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Sweet Land of Liberty

Well, today I am going to write about something that may make a few people mad.  It’s something that I have been feeling and wanting to write about for awhile now, but I’ve had to approach it in a constructive way.  I already have a few people in the world who can’t stand me for whatever reason, but I just need to vent a bit here.

I’m sick and tired of hearing people constantly criticizing the United States.  I don’t hear the same type of constant criticisms about other countries the way I hear about our country.  I know…..Americans are viewed as arrogant, and I know quite a few arrogant Americans, but I know a lot more Americans who are kind-hearted, and loving.  I know….our government has some major flaws right now, and I for one, cannot stand the man in the White House…..but he does not represent everyone, or what I see as the “American Dream.” I get it. We are a big, powerful country, which makes us a target.  But I’ve had enough.

I recently read a blog about what we do wrong, written by a European, now living in the USA.  First of all, if we are such a horrible country, then why is this person living here?  The criticisms I’ve heard are that we are too friendly, we dress too casually, our restaurant dishes are too big, we have free refills on drinks, we tip, we have “to go” boxes, we ask strangers, “how are you?” in our greetings, we drive too much, our children drive too early, but drink too late, guns, healthcare, and blah, blah, blah.  If I addressed everything he wrote about, I would be writing all night.

So….I love living in a friendly place.  I know people will help me, if I need it, especially if they have presented me with a warm smile.  I’ve received compliments from total strangers in public before…..sometimes a little creepy, but most of the time, I welcome a kind word and someone asking how I am.  I usually respond with, “I’m fine, thank you!  How are you?” Why is this wrong?

Dressing casually….well, why not?  And what is considered casual?  I don’t approve of the pajamas at Walmart, but I don’t like shopping at Walmart anyway!  But we can dress up when we want to, and most of us do.  My father wore a suit and tie to work every day, and seldom wore jeans or sneakers.  I live in a beach community.  It’s 90+ degrees every day with extreme humidity, making it feel like a 110 degree sauna.  I wear sun dresses or jeans with a nice shirt, cute shoes (always!), and jewelry to work every day…..is that too casual?  Why wear a suit in this weather?  You’ll MELT! And really, why does anyone else care? It’s not like I’m going to a wedding in a bikini!

Al and I went to lunch today, and we spent less than $50 (including dessert and tip).  Yes, the portions were large, but we didn’t eat them all (some Americans aren’t obese either).  I brought home enough leftovers for at least 2 more meals! This is extremely cost effective, common, and smart!  And our service was excellent, because our wait person was working for a tip!  The better the service, the better the tip, so she probably makes more than I do as a teacher! I’ve been to some countries where the customer service is crap, and I wish they were working for tips….maybe they would be more attentive! Oh yeah, and we also got free refills in “to go” cups for our tea because as our waitress said, “It’s about 130 degrees out there!  You’ll need something cold to take with you!” See how that works?  Reasonably priced meal, great service, leftovers, and a nice dining experience.  How is that wrong?

Driving….well, if you live in a city, you are more likely to have access to public transportation.  Let’s face it, this country is HUGE, and we are very spread out.  We like the space!  In order to get places, we do drive, but we also love road trips, and exploring our country, and you can’t get that in a taxi or a subway.  We don’t all drive gas guzzling vehicles, and enjoy learning about the diversity and history of our country.  Our children drive young (not something I necessarily agree with) because this country was built on family farms.  Farmers had a lot of children to help, and they needed to drive trucks and farm vehicles to help.  My father started driving at 12 years old (in 1936) from necessity.  So licenses at 16 or 17 (after a period of restriction) isn’t all that strange to us.

Alcohol….this one I have to agree with.  If our young men and women are able to fight for our country, and our boys are required to register for the draft, then yes….they should be able to have a beer!  I remember when the drinking age jumped to 21 nationwide.  Before that, the states had their own age limitations.  In Kansas and Oklahoma, you could buy low point beer at 18, but liquor at 21.  In Iowa, it was 19 for everything.  The Mothers Against Drunk Drivers were behind this, if I remember right.  They wanted to keep it out of the hands of high school students, which I understand, and can sympathize with too.  But if the kids want it, they will get it.  I thought 19 was a good compromise. And I have read that teenage drinking has dropped in recent years.

Guns and healthcare….well, we do have a problem.  I will not argue with this.  But some of us want solutions, or at least compromises, to these issues, and some of us don’t.  Please don’t lump all of us in to being part of the problem.  It’s a real concern for many.

A few weeks ago, I met some people on the beach from a European country (I won’t say which one, because I don’t believe in doing that to anyone….just like us, they do not all think and act alike).  They had flown to Washington DC, drove south to Miami, and were now on their way to New Orleans, stopping in our little community for a day or two to rest. Now, how many European countries can you travel that distance and still be in the same country?  Like I said before, our country is vast, and I think they were surprised by that, but how cool!  But they had nothing nice to say about us or our country!  I was really annoyed.  Here they were, sitting next to a total stranger, on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (free admission and free parking), complaining about everything, and saying we had no freedom.  And by the way, this American was more than happy to take their picture with the water in the background, and watch the lady’s purse while they went for a stroll on the beach, but you couldn’t do that in every country. They complained about where they stayed, thinking it was ON the beach.  It was on the Sound, and just over the bridge to the beach.  They complained that they had to drive to the beach.  I told them they could have walked over the bridge…a lot of people do.  They were afraid of the traffic….there is a walking/bike path.  Americans eat too much and are fat….these folks weren’t particularly skinny!  Black people shouldn’t be on the beach….I really had to hold my tongue with this one…..but then they complained about the racism we have.  I told them that my husband and I are teachers, and what we teach.  When I said that my husband works with students in the behavior unit, they assumed they were just “brats.”  I had to inform them that the majority of them suffer from some level of autism, and can’t help it.  Believe me, by the time I was finished talking with these rude tourists, I wanted to ask them why they bothered coming here if everything is so horrible!

I love my country, even though we are really in the midst of some awful things right now.  It was a safe place to grow up and raise children, and my parents encouraged all five of their children to go to college. We aren’t tacky, stupid, rude, or lazy.  Obviously, I have manners for not criticizing these individuals, or their countries.  We have a lot of freedoms here that many of us take for granted, and we should always protect.  But one thing that I will not stand for is someone telling me how we are “wrong” because we have a different culture.  This is OUR culture….like it or don’t.  There are a lot of things we do right, and some things we need to work on.  We are not everything you see in the news and on television.  As much as I struggle at times to understand what is happening in our country, it’s still MY country, and if it isn’t something you like, or can appreciate, or say something nice about, then go away…..you need to learn some manners!

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Anxiety, Be Kind, Being Strong, Compassion, Coping, Courage, Emotions, Fear, Happiness, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Kindness, Loneliness, Love, Loyalty, Make a Difference, Misconceptions, Rejection, Relationships, Respect, Self respect, Thankfulness, Uncategorized, Understanding

You Don’t Always Have to Be Strong

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain lately.  It’s really heartbreaking for their families, and leaves so many unanswered questions, but it seems that only when something like this happens do we really understand how much pain (emotional or physical) someone may have.  Of course, it’s too late to help them at that point, but how do we help someone who is hiding their pain from those they love? How do we know?  Some people love playing “the victim,” and love getting the attention that goes along with that.  Others of us, however, don’t want to be a burden on those we love.

My daughter had a friend who committed suicide a few years ago.  They were very close in high school, and then this friend ended up pushing away my daughter, along with a lot of other people who had been her friends.  Of course, it makes sense why she pushed everyone away now, but at the time, how could anyone know that she was hurting so much?  She pushed people away with meanness and made them not want to be with her.  I guess in her way, she was trying to protect them from the pain she knew she may eventually put them through.  Even when it happened, my daughter was not mad at her.  She hurt for her.  She still loved her.  She understood then that her friend had needed help, and didn’t know how to ask for it.

We all need help from time to time.

Last summer, I found myself in a dark place.  I was not suicidal, but I was sad.  I was afraid.  I was hurting.  And I was feeling a lot of pressure from so many different places.  I had been diagnosed with a medical condition that will be with me for the rest of my life.  I was alone when I got this diagnosis because my husband was in New York with his family.  I had recently been terribly hurt by some people I really cared about. I had no idea how I was going to handle another year of teaching with this type of medical diagnosis.  I was bogged down with some very difficult, important paperwork that was pushing me to my limit.  I was overwhelmed, alone, confused, sad, and hurting a lot.  I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to disappear for awhile.  I laid down on the kitchen floor, and cried.  And cried.  And cried.  And cried.  And finally a calmness came over me, and I got up and finished my paperwork that had been frustrating me so much.  I was still upset and alone, mad and frustrated, but I knew I had to pull myself together to keep going.  It didn’t matter what anyone else thought of me, or how anyone was trying to hurt me.  I had to keep at the paperwork, no matter how confusing and difficult it was.  Al would be home in a few days and we could begin exploring our medical options, and he would be home to comfort me.  It would all be okay.  I was entitled to a meltdown for all I was dealing with.  But I had to get up and face these obstacles.  I had to be strong for my husband and my children.  I couldn’t disappear.

Al and I had a discussion earlier tonight about how when either of us is hurting or sick, we try not to let the other one see how much we’re suffering.  We try to protect each other, even through our own pain.  I didn’t tell Al about my major meltdown last summer until recently.  I didn’t want to worry him, or put any added stress on him.  He worries enough about me….why cause him to worry more?  Why cause him added pain?  When he is sick, he tries to conceal how bad he feels so I won’t worry.  It hurts to see your partner hurt.  We are strong for each other, but we also know that sometimes we can’t handle everything alone, whether it’s a physical illness or a giant weight on our shoulders.  We need help from each other.  We don’t have to do it alone, and it has taken me awhile to learn this.  It isn’t something I’ve been used to.

Those people who are in so much pain that they take their own lives, aren’t trying to hurt anyone else.  So many times they have been protecting their loved ones for so long it becomes too heavy of a burden to carry.  They’ve had to be strong for everyone while they hurt.  They’re really quite selfless, even though some will argue just the opposite.  They’re funny, compassionate, and caring, but they have hidden their own feelings in order to protect those they love.  We know to take care of those who ask for help.  But let’s take care of those who seem strong too.  Let’s be there for the ones who always seem to be there for everyone else.  Let’s be there for the ones who start isolating themselves, even if they don’t want us.  Let’s be there for the ones who make us laugh when we want to cry.  Let’s be there for the ones who say, “I’m fine.”  They may be the ones who are suffering the most, and don’t know how to ask for help.  We are all human, and every human needs help at some point in their lives.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Art, Be Happy, Crawfish Festival, Happiness, Life Happens.....Make the Best Of It!, Misconceptions, Pensacola, Pensacola Lighthouse Museum, Thankfulness, Togetherness, Uncategorized

Appreciating Your Surroundings

It sure was a beautiful weekend here last weekend!  Because I’ve been really stressed lately, I needed the weekend in a big way!  Al and I don’t get to see each other for more than a couple of hours each day during the week because of our work schedules, and sometimes he works on Saturdays, so it felt like we hadn’t really had a chance to talk about much lately.  We spent Saturday downtown, where it seemed that everyone and their dog  were also out and about (seriously…..there are dogs EVERYWHERE downtown, and I love it!)!  It was busy with graduations, the Crawfish Festival, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, farmers’ market, and  people out just enjoying the beautiful weather!  It was nice to see so many people enjoying the festivities.

We walked, and talked a lot, and of course, when we are together, there’s always a lot of laughter and affection.  We started by cruising through the farmers’ market, which is weekly, and we have a our favorite vendors we like.  We sat at the Crawfish Festival, listening to the music, watching the people, talking to new people, and enjoying the food.  There was an abundance of delicious items, besides the “mudbugs” (crawfish, for those of you who aren’t familiar with that term)….shrimp, alligator, oysters, shark, chicken, gumbo, etouffee, rice and beans, paella, etc.  Then we walked through downtown, and stopped off at a few places along the way, just enjoying each other’s company.

This part of Florida has a hillbilly reputation…..some of it earned, but some of that label is unfair.  Pensacola has rich history.  Did you know that it even predates Jamestown and St. Augustine?  We have historical museums, art museums, the Naval History Museum and Lighthouse, Fort Pickens (where Geronimo was held when our government was relocating/imprisoning Native Americans), GREAT food, dolphin cruises, fishing excursions, entertainment, and shopping…..oh, and don’t forget the beautiful beaches (some of the best in the world), and water sports.  Every weekend, all year long, it seems that there is some sort of festival going on (usually free) from Destin to Pensacola.  Whether it’s seafood, art, jazz, Gallery Night, or a cultural festival, there always seems to be something happening, and you can experience it on a budget.  We also have minor league baseball and hockey teams.

No, we aren’t Miami or New York, but that’s okay.  If we wanted that, we could go there.  Those places are fun to visit, and have great energy, but the pace of life here is a lot more agreeable to our lifestyle now.  We have what we need, and enjoy our peace and quiet as well.  We can relax on the beach, or stay busy in town.  We can appreciate our life here, and make the most of what it offers.  We love good weather, and we have over 300 days of sunshine a year…..as Al says, “You can’t beat that!” I’ve been fortunate to live in a lot of different places in my life, and I have appreciated each one for everything it offers.  Take the time to learn about your surroundings.  Appreciate the history, food, culture, and weather.  Even though I have to deal with the lizards, frogs, snakes, and bears, I do like it here, and I get to be here with my best friend.  Will we stay here forever? Who knows?  But for now, this works for us.

 

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Hocus Focus

I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately.  Part of it is because I have a hard time typing with a brace on my wrist. Part of it is just because I’ve been a bit distracted with a few things lately.  I start to write, and I find myself not wanting to finish the topic because I get worried how some people might react.  I try to keep my posts positive, and try to inspire people to do their best, while maybe sharing some experiences from my life, or funny stories.  I know I shouldn’t worry about that, because I know if I’m doing the best I can, that’s all that matters.  I have a level of sarcastic humor that not everyone gets, but I can’t worry about that either.  I’ll try to give you an idea of what my mind has been like lately….

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is today……let’s keep moving forward.  Even my 1st graders think racism is awful.

Broken wrists suck.

Vertigo sucks.

I have a secret crush on Tom Jones.

Migraines suck.

Free movie passes are great.

I, Tonya was a good movie.

Catch the movie, Mudbound on Netflix……eye opening, and should tug at everyone’s heart.  Let’s not ever go back to that. Mary J. Blige does an excellent job in it.

I love Kansas City at Christmas.

I love warm weather.

My dog is the sweetest, snuggled next to me as I type this.

The Vikings had an awesome game yesterday, and I hope they go all the way, especially for my best friend’s sake…..she loves them!

Some people really take advantage, and are attention whores.

I would never have the nerve to set up a Go Fund Me account for myself…….

Therefore, medical bills and trying to get by through this really sucks.

Donald Trump sucks.  Yep.  I said it!

What happened to manners?

Why can’t people respect your time and your finances?  It’s not up to anyone else how you spend these things, and if you have the time or money for something.  I would never tell someone, “You have time for this,” or “You can afford that.”  No one’s energy level is the same as someone else’s, and no one knows what your financial obligations are.

A man complimented me in the elevator in the medical building for the boots I had on….then he asked if that was okay because he wasn’t sure it was acceptable….compliments should always be acceptable.

Work/teaching is exhausting.

Trying to get my foot in the door with real estate is next to impossible while teaching full time.  Taking my post license course now.

I don’t like one of my medical specialists…….at all.

Sometimes no matter how nice you are to people, they just won’t like you.  Be nice anyway, but protect yourself.  You can’t make them care.  Their actions will show you how they feel.  Be kind.

Seizures suck.

My family is wonderful.

I don’t get to see a lot of Al this time of year because he works at lot with youth basketball, so we spent today together.  He helped me with groceries and put gas in my car…..helping me with that wrist thing.

My kids are great…..and goofy, and I worry about them all the time.

Social anxiety can be crippling……try to smile and get through it.  I feel it every day.

Youth basketball games are fun to watch, especially when they’re scrappy little kids.

Some people are heartless.

I’m addicted to reruns of Bewitched.

Spring and summer need to get here soon. I need summer now!

So you can see……my mind is all over the place…..writer’s block, because I can’t focus on anything.  Not feeling bad or depressed….I’m just overwhelmed with a lot right now, so my mind is a busy place.  I wonder if I have adult ADD to add to the list of conditions? Maybe if I am able to reduce the stress in my life and get the rest I need, I can focus!  For now, I will rely on exercise and meditation (and Bewitched) to get me through!

I hope you all have had a great Martin Luther King Jr Day.  Did you do anything to give back? I didn’t this year.  I just don’t have the energy.  My justification for this is that I give back each day when I walk into my classroom. Every teacher does……

Get focused! Now back to studying….

 

 

 

 

European Vacation, Home Sweet Home, Misconceptions, Respect, Sweden, travel, Uncategorized

Home Sweet Home

I’ve been on hiatus the last few weeks due to travel, fatigue, not feeling the greatest, studying, and just trying to reflect on our trip to Europe.  The trip itself was not bad.  A couple of our flights were fine, two others a little stressful.  Since we flew out of Miami, we had an 11 hour drive on either end of the trip too, so we were also more exhausted from this!  We aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore, and we do get more tired than when we were 20 or 30!  We had plans every single day we were there, and I wasn’t feeling well several of those days, but kept going as much as I physically could.

We were able to stay in Al’s old apartment, where he lived for 17 years, so that saved us a ton of money!  We could cook our meals and not eat out all the time!  Plus, we stayed in shape by climbing the 53 steps each day! We were also able to borrow a friend’s car for part of the time, and took public transportation (trains, trains, and more trains), and walked a lot.  Any time you are in a city, you will spend a good deal of time walking, and I love that about any metropolitan area.

We didn’t see as much of the country and tourist areas as we wanted, but that was ok, because we got to spend time with people.  Since Al lived there for 30 years, there were a lot of friends who wanted to see him.  We squeezed in a little bit of sight seeing the last couple of days, and the sun came out, so that was nice!  We toured the Nordic Museum, which is housed in a beautiful building, and we were treated to a free boat tour through the canals around Stockholm.  We tried to tour the Vasa Museum, but the lines were way too long, and we had a short time frame due to plans later that night.  We also spent the day with friends at their house on the water (a finger of the Baltic Sea), and it was gorgeous!  So much of the landscape, countryside, and customs reminded me of living in Northern Iowa on the Minnesota border.  I understand now why so many Scandinavians settled in that area.  The weather, food, customs, foliage, scenery….even the people felt very familiar.  While living in the upper Midwest, I remember many times having to wear jackets in June!  Brrrr!  A lot of people think I’m from Florida, and can’t handle cold weather.  I handled cold weather (blizzards, white outs, ice storms, -80 windchills) my whole life until the last few years.  I handle it just fine.  I just don’t like it.

I didn’t meet many Swedish people.  Most of Al’s friends are American, Australian, British, etc.  However, the wives of his friends were Swedish, and they were all very kind to me.  If you’ve ever been in a foreign country, and don’t speak the language, you can understand how excluded and isolated you can feel.  It’s understandable to speak your language in your country, so I didn’t mind….I was a guest in their country, after all.  It just felt awkward a few times.  On two separate occasions, there were friends who announced that they would be speaking only English for my sake.  I really appreciated that!  It really made me feel accepted and respected.  I thought that was very kind of them.  Another thing I loved was that Sweden is a very dog friendly country!  I usually enjoy dogs more than most people, so it was great to see dogs EVERYWHERE.  They are treated extremely well!

There were a few misconceptions on both sides, I think, about how America/Americans are perceived, and how Sweden/Swedes are perceived.  I had heard that Stockholm is very clean, and knowing what I know about the descendants of Scandinavians, I was expecting very well manicured landscapes, no litter, no graffiti, no weeds, etc.  However, I felt that it was like a lot of cities in America, with those same issues.  Definitely cleaner than New York, but very comparable to Kansas City, Minneapolis, Denver, etc.  I had also been told that there aren’t overweight people in Sweden.  Well, there were.  Also, I was told that Swedes don’t eat a lot of fast food…..maybe not like America, but there were plenty of fast food restaurants, and many of the meals we were served had fried food and a lot of pork and sweet items.  This may be a more recent trend, as corporations become more global, and everyone seeks convenience…a sign of the times. I had also expected no racism, but one evening in a train station, we experienced a bit of that. There are also homeless people, and drug addicts…..very common in American cities as well.

A few misconceptions I had to clarify were that all Americans are not on “Obamacare,” not all Americans voted for the current president, we do have vacation time and sick leave, and we are not all stupid, ignorant, or racist (even those of us residing in the South).  Actually, defending my country got a little old.  I didn’t mind explaining the health care situation, and that I have my summers off (plus sick leave, personal leave, two weeks at Christmas, a week at Thanksgiving, a week at Spring Break, Good Friday, Veterans Day, President’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Labor Day, and Memorial Day….plenty of time off!).  They seemed to think we are all working our fingers to the bone with no time off, and no benefits.  I have pretty decent benefits through my job. But defending myself, my intellectual abilities, and that of my friends and family was frustrating.  Hearing some of the jokes and comments made about Americans was at times, hurtful.  I realize this is the information they receive, but thanks to reality TV, Jerry Springer, and the Kardashians, many Europeans think that is the way all Americans are.  Those are the images that are put out there, and speak the loudest, unfortunately.  It made me sad and embarrassed.  Mind you, not everyone was like this, but I heard these comments enough to get tired of them.

I know that the United States has its problems.  It always has, and always will.  It’s a very vast country, very diverse, and has a huge population.  It has a violent past.  But it’s truly fascinating!  There are very intelligent people here (even in the South….), and a ton of good things happen to be “All American.” In fact, for all of the mean or negative things I heard about my country, I noticed just as many NY ball caps, and a lot of American brand clothing.  They may not like us, but they want to be like us! As much as this country struggles, it is still my home, and I do have pride for the good people and good things that go on here.  I also love the vast landscapes, and all it has to offer.  I love the wide open spaces.  I love the promise of the “American Dream.”  I love our fascinating (yet violent) history, and how my family played a part in it.  I love the friendliness and acceptance I feel here.  I love the beach that is 10 minutes from my house.  I love that I can go to the mountains, desert, beach, forest, or prairie, and still be in my country.  I love the accessibility to affordable housing (housing, or lack of available/affordable housing, was a topic of conversation in nearly every circle we were in).  I love our movies and television shows.  I love our music.  I love the accessibility to affordable groceries and retail items, and a variety of places to shop for these things.  I love that even if my neighbor and I don’t agree on religion or politics, we will be there for each other, any time we need each other….trusting each other to keep an eye on our houses, pets, or plants, or to help with a project or a car that won’t start.  I love the helping hands that are there in times of need…..sometimes from complete strangers.

Sweden was a nice, beautiful country, and it is home to approximately 10 million people.  Most of the people were beautiful, and asked educated questions about our lives here, looking for informed answers.  The United States is home to approximately 320 million people.  Naturally, with more people, there will be more (or different) problems. We do have a few ignorant people here (as every country does).  I do wish we had the healthcare system Sweden has.  I loved the open air markets with all of the produce and flowers.  I loved the history and the architecture of Old Town in Stockholm.  But America is my home.  I am proud of it for so many reasons, even with all of it’s problems and divisiveness right now.  I have had so many opportunities in my life here.  My parents raised five children, who are all college graduates and beyond.  I’ve been able to travel to 40 states and now 6 countries.

Everyone should be just as proud of their country, but have respect for other countries and their citizens as well.  It’s great to explore and learn new things about other countries, their citizens, their history, and their culture, and I can’t wait to do it again.  It broadens our minds, and helps us to understand each other better.  Traveling and learning about each other, and having mutual respect for each other could solve so many problems we face today.  Education, travel, broadening our horizons, and embracing our differences can only make this world a better place.

Be proud of your country.  Be proud of your roots (my roots are mostly European).  Be proud of your flag…..and respect all others.  We love to travel, but as Al said the night before we headed home, “It will be nice to be back on the other side of the Atlantic again.”  Home is home.  To honor my 26 years spent in Kansas, I will end with this…..”There’s no place like home!”