Archive for March, 2013

Let’s GrowGratitude for “Military Child Month”!

 Rita Profile

April is “Military Child Month” and GrowGratitude is on Board!

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This post is in honor of our nation’s military children and the heroic sacrifices they routinely make as part of being in a military family.

GrowGratitude Needs Your Help to Increase Awareness and Support for These Young Heroes. Please take a moment to read this post, share your thoughts, and PASS IT ON!  

I was born a “military brat” and have a special place in my heart for the children who are members of military families. According to Wikipedia, once a brat, always a brat. I did not know that.  “Military brats” describes children of a parent(s) serving full-time in the armed forces and also refers to a unique subculture and lifestyle of American military brats.” That may help explain why my heart wants to help (and a few other things).

                    

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Fortunately, I believe the perception of “military brat” has changed since my childhood. At that time, the perception seemed to be that being a “military brat” meant gallivanting around the globe, as if it was a “privilege” bestowed upon the very few. And I guess, to some extent that is sort of true. But what We, the People, seemed to forget or at least not acknowledge or perhaps did not realize or consider, is the NOT so “glamorous” aspect of “gallivanting the globe” from the vantage point of the military child.

It is from this perspective that we find irrefutable evidence for and the importance of celebrating these heroes; our heroes, who routinely make profound sacrifices as part of our country’s security and protection. Some of those sacrifices have the potential of having life-long effects and can become consciously or unconsciously a part of how one views and experiences life.

Some sacrifices are unimaginable.
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We owe our military children much gratitude, acknowledgement, support, understanding, appreciation, and more.

From a personal perspective, life as a military child was not easy. One of my most vivid memories was when my father was deployed to Thailand as his final service to our country before retiring from the U.S. Air Force. My father was expected to be stationed there for a year before we would see him again. I had just turned 9 years old and it was late Fall around Thanksgiving time. My personal secret countdown until my father left concluded the night before. All I remember about that night was that in the morning my father was leaving us for an inconceivable amount of time. Forever, to a 9 year old girl. And I really really did not want him to go.

My dreaded morning arrived quickly. I don’t recall if I slept at all. But I do recall feeling as though something traumatic was happening and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing! As I went downstairs, my father and mother stood in the dining room making last-minute preparations and checks. My father looked so handsome in his uniform.

Father and Daughter

The time came for me to leave for school. My father turned to me and asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I was trying to be so strong and I could tell that he was trying to be strong too. The inevitable happened and the tears began to flow uncontrollably. “I don’t want anything”, I sobbed, as the tears streamed down my face. At the age of 9, I recognized the pain on my father’s face and I knew he too was hurting and definitely did not want to leave us either.

I walked to school that morning, head low, heart heavy, thinking about what it was going to be like when I get home from school, knowing that my father was somewhere far far away for a very long time. My heart remained heavy that entire day as thoughts of my dad plagued my mind. I simply could not imagine life without my dad for such a long period of time.

My world had changed and everything in it somehow looked and felt different.

There are moments in life that you know are going to penetrate deep into the recesses of your mind and heart as the moment unfolds. And there are times when you don’t consciously realize or recognize the full effects or the magnitude of a particular moment until sometime later in life, or perhaps never. These moments can be, undoubtedly, defining moments, whether we are consciously aware of them or not. Their influence is deeply rooted, with considerable potential to affect us throughout the course of our lives.

I can still clearly see the pained expression on my father’s face and feel the depth of sadness that was my companion until my father returned home. No matter what was going on, there was an ever-present sadness casting a cloud over every life event and experience that deploymenthappened during that time. It turned out that my father would be gone longer than one year as originally expected and when he returned home, he returned as a disabled veteran.

My father retired from the U.S. Air Force having served our country for more then 20 years.

Looking back on my childhood years as a “military brat”, I now and at different points in my life, realize the impact that single experience alone had and still has on me to this day. It’s good to be conscious of that to which you were once unconscious. Sometimes having that awareness helps increase understanding of the nature and the lasting effects of being a military child.

Check out the slide show below regarding our nation’s amazing military children. Some of it may surprise you. Just take a moment. Imagine what it might be like to walk in their shoes.

Military Child Slide Show 

During April, the “Month of the Military Child”, GrowGratitude will be raising funds to help support our military children. And in a sense, they are indeed, OUR children.

The goal  is to raise $5,000. All proceeds will go to the National Military Family Association. 

The National Military Family Association has been the leading 501(c)3 charity helping military families of all ranks and Service branches. Their network of more than 1 million military family members is among the largest in the U.S.

Infant Draped in flag

To make a $5 donation to the National Military Family Association, click on the link below. 

The link will take you directly to the “Giving Opportunities Page”. Click “DONATE”.

To donate $5, click “OTHER” and enter $5 or a different amount, if desired.

 http://www.militaryfamily.org/get-involved/donate/giving-opp/

NOTE:  BE SURE TO TYPE “GrowGratitude” IN THE COMMENTS SECTION SO THAT WE ARE ABLE TO TRACK PROGRESS IN MEETING OUR $5,000 GOAL!

If you prefer to DONATE BY PHONE, please call Caroline Rasmus at 703-931-6632, ext. 325. Be sure to tell Ms. Rasmus that you are donating on behalf of “GrowGratitude” so that your donation will be included in the effort to reach our $5,000 Goal!

You can donate with confidence, because they are top rated by all charity evaluators:

  • 4-star rating from Charity Navigator 10 straight years – a distinction attained by only 1% of U.S. charities
  • Seal of Approval from the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance
  • A+ rating from CharityWatch.
  • “Buy” rating from Nonprofit Investor

I am truly grateful for your support and I know the children will be as well.

Let’s Make It Happen and Thank You!

Pink Heart                                                         OXOXOXO

See You Next Wednesday with an Update on the Mission to Grow Gratitude!

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Passing Perceptions: The Caveman, the Ogre, and the Perception-Panicked Parent

Rita ProfileI’ve lived a lifetime in this skin and I’m pretty confident I know the person within. I am always in awe when I encounter experiences and situations that perplex me or intrigue me based on where we are as a society; evolving as a species, which is essentially a prerequisite for the survival of humanity.

Perception, according to Dictionary.com: the act or faculty of perceiving, or apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind; cognition; understanding.

I recently saw a TODAY Show interview with actor Nicholas Cage, who has the lead in an upcoming animated movie, “The Croods”. I used to be a big fan of Nicholas’ and to some degree I still am (despite media reports of Cage’s “personal troubles” and more so, the infamous nature of those troubles). I remain a fan primarily because of my overall benefit- of -the -doubt approach to my perception of people. In other words, unless or until you show me otherwise, you are automatically given the benefit of the doubt. In that way, almost anyone that I encounter is level on the same playing field. At least to start.Caveman : Cartoon caveman with a club.Isolated on white

“The Croods” is an animated family film about a caveman family forced to go on a road trip when their cave is destroyed. What struck me about the interview is that Nicholas Cage, who has a 7 year old son who he described as a “connoisseur of animation”, confirmed that he had turned down the lead role in the original, wildly successful movie Shrek. As we know, Shrek just happens to be an ogre. When asked if it was true that he turned down the role because he thought the character Shrek was ugly, Cage responded:  

“The news said it was because of vanity, I think that’s a bit strong. The truth is I’m not afraid to be ugly in a movie…but I must say that when you’re drawn, in a way it says more about how children are going to see you than anything else and so I care about that. I want kids to look at Grug (lead character in The Croods) knowing he’s a little scary, but he’s a big teddy bear and I wasn’t sure I could do that with Shrek”.

Ummm, isn’t Shrek basically a big ogre that you (i.e., kids) really just want to embrace with a great big teddy bear hug? I mean, I know he’s an ogre, but can a caveman be any more of a huggable teddy bear than an ogre can? I’m thinking no. And isn’t it what we learn about the “character” of Shrek, as opposed to Shrek, the character, that is part of the heart of the message of the movie?

I don’t know that I would describe the character Shrek as scary. Different, perhaps, which I guess to some can be scary. But Shrek, the character, in and of itself is a pretty loveable, huggable kind of creature. At least, that’s my perception. I think the role was perfectly cast with Mike Myers as Shrek. And perhaps that’s a big reason as to why Shrek is loved so much. But I don’t think that’s the only reason. Yes, Shrek would probably be perceived differently if Nicholas Cage lent his voice to the character. However, even with Cage’s considerable difference in voice and energy compared to Mike Myers’, the character, the script, the plot, and the movie were all designed to have Shrek emerge and remain a can’t-help-but-love character. So all was as it should have been.

Perceptions are incredibly powerful for a variety of reasons including the fact that we tend to see the world based on our perceptions. In that case,

If reality is 9/10th  perception, what is it we’re saying as well as conveying about real life and what reality matters, as a result of our sometimes fairly faulty perceptions?

Four years ago, I was in a department store when a young girl – probably about 6 or 7 years old – walked down the aisle I was in with a man, presumably her father. As I stood looking at whatever item I was considering purchasing and they searched for whatever item that brought them to my aisle, I could overhear the father speaking with his young daughter. Little_girl_cartoon : a cute little girl  Stock PhotoThe girl had a doll in her hands that her father was evidently going to purchase for her, but he clearly had some concerns about the doll his daughter had selected. It wasn’t that he was upset, it was something less volatile and yet equally unsettling. It was his persistence that practically bordered on insistence. He couldn’t let it go. His daughter was quite content with her selection, but daddy wasn’t having it. He tried several different ways and times to query his daughter about her certainty in wanting the doll she chose. He failed miserably. Price was evidently not an issue. He let her know there were lots of dolls, any of which she could have. She let him know that she wanted the doll she selected. And yes, she was certain.

I desperately wanted to commend that little girl for sticking to her selection. She knew what she wanted and she picked it out without hesitation or second thought…or perhaps, after considerable thought. And better yet, she stuck to her guns when her father tried to instill doubt about her choice of dolls. It was her father’s perceptions that became the problem not the doll itself. The perception was that the doll would prove to be problematic for whatever reason(s), but I’d be willing to bet that those reasons never crossed that little girl’s mind…at least not without the intervention of other people’s perceptions.

I don’t know if that little girl left the store that day with the doll she originally selected. I often wonder. I wonder even more about her father. And I wonder if the little girl ever wonders why her daddy questioned her so. Probably not. She just wanted her baby doll, and keeping it was her focus.

Why couldn’t the father just accept the doll his daughter wanted? What was his perception of what was occurring that made him clearly visibly uncomfortable? Perhaps it was because he couldn’t figure out a way or a good enough reason for his daughter NOT to have the doll she probably proudly picked out. How was he going to explain why his white daughter chose a brown-skinned doll out of all the dolls she could choose from and what will people think?Black Dolls : African American Baby Doll Portrait lying under turquoise blanket

Six year olds are generally not concerned with other people’s perceptions or what other people think.  They make their decisions based on their own personal desires and what makes sense to them. And in applying the same benefit-of-the-doubt mindset, maybe daddy learned something invaluable from his daughter that day.

We have much to (re)learn from the young who have not yet been impacted by society’s collective pre-conceived perceptions and problems. And, perhaps, it will be the children that lead the way or at least, hopefully, remind us of our child-like nature and what reality matters.

Pink Heart        See you next Wednesday!   OXOXO

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You Can Take the Girl Out of the Country, But Can You Take the Country Out of the Girl?

One of the amazing attributes about America is that you can venture to a variety of locations and find the lifestyle so completely foreign from what you’re accustomed to that you can actRita Profileually forget that you haven’t left the country. The place may have various customs, language and dialect, diverse people and a completely different landscape. I love that about us! We get the opportunity to experience a world of diversity right in our own back yard. And, like Dorothy, we recognize when we’re not in Kansas anymore…figuratively speaking.

When I relocated to the merry old land of Oz-aka, the big city- I was a young, wide-eyed girl seeking a career. Like Oz, the bright lights, big city held the promise of opportunity. So I packed up my belongings consisting of common sense, a compassionate heart, and courage and eased on down the yellow brick road. I wasn’t at all sure where that road would ultimately lead me but I was willing to follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road. And so I did. And you can follow, follow, follow ME by clicking on the “Follow” tab in the bottom right corner of your screen. But I digress.  🙂

For some reason, people know I’m not originally from the city. It has always been that way and still is despite the fact that I’ve lived here for nearly 3 decades, far longer than anywhere else in my life. But enough people have said it that I would be in denial to think that there isn’t something about me that, in some instances, is being communicated non-verbally.

Still, I can’t help but wonder…what is it about me that I’m saying non-verbally? What are people sensing that I’m not seeing?

It’s in the way that I walk and the way that I talk. It’s my demeanor, my mannerisms. I haven’t been able to shake it and I haven’t tried to nor have I wanted to.

There’s something about the country that says home to me. Perhaps it’s childhood calling. And I miss the mountains that I so took for granted throughout my youth.  Home, a peaceful, serene place where the rat race pace of life is a somewhat slower, more relaxed experience. A place where the weight of the world is seemingly lighter and one can more readily become one with nature. A place with a stillness that I long for.

I realize how much I’ve become subtly acclimated to the city over the years. For the most part, it didn’t happen consciously, which is often the case. But I have necessarily become “citified” over time and therefore am inclined to see the world a bit differently then before I lived in the city and differently then I would if I still lived in the country. It’s all part of the process. I love the city. I love the energy, the diversity, and the opportunities. I am absolutely a city girl with a great big country heart!

Yes, you can take the girl out of the country and she can become acclimated to her surroundings, but you’d be hard-pressed to take the country out of this girl. Dorothy was right. There really is no place like home. And evidently, it shows!

Pink Heart

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How Dr. Seuss Helped Heal the Hurt of My Tumultuous Teenage Years

Last Saturday would have been Dr. Seuss’ 109th Birthday. This post is dedicated to his Rita Profilememory and the impact he had on the lives of millions of children, including myself.

“I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, which is what I do. And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”    – Theodor Geisel (aka, Dr. Seuss, 1904-1991)

Every child needs a friend, a confidante, someone (or thing) that s/he can trust whole-heartedly with their deepest thoughts, feelings and secrets. Key to that relationship is the concept of trust. It does not require a Dr. Seuss imagination to ponder potential problems or the tragedy that we face when a child feels their world is an untrustworthy place.

Anyone who has been a teenager can readily recall the roller coaster ride of adolescence. It is a trying and often challenging time of not only self-discovery but the discovery and perhaps stark recognition and understanding of how small we are, relative to our previous perception of the world and how we fit in it. Without question, being a teenager can be a tumultuous, trying time and raising a teenager…well, that’s a topic for a future blog post.

I think it’s safe to say that my typical teenage years were anything but typical. As a “military brat”, my first taste of civilian life was just a few short years before finding myself in the throes of adolescence.  As my father neared retirement from the U.S. Air Force, his last tour of duty was Thailand. Because we were not permitted to accompany him, he and my mother decided to relocate us to a small, back-mountain town in Pennsylvania – the town where my grandmother raised 7 children and where my father grew up. A town where my father felt would be the best place for his family while he was overseas completing his service to our country.                                                0306132008

Leaving military life was a bit of a culture shock in itself but moving to my father’s childhood hometown was a horse of a different color (so to speak). My father, an African-American and my mother, a white woman from England, were married in the late 1950’s (I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the culture shock my mother must have experienced).

My mother lived with my grandmother in that small, back-mountain town while my father was stationed overseas. At that time, they had 2 of the 5 children they would eventually 0306132008abring into the world. From then, it was back and forth between the United States and Europe. Of the 5 offspring, 1 was born in England, 2 were born in France (my birthplace), and 2 were born in my father’s childhood town. In fact, my sister was the first African-American baby born in the town’s hospital.

So as you may be beginning to realize, the situation or circumstances were a bit complicated and quite frankly, at times, downright dangerous across the country.

Picture this: 1950’s America, African-American man MARRIED to a British white woman living in undeniable poverty in a town where the number of non-white inhabitants was virtually nil. Then imagine the fact that this couple had the audacity to procreate.  And get this, one of their “creations” can be seen for a limited time simply by visiting the hospital maternity ward. Perhaps a freak show of sorts? Or maybe just harmless, honest, curiosity. I’m not sure. But I’m fairly sure that my mother probably holds the record for most visitors ever to frequent that maternity ward in the history of the hospital.  And of course, she didn’t know most of them, but they knew her…or at least heard about her.0306131819

Ok, enough about that.

So perhaps you’re wondering what Dr. Seuss has to do with any of this. I won’t say Dr. Seuss saved my sanity but there’s a good likelihood that the impact of his work took hold at an early age. After all, what kid didn’t love Dr. Seuss? Long story short, I love a good rhyme. And those of you who know me know I do it all the time.

Now I have to confess I was not comfortable in my own skin and like a typical teenager I just wanted to fit in. Good Luck with that! (mental note: how to fit in when you only stand out). I was fortunate enough to make some really good friends, but few I felt I could truly trust. And let me state clearly, that wasn’t necessarily all their doing. I, unlike my 2 siblings before me, was very timid and painfully shy. I was determined to maintain a low profile praying that doing so would help me remain unnoticed under the radar. Good Luck with that too! The point being, is that my 2 older siblings were more inclined to rebel and retaliate. I, at times, just wanted to be invisible and sometimes I was. But that was usually when I didn’t want to be.

So what does a self-admitting non-trusting biracial African-American teenager on the heels of the civil rights era with no one who remotely looks like her except her family do to navigate the turns through the tumultuous teenage times without losing her sense of sanity while simultaneously gaining a sense of self?

She writes. She turns the pen and paper into her closest confidant, her counselor, her soul survivor. And so I did. But I only wrote when I felt hurt or depressed. Writing was my path to  peace. I would journal my thoughts, feelings, hurts and desires. But I found that the writing frustrated me and didn’t help to ease my feelings. And that’s when my use of rhyme became a part of me…at least consciously. Instead of documenting my sadness, I began writing rhymes that may or may not have had anything to do with the reason that compelled me to write. What I found was that not only did I love writing rhymes but by the time I completed one I felt entirely different. The pain, if not gone, was significantly alleviated. And in the process I was also entertained.

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Me in my teens

With that said, I would like to share with you one of the rhymes I wrote when I was 15 years old that, to this day, I still feel vividly conveys and reminds me of a time when most children experience a sense of struggle.  What we do to overcome or survive those struggles; our experiences and choices, can potentially contribute to, and/or reflect, the core of who we are. And though I have NEVER had a desire to be a teenager again, I am grateful for those years, for the challenges that helped shape me and make me a better and stronger person, and for the friends who shared the experience of being a teenager with me.

Mixed Fruit

So true to life a song can be

For things believed not meant to be

How can a world be so unfair

In hurting such a happy pear?

There once was an apple and pearFingers Holding Apple

Who happened to have an affair

Though she was red did not matter a bit

For it was love that they felt and that was it.

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They lay side by side in a bowl full of fruit

They were adorable, sweet, really quite cute

They’d laugh and they’d talk and they’d kiss when they may

But little did they know it would be their last day

For from around the corner there was a spy

And so it was said their love must die.

 

They captured the apple the very next day

They peeled her and cut her and sent her away

And from that day forward the pear remained mute

For the spy believed you should not mix fruit!

See You Next Wednesday!  Pink Heart

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