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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

American Pride, and something more...

My life picked up a theme on Sunday.  A theme that keeps popping up into my life and into my thoughts leaving me no choice, but to address it.
The theme that has been building since my move back to the wonderful state of Michigan is American Pride and what better day to address it then Veteran’s day!

8 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.3 for I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)

The problem with an American Pride theme is that it is so subjective.  What is American Pride?  Is it the same for every generation?  Is it different for men vs women?  I believed a variety of answers would be given to these questions and I would be a fool to assume my answers are the only correct ones, but this is my blog.

To me American Pride can be summed up in three words, “God, Family, and Country.”  To me American Pride is a person that maintains a good relationship with their God and lives by the guidelines of their religious beliefs.  To me a person with American Pride takes care of family first, but understands that at times those that are not blood are just as close as those with the same blood.  This means they take care of their children, their elderly, and their spouse by being vibrant productive citizens. To me the largest component of American Pride is country.  This involves paying taxes to keep our government working, to participate in charity to care for the needy, and to support our troops and military for their selfless act of protection.  But, it goes beyond those over used definition. To me it is an understanding to buy American products, to support the small business man, to taking care of our land, water, and resources. The symbol of American Pride is to fly our red, white, and blue flag….Everywhere!

I see more flags, more buy American stickers, and more American Pride here in Michigan than I ever did in Florida.  American Pride needs to be in every corner of this great nation.

With that said, Let me alleviate some of the tension from my definition.  I do believe that an American should support the government because it is essential to keep our civilized society civilized.  However, I believe our Constitution works like a treaty between the government and the Citizens and that currently government is not holding up to their part of the treaty.  My point of view shows the government not holding up to their part of the treaty and that activity I do not necessarily support.  I do not wish to get political today…maybe another day.

So, my American Pride issues came to full boil for me this past Sunday.  It occurred under the most peculiar circumstance from the last person I expected to evoke it.  I was in church and the pastor of the church flat out offended my American Pride.  Why this surprised me is a mystery to me because he has been walking around my relationship with my God in an offensive stance for weeks, but this last Sunday he stomped down right on top of my American Pride.  Now, the rebel American inside me must speak out.

I believe The Pastor is a figure head for the church and I believe this is where the offense started…my deep unconscious beliefs that just like a famous person (athlete, actor) everything The Pastor does and says while in the front of the church is influencing somebody.  Therefore, The Pastor should have only opinions about what his religion, which he is representing, feels about a subject.  His personal opinions should be kept personal and silent while he is representing the church.  During this past Sunday’s sermon The Pastor was most definitely representing the church!

As a nurse for almost two decades I am very aware of hard it can be to keep objective and silent in the face of adversity.  However, the nursing profession would be unable to maintain its autonomy if there were not expectations of professionalism for all those in the profession.  Sometimes, I think those in the lime-light carry a heavier burden.  This burden The Pastor carries is a burden he chooses.  I am personally disappointed in his inability to carry it objectively.

The Pastor began to talk about Starbucks in an attempt to give away a $5 coupon (I do not agree with that during service either, but not as strongly or for the same reasons.) when The Goat Man spoke up to answer his question about Starbucks by saying that they do not support the troops his response was, “well, that’s their problem.”  What does that mean?  The Pastor listed Galatians 6: 2 as scripture relevant to that day’s sermon. 
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.(Galatians 6:2)
Left in limbo I was unsure whether to be offended or not, but my American Pride was on full alert and ready to kick some ass similar to that fateful day in September 2001. 

I held silent as I often do in social situations.  I believe there is a time and a place for everything.  Isn’t that what the Bible says?  
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Honestly, I must confess…Sadly, I only go off what I saw in Footloose. Possibly, that bit of proof takes away my credibility to be upset.

It was later in the service when he talked about having no need for the IRS, making jokes about taxes, and ultimately telling the parishioners that if they do not belief how he does they should have their heads examined that I began a struggle about whether politics should be discussed during a sermon.  My gut, that rarely has proof of its feelings, says no.  However, I have heard some good arguments for the reality that it is desired and accepted in church.

Although, as a figure head of the church, The Pastor should only discuss politics to the extent that it reflects the church’s views, as a whole.  Does the church I attended on Sunday not care that Starbucks does not support the troops?  Do they not want me to pay my taxes and support our police, firefighters, and military?  This is what our taxes do, right?  They take care of our roads, schools, and citizens.  I am not okay with how my government is spending the money they are allotted, but I am not ready to stop paying the civil service workers or stop educating the children.  It is still my government and I do not know of a better government or a better country.

While sitting through sermon Sunday, I had a moment where I asked myself, “What am I doing here?”  It felt like I no longer shared enough beliefs with those around me to stay.  After all, he represents the entire church certainly and possibly the entire religion.  Maybe I am just sensitive because for weeks he has made statements that have made me feel unwanted in that congregation or maybe I am just sensitive because for several weeks now we have talked of giving with an open heart and his example is so saddening.  He announced he did not like anything at Starbucks in one breath and gave a coupon away in the next breath…

For weeks he has talked about a poor lady who had nothing to give, but gave her last penny and a wealthy man who gave away all his current gold and told us that a giving heart was found in the woman who gave what she truly needed herself and not found in the man who gave away things he did not need or desire.  It did not matter how shiny his things were or how meager her penny was.  It was about a giving heart.
The Widow’s offering
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
What now am I to believe?  The story that The Pastor, the figure head…the representative…preached for weeks or the example he leads? 
Faith and Deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:14-19)
My American Pride says that I do not support any company that does not support my America and I do not associate with anyone or anything that does not support my America…So what do I do about church now?

I do not wish to slam Starbucks because I have no idea if they support American troops or not.  I do not go to Starbucks because I do not like coffee enough to pay their prices.  I do not frequent any coffee establishment.  I do know the rumor is strong and therefore, I probably will get my coffee elsewhere because of my American Pride.  Each of you should make your own decision.

At the end of the service on Sunday The Pastor encouraged an announcement about Veteran’s Day.  I cannot seem to shake an uneasy feeling about the views of the church, although, I think maybe The Pastor is just trying to relate to a congregation that is as much mixed in a melting pot of religious beliefs as the country is a melting pot of cultures.  He tries and fails often at humor.  The only thing I know for sure is that either The Pastor is a terrible figure head or I need a new church!
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord you God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7)
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourself. Do what it says. (James 4:22)
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4: 17)
Please, do not forget out Veteran’s on their day.  Please, do not forget them and their jobs well done on every single day.  I would not be able to write this blog if it were not for their American Pride.  Hang the American flag high and proud.  Thank you to all of the Veteran’s and those serving currently…God bless America!

ReferenceHoly Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Retrieved from:


As many people have heard over the years, the rumor is that Starbucks does not support our troops.  In a very quick internet search without much credibility of sources in mind I discovered a story about Starbucks charging rescue workers $130 for water in 2001, Marines asking for coffee grounds denied to them with a letter stating Starbucks does not support the troops, and a statement from Starbucks CEO saying the rumors are unfounded.  Each of these sources blamed a different person for starting the rumors.

I am not sure we will ever know the truth.  But according to the internet this is what Starbucks has done for our troops:
  • The VIA coffee donation is one of the ways Starbucks and its partners (employees) have actively supported military service members for the past 12 years. Here are some examples:
  • 2002 - Starbucks worked with the Red Cross to send its first shipment of coffee overseas to troops. Members of the Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN) have regularly organized care package shipments since then. 
  • 2003 – A Starbucks store in Fredericksburg, Virginia donated 93 pounds of coffee, delivered by then-Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers during a holiday trip to the region.
  • 2004 – 12,000 pounds of Starbucks coffee from the company’s roasting plant in Kent, Washington was shipped to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. At Andrews, airmen with the 89th Aerial Port packed the coffee on pallets and loaded it aboard a C-17. Since that trip, another 5,000 pounds went overseas to troops in August 2005, 18,000 pounds in December 2005, and 1,100 in July 2006.
  • Members of the Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN) have regularly organized care package shipments since then, including the most recent shipment in December of 2014, the AFN packed over 50 boxes for service members. 
  • Starbucks raised funds for organizations supporting veterans and active duty service members through The Concert for Valor and a new book co-authored by Howard Schultz, “For Love of Country.” In addition, Starbucks is on its way toward hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018.--

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The roses might smell great, but the lilacs are gone!

I want to tell you about my garden, but this week way too many bizarre things have happened…
This blog and all of my blogs have sat silent for quite some time.  I understand that as an expiring writer this is like a radio having dead air, however, I found it unavoidable.  There are two main reasons for my delay in writing.  The first is that sometimes life is too hectic, too overwhelming, or too boring to put into print on a public forum such as this blog.  The second and most controlling reason is that this is a public forum and I have decided it is best for my life and the stalkers I have somehow acquired that issues be resolved prior to talking on a public forum.

In this absence, I have had a change of heart.  I once had a dream of an online magazine, but I have come to realize starting an online magazine is in direct contrast with my search for a stress free existence where I can stop and smell the roses.  Let me assure you that from my perspective the roses smell great!

The roses might smell great, but the lilacs are gone! 

I was driving down a two lane road that I travel almost every day.  It is the road that takes me to my home.  It is the road that takes me to my favorite nature place and it is the road that takes me to Walmart, the mall, and most importantly Menard’s.  This well driven pot-holed road also goes past the house my Grandma and Grandpa lived in when I was a child.

When I was a child the entire family gathered at my grandparent’s home often to have potluck and socialize.  I remember macaroni and cheese and I remember my grandma’s brownies.  There was a lot of other food every week.  My family knows how to eat, but I only remember macaroni and cheese and my grandma’s brownies. 

The food was always in the front garage.  That was the garage connected to the house by a closed in porch.  The food was in the garage, the adults were on the porch and the kids were outside.  The house was only used for the restroom. 

Behind the front garage was a second garage separated by blacktop and a basketball hoop.  There was plenty of game of ‘horse’ and ‘pig’ played on that black top and there were many fights over ‘horse’ and ‘pig’ out on that black top too.  The square piece of black top was surrounded by the neighbor’s property line, the two garages and Grandma’s rock garden.  I never saw any rocks bloom in all the years she gardened there.

The only escape was a patch of grass behind the rock garden, past the pine trees and into the back yard.  At the edge of the backyard just past the patch of grass for escaping was a small patch of rhubarb.  Just past the rhubarb was a swing-set with two swings made out of pieces of wood.  They were not comfortable.

Directly behind the second garage and next to the swing-set was a see-saw.  This was the most prized activity in the back yard that stretched out several acres in a narrow path behind the swing-set and see-saw stopping only at the edge of the woods.  I was announcing my age in double digits before I ever ventured into the woods, but that is another story in itself.

Just behind the see-saw was the most mysterious thing at my grandparent’s house.  It was a random patch of cement about three feet wide and six feet long.  It had been on the ground long enough that grass and weeds had invaded its edges and about two thirds up a crack meandered its way across the pavement allowing ant hills and weeds to rise from underneath.

My grandfather use to speak of Harold.  He referred to him as ‘Harold the no skin man.’  According to the legend, told my grandfather, Harold lived in the house attack.  The attack was located up the creaky stairs to the bedroom off of the bedroom where hardly anyone ever went.  Once inside the small bedroom with the low ceiling, one window overlooking the driveway, and two twin beds with red bedspreads you could see the attack door.

It was a door about four feet high and barely three foot wide with no door handle.  It was next to the door entering the room and it was eerie.  Seldom was I in the small bedroom that felt like a dungeon, but never did I open the attack door.  I do not know if Harold was nice or mean, but I knew I did not want to see a man without any skin.

My cousins and I were quite certain this random piece of cement was the grave of Harold the no skin man.  During the day we might place some dandelions on the grave for respect incase his ghost was watching, but once the sky began to get dark it was the grave of a ghost and we wanted nothing to do with it.

Usually, while playing outside the boys went one way and the girls went another.  It was not unheard of for the boys to bother the girls or the girls to bother the boys, but some days the imagination did not allow for these interruptions and my cousin and I would sneak past the rock garden, beside the house, through the huge purple lilac bush and onto the front porch.

The front porch was used even less that the dungeon bedroom.  It was nothing more than a cement slab with cement steps allowing someone to leave the front of the house.  I do not remember ever once using the door at the front of that house. 

Because the front door was located in the dead center of the house another cement slab stretched from the stairs to the drive way that ran next to the house.  On this lower slab sat only a park bench that had been badly neglected and forgotten. 

What made the front porch so cool was that it was completely surrounded by huge eight foot high lilac bushes.  A large purple one on the side and along the front, as a divider between the cement and the road several white bushes.  These bushes were so unkempt and unruly that they over hung the cement porch and even the entrance from the driveway.  I guess my grandma was too busy gardening rocks to trim the bushes, but we were happier because of it.  We had our own nature made hideout and it was cool.

I do not know how many hours we spent on that porch with our imaginations, toys, and the smell of lilacs.  I was thirteen or fourteen when my grandfather passed and barely sixteen when my grandmother moved out of the house leaving Harold behind. 

At first it looked weird to have the wrong car in the driveway. Then, they changed the color from green to blue neither of which look good.  I have watched the small pine trees in front by the turn-around grow large and hide some of the front yard and house from the road.  It has always been an unexplainable emptiness low in my gut when I would look up at the now blue house on the hill as I drove by.  I wish I had been able to give my kids what I got at that house, but times have changed and so many have moved away.  The family is not a close family anymore.  It saddens me and I miss it.
Earlier this week I was driving down that two lane, well driven, pot-holed road with my radio singing to me without a care in the world and I looked up at the now blue house on the hill with the wrong car in the driveway and the huge pine trees out front and literally shouted to my windshield, “The lilacs are gone!”

I want to know who authorized there removal!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Coffee just the way I like it.

He has a way of engulfing everything and leaving me suffocating.  I am not sure how he does it or when he does it, but when I break free for a moment of freedom I can feel his release.

Sharing to him means he now controls it.  He moves mirrors in the truck and leaves the seat back without consideration of anyone or anything.  He sits with his body slanted and his legs spread wide with no thought of how much space he takes or how little space he leaves.  He laughs at complaints that he sleeps cockeyed in the bed leaving me unable to straighten my legs all night long.  He actually thinks I am joking.

He is so comfortable in his world just the way he requires it he scarcely bothers to notice those of us that find ourselves trapped inside his chaotic control.  He is the ambulance chaser, lead gossiper, and the one that forces himself to the center of the party and gets upset if no one notices him.

He is a presence easily noticed and hard to forget.  But like an empty smile he wanders though this world distracted by shiny things and never looking at the foundation with dirt and scratches on it.  He is easily lead by the crowd, but stands taller and firmer if he is left to fugue alone.  After all, it is always done his way.  Only an idiot would do it a different way.

He is what he is.  Us, the world, must take him for who he is flaws and all because he didn’t do it.  However, our flaws are his weapons and our statements are attacks directed at him personally because he sees nothing else in the center of his world.  But, he brings me coffee just the way I like it.

He has a way of engulfing everything and leaving me suffocating.  I am not sure how he does it or when he does it, but when I break free for a moment of freedom I can feel his release.

My moment of freedom feels like I have snuck out of my room at night and if I am caught the consequences will be too high.  However, these days there is nothing left to ground me from.  I have given up all of my material possessions to survive and maintain the little piece of self I have left.  I have hung onto “home” and it is all I have.

I have been “home” just shy of a year now.  After struggling in this world for almost two years I found a place of safety and comfort.  The strain on me during this transition has been way too twisting to write about, however, I am beginning to emerge.  Life is going back to the normal we all long for and I am beginning to take inventory.  What do I still have? And what have I lost?

I have lost those that find no value in me when I am unable to benefit them.  The most important one of these people was my husband.  He too is a very self-centered, selfish, charismatic man that brought me coffee just the way I like it.  The Goat Man and him are very much the same.  My husband suffocated me in a more passive aggressive fashion and treated the world with a gentler hand, but he did not look down on the world or me any less.  The difference between my husband and The Goat Man is simple.  My husband is not here.  He is not here because he choses not to be and all choices have consequences and fall out.

Both men hear only what suits them.  Both men believe only what fits into their private little worlds and neither of them would dream of looking foolish.  Both men would fight to their stubborn end to be right and miss the importance.  Both men take my love and me for granted.  Neither of them sees me as woman.  Neither of them sees me as an equal.  Neither of them sees me at all, but they both bring me coffee the way I like it.

What have I gained?  I have gained a future that I want.  I have gained a big, stubborn, chaotic, engulfing force to share it with and I have gained my life.  I am no longer controlled, influenced, or scared by others opinions and desires for me.  I no longer spend precious hours of my time pleasing others at the expense of my own happiness.

I have gained and appreciation for love, companionship, and memories.  I have gained the ability to stand here tall and calm while I look down the uncertain path I am on.  I have gained the ability to dream of what may come and make it happen.  I have gained my life and myself.

In my freedom, sitting here and drinking my coffee just the way I like it, I have learned that I don’t need either The Goat Man or my husband.  Their suffocating ways burden my stamina and hinder my climb.  I have had some glimpse of the man that sees me, but sometimes it happens so fast I am not sure of its reality.  I wonder if I hallucinate.

…A kiss on the neck or a smack on the ass…the warm fuzzy feeling that consumes when ‘I love you’ bridges my eardrums…

Today I am awake.  Today is the last day of my sabbatical.  Today I again move forward…. forever forward.

With clasped hands
we begin our next adventure because he is here to bring me my coffee just the way I like it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My Grandmother's Eulogy

Tuesday February 4, 2014  0941
A very surreal morning with the knowledge that today we lay my Grandma in the ground.  We have gathered the past two days, but this day was different because this day it was over.  This day made Grandma's death over.  This day means tomorrow we move forward in the circle of life, but I wanted to do was sit in this moment and be with my Grandma.  Even knowing she is at peace in her new home with my Grandfather it was hard to let her go, but upon her leaving I wrote this Eulogy.   

The last day I saw my Grandma alive.
She is here with my granddaughters,
and her great-great-granddaughters.

           There are stories I could tell you about being left in a pumpkin patch, but I do not honestly remember that day.  I could go on about the tigers that now mark my parents driveway.  I went with my grandparents the day they picked them out, but that is not one of the memories that bring the essence of my Grandma. I could talk about her brownies, but all of us in this room have eaten them.  But, I think she is explained best when I simply say she is my Grandma.  She was “Grandma” to every one.  My friends, my children, and everyone she met called her Grandma.
            I was here in October to say my good-byes, so when I heard she was about to pass I did not know if I would make the long journey from Florida to repeat a good-bye she cannot hear.  I secretly have this belief that if I had not come she would have haunted me saying, “You went to your other Grandma’s funeral.”  But the reason I am here is because no one else could have impacted my life the way she did.
            I received a text at 3:34 in the morning informing me of the news.  I read the text about 4a.m. just minutes after my boyfriend had left for work.  As I lay alone in my bed and cried the morning away all I wanted to do was jump up onto my kitchen counter and eat graham crackers and milk.
            I remember the lilac bushes around her front porch.  They were purple and white, but mostly purple.  I have always loved the smell of lilacs.  In Florida lilacs do not grow.  There is a nice smelling impostor, but to those of us who have experience of the lure of a lilac know it smells just a smidgen differently.
            My cousins and me would play every Sunday while the entire family gathered in the garage and ate all the good cooking.  The one thing my family does well is eat.  The porch was surrounded almost completely with bushes, trees, and lilacs like a secret garden.  I have countless hours of play on that porch.  I think of the lilacs every time I drive by the old house.
            I have realized as I have gathered with family I only see at events like this that even now Grandma is holding this family together.  She would be happy to see all of you here today and the past few days getting reacquainted, talking, laughing, and remembering. 
            April said it best when she said, “ She was the glue that held our family together and in this sad time that has never been more obvious. I have caught up with my cousins who I have lost contact with for many years and it saddens me that it has been so long. They were my first friends and it hardens my heart we have let Grandmas traditions go as we have gotten older.”
            We all have memories of her dear to our heart.  I remember writing mystery stories with my cousin.  I remember picking rhubarb and making rhubarb pie with my grandma.  All of us sat on her counter and ate bowls of graham crackers and milk.  I remember playing hide and seek in her boiler room and putting on plays for all of the adults in the basement. For years, every one of us kids hid Scott’s little grey mouse around the house and then her apartment.
            Amanda remembers making pancakes with Tammy while Grandma patiently watched from the little yellow table giving advise.  “We were making a terrible mess in her kitchen creating something that was never gonna be edible.”
            Her patients did not stop there.  April too remembers a patient helpful Grandma, “She taught me to sew buttons.  She would be so patient as I learned and would sit for hours as I practiced.  She always made sure we had the best time while we were with her and she always played with us. It was nothing to be able to play restaurant and take any order to her and just like a restaurant you would get your order. She would do my hair and let me sit under the dryer. One time the curler got stuck in my hair. She would always chuckle telling that story because we had to cut it out of my hair. “
            Grandma was always there for me whenever I needed her.  When I was younger Stacey and I would leave her letters on the bed asking to stay the night with her and she would always ask our parents for the okay like it was her idea.  When I was sick she gave me Verner’s floats, and when I needed a babysitter she watched my children.
            Her legacy lives through me and it lives through them.  She spent hours sewing, crocheting, and knitting with Amber and Amber now teaches her girls.  When Ania came to visitation yesterday she sang a song to Grandma.  My Grandma sang songs to me about whatever we were doing at the time and I sang songs to my granddaughter about whatever we were dong at the time.  Now Ania sings her good bye.
            Many of us have used “Pee-Pee corns” to potty train our children.  Some of us did not discover they were called “Pee-Pee corns” until we were adults.  I am willing to bet every one of us in this room has something Grandma made or a treasured recipe she has shared.  It sure would be nice to have measurements for the ingredients.
            I remember my grandma fondly.  Over the years I have travelled farther and farther away from those lilacs, but I think of her every time I smell lilacs.  I think about the way she would crinkle up her nose and smile from across the room.  That crinkle was the same as a kiss or a hug.  She passed that onto my father; He too crinkles his nose.
            I cannot hold her hand and tell her to quit worrying.  I can’t crinkle my nose for her.  But I can write this eulogy for her.  Because we all know she wanted nothing more than to feel the love we have brought here today and to see us all together being family.
            April writes my closing when she says, “Going to grandmas was just like all the stories you read, it was always the whole family there.  The adults upstairs and the kids playing in the basement with plenty of treats and games to be done.
            Not matter what anyone can say she was the best grandma we all could have asked for and my life is richer and more joyful with her being such a part of it.”