Tag Archives: Opinions

You’re Welcome, America

Okay, I knew that my paranoia after the shutdown in October was not in vain.  I knew that the government was gunning for military families in some way or another, because we are all so entitled and so rich!  I saw it coming; we service members just weren’t miserable enough.  A “fair” solution was found, to coin the term used by a certain Congressman.  Because it wouldn’t be “fair” to the rest of the country if the New Greatest Generation wasn’t struggling a bit harder.  We just have it too good.

Please excuse the biting sarcasm.  I don’t aim it at my readers, civilians in general, or the citizens of America.  I love this country and the people, mostly.  In all honesty, I am not sure how I feel about the military retirement pension reduction that was so easily and triumphantly created to “prevent” future sequestrations and shutdowns.  Maybe the cuts to the military pensions will help.  It would be great, right?  I aim my frustration at politicians who don’t seem to understand that service members do struggle just as much as everyone else.  Reading various statements justifying the decision, it almost seems like we’ve been identified as not having contributed enough to America’s survival, targeted because we’ve been too well taken care of, so certainly we can spare some of our wealth.  A Paul Ryan quote, from the Huffington Post really rubbed me the wrong way:

“We think it’s only right and fair that they pay something more to their pensions, just like the hard-working taxpayers that pay for those pensions in the first place,” Ryan said.

Yeah, because military members don’t pay any taxes, we all live in  mini mansions, we each drive an Infiniti gassed by the farts of fairies, and we all sport purple crew cuts and glitter covered jackboots.  You want “right and fair”?  Let’s do some Military Math.  What is the value of a Warrant Officer father missing his first daughter’s birth?  A First Sergeant mother not being home for Christmas?  How about a child going an entire school year without both parents because  they are dual military and both deployed?  Is that worth 1% of the service member’s retirement pension?  What about scraping brain and skull fragments out of a Humvee?  Or watching your best friend get killed?  Or are all those things simply not adding enough “right and fair” value to everyone’s American Experience?

I will concede that Mr. Ryan perhaps did not mean to be snide and condescending, but insinuating that military members are creating dead weight, with those hard-working taxpayers bearing the brunt of the burden,  is disrespectful.  Service members do pay taxes as well as bills and other out of pocket costs  just like civilians, so justifying a 1% pension reduction through the excuse that we have somehow been unfair towards the hard-working taxpayers is just plain rude.  Times are hard everywhere, including the Army post where I live, and military families are stretched thinner every year.  No one here is going to ride into a magical golden sunset at retirement.

The politicians are definitely Utilitarians, offering as a sacrifice to appease the rhythm of happy commerce the retirement savings of this rag tag group of service members who have spent the better part of their adult lives earning those pensions in the throes of never ending war. After all, it is better to take wealth from one small group that has so much to give and disburse it for the greater good, right?  Nevermind what it looks like (Communism).   I had a feeling that this was coming, because I saw that gleam in their eyes while I watched them fuss over their budget notes on the news these past months.  They were looking for a pig to bleed.  Oink, oink.

So the question remains: does this matter, and how much?  It depends on who you ask but yes, it does matter.  The soldiers who have gone to the Middle East for the last decade have been called the New Greatest Generation, but are we being treated as though we really did anything special?  I see the politicians patting themselves on the back victoriously over this budget deal, but where is the heartfelt apology and gesture of gratitude to the service members who will now be sacrificing money that they “supposedly” earned through years of dedicated service and loyalty to the nation?  This remains to be seen.

I know that my family will be fine.  We will never be rich.  We figure out ways to survive.  We go from one year being the King of the Hill to being the Underdog the next.  We get knocked around by life, the Army, and the government, constantly losing and gaining monetary wealth depending on the mood of entities larger than us.  Our cupboards get thin, but never completely bare.  We never are and never will be rolling in money, so excuse me for saying this but it doesn’t feel “fair”, and I don’t like the word “fair” used so casually to describe disbursement of military pension money, especially when military personnel had no say in the decision process.  I take offense at the word “fair” being used to undermine the character of military members.  Don’t tell me that it is “fair” to take money away from soldiers.  Ever.  Who better than a service member would know that life isn’t fair?

If Congress is willing to play with the idea of not paying the military for an indefinite period of time (and no, they didn’t go through with it in October, but it still scared me), they clearly have no qualms about taking our paychecks hostage and using our pensions as emergency funds.  But instead of apologizing for their poor decision making and subsequent hijacking of the military pensions, the catch phrase of this “solution” is that we military members ought to “pay something more…like the hard-working taxpayers”.  A guilt trip for those who have served with loyalty and dignity…Well, you’re welcome.  It comes down to the fact that regardless of how I feel (angry?  bummed? livid?cheated? anxious? depressed? defeated?) we may or may not see that 1% returned to us.  The money doesn’t matter anyway; it’s the principle.

You know what I really want?  It would be a genuine apology to my husband and every other member of the U.S. military, from every single member of Congress.  NOW.  I want them to personally apologize for treating our military like pawns in a game and using us as their backup plan when they can’t get their tangle of piss poor planning unsnarled.  And I want a personal and heartfelt show of appreciation from those overpaid, snake oiled used car salesmen.  We are the New Greatest Generation, and we deserve to be treated with dignity and respect!  It starts with a simple gesture.  It should never be lauded as a victory when you arbitrarily take wealth from your hardest working and most courageous citizens to clean up your mistakes because you lack the courage to do so yourself.  This is called cowardice.

— G

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Spoilers! Sappy Christmas Movies

Ornament

Sometimes I think it would save me stupendous amounts of time if the ridiculous Christmas movies I watch on Netflix came with spoiler alerts so that I could decide before hand whether or not I even want to take time out of my day to watch.  The characters could file through and give a quick description of how they plan to test my gag reflexes; I could then make informed decisions.  Great idea, right?  It would go something like this:

Crotchety Old Man: “I am going to slip into a coma halfway through the movie and refuse to wake up until the other characters miraculously raise 1.2 million dollars to restore a decrepit ski lodge/snow globe factory/amusement park from the days of my youth.  Then miraculously I will appear 30 years younger, be able to dance a jig, and have the spirit of Christmas!”

(Never trust an old person in a  crappy Christmas movie…their only motive is to make you cry so the movie gets better ratings)

Douchebag Boyfriend: “I will be a total weasel and drive my perfect girlfriend into the arms of that much larger man in the rugged knit sweater, who smells of campfires and fresh pine air.”

(Gag reflex activated)

Larger Man in Rugged Knit Sweater: “I don’t say much in the movie because I am “complex” and the main character, a neurotic woman trying to “find herself” has to ultimately realize that I am the only thing she needs.”

(Barf)

Loud Woman in Ugly Christmas Sweater that Lights Up: “I am the Spirit of Holiday Mothers Everywhere, representing the symbol of insanity that overtakes all mother figures and ultimately drives their children into the streets searching for the nearest bar.  You got a problem with that?  Well too bad!  I just slaved over the hot stove all day and no one helped me make the stuffing and cranberry sauce, and where was my husband to help with the turkey?  He’s sitting on the couch with his hand in his pants, drool on his chin, staring at the football game on TV….nag nag nag…”

(No Mommy No!)

Adorable Little Girl or Boy: “I am either super cute and sweet or super evil.  It could go either way.  I’m a child.  You never know.”

(Never trust a child in a movie…)

Sara McLachlan: “Hi!  I’m acclaimed singer Sara McLachlan.  I will be singing in the background of this movie to make you feel really guilty that you did not call your mother this week.  She probably could have used your help preparing the dinner… You’re welcome!”

(You’ll watch one of these, and then you will see…and then you will call Mom in tears when the old man starts dancing again…at the lodge…after his family fixed it up for him)

After watching possibly the poorest planned, executed and acted movies ever today, I am going back to my First String for the Christmas Season: Dr. Who Christmas Specials.  Always time well spent. “Fantastic, Allons-y and Geronimo!”

Birthday Cake Makes My Kids Homicidal

Since Halloween is almost upon us, I wanted to bust out some scary stories from my life to shock and amaze.  Sadly, what I came up with will make me look like a bad person at worst, and at best be ridiculously funny.  So after some thought I chose to lead off with the story that makes me look like a bad parent and my children look like demon spawn.  At least you all will get some entertainment from this, but I am still traumatized so at least one of us has been adequately affected.

My daughters are for the most part sweet children, but they are a tad high strung.  I can actually hear my immediate relatives laughing right now from distant corners of the globe at this grievous understatement.  Okay, to be fair they are very high strung, and I do not give them any caffeine at all because they already act like addicts going through withdrawal.  Their sugar consumption is also strictly monitored because it doesn’t take much to send them into the atmosphere for hours.  They are actually quite wonderful, and they just have so much nervous energy (I blame this on my husband who is exactly like them) so as long as they are kept busy and not overstimulated, they act like relatively normal children.

I wonder if Disney Princesses have this problem...

I wonder if Disney Princesses have this problem…

So let’s introduce a far from normal scenario for my girls: a kids’ birthday party.  We walk into a house we’ve never been to before, and there are a dozen weird children running around screaming.  Something starts to slowly fray in my girls’ frontal lobes until they reach a point of no return when they are no longer able to make reasonable decisions or think anything through before trying to beat their peers senseless.   After so much cake, ice cream, wrapping paper flying through the air, and adrenaline soaked girl drama, my kids just lose their cool and go completely ballistic.  I am terrified of finding party invitations tucked into their school folders and try to dispose of them quickly before they remember that classmates had passed the invites around.  I cringe when neighbors casually invite us to an impromptu party because I just know my kids will probably beat up their kids or kill their cat or set their house on fire, and then there is a good chance we won’t be friends anymore.  I get the feeling that some of you readers (those who are not immediate family and close friends) don’t believe me, so I am going to present a list of evidence as to why I am so traumatized by my children’s behavior.

Birthday Party #1

Everything was fine until it was time to go.  In my defense, I let my daughters stay through the entire party, so they had plenty of time to play.  When I told them to put their shoes on they both went boneless and flopped around on the floor crying.  I had to drag them up the stairs to the front door.  This was at a house where I hardly knew the hosts or anyone else, so I was getting a lot of mixed looks of sympathy and judgment.  Once I had the front door open my girls both grabbed onto the door frame and held on for dear life, bawling like stuck pigs.  I had to pry them loose and drag them out to the car.  The whole time they were screaming “No Mommy! No!” as if I were beating their butts.  So embarrassing.

Birthday Party #2

Amazingly I allowed the girls to attend a second party the following weekend, thinking surely that last party was just a fluke and they would be on their best behavior.  I was so wrong.  This time we were at a recreation center and again I was with parents I didn’t know very well.  These were the parents of kids I work with at the school, and most were the bratty ones –that would be parents and kids.  I had a bad feeling when we walked in, and instinct told me to make up an excuse to leave early.  But no, I stayed and made polite conversation with some of the cattiest mothers I have ever met while their children started instigating trouble with mine.  And then I saw it coming: S-n-n-n-n-a-a-a-p!  Both Annie and Alexis (my girls) decided that they had been pushed around enough and tiny fists started flying.  I had to do the right thing, so I collected my screaming, red faced children, made apologies, scolded my girls and loaded them into the car.  But secretly I was proud of them.  I was sick of listening to their mothers but I couldn’t indulge in that behavior, no matter how much I wanted to slap their prissy faces.

Birthday Party #3

Surprisingly we were invited to yet another party, this time by a sweet mom who had witnessed the behavior at Party #1, and she either didn’t judge me or didn’t care because Annie is close friends with her daughter.  I was really paranoid by this time, especially because the party was in an art center where I had done three months of teaching internship.  I really did not want to make a bad impression, and as we were driving to the art center, I kept envisioning horror scenarios of paint splattering like blood onto the expensive art for sale in the gallery.  I read my girls the riot act before we went inside, “Mommy used to work here, there is nice art on the walls, you absolutely have to be on your best behavior!  If you do one thing, if you hit someone, if you scream, if you do anything mean, we will leave and you will lose all privileges for a week!” I shrilled at them before we got out of the car.  Things went fine until Annie felt that she had been wronged by a toddler who took a cupcake topper that Annie had claimed.  Annie was 7 years old at the time, but she had snapped once again and there was no rationalizing that a 2 year old should be spared her wrath.  I intervened and discretely threatened the death penalty so Annie would calm down.  We somehow made it out of the art center with no casualties, but it took some very strategic thinking and fast moving on my part.

Birthday Party #4

This party was the most traumatic party of all, to date.  Some close friends invited me and the girls to their house for a small get together to celebrate their son’s first birthday.  They went all out: delicious meal, homemade cake, a piñata full of candy in the back yard.  My girls were so excited they could hardly contain their joy at the prospect of filling a little bag with goodies.  There were not many children at the party, and very little chance for drama, so I relaxed a bit, had a tiny glass of wine, and chatted with other guests.  I let my girls have a huge piece of the homemade cake as a courtesy to the hostess, since I could not eat gluten.  I swiped a finger of frosting off the cake and wished I could ignore my diet for a day.  I was starting to think that maybe those bad birthday parties were just anomalies, three bad coincidences in a row and nothing more.  Then my friends announced that it was time to break open the piñata.  Each child had a turn.  Apparently I had not been paying enough attention to my own children because I didn’t hear the sound of Annie snapping.  But everyone saw her take the two foot piñata bat when it was her turn and come after her little sister with a murderous glint in her eyes.  She actually managed to chase Alexis a few feet, swinging the bat viciously, before another adult grabbed her.  Oh, mortification, take me now!  I wanted to die.  We all cried in the car on the way home.  My friend sent two enormous pieces of cake along for “when the girls are feeling better”.  I ate them both for dinner that night with more wine and got very sick.  I didn’t care.  This party had confirmed my worst fears.  My children absolutely cannot tolerate birthday parties, not even a little bit.

Birthday Party #5

We abstained from birthday parties for a long time after that.  I was so traumatized that I couldn’t even consider the idea of sending my kids to a party.  The potential repercussions were too horrifying to imagine.  Then a neighbor up the street invited us to a casual little shindig and I thought, well maybe this will be a good opportunity to gauge their “progress”.  Oh why do I do this to myself?  My girls were horrible all day, screaming at each other, hitting each other, talking back to me, typical sisterly behavior.  They actually lost their privilege to go to the party, and I was going to make them take a nap.  Then miraculously, they stopped fighting, began to treat each other politely, picked up their toys, got dressed, and apologized to me.  So I basically fell for it, but told myself that they had earned enough redemption to go to the party.  The neighbor’s house was close enough to walk, so we strolled over, but the whole time I was reiterating my riot act.  I told them it would only take one act of violence or disrespect and we would leave immediately.  They made it exactly 30 minutes before Annie punched Alexis in the chest.  And I kept my word; we walked home immediately, me striding ahead angrily and the girls crying and yelling and stomping behind.  It was a tiny parade of rage for the whole neighborhood to watch.

So I have come to three possible conclusions and they are all scary.  Either 1) my children truly are demon spawn, 2) somehow I have failed as a disciplinarian, or 3)  birthday parties are just too intense for my children, AND other parents have this same problem but just aren’t talking.

So if anyone else has this problem, and more importantly some hilarious and scary stories of birthday party debacles, I would love to hear them!  You can share by commenting at this site, or if you are my friend of Facebook, you can join the conversation there.  Halloween parties are coming up next week, please pray for my family, and any families that may be directly impacted by my children!

—G

Hey Kids, Christmas (Probably) Isn’t Cancelled!

Sleigh

All I want for Christmas…

I spent much of the night on the edge of my seat watching the news to find out just how much of  a cliff we would be hanging over after Capital Hill finished with us.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like I survived a war.  I also feel like things are far from over and am going to approach the holidays with a wartime rations mentality.  After screaming at my television, “you stupid jack-wagons don’t know how to balance a budget!” I decided to rethink my holiday budget because it won’t balance either if I take the same road as our leaders.  I just looked at my Christmas list conceived after one too many trips to Keep.com whilst drinking screwdrivers and it totals at least one mortgage so far.  That isn’t counting the other Christmas list scrapped together from randomly whimsical ideas imagined over the last few months.  None of the gifts are even items my family members need, just excuses to spend money.  Hmmm, sound familiar?

Before my family ends up in serious financial trouble, I am going to reprioritize our holiday budget and spending rules.  It would be pretty hypocritical to criticize the government for failing at managing the country’s funds if I am plunging my family into major debt just to buy the shiniest new gadgets.  Besides, what does it teach my kids if I demand that my government straighten up and be fiscally responsible, but then I do the opposite in my own home?  I read a profound statement posted earlier this week that went something like this: you can’t have your cake if you didn’t work for it and earn the money to buy it. Or at least you shouldn’t.  So why am I so tempted to charge all these cool shiny gadgets and toys on a credit card?  Why am I wanting to have my cake and eat it without actually earning it?  But more importantly, why am I tempted to do this knowing that it is so hypocritical when I have been yelling at the smug little faces on my television screen for the last three weeks?

Wondering if in just a few short weeks we could once again be on the brink of disaster has made me really take a step back and reflect on what is actually important.  The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time when families and friends come together and share happy memories, feasts, and gifts.  The public tone this year may be more subdued after so much disruption and discontent.  But perhaps this year the tone will be more introspective of what truly is important.  I don’t have to think twice about it; if given the choice between shopping sprees, decadent feasts and sumptuous gifts, or time with loved ones, I would prefer the time with those I love.  Besides, no governing body can ever take that away, no matter how destitute they make me.  Remember that, people.  It’s the intangible attributes such as love, loyalty and kindness  that really create wealth and prosperity.

Shutdown Blues

Two weeks into a government shutdown, and I am feeling pretty uncomfortable.  I am not by any means a political expert and there are two things I do not want to bring into my blog: politics and religion.  I don’t want to stand on a soap box and tell anyone how they should vote, pray, or otherwise think when it comes to these two matters.   All I want to say is what happened guys? This is not the country that our founders imagined.  We have made some wonderful advancements over the years as a nation but things are looking pretty dismal right now.  I guess the saying is true: the frog in the pot doesn’t know the water is being heated until it really is too late.  Are we at that point?

I have a neighbor across the street who has now been working on Fort Riley without  pay for two weeks because she is an essential DoD civilian.  This is after several weeks of sequestration in which she had to take furlough days without pay.  So after several weeks of pay cuts she now gets no pay but still goes to work.  She and her husband, both veterans, also face the possibility that their VA benefits will be halted in November due to the shutdown.  They have children to support, and groceries, fuel, and utilities are not cheap in the Fort Riley area.  I am not asking for sympathy or for people to question the fairness of it all.  I am saying “Hello!  This is messed up!”  We are at the point where we are sucking the life out of people who served their country unquestionably, who are now paying the debts of people unwilling to pull their own weight.  We as a nation caused these problems.  Veterans and DoD civilians are just half the story; consider entrepreneurs now facing the effects of government involvement in the normally functional capitalist system.  And now we are all in a position where our government is arbitrarily taking rights and privileges from us without our consent.  Does anyone else feel the water getting warmer?