3 S.R. Johannes: September 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Life's Connections

I truly believe everything is connected in some way throughout the universe. My husband used to send me emails titled "Love Connections" when we were dating and I loved them so much. Not only did I learn little facts but they were sweet and reminded me of the little things that keeps us all connected. I watched a tiny hummingbird today for a long time out my window and it reminded me of these sweet Connection pieces. Today, I thought I would try one...

In the morning light, I watched a beautiful hummingbird. A hummingbird's wings beat up to 75 times per second. A blue-throated Hummingbird can have a heart rate of 1,260 beats per minute. United States consumers buy more blue topaz gemstones than any other nation on earth. The word "topaz" comes from the Sanskrit tapas, meaning "fire." In 2002, forest fires burned a total of 6.17 million acres of forestland and wildlife habitat. The "Wildlife Warrior Foundation" estimates that a half million dollars was donated in the first week after Steve Irwin's death. Steve Irwin was tragically killed by a bull stingray off the Barrier Reef. A stingray never actually sees the food as it eats, since its eyes are on top of its head and its mouth is on the bottom. A butterfly has 12,000 eyes and no lungs, breathing through its abdomen. The Queen Alexandra's bird wing is the largest butterfly with a wingspan of 11 inches! Most hummingbirds are between 4-8 inches and weigh less than a penny.

We are all connected, why can't we act that way?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

What is really important...

Today, as I read the NY Times - about Darfur's genocide, Sept 11th's anniversary, the ongoing tragedy of the crocodile Hunter's freak death- I am quickly reminded of the things in my life that are really important.

The unfortunate thing of living in the U.S. is that we - more than most nations- are very priviledged which means we are not faced very often with the question of "what is really important?". We do not have to deal with terrorism every morning on our way to the grocery store or work, we do not have to deal with malaria contributing to our genocide, and we do not have to deal with watching millions of children die every day from aids.

Yes we have some horrible situations here- crime, the homeless, our orphans, the aftermath of Katrina. But as I watch TV and read the paper - I am struck at how selfish and oblivious we have become as a nation and as Americans. Our big controversies in the news right now are either around the new 9/11 TV Show, Lindsey Lohan's missing purse, Mel Gibson's DUI, or the idiotic debate on whether the Crocodile Hunter is really a "biologist" or not.

Who really gives a crap about that stuff?

Is that really where our focus needs to be?

Is that all we have to focus on?

When tragedies happen either in our local neighborhood or in a nation where millions of people are dying, I am reminded that the first thing I immediately think about...when I read those stories...are my family and friends.

I thank a higher power everyday for everything I have.

I have a beautiful daughter who every day reminds me of the small miracles I normally miss in the hustle bustle of life - an ant, a mushroom, or just skipping down a path.

I have a wonderful husband - who despite getting on my nerves or pissing me off (sorry honey ;)- I love more than life. A man who is gentle, kind, funny, dependable, handsome, and thoughtful. A man who - most importantly - loves me unconditionally whether I am fat, skinny, mopey, happy or even just plain bitchy. He is my safe place to fall.

I have a beautiful family. Not a big one in quantity but a massive one in quality. A brother who I adore. I sister (in-law and in heart) that I cherish. A niece who makes me laugh. And a mother and father who love me and who I know would die for me to be happy.

I have the most beautiful intelligent friends who make me laugh, aren't afraid to tell me if a pair of pants make my butt look big or when I am wrong. The best of friends who are always there the second I need anything...especially if I need a hug.

I have a wonderful home that I am peaceful in - bright light, good energy, and safe.

I have a wonderful body. Not necessarily in the best of shape or size. However, even in its odd post- pregnancy state, a body that is remotely healthy.

I have a wonderful life. I am lucky to be a writer, to have a roof over my head, to have the ability to get food when I need it (and even buy organic), and everyone in it.

If we as a nation, or even just as people, we could focus more on what we have, instead of what we don't have. If we could focus more on what we can give, instead of what we want. If we could appreciate the good instead of finding the bad. Maybe - we would be much happier. Maybe, we would not be searching to fill some unknown void with materialism, controversy or greed.

I do not feel the need to focus on the negative, obtain more money, or partake in our trivial debates.
However, I do feel a need to do something about the world we live in. To contribute in a way that matters or makes a difference. To help someone, somewhere. I want to give back to the world in thanks for the priviledges I have or experience every day.

Maybe that is what is really important...


Thursday, September 07, 2006

I vote with my heart.

Has our society become so desensitized to violence and so focused on the negative aspects of us being Americans - that now movie-makers have to paste real faces into fictional films?

I find the UK movie, "Death of a President", disturbing. This movie is not just about the fictional assassination of a U.S. President. It is plays out a mocked assassination of our current President. The movie people actually super-imposed Bush's face on top of a small-framed Texan body and proceed to show him whacked.

Now, I am not a political person. I am neither Democrat or Republican and I don't stand tall on the Left or Right side.

I am an American and I don't want to see that.

As I read the article in the NY Times, my blood boils. I become offended, angry for some reason. I am not sure why I had such a negative reaction. It could be because I am tired of depressing films. It could be because I am sick of all the violence and negativity. Or it could be because I am so fed up with the media using fear to get a point across or exploiting every thing they can to get ratings or profits.

Now, let me say - I love movies! Always have. I am obsessed with film, old and new. I am always prepared for Oscar night and enjoy rushing out to be sure and see all of the nominated films before that night - just so I can vote intellectually from home. I am also addicted to pop culture, TV and media. So I can appreciate the controversial side, the artistic side, and the "need to send a message" side.

My point is - does the film have to use a mocked-assassination of someone who is ACTUALLY living and breathing - just to prove a point? Have we really lost the skills to communicate or debate intellectually? Must we now resort to cheap shots to spawn healthy discussion? Do we have to cross another line in order just to make a point?

Maybe my negative reaction is due to loyalty? Maybe it is due to my loss of a "false sense" of security? Or maybe I have some sort of brewing patriotism?

I don't know exactly what it is but I vote against showing violence done to "real" people just to have shock value, increase movie sales, instill fear, or prove a political point.

I want to have intellectual discussions because I know the facts not because I am entertained by false information or scared into learning about the world and our responsibility in it.

I vote against this movie. I vote against violence. I vote against negativity and fear.

I vote with my heart.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Don't Should on Yourself - Wonder Mom!

My daughter started her back-to-school program today.

Easy right? I mean she is only 2 1/2 and officially it is really a mommy's day out. Laid back, fun and educational, right? I mean after all - she is just a "bumble bee"!

No sweat!

Unfortunately, I had no idea that "back to school" could be so serious. There is actually a list of supplies, meetings after meetings, a list of volunteer programs, teacher orientations, and mental preparation required. I think you are even required to sign your name in blood. My daughter is only 2 1/2 yet all of a sudden it seems like she is starting an Ivy League School.

My preparation for "mini-Harvard" was not a complete failure.

  • I did manage to be organized enough to make it to the teacher visit.
  • I did mange to register to be a volunteer Mom mystery reader and Christmas pageant organizer.
  • I raised my hand and asked a question at the orientation meeting.
  • I picked up my list of required school supplies on time.

I was on my way to being the "Super Mom" - right? Wrong!

  • Strike One - I did not call to get the early pre-list. Who knew?
  • Strike Two - I left at home this morning without the supplies I had neatly purchased and bagged. Therefore, I was forced to show up with empty hands excusing myself and promising on my second born child that I would bring the supplies when I picked my first born up.
  • Strike Three - My daughter's "Creative Movement" class "required uniform" was sold out! (Now why can't they just call it ballet like when I was a little girl. Suddenly, "creative movement" is more New Age?)

The "shoulds" begin cramming in the back of my mind ..."I should have been more organized. I should have done this earlier. I should have known better." The thoughts of my failure as a "back to school Mom" taint my dreams of "super momhood".

My intentions were good.

Last night, I went to Target and got all of the school supplies . Successfully, I marked through the list and chose each item carefully to ensure I had the best of each. (The target brand would not do - must be name brand diapers and cups. Nothing but the best!) Then, I searched for the items on my "required uniform" list. How exciting - my daughter's first ballet outfit.

To my horror, they were sold out! My perfect plan was toast. "Oh great, now my daughter will be the crazy kid with a whacked-out uniform and the unpreparing mom?" I beat myself up about the obvious psychological damage will this could have on my poor innocent child's development and trust. So I begin to do something (something that I told myself I would never do).

The Super Mom inside cheers, "I'll just get creative. I'll improvise." (Uh oh, anytime someone says they are "getting creative" or "improvising"- it's usually not a good thing.)

Wonder twin powers activate...Form of..."Creative Mom". (Am I showing my age yet?)

Why did I not just explain to the "Creative Movement" teacher that her pink duds were sold out and promise to dress my new ballerina appropriately the next time? Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a sucker for a challenge, no matter if it is an impossible feat or just a plain dumb one.

So - I begin my self-made Scavenger Hunt barreling through Target to find an outfit that resembles/mocks/or imitates a formal ballet uniform. I am looking for something that can be magically viewed as pink leotards, pink tights, and pink ballet slippers. Hmmmm, how about pink pajamas? pink fairy costume? pink bathing suit? I find myself staring at the marked-down pink fluffy bunny outfit - wishing so much I could sew. Then I could be "Crafty Mom".

Determined - I continue, there must be something I can "throw" together so no one will notice my lack of supermomhood education. (I know there is a school for that...somewhere...there just has to be.)

My fear of being the mom that is not organized or whose kid shows up in odd outfits swells inside me like the heat of our Georgia summer. The thought of not doing anything and shattering my "Super Mom" image was not an option. It does not matter that I usually end up leaving my cape at home or forgetting to wash it... I can do anything!

I find a new creative outfit - pink ruffled shorts, a pink cami (2 sizes too big), and pink tennis shoes with a silver sparkly strap. Feels ballerina-ish enough. I am sure no one will ever notice.

Am I kidding myself?

On the way to school this morning, I convince myself that this experience is a good lesson to begin teaching my daughter. "It's good to be unique, to be different, to raise up against our society's need to conform!" Yeah!

I slink in and out of the school's color-papered halls without meeting anyone's eye, hoping no will notice my empty hands or my interesting view of ballerinas. I escape unnoticed, "Whew, close call."

Later, I pick up my daughter prepared to distract any onlookers with my bag of name-brand supplies. How impressive!

I immediately explain myself to her teacher, "Sorry, I should have brought the supplies sooner."

I leapt after her ballet instructor, "I apologize, I should have gotten her uniform earlier."

I chase after the director, "Sorry, I should have signed up to volunteer more."

Then an interesting thing happens.

Her teacher smiles, "No problem - this is great!"

Her ballerina curtsies - "Don't be silly, this is great for her first day." (As a side note, to my shock only one kid was in actually in the "uniform" not counting mine of course decked out in the "semi-uniform." Wow I am more organized than I thought - at least I tried. My competitive need to win is subdued.)

Her director pats my shoulder, "Please, you have done so much for us already."

I slowly begin to realize how much of the "Super Mom" syndrome I actually force upon myself.

I twirl away - with my "unique" ballerina tucked close in my arms - thinking: "Don't should on yourself so much."

Maybe it's ok to just be "Wonder Mom."

Maybe "super" is just for overachievers :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

After While Crocodile

Yes... I am devastated at the sudden death of the Crocodile Hunter.

When I saw the news, a lump grew in my throat. It is tragic, it is unexpected, and it is very, very sad. A freak accident where a sting-ray zips though his ribcage and pierces his heart - how utterly awful. (my ongoing fear of the sea is again justified.)

As I absorbed my small loss, I am ashamed to say that an odd thought crawled across my (now what I call) disturbing mind: "That sux...at least it could have been a crocodile."

But a stingray? I mean...if he had to go, I kinda think he would rather have been devoured by the "Jaws" of all crocodiles.

After all, he was the "Crocodile Hunter", not the "Stingray Slayer".


Somehow being stung by a large stingray does not not seem to really compare to being mauled in half by a mammoth reptile.

Seems unfitting.

A man who prides himself on capturing crocodiles, canoodling with snakes, and skipping with alligators deserves something more. Something more dramatic.

Therefore, all I can do is salute and mutter "see yah later, alligator."

Suddenly, a whisper swims through the trees and paddles across the sea-blue sky, "After while crocodile."

Instantly, I am calmed in knowing the Crocodile Hunter is finally floating through...

...his "swamp in the sky".

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Whatever happened to..."It takes a village"

How did we become a society that does not appear to accept responsibility for anything but ourselves? When did we drift away from a holistic world into a fragmented one?

Now, our village has been overrun with the "not me" and "it's not my problem" people.

Last night, I went with my husband to see "Pirates of the Caribbean II". (Yes, we are late seeing it...but when you have a 2 year old, you are just happy to see a movie before it hits On Demand.) In between munching on 10$ Twizzlers and sneaking my feet on the back of the chair in front of me, a high-pitched squeal suddenly pierced the silence and floated through our stadium loveseat. Irritated at the disturbance and interruption of my disfunctional need for the perfect movie experience, I leaned forward and scanned the audience daring anyone to look back, claiming the noise.
In my thorough investigation, I spotted a small ghostly figure floating through the aisles, once again squealing.

Had a ghostly pirate finally escaped the delicious Jack Sparrow?

No! The shape was but a 2 year old girl, dressed in white dress (keep in mind it is not yet Labor day). She was running amok the chairs, in my mind, hiding in fear from the loud, enormous, and frightening images flahsing across the super-sized screen.

I leaned over to my husband and whispered, "how can parents bring a 2 year old in here?" I mean the bizarre Octopus Man alone was eerie enough but what about the emotional impact of 100 million decibels combined with disgusting barnacle pirates? I mean they scare me and I am 30 (ok 35 but who is counting?). My husband only shrugged, hoping to save his perfect movie experience by diffusing my potential "externalizing".

For the rest of the movie, I forgot about the sexy Johnny Depp (what!?) and obsessed about the psychological impacts the movie could be having on this innocent cherub. I became preoccupied, wondering how the images could forever-change the patterns of this small child's blueprint of life.

At the end of the movie, I felt compelled to bring this disturbing notion to the manager's attention. I was not upset at the interruption as much as the situation. And somehow (especially as a mom), I felt the need to stand up for this anonymous little girl whose parents had seemed to brush her off as nothing more than a movie annoyance, a mere interruption.

Against my husbands "we should just walk away" look, I marched in and politely informed the manager about the situation. The manager's response disturbed me so much, I am still saddened by it today.

Me - "I was upset to see a 2 year old in the movie. It was completely inappropriate and was disturbing for a child of this age to see."

Manager - "Ma'am, we are not responsible for children entering movies as long as they are accompanied by an adult." (I am not even going to address my thoughts on being labeled as a ma'am.)

Me - "But, the movie is a PG 13. I thought everyone who viewed it had to be at least 13?"

Manager- "No, anyone that is not 13 only needs to be accompanied by an adult."

Me - "Even a 2 year old?"

Manager - "Yes. If a parent takes a child that age into a PG or R rated film, it is not our problem."

Me - "But don't you have some responsibility?"

Manager - "I can let our corporate office know."

(Gee, thanks. Nothing like a couple of grey suits to save the day.)

So, how did we get to a place where we take no responsibility for anything outside our own walls. When do we stand up for something that seems wrong and do something about it? I am tired of people sitting back, humming the tune to "it's not my problem."

I left feeling dejected at how much our society has changed just from when I was a little girl. I kind of liked living in a time where we all believed that "it takes a village to raise a child." A time of casseroles, pot luck dinners, cul-de-sac parties, neighborhood watches, buffets, and chaperones. A time where we not only cared about who our neighbor was, but also how we could help them. A time when we were not afraid to join in neighborhood matrimony coined with "can I borrow some sugar" or "cup of tea?"

I believe we have a responsibility to reach out to our neighbors. We need to not be afraid to speak up and confront atrocities that impact our society. After all, I really do believe that "children are our future". I know it seems a little Whitney Houston-ish but it feels true nonetheless.

We do have a responsibility to others.

At least, in my village we do.