Come Together

Alternate title: “Break Those Chains That Bind You”

I’m now reading my tenth book since school started, a book that was published in 2008. It’s a book by my favorite author, but I haven’t read it until now because 1. it’s historical fiction (not a genre I am usually drawn to) and 2. the target audience is middle-grade kids. Let’s go ahead and bust those myths: I do like historical fiction, and this book does not read like any middle school book I’ve ever encountered! The book? Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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Chains cover

Chains is set in New York during the American Revolution. The book follows Isabel, a 13-year-old slave, through trials of betrayal, loss, and punishment. There may be some redemption in the end, but I can only predict that because I just started Part II.

On the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Isabel witnesses the celebration in the streets. When the crowd surrounds and lassos the statue of King George III on the Bowling Green, “Common folk stood froze at the sight of a king being pulled down by the strength of the men working together” (125). This quote neatly sums up the entire revolution. It took people working for a common goal to overthrow their opposition.

This lesson is still relevant today, especially when our country feels so divided. We’re so quick to sort out the red and the blue, the white and the not white, the haves and the have nots that we forget that we all are striving for the same ideals that Thomas Jefferson and others sought 240 years ago: “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Even the Pledge of Allegiance calls for us to be “indivisible” as a nation, “with liberty and justice for all,” not just some. The sooner we realize that this common bond can unify us, the sooner we can divert ourselves from the path of discord that we appear to be on.

 

Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

That song isn’t even in my top 100, but it made for a good title.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be kind in such a rude world.

The day started off just fine. My mom and I dropped the dogs off at doggy daycare so we could spend the day at the State Fair of Texas. I knew it would be really busy since it was the last day, so we tried to get an early start.

We parked at the Trinity Mills DART station to take the train. When we got to one of the stops downtown, a door malfunctioned, and the officers made us all get off the train and catch the next one. The cars were so full: I was pretty sure we would have to stand for the rest of the trip, but we were lucky to find seats. I watched one man offer his seat to an older man who was standing in the doorway, and I noted that small act of kindness.

We arrived at Fair Park, bought some coupons, and proceeded to stand in line after line, waiting for Fletcher’s corny dogs, cowboy corn crunch, fried jello, more coupons, and the deep fried Texas bluebonnet (my favorite of the day). We zigged and zagged our way through Creative Arts and the Embarcadero. We dodged perfume samples and pushy salesmen. When we had had enough, we began making our way back to the train, the ever-growing crowds slowing our progress as they knelt and angled for the best photo with Big Tex or stopped mid-path to check messages on their phones.

Once the train arrived, we boarded an already-full car, and I noticed at least four people who had positioned themselves in seats so that no one could occupy the empty one next to them, three of whom were young men. Not one person offered to move so that my 70-year-old mom could have a seat. We stood in the crowded doorway. At one stop, a few seats opened up, and a young boy took one of them. At another stop, more seats became available, and mom and I were finally able to sit down. Behind us was one of the young men taking up two seats. After a while, he began rapping along to the music in his headphones.

And then we finally got off the train only to be greeted by this:

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That’s my car on the right. Obviously, I was parked there first…

I wanted to throw my keys at this truck, kick the bumpers, bend the license plate, flatten the tires… I didn’t do any of those things. I didn’t even leave a note for the jerk because if someone doesn’t care enough to park between clearly painted white lines, a harshly-worded note isn’t going to have much of an impact. I did call Carrollton PD and give them the license plate number. Then I spent the next 5 minutes maneuvering my car out of this predicament.

The last straw of the day came when we decided to go get frozen yogurt before picking up the dogs. (Because we didn’t get enough of the fair food, I guess?) In the small shop, two or three families had gathered with their children, and the noise level was almost deafening. We fixed up our dishes and decided to eat outside, but we weren’t alone for long.

Who are these people who believe social norms (and rules, in the case of the owner of the truck) do not apply to them? Have we become so self-absorbed and oblivious to our surroundings that other human beings cease to exist? Or maybe I’m the crazy one to think that social norms are normal–maybe they’re a thing of the past.

This world needs more kindness. We need people to notice and recognize and own their rudeness and adjust accordingly. Be more aware that you’re blocking a path. Pay attention to your surroundings and offer your seat to that person who looks older than you. Even if he or she refuses, your effort will be acknowledged. And for crying out loud, park your car in between the lines!

Wifi-less Musings

This will be a short post. My wifi is out, and I’m using my phone as a hotspot. Thankfully, I have rollover data, but I doubt I have enough to type my usual 300+ words.

When I was a kid, we had dogs, but they stayed outdoors, so I never got to use the “my dog ate my homework” excuse. In today’s world, I guess that excuse is about on par with “my wifi was out.” I didn’t need that excuse when I was a kid, though, because I always did my homework (teacher pleaser, remember?).

So here I sit, using at least three forms of technology that were foggy visions a mere 20 years ago. A computer the size of a spiral notebook that sits in your lap? A phone the size of a deck of cards that you can put in your pocket and use wherever you go? And they can access information anywhere in the world in just seconds? Impossible!

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Remember the rotary!

It’s Been a Rough Month

clam-29449_960_720When things aren’t going well (and lately, things seem to be awful), I clam up. I keep it all inside, and the thoughts pound my brain like a hammer and burn in my stomach like acid. I don’t want to talk about it because I know talking about it will only make me more upset. And if I do talk to someone about it, I feel like I’m bringing them down with me. Misery loves company, so they say. Then I feel bad for making them feel bad, and it’s just a vicious cycle. So, being the independent person I am, I suppose I’d rather suffer on my own than to make someone else feel bad, too, and that’s why I’m quiet.

The last time I started a post like this, I ended by counting my blessings. I’m not going to whine and cry that it’s not fair that all of these bad things are happening to me, but don’t count on a happy ending this time. Nothing is fair. I know this for a fact. And while it might sound pessimistic, the reality is that I’ve had to learn to expect less. Lowered expectations mean I wasn’t surprised when my car broke down again after spending quite a bit of money to fix it. I wasn’t surprised to find my cable and wifi out again after making time to meet a technician to repair it.

In Matthew Quick’s The Good Luck of Right Now, the main character’s mother describes luck as an ebb and flow: when something bad happened to her, it meant something good was happening to someone else and vice versa, and that balance is central to her existence. If this theory is correct, then I feel like some really positive karma is on the horizon. (Some friends have suggested that I ought to buy a lottery ticket because I’m due for some good luck!)

I know I’ll get back on my feet soon, and things will return (somewhat) to normal. And I know that I’ll get knocked down again in the future, and things will look bleak. There’s that vicious cycle. I’ll keep my expectations low for now–maybe I’ll be met with a pleasant surprise at some point.

In lieu of the happy ending, I offer these three songs that have been running through my head lately.

Stronger

The Bug

If You’re Going through Hell