Parents, Hold Your Children Close

Yesterday morning our 6 year old granddaughter had her kindergarten graduation ceremony. Proud parents and grandparents, along with various other family members and friends filled the auditorium as six kindergarten classes filed onto the stage for their big morning. Some 70 children total.

And then the emotions hit me, along with a lot of others in that auditorium. We had all driven to the elementary school, driven past those flags at half mast at so many locations. We knew what had happened the day before, and we were still reeling from it all. 

And then we saw our kids, grandkids, excited children getting ready to move up to first grade…the new class of 2034, as the principal later said.

And then the emotions came, as the ceremony started with a moment of silence for those young lives lost so tragically in Texas the day before, along with two of their teachers.

I looked at those precious children, my oldest granddaughter and her little friends, many of whom I knew as well. And the enormity of what had happened some mere 24 hours earlier hit me like a ton of bricks.

Each of those young lives had once sat on a stage very much like this, with their families in attendance, cheering them on after their first year in school…kindergartners graduating to first grade. Their lives and bright futures ahead of them.

But no one knew what would happen in the next several years. No one suspected or even imagined what would take place, forever wiping out the smiles of these children, forever destroying their families. Their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters losing a part of themselves.

The loss is incomprehensible. The grief unimaginable. And I found myself near tears as I silently prayed protection over these precious children in front of me.

I cannot begin to understand, or to even imagine how those families feel. I cannot imagine how they themselves will survive the next few days, weeks, months, and yes, even years, as they try to cope with such senseless and devastating loss. 

And yes, we were all proud of our little graduates today, and cheering on their achievements. Wondering what their futures hold for them as future scientists, doctors, astronauts, musicians, teachers…and what great things they will accomplish.

At the same time we mourn the loss of those other future scientists, doctors, etc. who will never see those goals accomplished. And the world is a darker place because of it.

These senseless and selfish acts of violence perpetrated by a hatred so unimaginable must stop, and it must stop now. Before other precious lives are lost. 

I do not pretend to have a solution. This person who committed this heinous crime bought the weapons legally. Gun laws didn’t stop him. I have to believe he was severely mentally disturbed. Why did no one see that? And where were the security guards at the school? Would metal detectors have helped? I think they would have. 

Hindsight is 20-20, as we know. We can unfortunately not change the past. But we MUST change the future somehow and determine how to protect these precious children that have been entrusted to us. This cannot continue.

Parents, hold these precious ones close. Tell them you love them every chance you get. And when you’re upset with them, and at your wit’s end, remember that these little ones are a precious gift that needs to be appreciated and loved every day. 

Because in this world, we just don’t know….

May God bless all of these families whose lives will never be the same. And please, let’s all stop the finger pointing and work together to find a solution to this madness. 

Our futures are at stake…and our most precious gift, which are our children.

A Plea for Help

I watched President Zelensky’s impassioned speech to Congress Wednesday morning and I must say I was most definitely moved to tears. Yes, I was actually crying. His message was powerful and truly from the heart. Then came the video. And again, many more tears. I do not have an answer to what we should do. But I will say this. We and the rest of the world must do something to help these people who are being injured and killed on a daily basis because of where they live. This is wrong on so many levels.

When Zelensky spoke about the planes dropping bombs on Pearl Habor that Sunday norming in December and comparing it to what’s going on now in Ukraine I was trying to imagine what that must have been like. And I just couldn’t.  And I don’t want to know. My mind went back to those air raid drills we had in elementary school. Sitting out in the hall with our heads down and covered by our little arms. As if that would’ve helped. Or hiding under our desks. How strange that feels to remember. It was a lifetime ago.

We can’t even begin to imagine what these people are going through. And how we would feel if it were happening to us. Would other countries come to our defense? Or would they stay silent, afraid it would come to us?

We all know the saying, there but for the grace of God… And it’s true.

The photos online are horrifying because they show the truth. Teenagers going to fight with their skateboard pads as part of their defense. A young girl with a lollipop in her mouth and a rifle in her hand. Childhoods forever lost. Apartments destroyed and homes and belongings totally lost. Families separated and not knowing when or if they’ll see each other again.

I’ve read a lot of stories about how the Ukrainian people are doing their parts to help. Families are learning to make Molotov cocktails from the internet so they can defend their homes or give them to the Ukrainian soldiers to help in the fight.

A retired seamstress who used to make evening wear and designer suits for Gucci is now sewing flak jackets in her home for the Ukrainian soldiers, using fabric and pieces of metal welded together while her adult son makes blue and yellow arm bands for the freedom fighters to wear to identify themselves from the enemy.

Men in their 40’s and 50’s are being summoned to fight and gladly going out to defend their country and families, taking their own weapons with them, even though they haven’t served in the armed forces in 10-20 years.

Hundreds of people were hiding in the basement of a theatre in hopes of surviving Russian bombings. Some did. Some didn’t. Even though the word “children” was clearly written on the grounds, the bombs and the soldiers who released them didn’t care.

Bombs also hit a maternity hospital, killing and severely injuring women about to give birth as well as newborn babies, killing the babies who never had a chance to live. Can you imagine being an expectant mother in this environment, not knowing if you and/or your child will survive?

Food distribution centers are being bombed so that a soon to be starving population will have nothing to eat. And they certainly can’t call for takeout or delivery.

These are the realities of war in a 21st century world. In a modern country whose citizens only several months ago were living lives like you and me. Celebrating holidays, engagements, weddings, birthdays, and births of new babies. Going to school. Buying homes. Enjoying nights out for dinner or movies. Going shopping just for fun. Not needing to look up into the sky to see anything but sun and clouds.

But now there is a new reality. Their daily lives have been turned upside down, never to be the same again.

I have no idea what the answers are. None at all. I only know something needs to be done to stop the insanity before the. country of Ukraine is destroyed. And before another country, possibly Poland, is invaded because this Russian dictator wants to control Europe and then the rest of the world.  Where does it stop? When will it stop?

What will be left?

My heart is breaking for these people. All I can do is pray, and I do. Every single day.

May the decisions made in the coming days by our world leaders be good ones, based not only on intelligence but also on the need to save innocent lives, and may these decisions begin a road to peace in this world, and not the beginning of World War Three. Because none of us could recover from that.

May God bless Ukraine. And the rest of the free world.

It’s Not About You

I know as Americans we’re used to having what we want, when we want it. At least a lot of you are.

We have the freedom to speak out about things that bother us; things that we don’t think are fair. You have that right just as I do, and we also have the freedom to disagree with each other.

And most likely, there will be a lot of people who will disagree with what I’ve written here. But that’s ok, too, because that’s your right. If you don’t like what I have to say you don’t have to read it.

What’s bothering me so much? It’s a lot of the viewpoints some of you are voicing about this disaster in Ukraine. Sure, I think most of you are concerned about what’s going on, but I wonder if it’s true concern, or if it’s just another opportunity to complain about gas prices being so high, or how this is all the fault of the Democrats again.

Yes, gas prices are rising. I’m not happy about it either, but in the scheme of things, it’s not nearly as big a deal as what’s happening in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian people have done nothing to deserve what has happened to them; what is continuing to happen to them. I would say the price of gasoline isn’t the biggest problem they have right now.

Staying alive is their biggest problem, I would think. Along with caring for their families and trying to keep them safe. And wondering what will happen tonight while they sleep; what will happen tomorrow and the next day.

We go about our daily lives complaining about minor inconveniences like high gas prices, being asked to wear a mask to protect ourselves and others from a pandemic (“No one has the right to tell me what to do!”) I bet the Ukrainians would be happy to wear face masks if it would stop the invasion and the terror of war.

Think about these things for a few minutes:

There are couples who were planning weddings; joyous celebrations of one of the happiest days of their lives. Now they are just trying to survive, and praying they will live through this to have a chance to marry. Their dreams have been smashed, and their lives turned upside down. They wonder if they will even have a chance to have the life they were dreaming of.

There are pregnant women, ready to welcome a precious new life. Some are having their first child and the excitement has been hard to contain. Now they’re wondering if they’ll even live long enough to have the baby, and if it will survive; if they’ll have access to medical care during that time and what will happen if they don’t. What will happen if they can’t care for that baby, afford food and clothing for it. If they will even have a home to bring it to. And what kind of future it will have.

There are parents trying to figure out how to care for their children; how to explain what is happening to them. They’re afraid to send their kids to school because they don’t know if they’ll be safe, let alone learn anything. They worry about their mental health as well as their physical health.  And they wonder if they should try to flee their country, and if they do, what will happen to them then.

There are the very sick, patients who need daily medicines to survive, patients that may not be able to get those life-saving medications. They wonder how long they have to live and what their death will be like. There are parents with terminally ill children who must be beside themselves trying to figure out what to do to give those children as much quality of life as they can before they lose them.

There are people who go to bed at night in fear, not knowing if their homes will be bombed during the night. How many Ukrainians have already been killed? How many more will be? How many more senseless deaths? We’re talking people who’ve had no say in these unconscionable decisions. Women. Children. The elderly. The sick and disabled. As well as those who are able to fight and are doing so with no training except their sheer will and courage to stand against evil. Would we do that in the face of such invasion or would we simply protest about how unfair it was that we’re being inconvenienced and say it’s our own government’s fault?

There are people who aren’t sure they will even have food and water to get through the next few days or weeks. 1-3 million people are already facing food and supply shortages, and it gets worse every day.

There are people who are trying to leave the only country they’ve ever known, a country they love, and wondering where they will go and how they will survive in a new country where they can’t even speak the language. Over 1.7 million refugees to date are trying to leave and are facing massive lines at train stations and borders. And the number increases daily. Many are women and children torn away from husbands, fathers, and brothers, with no way to contact them and no way to know if they are safe left behind. How long before Russian troops prevent them from leaving altogether? And what effect will the refugee crisis have in the rest of Euripe? Where will these people go, and how will they live?

And where is Putin’s wife and family? Reports tell us she and their children are in a luxurious underground bunker somewhere in Siberia. A bunker with all the comforts, and designed to withstand nuclear war.

And how long before young Ukrainian men are taken by the Russians and forced to fight for them against their countrymen, or else be killed?

Shall I go on?

And we’re complaining about the price of gasoline?

And we’re listening to some people in the news who are praising Putin for his “genius” in this attack, and who are openly saying that other countries will probably do the same. That is unconscionable, and an open invitation to “come get us!”

We have commentators in the news media, as well as some of our elected officials, openly hinting about taking Putin out. That’s an invitation to murder, and will most likely cause the other side to declare the same for us.

We also have some 16,000 retired former members of our United States military who are going over to Ukraine to help the people fight for their freedom. They are NOT being paid or funded by our government, but by private donations. If you don’t believe this, check the news stories on line. They are some of the heroes in this mess.

And we’re complaining about the cost of gasoline? And criticizing our government for not doing anything about it? And by the way. That pipeline? The extension of the existing pipeline which IS working? It was only 8% completed w if it ever was. Read about it for yourselves. When it was finally stopped once and for all, work had been halted on it off and on for over ten years because of environmental concerns. Starting it up again wouldn’t bring an immediate onslaught of more oil because it would still take years to complete, if it ever was. It’s a not a spigot of oil we turn on and off.

What do we do? I don’t have a magic crystal ball to give me that answer, but it seems there are quite a few people out there who do. Those who condemn our own government for not taking care of us in our time of need because gas prices are too high.

Personally, I have no idea what I would do if I were in charge. But I’m glad I’m not, because I don’t want the weight of that on my shoulders. But there are certainly plenty of people out there who are quick to say what should be done; what they would do. It must be nice to be so much smarter than the people who are in charge. And the President is NOT the only one who makes these decisions by himself; he has advisors, and I believe he listens to them. Whether I agree on what we are doing in this mess or not, it is not my place to say whether we’re handling it right or wrong, because I just don’t know.

It is my place to pray for Ukraine and its people. It is my place to continue to pray for an end to all of this. If I could do something for them I would, but I don’t know what it would be.

It is not my place to complain about a few hardships we’re experiencing here, because they are NOTHING compared to what the Ukrainian people are going through.

Books Are Not Firewood

I read a news article recently that upset me to no end. And it got me thinking about where we’ve come in our society. It doesn’t make me proud. Nor should you be either.

We’ve recently been slammed with stories about books being removed from school libraries because they’re “offensive”. We are we doing this again? We are attempting to censor what kids should read?

Now, let me say this before I go any further. Or before you start calling me names that can’t be printed in this blog. I’m not referring to books about explicit sex and graphic homosexuality, which I don’t think should be in our school libraries. If kids want them all they have to do is go to a bookstore or the internet. There are plenty of those books available on line, unfortunately.

I’m referring to books that have been around for a long time. Books my generation has read and enjoyed. Books that were actually on our high school required reading lists, and I really don’t think most of us turned out all that bad. 

But today some of those books are deemed offensive, because they were written in a time that the subject matter was either a way of life or was (and still IS) a part of our history. The authors wrote about what they knew, and weren’t concerned about offending someone. On the contrary, many of those authors wanted to not only tell a good story, but to make people think. And in some cases, expose the hypocrisy of some of the people around them.

Now people are calling for banning certain books which have swear words in them. I’m sure their kids have never heard those words, I say sarcastically; certainly never in their own homes (also said sarcastically). Don’t worry, though; they’ll hear them somewhere!

Or because they deal with a time in our nation’s history that many people want to ignore. But ignoring it doesn’t mean it never happened. It just means we’re afraid of our children learning about it. And history tells us that we repeat mistakes if we don’t know those mistakes that have been tried before with disastrous results.

Whether you like them or not, books are an expression of free speech, which sadly, in some areas of our country, is no longer tolerated without violence. I may not agree with the content of a book, so I choose not to read it, but I support the author’s right to have written it, and the publisher’s right to publish.

But the real story that got me started deals with a book burning that recently happened In Tennessee. A pastor decided that certain “demonic”  books, such as by J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter series, and the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, were evil. They promoted sorcery and witchcraft, and contained real spells that readers could use. Now one question I have here…how does he know this? Has he tried them? And if so, why? 

So he organized a huge book burning and encouraged his followers to get all the copies of these books, and others like them, that they could find, and meet at the book burning and show the world how bad these written words were, and how it was up to his followers to help him rid the world of such sins and demonic influences. 

And he proved what? That he could get his followers stirred up by hate speech and powerful rhetoric and cause them to do his bidding. And what did it accomplish? Publicity for him, though not the huge outpouring of support he expected.

Were the books that were burned taken out of circulation, or did bookstores order more copies so readers could see for themselves what all the hoopla was about? I say most likely the latter.

There will always be books written that someone will take offense at. That some group of people will say are evil and should be banned. My response to that? Don’t buy them and don’t read them. That’s your choice. It’s someone else’s choice if they want to read them or not. Telling your children they can’t read them when all their friends are…let me know how that works!

Personally, that genre doesn’t appeal to me and I haven’t read them. But I made that choice, not because of their supposed demonic content, but because I prefer different genres. 

I don’t worry that my children and grandchildren might read them. It’s their choice as to their choice of books. I can suggest something I enjoyed, but I can’t tell them what to read or not read. It’s their decision.

Just like it’s your decision on your choice of books in your library. I enjoy the older books from my younger days as much as books by current authors. And I’m sure some people will criticize my taste in certain books as well. Too bad.

I don’t need to be protected from ideas that others think I shouldn’t hear about or read about. I can make my own decisions. And when someone tells us how we shouldn’t ever read this or that because it promotes something bad, what does human nature cause us to do?

We want to investigate for ourselves. To determine what we choose to read and discover why it’s supposed to be so bad. After all, most of the books that are being banned or people are attempting to have banned, so far are all works of fiction.

What I fear more is when those book banners start burning and demanding we ban books of history, nonfiction books talking about the past, describing the lives of those who lived before us, and the contributions they made to society.

Books are written to tell a story; to be enjoyed. In many cases, to be studied in schools and classrooms. To enable learning and expand our minds. It is not the job of one of two people to tell others what they can and cannot read. We are free in this country, at least for now, to make our own decisions about what we read. As I said, if you don’t like a book, don’t read it. But don’t tell me I cannot.

Books are not firewood. And the ideas in them cannot be destroyed by destroying the books.

Winter Olympics 2022

The other day I saw a posting on Facebook that made me more than angry, as well as disappointed. And a bit sad.

The post was referring to this year’s Olympics as the “genocide games”. No, I’m not kidding. And it was, of course, a call to boycott the games. Don’t watch them. Don’t buy from the sponsors. Which also means don’t support the athletes.

Now before you start with the political rhetoric and going with the “right on, let’s do it!” statements, let’s examine this a bit further. Do you really think having a few people, ok, maybe a few thousand people, not watching the Olympics which is being viewed around the world by millions and millions of households, is going to make a difference? Do you think that depriving yourself of watching a magnificent sports event that is only held every four years is going to make a difference in how the host country is treating their people? Do you think by watching the games you’re making a difference? I think not. But you can feel how you feel and I can feel how I feel.

And I do not agree with you at all, just like you won’t agree with me if you are of that mindset.

The opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics was one of the best I’ve seen. I am a huge fan of the Winter Olympics and am so looking forward to watching these amazing athletes compete in sports they have trained for for so many years, many for almost all of their lives. I can’t begin to imagine how they feel to be an Olympian, especially those who are there for the very first time; or the ones who are the only ones representing their country. Watching the faces of the athletes as they entered the stadium gave me the same feeling of hope and expectancy. And I was proud of each and every one of them, and especially TeamUSA. No, not everyone can win, especially the gold, but in all honesty, they’re all winners because they’ve already realized part of a lifelong dream.

How many of us can say that?

I can’t wait to see them compete. I enjoy the ice skating and the skiing and the snowboarding. Yes, and the luge, and certainly the hockey. I cringe when someone gets hurt, and find myself close to crying when someone wins their first ever Olympic medal. Because these are the best of the best athletes, AND they are not being paid to do their sport, except for whatever endorsements they may be lucky enough to have. They do it because they love it, and they’re good at it.  I look forward to hearing their individual stories. Hearing from their families. There is just so much to enjoy and celebrate with each and every one of these athletes. And when the games are over, I feel I almost know some of these people.

Please, don’t make these Olympic Games into a political statement. There’s a time and place for that, and this is not the time. I do not agree with our country not sending diplomatic representation to the games. If you want to make a difference write or e-mail your congressman or senator and see what opportunities are out there in which perhaps you can help. And regardless of how we feel about the human rights violations in China, let’s put that aside for these next two weeks and celebrate the participants in their victories, and feel their disappointment that they didn’t win. They have worked hard; they made it there and they deserve our respect. As I said before they are Olympians, win or lose!

These athletes are to be not only respected, but admired, and cheered on as they compete in areas you and I couldn’t even begin to do. Their families and friends must be feeling a sense of pride in them beyond what we can even imagine.

So let’s go TeamUSA! You’re following your dreams and I know you’re all going to make us proud!!

Are You continuing or Complaining

It’s been a rough almost two years. And I’d promised myself I wouldn’t write something like this when I started writing again.

But I can’t help it. I have to say this.

From early 2020 til now we’ve seen the world, and our country, thrown into chaos the likes of which we’ve never known. Oh, we heard the stories from those who lived through food rationing, the depression, and world wars, but we never ever thought we’d see anything similar.

We were insulated from such things. We were used to having things just as we wanted, when we wanted. Store shelves were overflowing, grocery stores were fully stocked, employees and employees were enjoying prosperity. Kids complained about going to school as kids will do, but they went and they were taught by a lot of great teachers surrounded by their friends.

We weren’t hesitant to go out to eat,  go shopping, to the movies, go to baseball or football games, or fly across the country or even overseas. 

Life was good. Life wasn’t perfect, but we weren’t wondering if tomorrow would bring disaster to our way of life. We went along with our lives, as if nothing bad could ever touch us.

Then suddenly, everything changed.

A new virus we couldn’t see started making its way to other countries. It sickened those who caught it, sometimes for weeks, and began killing many others who caught it. Some people that caught it still experience lasting side effects from it. A pandemic hit us, and we weren’t prepared.

We were told it wouldn’t come here, not to worry, it was a hoax. It’ll just go away and life will be as it always was. Well, that hoax has killed how many of us in this country? Over 820.000 I believe was the last count I heard, but it changes hourly.

That’s 820,000+ families who were forever changed and yes, devastated by loss, by this microscopic potential killer. No, it doesn’t kill everyone who gets it, but a large percentage of our population is at risk for potentially disastrous results if they contract it. My husband being one of them because of his breathing problems and cardiac history. Even for those without underlying medical conditions, life can suddenly change for the worse, and have repercussions for the rest of their lives.

As the pandemic raged across our country and the world, hard decisions were made. Certain businesses were mandated to close because of possible contagion. People were suddenly without incomes, many had little or no savings. Newly unemployed people struggled to maintain their lives, feed their families, and pay their bills. It was a bad time for so many. Many of us were fortunate enough to transition to working remotely rather going to our offices. I did, and I’m still doing it. I actually enjoy it now, and I get more accomplished.

But many just complained that they couldn’t go to the gym, get their hair cut and styled. They couldn’t go to a movie. There were no baseball or football games to go to in person. Couldn’t go out to eat because so many restaurants had to close and only do carry out. It wasn’t fair! It was an inconvenience! Just for a little virus you couldn’t see that might make you sick! How dare the government tell us what to do!?

They never stopped to think about those thousands of people out of work because of it who were struggling. Or families who were losing loved ones because of it.

They never stopped to think about the healthcare workers who were suddenly trying to cope with an illness the likes of which they’d never seen, working extra long hours with little or no sleep and trying to save lives of people they didn’t even know. And putting themselves at risk as well. “Oh well,” people said, “it’s their job. They signed up for it, so they just need to do it; they’re getting paid!”

They never stopped to think about the people who got the virus and suffered and died because of it. “So what?” they said. “People die every day. Why do we all have to be inconvenienced?”

Grocery stores ran out of cleaning supplies and paper goods. Many people hoarded what supplies they could get. They fought over paper towels and toilet paper. “It isn’t fair! This is America, and we’re not supposed to have bad things happen. We’re supposed to be able to get everything we want when we want it!”

And unless the virus touched their lives personally, unless someone they loved contracted it and died, they complained about having to take precautions, with many refusing to comply. Many refusing an approved vaccine because “the government is trying to force me and it’s just another way to try and control me! I have my rights! I have freedom to do what I want! It’s my body!”

Yes, it’s your body. Do what you want. But don’t infringe on my choice of staying safe. You can be walking around carrying the virus, and give it to me, even though I’ve been vaccinated. And that can be spread to others whose immune systems can’t handle it.

It began to, and in many ways still does, divide this country and families in ways we never expected. 

My husband and I, and many of our friends, are fully vaccinated and boosted. Why? Because we don’t want to take the risk. We don’t want to potentially get this thing and spread it to someone who could die from it. I don’t want to risk my husband getting it. And I don’t look at it as if, “oh well, he’s going to die from something.” I want us to prevent that as long as possible. And if I hear one more person say something like that, I think I will scream in their face.

This pandemic has sadly become a political issue more than a health issue. And I’m tired of it being that way. Not everything in this country is a political statement. And just because you personally haven’t been affected yet doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Because we personally know far too many people who it has affected, several of whom who have died. Far more frightening are the number of people who are getting this and have already been vaccinated.  Yes, they are experiencing milder cases of it than those who haven’t been vaccinated, but they are still becoming infected, and still needing medical care for their illness. And it concerns me daily that even with my fully vaccinated husband being careful and wearing his mask almost everywhere he goes, that he could still contract it.

Somewhere along the way we’ve lost part of our humanity; our concern for others. That thing about “love your neighbor as yourself?” To paraphrase a popular saying, it’s just a “thing” now. It really doesn’t mean much to many people who’d rather criticize and complain because their lives and the world have changed, and it’s inconvenient for some of us.

I am not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, but if this makes you uncomfortable, maybe there’s a reason for it. 

You have your own ideas and beliefs, but when your beliefs and ideas put me and my family at risk, I do have a problem with that. And I can choose how to handle it. And I choose not to go around those of you who are not vaccinated.  I also choose to ask if you or others who are possibly going to be around us at a function have been vaccinated, and we will determine at that time if we want to take the risk or not. It’s not personally against you; It’s personal  because we choose to play it safe.

May all of us one day soon be able to return to life sort of as we knew it before Covid. May we stop being divided and come back together as families and friends, and not enemies because we see things differently. May we learn to care about others’ feelings and beliefs rather than condemn and denigrate those who don’t agree with us.

By this time many of you who are/were our friends will have decided to un-friend us, and that’s ok, too. If you cannot handle our feelings, and cannot accept our feelings, then it’s ok. You’re entitled. So are we.

However, we are continuing to try and stay safe. We continue to use our masks in public places. And will become more diligent with those with who we are still friends with. And we are choosing to stay safe rather than risk our lies and others’ lives as well.

Stay well, and stay safe.

Remembering The Price of Freedom

This post was originally published five years ago today. But it’s still very relevant today. So I’ve updated it slightly to reflect Veterans Day, 2021.

The price of freedom cannot be measured monetarily. It is measured by the sacrifice of the lives of the men and women who defend it.

Today is Veterans Day. The day we thank all of those who have served and are currently serving in our military. Their bravery and dedication to duty is not appreciated nearly enough. They have a unique understanding of the ways of the world that we who have not served cannot begin to understand.

To all of those who have served or are still serving, we owe you a huge THANK YOU for the time and sacrifice you, and your families, have given, and are still giving, to this great nation. You leave home and family behind far too often to serve your country because that’s your duty and your chosen profession. You and your families are invaluable to this country.

My father served in the Army during World War II, however, because of a bad knee that he had originally injured playing football in college, he was sent home with an honorable discharge and a knee brace.

My uncle also served, however, he did not get home until the war ended. He was quite fortunate. Although I do not know his entire story, I will relate what I know of it, because in my eyes, he was one of the heroes.

Fowler Cottingham joined the Army as a young man barely 18 years old. He was trained as a crewman on the fighter planes, and consequently sent to Germany, where he flew in several successful missions with his crew.WW2 Plane

The morning of the day he flew his final mission was most likely just another day. Clear skies; light wind; a perfect day for flying. I can imagine the crew loading the plane, going through their pre-flight checklist, making sure their parachutes were ready, and most likely cracking jokes and talking about what they’d do when they came back from their mission.

Flying over enemy territory was never safe. Most of us have probably seen movies of the allied war planes heading out for missions over Germany. What the movies don’t adequately show is the danger our men faced during each of these missions.

They didn’t have all of the sophisticated equipment in 1945 that our armed forces have now. There were no computers, no GPS; only a navigator with paper maps showing where they were supposed to be flying. There were gunners who fired their weapons without fancy electronics to assist them. They had to judge where to aim, and when to pull the trigger, based on what knowledge the officers and ground troops had been able to discern. It was much different than today. But they had courage, and a sense of duty. They had volunteered to serve, and knew the risks involved.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but my uncle’s plane took a hit from a German warplane. Fortunately they were all able to parachute out, and landed in a wooded area somewhere behind enemy lines. They had only a few supplies, and had no idea where they were. And no idea whether anyone else had any idea where they were, or even if they were alive.

Shortly afterwards they were captured by German soldiers and marched to one of the POW concentration camps. Capture was certainly better than being shot, which I’m sure they were all afraid, would happen. As brave as these men were, just remember, they were all in their early 20’s, the beginning of their lives. They all wondered if they’d ever see home and family again.Blanches Banques POW Camp

Over 93,000 men were held as prisoners in the German POW camps in World War II. They were held in drafty wooden buildings, with uncomfortable cots, and only a thin blanket for warmth. They were fed one or two meals a day, usually some type of thin soup and stale bread. Their only utensils were a tin spoon, and a tin cup for water. One day they were given a treat…candy bars which they quickly bit into. And then saw the worms inside.

My Uncle Fowler and his crew spent six months in that camp, guarded by armed soldiers and German shepherds. They never knew when or if the guards would come for some of them to question them, torture them, or kill them.

There are some experiences that are just too terrible to discuss because they bring back too many nightmares. My uncle would never discuss any of what happened, other than what I have written here; not with his parents, his wife, or his two sons. After his return, and until the day he died, he was scared of German shepherds because he had seen them tear hands and arms off of prisoners who were trying to escape.

How did these men survive this ordeal? And where was the Lord in this? I’m sure the men wondered many times where He was. Even at the young age of 20, when he was captured, my uncle was a man of faith, and I’m certain his faith helped sustain him.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The Lord was watching over them the entire time.

Yes, their plane was shot down, but the crew survived. The Lord directed the German bullets away from the fuselage so that the plane didn’t explode, which would have killed them all. When they landed in the woods, they had no idea where they were, and no idea where to go. The German soldiers could have killed them, but instead they were captured and allowed to live. Many other soldiers spent years in these concentration camps before being freed; these men only had to endure for six months. Many died in these camps, but these men all survived, because the Lord had plans for them. My uncle had a young woman, my aunt, waiting to meet him, fall in love, and marry. The Lord had plans for all of them and made sure those plans were carried out. Prayers for safety were answered; just not the way that was expected.

I wish I knew the names of my uncle’s crew members, but I never had the opportunity to find out. I would love to thank them as well for serving with him, and being part of his support system while in the camp.

And again, to all of our veterans and those who are still serving, and their families, Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you for your service. May God bless you all, and keep you safe.veterans_day_thank_you-1940983

Why Bother?

To vote, that is.

“My vote doesn’t count. One vote won’t make any difference.”

“I’m too busy. Besides, nobody cares what I think anyway.”

“I don’t like either candidate, so why should I vote for one of them?”

“I don’t know anything about anybody who’s running. So why should l?”

“Elections are rigged anyway. The outcome is predetermined because the Democrat party has already paid off the companies who count the votes.”

“All politicians are crooks. Who wants any of them?”

Why bother? It’s very simple. Because we all need to voice our opinion and have our say in who’s going to make the laws that impact our daily lives, and our children’s lives. If we don’t voice our opinion, then we don’t have any right to complain about the outcome, or to complain that you don’t like the way things are being done.

I’m not saying you can’t complain after the election if you don’t like who won, but if you didn’t have any input, then it’s not your place to complain because YOU didn’t even TRY to make a difference!

Your vote doesn’t count? I’m sorry but every vote counts. There are any number of local elections, albeit in small towns mostly, which have been decided by one vote. And if one person had voted differently than the outcome would have been totally different. Other elections in other precincts, and even states, have had similar situations in which the outcome was determined by a small handful of votes.

No one should ever claim to be too busy to vote. Most employers allow time off for voting. Or if they don’t, not everyone works a 12 hour day to keep them from the polling places. Saying you’re too busy to vote isn’t a good excuse. It just means you don’t care one way or the other. And that’s just wrong. Going to be out of town on Election Day? Surely you could take the time to get, fill out, and return an absentee ballot.

I don’t always like any of the candidates either. Which many times causes me to vote for the one I dislike least. But that’s not good either. We have the right to write in the name of a candidate. And many people do. They know there’s not much of a chance that person will win, but it does show that there are voters out there who want other choices. And don’t write in Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck! You may think it’s cute, but the poll workers have to count every vote and tally up even ones like that.

If you don’t know anything about any of the candidates who are running, where have you been? In this day of nonstop media ads, and the internet, you can find out what the candidates stand for. And don’t listen to all the attack ads, because that’s what they are. Attacks against someone they’re running against. Go to the candidates’ websites and read about what they stand for. If you can take time to be on social media for hours each day, you can surely take time to do a little research for yourself.

Elections are NOT rigged. Those untrue and unfounded conspiracy theories being spread by poor losers are just ridiculous and designed to make people question our system. Of all the lawsuits that have been filed, none have proven any election tampering or rigging. Our system may not be perfect, because none are, but there aren’t people out there driving aound trucks full of fake ballots and substituting them for the real ballots after the polls close! Computers in China and Korea aren’t changing the results.

All politicians are crooks? Well…I imagine some may be. But all? No. That’s a statement that has no merit. Just because you don’t like what someone stands for doesn’t mean they’re a crook. Just because one candidate has more money than you think they should doesn’t necessarily mean they earned it illegally. Yes, there are most likely politicians that aren’t totally aboveboard, and we’ve seen many of those brought down, forced to resign, and some eventually end up behind bars. But that doesn’t make ALL politicians crooks.

Just bear in mind that in our country we still have the right to vote without the fear of being hurt or killed. We have a choice of candidates, not just one name on the ballot because the regime in power controls everything and will do anything to retain that power.

So now what’s your excuse? Did I miss one?

I’m voting on Tuesday. Whether the candidates I select win or lose, I will honestly be able to say I voiced my opinion and had my say in the outcome.

Will you be able to say that?

[Note:  Our state of Virginia has an off year election on November 2. Which is the reason for this post at this time.]

Stop the Attacks

The attack ads, that is. Those totally irritating and most often false claims spread by one political candidate or political party against their rival. I guess the candidates and their ad agencies think they help sway voters, and maybe sometimes they do. Or else they wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars to run them

When I was younger we called it mud slinging. Smear campaigns. And it used to be frowned upon. But not any longer.

Today that’s all we hear during political campaigns. This candidate caused children to starve. That candidate wants to let all the violent criminals out. This candidate plans to take away your guns by going house to house. That candidate is going to get rid of the police departments. This candidate is planning to raise your taxes by 15%. And this one is being investigated for tax evasion. That one is going to force teachers to teach fake history that was rewritten by the other political party. Another candidate even talks about how bad it is to run these attack ads, and then in the next sentence attacks his opponent for things that were said in that candidate’s attack ad…

Wow! If any of what’s claimed in those attack ads are true, those people shouldn’t be considered as serious candidates! How’d they even get on the ballot?

Why are they even running? In many cases that’s an easy answer. Most of the candidates who use these tactics are ego-driven, wanting to have their name in the forefront; to be known as a state representative, congressman, senator, mayor, governor, and yes, maybe eventually president. Do they really care about doing good for their district, their state or their country? Maybe. Or maybe they want the prestige, the limelight, and the power to say, “I’m the [whatever office he/she holds] and I make the rules! If you don’t like it, that’s too bad!”

And to hear some of these ads, if what’s being said is true, that particular candidate should actually be behind bars instead of running for office!

We are inundated constantly with these nasty, untrue, derogatory political ads to the point of total disgust. It makes me not want to vote for any of them. Because each candidate says they supported that attack ad!

Seriously? Why would I vote for someone who can’t run on his or her platform. Whose only claim as to why he or she should be elected is how bad the other person is?! I really don’t think any of them deserve my vote.

But if I don’t vote, then I have no right to complain and criticize who won when they do something I disagree with.

And that causes me to cast my vote for the candidate I dislike the least in order to vote against the one I don’t want in office.

That’s a terrible way to vote, but unfortunately I’m not the only one doing that in today’s elections.

I can still remember political ads that actually stated a candidate’s platform. They were running to do this or that. They had a reason for running, and wanted people to vote for them because those voters believed in what the candidate stood for, and believed he’d keep his promises. Bad-mouthing their opponent? That wasn’t done. Political debates were polite. There was no yelling and screaming at the other side. The candidates made their points in a positive manner without calling the other candidate derogatory names.

How things have changed. And not for the better. Politics has evolved to the majority of candidates acting like spoiled children who want their way, no matter what. They stretch the truth for their own means, call people who don’t agree with them insulting names, and accuse their opponents of all sorts of things, that if it weren’t for the election, would institute lawsuits for libel or slander.

And our children see this and when their parents don’t disagree or say it’s not right, those kids are taught it’s ok to act that way.

But it’s not. Not for our children, and certainly not for the politicians who are trying to get us to vote for them!

I’m tired of it all. Here in Virginia we are electing a new governor and delegates, along with numerous local offices. We have one more week of this mess. But every day it gets worse. I cannot wait until this election is over.

And of course, the way things have been going lately, then we’ll have to listen to all the unsubstantiated claims of stolen elections and voter fraud.

Because that’s unfortunately becoming the new normal in American politics. I seriously doubt our founding fathers would be happy to see how things have evolved.

Maybe one day politics will change and become more civil again, but I doubt it will be in our lifetimes.

And that’s such a shame.

I’m sure many of you will disagree with me. And that’s your right. But please be respectful about it. Our state and our country’s future is more important than blasting someone for opinions you don’t agree with.

Are We Actually Helping the Terrorists?

I’ve seen so many posts and memes in the last few days of our President Biden, yes the president who was duly elected by a fair and not stolen election, being made to look like a Talib, a member of the Taliban.

I’ve also seen one of them of him made to look like Bin Laden holding ice cream cones. People think it’s funny. It’s not.

And let me explain why. And yes it’s my opinions and you ha e a right to your opinion, like I do. But please listen to what I’m saying.

I do not agree on how Afghanistan was handled. Is being handled. It began when a former president decided to negotiate with the Taliban, a terrorist group not in charge of the Afghan government. He made agreements with them and even invited their high ranking members to Camp David, one of the most private and secure places for our president and his family.

Fortunately that didn’t happen. Can you imagine if it had? That would’ve been opening the door to our country and saying, “Come on in. My home is your home. We’re all friends now! What can I help you with? I’m pulling our troops out like you asked.”

I didn’t see any postings of Trump made to look like a Talib, but I may have missed that.

In my opinion, which is just that, President Biden should have not followed though with the withdrawal when he did. Yes, I believe we needed to leave, but we did not plan well. In fact, it was very poorly planned.

Even worse, people are being killed because of it. Americans and Afghans as well. We are now in a very dangerous position. The Taliban sent suicide bombers to the airport like the threatened.

Thirteen American service members were killed along with Afghan men, women and children. This is an outage.

There are countless posts about

remembering and honoring these service members. About praying for their heartbroken families. Which we should do.

And then some of these same people start posting pictures of our president dressed in Afghan garb and implying he’s Taliban.

Now what do you think the real Taliban think of that? And don’t say they don’t know about it because they do. And I can assure you, they are even more emboldened because of it.

This tells them that the Americans are weak. That we have no respect for our elected leadership, just like the Taliban had no respect for the duly elected Afghan government. Just like they have no respect for women. Nor respect for anyone who doesn’t believe as they do.

People, you’re playing right into their hands. And they love it. You’re weakening our position in the Islamic world. You’re telling them you no more respect our president than they do. And in their mind you’re actually telling them you think they’re in the right.

That world kills people for doing what you’re doing. Literally.

Just because we have the right to make our opinions known doesn’t mean we should do it in this way. And how is this honoring the Americans who were just killed in that bombing? How does it make their families feel?

I know a lot of you will say I’m crazy, I don’t have a sense of humor, or call me a communist Democrat. Call me what you will, because I am not affiliated with either political party.

I don’t care how you feel. I’m just asking you to be careful of what you post during this time. You may think nothing bad can happen here, but it did and it could very well happen again.

I had a teacher in high school who had a number of favorite sayings, one of which was “a word to the wise should be sufficient.” So I close with that thought.

The Dying Bird

For the last several weeks I’ve been seeing this poor hurt bird. His wings are damaged, broken. His feathers are ruffled and quite obviously many have either fallen out or been pulled out.

His eyes, although still clear, are sad. Sometimes he just closes them and shakes his head, as if trying to get certain images out of his mind. Images that he never thought he’d see, and hopes he’ll never have to see again.

He’s an old bird; he’s been around a long, long time. He’s seen way too much. Wars. Poverty. Depression. Hatred. But he’s also seen a lot of good things, things that have made him proud. And you can still see an occasional smile as he remembers them. He remembers soaring high above fields and mountains, rich with beauty, amazing colors, and clear skies. It was such a sight to behold.

The way things used to be.

But those good memories fade all too quickly as he continues to see more and more hatred. Division. Partisanship. Friends against friends, and neighbors against neighbors. People talking against each other instead of with each other. Threatening each other because they don’t see eye to eye.

His friends, once counted in the hundreds, are slowly deserting him. They see what’s going on, and they’re afraid whatever sickness he may have may infect them, too. So he becomes more and more alone.

And he realizes that unless something is done quickly…unless something changes…the life he once knew and enjoyed will be destroyed. And destroyed so totally that it cannot be rebuilt in any way that will resemble what it originally was.

The bird shakes his head sadly, closes his eyes, and lays his head down. And he cries.

He cries for what has been lost and will never be again. For innocence lost. For hope that’s rapidly fading.

And he wishes he could stop the disease that is spreading so quickly that it will eventually kill him, and everything he once believed in.

Suddenly he hears voices. And they’re speaking directly to him.

“Don’t worry, mighty bird. We’re going to fix those broken wings so that they’re both pointed in the same direction. Once again you’ll soar to amazing heights. You’ll feel wonderful again! We’ll make both wings the very same. They can point in the same direction so it’ll be easier to fly! You wait! You’re going to be better than ever!”

The bird thought about it for a moment. And then gave his answer.

“That sounds wonderful. I want so badly for both of my wings to be strong again. I want to be able to fly high again like I was meant to do. It’s been far too long since I’ve been able to do that. But there’s a problem.”

“A problem?” The voices answered. “How in the world can you see a problem? We’re going to fix your wings, and make them better than ever. Your life will be better, easier than ever! How’s that a problem!?”

The bird replied. “You see, your ideas are a bit flawed. Your hearts seem to be in the right places. But my wings aren’t designed to point in the same direction. They have to point in opposite directions in order for me to be able to fly correctly. They may appear to be in opposition to each other, but in reality they’re supposed to work together for one common goal. These wings are tired and hurting, because over the years they’ve decided they have to work against each other rather than with each other. They’ve started beating against each other so badly that my feathers are falling out. It’s exhausting, and I just don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

“If these wings don’t find a way to start working together again, instead of against each other, this tired old Eagle is going to give up. I’ve been around a long time, you know, and I’m not ready to die, but in the shape I’m in right now, it could very well

happen. And sooner rather than later, unfortunately.”

The voices continued. “But we know so much better that if both wings did everything the same way, in the same direction, life would be so much easier on you. No more controversy. No more disagreements. Just peace and tranquillity”

“That will never happen,” said the bird. “I wasn’t designed like that. Both wings need to have their own direction, BUT they have to work together to a common goal, instead of fighting to have ultimate control over the other. And that’s just not happening right now. If both of these wings don’t start working together….well, I’m done for.”

And the Eagle closed his eyes again, folded his broken wings around him, and waited for someone to help him.

So who will step up to help this poor bird? Before his freedom, his spirit, is lost forever?

Maybe if more of us thought about the situation we’re in right now in this country in terms of a broken and dying Eagle, things would begin to change.

Think about it.

I Still Remember. Do You?

I purposely didn’t write this for publication on 9/11. Because we’re all reminded of what happened on that day. We certainly remember it every year on that date. At least those of us who were adults, teenagers, and old enough to watch it unfold before our very eyes.

Almost 3,000 people died suddenly that day. Almost 3,000 people who had waked up that day, prepared for their daily routines and most likely their plans for after work.

And suddenly, within hours, those plans were gone. Because they were, too.

Families were destroyed, never to recover again. Our nation would never be the same again.

Yes, that day was one we should never forget.

But what about the day after?

Because today is the day after 9/11/2001.

That day, most of us went back to our daily lives. Yes, we were still shaken, still in disbelief. We were still thinking about all the lives lost, wondering what, if anything, would happen next. Yes, we kept seeing the pictures on tv, but a lot of them were re-runs of what had happened.

We’d already seen those pictures several times, and already we were getting a little tired of them. After all, we’d already seen, heard about it. And already our initial fears were starting to subside.

That was for those of us who weren’t directly affected. Because it hadn’t actually touched US.

Where we live in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia we were a bit more watchful, as this is home to the world’s largest conglomeration of naval bases. Many of friends and neighbors, their families, worked there or were in the military. And we were concerned about them, and for ourselves.

But our day after 9/11 was mostly back to our normal work lives, our normal after work and/or after school activities, with a bit of sadness and apprehension thrown in. But we still had our loved ones.

The day after 9/11 for those personally affected was a continuation of the vast horror that had been inflicted upon them.

It was a realization that no matter what happened from that day forward, their lives would never ever be the same. No amount of time would ever be able to make them forget; to make the horror and anguish disappear.

Nothing could ever make it go away, or make things right again.

The weddings that had been planned would never take place.

The birthday parties that were planned would never be celebrated.

The babies who were waiting to be born died along with their mothers. And fathers who were anticipating the birth of their children would never be there to meet them.

Children would grow up without one or maybe both of their parents.

Thousands of funerals would have to be planned. And attended. And most likely no one knew where to start…

Life for those left behind would continue, but in a new, frightening, and uncertain way. Those left behind were most likely totally unprepared for what they needed to do. Just the sheer stress of dealing with such a horrific death of a loved one, not to

mention the hundreds of details involved in the necessary tasks of finances, insurance, closing apartments and homes….overwhelming doesn’t begin to describe it.

Then there was the wondering of what actually happened to their loved ones in those final seconds. Did they know what was happening? Did they have time to think? Some were fortunate enough to receive a last phone call. Most weren’t. And they are still left to wonder about the unimaginable.

They just wanted to go back in time to 9/10/2001. And let time stop.

But it doesn’t work like that. Unfortunately. Because reality intervenes.

We all remember the haunting photos of the buildings being hit, crumbling down. The wreckage of a plane in a Pennsylvania field. A gaping hole in the Pentagon.

But I also remember the faces of those desperately searching for a loved one who may have somehow made it, hope quickly fading as realization set in.

And the pictures of loved ones plastered on fences, light poles, building walls; the flowers and notes; a grim reminder of the lost.

So today, the day after the remembering of 9/11, let’s remember what so many were going through that day AFTER 9/11. And are still going through; still remembering.

They deserve to stay in our hearts as well. Because for them, the horror will never be far away.

We remember what happened, but we should also never forget those who were left behind to carry on by themselves.

Do you agree?