Monthly Archives: September 2010

Short-Term Thrill, Long-Term Pain

I can’t get one recent caller out of my head.  A young married woman had her and her husband’s friends (another married couple) come live with them and pay rent for a room in their home.  The married friend and her husband were living with the bride’s mommy because they could not afford to take care of themselves.  The caller and her husband “took pity” on them and provided them a room.  The caller was upset because the friend wouldn’t sign a contract concerning neatness and other items.

I was upset because our whole country’s economy has collapsed under the weight of people “drinking wine before its time” (if you remember an old Orson Welles commercial).  What I mean by this is:  if you can’t afford it, you can’t have it until such time as you’ve earned it.
 
Another young caller got married secretly to her “shack-up” because she wanted to be married “now!”  Parents, relatives and friends were excluded.  And now, she’s got to ‘fess up that she didn’t want to “earn” their approval for her marital choice.  She just jumped right into it.

It’s all the same phenomenon:  investing in things and people before you know what you’re doing, and before you’re able to handle the issues with sufficient resources.

It may give a moment’s thrill to have powered through and gotten what you wanted, but then the realities hit, and you’re left with a mortgage you can’t afford, a spouse you barely know, and situations you really can’t handle.  Short-term thrill, long-term pain.

I remember when I was on local radio in Los Angeles at night, and my ratings went through the roof.  One out of every four people listening to radio at that time were listening to my program.  I got a wonderful bonus, and I asked my husband if I could use a small part of it to get one of those tennis bracelets – you know, a string of tiny diamonds.  He got one for me, and I was thrilled to no end; not so much because I owned some little diamonds, but because it represented earning something by working very hard.  I would take care of my son Deryk all day, and then drive to the radio station to be on the air, then come home at 2 AM to get up at 6AM to start my day again.

Things don’t matter much if they don’t represent something.

So slow down, build, earn, and then you can really enjoy.

Quote of the Week

Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.
                – Mohandas Gandhi
                   Political and spiritual leader of India
                   1869-1948

My Ride With A Gold Star Mom

Last Saturday, September 11, I was one of about 1000 motorcycle riders participating in “Ride to the Flags,” from Ventura Country to Malibu, California, where a display of almost 3000 flags will honor the lives lost to Islamic suicide bombers on September 11, 2001.  The ride was hosted by the Gary Sinise Charitable Foundation, and the proceeds go to the children of those who lose their lives in the service of our country’s defense against terrorism.  Pre-ride entertainment was offered by Glen Campbell, and Ann-Margret (a veteran of Vietnam-era USO entertainment) was there to send us all off with her kind words of love and support.

It was a fascinating experience.  This was the first major ride I’d done, and I’d never before witnessed over 1000 bikers and their spouses get together and mingle.  I pointed out to my friend Patrick (a Harley newbie) and my husband (a Harley veteran) how affectionate the couples were.  There were scores of husbands and wives, quite seasoned by time and riding, all in leather, chains, boots, head scarves and chaps, holding hands and wrapping arms around each other.  The amount of affection between couples was mirrored by the affection between “regular folks” – mostly strangers to one another.  It was the friendliest assemblage I’d ever had the pleasure to be with.

I was chatting with one woman who’d come over to introduce herself as a fan of my radio program.  Later, one of the organizers came to me and asked me if I’d be willing to ride a Gold Star mom on my bike.  For those of you who don’t know, a Gold Star mom is one who has lost her military child in the war on international terror.  I, of course, agreed on the spot, saying I’d be honored.  Well, who walked over to my bike but the mom I’d been chatting with.  I had no idea she had lost her child, and I just about collapsed in a heap of sobs.

As we rode through the windy mountain roads, I was very aware I had treasured cargo behind me on my bike.  It never left my mind she had produced a warrior who gave his life for me and you and every American.  As I have a son who was also in combat in Afghanistan, I kept thinking I could have been one of those moms, instead of one who is anxiously awaiting her son’s visit in a month or so.  I felt so bad for her, and worked so hard to drive the bike perfectly around those curves so as not to worry her.  When we reached Malibu, I hugged her and said, “What can I say? I am your friend.”  We exchanged email addresses, and she will forward me a photo of us taken on my bike before the ride.  I’ll post it on my website.

I considered her “hallowed ground,” and that is why I can’t understand why the Imam who wants to place a mosque near Ground Zero doesn’t get that is hallowed ground as well.

I was honored to take care of a Gold Star mom – a mom who made the ultimate sacrifice, not willingly, but nobly nonetheless.

Don’t Rescue Out-Of-Control Kids

Many modern parents have a very bad habit of coddling their children, ultimately turning them into out-of-control monsters.

Here’s one scenario:  a driver in Florida left the keys in the ignition and the engine running of his 1966 Acura Integra to run inside an Italian restaurant to pick up a take-out order.  That was just too much temptation for a 17 year old, who with his 14 year old buddy, jumped in the car and drove away.  He was followed by owner in a separate car, police were called, a description went out and the two were apprehended post haste.

At the 17 year old’s hearing, his mother told the court his father was serving with the military in Iraq and, basically, her boy was out of control.  The judge set his bail at $25,000, pending trial for felony charges of possession of a stolen vehicle, and a misdemeanor battery charge and several traffic citations.  His mother informed the judge she, indeed, did have the money to meet bail, but she wanted him to stay locked up.

The judge said: “I want to know why there are not more parents like this.  I applaud her for her truthfulness.”  As her errant teen was hauled off to the holding cell, Mom told him “You think about that, while your Dad’s in Iraq!”

This mother did just the right thing.  Her son will suffer the ugly consequences of his disrespectful, out-of-control, arrogant behavior, and it will make an impact.  If he is rescued by Mama with bail and a manipulative lawyer who will say the kid is upset because his dad is in combat, this boy will be further lost into the “Lord of the Flies” scenario.

I remember reading Alfred Hitchcock’s father arranged for him to stay overnight in a jail cell in their English town.  This was entirely prophylactic, as he hadn’t done anything wrong.  Hitchcock reported being so very scared he never, never, never did anything which would get him back there for real.

Hopefully, this young man will have the same reaction, or he’ll be back for a longer stay next time.

Live Life With Relish

Recently, I received some very bad news about a friend.  A year ago, she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  She never smoked and was very physically active, religious, positive personality and never even used a curse word.

I called her every day as she went through surgery and chemo.

It looked like all was good.  But it wasn’t, and it isn’t.

This cancer is aggressive, and spread even in the soup of strong chemotherapy.  Now they’ve told her they cannot operate.  She will have radiation every day for seven weeks and then be on chemo daily for the rest of her life.

Then they told her what her life would be like:  the esophagus is probably going to be severely impacted, she’ll experience nausea, acne, and on and on.

She told me she was going to fight and win this and just tolerate whatever comes.

I’m going to be calling her every day again.
 
I left the conversation feeling deeply sick to my stomach.  I had to go do a buoy race in my sailboat.  I got to the boat later than usual, and felt bad doing something so frivolous when my friend may be dying.

We started the race, and not one of the seven of us onboard noticed the course we were supposed to take.  That meant we had no idea (in the midst of a dozen possible combinations) where we were going.  But it was a beautiful, cool night with a gentle breeze with some puffs to keep the boat going.

I didn’t care we didn’t know where we were going.  Usually, I would be pretty annoyed we were competing with that kind of stupid handicap.

It was something my friend had said:  “I think everybody should have a ‘bucket list,’” meaning we should live each day fully, assuming that is the only day we have left.

I was out on the ocean among friends, in the cool of the early evening, sailing along in the rolling ocean.  What a blessing.  I asked the crew to vote each time we rounded a buoy as to what the next one probably was.  We guessed wrong, and went from first place to last place as we went further out to sea toward a buoy we weren’t supposed to go around.  I said to the crew “It doesn’t matter….we know we were first, and now we’re having a beautiful sail out here almost alone, while getting in more practice.  All is good.”

My tactician, who was nervous that he would get in trouble for forgetting to note the course, had to be calmed down.  I told him “What does it really matter?  What matters is that we’re all having a great time and actually doing a great job.”  And even though I’m a “Type A” personality, I meant it.

I don’t think I’ve had a more satisfying finish to a buoy race….ever.

Life is for the living and should be lived with relish.  When people are fighting for their lives, it points out how precious life is, so no one should waste any of it.

And so many people do waste it by holding grudges, not letting go of past hurts, holding themselves back from happiness because of anger or fears, letting disappointments and frustrations consume them, using drugs, being drunk, sitting in front of a TV or computer screen playing games alone, and more.

I still feel sick to my gut that someone so kind and sweet is facing this cancer horror.  I am in awe of her attitude, and grateful for the reminder.

Here she is, facing sickness and pain every day, yet she says she wakes up every day grateful for another day.

We should not all wait for cancer in order to do the same thing.

“I’m Offended” Becomes A War Cry

Those of you who listen regularly to my radio program know I am big on tolerance.  For example, I tell callers who are bemoaning a parent or other relative’s annoying behavior to play “Stepford” human being and just smile and be nice.  If, however, that relative is evil, now that’s not to be tolerated.  But being annoyed or likewise offended by stupid comments, quirky behavior, irritating demands, or odd habits is a waste of time and emotion.  Everyone has his or her quirks.  And when you live in a country like the United States of America – a salad of cultures and personalities with the freedom of self-expression – there’s always going to be something to be surprised or offended by.

Unfortunately, it seems that America is evolving into a”not offended zone.”  If anyone feels their feathers ruffled, well, many seem to think the world should stop spinning on its axis out of respect for their momentary discomfort.  This would be just silly and funny, if it were not a growing danger.

Let me give you recent examples of this situation.  These examples range from the ridiculous and silly to terrifyingly evil.

First, the principal of Chesterfield Elementary School in Missouri sent a letter to all parents on August 13th which said “singing ‘Happy Birthday’ is not permitted due to the sensitivity of all student beliefs.”
 
What?  You can’t possibly be sensitive to all student beliefs.  You should expect students to be sensitive to the fact other people have beliefs.  They should be taught not to make fun of other students’ beliefs, but they sure as heck should not be taught to give up their own beliefs simply because another student can’t or won’t share that belief.
 
I remember one rabbi telling me his small son was invited to a birthday party for a friend, but the birthday party was at a fast-food hamburger place, and this rabbi and his family were kosher.  That meant the boy couldn’t eat ANYTHING at the birthday party.  Did the rabbi condemn the party’s location?  No.  Did the rabbi tell his son he couldn’t go?  No.  He packed his son a kosher lunch and sent him off with a present for the birthday child.  He was teaching his son two things:  1) keep to your own beliefs no matter where you are, and 2) allow others to do the same.  Now that’s tolerance.  Tolerance is not forsaking your own values because someone else is offended.

Fortunately, enough parents at Chesterfield Elementary School rose up and cried “foul,” and the principal backed off.

Next example:  there’s a blog called “Love Affair with Gossip,” and it’s written by someone who calls herself “BuggyGirl.”  Here’s what she wrote:

Last night, my family and I went to the Olive Garden for my birthday dinner.  Anyhoo, it came time for them to bring the cake out and sing ‘Happy Birthday.’  The server informed us that the Olive Garden staff could no longer participate in the ritual of singing ‘Happy Birthday’ because some patrons had complained that singing by the staff was disturbing their meals.

How long does it take to sing “Happy Birthday?”  Six, seven seconds?  So, some grouchy people don’t like to hear six or seven seconds of cheer for someone else, and the cheer has to stop?  Who is the Grinch who stole birthday?  Also, let’s take a vote:  will most people stop going to a restaurant because “Happy Birthday” is sung?  Or because it is not?

Yes, I understand these are stupid calls, but they also lead to dangerous ones that unfortunately promise the tyranny of those who proclaim being offended.

Here’s where it has already gone:  far worse, far more serious is the reaction of a Muslim cleric who is running for parliament in Afghanistan – the country we are supposedly trying to liberate from the Taliban and Al Qaeda; the country which owes its current levels of freedom to our troops (my son having been one of them); the country which, 10 years ago, did not allow girls to go to school; the country which stoned women for showing their faces.  That country.

Mohammad Mukhtar, a cleric and candidate for the Afghan parliament in the September 18th election, in reaction to the news reports of the September 11th Koran burning set to take place at a Florida church said:

“It is the duty of Muslims to react.  When their holy book Quran gets burned in public, then there is nothing left.  If this happens, I think the first and most important reaction will be that wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed.  No matter where they will be in the world, they will be killed.”

And we all know these people follow through.

So, here’s my question:  how come all the attention in our news media goes to a guy who wants to burn a book, and no attention whatsoever goes to a candidate for the Afghan government who calls for all Americans – that’s you, me, and our children – to be killed?

I do not believe in burning books.  I do believe I want to live in a country where if you burn a book, the response is not the death penalty for a third of a billion human beings.

I can understand Muslims being offended at having their holy book burned.  I’m not Catholic, and I’m offended at art shows in San Francisco displaying a crucifix upside down in a jar of urine.  My right as an American is not to attend and not to support such vulgarity with public funds.  However, when “I’m offended” becomes the war cry for censorship and mass murder, then we have allowed people to manipulate and twist the sentiment of offense and tolerance into a tool for murderous tyranny.