Actions Have Consequences

This is the 13th piece in my series “A Changing Country”

“No incident, however seemingly trivial, is unimportant in the scheme of things. One event leads to another, which triggers something else and before you know where you are, the ramifications spread far and wide throughout History … Every little action has huge consequences.” ~ Jodi Taylor

Throughout 2020 America has seen its fair share of issues. In looking for the causes, there’s been a lot of finger pointing. The problem with this is that everyone’s to blame and no one is held accountable. Everyone from our leaders to ordinary citizens have forgotten that when we point a finger at someone, we have three more pointing at ourselves. We forget that there are consequences for our actions. 

Let’s look at the consequences of some of our and our elected leaders actions over the last few months. No, these aren’t some right or left wing conspiracy theories. They are the logical consequences of actions that have or will take place. 

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COVID Spike

In an earlier piece, I said that we’ve heard our elected leaders and mainstream media hyperventilate about the spike in new cases. I also said that we are testing more people, most of which do not even know they are or have been sick. Plus most people who do get sick recover.

We saw the biggest surge of new cases occur in the month of June. The CDC has said the incubation period for COVID is between two days and 14 days. Of the many different reasons for the spikes, there is one that gets little to no attention. Thinking of what was going on at the time, the cause for that spike is obvious. 

After the death of George Floyd on May 25, protests erupted across the country. While much of the country was still shut down, thousands of protesters filled the streets. Few if any of them wore masks and there was no social distancing. If just one person in that crowd had COVID and they coughed, sneezed or shouted, the droplets spread to others nearby. Those people then went home and spread it to the people they live with or other people they came in contact with in their communities. 

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COVID lockdown affect 

We know that closing businesses large and small has had a devastating effect on both the employees and the people who own them. As I write this roughly nine months since the lockdowns began, many businesses are either still closed or will be closing again because of a spike in new cases in those communities. However, each day a business is closed during its normal operating hours, they not only lose revenue that pays for food, utilities and rent or mortgage for their family but also for;

  1. Rent or mortgage for that business’s space,
  2. Inventory, 
  3. Insurance, 
  4. Local, state and federal taxes,
  5. Utilities to the keep the lights on,
  6. Employee wages,
  7. Employee benefits.

Every day, week and month that business is closed, it falls further and further behind in the ability to pay for these things. Some owners have a nest egg for occasions like this, but many do not. Even those who have a little money stashed away have had a hard time hanging on for some ambiguous plan or timeline for reopening. Reopening at anything less than 50% capacity adds insult to injury. They still have to pay 100% of the bills. As a result, many businesses have permanently closed leaving their employees jobless.

But it doesn’t end there. The longer these businesses remain closed, the more likely the effects ripple throughout the community. The uncertainty of income along with the inability to pay bills and feed their families has plunged millions of Americans into poverty. This has driven many people, business owners and employees, to drug/alcohol addiction and/or commit suicide.

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Law and Order 

When the peaceful and violent protests over the death of George Floyd broke out this spring, one of the chants that was the loudest was to defund the police. So what would happen if law enforcement in America just, POOF, disappeared right now, today? To answer this, you don’t need to look any further than your TV, the newspaper, a magazine or your social media newsfeed. Some people only need to look out their window – if they even dare to. 

We know that law enforcement protects us from criminals. When they arrest criminals and the justice system punishes them, crime goes down. Without law enforcement to arrest them and a legal system willing to punish them, criminals are emboldened to rob, rape, and murder people in those communities. As crime goes up, bullets fly and drugs flow into our communities with ease. 

As I said in my previous post, many of our leaders don’t support the police in their communities. Instead they demoralize, demonize and disparage them and have told them to stand down amid the riots. Between having their hands tied, heavy scrutinization, lack of funds and staff shortages, cities across the country have seen unprecedented numbers of police officers retire early or quit altogether. Unfortunately, this also emboldens criminals along with everyday citizens to disrespect law enforcement as well as break the law. 

And let’s not forget the police officers who have been attacked and killed simply protecting and serving the communities they love.

I also said in my previous post, when money is taken away from law enforcement, that’s less money to pay their salaries as well as equipment and training for them. That means fewer officers, less training and equipment. Many of the elected leaders who have defunded law enforcement have also mandated that masks be worn anytime people are in public, prohibited more than a certain number of people gathering or they’ve reinstated lockdowns. If people in these communities defy these draconian orders, the police are sent to arrest them. 

Hey, wait a minute. I can be arrested for violating an unconstitutional draconian “law” but not for destroying our communities? Police officers can’t be trusted to arrest a murderer, rapist, drug dealer or thief, but they can be trusted to arrest me if I refuse to wear a mask, go to church or open my business to feed my family? Am I missing something? 

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The void left behind 

As I said, when there are fewer police officers patrolling the streets, crime goes up. To protect their businesses and families, people will purchase guns to protect themselves, their family and their property. The downfall is that most of these people will be untrained in the proper use of a firearm. Those who don’t want to buy a gun are vulnerable to being extorted for protection, usually by criminals(Hmm, sounds a lot like paying taxes). 

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The economic effect of the riots

If you’ve seen or read about the violence that’s rocked cities coast to coast, I’ll bet you haven’t thought about what happens when the news crews leave, the last embers burn out and the violence passes. 

In the wake of the protests, many businesses big and small that barely hung on through COVID have been completely finished off by the riots. They have been broken into and vandalized while most if not all of the merchandise has been stolen. In many cases, businesses have been burned to the ground. Those businesses were not only owned by rich white people, they were also owned by rich minorities as well as struggling whites and minorities. Those owners and their employees depend on the profits from that business to pay their bills and feed their families. 

When asked the reasons for their actions, I heard a few responses. A couple of the more ignorant ones were, “They have insurance,” or “It’s a form of reparations.” Really?! Let’s look at each of these excuses.

Let’s start with the “reparations” excuse. What did that store owner do to you or your ancestors? How does destroying a store owned by a family of color make-up for the injustices that happened to your ancestors? What if that African American store owners’ ancestors were slaves? What did that immigrant have to do with your ancestors? What if that white person’s ancestors fought against slavery or helped your ancestors get to freedom? Are you sure your ancestors were even slaves?

The “They have insurance” excuse. Ok, that’s true, however, insurance only covers so much. If the owner can’t afford to start over, they won’t reopen. If it can afford to start over, chances are it reopens in another location that is safer. 

Whether that business stays in that community or moves to a safer location, their insurance rates will most likely go up. To make up for the insurance increase, the loss not covered by insurance, pay the bills(ie taxes and utilities), pay their employees and at least break even, that business will be forced to raise their prices of their goods and services. 

This applies to businesses big and small. And it won’t happen to just one business. Multiple businesses in a community will decide to either reopen in the same location, move to a safer location or close altogether. 

When public property is destroyed(ie police cars, courthouses, etc), who pays for that? Yes, there is federal and state funding to cover the cost, but do you know where that money comes from? Every citizen who lives in that community and/or state and pays taxes; ie federal income, state income, social security, property, school, death, etc. Whether you live, work or purchase goods and services in that community and/or state, the taxes you pay will increase whether it comes out of your paycheck, when you file your annual taxes or pay the tax on the goods and services you buy. 

What happens next will be a domino effect. 

Whether the cause is COVID, high taxes or the riots, people who can afford it will flee big cities and states where their family is safe, they can find employment and won’t have to pay astronomical taxes. This leads to less foot traffic and fewer tourists in those communities which will compound the problem even more. If too many businesses leave and reopen somewhere else, that community will become a ghost town. Those who can’t afford to move are left behind and may turn to a life of crime just to feed their family. As the downward spiral continues, people will lose hope and turn to addiction as a way to cope or worse – they commit suicide. 

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If you’ve read this far, you probably feel pretty hopeless about the state of your community and the country as a whole. I assure you, there is hope. As I’ve said before, as long as the human heart beats, there’s always hope. We can fix things and get back on the right track. 

To fix or prevent the worst case scenario in our communities coast to coast, there are a number of things we can do. We first need to elect the right leaders. Who are the right leaders? They are the ones who stand up for American values. They aren’t career politicians who haven’t accomplished anything positive during their career. They are not lying hypocrites. They work for you and me, not their rich donors. They believe every American is free to achieve their dream irregardless of their skin color, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, religion, political beliefs or anything else that distinguishes us from the person next to us. The right leader strives to make and then lays the groundwork to make our country better for future generations.

Thought for the day: Make your voice heard. Cast your vote. 

Be sure to read more of my posts

Violent Protests and Riots in America

This is the 12th piece in my series “A Changing Country”

Terrorist. “… someone who uses violence, mayhem, and destruction – or the threat of those things – to coerce people or countries into taking a certain action … Great fear is exactly what terrorists hope to create so they can manipulate the situation to their benefit.”(vocabulary(dot)com). 

We all remember the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man who died May 25 while in police custody. In the weeks and months that followed, peaceful protests broke out nationwide – and rightfully so. 

Unfortunately, in recent years mass mobs of angry young people dressed in black have come from other cities and states, infiltrated the peaceful protests and caused them to descend into riots. They hijacked the message “Black Lives Matter” and changed it to “America sucks and needs to be destroyed at all costs”. Slogans like “Defund the police” and others, many of which are not fit for print, have been chanted.

But you won’t hear about this from mainstream media. 

So, what has the response been from the elected leaders in those cities and states? They have been complicit as our cities are being destroyed. They’ve abdicated their responsibility to protect their constituents and instead disparaged, demoralized, degraded and demonized law enforcement. In the face of the angry mobs, many of those leaders have told law enforcement to stand down. Some have even prohibited the use of non-lethal weapons to disperse the crowds or defend themselves. They’ve even answered the demands to defund the police. 

Another thing I’ve seen are articles that blame law enforcement for the spike in violence. Take for example an October 23 article I found on the amnesty(dot)org website titled “USA: Police failing to protect protesters from violence, as volatile elections near”. In it the author describes how law enforcement agencies at all levels have neglected to;

“Deploy appropriately trained police in adequate numbers … 

“Separate protests and counter-protests, and de-escalate tensions … 

“Halt acts of violence by intervening in disputes between protesters and counter-protesters … “

In the article, Brian Griffey, regional researcher and advisor for North America at Amnesty International was quoted saying, “Government authorities and the police forces they direct must adopt new policies, strategies, and tactics to facilitate and protect peaceful protests, and prevent their disruption by armed groups or other violent actors … ”

The author continues by saying, “Among the incidents documented by Amnesty International, over a dozen protests and counter-protests erupted in violence with police either mostly or entirely absent from the scene … 

“US government and law enforcement authorities at all levels must reform their police forces’ policies and practices to better facilitate freedom of peaceful assembly and protect protesters from widespread threats of preventable violence.”

Perhaps the author forgot that a number of cities and states have taken steps to defund law enforcement. News flash! It takes money to train law enforcement and to pay their salaries. You can’t take money from them then turn around and say they need to be “appropriately trained” and “deployed in adequate numbers”. It just doesn’t work that way. Plus, as I said earlier, they’ve been disparaged, demoralized, degraded and demonized. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t do my job duties or stay at a job if my boss did that to me? Would you?  

Another response from those elected leaders and mainstream media is to claim the protests are “largely peaceful” or deny their existence altogether. They blame white supremacists and, in the case of Antifa, they call them an “idea”. I’ll never forget one news segment I saw where a reporter was in the field covering the unrest this summer. The banner at the bottom of the screen said, “Largely Peaceful Protest” as stores were being looted and a building was on fire behind him. 

That was a “peaceful protest”?! Tell me, since when do peaceful protesters light businesses on fire or hurl molotov cocktails, bricks, bottles filled with urine, feces or frozen water among other things at law enforcement? How does an “idea” barricade police officers inside their precinct and proceed to light it on fire in Seattle, WA, Portland, OR and Aurora, CO? Yes, that did actually happen.

Many people say these people are exercising their first amendment right. That’s hogwash. The first amendment says, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people PEACEABLY to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The key word in this amendment is “PEACEABLY”. It guarantees your right to PEACEFULLY protest. It does not give you the right to vandalize, loot or burn someone’s business to the ground. 

And what about the residents of these cities that are rocked by violence? I’ll bet you thought they have rights too. Nope. Think again. The residents of these cities have watched helplessly as businesses big and small have been vandalized, looted and burned to the ground. As if COVID lockdowns didn’t destroy enough businesses, these domestic terrorists finished them off. Yes. I called them terrorists. Reread the opening quote for clarification. Many people in these cities are too scared to look out their window after dark, say nothing about leaving their homes. 

Want to have a nice socially distanced dinner with your friends or family on the sidewalk of your favorite restaurant that just reopened at 25% capacity after the COVID lockdown? Forget it. You’ll be accosted, bullied and harassed by disrespectful activist brats who don’t even live in your state all in the name of social justice. They’ll demand that you raise a fist in solidarity. If any of their demands are not met, the mob verbally and/or physically assaults or “cancels” you altogether. 

Have an emergency and need to call 911? Don’t bother. Law enforcement usually accompanies firefighters and paramedics to secure the scene. Fewer police officers to go to the scene means longer wait times for firefighters and paramedics – if they are even able to go. You or someone in your family having a heart attack? Take care of it yourself. Someone came into your store or broke into your home and held you at gunpoint while robbing you? Too bad. You’re on your own. 

So what’s the answer? What can be done about the violence? There are a couple of things we can do.

The first thing we can do is show support for law enforcement in our communities. When we cross paths with an officer, thank them for their service – even if you get pulled over for a traffic infraction. Any gesture big or small gives them the spark of hope to continue protecting and serving our communities. 

We can also flood our elected leaders physical and virtual mail boxes. Tell them you will not tolerate the violence in your community anymore. Tell them you’re tired of them abdicating their responsibility to protect you, your family, your property and your streets. Use strong words, but keep it clean. When you swear or threaten someone with whom you disagree, you invalidate any point you attempt to make and lose credibility. If that doesn’t work, don’t vote for that person if they run for re-election. 

Finally, we can stand up to these mobs instead of giving into them. I’m not suggesting that you do this alone, but if we gather our friends and neighbors we can do it together – peacefully of course. Never forget that you live in America. You have the same exact rights as everyone else does irregardless of your skin color, creed, religion, socioeconomic status, age, etc.

Thought for the day: “And if you don’t do this and if I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” ~ Ronald Reagan, former president 

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read some of my other posts

Follow Your Path

This is the 11th in the series “A Changing Country”. I was going to save this one for last, but the other posts are not ready yet.

“Follow your Path to the Water, the Source of Life sustaining, Thirst Quenching Water. Gather your Water upstream from others, so you are gathering Pure, unpolluted Water. Others may try to show you where to go for Water….’The pure Water is over here.’…..’The pure Water is there.’….Each one of us needs to find our own Spring,our own well,our own Source of pure Water….unpolluted, with no additives….” ~ Doug 

This was something one of my mentors wrote before he passed away. It reminds me of the expression “Ipsa scientia potestas est” by Francis Bacon. It translates to “Knowledge itself is power” which means that the more one knows, the more one will be able to control events. Information, or having knowledge, sustains a society just as water sustains life. Allow me to explain.

Since humans began to roam the Earth, each of us was born with a free will. We have the choice to say, do or believe whatever we want. With that in mind, we, by and large, are also fairly easily manipulated. 

As we began to trade something of value for a product or service, merchants promoted their goods and services. “No, don’t buy that stuff, mine is better,” or “My services are better than that person.” We ask our family and friends about their experience with it. Next, we try it out. To decide if like the product or service, we weigh the pros and cons to determine if it actually performed like it claimed to.

In politics we have the same thing, but now we not only weigh the pros and cons and get input from family and friends, we also get opinions, information and misinformation from politicians, mainstream media, internet and social media. On top of that entertainers who put in their two cents. All of these people tell us how we should live, what we should say and how we should think. We are inundated with this information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This includes nights, weekends and holidays.

As I watch the media in all its forms these days, I see how our country has become so divided. I see and hear things like, “You believe ‘X’? You’re a racist!” “You think ‘Y’ is right? You’re a misogynist!” “You must do ‘this’ to show solidarity or else we’ll do ‘that’ to you and your family!” Now, you’re probably wondering how someone can say these things about you. They know nothing about you. They don’t need to know anything about you. They’re right and you’re wrong and rather than have a civil discussion about anything, you are called names in an effort to intimidate and silence you.

Shouting you down is another intimidation tactic. And if you STILL don’t comply or agree with what they say, they will either physically beat you, “cancel” you or destroy your reputation until you submit. Some people have lost their jobs because they disagreed with their coworkers. These are all ways of taking away our First Amendment Right – Freedom of Speech – the very foundation of America. 

Wait a minute. Didn’t I say each of us is free to do, say or think what we want?

These are some things you don’t see anymore; civil discourse, substantive discussion and debate. No one says, “I disagree with you because of ‘this’ reason” or “You’re wrong because of ‘that’ reason”. We would rather shout our opponents down, bully, “cancel” or beat them up until we get them to submit to our viewpoint. This is antithetical to the foundation of this country. 

You can clearly see this if you look at different media outlets. It makes no difference if it’s on tv, in print, on social media or the internet. If you don’t believe me, try this easy and safe experiment. I’m sure most of you read, watch or listen to the news from certain outlets for whatever reason. And of course that’s your prerogative. I want you to go to another news outlet and read, watch or listen to what they report, but you need to keep an open mind. For example, if you watch MSNBC, turn the channel to Fox News. If you read the New York Times then read Epoch Times. You get the idea. 

If you choose to do this, the first thing you’ll notice is that there are sharp contrasts between the media outlets. One side focuses on one narrative while the other side focuses on another narrative. Each side will call you names, however, one side is more likely to call you every “ist” or “anti” name in the dictionary than the other. This doesn’t just happen in the news. It’s trickled down through our leaders, entertainers and social media to you and me. 

This exercise demonstrates one very important lesson I’ve learned through the years. It is that there’s one side of the truth, the other side of the truth and somewhere between the two sides is the real truth. What we as individuals need to do is decide which is unbiased truth and which is biased fiction. To figure out which is real news and which is fake news. Sometimes this is very hard to do. Even I can’t tell you what is the truth. Well, I could tell you what I think is the truth, but I could be wrong. 

So, how do we find the truth amidst all the noise? One thing that helps is stepping back and quieting your mind. Remove all of your emotions and whatever you think you know about the topic, then start researching. Before you start researching the topic, look at the sources available to you. With little effort you can find which source can be trusted to give you the facts. To decide who is telling the truth, apply some common sense by asking yourself if what you’re hearing or reading makes sense. Then ask yourself why “this” source says “these” things and “that” source says “those” things?

As we fast approach another election, many of us are either undecided or torn for whom we should vote. We hear all kinds of things about each candidate from news anchors, pundits, entertainers and social media as well as our family and friends. “You should vote for ‘this’ person for ‘this’ reason”, “No, you need to vote for ‘that’ person for ‘that’ reason.” Our minds start reeling with everything we hear. We ask ourselves, “Who’s right and who’s wrong?” To make matters worse, our emotions get in the way. We may be dedicated lifelong members of one political party, but we feel that the candidate in the other party aligns with our views more than our party’s candidate.

So who do we believe? Who do we vote for on election day? 

As I said, I can’t tell you or anyone else who you should vote for. It is up to each of you to decide, but to make an informed decision, you first need to become informed. You need to “gather your water upstream”. To do this, follow the suggestions I gave you a moment ago.

There are a couple more things I can suggest to help you decide. Research each candidate, what they stand for and their policies. Do they flip flop on their stated policies depending on how the wind blows? If you are re-electing someone, ask yourself if they have followed through on their campaign promises. Also, as boring as it may be, watch/listen to each candidate as they give their speeches, do news conferences, do town halls and the upcoming debates  – in their entirety. I mean REALLY listen to them. Some news channels broadcast them live from beginning to end. If they don’t, I’m sure you can find a video of their speech online somewhere. 

While you do these things, don’t forget to keep an open mind and apply some common sense.

In the end, if you choose to follow these suggestions, you will have the knowledge to make an informed decision. If your decision is the opposite of what others have told you or your political party, that’s ok. Take that knowledge with you to the voting booth, cast your vote and feel confident that you made an informed decision. Remember, “Ipsa scientia potestas est”(Knowledge itself is power).

Thought for the day: Don’t allow others to tell you that they’re information is right. Do the research for yourself. Seek out the truth in the sea of lies and misinformation. 

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts

Big Tech Censorship

This is the 10th piece in my series “A Changing Country”

“Big Brother is Watching You.” ~ George Orwell

In my high school English classes, we were required to read certain books. God, how I hated reading a book that didn’t interest me! As with many other things I learned back then, I didn’t see how I would need any of that information as an adult. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would one day revisit any of those novels, especially George Orwell’s 1949 novel titled “Nineteen eighty-four”. 

There are very few books I remember reading, let alone the plots of the ones I do remember reading. This one, however, I never forgot. Probably because of the above quote. It painted a picture of a future that scared me. The idea of “Big Brother” watching me or anyone in the country seemed so foreign. At the time I read it, the internet and social media were still in their infancy. Since then, this idea has become more real with each passing day.

Of course it’s been a few years since I read “1984” and I needed a little refresher. Thankfully, CliffsNotes is available online. According to CliffsNotes, “Orwell wrote 1984 just after World War II ended[1949] wanting it to serve as a warning to his readers. He wanted to be certain that the kind of future presented in the novel should never come to pass, even though the practices that contribute to the development of such a state were abundantly present in Orwell’s time.

“Orwell lived during a time in which tyranny was a reality in Spain, Germany, the Soviet Union, and other countries, where government kept an iron fist (or curtain) around its citizens, where there was little, if any freedom, and where hunger, forced labor, and mass execution were common.” 

In the novel, Orwell describes an overarching entity called “Big Brother” who is, “a fusion of both Stalin[communist] and Hitler[nazi], both real and terrifying leaders, though both on opposite sides of the philosophical spectrum.”

Some of you may be familiar with the word “Orwellian”. If you’re not familiar with that word, it “…is most often used to talk about real-life situations that are reminiscent of this kind of state control and surveillance, called ‘Big Brother’ in the book[“1984”]. Any hint that our government is watching or listening to us as we make phone calls or do internet searches feels at least a little bit Orwellian.”(vocabulary(dot)com)

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I consider myself to be an influencer with a small, yet building following on social media over the last five years. While I mainly post positive and inspirational writing, I’ve found myself becoming more vocal in political matters the last couple of years. 

While watching the news one night, I saw a segment about Big Tech companies censoring American people from the president to the everyday person like myself. I heard about social media posts being removed, “false content warning” labels put on posts and people being locked out of their accounts. I also heard about “shadow banning” and “throttling”. Both terms essentially mean the same thing – Big Tech restricting or limiting the visibility of your content in search engines.

When the segment was over, I brushed it off thinking that would never happen here. This is America, land of the free and home of the brave, right? Our First Amendment gives us the right to speak freely doesn’t it?

We’ve known for years that Big Tech censors our posts under the guise of removing “hate speech” or “disinformation”. The problem is that these words are ambiguous. Your interpretation of them is different from my interpretation of them and vice versa. However, Big Tech overstepped their bounds. 

On October 14th, the fourth largest newspaper in the United States which has been in publication for 220 years was silenced. Why? Because they published an article on their website and their social media accounts that disagreed with Big Tech’s political views. The content of the story and the political leanings of all who were affected is in a sense is irrelevant. I’ll explain that in a moment. They also claim that the publication was spreading disinformation.  

Reportedly within minutes, Big Tech removed the story from the publication’s social media accounts. Others who shared the story to their social media platforms also had it removed or a form of false content warning label was put on the post. Some people were locked out of their accounts altogether – including that publication. As of this post, they have been locked out of their account for over a week and will reportedly remain locked out unless they delete six posts related to their original story. The same is true for other users. Their accounts are being held hostage unless those people delete their posts.

Our elected leaders and mainstream media haven’t been very helpful either. Rather than jump to defend the publication’s freedom of speech rights, they spun the story into something it’s not. Now they are spreading disinformation, however Big Tech didn’t punish . One news outlet even tweeted, “We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.”

Really? I’ve seen more articles and social media posts that were blatantly false and wasted my time than I care to admit. The point is that left or right, true or false, right or wrong, this stifling of free speech should concern everyone across the board. This is why I said that the content of the story and the political leanings of all who were affected is irrelevant. This should concern everyone no matter what your political viewpoint is. 

Another chilling thing happened in the last couple of weeks. After a congressional hearing ended, a Republican and a Democrat exchanged pleasantries. Since that exchange, the Democrat has been under attack. Members of that Democrat’s party are calling for their resignation. They are even seriously considering renaming a school that was named in honor of this Democrat. Why? It wasn’t because of differing views. It was because the Democrat dared to show one iota of deference towards their colleague with different political views.

There’s something I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a while. On social media, I am a member of numerous groups. In a few of those groups I am part of a team of people who approves or declines requests to join a group. Each group has their own criteria for membership. If you ask to join the group, we usually review your profile and, based on the group’s criteria, we approve or decline your request to join. Your political viewpoint is not part of the criteria. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen political posts that I vehemently disagree with, but I still approve the request. 

Why do I do that? Because of your First Amendment right. You are entitled to free speech as much as I am. The moment that freedom of speech is squelched is the moment we start going down a slippery slope. Where does it end? Does it end when all voices of opposition are silenced? If that’s the case, if America turns into the dystopian future that George Orwell wrote about 71 years ago, the American dream will die too.

In 1949, George Orwell could see how a world run by Hitler or Stalin would look. In 1989, that world was beginning to come into view as the internet and social media were beginning to grow. Was Orwell a soothsayer or did he just have an active imagination? Who knows, but one thing is certain, we have been rapidly heading towards the dystopian future that he describes in his book. The only difference is that “Big Brother” is not the government, although they do keep half an eye on us. No, the bigger threat to our freedoms is Big Tech. 

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts

Past Pandemic Stats

This is the 9th piece in my series of “A Changing Country”

The purpose of this post is not to compare COVID to other pandemics or the seasonal flu. It’s to put it in perspective – something we don’t hear. Here are the facts straight from the CDC and Worldometer website unless otherwise specified;

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1918 Spanish Flu

“The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian(bird) origin … It is estimated that about 500 million people … became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide(10%) with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.” 

Worldwide 10% of the 50 million people who were infected died. Note, this was before we started flying all over the world.

1918 Population: World – 1.8 billion, United States – 103.2 million

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The 1957 Asian Flu

“In February 1957, a new influenza A (H2N2) virus emerged in East Asia, triggering a pandemic (“Asian Flu”). This H2N2 virus was comprised of three different genes from an H2N2 virus … from an avian influenza A virus … The estimated number of deaths was 1.1 million worldwide and 116,000 in the United States.”

1957 Population: World – 2.87 billion, United States – 172 million

____________

The 1968 Hong Kong Flu

“The 1968 pandemic was caused by an influenza A (H3N2) virus comprised of two genes from (the) avian influenza A virus … (and other components from) the 1957 H2N2 virus … The estimated number of deaths was 1 million worldwide and about 100,000 in the United States.”

1968 Population: World – 3.53 billion, United States – 200.7 million

____________

Swine flu 

In 2009, swine flu(aka H1N1) re-emerged as a pandemic. The CDC estimates that, “From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million) … and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868-18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.”

The CDC also says that, “The H1N1 virus that caused that pandemic is now a regular human flu virus and continues to circulate seasonally worldwide.”

I’m no scientist or doctor, but logic tells me that the other flu strains also circulate seasonally. 

2009 Population: World – 6.84 billion, United States – 306.8 million

____________

Seasonal flu 

Millions of people are infected with the flu every year. Since seasonal flu is not routinely tested, there are no exact numbers.. Scientists have instead studied multiple factors and came up with an estimated range. A 2017 study indicated that 290,000-650,000 have died annually from flu related illness. Also in 2017, the CDC reported that approximately 80,000 deaths in the US, the highest mortality rate in decades.

2020 Population: World – 7.82 billion, United States – 331.59 million

____________

COVID-19

We often hear our leaders and news outlets hyperventilate about the spike in new cases of COVID. One thing they say is, “The US has more cases than the rest of the world!” While that may be true, let’s take a closer look at the stats from Worldometer as of October 16, 2020. The United States has had 8,219,123 confirmed cases and 222,754 deaths. Throughout the world there have been 39,249,697 confirmed cases and 1,104,122 deaths.

Now, let’s put this into perspective by pointing out what’s NOT widely reported; 

  1. We are testing far more than other countries,
  2. Many people in the US either asked to be tested or were tested incidentally. That’s not an option in most countries. 
  3. “Confirmed cases” are people who’ve tested positive for the virus. Many of the positive cases are asymptomatic(they have no symptoms). 
  4. The number of people who’ve recovered in the US is 5,320,386 and around the world 29,421,009 people have recovered. 
  5. While every death is heartbreaking, in both the United States and the world, just over 3% of people who’ve been infected have died.
  6. Of the 8,724,566 who are currently(October 16th) infected throughout the world, 8,653,644(99%) are having mild symptoms and 70,922(1%) are in serious or critical condition. 
  7. The vast majority of people who’ve died from COVID have been the elderly and people with certain pre-existing health conditions or comorbidities as I said in my previous post. 

There’s another thing that’s also not mentioned. The accuracy of the number of people who’ve died. While doing my research, I came across an interesting article on the Truman Tribune website by Leo Hohmann called “3 Biggest Lies About COVID-19”. In the article, one paragraph stood out. Hohmann writes;

“The authorities say this coro­navirus has killed 204,000 Americans, but those numbers don’t reflect the fact hospitals were directed by the CDC to be liberal in filling out death cer­tificates. Some doctors were so liberal they actually notched deaths from accidents, heart at­tacks and strokes as COVID-19 related and therefore COVID-19 caused. CDC estimates that only 6% of these 204,000 deaths have been caused by COVID-19 alone.”

And he is not alone. Other doctors have commented on this fact.

So, what does all of this tell us? It tells us that, yes, COVID is a serious illness, however past pandemics in the 20th century, aside from the 1918 pandemic, didn’t cause widespread lockdowns, business and school closures or mandated stay-at-home and mask orders. For as far back as I can remember, we’ve practiced things like hand washing, covering our mouths when we sneeze or cough and staying home if we’re sick. 

There’s another negative consequence that isn’t widely reported. Besides the psychological and economic fallout, we are actually hurting our immune systems. Before you go totally nuts on me, hear me out. 

A few years ago, I had a bad skin infection. When my doctor asked me about my infection control practices, I told him I washed my hands with either antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer. He said that was not a good idea. Here’s why;

  1. Just like the overuse of antibiotics has caused the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs“, so does antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer.
  2. Scientists theorize that our overly sanitized environment is one reason for an increase in allergies.
  3. Antibacterial soap doesn’t do any better of a job at preventing disease than regular soap.

Again, I’m not saying that COVID isn’t a threat to us. What I am saying is that the lockdowns, business and school closures, mandated mask orders and our overly sanitized environment may be causing more harm than good. When the threat of COVID is over and we go back to our normal ways of living, which I do believe will happen, logic tells me that we’ll have lowered immunity from common everyday viruses. 

Thought for the day: Yes, be aware that COVID can cause serious illness, but the human race has survived other pandemics. We will survive this one too.

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts.

Fear

This is the 8th piece in my series of “A Changing Country”

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt 

Fear. “An emotion experienced in anticipation of some specific pain or danger (usually accompanied by a desire to flee or fight).”(vocabulary(dot)com. It’s one of those feelings that we don’t like, we don’t want to talk about and we’ll be damned to admit we feel. The truth is that it’s normal and healthy to feel fear in our lives whether it’s fear of the dark, insects or reptiles, starting a new job, public speaking, any kind of change, losing a loved one and well, the list is endless. 

Fear can also be unhealthy. It can paralyze us and prevent us from doing things like making important life altering changes. Maybe we need to leave an abusive relationship or we need to start or change jobs. Maybe we need to make some other necessary changes in our life. 

Fear can also be the catalyst that can catapult us into something better, especially if we face our fears head on. 

At the same time, we also need to respect fear. If we don’t respect it, we go about our lives thinking nothing and no one can hurt us. We tend to get cocky, reckless or careless. Next thing you know, there’ll be that one time that it’ll pop into our life to remind us of who’s the boss. 

How we respond to and deal with our fears is what’s important.

Remember when you were young and you learned to ride a bike. Mom and dad did their best to walk alongside you, but when you felt more confident, you rode a little faster – too fast for your parents to keep up. Suddenly, something happened and you fell. When you got up, you probably had tears in your eyes and torn clothing. Then you felt the pain from the cuts and bruises on your legs and arms. Maybe you stomped your feet and scolded your parents for letting you fall. 

When your parents tried to get you back on your bike, you were afraid you would fall again. But you saw your friends riding their bikes so you got back on that bike and tried again. It might not have been that day or that week, but you eventually got back on. Over time you learned to ride without falling, or in my case, not falling as much.

So why am I including a piece about fear in this “A Changing Country” series?

Ever since COVID was taken seriously in America, we have been living in fear. As we heard whispers of lockdowns, we were afraid of running out of food and other essential items. Then the lockdowns became a reality. You remember the drill. At first it was 15 days to slow the spread and flatten the curve, then it became 30 days, two months and four months.

At that point, our worst nightmares came true. Not only were we afraid of running out of stuff, we were also afraid of catching the virus and spreading it to our loved ones. On top of that we were afraid we would run out of money to pay bills and buy the things we needed to live. Businesses that were forced to close were afraid of the same things plus they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to pay their employees. Today, roughly eight months later, we still have those same fears. 

The good news is that over the last few months, we’ve not only learned a lot about the novel coronavirus, and we’ve 8made many advances. We’ve learned that the people who are most susceptible to die from the virus are the elderly, the immune-compromised and people with certain pre-existing health conditions or comorbidities(more than one illness or disease occurring in one person at the same time). We’ve also learned how to prevent getting sick from the virus altogether. Also, love him or hate him, President Trump has cut a lot of red tape to allow the innovation and development of new gadgets for cleaning, medications and vaccines that are being rushed to the front lines. 

One day in August, I heard a clip on the news that caught my ear. The clip was from an interview on ABC “World News Tonight” with anchor David Muir. Presidential candidate Joe Biden was asked if he would shut down the whole country if COVID merged with the flu virus as scientists have forewarned will happen. Biden replied, “I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives. Because we cannot get the country moving until we control the virus … you have to fix the virus.”

I stopped dead in my tracks and said, “What did he just say?”. I hit the rewind button and listened to him again. Sure enough, he said the words “control”, “fix” and “virus” in the same breath. How in creation do we “control” or “fix” a virus? Can we “control” or “fix” diabetes, cancer or the flu? No, we can’t. We are powerless over everything outside of us, however we are not entirely powerless. We do have control over ourselves, our actions and, in this case, how we take care of ourselves. 

Look, the fact of the matter is that there are germs, viruses and bacteria all around us 24/7. Many of these microbes are also highly contagious and some are fatal. Do we hole up in our homes, work from home and keep our kids home from school until it passes? Of course not. We’ve learned to coexist with the germs. We have created medications, vaccines and specialized cleaners to wash our hands and clean surfaces to combat them.

In the beginning of the pandemic, our fears were justified, however, our elected leaders, mainstream media, Silicon Valley and entertainers have blown it out of proportion. The virus, how to mitigate the spread, medications and vaccines have been turned into political weapons that have been used for personal and political agendas. 

When that happened, the cure became worse than the disease.

As we all know, President Trump was recently infected with COVID and was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center. The day he left the hospital, he tweeted out a video with a message that the nation needed to hear. He said that he knew that he was taking a risk by not wearing a mask as he should’ve. At the same time he knew that we can’t stay locked down forever. He knew that being infected with this novel virus isn’t a death sentence for everyone. He also knew that because he cut a lot of red tape, new medicines and vaccines have been made at warp speed. 

He ended by saying, “As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it. I stood out front. I led … And I knew there was a risk … But that’s okay, and now I’m better … But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there. Be careful.”

Life is about taking risks. Whether it’s starting a new job, getting into a new relationship, getting married, trying a new product or service, etc. The list is endless. Usually there’s some type of reward on the other side, but to get from risk to reward we have to face some level of fear. Sometimes the rewards from the risks we take are worth it, other times we fall flat on our face like we did when we learned to ride our bike. Either way we learn something new and life goes on. 

So how can we conquer our fears in regards to COVID? 

Perhaps a lesson I learned a few years ago can help move us past this fear. It’s the acronym for fear. FEAR – “Forget Everything And Run” or “Face Everything And Rise(or Recover)”. Another one is “False Evidence Appearing to be Real”. This can be applied to anything in life, including COVID-19.

Thought for the day: Like President Trump said, don’t let COVID dominate your life. Get out there. Live your life, but just be careful. 

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts.

The Left’s Response to COVID

This is the 7th piece in my series of “A Changing Country”

Each of us chooses to get our news from certain outlets only. Of course that’s your prerogative, but you may not get the whole story. The following is meant to inform anyone who isn’t aware of the whole story. 

They say that a crisis of any kind will bring out the best and worst in people. The COVID pandemic is no exception. In the beginning, we trusted our elected leaders to get us through this public health crisis, but then we saw the goalpost to flatten the curve move from 15 to 30 days, then two, four and six months. 

As the declared lockdowns and mandated stay-at-home orders ruined our communities economically, they’ve destroyed us mentally, emotionally, socially and psychologically. Suicides, domestic violence as well as drug and alcohol addiction and overdoses have skyrocketed. 

However, over time, we’ve begun to see the hypocrisy of our elected leaders and news outlets. Some of us have dared to question the science behind their decisions. Instead of answers, they wagged their fingers at those of us who failed to adhere to the dictatorial mandates. While the orders continued into the spring and summer, the truth was coming into view. Kids on spring break and Easter Sunday church goers were scolded, but protesting and rioting was encouraged. They might as well have said, “Shut up and put your mask on! First Amendment for me, but not for thee.” 

Yes, COVID has tested American patience, self-discipline and resolve, but it has also tested American leadership. Both have failed. In a National Review article on June 19, Jim Geraghty so eloquently wrote, “The moment called for Abraham Lincoln, and instead we got the gubernatorial equivalent of South Park’s Eric Cartman bellowing ‘Respect my authority!’”

While President Trump and other Republican leaders have been excoriated over how they’ve handled COVID, Democratic leaders are not blameless. The following is a timeline of comments and actions from leaders on the left. This is just a sampling;

September 24, 2019 to February 5, 2020: The Democrats were up to their eyeballs with impeachment. Perhaps if they weren’t so obsessed with that, they may have seen the pandemic sooner.

January 28th: Ron Klain, former Biden chief of staff, opposed a travel ban a few days before it was announced, calling it “premature.” 

January 30th: Biden confidant and coronavirus adviser Zeke Emanuel told CNBC viewers to “take a very big breath, slow down, and stop panicking and being hysterical.” The virus will “go down as spring comes up.”

January 31st: The day President Trump issued a China travel ban, Biden decried the ban as “hysterical xenophobia and fear-mongering.” Campaigning the next day, Mr. Biden seemed to attack the ban again, saying, “Disease has no borders.”

February 6th: Irwin Redlener, Biden coronavirus adviser, wrote an op-ed saying that a global pandemic was “not very likely” and predicted the chances of “getting a severe, potentially lethal form of the Wuhan virus is negligible.”

February 7th: New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said, “We’re telling New Yorkers, go about your lives, take the subway, go out, enjoy life.”

February 11th: Mr. Klain again played down the likelihood that COVID would become “a serious epidemic.” “The evidence suggests it’s probably not that,” he said. Two days later, Mr. Klain tweeted, “We don’t have a COVID-19 epidemic in the US but we are starting to see a fear epidemic.”

February 20th: Dr. Emanuel said in an interview that there’d been “an overreaction,” and suggested “warm weather is going to come and, just like with the flu, the coronavirus is going to go down.” 

February 24th: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged tourists in San Francisco to “come to Chinatown.” 

February 27th: Mr. Klain echoed Speaker Pelosi saying people should not be dissuaded by “needless fears about coronavirus.” He added that everyone “should tonight go down to Chinatown in their city and buy dinner or go shopping.”

February 29th: With news of the first U.S. coronavirus death, Dr. Emanuel told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “running out and getting a mask is not going to help.” 

March 2nd: Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) New York said, “We have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York. So, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus will happen here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”

March 10th: Mayor Bill de Blasio(D) New York City, said, “If you’re under 50 and you’re healthy, which is most New Yorkers, there’s very little threat here. This disease, even if you were to get it, basically acts like a common cold or flu.”

March 10th: Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals said, “We have to accept that unless a vaccine is rapidly developed, large numbers of people will get infected. The good thing is greater than 99 percent will recover without harm. Once people recover they will have immunity. The immunity will protect the herd.”

March 12: Biden coronavirus adviser Lisa Monaco went on CNN and played down its importance.

April 6th: Mayor Lori Lightfoot(D) Chicago defended a haircut she received over the weekend while not wearing a mask despite her March 20th stay-at-home orders. She has been quoted saying, ” … getting your roots done is not essential,” and, “I’m the public face of this city. I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye.”

May 24th: Governor Ralph Northam(D) Virginia posed for selfies on the beach without a mask. Two days earlier he signed an executive order requiring masks to be worn indoors. He became infected with the virus

May 28: An unarmed black man, George Floyd, was killed by police during an arrest. In the days and weeks that followed, protests erupted across the country – and understandably so. Unfortunately, violent protests, riots and looting also followed. However, instead of punishing the ones who caused more damage than COVID, a number of leaders joined in the peaceful marches while not being socially distanced and either wearing or not wearing masks. Some even helped to paint murals; Vice Presidential candidate(D) Kamala Harris, Mayor Bill DeBlasio(D) New York, Mayor Lori Lightfoot(D) Chicago, Governor Gretchen Whitmer(D) Michigan to name a few. 

May 29th: Governor Northam signs executive order requiring everyone that works or passes through Dulles International Airport to wear a mask.

June 30th: Senator Diane Feinstein(D) California sends a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Transit Administration calling for mandatory face mask mandates throughout all public transportation. 

August 31st: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D) California went to a San Francisco hair salon for a wash and blow-out, despite local ordinances that kept salons closed during the pandemic.

September 25th: Senator Diane Feinstein(D) California was seen walking through Dulles International Airport without wearing a mask despite her June 30th letter.

In May or June, presidential candidate Joe Biden said, “If he had listened to me and others and acted just one week earlier to deal with this virus, there’d be 36,000 fewer people dead.” First of all, there is no evidence that I could find that backs this up. Secondly, he continued holding rallies until March 9th and until April 2nd talked about the importance of in-person voting.

As the days and weeks went by, Biden never mentioned masks, social distancing, lockdowns, protective gear, utilizing the Defense Production Act or faster vaccine and therapeutic development. 

In June Biden was asked what he would do. His current seven point plan looks remarkably similar to what President Trump has already implemented with one exception, Biden wants to implement his plan nationwide. As I said in the previous piece, ” … we are a federalist system … What works for people in big cities … probably won’t work for people in small towns … he would actually become the fascist dictator.”

Shortly after all Americans received a stimulus check in April, talks about a second round of stimulus checks began in May or June. It is now the middle of October and, as expected, Republicans and Democrats have not come to an agreement. 

Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly carried on about Americans needing help to pay bills, feed their families and so on. “Think about the children.” she says. If she cares SO MUCH about you and your family, wouldn’t she 1) work harder to come to a compromise with Republicans and 2) insist that everyone in Congress skip or curtail their two week recess in July and their four week recess in August? Now all of our elected leaders are on yet another recess until November. 

March 25th: An advisory from New York State Department Of Health(Governor Cuomo(D) New York, Commissioner Howard Zucker MD, JD, Executive Deputy Commissioner Sally Dreslin, MS, RN) was sent for immediate distribution to Nursing Home Administrators, Directors of Nursing, Directors of Social Work, Hospital, Discharge Planners regarding Hospital Discharges and Admissions to Nursing Homes. The “advisory” said;

“There is an urgent need to expand hospital capacity in New York State to be able to meet the demand for patients with COVID-19 requiring acute care. As a result, this directive is being issued to clarify expectations for nursing homes (NHs) receiving residents returning from hospitalization and for NHs accepting new admissions.”

It goes on to say,

“During this global health emergency, all NHs must comply with the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals to NHs. Residents are deemed appropriate for return to a NH upon a determination by the hospital physician or designee that the resident is medically stable for return.

“No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

May 8th: This advisory was rescinded, after thousands of residents of elder care facilities died. As of August 29th, the number of New Yorkers who died as a result of COVID was 25,319 out of which 6,639 were from nursing homes, but this omits potentially thousands of residents who died in hospitals.  

Governor Cuomo was alone. Governors Phil Murphy(D) New Jersey, Gretchen Whitmer(D) Michigan, Gavin Newsom(D) California, and Tom Wolf(D) Pennsylvania all gave similar orders. 

Thought for the day: Remember, when you point your finger at someone, you have three more pointing back at you

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts.

COVID-19

This is the 6th piece in my series of “A Changing Country”

I will start by saying that I am neither endorsing or condemning President Trump or former Vice President Biden in these next couple pieces. As I said in the beginning of this series, I removed my feelings, stepped back and looked at the bigger picture while applying some common sense. I encourage you to do the same as you continue reading. 

Over the last few months, we’ve heard people ridicule, blame and criticize President Trump for everything related to the COVID virus;

  1. Banning travel from China and later Europe 
  2. Not having a national plan to
    1. Deal with the virus 
    2. Reopen the country and the economy 
    3. Reopen schools
  3. Not helping New York and California 
  4. Not getting personal protective equipment(PPE) to the front lines 
  5. Not being transparent about the threat of the virus 
  6. That he downplayed it 
  7. That he should’ve acted sooner 
  8. For the sharp increase in unemployment and dramatic decline in our economy
  9. Having mixed messages

Now, let’s shed a little light on these claims starting with refuting the criticism about what President Trump has done or not done. In the next day or I will go into what others have said and/or done. Since a couple of these are linked together, I decided to lay this out in a timeline.

December 31: Reports emerge that the Chinese government is investigating an “outbreak of respiratory illness in the central city of Wuhan”.

January 6-8: The CDC issues warnings for Americans to take extra precautions if they travel to China. It also says it is closely monitoring the virus, but there are no known cases in the US. 

January 21: The first case is confirmed in a traveller who had recently visited China and returned to Washington state.

January 29: The White House starts its coronavirus response task force. 

January 31: Trump issues an executive order blocking entry to the US from anyone who has been in China in the last 14 days. It does not apply to US residents and family members or spouses of US residents or citizens.

Ten days. From the time the first case of COVID was confirmed to the time President Trump acted was ten days despite heavy criticism from everyone; economists, medical and scientific professionals as well as political leaders on both sides of the aisle. That’s lightning fast in Washington.

Regarding the criticism. We know that people travel all over the world for business and leisure, much of which is via plane or other public transportation. We also know that contagious illnesses spread. To prevent others from getting sick, the logical response is to eliminate the spread. In this case, banning travel from countries that were hot spots made perfect sense. Think of it this way, if someone with tuberculosis or another contagious illness comes to your house, do you let them in? I know I wouldn’t. By the way, other countries eventually followed our example.

As it turns out, the travel ban may have saved an untold number of lives. 

____________________

Not helping New York and California. 

As the number of infected people skyrocketed in New York and California and the health care system became inundated, Governor Andrew Cuomo(D) New York and Governor Gavin Newsom(D) California along with Mayor Bill DeBlasio(D) New York City and Mayor Eric Garcetti(D) Los Angeles blasted President Trump for not helping them. In response to this, he sent the USNS Comfort to New York City and the USNS Mercy to Los Angeles to assist the health care workers in dealing with the virus. Each of these converted naval ships have a 1,000 bed capacity. Keep this in mind as you continue reading.

March 27th: USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles. 

March 30th: USNS Comfort arrived in New York City. 

April 21st: Governor Cuomo said the city didn’t need it anymore. It left NYC after treating 179 patients. 

May 15th: USNS Mercy left Los Angeles after treating 77 patients.

Out of 2,000 beds between both ships, only 256 were used. Then, despite all of the criticism that Governors Cuomo and Newsom hurled at Washington, they changed their tunes when the ships arrived, albeit temporarily. 

____________________

Not having enough supplies

March 2: Operation Warp Speed was announced after a round-table with President Trump, Vice President Pence and industry executives at the White House. According to Wikipedia, “Operation Warp Speed is a public-private partnership, initiated by the Trump administration, to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics …”

In times of war, or in this case a pandemic, The Defense Production Act of 1950 was created. According to FEMA, this is, “the primary source of presidential authorities to expedite and expand the supply of materials and services from the U.S. industrial base needed to promote national defense.”

April 3: On the HHS(dot)gov site, it states, “President Trump signed two memoranda ordering the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Homeland Security to use any and all authority under the Defense Production Act to 1) facilitate the supply of materials for ventilator production by certain manufacturers and 2) prevent the export of certain scarce and critical materials, including personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 respirators and surgical masks, that have been the target of hoarders.

“HHS Secretary Alex Azar issued the following statement: ‘President Trump’s latest orders under the Defense Production Act support HHS and FEMA’s efforts to ramp up ventilator production and ensure supplies of PPE … go to America’s heroic healthcare workers rather than being exported. Thanks to the President’s bold actions and vision for an all-of-America response, U.S. companies have already dramatically scaled up ventilator production … FEMA and HHS have been working closely with states, purchasers, distributors, and manufacturers to ensure American healthcare workers are getting the PPE they need … ‘”

____________________

No national plan. 

President Trump has not put forth a national plan for dealing with the virus and reopening the country for a number of reasons. The first reason is that we are a federalist system. In an April 14th article by Jan Wolfe, she writes, “The United States is a federalist system, meaning power is shared between a national and state governments.

“Under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, state governments have power to police citizens and regulate public welfare. In the country’s early years, it was up to state and local authorities to lead the response to the yellow fever epidemic, not the federal government.”

The second reason is because America is very diverse not only her people but also the land. By this I mean that we have urban areas where a lot of people live on top of each other and rural areas where the nearest neighbor is a mile or more away. What works for people in big cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Washington DC probably won’t work for people in small towns that we’ve never heard of.

Another reason piggybacks off the first one. All Americans are free to do and say whatever they want and are free to go wherever they want. Implementing mandates and putting restrictions on us is antithetical to our way of life. Besides, if President Trump did order nationwide mandates and restrictions he would actually become the fascist dictator that many people accuse him of being.

____________________

The economy. 

Being a leader of any kind involves making hard decisions. This is especially true when you are the president of the United States. Right or wrong, Republican or Democrat, one decision that any president makes can affect millions of people – especially when it comes to shutting down our economy. As a businessman, President Trump knew full well the ramifications of doing this, but in an attempt to mitigate the spread of this novel virus and save lives, he urged that only essential workers go to work and those who could work from home to do so. No, the blame for COVID-19 lies at the feet of someone else.

____________________

Mixed messages 

“Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. COVID is deadly, COVID isn’t deadly.” I’ll try to get into this more in another piece, but what I will say is this, in the beginning of the pandemic with this novel virus, a lot of the confusion came from the scientific community. We knew nothing about it. As doctors and scientists learned about COVID, we did too. Even the CDC and WHO have sent out mixed messages. Their latest one is their reversal on masks and lockdowns. 

____________________

Downplaying and lack of transparency about the seriousness. 

What happens when you yell “Fire!” in a crowded room? You create a sense of panic which causes a stampede. People get trampled on and hurt. Some may be so injured that they cannot leave on their own. In the panic, those people perish. 

Think back to a time in late March/early April when you went shopping. How many times did you go to the store in search of things like toilet paper, cleaning supplies or hand sanitizer only to find the shelves empty? Or when you did find these things, how many times did you see a sign or hear a clerk say that you could only buy one or two of those items? Do you still have a hard time finding these things now, nearly nine months later? I know I do.

Should President Trump and his administration have told us more about the virus? Probably, but at the same time he was trying to prevent mass hysteria on a much larger scale. As it was when news about the seriousness of the virus spread, people began to panic anyway. Paper products and sanitizing cleaners were already flying off the store shelves.

Coming up: A timeline of the Democratic response and their hypocrisy during COVID and our fear of it. 

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts.

Systemic Racism in America?

This is the 5th piece in my series of “A Changing Country”

For a few years we’ve been hearing the words “systemic racism” or “structural racism” indicating that from the top down America is inherently racist. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, this picked up steam and turned into a racing freight train. Is there racism in America? Yes, sadly there is, however, it’s not nearly as prevalent as you might think. 

When I first heard the phrase “systemic racism”, I blew it off because I didn’t think it was as big of a problem as it was being made out to be. However, in recent months, more people believe that this is true. I decided to take a closer look at how systemic racism has affected the African-American community. While many groups have been treated unfairly, I chose to highlight blacks in America because if I looked at every group this would turn into a novel. 

Tell me, if racism is so prevalent in all our institutions, how is it that in 2020 there are blacks who are(Note: this is in no particular order nor is it an exhaustive list); 

Lawmakers. “Since 1971, the Congressional Black Caucus has been a part of our government … to ensure that African Americans and other marginalized communities in the US have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”[1]

Senators. In 1870 Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first black senator[2]. In 2020, there are 3 black Senators; Tim Scott(R) South Carolina, Cory Booker(D) New Jersey and Kamala Harris(D) California 

House of Representatives. Hakeem Jeffries(D) New York, Maxine Waters(D) California, Jim Clyburn(D) South Carolina, Sheila Jackson Lee(D) Texas, Elijah Cummings(D) Maryland, Al Green(D) Texas, Keith Ellison(D) Minnesota, Karen Bass(D) California, Frederica Wilson(D) Florida, Will Hurd(R) Texas, Val Demmings(D) Florida, Ayanna Pressly(D) Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar(D) Minnesota who is a refugee from Somalia. 

“Today the United States has more than 6,000 Black public officials. Nearly 330 of those offices, including 73 held by women, are held by black mayors”[3] with black police chiefs. Among them are; Lori Lightfoot(Chicago), London Breed(San Francisco), Keisha Lance Bottoms(Atlanta), Muriel Bowser(Washington DC), Lovely Warren(Rochester), LaToya Cantrell(New Orleans) to name a few mayors. 

Do you believe me yet? No? Consider these people; 

Athletes. 70%[4] of players in the NFL, and nearly 80% of players in the NBA are black[5]. Some examples are; Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Kobe Bryant, Hank Aaron or Magic Johnson

Musicians. Louis Armstrong(aka Satchmo), Chuck Berry, James Brown(aka the Godfather of Soul), Ray Charles(The Genius), Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington(aka The Duke), Ella Fitzgerald(aka The First Lady of Song), Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday(aka Lady Day), Scott Joplin(aka the King of Ragtime), B.B. King(aka King of the Blues), Charlie “Bird” Parker, Carole King, Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Little Richard, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Tupac Shakur, Alicia Keys, Ludacris, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Billy Dee Williams, LL Cool J, 

Actors and actresses.  Chris Rock, Don Cheadle, Danny Glover, Tyler Perry, Ice Cube, Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Will Smith, Kevin Hart, Jamie Foxx, Chris Brown, Denzel Washington, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Chris Tucker, Morgan Freeman, Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey, Jada Pinkett Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, Tyra Banks, Ernie Hudson, Jaleel White, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, and Wesley Snipes

Let’s not forget these people;  

Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Susan Rice, Eric Holder and Condoleezza Rice.

In 2008, Barack Obama became the first African American president and was re-elected in 2012.

And now, in 2020, Kamala Harris is the first black woman who is a vice presidential candidate. 

Do you STILL doubt me? Think about the son of a sharecropper who grew up in the Jim Crow south who was arrested more than 40 times[6] between 1960 and 1966 because he got into “good trouble, necessary trouble”. At The Great March on Washington  on August 28, 1963, Dr Martin Luther King Jr gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The sharecropper’s son spoke to the same crowd of people[6].

On March 7, 1965, that sharecropper’s son and another black activist led a march with many other black activists in an effort to fight the true racism and oppression that existed before the Civil Rights Act was passed. They marched from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery[6]. When they arrived at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the group was met by a large police presence. The activists were beaten and gassed on that bridge. The sharecropper’s son was bloodied and left unconscious, but he never backed down. That day became known as Bloody Sunday[6]. 

That man was Representative John Lewis(D) Georgia(1940 – 2020). He was the first black lawmaker to lie in state at the US Capitol Rotunda[7]. Previously, Representative Elijah Cummings(D) Maryland made history as the first black lawmaker to lie in state at the US Capitol in Statuary Hall in 2019[7].

This is just a snapshot of blacks who’ve achieved their dreams. There are countless others that I know I missed or who aren’t as famous. How did systemic racism stop any of these people from achieving their dreams? Did it slow them down? Probably, but it never stopped them.

So tell me again, if racism is so prevalent in all of our institutions, how have so many African-Americans achieved their dreams? 

Perhaps the real problem is our leaders, athletes, musicians and actors/actresses who carry on about all that blacks can’t do because of “this” or “that“. They say that because you were born into poverty and your schools are lousy you are a victim. They patronize you while patting you on the head saying, “It’s ok. I know that you can’t succeed because of the big white boogie man. The system is rigged against you.”

That’s all a crock of bull, especially in the cities and towns that have black governors, mayors, police chiefs and other black leaders. No, the problem isn’t systemic racism. To decry this or white privilege for the way your life turned out is dishonest and disingenuous. To blame all white people for your poverty is patently false and does nothing to further your cause. In America every single citizen is free to choose to work hard and achieve their dreams. You can choose to be a career criminal or be a couch potato in your parents basement. The only thing that stops you or any American citizen from achieving your dreams is you. 

I’m going to close by encouraging everyone to read a July 29, 1992 article I stumbled on called “Black Accountability and Achievement” by Phillip Aaron and Errol Smith[8]. Although it was written nearly 30 years ago, it discusses the truth about why African-Americans are not succeeding as they should be today. It also can apply to other people of color as well. 

Thought for the day: No matter who you are or what makes you different from others, don’t blame others for the way your life turned out. Do something to succeed.

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts.

____________________

Sources

[1] Congressional Black Caucus website 

[2] United State Senate website

[3] The New Orleans Tribune “300 in black: A Look Back at Black Mayors in America”

[4] Wikipedia “Black players in professional American football” 

[5] Wikipedia “Race and ethnicity in the NBA  

[6] “‘Good Trouble’ how John Lewis and other civil rights crusaders expected arrests” by Becky Little 

[7] CNN “John Lewis is the first black lawmaker to lie in state in US Capitol Rotunda” by Clare Foran

[8] “Black Accountability and Achievement” by Phillip Aaron and Errol Smith 

Standing Up

This is the 4th piece in my series of “A Changing Country”

“If we don’t fight for what we ‘stand for’ with our passionate words and honest actions, do we really ‘stand’ for anything?” ~ Tiffany Madison

On May 25, 2020, a man named George Floyd was killed by a white police officer kneeling on his neck because he allegedly tried to pay for something with a counterfeit bill. There’s not one person I know who wasn’t outraged by this incident. For a brief moment, the entire country was united irregardless of race, faith, sexual identity, socio-economic status, etc. In the days and weeks that followed, peaceful protests broke out in cities coast to coast. 

What happened next is why I write this piece. If I stay silent, I become part of the problem. 

In America, we know that protesting is considered freedom of speech. Even when we protest our government’s policies or we disagree with the message of a protest – we are still free to speak out. It’s been one way that many changes have come about throughout our history. If you did this in any other country, you would be punished in some way.

Unfortunately, violence finds a way to follow almost every peaceful protest. That violence comes in the form of looting, arson, destruction of property and projectiles thrown at police officers who try to protect the peaceful protesters and other innocent members of their communities. 

This isn’t the first time that peaceful and violent protests broke out over the death of an unarmed African-American. On February 26, 2012, while on a neighborhood watch patrol shift, George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a young black man. On July 13, 2013, Mr Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges. In response to this incident, a movement started and has grown exponentially. It has continued to grow after the deaths of other African Americans due to alleged police brutality. 

Yes, I am referring to Black Lives Matter. Now, before you start spewing hate filled word vomit at me, try to silence me or “cancel” me, I ask that you first hear me out. 

As the Black Lives Matter movement continued to grow, so has the criticism about it. One of the things that is often said is, “What about the ‘black-on-black’ crime in these communities?” This statement is immediately shot down with, “Stop using ‘black-on-black’ crime to deflect away from police brutality.” That person is also denounced as a racist – even if that person is also black. 

Now, to be fair, I went to the BLM site to read their mission statement and what they believe in. To their credit, the movement began, “as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism.” It also includes the following;

“We must ensure we are building a movement that brings all of us to the front.

“The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation

“We are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location.

“… supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children.

“Our goal is to support the development of new Black leaders.”

If these statements are true, is it any wonder that people question other black lives being lost in their communities?  

One of the chants that can be heard at a Black Lives Matter protest is, “Say their names.” I agree. Let’s say their names. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd … Oh, wait a minute. As I look through the list of names, I see a few are missing. I don’t see; 

19 year old Horace Lorenzo Anderson Jr and 16 year old Antonio Mays Jr who were shot and killed at CHOP, the Seattle occupation. 

7-year-old Latoya Wallace who was shot in the head while playing with children in Chicago,

11-year-old Davon McNeal who was shot while running into the house for a phone charger in Washington, DC, 

The 7-year-old girl shot in the head while standing on the sidewalk at her grandmother’s house,

The 1-year old infant shot and killed while sleeping in a stroller,

The 8-year-old shot at a mall in Birmingham, 

The 7-year-old girl shot while at a family party,

and the rest of the children slain this year.

Where’s the outrage and demonstrations for these children? Why is there no looting and rioting over the senseless deaths of;

The Brooklyn man, Anthony Robinson, 29, who was shot while crossing the street with his 6 year old daughter, 

The hardworking father in Chicago who was killed just before 1 a.m., 

The West Side high school student murdered two hours later, 

The college freshman who was gunned down, 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t include 77 year old retired police captain David Dorn who was protecting his friend’s business during the riots in St Louis. 

But don’t take my word for it. Think about the 8 year old Atlanta girl, Secoriya Williamson. She was in the car with her mother when gunmen opened fire on them as she attempted to make a U-turn. Secoriya was hit and killed. During a news conference, her parents addressed Black Lives Matter … 

Her father said, “They say black lives matter … You killed your own this time … They killed my baby because she crossed the barrier and made a U-turn. You killed a child. She didn’t do nothin to nobody. Killing your own. You killed an 8-year-old child. She ain’t did nothing to not one of y’all. She just wanted to get home to see her cousin. That’s all she wanted to do. She wanted to get home.” Then, with tears in her eyes, Secoriya’s mother said, “They didn’t give us time to make a U-turn. They started shooting at my car before we could even make a U-turn. Shooting my tires out, like why?”

I recently read something that struck a chord in me. During a protest in London, Star Wars actor John Boyega said, “Today is about innocent people who were halfway through their process, we don’t know what George Floyd could have achieved, we don’t know what Sandra Bland could have achieved … ” 

Imagine what the children I listed could have achieved if they weren’t gunned down before they even had a chance to live life. 

Yes, we need to make sure that police brutality isn’t a reality to our young ones. But we also need to make sure that being shot by a stray bullet from someone in their community while playing with their friends isn’t a reality. Today, children are afraid to go outside. If this violence continues, they will be afraid to have children of their own tomorrow. 

I’m reminded of a scene in the 2009 Tyler Perry movie, “Madea Goes to Jail”. In one of the scenes, Madea is in a counseling session with Dr Phil about her anger. 

Dr. Phil: What is wrong with you? Why do you feel the need that you gotta “get” somebody all the time?

Madea: Well when you gettin’ “got” and somebody done “got” you and you go “get” them, when you get ’em everybody’s gon’ get got.


Dr. Phil: Yea but you’re gettin’ the gotters when they didn’t do anything to even get you.

Madea: Yea but if the gotters get me I’m gonna get my glock.

While this scene is comical, it points out the very real “an eye for an eye” mentality that we see today. But here’s the question. Who are you going to get when everyone’s been got? Whether it’s outrage over the death of an unarmed black man, or the death of an innocent black child, when will this cycle of violence stop? When will we stop seeking retribution for the person who wrongs us?

Thought for the day: Let’s remember the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts.

Mob Mentality

This is the 3rd piece in my series “A Changing Country”

“Most people do not have a problem with you thinking for yourself, as long as your conclusions are the same as or at least compatible with their beliefs” ~ Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Ever since humans began roaming the Earth, we were born with free will. No matter who we are or where we live this is true. Even people who live under the most oppressive leaders have free will. How? Because they can either go along with whatever that leader says or they can break away and oppose that leader in some way, shape or form. 

What happens to that dissenter, however, is anyone’s guess.  

Despite the fact that we have free will, many people are easily influenced. This can be seen in virtually any movement. Someone speaks up saying that people who believe “X” are wrong and everyone must believe “Y“. Anyone who disagrees is called some pejorative word that begins with “anti” or ends in “ist“. Pretty soon it’s blasted all over social media and the group turns into a mob that’s big, loud and many times violent. 

To avoid having their reputation ruined or being bullied, others join the group and become sheeples. The Urban Dictionary defines a sheeple as, “The compression of two words, sheep and people, to form one word meaning a mass of ignorant, unoriginal humans that herd together and follow mindlessly … (they are) people unable to think for themselves … Followers. Lemmings. Those with no cognitive abilities of their own … people who have no mind or free will of their own and go with the flow.” 

We’ve seen this played out countless times in recent history. However, in recent years, these mobs have become a big problem. 

The leaders of these flocks of sheeples use words to convince their followers to believe a certain way. Usually those words are inflammatory, hate filled lies that are used to incite violence and serve no purpose other than dividing America and her people. Those who blindly repeat those words end up believing them wholeheartedly and are not convinced otherwise. 

This is called herd mentality. Perhaps the best definition for this again comes from the Urban Dictionary site. One of the definitions describes herd mentality as, “The inability or refusal to listen to one’s own instinct or ‘gut feeling’ but to instead follow the majority for fear of being wrong, ostracized or ridiculed.” One might also call this herd a mob, “a large and disorderly crowd of people especially one bent on riotous or destructive action.”

Wait a minute. Didn’t I say that each of us was born with free will? 

When we let others think for us while we follow the herd or mob, we are not only giving up our free will, but we are also not being our real, authentic selves. Whether it is right or wrong, when we go along with whatever the crowd says or does, we deny ourselves our creativity and free thoughts. Even when we are silent in the face of the mob, we are saying that we support their message – whether or not we actually agree with the message. 

Even though we are all the same under our skin, each and every one of us was created with different thoughts and feelings for a reason. Of course we’re not going to agree on everything, but rather than tear each other down because of our differences, why not draw upon those differences to bring about positive changes? Heaven knows we could sure use some positive changes in America and around the world. 

Instead of following the crowd, why not blaze your own trail and become an influencer? You see, there is a difference between following the mob and following an influencer. The mob forces you into following them. It uses fear, shame, intimidation and guilt to make you believe in something that you normally wouldn’t. The mob threatens to blow up the system if it doesn’t get its way. Seems to me that they should just take their ball and go home if they’re going to be spoiled brats.

On the other hand, influencers don’t make people follow them. They allow people to make that choice. Some of the most respected and influential people in the world are unapologetically authentic. They call for positive change by peaceful means. They actively look for and work towards solutions instead of seeking to destroy. 

The bottom line of my message today is to encourage you to listen to your inner voice, your gut feeling. Before going along with the flock, seek out the truth. You may find that the rest of the flock is actually wrong. They may also be hypocrites. Be an influencer who chooses to build instead of a follower seeking to destroy. Be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Resist the mob. Be authentic. Be yourself.

Thought for the day: I thought I’d close today with a few quotes on herd/mob mentality; 

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” ~ George S. Patton Jr.  


“Let’s face it. We live in a command-based system, where we have been programmed since our earliest school years to become followers, not individuals. We have been conditioned to embrace teams, the herd, the masses, popular opinion — and to reject what is different, eccentric or stands alone. We are so programmed that all it takes for any business or authority to condition our minds to follow or buy something is to simply repeat a statement more than three or four times until we repeat it ourselves and follow it as truth or the best trendiest thing. This is called “programming” — the frequent repetition of words to condition us how to think, what to like or dislike, and who to follow.” ~ Suzy Kassem


“Most of the time, we see only what we want to see, or what others tell us to see, instead of really investigating to see what is really there. We embrace illusions … (that) are embraced by the majority. When in truth, they only become popular because they are pounded at us by the media with such an intensity and high level of repetition that its mere force disguises lies and truths. And like obedient schoolchildren, we do not question their validity and swallow everything up like medicine. Why? Because since the earliest days of our youth, we have been conditioned to accept that the direction of the herd, and authority anywhere – is always right.” ~ Suzy Kassem

“A utopian system, when established by men, is likely to be synonymous with a dystopian depression. The only way for perfect peace by man is absolute control of all wrongs. Bully-cultures find this: with each and every mistake, another village idiot is shamed into nothingness and mindlessly shut down by the herd. This is a superficial peace made by force and by fear, one in which there is no freedom to breathe; and the reason it is impossible for man to maintain freedom and peace for everyone at the same time…” ~ Criss Jami

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” ~ Bertrand Russell


“Sheep only need a single flock, but people need two: one to belong to and make them feel comfortable, and another to blame all of society’s problems on.”
― James Rozoff

“Societal peer pressure to conform runs strong, but as more of us continue to think and act for ourselves, rather than be under the influence of group-think, we begin to make more effective choices.”
~ Evita Ochel

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts

Hate

This is the 2nd piece in my series “A Changing Country”

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” ~Maya Angelou

Hate. “An emotion of intense dislike; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action.”(vocabulary(dot)com) It is like both a cancer and a poisonous virus. When someone is infected with hate, it spreads like cancer throughout the body. If it goes untreated, the person dies spiritually, sometimes physically, mentally and emotionally. Then, like a deadly contagious virus, it goes on to its next victim and the cycle continues. 

Since the dawn of 24/7 news and social media, hate has become increasingly easy to contract. When you turn on the news, read the newspaper in print or online or you read your social media newsfeed what do you see? Politicians, reporters, news pundits and fellow citizens spreading their hate filled word vomit, biased reporting and blatantly fake news. Their words anger us and incite violence. All of this has contributed substantially to the spread of hate which is then weaponized and used for political gains and personal agendas. 

Don’t believe me? 

Let’s start with the definition of incite according to vocabulary(dot)com. It means to “provoke, stir up, instigate, stir up, urge on, cause to act, give an incentive for action”. How do you feel when you see a news segment or social media post that you vehemently disagree with? Do you feel so angry that you want to do something about it? Would you leave a comment with your own hate filled word vomit? Would you take to the streets and protest? Would you continue to protest and follow the crowd when that protest turns violent? Would you hurt someone with whom you disagree? 

I’d be willing to bet that if you were to do a random poll and asked people if they hated someone and why, they would say because “this” person did “this”, while others would say because “that” person did “that”. Then they’d call that person some pejorative that begins with “anti-“ or ends with “-ist”, or “-phobe”

Notice how everyone’s to blame and no one is accountable for their actions?

Have you ever considered that when you say or do any of these things that you are also contributing to the spread of hate? And it doesn’t come from one side of the political aisle or the other. This also doesn’t come from people of one particular skin color, religious belief, gender, etc. People from all walks of life are to blame. Although some are more to blame than others. 

But let’s be honest here. Does any of the blaming and name calling help? Like Maya Angelou said, “Hate has caused a lot of problems, but has it solved any?”

Well, has it? I’ll wait while someone comes up with an answer… 

I could list all of the ways that hate is killing us, but it’s more powerful if you see it yourself. Just look around. I mean it. Stop what you are doing right now, take a step back, put your emotional feelings aside and look around. Put yourself in another person’s shoes. What do you see? How do you feel? If someone disagrees with your viewpoint, gets in your face and starts yelling, screaming or calling you names, what do you feel? Anger, rage? Do you see how hate is affecting you, your family and your community?

I’ll give you another moment to answer that …  

Despite how grim things may look, all is not lost. There is hope. As long as the human heart beats, there is always hope. So, what and how do we change? When do we start? Where do we begin?

When do we start? We start now. Where do we start? We start by looking at ourselves and how we interact with others around us. It helps to ask ourselves a few questions. “Why am I so angry? Do I enjoy feeling angry and full of hate all the time? What part do I play in the negativity in my life, my relationships, my community and the world as a whole? Do I consider how other people feel? Am I acting or reacting on impulse? What difference does this make in my life now? How will it affect my life in the future? Is what I say or do kind and necessary or does it hurt someone?” 

What do we change? Since we are powerless over everything outside of ourselves, we change ourselves. We change how we react and respond to each other. How do we change? Consider a suggestion that was given to me one time. What happens when you don’t add fuel to a fire? The fire goes out. The same thing happens with anger and hate. For example, if you find yourself feeling angry when you watch TV, read the news or see your social media newsfeed, you have choices. Perhaps the best one is walking away from it. You can change the channel, pick up another newspaper/magazine from a different publisher or choose to join/”like” a different social media group/page that is positive. Believe it or not, those do exist. You can also simply walk away from all of it, even if it’s only for a little while. 

After looking at and rebuilding yourself, you can work on your personal relationships with your families, friends, coworkers and beyond. You also have choices if someone disagrees with you. You can walk away from and stop talking to that person. You can also agree to disagree. When you do that, you’re not saying that the other person is right. You’re saying that you value your relationship with that person. When you walk away, you are allowing time and space between the two of you. This helps tremendously to prevent either of you from saying or doing something you’ll regret in the future. You can always return when cooler heads prevail. 

While we may not have caused the hate we see, we must not sit idly by and watch it happen. Now is the time for the peacekeepers to peacefully, yet forcefully, rise up against hate. Rise up against the hate you see with love. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” 

Thought for the day: Today I will stand up and be a Warrior of Peace.

Check back in the coming days for more and don’t forget to read more of my posts.

A Changing Country

“You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” ~ Morpheus(The Matrix, 1999)

My disclaimer: I am by no means a political or economic analyst. I’m a small town gal with a patriotic heart who loves this country – warts and all. I am speaking up to be part of the solution because by staying silent, I am part of the problem. Will you read stuff you disagree with or angers you? Probably. But if you take a step back, remove your feelings and open your mind you may actually learn something. Instead of calling me names, ridiculing, bullying or “cancelling” me, why not open your mind to another viewpoint? I will present the facts and let you decide. 

What would you say if I told you that everything that is currently going on in America is part of an elaborate plan to completely upend and remake the country from the ground up? You’d probably call me a crazy extremist or a conspiracy theorist. Maybe I am. On the other hand, what if I am right? What if all of this stuff going on right now in America is paving the way to a very different country than the one we knew a year or even six months ago? 

Over the last few months, I’ve watched numerous events play out from coast to coast. I began to question what I was seeing and reading. I looked at everything; the pandemic, the political upheaval and the civil unrest including the peaceful protests, the violence, rioting, looting and destruction of cities coast to coast – all of it. I asked myself why? Why is all of this happening? To answer this, I took a step back, removed my feelings about all of it and did some research. At first I thought what I was finding was a bunch of conspiracy theories until I dug a little deeper and applied some common sense. 

When I started writing this, I didn’t expect to find so much information. Due to the length, I decided to break it up a bit. One glaring observation I made was that many of these events are meant to manipulate and control us. How and why is this being done and who is doing it? Who is doing it? Our leaders, Silicon Valley, mainstream media and some of our institutions. I will get into how and why we are being manipulated and controlled in other pieces in the coming days.

As each day has gone by, the picture has become a little clearer. Many of the changes we see today have their roots in decades past, however, some of them began in recent years. I won’t go too far back in history. I’ll let you do that.

In this series, I will attempt to either shed light on these events or draw a line connecting some of the dots. With any luck I will do both. I will look at how these events have already started to shape our country and how they will shape the future of America if we don’t wake up and do something about it. I will uncover the truth about the lies that our leaders, the media, entertainers and social media has spoon fed us like(in no particular order);

The hypocrisy of our leaders

Mob mentality

The riots

Systemic racism

Black lives matter – both the message and the movement 

COVID-19 

The 2020 election 

And maybe more…

I am working on a few articles at one time, so please bear with me. I am trying to hit on each of these topics and I’m trying to finish them all in a timely manner. Please note, I did not list all of my sources because I found bits and pieces in numerous articles over the last few months that I’ve been working on this.

Thought for the day: “Truth sounds like hate to those who hate the truth.” ~ Todd Wagner 

Check back in the coming days for more

“We Will Never Forget” A tribute to 9/11/2001 

“One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11 … we will never forget their sacrifice.” ~ former President George W. Bush at the Dedication of 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, September 11, 2008

(For the last few years that I’ve been writing, I’ve reserved today for one topic. To honor and remember the lives of everyone who was affected in one way or another on this day 19 years ago.)

Do you remember the day the world literally stopped turning or have you forgotten? I know I still remember that day like it was yesterday.

It was the day that two jetliners flew into both towers of the World Trade Center killing roughly 2,600 inside and changed the New York City skyline forever. A third jetliner flew into the Pentagon killing 125 people. At the same time, a fourth jetliner that was probably destined for the White House was hijacked. If the heroic passengers of Flight 93 hadn’t attempted to regain control, it might have made it to its destination. Instead, the “pilots” decided to crash the plane in a remote field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania killing all 44 people on board.

That day roughly 3,000 people were killed and around 6,000 others were injured. That number includes the passengers on all four planes, the people inside the buildings and the surrounding areas of the crash sites. This heinous act brought the residents of New York City and the country to its knees. However, this atrocity made heroes out of ordinary people. It also brought the citizens of this great country together, most of whom were total strangers.

That last sentence bears repeating. Diverse as we are in this great nation, the lines of division were erased that day and strangers helped other strangers.

The date was September 11, 2001. It’s a day I will never forget. It was a crisp autumn morning and I was working at our local animal shelter. My coworker and I were listening to the radio while she cleaned the dog kennels and I cleaned the cat section. As I was cleaning one of the cages, I heard a commotion on the radio, but brushed it off. I had to stay on schedule to get my work done on time.

The next thing I knew my coworker came to me and asked if I’d heard about a plane that crashed into a building in New York City. I stopped what I was doing and we listened to the radio. It was the North Tower of the iconic Twin Towers. We couldn’t believe that the pilot of the plane was so blind that he couldn’t see two huge skyscrapers in front of him. We thought that it had to be a joke and questioned if it was a small Cessna plane or a large jetliner. My gut told me that terrorists were involved, but I dismissed the idea as something a conspiracy theorist would say.

We got our answer minutes later.

As we continued to listen to the news and speculated the reasons, a second jetliner flew into the South Tower. Now my thoughts became my words and my words turned into my worst fears. We each expressed thoughts of terrorism, but we couldn’t dwell on it because we had work to do. We were already behind, so we went back to our duties. We didn’t grasp the gravity of the situation at the time.

A little while later, a third plane had flown into the Pentagon and a fourth into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. After that, the rest of my work day is blurred. I know our staff meeting was canceled and we didn’t open our doors to the public that day. We made sure all the animals were clean, fed and watered then our director sent us home early to be with our families.

When I got home, I immediately went to my best friend’s house. She told me that all of the planes in the entire country were grounded to make sure there were no more planes in the air that had been hijacked. In that moment after she told me, I stopped and listened. Living just a few miles from our little airport, it was eerily quiet not hearing planes flying overhead. Using a cell phone was an effort in futility because all of the cell phone towers were inundated with calls.

Later that evening, my friend who lived around the corner from me came to my place. We lit some white candles, placed them in the form of a cross in my front yard and said a prayer or two. It was our way of having a candlelight vigil. We prayed for the lives that were lost, the ones who were injured, first responders and the families of everyone who was affected. We also expressed our fear that the world as we knew it was coming to an end in our lifetime. Maybe not that day or even that week, but we feared we would see it.

Even though we live roughly 393 miles from where the Twin Towers fell, 323 miles from the Pentagon and 230 miles from the field in Pennsylvania, it felt like it was our city that was under attack. And although we didn’t know any of the people involved, we felt like we lost a family member.

Truth is, it was our city and your city that was under attack – and still is today. Our way of living and our freedom is under attack.

So why do we say “We shall never forget?” when many of us want to do just that … forget it? Why do we rehash those events year after year since 2001? I guess you could say it’s similar to Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July. We remember these days to remember and honor those who died just going to work that day and the heroes of that day. Heroes like the first responders and every day ordinary people who became heroes. The people who rushed into or stayed in the buildings to help the wounded and dying as well as those on Flight 93 who attempted to take back the plane back before crashing in the field.

I am reminded of a quote I’ve written about before, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” by George Santayana. It means exactly as it says. If we don’t remember the events of that day nearly 20 years ago, the same thing will happen again. It probably won’t happen in the same way, but if you look back in time at past events you’ll notice some similarities.

With all the unrest in the world today, one can’t help but wonder when something like this or worse will happen again. It’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when. At one time, this unrest was confined to the Middle East, but with history unfolding as it has, the threat of violence comparable to the magnitude of that day is very real. Perhaps even more real than ever before.

As we fight over historical monuments and statues we must remember why some of them were erected. Yes, our Founding Fathers were flawed because they owned slaves. Yes, owning slaves was considered ok at that time. No, it’s not right by today’s standards, but their memories should not be based on that fact. These people were heroes in one way or another. They built or shaped this country and ensured that we would be a free society long after they were gone from this Earth. It’s time to heal the wounds and forgive those who’ve hurt us and our ancestors. Instead of trying to erase the past, let’s learn from those wrongs and teach our children what not to do.

I know I’ll never forget this day. Will you?

Thought for the day: Today, let’s set aside whatever divides us for a few moments this morning to remember all who were involved in the events that day. Remember the victims, the heroes, and their families. Let’s remember what makes this country great – “warts and all”, because we can never forget.

8:46 a.m. – the North Tower was struck

9:03 a.m. – the South Tower was struck

9:37 a.m. – the Pentagon was struck

9:59 a.m. – the South Tower collapsed

10:03 a.m. – Flight 93 crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania

10:15 a.m. – A section of the Pentagon’s outer ring collapsed

10:28 a.m. – the North Tower collapsed

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

The Ultimate Weapon

“The ultimate weapon for recovery is the recovering addict.” ~Anonymous

I’ve shared my story before, usually on my clean date anniversary, which is fast approaching. This year I’m switching it up a bit.

As I drive to my favorite coffee shop in the town I love and grew up in, I hear the sound of a nearby ambulance siren for the third time in 15 minutes. When I approach the red light at the intersection to turn right, I notice a commotion. I see two police cars on the side of the road and another car abandoned in the middle of the road. On the sidewalk I see two police officers and a couple of bystanders hovering over a man who is sitting in a slumped position.

The sound of the ambulance is closer now. I look away from the scene and see the ambulance coming towards me. Is it for the man on the sidewalk who is now standing with the help of one of the officers? Is that man drunk or high? Did that man come from the bar? Did he come from somewhere else and the owner of the abandoned vehicle found him slumped over on the sidewalk?

Who knows. I don’t have time to care. I just want to get through the intersection just in case it was for him. I don’t want to get tangled up in the mess. After I pass the scene, I look in my rear view mirror to see that I was right. The ambulance was for him. I shake my head and continue on to the coffee shop for my nightly coffee. “By the grace of my Higher Power there go I,” I say to myself.

This is an all too familiar sight in my town, as is the sound of sirens. First responders being called to try to save the life of another addict who overdosed – again. Actually, this is an all too familiar scene in Any Town/City, Any State, USA. It’s probably a similar scene anywhere in the world.

Minutes before I came upon the scene, I was talking with a couple of recovering addicts who were struggling. One of them found out one of their parents was recently diagnosed with end stage cancer. The other addict was coming back from a relapse and was struggling with the guilt that so often comes with it. I shared with both of them my experience, strength and hope along with a little wisdom and a touch of tough love to help them get through their difficult moment, even if it was only for that moment. Matter of fact, I did the same thing earlier that afternoon with another addict.

This, too, is a familiar scene in almost any city, or town around the world. An addict going through something difficult, trying so hard to stay clean another minute, another hour, another day. Trying so hard to not relapse. And then there are the addicts who have relapsed and are trying to get and stay clean again, this time for good – hopefully.

It’s hard. Believe me, I understand the struggle first hand. It’s hard for an addict to stay clean with all the pressures from family members, coworkers, romantic partners, friends and life in general. Well, at least that’s what we tell ourselves, isn’t it?

There is good news for anyone struggling with addiction. There is help available. Besides counselors and drug and alcohol rehabs, there is the ultimate weapon – another recovering addict. How is another recovering addict the ultimate weapon? By identifying with another addict. “But, but you don’t understand what I’m going through or how I feel!” This is something I hear all the time, however, I assure you, I understand more than you know.

When I first came into recovery, I heard people talk about the different drugs they used, the things they’d done, how they got and used their drugs, as well as the way they lived. They repeatedly said things like, “… the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel … (because) one addict can best understand and help another addict.” I thought to myself, “I’m not like any of these people. I’m different. I didn’t live that way, use this drug or get it these ways.”

Just as I was going to walk out of the group, I heard a young man talk about identifying with, instead of comparing his life to others. This person continued saying that he got high to escape reality and his feelings. He got high because it was sunny, it was raining, this good thing happened, that bad thing happened, etc. It was as if he was talking about my life, but in reality I didn’t know him at all. That’s when I knew I was in the right place. I decided to stay and listen a little longer.

Afterwards, I went up to that young man and thanked him for helping me realize I was at where I was at for a reason. Over time I became friends with him and others despite the very different lives each of us lived. As it turned out, every time I talked to another addict about something I was going through, I found at least one addict who had been through a similar, if not the same experience. They shared with me the things they had done to get through their difficult moments. I decided to try the things they suggested in my own life. Each time I did, their words saved me from going back down the road of addiction.

Has it been difficult to stay clean? Heck yeah! Have I wanted to give up? Of course! I don’t know how many times I almost said “forget” it, followed by going to get high. On at least two occasions I was on my way to an old playground to play with old playmates, but both times another recovering addict miraculously and thankfully stopped me. How they knew I was on my way to get high is still a mystery to me, but I’m grateful nonetheless.

All of us, addicts or not, experience hardship from time to time throughout our lives. It’s an inevitable part of life. What’s important is how we deal with it. As addicts, we don’t have to use drugs or alcohol to escape our feelings. We find that the best help we get comes from others who have been in our shoes. Even though the details of our situations are different, we all got high to change the way we feel.

Remember how I said that I was talking to a couple of addicts before I stumbled on the scene? I had shared with them my experience with each of their situations. No, I hadn’t gone through exactly what they were going through, but my experiences were very similar.

If you’re an addict like me, please find a recovery program that you’re comfortable with. Listen to how other addicts have made it through life on life’s terms stuff. See if what we’ve done can apply to your situation. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Thought for the day: In the throws of addiction, when I think that no one understands me or my thoughts and feelings, I will remember my ultimate weapon is another recovering addict.

*** Please be sure to read more of my posts

Peer Pressure

Wi:yo:h Sedehjiah – Good Morning
Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug

June 26, 2014

“I do not remember who to credit this to…it is not one of mine, I Love it tho….there is so much Truth in this story….

‘One day a cricket was walking among the frogs. The cricket started to chirp and the frogs started to croak back. The cricket said to the frogs, “Oh, your croaking sounds terrible. My chirping is much better.” The Cricket was very smart and cunning. He tricked the frogs into chirping by saying things to them like, “It is better to chirp. Croaking is ignorant. Croaking is low. That intelligent people like me chirp.” The frogs wanted to seem smart, so one by one the frogs decided that maybe he was right and they started to chirp, not croak. Soon all the frogs chirped and chirped and chirped, and the rain never came. All the frogs suffered because there was no rain. Finally, one by one the younger frogs started saying, “Do you remember when our grandfathers used to croak? What a sound that was, but the rains always came!” So the young ones started to croak. Then their mothers and their fathers remembered the joy of croaking and the rains came back. The Cricket was doing what a cricket should do. But a cricket should never tell a frog what to do. The frogs should never do what a cricket does.” Each one of us has a song to sing. That is what our spiritual self is, our song. Some will chirp, some will croak, some will howl. All the songs are the same to those who sing them. They are equal. Who knows what Your Song will do….Seeing is more than meets the eye. Listening is more than hearing. Love Travels between the Worlds, like Sweetgrass and Music. Deepen Your Laugh and Smile lines, they are the Beauty of a well lived Life! Drink Deeply of the Magic that surrounds You! Keep Dancin!!” By Doug Luzar

Something to ponder…

Ahh, peer pressure. “The feeling that one must do the same things as other people of one’s age and social group in order to be liked or respected by them.”(Merriam Webster dictionary)
Most of us begin learning this behavior in school. Our friends might tell us things like, “If you want to be cool, you have to talk this way, say these things, or dress that way.” While this may be innocent at the time, it can potentially be harmful later when our peers tell us that it’s cool to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or do drugs. Instead of choosing to blaze a new trail and make new friends, we choose to follow the crowd.

Unfortunately, this behavior will most likely follow us into adulthood.

When we follow what our friends are doing, harmless or not, what we’re doing is allowing our peers to make our decisions for us. Sometimes, we end up making bad decisions and regretting it at some point in our life, sometimes for the rest of our lives.

There are a couple of other terms that fit this definition. The first is people pleaser. This is “a person who pleases people just for the sake of keeping them as a friend, or making them happy.”(urban dictionary) The other is sheeple. “The compression of two words, ‘sheep’ and ‘people’, to form one word meaning a mass of ignorant, unoriginal humans that herd together and follow mindlessly.”(urban dictionary) Hence the term “herd mentality“.

Whether we are followers, people pleasers or sheeples, we deny ourselves the opportunity to live up to our own potential.

I admit, I have been all of these at some point for much of my life. I followed the crowd because I was afraid of looking like a fool if I blazed a new trail and failed. When I was a people pleaser, there were times that I went so far out of my way, that it was often to my own detriment. If I did something nice for you and it made you happy, then I was happy. The problem was that if you weren’t happy about what I did for you or you didn’t notice what I did, I would be resentful and hurt.

Since those days, I learned that the word “no” is a complete sentence and have slowly but surely started saying it. I don’t have to apologize or explain why I can’t do something. At times I still have to catch myself, but it has definitely gotten easier. Today I make my own choices for myself, right or wrong, good or bad. Will I make bad choices or fall on my face? Probably, but today I’m the author of my own life. I feel so much freer knowing that it’s not my job to please others. Today I feel comfortable in my own skin. Nya:weh Hoje:no’kda’oh. Agwadë:nö:k – Thank You Creator. We Are All Related.

*** Please be sure to read more of my posts

Peaceful Protests Hijacked by Violent Protesters: How our hate is plunging our communities into hell. 

“We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization.” ~ Dr Martin Luther King Jr

My words will probably either fall on deaf ears, or they will anger a lot of people reading this. I do not apologize because if I stay silent, I become part of the problem instead of part of the solution. 

As I sit here in my comfy home with a cup of coffee in my hand, I find myself disturbed, disheartened and disgusted. I’m watching yet another peaceful protest that turned into a riot. I’m not just referring to this protest in this city. I’m referring to all protests in all cities and all states that have turned into riots across the country in recent years. Today it’s going on in numerous cities in numerous states, but the narrative is the same. Another injustice was committed against a minority person. 

Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know or understand the pain, frustration and raw anger that everyone feels because of what happened. I’m not even going to sit here and let hate filled word vomit spew from my mouth at you. What happened was truly horrific. And while protesting has been an effective way to bring about change throughout history, the violence that almost always follows a peaceful protest does nothing to further the cause. 

Justified or not, violence and destruction actually hurts your cause and invalidates any point you try to make. Now you are not protesters fighting for social justice. You are terrorists, “someone who uses violence, mayhem, and destruction – or the threat of those things – to coerce people or countries into taking a certain action … Great fear is exactly what terrorists hope to create so they can manipulate the situation to their benefit.“(vocabulary(dot)com). Keep this in mind as you continue reading. 

To the violent protesters and those who protect and/or defend them, it’s time for a little empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of these people;

The mother who needs to get formula or diapers for her child or the elderly person who needs to get their life saving insulin or heart medicine. How can they do this if you loot, burn down or otherwise vandalize that store? What about the African-American store owner whose business was looted? How will the Asian American whose restaurant was burned to the ground support their family? These business owners scrimped and saved to fulfill their American dream. They depend on that revenue to feed their families or retire on. Do their livelihoods, rather their lives matter? Think about all the other minorities that have died because someone in their neighborhood with the same skin color went on a shooting spree. Imagine you are an honest, hard working member of your community of any skin color being held hostage while your community is being destroyed .

Do these people’s lives matter? Where’s the outrage and protests for these people? 

Now, I want you to think about the future. You’ve achieved your goal of looting all of the stores and burning them to the ground. What will you do now? You or your family need food, clothing or medicine? Nope, can’t get it. You or your family need to get a job to pay the bills? Nope, can’t do that either. Those stores and businesses that were destroyed are going to take months, if not years to rebuild – if they ever do. The same is true in neighboring cities and counties. And the closest place you can go for any of these things is swamped by others like you who also need food, clothing, medicine and/or a job.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” ~Maya Angelou. It’s true. Hate really has caused a lot of problems, but what has it solved? Tell me again why do you destroy your own communities or someone else’s? What did that elderly minority store owner do to you?  I’ll wait while someone comes up with an answer… 

I started this essay with Dr King Jr’s quote for a reason. I also said that by saying that by staying silent I am part of the problem instead of part of the solution. Truth is, all of us who are silent are part of the problem. Each one of us has the ability and the opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into our civilization. 

How do we do this? What can we do? 

One thing we can’t do is wait for our leaders to step up to the plate and do what’s right. Even though they took an oath to protect their constituents(we the people), they have failed us miserably. Many of our leaders left, right, North, South, East and West have become part of the problem either by staying silent or bickering like little children. If we wait for our leaders, there will be nothing left of our communities. 

Earlier I defined what a terrorist is and how they accomplish their goal. They use fear. For anyone who hasn’t read many of my posts, FEAR translates to either “Forget Everything And Run”, or “Face Everything And Rise”. We know from watching TV, reading the news or our social media newsfeed that law enforcement is often outnumbered by these terrorists in our communities. At the same time, as much as they are still needed, law enforcement isn’t the only solution. 

On the other hand, the rioters are outnumbered by peaceful protesters. It’s time for the peaceful warriors to take a stand against the rioters that are destroying our communities. It’s time to take back our cities and towns from these terrorists. Do not allow them to hijack and pollute your message or take away your freedom to speak in a peaceful, respectful manner.

Another thing we can do is stop the tribalism and identity politics. This does nothing but divide us even more than we already are. If America is supposed to be a melting pot, why do we divide ourselves based on the color of our skin, the Higher Power we pray/don’t pray to, our sexual orientation and so on? 

Have various groups of America’s citizens experienced injustices? Of course they have. Are there racists who exist in our communities? Unfortunately, yes, but overall we’ve made great strides over the years. The only reason it seems like we are backsliding is because cell phones have video recording capabilities, along with social media and 24/7 news. 

As each generation passes, true racism decreases. For example, in our small town, when my parents were young, Swedish people lived in one section of town, Italians in another, Irish in another and African Americans in yet another. If you were a Swedish Protestant, dating or marrying an Irish Catholic was frowned on, let alone an African American Baptist. A couple decades later, when I was young, this changed. Swedes, Italians, Irish and African-Americans were living together. Today, no one thinks twice about dating or marrying someone from another ethnicity or a different skin color 

My Spiritual Mentor had said many times, “When all is said and done….there will still be more to say and do, never give up!!” He was right, there is and will be so much more to say and do. As I said, I’m not going to pretend to know or understand your pain and frustration. But the only way we can achieve our goal of ending all injustices is to put down our weapons and open up our minds. We need to reach across whatever line divides us and have a dialogue to discuss how we can stop the violence and begin to heal. We need to peacefully stand up for all that is right. If not for yourself, think of your children and all future generations.

Thought for the day: I want to end this with a few quotes from other great people. 

“I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” ~ Rosa Parks 

__________________

“Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.” ~ Dalai Lama

__________________________

“You must not hate those who do wrong or harmful things; but with compassion, you must do what you can to stop them – for they are harming themselves, as well as those who suffer from their actions.” ~ Dalai Lama

__________________

And of course, a few from Dr Martin Luther King Jr 

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“I have decided to stick to love … Hate is too great a burden to bear. “

***Please be sure to read more of my posts. 

The Love of Country

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends”(layman’s terms “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend”) ~John 15:13

I write this in honor of the brave men, and women who leave their family, and loved ones behind, lay down their lives, and go off to some foreign land to fight for freedom – our freedom.

In the early years of warfare, there was a good chance your soldier wouldn’t come home alive. If they weren’t Killed In Action(KIA), they became a Prisoner Of War(POW). These were soldiers who were captured, and tortured by the enemy. Still other soldiers were never heard from, or seen again. These soldiers were declared Missing In Action(MIA).

Today, our soldiers have all kinds of defensive, and offensive gear that gives them a better chance to come home. There are still the unfortunate few who don’t make it home alive, but thankfully that number has drastically decreased over the years.

Unfortunately, even though most of our brave men, and women make it home alive, some come home with visible injuries. These vary from simple sprains, strains and fractures, to more devastating injuries like the loss of an eye, traumatic brain injury, or the loss of one, or more limbs.

Sadly, nearly all service men, and women who were engaged in battle come home with injuries that are not visible to the naked eye. They suffer from post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). They see, and hear unspeakable things that you, and I know nothing about. I won’t go into details out of respect for those soldiers, and their families. Besides, if a soldier who returned from the battlefield is reading this, they don’t want to be reminded of the hell they endured, nor do their families.

So why do these brave men, and women choose to sign up for military service if they know they may have to go off to war? Why do they lay down their lives for a country full of people they don’t know, including some people who despise them? They do it to protect you, and me. They do it to preserve, and protect OUR way of life, our Freedoms that many of us take for granted. They are the reason you, and I can sleep safe, and sound at night.

Today, I’d like everyone to take a moment to contemplate something. Imagine how different our lives would be if we had no military, and no one to defend, protect, and preserve our way of life. Imagine how different our life would be if we would’ve lost any one of the wars that we’ve fought. What would our lives in America look like if Britain, France, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Russia, Germany, or any other country would’ve won the wars we fought?

I don’t know how different life would be, but I do know this much, we probably wouldn’t have any of the Freedoms, and Rights we enjoy today. The very ones many of us take for granted now. Yes, America truly is the land of the free because of the brave who defend it.

Thought for the day: Take a moment of your time today to thank a veteran for their service.

***Please read more of my posts

“The Obituary of Common Sense” by Lori Borgman 

I found this back in 2017. In light of current events, I decided to dust it off and share it again.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair;
– And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student, but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; by his wife, Discretion; by his daughter, Responsibility; and by his son, Reason. He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers: I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, I’m A Victim, and Pay me for Doing Nothing.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

“How the Virus Stole Easter” by Kristi Bothur(with a nod to Dr. Seuss)

While trying to come up with an inspirational Easter message as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 virus, I found this in my email. Perhaps you will enjoy it too.

Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began
Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.
People were sick, hospitals full,
Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.

As winter gave way to the promise of spring,
The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.
People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.
They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.

April approached and churches were closed.
“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.
“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.
No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”

Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.
The world was focused on masks and on tests.
“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.
“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.
The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.
The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.
The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.

“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.
“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.
“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
“And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.
“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”
So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.

And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.
It started down low, then it started to rise.

But the sound wasn’t depressed.
Why, this sound was triumphant!
It couldn’t be so!
But it grew with abundance!

The world stared around, popping its eyes.
Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!
Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!
It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine
Stood puzzling and puzzling.
“Just how can it be?”
“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”

Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.
“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

And what happened then?
Well….the story’s not done.
What will YOU do?
Will you share with that one
Or two or more people needing hope in this night?
Will you share the source of your life in this fight?

The churches are empty – but so is the tomb,
And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.
So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,
As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.

May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.
May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.
May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,
May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.
May 2020 be known as the year of survival,
But not only that –
Let it start a revival.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Laughter in the Face of Adversity

“Whoever said laughter is the best medicine was right – it’s also the glue that holds friendships together. To laugh together at life’s ridiculous turn of events makes those events bearable. To laugh at the funny things in life makes life wonderful.” ~ Ellen Jacob

Fear is a normal, healthy response to anything that threatens our families and/or our lives. On the other hand, fear can also be unhealthy. It affects us in negative ways physically, mentally and spiritually. Physically fear drains our energy which puts a strain on our immune system. This makes us vulnerable to other illnesses. Spiritually fear paralyzes us which stunts our spiritual growth. Mentally, we fear what could or might happen in the future which drives our physical and spiritual behavior. 

In the case of COVID-19, one example is the fear that we’ll run out of food and other things we use daily. We go to the store and clean off the shelves leaving nothing for the next person. That may be ok if we do it one time, at one store, but the next person who comes looking for toilet paper, for example, but sees an empty shelf, they might panic. They wonder when, or if they’ll be able to get more. If they do find some, they clean off the shelves and the cycle continues.

Now, not only do we have a pandemic, but we also have a stampede of people going to stores catching and spreading the virus more. 

Over the years, numerous studies have shown that having a negative mindset affects our health. One way is that it decreases immunity leaving us more vulnerable to illnesses, or we’re sick longer. On the other hand, studies also show that having a positive mindset helps us stay healthy. If we do get sick, our positivity helps us get better quicker. In times like this, how do we avoid the anxiety and panic we feel as more cases pop up in our communities? I’m not a doctor, but I do have a prescription for that.

For as long as I remember, I’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine. What could be more positive than laughter? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make light of a serious situation, however, we need to do something until the medical field catches up with medicines and vaccines for COVID-19. As long as we sit around worrying about what will happen, our immunity lowers and we become sitting ducks. 

As I have watched the progression of COVID-19 and it’s march across my state and into my community, I’ve gradually reduced my public activity. Now, I stay home as much as I can, not only because I have underlying health conditions, but because I don’t want to catch it and pass it to others in my circle. I admit, I did panic a little, but I kept a watchful eye, and listened to the medical experts. 

The first day I had decided to stay home, I was pretty bummed. I felt like I was a grounded teenager again. The next morning, as if it were some sort of sign, I saw a humorous segment on the news. It made me feel a little better about my situation. As the day went by, I realized that all of this stuff that we’re all going through is temporary. I also realized that there was something I could do about it.

I believe in being part of the solution instead of part of the problem. By staying silent and not using my gifts, talents, and my stockpile of positive and funny pictures, I’m being part of the problem. Since there isn’t much I can physically do to help, I went to social media to find the funny segment I saw on the news and be part of the solution. 

As I was scrolling, I was surprised to see numerous positive posts. Some were encouraging, some inspirational, some were funny, and some were downright hilarious. That’s when I decided to start using my social media platform to spread some positivity on my personal page and in one of my groups called “Paying it Forward w/ Positive and Funny Energy”. My goal is to post at least one positive thing every day along with the other stuff I post.

I’m sure many of you want to do something to help others in your community or around the world, but you feel powerless. I assure you, you are not. You don’t have to do something physically to help. Saying a prayer to your Higher Power and sharing positivity on social media are just two of the many things you can do. To help ourselves, we can watch a funny sitcom or movie. Heaven knows we have enough time and plenty to choose from. 

Believe me, I know how hard it is to find something positive when life isn’t going well. Perhaps that’s one of the good things that’s happened amid this pandemic. More and more people have been finding creative ways to come together while practicing social distancing then sharing those times on social media. Before we know it, our newsfeeds won’t be filled with anger and hate. They’ll be filled with positive things that give us hope.

Thought for the day: Instead of panicking and sweating the small stuff, do whatever you can to find a way to laugh. Then find a way to bring a smile to someone else’s face, but remember to practice social distancing. 

***Please be sure to read more of my posts 

Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug March 26th

Normally I don’t post these daily reflections for a couple of reasons. Primarily because of the agreement I made with Doug’s family when they gifted me his work. However, his words today and tomorrow are too important. You can read more Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug on the Facebook page created in his honor – Stephanie’s Sweetgrass and Dancin’

Wi:yo:h Sedehjiah – Good Morning
Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug

March 26, 2014

“We are all needed at this Time. The Creator has written a different message in each of our Hearts. It takes all of us to put them all together to bring Balance to the New Reality of the coming Future! There are as many different Paths, as there are People. Just as each person has different needs in Life, so each of us have different Spiritual needs. We can all co-exist thru the exercise of Manners, Ethics and a Morality that doesn’t impose rules upon others. Seeing is more than meets the eye. Listening is more than hearing. Love Travels between the Worlds, like Sweetgrass and Music. Deepen Your Laugh and Smile lines, they the Beauty of a well lived Life! Drink Deeply of the Magic that surrounds You! Keep Dancin!!”   By Doug Luzar 

Something to Ponder…

Today of all days, Doug’s words couldn’t be more true. I decided to revise my previously written words to be more in line with what we are experiencing all over the world. Since I am in America, I’m more knowledgeable about what’s going on here, some or all of my words might apply to you and your country. I’ll let you be the judge of that. 

It’s no secret to anyone who watches or reads the news these days that things have been negatively changing around the world in recent years, especially the last couple of months. And now every citizen in every country is in some way battling an enemy. This enemy has an army that continues to grow in numbers and it has literally brought the whole world to a screeching halt. To make things more complicated, this enemy and its army is invisible and it doesn’t have bullets, swords, missiles or bombs, but it has killed numerous people, held millions of people prisoner, and wounded many more. Despite its size, this tiny invisible enemy does have a name. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2(SARS-CoV-2), aka COVID-19, or Novel Coronavirus Disease of 2019.

Many people have speculated how and why this happened. They have pointed fingers at other people and events while blaming them, accusing them of fear mongering, or calling them names like “racist” and “xenophobic“. The fear mongering has caused many people to be afraid that they’ll run out of food and other things so they buy up all of those things leaving nothing for the next person. I mean really, who needs six extra large packages(a 24 or more count) of toilet paper? 

Before the invisible enemy arrived on American soil, we were divided. Much of our division is more than simple politics. In the past, we discriminated against others based on the color of their skin, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual preference and others. Today we are putting ourselves into little categorical boxes claiming we’re victims because we’re this or that. We’re still practicing discrimination, only now it’s in reverse. Instead of calling this what it is, we make it sound better by calling it identity politics. 

These divisions have done nothing but make us all strangers. If we don’t stop fighting each other long enough to see the problems beyond ourselves, well, let’s say I’m afraid of what will happen to our civilization. We need to become part of the solution, and stop being part of the problem.

Look, I know, life may seem pretty bleak these days for many of us. While I do not have any sage financial or medical advice, I do have suggestions to stop the madness and turn this world back to better times. The first, perhaps most important, thing is that all of us everywhere need to come together. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? We’ve had to be divided to conquer the invisible enemy, but we need to come together to improve our lives. Which do we do? We need to do both while practicing social distancing(stay 6 feet away from others), of course. There are many ways that we can do this. 

To begin with, humans have a very long history of being creative, innovative and resourceful. Amid all the news reports of how bad things have been, currently are, and could potentially be, I’ve also heard positive stories about how we’ve been coming together while keeping our distance. Companies big and small are changing the products they make or donating money, goods and services, while ordinary citizens are helping others in their communities, especially their more vulnerable neighbors. People are helping other people despite whatever normally divides them. 

I’ve even seen a glimmer of hope from some of our political leaders. Normally I’m very critical of our government, however in recent days, I have found myself agreeing with the governor of our state. Normally I vehemently disagree with him, but I digress.

At the same time, we don’t need to look to the government to tell us what to do. We need to take personal responsibility which basically means taking responsibility for our actions without blaming or expecting others to do it for us. With our current situation, that means doing whatever we can to prevent spreading this invisible enemy to others and helping others in whatever way we can when we can. There is an excellent article I encourage you to read titled “Taking Personal Responsibility” by Laura M. Stack, MBA.

What does all of this have to do with Doug’s words today? 

When we set aside our differences and start working together, we will see that each of us has a message to share and unique gifts and talents that can help or heal others in some way. Believe it or not, there are many different types of healers. There are of course nurses, doctors, counselors, and clergy members. There are also musicians, writers, and artists, as well as Shamans, empaths, and many, MANY others including every day ordinary people. Each and every one of us is a healer in some way whether it’s the methods and tools that we use, or our personal backgrounds(skin color, faith, education, etc).

Later, when this health crisis is over, we must not go back to our old ways of selfishness, petty bickering and identity politics. We need to remember how good it felt to work together for the greater good. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we all came together as one to create a new and better life for us and the next seven generations to live in? What would our lives be like if we stopped comparing ourselves to each other and started identifying with each other? How happy would you and I be if we quit dividing ourselves and realize that We, you and me, Are All Related? Imagine…..Nya:weh Hoje:no’kda’oh. Agwadë:nö:k – Thank You Creator. We Are All Related.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug March 20th

Normally I don’t post these daily reflections for a couple of reasons. Primarily because of the agreement I made with Doug’s family when they gifted me his work. However, his words today are too important. You can read more Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug on the Facebook page created in his honor – Stephanie’s Sweetgrass and Dancin’

Wi:yo:h Sedehjiah – Good Morning
Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug

March 20, 2014

“When you Pray with the Sacred Pipe, you Pray with and for everything in Creation. When you load your mixture with Your Prayers, you are loading All the Powers of the Universe into the Bowl, a Circle, where you are at the Center of the Universe, surrounded by by it. When you light the Pipe, the Universe is consuming You. When you draw on it, and the Smoke Travels thru the Stem, you are taking the Universe into You, . When you exhale, you are sending your Thoughts, Emotions, Intentions, Words, and Prayers into the Universe. Seeing is more than meets the eye. Listening is more than hearing. Love Travels between the Worlds, like Sweetgrass and Music. Deepen Your Laugh and Smile lines, they are the Beauty, and Reward of a well lived Life! Drink Deeply of the Magic that surrounds You! Keep Dancin!!”  By Doug Luzar 

Something to ponder…

Every religion has their tools they use to pray with. There are rosary and prayer beads, the Qur’an and the Bible, smudge sticks and incense, and many more tools. When we use these tools, we feel our Higher Power is with us, they maintain or strengthen our faith and believe that our tools will carry our prayers to our Higher Power. Each tool, even certain parts of our tools, have a special meaning. 

I’ve been blessed and honored to be in a number of pipe circles. Every time I smoked, I understood the purpose and significance of each action and each tool that was used. In reading today’s Reflection by Doug, I understand each detail even more. 

Something that should be done whenever we use our tools for praying to our Higher Power is to focus on our intent and to feel Creators love in, for, and around us. Feel His presence and love for us inside, outside, and around us. Then connect with Him and send our prayers to and with Him. If we are asking Him a question, we wait for His reply. It’s as simple as that. 

There are times in our lives when we go through storms, and some of those storms can get pretty bad. We may choose to turn our backs to our Higher Power thinking He’s abandoned us in our greatest time of need, or worse, we begin to think that He never existed in the first place. Don’t think that. Continue to believe in Him because He is always there giving us what we need, when He feels the time is right. Sometimes when we’re going through these storms it’s helpful to have some sort of tangible item to hold. Some people might grab their Bible and crucifix, while others might grab their sage and crystals. 

Personally, I have a little bag of trinkets. Some would call it a simple bag of stuff. When I told another Native American about my bag of trinkets, she explained that it is a Medicine Bag. This is because each item holds a special meaning which is medicine that helps me keep the faith, to stay strong and persevere. I have a hard time believing in something I can’t see. When I’m going through a difficult time and I’m struggling to maintain my faith in my Higher Power, holding my medicine bag while praying for the strength to persevere is better than the medicine any doctor can order. 

During this difficult time we are all experiencing, I encourage you to utilize the tools or something that symbolizes the tools of your faith. When you feel like your back is against the wall, hold your tool and say a prayer to your Higher Power. It can be one you learned or something simple like, “Help” or “Thank you”. Do this anytime you need to. Before you know it, you will be on the other side of whatever you are going through whether it’s the coronavirus or some situation we’ll experience after this is over.

Nya:weh Hoje:no’kda’oh. Agwadë:nö:k – Thank You Creator. We Are All Related.

***Please read more of my posts

Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug March 19th

Normally I don’t post these daily reflections for a couple of reasons. Primarily because of the agreement I made with Doug’s family when they gifted me his work. However, his words today and tomorrow are too important. You can read more Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug on the Facebook page created in his honor – Stephanie’s Sweetgrass and Dancin’

Wi:yo:h Sedehjiah – Good Morning
Daily Reflections Inspired by Doug

March 19, 2014

“Praying is all about Living. It is not only a prescribed Ritual of Words or Actions. It is how you Walk in this World, the things you Do. It is how you relate to the World, when you are Happy, or Sad, or Angry, or Overwhelmed. It is how you feel inside, how your Heart connects to the Heart of Spirit. Praying is Love. As you go into the World today…remember…remember the Joy and Awe and Wonder you felt with each new day as a child. Remember the pieces of the puzzle that you have forgotten. Seeing is more than meets the eye. Hearing is more than listening. Love Travels between the Worlds, like Sweetgrass and Music. Deepen Your Laugh and Smile lines, they are Beauty! Drink Deeply of Life. Keep Dancin!!!” By Doug Luzar  

Something to ponder…

I’ve mentioned before that I was raised in a particular Religion and as an adult I’ve checked out other religions in search of one that I felt comfortable in. While I have not been to a service in every religion, I have visited quite a few and I’ve noticed a couple of things; 1) what religion teaches us, 2) how we act between church services, 3) the importance of faith in a Higher Power and 4) our Higher Power is everywhere, not only inside the four walls of a building. 

What does religion teach us? In a broad sense, we are taught to live in a good way. We learn how to treat our neighbor and to be of selfless service to others in need. We also learn about values, morals and Spiritual Principles like Honesty, Acceptance, Surrender, Hope, Commitment, Faith, Courage, Willingness, Humility, Unconditional love, Perseverance, Open-mindedness, Awareness, Vigilance, Self-discipline, Sharing, Caring, Patience, Forgiveness, Selflessness, Compassion, Kindness, Responsibility, Tolerance, Trust, Unity, Gratitude, and Service to name a few. 

As we listen to the sermon, we nod in agreement as we hear that we need to be of service more often and to live in accordance with the values, morals and Spiritual Principles. When the service is over and we’ve visited with our fellow church members, we go home until the next service. 

But between services, how are we living? Are we living in a good way? Are we Honest, Tolerant, Compassionate, Accepting, and Open-minded? Do we Forgive and Respect others? Do we Share with or Care about others? If we are not living in a good way, do we ask our Higher Power for forgiveness and work on being a better person? When we nod in agreement during the sermon, but act different in our daily lives, are we not being hypocritical? 

Having faith in a Higher Power. This is often difficult when we’re going through trying times, especially today as all of us all over the world are in some way touched by the coronavirus. Some people look to the sky and wonder where their Higher Power is when they need Him while others wail, “Why me?” Still others think their Higher Power is punishing them while others think He cannot hear them. Sadly, others lose faith altogether. Myself? I did all of the above. The truth is that our Higher Power isn’t punishing or ignoring us. He is still with us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year including nights, weekends and holidays. He isn’t with us just once a week for an hour or so during our church service.

And He is even with us even when we stop believing.

In the religion I was raised in, I was taught that if I was bad and didn’t ask for forgiveness, I was going to hell. It wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I learned this wasn’t true. And I learned this from someone who was raised in the same religion 20 years before meeting when times were more strict. He taught me that our Higher Power no matter what name you call Him is loving, kind, and forgiving even if we don’t ask for it. He also taught me that He does give us what we want, when we want it. He gives us what we need, when we need it. Can you imagine what the world would look like if our Higher Power gave us whatever we wanted?

When we are going through a very difficult time in life, we often find solace in going to our house of worship, but unfortunately we cannot even go there right now. Like I said, our Higher Power is with us 24/7 which means that is also with us everywhere we go. We can still find solace in Him wherever we are. When we pray to Him outside our house of worship, we don’t have to recite the words we learned there. We can simply say what’s on our minds and in our hearts. I’ll get into this more tomorrow. 

Hey, I for one know how hard it is some days to live according to Spiritual Principles. Whether it’s because the person who needs my help annoys me or a situation is unbearable, I often find it hard to live in a good way. This is especially true today when I feel fear building inside me and I want to run to the store and buy up everything I think I need but won’t use in a year then horde it when someone needs whatever I have extra of. 

Today, perhaps more than ever, we need to live in a good, Spiritual way – even if we don’t believe or have faith in a Higher Power. If we can do this, if we can live in a good way according to Spiritual Principles and maintain or develop our belief in a Higher Power, I have no doubt we will make it through this difficult time. Nya:weh Hoje:no’kda’oh. Agwadë:nö:k – Thank You Creator. We Are All Related.

***Please read more of my posts

Nya:weh(Thank You) For Your Continued Support 

Wi:yo:h Sedehjiah – Good Morning

March 11, 2020

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for reading Doug’s Daily Reflections and for visiting his memorial page, “Stephanie’s Sweetgrass and Dancin”. I also thank everyone who’s visited and supported “Bella’s Thoughts on Life”.  Your continued support and encouragement along with your comments, shares, “likes”, messages and overall support these last five years has brought me to where I’m at today. I also want to thank all of you who have helped with Native American ways and language.

As many of you know, a little over five years ago, Doug Dropped his Robe(passed away). A month later, on March 6, 2015, Doug’s memorial page was launched. A few short days later, on March 11, 2015, I posted my first words with Doug’s on the page. I never dreamed that first year the page would have 500 “likes”! Today there are more than 3,500 “likes”! That may not be a lot of people to you, but for someone like me who didn’t believe in herself, that’s a lot. As I reflect on the last five years, I see how and where I’ve grown. But this never would’ve been possible without the blessing and help from Doug’s beloved family. For those of you who don’t know how all this began, here is the full story.

Just like many other people, I was helped by Doug. When I first met him, I was going through a very difficult time in my life and his words touched me. In the months that followed, we got to know each other. Then, as if he knew I was sinking into a deep depression, his words rescued me from a life of certain doom. One day I looked for his words in the group, but found none. A couple of days went by, still nothing. I knew he wasn’t feeling well, so I went to his page to post some well wishes. I was shocked and devastated, as was his family and multitude of friends to find out he’d passed away a couple days earlier.

Knowing how he’d touched so many lives, I wanted to continue sharing his words. Unfortunately, I hadn’t saved any of his posts. As the next couple of weeks went by, I had a nagging feeling I couldn’t shake. I felt compelled to do something that I would’ve never done in a million years because, in my mind, doing this seemed disrespectful. Finally, I decided to act on this feeling. My memory is a little fuzzy so hopefully my first connection will contact me and remind me of the details in those early days.😉 I contacted one of his friends to see if she had a copy of his work. I explained who I was and that I wanted to honor him by continuing to post his words on his page but I hadn’t saved any of his posts. She had a copy and sent it to me. 

After a little time passed, Doug’s daughter-in-law contacted me. She said that by continuing to post his words on his personal page I was prolonging the pain that the family felt. After apologizing profusely, I said that I meant no harm. I explained that I completely understood their pain and told her what I wanted to do. She then connected me with Doug’s loving wife. After exchanging some emails, social media messages, a phone call or two and a few tears, Doug’s wife graciously gave me the permission to continue posting his words … on a few conditions. 

1. I couldn’t sell his work.

2. I couldn’t share the posts on his page. I had to create a new one.

3. I had to write my words of experience, strength and hope with his words until I felt comfortable to do my own writing.  

The first two were no problem, besides, I wasn’t doing it to make money. I wanted to share what Doug freely shared with me. But writing my words with his? That was going to be hard. I didn’t think I had anything of value to say, nor was I certain that I could honor his memory very well with my words. Besides, even though I’m a creative person, I was a lousy English student in high school and I never pursued writing in any form. His family, however, had faith in me, some complete and total stranger they knew nothing about. 

I found myself agreeing to these conditions and began creating his memorial page. With the help of the family friend, and some divine help from above(😉), “Stephanie’s Sweetgrass and Dancin'” was born. Doug’s memory was kept alive and his message of hope, peace and love continues. Over the next year and a half, I worked on writing my own inspirational words. After sharing my writing with you and getting your positive feedback, I decided to start a blog page and on November 7, 2016, I launched “Bella’s Thoughts on Life”.

March 1, 2014, “Today, believe in Your Dream, your Vision of You. Don’t let anything move you from your path. We often doubt our own Truths and buy into others beliefs of us. Your Heart Breathes the Truth of You. You have important things to do, things that only You can do. We are All here to fulfill a task that only we Each can do. We are All here for a Purpose.” ~ Doug 

I find it ironic that his words appear just days before the 5th anniversary of when I began sharing my words with his. 

As I begin another year of sharing Doug’s words, I thank each of you once again. When I started this journey, you gave me confidence to continue writing. Your continued support gave me confidence to write my own book of daily reflections and an autobiography of my life as a grateful recovering addict. What started as an idea that I toyed with a few short years before meeting Doug turned into a goal and then a dream. There were just two problems. I lacked the confidence to work on the books and I was even more afraid of seeking out someone to publish any of my words whether it was my books or my shorter pieces.

That all changed two and a half years ago when I received an unexpected message from another stranger. The message was to keep working on my books. His persistence gave me the inspiration that I needed to work on my books, and seek publication. He also gave me the one gift I’ve wanted for many, many years. A very special thank you goes out to you, Healer(aka Little Elk), for the Native American name you gifted me. But you didn’t give me just any name. You gave me your beloved mother’s name, Eagle Warrior Woman. A simple thank you, even two and a half years later, doesn’t seem enough. I’m still speechless to this day. I also thank you for the package you sent last summer. I treasure each item you sent. Go Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns! Lol!

Over the last five years, each of you has helped me grow from a timid little girl with low self esteem into a confident, but not cocky, woman with a new passion. Because of your feedback, you’ve helped me to step outside my comfort zone and overcome my insecurities. You’ve also helped me discover a new talent that I had overlooked. Writing. 

Unfortunately, for now, my books and any new writing has had to take a temporary backseat. I had to do this so I could edit much of my previous work and find a way to pay the bills since my health forced me to quit working. I know I will accomplish my goals. It’s just going to take a little longer than I had hoped.

For my Native American readers. I’m sure you’ve noticed my hodgepodge of words and misspellings, I mean no disrespect. I can’t remember which tribe Doug was a member of, however, since I live a few minutes from the Seneca nation, both reservations, I chose to honor them. Finding translations for the words I’m looking for has been very difficult, but I will continue to search for the right translations. I welcome correction. Funny, I could reach out to a stranger’s family for a copy of their deceased loved one’s writing, but I can’t ask a Seneca neighbor to help translate a handful of words, even though I am friends with a young man from the Seneca Nation.

Thought for the day: Never give up on your dreams no matter who you are, how old you may be or what you’ve done in your life. If this middle aged brawd who was a lousy English student can do it, so can you. Nya:weh Adanideosha. Agwadë:nö:k(Thank you for your help. We Are All Related.)

***Please read more of my posts

Glass Picking Safety Tips

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” ~ Benjamin Franklin 

These days, crime is everywhere. We’ve all seen the posts about being safe while shopping, etc, but we need to practice safety wherever we go. Sadly, this also includes when we are glass picking.

The purpose of this post is not to alarm you. It’s meant to help you stay safe.

The last few years my best friend, and I have become avid beachcombers. We love to collect glass, pottery, fossils, and unique rocks. When originally went together, but we decided to go different directions so we weren’t knocking each other down trying to get the same piece of glass. Along the way we’ve encountered other people. Most have been friendly, but the other day, my best friend encountered another man who instantly made her feel uneasy. He was acting very peculiar. He was scraping rocks together, and talking to trees. Thankfully, she uses a walking stick, and carries a pocket knife. A short time later she came across 3 fishermen and told them about this man. 

This time, nothing happened. 

Whether you’re in a sleepy little town, or a big city walking on a Great Lakes beach, or an ocean beach, we need to be aware of any dangers we may encounter. Here are some safety tips you can use whether you’re walking on the beach, or in your neighborhood wherever you live.

1. Go with a friend. Even if the two of you go separate ways, your friend will most likely hear you scream. 

2. If you can’t go with a friend, make sure someone knows where you’re going and approximately when you’ll be back.

3. Take your cell phone with a fully charged battery. Some of the newer phones are equipped with the ability to send an SOS. 

4. Carry some form of a weapon. That can be a walking stick, a whistle, a pocket knife, or a good sized rock.

5. Stay aware of your surroundings. By that I mean be aware of other people around you. If someone makes you feel uneasy, especially if you’re alone, get somewhere more public. 

6. Trust your gut. If you get the sense that something is wrong or doesn’t add up, do not ignore it. Your instincts exist to protect you. It’s always better to be overcautious than to ignore a warning sign that turned out to be legitimate.

8. If you can’t get to some place more public, use your cell phone to either pretend to, or actually make a phone call. This way you don’t appear to be alone.

As a general rule, practice looking for exits, barriers, and any other unique elements that could be of importance to your personal safety. Do not get complacent in familiar environments, wherever they may be. Just because it’s safe today doesn’t mean it will be safe every day.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts. 

Celebrating the Holidays as an Addict

“As the feeling of self-loathing grew, we needed to use more and more to mask our feelings. We were sick and tired of pain and trouble. We were frightened and ran from the fear. No matter how far we ran, we always carried fear with us. We were hopeless, useless and lost … We must face our problems and our feelings.” ~ Anonymous 

This time of year is particularly difficult for many people. The reasons are many, but it’s mainly because the memories, and feelings of past Christmases that come back to haunt us. Those memories at times are so real, so vivid that we can hear the laughter, see the people around us, feel the anticipation as we opened our presents, smell the turkey in the oven, and taste the pumpkin pie. I’m sure many of you can relate.

However, there’s one group of people who often have an especially hard time with the holidays. Addicts. My words today go out to you, the addict reading my words. 

The feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and remorse that addicts feel around the holidays can be overwhelming. For some of us, this is because we remember the lousy Christmases we had as children. For others it’s because our family has cut us off because we were using. In actuality, we cut ourselves off from the family. 

Whatever the case may be, we don’t want to feel those feelings, especially around the holidays. We do whatever we can to escape those haunting memories, and the feelings of emptiness and loneliness we feel inside. We just want to be numb. We don’t care how we do it, what drug(s) we use, or how we get them as long as it kills the pain. 

The problem with this is that when we come down from our high nothing has changed. Well, that’s not entirely true. Not only do we still feel the pain from whatever happened in our lives, but now our problems are often worse because we used. If our first, or second hit doesn’t give us the effect we want, we end up using more. We continue to use until we’re in jail, an institution, or worse. We end up dead. 

I’ve known too many addicts who’ve died because their feelings were too painful. Some of them died after their first hit, others died after gradually using more, and more.

I have had to deal with my own demons, and feelings not only this time of year, but throughout the year for a few years now. I admit, though, I have a harder time at Christmas. Just the other day I had an overwhelming rush of memories, and feelings of times gone by as I went through a box of Christmas decorations. I remembered the people who have come in, and out of my life whether it was before, or during active addiction, and since I’ve been in recovery for a few 24 hours. Family, friends, romantic partners, and acquaintances have left my life because of moving away, divorce, or death. Some have just plain disowned me.

Do I like losing people in my life? Hell no. It’s a fact of life that I’ve learned to accept. I feel anger, guilt, remorse, shame, fear, hurt … all of that, but you know what? I know I don’t have to use because of those feelings. 

I’ll admit that a small part of me has wanted to go run, and use my drug of choice. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. How the hell do I do it? How do I not run away, and get high? I do my best to work a recovery program that has given me some tools to use. One of my best tools is a tape I play in my mind of what would, not could, what WOULD happen if I went out, and used. I would end up trying different drugs, using them in different ways, and getting more by different means. In the end, the crappy feelings of my relapse would get to me, and I would end up six feet under. 

For me, it’s a matter of life, or death. Today I choose life.

Here’s the cold, hard truth that you probably don’t want, but need to hear. Whether they’re good, or bad, feelings are a part of life. They don’t magically disappear when we get high, or if we’ve been clean for any amount of time. The best thing we can do is confront our feelings head on, and deal with them in a healthy way.

If you’re reading this, and you’re an addict having a hard time during the holidays, or any time of the year, there are crisis, and addiction helplines all over the world if you need to talk to someone. Most, if not all parts of the world will also have some form of self help meeting on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. I know because I will be opening our church Christmas Eve night, and New Year’s Eve night, and another addict will be opening their meeting place Christmas night, and New Year’s night.

Thought for the day: If you feel like no one loves you this Christmas, take heart, and know that I love you, even though I don’t even know you. Have a very safe, and Merry Christmas, and an even Happier New Year.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts 

Learning from Crayons

“We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box.” ~Robert Fulghum

Believe it, or not we can learn a lot from crayons. Although they are all different colors, each one is made of wax, and is covered with a paper label. Notice how they all get along well in the box? No matter how you arrange them, they still make a rainbow. As you continue reading, remember the box of crayons and ask yourself if you have you heard of the following;  

That Blue is offended because Pink is prettier? 
That Brown calls Purple a bigot, fascist, or misogynist because it’s on top of the rainbow? 
That Orange says White has white privilege because it’s white?
That Yellow says its life matters?
That Green is superior to Black because it has more shades?
That Red has to go to a safe space because all of the divisive talk in the box?

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I mean seriously, do you ever hear of any one crayon fighting another crayon like humans do? If they did, I imagine it would make quite a muddy mess. While all of this sounds pretty comical, and ridiculous, this is what we do to each other daily.

If we are to have any semblance of peace in this world we need to practice living the Spiritual Principles. We need to Respect, Tolerate, Accept, and Forgive each other, especially for those who are different from us. Underneath our skins, and beyond the name we give our Higher Power, we are ALL the same. Each of us has the same organs that keep us alive, and similar feelings, goals, hopes, and dreams. 

Thought for the day: What are some ways that you can practice Respect, Tolerance, Acceptance, and Forgiveness? 

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Listen to Understand

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen R. Covey


Have you ever listened to 2 children fight? Do you see something vaguely familiar? They yell at each other to make the other to listen, and see things their way. Each one gets increasingly louder until they’re screaming at each other. As adults, we do the same thing when we discuss hot button topics. We get increasingly louder to make the other person to see things our way. Since neither person can hear what the other is saying, even if it’s something the two can agree on, usually nothing is accomplished. Eventually, both people part ways feeling angry at the other.


I’ve also noticed that there’s so much turmoil in the world today much of which is senseless, and unnecessary. If we are to accomplish anything positive, we need to move past our issues. We can’t do that very well if we’re yelling at each other, right? All that happens is each side says that they’re right, and blames the other side for the situations they are in. 

The truth is both sides are right, and both sides to blame.


To help end the fighting, we first need to stop the yelling, stop the chants about a cause, stop the gun shots, and stop throwing things at each other. When the fighting stops, and all is quiet, we can listen to each other. We can hear what each side would like to see changed within reason, and come to a solution to end much of the fighting. 


Thought for the day: Today try to listen without the intent to reply. Listen with the intent to understand.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

For the Love of Country

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends”(layman’s terms “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend”) ~John 15:13

I write this in honor of the brave men, and women who leave their family, and loved ones behind, lay down their lives, and go off to some foreign land to fight for freedom – our freedom. 

In the early years of warfare, there was a good chance your soldier wouldn’t come home alive. If they weren’t Killed In Action(KIA), they became a Prisoner Of War(POW). These were soldiers who were captured, and tortured by the enemy. Still other soldiers were never heard from, or seen again. These soldiers were declared Missing In Action(MIA). 

Today, our soldiers have all kinds of defensive, and offensive gear that gives them a better chance to come home. There are still the unfortunate few who don’t make it home alive, but thankfully that number has drastically decreased over the years. 

Even though many of our brave men, and women make it home alive, many come home with visible injuries. These vary from simple sprains, strains and fractures, to more devastating injuries like the loss of an eye, traumatic brain injury, or the loss of one, or more limbs.  

Sadly, nearly all service men, and women come home with injuries that are not visible to the naked eye. They suffer from post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). They see, and hear unspeakable things that you, and I know nothing about. I won’t go into details out of respect for those soldiers, and their families. Besides, I’m sure if a soldier who returned from the battlefield is reading this, they don’t want to be reminded of the hell they endured, nor do their families. 

So why do these brave men, and women choose to sign up for military service if they know they may have to go off to war? Why do they lay down their lives for a country full of people they don’t know, including some people who despise them? They do it to protect you, and me. To preserve, and protect OUR way of life, our Freedoms that many of us take for granted. They are the reason you, and I can sleep safe, and sound at night. 

Today, I’d like everyone to take a moment to contemplate something. Imagine for just a moment how different our life would be if we had no military, and no one to defend, protect, and preserve our way of life. Imagine how different our life would be if we would’ve lost any one of the wars that we’ve fought. How different would life be in America if Britain, France, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Russia, Germany, or any other country would’ve won the wars we fought? 

I don’t know how different life would be, but I do know this much, we probably wouldn’t have any of the Freedoms, and the Rights we enjoy today. The very ones take for granted now. 

America truly is the land of the free because of the brave who defend it.

Thought for the day: Take a moment of your time today to thank a veteran for their service.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

A Time for Everything

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven …”  ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Have you ever looked back at the pictures you’ve taken, and remembered when a certain picture was taken? Good times, or bad, no matter how young, or old you are, you most likely remember when, where, and what happened that day 5, 10, 20, even 40 years, or more ago. In a flash you’re flooded with emotion, and thinking of how things have changed since then. 

When I’ve looked through pictures, and other mementos from days gone by, I can’t help but get caught up in the moments that were captured. The Christmases when we opened presents, the milestone birthdays when we rented large lighted signs, and people in gorilla suits, the watermelon seed fights we had at picnics, first cars, first babies, vacations, and many other events. Sometimes a tear rolls down my cheek when I take those trips down memory lane. 

The fact of the matter is people grow up, times change, and old memories are replaced with new ones. There was a time a place for those memories, and all those people. The thing I’ve learned is to see what’s important in life. I’ve also learned how important it is to be present in the moment as that moment presents itself before it becomes a memory. 

To many times we jam pack our schedules with stuff. This causes us to be in a hurry to get through events. Before we know it, “X” amount of time has passed, and we’re left to wonder where it went. 

Thought for the day: Today be present in each moment as that moment presents itself. 

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Beauty

“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” ~ Plato

I’ve never thought of myself as either a gorgeous, or an ugly woman. I’ve always seen myself as average. In high school, I hung out with the misfits. You know, the nerdy, overweight, ugly, or poor kids. They were true friends, and my first lesson in seeing beauty inside ugly. This is would help me later on in life.


I’ve also seen the beauty in ugly events, like when a loved one passes away. Sometimes it’s a blessing, especially if they’re sick and have no quality of life. I knew that they would no longer be in pain. 

Then ugly barged into my life.

A series of ugly events paved the way for me to live a more peaceful life. While going through the ugly events, I began having health issues that affected my face, and body. As I got worse I isolated. Going to the store horrified me. Thoughts about what others thought about me made it worse. I went out only when it was absolutely necessary. At one point I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. When my skin is healed, I’ll have permanent, noticeable scars on my face, and the weight I gained will probably never go away.


To get passed these thoughts, I did something that was suggested a few years ago. Using a pad of sticky notes, I wrote something positive on each paper, and covered a mirror I used daily. Every day I took a note off, and repeated those words to myself all day. By the time all the notes were gone, I saw the beauty within me.

Thought for the day: It has taken some time to accept how I look compared to my high school days. It’s not always easy, but it gets better each day.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts.

Protesting for the Earth

(Please share using “#trashtag challenge”) 

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” ~ Chief Si’ahl (Seattle)

Climate change has been a controversial, hot topic for a number of years. Many people have differing views on whether, or not it’s an issue, and what we need to do about it. I believe we need to discuss, rather revisit another viewpoint, well, one that isn’t very glamorous, and hasn’t been mentioned much in recent years. But first, set aside your emotions about climate change for a moment as you continue reading. My words may anger some people reading this, but I encourage you to read it to the end with an open mind. Perhaps you will see what I see.

I’ve been very passionate about the environment since I was a kid exploring the wooded area in my neighborhood. Back then, a public service announcement aired on TV about garbage featuring Iron Eyes Cody. Forget the dispute about his true nationality for a moment, and focus on the message itself which was about garbage all over everywhere. 

Sadly, I don’t think anyone heard the message because it seemed like nothing changed. Matter of fact, the problem has only gotten worse. 

Over the years, we’ve done a variety of things to take better care of the Earth. Laws were enacted. Ideas, and plans were created. Activist groups formed, protested, and held fundraisers. All kinds of people got involved; actors/actresses, law makers, musicians, ordinary citizens, and so on. Surely by now we’ve made a difference. All of the laws, protests, and plans have had an impact, right? 

Not exactly. The laws became restrictive, and the plans have been grandiose, at best. 

Fast forward to Friday September 20, 2019. Children all across the world skipped school, and took to the streets in protest. They demanded lawmakers take action now to address climate change. They hear lawmakers say that climate change is an “existential threat”, and that we need to end our use of fossil fuels now or the world will end in “X” number of years. 

While it’s debatable whether, or not they should’ve done this during school hours, their message is debatable. I do commend this young generation for taking a stand. However, the fact that our fossil fuel use is an existential threat, and that we can even achieve net zero use in 5, 10, or even 30 years is not feasible. To understand this better, let’s start by looking at what life would look if I snapped my fingers, and completely eliminated all fossil fuels now. 

Now, think of every single thing you use in a day. You may not realize this, but almost everything you use on a daily basis is made from fossil fuels. Gasoline is a by-product made from fossil fuels. We use it in cars, planes, trains, and boats to travel farther, and faster than walking, or riding a bike. If you like going from point A to point B faster than walking, etc, you can forget about it if there were no fossil fuels.  

Do you like walking into a dark room, and flipping a light switch on to see? Do you like to be warm in your home on bitterly cold nights, and cool on sweltering hot days?  To generate electricity, we have started utilizing renewable sources such as hydroelectric, solar, wind, and biomass materials. However, these sources are not currently 100% reliable, and the infrastructure to deliver electricity this way needs to be updated. Until these barriers can be fixed, we still need fossil fuels for our electricity, that includes “refueling” the electric car that would replace the combustible engine. If you like these things, you can forget about them if there were no fossil fuels.  

We also use fossil fuels, and their byproducts for a wide variety of other things. That device you’re using to read these words? Do you enjoy using it? Isn’t it nice to pick up the phone to call, email, or message your family, and friends? It’s pretty convenient to have your favorite beverage in a disposable container, right? Isn’t it good that healthcare, and food service workers wear gloves to prevent the spread of disease, and other contamination? How about the diapers you throw out after one use, the CD with your favorite music, the DVD of your favorite movie, or all of the other items you use daily? If you like these things, you can forget about them if there were no fossil fuels.  

Do you see a pattern? If you like to use all of these things, you can forget about them, and more if fossil fuels were eliminated. Virtually every product you use daily would disappear. Every container you put food in, and cup you put a beverage in would be gone, including that reusable water bottle you just bought. All of it gone. Instead of advancing human life, we would be regressing.

And that’s not even taking into consideration the number of people who would be out of work

Is our climate changing, is it an “existential threat”, and are humans responsible for it? Probably, but I’m no scientist. I do, however, know what is a bigger threat to our planet, and our lives. Garbage. Everywhere you look, you can see some form of garbage – even in places where few, if any humans go. 

On September 20th, I heard one young protester in Indianapolis, IN say, “What the hell are you doing? You’re killing my land!” I agree with her on that point. We are killing the land, but while she was protesting fossil fuel use, I am protesting the garbage that’s carelessly thrown around. I wonder, how much garbage was left behind after September’s protest? How many gum wrappers, plastic bottles, paper cups, etc littered the streets in those cities as those children marched to protest the fossil fuels that made those single use products they left behind on the ground? How much garbage litters the ground at any environmental protest?

As I said, I’m very passionate about the environment, but what good is clean air when we have decomposing garbage poisoning our land, and water? How can we affect our climate if we don’t start by addressing the basics like picking up garbage? What’s the use of banning plastic straws, and plastic grocery bags when there’s still plastic, and styrofoam containers from our favorite restaurant, or our picnics? Of course single use items are convenient, but when it’s not disposed of properly, it ends up wherever the wind blows it. Have you ever heard of the Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean? This is a result of careless humans using single use items, and tossing them wherever they feel like it. 

Another example of the effect our garbage has on the environment is the Great Lakes. Numerous things have contributed to their poor health. Fertilizer runoff from farms, invasive species of fish, and invasive plant life are only part of the problem. The other big offender is human carelessness. In 2016, a study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology found that nearly 10,000 metric tons, or 22 million pounds of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes every year(from Rochester Institute of Technology website). Over time the plastic in the Great Lakes, and other waterways has broken down, and turned into microplastic that fish, and other wildlife eats. When we eat that fish, or other wildlife, we end up eating the microplastic. 

Sounds like poetic justice to me.

By picking up the garbage we see around us, we can make a significant impact on our environment. Is it a prestigious job? No. It’s a disgusting, dirty job, but someone needs to do it. Picking up the garbage all over everywhere may sound like an insurmountable task, but many hands make light work. 

We also need to do more than just putting it in a bag, then in a trash can. We need to recycle it. Yes, in America we do recycle, but you would be surprised to know how much we actually recycle. I encourage you to read the November 14, 2018 article, “50 Recycling & Trash Statistics That Will Make You Think Twice About Your Trash” By Drew Brucker(on the Rubicon Global website).  

There’s one more thing I wonder about. If we really did eliminate fossil fuel use, would those same actors/actresses, law makers, musicians, and ordinary citizens be willing to live without the items I mentioned? Would they pay extra money in taxes to pay for their ideas? I highly doubt it. 

Thought for the day: To save our planet, we don’t need restrictive laws, and grandiose plans. We need to start with the basics like picking up the garbage we see all over everywhere. 

Please share using “#trashtag challenge”

***Please be sure to read more of my posts 

Faith

“Vows made in the storm are forgotten in calm water.” ~ Thomas Fuller

Faith is a strong trust, or belief in something that will come through for us in a time of need. Some people have faith in a Higher Power, others have faith in their favorite team. Today let’s focus on faith in a Higher Power whatever name you choose to call Him/Her.

To have faith in something we can’t see is very difficult. We usually have faith when we see good things happening in our lives, but what about when times are difficult? Many times our faith begins to wobble a bit. We may think we’re being punished for something we did. Perhaps we say a quick prayer telling our Higher Power we’ll do “this” if only “that” happens. 

What we don’t realize is that just because life gets difficult, our Higher Power is ignoring, or punishing us. He/She is actually guiding us to something better. Sometimes we go through long periods of “stormy waters”, but this just means that we’re not ready for what our Higher Power has in store for us. We just need to hang on until the storm passes. Promising we’ll do “this” if only “that” happens when we’re in stormy waters does no good, especially if we don’t pray at all when the waters are calm.

When my faith starts to wobble in the middle of “stormy waters”, it helps to have something tangible to reaffirm my faith. My little bag of various trinkets helps me find the blessings in “stormy waters”. It reminds me that my Higher Power is never very far from me.

Thought for the day: We all need to have faith in our Higher Power. It is the force that guides us in stormy and calm waters.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Hypocrites

“Hypocrites are rather easy to recognize. They spend most of their time pointing out the flaws in others, and the rest of the time trying to flaunt their perfection.” ~ Charles F. Glassman

If you’re a hypocrite you behave differently than what you say you believe. You say one thing in public, but do another in private. You pretend, with intention to deceive. You point out the flaws in others without looking at your own. You say, or do one thing, but say, or do something altogether different. 

For example, not long ago I saw a social media post by a female that said, “Women who steal another woman’s man are bad people.” The ironic thing is that this female stole her man from another woman. 

I’ve had lots of encounters with people like this. There’s the so-called friend who said, “I love you but…” and follows it up with negative criticism. There’s also the friend who says mean things about you to another friend so that person won’t be friends with you. There’s also the person who tells you about all the things you did wrong in your life even though that person did many of those same, if not worse things. 

I admit, I’m far from perfect, that’s for sure. I think we’re all a little hypocritical on occasion. I also think that we sometimes do this so we can fit in with, or look good to our friends. However if we follow the crowd we are denying who we really are. We are not being our true authentic selves. 

Thought for the day: Remember, “When you point a finger at someone, there are three pointing back at you.” ~Unknown  

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

The Gift of Giving

“For it is in giving that we receive” ~ St Francis of Assisi

When most people think about giving, and receiving they think of physical gifts in wrapping paper, and bows. There are many examples of giving, and receiving that don’t need any special paper, or bows. The following is one example of a special gift I received.

I’m a caregiver by trade. I have had a few jobs where I have had the pleasure of caring for others on some level depending on how ill they were. In all my years of caregiving, I have had people thank me for helping them. None of them can compare to one woman I had the pleasure of caring for a couple years ago.

I was caring for a woman who was in the end stages of her life. I had been on the job about a month and a half before the day she passed away. During my last shift with her, she gave me a very special gift that I will never forget. In her moments of clarity, and with what little strength she had left, she gently put her hand on my cheek, looked straight into my eyes, thanked me, and told me she loved me. I could see the sincerity in her eyes. “The only thank you I want from you is a smile.” I told her. And she did just that. She even laughed a hearty laugh.

The next morning, I got a call from the woman’s family saying that she passed away. They thanked me for the care I’d given her, especially the night before. I replied, “No, thank you for allowing me to care for your mom.”

Thought for the day: Sometimes the best gifts don’t come wrapped in paper with pretty bows. We just need to open our eyes to see them.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Serenity Prayer

“(Your Higher Power’s name), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

We all have those days when it seems like everything is going wrong. You know, those days when the “stuff” fairy comes along and drops a load of “stuff” right on our head. When that happens, if you’re like me, you get increasingly angry, or sad as each load of “stuff” is dropped on your head, or as each situation seems to be falling apart.

The Serenity Prayer has become my favorite prayer on days like these. It helps me find my center, and ultimately ground myself again. However, when I say it, I actually break it down, while asking myself a few questions, and answering them;

1) “Grant me the serenity to change the things I cannot change,”

What can, or can’t I change? Can I change situations, or events that have, or will happen to, or around me? Can I change the fact it’s raining when I want to go to the beach? Hardly. Can I change the way you think, feel, or what you say about me? Can I change anything about you? The answer is no. Stuff happens in life – good, or bad. I have as much control over the “stuff” that happens as I do over you. I know people who dislike me very much for various reasons, and I accept that. I can certainly talk to you until I’m blue in the face but it won’t change a thing.

2) “the courage to change the things I can,”

If I can’t change you, or situations, and events, what CAN I change? I can change how I feel, react, or respond to you. Instead of reacting with negative words, or actions, I can engage in meaningful conversation about what can be done to bring about change. I can also choose to not respond. I even can change my viewpoint to understand where you’re coming from.

3) “and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Wisdom is the combination of experience, knowledge and careful judgment. It is the ability to discern(or judge) which aspects of that knowledge are true, right, lasting, and applicable to your life. Today I’m able to walk away from a fight if I find that continuing to argue will be fruitless. When I have those days when nothing goes as planned, I do my best to practice acceptance. I accept that my Higher Power has a better plan for me, or reason for something happening than I do. Sometimes I figure out what the reason is, and sometimes I never figure it out. I, most of the time, accept that. It isn’t always easy, and that is where the “wisdom to know the difference” comes in. Accepting that I have no power over you, events, or situations.

You may be asking, “How will I know the difference?” Since everyone is different, I can only speak for myself. When I walk away from a fight, accept I am powerless over everything outside of myself, or make the right choice, I feel a quiet peace in my heart. I feel a sense of calm. I may not always like having to accept people, and situations for who, and what they are, but I am getting better at accepting it. The more accepting I am, the more wisdom I gain, and the more peace I have in my life today.

I think for some of us, accepting people, and situations is a daily struggle. Some of us have to have things our own way. We want what we want, when we want it, and the way we want it. While we may have our reasons, we are actually living in what’s called “self mode”. It’s when we’re being selfish, self-centered, self-serving, self absorbed, and self seeking. When this happens we find ourselves in conflict with ourselves, and everyone around us. To find that peace of mind we only need to say, and break the Serenity Prayer down to help get our minds back on track.

Thought for the day: When it seems like nothing in your World is going right, take a deep breath, say the Serenity Prayer then break it down. Before you know it you’ll find yourself back on the Path that points towards peace.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

The Past

“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either learn from it, or run from it.” ~ Rafiki(From The Lion King)

In this movie, a lion cub, Simba, runs away from home after being told he caused his father’s death. He meets Rafiki, a wise, but silly baboon. As Simba tells Rafiki his story, Rafiki suddenly bops Simba on the head with his walking stick. 

Simba: “Oww! Why’d you do that?” 

Rafiki: “It’s in the past. Forget about it.” 

Simba: “But that hurt!!” 

Rafiki: “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” 

Rafiki tries to bop Simba on the head again but, he catches the stick before it hits him. Rafiki says, “Now you are learning.”

None of us is perfect. All of us make mistakes. Some of us make bigger mistakes than others. Sometimes, when we make big mistakes we are weighed down by guilt. One thing we cannot, and must not do, is run away from our mistakes. What we should do is make amends, or make things right with those we hurt. For example, if you break a window, replace it. Whether, or not we are forgiven is up to the people we hurt.  

Sometimes no matter what we do, we aren’t forgiven. All we can do is make amends, and change our ways. If we’ve hurt someone who’s passed away we can look to the sky and express sincere regret, and that we were wrong for doing what we did. 

Thought for the day: When you make a mistake, don’t run from it. Say a prayer to your Higher Power, forgive yourself, make amends, and work to be better than you were yesterday.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Resentment

“Having a resentment is like me taking poison, and waiting for you to die” ~ Unknown 

How do you feel physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually when you hate someone? I’ll bet you feel kinda lousy, huh? Is your stomach is upset? Do you overeat, or not eat at all? Feel like there’s a ton of weight on your shoulders? Can’t concentrate? Are you’re sad, angry, hurt, or all of the above?

When we hate someone, we feel intense hostility towards them. Then, whether it’s conscious, or not, that hate turns into a grudge, also called a resentment. Holding on to resentments affects our bodies in subtle, and not so subtle ways. At best it affects our stomachs, our sleeping habits, or causes depression. At worst our chances for a heart attack, cancer, or stroke dramatically increases.

The anger we feel is the poison that kills us slowly while we wait for the other person to die. Unfortunately, we are the ones who die little by little, bit by bit.

I learned this lesson the hard way. I harbored deep seated resentments towards a couple people in my life. The anger I felt inside my heart caused a lot of health problems. Even though I played in the garden, walked on the beach, and posted positive stuff on social media, it wasn’t enough. Oh sure, it helped for a moment, but in the long run, the only way I was going to feel better was to pray for and forgive the people who hurt me.

Thought for the day: What anger or resentments are you holding onto? Wouldn’t it be nice to lighten that load?

***Please be sure to read more of my posts. Continue reading Resentment

“Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?”

(For the last few years that I’ve been writing, I’ve reserved today for one topic. To honor, and remember the lives of everyone who was affected in one way, or another on this day 18 years ago.)

“… Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor … every family that lives in grief … the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children.” 

“One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11 … we will never forget their sacrifice.” ~ former President George W. Bush at 1) UN General Assembly statement, November 10, 2001, and 2) September 11, 2008 Dedication of 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

For the last 25+ years, my best friend, and I love to ride around listening to music. One day, she popped a new song in the stereo, and said, “Buddy, you have to hear this one!” The song was “Where Were You …” by Alan Jackson. 

To this day, nearly 20 years later, this song gives me goosebumps as vividly recall the events of that day. I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast that morning, but I vividly remember where I was when I first heard the news, my initial thoughts, what I was doing, who I was with, what I did later that day, and evening, as well as the things I heard … or didn’t hear. Living near an airport, it was eerily quiet that day when all air travel came to an abrupt halt. I even remember the days, and months that followed.

That day was September 11, 2001. It was the day that planes crashed into both of the Twin Towers in New York City, as well as the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a remote field in rural Somerset County Pennsylvania. That day stirred up all kinds of emotions in people throughout America, and other countries around the world. People felt fear, sadness, guilt, trepidation that the apocalypse was near, and many others.

Many musicians have written songs about the day, but Alan Jackson’s song “Where Were You…” captured it best, in this writer’s mind. The song is about the reactions people had in the wake of that fateful day. The chorus paraphrases a verse in the infamous “Love Is” chapter of the Bible. 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, Verse 13.

Another song I’ve come to appreciate is “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. Some of you may recognize that this song is played at President Trump’s rallies. If you are someone who despises our 45th president, for the sake of today, and the memories of the lives of those who were impacted, I respectfully ask that you put your feelings aside for a few moments as you continue to read this. He is not the focus today.

For many years Lee Greenwood wanted to write a patriotic song about America. While on the road in the early 1980’s, Greenwood called his producer, and said, “I have a need to do this … We just need to be more united.”(From an article on “the Boot” site). In the song he unites the country by mentioning the four corners of the United States. Since then, the song has become a sort of rallying song for General [Norman] Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War, a song of life, and hope after Hurricane Katrina, and a song of unity, and rebuilding after 9/11.

So, why do I babble on about a couple of songs written roughly one and two generations ago, respectively? Because I hope to remind all who read these words why this country is the greatest to live in, why our ancestors have emigrated to this country over the centuries, and why we fight so hard to protect it. I also hope to teach the younger generation these things, and more importantly why we say that we will not forget.

Sadly, over the last 18 years, there has been a rapidly growing divide among America’s citizens. I could go into the long laundry list of what has divided America, and her citizens, but that would take me all day. Besides, if I listed everything that’s bad, I would just add more fuel to the already raging inferno of negativity, anger, and hate.

Do you know why we were attacked on September 11, 2001, and sporadically since then? We are viewed by a group of people as evil, and they must destroy us according to their teachings. Actually, these people view all western civilizations this way. These people are a radical subset of Islam known as jihadis, not to be confused with all people of Islam. These radicals view people in the western civilization as infidels, including Americans. 

Why do these people hate us, and view us as infidels? The answer is relatively simple. It’s because of our way of life, rather our Freedom. Our Freedom to choose what we want to do, feel, think, etc, when, and where we want. We are also free to do none of that. For example, if you want to have a same sex relationship, marry someone with a different skin color, or religion? You can do that. If you are born into poverty, or fall on hard times, you are free to work your way to the top. If you don’t want to be rich and famous, you are free to become professional couch potato. 

Another reason is our Freedom of Speech. We can pretty much say what we want, when, and where we want without fear of punishment. Want to protest, or say derogatory things about the president? Want to voice different opinions, or counter protest? You are free to do that, but try doing that in some countries, and see what happens.

Do you still doubt that this country is great? If so, take a moment, and think of all the Freedoms you have. Think of every little thing you can do. Look around at all that you have, all that you can say, feel, think, etc. Ask yourself if you would have half of those same Freedoms you if you lived in almost any other country. Think about all the obstacles we as a nation have overcome, and how diverse we are. Is it any wonder that SO MANY people want to come here? If you still question this, or you’re not sure, ask an immigrant why they came here legally, or illegally. Ask them what their country was like, and why they came here. 

________________

“I will never forget seeing what hate can destroy… I will never forget seeing what love can heal…” ~ Steve Maraboli

I will never forget the memories I have of September 11. Besides remembering what I did, I remember the events in the moments after this tragedy. This country, this very diverse country, cast aside all lines of division that existed at the time, and everyone did what they could to help. No one cared about who you were, or your skin color, age, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual preference, marital status, or your political affiliation. Everyone did what they could to help the first responders as well as the victims who were injured, the ones who died, the ones who made it out alive, and their families. People who couldn’t physically help sent thoughts and prayers.

Since that day 18 years ago, much has changed.

When I look around at current events in America today, and listen to these songs, I can’t help but reflect on 9/11. These songs evoke a couple of feelings in many people who listen to them. Unfortunately, the two words that describe these feelings happen to be two words that are viewed as politically incorrect, hateful, racist, and divisive in recent years. Some people believe these words are toxic, while others conflate them with other words that are similar, but derogatory. Still others twist their meanings.

Those words are Nationalism, and Patriotism.

Perhaps these words are viewed so negatively because some people don’t know, or understand their definitions. Allow me to clear up some confusion. Patriotism is the, “ … love for your country. It is associated with serving your country, and waving the flag. There are a lot of ways to demonstrate your patriotism. Waving the flag is an obvious way, but anything that celebrates your country, or makes it stronger is a great display of patriotism.”(vocabulary(dot)com)

Nationalism is, “the belief that your own country is better than all others … In some cases, nationalism can inspire people to break free of a foreign oppressor, as in the American Revolution … It’s the love of country, and willingness to sacrifice for it.”(vocabulary(dot)com)

These two words, in the proper context, don’t divide us. Diverse as we are, these words actually create a sense of unity, and pride among us. Can pride be toxic? It sure can. Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. However pride can also be healthy, as long as our ego stays out of the way. We can have pride that our country is better in many ways than other countries. 

Are the words Nationalism, and Patriotism racist, and hateful? Hardly. These words simply mean that you love your country, and the people who live in it – “warts, and all”. Have we had times in our history that we are not proud of? Of course. What country doesn’t? Can we do better in some areas? Most definitely. We may be an imperfect country, but overall we are better than many other countries. 

Today, a day now known as Patriot Day, let’s set aside whatever divides us for a few moments this morning at 8:46, 9:03, 9:37, 9:59, 10:15, 10:03, and 10:28 to remember all who were involved in the events that day. Remember the victims, the heroes, and their families. Let’s remember what makes this country great – “warts and all”.

I know I’ll never forget this day. Will you? 

Thought for the day: Take a moment, and reflect on these words from a 2016 social media post. “At this moment 18 years ago, millions of Americans went to bed quietly, with no thought that the next morning their world would change forever. That night hundreds packed flight bagts they would not live to open. Thousands slept with loved ones for the last time. One never knows what a new day has in store. Let us live each day to the fullest, and never miss a chance to let those dearest to us know of our love for them.” ~ Debbie J 

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

________________

“Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)”
By Alan Jackson

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin’ against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don’t know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin’ what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

[Chorus:]
I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty ’cause you’re a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you’re watchin’
And turn on “I Love Lucy” reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?

[Chorus x2]

And the greatest is love.
And the greatest is love.

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?

___________________

“God Bless The USA”
By Lee Greenwood

If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife
I’d thank my lucky stars to be livin’ here today
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away

[Chorus]
And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA

From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee
Across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea
From Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA
Well, there’s pride in every American heart
And it’s time we stand and say

[Chorus 2x’s]

My Story

“We cannot change the nature of the addict or addiction. We can help to change the old lie ‘Once an addict, always an addict,’ by striving to make recovery more available.” ~ Anonymous

There is a disease lurking in our communities. It’s cunning, baffling, insidious … and it’s fatal. This disease can affect anyone regardless of age, race, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, creed, religion, or lack of religion. It’s the disease of addiction.

Yes, addiction is a disease. It is not a choice, or a moral failing, and we are not bad people. We are sick people wanting, and trying to get better. While I could argue all day on this fact, my goal today is to help another addict with my story. However, I encourage you to look up the definition of addiction on either the American Society of Addiction Medicine(ASAM), or the National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA) websites.

Yes, I am a gratefully, recovering addict. How can I be grateful to be an addict? Read on, and you’ll see.

I started to discreetly share my story in 2016 in a couple of social media groups on, or near this date. Because of the stigma attached to addicts, I was afraid to share it sooner. Heck, I felt the same way about before I became one, however, after the death of a couple addicts who were friends, I felt the need to share it on a bigger platform. I don’t share it to boast, or brag, least of all for pity, or a pat on the back. I share it to show that a life without mind altering, mood changing substances(aka drugs, and alcohol) is possible.

My hope is that my story encourages, inspires, and empowers at least one addict to get, and stay clean, even if it’s Just for Today.

Before my addiction, I was an overall good person with a few flaws. I helped, or took care of people to the best of my ability. There were many times when I helped too much, oftentimes to a point that I lost myself in the process. The day I was injured on the job is one example of this. I was helping another elderly client with her morning routine. Her legs were weak. When she stood up, they gave out on her. In hindsight, I should’ve had someone helping me. That day was the last time I physically felt like Wonder Woman.

At that time, it was nothing for doctors to give someone with an injury like mine a prescription of pain pills. The problem is that some people run the risk of dependency, and subsequently become addicted. There’s no way to know who will become addicted. Each person is different, so the length of time before this happens depends on many factors. Needless to say, for me, it didn’t take long to become dependent on them, and then a full fledged addict.

During my addiction I was a lying, manipulative, conning, self centered bitch. I got to a point of desperation, and total self imposed isolation. I pushed everyone away because I felt they either didn’t understand me, or they criticized me. I was also afraid they wanted me to share my stuff. There were times I felt like an ugly monster. This might sound extreme to some people, but this is the ugly truth.

Despite everyone’s begging, and pleading, I didn’t think I was an addict. I said things like, “I can control my using. I can still pull myself together, and function just fine. Besides, I’m not like THOSE people. I’m not some dirty homeless person with a needle in my arm. My drugs are prescribed to me by a doctor, so they’re legal.” The truth is that I could barely function. I stole money, and prescriptions from other people around me. I conned, and manipulated my doctor. I lied, and said that my pain was much worse than it actually was. When he stopped giving me what I wanted, I shopped around for another doctor, and went on to manipulate him.

It all came to a head one fateful weekend that changed my life forever.

At the time, my husband had been gone for 8, or 9 months with his military unit overseas. Before this, his son, who was 8, or 10 years old at the time, came over every weekend. While his dad was away, he understandably didn’t come over. One day, he called me out of the blue asking if he could come over that weekend. In the back of my mind I questioned my ability to properly care for him, but at the same time, I missed him. I didn’t have the heart to say no so I let him come over anyway.

That weekend I couldn’t stop using for half an hour. I remember playing a board game with him, and popping pills every other time it was my turn. The following morning, I puked all over myself while he helped me to clean up. I couldn’t even stand on my own two feet to go to the bathroom to vomit. Finally, I decided to send him home early. After that I called my parents.

I reached out for help, and I got it even though I still didn’t feel I needed it. The truth was that I was terrified of going where I needed to go to start getting clean – rehab. I just knew I was going to run into people who were gang bangers, sleazy women, or dirty homeless people. I didn’t want to be influenced by them, let alone be associated with them.

As it turned out, I had more in common with the others in rehab than I thought.

Since the day I walked through the doors of our local rehab in 2008, I’ve relapsed three times, two of those were overdoses, and one of those times I was found on the floor with my dog licking my face. When the paramedics showed up, my heart was beating 8 beats per minute. Turns out that my dog was licking my face to keep me alive.

In the last eight years that I’ve stayed clean, I’ve grown a lot. Here is the short list of what I’ve been through; I divorced my knight in shining armor, and was in a relationship after that. I’ve had financial problems, and been momentarily homeless three times. I’ve gone through the death of family members, and friends. I’ve lost almost my entire blood family, and I am currently dealing with health issues. Has it been difficult? Heck yeah! Have I wanted to give up? Of course! I don’t know how many times I almost said f*** it, followed by going to get high. On at least two occasions I was on m way to an old playground to play with old playmates, but both times another recovering addict miraculously, and thankfully stopped me. How they knew what I was going to do is still a mystery to me, but I’m grateful nonetheless.

So why didn’t I get high anyways? Because today I have tools that help me. Besides rehab, I joined a self-help group of like minded people. This has helped tremendously. One of my best tools, especially when I don’t want to bother my support system, is my crystal ball. Some people call it playing tape through. I think of what would, not could, happen if I went back to using. “If I do ‘this’, then I will do ‘that’, and probably ‘that’. Before I know it, ‘this’ and most likely ‘that’ will happen.” When I get to the end of that tape, my shame, and guilt will overpower me. Finally, I will die from an overdose.

Today I celebrate 8 years clean. That’s 96 months, 416 weeks, or 2,920 days. You may be wondering how I could possibly go that long, and go through so much without getting high. Believe me, I never thought I could do it, but as long as I use my tools, and stay busy, minutes turn into days, that turn into weeks, months, and eventually years.

Even though I am proud of myself, I know I cannot get cocky. I need to remain humble because my addiction is still an arms length away. If I let my guard down, the monster will rise up again, and take me out of this world.

There is a saying, “Once an addict, always an addict”. This is actually true, but today I am a gratefully, recovering addict. How can I put “grateful”, and “addict” in the same sentence? Simple. The word “recovering” between those words. I’m grateful that my dog kept me alive, and that I was found in time. I’m grateful that I was not addicted to other drugs, and that I was rescued before I did. I’m also grateful for everything I’ve gone through – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the REALLY ugly. Everything I’ve gone through since I walked into rehab has molded me into the woman I am today.

To everyone who has helped me – whether I love, like, dislike, or despise you – I thank you. Without any one of you I don’t think I’d be here. I truly understand that people are put into, or taken out of my life to teach me, and to help me grow.

If you’re an addict reading this, no matter where in the world you are, I want you to know that there IS hope for you too. There is help. All you need to do is ask for it. If the first person says no, ask someone else. Keep asking for help until you find it.

I also want you to know that you are not as worthless, or hopeless as you may think you are.

Thought for the day: If you’re an addict, give yourself a break. There are others like you who know exactly what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. I beg you to put down whatever drug you’re using and pick up a phone for help. Your life is so very worth it!

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

“This Is The Life”

“Life begins with an empty slate. Fragile left in the hands of fate, Driven by love and crushed by hate, Until the day, The gift is gone, And shadows remain.” ~ Dream Theater, “This is the Life”

Many years ago, when I was in my youth, I listened to music from this band. I rediscovered them again a few short years ago when I was making a playlist. When I heard the song “This is the Life”, I started to reflect on my life.

The song starts out by setting the scene. “In the heart of your most solemn barren night; When your soul’s turned inside out, Have you questioned all the madness you invite? What your life is all about?” This verse is asking you, the listener, when you’re up in the middle of the night, upset and pacing the floor, if you questioned your life. More directly, it’s asking if you are the cause of your own chaos.

You see, there is a time of night, from about midnight to 4am, when all is quiet. Even the busiest city streets are eerily quiet. There are no screaming kids, no bosses, or co workers yelling or arguing, and phones ringing off the hook. The only sounds you hear are the sound of crickets. During this time when you can’t sleep, you probably hear the voices of your conscience in your mind. You know the ones I’m talking about. The voices of guilt, shame, and regret along with fear, anger, and resentment.

In that “solemn barren night,” we often question the choices we’ve made that day, that week, or throughout our life.

As you listen to the song, you hear repeated in the chorus, “Some of us choose to live gracefully. Some can get caught in the maze, And lose their way home …” In life we have the freedom to choose how we want to live. The “maze” in the chorus refers to being caught in cycles of insanity, and unmanageability that we choose in life. This might be a life of crime, addiction, or physical, emotional, mental and spiritual violence. It might also be the things we have said, or how we’ve treated others. Sadly, some people make choices that cause them to end up lost forever.

“Have you ever wished that you were someone else, Traded places in your mind? It’s only a waste of your time.” This verse says it all. Wishing you were someone else does nothing more than waste your time. You may think that another person’s life is perfect or at least better than yours. In reality, that person is probably dealing with their own demons, but they have found better ways to live, or coping skills. Maybe they just don’t show the fact that they have their own troubles. In other words, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

If we can weed out the negative thoughts during the hard times, we can hear our Higher Power, and our Ancestors more clearly. The positive voices we hear remind us that this life we belong to is a precious gift. You’re probably wondering how living a hard life is a gift. The reason is because you are still alive. No matter how screwed up your life may be, no matter what you’ve done throughout your life, you are alive. Each morning you wake up, you can choose to change your life and use the lessons you’ve learned to teach others. Some people call these moments a Spiritual Awakening which is “the process by which we begin to explore our own being in order to become whole and reunite our spirits with our physical bodies in a commonality of purpose”(From the Learn Religions website, article titled “What Is Spiritual Awareness?”)

Overall this song reminds us that our life and the choices we make are our own. We can invite insanity, drama and chaos in our lives or we can go with the flow of life. We don’t have to live like we’re caught up in a maze. In the end, “Memories will fade, Time races on, What will they say, After you’re gone?”

Thought for the day: Life is like the game most of us played when we were young called “Chutes and Ladders”(“Snakes and Ladders” for anyone born before 1943). Sometimes we’re up, sometimes we’re down. Every choice you make have consequences, so choose wisely.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

“This Is The Life”

by Dream Theater

In the heart of your most solemn barren night
When your soul’s turned inside out
Have you questioned all the madness you invite
What your life is all about

Some of us choose to live gracefully
Some can get caught in the maze
And lose their way home
This is the life we belong to
Our gift divine

Have you ever wished that you were someone else
Traded places in your mind
It’s only a waste of your time

Some of us choose to live gracefully
Some can get caught in the maze
And lose their way home
This is the life we belong to
Our gift divine

Feed the illusion you dream about
Cast out the monsters inside

Life begins with an empty slate
Fragile left in the hands of fate
Driven by love and crushed by hate
Until the day
The gift is gone
And shadows remain

Some of us choose to live gracefully
Some can get caught in the maze
And lose their way home
Memories will fade
Time races on
What will they say
After you’re gone
This is the life we belong to
Our gift divine
Our gift divine

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

The Great Duckling Rescue

“Connectedness. One thing leads to another. Often in unexpected ways.” ~ Holly Goldberg Sloan

Thursday August 1, 2019. Today was supposed to be like any other day. I had a doctor’s appointment, and a couple of errands to run. When I was done at my doctor’s appointment, I decided to take some pictures of the river that goes through town, and next to my doctor’s office.

As I walked over to the river’s edge, I noticed a female mallard duck pacing, and quacking up a storm. At first I assumed that she was protecting a nest of eggs. When I heard duckling peeps, I figured she was protecting her youngins. I took a couple pictures of her, and walked a few yards away to take a few more pictures. As I was walking back, the duck was still there, but now her quacking almost sounded frantic, and she seemed very distressed. Again I heard the duckling peeps, and tried to find where it was coming from.

I quickly realized that the sound was coming from an in ground pipe that was in the cement wall at the river’s edge.

Using the flashlight on my cell phone, I looked in the pipe, and sure enough, about 4 feet down, there was one little duckling stuck at the bottom. I didn’t think that I could reach it, I gave it a try anyway hoping that I could grab the poor thing gently by the head then scoop it into my hand better. I knew duckling bites wouldn’t hurt, and I didn’t care what could be in the pipe, so I stuck my entire arm into the pipe. Unfortunately, arm wasn’t long enough. The duckling was just out of my reach.

I was determined to save the little tyke, so I went to my car to find something, anything that I could use to safely get the duckling out of the pipe The first thing I saw was the extendable scooper that I use for glass picking when the waves are rough, or my back hurts. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but it was worth a try.

The basket fit perfectly in the pipe. At that point, my mind raced with questions. Would there be enough room for the duckling to get in the basket? If so, would it stay in the basket long enough for me to get it out? Can I get it out successfully without hurting it? Mama is really pacing and quacking up a storm. Will she come, and peck the hell out of my backside? Does she know I’m trying to rescue her baby?

I push my thoughts aside, held my breath, and gave it my best.

Mama flew back into the river still furiously quacking, and for whatever reason, started swimming away. I turned my attention back to rescuing the baby, and carefully lowered the scooper down the pipe. It was a narrow opening, and I must have tilted the scooper just right because the duckling hopped into the basket. I had to suppress my excitement, though. I didn’t want to risk doing the slightest thing wrong, and end up hurting, or losing the little tyke.

As I carefully pulled the scooper back up, the duckling just sat in the basket calmly, as if it knew I was rescuing it. When I was confident of my impending success, I grabbed my camera, and tried to get some pictures along with a little video to memorialize the event. It wasn’t my best work, but it also wasn’t easy to hold the scooper in one hand, and take pictures with the other. I was more concerned about the duckling, so I got what I could.

When the basket was about an inch from the top, the duckling hopped out of the basket, ran away from me, and over the edge of the wall. My heart sank. It was about a 5-6 foot drop down to the water, but there were large boulders down below. I rushed over to the edge to see where the duckling landed. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw that it missed the boulders, and landed in the river. I was also relieved that the duckling appeared uninjured. To jump out of the basket, make a mad dash to the edge of the river, plunge 5-6 feet down into the river, and swim with lightning speed to its mama, it must have made it through its ordeal unscathed.

What happened next was more rewarding than anything I can think of. How it knew, I’ll never know, but as if by instinct, the duckling zipped up the river in the direction that mama went. As I watched, I was grateful to see that mama was still in the area. She flew from her vantage point to her baby, and put it under her wing(pun intended ), despite the fact that my scent was probably on her baby. Together they swam off out of view, presumably to rejoin the rest of the flock.

Still amazed at what had happened, I picked up my gear, and looked around to see if anyone had seen what had just happened, and saw no one. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t looking for praise. Just seeing mama, and baby duck reunited was reward enough. When I got in my car, I just sat, and reflected on the chain of events over the last hour. An instant gratitude list of the chain of events over the previous couple of hours formed in my mind.

When I started writing this, it was to help me remember the event in case I forgot it someday. As I was rereading my words, and thought about my gratitude list, something else came to mind that can be summed up in one word. Interconnectedness. You see, I’m a firm believer that nothing happens by chance. Everything in life is connected in one way, shape, or form. There was a reason for the only open parking spot was next to the river, and that I decided to take some pictures. Heck, there’s a reason for you reading this now.

My point is that “stuff” happens in life. Whether it’s good, or bad, we have choices of what to do with this “stuff”. It’s also important to keep other people around us in mind, and how our choices will affect them, especially the next seven generations. This doesn’t apply to only people. This also applies to the environment around us. We can improve life with our choices, or make it worse. The choice is ours.

Thought for the day: What choices will you make today? Will they be positive, and helpful, or will they be negative, and hurtful?

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Daily Reflections by Doug and Inspiration by Steph

Wi:yo:h Sedehjiah – Good Morning

August 13, 2014

“In this Time, we are being called, and reminded to rebuild the Sacred Circle in our our Lives. They extend out and touch other Circles, creating ripples thru Space, and Time. No one else can fulfill our Responsibilities for us. It is up to Each of Us. Seeing is more than meets the eye. Listening is more than hearing. Love Travels between the Worlds, like Sweetgrass and Music. Deepen Your Laugh and Smile lines, they are the Beauty of a well lived Life! Drink Deeply of the Magic that surrounds You! Keep Dancin!!!!” By Doug Luzar

Something to ponder…

In the Native American culture, all life moves in a circle. The Creator, or Great Spirit, is in the middle, and all life revolves around Him. Every living thing from the mightiest eagle to the timid mouse, the most powerful whale to the most beautiful angelfish, the tallest oak to the shortest maple sapling, the biggest Titan beetle to the smallest flea, along with EVERY human and everything in between. ALL living things are of equal importance, not one living thing is greater or lesser than another. Every single thing we do affects something else. This is the interconnectedness that Doug has spoken about. Each circle touches another circle and impacts it in some way.

Unfortunately, the Sacred Circle is broken because mankind feels the need to have control and exerts its power over everything.

Let’s look at the world as we know it. Currently there is roughly 7.7 billion, yes BILLION, people that live, eat and breathe on this planet. We are currently faced with animals that have become or are becoming extinct and endangered. The land, forests, and water is shrinking, and/or polluted while other resources are dwindling.

There’s all kinds of talk about Global Warming(or Climate Change whatever you want to call it) and grandiose ideas to fix it. Yes, man’s greed and gluttony contributes to it. Whether mankind is responsible for all of it is up for debate. One thing that man’s greed and gluttony is responsible for is the garbage scattered here, there, and everywhere. Whatever the case may be, one cannot deny that mankind has some sort of footprint on this planet wherever he, or she, walks.

Simply put, our actions today impact how the world will look tomorrow. As I said earlier, every circle touches another circle and impacts it in some way. The Sacred Circle is broken, again, but we don’t need a grandiose plan to fix it. To get back on track and rebuild the circle, all of us everywhere, need to first remember how things we do have an impact other circles around us. To do this, we start by being mindful of how much we take from the earth, in any form or any creature. Along with that, we need to be mindful of all of the garbage scattered all over everywhere. We must be sure we take only what we need, and, when possible, we need to give back too.

Another thing that will help rebuild the Sacred Circle is to get back in touch with our Higher Power. When we do this, we become more Higher Power centered and less self centered. I am reminded of the quote by William Penn, “Men must be governed by [a God of their understanding] or they will be ruled by tyrants.”

These are just a couple of the many ways we can help to fix the Sacred Circle but there is much more we can do. There are lots of other things we can do. It is possible if we ALL work together. Nya:weh Hoje:no’kda’oh. Agwadë:nö:k – Thank You Creator. We Are All Related.

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https://www.facebook.com/Stephanies-Sweetgrass-and-Dancin-1414954615472943/

What Matters in Life

“It’s not what we have in life, it’s who we have in our life that matters.” ~J.M. Laurence

As I reflect on my life, I see how true this quote is. There have been times in my life when I’ve had everything I needed, and wanted. I didn’t have a whole lot of worry. I also had a lot of material things, food in the cupboards, and money in my pocket.

Then, life on life’s terms hit, and knocked me down a few times.

The first life changing event was the fire that ripped the apartment house I was living in. I lost everything, but the clothes on my back, and a few trinkets, and bobbles. My best friend, and I still joke today about my set of sheets that were hanging on her clothesline which was around the corner. I didn’t have much money to rebuild my home, but I had lots of help to do it. This outpouring of support helped me to easily recover physically. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be until years later that I recovered mentally, and spiritually. That was my first lesson in the value of life vs material things because I was fortunate to still have my life. I almost stayed home from work that day because of a migraine.

As the years went by after the fire, life as I knew it was pretty good. It wasn’t perfect, but not horrible either. I had a house, a family, and a couple of pets. Seemingly out of the blue, my world as I knew it turned upside down, and inside out again. Divorce, caring for an ill mother, joblessness, and illness landed me on hard times again. I’d had times when I went without food, and other things, and I was almost homeless twice. I’m still in the process of bouncing back from that stuff.

I won’t lie, it’s been pretty difficult trying to make it through all of these trying times. I’ve had times when I wanted to run away, saying, “To heck with this!”, and never come back. Fortunately I’ve had many people help me to get through these times both in cyberspace, and face to face. These friends have saved my life more times than I can count, and are more precious to me than gold. Their pearly words of wisdom have kept me from going back to doing the stupid things I did in my younger years. They have cared about me when I could care less about myself, and have helped me get back on me feet each time I’ve fallen on hard times. They have helped me realize that I am not as bad, or as ugly as I think I am. They’ve shared kind words, a cup of coffee, a shoulder to cry on, plus money, or food when I needed it. They’ve also given me a kick in the backside when I needed it.

There is, however, one person who has been by my side through thick, and thin. Together we’ve seen the best, and worst in life, celebrated the good times, cried during the sad times, and cursed the really ugly times. Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t always seen eye to eye. We’ve fought with each other using our words, and, a couple times, with our fists. But through it all, for 25+ years, my friendship with my best friend has been far more precious than gold.

When I look back on the stuff I’ve gone through, I realize that having my friends rally around me is more important than material stuff. Today, I may not have everything I want in life, I do have everything I need. This makes me the richest woman in the world, and for that I am truly grateful.

That, my friends, is what truly matters most in life. The relationship we have with others in our life – not all of the trinkets, and bobbles that we have around us. Having meaningful, healthy relationships with our family, friends, and loved ones, or just one person, who help us navigate this journey we call life is what’s most important in life.

Thought for the day: When you have nothing to offer to a person in return, yet they help you anyway, you not only have a true friend but you also have something that’s more valuable, more precious than gold.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Expectations

“An expectation is a premeditated resentment.” ~ Anonymous

There are two words in the English dictionary that essentially have the same meaning. Expectation, and hope. Expectations are a type of hope that something will happen whether it’s good, or bad. Hope is the expectation that something will happen – good, or bad.

The problem with expectations, and hope is that they can be a double edged sword. We presume people will act, or situations will be a certain way. While we expect, and hope for good outcomes, we are often disappointed when the opposite happens. When this happens, we tend to get a resentment, which is also known as a grudge.

Although they actually don’t weigh anything, resentments are hard on our hearts. When we hold on to anger we have from being disappointed, it acts like a cancer that eats away at, and kill us on the inside us slowly. It kills us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. There’s a saying that describes what happens when we have a resentment. “A resentment is like you taking poison, and waiting for me to die.”

One thing that helps me put everything into perspective is remembering that my Higher Power puts people in, or takes them out of my life for a reason. He also puts me in situations, or takes me out of them for a reason. Why does He do this? To guide me in the right direction, or steer me away from a collision course with disaster.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to see it when I’m angry or disappointed when my expectations fall short, but if I keep hanging on to the faith, just a bit longer, I can look back and see what would’ve happened if this, or that did/didn’t happen.

Thought for the day: When faced with disappointment, remember that your Higher Power has better things in store for you. As long as you don’t leave before the miracle happens.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Anger

“Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.” ~ Benjamin Franklin.

I used to be the type of person who got angry at just about everything. I had a good reason – or so I thought. Sometimes, if I didn’t have a reason to be angry, I’d manufacture one. I’ve realized in recent years that my anger comes from a lack of acceptance. I don’t want to accept people, and situations the way they actually are. Today I know that I have no control over anything outside of myself. I have no control over other people, and situations. I do, however, have control over my thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions.

All of us get angry from time to time in our lives, however, these days it seems like everyone’s angry at everything, and everyone. We expect, or don’t accept other people, and situations the way they are. Instead we try to force people, and situations to be the way we think they should be. When we don’t, or can’t, accept these things, we get angry, and resentful.

One thing that helps to put life into perspective is asking ourselves a few questions. “Why am I so angry that ‘X’, or ‘Y’ happened? Are my expectations for people, or situations to high? Do I like feeling so angry all the time?” Asking ourselves these questions, and honestly answering them can help us understand, and perhaps accept other people, and situations as they really are.

Thought for the day: When we accept people, and reality as it is, our will anger magically go away.

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Addicts and Christmas

“…There will be times, however, when we really feel like using. We want to run, and we feel lousy. We need to be reminded of where we came from and that it will be worse this time…One of the biggest stumbling blocks to recovery seems to be placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves or others. Relationships can be a terribly painful area. We tend to fantasize and project what will happen. We get angry and resentful if our fantasies are not fulfilled. We forget that we are powerless over other people…” ~ Anonymous

(I apologize in advance for the length, but this message is too important to break up into 2 parts. If you’re an addict going through a difficult time, I encourage you to read this to the end)

This quote comes from a couple different pages in one of my favorite book. It describes what addicts go through all the time, especially this time of year.

It’s that time of the year again. Time for celebration, giving thanks and spending time with our families. But for those of us with the disease of addiction, this time of year can be very difficult. I know because I’m a gratefully recovering addict and I have had a hard time with the holidays for a few years now. The family(my blood family and my in laws) that I once enjoyed spending time with was lost in part because of my addiction. Does this give me an excuse to use? I’ll tell you my answer in a moment.

In case you didn’t know, addiction is a thinking and feeling disease, more so feeling. The thinking part is when we are conning, manipulating, rationalizing and justifying our ways and means to get and use more. The feelings part is a little messier. Let’s face it, feelings are messy for all of us, but for addicts it’s messier. Why? Because we used drugs to escape our feelings and our realities. Far to many times, one bad feeling can trigger an addict with 1 day, 1 month, 1 year, 10 years, or more to use again.

Years ago, when I first came into recovery, another addict said, “The worst thing that can happen in recovery is that your feelings get hurt, but the best thing that can happen in recovery is that your feelings will get hurt.” I didn’t understand it at the time. Just like I became an addict over a period of time, I began to understand this and other lessons over time.

If you’re not an addict you’re probably thinking, “I feel the same way but I don’t get high or drunk.” While this is true, I’ll bet you probably do something escape the sting of bad feelings. Maybe you buy yourself some shiny bobble or trinket or some sweet treat. Maybe you take a hot bubble bath or go out for a run or a drive. We all do something to ease pain that we don’t want to feel. We all want to escape feelings and reality from time to time, but addicts need to find a healthier way other than the thing that kills us daily. I’ll be the first to admit, since I’ve been clean, my favorite coffee at a local coffee shop and brownies from a particular store are my comfort foods. But I digress.

When an addict tells me they want to use, or they’ve relapsed, I ask them why for a couple of reasons. No, not because I’m nosey. When I do this, it reminds me what not to do and where I don’t want to be. Another reason is because when we hear ourselves say our reason out loud, we realize how silly or dumb our reasons are. I can’t tell you how many times that I hear things like, “Because this person said this. That person did that.” I hear every excuse under the sun except, “The dog ate my homework”.

As amusing as that sounds, it’s the reality of this disease.

So what can you, my fellow addict, do to prevent using this time of year and longer? The first thing is to make a commitment to yourself that you won’t use. Do not do it for another person because, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Let’s face it, people will fail us. It’s inevitable. If that person fails you in some way, intentionally, or not, it’ll end up being your excuse to use. I know because I, and many others, have done the same thing and it didn’t work so well.

Another thing we can do is to find, and get involved in a self help recovery group. Preferably one where there are other addicts. I have learned that, “The ultimate weapon for recovery is another recovering addict.” That simply means that addicts understand how and why we use. We can help each other stay clean. Our individual stories may vary from one addict to another, but we all used for the same reasons.

We used to escape our feelings, and our realities.

Over the years, I’ve called on my fellow addicts many times to help me to not use if only for that hour or that day. No matter what I’ve gone through, my fellow addicts have rallied around and helped me through each struggle. I’ve shared the good, the bad, the ugly and the REALLY ugly times with them.  And I’ve been there for many of them.

Daily contact with a Higher Power is also very important to stay clean. In rehab, the counselors told me about finding a Higher Power. They told me that a chair or a light bulb could be my Higher Power. While I appreciated their suggestions I questioned how either of those would help me stay clean. Oh sure, a chair could block my path but I can move it. The light bulb can be turned on, but I can turn it off, and sneak out.

I’m not telling you to be a weekly church going person. I’m also not telling you to believe specifically in God, Buddha, Allah, Jesus or whatever name you use. When people fail us, as they usually do, we need someone, or something, to help us get through our darkest times. Our Higher Power can be the source of our greatest strength.

When I was in active addiction, I had a hard time with God because I thought He abandoned me years earlier. Today I know that this isn’t true. To help me with with my struggle, one of my predecessors told me a couple of acronyms for God. One of them is “Group Of Druggies”, and the other is “Good Orderly Direction”. For example, if I want to use, the “Group Of Druggies” can talk to me, and help me through that urge to use. “Good Orderly Direction” refers to Spiritual Principles like Tolerance, Acceptance, Patience, and Brotherly Love to name a couple. If I want to live a new life, these Spiritual Principles can guide me through any problem I face.

What helps me the most is playing the tape through. Whenever I feel like using, I remind myself of what will happen. I’d start by hanging with old playmates at an old playground. Then, someone would come around with my drug of choice. Pretty soon, I won’t be able to afford it so I’d try something cheaper, then I’d try it in a different form. When I couldn’t pay for it, I’d sell my stuff. After that, I’d do things that would make me feel so horrible about myself that I’d purposely overdose, and die.

I know how my mind works, and I know how it would go down.

No, not every day will be difficult, nor will it be a bowl of cherries. I’ve had times I wanted to say “forget” it and gone back out. I know, however, that those trying times teach me lessons and they’ve also given way to lots of blessings for which I am SO grateful. Today I know that times get hard, but those bad moments eventually pass.

So, to answer my earlier question. Do I have an excuse to use because I won’t be seeing or even hearing from my blood family this Christmas, or anytime in the future? Sure I have excuses, but not a single one of them is a good enough reason to throw away all that I’ve gained. Although my past Christmases are distant memories and my future ones may look lonely, I am fully able to make new traditions, and memories.

Thought for the day: Christmas is a time for miracles. Why not be one today? “Any clean addict is a miracle.” ~ Anonymous

***Please be sure to read more of my posts

Tears Shed For An Addict

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.” ~ José N. Harris

(I apologize for the length. Actually, I’m not sorry. Hopefully you’ll see why as you read. I was going to split this into 2 parts but I changed my mind. My message today is too important.)

Recently I noticed a social media post that instantly caught my eye. A tear snuck out of my eye and rolled down my cheek as I recalled the events that led up to this post. To protect their anonymity, I will use pseudonyms.

A number of years ago, I met a young woman who I will call Tammy. I remember when she first came into recovery. She was pushing a stroller with her adorable little girl in it. Tammy was about 21 years old and her little girl couldn’t have been much older than a year old.

When Tammy walked into the room, she was somewhat disheveled as all addicts are when they first come in. She looked like she was trying to hold herself together without using and caring for her little girl the best she could. As the months passed, I watched her straighten her life around.

One day Tammy disappeared, without a word. I figured that she probably back to using. That’s what most addicts do when they leave recovery.

Sometime in the spring of 2012, Tammy came back. Sure enough, the life of addiction roughed her up a bit, but she wasn’t as tore up as other addicts are when they come back to recovery. She hadn’t lost her home, her car, custody of her little girl, or her life – YET. Soon after she came back, I saw the sparkle return to Tammy’s eyes. Her passion for life was evident as she and her beautiful little girl did lots of activities together.

By the way, our acronym for “YET” is “You’re Eligible Too”. If you didn’t use that drug this way, get it by those means, or lose that person or thing, have no fear because, “You’re Eligible Too”.

In the summer of 2012, a young man, named Matt, came to recovery. He and Tammy became fast friends, but I could see that something more was happening between them. I could see that they were falling in love.

By this time, I’d been in recovery for a few years and had seen what happens when two addicts fall in love. In an effort to prevent the two of them from having a heartbreak, I told them about the pitfalls that I’ve seen happen. You see, in recovery, we don’t give advice, rather we make suggestions. I told them what I’d seen when two addicts fall in love.

Sometimes in recovery, two addicts find themselves falling in love. After a while, the rose colored glasses of first love fall off, as they do in any relationship. When that happens, each person sees the other differently. Eventually one person will hurt the other in some way, whether or not it’s intentional. It’s not a matter of IF it will happen, but WHEN. Before long, one or both addicts return to old playgrounds, hang around old playmates, do the old behaviors which ultimately leads one or both of them back to using. It may not happen right away, but eventually it happens. We have a saying in recovery, “Two sickies don’t make a wellie.”

Despite all I told them, I was to late. They fell in love. It was inevitable. I’ve seen it happen numerous times.

Between 2012 and 2017, Tammy and Matt had their ups and downs. Some of their downs were REALLY low. It started when he went back to using and putting Tammy’s little girl in harm’s way. If Child Protective Services knew what was going on in the home, they would’ve ripped that beautiful little girl from her arms.

One night, in an effort to help, and to avoid a really big ugly scene with his parents, Tammy called myself and another trusted addict for help to talk some sense into him. It got ugly once or twice, but by the end of the night, Matt agreed to go to a treatment facility in another state where he got the help he desperately needed. They both missed each other like crazy. A few months later, he came back home to help his dad and to be with the love of his life.

Unfortunately, that love of his life wasn’t Tammy. It was his drug of choice.

Shortly after coming home, Matt’s father passed away. One day, I was driving passed his dad’s business and decided to stop by to see if I could help him with the business. When I walked in, I saw a few people there just hanging out. I didn’t recognize any of them but, I felt uneasy. I brushed it off and asked Matt if he would like my secretarial services. I said that if he didn’t have money to pay me, that was fine. He declined.

I spoke to him a few weeks later when I stopped by the office to give him an earful about something I heardon’t that he’d done. I never imagined that would be the last time I would speak to him.

One April morning in 2017, my phone rang. I don’t usually answer calls from unknown numbers, but something inside told me to answer it. The voice on the other end was crying uncontrollably. At first I thought it was another female addict calling for help before she relapsed.

It wasn’t. It was Tammy. At first I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I told her to take a deep breath. She was still crying, but at least I could understand her better. She wanted to tell me the news before anyone else did. “He’s gone.” she said. With a pit in my stomach, fearing I knew the answer, but also hoping I was wrong, I replied, “What do you mean? Where did he go?”

Matt took his last hit with his last breath at 31. He died from an overdose.

I don’t know what he was doing, who he was with, or what he was thinking. I don’t know if he got a bad batch and wasn’t aware of it or if he was suicidal. Sadly, I didn’t care. All I knew was that Matt didn’t stop using because he was out of drugs or because he came back into recovery. Quite the opposite. Tammy tried her damndest to save him to no avail.

Tammy was beside herself with grief and I was beside myself with anger. I was angry at the disease of addiction. I was angry at Matt because he went back to using, probably because his father passed away. I don’t blame him.

I lost my father too when I was young in recovery, but I didn’t go back out. Even though I had to tell my mom and my sibling that the doctor recommended that we “pull the plug”, I didn’t use. After taking my ill mother to the hospital to see all of the tubes and wires taken off of my dad, I didn’t use. Despite sitting by his bedside telling him it was ok for him to go as his body slowly shut down, and even after the phone call the following morning saying he’d finally past away, I didn’t use. I sure wanted to, God I wanted to, but I knew I couldn’t. I needed to be strong for my mom and sibling. I did, however, desperately try to find a meeting close to the hospital. Much as I wanted to run away, I knew I couldn’t.

I don’t say this to brag. I say this to show that it can be done. We can lose someone and not go out and use over it.

The most heartbreaking thing is that Matt and Tammy were never able follow through with their dreams of staying together. Their hopes for the future were destroyed because he loved his drug of choice more than Tammy and the rest of his family. She kept him at arm’s length but continued trying to save him. Even though a couple of us suggested that she should leave him where he was at and worry about her recovery, she kept trying to rescue the love of her life.

In the end, not only did Matt take his life, he also took a very large piece of Tammy and her daughter’s heart along with his family’s when he died.

Since that day two and a half years ago, Tammy thinks about Matt every day. She and I touch base occasionally, but I know her heart breaks daily. I love her and her little girl to pieces, and am always willing to help her. She knows that my door is always open to both of them. Unfortunately, I have to keep her at arm’s length. If, for some reason, she returns to using, and she lost the battle like Matt did, I’d be heartbroken. I’ve lost enough friends to this disease whether it’s because they returned to using or they’ve died.

Four people that I considered family have died between the spring of 2017 and the spring of 2018. And those are only the ones that I know personally. Many more addicts I’ve considered family have returned to active addiction since I came into recovery a few 24 hours ago.

My heart breaks for them too. I can only pray that someday they find their way back to recovery before they succumb to this disease.

As I said earlier, I stumbled on Tammy’s post in my social media news feed. Her words with the picture moved me to write this. Seeing her face, with tears running down her cheek, resting her head on her beloved Matt’s tombstone broke my heart. I left out the picture from this post for two reasons. First and foremost is to protect Tammy’s identity.

The other reason that I left the picture out sounds a bit harsh, but hey, reality is harsh. If you’re an addict reading this, I want my words to burn a lasting image in your mind. I want you to see your loved ones face, with tears running down their cheek, resting on your tombstone. I don’t care if that person is a family member, friend, romantic partner, your cat, dog or other pet. Imagine that person, sobbing uncontrollably and wanting to hug you, but all they have left of you is a handful of pictures, a head full of memories.

And a cold cement slab on top of your eternal and final resting place.

I am a recovering addict. I know how hard it is to stop using drugs. I know how hard it is to avoid the temptation to use that one thing that gives you comfort when you feel like your world is falling apart. God, I know. I also care about other addicts and want you to find a better way to live. Sometimes I care to much. Hell, I can’t even delete the social media profiles of the four addicts that have died. One last thought, if you die of an overdose, I will not attend your funeral. That is a topic for another day.

Thought for the day: Here are Tammy’s words written in September 2018. She has given me permission and wants me to share them far and wide …

“Addiction stole from me. Addiction robbed me of having my best friend, robbed me of marrying my soulmate. Addiction robbed my daughter of having a whole happy home with someone that loved her just as much as I do. This is the raw truth of what addiction does to the people around you . This was not how it was supposed to end. Not a day, minute or second goes by that I’m not thinking of you and wishing you were here. Tay and I miss you so much Michael. I truly hope you are having a blast now that you are freed from your demons. I love you and miss you more than words could ever explain. ❤️ PLEASE if you are struggling with addiction PLEASE get help!! Their is life after addiction!!!

IT IS NEVER TO LATE ❤️💛💚💙💜

***Please be sure to read more of my posts