The Wonderful World of Soup~

Soup is an endless sea of wonder, just like the many things I choose to write about. My thoughts explore Writing, World to National Events, Family Catastrophes (past and present) or whatever seems to get me thinking while sipping hot soup, tea, cider or a cold Pepsi...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lighning Bolt Decisions

(AKA) How to Make the Right Choice In Life

By Stephany Mae Robinson
In a perfect world, life is easy. There is never any conflict. We have the most amazing friends and family??? Well, where do you think all of these great character traits and skills come from? Our families and marriages are simply impeccable. I jump at the chance to introduce my new friends, coworkers and random strangers to my parents, my siblings and even my cousin, Eddie...
To all who know me well, your concern began at the word family. Just like the rest of the world (minus the Romneys), my family is most certainly not perfect. But it's supposed to be that way; I get that. Why the sudden emphasis on my dysfunctional family? I assure you, I have taken this path for a reason: 
I must tell you that one of my favorite life lessons has recently jumped out of its storage bin and bit me on the nose again.
Life is Conflict, which is to say, that we are faced with challenges daily. Often time, the challenges are huge, but most of them are trivial. We face challenges within ourselves, in our relationships and certainly with our families. It makes me think of the great line from Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (sorry for those who feel this is a trendy movie for groupies).
As Katniss finds herself alone, scared and fighting for her life in the arena of death, she proceeds to shoot one of her allies. He responds, "Remember who the real enemies are!" It was in that moment, that she chose to enter the final stage of the climax. Prior to this, her choices were simple: kill her new ally or shoot a lightning charged arrow at the dome. But this is just the outer conflict. She must also choose to trust someone or not trust anyone and assume they all wish her dead. Imagine how the story would have ended if she made the wrong choice.
For those who know and love the story, she chooses to fry the dome instead of her new friend. Her choice breaks down the whole system and the corrupt world she is forced to live in, both in the literal and metaphorical sense.
Now back to reality. This presents two questions...1. How do we know if we are making the right choice? 2. Who is the real enemy?
Question 1-Which is the right choice? I like to pray, of course, but I also know that I am human and screw up on a regular basis. It would be an understatment to say that it's in my nature (have you met my mother?) I also admit that sometimes I'm not in tune with the Spirit like I should be. Life is hectic. I don't read my scriptures and stop to listen when I should. In other words, I don't trust my own judgment. So, I do my best to get back on track and then I use one more gage. I ponder (another crucial part of prayer) and search the choice out in my heart and mind. This is done when I determine which choice is the more difficult of the two. In my experience, the more challenging choice is usually the right one.
For example, I did not want to be a teacher for a time. I ran like an escaped convict when I saw the first open door. I missed my old life, the one where I did not worry about 100 children on top of the 4 I already had. I did not waste anytime praying over the matter, I just knew what I wanted. I also knew life was easier before I was a teacher. I had to go through several difficult detours after that bad choice before I found myself wishing I was back teaching again. Which taught me another thing. God often provides a way back to the path. Just like before, when I knew where I was supposed to be, the return path lit up and happened quickly. It was like someone above planned for my exit and re-entry. In this case, I see the fruits of my labor almost daily. Though it is a difficult sacrifice which I still find myself loathing, I have a passion for teaching. When I no longer feel that drive, the compassion and a fire for teaching, I must choose to let it go.
For now, I am blessed and honored to teach. (I'm back at the same school, but feel more resolve.) In my present position, my family still is the center of my life. I'm lucky to have a boss who supports that. I rarely get dinner on the table at 6 pm each night and the laundry often sits in its baskets, but we laugh, spend time together and enjoy each other's company. We are a family. A new favorite activity is sorting/folding laundry together during an episode of Duck Dynasty. I cherish such nights. 
Question 2- Who is the real enemy? This should be something we think about whenever we encounter a difficult decision. The father of all lies, Lucifer, Satan or Diablo, has goals very different than our own. His aim is to make us feel alone and tear us from the things that he fears most, the family and love. Life is not meant to live alone. Just like Katniss in the arena, we need each other. While it may seem difficult to keep up relationships and strive to find love and peace in our homes, this is the greatest battle we will ever fight. We must accept that it is a battle, for that is what the enemy has determined it to be. We arm ourselves daily with prayer, forgiveness, compassion and trust. It will be a struggle if this is not in our nature for a time, but then these skills will become easier. We will rely on them.
Don't listen to the lies of the adversary or from society. A strong family is more important than anything, even fame, money and a career. It will get easier and we will feel a peace and joy like no other. After great effort on our part and some patience, the fruits of our labors will be evident. 
Final summation- Remember, life is conflict and it is that way for a reason. We are not supposed to be floating down a lazy river when it comes to our families and relationships. Work hard at work, but save your true patience and best work for those you truly LOVE. After you have searched, pondered and prayed, go with those difficult choices. The outcome may surprise you, like a bolt of lightning on a clear, summer day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

I am a white European Native American with tan spots

I am troubled. The news stories keep streaming in on The Martin-Zimmerman case. While I feel great sorrow for the grieving parents, I feel that the justice system actually worked for once. Well, let me strike that. Honestly, I think the justice system works most of the time. While some are served a great dose of injustice due to an array of loop holes and dishonest people, I truly believe that most juries and judges who follow procedure and study out the facts deliver accurate sentences. But our media and blind administration would have our minds think that this is not so. Our country, just like the last election, is divided and torn. The biggest reason for this is the Media Monster. While a news reporter is trained to find relevant, credible information, some just care about ratings. And sadly, while Americans should always seek for the facts and find trustworthy sources, they often spend 5 minutes on the Internet reading articles with an embedded agenda or watching ridiculous YouTube videos about the case. This is pretty much why our current leaders are in office as well. There are not enough doing their homework and too many more who want entertainment. Then, there are the dillusional liberals and outspoken celebrities. Please, we beg of you. Just stop talking... I recently found an old friend who candidly admitted that he was a Democrat. Naturally, he voted for Mr. Obama. Don't worry, we are still very good friends. But we had a brief discussion on the current President. Many in our country wish to blame everything on this man,which simply is not fair. This is true. He should not be the target of every mishap, disaster and/or backwards policy. However, I still believe one thing very firmly. Our president is a leader and therefore influences the common Joe Schmoe to believe certain things. For example, what are the ethics on gun rights, abortion or healthcare? Not sure, well, what does the Prez think? The President also has the ability or inability to encourage cooperation, unity and tolerance. Which brings me to my final point. Why does the President obviously feel that a great injustice has occurred in the Martin-Zimmerman case? Does he need to express his opinion, especially since he was not there that fateful night? He should take a step back and support the judge and jurors in this case. Better yet, he should stay out of this race-baited topic entirely. I'm beginning to feel that he does not care about the Zimmermans and their children? Perhaps he is still trying to win our votes and trust. I really liked the 16 year-old White House intern who asked the question that matters most in this time of life or death. It is too late for him to crawl back into a corner now... Two words: death threats. Maybe the President has been too shielded from the death threats he is receiving. Perhaps he should read a few and then offer a slew of body guards to Mr. Zimmerman and his family, regardless of Zimmerman's skin color.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Strange Chain of Events

I recently broke down and did something completely out of character...

I made an appointment to see the dentist. The appointment was planned last minute, so that I didn't have anytime to talk myself out of going. I got in on a cancellation appointment and had to rush there after the boys had swimteam one morning. We made good time leaving the city pool (no missing goggles or flip flops), and made it back to the house in record time. Rushing to the ladies room, I brushed my teeth again, removing most of the evidence that I'd just split a Pop Tart with my son, after all. A brush whizzed through my hair and I blew my nose when out of the blue, BAM! A NOSE BLEED! As my luck would have it, I'd just used the last of the T.P. as well.

Seriously? Now I had to get to the dentist on time with a NOSE BLEED and somehow not stain my clothes in the process! As I kept my head tilted back over the sink and scrounged for the cotton balls below, I heard a knock at the door. My son waited just outside, ready to get in a warm bath after doing 20 laps in the frigid city pool. He was persistent since his little brother was in the other tub and using all the hot water. He knocked again, but was told to wait due to my sudden nose bleed. I stuffed cotton up my nose and made my way to the locked medicine cabinet in the kitchen for nose spray.

Somehow, I got the bleed to stop rather quickly. The dry, triple digits were more than likely to blame. But I still had to get to the last place I wanted to be, the dentist. I told my older daughters to keep an eye on their brothers, feed them lunch and then I hit the road again. About halfway into the drive (just 10 minutes from my house), I stopped in the left turning lane for the red stoplight. I was about to turn onto our little highway at this point of the trip. As I waited there for the light to change, a large white semi truck just about ran me over for his "wide turn". I actually had to back up about 50 feet so he could pass and so I could live to see another day. It was as if the universe were trying to keep me from going to the dentist. I truly considered it a miracle that I made it to Dr. Bushman's on time, with like 5 minutes to spare! It was odd to be there alone. Even though I hate the dentist, I actually like the receptionist, the dentist (I was once his daughter's English teacher) and the hygienist at this particular office.

I'm pretty sure the smart dentists find the nicest, most charming people to work for them since they know the whole affair is legalized torture which we fork over our earnings toward. I was the last in the family to get that checkup, putting it off as long as possible. I'd done the rounds of getting my kids checkups and followups, a difficult task with school-age, busy kids and a full-time job teaching English to 14-yr. olds. Since we didn't have insurance for 2.5 years, there teeth were in pretty rough shape, which translated to mean double or triple the appointments. We racked up 23 cavities, even with one cavity free. (He's the gifted child who makes the others look bad, but badly needs braces, of course). Now honestly, let me make my position clear: I DO NOT LIKE GOING TO THE DENTIST!

Why, you may be asking yourself... Why be a hater? Maybe ymar arrived a dentist or maybe you are one of those amazing parents who brush and floss your kids teeth every night and make sure they get three cleanings a year. I can see you hovering over your 13-year old son, ordering them to open wide. Well, I am not one of those parents, at least with dental hygiene. I brushed their teeth until they hit like age 3 or 4, then gave them each a SpinBrush and let them go crazy. (They also wiped their tooshies at that age, but that's for another day). My logic was like, hey, this set will fall out soon anyway. I find ways to cut back their sugar intake, make them eat their veggies, and only brush their teeth for them like once a month, when I feel the need. I don't even tell my teenage daughters to brush anymore, since they will roll their eyes as soon as I open my mouth. Call me a lowlife parent, but you must understand how much of an improvement this is compared to my parents.

Dad's voice is still crystal clear. He'd say, "Girls, get in there and brush your teeth. It'll make hair grow on your chest!" Of course, we would generally do what he said, even after we understood that little blond and blue eyed girls should not aspire to such burly dreams. Typically, dad was the one who was interested in our dental hygiene. Being a dad, he probably got us to brush our teeth once a week, tops. Mom cooked, cleaned, made sure we bathed and did chores. She rarely told us to brush, floss, rinse with fluoride or scour our tongues. Though I can't say for sure, but I believe we'd get a new toothbrush maybe once a year, usually from the dentist or school hygiene bags. The first time I even knew what dental hygiene was happened at school in 5th grade, when a dentist visited during  health week. I thought the free toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and red tablets were super cool. When I got to try the red tablets, I realized how poorly I'd been brushing instantly when my teeth lit up red in about every nook and cranny. This was also pretty discouraging. But things got worse, a ton worse. Our dental hygiene suffered greatly when dad was diagnosed with leukemia and then passed away two years later. The same year he was diagnosed we lived in Washington state. We went to the dentist a few times in the two and a half years we lived there. I remember the dentist was shocked that we'd never been to the dentist before. I was age 9. When we moved back to Arizona, Mom let another 6 or 7 years go by before taking us to the dentist. She was always kind of a legend for the wrong reasons at every clinic and dentist she took us to, but I guess she did her best with the tough circumstances she had to raise 5 kids in. Things did get better when our stepfather came into our family when I hit 15.

Back to the present cleaning of 2013- I climbed into the hot seat and a heavy metal "shield blanket" was laid across my body. (This should be a cue to run). Now, I do not ever think about it in the moment, but why don't they give you a radiation helmet? I know we have a skull and all, but isn't the brain the most important system we have? While the hygienist zaps each side of my face, my mind instantly stews upon the fact that X-rays are pretty outrageous in cost alone. It's pretty much like they are making you pay for a chance to be exposed to cancer. Just like most everyone else, I'm polite as he fills me with radiation. I hold the film in place, which really makes me feel like some of that charge should be reduced. I am basically doing someone's job at that point!

The hygienist was nice and all, but his space was lame and beige. No pictures, ceiling posters, nada! When the cleaning began and he brought out the sharp, metal instruments, I realized how similar these little sets are to the torture tools they feature in action films. I wonder if any criminals were once dentists or hygienists, maybe jilted over a lawsuit or something? I suffered through unimaginable pain,parting due to bone and gum loss. He scraped, poked, slipped into my gums and all while I stared at white and beige walls! Thankfully, a window and a few trees were also in view to stare at from time to time. After about 20 minutes, the neck pain started to set in. My least favorite part was when he explained that my teeth were so bad, I'd have to come in again so he could clean the top half. I also had two new cavities. He recommended I take Ibuprofen for the pain and explained that I had a stubborn muscle on the bottom half of my mouth that was inadvertently pushing the toothbrush up and off the gumming so I'd have to be more vigilant. The 1/2 cleaning took an hour. Ultimately, this is pretty much why I hate the dentist. You are poked, prodded, zapped, lectured, and then charged up the WAZOO! "Oh, and we look forward to seeing you back here for more in a few weeks!"
On my drive home, I dropped off the porcelain dolls that my daughters never really liked at the local thrift store. While I was there, I made a momentary discovery. All books, paper or hardback, were only 10 cents each! I quickly rummaged through and found 9 books, including Agatha Christie, John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, Dan Brown, a Curves Weight loss book and a Your Money Matters book! It was the most fun I've had in a Thrift store in years. It was a strange chain of events, to say the least, but I guess it all turned out in the end. I didn't arrive late nor was I bleeding profusely upon arrival. I wasn't flattened by a semi-truck and I had a new Christie book to enjoy after a dose of Ibuprofen. Ya, life is good, cavities and all.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An Uncommon Hero & Drinking water

I do not believe a hero is someone who acts heroic every day of their life.

  • In my experience, a hero just does something heroic when it matters.
Basically, they are human and have their mistakes and bad days when nothing goes their way. Some even have bad years when nothing goes their way. But these heroes never back down and keep trying to fight the good fight.

I know of two heroes, aka Veterans, in my own immediate family. The first is my grandfather, Frederick Trenton Petitt; and the second is my very own father, David Lloyd Slater.
Grandpa Petitt was my mother's father and served in two wars, the Korean War and WWII. He was also a P.O.W. for several years, captured in Nazi-occupied Hungary.Grandpa was a turret gunner when his B-52 was gunned down. After surviving a plane crash, he was captured, then starved for several years and believed to be dead by his family, including his first wife and two young sons. By the time he returned, they were missing and never heard from again. He soon married my grandmother, who was only 16 and living in an orphanage with her two younger siblings.
My father, David, was a Veteran of the Vietnam Conflict, serving at the very young age of 18 in the Marines. He passed away of leukemia in January of 1985, just a week before I turned 12, leaving behind 5 small children. Though I was too young to understand the sacrifices they made at that time in my life, I get it now.
For some reason, we were not encouraged to read in my house and other than church resources, there was nary a book in sight. Thankfully, I married an adamant reader with a mother and sister who worked as bonafide librarians. For this reason and the proximity of our first apartment, I always had easy access to a world of learning. One day, very much out of character, I checked out a pretty hefty book about the Vietnam Conflict and read it cover to cover. Up until then, I'd skimmed assigned reading assignments in high school and college. This time I had a sincere interest to understand Vietnam and the complexities of my late father.
One thing, however, stood out to me when I finished the book (forgive me for forgetting the title). I knew then that I would never be angry at the government for my father's death via Agent Orange, the chemical used to defoliate the jungles of Nam. I don't care that the government had ulterior motives and that it was  a poor decision to go to war. (When is it ever?) My Daddy fought for his country just like any other soldier. He was a good man with more than just a Purple Heart to show for it in the end.

As a young man, Dad was the state champ in wrestling his senior year at Amphi, in Tucson, and went from 200 lbs. to a scarce 128 before his death, all at 6"1. In the almost 12 years that I knew my father, he never once spoke about Vietnam. Dad spent the last few years of his life trying to secure funds for the children he was about to leave behind and he did all of this amid a nasty divorce. Dad did not see his children much at all the year before his death. He lived alone in an apartment in Tucson, not far from the VA Hospital. I can't imagine dealing with cancer treatments and chemo alone. Finally, a month or two before he passed away from an internal hemorrhage, his mother came to take him into her care in Oklahoma. His last words were to tell his children that he loved them dearly.
I do not believe that my father was punished by the cancer that killed him. Everyone has to die, and this was simply his ticket out of this world. He was heroic as a father and most heroic in his last days on the earth. While the chemical Agent Orange would alter the lives of Americans and Vietnamase for decades to come though cancer and birth defects, it was also not their punishment. More so, this was not the first time this kind of thing happened nor would it be the last.
For many years, Americans still ate produce treated with this chemical and many others. Water sources still took in the cancer-causing agent. It took many years for our country to realize what was more than likely causing the various cancers all around. Today it is more "clear" than ever in the "not so clear" water we need to survive. It does not have high traces, but overtime, the cancer sets in (already dorment in our cells). If you doubt what I say, read your latest water analysis and the warnings about cancer from chemicals such as arsenic, chlorine, copper and lead, all found in tap water. There are also several studies showing parts of the country where cancer is unusually high.
This is why I rarely drink tap water. Bathing and brushing teeth is another matter. Since just about everyone is related to someone who's died via cancer, water is simply more of an obvious common denominator.The water reports are something I never trust either. Our government doesn't waste the majority of it's time hiding secrets like aliens in Area 51, but sometimes they water down the facts and evidence of longterm to current studies.
So what good has come from Vietnam? I think that the evidence of cancer causing chemicals is certainly one. Most farmers today, even those producing crops not used for consumption care about air quality and farming via safer means. But I do have a point about all these studies and government secrets. There is not some conspiracy behind closed doors. Our government did not taint the water nor do they wish to kill off the "little" people. They were and are, in fact, trying to make our lives safer, cleaner and better. While there are both good and bad leaders, we can't blame the government. What it all "boils down to" is that the leaders of our country are simply a reflection of who we are as a nation. Truth be known, some leaders are uglier than others, but I digress.
We still have the choice to plant our own gardens and create our own organic food. We can stop eating processed food, fast food, junk food and those amazing Crispy Creme donuts, for example. We can also take the higher road and support our brave Patriots defending our lands and/or vote for those whom we feel will make the world a better place. We still have billions of gallons of drinking water and enough food on our tables, for the most part. And these freedoms are still due to those noble Veterans of yesterday and today.
I truly admire our Veterans and the soldiers on the ground as we speak. I also look up to the families they leave behind.
Life was tough without my special Daddy as a young woman. I was not allowed to or able to attend his funeral and say a proper goodbye. So, I can only remember the times when he was heroic and be the young woman he dreamed I would be.
Years later, I was blessed to have a second father at the age of 15, Joseph Clay Parmley. With a broken heart and a domineering mother, it took me some time to accept him as a patriarch in my life (especially since he was her 4th spouse). This 2nd Dad is still alive and very much a source of strength to my family today. He taught me many things, one of which to be informed with current events and to vote. But while I am grateful for the influence of each of these heroic men, they were far from perfect in my childhood. They were just regular men trying to make a living the best way they knew how and trying to raise a brood of their own. On this bitter-sweet Memorial Day, I want to remember them and the thousands of other Veterans who fought for our America. I salute you, my Heroes...