American Hero, American Sniper

Tomorrow is a sad day for America.  Yes,  February 2nd is Groundhog’s Day.  But more importantly, it is the anniversary of the death of a true American hero, Chris Kyle.

I remember the day I heard about his killing on television.  I had just finished reading his book a few days earlier and asked my husband, “Did they just say Chris Kyle was killed? I just finished reading his book!”  I was in complete disbelief.  How could this highly skilled sniper, who survived four tours in Iraq be dead? And how the heck could he have been killed on American soil?

We later learned that Kyle’s death, along with his friend, Chad Littlefield, was a result of a mentally disturbed veteran Kyle was trying to help.

Chris Kyle was an amazing and extraordinary human being.  First, he was a US Navy SEAL. The best of the best. The most elite force we have in our military. He survived four tours in Iraq.  He was highly effective at his job as a sniper.  While he struggled between devoting his life to his country and his family, Chris Kyle was able to keep his marriage in tact.  He was able to form strong bonds with his children. He overcame PTSD after his return and he was able to pull himself and his family out of bankruptcy.  He was constantly helping fellow veterans and knew the healing power of the outdoors. These are all major accomplishments and are an inspiration to veterans and non-veterans.

In his book and in the movie based on the book, American Sniper, we are reminded that there is a war going on and that civilians must help and support our veterans. He asks us in his book to give back to our soldiers who give, and give up, so much to preserve our way of life. He only lost two men during his tours and wanted all of the proceeds from his book to go to their families.  While he saved thousands of men, the two he lost constantly tugged at his heart.

From what I have read and heard, Chris Kyle was an amazing human being.  While I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, I have read and reread his book several times. I have seen how humble he was during interviews and how passionate he was about supporting his fellow veterans.  I read his Facebook posts, many of which are quite humorous! This was a man who devoted his entire life to helping and protecting others.  He was a true hero.

So, tomorrow, I am asking that you take a little time to say a prayer for Chris, his family and all of our veterans. They are still out there. They are still fighting and we cannot ever forget them.

Want to help honor Chris Kyle and all of our veterans?  Here are some ideas.

  1. Go sign up at a local United Services Organization (USO).
  2. Find out of there is a local veterans hospital in your area and see if you can visit.
  3.  Have your children or students make cards thanking soldiers for their service. Look for events honoring veterans and attend and participate in them.
  4. Fly your American flag high each and every day.
  5. Get a green light for your porch and shine it all the time.  A green light signals your support for our troops.     www.greenlightavet.com
  6. Write to your state senators and demand better treatment for our veterans at VA hospitals.

 

John 15:13  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Every morning, I read a devotional to help inspire me and guide me to be a better person.  I do not think today’s devotion was a coincidence since today is the day Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America.

“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:17

Today and for the past few months, we have not seen “respect for everyone” because of the hatred for OUR new president. There used to be a respect for elders, teachers, police officers, the military and the President of the United States. That is gone and we should all be very alarmed by this.

These pathetic celebrities who are STILL protesting are not promoting peace. They are demonstrating hatred, intolerance and defiance; the very things they accuse Trump of being/doing.

Let’s not forget one very important thing. The world is watching. A divided country will not stand. Terrorists love to see discord in America. And for those who are hoping for Trump’s assassination, SHAME ON YOU the most! The assassination of a president or other leader makes the country look weak and with all of terrorist groups out there, we cannot afford that.

Finally, and most importantly, our children are watching. Kids today are already a handful because of our warped, entitled society and now they are seeing people refuse to accept this new president because they wanted someone else. That is the equivalent of an adult temper tantrum! Stop, already! Show your children how to act if you do not get what you want. Show your children that we should give people a chance and please teach them to “respect everyone.”

May God bless America today and every day!

New Year, New Idea

Happy New Year! Well, if you made a New Year’s resolution, you are almost one full week into keeping it! How are you doing?

I was not going to make a resolution this year. Usually, I vow to eat healthier, exercise more, blah, blah, blah. And every year, I do it for a few months and then tend to go back to my old habits. Can any of you relate? I did not want to set myself up for failure, as terrible as that sounds.  So this year, I did not make any resolutions…until I read a blog written by Missy Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

If you know anything about the show, you know they are a deeply religious family from Louisiana. It is really an amazing story and one that exemplifies the American Dream.  Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, literally went from rags to riches based on an idea, hard work, and the grace of God.  The first two seasons were my favorite ones because they were less scripted but I still watch the show.

This family has had a profound impact on my life. In fact, I credit them for bringing me closer to God, but that’s for another post. Anyway, Missy is Phil’s daughter-in-law and has gone through struggles of her own with her daughter who was born with a cleft lip and palate. This family stands strong however, and does something I think is brilliant.  Instead of making a resolution to improve their appearance or to stop a bad habit, they choose a verse from the Bible as their resolution for the year. And they do it as a family. What a great idea! There are so many short and simple verses that tell us to lead a good life. Why not choose one of them to  focus on? We will not only improve ourselves, but the lives of those around us.

I started to examine myself and one of my biggest issues is worrying about things that may or may not happen.  I have gotten better about realizing that all things are in God’s hands and that worrying does absolutely NOTHING but rob me of peace, but I still tend to do it. Sometimes, I am good during the day and then when I go to sleep at night, the “what if’s?” start creeping in my brain and prevent me from sleeping.  My mind starts racing and a million different thoughts come into my mind.  I hate that!  I know many of you can relate. An alarming number of Americans (including a growing number of children) are on medication for anxiety and depression. While it may be human nature to worry, some of us take it to the extreme.  But the verse below tells us to live in the present and not think about what we cannot control in the future.

Matthew 6:34:

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

And there it is! That’s the one. That will be my resolution for 2017. It will be a challenge, but that is what a resolution is supposed to be – a challenge to make you a better person. If you want to try this, you can simply google “Bible verses on…anxiety, depression, fear, love, etc.”

Whatever you resolve to do, I wish you the best of luck!  Hope you all have happy and healthy 2017!

 

A Recovering Catholic or an Enlightened One?

Today is the third Sunday of Lent.  Over the past three weeks, I have been to three different churches on a quest to find one that will teach me about the Bible, God’s word and most importantly, to help me to be a better person.

I was raised Catholic, but over the years, I have come to disagree with many of the church’s teachings. For example, I do not agree that the wafer and wine are actually the body and blood of Christ and turn into them because of the powers of the priest. I also do not believe that a priest can absolve me from my sins through confession. Yes, I confess my sins, but I go right to the big man.  He is the only one who can forgive me in my mind.  In addition, I have never felt comfortable with the elitism that is associated with Catholics – that only those who are Catholic can receive Communion. I stopped going to Catholic churches and tried a few other denominations of Christianity.  I did not find any that I really liked, so I just stopped going. And kind of strayed away from religion.

I began praying less often, even though I still felt incredibly blessed.  I was often so tired at night that I would start to pray and then fall asleep. Or, I would start saying the “Our Father” and a million other thoughts came into my mind distracting me.  I would try and clear those thoughts out of my head and start over again and again. Yet, those other thoughts or sleep would always prevail and I would go to bed without thanking God for all He did for me that day.

A few months ago,  I started watching “Duck Dynasty” and my interest in religion and God was reignited.  I liked how none of the family members are cruel to each other, there is no drinking and sexual talk and that every episode ended with a prayer. It got me thinking that I needed to focus more on God.

For Lent this year, I decided to give up something, but to also read more about God and go to church every Sunday. I bought the Duck Dynasty Devotional book which gives a verse from the Bible, an explanation and a prayer each day.  I have also gone to church every Sunday to try and find a religion and place to pray (even though I know God is everywhere).

The first Sunday, I went to a Born Again Christian church with my husband. The first 40 minutes was singing and greeting/talking to other people. The pastor finally read from the Bible and talked about Lent, but I honestly did not learn anything new.  The whole way they did the service was very different from a Catholic church and hearing a loud band singing songs was a little too much for me at this point. However, I am willing to try another Christian church.  My husband’s aunt and uncle are very active in their church and I love talking with them about their beliefs. Plus, they are wonderful people who are truly living their lives according to God’s word.

I went back to a Catholic church last Sunday(to give it one more chance) and listened to a priest saying that Jesus gave priests and bishops the power to forgive people for their sins.  I still feel that only God can forgive you and wonder how a priest making you say 10 “Our Fathers” and 10 “Hail  Mary’s” can absolve you over your sins. In fact, I am not even sure we are supposed to pray to Mary.  So, that experience solidified the fact that I no longer consider myself a Catholic.

Today, I went to a Presbyterian church and really enjoyed it. Plus, I actually learned something! I went at 8:00 and was among only 7 other attendees. It was held in the church’s chapel and was slightly informal.  They did have a later service which the reverend said always has more people.  I ended up speaking with the reverend after the service.  He asked what brought me to the church and I told him that I was raised Catholic, but had a lot of disagreements with the church.  He said that I was one of many “recovering Catholics” that have switched to a different denomination of Christianity. (I also heard that from the pastor at the Christian church I attended.) It makes me wonder – why are there so many “recovering Catholics” and what does that mean?  What is the church trying to do to keep people there?  One thing I do not want to be is a hypocrite, so I will not be going back to a Catholic church, but I do wonder – am I a recovering Catholic or just an enlightened one?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Are you a recovering Catholic?  A devoted Catholic? An enlightened one?

Snow Days!

Okay, if you live in the Northeast, you might be sick of those two words.  In fact, you might resist the urge to even say them since we have had so many so quickly.  And it’s only February!

On Wednesday, while I was working from home (now that I am a consultant, there are no more real snow days), I saw on the news that parents and kids were going stir-crazy and that parents were walking or driving out to places where kids could play.  That made me stop and think.  Was I ever bored as a child when it snowed? Did my mom have to take my brother and I somewhere to be entertained? The answer is unequivocally – NO.  In fact, I rarely ever remember being bored when I was younger and especially not in winter!

When my mom would let my brother and I know that we had a snow day, it was a a cause for celebration!  Vince and I savored an extra day off because we used to PLAY.  All day. If it was really nasty out and we ran out of pretend games like Batman and Batgirl or having stormtroopers invade the family in my doll house, we would break out board games.  My personal favorites were Monopoly, Parcheesi, and Pokeno.  We also played card games such as Go Fish, Crazy Eights, War and Spades.  My mom would join in with those games as well, which was great!  When we were able to go outside (which we both preferred), our imaginations ran wild.  If we were not running from the abominable snowman, we were trapped on Plant Hoth (I was always Princess Lea, he was Luke Skywalker and our neighbor was Han Solo). We also went sledding, held running contests in the snow, made snowmen and snow forts and had snowball fights.  And, yes, we also helped shovel the driveway. In fact, my parents got us each our own red shovel.  Hmm. Now that I think back, I guess that was smart parenting move.  No excuses for EVERYONE not to help out!  But we just loved being in the snow and having fun!

Bored?  A need for entertainment?  My mother having to take us some place to be entertained on a SNOW DAY? Not for us!  Our house (inside and out), our imaginations and our games were all we ever needed.

Too Casual?

“Clothes allow you to see yourself in a different light. They can transform you instantly and have a very real, visceral impact. Clothes become symbolic of who we are.” – Stacy London

 

Jeans. Most everyone loves them and they are probably one of the most commonly owned pieces of clothing by Americans.

Here are two interesting facts about jeans:

1.  In 1873, Levi Strauss and Company received a patent for blue jeans.  A durable pant was needed for gold and silver miners and so they were created.  The material was called “dungarees” (which is what my grandfather used to call them!) Later on, mostly Cowboys wore jeans working the cattle ranches since they lasted much longer than cotton pants.  Since then, jeans have evolved into many different cuts including boot cut, low waist, skinny, boyfriend, straight leg, etc. Everyone in America owns a pair of jeans.

2.  Elvis Presley could only afford dungarees when he was a child because his family was so poor. As an adult, he rarely ever wore them because of that.

While jeans are great to wear for comfort or working (as originally intended), I think we have gone a bit overboard on when it is appropriate to wear jeans and there are times when more formal attire is appropriate.

 

This is totally my opinion, but I really don’t feel that jeans should be worn if:

1.  You are attending viewing or funeral.  Yes, I have seen it. To me, it is terribly disrespectful that the time could not be taken to dress up to honor a person’s life.

2.  You are attending a wedding. I don’t care if you have a button down shirt and tie on as well.  Unless the invitation states that it is very casual, a wedding is not the place to sport your Levi’s.

3.  You are a teacher – Now, wait. Don’t get angry! By all means, participate in dress down Fridays and Jeans Days (I always did!), but please do this only on Fridays. I cannot tell you how many teachers I see wearing jeans during the week. And the ones I have seen wearing jeans pair them with sweatshirts, dingy sweaters or t-shirts and old sneakers. After being in education for almost 20 years, I can say with certainty that dressing too casually affects how students treat you and perceive you as a teacher.  It can affect the whole mood of the class. If you are going to wear jeans, remember two things – you are not going to be working outside (wear nice jeans and shoes) and you are not going clubbing (lose the hoochie-mama tops and skin tight skinnies).  You are still a teacher and a professional who deserves respect. You are a role model for your students and reflection of your school. Dress like it!

4. If you are the first person a customer/client/patient sees – You are making a first impression of the office, store, doctor, etc.  I remember taking my mother to her orthopedic therapist one time and the receptionist was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. And it was a Wednesday. I immediately questioned my mother about what  type of office this was and the credibility of the physician. It did not seem very professional to me and I immediately thought negatively about the doctor, whom I had not yet met.  As it turns out, I did not care for the doctor, but my mom liked her and she got better, so I might have judged her wrong. But I did judge her and I have not forgotten that. Most people do not easily forget first impressions…

5.  If you are going to church – I know some churches say that it does not matter what you wear, as long as you are there, but I just don’t think it’s right to wear old jeans and sweatshirts to church.  Black or colored jeans or corduroys with a nice sweater and boots – yes, but not old, faded, ripped ones.  And don’t even get me started on those wearing SWEATPANTS to church! AHHH!!  I think that God deserves more!

People form opinions about us based on our appearances.  We can’t help it. It’s human nature.  And clothes are usually the first thing people notice, even before your face. Doubt me? Go to the mall and people watch.  The clothes that we wear are more powerful than we might think.

We Stood Up…

Today, I was in an elementary school to coach teachers on instructional strategies. In case you are unaware, schools are going through tremendous changes right now to meet the very challenging Common Core State Standards and new teacher evaluation systems (at least in NY and NJ).  Teachers are expected to work miracles with students who are coming to school with less and less basic skills. They are forced to teach classes of heterogeneously grouped students with huge discrepancies in terms of ability levels, non-English speaking students, severe behavior problem students as well as dealing with (and almost having to answer to) overbearing parents who continuously blame the teachers if their child is not succeeding.  Or behaving. Or not doing his homework.  Speaking from experience, teaching is more difficult now than it ever was.  Period.  And it’s not getting any easier.  I taught for 16 years and truly empathize with what our teachers are going through. Student test scores (in NJ) have become a part of each teacher’s end- of-the-year evaluation, so it is weighing heavy on each educator’s mind.  State testing, coupled with the new evaluations systems, have ultimately led teachers to “teach to the test” and as many have told me, “taken the fun out of teaching and learning.”

Driving to the school, all of these things were on my mind and I was feeling a little sad as I entered the building. I signed in, met briefly with the principal who wanted to talk about test scores, and then went into a third grade classroom. The teacher is a fabulous one and has the patience of a saint.  Out of 20 kids, she has 12 who are special education.  Two more should be classified, but their parents will not allow  it. The teacher told me how frustrated she feels but comes to work each day with a positive attitude and smile on her face – for herself and her students.  I admired her perseverance and dedication  and thought about all of the other teachers I know and work with who are unhappy with their roles and limits in the classroom.   

As I watched the tiny third graders noisily hang up their backpacks, talking with friends and vying for the teachers’ attention, a voice came over the loud-speaker and asked us to stand for the pledge of allegiance.  Everything stopped and we stood up and faced the flag.  As I crossed my hand over my heart, I saw eager little faces with tiny hands on their hearts and with their squeaky voices, lisps and slight mispronunciations, the students  loudly recited those famous words that American school children say each and every day. Pledging allegiance to our country and our flag. Putting our faith and trust in the leaders of America to do the right thing.  And suddenly, my heart grew warm, my eyes got misty and I smiled. There is something about seeing a group of children with hope in their eyes and determination in their voices that is uplifting and inspiring.  And right then, right there, I felt like things in education and our country will all work out.  It has to.  For our students. For our teachers. For our futures.