Where Do You Find Inspiration?

I know it has been quite a long time since I posted anything but my blog muse has been having anger management issues so the things I wrote, I really could not post.

As many of you know, recently the media has been continuing the “violent veteran/soldier narrative.” This makes me absolutely crazy. But as I struggled with biting my tongue, then writing angry blog posts, then deleting those posts before publishing and began the cycle all over, I realized as I would check my twitter feed and my facebook newsfeed that the majority of pages and people that I follow for the purpose of helping me find inspiration and keeping me grounded have been posted by current and former military.

I have found that those who do not hesitate to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others, those who have faced trauma and death and survived, are the most amazing people I have known and have the most valuable messages to share.

Our experiences help shape us into the people that we are today. Yes, there are some aspects of my past that I wish I could have avoided but then I would not be who I am today. So we all must struggle to find our strength, we sometimes have to lose everything before realizing how anything is truly possible, sometimes we must speak for those who have no voice. And when in the presence of true bravery and heroes, I find myself shamed that I did not volunteer.

And while my life is very far from perfect, it could be a lot worse and with that, I look to those others for the inspiration to keep going when it feels like too much. I look for the laughter in life to help lift my spirit. I look to those who have fought, have sacrificed, have struggled, and have the courage and fortitude to continue on when others have not. I find that in our military, past and present. I am truly humbled by the sacrifices that they make, that their families make, and that those who are no longer with us have made. I value my freedom and I pray for our soldiers and veterans every day. I know what this life could be if we did not have them defending our freedom and rights. I support them any way I can.

So when I struggle, I think about Jason Redman’s sign on the door, I think about Dakota Meyer discussing his suicide attempt, I think about Bryan A. Wood’s struggle with coming home and becoming a civilian again, I think about Marcus Luttrell and all he endured with Operation Red Wings and he continued on with the teams and continues on with the Patriot Tour and the Lone Survivor Foundation to make sure that everyone remembers, I think about the family of Michael P. Murphy and the life he lived before he gave it in defense of our freedoms, I think about Christopher Heben chasing down the gunmen in Ohio before seeking medical attention for his gunshot wound, I think about Mylee YC and her battle with breast cancer and PTSD, I think about Christopher Van Etten and Alex Minsky and Bobby Henline and others who now have combat-modified bodies. I think about those whose names I do not know, those who I’ve heard about from these survivors and from others. I think about the men at my Grandpa’s VFW, those who shared their stories and pictures and their time, and who turned me into their little mascot. I can think of so many examples of soldiers and veterans doing good, living the life of a true role model and hero, yet their stories go untold by the media.

This is where my inspiration comes from. This is from where I draw my strength. So when I hear about stories talking about correlations between PTSD and violent soldiers and veterans or that ridiculous New York Times op-ed attempting to correlate veterans with white supremacists, I am offended. I get angry. I want to scream at the top of my lungs and say, YOU ARE WRONG! And they are wrong. But we don’t see those corrections. We don’t see coverage of those who stand up and say, “you got the facts wrong.” Correlation does not imply causation. I teach this to my students. The media and the author of that New York Times op-ed needs to learn this. They need to realize that their poor coverage and false information has an impact in society. It encourages employers not to hire veterans, it further stigmatizes PTSD, combat stress, and anxiety leading to the horribly high numbers of veteran and soldier suicides, it leads to homeless veterans, it leads to veterans languishing in the red tape of bureaucracy only to die waiting for an appointment at the VA, it leads to politicians repeatedly calling for armed action and sending our brave men and women into battle, yet cutting funding or denying funding or capping funding for treatment when they come home.

It makes me angry, it makes me rage, but I can turn it around and use it as a teaching moment. I can use my meager resources to get the facts out, to organize for change and to inform others to not be passive consumers hypnotized by the sensationalizing media, but to critically analyze, to use critical thinking skills to get the facts, to question, to say “we are not doing enough, we must do more for those who sacrifice for our freedom,” to become involved in the political process, to call out media outlets and hold them accountable for shoddy research and reports, to exercise those rights that I hold dear, those rights that so many have and continue to fight and die for. I know what I do is not enough, it will never be enough to truly express the depth of my gratitude for their sacrifice but I will continue on, I will continue to support them in any way, no matter how small, I will continue to fight for them, I will continue to make sure their stories live on and that those who have sacrificed have not done so in vain.

So as we approach Memorial Day and honor those who gave all, think about where you find your inspiration and look at some of the amazing people out there sharing messages of survival, hope, love, faith, and tolerance. You may find yourself surprised at how many of them currently or at one time have worn a military uniform.

Exciting News for film “Murph: The Protector”

I am so excited about this. Back in March, I saw this film during one of its limited showings and I was so deeply moved by it, I could not stop telling everyone I know about it. See my earlier post:Lt. Michael P. Murphy and Other Role Models.

On Veterans Day, it was announced that “Murph: The Protector” is under consideration for 4 Academy Awards: Best Feature Documentary, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, and Best Film Editing. It is so well deserved.

In addition, “Murph: The Protector” will be available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital platforms on January 7, 2014.

Currently, you may pre-order the DVD or Blu-Ray versions at Wal-Mart for a discounted price.

It is so very important that we do not forget the sacrifices that our military and their families make. I am happy that his legacy will live on in this film and that he will be an inspiration for generations to come.

 

Veterans Day 11 November 2013

As many of you know, I am a proud supporter of our military and veterans. I have the utmost respect for the sacrifices that they make and am so grateful for the freedom that they fight to defend. Last year, I spoke about the fact that many schools have opted out of celebrating Veterans Day, which I still find truly appalling, especially when they take time to celebrate Columbus Day, a day celebrating a man for bringing about the genocide of Native Americans and introducing slavery to North America (click here for last year’s blog post).

When we look at US society, what does it tell us about how we treat our veterans? Well, we celebrate by offering an optional Federal holiday (see last year’s post containing my fury over schools opting out of recognizing Veterans Day) and offering a multitude of sales for non-veterans and service members. There are those companies that offer free meals and discounts to veterans and active duty military on Veterans Day but those don’t nearly stand out to me as much as the companies that offer discounts throughout the year. Yes, Veterans Day is celebrated on Nov. 11, but is that the only day we should thank our veterans for their service and sacrifice? HELL NO! As a rule, veterans are not looking for handouts and charity. Recognition for the service and sacrifices that they made mean so much more. Letting them know that they matter, that they may have seen and experienced atrocities that civilians cannot even come close to imagining and survived is just one of the ways in which these men and women are heroes. But even more importantly, treating them like human beings, talking to them like normal people and not some media-created scary figure that will at any moment freak out in a fit of violent PTSD.

The truth is any exposure to trauma can lead a person to suffer from PTSD. It is not something that only occurs among the military although the media over-represents military in their PTSD coverage. Not everyone with PTSD engage in violent behavior, although again our popular media over-represents the correlation between violence and PTSD. Would you stop buying ice cream in the summer months when you learn of the strong positive correlation between ice cream sales and homicide rates in the summer months? No (that is a spurious correlation ignoring the important variable of temperature and remember correlation does not equal causation). Thus we should not treat our veterans and military with suspicion because of the popular media’s skewed reporting of information.

We are not doing our veterans any favors by perpetuating the myth of the violent and out-of-control veteran. In truth, it reflects very poorly on us civilians as well because rather than embrace the men and women who sacrifice so much for our freedoms, we would rather turn our backs to them and keep them segregated from society whether it is through unemployment, homelessness, or discrimination of other forms. Being a veteran should be a badge of honor not something a person seeks to hide for fear of discrimination. Here is a blog post by Kate Holt that was posted on 6 March 2012 that is worth reading: “The ‘Dangerous’ Veteran: An Inaccurate Media Narrative Takes Hold.”

We have a long way to go in our society regarding the treatment of our military and veterans. We civilians should be embracing the skills and characteristics that are honed and necessary for military service. We should remember and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. We should help our military and veterans reintegrate into society by accepting their perspectives as valid, by acknowledging the strength they have to endure, by respecting their service and sacrifice, and by integrating them into jobs and schools. We can learn so much from these brave men and women and the fact that society chooses not to is very disappointing. As an educator, it is my duty to facilitate the learning of my students and foster the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in life. As a society, we have a duty to accept all members of society and not turn our backs on those who we ask to make the ultimate sacrifice only to revile them for their actions when they return survivors.

I try to make it a point to speak with at least one veteran a day besides my family members and friends who have and are currently serving. I try to ensure that issues that affect our troops and veterans remain at the forefront of our consciousness by sharing information about some of the amazing programs out there, including but not limited to Wounded Warrior Project, Team Rubicon, The Mission Continues, Operation Gratitude, and The Gary Sinise Foundation. It is the very least I can do to express my gratitude for the freedom that I enjoy.

To the veterans and active-duty military I offer my most sincere thank you for your service and sacrifice. I know that I would not be here today if it were not for you and I would not enjoy the life I live if it were not for your sacrifice. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. Stay safe and be well.

Cover Reveal: Back to You by Jessica Scott

We first met Trent and Laura in “Because of You” and “Anything For You”

Coming soon from Jessica Scott, Trent and Laura’s story “Back to You”

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From the back cover:

He’s in for the fight of his life . . .

Army captain Trent Davila loved his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful children. But when he almost lost his life in combat, something inside him died. He couldn’t explain the emptiness he felt or bridge the growing distance between him and his family—so he deployed again. And again. And again…until his marriage reaches its breaking point. Now, with everything on the line, Trent has one last chance to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs …if she’ll have him

to win back his only love.

            Laura is blindsided when Trent returns home. Time and again, he chose his men over his family, and she’s just beginning to put the pieces of her shattered heart back together.  But when Trent faces a court martial on false charges, only Laura can save him. What begins as an act of kindness to protect his career inflames a desire she thought long buried—and a love that won’t be denied.  But can she trust that this time he’s back to stay?

Pre-Order your copy today!

To Read and Re-Read: Breaking Point by Pamela Clare

As some of you who know, Pamela Clare is one of my absolute favorite romance authors and for those of you who are part of her I-Team Facebook group know, Breaking Point is my favorite book by her. I first discovered Pamela Clare last year when I read Skin Deep an I-Team novella (Book 5.5 of the I-Team Series). I was so impressed with her writing and the characters that I went back and read the entire series (in its proper order) within the following sleepless week.

So what is it about Pamela Clare’s writing that has put her near the top of my favorite romance authors list? There are so many reasons. Pamela was herself an investigative journalist. She evidently uses those research skills in her fiction writing. But in her books, she does not necessarily give a passing glance to some important social issues, rather she expertly weaves the story and characters in a way that leaves the reader guessing as to who is responsible and what their motivations may be. Her research is thorough and the reader will find himself/herself learning about issues that the mainstream media, with its current obsession with all things pointless and celebrity related, chooses to ignore. But it is not only the social issue that she researches so thoroughly but also the characters and their backgrounds. The result is truly authentic characters who behave in ways consistent with their backgrounds and current contexts. She does not only present the good qualities that her heroes and heroines possess, but also the qualities that may make that character flawed. As her stories progress, the reader can truly see the relationship between the hero and heroine evolve to one of trust and love. Pamela takes pride in her work and this shows in the authenticity and realism of the story and characters. Reading her stories is a true pleasure. Of all of the books I own and have read, I re-read her stories more than any other among my romance genre collection. On the re-reads, one picks up on subtleties that were overlooked on the first reading. And if you like audiobooks, all of her audiobooks are narrated by Kaleo Griffith. His expert narration is an auditory delight. It is based on these reasons that I will automatically pre-order and purchase all books and audiobooks by Pamela Clare, be they romantic suspense or historical romance genre.

Of all of Pamela Clare’s books, my absolute favorite is Breaking Point, book 5 of the I-Team series. By far, I have re-read this book more than any other in my collection. I am drawn to the characters as they struggle to survive and attempt to understand the motivations behind the drug cartel responsible for Natalie’s kidnapping. Their captivity forces Zach and Natalie to trust each other beyond what would be otherwise expected of two people who first meet. Their experience while captive and during their escape and evasion from re-capture bring them closer together, beyond the simple sexual attraction they initially feel for each other. Zach and Natalie are challenged not only physically but psychologically as they deal with the internal scars of their individual pasts, Zach’s as a former US Navy SEAL and Natalie’s as a survivor from Hurricane Katrina. Through their respective work, Zach as a Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal and Natalie as an investigative journalist, we are given insight to the brutality, corruption and reach of drug cartels.

I am not easily brought to tears by a read, but Pamela’s masterful writing elicits tears and laughter from me at every re-read. It is a book that I highly recommend to all romantic suspense fans and therefore, I am so excited that from October 23 until October 30, Breaking Point is on sale.

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Kindle: http://amzn.to/16rdJX1
Nook: http://bit.ly/17eGjeR
Kobo: http://bit.ly/HgsOi1
iTunes : http://bit.ly/1gD3sv7

Here is the description from Pamela Clare’s website:

While investigating border violence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Denver journalist Natalie Benoit is caught in a bloody ambush and taken captive. Alone in the hands of ruthless killers, she will need every ounce of courage she possesses to survive.

Betrayed by another operative, Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride has endured a week of torture and interrogation at the hands of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Ready to give his life if he must, he remains unbroken—until he hears the cries of an American woman.

Although Natalie is only a voice in the darkness of their shared prison, her plight brings renewed strength to Zach’s battered body. With her help, he overpowers their captors, and they flee through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun.

But past loss and tragedy leave both of them reluctant to follow their hearts, even when the passion between them reaches its breaking point. Faced with feelings neither expected, they fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both…

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Winning At All Costs Should Not Be An Acceptable Societal Value

I am a sports fan. I am a diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan and Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Across professional sports world-wide, there is the issue of athletes using performance-enhancing drugs. These may be in the form of steroids, human growth hormone, various stimulants, etc. What I cannot comprehend is that as fans we tolerate this form of cheating. There is no other way to look at someone who uses performance-enhancing drugs/substances other than that they are cheating. The players that I admire the most are those who work hard every single game and practice and who treat their fans well. It sickens me to hear about kids who catch a ball at a professional game only to have security come by to take it away or when you have to pay to meet a professional athlete for an autograph. It makes me nuts. These are the people that society holds up as role models and sadly so many lack the values that role models should hold. The true role models and heroes of society are found in our military, first responders, health care professions (not administrators but nurses and doctors), educators, and so on. You get my point. Here we have individuals who are chosen to compete in the professional arena, given an unbelievably high salary (notice that I did not say earn), and other perks “just because” they are a professional athlete. Explain to me the reasoning why someone who earns $30 million a year gets free shoes while our veterans find themselves homeless and unemployed upon leaving the military? Why does someone who works one or more jobs earning minimum wage have to shell out the money for shoes when an athlete who earns $30 million a year gets the freebie? Does anyone else see this as wrong? But I digress.

Our society holds these professional athletes up as heroes and role models and yet they are allowed to cheat. Not only cheat, but get inducted into the hall of fame of said profession. They keep their money and fame with maybe a slap on the wrist.

In general, I am not a fan of zero tolerance policies. They do not allow for the individual to build internal behavior management skills and they do not account for individual circumstances. However, I feel the advantages of large scale behavior modification of a group, insuring consequences, and insuring uniform consequences for all offenders outweigh the negatives when it comes to performance-enhancing drug use and professional athletes. Every time I see a professional baseball player throw a hissy fit, I want him to go and pee in a cup to check for steroid use. Every time, a professional basketball player starts fighting like suddenly they are playing ice hockey, they need to pee in a cup to check for steroid use. If you fail, that is it. No three strikes rule, no warnings, you are done. You are out! You are out of the profession, you are exempt from endorsement deals, any records you hold should be removed and wiped clean, and you are exempt from induction into the hall of fame. Pete Rose is prohibited from induction into the baseball hall of fame because of his gambling past. Why is gambling considered less honorable that substance use? Both involve cheating (if Pete Rose influenced players based on bets he placed). Why is there a zero tolerance policy against gambling but not substance use and cheating? Using corked bats is cheating. The moment Sammy Sosa’s bat broke revealing cork, that should have been the end of his career. Barry Bonds has no business holding records when he was using performance-enhancing drugs.

Bottom line, it is cheating. What message does this send our kids when it is okay for professional athletes not only to cheat, but to earn big bucks because of it? In light of the sad values that our society seems to be pushing forth, it is unsurprising that I have encountered more cases of plagiarism among my students in the past 2 years compared to my overall 14 years of teaching experience. The message becomes one of: use whatever methods necessary to earn as much money as possible and win. Try not to get caught but if you do, hire expensive attorneys to get out of it. What happened to accountability? What happened to honor? Maybe I expect too much of the role models in our society. Perhaps that is why I do not call any celebrity or professional athlete a hero. I reserve that treasured honor for those who sacrifice themselves for the greater good, those who dedicate themselves to the bettering of society, not the inflation of a personal savings account.

I know it seems that I am picking on baseball, but I am the first to admit that cheaters are found in all sports including my beloved ice hockey and American football league. If it turned out that my favorite player was found to be using performance-enhancing drugs, I would want him/her to suffer the consequences.

As a sports fan, I am very disappointed that the professional leagues are not taking a harder line on cheating. I do not believe that winning at any cost is a value that our society should hold dear. The ramifications of such a value are seen daily from the world economic crisis (thank you CEO bankers for screwing up the world economy and keeping your bonuses while fleecing American tax payers of their hard-earned money and homes; the CEOs & other top-level administrators should not only be fired, but be forced to repay the taxpayers and serve prison time) to educators dealing with issues of plagiarism to children dealing with bullying to the overall societal acceptance of hazing as an appropriate way to induct members into a group. We need to bring attention to true heroes of our society. We need to place more emphasis on life-affirming activities and values rather than on individualistic and materialistic values. At what point are we going to say “Enough!” to the cheaters of society and demand accountability and restitution? Based on the current trends, not soon enough.

 

Some People Have No Sense of Humor

I must first give credit where credit is due. This blog has been inspired by Selena Robins’ post “Some People Don’t Have a Sense of Humor in Yoga Class.”

Selena’s blog reminded me of when I took a Golf class in college. Okay, first things first, the university I attended for my undergraduate degree required physical education credits. My freshman year, I took Fencing (because seriously, who doesn’t want to participate in a sword fight?) and Tennis 1 (because I really love playing tennis although my skill is passable) and in my senior year, completed the requirements with Tennis 2 and Golf.

I chose Golf because I was engaged and my fiance had planned a golf honeymoon. I have never played golf before so I decided to take the class to help so I could spend time with him on our honeymoon. I decided that I would convince one of my best friends to take the class with me. She liked to play miniature golf but was horrible at it.

On the first meeting, we had to go around and say why we were taking the class and what our current skill level was. My friend and I were the last to answer. Everyone ahead of us were all pre-med or pre-law and were experienced playing golf and wanted to work on their handicap (and I am still not positive what that means and I don’t really care). Anyway, I stated I was taking it in preparation for my honeymoon and other than miniature golf, had never played before. My friend stated that she lost a bet and I forced her to take the class as punishment, and she was hoping to improve upon her miniature golf skills. There was complete silence and looks of shock and disgust aimed at us by the other students. The instructor looked puzzled but quickly moved us along.

We initially started learning how to hit the ball inside the gym and were quickly and frequently reprimanded for laughing too much. I couldn’t hit the ball but it went straight when I did eventually hit it. My friend alternated between a wicked slice and a wicked hook. One actually flew behind her. It got to the point that before she would take a swing, she would scream “Fore” in the gym where it would echo back. I would immediately burst out laughing and the rest of the class would glare at us. Let me just say that our instructor was a wonderful and very patient man. He tried to help us with our swings but apparently we were beyond help. On nice days, we went to the golf course. Here is where a lot of the fun began. First, my friend kept asking when we were going to a miniature golf course which the answer was always, never. Second, we discovered the golf ball washer. What a nifty little invention and it gave us a lot of fun distraction. Our instructor divided the class into groups of four and inevitably, we would get yelled at by the two other students who were with us. We kept amusing ourselves washing all the golf balls we could find. Then I would go to hit the ball. Like I said, I had difficulty hitting the ball, so right after I would swing and miss, I would announce “Practice swing.” Apparently that is not how the rule works. We were supposed to play 9 holes but with our lack of skill and distraction with the ball washer, we were lucky to finish 4 holes. My friend would always lose her ball, not watching where it went after she hit. I was always giggling and taking cover when she hit. My scores would be along the lines of 20 or 25 swings per attempt with only the last one connecting with the ball. When we eventually got to putting the  ball, my friend and I would keep hitting by the hole so many times. We had “Happy Gilmore” putting skills (the movie was released in 1996 and our golf class was Spring of 1995). My friend and I laughed a lot, at our lack of skill, at the exasperated looks our instructor would give us, and we would laugh harder in response to how seriously everyone else in the class took everything. It was not like we were competing in a championship match.

After every outing, the two students paired with us would complain to the instructor about us and we would get different students for the next outing only to have the cycle repeat.

On rainy days, our instructor told us we would be watching a video. Every time, my friend and I would ask if we were going to watch the 1980 movie, “Caddyshack.” When our instructor would tell us no with a long, exasperated sigh, we would follow up with when are we going to watch “Caddyshack“? A second, long exasperated sigh would greet us with a shaking of the head and him walking away from us. Sadly, we only watched golf instructional videos on those days and let’s just say those are almost as bad as watching golf on television.

In the end, my friend and I passed the class with a whole new set of enemies based on our poor golf etiquette and skill. We bought our instructor some golf balls (who knew there were so many varieties and that they are so expensive?) as a thank you for his endless patience in dealing with us. My friend and I both improved our putting skills but that was about all we could say for what we got out of the class. On my honeymoon, my now ex-husband and I went to the driving range on the first day and after he saw my lack of skill and said that he didn’t want me to play golf with him. He played every day. Yes, so many red flags.

I still don’t understand why we have to be quiet on the course. I think it takes more skill to hit a receiver and kick a field goal in American football or score a goal in ice hockey and the fans and players are not told to be quiet then.

So now my friend has a bunch of kids and her two eldest boys have expressed interest in learning how to play golf. I have no idea why. My friend told her sons about our golf class and she offered to be the official golf ball washer, but they declined.

Moral of the story is that too many people take thing too seriously. There are practical jokes and activities that truly are in bad taste but when participating in an activity that is supposed to be fun and relaxing, what is wrong with finding a little humor in the situation or discussions? There are so many problems in this world and so many things that require a serious and contemplative mindset so we should truly take the time to enjoy the little things and cherish the small joys we find in life.

So thank you Selena for bringing my golf class back to my mind and for taking advantage of the humor in situations. We all need a little laughter from time to time.🙂