Monday, April 22, 2013

Words are . . .

Words are my friend.

I misuse them sometimes though.  I guess that happens in any friendship at times.  The trick is to learn from the experience and not do it again.

I’m a slow learner . . .

Words are weapons.

I have handled many weapons in my life.  I’ve learned to shoot a number of different firearms as well as a bow.  I’ve even thrown a live hand grenade (only once though, and because I didn’t throw it very far, I was never allowed to throw one again).  But words are my weapon of choice.

I do not deal well with confrontation.  I was never a fighter as a kid.  But I learned the power of the proper use of words early on.  Back then it was my diary that caught the brunt of my rants.  I could tear a person down to nothing with just my pen and paper.  Even though the object of my anger never read those words, I always felt better once I got them out of my head.

As a teen I learned the power of positive words.  First love provided me with the opportunity to use words to convey happiness, share the love I felt - so young and vulnerable - with someone else.  Oh, how I loved writing those letters!

And then words hurt me.  The song is right - breaking up really is hard to do.

Words of sadness.  Words of anguish.  Words of apology.  Pathetic, groveling words.  And then words of anger, this time actually shared.  Words that can never be taken back.

For the first time words were used as a weapon against me.

I lost my ability to write for a number of years.  At the time I was young and carefree, experiencing life on my own for the first time, so there was no need for rants, no love letters to be written.

Unless you count that one time . . . does taking a red pen and correcting a letter from a particularly annoying man count as using words?  After mailing the letter back, I never heard from him again, so it had the desired effect.

Words are love.

Love was what got me writing again.  Love letters to the man who would become my husband, and then even more letters after we were married since his job takes him away often.  Such treasures those letters are!  I have jewelry that is kept in a shoe box, but those letters are kept in the safe.

Words are therapy.

Then the Internet came along and words became so much more dangerous.  In the beginning it was a private blog, a place to write about good days and bad.  A place to rage when I was mad at my boss, or sing the praises of my obviously gifted and brilliant children.  I found a few women there to share experiences with, women who to this day are so very important to me.  It was a place to unload all the words jumbled in my head without any chance of hurting anyone.  Free therapy.

I began a public “blog” when my son was diagnosed with cancer.  It wasn’t a blog so much as a mental dumping ground.  Nothing was written with the intent of triggering a conversation like my old blog entries were.  This was a place to inform those who cared, but more importantly, to rail at the universe over the atrocities raining down on my child.  It was a place to say all of the things I couldn’t say out loud.

After his death I found Facebook.  Oh how I wish I could go back to that day and make a different choice.  I joined just to see what all of the hubbub was about.  For months I didn’t use it at all.  Then I began using it as a way to connect with the teens from our homeschool group who came to my house once a week to build a yearbook.  Within a year I was using it to stay connected to friends.  Then came family, high school friends, army friends, college friends, other cancer parents.

The ability to immediately reach a large audience with a few short words killed my will to sit down and write.  The problem with writing only a few words at a time, however, is that true meaning is never reached.  You cannot understand what is in a person’s heart, what the meaning behind the words are, when there is nothing more than a sentence.

People got hurt.  Me.  Them.  Everyone.

Words were a weapon again, albeit an accidental one.

So I went back to my rants.  The problem with rants on Facebook is that there are too many things to rant about!  It is a virtual diarrhea of the mouth.  One small comment, probably meant to be funny, ends up angering someone.  Differing opinions on politics, religion, parenting . . . you name it.  All of it causes rants in my head.  The bounce around in there, wanting to get out.  Sometimes for days before I finally say “screw it” and download it all to the screen, my fingers the conduit.  Oftentimes my high-speed fingers still can’t download as fast as my mind wants them to.

When it is finished, I feel better.  But because Facebook is not the place for that type of writing, I think I leave everyone rolling their eyes.

“There she goes again!”

“Oh god, Shannon’s ranting.  Again.”

“Great, what now?”

I get that though.  I kind of feel the same way about myself.  Because Facebook isn’t a blog site.  It shouldn’t be a weapon, an easy passive-aggressive way to lash out.  “Unfriending” shouldn’t be a weapon used to hurt others.  Especially not by adults.

It’s time for Facebook to go back to being what it started out as for me - a virtual address book.  That place where I could go to see where everyone is at, maybe say hi occasionally, have a frivolous conversation.  Not a place to be angered, and if there are people there who cause anger, they need to be removed.  Just as a name in an address book can be erased, so should those who bring anger, insult or pain into my life.

Words are a lesson, and it’s time for me to go back to school.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thanks . . . not.

23 years and this is the thanks we get.

My husband, Mike, is a Lt. Colonel in the United States Air Force.  He's given the U.S. military 23 years of his life.  He's deployed 5 times since 2001, missing birthdays, holidays, anniversaries.  But we've never complained.

I'm complaining now though.

You see, we have pets.  One dog and one cat.  We are currently stationed at Kadena AB in Okinawa, Japan.  Getting said dog and cat here two years ago was difficult - especially considering the fact that we had to be here less than two months after Mike returned home from his 4th deployment - but we did get here with Ceili and B.B. (dog and cat respectively).

Now we are leaving Japan, headed for Edwards AFB in California where Mike will be taking on a new duty - Squadron Commander.  But we are running into problems getting  Ceili and B.B. back.  It seems that the Air Force doesn't set a high priority on getting family pets moved along with their humans.

I get that.  The military pays to move us, not our animals.

But here's the thing . . . they allowed us to come here with pets.  ALLOWED.  Now, as we try to plan flights to move back home, we're being told things like, "We can get you on a flight from Okinawa to Narita (Tokyo), but it's a 50/50 chance that you will be able to get the animals on a flight from there to LAX."

50/50?  So what happens if we can't get the animals on a flight?

:: crickets ::

No answer.  Are we supposed to just leave them?  Or leave one family member while the rest of the family continues on?  What kind of answer is that?

Now, let me tell you a little something about these two pets.  B.B. is a 12-year-old cat.  He belongs to our 19-year-old daughter.  She "saved" him from what was (in her 7-year-old mind) "certain death" in a North Dakota pet store in 2001.  Certain death because he had extra toes and was different, which meant no one would want him if she didn't take him home and love him forever.

So of course, that is exactly what she had to do.

Ceili is special also.  Not because she is our family pet, or because of what breed she is (chocolate lab, just so you know), or because she's a bit of a diva.  Not because of any of those things.  Ceili - pronounced Kay-Lee - is special because she is Keeghan's dog.  Keeghan is our son.  Keeghan is special too.  Keeghan should be a passenger on the flight back to the States with us.

Instead, Keeghan is a carry on.  Or at least his ashes are.

Keeghan should be 17-years-old now, but he was diagnosed with a brain tumor just a few weeks after his 10th birthday and died when he was 12.

Keeghan always wanted a dog.  Soon after he was diagnosed, in a fit of paranoid mother panic, I told Mike that we had to get Keeghan a dog because I didn't know how things were going to play out, and I didn't want my son to die never having experienced having a dog of his very own.

It was a good idea because Keeghan and Ceili just clicked.  Boy and dog were a great team, even if they only had 16 months together before Keeghan left us.
Ceili is 6-years-old now and is the one living connection that my husband, daughter and I have to Keeghan.  She is more than the family pet.  She's his.

But she's only that important to us.  She's not important to the Air Force.  She's not important to the airlines.  Fine.  But why - WHY? - if we were allowed to bring her here, is it so difficult to get her home.  Why are these things made so difficult for military members?  Why, when they give so much to their country are things made so difficult for them?

We're not asking for anyone to pay to move our pets.  We know that is our responsibility.  We just want some assistance.  Is that too much to ask?