On Memorial Day I heard an interview with a man who had written a story about the most lethal sniper in America. As a peace activist I tend to avoid listening to these kinds of stories but yesterday, thinking about the sacrifices military men and women make for our country, I decided to sit and listen and I was richly rewarded.
Chris Kyle was a Navy Seal who was credited with killing more than 100 people during his military service. But arguably the most important work he undertook was in his civilian life working with veterans who had experienced post traumatic stress disorder. Nicholas Schmidle, a staff writer for the New Yorker, wrote a story about Chris Kyle including the tragic ending in which he was shot by a deeply troubled vet he was trying to assist.
Listening to the story about Chris Kyle was part of my attempt to understand the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I also watched Democracy Now rebroadcast their story from last year’s veterans protest in Chicago outside the NATO meeting. I saw veterans ashamed of their military service returning their medals to the United States government. There was a powerful testimony from a mother whose son had killed himself on an American military base who was angry that the government had told the world he had died in combat. And I heard a song Hero of War about the horrors our government has told young men like Chris Kyle to inflict during our long occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These stories are relevant during the ongoing debate over how much America needs to be involved in the destruction taking place in Syria. I hear about formerly middle class families sleeping in half bombed out buildings after fleeing their homes. I ponder questions of right and wrong, the President’s moral authority and whether and when solving our own problems at home will ever become important.
What are we really aiming at when we send snipers out? Who is the ultimate target of our drone attacks? When will we decide that the body count is high enough for us to be able to ceasefire? I urge my readers to ask yourselves these questions while you look into these stories that I have discussed.
I have enjoyed a year of paid holidays and you know I could really get used to this idea. I started working as a certified peer specialist in the first week of June 2012. That was shortly after the Memorial Day holiday. Later that week I was at the company retreat. Thus I did not enjoy my first paid holiday until several weeks later with the 4th of July. I still did not have a vehicle so my mobility was quite limited. And there were uncertainties about my living situation. I concerned that the honeymoon was ending with my landlord and things were about to spiral downward.
That’s not a good way to have a holiday. This year, I was able to call my family and learn that my mother was recuperating from minor surgery. I took a friend out to dinner Saturday. I bought a six-pack of Fat Tire beer, which is a locally produced Belgium ale, very delicious. And I enjoyed shopping for and eating delicious food. These are things that belong in a good holiday.
I reviewed the prospectus for my new IRA and listened to National Public Radio. One of the highlights of my day was during a trip to the grocery store. I spotted a very striking looking older African-American man sharply dressed and looking like he was in his early 60s. Later on, I found myself in line right behind him at the checkout line and started up a conversation. I learned that he was 75 years old and was very conscious about his style of clothing. “I may be old but that doesn’t mean I have to look old.”
And that’s exactly the point of aging gracefully and living life to the fullest. You have to work at creating a life worth living but the rewards can be very fulfilling. that’s what anyone, regardless of their age or physical or mental condition would want and it’s certainly what I’m striving to achieve.
I’m hoping to throw off my 1 or 2 devoted readers by using these odd titles for my blog entries. Obviously nobody would write a blog combining Memorial Day with smooth skin. Except a local oddball. Hah. These oddballs are always getting involved in stuff.
I sent my sister a David Sanborn cd last week so I called and asked her whether she had received it. Yes, it did arrive, and she has listened to it with our mother. However, the case was broken. I will add a little packing material with the next item I send her and mom. I told her that even though my hair is almost completely grey, many people believe I am much younger than my true age. This seems to be due to my very smooth skin. At times I go through periods where I am constantly using lotion but in reality the lotion just adds a lot of oil that I have to wipe away.
It appears that this is a family trait. I had trouble guessing my mother’s age because she always had the same smooth skin. I think this is a wonderful trait. I want to be as young as possible for as long as I can. There’s a woman at the First Unitarian Society who is as wrinkled as one can possibly be. When I saw her for the first time, I guessed she was well into her 80s.
I’m not sure what to make of this other than to enjoy being part of my family. We may have other issues but we’ve got good skin. BTW I also told my sister about my signing up for the company IRA, health insurance and life insurance. She was glad. When you get past the early romantic part of being in a family there are the practical issues of having savings, taking care of yourself, and being part of the whole that make your family bonds grow. They make you love your family all over again.
Some of my readers have wrinkles, others are probably in your 20s but all of us are from families. Within those families, it is almost certain there is a veteran within your generation or the previous. One of these days there is going to be a celebration of how veterans made war unnecessary. But until then there is Memorial Day. It is a time for Family, peace and hope. Celebrate as you see fit.
Yesterday we took out the people we assist to a big buffet where they were able to eat to their heart’s content. We gave them thanks and presents. In a few moments will be the staff party and gift exchange. Of course I have already received my present. When I got paid yesterday I paid on my credit accounts and the car. I also bought a couple of secret Santa gifts to provide with a high degree of stealth. Today I get my other paycheck. Which is always nice. To have money left over and work with the part time job. It’s the end of the end and I saw my psychiatrist for my only visit this year. The fact that things resolved themselves in my favor was very apparent. I was I could get more feedback about my recovery but I guess that’s not his role.
I received a couple of gifts. My second paycheck was very gratifying. I need to keep reminding myself about the progress I’ve made on taking care of myself. My role is to remind myself of this fact. And to share the good news.
English: Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This morning I have been posting stories about part time low wage workers on my facebook page. These stories tell about the 42 million workers who rely upon food stamps to make ends meet. Newark Mayor Cory Booker is going to do a public experiment living on food stamps to demonstrate how difficult it is to survive. This comes years after the famous book Nickel and Dimed that demonstrated the same thing.
There was a story on Huffington Post about a Wal-Mart employee with 8 years with the company who staged a walkout. Working at one of the most profitable businesses in the world and being held to part time wages. It was more than she could bear. She has a husband who makes good money so she could afford to take this risky step. She received a warning from the police about “trespassing.”
When you’re being held to part time you develop a bitterness in your stomach. Even if you fight and win an increase in your hourly rate, you won’t get paid time off, holidary pay or health benefits. You will not get company life insurance. Where I work almost all of us are full time. And we enjoy lots of other benefits. Everyone has a car. The directors gave everyone a raise shortly after I started. And the company is generous about paying for conferences. I did find that I needed to get an additional part time job and I do rely on veterans health care. But I have a much easier time than when all that was available was 20 to 30 hours per week. I have much more predictability in my life. With predictability come stability. The difference between part time and full time in my case is several hundred dollars per month. It’s a matter of life and death. That is why I am thankful for this holiday season.
Nickel and Dimed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am thinking ahead a few weeks plan an enjoyable holiday with my family. This is the first year I have worked full time and I have made a lot of positive changes. I expect to begin working a second, part time position, as well. I will need to combine vacation and holiday time I am thinking about making arrangements for someone to feed my cat while I am out of town. I will leave the car parked on the lot and take the bus to the airport. And I will need to check on the return time this year. I didn’t last year and ended up on an AM flight that bothered my sister who drove me to the airport.
I will bring a camera with me this time around. This is the most financially optimistic I have been I have been in a long time. I think about the polls that measure consumers’ sense of the economy and I think my optimism stems from the changes that were made in my field of peer support locally and nationally. Passing the certification test at a time when new better paying positions were being created was very important. I studied my little brown bones off to make sure I got that credential and in terms of return on investment, the $50 I spent has more than paid off. I know I don’t sign my name on a piece of paper as a peer specialist for less than a certain amount of money so I don’t feel I have to prove my worth.
I am excited knowing that the VA will be hiring vets like me to assist because I wanted to have the opportunity to consider whether I wanted to work for the feds. They might be a great place to retire from. And I might want to look for a job with the VA back in my old hometown so that I can spend my sister’s and mother’s last years near them.
So because I invested in me, I am in a better spot than last Christmas. And I expect next year to be even better.
Image by MB Jarrosak via Flickr
Image by photography.andreas via Flickr
- Image via Wikipedia
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,100 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 52 trips to carry that many people.
Click here to see the complete report.
Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia
- Image via Wikipedia
Tomorrow morning I will be on the flight back to Milwaukee via Detroit. In the afternoon I will be seeing my cat and getting a lot of stern looks from her for my absence. I hope that by next Christmas I will be living in a better environment and be able to hire a trainer to help her open a few cans of cat food by herself when she gets hungry.
But this message is about Christmas in Buffalo, a place my friends always associate with snow and bitter cold. As I sit here typing the sky is gray, the winds are calm and there are buds on the trees. Surely, you were all dreaming of a balmy Christmas.
Some years, Christmas has meant the end of relationships and sorrow. Dinners consisted of stone soup flavored with angry silence. Other years, the holiday was filled the hope and the beginning of a new job. This time around, it was filled with grace. There was my nephew John correcting a problem on on his mother’s computer by writing three sentences about his love for his 2 1/2 year old daughter Grace. As she saw what he had written on the computer screen, she responded “I love you too, Daddy.” This girl may go from day care to high school.
I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of John and seeing the husband and father he has become. He was born the year that I graduated from Lafayette High School and his photos are on my Facebook and other pages. I saw John and his wife Jen facing issues together, I hugged them and Grace as they left and felt so glad we were part of the same family.
I enjoyed having my sister and mother fuss over me because that’s just part of what they do. We all fretted over the trials and tribulations of my nephews, cousins and my younger sister. My future will be filled with more stories of the other people in my life. I am looking forward to being the proud uncle, attending graduations and other celebrations. This Christmas has already begun receding into the past.
At our Christmas dinner I declined an invitation to say grace, because I am a secular person and have been so for many years. I find grace in every day life, not by thanking all powerful beings for our lives. This is the day, this is the one, wild and precious life we are given and I take time in word and deed to rejoice and be glad in it.
- Day 54 – the gift of grace (mydailycreativity.wordpress.com)
- Mummy’s Christmas Thoughts (jasmineyow.wordpress.com)
Image via Wikipedia
- Image via Wikipedia
This is a holiday shared by many different traditions. Jews, Christians, pagans, capitalists, con men and war planners have all found December to be fruitful. I am a man for all seasons and I don’t mind sharing. I am celebrating the holidays with my family but we have not said grace. They respect my non-religious beliefs. If you are secure in what you believe you don’t have to push them on others like a brand of soap.
For me the winter solstice celebration speaks to my mind. Songs like Sleighride, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Izat You Santa Claus feel more meaningful than Hark the Herald Angels Sing. I enjoy listening to Sammy Davis Jr. Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra as part of my holiday tradition.
But these end of the year celebrations are mostly about family. Today I will see my niece Grace for the first time. It will be only the second time that I have seen her mother. I am visiting my mother and sister for the first time in four years. Even at 60 years old I got up at 3:30 not long after Santa’s helpers retired and looked at the Christmas tree I had helped to decorate.
When I shopped, I heard the voices of children asking for their parents. As I stopped at the Detroit Airport I spoke with the earnest young man from Delta Airlines who seemed determined to sell me some kind of preferred flyer membership tied to using American Express credit cards. I had lunch at a restaurant in the airport and gave a generous tip to the waitress. At the stores I have contributed to the Salvation Army bell-ringers. And I have wished my Facebook friends a Merry Christmas.
The ways that we celebrate have changed and we create new traditions with each passing year. This is the first Christmas of marriage equality in my old hometown of Buffalo. And a gay time was had by all. So many seasons, so many reasons to celebrate in our hearts. Spread the love and put down the hate for we are all our parents’ children.
- A Merry Muslim Christmas (expatlogue.wordpress.com)
- A Little Happy Holidays Venting (myquiltsnstuff.wordpress.com)