Today I am Superman

I am the superhero of myself. I’m the one that forces myself to run in the cold rain when I don’t feel like it, or when my body is tired and aching. I’m the one that tells myself to back off when my leg feels like it’s full of broken shards, or my back is stabbing me with pain, and then I am the little voice that says it’s time to get back up again. I’m the one that tells myself to keep going when my legs are on fire, and my lungs are bursting. I take responsibility for this life to give myself every chance to be healthy and happy. I’m the advocate of me. I am the one that shuts down the words of those who have said harmful things that would destroy me. I turn off the video reels of the past, and protect myself from the world of disappointment. And I have hated you. I’ve been critical of you, feared you, and avoided you. That world that crushed my lips in a cruel embrace, that stabbed my back with a steely blade, that spit on my face and beat me with bony fists. You spoke with a surly snarl to bring me down, and laughed at my demise. But now as I run through this rain, I see you walking by and I love you. I love all of you, because today I am Superman, and I run.

The Mighty Fortress of Her Heart

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My mother binds our family together. She’s the reason that we all love each other, and the only reason that we all survived growing up. There’s much to be said about this amazing woman who grew up in the country of Michigan. As a child, she was confined to a wheel chair for a time because she had a tumor in her ankle. She also survived rheumatic fever. The worst thing she ever did was disobey my grandfather by going to the swamp to swim, and ended up with a thorn in her foot that got infected. Isn’t that sweet? I wish that was the worst thing I ever did as a kid. She also fell down a couple of wells by jumping over them for fun. I’m glad that well technology has improved since then.

As a young woman she met and married my father, and I was born soon after. This man should have been born in the 1800’s, but was somehow misplaced in time. A wild mountain man, who loves to hunt and endure the hardships of the wilderness. When I was five, my Dad moved us to a bleak, cold place called Three Hills in Alberta, Canada. Aptly named, because of three low hills near the town. This fantastic landmark is about as unexciting as it gets. Calling them hills is a stretch at best. What the place lacks in scenery, it makes up for in…well, freezing temperatures. Let’s face it, it sucked.

When we moved there we all lived in one room that was rented in a basement of someone’s house. This was not glamorous, but it was a warm and wonderful home. You see you have to know my Mom to really understand. My Mom is the kind of person that can make any place be wonderful and happy. She can make things out of nothing and make them beautiful, with arts and crafts, and then she makes it even better with her love. She’s an amazing artist, and I never really appreciated that until I got older. I guess I just got used to my Mom being awesome, and it just seemed normal. But now I can see it in everything she did, and does. From cooking, pottery, sewing, quilting, and decorating, and yes, even curling. (This is a crazy sport where you sweep brooms in front of a heavy rock that slides across the ice toward a distant target) Nothing is beyond her reach.

But for all her incredible talents, she is also very brave and resourceful. My father was out of town for a long time going to Electrician’s school, and learning the trade. This was in the middle of the winter, and the next place we lived in had a coal furnace. We ran out of coal, and my Mom ordered some more. The only problem was that the frost had gotten inside of the coal, and it wouldn’t burn. My coal shoveling mother spread the coal across the entire basement floor, and let it dry out so that we wouldn’t freeze to death, and that’s a very real possibility when the temperatures drop to forty below zero. I can’t even count the times she saved us from disaster. There were many. At times when others would panic and rage wildly, she took over. In the midst of the storm, her’s was the calm voice, like a sea captain surely directing a ship around dangerous shoals. You could go to her with any trouble, and she would make it right–sometimes with great personal sacrifice.

The best thing about Mom is that no matter how bad things get, she can put a shine on it, and have you smiling again in no time. She can turn that frown upside down in a hot minute. It was the little things that she would do to make the best of a bad situation. If food was scarce, she could make a pizza out of hotdogs and dough. Cookies would appear from nowhere, when everyone knew we just didn’t have anything to make them from. She was like a food magician.

Mom always put others before herself. She’s the most selfless person I know, and will help anyone in need. The kind of person that can make six new friends just standing in line at the grocery store. Always has a smile on her face, and never an unkind word for anyone. She sees the best in you, and you want to give that to her. And when you screw up, she always forgives you. I did a lot of screwing up, but Mom never held a grudge, never reminded you about it, never held it in her memory. And when I was wrong, and argued, and was ugly and mean, Mom loved me through it. She loved me so strong that it broke me, and I gave in. She’s stubborn about that, and you never win against her. Especially not in Scrabble.

I’ll never know how she managed to raise five boys and a girl on her own. She worked a full time job, kept a spotless house, and managed to bring a smile to each and every child every day. She went through a divorce, remarried, had multiple heart attacks when she was 48, and outlived every doctor’s diagnosis of living with half a working heart. She died on the operating table, and God sent her right back to us, alive.

There were many times that I felt that other people ruined our lives, that life had kicked us in the teeth, and evil had a pension for dumping stuff on us, but I knew that my Mom would never let us down—and she never has. I could always count on her to make things good for us, and that was all we needed. When danger and fear would come, she stood in the way and took the brunt of it. She is our rock, our safe place—in the mighty fortress of her heart.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. There’s so many other things you did for us, and are still doing. (Surprising me on my fiftieth birthday!) I just wanted to acknowledge to the world what you’ve done for us, even though it’s just a small part of what you mean to us.

Thank you soooo much. We love you!

Guns Under Fire

The recent gun related tragedies have launched an all out attack on guns, and I have decided to write down my thoughts on the matter.

I grew up around guns, and guns were everywhere. The weapons and ammo were readily available, and not under lock and key. My father is a gun enthusiast, a hunter, a wild goat of a mountain man. Most of my time growing up with him we lived on the edge of civilization, and sometimes beyond. At age seventy, he is still out there somewhere, beyond the red line. I was given my first BB gun at age six—and yes—I did come close to putting my eye out. It hit me in the forehead instead. I got my first .22 rifle when I was nine. I had pneumonia at the time, and didn’t have the strength to pull the bolt back on the thing—which annoyed my father to no end.

I’ve watched many an animal gutted and butchered and skinned, and sat out on the peaks of the Rockies freezing my feet off and wondering when it would all end. For I am a lover of books, and warm fires, and hot toasting ham and bean soup eaten in the warmth of the house. I grew up though, knowing one thing for certain. I knew exactly the consequences of pointing a weapon at something and firing. I knew for certain that things died and could not be brought back.

As much as I disliked hunting, I loved target shooting. My dad showed me how to shoot laying down, sitting, and standing, how to hold my breath just right and squeeze the trigger slowly. How to put it all together. I remember the first time I nailed a pop can with a .22 rifle from 25 yards. I still remember the plink sound it made, and the joy of hitting the target right on. My dad beamed with pride. It was a great time.

As I see it, banning guns will only create yet another illegal business. Gun runners. In this time when we are tired of the drug war and the money being wasted on that, why oh why would we want to create yet another illegal trade. Haven’t we enabled the crime-lords enough? Why would we want to do this? Why would we want the criminals to have the guns and citizens to be unarmed? I wish we lived in a world where bad people didn’t exist, a utopian era where peace and safety reigned supreme, and weapons were unnecessary. But, face it people, we haven’t arrived there yet. No, we are far from it. These aren’t the 1800’s, but it wasn’t that long ago when the West was won. And remember, my dad is still out there carving it out of the wilderness with his own bare hands.

And in this world where everything valuable is guarded by armed men and women, why would we not guard our most precious possesions, our children? We guard our money, our jewelry, our art, our important leaders, our COUNTRY! We would we leave our children to such as would go awry? We thought nothing of protecting our airports with automatic weapons when the terrorists came. Do we actually think that if we put gun free zone signs in the Airports that the terrorists would obey them? No, valuable things must be guarded from evil.

Now, that being said, I am a staunch supporter of mandatory gun training and registration. We register our cars, and we have to pass a test to get a license. We have to meet certain medical requirements or people could be killed by an unfit driver. We should require each gun buyer to acquire a license. That license would not be granted unless that person can pass a “I’m not crazy” medical exam. It would also be required that they attend and pass a gun training course. These courses should be heavy on safe operation of the gun. It should also be a pass/fail. The person should be able to demonstrate that they can operate the gun in a safe manner, and that they understand the concepts of gun safety. This license should also expire, and these courses and tests should be performed again at the time of renewal—unlike drivers licenses that pretty much get a free ride on renewals. These seem like common sense measures to me.

I would also be in favor of enforcing a gun design law. All manufacturers would be required to design in a gun lock into each new gun. Something that couldn’t be lost or removed. We do this for cars. Cars must have certain safety features. Why not for guns?

Of course, there are a lot of ideas floating around, and I’m not saying these are the best, and without problems, or the only ones to use. We can figure this out if we work together, and we must.

The Middle of the Night

It’s the middle of the night and my mind is wandering everywhere but towards sleep. Nothing especially amazing or difficult is happening in my life, yet I lay here thinking about the past, present, and future. About where that long lost thing might be that I haven’t seen for ages. About the rushing water guzzling down the gutter outside disposing of the rain that’s pattering across the roof. Thinking about tomorrow and what it might bring. Considering my plans for this next year and wondering if I will accomplish them.

What is it about the middle of the night that can put the brain into such overdrive? And why won’t the brain listen to my rational thoughts? Thoughts such as: hey stupid, you know that you have to get up for work in five hours? Yeah, just switch off and go to sleep. But no, my brain is on some sort of hyperdrive this night, flying me across time and space, showing me the faces of everyone I’ve ever known, playing back the memories of my life, and catapulting me through all my possible futures.

This ride continues for hours until it has burned itself out and I lay exhausted and calm, staring up at my ceiling and with my head now empty. It has taken awhile, but now I know that soon the sound of the falling rain will carry me off to sleep–in the middle of the night.