so they don’t worry if I’m not acting like myself.  But I don’t want to have to see their looks of horror or pity or whatever because I’m not sure how I feel about all of this, just that I’m depressed and it will pass.

This is not the kind of attention I crave as a narcissist.  I only want praise.  I don’t know how to handle pity but to shrug it off and lie that it’s fine, not that bad, that’s life, we weren’t that close, I’m not hurt by this loss at all.

I was so depressed when I found out about his cancer that I couldn’t bake.  I bake convulsively when I’m stressed.  Ask anyone who knows me and most of them will blame me for their weight gain.  But the idea of entering my kitchen to do anything was exhausting.  I could crochet, but only because it kept me off my phone.

When he died, after that awful week and the stressful drive (and seeing my Mom in such rough shape from it all), I didn’t think I could even write about this.  Too personal, too close.  I’d have to write things I don’t want people to know about my family, or write things I don’t want my family to know about me.  (For some reason, I can’t sensor autobiographical works.)  I would have to be honest in a way I’m not sure I want people to see.  But my husband, whom I’ve already mentioned as being far too amazing to be stuck with me, assured me that none of this would ever stop me from writing.  Apparently, he knows me pretty well.

He has been very sweet and supportive, reminding me that my family is his family, too.  When it came down to it, my family needed help and he had no reservations in giving it.  That’s how I want to be, and I am after I shut out Narcissist Me.  Bottom line, that’s the lesson of this story.  You don’t have to like your family.  You just need to be there if you can.

Friday, he took me on an “Eff This Week” day.  We went down to the beach and had an expensive lunch and then Cold Stone, because Ice Cream, that’s why.

We got more bad news, but from Buddy’s family.  His Uncle Danny passed last night.  It wasn’t as sudden, since he had been in bad health for a while, but it was still a blow.  He also had a sister who is falling apart right now and family in pain.  And my husband is hurting, though he’s not so obvious about it as I can be.  He will probably be depressed, just like me.  But we will find ways to laugh and move on and remember sweeter times, and eventually hang up the cloak until the next time.

Depressed is not an evil or shameful word.  It is not an admission of weakness.  It is not employed for shock value or because I’m being overly dramatic or seeking attention.  I don’t want attention for this feeling.  I want attention for being awesome.  I don’t use it to illicit pity.  I use it because it is the truest description for my emotional state.  And I’m only using it because I need to explain for some reason.  There’s nothing wrong.  Life happened.  I’m depressed.  It will pass.

And now I can just refer people here instead of revisiting all the awfulness of the last few weeks every time someone wants to know what’s the matter.  Go read my blog.  I’m moving forward.  I think.  I hope.

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The Term You’re Forgetting is Soldier-Musician


In early 2003, my senior year of high school, I got a call from an Army recruiter.  One thing led to another and by the middle of March, I had signed a 5 year contract with the Army.  If you had suggested such a career choice for me to anyone who knew me, there would have been much laughter.  I was categorically against war and anything that involved killing people.  Even if I wasn’t going to be pulling the trigger, I would not be easy working for a company that actively sought the death of human beings.   Mine was a household bereft of guns, even toy guns as facsimiles were just as damning to my mother’s sensibilities.  To this day, the thought of a gun in my house, however it is secured, feels like something sharp in my boot that I’m hoping is just a rock (but what if it isn’t?).

So how, pray tell, did an utter stranger convince me in a matter of moments to abandon all those hard-fought scruples?  College money.  And he mentioned the Army Band.  Which I didn’t think I was good enough for.  After a week and a half of practice and a 7-hr drive to Ft Leonardwood to meet the band liaison for an audition, I was in the Army Band (by the skin of my teeth).  The bandsmen who sat my audition made it clear that I needed to practice a lot, that it was really a lack of French Horn players in the field that made them take the risk for me, and that the School of Music would ultimately determine my fate.

It didn’t occur to me, when I first started this process (taking a practice ASVAB, prepping for the audition, etc), that I would be going to Basic Training.  And like every person who talked to me about my decision, from parents I babysat for to retired Airmen who went to church with my parents to my high school friends, I was certain that the Band wouldn’t deploy.  What would I do?  Blow my horn at the enemy?  Absurd.

I went to Basic at Ft Jackson (Relaxin’ Jackson) in South Carolina.  In August.  I climbed Victory Tower, which you can see in the movie Renaissance Man, though my dismount from the 30 ft tower was significantly more graceful than Danny DeVito’s (thank you, dance camp).  I learned to fire an M16 from a foxhole and in the prone unsupported position.  I learned to do push-ups and sit-ups and finish a 2-mile run in less than 19 minutes.  I threw a live grenade after the practice grenade course.  I learned the Army Song and the Army Values (which were conveniently listed on a plastic tag next to my ID tags).  I learned that a 5′ nothing Drill Sergeant could be more intimidating than the 6′ stocky DS who dropped an F-bomb every other word.  I learned that you could show attitude by how you walked.  I learned never, ever ask a DS not to call you a name because it hurts your feelings.  I learned that for a brief moment, everyone in Basic Training wants to be a Drill Sergeant.

I learned paranoia.  I learned sharp corners.  I learned Hooah.

When they found out I was in the band, people laughed.  My French horn mouthpiece was almost confiscated as contraband, along with nail files, candy, and scissors.  A friend argued for me to get it back because I was too upset to speak for myself.  I needed it to practice.  You can’t not play for 2 months and then do an audition.  My DS made me play Happy Birthday outside of his office on my mouthpiece.  I think he wanted to embarrass me, but I’m a narcissist so I loved it.

Some people insisted on calling me Flute Player or Flute Blower. Thanks to American Pie, I heard the phrase “One time at Band Camp” quite a lot.

I graduated Basic with a fair PT score and a Marksman Badge.

The School of Music is a multi-service school situated on the Little Creek Naval Amphibian Base.  It serves the Army, Navy, and Marines.  When I went, the regular course was 6 months, at the end of which I would be promoted to a Specialist (E-4).  I started in the Army as a Private First Class (E-3) because of my “civilian acquired skill,” the 8 years I had spent learning to play my instrument.

I took classes in music theory and ear training.  I spent 4 hours a day practicing, or trying to practice.  I had weekly lessons with a senior NCO.  I played in concert band.  I marched in Drill Band.  I got up for PT every morning at 4:30.  I took a PT test every month.  There was Army training scattered throughout the course, taught by NCO’s going through their leadership courses.  I found out that the Marine and Navy Bands don’t deploy, but that the Army Bands do.  I learned that Hawaii was deploying right after I was set to get there.

I also learned that the 12-mile ruck march I did in Basic Training gave me stress fractures in my hips that I had been walking and running on for over a month because I was too afraid of missing training.  It took two weeks to get a no-running profile so I could stop running and heal.

I went home for the first time since August and found out I was a different person.

I took three auditions at the SOM.  I passed them all, barely.  In April, I went home again.  Then I flew out to Hawaii and became part of the real Army.

I didn’t go on the first deployment.  The Commanding General for the Division wanted the band to only be doing its primary mission of music support for the troops, so he authorized 2 3-month TDYs for a portion of the band.  They flew all over Afghanistan providing morale and entertainment.  I wanted to go when they went back for Christmas.  The guys they sent all had families.  It didn’t seem fair.

I got my chance for the second deployment.  The new CG didn’t want to leave his band behind.

Between the first and second deployment, we were attached to the Special Troops Battalion, rather than being directly under the CG.  The first thing the STB did was accuse us of cheating on the PT test because there was no way the band had the highest average in the Division (274 out of 300).  They made us retake the PT test with another unit grading us on the 1/2-mile track (the worst running track on Post).  Our score dropped 4 points.

I stood through dozens of Change of Command ceremonies.  In every single one, someone would thank the band “for bringing something special.”

I met soldiers who didn’t know there was an Army Band.  One actually told me he thought the band was civilians dressed up in uniforms.

I had to repeatedly justify my rank to people outside the band because they didn’t think I’d earned it.

I was a freak novelty.  And I had coins from Generals lining my shelves, as thanks for playing a reception or a graduation on the Big Island.

I deployed to Iraq in September 2006.  The band had two missions: music and security.  This was despite the guidance that had come down years before that the band only had one mission.  I did Close Quarters Marksmanship training 3 times in Kuwait, in 140 degree weather.  I drove for the Live Fire Convoy Exercise.  I was stuck in a tent with 75 other females for two weeks with an air conditioner that only brought the temp down to 100 and frequently caused power outages.

When we got to Iraq, we manned the security desk at the Battle Defense Operation Center.  We supervised Local Nationals on clean-up missions on post.  We sent junior soldiers to paint helicopter pads and change street signs to reflect the change from the 101st Airborne to the 25th Infantry Division.  We provided a 4-soldier team for the Security Detachment every week.  I was the driver for my team.  The Security Detachment was a small platoon made up of all the failures of the STB.  Our job was to drive around the inner perimeter and check that no one was sleeping in the Observation points and that the generators had gas.  My Truck Commander played the euphonium.  My gunner was a tuba player.  And the back was occupied by one of my trumpet players, whichever one wasn’t playing Taps somewhere else in country.  We had a week with SD or the BDOC desk, then a week of music.  We mostly played in the chow halls, in front of the coffee house of the BDOC, and in the bazaar on COB.  We couldn’t travel to any other posts because we couldn’t get transportation.  Plus, what if we couldn’t get transport back?  We’d miss duty for the next week.

One of our NCOs, a trombone player, ended up taking over as SD Platoon Sergeant because the first two guys in the job were both fired for incompetence.  One of our teams helped to take in a guy who had made the mistake of firing an RPG at Speicher and not hiding well enough from the helicopters that went after him.  I sat watching the main road at night a few times, which was excessively boring because curfew meant no one was on the road.  I did a couple of convoys, though I didn’t drive for either.  We played Christmas carols for one trip, to the heckling from the STB 1SG and senior officers.

Another of our NCOs, a euphonium player who was a prior service Reserves officer, took over as commander of the night shift for the BDOC.

Midway through deployment, they shifted us from SD to the balloon tasking.  We provided a six-man team to babysit the balloon for the night shift.  I volunteered for this team.  I am a night person and anything was better than sitting the BDOC desk.  Besides, it meant I had a regular schedule.  Every other week, anyway.  I got to switch from day shift to night shift every Monday, but much can be excused for Midnight chow.

Gradually, it felt like people were getting sick of us.  Of me.  Every week, there was a Brass Quintet playing in the chow hall.  The Rock Band did a show every week.  We still had people clap or thank us.  We also had others who asked us to keep it down.  But what did they expect?  We should have been travelling all over the place to offer music support for the entire northern province.  But that just wasn’t happening.  Not until the end.  I got to do two trips, one to Mosul and one to Balad.  These are areas controlled by DAESH now, in case you were wondering.  This was after we had found out that the deployment had been extended by 3 months, which was right after I reenlisted for 4 years so I wouldn’t get sucked into the next deployment.

I was lucky.  I didn’t see any “action.”  No more or less than any other non-Combat Arms soldier.

It’s a strange thing, being in the band.  Generals give you coins while the 1SG smirks at you behind their backs.  The BN XO recommends you to take a difficult tasking because the band always does an outstanding job, yet the rest of the command team looks at you in disdain because you aren’t real soldiers.

I left Hawaii angry.  Ft Rucker, AL only made it worse.  I was put into the Supply shop and assigned a Government Purchase Card.  In case you didn’t know, the Band staffs all its admin, supply, operations, and training offices.  They don’t just sit around playing music all day.  And the higher up you go in rank, the less music you tend to do.  Rucker was non-deployable.  It’s the Home of Army Aviation, so we played 6 Change of Commands a year and 1-2 graduations a week.  Very low op-tempo, but with huge access to the entire Southeast.  We should have been playing all over the south.  Ft Benning, 2 hrs north, was way too busy with Basic grads (though not too busy to do a TDY down to Disney World, which I was lucky enough to get in on).  But Rucker was ideally placed for Panama City, New Orleans, Mobile, and everywhere in between.  We should have been playing for high schools to up recruiting and doing parades and patriotic concerts until our legs fell off.

We weren’t.  We played ceremonies: graduations, parades, change of commands, etc.  And we’d send a pianist to play the reception for the WOC grads.  Why?  Because some civilian in charge of approving our travel funds decided the Army shouldn’t be spending money so the band can party.  Because a 6 hour parade is definitely a party, especially if its Mardi Gras.  (Have you ever done a 6 hour parade?  Is there a better analogy for Hell?)

When my contract was up, I got out.  I quit.  Because there is only so much Sousa a girl can take.  I haven’t played my horn since 2011.  And when fellow musicians look at me shocked and ask why, I have a simple answer.  The Army killed the music in me.  They all know exactly what I mean.

If you’ve kept with me so far, congrats.  I’m finally to my point.

A few weeks ago, Rep McSally got a bill passed for the Defense Appropriations Fund in the House.  It included language that limited the band’s mission to ceremonies and funerals.  To somehow save money.  Which means no parades, no patriotic concerts, no holiday concerts, no receptions for diplomats and officers, and no school recruitment.

There have been quite a few articles about this.  $437 million is a number thrown around quite a bit as the budget for military bands last year, which is less than .01% of the total Defense Budget. Also noted are $11,000 flutes and $12,000 tubas.  I worked in Supply.  Wanna hear a few more numbers?  $40,000 grand piano.  $50,000+ in sound equipment.  $25,000/yr salary for E-5 horn player.

Forget that good instruments are expensive but will last for decades if properly cared for.  And that sometimes it takes years to replace instruments that are falling apart because of contractors.

Forget that our budget lives under threat every year, which discourages fiscal responsibility.  For example, we haven’t spent our budget for the year, but if we don’t spend it, then next year we’re given a smaller budget and what if we need it for something?  It’s not like extra money rolls over to the next FY like unused minutes on a fancy phone plan.  It just disappears into the ether.  Oh, looks like the band didn’t spend its budget this year.  We were going to give them $120,000 for the year, but they can probably squeak by on $80,000, don’t you think?

I’m not saying its right.  That’s just how it was.

McSally stated that she didn’t feel right about military musicians playing at a Christmas party she went to.  I agree with her.  They should have been at home with their families celebrating the holidays.  They don’t get extra pay for that, no over time.  They might get a coin.  They might get a thank you.  They might get nothing, not even dinner.  But that’s the job.  Bandsmen don’t get holidays off.

If you don’t want military bands playing for those types of events, tell military officers and government officials to stop requesting the free band and start spending their money on civilian bands, who will charge 3 times as much as it costs for a military band.  Or more.

She said there were certainly civilian bands eager to take the place of military bands on non-essential events.  I wonder who she thinks will be paying for those civilians?  Not to mention the insurance nightmare it is to get a celebrity personality into combat zones.  What happens when you send Taylor Swift to Iraq for a non-essential concert for deployed soldiers and her transport gets shot at?  I don’t suppose she went to Basic Training and had lots of pre-deployment training and has her own weapon strapped to her back so she can shoot back.  But perhaps the soldiers who are deployed in dangerous areas dying for their country don’t really need any kind of distraction from the day to day BS, right?  That would explain why soldiers were so bummed to see my little brass quintet when we finally got to travel.  Except they weren’t bummed.  They were pretty excited.

She said “put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or gun.”

I don’t know if you can tell, but there are a lot of weapons in the above pictures.  The tuba player has a M249 under his seat.  Even Christmas caroling required carrying a weapon.  Because you don’t walk around without one when you’re deployed.  And yes, that’s a table saw, not a wrench, but someone had to build my bookshelf.  The term she’s missing is Soldier-Musician.  That means we can do both.

McSally seems to think she can solve manning problems by reducing bandsmen since they would miraculously transform into aircraft mechanics or infantrymen.  If I hadn’t passed my audition, I would not have joined.  If the Army didn’t offer a regular paycheck for musicians, something rare in the music industry, a lot of people would simply go elsewhere.  You don’t gain personnel by cutting bands.  That’s not how it works.  And restricting bands to ceremonial capacities will make it even harder to staff the bands you do have.  Who wants to play marches all the time?  Crazy people, that’s who.

Which brings me to the most poisonous thing she said.  She mentioned that some veterans aren’t getting buglers at their funerals.  This seems a counterintuitive point after just stating that bandsmen need to do real jobs (gun/wrench jobs) until you read into it.  Reduce the band budget, cut back on bands, reduce the number of bandsmen, but you still need to send buglers to every funeral.  Her comments on that point, coming on the heels of her distaste for military musicians playing concerts and receptions, is an insinuation that the Band refuses to pay final respects to veterans in favor of playing rock band concerts.  Because failure to provide a bugler couldn’t be a budget issue.  We don’t have the money to send a bugler there and the band that was near enough to go is closed now.  We don’t have the personnel because new people aren’t joining the band because people like you are telling the world how worthless we are.  My husband is a bugler.  He’s played a lot of funerals.  It is an honor and a privilege.  How dare you.

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The fact is, I’m tired of this fight.  The band spends all its time defending itself.  Trust me, you need us.  You’ll miss us when we’re gone.  Teetering between senior officials saying that we are the finest the Army has to offer and everyone else thinking we’re some kind of joke.  I quit so I wouldn’t have to fight any more.

I don’t think McSally went far enough.  I think we should scrub the band completely.  You want ceremonial music?  Plug in an iPod to those speakers.  You want a bugler for this funeral?  Here’s a trumpet that plays it when you press a button.

And then all my friends could play the ceremonies and concerts and recruiting tours as civilians.  They could wear what they want and play what they want.  They could turn down crappy jobs and decide how long they wanted to stay overseas.  They could decide where they wanted to live and could stop working so hard to prove that YES, GOD DAMN IT, I AM A REAL SOLDIER.  And like all civilians contractors, they could be paid a mint to do it.  Because you can make a soldier do anything, from stirring sh*t to babysitting balloons.  But you can’t do that to a civilian because they can quit any time they want.

This slow death is painful.  Cutting positions, killing bands.  I agree that the fat needs to be trimmed.  We don’t need quite so many special bands in DC and places like Rucker are dead weight.  But pressure like this from idiots who don’t have any say on how the DoD spends its money is why my husband’s band is apparently getting shut down and moved.  Despite the fact that it is beloved by the community and the Army spent a ton of money building facilities specifically for the band (a concert stage for the hugely popular summer concert series and a new band hall which would be an awkward fit for any other unit).  Speaking of wasting money.

How are we supposed to prepare for anything if they keep pulling the rug?

I was a good soldier.  I took care of my soldiers.  I did my job to the best of my ability.  I did everything other soldiers did, only better because I had to prove myself.  I put up with snickers and slurs, incredulous looks, stupid questions, and daily reminders that nothing I did would ever be good enough.  I still have all the parts memorized to Stars and Stripes Forever.  I’ve been out of the band for 5 years.  When people ask if I miss it, I can honestly say I miss the paycheck and the power.

I don’t miss 4 PT tests a year or going to the range.  I don’t miss ruck marches and unit runs.  I don’t miss waking up for a surprise piss test or administering those tests. I don’t miss the BS.  I don’t miss being underappreciated.  I don’t miss working weekends and holidays.  I don’t miss standing in the blazing sun while some General talks for 10 minutes about how much he appreciates his daughter’s 2nd grade teacher.  The stuff I do miss is all the stuff that woman thinks is unnecessary.  Granted, she thinks a decades-old plane that should have been retired back in the 90s is vital to the mission.  But she also thinks cutting a few million dollars will make any effing difference.  She can go to her constituents and say that she’s tough on spending and has saved jobs by keeping money-pit bases open (the relocation of which might save billions, but whatever).

I would miss seeing the band play.  And I think you would, too.

Here’s some links to petitions and other articles:

https://www.change.org/p/u-s-senate-continue-military-bands-funding?recruiter=137688485&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=mob-xs-share_petition-reason_msg&fb_ref=Default

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/continue-military-bands-funding

https://www.military1.com/military-finance/article/1611384014-military-bands-funding-could-be-on-the-fiscal-chopping-block/

Since 1776: Why You Should Care About Military Bands

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lt-gen-clarence-e-mcknight-jr-/military-bands_b_10889086.html

http://blogs.wsj.com/brussels/2016/07/07/u-s-military-band-tests-the-soft-edge-of-hard-power-in-belarus/

ACTION ALERT: Here’s What You Can Do To Help Defeat The Destruction Of Military Bands

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2016/06/27/military-bands-cuts-pushback/86435350/

NAfME Opposes McSally Amendment to Cut Military Band Funding

https://www.army.mil/article/170103

If you have any experiences with military bands, I hope you’ll share them.  And sign petitions.  And write your senators.

I realize there are bigger issues right now.  If I get started on them, I won’t be able to sleep.  Maybe tomorrow.  Until then, let’s stop this stupidity.  These are the same kind of ideas that justify spending millions on high school football while cutting all funding for the arts.  Haven’t we lost enough of our souls?

 

 

 

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Two Trees in a Field


There is an open field that I pass every day, to and from home.  It’s part of an historic plantation and is frequently the site of fairs and war reenactments.  Near the road, there are two trees.  One stands straight-backed and tall.  The other leans drunkenly away, nearly laying flat on the ground.  Their trunks are joined together in such a way that they seem to be one tree, if you ignore the difference in foliage.

I have had a few romantic notions about these trees for a couple of years, the most prominent of which is that they are dancing together.  Their lives pass so slowly, however, that they look frozen mid-dip to us scurrying humans.

This tableau always makes me a little sad in the winter.  The tall tree is an evergreen and the dipped tree is a deciduous.  At the height of winter, the dipped tree looks to be a dead tree clinging to a live one.

What does the evergreen think about those times?  Does she understand that her partner is sleeping?  Does the ebbing life of the deciduous slow to such a measure that she can no longer feel it?  Does she stand all winter wondering why he seems to be blinking for so long?

Does she stand all winter mourning over him?

And how immeasurably happy is she when spring comes and he blooms again?

Then this last winter, they cut him down.  I drove by and there were chunks of him piled around her base.  It knocked the breath out of me.  It dawned on me that to everyone else, the deciduous was sick.  He was a leech clinging precipitously to the life of the evergreen, weakening her or damaging her in ways I couldn’t see.

I pondered this for some time.  Why did this bother me so much?  It’s just a tree, right?  And clearly not a healthy one.  It was much better to put him out of his misery than allow him to continue being a burden.

But no, he was struggling to be alive and their relationship was something beautiful.

This is what it’s like living with and/or loving someone with a mental illness.  Sometimes they are blooming and you are so very, very happy.  This is the person you love, the one you grew up with or fell in love with or grew close to.  Maybe this time it will be spring forever and you can stop being afraid of winter.

And sometimes they aren’t.  And you don’t know what’s wrong or how to fix it.  Realistically, there is no fixing it.  There is nothing you can do but wait and pray for spring.  And pray that no one decides to cut them down.

It is a burden sometimes.  You want them to be normal and happy.  You don’t want to worry about them.  You don’t want to see or hear about their suffering.  And you’re tempted to ignore them, push them away so that you can’t be hurt by this person who can’t just be happy like everyone else.  And you feel guilty for that, of course.  There’s a tiny voice that just wants them to go away so it isn’t your problem.  Selfish you just wishes they would get better or disappear because feeling helpless and frightened is not fun.

And you deeply hate selfish you.  This is a person you love who is sick and hurting and needs you.  Shut up, selfish you.

The important thing, the most important thing, is that regardless of the season you have to be there.  You hold them up during the winter and when they wake up in spring, they wake up to you.  Your trunk may tire, your branches may break, but you cannot let them go.

And if people start telling you he’s sick, you can’t help him, he’s taking advantage, he’s faking it, he just wants attention, he’s using you, you’re better off without him, you tell them where to stick their axes.

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Movie Review: Batman v Superman


We went to see Batman v Superman Friday night.  No, it did not live up to the hype, but let’s be honest:  NO MOVIE COULD HAVE.  We had 2 YEARS of teasers and trailers and set photos and rumors and fan theories.  They made a bigger deal about this movie than the new Star Wars (except in merchandising, where Disney is KING).  And while Star Wars was wonderful, BvS had no chance.  Most of the plot was already known and without story to keep it going, the movie had to rely on action.  Frankly, I’m getting tired of “Batman who Beats Up Criminals with His Bare Fists and Broods Over His Computer While Alfred Serves Tea and Snide Remarks.”  You know what DC stands for?  Detective Comics.  Not Action Comics.  I know the market has been flooded with Sherlock, but Batman is the Sherlock of comics.  So maybe a few less fancy toys/cars/suits and “Batman’s P90X Workout Video” and more detectoring!   On a scale of Catwoman to Dark Knight, I place this film well above Green Lantern, but about even with the Director’s Cut of Daredevil (which was made to focus more of crime solving than sexually charged teeter totter fights).

And you want to know the scariest thing about this assessment?  Ben Affleck did an amazing job.  In fact, all the actors were great.  I wasn’t sure about Eisenberg as Luthor, and he did go a bit deep-endy with the psychoses, but I was pleasantly surprised.  And Gal Gadot WAS Wonder Woman to her core, despite being in only a few scenes.  Henry Cavill’s only real drawback is that he is too damn confident and attractive as Clark Kent.

The problems came with a disjointed story structure and (I’m sorry Hans Zimmer) a truly awful score.  It was actually distracting.  The music is supposed to draw you into the film, not jar you out of the moment.  Mostly, though, the storyline sucked.  They tried to put too much into this film, especially considering all the introspective asides they slid in there.  Yes, they’re trying to set up the next movie, BUT CAN WE PLEASE STOP MAKING MOVIES TO SET UP SEQUELS?!?  Have we heard about not counting chickens before they hatch?  You make the first movie right, then you start thinking about sequels.

I’ve said this before and it bears repeating.  DC needs to stop competing with Marvel in the cinema.  They were too slow to catch on to the innovations Marvel brought to the party.  Like the bonus scenes at the end of movies that can set up the next movie WITHOUT INTERRUPTING THE MOVIE YOU JUST WATCHED.  Or doing origin films to build up to group films that branch off into more individual films.  Or (with the exception of Spiderman) rebooting the same characters over and over again.  I’m not saying Marvel is without flaws (cough cough Fantastic Four: all of them).  I’m just saying they adapted faster to the market and learned from their mistakes.

If DC really wants to make a mark, they should take their heroes back to their origins.  And I don’t mean yet another reboot.  I mean, period cinema.  Think about it.  Every time they bump up the time period for Superman to land on Earth, it becomes less and less reasonable that no one would have noticed.  At this point, he’s hitting Smallville in the middle of the Cold War.  We were already freaked out about Sputnik blinking away in the atmosphere and an effing space ship plows into a field without a single military/government official checking it out?  Not to mention how much harder it is to adopt a kid you find in a field.  But that kind of stuff is reasonable back in the 30s, especially around the Depression when there were all sorts of parent-less children popping up.  Let’s also keep in mind that with face recognition software, Superman’s secret identity would be almost impossible to keep.

And that’s just Superman’s side of it.  It would be really refreshing to see a Batman movie that isn’t geared toward gear.  Yes, as a vigilante, he’s a showman with the cape and the car and the smoke packs.  But that’s become all he is now.

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That’s why Bruce Wayne is supposed to trump Tony Stark.  Except the movies have conveniently failed to illustrate the last three items on the list.  Because Batman is a super hero and super hero movies are synonymous with action movies.  Apparently, no one wants to watch a movie about a Sherlock Holmes who also kicks ass (wait, there was that one…or two…).  At least, not if he’s wearing a cape and mask.

So DC, I recommend you take your hero tropes and put them back in the nostalgic past where they don’t need to get in a shoving match with Marvel over who can senselessly destroy more sets.

And in other news, I am an awful person.  I giggled through the entire opening scene depicting the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne.  But it’s not my fault.  It’s casting’s fault.

“So who should we try to get for Bruce’s Dad?”

“An actor who doesn’t mind dying in the opening scene?”

“So…Sean Bean?”

“No, too obvious.  He dies in everything.”

“Jeffrey Dean Morgan?”

“PERFECT.  Get his agent on the phone ASAP.”

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  The American Sean Bean.

 

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Obligatuesday to Impromptuesday


All the planned parts of today sucked.  Not in any actual way, but just in the way that living as an adult usually does.  We’ve all had those days.

When I got home from work, I mentioned my sushi craving and Buddy mentioned how he likes to enable (and he needed to buy new shoes).  So new shoes and sushi happened.  And because we had sushi, we had to have Coldstone.  The unplanned part of the day went swimmingly.

On the drive home, I started wondering about modern versions of Hell.

For People Who Spend All Their Time on Their Phone:

You are at a live performance of your favorite band in the largest stadium in the world.  Then you find out that due to impending hearing issues, the band can no longer play at full stadium volume.  Fortunately, the first 10 rows will be able to hear the whole thing fine.  Everyone else, including you, can live stream it on their phones.  But the reception is iffy and everyone has different quality phones, so all around you is the cacophony of buffering videos all out of step with each other.  The tickets are non-refundable.

For People Who Can’t Follow Simple Traffic Laws:

You are stuck behind a slow person in the right lane, so switch to the left lane.  And get stuck behind a person driving even slower.  You can’t get back into the right lane because there are too many cars going too fast.  Then the interstate widens by a lane, so you quickly get into the left lane.  And get stuck behind a person driving even slower.  Bonus: If you stay in the right lane, there is construction that closes the right lane and no one will let you in.

Also, if you lived in the Hampton Roads Area there will be an accident at the HRBT which forces you to reroute to MMBT.  Where there is another accident.  But it’s okay because the HRBT is cleared now.  Oh, no it’s not.  There was another accident.  And if you try to take the JRB, it will always be opening for a stream of cruise liners ferrying all the people you ever hated in High School.  Waving happily.

For People Who Post Clickbait:

You will try to watch a video on YouTube.  But you can’t ever get to the video because there are non-stop ads.  You can’t skip the ads.

For People Who Lie On Online Profiles:

You can never finish the eHarmony questionnaire.  Ever.

For People Who Overshare on Social Media:

Every time you try to send a text, you send a dick pic to your grandmother.  Even if you don’t have a dick.  Every text you receive will say “You have multimedia waiting to download.”  It will never download.

For People Who Are Rude to Retail/Service Employees:

You will work retail on Black Friday.  Every day.  Everyone will be rude to you.

For People Who Steal Credit Cards/Identities:

You are on the phone trying to fix something (cancel a magazine subscription, change your name on a record, update your address, etc.).  There is an exhaustive menu that includes none of the options you need, so you select the option to speak to a representative.  But it takes you to another menu to try to narrow what department you need to speak to.  Every time you ask for a person, it takes you to another menu.  When you finally get through to a person, regular business hours are over so no one answers.  This happens every day, regardless of what menu options you choose.

Racist/Bigoted Conspiracy Theorists:

You were right.

For People I Don’t Like:

It’s your day off, the only day you get to sleep in and relax.  But someone rings your doorbell at 6:00am to sell you aluminum siding or windows or security systems or lawn care or meat from a van or magazines.  If you don’t answer, the next visitor will be a Jehovah’s Witness.

Anyone else have something?  Share your special modern Hell in the comments.

(Credit for half of these go to Buddy as well as the words Obligatuesday and Impromptuesday.)

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The Race Problem


We need to talk about race.  Because we have a race problem in this country.

That’s actually a load of crap.  We don’t have a race problem.  Race doesn’t exist.  It is simply a variation in the amount of melanin in the skin.  Race has no more effect on a person than eye color or hair color or flat feet.  That’s genetics, and while science is not certain how much genes effect personality, most agree that we don’t make complete carbon copies of ourselves merely through genetic contributions.

The problems we face are cultural.

Travel to a new country.  Good.  Now look around and get shocked by the weirdness around you.  Train stations in Japan are clean.  Space bubbles are significantly reduced in South Korea.  English food is awful.  The French are rude.  The languages are different, the food is different, hand gestures, common courtesy, all vary from place to place.  What doesn’t reliably vary?  Race.  A black German is still going to speak German and ride the reliable public transit systems and drink German beer.  He’ll wear German clothes and have an opinion about politics and have behavioral traits which are deeply entrenched in his environment.  Being black doesn’t change the fact that he grew up in the country, learned the traditions and history, and has developed an identity in an environment completely different than someone of the same skin tone living in Africa or America or Asia.

A long time ago, mankind was born and had a hankering for travel.  As he travelled, he evolved to fit his environment.  This is why we all look different.  People from cold climates are pasty because they don’t see the sun ever and people from warm climates are dark because that protects them from cancer.  Simple.  And because there was no internet, he didn’t keep in touch with his old relatives.  So after a few millennia, he didn’t recognize his own species and thought he was meeting new animals which he of course thought himself superior to.  And then he defeated his enemy using superior technology and enslaved him.  This happened a lot throughout history.  Like, A LOT.  I mean, it’s pretty much the same story throughout human civilization from the Sumerians all the way to modern history.  The immorality of slavery has only really been recognized by the majority of the first world for only two hundred years, if that.

Well, a new world is “discovered,” and people are sent to colonize it.  The funny thing about these people is the presumption that they were superior to every other variation of humanity.  They were more civilized, culturally and technologically.  Or so history tells us.  I guess.  It seems more likely that they were just better at popping out babies in high enough numbers that a third of the population could die of plague and they were still over crowded.  Over crowding leads to technological advancement as a means of providing for a population that couldn’t be supported otherwise.  Anyway, a bunch of people show up with fancy weapons and deadly germs.  Some of them sex up the locals which is why the lands conquered by the Spanish early on are still mostly brown in skin tone.  Further north, the conquerors were not so eager to plant seeds.  See, the northern Europeans were never conquered by the Ottoman Empire, so they could still feel superior to brown people.  Plus, there are religious factors in this.  The Spanish and French and Portuguese were nominally Catholic, which advocated conversion through procreation.  The English, Germans, and Dutch leaned harder toward Protestantism (with varying levels of crazy).  For most that meant doing the opposite of decadent Catholics, as hard as possible.

These are all factors, among all kinds of other things that I am not qualified to speak on, which lead to much of North America remaining pale in skin tone.  Cultural differences clashed and instead of mingling with the natives, the natives found themselves evicted from their lands before the concept of land ownership was even a thing for them.  And this misunderstanding between two tribes (the Europeans and the Natives), baffled both sides.  Europeans say, Hey, that idiot sold me this land for a handful of crappy beads.  Natives say, Hey, that idiot gave me shiny beads because he thought I owned the land.  Have you heard of the countless people who were scammed into buying the Brooklyn Bridge upon coming to America?  Same deal.  The only reason the trope of stupid savage stuck over stupid pale face is because stupid pale face had bigger numbers, bigger guns, and small pox.  (Ask me some time about my theory concerning the US/Native relations and how they could have been fixed.)

Again, the differences between the two tribes were cultural.  However, humans are visual beings.  Strong visual acuity is how we survived the jungle when every other species was still being tricked by the camouflage of apex predators.  We conflate visual patterns with behavioral patterns.  Orange stripes mean something is trying to eat me.  Brown skin means someone is obviously a dumb savage who needs to be civilized.

And when Europe started exploring the world because they were out of room (since plagues were no longer effective and the apex predators were reduced to fancy throw rugs), they went out to explore the world.  New worlds were discovered, Yay new resources!  New people were discovered, Yay new work forces!

What I’m getting at is that the European tribe spread out, killing and enslaving all other tribes in order to keep resources for itself and become stronger.  And when they had conquered everything, they set up trade systems that moved these new resources where they were most needed.  And some of those resources were people.

Somewhere about this time, the Enlightenment happened.  Cultural revolution all around.  Mankind wants to be great again, like the Ancient Greeks and Romans.  Up until this time, slavery was just a thing that happened.  It wasn’t right or wrong, it was the natural order of things.  Yeah, it sucks for the slaves, but they lost.  So, you know, they get it.  But then the winners effed up.  They got greedy.  They made slavery a permanent condition.  It wasn’t something you could work your way out of any more.  And somewhere along the way, they stopped viewing it as the winners and losers.  Morality started wedging into the argument.  The Enlightenment made it really difficult for those “superior” thinkers to look at slaves and not see people.  In order to remain the good guys, the narrative had to change.

People were slaves because of their culture, which was too uncivilized to survive without a benevolent overseer.  People were slaves because they were evolved to be so, otherwise why would they be so good at manual labor?  People were slaves because God wanted them to be.  That’s how he punished the Hebrews, after all.  And eventually, we get to where the people who are slaves are not really people.

Millions of people are ferried across the ocean and forced into a 400-year breeding program that privileges strength, durability, coordination, and loyalty (though not to the overseers).

The slaves were treated as subhuman, as alien, and as pets.  Above all, they were treated as separate.  There was a strict cultural divide between the slaves and the rest of the population.  So instead of being a part of the community, valued and respected as a cog in the machine that kept everything running, they were foreigners.  And you might be wondering why a slave would ever be valued and respected.  My answer is a long history of slave revolts.  Sure, you can crucify seventy of them along the road to Rome, but then you still have to get more slaves.  In working societies, slaves were considered property and property was highly valued.  In the societies that failed, human property was disregarded as less valuable than rarer commodities, like livestock and gold.  An overabundance of supply, you could say.  Which leads to devaluation.  Unfortunately, while devaluation of those other commodities is an economic inconvenience, when a large population of human beings become expendable, they respond like people rather than livestock.  Abuse an animal and you’ll get kicked or bit.  Abuse a tribe of people and they forget their place.  Horses don’t have the opposable thumbs required to slit your throat in the middle of the night.

THIS IS WHY WE HAVE A RACE PROBLEM.  The conflation of race and culture, the complete separation of the slave “tribe” from the rest of the nation, and a massive superiority complex all contributed to the development of a culture that is alien to the majority (which is only the majority because of a ridiculous preference for sexual partners with a fear of sunlight and a penchant for freckles and skin cancer).  The division of tribes created cultures born out of completely different roots.  Again, my world traveler analogy.  You are about to travel to a foreign country, but first you brush up on the culture (if you aren’t a typical American) so that you don’t commit a social faux pas accidentally.  Some perfectly normal hand gestures here are serious insults in other countries.  Or you just show up, talk loudly so everyone is sure to understand you, and act offended when the waiter spits in your wine because in his country you called his wife the c-word.

Oh, but the slaves were freed so long ago, why haven’t the cultures integrated?

Um, yeah, they effed that up, too.

Congratulations!  You are the last in a long line of people who have known nothing but hard labor and subjugation.  You have no formal education, speak a dialect that is both distinctive and nearly indecipherable to the privileged elite, and you are still considered a lesser species by a majority of the people around you.  But you’re free now, so get off my land and start working for a living.  Did I mention that you will be reviled because your freedom is a daily reminder that we lost and thousands of our sons spilled their blood for nothing?

Former slaves stuck together for safety.  Because all the high-minded laws didn’t stop the lynching, burnings, rape, and systematic abuse.  Not to mention the fact that freeing the slaves didn’t give them rights.  They were still foreigners.  So the cultures continued to diverge to this impasse we still have.

Black people aren’t getting shot because they are black.  People are getting shot because their skin tone has been conflated with behavioral patterns attributed to a specific culture.  Instead of learning about and accepting that culture as part of the rich heritage of this country, it has been branded as violent, uncivilized, uneducated, and inferior.  Why?  See above.

Skin tone is incidental in culture.  Granted, having a specific skin tone means someone can automatically claim a specific culture.  When I embarrass myself on the dance floor or tell corny jokes, it’s because I’m white.  When I enjoy a wide variety of ethnic foods, know all the words to a rap song, or like big butts and am unable to lie about it, I don’t suddenly stop being white.  But somehow a person who exhibits traits too divergent from the dominant culture isn’t authentically black (or Asian or Hispanic, etc.).  You’ve heard the terms: Oreo, Twinkie, Coconut, Wigger.  These are oddities because their appearance no longer fits with the cultural expectation.  And in converse, a person who is most certainly divorced from a culture can still claim it if their skin tone is applicable.  Think of any politician who has tried to claim street cred.  I understand the struggle this community because I am (brown or whatever), even though my privileged upbringing took me completely out of the environment that defines your culture.  Vote for me because I am also a minority, though I clearly haven’t suffered the same way you have or I would be where you are looking at a political candidate spewing the same nonsense I am now.

Or in another line, I can’t believe that guy’s a star quarterback because he is black, and while dark-skinned people dominate athletics in this country (possibly due to that horrendous breeding program I mentioned earlier), traditionally their leadership skills are undervalued since the black culture is so obviously inferior to more civilized peoples.  And a woman who is unbelievably rich, supremely popular, and highly influential in the highest social circles can still legitimately claim a deeply felt connection to poor, undereducated, underemployed, and systematically underprivileged people because she is “black.”

Does this make sense to anyone?

I’m tired of hearing “White cop kills black person.”  Police officer kills a person.

This is not an All Lives Matter thing.  It’s called Black Lives Matter because skin tone is still the dominating influencer of prejudice.  It is assumed that a darker skinned person will have behavioral traits that are considered undesirable by the people in power.  Which is dumb.  African American Vernacular English is symptomatic of lower intelligence, right?  Actually, no.  Embracing and learning cultural differences is how we grow as a people.  That means we stop seeing cops as the enemy so they stop seeing us as threats.  Because when you are in a hostile environment, you’re going to be edgy, which leads to more violence than anything.  That’s the visual conflation again.  A uniformed person is an enemy because they’re plotting against us, watching us so they can catch us doing wrong.  They’re supposed to be protectors, not bullies.

Please.  This isn’t a white vs black thing.  This is a dominant elitists vs the systematically disenfranchised.

So stop.  Stop claiming that black people are stirring up trouble.  That they’re all on welfare and drugs.  Stop telling them that they should straighten their hair to fit in.  Stop telling them that they need to act white in order to be taken seriously.  Stop claiming that full lips are only attractive on white women.  Stop using genetics to justify superiority.  Read To Kill a Mockingbird for clear examples of how skin tone doesn’t dictate the moral superiority of anyone.

Stop.  Playing.  The.  Race.  Card.  You are not your skin tone.  You are a beautiful person.  And if someone treats you differently because of your skin tone, it’s because they’re an idiot.  The fact that I bear the physical markers of a tribe that lived in a dark cold place for several thousand years doesn’t mean I’m going to be the ideal candidate for a white collar job.  Seriously, that would be such a bad thing for me.  Those rare times I reveal that I don’t have rhythm, I can blame my ballet training, which heavily discouraged my learning to get jiggy with it.  Corny jokes and bland dialect are both gifts of my Midwestern upbringing.  And the reason I’m not getting a “tribal” tattoo any time soon has less to do with me not wanting to look like a pretentious white douchebag and more the fact that my tribes were more into blue face paint (but also that other part).

And hey, stop simplifying the complexity of human behavior down to juvenile stereotypes.  I’m just getting tired of the whole conflict.  I know it is difficult to overcome the behavioral programming, but seriously this is the only way we can get right with God.  Love your neighbor.  Not your black neighbor or your white neighbor or your Christian neighbor.  Not only the neighbor who lives next to you or the neighbors on your street or the neighbors who vote for the same guys or the neighbors who like the same teams or wear the same clothes or speak the same language or WHATEVER.  Love your neighbor.  Got it?

Good.  I feel a little better now.

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So it’s been a week…


Last week did not start off well.  Sunday night I developed a migraine that I clocked at a level 8 in pain.  Sensitivity to light, unable to concentrate on anything, unable to sleep, and eventually nausea and vomiting.  Yeah.  I tend to get migraines once a week on average.  So maybe I go three weeks with nothing and start thinking I’m getting the hang of this.  Then I get a bad one that goes away for a day and then comes back for two.  Or I get little ones if I didn’t hydrate enough after a workout that can be killed by drugs if I catch them early enough.  But Sunday to Monday was rough and it pretty much ruined the whole week.

I didn’t sleep much that night, but when I did sleep, which is something.  And I felt better the rest of the day, though not at my peak performance.  The problem with the really bad ones is that I have to tread carefully afterwards.  I’m careful about what I eat, for instance, keeping it to simple foods that are low in sugar and salt.  And I stay away from aggravators, like coffee or greasy foods.  It also means that I drink more water and I don’t even think about exercise until my system feels strong again.  So no working out Monday.  And actually, no working out the rest of the week.

Part of that was my work schedule, which was a little full.  And as much as I tell myself I can fit in a workout after work,  I have yet to finish a 5-hr shift standing up and felt the overwhelming need to go for a 4-mi walk or spend an hour on body combat.  And the whole waking up in the morning for a workout thing just doesn’t work for me.  That’s not to say it won’t ever work for me.  Just that it hasn’t since I left the Army.

The other part of my no-workout-week is that it was a down week for me.  I get ups and downs like everyone.  Last week was a down.  No energy, no motivation, no drive.  An overwhelming sense of blah when I got home.  I had nothing to write about because it would have been day after day of “I didn’t feel like it so I didn’t.”

Then this weekend hit.  I got to do some things that really turned my energy around.  I finally saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I loved it.  However, I was very disappointed in Matt Smith’s performance.  He is the first and only actor to have ever portrayed Mr. Collins in such a way that I didn’t loathe the smarmy pillock.  I felt sorry for him and found him quite funny and unintentionally cute.  To be fair, they did cut most of his absolutely revolting marriage proposal and quite a few of his other offensive behaviors (I believe in the PPZ book, he is a gluttonous pig, and he’s certainly more focused on tallying up his inheritance in the original novel).  I had a lot of fun seeing it with some of my old school friends who could appreciate it as people who have definitely read the original, whether they enjoyed it or not.

Buddy and I did not go for a walk this weekend, or last weekend.  Last weekend, we were busy and lazy.  This weekend, we got up too late on Saturday and it was too bloody cold Sunday morning.  (We did not celebrate Valentine’s Day because we don’t celebrate fake holidays and I have a special place for that one in the deep recesses of my cold, dead heart.  We did go out for dinner, but that was only because we didn’t feel like cooking.)  Monday there was snow on the ground.  SNOW.  And it was raining.  We did go and see Deadpool Monday morning at the IMAX.  It was impeccable.  The action sequences were fantastic, the dialogue was witty, and Ryan Reynolds is a master.  A lot of people can play a smart ass.  He’s been playing the same kind of character since Van Wilder.  However, his brand of smart ass is clearly covering for his pain and Reynolds knows exactly when to let the act slip.  It’s remarkable how much he can portray, even when he is strapped down to a table or his face is mostly obscured by prosthetic makeup.  THIS is the comic book movie we needed.  It’s what movies like The Punisher should have led us to.

Yesterday, I had a dental appt to get some crowns put on over the root canal molars.  Hooray.  On the plus side, the fact that the two teeth they were working on were essentially dead inside meant they didn’t have to numb me, so I didn’t spend half the day feeling like a stroke victim.  I spent a good part of the afternoon training with the education director at the store to be her assistant, which should be interesting.  I’ll get to up my work hours without feeling like I’m stealing hours from my coworkers who might need the money more than I need the relief in boredom.

And when I got home, I changed into workout clothes and went to try out the Les Mills On Demand free trial I got in a fit of optimism last week.  There’s an app for it, but not for our TV, so I have to do screen mirroring with my phone because the internet browser on the TV is just awful.  I decided to do a quick 20-min workout since it was nearly 7.  And proceeded to get my ass handed to me.  It was a high intensity workout, exactly the kind of crap that I used to hate in the Army.  You know what I’m talking about, probably.  It’s the type of thing your friend who is really into exercise gets you to do because it’s “for every level of fitness,” but when the instructor gets started you just freeze like a deer in the headlights because even the modified exercises scare the crap out of you.  They tell you to go at your own pace, but your pace makes you feel like you’re in one of those prescription drugs commercials where the world is passing you by because you haven’t asked your doctor about the miracle drug that will cure your emphysema provided it doesn’t kill you first.  Also, you look dumb doing the moves and feel dumb and self-conscious and just want to quit because this is STUPID and EMBARRASSING.  But Buddy was watching and being encouraging so instead of crying, I finished the video with several modifications of my own (including an entire track of EFF THIS NOISE).  And today I am in a lot of pain.  But I did yoga to stretch out.  I might have to do yoga tomorrow.  And the next day.

Buddy even convinced me not to give up on the high intensity workout entirely.  It is good to break up your exercise sometimes with things like that.  It’s easy to get into a rut or get complacent.  In order to continue progressing, you change things up.  This is actually why fad diets seem to work.  You shock your system and lose a ton of weight, but then your body adjusts and the weight comes back.  A good diet might start with a shock, like limiting the types of foods you eat to only non-carbs.  Ideally, though, it should work you back to a healthy balanced diet over time.  Because your body actually needs carbs, just not in the amounts you’re used to, maybe.  For me, I’m going to stick to my Body Combat.  But I promise to toss in the high intensity workout every once in a while.  Especially if I getting cocky.

I forgot to mention that I’ve developed a cold this week, which would normally limit my capacity to function as an adult.  I may not have changed out of pjs today (yoga is pj friendly, right?).  And I mostly napped on the couch and crocheted and drank copious amounts of tea.  But I don’t feel like I wasted the day.  I managed to make my appointment for an oil change and verify how much my crowns are going to cost AND I emptied out the dishwasher.  And I’m writing.  So, pretty successful when we do the numbers.

I know I didn’t write at all last week, but I was working on something.  I’m building more of a foundation for my Regency Heroes stories, which involves going back to at least the Protestant Reformation.  That’s not when super humans first appeared, since my story is based on these people being present throughout all of human history.  But it is an important time period because it represents a shift in the public opinion toward them.  The Roman Catholic Church turns against them leading to mass extinction of gifted people in Catholic territories.  This stance is yet another in a long list of grievances that Reformers have against the Church.  Anyway, it’s been an interesting intellectual exercise.  More to come once I’ve done some actual research.

I am now eleven minutes late for bed.  Good night and wish me luck for this week.

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Please don’t read this


I can’t sleep.  I’m angry.  About politics.  And when I’m angry about politics and can’t sleep and decide to write about it, I really don’t want you to read it.  Because you will learn things about me that I don’t want you to know.  So please don’t read this.  I just need to rant for a bit and I’m going to say some blatantly rude things, probably swear a lot, and definitely disappoint some of you.

Are you gone?  Good.

Before I say anything, let me illuminate you to an aspect of my character that you may not know.  I am a pessimist and, in general, a misanthrope.  I really and truly hate people.  A person is great.  A person I can talk to, discuss things logically, agree to disagree, or even agree to agree.  A person I can tailor my subject to or adjust my language for.  A person is a human being I can connect with and recognize as a fellow person.

People are noise and madness and stupidity.  They are simple ideas shouted out until nothing else can be heard.  People are inane catchphrases used to infantilize complex social problems.  People are Us and Them, not Me and You.  People are faggots and bitches and niggers and crackers and wetbacks and wops and micks and pinkos and ragheads and retards and squaws and rednecks and kikes.  Did I forget anyone?

But we don’t use those words anymore.  It’s not politically correct.

Let’s dissect that phrase.  Correct means right, yes?  And Political comes from the Latin politicus, which means “civil, of the state, relating to civil polity” according to wiktionary.org.  It just means being polite to everyone.

NO IT MEANS YOU ARE MUZZLING ME AND INFRINGING ON MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

The connotation of political correctness has come to mean not saying anything that might offend people who might be important enough that their vote makes a difference to you.  It means that politicians don’t say anything without talking to a board of advisors first.  They don’t make any statements or take any stances on anything without first doing half a dozen polls and town hall meetings and waiting until essentially everyone else on the planet has already said it first.

This muzzling of politicians is not political correctness.  This is actually a phenomenon called sucking up to the people who might get you your six figure paycheck for the rest of your life.  Politicians can’t say anything because whatever they say, however obscure or offhand or even in jest, will be scrutinized ten ways to Sunday by the media, social and otherwise.  There will be video sound bytes of that person contradicting themselves twenty years ago.  There will be mountains of proof that they are actually untrustworthy hypocrites.  The Obamas were criticized for having fried chicken on vacation because the First Lady had been the champion for healthier lifestyles for American children for the past eight years.  And having fried chicken on vacation made her FULL OF SHIT.  This level of scrutiny is NON-STOP.  All day, everyday, there are cameras and microphones in their faces.  There are people who spend their entire day following the social media accounts of people they despise in the hopes of finding ANYTHING to call them out on.  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert made highly successful careers out of mocking the people who spend their entire days scrutinizing the tiniest actions of politicians by doing the exact same thing but as a joke.

It is kind of funny how people are so tired of “political correctness” when we are the ones who propagate it.  The politicians only do it because it works.

Surprisingly, though, people are sick of being lied to.  Which, in case you were wondering, is NOT polite and therefore not correct.  This attitude is so obvious among the common man that even politicians picked up on it, which is frankly a miracle.

The answer is (apparently) OUTSIDERS who aren’t politically correct.  (A political outsider is someone who hasn’t been corrupted by the system and yet still knows how government works.  An outsider in this reference is merely someone without any experience in the job field they are seeking to find employment.)  And strangely, the so-called “outsiders” aren’t outside anything except their depth.  They are still independently wealthy elites who have no actual concept of what life for a normal person entails.  On the plus side, being independently wealthy means that they aren’t beholden to shareholders, so to speak.  They don’t have to make deals with corporations and lobbyists to raise the monumental funds required to apply for a job that should be the one career option available to anyone in this country, according to our kindergarten teachers.  Funny thing is, that amount of wealth is also referred to as “fuck you” money, because it means you are beholden to no one.  Yes, even the voters.  What I’m trying to say is TRUMP DOESN’T GIVE A FLYING FUCK ABOUT YOU.  None of them do.  You are a means to an end and not even that.  At the end of the day, your vote doesn’t count for shit.  If you’re lucky, the people who make the vote for you in the Electoral College will pick the same person you did.  Or we’ll have another miraculous incident where the popular vote doesn’t match the vote that counts and oh well, isn’t that weird?

Every fucking election cycle it’s like this.  People get really fucking hyped about their candidate.  They post memes on social media that glorify their guy or demonize the other guy.  They cover their cars with bumper stickers to show their support.  They argue about how their guy is going to save this country and the other guy is the Antichrist.  And they wear their “I voted” stickers with pride as if it makes a difference.  It’s depressing.  The worst part is, this is the biggest scam in the entire political system.  They convince us that our voice matters.

I’d like to point out that the “most powerful man in the world job” that all these suits are trying for is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Congratulations, you’re the president of the richest nation in the world.  You made a lot of promises to get here and you’re going to spend the next two years arguing fruitlessly with the House and the Senate for all those changes you wanted to happen before giving that up because it is already time for you to start campaigning for reelection.  Oh, you’ve been reelected!  Congratulations!  You still can’t do shit because a few hundred people who have been running this government for most of your life don’t like you.  That’s the real joke.  It doesn’t matter who sits in that chair.  Our forefathers didn’t want dictators so they balanced one person against 535 people on one side and 9 judges on the other.  Sanders wants to give us free college and healthcare.  Yeah, not gonna happen.  Trump wants to bomb the Middle East to embers.  Good luck.  I don’t know what the other candidates want or say they want.  But I’ll say it again, just for clarity.  IT DOESN’T MATTER.  Hillary probably just wants us to like her.  And we won’t because she stayed with her philandering husband and she reminds us of our nagging wives and there’s something wrong with her emails.  And Ted Cruz is Canadian.  CANADIAN.

Sorry, I got off topic.  We were talking about political correctness.  The highest praise for Trump appears to be that he isn’t politically correct, which is absolutely true.  It is also why this aspect of his personality is the most highly maligned by his critics.  You see, when you make bigoted remarks, which are any phrases that insult an entire section of the human race based solely on one factor, such as your race, gender, cultural background, or nation of origin, you are not being politically correct.  You are being a bigot.  And what is scary as that the praise for such statements, for his honesty, is based on the phrase “he’s saying what I’ve been thinking but have been too oppressed to say.”  His supporters aren’t blind to his bigotry.  They share it on some level or another.  And I don’t mean to say that they are all evil or anything.  They see a complex problem and give it a simple solution.  Illegal immigration?  Build a wall.  Terrorist attacks.  Ban Muslims.  It’s all so simple, but no one wants to say it for fear of offending people.

Remember that phenomenon where politicians say what the voters want to hear in order to get elected?  And how that has come to mean being politically correct?  Trump is actually more politically correct than every other politician in the race, by that definition.  He’s saying exactly what the people want to hear.  Just watch him pander to the Evangelists by misreading the Bible.  It’s embarrassing, but he need their votes.  And yes, half the nation is appalled by what he says.  But those aren’t the people at his rallies.  And when you’re in a crowd of 10,000 people then you are no longer a person.  You are People.  The answers are simple.  The enemy is clear.  The heroes wear capes.  And you don’t have to see the PERSON anymore.  And it can’t be wrong if all these people are with you.

Oh, but at least he’s honest, right?  He doesn’t hide who he really is.

And that’s it, is it?  That’s all we need from a man that’s going to represent our country to the world?  And if who he really was turned out to be a transvestite, would you still praise him?  He’s not, but what exactly are you praising here?  That he doesn’t feel any shame over racist or sexist remarks?  No shame.  No remorse.  Nothing.  That’s just who he is.  Oh, so he’s that embarrassing uncle who’s always telling the lynching jokes and thinks women are asking for it.  Or that buddy who thinks that since you deployed to Iraq, that you might like his latest towelhead conspiracy.

And doesn’t honest mean more than just blurting out the first thing that pops into your head?  Doesn’t it include admitting your mistakes?

Do you understand that there’s a difference between refraining from saying things because their unpopular and refraining from saying things because their FUCKING OFFENSIVE?  Why is it offensive?  Usually because it is a gross generalization that isn’t true.

Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim.  For instance.

My rebuttal: EVERY MASS SHOOTING IN THIS COUNTRY FOR THE LAST TWENTY YEARS, with maybe two or three exceptions.  The IRA.  Neo-Nazis.  And, if you ask any devout Muslim, anyone who uses the Quran to justify terrorism.  (I do not want to hear about the violence inherent in the Quran unless you want to hear about the entirety of Leviticus.)

Mexicans are rapists and thieves.  White people are entitled and racist.  Women are too emotional to be in positions of authority.  Gays are going to hell.  Hipsters are just yuppies with beards.  Southerners are all Bible-thumping lunatics.  People on welfare are lazy.  People with mental illnesses are weak.  Politicians lie.  Bikers are thugs.  Foreigners hate us because they’re jealous.

Not all men are rapists, but all rapists are men.  FALSE.

Not all bigots are Trump supporters, but all Trump supporters are bigots.  FALSE.

Not all dogs are pets, but all pets are dogs.  FALSE.

See?  I can do false equivalencies, too.

I’ve also heard it said that Trump has strong leadership characteristics.  He could be a benevolent dictator.

From what I’ve seen, leadership is not a skill required of any candidates.  And what people call leadership, the brash, forceful attitude that says, “I’m in charge, do what I say,” is exactly the kind of behavior that abusive relationships are built upon.

Why do women date assholes?  Well, they confuse the blustering behavior with self-confidence.  And the problem with blustering is that it is covering a fragile ego that needs to abuse others to maintain its superiority.

We have a man who debases instead of debates.  He insults rather than answering criticism.  He calls people names and refuses to play by the rules and complains that it’s not fair because they cheated.  He blames others for his failings.  Someone else wrote that tweet.  They stole the vote from me.  The moderator was mean to me.  The critics are all stupid.  They’re all liars and just jealous.  This is not leadership.  This is the guy you date because he tells you no one else will have you.  And when your friends say to leave him, he says they’re all whores and cows and fat pigs.  And when he beats you, he says it’s your fault because you made him angry.

Army Analogy:  I was taught many acronyms, but this one is true.  LDRSHIP.

  • Loyalty
  • Duty
  • Respect
  • Selfless Service
  • Honor
  • Integrity
  • Personal Courage
When you talk about leadership qualities, that is what you should mean.  Leadership isn’t yelling the loudest.  It isn’t belittling those beneath you.  It isn’t making promises you know you can’t keep.  It isn’t sitting there in your thousand dollar suit and telling me I was lucky I wasn’t raped in the military because that’s simply what happens when men and women work together.  It isn’t being my friend until I turn my back.  It isn’t talking about strong Christian values right before you tell the poor and hungry to look somewhere else for handouts.
There is no fixing this mess, the broken system, the corrupt politics, the infighting and bickering and complete inability to work.  No amount of money or bombs or glossy photographs will fix this.  Your reality TV circus, with the debates and the mudslinging and all the bullshit, won’t mean anything this time next year.
What do I want?  I want corporations to be corporations, not people.  I want the billions wasted in campaigning every year to go toward bettering our school systems and health systems.  I want people with mental illnesses to be treated, not marginalized.  I want a system that works instead of a mill for bureaucracy and greed.  I want power without corruption.  I want political correctness to mean being respectful instead of being muzzled.  I want people to be treated like PERSONS.
It bothers me a great deal that there are people out there who can look a person in the eye and decide they aren’t a person.  That they are a monster or an animal or an object.
I want the anger and the helplessness to go away.  I want to be rich like they are so I can stop worrying everyday.  That’s what they don’t have.  Nagging anxiety and self doubt.  At the end of the day, a pricey car repair or an ER visit won’t deplete their savings.  A surprise pregnancy won’t derail plans for higher education or a nicer house or a better job.  Despite all the money that goes into campaigning, none of them are going bankrupt because it’s not like they’re spending their own money.  If they fail to get the nomination, they’ll still be rich.  In fact, for some of them, all the attention they get now will only make them richer.  How exactly do they understand about making a living out of $7.50/hr when they can waste billions to not get a job?
All this is why I don’t vote.  So, by someone’s logic, I shouldn’t complain since I don’t do anything to change the system.  By participating in the system.  Which is rigged so that nothing I do can change the system unless it is a change the system already wants to make.
The problem with this subject for me is that there is no catharsis in discussing it.  Sometimes, writing it out makes me feel better.  But politics, the whole messy subject, just makes me feel defeated and angry.  It’s an awful cycle.  And I can’t seem to claw my way out of it.  It’s 4:30, I’ve written 2600 words, and I’m still not sleepy.

 

 

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15AM00000052011 · 05:06