Saturday, December 31, 2016

"2016 Can Kiss My Ass!" and other Children's Favorites

I have to say that I've never experienced quite a year as this one. So many disappointments and heartbreak mixed with wonderful high points within a span of twelve months made it a roller coaster ride of emotion.

I'm not just talking about the loss of our heroes, whether they be actors, singers, writers, or whatever. I am talking about personal loss as well. Friends have lost spouses, parents, and other friends. My wife and I lost a dear pet, a miniature dachshund, to megaesophagus, a condition that causes a loss of control of the esophagus, making it very difficult to eat and causing pneumonia and other fun things.

We lost our dear Penny after a brief but painful fight. We were unable to say goodbye to her as the vet had her sedated by the time we arrived. I think I will forever be second guessing our actions, thinking of other things we could have done to save her life. However, what is done is done, and she's gone. We will forever miss our loving diva. In the days that followed her death, all I wanted to do was break down and scream.

Click here for Tom Petty - Room At The Top

On the positive side, we were able to extend a home to another dachshund through Midwest Dachshund Rescue, a little rascal named Parker, a two year old survivor of a puppy mill. He is wild and funny and gives Luke and Moxie, our other two doxies, an energetic playmate.

The loss of music icons like David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, and so on, were and always will be, devastating. They and others like authors Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, and Jim Harrison shocked the literary world. Beloved actors, George Kennedy, Abe Vigoda, Doris Roberts, and perhaps most surprisingly and supremely tragic, Carrie Fisher followed almost immediately by her mother, Debbie Reynolds. There's a vast collection of others that I've not listed here. I just can't bring myself to do it. These great people fell like dominoes this year.

I know what you're thinking, and you're right. You usually are, and I have to agree with you that I am sensitive to these losses. Why? Because these people have dedicated their lives to entertaining the masses. Us. They are in the limelight all the time, and take quite a bit of criticism and sometimes, even abuse from their 'fans'. These people become a part of our lives and we should feel sadness when they pass.

Then there's the cop shootings, and this bizarre presidential race. I just don't know what to think of it all. Such negativity, hatred, racism, I cannot stomach it. Facebook and Twitter have been a nightmare to deal with this year and it seemed to get worse even after it was over. Being an author, I need to keep my Facebook active, but I find myself using it less and less. It's exhausting reading the bad news, memes based on lies, and reading the hateful comments in the threads. It's disgusting.

On the other hand, there are those that have suffered worse than my wife and I this year, by far. I read their posts and feel the desperation of their loss. For me, being unable to do a thing about it is the worst of it.

But hey, I don't want to be all doom and gloom here. I'm writing, editing, carrying on and will be trying to attend more events. I need to concentrate on local fans and book fairs, I'm tired of driving hundreds, yes, hundreds of miles to sell a handful of books. In 2017, I'll be making the rounds nearer to home.

So, there are those friends and family that are having health issues and other challenges. I'm not talking about just mine, but yours, too. Let's all keep them in our thoughts and remain hopeful and helpful. As a nation, we need to show one another more kindness and understanding than ever before. And for the love of crap, people, don't believe every damn thing you read on the internet! Check your sources before sharing these 'news' items on Facebook, Twitter, and whatever the hell else you use.

*Sigh. Anyway, I digress.

I leave you with this: For each and every one of you, may you have a very good new year. Help make 2017 a year of positivity and truth. May you have peace, love, and joy in the new year.

Have a toast to absent friends and...let's be careful out there.

"Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride
If I have faith you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show
You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'll understand
We all need somebody to lean on
Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on"

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Happy Xmas [War is Over]

So, this is Christmas. And what have you done?

We Americans have been lied to by the media for years and, considering the outcome of this last presidential election, it’s clear to me that the majority of Americans have lost the ability to think critically. We believe the most outlandish and ridiculous crap we read on the internet and this time, it directly affected the presidential election.

As an example, I point out this phony "War on Christmas" that many people believe we’ve been “fighting”. I think I first heard the term about seven or eight years ago and I dismissed the notion immediately. It’s utter bullshit carried on solely by the media, and if you think there’s actually been some sort of restriction on greeting people with “Merry Christmas”, then guess what. It’s on you and no one else. There is no war on Christmas. You saw that on the news, read it in the paper or online, and for some reason, decided to believe it.

The phenomenon known as “Political Correctness” is a term that’s been around more than twenty years and its effect on people turns by stomach. The media has duped Mister and Misses America into thinking that their beliefs and thoughts need to be curbed in order to avoid insulting or offending people.

Well, Merry freakin’ Christmas, people. Your so-called First Amendment privileges have been compromised…all by yourselves. It’s a shame to see such wonderful people, as we Americans can be, handcuffing themselves in the name of something that shouldn’t exist. Throw away your “Political correctness” nonsense and wish someone Merry Christmas if you want to. There’s nothing wrong with it.

The worst thing that should ever occur by wishing someone a Merry Christmas is a minor blip of embarrassment when the other party is not of your faith. For instance, if you hear “Happy Hanakkuh” in return, you both need to smile, nod, and move on with your day. There is no need to feel shame or to censor your words because this country is comprised of people of all races, creeds, and religious beliefs, and we all need to remember that and be understanding. There’s no reason in the world to take offense just because someone greets you with the wrong holiday message. Further, I couldn’t give a shit about the design of Starbuck’s holiday coffee cups. 

What are we, children? Grow the hell up. I’m sure we all have better things to worry about. Of course, there will always be people with an abundance of negativity all stored up so they can go on a rampage on Twitter or some other social media site. This is America, land of the free, at least in theory.

It may come as a surprise to you that I am an atheist. This means that I do not believe in any religion’s gods, goddesses, or what-have-you. I say “Merry Christmas” anyway, though sometimes I say “Happy Holidays”, too. Why? Because I can.

As an atheist, I am aware that some of us non-believers protest Nativity scenes on church lawns, Christmas trees in the lobbies of courthouses, or including the phrase “under God” in the updated “Pledge of Allegiance”. These people make a big deal out of every little thing and I’m here to tell you that no matter what the reasons they state publicly, the simple reason behind their protests is that they have nothing better to do than to screw with the happiness of other people. That’s the beginning and the end of it and it’s sad.

My point here is that we are, all of us, everyone, are just people that want to be happy. Not just here in America, but as humans, that is what we all want. The holiday season is a time of the year where we are supposed to embrace peace and love and show each other kindness.

Like many of you, I have very fond memories of the Christmas season. I love giving gifts, and yes, I’m not going to lie to you, I love receiving them. I love the decorations, the lights on the tree, Christmas cookies, plastic Santas that light up, "A Charlie Brown Christmas", and holiday freakin’ punch. My Christmas is about songs of peace, winter, snow at Grandma’s, and how Santa lost a ho. It’s about spending time with friends and family, exchanging gifts, having food and drink, and remembering those that can no longer be with us.

Click here for the song: Santa Lost a Ho

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. I am just a regular Joe just like you, despite being an atheist. My wife is a Lutheran, as is my mother-in-law, and I’m fine with it. I believe in letting people celebrate whatever holiday they wish in whatever manner they wish, as long as it is not of a violent nature.

So, you may be wondering why I’m writing this in a rather gruff manner. I believe that what’s happening in this country started with being “politically correct” and the nonexistent war on Christmas. Many people bought into that garbage and it got worse from there. Fear of offending people and having a public backlash became more important than showing each other humanity and respect.

This did nothing but breed negativity in people, and in turn, the populace lashed out, taking up the cause of ‘taking the country back’ and ‘making America great again’. Back from what? Where’d it go? Talk about your meaningless, uninspiring buzz words and phrases, those were just a few I’ve been hearing.

To label those that voted for Donald Trump as stupid or racist is too broad, unfair, and, for the most part, incorrect. Recently, I was surprised to learn that a couple of friends of mine, people I’ve known since high school, voted for him. In asking about this further, although I typically wouldn’t have, I was shocked to find out that they believed quite a lot of the fake news reports regarding Hillary Clinton. People like my friends are reasonable, intelligent people, and were duped by unscrupulous, dishonest people that write these mean-spirited phony articles for their own amusement.

2016 has been a rough year for America. With mass shootings by lunatics, more shootings involving police, rioting, the harassment of the Sioux by the Federal Government, sponsored by the oil industry over the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the strangest presidential election I’ve ever witnessed, Americans are divided, perhaps as severely as we once were over the Vietnam War.

This is exactly why we all need to relax and show one another a little humanity this holiday season. This Christmas, let the frustrations go. Why not perform a selfless act of kindness for a stranger? Drop a little extra in the big red bucket while you’re at it. Visit with family and friends and talk of better times. Leave the politics at home, it’ll still be there in the new year.

“And so, happy Christmas
(War is over)
For black and for white
(If you want it)
For yellow and red ones
(War is over)
Let’s stop all the fight.
A very merry Christmas
And a happy new year.
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear.” ~ John Lennon
Click here for the song: Happy Xmas [War is Over]

Merry Christmas, everyone! I wish you all peace and love this holiday season.

Thank you for reading.