Anger, Attitude Adjustments, Bad Attitudes, Be Happy, Be Kind, Bullying, Communication Skills, Compassion, Don't Judge, Egos, Get Over Yourself, Happiness, Home Sweet Home, Insensitivity, Kindness, Loyalty, Manners, Misconceptions, Negativity, Positive Attitudes, Respect, Self respect, Speak Up!, travel, Uncategorized, Understanding, Watch, Listen, and Learn

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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Be Happy, Coping, Family, Happiness, Home Sweet Home, Love, Relationships, Togetherness, travel, Uncategorized

Togetherness

Well, the holidays are officially here, and I am now ready to celebrate with the decorations, food, and Christmas music…..not a bit too early!

This Christmas is one I am looking forward to.  I always do, but this year, Al and I are hoping to make a trip to Kansas City to see my three children, my grandson, at least one of my sisters, and maybe a few other family members.  My son will be home from the Navy, so I am anxious to see him, and spend time with my girls.  I am one of five daughters, and my parents were each one of five children, so we have a pretty big family.  But I haven’t seen any of them since July, 2015, and it was for less than 48 hours, since we were there for my nephew’s wedding, and then went to spend a week in New York.  It has been over five years since I have seen all three of my children together at once.  Think about that for a minute…..going years without seeing your family…….as different as my sisters and I are, I still love and miss them every day.  I haven’t seen my best friends (and won’t on this trip either) for 2 1/2-5 years or longer.  I love and miss them terribly too.  I do have a couple of uncles, aunts, and cousins who live about an hour from here, but we don’t see them very often.  It’s nice to have some family a little bit close though.

Since Al moved here in 2014, we have been to New York to see his mother and sister three times, and he has gone twice by himself.  He has been to Miami with his friends from Sweden three times.  We’ve been to Orlando to see his father three times.  We’ve been to Sweden.  We’ve also taken a couple of trips to New Orleans, and a short honeymoon cruise, but the focus the last 3 1/2 years has been to make sure he gets to see his family (especially his parents) and friends, after spending so long living out of the country.  Now we have an opportunity to go to Kansas City, between Christmas and New Year’s, and it’s all I can think about.  Kansas City is beautiful during the holidays, and I will get to see my “babies!”

I have friends living all over the country.  But, as women, most of us don’t take the time to take many getaways on our own.  At least, that’s been the case with me and most of my friends.  We have our jobs and responsibilities with our homes, children or pets, and don’t feel like we can take a break from it all.  I’m usually the one making sure everyone has what they need, and I forget to think about what I need.  I’m trying to do better with that.  It’s hard for me to do without feeling selfish.  Since funds are tight, and now with my health conditions, I can’t exactly justify taking off for a week or weekend to hang out with my friends by myself.  Traveling alone wouldn’t be a good idea because of everything going on physically with me.  I’ve been working very hard at school and also trying to get started in the real estate business, to try to get us a little bit ahead.  Frankly, between that, and all of the medical crap I deal with, I’m worn out, and need a change of scenery.  Maybe someday, I can travel alone again, but not now.

While I love living in a warm climate (even though they are predicting snow this Friday!), and it’s much easier on my arthritis, sometimes I need a break too.  Hopefully, I can get a much needed break to see some of the people I love and miss.  And what better time to do it than at Christmas in Kansas City?

Don't Judge, Fear, Fort Scott, Kansas, Friday the 13th, Ghosts, Halloween, Hotel del Coronado, Just Breathe, October, Pensacola Lighthouse Museum, Spirits, Spooky Places, Supernatural, The French Quarter, The Unexpected, travel, Travel Channel, Travel Woes, Uncategorized, Whaley House

Friday, the 13th……

I am taking a much needed day off work today.  After another trip to the doctor earlier this week, 3 more needles, a change of meds, and orders to rest, I decided to obey doctor’s orders (finally), after pushing myself at work to get things finished for the end of the first 9 weeks of school.  With all of the medical tests, I’ve sort of been feeling like a science experiment lately, and a bit like the Bride of Frankenstein……not that Al is Frankenstein!  I just feel like the female version of the experimental monster. With this being October, and today happens to be Friday the 13th, I wondered about the timing of all of these health struggles!  I also started thinking about all of the spooky, supernatural things that are so prevalent this time of year.

Some people choose not to celebrate Halloween, and that’s okay.  This is America, after all.  We are free to do what we want, right?  I happen to enjoy Halloween.  As a child, I never considered it to be demonic, or filled with anything satanic.  My family celebrated it as a time for children to use their imaginations in pretending, playing dress up, and getting candy!  I did the same thing for my own children.  There have always been the scary movies, which have become more terrifying in recent years, and I haven’t really enjoyed those.  I prefer the suspense of Hitchcock over the slasher or demonic movies. But there are also stories of supernatural, which are year round, but more front and center this time of year.

Do you believe in spirits, hauntings, or souls that might be caught in limbo?  Some people don’t….a lot of times that is because of religious reasons, but these same people believe in angels, which non-religious people don’t believe in.  Others do believe in this type of activity.  I believe that sometimes a spirit may linger, especially if there was something unpleasant about their lives or deaths, such as violence or murder. I also believe a loved one may be able to make themselves known to his or her family, in a way to comfort them.  If I hadn’t had my own personal experiences with this, I probably wouldn’t believe it either.  I have a memory of my grandfather talking to me when I was about 3 years old.  For years, I thought it was a memory from when he was alive. After discussing it with my mother, I realized the time line didn’t work out, and it would have had to be after he died, because he died when I was 2 years old……on Friday, October 13th……..fifty years ago today.  I wasn’t afraid at all, and I think he was probably just checking on his family, since my mother, aunt, and grandmother were all in the room at the same time of this occurrence, and weren’t acknowledging him in any way.  I know I didn’t understand why they weren’t talking to him!

Over the years, I’ve had uncomfortable feelings in places, where I feel like I’m being watched, or that maybe something really bad had happened there.  One of these places was at the old fort in the small town where I grew up in Kansas.  I had strange feelings there on two separate occasions.  One of those times was with my youngest daughter, Grace.  She was about 10 at the time.  We used to love going to the fort and touring the old buildings.  We were alone (so we thought) in one of the buildings, and I noticed that Grace kept looking behind her, and seemed uncomfortable and jumpy.  I also felt cold, and uncomfortable.  I thought someone was in the room with us.  I turned around to see no one, but I still felt the need to leave the building.  I asked Grace if she wanted to leave, and she responded with an enthusiastic, “YES!”  We both felt it.  We haven’t been back in that building!

I have watched the Travel Channel’s, “Most Terrifying Places in America,” many times. One of the places they have talked about is the Whaley House in San Diego.  I made a point to tour it (by myself) a few years ago.  Other than it being cold and a little creepy, I didn’t see anything, or really feel anything unusual or uncomfortable.  Maybe I would feel differently if I worked there, or spent more time there.  I also stayed at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, which is supposedly haunted by a young woman named Kate Morgan who died there in 1892.  While I didn’t get a bad feeling about her, I did feel uncomfortable one night, like someone was playing with my feet while I tried to sleep.  I asked my ex-husband, and he swore it wasn’t him.  It didn’t really scare me, but it was annoying.  For some reason, I didn’t feel like it was her though, but maybe some other type of mischievous spirit.

While in New Orleans, I got a few funny feelings at places in the French Quarter. Nothing terrifying…….but uncomfortable, and like maybe I wasn’t alone.  The Lighthouse Museum in Pensacola really gave me the creeps.  Sometimes I can’t really put my finger on it, but it’s just a weird feeling.  I’ve had odd feelings in a lot of places….even in one particular building in Stockholm last summer.

I think some people are more in tune to some of these things, whether they want to be or not.  Sometimes you hear of people who don’t believe in the supernatural, but yet, they may encounter someone who isn’t really there, and are then confused by the encounter. I do think some people see what they want to see, and get a little carried away with the whole phenomenon, either for attention, or for monetary gain.

One thing is for sure…..there are a LOT of stories out there of similar experiences in places all over the world.  I don’t believe that millions of people just have over active imaginations.  Not everyone has to believe, but sometimes there just aren’t logical, scientific explanations for everything.  So, on this Friday the 13th, during this spooky/fun month of October, watch out for the ghosts and goblins!

 

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!”