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Country Music & The Service

I have been completely inundated, by choice, with country music. Something has changed in me since becoming pregnant and having a baby. I used to tolerate, better, swearing, cuss words, in every day language and in media I would watch or listen. But not anymore. (That’s not to say that I don’t need to clean up my mouth.) So, since Peter has a plethora of country music on the computer, it’s easy to pick from and listen. A song by Kenny Chesney was played at Cristi’s funeral, and that helped tip the balance in favor of country music.

One of the artists on the computer is Toby Keith. When Peter and I would take trips to Mt. Hood or the Coast, the CD Shock ‘n Yall would frequently be played. Most of the songs have a catchy beat and easy lyrics. When we’d come to the songs regarding our War in Iraq, though, I wouldn’t enjoy the music as much, listening to the music and feeling a pro-war agenda being sung. I’ve been listening to these same songs now for months, and I have listened to the lyrics better. (I’m one of those people who needs to at least try and understand the lyrics of the song I’m jamming’ too.) It became clear that the lyrics were not pro-war but rather pro-soldier. One of my biggest pet peeves while expressing distaste for this war is being chastised for being anti-soldier, and that’s just not the case. Those who are saying, “Bring the Troops Home, Now!” want our American Boys and Girls to be safe and with their families. They would rather see their energy and enthusiasm used for causes at home instead of abroad where the motivations are sketchy at best. I must say I was surprised to learn that Toby Keith had similar sentiments. He is quoted as saying,

“Here’s the thing. Just because you’re pro-troops doesn’t mean you’re pro-war. And just because you’re anti-war doesn’t mean you’re anti-troops. Just because you don’t support the war people think you are anti-troops and you are a bad guy. And just because you go support the troops and rah-rah the troops up all of a sudden you’re pro-war. Those are the two biggest misconceptions of the whole thing.”

I had been listening to this guy for so long and getting irritated with his songs which I thought were misplaced patriotism. And, then I learn he voted for Clinton, twice.

Now, I may be wrong here, but it seems country singers are more likely to sing and support our troops. I don’t care what your feelings are about the wars in which we partake, it’s so important to support our troops. (And I know I don’t do any job of that.) My brother-in-law is in the Army National Guard and his mother regularly sends him care packages. My uncle was in the navy, another was in the army, another in the air force. Two of my grandfathers were in WWII, one a nurse in Germany and the other in the Air Force serving in the Pacific. We all know someone who has served. I get this idealized image of heroic men and women who put their wants at bay to serve the greater good, whether or not we agree with their orders.

There are more disorganized thoughts running through my head, so I will close with a question. Do you know anyone who has served in the military, someone relatively close, and what have you done to “support” them?

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Technology Challenged

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I ordered a SanDisk 1 GB MP3 player from WOOT! on Thanksgiving Day, and it came today! Two weeks later, but it is seemingly worth it. The MP3 player was only $15.99 plus the mandatory $5 shipping. A $21 refurbished MP3 player, how could I go wrong? I read a review on CNET that explained this one was good for the beginner! My husband later translated saying it meant it was probably crap, come on, he goaded, it comes with an FM tuner! How could it possibly work up to par?

As soon as I got it, I ripped the package open with the razor blade that sits in the junk drawer, like a kid on Christmas Day, so eager to see what lay hidden in the box. It was an Amazon book sized box, so I was startled to see that the giant postal service air bubble took up 7/8 of the room inside! The MP3 player consisted of three small plastic-wrapped packages: one bubble wrapped MP3 player, one USB plug in sealed a plastic bag, and one set of ear buds in a small Ziploc type baggy. At first, I tried to take out the battery, but I was afraid I’d use too much force, so I gave that up. Then, my husband looked at it, and he hit the power button, and the thing immediately lit up! It even held a charge! This was something the Wooters warned against, shipping will probably drain the battery, and mine had a charge! I tried to sync it, again, according to the Wooters, and it didn’t work. Maybe the first-timer tragedy was appearing. I unplugged it from the PC, and turned it back on, tested out the choices such as the FM turner. It seemed to be working, and quite well for something that was doomed to be crap. After fiddling with it for a bit longer, I was able to get it Synced, added a small horde of songs stashed on my PC, and after the baby was put down for a nap, sat on the couch, doing what I wanted all along, study with music stuck in my ears. This is the extent of my technological insight now a days.

Growing up, we played Oregon Trail in 5th grade, I was typing 20 wpm in 8th grade while playing that silly space-alien game on our IBM 386s, and by 10th grade, my speed was up to 65 wpm, and when I was a senior, it was 75 wpm. I knew how to manage most software programs that I came across. I started on the blue screen version of Word Perfect 5.1. I gradually learned when it changed to the GUI 6.0, I started on Works 3.11 for Workgroups at home, and when Word really was rockin’ and rollin’, I used that too. It was especially handy that my favorite math teacher had the Windows 95 educational version of the Office Suite where I was able to play with PowerPoint for the first time, and it was wonderful. We made our math presentations on a projector that was placed on top of the projector to translate the computer screen to the big screen. We thought we were so cool.

I went to college in ’96, and MSU had PILOT email, a telnet based email program that was so slow, and you had to flip through email pages manually. There was no reading it on one screen. I got a job in the computer labs, where you babysat labs for 20 hours a week. Off duty, I helped a girl “fix” her computer by closing down a new document she accidentally opened, I was a hero. New friends were into text-based games, and I started playing Eternity’s Trials, a modified version of Zork, which was introduced to me by Barry and Chad in our high school computer class. In that computer class, we learned basic BASIC. But Mr. Carlton suggested that knowing software was far more transferable than knowing how to program. Maybe he just understood my personal limitations. In that on-line computer game, I eventually was “promoted” to immortal, and that trek lead me to sub-imp, which showed me the inner workings of the MUD. I learned how to reboot the mud from the UNIX server by logging in via telnet. I felt like I could learn anything.

College wasn’t working for me at the time; I just couldn’t get my head in the game. So, I moved back home. The next 6 years were spent working, trying to go back to school, and working some more. I stopped looking at office catalogs regularly. I stopped seeing what new software was out there. I stopped hanging around people where forever interested in Linux. But, I still knew Word, even backwards and forwards; Excel a little less so; and Access even less, but a great working knowledge of Access. I had managed databases, and created flow charts, so although my software skills were improving and expanding, I was in a technological funk. There was limited new information being processed, and I was beginning to feel like the older women I would teach to use a computer at whichever job I held at the time.

Now, I have an MP3 player. I’ve always been slow on the musical end of things, slow to get tapes, slow to get CDs, slow to put music on the computer, just slow musically. So, naturally, I have been quite slow getting an MP3 player. It chafes at my ideas of community and bonding. It goes against many things I hold dear, like why someone doesn’t need a cell phone. But, I have one of those now too. Studying and focusing has become harder lately, and it feels like the problem-solver will be an MP3 player. My future brother-in-law, Min, introduced Peter and me to WOOT! WOOT! was this site where they get new or refurbed products, and they sell only one a day. Min and Stacy bought two sweet looking, sweet performing cameras from the site. So, when we got home from Justin and Gina’s wedding, we started watching WOOT! everyday. One day, we saw a 2GB MP3 player for a price that seemed reasonable, just more than what we wanted to pay. Then, on Thanksgiving day, a reasonably priced, memory charge MP3 player was posted. I saw it at 10PM Pacific time, and when I was starting to prepare for the meal Thanksgiving morning, I researched it, checked to see if we could really use it here, and then I bought it.

My MP3 buying, as alluded to, is late coming. I’m getting a refurbished, first-timers MP3 player when most people have moved on to iPhones and other synced Apple products. I’m getting an MP3 player maybe as the wave of musical players is at its peak. They are all sleek, slim, and handy. This low-grade MP3 player has a color screen, basic options that let me do what I want with it regarding music listening, and I can even record voice. How can this be low-grade? Wouldn’t low-grade be an 8-track in your car? We’ve moved so far beyond 8-tracks and personal CD-players it’s dizzying. So, although I feel in many ways that I’m behind on the technology bandwagon, I think it’s just fine. Technology changes so fast, it seems almost better to be behind so you don’t get the first-run screw ups. You can wait for the $21 refurbished deals and have mild confidence, better than no-confidence, that it will do exactly what you want. For now, I’m happy to be behind the technology know-how.

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For Cristi

Simply, for Cristi.

Matty will be posting a blog today regarding my late sister, Cristi. It’s interesting how death affects us. In August, my family made a resolution to have a yearly Cristi Challenge to allow her memory to live on vividly in all of us. Cristi was a go-getter. She was ambitious, driven, passionate, and a humanitarian. She had her faults, some of which she was proud of, like her drinking. But, she didn’t smoke, anything. Drinking, it was her release. I don’t generally condone drinking because of what it did to my biological father, and historically, I’ve never enjoyed being around drunk people. They have bad breath. But, exceptions can be made, and for Cristi they had to be.

She generally had a take me as I am front. But, it was just a front. She craved acceptance for her choices, her life. And her last boyfriend, the one who killed her couldn’t let her be the flower she needed to be to bloom. One starving for acceptance, and another starving for control, a situation that turned lethal. I was shocked when it was said this qualified under Domestic Violence. A duh moment, if you will. How can Domestic Violence be a part of my family? How can something so cruel and viscous be in our lives every day now for the rest of our lives? I will probably always cry when I think of that, realize that.

Although, we’re not over it, we’re also beyond life’s not fair. You have to be, simply to move on. So, instead of What Would Jesus Do, or Who Wants Jack Daniels, it is now What Would Cristi Do? At least once a year. The goal is to do something you’ve always wanted, pondered about, or just challenges you in anyway. And, we’ll think of Cristi as our Coach looking over us, watching us, guiding us, leading the way. I think this has been the fire lit under my butt recently. Things that I can sometimes sweep under the rug, I am more convicted to say something. The creeping passive-aggressive deep within my soul is being squelched, and like when I was pregnant, my tolerance for intolerance is looming at an all-time low. Then, I think of Cristi, and what she would do.

Every day. Every day, I pass by her candle on the counter. Every day, I wonder where she is. Every day, I hope there is a heaven she can be in. Every day I hope her bad deeds did not outweigh her good. Every day I hope and try to take the good she did and incorporate it into mine. Maybe everyone can participate in their own version of a Cristi Challenge, and be the humanitarian she was.