Saturday, November 26, 2011

How I Exercise

After approximately 10 years of VERY little physical exercise, I've begun swimming laps somewhere between once and three times a week for thirty to forty five minutes.  It feels wonderful. Endorphins, flatter stomach, and a weight drop of about ten pounds are some of the most obvious rewards. 

Swimming is one of the most joyful activities of my entire life. I learned to swim well as a child. (Thank you, Mama and Daddy and Camp Martha Johnston and the Elks Club). I even took water ballet my fourteenth summer and some of the flips and twists and turns I now enjoy come from  these lessons.

The last time I exercised my body steadily was from 1996 to 2000 where I journeyed from a klutzy white belt to a disciplined powerhouse of a brown belt in Okinawan Karate.
This has influenced everything in my life.  

I exercise my goats some, but not enough.
 As you can tell, they are quite fat.

I exercise going to the chicken coop several times a day looking for eggs. Then I get even more exercise as I look all over my yard for the undisclosed destination where the wild chickens lay. Their eggs are a real delicacy. I haven't seen any in two months or more, but I look almost every day.

I exercise my temper on occasion. Too much, I am sure, because it is quite fit.  Lately I've been trying exercise silence or at least letting my husband have the last word.

I exercise my right to vote every chance I get.  I've exercised my right to peacefully assemble to protest the war in Iraq several times.  I've yet to exercise this particular right in the Occupy Movement, but they have my attention.  Police violence against peaceful protestors isn't exactly my idea of how power should be exercised.

I exercise my freedom of religion, attending the 
church of my choice most Sundays.

I exercise my right to free speech, but I try to use it judiciously. My intention in writing is not inflame others, but for my words to help people find common ground. My purpose also involves helping others' voices be heard, especially my husband's voice. He is a common sense genius and he is a catastrophically combat wounded Vietnam veteran.

Back in my younger days, being just a kid in the sixties, I watched our country burn, I saw riots in the streets, saw presidents, would be presidents, and civil rights leaders assassinated.  It made a deep impression on me, as did rock and roll. Believe me, growing up in Macon, Georgia, home to the Allman Brothers, there has always been a judicious amount of rock and roll.

I'm a child of the sixties and came to age in the seventies which left me a rebel without a cause. I never used to look twice at military types, having decided early on I was a peacenik.  Then in my thirties I began meeting all kinds of Vietnam veterans and listening to their stories. Then when I was thirty five, I fell in love with one who, to me, had the most riveting story of them all. I pledged to tell his story. He agreed to let me. I exercise this agreement all the time. 

I don't much exercise the right to bear arms. I don't like them, don't trust them. I trust my self defense techniques I learned a decade ago much more than I trust myself with a gun.  I did get a rifle,  for home defense or in case a rabid animal gets in my yard, but I hope to never use it.

All and all, I exercise a great deal. I hope you do too.

all art by Carole Dixon

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Thank A Veteran?

by Carl C
spoken Nov. 13, 2011

Welcome to my church. I signed the book here 20 years ago.

Will all military veterans please stand.    
Let us honor those among us who were and are willing to lay their lives on the line for the rest of us.

My name is Carl C and I served as a United States Marine Corps Rifleman, mostly in the mountains of the Demilitarized Zone, Vietnam for almost a year, between July 1968 and May of 1969. I joined the Marines in 1967 and was put on the Permanently Disabled Retired List in September 1969.

A young Veteran of our recent WARS who was being interviewed on PBS last Friday night was talking about how great it was to be in uniform when people would come up shake his hand and thank him for serving his country. Now, out of uniform, the armed service and homeless, all he gets is: oh you were in the military, that's nice, that will be 5.95 for that coffee.

What it means to be a veteran to a lot of people is once you take off your uniform, you are just another American living in a world without structure or respect while often carrying a mindful of experiences that have no place in civilized society. There is no use for the many skills that are second nature to the military person. Once you are out of uniform you have to learn to channel this energy into something useful.  

I can't speak for other veterans whose experiences are different from mine.  I was catastrophically wounded. It changed what was attainable for me and what wasn't. I went from being a physically fit 19 year old to being a mutilated 20 year old. I had to depend on others to do the smallest things for me. I had to become independent again, by learning such things as how to walk with crutches, climb up and go down stairs without falling or injuring my already damaged body and how to to drive a car with my left foot and left hand.  

Catastrophic injuries are very common for the veterans of our latest wars.

I don't know the answer to help these veterans. I don't see what is out there for them as far as opportunities are concerned. A career and or educational goals can often go a long way in keeping the effects of PTSD at a manageable level. But if the past is a predictor of the future, our Congressman and Senators will continue to cut and nibble away at our hard earned compensation and benefits for military veterans.  

A thank you is real nice, but these veterans need more than a thank you.  So if you have an opportunity to help a veteran in any way to show your appreciation, please do so.

I will say though, it is nice to be thanked and this is something we can all do - thank a veteran. It is the least any of us can do and it always makes my day when I am thanked.

We stopped at our favorite place to eat in Metter, GA on our way home on Veterans Day after visiting with my son on his birthday, November 10th,. which by the way, he shares with the United States Marine Corps. Taped to the door of the restaurant was a sign that said "free buffet for veterans." Some chain restaurants offer a limited free menu on Veterans Day, but at Bevricks, everything was free. This was a nice surprise; I was going to eat there anyway.  It wasn't cheap for the restaurant. Lots of veterans were eating there. Their tables were full of veterans. It was a great gesture and made me feel appreciated. They even took my picture and said they would post it on Facebook. This unexpected free meal is something I won't forget. 

I usually go to a local cemetery to attend a memorial service on Veterans Day. The services are nice and it is great to be thanked, but our lives were changed irrevocably by our service every single day and alters the way we see the world.  I see Memorial Day as the day to honor the dead and November 11th as the day to honor our living veterans.  

No matter how we might feel about our country's policies, most people join the military with honorable intentions to protect the common good of all of us. Let's keep these veterans in our thoughts all year long, not just on a designated day in November. And yes, a thank you goes a long way in honoring their sacrifices any day of the year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Occupying the Hard Rock Hotel

I'd never been to any of these middle Florida resort extravaganzas before. I swore I wasn't curious about Universal Studios - not at all interested in the American Pretend Universe and yet there I went. We were there because Carl C's son wanted to have fun and make memories with his father. We explored a mountain trip (too hilly for the handicapped) and the Keys (too long a drive for bad hips) and ended up  in Orlando Florida at the Hard Rock Hotel with its huge pool and total accessibility.

Upon arriving, I with stunned about how seduced I was with Rock and Roll when I was young and how it now seemed to be a domain for the rich and self absorbed. My original condemnation was pervasive, but during our stay my preconceived notions about the resort began to melt away.

Looking around I saw a great many employed people who were pleasant and urged me to abandon worry and step into a safe and wholesome environment. Enjoy myself. Just as I thought I was getting in the swing of having fun;  I read a private message in facebook from my youngest granddaughter.

"I've got namona, Nana. Cough. I gots the medicen."'

My younger self warred with my older self. "Worry," says my old self. "Don't worry, be happy. It is under control," said the earlier incarnation of myself, the part of me who gets this place and was ready to party. I hardly remembered how to put my cares aside, but I was trying.

The plant life at this resort was beautiful, micromanaged and non-native. The curves in the landscape and buildings excited my imagination and gave the illusion of great space, though I knew the paths were convoluted with plantings hiding the proximity of the next path. I had the illusion I was somewhere foreign, another country or a new reality. The resort was perfectly choreographed. We rode the water taxi which conveniently schlepped us from one destination to another in beautiful blue green dead water. Water seemed a precious commodity there - water, water everywhere without a drop to drink. 

I was not wearing an "occupied" sign and my main act of rebellion was my eclectic Walmart wardrobe. It was Halloween around there, the time to darken into my shadow and become more who I truly am - so I wore more and more scarfs everyday and even used precious cash to buy a golden snitch to hold them in place. The magic was palpable. I sat in gratitude and sunlight.  My expectations of wicked rich people were not being met. I was carrying with me a big dose of judgement about people who vacation at Universal Studios. Slowly, I let go of this.

The next day, my granddaughter wrote to me:  "I'm at Memama's house. I just threw up and Memama went to go get Daddy and I am alone." I got on the phone and discovered all was under control.

Roger Rabbit was the first movie I ever saw which blended cartoons and people. CityVille, part of the Universal Studios Resort Center, gave a mirage of these two worlds coming together and by the end of the second day, I had succumbed to the illusion of the place. Around the pool, in the common areas - everywhere, I saw families, not vile wealthy people. I noticed there was actually an economy here. A bellhop told me the park was dying until the Harry Potter section opened summer before last. Now it is a destination spot for people from all over the world.

Halloween at the Hard Rock suited me and the accumulation of scarves began my transformation into the bag lady of the lobby. This met the requirements of my occupation agenda even as I recognized having money isn't dishonorable in itself, and vacationing here is not a manifestation of the devil. Though I understand the ecological havoc this resort must play in the area, I loved the stimulation to my imagination and the joy I felt there. My step-son's generosity and care for his father touched me deeply.  Leaving my cares in the capable hands of the next generation was a lesson in letting go. Awareness of my own prejudices brought insights.

I urge everyone to occupy their own lives no matter where they are, to look around, and become aware of their fellow Americans and to stop demonizing our own people, businesses and government. Yes there are bad corporations out there and an unholy covenant between these businesses and the policies of our nation and there are wrongs that need righting. Despite these grave concerns, my vacation taught me to not be so serious about everything and to not to protray those who have jobs and money as wicked. It brought me back in touch with my rock and roll youth and blended it into my present life. After all, without the music where would we be now? Rock and Roll gives our movements life, moves the people, tells their stories and provides us all with the collective energy to transform. So rock and roll, hootchie coo!