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Posts Tagged ‘community’

Teach a man to fish

You know the saying, I’m sure:

Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day
Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for the rest of his life

Well, there’s another benefit of teaching a man to fish, and it isn’t the peace and quiet that comes while he’s out of the house, sitting in a boat and drinking beer all day.

Teach a man to fish, and he’ll teach his daughters and sons to fish. Then he’ll feed his elderly mother. Then his brother will take note and want to learn. Then the neighbor kids will want to come along. Next thing you know, you have a fishing community – a whole group of people who have a marketable skill and the ability to be self-sufficient.

This is why education is so important, especially for minority and immigrant communities. When one individual is lifted out of the devastating cycle of poverty, the ripples spread to others around them. When one person finds a way out, many others can follow in their footsteps. But someone has to be first, and they generally have the worst time of it.

What can help them? Scholarships. Mentors. Support groups. Public transportation. Business incubators. Advisors. Apprenticeships and internships. Anything and anyone who can inspire, encourage, educate, and hold them accountable as they develop their dreams into plans, and then into reality.

So let’s quit pretending education is a cost that we should cut, and let’s start treating it like an investment in our future.

Aaaaand then life happens.

Two weeks ago, I was going to start the year with a bang.  I had plans to dig into these new wedding ideas and get cracking right away on new products.

Work had other plans for me…

I’m currently working ten hour days, which when you add my commute means I get home and two hours later have to be in bed.  In fact, even eating dinner and taking a shower only leaves me with about seven hours max of sleep a night.  Cut that a bit shorter because of the time lying sleepless, and the situation gets even more grim.

I’m leaning on the small “energy shots” rather than my usual carbonated energy drinks, since B vitamins seem to be the lesser of two evils.  And if I’m honest, driving nearly an hour and a half in the morning is less hateful when traffic at least keeps moving the whole time!  But it’s still wearing on me pretty badly.  I’m a week in with possibly another week left.  And why?  Because of this:

jetkiss1

That’s what two decommissioned A4 Skyhawks are supposed to look like when they’re broken into pieces, painted a couple shades of pink, and installed in a 60′ deep hole in the ground.  Erm, I meant a rail station.  (Same diff.)

Apparently, they’ve been cut and reassembled, painted, and carefully packaged up for their trip to the Great Northwet, where I will likely get to watch them get installed in a few weeks.  This is a recent photo:Jet kiss

Out of respect for a fellow artist, I’ll just say that it’s not my cup of tea.  More power to him for making his vision happen successfully, and I really hope it all turns out exactly as he saw it in his mind.

In the mean time, we have to get all the lighting in place so that future train travelers will be able to see “Jet Kiss,” as the installation is called, in all its glory.  This is where all the overtime comes in!  And my currently insane schedule.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/119481257@N08/  (There’s supposed to be a photo I took of the inside of the station box here, but the internet hates me.  I’ll consult my media and technology guru and get it on here within a day or two.)

As you can see, the space isn’t very well lit right now, so we have our work cut out for us,  But we’re getting there!  And since permanent power has been turned on, we’re in the process of getting all the lights working.  So in a few weeks, hopefully this space will be flooded with light!  Which, for me, is the really exciting part of my work – watching as the project comes together in its final form.  Huzzah!

If you’d like to read more about the project, here’s a recent article with good info, as well as more renderings of the design.  Also, check out the Sound Transit page, which includes a webcam so you can be all creepy-like and spy on my colleagues and I.  ;-D

Pin ceremony

Tonight I’m at a union meeting, in particular what promises to be a very long union meeting.  They’re never precisely short, but tonight promises to take a little more of my time than usual, because they are awarding service pins to the folks who have been around for a while.

Half a dozen names were read for gentlemen who have been in the union for 65 years.  65 YEARS, people!!  These guys have been working members of the Brotherhood for 30 years longer than I’ve been alive!  It’s kind of crazy, in fact, for me to consider what these folks have seen over the years.  The changes in the industry, in the area, in the world as a whole…  It’s mind-boggling.

It makes me wonder what I’ll see when I’ve been around as long as they have.  It makes me wonder about the things that will change over the years, and how.  It makes me wonder what I’ll see, and how I’ll change as the years pass.

The first 30 years of service had only men, and there have only been a handful of people of color so far; it makes me wonder if those numbers were similar last year, or will be again next year.  As I look around at work and at school, I think they’re probably close.  Most of the folks in the hall are white males.  How much of that is due to like attracting like, how much to active discrimination, and how much to lack of interest on the part of minorities around here?

I guess I’m the reflective type; always thinking and wondering and deducting.  Trying to figure things out.  Attempting to make sense of things, despite the fact that they often don’t.  Glutton for punishment?  Perhaps.

All I know is that sitting here tonight, I feel like I’m part of something greater; something that will be here for the rest of my life; something that I can invest in and that will, in time, pay back strong dividends based on my investment.  It’s an organization that builds the community, that drives the economy, and that raises the bar for worker treatment and for the industry as a whole.

I’m proud to be a union member.  I can’t wait to be up there myself, getting a 65 year pin.  You know, if I live that long!

Time to be moving on

I have some unpleasant news folks; due to some recent policy changes, I’m going to shut down my Etsy shop.  A few days ago I got an email sent out by the CEO of Etsy discussing these new “clarified” policies, and frankly I was appalled.  Etsy bills itself as a marketplace for handmade goods, but over the past years the “handmade” section has been taken over by mass producers pretending to be crafters.  By checking sites like CraftCount that track the top sellers, this becomes obvious.  The top several sellers are from Far East countries well known for large numbers of sweatshops, and with average daily sales in the hundreds for each of these shops it’s obvious these aren’t individual sellers.

Well, as of January 1st, the rules allow these sellers to hire employees, use fulfillment services, and even involve outside manufacturers – as long as they’ve designed the product.  By redefining the term “handmade” to include work that CLEARLY is not handmade, it puts the nail in the coffin of small, indie sellers like myself who not only design but also create all our own goods with our own hands.

So I’m leaving.  This is not a decision I’m making lightly; I’ve spent nearly five years on Etsy.  This change will affect every aspect of my business.  But I can’t compete with that demographic and I don’t want to.  That’s why I went to Etsy in the first place – because I want to be part of a community of small sellers like myself.

To make a long story short, I’ve started migrating my listings over to Zibbet.com as of this week.  To where, you say?  I know, I hadn’t heard of them before either.  But they have the potential to compete very strongly with Etsy in time.  The costs are lower to start up, they actively police listings and flag (and even remove!) shops that are out of compliance, and they have a firm reputation for fast and personal responses.

I hope you’ll come visit me at my new web home http://www.zibbet.com/MelsBellsJewelry which will be (slowly) filling up with all the same goodies from my Etsy site, as well as a bunch of new stuff you haven’t even seen yet!  Thanks for all your support, as always.  I’m trusting that this change, though frustrating for me, will lead me to a better community that I’ll truly fit into.

Election Night Message

I’ve kept (mostly) quiet about my political preferences this year.  Not because I’m ashamed, and not because I don’t want to discuss them or the issues at hand.

The reason I haven’t put them out there is that most of the people who do want to (I shall put this politely) “engage me in discussion” on political matters are actually only interested in two things: 1. beating other people over the head with their beliefs, and 2. hearing the sound of their own voices.

I have a handful of friends who I’m sure would have loved to actually discuss these matters rationally and calmly, with respect and appreciation for each other’s views, and with an openness of heart that would allow the possibility that not only could I be wrong, but they just might be wrong themselves.  These are unfortunately not generally the people who respond to my Facebook posts on religion, politics, or any other subject that might possibly engender disagreement.  The people who generally respond to such posts do so with personal insults against me or the person I support, ignorant statements that demonstrate a complete unwillingness to find the truth, thinly veiled talking points regurgitated straight from the source without any personal analysis, and lousy jokes on the level of, “That’s what SHE said!”

In short, I keep quiet ’cause I don’t want to feed the trolls.

That said, I do have something to say to those who supported Governor Romney this election season, and I figured I’d go ahead and say it.  In fact, this specifically goes out to the angry and frightened people, some few of whom are now expecting Armageddon to descend upon all of our heads in the form of hordes of undocumented illegal immigrants and flaming, tutu-wearing, glittery ‘mos who will steal their guns in the middle of the night and force their daughters to have abortions.  (Most of you are not that extreme, but some of you – please admit it to yourself if not to me – are actually afraid of the next four years.)

Okay, I’ll allow that you’re worried.  In fact, if you feel that your candidate was the best choice for the country, and the guy who won does not have the right answers, and therefore you are concerned with where the country is headed, then I actually applaud you.  People who think that way are concerned with the state of our nation because they want to see America succeed.  They want to not only be proud of our past, and proud of many things we have done and are doing, but to also be proud of our present.  They want to stand up and say, “We’re doing things right.  We have our shit together.  We take care of ourselves and each other, and we make this world a better place.”

Guess what?  I am 100% with you on that.  I want America to be a great and powerful and strong and well-run country too!  I want our citizens to be healthy and have the opportunity to succeed too!  I want a nation that is both safe and respected around the world too!

We won’t always agree on how that can happen or what we need to do to improve things.  We may not even agree on what “improved” means!  But I want you to know that, just like you, I want a strong and safe and healthy and successful America.  I also think that we have a great foundation and we do a lot of things right.  And I also think that we face a lot of challenges because we do a lot of other things wrong.  So we should be able to sit together over a drink or some coffee or a meal and talk about it like civilized humans.

Now let’s deal with this fear issue.  In 2004 I was afraid that Bush would be re-elected.  I didn’t like what he’d done with his first four years (I voted for him the first time!) and I was really worried about what a second term would do to the country.  Well, we found out.  It screwed us up, big time.  It left us with a huge national debt and no way to get out of it, bad blood with other nations, regulations that are friendly to corporate entities and the richest of the rich, and policies that drain the average worker of their life’s blood.

I don’t like these parts of our nation.  I don’t like the callous way our poorest and neediest people are treated.  I don’t like the way money can buy you damned near anything while the have-nots suffer indignity and privation.  I don’t like the way our elections go to the people who spend the most or the way our ballots themselves aren’t protected at the most basic levels.  (I’m looking at you, states with unverified electronic machines, and at you, Wisconsin that doesn’t let the military have their absentee ballots in time.)  I don’t like the attacks on women’s rights or the way a certain religious tradition has (since the ’50s) been legitimized.

Several of my friends and family members have talked about leaving the country if Obama lost.  Several different friends are now talking about moving because he won.

Don’t run away, people!  Stay here and work to make the country a better place!

Don’t like the way your Congresscritter voted?  By god, pick up the phone!  Take two minutes of your life and tell them why you thought they should have voted differently.  Or better yet, call them before they vote and tell them the following:  “As your constituent, I expect you to represent me.  I expect myself and my fellow constituents to be your highest priority and your most important so-called interest group.  I expect you to do what is right for the people of this district.  And I expect you to vote for/against this issue.  I and my neighbors are watching you, and we’re watching who contributes to your campaign, and we’re going to know if you throw us under the bus in favor of deep pockets.  We’re watching.”

Yes, people, I am telling you to get involved.  Once a month, sit down and look up a pet project or cause or idea.  Are you from a military background?  Do you ride a motorcycle?  Do you have kids?  Are you worried about the number of homeless you see on the streets?  Did you hear about a methadone clinic going in down the street from your favorite store?  What is on your mind?  What is bothering you today?

Look it up.  The entire internet lays before you – LOOK IT UP!!  Find two articles that support your position and two that oppose it.  Read all four of them.  Think about them.  If they spark any questions, look those up too.  Get yourself some answers.  And then – you guessed it – make that call!  Call your Congresscritter, call the President, call the Mayor, call your City Councilperson, call your County Commissioner, call the Governor.  Call whomever is in a position to do something about the problem – and tell them you want them to do something about the problem!

Or you can write a letter.

Or you can send an email.

Or you can show up on their doorstep (perhaps on Lobby Day with a bunch of your like-minded friends?) and tell them to their face.

Or you can wait till they do a town hall meeting in your area and tell them to their face then.

Are you catching on to my theme?  Find some issue that pushes your buttons, learn about it, and do something!  Voting is an important part of our civic duty, but if all we ever do is vote and then bitch about the results, we are not doing enough.

We.  Can.  Do.  More.

Please, don’t be afraid of what the next four years may bring.  Don’t focus on getting away from America, don’t focus on what might go wrong or what might happen later.  Focus on what’s happening now.  Focus on what you can fight for, or fight against, or change.

Six years ago, when the REAL ID Act was being discussed, I was able to go to Olympia for a Lobby Day.  I was able to meet with Rep. Eickmeyer and sit in his office discussing the bill with him.  We talked in particular about the technology used and the security problems it poses.  I will always remember the satisfaction I felt when I was able to teach him more than he already knew about it, and I will always be proud that I influenced his vote by talking to him that day.  That’s right, my visit changed the way my representative voted.  It’s an incredible feeling.  It’s powerful, and it’s humbling at the same time.  Because you feel like you’re part of the process, part of something bigger.  You start to own your government.  You don’t feel so much that the government owns you.

That’s a feeling every American should have.  In my personal opinion, the apathy and low voter turnout and acceptance of crappy results or poorly written legislation and its unintended consequences and all of that garbage would disappear if we got involved in the process.

So write a frikkin letter already!  Make a bloody phone call!  If you’re upset by the result, now is not the time to grab a beer and bitch with your friends about how bad it’s going to get.  Now is not the time to go to church and pray for the country to miraculously be saved.  Now is not the time to put all your life savings into gold bars and hide them in your custom bomb shelter with forty years’ worth of canned foods and bottled water.

Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and go talk to the people in power.  Now is the time for you, my Joe the Plumber Republican friends who work for everything you have and worry about the future your children will inherit, to step up and get involved.  Now is the time for you to tell your elected officials that you are paying attention to them.   Now is the time to learn more about the people on the other side of the aisle, to figure out what they want, and to push forward in those areas where your interests coincide.

Now is the time to make a better America.

Because people, we are all being played against each other.  And those who sit on the sidelines are exacerbating the problem, letting the people who pull the strings keep doing what they do.  So get on the field and start playing the game.

Samhain

I was invited to Samhain tonight (pronounced SOW-in), which is a Pagan sabbat (festival? ritual? celebration? remembrance? event?!?) that marks the end of the year and celebrates the harvest.  Apparently it also has to do with healing, which is why I was invited.  I could definitely use some healing.

No clue what it’s going to be like.  No clue what I’m going to think of it or what’s going to happen.

Expect a follow-up post in a day or two.  (If I can remember to get it out of the way before NaNoWriMo starts!)

Great weekend

This weekend was really quite lovely.  Not what I expected in many ways, but lovely nonetheless.

Friday Shawn and I were planning on playing the Life Care Center in Port Orchard, but it was moved to next week.  So we got together and worked on some originals instead – finding harmonies and working out the arrangements, that sort of thing.  Then we put together a full 3-hour set list so we’ll be ready for gigs.  I was once again struck by how much I value these musical friendships that I’ve made recently.  There’s something so special in having at least a few people around you who share the same feelings and joys, and with whom you can share the crazy excited thoughts that run through your brain when you get random song ideas!

Well, after a couple of hours we headed for the Alderbrook, which was fabulous as always.  The crowd was good, the drinks were great, the scenery was incredible.  We played about a set and a half, then Robert Poole and Robert the flutist jammed for a bit.  The band actually went outside and sat down near the water while the guys did their thing!  😉  Then we headed back in to take over again and, lo and behold, Mike Pratt was in the house.  So when we got back up I dragged Mike on stage for a few songs, including a Travis Tritt duet and a group jam on Mustang Sally that had so many people we didn’t all fit on stage!  Before we knew it, it was time to shut down, but the party didn’t stop there.

Since several other musically inclined folks had showed up by then, we all ended up out on the patio around a fire pit, passing around a guitar and making up harmonies to all kinds of wonderful songs.  It wasn’t heaven, but it was pretty damn close, being outside with the music and the dancing and the people and the fire and the water and the stars…  Unfortunately, as the night wore on a very well-lubricated individual showed up and began making too much noise.  This of course Cannot Happen at a respectable establishment like the Alderbrook, so we were promptly removed from the scene.  That’s right, the BAND got bounced!  Priceless, eh?  It’s okay tho, I really had to get home to give Gumby his meds.

By the by, I got refills for him yesterday and I’m really happy!  See, I have to cut one of his three meds in half, and the pill is large and round, hence it tends to crush rather than break clean.  So every 4th pill or so ends up wasted.  (It’s still cheaper than getting the next smaller size and giving him 2 morning and 2 night!)  Well, to make a short story long, the pills are shaped differently now, so they cut easily and cleanly.  *happy dance*

Okay, back to the weekend…  Once again I missed my swim lesson, but this time it was because I had a class to teach at the same time, not because I’d been up too late the night before.  So I did my class, which went very well indeed.  Hopefully I will see my students back for project classes!  I’m really on the fence about teaching up there.  It’s hard to schedule, since my calendar changes around so often.  And the classes are set around 3 months in advance!  So it’s difficult.  And when I end up canceling other plans to drive 17 miles and teach a single student…  Well, let’s just say that the cost-benefit equation isn’t favorable.  But lately I’ve been having lots of multi-student classes, which makes things more palatable.  As you can see, I have reasons for wanting to quit before the next session starts.

But my class did go well, and after that I had a good chat with Jon about Navy issues while we moved more of Albert’s things out.  I’m going to sit down with Jeff the recruiter (Should I go all Mr. Rogers and capitalize that?) about the officer programs.  Jon suggested I go in as a yeoman, spend the first year getting my Bachelor’s, then go for a commission and the big money.  Not a bad plan!  And worth considering, since the band thing doesn’t seem to be happening.  }:-(

Saturday night we were at the Man-Pub, which was not nearly as busy as it usually is.  Perhaps everyone was nursing sunburns, what with the beautiful weather!  Honestly, it felt like we were a little off…  Not sure what the deal was, but to me it felt like we were trying too hard and it just wasn’t working.  I know Shawn was – he pretty much lost his voice by the end of the night!  We were both struggling to get some of those songs at the end.  But we (once again) overfilled the stage area – Tim and Kim Silke came out, so of course we had to drag Tim up front to join us.  We ended the night with Southern Cross and Seven Bridges Road, which was absolutely fabulous.  I love singing with these guys – the harmonies make me sooooooo happy!

Today I had anticipated playing at the Downtown Market, but as it turned out they had entertainment lined up already.  So…  I slept in.  😀  Can’t argue with that, huh?  Got down to Evergreen in time for my set at Kitsap Pride, but unfortunately that didn’t go as well as I anticipated.  First of all, the audience disappeared just as I started.  (The drag queens performed, then Michael spoke, then Derek Kilmer spoke, during which many people departed.  *phooey*)  So I stood up to a greatly depleted audience – and promptly started playing in a different key than I was singing.  *facepalm*  And more people left.

The rest of my set went well, and in fact they kept me for a couple of encores, which was sweet.  But the best part (aside from having friends come out specifically to see me play, which always gives me warm-and-fuzzies) was that I met some gals who live right down the hill from me!  So I made some new friends, and we’re gonna get together and jam some time.  How cool is that?!?

Went home, stopping on the way to drop booth stuff in storage for daMama and to hit the grocery store for a few things, and commenced with the domesticity.  In particular, the making of chili and the baking of various breads.  I was planning on white bread, wheat bread, corn bread, and banana bread.  Unfortunately, I did not realize that my milk was nasty – so much for the wheat bread!  And I took too much time on the other things, so the white bread wouldn’t have time to rise before I went to bed.  So that was out.  And then I ran out of cumin, so knowing that my chili wouldn’t be ready tonight I said “to hell with it” and put the cornbread off till tomorrow.  So…  Um…  I has banana bread muffins.

All in all, the weekend was lovely and fun and filled with many wonderful memories.  Not at all what I expected…  But isn’t that just how life works?  Tomorrow morning I’ll be meeting a couple of the other vixens at the garden, and we will break our fast with banana muffins and coffee, and then work our ass ends off to feed ourselves and our families.  So I guess it’s time that I put the last nail in this weekend’s coffin and hit the hay.  Good night all, and let’s all enjoy another week filled with unexpected surprises!

Building Kitsap Businesses

It’s no secret that the economy is bad and local businesses are in trouble.  It seems almost every other day I hear about another local business closing its doors, and sometimes it feels like half the storefronts in the county are empty.

But there’s a quiet resurgence of small business in the county right now.  It’s being led by groups like Washington CASH and Washington Small Business Development Centers.  These groups are providing small business owners (like myself) with the tools and resources we need to rebuild the local economy from the ground up.  In fact, Kitsap County has proven to be one of the most effective areas in the state for small business seed money programs!  We do more and go farther in this area when we’re given the opportunity.

How can you help this trend grow?  By patronizing local businesses as much as possible – go to the “mom & pop” flower shop down the street instead of ordering a bouquet online, and hire a local handyman instead of calling the big box store on your next home improvement project.  By purchasing locally grown food – sign up with a local farm for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, shop at the farmers’ market, or buy the produce at the supermarket that has the “locally grown” sticker.  By keeping your money local – instead of patronizing a large national bank, pull your money out and put it in a local bank or Credit Union.

All these things will keep money in our local economy and build our community up, instead of sending our money out-of-area or out-of-state, or even out of the country!  Kitsap County has existed as a kind of “bedroom community” of Seattle for too long.  Many of our residents can’t afford to buy a house here, and our graduates leave the area in droves as they look for work.  Let’s all do what we can to build the local economy and keep Kitsap dollars here in Kitsap.

NaNo – DONE!!

Getting ready for the Thank God It’s Over party tonight at the Methodist church.  Yay!  I know, I know, I do love doing NaNoWriMo.  But it was just so much on top of everything else this year!  So I made my choice and I put my novel aside in favor of other priorities.  Like putting out a decent newsletter, getting good photos so I could list more items online, and getting funding for the store opening.

I guess those were pretty important, too.

So life will go back to its standard form of insanity, down from the enhanced period of literary insanity.  The good news is that I’ve made some good contacts, so there’ll be better advance planning for NaNoWriMo 2012!

Arron’s Retirement

I had the immense honor of being asked to sing at my friend Arron Sterling’s navy retirement yesterday.  Not only did he hire Tuck and I to sing for his reception, but he asked me to sing the national anthem for the actual ceremony!

Now, I always love to sing the national anthem.  Every time I do, I feel like I’m part of something much bigger than myself.  It’s kind of like my own little form of national service.  Silly, I know, but there you have it.

And it was so flattering that he asked me!  The man’s a Lieutenant Commander, for heaven’s sake, he probably knows a dozen people who could do it.  He asked me.  Damn!  Did that make me blush?  Oh yes, it made me blush.  Right down to the tips of my toes.

So I cleared my calendar for the day, got all gussied up in something appropriate to the occasion, even shaved my legs, and took a nice leisurely drive up to Indian Island.  And it was a fantastic day for a drive.  Took one wrong turn because I didn’t read the directions carefully enough, but I recognized my mistake right away, flipped Rizzo back around, and got headed the right direction.  Got there with plenty of time to spare.

I do love military retirements.  I’ve attended several, and I gotta tell you, I cry every time at two points.  First, there’s a ceremony called “Old Glory.”  Several servicemembers stand in a line, representing the ranks previously held by the retiree.  The lowest ranking person holds an American flag, and they pass the flag from one person to the next, all along the line.  Each person moves slowly and deliberately, saluting before receiving the flag, then saluting again after passing the flag to the next person; it’s a very regimented and precise sequence.  The retiree him or herself is the last person in line, and when he or she takes the flag, he or she can then present it to a parent or spouse, or someone else very special to them.  The entire time the flag is being passed, the following poem is read:

I am the flag of the United States of America
My name is Old Glory.

I fly atop the world’s tallest buildings.
I stand watch in America’s halls of justice.
I fly majestically over great institutes of learning.
I stand guard with the greatest military power in the world.
Look up! And see me!

I stand for peace, honor, truth, and justice.
I stand for freedom.
I am confident . . . I am arrogant.
I am proud.

When I am flown with my fellow banners,
my head is a little higher,
my colors a little truer.

I bow to no one.
I am recognized all over the world.
I am worshipped.
I am saluted.
I am respected.
I am revered. I am loved.
And I am feared.

I have fought every battle of every war for more than 200 years…
Gettysburg, Shilo, Appomatox, San Juan Hill, the trenches of France,
the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome, the beaches of Normandy,
the deserts of Africa, the cane fields of the Philippines,
the rice paddies and jungles of Guam, Okinawa, Japan, Korea, Vietnam,
and a score of places long forgotten by all but those who were with me.

I was there!

I led my soldiers.
I followed them.
I watched over them…
They loved me.

I was on a small hill in Iwo Jima.
I was dirty, battle-worn and tired,
but my soldiers cheered me,
and I was proud.

I have been soiled, burned, torn and trampled on the streets of countries
I have helped set free.
It does not hurt . . . for I am invincible.
I have been soiled, burned, torn and trampled on the streets of my country,
and when it is by those with whom I have served in battle . . . it hurts.
But I shall overcome . . . for I am strong.

I have slipped the bonds of Earth
and stand watch over the uncharted new frontiers of space
from my vantage point on the moon.

I have been a silent witness to all of America’s finest hours.
But my finest hour comes
when I am torn into strips to be used for bandages
for my wounded comrades on the field of battle.
when I fly at half mast to honor my soldiers…
and when I lie in the trembling arms
of a grieving mother at the graveside of her fallen son.

I am proud.
My name is Old Glory.

Dear God . . . Long may I wave!

I read recently that this was written in 1983, which I found surprising because I always thought it was a much older tradition.  All I know is that I cry every time I hear it.  (Well, I cry when it’s done well.  I’ve heard MCs who didn’t know what they were doing, and a butchered reading doesn’t always bring up tears.)  The other part that always gets me is when they read “The Watch.”  Again, visualize me weeping like a baby.  A sad, angry baby.  (For those of you who aren’t Firefly fans, that’s a quote.)

Aye mates,
For many years, this Sailor stood the watch …
While some of us lay about our bunks at night,
This Sailor stood the watch.

While others of us were attending schools,
This Sailor stood the watch.

And yes, even before many of us were born,
This Sailor stood the watch.

As our families watched the storm clouds of war,
brewing on the horizons of history,
He stood the watch.

This Sailor looked ashore and saw his family …
Often needing his guidance but he knew he must stay,
Because he had the watch.

For many years he has stood the watch,
So that we and our countrymen could sleep soundly, in safety,
knowing that a Sailor would stand the watch.

Today, we are here to say “Shipmate, the watch stands relieved.
Relieved by those you have led, trained and guided.
Shipmate, you now stand relieved, We have the watch.”

Again, with the right person reading it, this is a huge tearjerker for me.  Yes, I get sappy when I think of everything that is given by those who serve.  It’s not just the lives they lay down, it’s not just the ones who died on our behalf.  (Though how the word “just” could ever be applied to that kind of sacrifice, I don’t know.)  Like anything else one does, the willingness to give over a long period of time is just as significant a sacrifice – holding fast, day in and day out, while all the little costs add up.

A life given in service to the military is just that – a life given in service.  I’m too selfish to do that.  I freely admit it.  I want to do my own thing with my life.  I don’t even want to work for a corporation, or anybody else for that matter, because I’d rather be accountable to myself.  I enjoy self-employment, because I can make all the decisions myself.  I am amazed and wonderstruck and incredulous at the many men and women I know, and the many more I’ll never know, who have given five or ten or twenty – or in Arron’s case, 28 – years of their lives to defend us.

And then, after all that, they don’t even get the national anthem at their ceremony.  Yep, that’s right folks, the sad, sorry truth is that when the time came yesterday for the MC to announce me, he skipped a line and went right past.  Poor Arron, I felt so bad for him.  I felt pissed for myself too, you understand, but really, for me it was an opportunity to be there for a friend, and to honor the nation that is my home and those who ensure its (and my) safety.  For Arron, it was the culmination of his entire career, the ending point of his life as it’s been and the beginning of his life as it will be.  He deserved fewer glitches, IMHO.

But of course, at the end of the day, he was still retired, and we had an awesome party later on.  At which, of course, he let me sing the anthem.

It wasn’t fairy-tale quality, but it was still a happy ending.