Month: January 2012

On Electing a President


In anticipation of President Obama’s State of the Union address, in this election year, I find myself thinking back to February, 2007, when he announced his candidacy. I was almost 55 years old and had never participated in a campaign. I had just finished his book Dreams for My Father and mailed my copy to my good friend in the next state, apologizing in advance for the abundance of highlighted passages and underlined words.

Candidate Obama in NCCU, Raleigh, NC November, 2007
Candidate Obama, NCCU, November, 2007

Many speak of his rhetoric and his messages, but it was what he represented to me that made me look for a group to join to help with his campaign in the state. He represented to me, not a black man running for President, but a man of color, someone who looked liked me, running for President. I dare say, if he had been Republican, I would have considered voting for him. I realize this is not a well thought out analogy of his elect-ability or even his ability to make a difference once in office, but it came from years of never seeing a face that looked like mine, leading a country that is full of faces that look like mine.  Irrational, to say the least, but gut-wrenchingly true.

I went online and found a group through Meetup, Triangle for Obama. It was having its kickoff meeting near the RBC Center and my friend Sheila and I went. Sheila was also my co-worker and had given me a copy of his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention.  She, like me, felt compelled to participate in what we felt would be a historic election year, whatever the outcome.  I remember, that it was a great kickoff meeting, with two serviceman who had driven from Cherry Point and one man who had driven from Asheville there.  It was the beginning.

In the following months, I walked the streets of Raleigh near NC State, knocking on doors of people who did not even recognize his name. I actually had one person ask me “that’s the black guy with the funny name, huh?”. I attended the meetings at Zydeco, absolutely loving the “movement” feel to gatherings and events.

I became a CNN junkie, (but now am addicted to MSNBC coverage thanks to that friend in Virginia that I sent my book to) watching the pundits pick apart his speeches and performances at every turn. I rearranged my schedule to watch the debates, taking notes of my husband’s objections over the President even being in contention for the Democratic nominee. My husband was for Hillary, and he is lucky I didn’t stab him with my pen on some nights. ( I had told him, if she won the nomination, I would campaign for her, it was about the Party). But, we were a microcosm of our Party. “It’s not his turn”. “He will do more harm than good for Black people”. “He has no friends in Washington, and by the time he gets there, he will have alienated any friends he does have”.  It was my father who delivered the harshest assessment back in 2008…”I fear he is neither a warrior, or a statesman”.

The Granville County Democratic HQ

I had joined Triangle for Obama because I worked in Raleigh and wanted a group I could participate in that was close to work. After the President won the nomination, I went to work in my county, Granville. Our campaign office was rented to the county party by a stanch Republican. Outside the bay window where I did my phone banking was a sign in support of McCain. Everyone that came from UNC or Raleigh to help knock on doors, got a good laugh out of that. In the end it didn’t matter. Not the campaign tactics, not the polite and not so polite people whose doors you knocked on, or homes you called. Mind you, I was working off lists of registered Democrats in the County, not the opposition, and I would get snapped at or hung up on, or cussed out. It was a life lesson and an object lesson. You can’t expect people to make informed decisions when they are governed by a thought process you have never lived, nor could you understand. It did not matter in the end, because when Barack Hussein Obama was elected President, I knew the fight had only just begun.

Souls to the Polls, Oxford, NC

I am third generation American of Mexican descent. My mother’s people are from the part of Mexico that became Texas.  My father’s people missed the inclusion, by the boundary that we know as the Rio Grande.  I grew up in a military home. I have lived in a third-world country. I am married to a Marine and one of my daughters is in the Navy, as was my dad. I have seen the face of discrimination, here and abroad. I understood what the First Lady meant when she said on the campaign trail, as an adult she was never more proud to be an American.

I felt the same way when the President was sworn in. I felt it when former President Bush was standing at Ground Zero. I felt it when the President took out Bin Laden.  My father called me and said “He proved he was a Statesman, and now, he proves himself a Warrior”.  High praise coming from one of “God’s chosen” a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer.  I am proud of this United States of America, my country, my President, our military, my countryman. For only here, in this country, could someone who looks like me, stand before you…

Souls to the Polls, October, 2008, Oxford, NC

One of My Favorite Sundance Movies

Funk Brothers

This morning I sat down to watch Standing In the Shadows of Motown, a documentary about the musicians who comprised the back up groups of many of the Motown greats. I had seen part of it last year, but had not had an opportunity to watch it from the beginning. It was a movie that not only educated me, but made me smile.

From 1966 to 1968 my family lived on Subic Bay, Naval Air Station in the Republic of the Philippines. I remember base housing. “Cookie cutter” military housing and ours was like most everyone else’s… three bedroom, two-level home. All the living quarters were on the top floor. I had my own room for the first time in my young life. It had a vanity, a bed and a desk made out of bamboo wood. It was exotic to me and it was mine. I had set up in this room, an old turntable that I would listen to 45’s and 33’s lps, but what I’d rather listen to was the reel to reel tape deck that my dad had. This state of the art reel to reel had all the latest R&B, and when he and my mom weren’t at home, my brother and I would play the large reels and crank up the volume.

Many of those songs in the documentary made me remember times that were made less lonely for a preteen, that was half a world away from anything she knew. Music, like books, was an escape. I would listen to the Temptations or the Four Tops and dance in my room, or in the kitchen, and the Filipino lady that helped my mom with the house, would laugh at me. She taught me the steps to a popular cultural dance of her people, that involved steps and hops between two long bamboo poles that were rhythmically tapped on the ground or together by two people holding one end in each hand. I had not thought of that dance in years, until today, watching the Funk Brothers documentary.

Later, we moved back to San Diego, my parents bought their first home and I had my own room with a small plug in radio that played AM/FM. I never listened to the FM station, because ALL the good music, that was top 40 or top 100, was on the AM stations. My desk was a makeshift one, of the center panel of our dining room table that was placed on two ceramic elephants that my mom had brought back from the Philippines. They were meant to hold larger potted plants, but they comprised the two stands of my desk, and that is where I did homework, wrote in a journal or read my books, listening to the latest hits by Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Marvin Gaye.

Who knew that the musicians behind “What’s Going On”, were the Funk Brothers and that that was one of their last major hits as backup musicians? Until today, I did not know. Over the years, with the books and movies that came out about the artists who never received compensation for their hits, were in a lot of cases, taken advantage of. Many musicians did not know the business, did not know to protect themselves from copyright infringement, only to have producers, managers other musicians and artists remake their music and make millions and more significantly, receive recognition for their contribution.

I learned, as I got older, about musicians. My cousin played drums for years. He had enough talent to play in a couple of studio gigs, but he mostly played in the Sacramento area for anything from R&B, Funk, and country rock. It was never about the money for him, it was about playing, because he loved to play. He loved music. My cousin Ray introduced me to Tower of Power and next to Santana and War, is one of top favorite bands. I can still picture his little practice room, where he had his drums. In the documentary, what was remarkable was that the quality of music that these men play today, is as it was when the hit record after hit record was made. Musicians are musicians no matter what age they are.

Watching the Funk Brothers, listening to the songs of my youth, dancing (badly, of course) to Shotgun that was Junior Walker’s hit, remembering the first time I heard Marvin Gaye’s song, What’s Going On…Persidio Park in Old Town, San Diego. We used to go there as a family and walk the trails, good old fashioned exercise in those days, and if you know Percidio Park back in the 70’s, you know you could park on the south side of the park, walk up the trails to the top of the park and then walk down the other side or over to the Persidio museum. It’s true, what the experts say, that music, like a scent, can take you back to a place and time.

Thank you Sundance.

My view of a soldier

“The nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools” Spartan king, quoted by Thecydides from What It Is Like To Go To War, Karl Marlantes

Project 365 Vets

Soldiers are not comfortable in “civilized society”. The were not created to merely live. They are Warriors, Gods among men, living on the fringe somewhere between duty and honor, waiting to be called to battle again. ~T. Shang – Project 365 Vets

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It’s January

I lay still, awake,
as you prepare the mask
that breathes for you.
I realized at that moment,
suspending your breath was once
survival for you.

Grey hairs have appeared
on your face, your armor from
searching eyes.
Those eyes that are a raised voice,
‘Leave me be,
I make ready to fight the demons of old’

I turn in my sleep, you go silent, not wanting
me to know as you enter
the quiet of our room,
You who has not slept,
yet again.


Why I Love Facebook

In a little over eight weeks, world news will have reports looking back to last year and the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. I will be unable to look at any of it, but I will probably post something on Facebook.  I will be thanking them for being the only link I had to my daughter who was flying home from her tour in Korea and whose flight had been caught on the tarmac at Narita Airport, when the quake struck.

I am reminded of all of this because I was investigating a new feature Facebook has called “Timeline”, when I happened on the following posts:

Dinner with the Birthday girl, Halima. After a hard rain earlier this evening, the moon and stars are out…hoping the skies are clear for Megan’s flight home~March 10, 2011 11:47pm

On March 11, 2o11, at 4:00 a.m., I got up to use the bathroom…probably the result of too many adult beverages at dinner with my friend, Halima, the evening before.  I charge my cell phone in the bathroom outlet, probably not the best place for it, but if I set the alarm, I can hear it and the phone’s LED light doesn’t bother my husband, the insomniac.  I check messages and there are none, but there is a post on Facebook from Megan.  I did not find her actual post to me on Timeline, but I do remember this much…Mom, I have no phone or email service, we are on the runway unable to take off, they are saying something about going back to the gate…I don’t recall if she said anything more, like I will call you or contact you when I know…she may have.  It was 4:00 a.m. and I was half asleep.

Her dad and I had planned to go pick her up at Norfolk Airport, take her to dinner and then he would leave me there at her apartment, to spend the week she had on leave.  We planned to do nothing special, pedicures, spa treatment, shop, cook, eat and catch up.  She had been gone for six months, the second Christmas in a row overseas, and I had her holiday presents with me, not just from her dad and I, but her grandparents, too.    I remember thinking I may have to just drive up solo,  as my husband had a judo tournament to attend that next day.  I don’t know to this day, why I did not go back to bed.  I fed Papi, put him outside, then went into our home office and turned the computer on.  As I logged on to the internet, Huffington Post, which was my homepage at the time, showed in what I remember looked like gazillion size font “8.9 Earthquake Hits Japan, 30 foot Tsunami Triggered”.

I didn’t wake up her dad.  I turned on MSNBC and watched the news in silent horror for the next  couple of hours before he got up.  When I told him, he was reassuring.  There had been no other communications from Megan.  I had no idea where she was, if she was in the airport or on her way.  I made some coffee, but I didn’t leave the computer or the TV until I received a text message from her around 6:30pm.  She was in Detroit and trying to get a flight.  I told my husband I was leaving, and got into my car, which was already packed,  and headed for Virginia Beach.  I had a key to her apartment, I could spend the night and be there to pick her up whenever she flew in.   She was on this side of the world and she was safe.

“…is at the airport to welcome our girl home”~.March 11, 2011 10:56 pm

:…is getting cafecito and IHops version of Rosco’s in LA…Megan is catching up on well deserved zzzzzz” ~ March 12, 2011 10.32am

“It’s mimosa time!”~ March 12, 2011 12:34pm

“Made shrimp fajitas, guacamole, arroz con frijoles and Megan made the El Ninos…finally a homecoming meal for our thrill seeker…went for an after dinner walk, the weather is cool and mild…Tyson loves the walks too” ~  March, 12, 2011 07:37 pm

“Early morning breakfast with Megan before we go to Mass….cafecito from my new press coffeemaker…ummmmmm and a freshly baked bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese…treat!”~ March 13, 2011 8.069am

“Trainer Harlan kicked my behind today…ouch, Mija!”~March 14, 2011 8:46am

“we are headed to the gym for kick mom’s behind part two…:)”~ March 15, 2011 8:54am

Looking back on these posts, full of humor and quips on the highlights of our day do not do justice to the underlying stress that permeated us both.  She kept asking me what I wanted to do, what I wanted to eat, where I wanted to go and I told her whatever she wanted to do, I wanted to do.  I just wanted a good seafood salad somewhere and hit the Starbucks for a cafecito (or two) a day and I was good.

By this day, “Spa Day”, she was wound pretty tight and my responses that lacked any direction and little desire for much of anything seem to irritate her.  I thought I had tools that I had learned dealing with my husband’s PTSD that could help me with what Megan was feeling, but my calm and  agreeable demeanor,  seemed to make things worse.    So, we  did a chic thing…and had a good cry, because there really were no words for her to describe to me the emotion she was feeling.  She had not known how catastrophic the earthquake was until she landed in Detroit.  It was indescribable, knowing just hours before you were in all that wrath of nature and loss of life.  As a mom, I can say, acting like everything is fine, when a couple of days ago you didn’t know if you would see your child again, then, everything IS fine, because she is right here in front of you, is a pretty good feat if you can manage it.  Somewhere in the last couple of years, I had lost my touch.

“Spa day was great and much needed…but the treat is perfectly seared scallops with mango melon salsa and homemade El Ninos…Bratmo can through down!” ~ March 16, 2011 8:11pm

We are foodies in my family.  We love to eat and we love to cook.  My daughter impressed me with her seared scallops and mango salsa.  As I complimented her and we ate, she told me she cooked for her fellow aircrewman all the time at the base in Korea.  They would go shopping, everyone would pitch-in, she would do a menu, and then she would do her magic.  In that post I mean to say “throw down”, but I was not spell checking at that point.  Between the emotions, the cooking and the margaritas, we had both finally relaxed enough to enjoy the food, each other and the contrast of what was going on half a world away and what was happening with us, in our world.

“Am winding down my visit here on VB, having my cafecito and remembering the anxiety of last Friday…how selfish of me considering what others are suffering at that time and now and for how long, only God knows…what I know for sure , is that faith sustains us and family is everything…amen.” March 18, 2011 9:01 pm.

Did I mentioned I love Delta Airlines, too?  After sitting six hours on the tarmac at Narita airport, the pilot was able to take off between tremors and bring his crew,  his passengers and a beloved daughter home.

Semper Fi, Babe

My male cat jumps on the side of the bed to wake me. If hitting the side of the bed does not do the trick, he jumps on the bed and walks over me, meowing, just in case, I didn’t feel him, I could now hear him. I throw back the warmth of my comforter and get up to either feed him or put him out, still half asleep, I am not sure which it is. I stop short at the end of the hall because there is my husband, playing his new video game…he has not been to bed and it is now five in the morning.

I have not figured out why Christmas is a tough time for veterans. I get a little insight each year since we have been married, that I go thorough the holidays and watch my husband’s routine and sleep patterns alter. He told me early on he didn’t “do” Christmas and we made a compromise, because I do “do” Christmas, it is not only a religious celebration for me, it is a defining time with family for me.

Something a young veteran said to a group of us at lunch this last week. He said society does not make a place for “warriors” to just “be” when they return from war. Society wants returning warriors to assimilate into every day life and in essence, fade away. We don’t ask any other group in our society to give up their identity and fade away, why would we do that to those that protect our freedoms, fight
for their lives in lands 95% of us have never seen? This comment did more for me in understanding my father and my husband, than anything I
had read in PTSD articles. Why would our veterans, who are conditioned to hunt the enemy and kill, be touchy-feely about the holidays? I
have watched my husband say nothing when he brings my totes of decorations from our shed, but the look on his face speaks volumes. I
stopped being offended because he expresses his appreciation for how
the house looks once the decorations are up, but his initial response
is irritation. How could I expect it to be otherwise? His memories
of Christmas during wartime are ones of duress and incredulity. We ask our teenaged and young men to kill in the name of God and Country and then we ask the to sit quietly in church and sing “O Come All Ye Faithful”.

As a wife of the PTSD veteran, I learned early on in my marriage, it does not matter how many years have passed since my husband was in conflict, it is as fresh and clear to him today as it was when he was nineteen. The process of PTSD is that thee recollections, emotions and memories are brought to the surface every year he survived his conflict. My husband has refined his coping tools to deal with these feelings and emotions that come every year. This makes a difference for him in how he processed his emotions twenty years ago, and how he processes them today. He is a warrior, he will always be a warrior, and he has not ever faded or assimilated into society’s preceived corner for him and others like him. It is as it should be. Semper Fideles…always faithful. Makes sense to me. Semper Fi, Babe.