Anger, Civil Rights, Fear, Peaceful Protests, Protests, Racism, Respect, Uncategorized

Fear and Sadness…….

Well, after the weekend’s events in Virginia, I really wanted to write about something positive, happy, and less upsetting……but my heart and mind keep going back to the news.

Angry alt-right protesters marched…..chanted…..and violence/terrorism ensued.  It breaks my heart, and makes me so incredibly angry and sad.  Those protesters, carrying Nazi swastikas, and chanting their hateful messages spit on the graves of every U.S. soldier that fought and died in WWI and WWII…..and every American who ever served this country, or currently serves this country, defending our freedoms.  My grandfathers, my father, my father in-law, my uncles, my cousins, my son…..

At this point, it isn’t about Democrat and Republican, or who you voted for.  I have friends who voted unlike me.  They had their reasons, and we didn’t agree, but that’s the beauty of America……even if we don’t like the outcome.  Even when we were in Europe earlier this summer, an American friend was shaking his head, wondering why his family in New York voted the way they did.  Right now……it doesn’t matter.  Right now…..it’s time to put a stop to the hate.  SPEAK UP!  Take a stand against bigotry.  We absolutely can NOT let this continue!

The truth is, the atmosphere in America right now is ugly, sad, and scary.  It seems that unrest, racism, and hatred comes in phases in our country.  I have a tendency to put on my Pollyanna personality, and try to see the good in everything, but right now, I’m angry! My parents (especially my father) were a little too close for comfort to it during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.  Actually, our country was built on violence and racism, but I believe that the Declaration of Independence and Amendments still support that “all men are created equal,” and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and we need to respect that, and stand on that.  Our current administration seems to condone the hate.  I’m not a fan of his, and I don’t hide it, yet some people were more upset that President Obama wanted everyone to have healthcare……”It’s un-American,” as one of my friends stated.  Un-American?!?!  No, it wasn’t.  What is un-American is supporting white supremacy, and threatening the lives of those who are standing up for their rights or those of others.

I still believe that the majority of Americans are good people, and do not condone hate or violence.  Some will say that if you voted for the current president, then you condone the behavior of these individuals.  I disagree.  I may not agree with their decision to vote for him, and I can’t stand him, but that is/was their right, and they had their reasons, which was also their right. What upsets me the most about this is that the behavior of those idiots (yes, idiots…assholes…..jerks…..traitors…..terrorists) yesterday is condoned, while peaceful protests, such as someone “taking a knee” during the National Anthem, or peacefully marching in a Martin Luther King Jr. parade, or a women’s rights march, or a gay pride parade, are condemned, ridiculed, abused, or called “un-American.”

It all comes down to what I’ve written about before…..respect.  Those who marched yesterday disrespected the American public.  They disrespected our Constitution.  They disrespected every single individual who fought and/or died for the freedoms we enjoy today.  This is not Nazi-Germany (remember….they were the ENEMY….America fought and won that war!).  This is not the 1800’s or early 1900’s America where men hid behind their white hoods terrorizing African Americans.  I was raised in Kansas, once known as “Bleeding Kansas” because of the racial unrest in the 1800’s.  My father was raised in South Alabama.  My parents served a church in Southern Arkansas in the 1960’s, and I’m married to a bi-racial man, living in the South……I know a bit about racial issues.  As time goes on, you would think we could see the sins/mistakes of our past, and not repeat them.  Unfortunately, what I saw yesterday made me sick and ashamed.

I love my country.  I am as patriotic as they come.  I cry when I hear the National Anthem.  I love our diversity.  I love the freedoms we share in America….but I do NOT love hatred, bigotry, or anyone attempting to deny the rights of anyone else because of their race, religion, gender, political affiliation, etc.  As much as I miss my parents and grandparents, I am glad they are not here to see what is happening in our country today. It’s just too sad….and too scary.

 

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Art, Don't Judge, Respect, Tattoos, Uncategorized

Tattoo or Taboo?

Tattoos…..once reserved for military (I think of the Navy), and motorcycle gangs, have become quite the norm today.  A lot people consider them trashy or crude, or unnecessary.  It’s actually hard to find someone without a tattoo today. I’ve seen trashy and poorly thought out tattoos, but I’ve also met rude, classless people who have no tattoos.

I am not pro or anti tattoos.  If someone wants to have one, that is entirely their choice.  I wouldn’t want anyone to get one from peer pressure.  I also wouldn’t want anyone to get one just to have one, without giving much thought to what they’re putting on their body.  After all, it is permanent.  I don’t think anyone under the age of 25 should have one, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as honoring a family member, or commemorating a special date.  What we value at 18 is not necessarily what we value at 25.  Therefore, I’ve told my children that I would prefer they wait….if they still want the same thing at 25 that they did at 18, then go for it. Also, a tattoo or piercing should never keep you from having the job you desire, so location is also something to consider.

I haven’t always felt this way.  I used to think they were inappropriate, and you shouldn’t scar your body this way.  However, as I have gotten older, and have faced some personal tragedies in my life, I don’t have such strong feelings about something that shouldn’t make a difference in my life.  Someone else’s tattoo, and the way they choose to express themselves isn’t my business, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone.  I don’t take issue with someone who is practicing self expression.  If someone wants a tattoo, and wants to express themselves in an artistic way, that is their choice.  I have seen some beautiful tattoos on women who have had mastectomies.  I have seen others cover other types of scars that may be a reminder to them of a painful time.  To cover their scars with beautiful artwork is coping in a positive way, a statement of survival, and it is their choice.  To some, the choice to have a tattoo is a very personal one, and the message they choose to display may mean something very deep, or be very emotional for them.

Some tattoo art is also beautiful (and some is quite hideous!).  Artists of different styles and methods should respect another artist’s work.  I can’t imagine that it’s an easy art to master!  It would take years of practice, patience, and talent.  I would think the skin as a canvas would be much different to work on than a mural on a wall!

Self expression, creativity, and honoring what we love in a display on our bodies is not something to criticize or condemn.  Respect the message.  Respect the artist’s work.  Respect the individual with the display of self expression on their body.  Respect.

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!”