Flag Burning: The future of a nation

Recently, my boys joined the Boy Scouts. I had not given much thought to the Boy Scouts in years, even though I was a Boy Scout as a girl. My eldest son had asked to join scouting several times, but we were so busy living our day-to-day that it never seemed to happen. My husband finally took the request in hand, after a year (possibly more) of my son asking if he could join, and found a troop in the neighboring town.

My eldest son has always been a boy scout, if you know what I mean. Honest, hard-working, good kid who cared and worried about others. Now, he was a Boy Scout, donning his uniform with pride. My middle son joined the troop with his older brother, and found he really loved it as well. Since they both attend a very small private school, I was happy that they were meeting other boys their age. I didn’t stop to think beyond the social element that most “children activities” give. Boy Scouts teaches something sorely lacking in today’s youth, something I have begun to see blossom in my sons. They were good boys before they joined the BSA, but I see something growing in them that makes me proud. Leadership skills, loyalty, honor, community activism and respect.

Respect; for authority and for our nation. It is teaching my sons that to be a good leader, they must also be good followers and scouts. They must learn to respect their leaders, parents and authority figures. I see my sons stepping up in their troop as leaders and it makes me proud.

My youngest son recently joined the Webelos. This is the transitional organization for the BSA that helps turn Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts. Webelos actually stands for “We’ll Be Loyal Scouts”. Last night he earned his “Bobcat” award. We went to the packs yearly campfire and watched as the young scouts preformed skits and songs. They received their awards and then the Pack Leader called for silence.

He explained that since the creation of the Boy Scouts, they have been tasked with a privileged that for years only two organizations had, the Retirement of the Colors. The burning of the American flag that has become to worn to fly.

Calling the young Scouts to attention he described the history of each flag; where it had flown and how it had served its country. He then asked that we formerly salute each flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance one last time. My eyes welled with tears as I not only Pledge two flags, but in my mind’s eye, each soldier that risked their lives, the police officers and fire fighters who serve for this flag every day, and the doctors and nurses who put their lives on the line when America needs them. The American Red Cross volunteers who go fearlessly into disaster zones and the everyday Americans who spring into action when their fellow-man calls.

These two flags represented a great nation. A nation that the rest of the world calls when they need help. A great nation of people who are the Scouts to the rest of the world. In this time of elections, economic upheaval and unrest, we can lose sight of how great America is, and how much the rest of the world depends upon us. These flags where more than just pieces of cloth, they where symbols of a battered, but great, country.

After we saluted the flags, the Pack Master, ceremoniously retired and burned the flags. Each young Scout, and all the parents, stood at attention and saluted these two flags until they were fully retired.

Then we respectfully left the camp ground and returned home. What a difference I saw in those young boys. As they collected their flyers for the food drive next week and talked about earning

their merit badges, I saw hope for our country. The contrast of these young men compared to what the world would believe America is today; Hollywood, Protests and the Occupied Movement is stark and hope filled.

With the Occupied Movement on TV and in the news, and the sensationalist nature of our media, to often I view our future Americans as a group of pampered and indulged parasites. Demanding they be given jobs they have not earned, hoImageuses they have no right to and a life style that they are not willing to work for, gives voices to a fear that Americas future is dim. The face of angry, dirty mobs burning our flag can make you fear for the future of our country. The burning of our flag illustrated to me all that could be wrong, and all that is right, with our Nation.

Last night I was reminded that these vocal few are not the future of America. My Boys Scouts and the Girl Scouts who attended this campfire are where our future lies. Today there are over 6 million Boy Scouts active in the USA. It is estimated that since its start, the BSA has touched the lives of 70 Million Americans. This is where our strength and drive lies, not in the unruly few who want their 15 minutes of fame.

These young people are the future of our nation, and they outnumber the entitled few. They work hard to gather food for those who need it. They do community works to earn their Eagle Scout badge. They are our future soldiers, police, doctors and leaders. They are the kind face that gives you First Aid in your darkest hour, the leader of a search and rescue that brings you home safe, and the helping hand that brings warm clothes when you need it. They have values that the Occupied Movement have long forgotten, or possibly never known. Our Scouts restore my hope in the American Future. And I am proud my sons are a part of it.

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Thanks, Give Me.

Thanksgiving has Imagecome and gone, and I am left with a sick feeling in my gut. While it is true that I ate too much turkey and a few too many slices of homemade pie, this is not what has me feeling nauseous.

It was wonderful to spend time with my husband, children and extended family. Working in the kitchen, side by side with my mother, as we put the finishing touches on the holiday feast is a memorable experience. Eating more than our fill and trading stories and laughs in true Rockwellian fashion is a family tradition in our home.  It was a a special day for all involved.

What left me feeling sick was a surreal moment I had when rushing out to buy some buttermilk for my sweet potato pie. Next door to our local supermarket is a Best Buy.  And theImagere, camped out in front of Best Buy electronics was a tent city that would put the Occupy folks to shame. Sitting around in the rain, they huddled, holding their place in line for the Midnight Sale.

When did this happen? When did Thanksgiving stop being a time of giving thanks for what you have and become the day before Black Friday? When did it merely become the excuse to get more… We have become a society that does not say thank you, we say Give ME!. We do not spend time with friends and family, we sit in line, fight our way through doors at midnight and descend into an animalistic feeding frenzy.

As I watched, on the news, the clash of weekend shoppers with the Occupy movement in San Francisco, I was further saddened. The occupy movement demanding shoppers not give money to stores, but rather to a fund for wealth distribution. The shoppers fighting for one more thing they wanted to buy. Yet, both groups true message was oddly similar, “Give ME!” Give me toys, give me clothes, give me money.  Give me your money, your toys and your wealth. Give me.

In a weekend that was supposed to be about giving thanks, very little thankfulness was to be found, at least outside of my home.

My Anti-Tech Rant for the day

Aside

I used to share books with my sister. I used to share books with my mother and father. And now…they have their kindles and my books have become somehow less.  There is no smudge from my sisters cheeto fingers, no hint of rose from my mothers perfume and no stray philosophical comment, possibly in greek, penned by my father in the margins.

We are allowing convenance to rob us of community and connection.

We don’t send letters or postcards, we send email. Everything is sanitized and sterile of all true interaction and leaves me feeling as if I am experiencing life in a bubble.

Give me dirt! Give my grim! for in those things, true life is found. A post card from Paris with a smudge of chocolate on the bottom from a friends fingers as she devoured her croissant and shared her joy of Paris is so much more meaningful than a facebook update.

I recognize the irony my friend – as I post this on a blog, which will send out a twitter, email and facebook links when I publish it. I know in my heart that I will publish to Kindle if I get the chance to be published at all. Does this make me a hypocrite or just realistic. Can I live in the technology of today, use it and still long for yesterday’s simplicity. Was yesterday actually simpler or have I donned rose-colored glasses?  Do I have to answer all these questions?

I get it, I do. I understand that convenance and technology will win in the end. But just for a moment, let us all pause and remember the way our mothers perfume smelled and the excitement of receiving a postcard from over seas. Stop and remember what it is like to interact face to face before facetime. Then make plans to meet  up with a friend, not online or via webcam, but at a coffee shop over pastries and chat. Dont let our busy life and convenient devices rob us of community and connection.

Manic Monday Mullings – If I’m never published

Aside

If I knew I would never be published – would I continue to write?

Will my silly miss matched and flawed gloves ever make the shelves of a fashion boutique – no.

But i once knitted a hat for a friend. She wore it to her pool league and won every game she wore the hat to. She swears its a lucky hat – and that is why I knit.

Will my cookies win the blue ribbon at a fair – nope.

But I once made a pecan pie that ruined my friends husband for all other pecan pies. The crust was flaky and buttery and the pecans caramelized and rich.

And if I am never published – well, I know I touched a few readers on my blog. I have inspired some with my poetry and made a few laugh out loud.

I may not be called to be Martha Stewart or a Fashion Maven, but I have touched those around me with my craft. And thought I may not be J.K. Rowlings, I am D.B. Dean – and even though I am new to this writing game, I have touched a few peoples lives and made them better with my words…and that is enough for me.

Out of Work and Working Hard

Out of Work and working hard

Good or bad, I have always been thankful for having a job. With unemployment rates in California outperforming the national average by 2% (reaching 12.9 in June), I knew how lucky I was to have a job. No matter how hard you work and how many times you say thank you in your bedtime prayers, you are more likely to lose your job than win the lottery in California.

I became one of the unemployed on the last day of September. I gathered my final checks with the rest of my released coworkers and took my box of personal belongings home.

Much like birds raised in the shelter of a preserve, hand fed for too long by well meaning tenders, we fluttered in fear at the large world we had been released into. Tears and anger expressed in a fearful “what do I do now?”

That is the question that all of us deal with. You look at the unemployment numbers and wonder if you will also be one of those who remain unemployed for one, two or more years. I think of my friends who were laid off in 2009, still searching for a new job. It is a scary time to be out of a job. What do we do now?

I have worked harder now that I am out of work than ever before. The amount of energy put into resumes and searching for positions that are right for me is equal to the energy I put into a power point or planning large-scale management meetings. The phone interviews, the in-person interviews, and the preparation and research all for interview require the same amount of energy as stepping on stage in a one-woman show. After each performance, I find myself depleted and worn out. After three weeks of interviewing nonstop, I find myself battling flu-like symptoms and extreme fatigue.

I am not at all sure I have any tips to share for those of you hunting for jobs. I have only been at this for a month. However, I know I have learned a few things.

  • Do not wait. Take action. Work at finding a job like you would if employed. Every day I got up at 8AM (okay who am I joking, I got up at 5AM because I was so stressed I couldn’t sleep) and started looking for a job.
  • Interview with agencies first. Get them looking FOR you. Permanent placement agencies and then Temp agencies. If you need to work temp jobs until the perm placement comes along, you will have already signed up. You do not want to be interviewing with agencies when you could be interviewing for actual jobs. Agencies first then focus on perm placement. The more agencies looking the better. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket my friend.
  • Tailor each resume and cover letter to the job you are applying. The extra time you take will pay off in the end. Machine-gunning 50 resumes out to every job is likely to receive little if no response. Slow down and aim your resume and cover letter to each target like an expert sniper.
  • Apply online for unemployment the moment you are laid off. They will make you wait a week. So don’t delay.
  • When things get stressful remember BRASS:
    • Breathe – breathe in and out four times. Imagine all the stress leaving your body
    • Relax – physically imagine each muscle in your body getting soft and calm.
    • Aim – Aim at what you need to do next. Not MACRO – NOT “get a job”. Go specific. Look at craigslist jobs and send out five perfect resume submissions. Not “Get some money” but – sign up with three temp agencies. Specific actions you can do now, today, this minute. Make a list!
    • Stop – Stop activities that encourage the depression and anxiety that being out of a job will create. Do not sit home and flip through the TV fretting – go for a walk. Do not sit at your computer after you have sent out your resumes for the day but learn something new. Write a story, bake some cookies. Do not obsessively sit at your computer hitting refresh on the job listing. It leads to madness. I know…I am still battling the urge to hit refresh as I type this.
    • Shoot – pull the trigger on the list you made above. Do it now. Okay not now but as soon as you’re done reading my blog.
  • Interviewing
    •  Get a good night’s sleep (if at all possible).
    • Do not drink a load of coffee before interviewing. Cracked out candidates do not impress. If you find that you are adding the word “UM” in between each word, you can’t sit still and you’re sweating a lot – you have had too much coffee.
    • Eat a good breakfast/lunch, but know your body. I avoid greasy food, difficult to digest food and anything that makes bad breath. I tend to stick to oatmeal or a wheat English muffin with peanut butter because I know that makes my stomach happy.
    • Dress appropriate for the atmosphere. If it’s a blue jean job but they don’t stress “Dress Casually” to you when confirming the interview, wear a suit. If you don’t know, wear a suit. If they do say “Dress Casually” – ditch the suit jacket but go in wearing slacks and a nice shirt. No matter how much a job says they don’t care what you wear, first impressions count.
    • Arrive early so you can sit in your car, clear your head and relax (BRASS).
    • Be prepared. What do you want this company to know about you? What is your story? What skills do you want to stress? Prepare this all before hand in your mind. This is a sales call and you are both the salesperson and the product.
    • Smile. A smile is much better than the perfect suit. A person will remember your smile long past remembering your clothing.
    • BRASS each question. Breathe, relax, aim at your answer, stop the mind chatter, shoot – answer the question.
    • Remember the ear to mouth ratio: God gave you two ears and one mouth. So you should listen 50% more than you speak.
    • When the interview is done, thank them, then go home, and relax. Do not obsess. Let it go. The call back will happen. If they don’t call, there is a reason. BRASS – find something to do next.
  • Do not stop trying until you succeed. Keep looking for the job, every day until you find one. As a writer, I will receive 100’s if not 1000’s (I hope not) of rejections before I am published. The difference between a writer and a published author is a published author doesn’t give up. To quote my favorite politician “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up” ~ Churchill.

I am still waiting for my first unemployment check. All of my interviews have wound to a close and I sit at home wondering if I will get the call today. “Yes – you have a job” or “We have decided to go with someone else.” I look at craigslist, weary already of the process and wonder if I should start sending out resumes again. I have interviewed at my dream job. I have interviewed at companies where I’d love to work. I have interviewed at places that would pay the bills. I have written a blog about all of the above and now I am wondering… “What do I do now?” Breathe.

Writer Unblocked

I sit at the bottom, waiting, inspired to write

Looking up, the worlds distorted, blurry in my sight

The hunger aches, desire burns to craft my lengthy prose

But life itself blocks the path, my words they do not flow

Words sift like murky silt across my addled brain

A surplus of ideas with no where left to drain

The time has come to raise the dam and let my words flow free

And show the world without a doubt the writer I can be

Underwater, looking through the story I must tell

A magical land of fae and wolf & heaven and of hell

Rushing now the words flow out, my ink upon the page

As my characters live and breathe, at last take center stage

Writer – Whats in a Name

A recent topic has emerged on one of my writing forums (Litopia.com) about the term “aspiring writer”.  Why do some people call themselves “Aspiring Writers”?  Why not “Writers”.  Why tack on the modifier? What keeps them from reaching their aspiration?  It of course boils down to perception. They perceive “writers” as “published.” Heck, for a long time, I perceived  the title “Writer” as meaning “published”.  I guess it’s a right of passage that confers the title. Doctors are not doctors until they go to med-school, pass their MCAPS , etc.  Likewise, some do not consider themselves “Writers” with the capital “W” until they are published.

But is that the right definition of being a writer?

if you are a painter you paint. You can be a good painter, an okay painter or a really AWFUL painter. But no one would question if you called yourself a painter.

if you are an artist, you create art. You might create something every one loves, hates or is indifferent to, but still you are an artist.

I am a knitter because I knit.  Now, I don’t knit very complex things (yet). I can make hats, scarves, gloves and socks. I have made one simple tube top with straps. But I am still a knitter. I am accepted by other knitters because I knit. We can talk about fiber and yarn and needles and technique. They teach me things and even in my novice state I teach them.

I am a baker because I love to bake. I am not a professional baker, nor am I an  expert baker – but my oatmeal cookies are DELISH!

I am a dreamer who dreams up stories. I was a dreamer long before I wrote them down.  But in the writing down I started on a new path. A journey of growth and becoming more. I am a dreamer in transition. My stories were good in the beginning, but I lacked (and still lack) discipline, experience and technique. The only way to gain these things and become a writer worthy of my dreams is by writing.

I am a writer.

That’s right. I put it out there without a modifier, without apology and without equivocating what I mean by the word. I am a writer!

I avoided the “writer” label for a long time.  I did this because EVERYONE says they are writer(well not everyone but you know what I mean). I go to Starbucks and there are 20 “writers” plugging away on trendy laptops. I buy a book on writing at Barnes and Noble and guess what….the clerk ringing me up is a writer, as is everyone else behind the counter. I felt like a pretender, an imposter, if I said I was a writer.  Instead I would say I was working on a story. (Don’t get me started on what I call my writing! Is it a book or a novel? Is it a story, but gosh that sounds immature)

I just kept writing (without the title), plugging away towards my dream. Then I got published in an E-Zine for my Ribbons and Ivy piece.  I asked myself, am I a writer now? I asked my friends this question. Deep in my core I thought “No not a writer yet…that’s just online and doesn’t count”.  Then three pieces were printed in an anthology and I asked myself the same thing. My answer was, “No, not yet, my name isn’t on the book.”

I started calling myself a writer when a friend told me to stop apologizing and equivocating and gave me the smack on the head I needed. I am a writer.

I write because the voices in my head get to loud when I don’t. I write because I come up with a story idea and wish someone would write the book so I could read it.  Then I realize only I can write it. I forget some times that I wrote the story.  I will start thinking about a story I remember reading…wonder what happened next and then realize CRAP… I haven’t written it yet.

I am a Writer, because I write. I read about it, think about it and study it. I work at writing. Perhaps that is the difference between aspiring to be a writer and perspiring for your writing. Many people dream of being a writer. Some for the money and fame, others for the love of a book.  But the line is drawn not by what you dream, but by what you do.

To borrow a phrase from on of my favorite characters; “Do or do not – there is no aspire”!

So raise your laptop’s high, my fellow writers and declare to the world with pride that you are a Writer. Do not hesitate in owning who and what your are.

Procrasti…Oh whats that over there?

As sure as the sun rising and my children eating all the food, I will get distracted by the world wide web. I will become ensnared by all the things I haven’t read, didn’t know and wont ever go to. I will waste time.

The internet can be a great resource for a novice writer, like myself. And it can be a huge time suck. I can set out with the best of intentions and end up accomplishing nothing other than a sore neck and numb fingers from typing on my laptop.

So, what does a will-o-the-wisp, scatter brained writer like myself do?

First! I blog about it of course. (check)

Second, I set a goal for myself. How does 1000 words tonight sound?

Third, I make the goal public to those who can embarrass me and harass me for not accomplishing it. (facebook – check!)

Lastly, I log off the internet, shut the door and write till I hit the 1K mark.

Then quickly log back on to see if any one commented on my piece on thinkingten.com, if anything funny popped up on facebook and crow about the fact I just wrote 1K words in my book on twitter. (is it crowing on twitter when you brag?).

Right, so now that I have a plan, I am gonna post this puppy, without checking my spelling or grammar etc. And go work on the Un-One.

but first…let me get something to drink.

Confessions of a Bookaholic

Hello, My Name is Davida and I am a bookaholic.  My addiction started as a young child. My earliest memories are of my mother and father reading to me.  They exposed me to Agatha Christie and Louis L’Amour before I was old enough to hold the book myself.  My hungry young mind inhaled the second-hand words hungrily.

I remember my first book so clearly.  I carefully opened the light green cover of “The Secret Garden”.  The smell of fresh paper and book binding glue hit my nose and I felt the rush.  I would read and re-read that book until the pages were worn out.  It was the gateway to a whole other world.

We didn’t have a TV in our home, and so we would sit in the living room and read the complete works of Shakespeare. As a teenager I became a social outcast.  Normal kids could not quote whole Shakespearean Sonnets from memory. Normal teenage girls were not familiar with Kipling and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. The addiction had already begun to take its toll, separating me from my peers.

The addiction grew worse over time.  I function in society as best I can.  But there are times when the hunger for words is to strong for me to resist. I have defied authority and broken the law to get my fix.  As a child I would disobey my parents at bed time, reading underneath the covers with a flash light.  As an adult, many a traffic law has been broken as I read at stoplights and prop up my book on the steering wheel if the freeway slows to a crawl. I hide in the bathroom away from my children, jonesing for just one more page.

In my thirties the hunger grew so much that I was not happy just reading other writers words.  I began to write my own stories in the hope that I could sell them to others to support my habit.  I couldn’t wait for my favorite authors create stories, I had to make my own.  Stories began to form in my mind, and even though I begged and pleaded, I could not find others to write them.  They kept insisting I should write them myself.  Tom Schreck: Writer, Teacher, Boxer was the coldest of all.  He kept pushing me to write, insisting I had the talent.  My husband, probably wanting me to stop buying other people’s work, had always encouraged me to write.  But I think that was just to save money and free up space along our living room wall.

And so I began to cook up adventures.  Hours spent crafting the perfect mix of character, action and conflict.  I spend every waking moment reviewing the plots in my mind, obsessing over the smallest detail. And then I wait on the corner, hoping someone will come along and buy my work, always scared that the powers that be will consider it unworthy for public consumption. I write, I read and hunger for more.  The end of a book is like coming down off a binge.  I am depressed that the story is over, longing for another.  Some of my favorite authors only put out a new book in their series once a year.  I pre-order the book, waiting on pins and needles for it to arrive.  Like a kid at christmas I rip into the packing material and devour the book in a night.  Then I hit bottom, realizing that another book wont be along for a whole year.

I fear this sort of addiction has no cure. I am to far gone my friends.

I am a bookaholic, a peddler of words, an addict.

Tucson Shooting and Opportunistic Politicians

When the news hit the air, we held our breath and mourned.  And then we waited.  We all knew what was coming next.  Blame had to be assigned.  Law suits had to be filed and the talking heads would pontificate at length in the absences of facts. The nation would take a moment of silence and the fill the air with theories and blame shifting calculated to their own political ends.

Politicians show up to give support and respect, but in truth they are looking for a photo-op.  In all the political maneuvering they seem to have forgotten that six lost their lives and fourteen people were injured.  Lips service will be given to the dead and injured, but it sounds like a flat note on the ear. Like hungry vultures fighting over a fresh kill they manipulate and twist the facts to their own end.  Shame on them.  A moment of silence is not enough, a day to mourn to short.  And the media’s glee in the search for a scape goat makes my stomach churn with disgust.

I am not a brilliant debater, nor a spin doctor extraordinaire.  Just an average girl who’s sick of it all, and wishes they’d give it a rest.