Only Today: A Concerto of Life

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My college graduation was supposed to be a time of great joy. That joy lasted about two hot minutes before the panic set in. Two major realizations hit me like a baseball bat to the face. For one, the routine I’d had for the last five years was broken. Not that college allowed me to maintain the same schedule, but just the act of being on campus engaged in learning and meaningful conversation four days a week was going to be gone. I’m sort of an introvert, but I loved that time. It was over, and like I was going through a bad breakup, depression set in. Second was the fact shit was for real, now. I had to look for a serious job paying a serious wage because in six short months, I’d need to start repaying my student loans. That’s the point when the anxiety hit. I didn’t know whether to cry in my graduation cake or throw it.

Have you ever seen the cartoons where the characters are trying to play the piano, but they end up pounding on all the keys at once? That’s exactly what my brain felt like it was doing. I wanted to hit all the keys with both fists. My depression told me to sleep, but my anxiety wanted me to stay busy. I wanted to talk to everyone, but I didn’t want to be bothered with people, either. It was a cycle of chaos inside my brain where my emotions were entwined and working overtime. Meanwhile, I had to smile, remaining calm in the face of all around me because this was not something I wanted to have a conversation about. I just wanted to breathe and forget everything that was bothering me. Of course, that didn’t happen.

I think when we’re on edge, we absorb the energy of those around us more than any other time. Having conversations with another edgy person about issues that worried me amplified my own anxiety to the point I had to shut down the entire conversation. I didn’t walk away out of rudeness, mind you, but more because if I’d stayed a second longer, I would’ve hyperventilated. It was then I realized I was in trouble. I was enveloped in this cyclone, and I had to get out of it before it swept me off to a world I’d rather not visit.

For two days, I stayed completely to myself, or at least as much to myself as I could. I stayed in bed and binge watched a newly found television series. I read a new book. I listened to new music. Basically, I sought out new things because they don’t have memories attached. They couldn’t make my depression worse or heighten my anxiety by reminding me of sad times. I also allowed my body and mind time to recharge.

Being a student is no joke. I’d spent the last five years pushing my mind to new limits, depriving myself of rest and relaxation, and cramming more work into a day than is healthy. Exhaustion was no stranger, and I’m sure my mind and body had taken the toll. So, for two days, I gave back to myself what I had been bankrupting myself of: Sleep and relaxation. It felt amazing, but I realized two days wasn’t nearly enough. So, I vowed to myself to make regular deposits back into my sleep bank each day, even when I felt better. I promised myself some other things, too.

I realized when I looked too far into the future, I felt overwhelmed, and when I looked too far into the past I felt sad. I made myself the promise of “Only Today”. One day is much easier to digest than years’ worth, and so I resolved to look no further than right now if glancing far out made me anxious. Today is manageable. Today is a bite-sized morsel I can chew. It’s a place where I can make small changes instead of gargantuan life changes. It’s changing the channel of the tv instead of changing an entire satellite. Today is a gift of the here and now wherein exists finite concepts rather than futuristic abstractions. In the moment, I don’t have to project myself into the persona of Future Me. I can just be who I am without worry.

With the concept of Only Now, there is little room for the past, baring good memories. There is no need to dwell on sad events or nostalgia. Those times are unchangeable, and it’s counterproductive to Current Me to think about who I was 10, 15, or 20 years ago. I fought. I won, and I’m here. That’s all that matters. Current Me is a better person than Past Me, so I must’ve done something right.

Worrying about what will be or what was is so damaging to the soul. It’s like somehow those negative thoughts tell our psyche we aren’t good enough—that somehow we have no value, and that’s what really hurts. We have to break that cycle of self-abuse in order to survive in this world. We have to be our own biggest supporter, biggest fan, in order to live a happy life. To do this we have to shut off that nagging voice in our minds that wants to constantly look to places in which we don’t exist. Living in the moment seems like a concept of free-spirited people who have no cares, but it really is a concept highly motivated people need to adopt, too, if only for their own self-preservation. “Only Today” isn’t about being careless or reckless. It’s about caring about too many things all at the same time—hitting all the keys on the keyboard whilst trying to compose a symphony. It’s about preserving the mental stability of oneself in order to be successful. More importantly, it’s about staying alive and well in a world that would rob us of all happiness if it could. “Only Today” is the only time we really live. Everything else is a lie.

Halfer: My Life in The ZA

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Halfer:  My Life in the ZA

So, if you’re reading this, I guess there are survivors. And, I guess I’ve long since turned.

Maybe it’s been 2 months since I straggled in here, carefully evading the black helicopters that relentlessly circle—those guys can’t tell us from the herd. I get it, though. Physically, we look like full-on Zs, even if we still have a chance. We do, or…did, you know? If they’d worked towards a cure.  We kept our faculties for a while. I’m proof positive. I mean…hello! I’m writing this aren’t I?

You’re probably wondering why this place. Why would I choose this place to spend my final days? The answer is really as simple as it is complicated. We had a plan in the beginning. The boys—my boys—were just going to get food. I had to be where they could find me if they…I mean…just in case.

We weren’t stupid or careless like some. We’d laid in enough supplies to last us for months the minute, probably the second, the news of the first “unexplained” death hit. Both sheds were chocked full to the rafters with water, canned goods, first-aid stuff, gasoline, and, of course, all the ammo we could get our hands on. We’re survivalists by nature. No way a few moaning, limping Zs were gonna take us down.

And they didn’t. We trapped rabbits and squirrels that happened to make their way into the yard to extend our protein. When spring came around, we grew a garden from all the seeds we had left from last year.

My daughter-in-law and I made quilts and clothes for winter. She and I canned food over the fire pit my sons built for us in the yard. All summer we stayed busy readying ourselves for what seemed more difficult than the Z part of the ZA: learning to survive as our ancestors had.

We’d seen a few at first, but our town was small, and we were already amidst a deep freeze when it hit here in our neck of the woods. That slowed ‘em down, I guess. We put as many of ‘em out of their misery as we could. We reinforced the fence, and planned for the future. It’s a small town. There could only be so many. Not to mention, back before we only had RFA (Radio Free America), all the radio stations were saying the government “was working hard to contain the situation and guarantee the safety of EACH and EVERY United States born citizen”. Unfair, probably, but we would be covered, or so we hoped. But of course, they lost. Big shocker. They were never prepared for real home born terror. Nope. They were too busy creating imaginary threats and increasing the empire to see death of US citizens as a cottage industry.

To be honest, we’d been screwed since Trump was elected in ’16. After his inauguration, he continued to ignore climate change, and by 2020, just as scientists had predicted, the Arctic turned into a massive 7-11 Slurpee instead of the ice rink it had been for centuries. Whatever was lying dormant in that thousands year’s old ice floated downstream straight to where it could do the most damage.

First, it was a swimmer of Miami. She lost her shit on the beach, taking out a couple dudes who’d been ogling her all day, hoping by night she’d be drunk enough to fuck. They laughed at her hobbling along the beach for hours until she finally went full-on Z. The hot Miami sun must’ve helped the virus bloom, because by the time night came, those dudes were nothing more than her moonlight snack. Hell, she probably picked them specifically before she turned-Dumb bastards. They had it coming, if you ask me. As usual, the Trump administration blamed immigration—said it was probably Ebola or some kind of typhoid. If he didn’t really know better, he sure learned when he put his thousand dollar boots on the ground in Texas for that emergency meeting they had. First president to die in the ZA. We barely noticed he was gone.

It wasn’t until the leaves started to turn that we noticed them coming more frequently to the fence. My boys said they didn’t recognize the faces anymore. The way they had it figured, as cold as it gets up north, they were making their way south—a zombie migration along with the geese they seemed to follow. I guess even people go back to their animal roots if we don’t have a choice. Darwin in reverse, but it means survival, so it makes sense.

Anyway, we made it pretty good, though. La Niña visited us with a cold, wet, early winter. So, by December, we were safe in our own home, nothing stirring outside. The basement was full of our summer’s work, and we stayed warm by the fireplace my boys had built. We even had clean drinking water because of the water filtration system my DIL and I devised. You had to  think smart and not drink the water after the water plant was shut down. God knows the shit lurking in that water.

By and large the first year was okay. We made it until February, when as it usually happens with an early winter, it turned 72 one week. The ground turned sloppy from the melted snow, and the Zs who were too slow to make it to their macabre vacation destinations awoke from their icicle haze.

We fended them off as long as we could mostly stay indoors. Once our supplies started running low, we had a problem.

The bunnies and the squirrels quit traveling through the yard. I guess they ended up Half-Z food. My DIL lost so much weight we could see her ribs. My sons decided they simply must hunt. Folks can’t live on poke and wild strawberries. We needed protein and fat. It’d be too long before our garden would grow in earnest. “she might die,” he’d said.

“Hold down the fort, mom, we’ll be back soon.”

They’d been gone about two hours when they broke through the fence.

I failed.

My sons were out there somewhere looking for food, fighting off a herd, and I couldn’t protect us from 4 Zs.

She wouldn’t listen to me. I wanted her to say in the house. I had them by the willow tree all together. It was too hard to get them with the brain smasher we’d made. I had to use the gun. She came running out the door as a fired the third round into the head of the next to last walking corpse, but the gunfire drew more. As she ran out across the yard, two more who’d squirmed through the fence took her down.

I tried to get them in time. There was nothing I could do. They disemboweled her as I ran, firing all the way. She was gone. I dropped my gun as soon as I knew no more were coming. I held her close as I pushed the knife through her brain. I couldn’t bear to watch her become a …a…one of them.

I mended the board on the fence while I tried to find the words to tell my son. She was like a daughter to me, but to him. Fucking Christ. He might never forgive me for letting her die.

Somehow we made it through the next few months. Life was hard without her. It was hard for my son to accept her death. He buried her next to the cherry tree—it had been her favorite place in the yard. I think he forgave me. I guess I’ll never really know.

Summer came and went, and once again, the leaves began to turn as frost set in. We didn’t have so many encounters this time, so we relaxed a little knowing the herd slowed in the cold winter.

Except it wasn’t a very cold winter. Every couple of weeks the temps would rise, giving way to more broken through fence. In January, our food supplies were running low again. The boys decided to leave me there alone. It’s a decision I’ll regret forever.

It seems like it was before 7 am when they left, but being winter, it’s hard to tell. My middle son stayed with me, the boys having decided it wasn’t safe to leave me alone. After some hot biscuits, I hugged my sons tight.
“We love you, Mommy, and we’ll come to you soon,” are the last words I ever heard my eldest and youngest say.

All I remember is my middle and I chopping wood. Then there were those fucking black helicopters. The whir of their blades must’ve stirred them up. Those “combat experts” had no idea how to maneuver in the ZA. They’d never been trained for that.

This wasn’t fucking Iraq or one of those other places where they went to be Badass of the Year. This was home soil they had their “boots on the ground” on, and those were Zs—-fucking Zs, man. They had to know they’d attract a cosmic fuckton of those things. Surely they knew, but they hovered there for so long they probably knew what color my eyes were, anyway. I guess civilian casualties didn’t mean anymore to them at home than it did across an ocean.

I probably couldn’t have counted to 100 after they left before we heard them. There must’ve been hundreds of them, maybe more. Real Zs—no half-lifers. This was the real deal. Shit had hit the fan. You couldn’t get their attention like you could with some of the halfers. There’d be no trying to distract them and put them down easy. Nope. These monsters were ravenous. I guess their food supply was low, too.

My middle yelled, and I did just what he said: I followed him into the shed, and we secured the door. His brothers would know there was trouble if those doors were closed. They’d see the closed doors as soon as they walked up the sidewalk. They’d hear us. They’d save us.

There were just so many.

Looking back now, it was probably only seconds. Those bastards smelled dinner. They pushed open the doors on that decade’s old hunk of metal, and…well, before I knew it….

He was screaming so loud. His voice reverberates through my ears, into my soul. I can feel his wet blood on my face. I see him… I just….God. My middle. My son.

I failed him.

Somehow, I made it to the house. The herd was so busy with my son that they didn’t notice me squirm away. I had to, at least, try to protect my last two boys.

Once the door was closed tight, my head started spinning. Maybe that’s when I was conscious of the fact he was really gone. I was in the house, and he was still out there.

I must’ve fallen backwards down the basement stairs, because when I came to, my ankle was facing the wrong direction. That wouldn’t matter much, though. What I would eventually notice was the set of teeth marks on my shoulder. They’d gotten me, too.

I knew I was infected, but I hadn’t turned. I was a halfer.I was also a danger to my other two sons should they be near me when I made the turn. I wrote a note, and closed myself in the closet.

I’M IN THE CLOSET. HE’S GONE. I’M INFECTED. PUT ME DOWN. I LOVE YOU. SURVIVE!

Who knows how long I waited. Hours turned to days, but they never came back. Eventually, the house was overran with Zs. They could probably smell the recent kill. It pulls them in like catfish to stinkbait, you know. Luckily, I guess, for me, the full-blowns couldn’t tell I wasn’t one of them anymore than the dudes in the choppers. Maybe they can smell the infection. Who knows?

After a few weeks, I decided if my boys came here, they’d be in too much danger. There must’ve been thousands of the turned. I grabbed some spray paint, and left them a note on the outside of the house.

OUT FOR PIZZA. YOU KNOW WHERE.

It was something no one else could decipher. It seemed logical. When my boys came back to me, they’d find me easy enough. We’d been going here forever. Although, now, the smell of rotting flesh had probably overtaken the smell of fresh made sauce. I don’t really know. Once you’re infected, it’s hard to tell.

The weather is warmer now. It must be March, April maybe? I could feel the infection taking over more and more of my body as the temperatures warmed. Once in a while I stare off into space, looking over and over again at that sign that says “A La Familllia”. A strange hunger grows ever stronger inside my gut.

Every now and again the whir of the helicopters make some of us move by the front door, catching my attention. Today, some of them stopped out front, shuffling in place,  mumbling the mutter of “ma ma ma ma”. Today, I joined my family.

(Image source: http://coolwallpaperz.info/wallpaper/entertainment-zombie-apocalypse-academy-183902-wallpaper_w8905.html)

Washing Laundry in The Bathtub

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Being both a writer and a woman who was once a teenage mom, I’m often asked: “If you could write a letter to your 16 year old self, what would it say?”

The answer is always the same: “Don’t worry. You’ll own your own washer and dryer one day.”

No. I never want to tell myself about living fairy tales—whether involving Prince Charming stories or Ugly Duckling tales. I always default to self-reliance, and simply finding that place in life where I’m finally “okay”.  This probably all seems strange, but when you’ve been where I have, you understand the glory of doing laundry.

See, I spent a great deal of my life lying to folks about my financial status. Not because I wanted to mislead anyone, mind you. Just because I was raised believing “Poor” is a self-chosen social disease we should look down upon. When I fell squarely under the heading myself, shame overcame me. I told the tales of my “having” days, but rarely did I speak of when I was a “have not”.

My childhood was privileged with private schools, all the nice clothes and toys, boats, new cars, nice homes, and upstanding parents. This changed during my parents’ divorce when I was 13-14. My mom left with little or nothing. When my father decided it best for me to live with her, I shared in her nothing, and we ended up on public assistance. Shortly thereafter, due to my parents being the typical divorced parents in the mid-1980s who only worried about one-upping each other and who they were dating/marrying, I led a mostly unsupervised life. My son was born 5 days prior to my 16th birthday.

Dad refused to provide any level of support to us, financial or otherwise. Mom moved out, and there I was, son in tow, with absolutely nothing. No phone. No cable. No car. I had my feet and determination, but that was about the extent of our resources.

Our apartment, rented in my mother’s name, but occupied only by my son and I, did not include a washer and dryer. There was a common pay per load laundry facility in the middle building. When you’re living off $3.15 an hour (minimum wage then), even trying to pay the meager amount of rent, electric, and still buy food takes every dime. I really didn’t have the dollar or so it would have cost me to wash a load of laundry. I realize that seems silly, but it’s one of those aspects of poverty one can only understand when they’ve been there. If only I’d been taught this in childhood, maybe the shock wouldn’t have been so bad, but I digress.  Washing laundry, then, was a matter of physical labor only women pre 20th century might understand.

Each night I would kneel at my bathtub, fill it with water and pink, generic dish soap (rarely could I afford laundry detergent) and dump our small basket of laundry in to soak. After they’d set for long enough, I’d begin the job of scrubbing each piece of clothing by hand, rinsing, re-rinsing, and wringing out the water. It was a painstaking process. My fingers often became so dry they’d bleed from doing something that, in 1989, most people did without even a thought, let alone physical effort. On the weekends, the laundry included towels and bedsheets. By Monday, my hands would look like I’d spent a month in the snow sans gloves.

When the day finally came that I could afford the laundry mat, I felt like a millionaire. No joke. I loved going to wash clothes because that meant the skin on my hands would remain, and my clothes wouldn’t be stretched out and sour smelling from hanging on the shower curtain rod to dry overnight.

Eventually, I moved out of an apartment, and into my own home. My very first home purchase was made at Sears with an unbelievable amount of joy: A brand new washer and dryer! Yes. I could simply walk down the hallway, drop clothes in the top, push the button, and trot off to help my kids (3 of them by then) with homework. I could even afford laundry detergent. Liquid laundry soap, even!  Queen of Sheba!

My life has changed so much over 43 years. I’ve gone from being part of a family with more money than most, to abject poverty, to doing okay.

I own my own little piece of the Earth, now. It’s meager and small, but I it’s mine free and clear, and I love it.

I’m doing what I love most: Studying. Momming. Writing.

Although I’ve long since replaced that first washer and dryer, I’m still doing laundry in the manner I’d dreamed. I even have a clothesline so, in the summer, my bed linens smell fresh and nice. My kids are happy, healthy adults. I’m a grandma now. Life in general is pretty great. I’ve even almost finished my college degree.

When people ask me what that degree means to me, I never answer status or fulfilling a family legacy.

I simply say: It means I’ll be able to leave a legacy for my kids—to show them that just because you’re skinning your knuckles today doesn’t mean you always will. With enough hard work and determination, you’ll realize your dreams, too.

Hard work and determination are the two resources we Poor People will always have. They can’t take those from us, mostly because they never believed we had them to begin with.

(image source: http://www.howtocleanstuff.net/how-to-hand-wash-clothing/)

Small Town Life: Growing Up “Other”

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One undeniable thing about small-town life is if you weren’t born there, you’ll never really belong. People will always look at you funny. They’re raised from the cradle to give side eye to anyone who doesn’t quite fit their mold. This experience of rural life increases exponentially when one attends parochial school.

Watching my grandson in his very first year of public grammar school, I look on as he forms new friendships—boys running down the sidewalk, conquering invisible villains with their first-finger laser beam guns.  None of the boys question if he was born here. They don’t care if he is Lutheran or Methodist, or who his daddy or grandpa are. All they care about is if he knows the details of the latest Batman game. I sleep a little easier hoping he’ll never know what it means to be an outsider.

I was in second grade when we moved to my tiny town. Diversity was defined only by the crops grown in any given season. Skin color only differed during the summer when migrant workers moved in. Thinking about it, I don’t think we ever really spoke of them. They were our invisible population—not quite slaves, but not even close to our equals. One might suppose I was lucky. I was a transplant, too, but my skin and language matched. At least I had that going for me.

Although my grandparents were farmers, my first seven years found me living far from them, so I never really knew the ins and outs of agriculture. Sure, I knew what cows were, and I knew about home grown vegetables, or at least I knew about eating them. It took some time before I warmed up to farming.

I was a city girl—a business man’s daughter. I cut my teeth in the press room of a print shop, interacting with customers more than kids, and maintaining the appearance of an entrepreneur’s child. I learned, though.

My first trip to the dairy farm owned by my friends’ and classmates’ family was in 2nd grade. I loved animals, so I loved the vibe of the farm. Being an only child, the interaction with the other kids was challenging.

During an innocent game of hide and seek in their grandparents’ farm house, they hid and I was supposed to seek. When I realized I’d have to explore rooms beyond the kitchen, living room, and bathroom, I panicked. I couldn’t go into the bedrooms. That just wouldn’t be polite. Surely they must know these things, right? My friends had abandoned me. I was just sure of it.

I cried to call my parents. I was terrified. These girls didn’t like me. I knew that as sure as I knew if I went into their grandparents’ bedroom I’d be chided by their elders. Worse, my parents would find out, and I’d be grounded for not having decorum attributable to a young lady.

As it turns, everything would have been fine. They were playing. I overreacted—a trait that would follow me into adulthood. What also followed me, rearing its ugly head about 9th grade was the fact I did not, in fact, belong in that house.

There was no Deutsch blood coursing through my veins. I was not Lutheran by birth. My parents weren’t farmers. What my best friends and I had in common was youth and our school desks. Nothing more. Once we no longer shared the tiny rooms in our protected bubble of a school, and once we blossomed into young women, I was out.

It’s questionable if my 3 best buddies abandoned me by their own choices, or if it was filial piety that forced our break. I became pregnant at 15—something I’m sure struck terror in their parents, especially when one of the other girls-a fellow towny, but still blood related,  followed suit shortly thereafter.

She was accepted, embraced even. I was not.

I became Patient Zero; The bringer of all things evil on their whitewashed, puritanical town. Even the tan-skinned souls working the fields that summer were held in higher regard. They couldn’t “contaminate” their daughters. They’d never be allowed close enough. But me? I’d been in their homes. I’d laughed and played Barbies and Four-Square with those girls. I could ruin them all. I was an alien being in small-town USA, and was thusly cast aside like the rotten melons that would be left lying in the field after the harvest.

All we learned in our morning devotions about loving one another, and letting our Triune God hold all the stones to be cast went flying out the window. I wasn’t fit to be a scarecrow in their fields. Not because I’d committed a sin worse than what their own daughters had committed behind their backs, but because I’d been caught.

My pregnant belly would give me away. Their self-appointed court could condemn me with the only evidence of my “sin” they needed, just as they sat in judgment over the people who were here to make an honest man’s dollar working in their fields.

If I’d have had any sense, I would’ve left back then with the caravan of “others” when fall became winter.

I didn’t. To this day I live in this small town. I’m not sure why other than leaving is easier said than done when you’re responsible for more than yourself.

With the advent of social media and with my children having attended the same high school as my former friends and I, I’ve had occasion to reconnect with the girls who used to jump Double Dutch with me. We only connect in pleasantries, though.

“How are you? The kids? You parents?”

My attempts to reach out to them beyond that have been denied. I’m still not up to par, I suppose. Sometimes that bothers me. Most of the time I don’t think of it.

Until, that is, I see those laughing little faces playing make believe laser tag on the sidewalk as they wait for the bus. Then my mind transports me back to four little girls giggling about everything imaginable whilst camping out in someone’s living room, watching scary movies, and eating rubbish.

I miss those little girls, including myself. We were so innocent and untouched by the cruel judgmental world that would encompass our lives so few years later.

None of my school mates followed me into adulthood fully. A couple high school friends remained friends with me until I married. Then they were gone.

Sometimes I cry for the little girl I was who knew she didn’t fit in, who was alone and afraid. Then I ask myself “Jesus, did anything really change?”

Between Ignorance and Selfishness: Personal Accountability

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How many times do I have to see someone trying to give away or sell a pet they no longer want? It seems everyday someone in the paper or on the internet has evicted their once beloved pet from their lives, and for what? Some of the most idiotic reasons surface, but it’s usually the fact they have a small child, they’re moving, the landlord is making them get rid of it, or they don’t have the time to invest in a pet. I’m well aware life happens—things can and do pop up, circumstances can be beyond one’s control. Usually, though, people know they’re taking a risk when taking on a pet. Do I need to think about the responsibility I’m taking on with a pet? Of course not. I’ll just rehome it later.

Being a bad pet parent is not the only thing that hits the top of my list of irresponsible acts by people this week.

As August rolled in and kids went back to school, my newsfeed was clogged with people looking for help with school clothes and supplies for their children. Again, I realize life happens, but some of these people act as if they had no clue what was going to happen as fall approaches. They acted as if parenting slipped their minds whilst they were posting all their summer-fun shenanigans on social media. Do I need to put back a little for school clothes? Nah. I’ll beg for those.

We often call people like the ones I’ve mentioned “stupid,” but I need to argue about that term a second.

Truthfully, none of these people I know are ignorant. We like to label them as that, and they like it, too, somewhere deep down inside because if they are “stupid” or “ignorant,” that serves as justification for their actions. They can just “dumb” it away.

“Look, I know I was stupid, but I’ll do better next time,” you might hear when calling them out for their irresponsibility.

I expect better than a lame excuse, though. I expect the truth.

Honestly, people who act in this manner are not stupid. They are not ignorant of the way life works. Instead, they are selfish.

To say someone is stupid or ignorant there must be some understanding that they were not privy to the information that might have helped them make better decisions.

For instance, someone might buy a car with underlying mechanical issues no one found before the purchase. A mechanic might not even know. These people are ignorant to the fact this issue will impact their future with the car, and therefore, they purchase the faulty vehicle. It is not their fault. They simply had no knowledge.

People who knowingly and willingly take on a pet or child are not ignorant to things like a landlord not allowing pets, or children needing school supplies. Ignorance never enters the arena. They make decisions based on their own selfish wants, without regard for the responsibilities they’ve  embarked upon.

I cannot and will not explain this away for them by calling them “stupid” or “ignorant” because I believe in personal accountability—something these folks clearly do not want.

Children and pets are not something to be cast aside when times get tough. Being a pet parent or parent of a child requires good, strong decision making skills. When someone adopts a pet  with the knowledge that they are not allowed to have said pet, or has a child they knowingly cannot afford, they reach a pinnacle or self-indulgence I cannot understand.

We do not live in the dark ages when educational material was hard to find. Nope. We live in the age of the internet. Most everyone, at least in the US, has access to the information they need to make it through life. This includes details about pet ownership and parenting.

People who do not educate themselves are at fault for their blaring mistakes, and what’s infinitely worse are those who have been educated, but simply choose not to take heed.

Knowing the pet you loved enough to bring into your home or the child you willing created has needs, but choosing to ignore those needs, or breaking rules that will make it impossible to properly care for them, makes you a supreme narcissist—nothing more and nothing less.

So, no. I won’t call those folks ignorant. I will give them the ugly crown they deserve to wear as those who depend on them suffer. Then I’ll hope those they’ve completely let down survive the fall to be happy and healthy despite the self-centered jerks who hurt them.

(image source:http://day-with-kt.com/self-absorbed/)

Doing Equal Opportunity Right: Steak and Shake

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So often the media only gives us the negative stories of an employer’s blatant discrimination or mistreatment of staff. However, today I’m happy to bring you one story that proves one of my favorite places really cares about us all, not just some.

I love Steak and Shake. It’s unclear if it’s their burgers, shakes, or just the atmosphere that I appreciate most, but I really love going for a relaxing, yummy meal in a burger place that does not qualify as “fast food,” even though the service is usually relatively fast. So today when I checked out my Facebook page, I was saddened to see a woman on a garage sale site advertising that my local Steak and Shake was in need of employees. The fact they needed help wasn’t what upset me, though. It was the fact the woman’s profile pic was the rainbow flag with a black vertical line through it. She clearly did not support the LGBTQ community, and I was saddened thinking one of my favorite places to eat might not be an equal opportunity employer.

Because LGBTQ rights means so much to me, I immediately called the restaurant, asking the manager if she would hire me if I were openly gay. Her response was an immediate “Yes.”

My hear felt slightly better hearing that, and it only got better following her answer.

The manager quickly contacted the regional manager, having him call me to discuss this matter. He promptly gave me a call assuring me this anti-gay representation did not represent the policies or standards of Steak and Shake, and told me the woman who had made this post was not even an employee, but the wife of an employee who would be asked to remove the post.

He went on to say that Steak and Shake fully supports the LGBTQ community, and would never discriminate.

Whew! My conscience can allow me to return to Steak and Shake!

I was really proud that an employer did vehemently stand behind his LGBTQ employees. It made me happy to know at least someone is helping make the world a better place, and making a job a little easier for some folks out there who already face far too much discrimination and inequality. Steak and Shake is not only a great place to eat, but apparently, also a friendly environment in which to work.

Thank you, Steak and Shake, for being on the right side of history with those of us who just want the world to be equal and fair for all. It means so much to know there are wonderful, safe places in the world where we may all gather for food and conversation, equality and support.

Crucifixion, Anyone? Untruths in Journalism or How We Sacrifice Humans for Our Viewing Pleasure

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We all love a good crucifixion, don’t we? It’s all we can do to stop from gasping and cheering as we look on at the criminals hung before us. Finding satisfaction in watching folks pay their debt to society seems to be part of the human condition, however, the other part of the human condition we often fail to remember is sometimes those debts were never really owed. Sometimes the wrong person is prosecuted, and what’s equally as bad, many times the media convicts a person before they’ve actually been accused of a crime, just as happened this week with Jared Fogle.

Just as Danny Funt mentions in his Columbia Journalism Review  article, when the media published this week that Fogle had many instances of contact with children, the underlying connotations are “startlingly presumptive”.  They cannot say in so many words that Fogle is a child molester, but they can definitely intimate that idea for the world at large to see and absorb. The story then changes from what is really happening to whatever some large mouthed media guru would like it to be.

Social media was awash with Fogle news stories claiming his affiliation with his accused colleague was more than just business. There were stories claiming he must be guilty of harming children  and jokes even surfaced. What my newsfeed lacked were any real intelligent pieces bringing the public back to the realm of reality where a man is still considered innocent until a court of law convicts.

What I saw this week were thousands of people who, up until this week, were average citizens just like myself, but upon reading Fogle’s unfortunate story, attained their PhDs in criminal justice and law with a few clicks of their chosen news carriers and wiki links.

Fogle has not to this day been arrested or indicted, and yet folks sans privy to the minute details of his case hoisted him up on the cross, anxious to drive the last nail home. Jared Fogle became the media’s sacrifice to the world this week simply because the boring truth that his business associate had been in deeply disturbing trouble, but the jury is still out on Fogle just doesn’t garner too many clicks.

Nope. The media wanted another feeding frenzy, and so they ad libbed, dressing their words as a crown of thorns to sit neatly upon Fogle’s head. “Child molester?” “Kill him.” And so they did.

Sadly, we may never hear whether Fogle’s story ends happily. Retractions and apologies don’t make front page news. We will only know the outcome if the media can walk us up onto a sacrificial Hill of Shame when and if Fogle is, in fact, indicted. Until then, the media is happy to spin its own tale of what many will assume to be truth because it was on Facebook, Twitter, or the news.

There is little ethical journalistic reporting anymore. No one wants a feel-good story, or even just the plain old truth. Everyone wants Hollywood, and until we actively call for truth in reporting, we will continue to see humans sacrificed by the media, deserving or not.

Is Fogle guilty? Hell, I don’t know. When Quantico decides to confer with me, I’ll let you all know. Until then, I assume what I know is too little to decide his fate in court, on tv, or on social media.

(Image source:http://resources.alljobopenings.com/jared-fogle)