Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making Something Out Of Nothing

We call them Freaks on the Street.
I suppose that is the official newspaper term. It is when the paper collects photos of some poor unsuspecting people and have them comment on whatever mindless question of the day the reporters are forced to ask.
The only time I had to do such a thing was when I was dispatched with a photographer to the Auburn Mall years ago to get a "Freaks on the Street" spread on the hiring of a new UMaine hockey coach.
I searched out anybody that looked like they knew something about hockey or UMaine and asked the question and hoped to get some sort of an intelligent answer. I don't even recall whether I did or not.
The Freaks on the Street spread I saw recently was about school budgets. The question posed was whether these people had voted. The answers were a bit discouraging.
One guy said he had not voted because "they're all full of bull". I don't know who the "they" were and I don't know what that had to do whether he voted or not.
Another person said they had intended to vote but had not gotten around to it. Well, at least they intended to do their civic duty. That counts right?
Another person, and there were only five or six, said something disparaging as well as to why they had not bothered to vote.
Now I know school budgets and the items that have been up for vote in recent weeks aren't the presidential election and don't have high-profile status of some major election, but don't these votes have an even greater impact on these people's lives at the local level?
I know a lot of people who are effected by these budgets. I know school administrators, teachers, students and coaches. All of them have a stake in the outcome. Parents and taxpayers are effected as well.
Yet people can't be civic minded enough to vote for something that impacts their own community and likely people they know.
It's kind of like the old saying "People complain about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."
We've become a world of bitching and moaning. It's easier to lay blame than take responsibility. Why try and change things when standing idly by and griping about it does so well - not.
I see it in our politics. I see it in the workplace. I see it regardless of where I go each day. People can always talk about what is wrong about something and who is to blame. Yet they offer few solutions or suggestions as to who might make such change. And they're certainly not stepping up to volunteer.
We've let the zealots take over society. We have the right wing, Bible thumpers and left leaning tree huggers. That's how they're stereotyped and everything falls into one camp or the other. We've become polarized by these two ends of the spectrum, where the other is to blame and nobody takes responsibility. It has trickled down from the politics of our highest office to our everyday conversations,  where if you don't agree with me, you're wrong and also an idiot.
We're dividing ourselves because of our disagreements. We stand upon our soapboxes and tout our respective ideology while demonizing anyone that disagrees. Meanwhile, what is truly important and what is right gets lost in all the white noise and posturing.
Where is our common ground? Where is our commitment to do what is right? Where is our determination to make a stand? Why do we let our laziness dictate instead of allowing our knowledge to empower?
It is easy to wash our hands of the frustrating discourse. It is tempting to toss up our hands in despair and assume there's little we can do about it. I'm a political junkie of sorts and even I'm tired of it all.
 Public service isn't serving the public. As a result, our commitment to civic duties suffer. It is easiest to just ignore and do nothing and hope it goes away. Or we assume nothing can be done. We're let to just bitch and moan and blame.  We've become too tolerant of our intolerance.
There is always something that can be done. Maybe it starts with something as simple as utilizing your right to vote. Maybe it is change an attitude from powerless to powerful.
We the people have a power. With that power can come the change. But nothing changes when all we do is complain and blame.Surrendering your power only leaves one weak.  Inaction doesn't lead to action. People need to realize that to make change around us, we must make change within us. When that is realized, maybe they do something instead of doing nothing.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kneedful Things

The scar is really the only negative reminder of that day.
Yet, hardly anybody ever notices it. I'm careful about my knee. I'm a little slow going down hills but otherwise, it is just a minor hindrance at times.
It was July 5. That was the day I blew out my right knee and good. The doctor said it was one of the worst he'd seen. Yeah me !!!
I remember sitting in the hospital room that day. I'd come out of surgery. The drugs were wearing off and the reality was setting in. I had a long road to recovery. I was out of work and my summer was pretty shot. It was not my best of times.
Yet, I made it so.
While the scar still lingers and reminds me of the harsh reality of that day. There are many things that remind me of the wonderful things that came from it.
I'm an author of three books. None would have happened the way they did had it not been for the knee injury. I sailed on the Victory Chimes for 10 straight years each summer and had some fantastic experiences and met some wonderful people. I found a resolve inside me I didn't know I had. I learned my strength and determination was far greater than any setback I could have. I'm still living that today, facing new challenges and still living large and in charge as much as I can.
I'll be celebrating the anniversary of my knee injury this Friday in the most appropriate of ways. I'll be in Owls Head, where the injury happened. I'll be walking the Rockland Breakwater and watching the Great Schooner Race. I'll do so with a sense of victory and a feeling of invincibility.
 Knock me down. I get back up.
What felt like one of the worst moments of my life that Friday afternoon turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I ruptured my patella tendon that morning. I was dragging a rowboat up my beach when I slipped on wet seaweed and fell backward. My knee got caught underneath me and ... snap, crackle and pop.
At first I hoped it was only as bad as the dislocated knee cap I had in college. It would be a hassle to go through that kind of recovery again, but it was one I knew I could do. Come to find out, this injury was far worse. It required surgery and I wouldn't be able to drive for three months (I did it in two). I was out of work and who knew if the knee would ever be the same again. The doctor continually shook his headed, telling me how bad an injury this was.
I sat in that hospital room feeling depressed and sorry for myself. Then I thought about my niece, Caitlynne. She'd been diagnosed with bone cancer earlier that year. Just a month before, she had undergone radical surgery to save her life. She had part of her leg removed and another part reattached so that her ankle now served as her knee joint. I had seen her after her surgery and witnessed an amazing and gutsy kid rising from the depths of life's curveball.
I vowed at that moment I wasn't going to let an eight-year old girl show more guts than me. I was on a mission from then on. She just graduated from high school, by the way, and is headed to Boston University in the fall.
I rehabbed my knee with a vengeance. I got into the best shape I'd been in in years. I was back to work in two months and was climbing the 24 flights of stairs to the Cumberland County Civic Center press box by October.
As much as my renewed attitude and determination proved to be tremendous results from the injury. There was more.
I had lost some vacation time because of the injury. I held it over for the following year. With some extra cash from some award I had won, I decided to do something different with the extra money and vacation time. I chose to sail on the Victory Chimes.
Not only did that lead to a decade of trips aboard the Chimes with some great memories and friends that followed, it was the impetus in my decision to write a trilogy based on family history. My first novel Sons and Daughters of the Ocean was a direct result. Many chapters in that book were written aboard the Chimes.  In fact, the other books that have followed, including the yet to be released Sea of Liberty still have some direct ties to the Chimes and my trips aboard her.
I can't image life without those trips. I can't image life without the books I've published. I can't image life without the proof and knowledge of how strong I am and what a determined mind and unrelenting heart can achieve.
It was supposed to be a boat trip to Port Clyde that day. I didn't get there. I ended up in the hospital instead. But sometimes we don't get where we intend to go. We go where we need to go.
Knock me down. I get back up.