Hey, y’all, I’m back! The move from one blog site to another is complete, and now I have to figure out how to operate everything, AND I have to remember how to write!
I must admit, this month-long hiatus has made me lazy, and you should be warned that this post might be disjointed and rambling–more so than usual. And since that’s the case, I will begin with the topic of Fruit Punch, and how it is consuming my life…
On February 8th, I’m having a book signing in my hometown for my book A Southern Girl Re-Belles. In the planning of this event, I have been looking for a simple punch recipe. Simple being the key word. When my son got married, the mother-of-the-bride’s punch recipe was completely en pointe! In fact, it was the BEST PUNCH ever! It was made from Simply Mixed Berry juice, Sprite, and frozen berries. SIMPLE! AND oh so tasty! Recreating this punch for the book signing has become my mission. I have searched high and low, north and south, east and west BUT, the Simply Mixed Berry juice is almost impossible to find! In my quest over the last few weeks, I have only come across three bottles of it! And I have truly searched the world over! Or at least my corner of East Texas. So I need help and in the words of Gerard from the film “The Fugitive,”
…”What I want out of each and every one of you is a hard target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area.”
Not really. But if you run across some, let me know! This hunt for the perfect juice has become an obsession, a challenge and a great distraction from a week filled with all kinds of sad, bad, and negative news. I will continue my search, and victory will be mine (even if I have to give up and give in to another punch recipe). If I do find multiple bottles of Simply Mixed Berry juice, like former Vice President Hubert Humphrey would say, I will be “just as pleased as punch.”
Now getting back to the main idea of this post…
In my title, I used the dreaded “I” word. I have vowed not to speak of political events in my blogs or my podcast, but today I am breaking that vow. At least in a small way. I bring the topic up only to state that my heart hurts for our country. Our law-makers have spent the last three years either trying to destroy the President, or trying to defend him. Nothing has been accomplished. Nothing. The country is more polarized than ever, the bickering between “our parents” (the law-makers who are supposed to guide us, and do what’s best for our nation) has caused us (the children) to be affected in countless ways. The fighting has worn us down, broken our spirits, and made us concerned and worried about our every day existence.
For years I was a US History teacher. And before that I was a “student” of history. I loved learning about our nation, traveling around America the Beautiful, and always, always being proud to be an American. Throughout the years during times of crisis, or sorrow, or loss, I have supported my country. I would never speak ill of her. Yes, she is flawed, but she is my country. Throughout these times I have been glued to the television, watching as our nation came together after a horrible attack, hearing of the amazing stories of individuals who gave their lives so that others could live. I have cried as I watched the horror and devastation that was caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters. And on every presidential election night, I have stayed up until the end. Even when it didn’t go the way I hoped. I embrace the Electoral College, and without ceasing, every election night, I color in my map with my red and blue map colors.
I have tied yellow ribbons around trees, hoping that hostages would be released. I have volunteered in various ways to help those fellow Americans who are in need. I have encouraged my students to register to vote and then to exercise that right, and I have voted. And when I vote, I usually cry afterwards, because I am overwhelmed with the honor of participating in the election process of the greatest nation in the world.
But now, after the last several years, I don’t even watch the nightly news. It makes me mad, and sad, worried, concerned, appalled and angry. I have reverted to watching “The Game Show Network,” for Pete’s sake. The mindlessness of “Family Feud” is a great alternative and distraction to the ongoing feud that our elected officials are participating in.
As an American, I am disappointed in myself. I should try to stomach the vitriol that is dished out each night, and down it with a glass of sweet tea, but I simply can’t. Daily life is hard enough without coming home to the negativity that is spewed on network TV. When you work for eight hours or longer, and deal with all sorts of people, and problems and issues, the last thing you want to do is go home to more of that.
In my defense, I do try to stay informed, and make an honest effort to get impartial, accurate news, without the political slant that is all too common. I weep about the lack of journalistic integrity on both sides, and wish for the days of Walter Cronkite, and a kinder, gentler method of dispersing bad news in a way that doesn’t make listeners want to stick their heads in the oven.
In a week that has been filled with the all important news of the number of pens used to sign the articles of impeachment, and a horrible helicopter crash, I have found social media to be even more exhausting. I have been lectured (in a general way) by people who are scolding those who have written tributes about Kobe Bryant. In every post such as this, we are told to remember the others who died in the crash. What about them? And what about the other nameless people who have died while serving their country, their state, their county or their town? What about them? Does Kobe’s life matter more?
I’ve had to walk away from my laptop or phone many times over the last few days. I don’t need to be made to feel as if I value one life over others. I don’t. All lives matter. We all have a story. We all leave a legacy. But what if Kobe and his daughter hadn’t been on that flight? What would the story have been then? Would we have heard about the horrible accident? Would the names have been released? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do wonder if Kobe’s death in some way gave us information about these people that we otherwise wouldn’t have known.
Again, I don’t know the answer to this question, nor do I know why people choose times such as these to criticize how others mourn; how they deal with their feelings, their confusion, and the utter disbelief AND realization that life is hard, and is never fair. The news was shocking, and jolting, and was another reminder that famous or not, rich or poor, old or young, like taxes, death is a certain thing.
Kobe’s death rocked the world not only because he was famous, but also because he was young, and a husband and father. Sure, he was an icon in the basketball world, but his death also made us more aware of all the other things he was: an author, a musician, a motivator, a volunteer. For me, he represented the growing up years of my two boys, and their love for basketball. I think we owned a few Lakers jerseys with the #8 on them. He represented the question and debate between generations of who was the GOAT–the greatest of all time. Was it Jordan or Bryant? And others argue that the answer is LeBron.
Kobe represented a generation. Those who are his age undoubtedly were hit hard with the realization that “this could have been me.” His untimely end made us all introspective. It made us question our own purpose in life, and assign meaning to things that maybe we had overlooked, or things that had been overshadowed by having our priorities out of order. Many of us were reminded that maybe we should get our lives in order because we never know when we will take our last breath.
Many individuals (the older ones) were reminded of others who died too young. For me, two names come to mind: John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Princess Diana. Their deaths affected me in very personal ways. I will always remember my mother showing me the photos of young JKF Jr. saluting as the casket carrying his father passed by. I’ll never forget the day we waited, hoping and praying that it was a mistake, and his plane hadn’t crashed. I’ll never forget getting up way before the crack of dawn to watch Lady Diana marry Prince Charles. The Royal Wedding. The time that my mother and I sat mesmerized as we watched the pageantry, and tradition of their ceremony. For me, Princess Diana was a hero. Her elegance, grace, and of course fashion sense, was unmatched. She was the Audrey Hepburn of my generation. And who could ever forget her love for humankind, her kindness, and her efforts to make the world a better place?
Princess Diana’s death rocked my world. She was close to my age, and she had two young boys who were left behind, to live a life without their mother. I watched every second of the footage on the news, and recorded her funeral, and showed the Eulogy as well as the song by Elton John to my speech students. I still think about her horrific ending, but more than anything, I’m reminded of her legacy. In a world where most of us are ordinary, it was nice to have a princess to look up to.
And in that same way, many people admired Kobe. His love for his family, and his love for the game of basketball, have touched countless lives. He was an example of someone who always believed he could be better. And he worked to make himself so.
Let us not forget the ordinary ones–the people whose lives are lost every day, but we may not hear about it. We mourn for you as well. We may not know your names, but we recognize that there are people who are left behind, whose lives you shaped, and molded, and touched. Those whose lives will never be the same simply because you are no longer here. We are all connected in this thing called life, and we are a part of everyone we have met. No man is an island.
As the lectures continue on social media, the ones stating that you should live your best life everyday, and that Kobe’s death shouldn’t have caused you to suddenly realize your responsibilities, you should have already been striving to do these things, I scream “BS.” I couldn’t think of a better word or phrase, and I apologize for my salty mouth. But really? People are going to say that? I beg to differ. If someone is that touched, or affected that they realize they need to be better, MORE POWER TO THEM! Doesn’t that give meaning to those who lost their lives? Doesn’t that make them live on in ways that can touch countless numbers of other people? Shouldn’t that be our goal? To live a life that makes others want to do more, be more, and love more?
For me, I choose to mourn and celebrate the tragedy. You see, I’ve learned a great lesson this week. Love the people in your life NOW. Find out about their lives NOW. Have them write down their memories, or record their memories NOW, because when they are gone, so are their stories. Each time a person dies, it’s like an encyclopedia full of information is lost as well.
We are the authors of our lives, and each of us has a story to tell. Write your story every day with good deeds. Love and live intentionally, and fight for the things that matter.
I visit with several primary aged children each week, and the other day, when I was walking with a student to go to our meeting place, she grabbed my hand and said, “You are my favorite person. I always like seeing you because you’re my favorite person AND it means it’s Taco Tuesday!” I was speechless. How could I be her favorite person? I only spend 20 minutes a week with her. I just did’t get it. And then my heart sank a little when I realized that maybe that’s the most individual attention she gets each week. And I realized the magnitude and importance of making those minutes count.
I’m not Kobe, and I’m certainly not a Princess, but I am one person. And I’m a person who can make a difference. An ordinary hero, who has no idea of the influence I have on others. And that my friends is a wake-up call.
So to all those who lost their lives so suddenly, and in such a shocking way, we mourn for your loss, and pray for your families. You have all touched my life, and through your tragedy, I have been reminded of the importance of making moments count. The importance of writing my legacy in my deeds and actions. The importance of documenting family history, and saving memories and making scrapbooks, and taking lots of pictures.
To all those whose names I do not know, it is in your honor and memory that I carry on, and like you, make a difference to each person I meet or encounter every day.
I might not be a famous hero, but I can be an ordinary one.
Here is a link to my weekly podcast. You can find it here, or on Apple Music, Spotify, iHeart Radio, and Stitcher. I hope you’ll tune in each week and spread the word…. Click here to listen to PODCAST