The only thing I take seriously is my Freedom. And Bacon.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Buzzed Off My Hair For ALS

In my life, I have been not so attractive, and I have been quite attractive (not to brag or anything).
Most people would call me cheerful, creative, and free spirited.
Some people, like my husband, call me crazy.
He was an inspiration because he never complained and his sense of humor remained sharp and strong.
Recently, I’ve learned of a few deaths caused by ALS who were either members of local police departments or close family members of police I know.
And then it was discovered that Bryan Rickards – K9 Officer from Abington- had been diagnosed with ALS in February of this year (after almost a year of searching for an answer as to why his body seemed to be going wonky).
I first met Bryan a long time ago – when I was a Store Detective (security guard – but store detective sounds much more exciting).
I LOVED that job. It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a job. I worked for Bloomingdales in the Willow Grove Mall.
Bryan would often stop by to visit (as would many Abington cops when they were bored). He always made me and my co-workers laugh. He was always funny, optimistic, cheerful. And almost always had a crazy story. 
I never had a close relationship with him and didn’t see him very much for years after I quit. Then a few years ago I started to see him once or twice a year at k9 events.  Bryan is one of those people as soon as you see him – you can’t help but smile and be happy that he is around.
So when I learned he had ALS – I was heartbroken. And because my father had ALS, it always seems to strike me a bit more because I am all too familiar with the disease.  
Lately, I’ve known many sad situations with friends being diagnosed with cancer, friends having strokes, one young death in the family (all w/in a few months).  I’m starting to feel like I can’t do ENOUGH or say enough or pray enough (and I’m not even religious).
Bryan had written on his facebook that he doesn’t regard ALS as a punishment, but more as a gift, because it will give him time to heal relationships that need healing and time for him to make peace where needed.
And that was really the only serious thing he has said. He’s been staying positive. His sense of humor is still as on point as ever. Truly, he is inspiring.
One day, last week, I’d shaved the sides of my head a little bit. And then I decided, “HEY, WHY NOT SHAVE MY HEAD!” in order to raise awareness for ALS and funds for Bryan’s Go Fund me that one of his co-worker’s wife had set up for Bryan and his family.
I even put had the barber shave a little Happy Face into the side because Bryan is trying to remain upbeat and happy, and  – thinking at work, customers would ask  me about it, and I could tell them about Bryan’s story.
Well. This was a bad, bad, bad, idea. It was a good intention, but for me, a bad idea. 
Also, knowing Bryan, he probably would much more have appreciated and got a big laugh if I would have put my fake boobs into a pushup bra and wrote BUST ALS across them. Who knows, maybe that’s still an option (it would probably get much more likes and raise more awareness on Instagram than my buzzed/happyface haircut did). To which I thank the very few people who liked it (you know who you are!). 
The short lesson of it is that, buzz cuts on girls (even with Happy Faces) does not inspire much conversation with my customers. At a somewhat conservative grocery store. 
The cut does not look good on me. 
My husband calls me Larry.
Though very kind people say, “Oh, you’ve got the face to pull it off!”
At work the first night, I was so uncomfortable (but never will I be as uncomfortable as Bryan or those struggling with serious illness).  I learned many, many lessons about beauty that night and how it influences people. About how we present ourselves to the public and how it does make a difference. Only three people asked me about my hair/the shaved happy face.
The next shift,  I wore a pink wig. Well. The pink wig got MANY compliments. Many people asked me about it, and I was able to mention Bryan and his inspirational perspective on ALS (as well as his GO FUND ME) much more frequently. Old people loved it, young people loved it. It was met with positive reaction.
Geez, instead of buzzing my hair, I should have just worn a pink wig!
But that’s what happens to me sometimes (and I’m sure it happens to other people as well) – we get so caught up, we want to DO something. Like last summer when one of my childhood best (and also funniest) friends lost her 17 year old daughter in an accident. I wanted to drive my car (which barely makes it thru inspection and every warning light is lit) half-way across the country to be there. 
My husband said, “Don’t call me to come and pick you up when your car breaks down!” and my best friend said, “I’m working that weekend, so I couldn’t come and get you.” I was quite mad at my husband, but looking back, my childhood friend who had lost her lovely daughter was surrounded by a large family /friends and community and though I know she would have appreciated my support, I could support her just as I’d been doing by keeping in touch with her. 
How much we should do, all depends on the person, too. Some people don’t want any attention. Some people don’t really want attention, but they appreciate small gestures. Sometimes it's hard to gauge. And some people want to bring awareness to their disease (watch the movie Gleason for a very inspiring movie about ALS). There is no right or wrong way to handle an illness. And I’m sure each person has their own unique experience.
But the one thing I have learned, from my father, and now, reiterated by Bryan, is that it is all about perspective. It is all about silver linings. It’s all about finding humor where and when you can. It’s about turning every obstacle into an opportunity; to bring awareness, knowledge, to make someone laugh, to make someone feel valued, to give someone inspiration. Some might want to reach out and be inspiring to the world, and some might just want to be inspiring to those who are closest to them. But I think that the ability to rise above an illness that that is truly a son-of-a-bitch, is really one of the only ways to not let it get the best of you. Not everyone can rise. (Surely, I don’t think I would). But everyone can try. And there are many inspirational people like Bryan to lead the way.
Please consider donating to Bryan Rickards Go Fund Me. If you don’t have the money, please just consider posting it on facebook or passing alone the information, or praying for him and his family.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  -Viktor Frankl

Below is a poster you can copy and ask to hang it at work or anywhere you think it might help.

Officer Bryan Rickards has served the residents of Abington Township as a Police Officer for the past 19 years. Officer Rickards and his K-9 partner Ivan, are an award winning team, trained in narcotics detection, and patrol operations certified. 

On February 16, 2017, Officer Rickards was given the devastating news that he had been diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Laterals Sclerosis). This is a rare and progressively debilitating disease that will prevent him from ever being able to return to work as a police officer.

Bryan has 3 young children, and could really use all the help he can get. The Abington Township Police Association is collecting money to assist in defraying medical costs both current and future and support his family. All proceeds will go directly to Officer Rickards and his family. There is a GoFundMe page, along with a Beef and Beer fundraiser scheduled for April 8, 2017 have been set up to do just that!

Donations are also being accepted by the Abington Township Police Association (A.T.P.A.), PO Box 211, Abington, PA 19001.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Rose Wilder Lane - Mother Of The Libertarian Party

On Rose Wilder Lane: "Her love of America has nothing to do with the jingoism we know all too well. It is a love of individualism, experimentation, risk, entrepreneurship, creativity, reward, and the inspiration that comes with building." - From the Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane

More than 6 years I've been researching political movements and history. I've been reading books written in the late 1930's - to the 1970's in a sort of quest to understand history as it unfolded, through the eyes of people as they were experiencing it. And Lord knows we can't trust anything media says or does anymore.

I'd had a quote about freedom from Rose Wilder Lane tucked in a quote book I created from quotes that struck me along the way as I read (the quote/passage is at the end of this essay).

I knew Lane was the daughter of Laura Ingalls; however, I didn't know she was considered one of the "mothers" of the  Libertarian party. She hung out with communists when she was young (in the 1920's) but as she traveled the world and actually visited communist countries, she realized communism is not the answer. Common Sense and Individual Freedom is the answer.

I started to read her book, The Discover of Freedom, in June of 2016. I was amazed at how my thoughts and feelings and ideas imitate Lane's - and yet, I'd had no idea she was such a political (and fiction writer) phenom.

This is what makes me sad about the years I spent doing mind numbing, soul crushing, things; parties, bars, movies, days spent lost watching TV shows (Ok, the tv show Friends was not really a loss because we all need a few breaks now and then), and reading fiction (which is good, but too much and you start to live in a fantasy world) - and in the last few years: getting hopelessly lost on Facebook (do I really need to spend 45 minutes looking at the 'wall' of people that are friends of friends?).

When I discovered Lane, I'd been working on a few different projects and have one major project that I keep refining, re-tuning. It is full of big ideas - big ideas that are very simple. I just wasn't sure how to whittle them down and explain them in relate-able language.

And then I stumbled on Rose Wilder Lane (who's quote had been with me for years, I simply did not seek out information on her nor the book it came from until now) and there was my answer.

No one has ever mentioned her in any of my research. I have Libertarian friends and her name has never surfaced.

How sad!

There were actually 3 women who gave the Libertarian party some street cred: Ayn Rand, Lane, and Isabel Paterson.

During the '30s Rose Wilder Lane also became a leading opponent of the New Deal. The "real political question" of the '30s, Lane wrote, was "the choice between American individualism and European national socialism."

Unfortunately, as Lane saw it, there was no American political party committed to individualism. "In 1933," she wrote, "a group of sincere and ardent collectivists seized control of the Democratic Party, used it as a means of grasping Federal power, and enthusiastically, from motives which many of them regard as the highest idealism, began to make America over. The Democratic Party is now a political mechanism having a genuine political principle: national socialism." Another way of saying this was to say that, again in Rose's words, "a vote for the New Deal approves national socialism." Unfortunately, however, the Republican Party was "a political mechanism with no political principle. It does not stand for American individualism." Therefore, lamentably, "Americans (of both parties) who stand for American political principles … have no means of peaceful political action." What was needed, Rose believed, was a political movement, which would unite writers, activists, teachers, propagandists, and politicians in favor of individual liberty. A "libertarian movement" — that was her phrase. Brian Doherty reports in his book Radicals for Capitalism ) that he found Rose using this phrase — "libertarian movement" — as early as 1947. He calls it "the first example I've found of the phrase in its modern sense."

I felt I might be insane as I have a ton of binders filled with notes, thoughts, highlights from books, etc. I have notebooks filled with personal essays, and, indeed, blog posts - lots and lots of blog posts. But most of them are scattered (the blog posts) - because I'm easily distractable. Most of us are; we have different people, different hobbies, pulling us in all sorts of direction. It's easy to lose sight of the few things that are truly important.

I was thrilled to learn that Lane had filled over 84 notebooks with her writing at the time of her death (she died in 1968 (the same year I was born) at the age of 81). She was self taught, and maybe that's what makes her work so brilliant; she didn't live her life in a cave, she experienced life and wrote about it.

Here's a book review (from 1943!) for her book The Discovery of Freedom
You can buy her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ebay.

Here's a long passage from the book that I love - about what ONE person can accomplish:

"And when at last this rebellion compelled the British Government to use the only power that any Government has -- force, used with general consent -- and British troops moved into Boston to restore order, Americans did not consent.  They stood up and fought the British Regulars.
     "One man began that war.  And who knows his name?
     "He was a farmer, asleep in his bed, when someone pounded on his door and shouted in the night, 'The troops are coming!'
     "What could he do against the King's troops?  One man.  If he had been the King, that would have been different; then he could have done great things.  Then he could have set everything to rights, he could have made everyone good and prosperous and happy, he could have changed the course of history.  But he was not a King, not a Royal Governor, not a rich man, not even prosperous, not important at all, not even known outside the neighborhood.  What could he do?  What was the use of his trying to do anything?  One man, even a few men, can not stand against the King's troops.  He had a wife and children to think of; what would become of them, if he acted like a fool?
     "Most men had better sense; most men knew they could do nothing and they stayed in bed, that night in Lexington.  But one man got up.  He put on his clothes and took his gun and went out to meet the King's troops.  He was one man who did not consent to a control which he knew did not exist.
     "The fight on the road to Lexington did not defeat the British troops.  What that man did was to fire a shot heard around the world, and still heard...
     "That shot was the first sound of a common man's voice that the Old World ever heard.  For the first time in all history, an individual spoke, an ordinary man, unknown, unimportant, disregarded, without rank, without power, without influence.
    "Not acting under orders, not led, but standing on his own feet, acting from his own will, responsible, self-controlling, he fired on the King's troops.  He defied a world-empire.
    "The sound of that shot said: Government has no power but force; it can not control any man.
    "No one knows who began the American Revolution.  Only his neighbors ever knew him, and no one now remembers any of them. He was an unknown man, an individual, the only force that can ever defend freedom."
 -- from THE DISCOVERY OF FREEDOM: Man's Struggle Against Authority by Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of, and secretary to, Laura Ingalls Wilder,