Monday, December 31, 2012

My New Year's Wish For All...

It’s New Year’s Eve in the year of our Lord, 2012.  Not only can I not believe it’s going to be 2013 but I can’t believe this year is almost over.  It has gone by so very quickly.

I came out to Fort Worth on December 9th of 2011.  I was supposed to stay about 30 days, return to Florida for a couple of weeks and then come back to Fort Worth with my belongings, planning to stay permanently.  As it turned out things happened that caused those plans to change…  for the better.  The property manager for the home I was renting called in the first week of January and said they had found new renters for the house.  These renters wanted to move in on January 16th.  That meant I had to head back early to clean out the house.

Arden took a few days off and went with me and with the exception of three days this year when she attended beading retreat with her friends (to which I wasn’t invited), we have been together continuously since that December 9th.  I couldn’t be happier.  Being with Arden has been a blessing for which I waited a long, long time.

The time has flown by.  Even though I’m still not working, I find plenty of things to do and the days disappear far too quickly.  Arden and I have traveled to San Antonio a couple of times this year.  We’ve been to Ohio twice, Oklahoma once and Arkansas once.   We would have travelled to Harlingen, Texas, for Christmas except this year her parents decided to come North.  But we’re supposed to go there in April.

I had to say good-by to my father this year.  After nearly 12 years of slow, continuous physical deterioration, he finally succumbed to his weakened condition and went to be with the God he served for so long during his life.  I believe he is now whole and enjoying time with my mother and my son and for that I’m happy.  I miss you, Pop, very much.  But I’m glad you’re not suffering any more.

I finally found a publisher for my book and its projected release date is April.  It’s been interesting working with the editors and just the other day I communicated with the graphic designer about the front and back covers and submitted my ideas.  There are a lot of details in getting a book published.  One of them is tracking down and obtaining copyright permission(s) to use quotes from poems or song lyrics – something I didn’t really think of when I was writing.  But I don’t want to take them out because they became an integral part of the book.

2013 will be a fun and exciting year for us.  Not only with the publication of my book but our first wedding anniversary will be in August and I plan to make it special.  When you’re in your mid 50s and newlywed you’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity.  Regardless of where we go it will be wonderful to just get away together alone for a few days.  We got to do that for our honeymoon and we had such a good time we didn’t want to come back.  Anyone have any suggestions?

I want to thank all of you who read my ramblings for your support and loyalty.  In November I had over 800 page views and as of this writing my total for December is 939.  So thank you to all.  I appreciate you taking the time to read what I post, particularly since you don’t have to.

Arden and I would like to extend our wishes to each and every one of you for a prosperous and fun-filled new year.  Things are rather uncertain right now in this country and the world and 2013 may not start out to be the best year ever.  All we can do is keep working toward positive and reasonable solutions to our problems and try to find common ground as best we can.  But common ground means no extremes in either direction.

May God bless you all in these trying times.  He and He alone controls the future and it’s up to us to follow His will rather than trying to dictate our own.  As the old saying goes….  “If you want to hear God laugh – tell Him your plans.” 

Happy New Year everyone.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Marine's Christmas Poem...

received this in an e-mail the other day and had to share it.  Although I have no way of verifying it – it was supposedly written by a Marine.  Whether it was or wasn’t, it’s my pleasure to share it with all of you.  May God bless our men and women in uniform who volunteer everything in service to our country.  Thank you all so much for what you do.


T’was the night before Christmas and he lived alone,

 in a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

 I had come down the chimney with presents to give,

 and to see just who in this home did live.

 I looked all about, a strange sight I did see…

 no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.

no stocking by mantle, just boots filled with sand,

 on the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.

with medals and badges, awards of all kinds,

a sober thought came through my mind.

For this house was different, it was dark and dreary,

I found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.


The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,

 curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home.

The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder,

 not how i pictured a United States soldier.

Was this the hero of whom I'd just read?

curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?

I realized the families that I saw this night,

owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world, the children would play,

 and grownups would celebrate a bright Christmas day.

They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,

 because of the soldiers, like the one lying here.


I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,

 on a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.

The very thought brought a tear to my eye,

 i dropped to my knees and started to cry.

The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,

“Santa don't cry, this life is my choice;

I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more,

 my life is my God, my country, my corps.”


The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep,

I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I wept for hours, so silent and still

and we both shivered from the cold night's chill.

I didn't want to leave on that cold, dark, night,

this guardian of honor so willing to fight.


 Then the soldier rolled over, and with a voice soft and pure,

 whispered, “Carry on Santa, it's Christmas day, all is secure.”

One look at my watch, and I knew he was right.

“Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night.'

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Hobby Lobby Decision A Surprise?

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has denied a request to block part of the federal health care law requiring employee plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill.

According to the request, which is part of a lawsuit filed by the Hobby Lobby Corporation and sister company, Mardel, Inc., being forced by the government to provide those types of birth control and contraceptives violates the religious beliefs of the owners of Hobby Lobby.  The court, however, disagrees so far and says corporations are not religious organizations and therefore do not qualify for an exemption from the law.

First off - is anyone surprised by this?  Sonia Sotomayor has always been a loyal Obamabot and defended Obamacare in court before she was appointed to the SC bench.  I'm not sure why she decided to rule against the request until the case actually comes through the court but possibly it's because she was making an example out of Hobby Lobby.  "You will comply, regardless of whether your case has been heard, or you will pay millions of dollars for your refusal" is basically the message she sent out.  She made no comment on whether or not Hobby Lobby has religious grounds for the case itself - only that they will be forced to provide the insurance coverage when that portion of the law goes into effect or be fined, daily. 

There are many who would agree with Justice Sotomayor.  Hobby Lobby is indeed a for-profit corporation that provides thousands of jobs across the country.  However, like Chik Fil-A, the owners are staunch Christians who, among other things, keep their stores closed on Sundays because of their religious beliefs.  So there are a couple of questions that need to be answered.  Does the owner of a company give up his/her guaranteed religious rights just because he/she starts a business?  Does the owner of a company have the right to legally run that business according to his religious beliefs without interference from the government?

It seems we may soon discover the answer to those questions.  If the court rules against Hobby Lobby will it then force corporations owned and operated by Muslims to provide birth control and contraception for their employees?  It would seem so but who wants to bet it won't happen?

2013 should be an interesting year.  I read yesterday that the Supreme Court has also allowed an eligibility suit against President Obama to move forward.  If what I read was correct (and I can't find it right now), the court has allowed that enough evidence has been provided that the case can move forward on its own.  So we shall see what happens with that.  As I said - it will be an interesting year in the USA.

In other news, the country says good-bye to General Norman Schwartzkopf, one of the greatest military leaders in my lifetime.  General Schwartzkopf spent his life serving his country and deserves all honor and recognition.  Hopefully, his former Commander in Chief and friend, President George H.W. Bush, won't soon follow him.  His condition has not been improving, according to news reports, and it may be his time as well.  My thoughts and prayers are with the Schwartzkopf family and the Bush family.  May God comfort them all and give them peace as only He can. 

May each and every one of you have a very happy and prosperous new year.  In these days of extreme political posturing and looming financial crisis in the United States, I realize that wish may not be a possibility.  But what can I say?  I'm an optimist.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Night After Christmas...

This is another original poem that I wrote several years ago.  A couple of lines may sound familiar because I used them in one of my Parranda poems, but I wrote this one first.  It's been called irreverent and I guess that's true - but I hope you enjoy it.

The Night After Christmas

T'was the night after Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, (the cat got the mouse).
The stockings, once hung on the chimney with care,
were now on the floor; the chimney was bare.
The children weren't nestled or snug in their beds.
They were playing football with helmets on their heads.
And I, in my underwear and Seahawks cap,
had just settled down on the couch for a nap.

When out on the street there arose such a clatter,
I jumped from the couch to see what was the matter.
I ran to the front door, tripped over the rug,
and landed on my face with a thud.
The moon shining down on that dark, dreary night
about halfway made up for the broken street light.
And I thought to myself as I rose from the floor
"Who's the idiot who put that rug by the door?."

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
but that man in the red suit, drinking a beer.
He was sloppy and dirty, covered with soot
from the top of his head to the sole of his foot.
There was mud on his clothes, on his hat, on the fur,
and when he saw me, he said with a slur....

"Christmas is over. My job is done.
It's time for me to have some fun.
I'm going to Bermuda, away from the toys,
away from those ungrateful girls and boys.
I give them all presents and what do I get?
A cold and a sore throat from getting all wet.
The reindeer are eating my money away
and I only use them on Christmas Day.
Mrs. Claus told me not to come home drunk this year,
so I'm going to a bar to drink some more beer!"

Then Santa stumbled and fell in the snow,
and I heard him chuckle a soft "Ho, ho, ho".
"I guess I really do need to sit down,
but it sure is cold sitting here on the ground.".
When I invited him in, he was up in a wink, asking
"Say, you got anything in your house to drink?"
I offered him coffee and a place to lay down,
but he said "Not a chance, I'm going out on the town!
There's one night a year that I party like this,
and this is one night I'm not going to miss!"

Then licking a finger and picking his nose,
he belched twice and then - up the chimney he rose.
He slipped on the ice and fell from the roof,
and landed in the yard with an "OOF"
But he jumped up quickly and staggered away,
and I still can't believe what I heard to this day.
I heard him exclaim as he faded from sight
"I'd trade all my reindeer for a cold Miller Light!"
- by Glen Clark

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas Surprise...

Around 8 o’clock PM on Christmas Eve, Arden brought my guitar into the living room and asked – “Are you going to play something and sing for me?”  Tradition in her family is for everyone (or most people anyway) to participate in karaoke.  Her father has a karaoke machine in his house that we used a lot last year.  We were going to use the computer and simply download the songs from the internet, but that activity hadn’t started yet.

I was kind of in the middle of something at the time Arden asked and responded “Well, I wasn’t planning on it right now.  Maybe later.”  She said “OK” and took the guitar back to the bedroom.  I continued what I had been doing and paid no attention when she walked back into the room.  She was holding a brand new guitar case and I immediately knew what was in it.  A few weeks before Christmas I had mentioned, mostly in jest, that the local guitar store had a certain guitar on sale for a great price.  I never thought she would actually go there – I had mentioned before that I wanted a new one but thought that would be something we purchased in the future.  I was completely surprised and overwhelmed.  I laid the case on the floor and slowly opened it…

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

but the Martin 12 string that I held so dear.

It was tuned up, perfect and ready to play

and was by far the best gift I got on that day.

We never did end up singing that night

but I played for a while and it sounded just right.

Yesterday morning we got up and opened the rest of the presents scattered around the tree.  (I was the only one who got one present early.)  I repaid her (at least somewhat) with some rather nice gifts that she really liked but I don’t think I bowled her over as she did me.  I’m still in a state of disbelief even as I tell you about it.  I love my new guitar.  And I love my Arden dearly.

After the gift giving was completed I went into the bedroom and pulled out my new toy.  As I did I spied my old guitar sitting in the corner and had a great idea.  My step-son likes to play the guitar and sing with the family but he didn’t have a guitar of his own.  So I picked mine up and took it to him in the living room.  He may not have been equally surprised as I was but he was certainly happy with my decision.  I just thought it was a the right thing to do.

I hope everyone had a wonderful day yesterday and that you each got at least one thing you really wanted (along with socks, underwear and the usual “stuff” that people give on Christmas.)  After all – it’s about the birth of our Lord, love, family and giving to others, right?  It’s not the size of the gift but the love with which it’s given.  And Arden showed me her love in a very surprising and wonderful way this year.  Thank you, Baby! 

I’m thinking, if I start now, by next Christmas I may have put the idea into her head what I want next…

Have a wonderful Christmas season.

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Simple Christmas Message To You...

I remember Christmas when I was a child.  Being the son of a Baptist minister we were in church on Christmas Eve every year.  When we got home, sometimes we would open presents on Christmas Eve, sometimes we’d wait until Christmas morning.  If Christmas Day happened to fall on a Sunday we always got to open our presents the night before because we would be in church first thing Sunday morning.

When we were little our parents would send us five kids to one of the upstairs bedrooms for a little while so “Santa could come”.  They did try to keep the story alive as long as possible but having four older siblings, I can’t really remember a time when I actually believed there was a real Santa because there was just something wrong with it.  I’m not sure I could tell you what that was (and I don’t remember any of my siblings flat out telling me the truth) but I was always happy that there were going to be presents, regardless of where they came from!

Whether we opened presents on Christmas Eve or waited until Christmas morning we, as a family, always read the Christmas story from one of the gospels before the presents were handed out.  We took turns every year, usually with one of the younger kids volunteering because it made us feel big.  And it didn’t matter if we had just come from a Christmas Eve service at the church – we read the gospel anyway.  It was a tradition that lasted until most of us were gone from home.  It was a good tradition.

One of us would volunteer to be “Santa” and pass out the presents to everyone.  Having a total of seven people in the family meant lots of presents, even if they weren’t all very fancy.  (My dad worked hard but he wasn’t wealthy by any means.  It was amazing he could feed five kids.)  Each of us got a pair of new shoes and usually at least one gift that we asked for, as long as it was affordable.  My dad’s parents gave each of us a new $20 bill every year and my aunt and uncle on my mother’s side gave us each a box of assorted chocolates.  I guess it was just easier for them to do that.  But we always looked forward to both gifts because they were ours and we didn’t have to share.

Back then it was quite common to have snow for Christmas.  In fact, when I lived in West Virginia (until I was 9) we always had plenty of snow.  One year I got a new sled – the kind with the wooden deck and the metal runners.  My brother showed me how to sand the paint off the runners and wax them to make it faster.  There was a hill at the end of our street that ended in a creek and another on the other side of the creek that had a path which wound through the woods until you got to the water.  Once in a while they would close off one of the streets a few blocks from home that was a good sized hill and we’d go sledding down the snow packed street.  It was great fun!

Mostly what I remember about those Christmases is the family celebration.  We’d have our own Christmas then visit our grandparents in two different cities in West Virginia while we were all out of school.  I remember it as a great family time, full of love, God and the joy of the season.

Of course, when I had a child of my own I became Santa (and I became an elf because it seemed everything Christopher wanted had to be put together…!)  I actually miss that part and would like to go back just once.  But life goes on.

So on this Christmas Eve of 2012, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas filled with the love and joy of Christmases past, when life was simpler and being happy about the birth of Jesus was the reason for that joy.  If you’re not a believer, I wish you the same joy but doubt you’ll experience it as the rest of us do.  Christmas is about the celebration of Jesus Christ and the love He gives to each of us.  It’s about the love of family and good friends.  Christmas is about love.  May that love effect each and every one of you in its own way. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Gringo’s First Christmas AFTER Puerto Rico…

I wrote this after leaving Puerto Rico for Colorado in 1997.  When Christmastime got close, a couple of friends in Puerto Rico sent messages asking if I was going to write another poem for Christmas.  What could I say?  Of course I was!  Below is the result.
I've enjoyed sharing these with  you.  They bring back good memories for me and many others who were there at the time.

Merry Christmas to all.  Feliz Navidad a todos.

(For all my friends in Puerto Rico and dedicated to
Ruben Cuadrado, who introduced me to Parranda
and left this Earth too soon.)
It's the night before Christmas and I'm feeling sad -
I'm here in Colorado and the weather is bad.
Outside it's snowing and my body feels old
(just something that happens when the weather gets cold).
I wish I was in Puerto Rico again.....
lying on the beach in the sun.
Christmas this year just won't be the same.
It costs twenty-one dollars for Bacardi rum!
I'll be eating turkey with stuffing again -
not lechón, arroz con gandules and rum.
They don't even know what "parranda" means,
and no one knows how to make rice and beans!!
American Christmas music is good,
but you can't dance merengue to "Joy to the World".
And I brought a jar of cañita along....
but after the first snow, it was soon gone.

It's beautiful here with the lights on the snow.....
But it's too damn cold -  I've got to go.
My tan disappeared in about a week,
and people tell me I look kind of sick.
I need to get back to the island again -
to the cocos, coquis, ocean and sun.

My new job is good and I'm doing well,
but I hate the weather - it's cold as hell.
I just can't adjust to the climate change.
The people here love it - but they're all deranged!
They tell me to go out and play in the snow!
But I smile politely and say "Hell no!"
I spend time under the sunlamp each night,
trying to get my tan back just right.

So on this Christmas eve, I'm thinking of sun,
of parranda, lechón, merengue and rum.
Someday I'll return to the island I miss....
but for now - I guess I'll spend Christmas like this.

G. Clark

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gun Bans? I Hope Not...

This is for those people who think guns kill people and they need to be removed from our society.  I have owned guns since I was a teenager.  I have owned rifles and handguns.  Most of them I bought specifically for protection of my home and property.  Fortunately, I have never had to use one of them for that purpose.

In the 38 years since that I have owned firearms none of them has ever killed anyone, nor even come close.  In fact, they have remained in the box or on the shelf where I placed them and never once went out on their own.  They are proof that guns, at least in my experience, do not kill people.

Now, on the other hand, if you put one of my guns into the hands of an evil, angry or mentally disturbed person bent on doing someone harm, the gun would most likely respond accordingly.  Just as if you put a drunk person behind the wheel of a vehicle and give him the keys, the car is going to respond to whatever the driver does.  Drunk drivers kill people in this country every day yet there is no demand for a ban on alcohol or motor vehicles.  There are also laws against illegal drug use.  How's that working out?

The man who killed those 27 people in Connecticut, including  his own mother, had no criminal record nor anything obvious that would have predicted what he did.  His mother apparently knew there was something wrong with him (according to some neighbors) but it seems it was never something that she sought treatment for.  His mother was a reported gun enthusiast and kept weapons in their home.  For whatever reason, on the morning of the 14th, the man took one of her weapons and viciously killed her by putting four bullets into her face, then took more of her guns to the school and for reasons as yet unknown, began murdering people.  Would he have acted in this manner if he didn't have his mother's guns?  We will  never know.  But on the same day in China a man attacked nearly the same number of  school children with a knife.  So don't say it couldn't have happened without the gun.

In Chicago and Washington DC, guns were outlawed by their respective mayors several years ago.  Those two cities have some of the highest murder rates in the country.  It seems the old adage is true...  "If you outlaw guns only outlaws will have them."  The murder rate in Chicago and DC seem to prove this theory.  And as for gun free zones - Sandy Hook Elementary was a gun free zone.  The shooter didn't really seem to care so much.

Taking guns away from honest, law abiding citizens will not prevent gun violence committed by those who don't follow the  laws and morals of the land anyway.  It will only make us victims.  It's not rocket science.  It's pretty clear cut.  Those who want to kill will find a way unless they're stopped.  Sometimes the only thing that can stop it is a good guy with a gun.  But if there are no good guys with guns out there, then I guess the bad guys have nothing to fear.

A Simple Christmas/Holiday Greeting...

Every  year the Christmas holiday seems to get a little more controversial.  Many Christians believe there is a "war on Christmas" from people who don't want God and/or Jesus to be part of the holiday, even though that particular holiday is Christian in origin.  Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  It has been commercialized into a holiday for all with Santa Claus and presents and various decorations, both religious and non-religious. 

In the politically correct corner, the greeting of "Merry Christmas" has been pushed aside by many in favor of the more secular greeting of "Happy Holidays".  I find that interesting since the word holiday comes from the root words "holy day", which still has religious connotations. 

Many stores and businesses, in order to not offend anyone of any religious or political persuasion, stay completely away from the word "Christmas".  Walking through stores these days you see the word "Christmas" less and less.  It's truly a shame since Christmas used to be a time when people came together, when they truly looked for peace in the world - even if it was only for a couple of days. 

On Christmas Day, 1914, only 5 months into World War I, German, British, and French soldiers, already sick and tired of the senseless killing, disobeyed their superiors and fraternized with 'the enemy' along two-thirds of the Western Front (in times of war, a crime punishable by death). German troops held Christmas trees up out of the trenches with signs, 'Merry Christmas.' 'You no shoot, we no shoot.' Thousands of troops streamed across a no-man's land strewn with rotting corpses. They sang Christmas carols, exchanged photographs of loved ones back home, shared rations, played football, even roasted some pigs. Soldiers embraced men they had been trying to kill a few short hours before. They agreed to warn each other if the top brass forced them to fire their weapons, and to aim high.

This event is documented historically.  And it was because both sides celebrated and honored Christmas and its meaning of peace on Earth.  It may have only lasted hours (although there are reports that in some places it lasted days) but think of it - a war interrupted because both sides wanted to celebrate a special holiday.

A couple of years ago I came across a Christmas greeting that should satisfy my secular, progressive, liberal, and even  atheist friends.  Here it is...

To my liberal/secular friends:

Please accept, with no obligation (implied or explicit) my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.  I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great.  Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere.  Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To my conservative/believing friends:

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

May the joy of the Christmas season be with each of you, regardless of how you celebrate it.  God bless you all.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Gringo's Fourth Christmas in Puerto Rico...

We're up to 1996....

Another Christmas, another year....
Can you believe that I'm still here?
Everyone thought that I'd be gone more Christmas in San Juan.

Overall, the year has been good for me,
with all the things I've done and seen.
I've traveled all around the island.
(Thank God I didn't get that job at Milan.)

I learned how to play the songs for parranda.
I went to Spanish class with Wanda.
Ten long days in Aibonito
and all we learned was "Ay, Bendito".

I went on home leave once again,
a chance to visit family and friends.
I lived through two more hurricanes....
Bertha and Hortense were their names.

After six months of waiting in my home
I finally got a telephone.
I turned in paperwork every week
so Shelly had a job to keep.

I've seen people leave for other places
with anticipation on their faces.
Little Rosa returned from the states
and Vargas went to take his place.

Santana, Tombone and Serrano gone,
and I'm still waiting for my turn.
We said good-bye to several friends.
(And Sicci Rodriguez resigned - again!)

Parranda this year just won't be the same
without our "leaders", you all know their names.
No "bomba", no quatro, no "Viejo San Juan".
When it comes to parranda, we're all sorry their gone.

Yes, this year has been an eventful one.
It's gone by fast, but it's been fun.
And, with the holidays on us once again...
Felicidades to all my friends!

                   G. Clark

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Gringo's Third Christmas in Puerto Rico...

             A gringo's third Christmas in Puerto Rico...
                    ( A joint effort by Ruben Cuadrado and Glen Clark)

             Once again - here I am.....
             spending Christmas in San Juan.
             More morcilla, more lechón.....
             Never thought I'd be here this long.
             But what the heck, it's been fun
             going to the beach and taking sun.
             I've seen other gringo's go and come
             but I'm still here, drinking rum.

             Ten green weenies I've received -
             more than anyone can believe.
             The Warden says I'll leave one day.....
             but I don't think it will be right away.
             That's OK - I won't complain. 
             (But I'll probably have to change my name.)

             I have two new friends I hang out with now....
             "Chupa Cabra" and "El Venao".
             And people think I'm kind of strange
             'cause I wash car windshields for extra change.
             I'm trying to learn to dance merengue
             and I thank God that I didn't get dengue.
             I'm enjoying my time on the enchanted isle
             and that's good - since I'll be here a while.

             And now it's Christmas once again
             and this is the time we really have fun.
             "Parrandas" are beginning all over the island
             and people are getting drunk by the thousands.
             There's food and rum and pastries galore
             and people singing outside your door.

             "Parranda" - a party that comes to your home
             with people, music, dancing and fun.
             You don't know they're coming -
             you just have to prepare -
             and sort of hope they don't get there.
             If they come before twelve it's not so bad....
             if you're lucky you haven't made it to bed.
             But if you are the last to get this surprise,
             you won't get to bed until after sunrise.

             So as the season gets close with love to be shared,
             I'm not going to worry - I'm already prepared.
             I don't really care what time they will come.....
             I've already decided not to be home.
             I bought a ticket on a cruise to St. Thomas -
             and on Christmas day - on to the Bahamas.
             I'll party all night and sleep all day
             and then get the room cleaned up by the maid.

             There's a lot to be said for this Christmas tradition
             but you have to have a lot of ambition.
             I know this year I'm going to have fun
             but at my own pace - and I won't have to run.
             I'll miss my friends at Parranda this year.....
             as I sit on the deck, in the sun, with my beer.

             So Feliz Navidad - Merry Christmas to all.
             I need clothes for my trip so I'm going to the mall.

Friday, December 14, 2012

May God Bless Newtown, Connecticut

My heart aches this evening after learning more details of the school shooting in Connecticut.  Twenty children, all very young elementary age, dead, along with seven adult school employees and the gunman himself.  The words to explain how I feel don't come easily.  As one who has lost a child to tragedy, I know how each and every one of those parents are feeling this evening.  It's a feeling I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, let alone anyone else.  Each of those parents is missing a piece of their heart this evening - and that piece will never, ever return.  And only those of us who have experienced it truly understand how it feels.

I have cried several times today watching the coverage.  My son died in a car accident and wasn't murdered by some crazed gunman.  I think, if I had my choice, I would say I'm glad my son died the way he did rather than be gunned down in a classroom and having to watch as his fellow classmates were shot before him.  I have never looked at his death from that perspective but it could have been so much worse.  My son died without ever really knowing what happened to him.  These kids saw it all before it happened to them.  How terrified they must have been.

There are already more demands for gun control and the President, from his remarks,  seems determined to change the gun laws in the United States following this tragedy.  Once again, the sad truth is that if we outlaw guns for the average, law-abiding citizen, then only those who mean us harm will have guns in their possession.  And that will put us all in danger.

I'm really not trying to start a debate on gun control because that's not the purpose of this post.  This is about the 20 children and 8 adults, yes, including the gunman himself, who died today.  I'm not going to waste a whole lot of sympathy on the gunman except to feel sorry that he was in the shape he was in this morning, but what happened to him to cause him to kill his own mother (reportedly with a gunshot to the face) and then go to the school where she worked and kill a classroom full of kindergarteners?  It is unfathomable to me.

There are those in this country and the world who would ask "If God exists, why would He allow this to happen?"  My answer is easy.  God wants and expects us to turn to Him for everything but He doesn't force it and He rarely interferes in the daily activities of mankind on Earth.    He leaves us to our own devices - whether we make good choices or not.  And He lets our choices play out as they will. 

May the Almighty God comfort the victims, children, parents and families of those who died in Connecticut today as only He can.  My heart goes out to all of you.  You will survive this tragedy but you'll never be the same.  I promise you both of those things.  I wish I could make it easier but it's not in my power.  I'll leave you with the advice I was given when my son died...  "Cry often.  It helps."

Let God Back In

I posted this last year after a school shooting.  In lieu of today's events in Connecticut, I thought it appropriate to post again.  According to reports, 27 people, including 18 children and the gunman, are dead.  One can only look at events like these and wonder how something like this could happen.  I, for one, believe that forcing God out of our society is the major cause.  The following is my opinion of where we are as a society, written several years ago but still pertinent today.

I would ask that all believers pray for the victims  and families of this horrible tragedy.  May God comfort them all as only He can.

Let God Back In

I have been watching the news of the latest school shootings, this time at a high school in Omaha, Nebraska.  I first posted this a couple of months ago but given the circumstances I thought it should be posted again.  Once more I ask - what is it about America that has turned our young people into murderers?  Will it ever end?  If so, how?

In August of 1966, Charlie Whitman, a product of an abusive home, a former Marine and a student at the University of Texas in Austin, opened fire on the city of Austin from atop the university tower.  An expert marksman, he killed 14 people and injured dozens of others before finally being killed by police.  While Whitman's story is somewhat different than the shootings happening in our schools today, he was the first.  He started this insanity.

Since the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999, there have been so many incidents that people aren't shocked anymore.  Saddened yes, but shocked - no.  It happens everywhere from major cities to small town Arkansas and North Carolina.  It happens in all levels of society and the perpetrators are from various families, with money and without.

Monday's tragic carnage at Virginia Tech is just another example of society gone wrong.  It's time to stop looking at these killers as disturbed individuals and begin looking at them as a group.  We need to find out what is turning these kids into monsters and we need to find out quickly.

People can say what they want about what I write here but this is my take on the whole thing:

In 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock published his first book on raising children.  A highly intelligent man who meant no harm, Spock and his book were the beginning of the downfall of the young people in this country.  Spock told parents to be more relaxed and flexible and to be more of a friend to their children, treating them as individuals. He said spanking them was harmful.

Until this information became popular, discipline in the home was one of the top priorities.  Of course there were parents who went overboard, as there are today. But children were raised to respect the law, their elders, their country and each other.  In the 1950s, children (teenagers included) were polite and respectful for the most part.  They got in trouble but didn't blame society or their parents.  They had a good work ethic and got part-time jobs so they could have spending money instead of having it given to them.  When they were old enough, if they wanted a car, they worked to save the money to buy what they could afford instead of having Mommy and Daddy buy them a new one.  They did what their parents told them to do and would never even imagine the idea that they could sue their parents if they weren't happy about something.

They went to church with their families, ate meals with their families and prayed; not only in church but at home and even in school.  They said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school and proudly stated “one nation, under God.”  There was no shame and no one complained about their rights being violated.

Dr. Spock’s well intended books encouraged parents to stop teaching their children the three R’s:  respect, responsibility and reason.  Instead he promulgated the idea of children doing what they wanted, when they wanted, without worrying about the consequences.  I know he didn’t mean to do this.  But this was the result.  When parents stopped punishing their children for doing something wrong, those children stopped learning the consequences of their actions.

To get a glimpse of the major changes that began in the Spock generation, look at the difference between the young people of the 1950s and the young people in the 1960s.  The 60s generation was the beginning of the result of Spock’s influence on American parents.  Young people changed their appearance dramatically because they didn’t want to conform to society’s rules.  And their Spock-trained parents hugged them and encouraged them to be individuals.  They began to experiment openly with chemical substances.  (Not that substance abuse hadn’t been going on already but it was never in public until the 60s.)  They began to leave home and family and flock together to places where they could do what they wanted and not worry about consequences.  They did what they wanted without conscience because as children they were hugged and encouraged when they did something wrong instead of disciplined and taught consequences.

Somewhere in the middle of this Spock influence another group of Americans began telling us what we were doing wrong.  They began telling the U.S. courts their rights were being violated by the vast majority of Americans and that things needed to change.  Somewhere, somehow, amidst all of the other negative changes in this country, atheists began wielding power in the courts and convinced the Supreme Court that they (Atheists) were being abused.

In 1963, Madeline Murray (she didn’t become O’Hare until after this court case) won a decisive court battle that eventually ended prayer in public schools.  While it took a while for prayer in school to totally disappear, it was this woman and this case that eventually stopped children from being allowed to pray in school.  And it was just another pathway to a tragic future for our children.

Throughout the next forty years atheists continued working to stop the majority of people in this country from practicing and living their religious beliefs in public because it “violated their rights as non-believers.”  In 2002, an atheist in California convinced the Supreme Court that subjecting his son to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance was harmful and violated his rights.  The Supreme Court, in all their wisdom, decided because the words “under God” made this man feel uncomfortable the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance by school children must cease.

It’s called “living constitution” philosophy, which allows that judges decide what the Constitution meant rather than following the Constitution as written.  Two of three Supreme Court Justices decided this man’s discomfort was more important than the beliefs of the overwhelming majority of Americans.  And these same judges “swear or affirm” that they will uphold the law and judge cases to the best of their abilities “so help me God.”  I don’t know how they could be qualified to make a decision involving God or religion after taking that particular oath.  ??

For the next four decades the circle of life continued.  The children of the 60’s generation grew up with less discipline and less values than their parents.  They, in turn, taught their children even less responsibility and respect until, in the 90’s, children grew up thinking their parents and society in general owed them something.  Many parents agreed and gave their children everything.  They meant well.  They only wanted their children to have the best in life.  Sadly however, their children don’t know the value of a dollar, how it feels to work hard to get something you want, or what it means to wait for something until you can get it yourself.

My siblings and I were born in the late 40’s and throughout the 50’s.  We were raised by parents who not only didn’t agree with Dr. Spock’s ideas but who had an idea what the results would be.  We were spanked – sometimes even with a belt or a switch – and had our mouths washed out with soap for using bad language or talking back.  We spent time in our rooms for bad behavior and were grounded for a week or two at a time.  We were made to apologize to people if we did them wrong and made to take responsibility for our actions.  We suffered whatever consequences arose from those actions.  Through all the punishments we received over the years none of us felt we were abused or would ever have thought of calling the police or taking our parents to court.

We went to church on Sundays, sometimes twice.  We prayed before eating dinner together as a family, at night before going to sleep, in school and in restaurants before a meal, and anytime we felt we needed to talk to God.  We were taught to respect other people and their beliefs, even if their beliefs were different than ours. We would never have asked that others be prevented from practicing their beliefs just because we didn’t believe the same thing.  We were taught to love and respect our country and flag and that it’s sometimes necessary to defend them.

We grew up in this manner, completely opposite of the way Dr. Spock said we should be raised.  Yet we grew up to be honest, hard working, God fearing people who still respect other people, our country, individual rights and your freedom to believe as you wish.  We have all successfully raised children in the same manner.  Each of those children has respect for their parents, for other people, for God and their country.

We never killed anyone in school when we were growing up and neither did our kids.  We were disciplined and taught to love and respect others no matter how different they were.  We risked going to jail or being sued by our kids and spanked them, grounded them and sent them to their rooms when they did something wrong.  They had to apologize and make things right when they wronged someone. And I’m pretty sure most of our kids even tasted soap at one time or another when they were little.  I know mine did.  They were taught about God, His love, prayer and faith.  They went to school in the 90’s and 2000’s.  They never brought a gun to school and never killed a classmate or a teacher.  And fortunately for them (thank God), none of them ever had to face a gun at school either.

So how do we correct this growing problem of school violence and kids who kill? Activist Michael Moore thinks gun control is the answer.  Those who believe gun control will stop people from having guns and shooting people are sadly mistaken.  I, for one, believe the answer lies with every parent and with God.  Teaching our kids discipline, respect for others, principles and family values, teaching our kids that hard work and perseverance to achieve something are more rewarding than having everything given to them, and bringing God back into our homes and schools are the first steps toward healing our nation.  You can bet God was in Virginia Tech on that Monday and that many of those students and faculty were talking to Him.  He was in Columbine and in Arkansas and in North Carolina.

I say let God back in and let Him, along with their families, straighten out these disturbed kids.  I could be wrong.  But what we’re doing now certainly isn’t working.