Honesty, openness, caring. Encouragement in spades, I hope. Hang in there.

**PLEASE NOTE: I have again made this the “sticky” post (i.e. the first post anyone sees when coming to the page) because I believe that, if you read no other posts, this one is the one that is most important and has the most impact in terms of message and encouragement. All new posts will appear below it and thank you for understanding! 

I was thinking of different things to blog about, today. Some were cheery, some were silly, some were entirely too close to the Sunshine and Rainbows Coming Out of Your Backside, now that I look back at them, to be honest with you. I started this site as a way of posting thoughts and ideas, but above all as a vehicle to offer encouragement. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized that encouragement comes in many different packages. Not all of them are trite, smiley faced emoticons or pictures of cute kittens that say “Hang in there!” Sometimes, they come wrapped in tragedy, whether they be ours or someone else’s. Seems incongruous, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. If I may ask a favor of you, the reader – if you never have read another post on this page; if you never read another one, please read this one. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and I believe this blog post may be the most important one I ever put on here. Why? I have no idea. I can’t see the future – but I believe someone, at some time, will read this and it will speak to them. It will be a message of encouragement, but there are going to be some bumps along the way. Hang on.

I was trying to find an image from a graphic novel that I have, entitled, “JLA : Liberty and Justice.” To make a long story short, rumors of a plague are spreading and in one panel a girl decides to end it quickly by jumping from a bridge instead of suffering alone. The final image on the page is Superman holding her in his arms and the caption reads, “But on this night, no one was forgotten, least of all by those who had promised to save others from despair.” I couldn’t find that one. I am glad I couldn’t actually, because I found this one, instead. It’s a section from another story in which Superman deals with a young girl who has decided to end her life by jumping from a building ledge. I don’t know if it’s considered good form or poor to post a link rather than the image itself, but the images were long, so please forgive me and don’t be put off by having to go to the actual page and read it. Just read it. The post won’t make much sense if you don’t. I’ll wait. I promise.

http://imgur.com/gallery/Ijdxh

Wasn’t that something? As I finished reading it, I suddenly realized that I had my post. See, I could easily identify with both people in that story. I could identify with the Man of Steel, and I could identify (God knows I could identify) with the girl on the ledge. I’ve been in the position of raging at the unfairness of life and being the one whose only answer to give was “Because life isn’t fair or unfair; it just is.”  In the Bible they call that “The rain falls on the just and on the unjust.” 

I probably dreamed of saving the world at one time; heck, as a lifetime fan of Superman I KNOW I did, but I started out truly believing I would save just one person. In this case, it was my niece, Rebecca whom I loved dearly; whom I played with, watched and re-enacted “Superman II” with about a bazillion times, re-enacted episodes of The Munsters with (strangely enough, I always had to play Herman)  and who ultimately ended up dying of cystic fibrosis at the age of 8. I always knew she was sick, but that didn’t matter, you see. I was her smart “Uncle Clark” (She really did call me that – a privilege none of my other nieces or nephews were allowed to enjoy) who promised her that I was going to grow up, find a cure for her disease and cure her so that she could play and not have to go to the hospital for breathing treatments, not be sick, and be able to play like all her friends. I didn’t tell her I’d try, I didn’t tell her I’d give it my best; I promised her, in all my youthful ignorance, that I’d do it. Period. She believed me. I can still see her smiling.

Yet she died. One day my brother Jeff came and got me from school. When we got in the car he said “Jame, Bec died this morning.”  My entire world self-destructed. it was only years later, when i finally started to come apart at the seams, mentally, and went to counseling in college that I realized that from that day on, I carried the burden of believing I had lied to her. I LIED. Not only had I not saved her, I had lied to her, and I never forgave myself for it.

As I read the comic and saw the pain on Superman’s face when he spoke of wanting to save the world; when he said “…and sometimes…we don’t.”  I felt that pain again. When he spoke of his friend who “checked out early,” I saw again a girl I watched, literally, grow up in a time when coming from a home of mixed parentage (white and black), as well as a home with an absent father was a curse in my little home town and who was roundly ostracized for it and called about every racial slur you could come up with. A girl who used to come on the bus still eating her breakfast (usually something like toast) and who would sit by me because I was pretty much the only one who would allow her to. (They lived right down the road from me; I knew she and her brother well)  A girl who in all probability I wasn’t half as good a friend to as I needed to be and who decided one night that her life was no longer worth living. At the age of 16, she hanged herself in a girls’ home in Schenectady. I remembered coming home and being told of it and having to literally put a plate down so that I didn’t throw it into a wall in a blind fury. She never got a break, that girl, and in the end, she decided there weren’t going to be any more good days for her, I suppose.

She died, too, despite all my high sounding words and good intentions.

When the girl spoke of burying her mother, I could identify with it. I’ve buried a mother, a father at 17, a brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, and friends of friends. It seems, sometimes, in my 44 years of life that it’s been one long funeral. In the words of the poet, Thomas Moore, “I feel like one who treads, alone, some banquet hall, deserted. Whose lights are fled, whose garlands, dead, and all, but he, departed.”  As a home dad with two special needs sons and who was diagnosed epileptic about 2 years ago, I could readily identify with the times of hopelessness that come upon you when you look around and say things like, “Really? Is THIS the life I expected?” “Is this all there is?” Back in the days when I dreamed of being a nuclear physicist, a meteorologist, or even just “too busy helping other people to ever be married,” I would have laughed at anyone who told me what my life would turn out to be, too. I could identify with those feelings, that she expressed.

I can even identify with suicidal thoughts, as I am sure all of us can, from one time or another in our lives. I have had days when my life has nosedived and crashed, HARD, into the ground.

Yet, in that story, there is hope, and there is encouragement, just as there is in MY story. The hope and encouragement comes not from Superman swooping in, solving the problems and saving the day, all while lecturing the person on how suicide is “no way out” and showing them being led off to a better life by helpful doctors, as it would have been once upon a time.  It comes, instead, from Superman doing what we all can do; being human, being vulnerable, and caring enough to help. Caring enough to listen. Caring enough to care. He doesn’t lecture, he doesn’t push, he doesn’t anything except care. He gives the girl room, and he doesn’t try and downplay what she’s feeling. The encouragement that he gives, the hope that he gives, I have received a hundredfold from my friends and my family. I have been blessed beyond words to have had friends who cared enough to listen, and to be there; family who have cared enough to listen (my sister, my brothers, my mother) and an unshakable faith that, in the end, this is not all that there is.

I don’t know where you are right now. I don’t know what you are facing, have faced, or may face. To you, all I can do is offer this: you are not alone.  If you are in pain, or you are suffering, you are not the only one who is. There are those who care, and those who will listen. Don’t give in, and don’t give up. Superman said “If you think there’s a chance that there may be one more happy day out there, take my hand.” I’m here to tell you that there IS another happy day. DON’T GIVE UP.

I’m also here to say to you, the reader, that if you are not going through these things but you know those who are, don’t be afraid to be the one who steps up alongside them and offers to listen. We live in a world that is rapidly becoming faster and faster paced, and with the advent of so many electronic gadgets and ways of keeping in contact with one another over electronic mediums, is also becoming less and less human. We live in a society where people are “afraid to look foolish,” or “afraid they may misunderstand.” Don’t let that stop you or make you be distant from others. You may not be able to save everyone; indeed, no one can – but you never know what difference YOU may make with just a word, a smile, or a kind gesture. It may mean nothing to you, but it may, literally, mean everything to someone else.

I should know – I’m living proof of what a difference it can make, and I’m eternally grateful.

God bless today, my friend.

A call for reason, a call for using your most powerful weapon – your MIND.

Friends, you know that here at The Takedown, I have pledged that I would not post things “just” to post them. I would not post syrupy, sappy “Oh hey, here’s what I had for breakfast this morning” or “Hey, I got a new puppy!” kind of posts. The premise is that The Takedown would be a place in which things of meaning would be brought up, and so it will be with this post. It will probably be a lengthy one, but I hope that not only will everyone read it, but that they will all realize that it is speaking to every single one of us. This post, although it will touch on political matters in a general sense, is not a “political” post.

I have walked this Earth for close to 50 years (although I have one friend, in particular, who claims that it’s closer to 600 or so – he keeps changing the total on me!) and in all that time I have never, and I do mean never seen the levels of downright, hysterical, “drive your funny car right off the cliff without looking back” derangement going on since the last Presidential election ended. Now, it is important to stress that whatever your political affiliation is or is not, whether you like the President or do not, whether you are Republican, Democrat, Centrist, Independent, Lunatic Fringe – this is something that affects all of us. WE, as a nation, are suffering and will continue to suffer if this continues. 

  • We have sitting government officials and representatives calling for violence (and make no mistake – violence is what is being condoned, here, no matter how veiled the words) against those who support the current administration.
  • We have public officials being denied service and harassed, openly, in public simply because others don’t agree with them. (Imagine, for a moment, people doing this in the previous President’s administration, or ANY other President’s cabinet in the last 20 or so years, or to members of his cabinet. Yes. It’s a double standard, and a glaring one.)
  • We have a news media that seems, 24/7 to do nothing but predict doom, gloom and trash any and everything that the President and his administration does. (Although it has never been perfect, I can remember a time when the media was a lot less biased, and certainly less openly biased, than it is now)
  • Perhaps most frightening, large groups of people seem to have abandoned any and all ability to have rational, intelligent discourse with people who have opinions different than their own and in many cases, as has been reported in media outlets, have resorted to verbal and physical abuse against those with whom they disagree.

This is America? Land of the free, home of the brave? The Great Melting Pot? Not from where I stand. The question is, why? WHY is this happening, and more importantly, what can we, each of us, do to stop it and keep it from spreading and getting steadily worse? What is happening is beyond simple disagreement. It’s evil at its base, and evil in its nature. Yes, it’s from an episode of a TV show but I remember two things that Mr. Spock once said that I find to be very true, in life: “Evil seeks to maintain power by suppressing the truth” and “Without followers, Evil cannot spread.”  The Boot of Truth is that WE – you and I – in whatever capacity we are able to be – need to not allow the Truth to be suppressed, and we need to not be followers. We need to have the courage to go against the flow and speak up when obvious mistruths are being spread, and when people are reacting, on emotion, rather than responding from a point of reason and information. At the college a few days ago, I overheard a rather heated conversation and watched a woman in her 20’s literally become so agitated and so overwrought that she could not stand still during a conversation. The reason? She was ranting about “The President is separating children and putting them in cages!!!” and the instructors that she was speaking to were pointing out, quite rightly, that first of all, the pictures being used had been manipulated, in some cases, and in others were pictures from previous administrations who had either begun that policy or were continuing it. The current President was doing the same and continuing the policy. Yet, the more reason they injected, the more agitated she became until she was literally clenching and unclenching her fists and hopping from foot to foot, not listening to what was being said and just repeating her statement, like a mantra. At that point I stepped into the conversation in support of the others and then asked what area of work she was going into. She replied she wanted to go into social work. I then said, calmly, that speaking from my experience as an EMT who works with the public, if she had no better self-control or emotional control than she was displaying here, it may be wise for her to consider an alternative career. After all, I may have very strong feelings about certain issues, but I cannot let that be on display or get in the way when I am serving someone else. That isn’t why I’m there and it isn’t an appropriate time. The room got very quiet. She laughed and sputtered something about learning how to control herself in classes, later on, at which point I began pointing out all the obvious clues that showed she was emotionally overwrought and upset from a simple disagreement. I then said “Self control cannot be taught. You have to choose to engage it.” I then withdrew. I took a chance, surely, but I felt compelled to speak up and say something, and hopefully it stuck with her, or will come back to her at a later point. I refused to be a bystander. All in all, it was a fascinating, yet disheartening example of people who use only their feelings, their emotions, and act on them without bothering to get all of the information that’s available. (And yes, it goes both ways, and I’m aware of that. This is an example – not a be-all, end-all) 

Friends – as I said before – whatever your political affiliation, whatever your stance, PLEASE, for your sake and all of ours, use and engage your intelligence. Don’t just act on emotion. Don’t take what any one news source says as the Gospel truth. Search out other sources as well and make as informed a decision as you can. Use REASON, not EMOTION. We are seeing where people are waking up and realizing that this is getting out of hand and are beginning to move away, and that gives me hope, but it’s not enough. Perhaps the hardest of all, remember a quote from “As a Gentleman Would Say,” in dealing with some people that you will encounter out there:

Capture

Sometimes, unfortunately, you do need to know “when to say when,” as it were. For some people, there is no reasoning with them, and those people are better left to discover their way on their own.

I hope this made sense, my friends. God bless.

 

Hello again! A return from the land of college classes!

I had mentioned this in a previous post, but hey, repetition can be a good thing, sometimes, right? I can expound on it a bit, too.

That’s right, yours truly has been absent from The Takedown for some personal reasons. The greatest of those reasons, thankfully, has NOT been a bad one, but instead has been quite good, namely, the fact that I am working my way through taking college courses to obtain a degree to become a Medical Assistant!

After a short stint in an ICU at a local hospital (which did not last, for reasons I will not go into here, save to say that when they offered me the chance to leave on good terms, I took it, and gladly), I realized that most jobs I could get outside of EMS itself would give me little to no chance to actually utilize my skills and training as an EMT. It was then that it was suggested to me that I look into being a Medical Assistant. Basically combining the best of both worlds, it would give me the chance to use many of my EMT skills (patient history, vital signs, and others) and also give me the chance to work on the documentation/office skills side as well.

The classes have been enjoyable for the most part, although it is VERY odd to be some 30 years older than most of the other students. It has given me a great appreciation not only for the education that I have, as well as the life experience, but for the opportunity that I have had to educate myself and get an education in the schools I have attended. It’s a humbling thing when you are in classes with people in their 20’s and older who have not even a basic knowledge of math skills, English grammar or the like. It has also given me a good course in humility, as it would be easy to lord it over the other students and come off like a genius or know it all, but instead to be reminded of how blessed I have been, and to use that as a way to encourage others that they, too, can do it. There’s nothing “special” about me.

Combined with some necessary life changes, things have been kind of busy on this end, but again, in ways that have been primarily good ones. No complaints, and no worries for you, my faithful readers! I appreciate those who have joined and followed, and also those who keep coming back whenever a new blog post pops up. Stay tuned, because more will definitely be following!

God bless, my friends.

 

“Words have no power other than what we give them” – or – “A good reason to keep involved in your children’s schooling”

Friends, there are whole pages I could type on this subject, but I do believe that this article, versions of which I found in many sources, says it better than I could. All I will add is this:

If you have children, whatever grade or level of education that may be in, PLEASE – for their sake and for yours, PLEASE stay involved in what they are doing, what they are learning, and what they are being taught as opposed to what you THINK they are being taught. I vividly remember an episode not too long ago when a lesson on “religions of the world” was shelved in my son’s 6th grade class because, upon doing some research on it, it turned out to be not a study on the religions in the world, but instead a class on moral equivalence; one designed to teach that all religions are the same, all religions are just as good, and all religions teach the same thing. Whatever your personal views may be on religion itself, it is safe to say that that description was not only disingenuous, but also a downright falsehood. When confronted, they hemmed and hawed and dropped the class under whatever pretenses they could come up with. 

I have linked the article below. Please read it, and then stay involved. Too many people in positions of power over children use their position as a way not to teach and instruct but instead to push their own views and agendas on those children – and that’s not their job. Your rights don’t end where the school doors begin. 

God bless, my friends – and tell your children that best friends are still ok, and still a natural part of life.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/best-friend-ban-school-pentucket-workshop-preschool-georgetown-massachusetts-a8318356.html

In Memoriam of a Patriot and One who served – R. Lee Ermey

My most humble apologies for the lateness of this post; I was out of town over the weekend, having been unexpectedly called away, and was unable to put anything here on The Takedown when the news broke of R. Lee Ermey’s unexpected death.

R. Lee Ermey died this past Sunday from complications of pneumonia. He was 74. Known to most as “The Gunny,” he was a patriot and a veteran, having served in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam conflict. He was an avid supporter of Toys for Tots, as well – that alone makes him an ace in MY book. Most remember him from his role as the sadistic drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket,” but I remember him most fondly from his roles in such shows as Mail CallLock N’ Load, and Gunny Time.

He believed in our country, right AND wrong, and believed that despite its faults, it was still the greatest country in the world – and I agree with him. This quote, taken from a tribute to him found here, says it best, I believe:

“Most actors in Hollywood seem preoccupied with fitting a mold, of being liked. Ermey seemed to simply be R. Lee Ermey, and if anyone didn’t like it, tough. At the same time, though, it doesn’t seem like he went out of his way to offend, either. He simply was.”

Semper Fi, Gunny. May you have been ready when your time came, and found peace with God when you stepped into eternity.

In honor of him, I present this video of a GEICO commercial with the Gunny as a therapist – one that makes me laugh every time I see it. God bless, my friends.

GEICO Therapist

Hello again! Some new news and an update!

First off, I hope all of you had a most excellent Easter/Resurrection Sunday. I was blessed to have spent the time with my family and at the local church we attend, and so passed the day quite well and with much happiness.

I return to The Takedown with some news, namely that yours truly is going back to college! That’s right – at a young 47 I am going BACK to school to obtain a Medical Assistant Associate’s Degree. Much has happened in my absence, including a most unhappy stint at a local hospital after being hired in the ICCU. (That’s another post, and another subject, so be watching for it!) It cemented in my mind that if I wanted to put the skills that I have been given to use, as well as make the most of my EMT certification, I had two choices; work full time in EMS (which is problematic because of my epilepsy conflicting with having to work overnight hours in most cases) or get off my lazy backside, GET back to school and finish the college that I had started Lo! so many years ago.

Guess which one I chose?

Friends – if you take nothing else away from this, take this with you. You are NEVER too old, too far in your career, or too anything to make a new start. So long as you are breathing, you can make a change. DO it.

God bless, my friends!

A moment of remembrance

One of the most heinous, unrepentant, murdering psychopaths of the 20th century died on 19 November. I will neither honor, nor remember him by mentioning his name. He doesn’t deserve it.

I will, instead, ask that anyone who knows of whom I speak, or who sees or has seen that particular story in the news stop and, instead, offer a moment of silence for his victims. They were denied the extra 40 years of life that he lived, they didn’t become pop culture figures, nor did they get interviewed by the likes of Charlie Rose.

They just were murdered. Remember THEM – not him.

God bless, my friends.

 

I’m still here – and back with a post worth reading, I believe!

Hello friends! It’s been some time since I’ve posted here on The Takedown, but much has been happening in my life as of late. I have received my certification as an EMT (I may have mentioned that before), I have been volunteering with my local ambulance corps and have also been job searching, which has led me to begin work at a local hospital in December. To anyone who still is hanging around, seeing what may come on The Takedown, to you I say a hearty “Thank you!” and also express my wishes that all has been well with you in the interim.

My post comes today courtesy of my friend Matt. He brought to my attention today how harmful many of the question type posts on Facebook can be. They’re ubiquitous, those posts; they ask everything from your favorite color to your school mascot to where you met your significant other. They’re so numerous, in fact, that a great many people happily answer them without considering something that, until recently, I never considered, myself.

Those same questions are, in many cases, the same types of questions used as verification for security questions. Credit cards, bank accounts, password apps – they all use those same types of questions, more and more.

Suddenly those “harmless Facebook quizzes” don’t seem so harmless, do they?

Do yourself a favor – the next time you’re about to answer a “harmless Facebook post,” stop and consider exactly what information you’re providing – and then DON’T provide it.

God bless, my friends!

 

Wow! Where does the time go? :) A thought for today on choice vs. “making”

Hello again, and thank you to those who have stayed around to see when The Takedown would once again have a post put to it. Things have been a bit crazy on this end as I have been looking for work after getting my EMT certification, as well as dealing with some personal issues and life in general; but on the whole I won’t complain because I still have a home to live in, a family, and not the least of which, I woke up this morning!

My post today deals with something that we commonly do as people; namely blaming others for “making” us feel/act a certain way. I do it, I’m fairly sure anyone reading this does it – it’s a facet of our being human. It’s also something that is, at its base, untrue. Now before I go on, let me make one thing clear – I do not believe, and I believe it has been shown, that you cannot help your initial reaction to something. We don’t have that precise of a control over our emotions. You can, however, choose how you continue to respond to what was said or done, and that is where the distinction truly lies.

People don’t “make” us angry. We choose to be angry at what they’ve done, or what they’ve said, or how they’ve acted. They don’t “make” us anything, when it comes down to it. The responsibility for our choices, our ongoing feelings, and our reactions and responses to what happens around us lies with the one who looks back at us out of the mirror every day – US. (Or in my case, ME, since I don’t see any of you when I look in the mirror!)

There’s a popular post on Facebook that says “Clients don’t come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.” The statement is attributed to Richard Branson. It’s nice, it’s simple, but it’s not true. It all comes down to the choices each one of us make, every day. If the reason you treat people “well” or “take care of clients” is because your company treats YOU well, may I respectfully submit that there’s a problem? (Consider my work as an EMT – if I only treated my patients well because whomever I worked for/volunteered with treated ME well, I would think there’d be a REAL problem, and right quick, too!)

I prefer this thought, myself – and I believe it’s much more realistic (although I would substitute the word “nice” with “kind,” because “nice” is a social construct – but I digress:

Kindness and Peace

It’s something to think about.

God bless today, my friends!

 

August 6, 1945

On this date in 1945, a B-29 named the Enola Gay dropped the first of two atomic bombs used to end World War II. Since that time there has been endless agonizing over everything from how “inhuman” it was to use those bombs (somehow, those who experienced the Rape of Nanking, lived through the Bataan Death March or saw/learned of the atrocities committed on Japanese prisoners of war and others might disagree with you, but I digress) to how we didn’t “really” need to use them because “Japan was already beaten,” or how many people were killed by the bombs (the over 200,000 killed by conventional bombing might have something to say about that as well – the ones never spoken of in history, as a general rule; analogous to the 4+ million non-Jews killed by Hitler and his ilk, or the 30+ million people killed by Stalin prior to his becoming part of the Allies)

This article, written in 1946 for The Atlantic, was a real eye opener for me. I hope it is for you, too. Even at that time, people were saying many of the same things we hear now – and I believe the author, through his information, does an excellent job of proving those arguments fallacious.

Thank you, Colonel Paul Tibbets and crew of the Enola Gay for being willing to put your personal feelings aside and do what you felt would bring the quickest end to the war and save the most lives on both sides. I, for one, will not sit in the comfort and freedom that you, and others like you, bought for me some 70+ years later and criticize you.

Had the Atomic Bomb Not Been Used

God bless today, my friends.

WOW! And here we are again, with news!

Hello, friends! My apologies for the length of time since the last post, but things here have been quite busy with the school year ending, and my finishing up my EMT classes. I am happy to say that as of now I am qualified as an EMT, having successfully passed all of my courses and written exams, and this has not only been a source of great joy for me, but also a source of great relief as the classes are over and I can begin on the next leg of my journey.

It’s a good lesson in not doubting yourself, as well, as I was sure that had NOT passed, and ended up not only passing, but passing WELL.

Tomorrow is July 4th here in the States, the day on which we celebrate our independence from England. As I will be serving at our local ambulance corps, I want to take the opportunity to wish any and all of my readers a happy and safe 4th of July, and thank all those who have served or are serving for securing and protecting the freedoms we enjoy. THANK YOU!

And on a humorous note, here’s a 4th of July card for all of you – hope you enjoy it!

Captain Punches Hitler for 4th

God bless, my friends!