Friday, December 31, 2010

Pondering life.

Trying to make sense of life and overcoming one's fears and obstacles isn't something that just happens overnight. There's no magic cure, no potion, no advice, no sudden changes that can make everything the just way we want it. We have to work for it. We realize that, accept it, and do what it takes, right?  Well, yes and no. It's easy if you know where to begin and it's hard as hell if not seemingly impossible if you don't.

We have one opportunity to make life count. We don't get seconds. Once we're done, we're done. Yes, it kinda sucks that we have so much to cram into a short span of life (it is short in comparison to the life span of our universe and the longevity of infinity) but if there's one thing we don't have control over, it's when we're born and when we die. Sure there are factors that shorten or lengthen our lives, but in the end, I think our final day is already set, it's on a calendar. Life and death are like points on a graph and they're marked for us ahead of time, maybe to make things easier for us, who knows? What points we choose in between to get from start to finish are totally up to us. Of course that's easier said than done.

Life isn't about material things, it's not about dollar value. In the end, how much money we have, the square footage of our home, the number of cars in the garage, the type of career we have, our highest level of education, our fame and fortune...none of those things matter. What really matters is the legacy we've left behind, the impact we make on what and who we left behind. Small impacts can leave huge wakes. I do not believe we are given this finite period of time on earth to just merely live and die and leave nothing in our wake to show for it. What we do matters. Who we are matters. We all matter.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Everyone gets down at one moment or another, it's part of life. We feel happiness, we feel sadness, sometimes we don't feel anything. Life isn't meant to be all good all the time. When I get into these moods, they're hard to shake. I just need some time alone, not talking to anyone, just thinking, maybe sometimes not thinking. I hate these moods but I can't help them. They hit me like a ton of bricks and I can't do a damn thing about it. I just have to figure things out and try and get past it.

I do a lot of thinking, sometimes too much of it. I can get into these serious moods where I want to block everyone and everything out so I can concentrate on my thoughts. I can't blame anyone else for the inner thoughts I have about not being content with my life at this moment. I could lay blame all over the place but I'd be a hypocrite. We are all responsible for the choices we make and that goes for me too. Ok so I am responsible, I take responsibility, congratulations Jess, now what in hell do you plan to do about it? 

That's a good question.

For me, change is hard. I've always had a difficult time adapting to new things. I've always been afraid of "what if?" and I've always been afraid of making mistakes. Over the years I've gotten more vocal about my opinions and ideas especially when they are at odds with the mainstream. I've stood up for myself when I felt like someone was trying to get the best of me. I've taken chances and been successful in some ways, and not so in others. But in all the changes over the years, I still have a long way to go. I want to change, I need to change. What kind of change you ask?  I am not quite sure. If I knew, I wouldn't be blogging it, I'd be doing it. All I can say is I am not content with the direction of my life. Funny thing is a lot of people think I have it all together. Well I guess I do but when I feel this discontent I suddenly wonder if it means I don't really have it all together? 

I am seriously beginning to think that the changes I'm going through are either a cause or effect of the really vivid dreams I'm having lately. In the dreams. Either the dreams are making me want and need the change, or the want and need for change is causing the dreams. It's no wonder I like to go to sleep at night, my thoughts can wander and I can slip into dreamland, where nothing is real but at least I can relax. 

All I know is that every day I'm trying to find myself and I'm not finding me, at least not the me I thought I'd find. And so I'm just going to keep searching.  I know, you'll tell me "just be content with what you have, quit searching and just let it be" but no, I can't do that. It's just not me. If I feel this way, there's a reason. I have to explore it, understand it and deal with it.  I just wonder what it will take to figure this out and when I do (and trust me I will), what will be my next step?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

As I get older, I look back on some of the interesting lessons I've learned in life...

Here's just a few of them:
  • Giving a teenager a beebee gun and saying "don't do anything stupid" is like dropping an alcoholic off at a bar and saying "now don't drink anything while I'm gone ok?"
  • Contrary to popular belief, beebees do not bounce off plate glass windows. And oh by the way, glass shatters. :D
  • Never start a story with "Back in St. Olaf..."
  • Never leave a musical instrument, even a rather large white one such as a tuba, sitting in the middle of the driveway. Cars are heavier than musical instruments. 'Nuff said!
  • It is very likely that wearing a dress on the same day as your underwear with the bad elastic is probably not the best idea. 
  • When your dad says, "grab the electric fence" to test if it works, he doesn't actually mean it. 
  • "Be careful the plate is hot" doesn't mean the first thing you do is touch the plate.
  • When a 93 year old woman tells you her jet black hair is real, it's a dye job. No matter what she says.
  • Your mother always hears you when you nutter under your breath. 
  • If you're going to run away from home, make it good. Pack a duffel bag, go cross country, don't just go across the street to the neighbor's house for cookies. That's just lame!
  • Most domesticated animals really don't think they look cute dressed up in your clothes. Actually non-domesticated animals would probably agree.
  • As a kid, you could literally do anything you wanted around your grandparents.
  • Your parents hated that when you were a kid, you did anything you wanted around your grandparents!
  • When your mother says, "I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap" she means it!
  • Eating spaghetti after having your mouth washed out with soap....well let's just say soap is not a great choice of appetizer and leave it at that.
  • Teenagers: never show your dad your fake ID and say "cool, eh pop?"
  • Never call your fourth grade teacher a "red headed witch" to her face. Do it behind her back!
  • Getting paddled regularly in school is not a rite of passage.
  • By the way, that lady you gave the finger to in traffic today after she pulled out in front of you and nearly caused a wreck...she's your Commanding Officer's wife.
  • Cemeteries really aren't the best places to meet people. 
  • Contrary to popular belief, animals are not people too.
  • When you're telling a joke that starts with "A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a whorehouse..." be sure the guy you're telling it to is not the pastor of the local Baptist church. 
  • "Shady Pines, Ma" gets her quiet every time! 
  •  If you don't call your mother at least once a week, you'll never hear the end of it.
  • A penny for your thoughts doesn't buy much anymore. Inflation, you know.
  • It is quite certain that there's a guilt gene handed down from Jewish grandmothers to their daughters and granddaughters. 
  • When it comes to movie sequels, the "third time" is not the charm!
  • Gay men cannot be turned straight. No matter how hard you try.
  • Even the popular girls in high school had problems too. No really, they did!
  • Sushi is gross.
  • It really is impossible to travel from Atlanta, Georgia to Texarkana, Texas and back with 400 cases of Coors in 28 hours.
  • Little sisters are adorable, that is until they become ruthless teenage bitches.
  • Warning: Drinking too many screwdrivers (the DRINK silly!) can make you puke. Volumes!
  • If you preface a secret to a friend with, "now don't tell anyone, ok?" maybe it means she's probably not the best choice for secrets?
  • "The Devil Made Me Do it" ....not the best excuse to use with the cops.
  • Even though "the other guy" breaks the law 20 times a day and doesn't get busted, the person who never breaks it, will get busted the first time. Guaranteed!
  • If you're going to be arrested, at least plan it for a day when your hair and makeup look really good. You only get one chance to take a great mugshot! Make it count!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Every morning I wake up with this song in my head.

It's George Strait's latest "Breath you take". I can't listen to it without getting teary-eyed. Maybe because it resonates so much with me especially at this time of my life.

He looks up from second base dad’s up in the stands
He saw the hit, the run, the slide there ain’t no bigger fan
In the parking lot after the game he said
“Dad I thought you had a plane to catch”
He smiled and said “Yeah son I did”

Life’s not the breath you take
The breathing in and out
That gets you through the day
Ain’t what it’s all about
You just might miss the point
Tryin' to win the race
Life’s not the breaths you take
But the moments that take your breath away

Fast forward fifteen years
And a thousand miles away
Boy’s built a life he’s got a wife
And a baby due today
He hears a voice saying “I made it son"
He said “I told you dad you didn’t have to come”
He smiles and says ”Yeah I know you did”

Life’s not the breath you take
The breathing in and out
That gets you through the day
Ain’t what it’s all about
You just might miss the point
Tryin' to win the race
Life’s not the breaths you take
But the moments that take your breath away

Just like it took my breath when she was born
Just like it took my breath away when dad took his last that morn

Life’s not the breath you take
The breathing in and out
That gets you through the day
Ain’t what it’s all about
You just might miss the point
If you don’t slow down the pace
Life’s not the breaths you take
But the moments that take your breath away

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Writers write for all kinds of reasons...

I write because it clears my head and helps me think things out rationally. I am not as good speaking what is on my mind as I am writing it. I do what I know how to do and I know I do it well. What I write isn't always rational or reasonable but it is honest. If I can't be honest, then what is the point? I'm doing this for me, it's good therapy and I don't have to pay for it. One of the fringe benefits is that occasionally I have something to say that actually helps someone else. I find that simply amazing.

Looking out the window right now it is dreary, gray, cold and damp. Given that information you may likely assume that whatever I'm about to write is the result of weather-related depression. I assure you it is not. Or maybe it is and I am in denial. If I say it's weather-related, that implies what I am feeling is not real, just a side effect. I do not know what has provoked today's thoughts but weather-related or not, they are my thoughts and as such, they are real. Very real, at least to me.

I used to laugh and call this thing I'm going through a mid-life crisis but really I don't think it's a crisis. A crisis implies chaos and I've never been a chaotic person. I like "metamorphosis" because that implies slow change. And whatever this is--it is definitely slow change. But it's good slow change so I'm ok with it.  I didn't ask for the change, but I'm certainly not fighting it anymore. I feel like I'm slowly morphing into a better person and what could more could a person want? And fighting it? Phooey! Sometimes in life we just have to realize when and where we have control and when and where we don't. This is one of those moments and believe me I've learned over the years that fighting destiny never works. Besides, fighting it will make me chaotic, going with the flow ensures a smooth transition into whatever being I am about to become. Actually it's kind of fun watching the whole thing unravel. Now, it may be kind of fun for me, but certainly not for others! :)

With this change comes all sorts of interesting discoveries. I have discovered that there are things I once thought were important, are not important now.

Take politics for example. In regards tor political views I've changed quite a bit over the years. I'm not a liberal or a conservative, rather I'm an independent. When I was younger I was an idealistic Democrat, then I became an idealistic Republican. But then I realized I was neither. Oh don't get me wrong, I was always (and still am) idealistic, but I'm not either of those political persuasions. I hate being labeled left or right. I'm an Independent. Labeling myself as such fits my personality since as a Libra I've always been a compromise seeking, placating, centrist. I find that sometimes I agree with my Democrat friends, other times my Republican friends, and yet other times--neither. One thing I stay firm with through all the agreements and disagreements is my values. Those need not be compromised in order to agree or disagree. I have found that politics makes strange bedfellows and I love that I have so many friends from differing political views. I value my friendships and family relationships over politics any day.

I've also discovered that what I am looking for in people, especially friends, is far different. I accept fallibility now much more than I ever did before because I finally realized that there's no way I can be infallible. Human beings have weaknesses and faults, we make mistakes. This unhealthy search for perfection is insane because it doesn't exist. One thing that is important though that I look for are people who contribute to my life in positive ways, not negative. Anyone that brings me down gets kicked to the curb (in a nice way). Life is too short to be surrounded by people who bring me down. That is true, or at least it should be, for all of us. Think of our much better our lives would be if we just set aside the people who cause us the most pain. Not saying it's easy because there are times these are people you really care about. But...nobody is going to look out for you the way you will. And if you get one shot at life, you need to make it count. We all do.

Slowly but surely I am discovering that what I once wanted out of life is not what I want now. I've always had a problem deciding the course of my career path. I'm definitely a Libra, in an attempt to make a decision, we weigh everything carefully. Sometimes we weigh things so often we have a difficult time making any sort of decision. Anyway, I digress. On the "to be or not to be" list  I know now the "not to be" includes a few more things including teaching. I think it would be great to teach high school history but seriously, by the time I finish my degrees, by the time I get certified, I am not going to want to do it. Being a teacher also includes being a babysitter, referee, policeman, counselor and all kinds of stuff I just don't want to be. I really don't want to parent someone else's

Another of the great discoveries, though I don't think I can actually call it a discovery as much as I can call it just plain and simple old fashioned change. It's called speaking my mind, tactfully of course, but speaking it nonetheless. For years, the term speaking my mind was akin to the old muttering under my breath to mom as she sent me to my room (she always heard what we said!).  Speaking up isn't about just muttering under my breath "you suck" it's more like just telling people how you feel about things, about them. I'm no longer intimidated, not that I ever was but there were moments when I was concerned about speaking my mind for fear of retribution or loss of respect. Then I figured out people may actually respect you if you just be honest with them. When I am able to just speak my mind openly to someone about something that is bothering me, I feel like I can put the issue to rest and move on, without regret or harboring ill feelings. Life is too short to let stuff fester because you don't want to piss anyone off.

You know what? This is funny. I was just thinking...what problem was it I was trying to solve when I first began writing this post? I guess I must have solved it and didn't even realize it. LOL!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Outrageous earmarks in the Omnibus bill

For the record, there are 6,714 earmarks, totaling a whopping $8,313,820,025 in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.  Yep you heard it--over $8 billion! 

Click here to view the excel spreadsheet listing all of the earmarks including amounts, descriptions, and sponsors.  (The spreadsheet is safe, it's an official listing, no viruses or trojans).

You can also view this info as well as the number of earmarks per sponsor at Jamie Dupree's "Washington Insider" blog .

Beware, it's a long, long list.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Believing America is great = arrogant and misplaced idealism?

I read a post on a friend's facebook today, it was written by a friend of hers. The discussion had to do with his statement that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. He asked me what good flowed from American freedom and said he pitied me if I think I live in freedom here in America  (he lives in the UK). He thinks we look at our freedom as all about consumption. It's so much more than that, he could never understand.

I don't know this guy and I wasn't going to get into a pissing contest with him especially since I didn't know him and since it would have been disrespectful on my friend's page. But I can't deny he was pissing me off with his anti-American rhetoric about my "arrogant and misplaced idealism." Rather than possibly get angry enough to say something rude, I told him we had to agree to disagree and move on. Which is of course when he made the arrogant and misguided comment.

I don't deny that the "system" we have here is somewhat flawed. Freedom has its price as does capitalism.We can't live in a utopia, it doesn't exist and it shouldn't exist. Our system can only be as perfect as the human beings creating and running it. Man is fallible and prone to making mistakes and so our system will be imperfect. I accept that.

I choose freedom over oppression or socialism any day of the week and I would rather live in this country than in any other. With all our flaws here, it still beats countries where women are treated as second class citizens, where they are abused, tortured and murdered for being raped or committing adultery or where young girls are forced into marriage at a young age. It still beats living in a nation where the government controls the press. It still beats living in a nation where the secret police can pull you out of your home at any moment and nobody ever sees you again. It still beats living in a nation where the government dictates every single facet of your life and where holy leaders and religious fanatacism is the rule of law. With all our flaws America is still a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. Why on earth would millions want to move here every year if it weren't so?

Freedom offers opportunity, ingenuity, creativity, prosperity, and hope. Oppression does none of that.  It's as simple as that.

There's this assumption by many who live outside America that because we Americans think our country is great, that somehow we dislike people from other nations or think we are better than them. That's not true. I think our system of government is the best in the world, but we're comparing governments not people.There are billions of people on this planet, and so many of them are good and decent people.  Living in a free nation does not mean the people of that nation are overall better than the people in any other nation.

I love my country and I cherish my freedom. So long as I do not act in a manner that violates someone else's civil rights (fair enough) I can pretty much do what I want. I'm free to blog my views and opinions without the government arresting me. I'm free to write letters to the editor under my own name without the secret police knocking on my door. I am free to seek an education, major in anything I want, be anything I want, and make as much money as I want. I can vote for any candidate of my choice and I can worship in whatever way I choose.

If being proud to be American and appreciating my freedom and thinking it's all pretty damn GREAT makes me arrogant and misguided, so be it.  I'll take it any day over the alternative.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What was your moment?

I would like to think that every one of us has experienced a moment in our lives when another person said or did something that inspired us. That inspiration may have led us in any number of directions. While some may have been inspired to make changes in their own lives, others may have been inspired to do something that changed the lives of others. Inspiration comes in many forms and can have many different results. To be inspired by someone is an amazing thing, but to inspire is even greater.

I would find it very interesting to hear the many stories from people from all walks of life who have inspired and/or been inspired. I think it would make a great book, don't you?

Who do we put first? Ourselves or others?

I'm conflicted.

Who do we put first? Ourselves or others?

Do we put aside the things we want and need so that others can have what they want and need?

Or do we say "this is my life, I'll do what I want."

I'm conflicted.

But you already know that.

DH and I commute to and from work together, we do our grocery shopping and errands on the way home from work. On the weekends, I like to just chill out and be home. Generally I have homework and since it is difficult to stay up too late on weeknights doing it, I catch up on it on the weekends. Also, I just like being home--it's relaxing to me. I spend most hours of my workdays solving other people's problems and at the end of the day I am  mentally exhausted. This doesn't mean DH's job doesn't exhaust him too, but not being the one who does his job I cannot speak about the details as well as I can my own. While I love people, on the weekends, on my time, I don't want to be around them. Weekends are my time to regenerate.

There are many times DH will want to go somewhere on the weekends and I'll politely decline. While I like being home and relaxing and getting done things I need to get done, it doesn't eliminate the pangs of guilt I sometimes feel for declining. One part of me thinks I should do what I want and part of me thinks I should sacrifice and do something he wants to do. Sometimes I compromise, most other times I do not. I come back to thinking that this is my life and I should not have to do something I don't want to do.

Today was a difficult situation. Weeks ago DH asked me if I wanted to go to Tallahassee to the Antique Car Museum. I've been there with him three times, it's an awesome place. But after three trips, I don't find anything interesting about it anymore. I mean, how many times can you look at the same old antique cars? Well, because I knew DH would get upset if I did not go, I relented and told him I would. I figured sometimes we do things we don't want to do, if it makes others happy. Isn't that the way it works?  I have a guilty conscience what can I say? Besides, he said that we were going to this historic antebellum town we read about near Tallahassee, I thought as a History major I might enjoy that.

Last night I went to bed late because I was up studying till about 11 pm. this morning when the alarm went off, I went back to sleep. I did eventually get up thirty minutes before we were supposed to leave and he got annoyed when I wasn't ready in time. Finally I told him to go by himself, that I didn't want to go anyway. So he left and I while I felt bad, I was relieved. I could spend a peaceful day studying my notes for the Journalism final and he could go and do whatever he wanted to do. Still, while I am actually glad I did not go, I can't help but feel guilty. Putting myself in DH's shoes, what if he doesn't like going places by himself? He seems happy to go by himself most places, he loves to railfan (watching trains) and other places by himself. Maybe he's indifferent to whether or not I go with him. If he is, he'll never tell me.  He told me this morning that he wanted me to go to Tallahassee because he knew I would enjoy it. So was he doing it for himself? Or for me?

Don't get me wrong, occasionally I am known to do things I don't want to do, for the benefit of others. Take Thanksgiving for example. I didn't want to go to my brother's house, nothing to do with him, just that I wanted to be home. I had a ton of homework and research to do and would have much rather cooked a turkey at my house for the two of us. But months earlier, I had told mom I would take her and grams to bro's house and when mom couldn't go, there was no one else to take grams. Grams can drive at 93 but we thought it best she not have to make the 1 1/2 hour drive by herself.  DH knew I did not want to go, yet I did it anyway. I simply said, "I told mom I would do it, I can't not take grams."

I am sure that was on his mind today. And he would have been right to be angry. In one situation, I did something I didn't initially want to to, for my grandmother and mother, but in another situation I did not make that sacrifice for him. This leads me to be very apprehensive about making any commitments to anyone, anymore, about anything. If I refrain from making promises or commitments to anyone, nobody gets hurt. I have to stand my ground and say "I'm sorry but I cannot do it..." whatever "it" is and be honest about it and stand my ground.

Is that wrong?

I am not a selfish person by nature. Throughout my life, I've been the kind of person to do things for others without asking for anything in return. It just seems that as I get older, I like to think about myself first. I guess it's self-preservation mode kicking in. This does not mean I don't care about others, I do. It's just that what matters to me and what is important to me personally is now an important part of the decision making process in my life. To be honest, this is one of those moments I miss being single when it really was "all about me" although in those days, even though I didn't have to account to anyone else, there were occasional issues of guilt, usually related to family. Being single doesn't eliminate that, believe me.

No one can tell me if I am right or wrong here, it is just something I need to sort out. Maybe I'll never sort it out. Maybe it's not even something that needs sorting out. Maybe it just is what it is.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Obama forgets the Coast Guard...

I am not at all pleased when the President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces forgets that there are FIVE armed military services. Recently President Obama thanked the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, but he forgot to thank the Coast Guard for their service in Afghanistan.  Yes, you heard it...Afghanistan. The Coast Guard is armed and ready and serving everywhere. In fact when it was brought up that he missed the Coast Guard, he seemed surprised they were even there.

For those who don't know...the USCG was founded August 4, 1790 and is the oldest seagoing service (the Navy Dept was not established until 1798) and one of the oldest organizations in the federal government. Known previously as the Revenue Cutter Service and Revenue Marine, it eventually earned the name United States Coast Guard in 1915. At that time its sole service was maritime law enforcement and rescues at sea.

Through the years the USCG picked up additional responsibilities including operation the nation's lighthouses, merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety ops. The Coast Guard has been a participant in every war the US has fought in since 1790. The USCG operates under the Department of Homeland Security in peacetime and under the Department of the Navy in wartime, at the direction of the President. 

Signalman Douglas Munroe won the Medal of Honor for sacrificing his life to save marines trapped on a beach at Guadalcanal.  In recent years, the Coast Guard has been more active than ever before. The Coast Guard rescued over 33,000 people after Hurricane Katrina. The Coast Guard coordinated the "largest maritime evacuation in history on 9/11" when it coordinated boats to move half a million people off lower Manhattan after the collapse of the Towers.  Armed Coast Guard vessels patrolled the shores 24/7 after 9/11.  Since its creation, the USCG has saved a million lives including 300,000 illegal immigrants.

The Coast Guard is everywhere. We participate in military missions, port security, aids to navigation, environmental disaster response, drug enforcement operations, maritime law enforcement, icebreaking, ship safety inspections, search and rescue, just to name a few of our responsibilities.  The Coast Guard has been an important part of this nation's maritime and military history. Coastie men and women have given their lives and sacrificed much to serve their country.

That's your history lesson for today. Like my fellow Coasties past, present and future, I am honored to have served. I don't need the President to thank me to feel good about my accomplishments in the USCG, but it would have been nice for him to at least acknowledge the sacrifices these brave men and women make every single day.