Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Memories of the Wind.. and the rain.. and the tornadoes PART 1

Today is June 1, 2007. For those of you who don't live on the coast, it just means that your next three days weekend is over three months away (the 4th of July is on a Wednesday this year). For those of us who live mere minutes from the World's Most Beautiful Beaches it means



OK, maybe not complete and total panic, just slight heart palpitations thinking about it. Unless you have lived in Florida for less than two years, you have been through an eventful hurricane season, one that covered every inch of the state. I have lived in NW Florida for most of my 40 years and 2004 & 2005 were eye-opening, to say the least.

My very first hurricane was 1975's Eloise who managed to get me out of school for a day and convince me (at 8 years old) that napping was not a bad thing. I lived further from the coast then, so we got some wind and rain and not much else. Pretty boring really. Of course it was not boring for everyone and Eloise's eye passed real damn close to where I live now. And that is the last one who has been that close to my current residence.

After Eloise my life became a series of hurricane stories as told from the viewpoint of a Florida native. Frederick in '79, Elena in '85 (anyone else remember that bitch's figure 8?), she was the first one that freaked me out a little because she wouldn't make landfall. Of course there was a slight threat from Andrew in '92, but he managed to get New Orleans. Then Opal in '95. She managed to make a giant mess along the coast of NW Florida and I lost about $250 worth of food, but still not that bad for me, personally and not even horrible for Florida. There wasn't the death or financial toll of Andrew three years earlier.

And then all was quiet on the Northwestern Florida front. Tropical waves, depressions and storms, but nothing major. Until 2004.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Three months and counting

Yes, I am counting down. I do it every year about this time. NFL draft completed? Check! NBA playoffs coming to an end? Check! Had more golf and NASCAR than a person should have to endure? Check! All-Star game right around the corner? Check! To a sane person, these signs probably don't mean a lot, but to a fanatic like me, it means that the GameDay crew is resting up for that all important Saturday of Labor Weekend... the College Football kickoff.

I don't sleep for a week before kickoff, honestly. And then I wake up at 8 on Saturday morning (one of the benefits of living in the Central Time Zone), shower, and put on my GameDay TShirt and my lucky underwear... Hey, don't laugh, what I do and wear may or may not have a direct impact on today's games... YOU don't know. Then at 9am, I turn on ESPN with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. Now, obviously, I prefer that the GameDay crew be on location at the University of Florida, live in front of the Swamp, but I know that they have to share the wealth.* I watch the entire 2 hours (thank you for the extra 30 minutes) with paper and a pen by my side so that on commercials I can write down each college football game on TV, the time it is being played and the channel it is on, allowing me to save precious seconds by not having to hunt for the games I want to watch. Psychotic? Sure, somewhat, but my man does appreciate my madness and it is only for a few short weeks. College football has the shortest season known to man or woman. And Div I A football is the only NCAA sport that does NOT have playoffs. But that is another post. **

Forget Memorial Day & the beginning of summer, let's get to Labor and the end of summer.. and the beginning of the best four months in the world!

*As reigning National Champions, will GameDay be from the Swamp on the opening day?

**Or it is a college term paper that I got an A+ on explaining WHY there should be playoffs. :-)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Personal Responsibility Anyone?

I can not imagine the horror a person would have to endure while burying a child. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. Both of my parents are still alive and I dread the day that I lose them, but the loss of my son? I am not sure I could deal with that kind of pain. So, I feel for any parent who has lost a child no matter how that child died (or the age the child was at the time). But while I think that a person would immediately look for someone to blame, I do not think they should immediately file a lawsuit.

Major league pitcher Josh Hancock died last month. He was a victim of a drunk driver. Sadly, he was the drunk driver. Not only was his alcohol level twice the legal limit, but he was "speeding, using a cell phone and wasn't wearing a seat belt." His father is suing the bar where Josh was drinking, the tow truck that was stopped in the road and the owner of the disabled automobile that the tow truck had stopped to help. The poor guy's car breaks down and now he is being sued for.. what, manslaughter?

Josh Hancock was 28 years old at the time of his death and had been drinking for 3.5 hours straight according to this story. I don't know about you, but if I have been drinking for 3.5 hours, I take a cab home. Was Josh Hancock unable to afford a cab? Or did it just never occur to him that he was intoxicated? Or did he figure because he was a ML baseball player the rules didn't apply to him?

I don't want to speak ill of the dead. The poor guy made a huge mistake and paid the ultimate penalty for it. His parents must be devastated. But who was really responsible here? Let's not compound an enormous tragedy by punishing someone who does not deserve it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Is it possible to save this child? Or can I only make myself crazy trying?

I wish I knew what to do. I wish I knew how to fix the problem. Hell, I wish I knew what the problem was!

My fiance's son is 12 years old, he will be 13 before the end of summer, before the wedding. I have known him since he was 6, about 6 months before I started dating his father. He has always been the cutest kid, mostly sweet when he was around me. Of course, there has been an occasional moment when he was a total brat, but he is a kid and it has been YEARS since I have seen one. Sadly, it has not been years since he has had one.

His parents divorced about a week after he started kindergarten, I think. Maybe that is why he has always had such a tough time in school, I don't know. He was held back in 1st grade because he got in trouble so much and would not do the school work. He passed 1st grade the second time, but was asked not to return to that elementary school. He spent 3 months at a charter school, then was moved to a school for children with problems. Some of the children at that school are physically disabled, some mentally, some emotionally. He spent the rest of 2ND grade there, making some progress, but still causing problems. His being there embarrassed his parents (mainly his mother), so he was moved to a private Christian school as a scholarship student. He was given a chance to leave 3rd grade early and "get back on track" so to speak. He is now on a grade level that is "correct" for his age. After 2 years, he was asked not to return to the private school. So, for the last 2 years, he has been attending a military school that is over 4 hours from here. His mother's choice, but his father did not fight her too hard on it. He was not pleased with her decision the first year, but he felt it was for the best the 2ND year.. until the child's face was broken, but I am getting there with this story.

Do you see the pattern? He goes to a new school, does fine for a bit, figures out the system and then all hell breaks loose. He stops making any attempt to do his school work or homework. He will just sit in class and stare at whatever is closest to him, OR he will lose his mind and start cursing the teachers, running away, or throwing things. In the 6 years I have been with his father, he has thrown rocks & sticks at teachers and students, run off down the street or into the woods on more than one occasion, cursed at his teachers more times than I could possibly count, stood on top of a press box holding a folding metal chair and threatening anyone who came near him. He has turned over desks(his) and beds (his at school, not at home), broken windows, broken toys, and, well, you get the picture.

I blame the child's mother. I know that isn't fair, I know it isn't right, I know it isn't intelligent and it does not make a lot of sense, but there it is. As a single mother, I would have killed to have as much time and money from my Ex as she gets from hers. No, he is not ever going to win a Father of the Year Award and there were/are a lot of things that should be done differently. But the child support is never late, extra money is paid willingly and IF a weekend is missed, it is made up. Should there have been more activities, more "quality" time instead of quantity time? Should my fiance' made more of an effort to spend time with his son at other times? Should he maybe have done a better job of separating his emotions for the child from his emotions toward the mother? YES to all. There is a lot more he could have/should have done. But she blames everything on him, if he were more involved, if he called every day, if he weren't such an ass, etc. Tons of yelling (on her part) tons of hanging up (on his).

About 3 months ago, she received a call from this military school, there had been a fight (long long story) and the child had been thrown, onto his face. He fell onto a chair, hitting it with his upper lip. He had to have corrective surgery to fix the problem and there is still a question of whether his top four front teeth will survive. Well, my fiance' (I've got to come up with an Internet name for him) was not thrilled about sending the child back to the school and refuses to pay for him to go back next year. He, obviously, still has to pay child support, but will not pay the extra he has for this school year. She has found another school, farther away, and wants to send him there. My fiance' wants him to come live with us or at least have him live in this county, if not in our town. (The mother lives in the same county, but a different town).

I am at my wits' end. Now, understand for just a moment, that I have incredible control issues. I like to be in charge, or at least, understand the rules and that is not going so well for me in this situation. I have done everything I know to do. I have been polite to her, I have tried to maintain the lines of communication between the two of them when he was fed up with her. I have made suggestions to the both of them, most of which are ignored. After this last incident (the face breaking), I was talking with one a couple of the doctors I work with and they both said it sounded like Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Of course, I googled that right away & was amazed how it fit exactly, compounded by ADHD, of course. I printed the information for my fiance' and Emailed it to his ex and.. nothing. There is no pill to "fix" ODD. Only family counseling.

So, here is my problem. What do I do? I love the little guy, but I can't "fix" him. Without counseling, what is going to happen to him? I am willing to do everything within my power (as I have always been willing to do) for him, to help him, but can I stand by and just let them ruin him more? Can I let him ruin my life and my relationship with his father by turning our home into an armed camp? Can I make counseling a condition of his moving in with us (which I truly doubt will happen, she is not going to give up the child support)? What can I do???


Friday, May 18, 2007

Confusion Factor

On the way home to work this morning (where I am now, where I am supposed to be working) I heard a story on the "New and Improved" Immigration bill that has just passed the Senate. I listen to NPR as much as possible, because I really have no interest in the American Idol and Grey's Anatomy updates that I can get from the local channels and the only Talk Radio I can get here in the deep, dark South is crap like Limbaugh & Savage.

So, the news story is on NPR and I am listening closely. I have many opinions on Immigration, but they tend to conflict with each other, because even I can punch holes in them. I was impressed that each party seemed to have compromised and seemed to be working together. But what I heard was disturbing.

"The illegal workers would have to pay a $5,000 fine,
return to their home country to apply for a visa, and
wait eight to 13 years to gain permanent status. But
Kennedy said it also would mean that immigrant parents
would no longer live in paranoia about being arrested and
sent away from children who are U.S. citizens by birthright."

How is this helpful? How many illegal workers HAVE $5000? These are people who (from my understanding) are working at below minimum wage jobs. How many legal workers have $5000? But the really strange part of this entire story is that I can' t find this information anywhere else. Not on CNN, Fox, MS NBC, New York Times or the Washington Post. I even Googled it and could not find a story with this information. As a matter of fact, first thing this morning, there was not even a mention of the $5000 fine (although it is in most stories now) and in this lovely story from Fox News, it sounds like the immigrants could make a brief trip home and then come back here to live and work. Which is it??

What is going to happen to our country if most of the undocumented workers are removed? Right here on the Redneck Riviera, there are supposed to be some outrageous number of condos completed in the next 30 days. Who is going to finish them? I do not believe that people should sneak into any country, but why do they have to? These are people who are working hard for their money, maybe to send it home, maybe to go home one day. Maybe to stay and become citizens. Why do we make it so difficult?

Like I said, I have a lot of questions and not a lot of understanding about the subject. I do not believe that immigrants are taking the jobs of Americans. Where I work, we have 4 people from other countries. They are all here legally, but they are here because the job could not be filled by Americans, there were none with the qualifications. Two have PhDs, two have Masters, all four are researchers. One is on his way to citizenship and on the verge of a divorce, because his wife never was allowed to even visit (OK, she had legal troubles, but to not even allow a VISIT?)

This is just one more of those issues that I can plainly see is not being handled correctly, but have absolutely no idea what the correct handling would be.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

On this day in History

On May 17, 1954 a ruling was made in Brown v the Board of Education. This was a great day in our nation's history. This ruling made the determination that separate was not and never would be equal, allowing African-Americans into the previously white-only schools. While we all know that it took awhile for some educational systems to pull their heads out of their butts, Brown was a small step on the road of equal rights for all races.

Now, 53 years later, where are we? Shouldn't we have equality? Why is there still a need in this country for Hate crime laws and affirmative action? Is it the way we are raising our children? Is it just the inborn need to feel superior to someone? Whose fault is it? Is it any one's fault?

Just for the record, I am white and I do not want to offend anyone (on this topic) by pretending that I understand how it feels to be discriminated against based on the color of my skin. Even as a woman, I have been incredibly lucky. While I have (and currently do) work with men who make me slightly uncomfortable (HELLO, those are NOT my eyes), I do not feel that I have ever experienced discrimination based on my sex or that I have ever been sexually harassed (although, frankly, I am sometimes a bit slow on the uptake, so maybe I was and just didn't notice). So I will not lie and tell you I understand or that I can empathize. I can certainly sympathize (and I do), and I can understand that this problem has not gone away. Nothing makes me more angry than to hear the middle-aged white guy complain about how hard his life is because other races and the opposite sex get everything. WHAT?? I would love for them to "walk a mile" in someone else's moccasins.. or better yet, in their stilettos!

My point here (yes, I know it takes me a while to get there) is that we, as a nation, have come a long way since 1954, but we have even farther left to go. There is not equality. People still don't get the job (or the house, or the college entry) because of the color of their skin. Women still make significantly less money than men. Racial slurs are used privately and publicly and people are amused (not offended) by this.

I have never had a clue what to do or how to change this, except to raise my child to be as color blind as possible. I have done the best that I know how and he appears to accept or reject people based on who they are inside. So I have contributed to stopping the hate and discrimination, maybe if we all did a little, we could stop it for good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Why Must We Hate?

The thought of hate was brought to me by the death of Jerry Falwell. Excuse me, the late reverend Jerry Falwell. Reverend: someone to be revered. Nice. There are those who do/did revere Jerry Falwell, but why? For what? Because he taught the Bible and lived his life like Jesus Christ? Or because he spread hate & discontent and allowed others to give into those emotions?

I consider myself a Christian. Not a Baptist (although that is the way I was raised) or a Methodist or a Catholic. I do not believe in organized religion for the same reason I will never revere Jerry Falwell. A lot of religions teach hate and that is not what Jesus Christ did, not what he stood for, not what he believed. Jesus fed the poor and spent time with prostitutes and lepers. He spread the "Golden Rule" of do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Is that what religions teach today? Is that what Jerry Falwell taught? Is that what the neo-cons spreak about publicly? No!!

There are many religions in the country who teach hate, who teach discrimination and who feed into people's fear of anything different. Abortion is murder, they say. Homosexuality is an abomination before God, they say. All these people are going to Hell, they say.... I don't think so.

In my Bible I am taught that God alone has the power to judge. I am taught that I am to love the sinner, but hate the sin. I am taught to forgive my enemies 70 times 7. 70 x 7 = 490. That is a lot of forgiveness. I, of course, can only manage a small portion of that, but I try every day. (Not really ever going to forgive my ex-husband for a lot of crap, but that is a different post).

How did Jerry Falwell spread the gospel? By blaming homosexuals for 9/11. For blaming abortionists for Hurricane Katrina. How can America embrace such bullshit? How can we as a nation be so.. so.. hateful?

We add "under God" to our pledge, we lose our minds if someone burns the flag, we scream about the 10 Commandments and how our justice system is based on them and how they NEED to sit on the court house lawn. Then we whine about entitlements for the poor, about programs for the needy, about money for our schools. We complain about the high cost of taxes; we probably blame it on abortion and homosexuality. We quote the Bible and talk about how Jesus saved us, how we were born again, but we don't speak publicly to non-believers, or those of other religions. We wave our little hand held flags, we wear our yellow ribbons, and we talk about how much we support and appreciate the troops. We stand at attention over their flag drapped coffins, but we don't take care of their poor broken bodies and minds when they return alive.

We are a nation of hypocrites.

And it makes me sick.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Lordy, Lordy Look Who's....

Forty! Four Oh. 40. Wow. Today is not actually my birthday, it was last week. But it was fairly crazy at work & I had finals the last 2 nights, so I spent most of the weekend studying. I am not convinced it was worth it. I will see when I get my grades.

So, Forty. I am absolutely dumbfounded by it. I did have a nice little pity party the night before, my last night in my 30's. I was sad (and a little drunk) and I stayed up way too late. But when I woke up the morning of my birthday... I didn't feel any different! How is that possible? Shouldn't I be smarter and wiser now that I am suddenly 40? Shouldn't there be some benefit besides the wrinkles and gray hair? (Ok, I've had the gray for 15 years, I just try to keep it hidden). But there was no sudden epiphany on life or love or how to win the lottery. Just me @ 40.