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

Saturday, October 8, 2016

All These Toxic Things I've Done (Intro)

I will be 48 this year.
That is about the same age my dad was when he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrigs Disease in 1996.

My dad was given two years to live and died almost 2 years later on February 15th, 1998.

This realization that I am approaching an age my dad was when he got the news he had a limited amount of time left on this earth (and much of that time would be challenging) - is playing wicked tricks on my mind and is causing me to reflect more on my life than I did in 2014 when I faced a health crisis.

2014 launched me into the world of doctors, medicines, and surgery. It also made me take stock of what I'd done (and not done!) in life. I was convinced I wasn't going to live to see the year 2015. I started to take a long honest look at my life. How did I get to the place I was? It wasn't a bad place, but it could be much better. At my age, I should have accomplished so much more. What I had accomplished was a-lot of hangovers. A-lot of heart-ache. What I had accumulated were a-lot of recipe books. I also had many diaries so I could journal all of the fun things I did in life. Because growing up, the messages surrounding me were all about "living for the moment" "you only live once" "Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere!"

In 2014, I started tracing my life events,  things I had believed, and what led me to believe them. I have learned so much since then, ideas and information I want to share, but have been struggling with the approach.

And then, a few weeks ago, I  found a folder filled with my dad's emails to me. After he was diagnosed with ALS, we started to communicate via the internet. We lived many miles apart, but through those emails, I got to know him better than I ever had the whole time I was growing up. That was the only silver lining to the disease that killed my father (but it never defeated his spirit that still lives on).

Four days prior to his death, I had written to ask him what beliefs he would go out on a limb for.
He answered me the following day, writing; "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." He went on to describe his time in the military. How it helped shaped him. How he never realized how important the USA was until he was stationed outside of the States.

Though I’ve always been searching for the “holy grail that explains the keys to happiness” -  after a my health scare in 2014, after re-evaluating my life; my personal experiences, my scattered successes and horrible, epic fails, and I realized the answers had been there all along; I had to look no further than my dad. He had provided all the examples I needed – but I was too busy watching movies, reading books, and listening to “experts” because what could my dad…my blue jean wearing, football loving, car racing enthusiast, Three Stooges and John Wayne fan, plain old dad, teach me about the secrets to a good, happy, significant, life? Turns out: everything!

When I was growing up, my father  tried his best to be an example of honesty, humor, hard work, harmony, and humility, (all of which lead to happiness) - but I refused to believe that happiness could be that simple (and frankly, it seemed damn boring!). I was busy being distracted, drifting, and under the influence of a society that pushes pleasure, ease, and escape; their ultimate goal is to decay you to save you. And boy, did they have a willing student who eagerly couldn't wait to show how smart, cool, forward thinking, I was!

I know my father worried very much about how I would turn out. He was correct to worry. And I worry about my children. I had a great role model in my father. My children, however, had me, a mother who was trying to be cool, hip, and progressive. I don't know that I'll ever be able to undo the toxic influence that I passed on to them, but I sure can try.

I guess the most honest way to do that, is to start with what I've done, what I was thinking when I did it, and hopefully, my experiences will bring awareness to how our happiness is hijacked, how our confidence is worn down, and how our character and courage have been slowly eroding and what we can do to get back to good.

We all know that life is short. And I've done a-lot of good in my life, don't get me wrong. But what I've come to understand is that the things my dad valued: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, is not just something you think about; it's something that you must protect, you must understand, you must be constantly vigilant.  Everything I did in life that was promoted to me as "freeing" and promised to bring me happiness by popular culture/society messages, only hurt my spirit, my heart, and only served to confuse me.

My father had the answer to what was right and true. But I wouldn't realize that until he was long gone. I wouldn't realize that until experience taught me. And I wouldn't realize that until I discovered some hidden jems of books that were not (and had not) ever been on any best-seller list, but supported the values and ideas my father exemplified.

By age 50, my father was gone. Lately I've been thinking I need to do more. Time really is of the essence. I have to stop worrying about perfecting each idea, and creating something funny or entertaining.

I want to payback, pay it forward, and honor my father and the men and women who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice their lives so that others may live in freedom. My generation, however, was sold freedom as "free from responsibility, free from guilt, free from consequences."

That is not the kind of freedom that our Founding Fathers, nor the military had in mind when they created and fought for America.

But it's sort of hard to realize that when, everywhere you turn, there is a company, or marketer, or movie, or book, or magazine, or politician, telling you that freedom is about sex, love, drinking, doing drugs, craft beer, craft marijuana, music, sports, and basically, that if you're not out to have a good time, something is fundamentally wrong with you!

I have come to understand that you can still have a good time, and still have common sense, character, and the courage to make a difference. You can refuse to believe the message that you are broken and need to be fixed. Refuse to be distracted by immediate desire and self gratification. Because the weaker you are, the easier it is to influence and persuade you.

All these toxic things I've done, I might not have done, had my dad sat me down and explained to me why virtue is not a dirty word, and how to be on guard and recognize the things that will lead to unhappiness and sow the seeds of disenchantment. But he didn't do that. And after reading an assortment of magazines from the 30's, 40's and 50's - I realize it's because he had no idea how subtly our happiness/freedom was being sabotaged. My father trusted the books I read, and the schools I went to, and the tv I watched, were harmless. And by the time my father realized I was lost in a world where goodness is viewed as corruption, and corruption is viewed as a path to happiness, he could do little to reel me back in. I am as stubborn as he was. But he continued to set an example. And his courage and character, his sense of humor, his determination, and his common sense, have always impressed me and given me something to aspire to.

And now that I understand not only the mistakes I made, but how I was influenced to believe that vice is nice, I hope to help others to be aware and alert. If we truly want happiness for ourselves and for each other, we need to continue to expose the people and ideas that devalue, exploit, and deceive.

If we don't understand the true nature of things and principles like character and justice and goodness, we can't be expected to live by those principles. When people ignore principles, ignorance becomes a glove in which corruption slips its hand.

I think my dad would be relieved to know that I finally wised up and realized I ignored the principles, I paid the price, and now I'm taking off the gloves.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Is My Life All For Nothing?

For me, when I write, the challenge is "what if this is all for nothing." 

What if the time I spend writing - the books I've written - are all for nothing. What if they are forgotten? 

When I first started to write, it was mostly for entertainment. I hoped to become a "best-selling author" one day. Mostly because all the time I put into writing would be worth something and so I didn't have to depend on a husband or boyfriend or work for a company that treated its employees like crap (though I feel like most companies now treat their employees like crap!). 

Writing is not easy. At least, not for me. Especially in today's culture, where you have to be short and to the point, and somehow be entertaining. 

My writing over the past few years has been less fiction and more writing with a purpose. To somehow restore our character, courage, and confidence. Because though we SEEM like a society that has made much progress, in reality, what I'm witnessing, is a huge decline. A decline in respect for not only each other, but in the way men treat women (and I realize I was part of the problem). A decline in the way people present themselves. I don't feel you have to get dressed up to go out to the store, but the people I see shopping at 2 pm in the afternoon are sloppy, slovenly, and almost seem to go out of there way to say, "Looks are not important; I don't care if you judge me!" But if you think about it, they are really saying, "I do care what you think of me, because I'm making an effort to send a message!"

I am mortified by the older men I know (in their 70's and 80's) that make not only very disparaging remarks about women, but one older married men, is routinely chatting up sex workers on his facebook and sending them money via Western Union! 

 I have filled binders and binders of research on our past culture. I've had fun reading old magazines (from the 30's, 50's etc). I have been able to trace back the slow decline and that has led to our state of confusion (good is bad, bad is good) and illusion. 

I believe I've truly found the answer to what brings contentment and happiness. But I'm so afraid that all this research (combined with experience!) and what I want to write will be lost. 

I stumbled on Rose Wilder Lane's writing. Brilliant! 

Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Zora Neale Hurston were really the ushers of the Libertarian party. Yet, I'd never heard of them. 

Here are remarkable women from the 30's and 40's and who knows about them? Their messages were messages of "Moxie" and "Self Determination." 

They lived through extremely hard times, yet always had the fortitude and drive to overcome life's challenges. How come we know so little about these truly progressive women?  

So when I sit down to write, I often feel "What's the point?" What if my words get lost? What if I'm wasting my time when I could be doing something more productive like...reading the latest issue of People magazine? 

And I realize my fear of being forgotten, my fear of not making a difference, my fear of being laughed at by the "cool" kids, is the same fear everyone has. 

It's why people join Black Lives Matter. It's why cops become cops. It's why we search out like minded people. We want to belong and be accepted. And yet we also want to make a difference. And show we are somehow unique, individual.  We want our life to have some purpose. We want to be appreciated and loved. If not by a-lot of people, at least a few people. And this wanting to fit in yet wanting to be seen as individual is a fine, fine, line to walk. 

It is sort of like dieting. You know there is an end purpose (to be healthy) - but there is that big glaring fact of life looming in the back of your mind: Life ends. So what's the point of trying to be healthy? Why not just enjoy the pizza and beer and wine? 

And that, is what often stops us from making choices that, in the end, are not only good for us, but good for everyone. And I've found that choosing the difficult path, the path of NO, is actually the path that leads to the most happiness and fulfillment.

Sometimes, we think no one sees us. But you'd be surprised who is watching. And how one act of courage or kindness (whether it be risking your life to save another, or holding the door open for an elderly person) can stick in someones mind, and encourage them to do something courageous or kind. 

So, you might be hesitating to start a project or might be afraid to put yourself out on the limb and be judged. You might have the little voice inside your head telling you to not bother, because what if it's all for nothing? 

The trick is to get over yourself at the same time you need to believe in yourself. If you have a positive purpose behind your goal, nothing attempted is ever in vain. Your life is not in vain. There are many people I look to as examples on how to be a good person, how to get better, that have no idea that I aspire to be as smart, or kind, or purposeful, as they are. 

You were born with a talent. It might be being vocal, it might be as a photographer, it might be as an organizer; it might be as simple yet meaningful as being a loyal, loving, honorable friend. It is hard in today's culture when the signals seem to be, the more raunchy or self indulgent you are, the more respected you will be. It's difficult to 'do the right thing' when there is no seemingly punishment for doing the wrong thing; for hurting someone. Indeed, it seems that by doing the right thing, you will be punished or shamed. 

Your life is not all for nothing. The mistakes you make, will make you better. The mistakes you make will make someone else better or be a warning or caution or save someone else (hopefully!) from heartache. 

You might look like a fool - but guaranteed, you will get better. You will learn. And you will feel way more accomplished and better about yourself than you do after you've polished off a whole bag of Cheetos while watching a marathon of any Bravo tv show. 


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Football, FanDuel, Easy Money

I play FanDuel.

I am not a hyuge football fan, though I once used to be able to name all the Eagles (that was back in the Randall Cunningham days).

I play FanDuel for the same reason most people play it.

1) It's a Distraction (I could be doing something like organizing my closets or reading a history book).

2) It's Easy Money. Something From (just about) nothing. You can win thousands of dollars from a one dollar entry.

3) It makes me feel like a detective; like I'm solving a puzzle.
Because with FanDuel, the object is to try and figure out which player is going to have a great game. You look back at statistics, you look at game data (who are they playing this week, how has the opposing team been doing, etc. etc.) A-lot goes into deciding the 'perfect' lineup. You only have so much (fake) money to spend, you want to make sure you spend wisely.

Now, I only put ten dollars in and once my ten is gone, I won't continue to play. It does make life a bit more interesting. Especially as I'm a girl (actually born AND identify as a girl), it gives me something to talk about when I'm around guys. Though generally they laugh at all my picks and make fun of me because I still have no concept of what a tight-end does. Also, I still love Tim Tebow and I think it's crap he got a-lot of shit for kneeling to pray on the field and became an outcast; Kapernaick (not sure how to spell his name, and don't really care) takes a kneel to try and divide our country even further apart and he gets on the cover of Time magazine!

Though I enjoy football, and think it's a fun diversion, it also makes me incredibly sad that so much devotion is given to a sport (and I mean all sports in general). If only we paid this much attention to what is going on in politics. If only we voted in politicians who run touchdowns, catch passes, and lead each Sunday in rushing. And if only we cut (or fired) those who under perform.

I wish that more people would "FanDuel" their politicians (esp. the Presidents). Dig a little deeper than what the media tell you. Cross research. Though in this case with the President; you've got one person who has spent her whole life in politics and has done nothing; has been at the center of scandal after scandal. And one politician who is a successful business man. He's had many failures, but at least he fought his way and never stopped trying. And he says things that are not very presidential. But, if you know politics at all, you know that Hillary says things that aren't presidential either, she just says them through PAC's or uses other people to deliver Trumplike digs. So, one candidate tells it like it is, and the other uses someone else to tell it like it is.

FanDuel (and sports in general) is what Huxley warned us about in Brave New World; that pleasures and distraction would be the ruin of society. With the peoples' attention diverted elsewhere, it would be easy to pass laws that restrict freedom; that take more of the peoples' money and resources.

Does anyone know what your local government is doing? I sure as hell don't. I went to a local meeting a few weeks ago and discovered they were voting on things they had already paid for! The township manager said, "Well, I couldn't just wait to get approval." And yet, we have a waterwell that is 2 points below toxic level and they have no idea what is going on.

Imagine if we gave up one night of Netflix, one night of sports, and started paying a little attention to our local government. It's always good to start there and work your way up. Even if you just show up and sit there; it sends a message people are paying attention. A little sunlight sends the cockroaches scattering.

So on this Sunday; enjoy your football. May you win big. May I win bigger. But consider my plea to pay a little more attention to politics (more than just skimming news), esp. your local government; because with just a little investment; we can all win big.

Go Steelers!