Can You Breathe?

December 8, 2014 § 2 Comments

racism

Unless you’re living in a bunker, or in an Amish community, you’ve heard of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  They are two of, but not the only, black men killed recently by the police.  Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson MO during an encounter with a police officer.  Eric Garner was killed in Staten Island NY during an encounter with a police officer.

As a result of these deaths, racism has become a huge topic on social media and the news.  There are many hashtags (#icantbreathe) as well as protests happening across the country over the outrage that neither police office was indicted.

I’ve been asked my opinion directly about these situations, but have not shared them publicly.  I’m going to do so in this post in a way I hope will make sense.  Let me first briefly summarize these two cases, which are far from the same

Michael Brown was a young man in Ferguson MO.  After a controversial altercation with a police officer, he was shot dead in the street.  There was no video of this event.  Eric Garner was a man in Staten Island NY who, while being arrested for selling single cigarettes (called loosies) was placed in a chokehold, and subsequently died. There was video of this entire event.

The Big Questions

The big question in our country right now is, is racism, specifically by the police and justice system, alive and well? The short answer, is yes.  Of course racism exists in our country still – to say no is ignorant.  To say that there is zero racism by some police officers, juries, or our system is also ignorant. I will elaborate on this later. The bigger question is, did racism play a role in these situations?  The simple answer is yes and no.  Do I believe either cop, in either situation, set out to kill either one of those men?  No, I do not.  Do I believe either cop, in either situation, killed those men because they were black?  No, I do not.  Do I believe that some police officers discriminate based on the color of your skin?  Absolutely.  Do I believe that all police officers discriminate based on color?  No, I do not. Do I believe that neither were indicted because black lives don’t matter?  Not necessarily.

Why the Police were Not Indicted

Let’s take Michael Brown’s death first. I believe that the officer in Michael Brown’s case was not indicted because of the conflicting testimony.  Early reports suggested Michael Brown had not provoked the officer, and was shot in the back, or front, depending on the account, while surrendering.  When the evidence and testimonies then came out, Michael Brown had reportedly struck the officer, struggled with him, charged at him, and was not shot in the back or surrendering.  This was backed up by 5 black witnesses.  Forensics backed up the fact that he was not shot in the back.  Blood evidence proved he was coming at the officer.  Should Michael Brown have been shot in the head when he clearly was unarmed?  No.  However, I’m not a police officer.  I’m not going to pretend that I know what that situation is like, and I’m not going to pretend I would not have done the same thing.  I do not know if I would have, and the fact is no one else can say they know either.  Do I think the officer harassed Michael Brown and told him to ‘Get the F on the sidewalk’ because he was a young black man?  Probably.  I’m not certain he would have spoken the same way to say a white woman in her 40’s dressed differently. Does that mean the officer deserved to be attacked?  No, he did not.

Let’s take Eric Garner’s death now.  I believe that the officer in Eric Garner’s case was not indicted because the charges that were offered to the grand jury were not provable.  The charges of murder offered, required intent.  Intent was not there.  No one can say from watching the horrific video that intent to kill him was there.  Should Eric Garner have been choked (and ultimately killed) during his arrest for selling loose cigarettes?  No, no he should not have.  I have a problem with this case for a few reasons.  First, no cop should be out on the street policing the selling of tobacco, which is a legal substance that is taxed.  New York has to take responsibility here for basically creating a black market for cigarettes with an almost 7 dollar a PACK tax.  It’s ridiculous, it’s created this market, and the law in itself clearly did not consider whether a police officer’s life should potentially be put in danger to enforce this law.  Second, these officers clearly were familiar with Mr. Garner, and though the report is that they were responding to a call from local business owners, they made the decision to arrest him rather than warn him, and did not de-escalate the situation.  Third, though it did not warrant the outcome, Mr. Garner was breaking (an admittedly stupid) law, and he did not comply with the police.  Can I understand why he did not want to?  Yes.  I can.

What If These Police Officers Were Indicted?

A couple of questions have really stuck out to me that I have not heard asked yet.  As I watch the protests and the calls for justice, I cannot help but wonder… Would we have respected the verdicts of the trials of these police officers if they were indicted?  Or do we only respect verdicts when we agree with them? My biggest issue with the ‘call for justice’ is that it may not necessarily be a call for justice.  Because, I believe had either or both of these officers been indicted and not found guilty by our justice system, that the outcome would be the same.  As the American public, we are all entitled to our opinions.  We are also entitled to protest, and have that right protected by our amendments. We also can demand justice, or that someone be tried for crimes.  What we cannot do is decide what justice is unless we are called to sit on a jury.  That truth sucks.  Because we see evidence, and news reports, and we think we know what should be done.  But the truth is, we don’t.  Because we don’t see everything, we don’t hear everything, and we also do not have the duty to follow the letter of the law.  We cannot demand justice if that isn’t what we mean.

Is Racism Alive and Well?

In short, of course it is.  The KKK still exists in this country.  So do many other racist groups on all sides. People still have issues with interracial couples.  Recent immigrants are still treated like second class citizens by some. People are profiled when they are pulled over by police.  And, like it or not, we ALL racially judge people on some level. Whether you make an assumption about someone of color in a low-income neighborhood, or why someone got into a school, or if they are a poor driver – we have all racially judged someone.  Black, white, brown, yellow, whatever color.  It has happened.  We still see color.  Is this 1950 America?  No, it is not.  We have come a very long way in this country, but we are finished yet.

In these two situations, I do not believe race was a factor in the death of these men.  I do believe race may have been a factor in the beginning of the police encounter with Michael Brown, I do not with Eric Garner. Was race a factor in the lack of indictment of the police officers?  We do not know.  It appears the grand juries did not indict either because of lack of evidence of wrong doing, or the evidence did not meet the charges.  Can I speak for the grand juries? No, and neither can you.  So I can only assume they did not consider race as citizens of our country.

So where did race come in?  Minorities are angry.  They are angry because of a long history of injustice.  Angry because every day, in some way or another, they are reminded that we are not all quite yet the same.  This is not exclusive to race, many citizens experience discrimination on a daily basis for being gay, straight, black, white, hispanic, muslim, christian, jewish, et cetera.  We aren’t the same… yet.  This outrage isn’t specific to these two cases, as I mentioned there are many others.  It’s hit a breaking point, however.

The video of Eric Garner saying I can’t breathe 11 times is disturbing to anyone’s sensibilities. Mr Garner was in trouble, he was slowly suffocating, and he died.  That is terrible.  And it leads me to the bigger question… are these cases not more about police brutality or excessive force, and does that always equate to a racial issue?  Yes, I believe they are more about excessive force and no that doesn’t always equate to a racial issue.  Hear me out, some cops are assholes, and they are assholes to everyone.  Some do show preference to white people, some do not.  If you look at the psychology of SOME police officers, you will find some are bullies, some took the position for the power, some are not doing it for the right reasons.  But, some are.  And the ones that are do not deserve to be labeled as racists.  They absolutely do not.

What do you know?

Here’s what I know.  First, I will share a story with you.  When I first moved to Arizona 5 years ago, I was having dinner with friends in Gilbert AZ.  We were debating race and immigration because, as we were sitting in the restaurant, we heard the sound of helicopters flying and back and forth overhead.  Those helicopters were part of the controversial ‘immigration sweeps’ conducted by the more controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio in AZ.  These helicopters, and police officers, as well as some ‘unofficial’ police officers that were sworn in for this purpose, were chasing ‘illegal immigrants’ out of homes, businesses, and the streets in order to arrest them.  Yes, this was happening in America in 2009 and had happened many times, and happened after that as well.  Google it if you don’t believe me.

As I pulled out of the parking lot after dinner, at about 8 PM, I was pulled over.  I’d driven about 50 yards.  When I was pulled over, a young white officer came up to my window and asked for my license and registration.  I provided them and asked why he pulled me over.  He said my license plate light was out.  I knew it was not, as I’d just had the bulb replaced prior to registering at the DMV the day before.  I assumed he was making up a reason to pull me over to see if I’d been drinking.  I had not.  So, I asked if I could see it.  He let me out of the car, and my license plate light was on.  He said ‘Oh it was off when I pulled you over’.  He then told me to stand by the side of the road and asked me my nationality.  When I repeated the question back to him he said YES YOUR NATIONALITY.  I said I’m American.  He said where did you come from, you’re not white.  It was in that moment that I realized he had pulled me over for being hispanic.  I had this horrible gut feeling when I looked at him, and the contempt in his face.  A little voice told me to lie, so I did.  South American, I replied.  I’m South American.  He told me to sit down on the curb.  He asked me how many tattoos I had.  I told him.  He said what are they?  I told him.  He said where are they?  I told him (I have several many on my back).  He asked if he could see them, in a very suggestive tone.  I refused.  He asked me if I was sure I didn’t want to show him, I said yes.  He then stuck his hand down my shirt, assaulting me.  When I shoved him, he slammed me down (seated) on the curb of the median in the middle of the road. He then proceeded to search my vehicle (including trunk) and purse. Illegally.  I did not object.  I didn’t say a word. He called for another police officer to ‘watch’ me.  During that radio call he told them he ‘had one’ and she was pretty, and probably carrying something.  The other officer came.  I was held and not allowed to leave, though I asked twice, at the side of the road for over an hour.  They searched and searched my car.  Clearly, looking for a reason to arrest me.  At one point he tried to provoke me.  I hung my head.  I’m a very smart, outspoken woman.  I have no issue speaking my mind – to anyone.  In that hour though, that girl was gone.  I sat on the curb and thought about what was happening. I had, until this point, not experienced what it was like to have no civil rights.  To know that if I made one false move, I was going to go to jail – or worse.  After about an hour and a half, they let me go.  It felt like eight hours. No ticket, no warning, and most importantly no explanation.  I was never asked if I’d been drinking, by the way.  I was released after they received a call to assist in another raid.

As I drove home, I shook the entire way.  And, though I’m not a crier, I cried the whole drive. This was nothing like what I’d been taught police were there for.  I had never been terrified of them.  I’d never realized that they really had all power over you.  I’d never had a brush with the law and I’d never been treated that way.  Sure, I’d experienced racism but not from the police.  I was ashamed of myself for lying about my nationality, for not slapping him, and for ‘allowing’ that to have happened.  What was I going to do?  Call and complain about a cop?  Why would they believe me? I didn’t tell anyone for a very long time.  When I did, I gave some details but not all, or slightly varying versions.  Mostly omitting that I lied about my nationality, and the assault (though some heard that part).  To this day no one has heard the entire, true, full version.  People kept wondering why I was so against these ‘raids’ and why I stopped going down to Gilbert to visit friends. I didn’t have a good answer.  When it was appropriate, during conversations about police and race I would share parts of that story.

The bottom line is, I’m alive.  No gun was pulled on me.  I wasn’t arrested.  I wasn’t falsely accused.  I didn’t strike a police officer.  But I was racially profiled, and treated like nothing – like some object, because I’m Hispanic. I was terrified.  And it forever changed how I feel when I’m around a police officer.  Even the nice ones I’ve encountered in my own neighborhood since then.

So, my perspective of these situations is oddly personal.  I’m not one to claim racism in any scenario unless it is obviously racist.  For example, an ex and I were run off the road in Texas (literally run into a deep ditch) driving through a very known racist area.  I didn’t assume they were racist, until they got out of the car, threw beer cans at us, called us spicks, tried to pull my ex out of the car, and observed the confederate flag hanging in their back window.  I want to be clear about that.  Because all too often people assume something is fueled by racism and it just isn’t.

I share this solely for the purpose of explaining my background and comments in this post.

What Does It All Mean?

It means we have some work to do.  We need to work on the racial discrimination in our society.  ALL of us.  That means that we all need conduct ourselves as law-abiding citizens.  We need to not play into stereotypes.  We need to stop judging one another based on previous experiences or ignorance.  We need to give people the benefit of the doubt.

We also need to look at our justice system.  Do we need special prosecutors for cases against police officers, to avoid a potential conflict of interest?  Yes, we do.  That’s what is fair.  Should we keep passing laws requiring police officers to put themselves in danger that are insignificant and stupid?  No we should not.  We need to use our brains and consider what is a reasonable piece of legislation worth of endangering lives.  Because the simple fact is that at any time someone committing a minor infraction could shoot or assault a police officer.  They could be impaired, they could have an outstanding warrant, they could be carrying something illegal – this happens every day.  We need to be more selective as a society in establishing what the police are endangering themselves for, and how it impacts us.  Do we need to look at excessive force, and prosecute police officers whose conduct is less than what it should be?  Yes, we do.  And another note, though I won’t elaborate in this post, many times in our justice system have minorities been prosecuted incorrectly due to the color of their skin.  This has been proven by DNA time and time again.  We cannot ignore that just because we do not like that it happens.

We need to work on how we value human life.  As a society, looking at violence in inner cities, school shootings, workplace mass murders you can see that we do not see value of human life.  All human life.  This is a serious problem.  It is the part of this all that hurts me the most.  Two men are dead.  There families will never see them again.  There lives are over.  And for what?  For what.  We also need to look at our own bigotry.  Are you a bigoted white person who feels superior to others?  Are you a bigoted minority who feels you deserve special treatment?  We need to examine ourselves, and realize what we are contributing to this problem.

I wish the best to Michael Brown’s family, he did nothing to deserve death.  I wish the best to Eric Garner’s family, he did noting to deserve death.  And to all of the others, killed by a police office when they were unarmed.  I also wish the best to the officer’s families who mourn their deaths for simply doing their jobs.

Nothing in this country will be different until we hold ourselves accountable for our behavior.  ALL of our behavior. Nothing in this country will change if those in power are not held accountable for their behavior.  ALL of their behavior. Regardless of how you feel about either of these cases, or the others, we can all agree that we need to be accountable for our behavior. We need to stop judging others based on race, class, sex, sexual orientation, weight, height, clothing – it has to stop.  Because no matter how superior you may feel to someone else.  You’re leaving this planet in a box or urn.  Just like everyone else.

Nine Reasons You Shouldn’t Cheat

December 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

affair

Cheating is an epidemic in this day and age.  In the world of social media, making it even easier to meet someone else or reconnect with an old flame, cheating has become a phenomenon.  Everyone has been affected by cheating in some capacity whether you have been cheated on, or have known someone who has gone through an affair, it’s all around us. Men and women cheat every day on their spouses and partners for a variety of ‘reasons’.  Are you cheating?  Have you cheated? Are you thinking about it? Here are 9 of the reasons you shouldn’t.  Why 9?  We will count the whole ‘morally not so great’ reason as number 10.

It’s selfish

Cheating is inherently selfish.  It’s about you.  You and whomever is filling that void for you at the time.  Whether it started as an emotional affair at work, the thrill of a stranger laughing at your jokes, attention from someone attractive, rekindling an old flame, or a NSA encounter you sought out online, you’re cheating for you.  You couldn’t be more selfish in this regard.  By cheating you’ve decided that your partner’s feelings and trust don’t matter, that your relationship is worth risking, and that you deserve this ‘reward’.  Whether you claim it was the alcohol, or it was a well thought out decision, when you cheat you’re telling your partner they were not more important than what you were getting out of it.

It won’t help your relationship

You’ve decided there’s a reason good enough to cheat.  And likely, it’s your partner’s fault.  Your wife is cold and won’t have sex with you.  Your husband ignores you and doesn’t find you attractive.  Your partner doesn’t pay attention to you anymore.  Whatever your reason, cheating isn’t going to help your relationship.  As a matter of fact, whether you think they will find out or not, it will only further damage it.  If you’ve decided that your relationship is worth so little to you that it is worth jeopardizing over an encounter, an affair, or new love, then have the decency to end your relationship.  You’re going to harm it more than you can imagine anyway.

You’re cheating for the wrong reasons

If you’re cheating, I can promise you it’s not for the reason you think.  It’s not because that person is more attractive than your partner, more often than not they aren’t.  It’s not because you just couldn’t control yourself, it’s more sexually exciting, or you aren’t having satisfying intimacy at home.  It’s not because your spouse is dull, boring, or doesn’t appreciate you.  It’s not because you were drunk.  It’s not because you fell in love.  It’s not for whatever reason you think.  You’re cheating because you’re trying to fill a void your partner isn’t filling – and that isn’t their job.   It’s your job to be happy, not your partner’s job to make you happy – your happiness is your responsibility.  Your partner adds value to your life, and to the person that you are – relationships aren’t 50/50 they are 100/100.  Two people putting 100 percent effort into it.  If you’re failing at that, your efforts sneaking, hiding, and cheating would be better spent taking a hard look at yourself and ultimately your own happiness.

You can’t predict the outcome

No one starts cheating thinking they will get caught.  No one.  Yet, many do.  There are very few people who cheat and don’t get caught.  Just like you cannot predict what will happen each day in life, you cannot predict the outcome of your encounter or affair.  Your partner is also not as stupid as you may think, and your mistress/lover/new love is not as trustworthy as you think.  Additionally, getting caught, is not the only outcome or consequence.  When you choose the behavior, remember you’re choosing the unpredictable outcome.

Guilt is harder to live with than you think

Guilt isn’t something you may necessarily think about when you’re cheating, or right before you cheat.  Most people will struggle with guilt after the fact.  Because, no matter what the condition of your current relationship, secrets and lies are hard to carry, they are the heaviest weight to bear in life.  And when your partner, whom you may resent, or not like very much right now, does something little that makes you smile, or you catch a glimpse of the person you fell in love with, that pang of guilt will follow.  You may think you’ll be fine, and you won’t feel anything, but you won’t know that for sure until after the fact, when you can’t take it back.

Your children deserve better

Often people who are in long-term relationships have children.  Sometimes they even use those children as an excuse not to end their relationship.  Let me be clear.  You’re not ending your relationship, if you believe that you are no longer in love, because you’re a coward, not because of your children.  You are damaging your children much further than you would by separating from your partner or divorcing because you’re setting the example of a loveless and damaged marriage.  Children are smart and you aren’t as good at pretending as you think you are.  They will mimic your example of a relationship when they get older.  They deserve two parents who love each other and, if those parents no longer love each other, they deserve parents who love them enough to say so, and move on with their lives.  Hopefully, you will find love again, and show them a better example.  Don’t use your children as an excuse.  They deserve better and they didn’t choose to be a part of your broken marriage.  Consider them and end your relationship with dignity and respect before cheating on their mother or father.

Someone will get hurt

Often times people say they didn’t want anyone to get hurt and, this is probably true.  I don’t believe people have affairs with the intention of hurting someone.  They think that they are going to get away with it and often don’t consider who may get hurt.  Someone will, whether your partner finds out or not.  It may be the person you’re cheating with, who loves you and cannot be with you, your partner who winds up betrayed and shattered, your children, or even yourself, caught in an impossible scenario with two people you care about – someone will get hurt.  This is one of those rare times in life, where we can make the decision not to hurt someone we care about.

Then there are those pesky diseases and babies

These days, you basically have to boil someone to be intimate with them.  As smart as you think you are, and as effective as you think condoms are (if you’re even using them), you cannot be certain that you won’t wind up with an STD or a child.  We all like to believe we can trust the person we’re sleeping with – sadly, that isn’t the case.  One of the worst ways your partner could find out about your affair is via an STD or child.  Not only are you putting your health in danger, but you’re putting your partner’s health in danger as well.  Not to mention those child support/child care payments you weren’t expecting.  Again, another totally preventable decision here.

Your partner will never be the same

One of the most difficult things to recover from is betrayal.  It is not impossible, there are some relationships that survive affairs, but your partner will never be the same. A person who has been cheated on, carries that with them forever.  They may forgive, they may move forward, they may get to a point where they can have a healthy relationship again, after a lot of hard work, but they will never be the same.  Regardless of your current feelings for your partner, there was a time when you loved and respected them, a time when you admired them and who they are, a time when you would never have wanted to damage them.  Think back to those times, and consider that you will change that person forever by cheating on them.  I know many who have been cheated on, both men and women, and the questioning of themselves, if they were enough, if it was their fault, why they deserved this, is one of the most painful experiences a person can have.  You should know that and consider it prior to cheating.

There you have it… nine reasons you should not cheat or should stop cheating.  There are many more.  The bigger and more rewarding task is dealing with your current relationship and it’s one that’s worth a hard look and deep consideration.  What’s also important to know, is that you shouldn’t avoid an affair just because you’re afraid to get caught.  Be happy in your life and relationship and you will not need to have an affair (and fill that void we talked about).  Be brave enough to ask for what you want from your partner.  Be honorable enough to keep your word.  Be bold enough to look at yourself, and ask why you are seeking someone else.  Be accountable for your actions.  Be an example for your children.  Take ownership of your role in the state of your relationship.  And if it’s time, be kind enough to end your current relationship before starting something with someone else.

Dear Twisted Gray

November 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

My blog revival efforts will begin in 2015, with a host of topics.

As an addition to my blog, I will dabble in video posts as I did awhile back. That thought has inspired me to start a new category, titled Dear Twisted Gray. I will post videos reading questions (keeping the submitter private) with my advice on the situation. Why an advice category? Because I’m asked my opinion constantly, and usually on the same topics. Many birds, one stone. I’m no Dear Abby, but I will do my best. If you have a question or situation that you would like honest, no-nonsense advice about, send your questions over. Submitters will be kept confidential and you may also ask for a friend and link them to the video when it is posted. All questions will be answered, provided they are appropriate. What’s appropriate? If you have to ask that, probably not your question. Please send questions to my email which is Twisted Gray.

Let the unsolicited advice become partially solicited! Or, you know, whatever.

Homeless For Christmas

December 24, 2013 § 2 Comments

20131224-115015.jpg

About 3 years ago, I read an article about an organization filling large Ziplock Freezer bags with toiletries, snacks, change for coffee, and encouragement and passing them out to the homeless. They called them blessings bags and I thought this was a very cool idea.

The next day, I started buying sample sizes of toiletries, and listing out items that I thought would be considered essentials. About 2 weeks later, I had my first load of blessings bags to drop off. I had no idea what to do with them. I googled the worst neighborhoods in Phoenix, and drove around for 3 hours until I found enough homeless people to hand them out too. I, of course, didn’t have enough for an entire shelter, but I did call the shelter to find out where these folks were sleeping on the streets, and over time they became easier to locate. Since then, I carry these bags in my car whenever leaving Scottsdale, and pass them out to anyone I see asking for help.

About 9 months ago, I was in downtown Phoenix, passing out a few bags, and I handed a bag to an older man who had clearly been homeless awhile. He immediately opened it while we started chatting. As we were talking, he came across the gift. In each bag, I put a small beautifully wrapped gift. A surprise, that they can actually unwrap. I thought of including these gifts about a year ago, when thinking about how nice it is to just receive a gift, of any kind. These gifts are usually a non-essential item, like a watch, a snowglobe, or a music box – to name a few. Something beautiful that they can look at, and escape their reality, while knowing it is just theirs (and small enough to hide). He took out the gift, turned it over in his hands, studied the wrapping paper carefully, and put it back in the bag. I told him the gift was his to open. He said “Thank you, but I think I will save it for Christmas. It has been 18 years since I have had something to open on Christmas, and I’m saving it for this Christmas.” I was stunned and humbled. We all know that the homeless don’t get presents, but it never occurred to me what that might be like. To not even have a little candy to unwrap, or the smallest token of love from someone. To forget what a surprise might feel like. His words hit me pretty hard.

As a single adult, I stopped receiving gifts a long time ago. There is an occasional gift card from the family, or a surprise gift from a friend, but some years, no gifts at all. I’m GRATEFUL for this. It has allowed me to focus on giving. Giving is gift enough for me, it fills my heart more than anything a friend could send, and it always reminds me of just how fortunate I am. It also makes me so much more appreciative of anything I receive. So, even I, as a single adult, far from home, still occasionally have something to unwrap and get excited about. This man, hadn’t had that in 18 years.

Then, about 6 weeks ago, I saw the same man while walking downtown. I waved from across the street and kept walking, knowing he likely wouldn’t remember me, but I will never forget him. He shouted “Hey, girl! Wait a minute!”. I stopped and turned around, unsure of whether he was going to ask me for something, and I had nothing to give. I saw him feverishly digging through his cart and waited for what felt like 5 minutes while he continued digging. Just as I was going to turn back around he popped his head up with a big smile on his face. In his hand, was the small unwrapped gift from the bag I had given him 7 months prior. He then shouted “It’s almost Christmas!”. I smiled, waved again, and walked away. I couldn’t say anything else. Four steps later, with tears in my eyes, I realized that the smallest gesture, could give someone something to look forward to for 7 months. That hit me pretty hard, as well. And, it gave me an idea.

As a result of this experience, I decided to do something a little different this Christmas. First, I committed to helping more people in need. Second, I committed to doing something more for the homeless, in addition to the usual food serving I do each year on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I decided to make stockings for the homeless, and fill them with candy, a baggie of change, and little Christmas surprises, wrapped. I bought a bunch of large stockings and started buying out small items from Walgreens. I found fuzzy socks, and little bottles of creamer for coffee, warm gloves, things that were useful but extra cozy, and a few things that were a luxury. As I filled each stocking, and wrapped tiny treasures, I realized that I might be more excited than the people who would receive them. Knowing I couldn’t bring them to the shelter and only pass them out to some, I decided to pass them out as secretly and discreetly as I could. So last night, very late, I drove through the streets of Phoenix, with a good friend for safety, and placed stockings next to those who were sleeping. All in all, it went smoothly. I startled a couple of people, and a few think I am certifiably crazy, but for the most part the gratitude was indescribable. Tonight, I will go and finish this effort.

I share this story, because this experience has greatly contributed to my continued growth as a person. I hope that it will contribute to your growth as well, and that you will be encouraged in your own giving. I have so many amazing, generous friends who contribute in countless thoughtful ways to others. I’m so happy to know each of you. And while it is Christmas Eve, and there are last minute gifts to buy, and stressful holiday dinners to prepare, and dreaded time with some of the family, I hope that you will remember that whatever you have done is enough, and whatever you have is enough. We could all use that reminder.

Merry Christmas!

What the Duck

December 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

TV-Duck Dynasty

Quack. Many are talking today about Duck Dynasty, as one of its ‘stars’ made some controversial remarks during an interview.  The fallout, and subsequent debate, has been severe.  I saw a few thoughtful posts on Facebook, but then some of the comments from others were so ridiculous I chose not to engage there.  You can’t argue with ignorance.  So, here’s my take on the situation – take it or leave it.

First, I will start by saying – I’m a Christian.  I think that is important to know.  Second, I know very little about this show.  “Duck Dynasty” follows a Louisiana bayou family that has “made a fortune on duck calls,” according to A&E’s website.  I don’t watch it, as I have no interest in any reality TV. I’m horrified that there is even a show about these people, as well as MANY others on TV, and I won’t pretend to know someone or their values by something portrayed on television.  I hear that they have a following from some Christians (as well as others who just enjoy the show) because they are Christian and pray on TV.  Good for them.  Am I oversimplifying it?  Yes.  But honestly, what their show is about doesn’t really matter.

So, one of the main ‘stars’ of this show, a Mr. Phil Robertson,  gets interviewed by GQ (this interview is also a mystery to me, but that’s another post) – and, when asked what he views as SIN, says the following:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical,”

Then he talked about racism growing up in the south:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!'”

“Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues,”.

As a result of the fallout created by these remarks, from many Americans including those in the LGBT community, he was put on an indefinite hiatus from the show by A&E – the network that broadcasts it.

A&E issued this statement:

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty'”.  “His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

Mr. Robertson then issued this statement, following the fallout:

“I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

His second statement, in my opinion, was far more thoughtful than the first remarks – and are a better example of being a Christian. (And it also explains why he sounds stoned when being quoted.)

I’d like to point out, this isn’t the first time that A&E took action after one of their ‘stars’ said something offensive.  In 2007, the network halted production of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” after audio tapes revealed Duane Chapman repeatedly using the N-word. The media exposure resulted in Chapman issuing a public apology. Three months later, when the outrage had simmered, the network announced the program would return.

So, fans of the show are calling for his reinstatement, commending him for standing up for his beliefs, or citing free speech as an excuse for this interview.  Those offended by his choice of words, are saying he got what he deserved and are condemning his comments.

Here’s my problem with the fans who are commending him or saying this is free speech.  (Besides the fact that this has now become some kind of cause to stand for, instead of standing for a real cause.)  Standing up for his beliefs?  Yeah, I guess you could say he stood up for his beliefs.  He believes homosexuality is wrong, and instead of just saying I think it’s wrong – he went on to crassly describe his views likening it to bestiality and promiscuity.  Free speech?  Yes, we have free speech in this country.  He used it, and was not thrown in jail for what he said – nor was he stoned to death.  That’s free speech.  He is still walking the streets today, free to say anything he wants.  What I find interesting is there are people who say (using a free speech argument) he should have no consequences from what he said – and that’s just ridiculous.  Free speech does not mean there aren’t consequences to your words.  And, since A&E is his employer, and he offended an entire class of society, negatively impacting their public image, by being a bigot, they had the right to take any action against him they want – they are his EMPLOYER.  If anyone went and impacted their company negatively – they would get fired, too.  That’s how life works, people.  He was not put on hiatus for being a Christian.  This is not religious persecution.  Take a BREATH.  This is because the words he chose and the associations he made were offensive.  There are consequences to the words you use.  (Doesn’t the bible also talk about guarding your tongue for that very reason?) Free speech isn’t something you can claim when it benefits you – and not the rest of the time.  So, if someone threatens you and your family and you want them arrested – isn’t that their right?  To say anything they want? Or is it not free speech, then.  Why is it only free speech when it’s something you agree with?  I’ve noticed some of those claiming free speech, have been extremely intolerant of people posting comments using THEIR right to free speech.  Free speech is not something you turn off and on.  In this country, you are free to say what you want – whether you’re a bigot or not.  Whether you alienate people from Christ or not.  Whether or not your fellow Christians are MORTIFIED (*raises hand*) by your ignorance or not.  But, your words have consequences.  And it is a sad, sad, day when grown adults don’t see that.  And, more importantly, after this debate dies down – what consequences will his words have on non-Christians and their opinion of Christ?

To the folks who say, what was he supposed to do lie, or hide his beliefs?  No, of course not.  He could have said he thinks homosexuality is a sin.  Because that’s what HE thinks.   I don’t think anyone would be surprised by that – as everything I’ve read about them while composing this post implies they are widely known and accepted as closed-minded.  The words he chose were offensive, and his comparisons were offensive.  To god, lest you forget my fellow Christians, all sin is the same.  Lying, using prayer requests to gossip about people, judging them, drinking, sleeping around, getting divorced, murder, gluttony, all of it.  And zero of us are perfect.  You don’t get to pick and choose what’s a sin, or what sin is worse, nor do you get to judge other people.  What Mr. Robertson should have done (since that question has been posed all day) was set a good example of God’s love – not further alienate a group of people.  Christ’s values were not portrayed in that interview you’re so vehemently defending.  Bigotry was.  And that’s MY personal opinion.

You have the right to support this guy, and call for his reinstatement, and continue to watch this show.  That’s your right.  You also have the right to believe what you want – agree with him or not – and carry on however you see fit.  For me?  I think his comments were ignorant and bigoted.  I’m disgusted that, once again, an example of a ‘Christian’ is an embarrassment to me personally, as a Christian.  Christianity is not bigotry.  It’s not accepted racism.  It’s not judgment.  It’s not a competition.  And, I’d like to see a little more imitation of Christ’s values then all of the former.

Call me crazy.  Just using my ‘free speech’.

What do you think?  Take this anonymous poll, and let me know.

Christmas Charitable Efforts

December 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

christmas-charity

In all seriousness … charitable efforts have always been, and will continue to be, near and dear to my heart. I’m involved in countless causes and with many organizations all year long. I get an exorbant amount of personal joy and purpose from it, so much so that I almost feel guilty for contributing in these ways.  What I enjoy most though, is getting others involved.  Charity is contagious – and you’d be amazed what a few people can do together.

The holidays are always a great time to get involved in giving.  It really helps me to remember what this season is about.  This year, I wanted to do a couple of things differently. First, instead of sponsoring a family through a local organization like usual, I wanted to sponsor a family that I personally knew, or that a friend knew of. A family who may not reach out to an organization, but was struggling. So, I posted on Facebook several weeks back asking for help from my friends. My request? For them to private message me a family in need, and a little about their background or story, so that I could choose one to give to this holiday season.

I was overwhelmed by the response. So many touching stories, reminding me once again just how fortunate I am.  I knew that it was going to be very difficult to pick just one, but after reading all of the responses it just wasn’t possible. I ended up picking 7. Picking only 7 was still hard because every family was deserving. After my posts about these efforts, a couple of friends asked if they could contribute to the effort. That was very unexpected, and wonderful. That is what this post is for – to share with them, and the others who followed my requests, what was done for these families. This is a little too much information to share on Facebook, which is why it is on my blog. If you’re not interested, you can skip to my next post.  I normally keep any giving I’m involved in private, as it is not about recognition – and anonymous giving is a lot more fun!  But, because others contributed, I believe I should share – and hopefully someone will be inspired further in their own efforts.

Below are a few details about each family, to protect their privacy I labeled them Family 1-7.  Listed after their story is what they received. **The dollar amounts for the gift cards are listed so that those who contributed to specific things can see exactly what was spent.  The other items are listed without monetary value.

Family 1 – 4 kids, 1 boy in 6th grade, sister in 5th grade, twins boys in kindergarten. There are severe medical issues with one of the twins and he has several times come close to passing away. The family has many medical appointments for this child and although he does attend school when he is able. Mom is not able to work because of taking care of the twin’s medical needs and constant therapy appointments. Dad’s job continually lays him off and then rehires him throughout the year for the last several years. Parents and kids are great and they do try to give their children what they can but they could use assistance with food and toys. (Given grocery gift card for $60 and Walmart gift card for $140)

Family 2 – 4 kids and parents are divorced. Mom was gone for awhile, Dad is not overly engaged with the kids. They are great need of clothing, food and toys. They are sweet kids. The girls are in 8th, 6th, & 5th grade and the boy is in 4th grade. Anything that would encourage reading, educational games would be great for them but they would benefit from clothing,food and toys. (Given grocery gift card for $60 and Walmart gift card for $140)

Family 3 – 2 kids living with mom and grandma. Mom has a second grade reading level and the kids have some family trauma that has occurred in the last few years. There is not a father in the picture for them and they are in need of help for presents. They kids are sweet but have been through a lot and there is not much help at home. Educational toys to help them learn without mom needing to read it would be great for them, too. (Given grocery gift card for $50 and Walmart gift card for $75)

Family 4 – 6 kids living with mom and dad. Health issues with 1 child (9 years old), one severely disabled child (cerebral palsy). The family is in extreme need of clothing, shoes, supplies for school (pens, pencils, notebooks), basic products (like hygiene essentials), and food. They would welcome any support and have the kindest hearts. They would never ask for help from others. The kids have holey shoes and clothing, and yet take such good care of their belongings. Phenomenal family, with a wonderful spirit. (Given grocery gift card for $250, Walmart gift card for $400 and utilities paid)

Family 5 – 4 kids living with mom and dad. Dad has been laid off 3 times this year, hard working man just happened to be at companies that then laid off most of their workers. He works 3 part time jobs to feed his family. Mom works 2 jobs. Very involved parents. Lost their home to a fire last year, and lost a child in the fire. Since then they have been living in a 2 bedroom apartment. They struggle greatly and could use assistance with food and toys. (Given grocery gift card for $100 and Walmart gift card for $250 – helped Dad get a brand new job with a very stable company. He starts on January 2nd!)

Family 6 – 3 kids living with mom. Parents divorced, dad is not in the picture. Mom works full-time and part time on the weekends. One child with a learning disability (6 years old). Mom is very sweet, loving, and her care for her kids is tremendous. For example, I’ve seen Mom with no coat for an entire winter, so she could get two coats for the kids for the winter. Never a complaining word from her, always wearing a smile. They could use help with food, clothing or toys. (Given grocery gift card for $60 and Walmart gift card for $175. Given new clothing for all three children, 5 outfits each, along with undergarments, socks and shoes and a couple of new outfits for mom.)

Family 7 – 3 kids living with grandmother. Father passed away, mom has had mental health issues since father’s death. The kids have struggled the past 3 years. Grandmother does what she can on a fixed income for them. They have a lot of love at home, but little else. They could use help with toys or clothing or food. They would be grateful to receive anything. (Given grocery gift card for $75 and a Walmart gift card for $225. Given new toys for their three children (15 toys each) and a couple of gifts for Grandma. Also a couple of gifts for kids to take mom when they visit her in the hospital.)

In addition to helping these families – my good friend Jill organized and held a toy drive back in my hometown, to collect toys for the children at St. Jude’s Hospital in Tennessee. Such a phenomenal effort from her and her family.  I was able to assist by paying the shipping costs for them to ship the toys to the hospital. Very happy I could help with such an amazing toy drive and proud to be a part of their efforts!

Some pictures, from my friend’s collection efforts:

collectiontoys

Thank you, again, to everyone who sent me these wonderful families and gave me the opportunity to help them a little this year.  Thank you, also, to those who asked how they could help and gave – as that was not expected at all.  I appreciate all of you, and am blessed to have so many amazing people in my life.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Dear Coworker

October 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

Dear Coworker,

I had allergy testing done today, which encompassed 120 needles scraping my back.  Way less painful than the chat we just had. And no headache.