Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Grand Whiskey's Essay Submission that was selected

Firefly Moments:
A Reflection


Nikki Noffsinger

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.” Elizabeth Lawrence

When I think about those early years, when mind consciously has memory, I think of summer. I think for a lot of people that is how they see their childhoods in bright shades of summer. I remember mine in shades of emerald sunkissed greens, yellows and oranges, and the spectrum of the rainbow. That is not to say that my childhood was perfect-it wasn't. I remember being lonely even though I had two grandparents that doted on me and loved me as fierce as a wild wind. I never knew anything was wrong with my life. I knew people lived differently, but to me my home-my way of life was normal. My grandpa, who I called lovinging, "Papow" was the magic man. No matter how many skinned knees, nightmares, hurt feelings, or when I would be sick, he could make it all go away with something as simple as just being there. My grandma, I called "Mamow", it was my word for "mother" for her. She was sweet and loving, and everything I learned about grace, beauty, and embracing love came from her.
My grandparents worked harder than I ever knew, and whatever financial problems or storms that blew, I never knew about them. I was free in that respect, because I never knew about harsh words, torment, poverty, or the ugliness that the world held. They were my eternal sun and blue skies. They were Christians who instilled in me values and morals, some of which I still hold dear and some I've wrestled with and continue to do so. They're ever endearing hopes,dreams, and beliefs never failed with me or my sister. They chased as many shadows away that they could.

When I first comprehended hurt, it was not by the school yard bully even though there would be many throughout my life, it was from someone who was supposed to love and cherish me. It was also the first time that I realized I was different from other children. I grew up in a time when traditional families were still the majority. It shattered my Leave it to Beaver, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prarie thought processes. My father, my biological father, was not there and it made me question, "Why". Why wouldn't he want to be in my life everyday? Why, would he want to live so far away? Didn't I deserve to have a father to show up at school plays, church programs, and regular parent-child activities and occasions? Wouldn't he want to be there for my birthdays? What was wrong with me? It was those thoughts that would stick with me and would affect my life and how I would be towards my own children. I used to pretend that he lived right next door and would come and see me everyday. I could lose myself in imagination that somewhere, he was off trying to get to me-perhaps fighting a dragon or thwarting evil somewhere. Perhaps he was Clark Kent and he had just misplaced his Superman cape. There was a small tear inside my heart that grew to a hole.
My biological father, is not a bad man. I don't want to give that impression. Clearly, he wasn't able to provide me with what I needed, but it didn't make me miss him any less. He was not an abusive man or a man who was hard when it came to emotions. He was just the opposite. My biological father was a man who was capable of great feeling and a lot of love, but his own demons and suffering took presidence over the things and even the people that should have came first. It took me a long time to make peace with that. It was a hard long road to get over the broken promises that would crush me and his absence in my life. I had to accept him just as he is-I had to accept that he had limitations and those were his not mine. I had done nothing wrong, and blaming myself would not change that fact. I had to forgive and that forgiveness was not easy to give. I had never been one, even as a child, to hold grudges, be hateful, or angry-but I was towards him and it was poisoning me. I had to let it go-every single bit of it and accept he loved me in the best way he could. The biggest instruments that helped that was the fact that since I was a young child, my aunt-his sister, had been there where he could not. My aunt Debbie along with her and my father's mother and my grandma Betty, had kept the best part of him for me.
My aunt Debra Harris inspired me to work hard at whatever it was that I loved and she exposed me to so much! She took me to movies, exposed me to art and literature since she was such an avid reader and articulate woman, circus, and pretty much activities that her own children took part in-she took me as well. My aunt Deb gave 110 percent in everything she did whether it was working a job that most men couldn't do, raising her children, wife, daughter, friend, sister, and aunt-she put her whole heart into it. I learned from my Aunt Deb that strength comes from within and that even though life is hard and most times unfair-you have to work hard and love much through it. The storms that woman has weathered would have left many bleeding in the streets or given up-but she's weathered them and fought with a vengence. Her fighting spirit and her intelligence knows few limits. She along with the spit fire that was my Grandma Betty, are the very reasons why I was able to forgive my father and why I abide him the love I have for him. I could have become a very bitter child and adolescent and even adult had it not been the combined efforts of her, my grandma Betty, my mamow and papow. I wanted to be like my aunt Debbie, when I was a child and those are pretty big shoes to fill that even now I've not done anything other than mill about at the foot of the mountain. The love I have for her, is unsurpassed. The adoration I have for her-there is no comparisson. My grandma Betty, though she is gone now, was a strong woman as well and so very talented. I come from pretty good stock you could say.

One of my favorite memories of my mother, was when I was around twelve or thirteen years old. She lived in an upstairs apartment and that summer was brutal in that apartment where she only had a few fans. We'd spent the day taking turns taking cold showers and baths to beat the heat. My mom and I were the only ones up in the wee hours of the morning, when it was still dark outside, watching The Big Chill. During the movie, Van Morrison's, Into the Mystic was playing. My mom for no reason at all got up and pulled me up with her and she twirled me around and I had one of my first dance lessons. I can remember the laughter in her green eyes, the sway of her hips, the way her skin still smelled like Panama Jack tanning oil from where she'd laid out earlier, and her blonde hair swung as she moved. My mother was born in Ohio and had never been to California, but when the Beach Boys wrote their song about California girls-they had to had my mother in their minds; she was the epitome of summer beauty and youth in that moment.
I don't remember too much strife with my mother. She was always there in some form or another, but other than a collection of moments she was never the overly emotional type. She didn't dote on any of us-not like mamow and papow did anyhow. It was always said that the heartbreaking failed relationship between her and my biological father was to blame. She had loved him with a young love that had ran deep but had not realized the bells and whistles of living in a grown up world. They had fallen in love, produced two children, and were ill equipped to be together and raise a family when they both still had no clue how to heal their own demons. My mother was always kind and she always knew the words to just about any song that came on the radio. For the most part she came to most of my school and church functions. She always had food when I visited and at Christmas time was forever trying to bribe me and Kim into telling her what we'd gotten her for Christmas. However, there was always that part of my mother we could never reach-that shut off valve. It was that cut-off that led to her vices and continues to do so to this very day. My mother was robbed from me by those vices and like my biological father, I have had to accept that I either accept she loves me or I don't. I have to accept that I will never have the kind of relationship with her that most young women have with their mothers and there are guards around her castle doors that will never change. I'm still working on my feelings with her.
It's funny how when you're a child, you don't always see the things that you do when you are older-when that invisible veil is either torn or lifted between childhood and adolescence. I sometimes think that if my life had been harder, perhaps it would have made me a stronger woman; would have helped safeguard me. If I would have had better survival instincts, then I would have been immune to bullies. Then I remember what my Kindergarten teacher, Lydia Powdrill, had said to me: "I can only be me, but I can be the best me I can be."

Many of the moments in my life have not been idyllic and surely they could have been a lot worse. I think that is just part of life. Each one of us is destined with something in our lives we have to work through and take on. For me it's been about learning to stand on my own two feet, breaking cycles and curses, embracing my life and what it was meant to be and what it can be, and living-yes, living-more than the physical aspect of life. I still am on the journey-many things I have not done, finished, or accomplished and life is finite. It has a beginning and end and its the end we don't know when, and I have to believe that every day I breathe, every day I wake up-there is something to see, do, someone I can help, and love I can share. There is always someone who will stumble and needs help to get back up.

So all my firefly moments-that swirl around blinking on and off, each one holds something for me, but rather than hold them in my hand-I have to let them go so I can catch the next one.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Planned Parenthood Abortion Issue in Indiana Part 2

You know a very wonderful thing happened, someone read my first view point on this subject and replied. Now did this person condemn me for what I felt with the information I had? No and I have to say it was great! I want to say that I still believe we need places like Planned Parenthood, but after doing some homework and following up on information that was given to me, I have to say that I kind of see where the government is going in reguards to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood takes in a lot of money and can be put side by side with big buisness. Now do I think that is their primary goal-to be a big corporation-no. However, with all the fund raising and donations not to mention the tax money they've been getting over time, it makes even me wonder what have they been doing with all the monies given to them? It also makes me think that even without tax money they still will be able to function. I am still not a supporter of abortions. I don't have anything agasint women who have them and I do not support violence towards abortion clinics, doctors, or nurses. I will say this-abortion is a barbaric out of date practice. We are not the same world we were 20-all the way to 60 years ago. We do not live in a day and age where abortion is the only "out" clause for a woman. I believe that when a woman gets herself with child, from the dawn of conception-it is life. According to any anatomy book or science you will find that a cell-a single cell is the basic unit of energy-thus life. So for me I believe life begins at conception. Today-women have choices. They not only are able to attend school, keep their jobs, get maternity leave(if they don't they need to file what is known as Family Medical Leave papers-because by law, they have to be approved), there is a wide range of birth control options availiable, there is always having a tubal litigation procedure that doesn't have to be permanet incase later on, she would like to try to have a child, and there are adoption choices for unwanted children. Adoption agencies offer what is called open adoptions where a birth parent can still have a relationship with their child, even though they have given the child up for adoption. The world and society is more accepting of unwed mothers and no longer are women sheltered away or sent off. There are no more Magadalena Asylums like there was in Ireland for unwed mothers or women who were found to have done the deed before they were wed. So I don't really believe there is a need for abortions other than we have to have it legal because for some women it is their choice. Doesn't mean I agree with it, but I disagree with what can happen if it's outlawed. However, the question is, "Should tax money pay for abortions?". Part of me says "no", because I think I made the points clear-there are so many options for a woman and her unborn and courts do issue child support assignments to fathers who leave unsupported minor children. There are so many people hurting that could use my tax dollars-but then the other part of me feels like it's just one of those necessary things you have to have in place for the greater good or something. However, there has to be a limit of that help. I mean abortion is NOT a form of birth control. Tax money nor donations should be paying and paying for a woman who keeps getting herself with child and decides to abort it. What I think tax money should go for is educational programs, birth control, counseling services, and things of that nature. I don't mind giving a hand up-just not a constant hand out! I also have come to believe that it's not just a religeous bashing either. A few statesmen made statements that led me and others I believe to see that it was and I do not feel that way. Just because a few apples are a few rats shy of the out house doesn't mean that everyone believes abortion to be a religeous issue. What one does in this life, they have to pay for either in this life or the next and it's not me or you that has to pay that bill. Just like death and taxes, karma comes to bite us all in the backside some time or another. I still hold fast to the belief that everyone has the right to the pursuit of happiness, and an innocent life that never asked for their parents to skip between the sheets that didn't think of the consequences beforehand, deserves none the less. However(I know I seem to be using that word alot), I don't want women preyed upon by leeches in dark alleys, hotel rooms, or rank apartments to play Vera Drake with dirty unsanitary conditions that can lead to death. It's simple as this-if you don't want an unplanned pregenancy-plan before you act! It's as easy as buying a condom with a spermicide that adds extra protection, or one of the various sorts of birth control. Failure rate in birth control is not uncommon but the chances are still low if used correctly. The government should not be responsible for lack of planning, however we do need programs in place to help put education, information, and women's health care in place. I would rather pay for prevention than have to pay for a funeral. Again I am not condeming women who have gotten abortions or those who are Pro-Choice. For me, from what I've learned-abortion may have to be legal but it's not the only choice out there to make and if we put our money and resources into prevention-then there one day won't be a need for abortion. That's the hope anyhow.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Phoebe Prince: An American Tragedy

Some of you may have heard about the little girl who was bullied by six girls and ended up killing herself. I hate hearing about these things especially when it is about a young girl who feels her only way out of being tormented by her peers is suicide. This is something that hits way close to home for me. The first three years of high school for me were an experience in hell. Sure it could have been a lot worse but for me it was bad enough. I started high school as a Freshman, excited, and ready to have that kind of experience I had only seen in tv and movies. I wanted to have loads of friends, go to dances, have boyfriends, go to games, and take hold of everything that I had thought high school to be. I wasn't a stupid kid, nor was I one for getting into trouble. I was shy and a bit chubby. What I didn't expect was from day one, everyone I had known from middle school(jr.high) to scatter to the four winds. Everyone fell into new cliques and I found myself feeling like a little fish that had gone from a small pond to an ocean. I won't say I had never been teased before, because like everyone else, I had. However, nothing I had experienced before prepared me for just how cruel kids could be until I hit high school. I don't much like going into details because those first 3 years are something I wish I could forget. I can remember for no reason-no reason other than maybe I was chubby and red headed being picked on and then that picking escolated. There was a girl who was one of the ones who started the frenzy, that I knew from church. Her father had married a woman who with her two children already attended my church(the church I had grown up in and everyone knew me) and the girl didn't like me. I don't know why to this day other than maybe she was jealous because maybe she had her own feelings of insecurity-reguardless when she started high school and was in 3 of my classes, the lies she told and storm that followed afterwards was unbearable! I was a virgin in the 9th grade and already because of her and a group of followers(most of those girls btw are bigger now than I was then and haven't went anywhere in life not to mention they've all had broken marriages)had spread around school I had STD's. In the 9th grade, I didn't even know what "crabs" were but it went around school like wild fire. The teasing just didn't stop there-it was rumored I was sleeping around with other boys, (after defending a girl with a mental handicap in gym) it was spread that I was lesbian and the word "dyke" was used daily in reguards to me, and I had books knocked out of my hands. There was not a day that passed that I wasn't out in the hall or girl's bathroom crying my eyes out! I had gone to the girl's disciplinary dean, Mrs.Matchette and she didn't do anything. No really, she didn't do crap-more sided with the bullies because after all, why would that many girls and few guys be teasing me if I wasn't doing anything. I guess breathing constituted as guilt on my part! By the time the tenth grade hit, I wanted to quit school! IT didn't matter that my grades for the most part were good or that my teachers liked me. It didn't matter that I came from a good home and that there were some that really did like me. It didn't matter how much weight I dropped or the nice clothes that I wore that were always clean. It didn't matter that I had my sister to spend most of the morning prior to school fixing my hair and helping me to make sure my make-up was near perfect. I was placed in a support group at Marion High, and even though it was beneficial-it still didn't stop the bullying which by now had turned physical. Two girls in particular based upon a lie now, were threatening me regularly. I wanted to quit school-I mean I didn't want to but something had to give because I was tap dancing at the breaking point! By the start of the eleventh grade, a few things had happened. For starters, my papow had given me the strength and will power to not quit school. Secondly, I stopped trying to seek out Mrs.Matchette's help with anything! Mr.Hickland, the man became my hero! Any problems I had, he attacked! It might have not stopped the bullying but he didn't play favorites and he didn't make me feel worse by siding with those making me miserable. Third, I quit having my mom and papow come to my aid. I mean I was calling them to school frequently until one day at Tucker, I had enough. These two girls had threatened and tormented me until I had enough. I threw my books down and stood toe to toe with them. I simply said, "If you're going to beat my ass then do it! Do it right now! I may not can beat you up, but I'm standing right here-I'm not running and crying and you can either put up or shut up!" which brought the excuse, "I'm not getting suspended from school" which brought my response, "No, I won't tell and we can go around the building-we're going to do this and if you pound me to the ground, then you do it and do it now but either way you're leaving me the hell alone!"

The fight never took place. It didn't make them become my instand best friends nor was there an After School Special moment happening but it leveled the field as far as they were concerned because I just didn't care anymore-I didn't fear them anymore! I had taken their power away from them. It didn't make me invincible nor did it just suddenly make everyone sit up and take notice. I was still teased and tormented and I got to the point where any friend was better than no friend at all and that led to some friending of two faced people and those who I probably should have steered clear of. I wore my heart on my sleeve and no matter how hard I tried I was just way too trusting and sensitive. I was raised in a home where the Golden Rules exsisted. I believed all people at their heart were good-and maybe they are-just not always in high school. I was taught that sticks and stones break bones but words-words never hurt. What's a word, it's just something people say-they don't wound. Well whoever came up with that theology needs shot! Really, I would have at least been able to dodge the sticks and stones. I think it was in these years, even as low as they were for me that I really threw myself into writing. I wrote all sorts of things to try and occupy my thoughts, to express my feelings, or create a world in which I could hide or thrive in. My senior year was my best year in school simply because it was my last!
I had my sister who had started school and believe me there wasn't one person that made fun of her! My sister Kim would have handed someone their head because that was the way Kim was. Kim was not a sensitive butterfly like me-she was a tom boy who had scores of friends who didn't take crap of anyone! Kim wasn't a bully and didn't start fights but she could more than hold her own and finish one if need be. To my knowledge, Kim never was in a fight in school. We might not have gotten along at home, but at school-Kim closed ranks and if you were against me-you were against her! It also helped that my cousin Leroy came to Marion High and played on the football team which meant some of the jocks left me alone. I also met my husband that year and by the middle of the year, no one was teasing me. All that had long since passed and I was happy-happier than you know! I had awesome grades, I had even went to home coming for the first time and was on my way to prom and graduation.

My point in writing this is-no child no matter the old saying, "Teasing is just a part of childhood" should be the victim of bullying. The person(s) bullying are mentally afflicted no matter their social standing or how much money they may or may not have. No one has the right to degrade or tear a person to shreds and by not putting down stricter policies that protect kids in school and outside of school-then we're saying it's okay! Children should not be killing themselves over this! I am a grown woman and if I harassed someone-bullied someone I would be arrested or sued. We can give all the positive talks we want and tell our children that words mean nothing-but they mean EVERYTHING to a child and teenager! No matter how many positive reinforcement you give your child or teenager, words still hurt! They still have the power to tear someone apart! Schools all over the nation need to adopt stricter policies! Those policies need to apply to everyone-even the "popular" kids. There needs to be more done by the principals and deans to handle children who are being bullied and targeted because there are going to be more Phoebe Prince's out there. Empowering is important but you have to have enforcement as well. I am not saying NEVER SAYING that violence is the answer! NO NO NO! I am saying that children who are seen bullying other children during the school calender year both on school grounds and off *Because alot of kids are being bullied on Facebook and Myspace* need to be held accountable! If a child or group of kids can't stop the bullying, then they should be reprimanded to the juvenile authorities or an alternative schooling program or home schooled. We adults cannot harass and assault others without some consquence and it should be the same in some form or another for other children.

We have less traditional families and more children coming from single family homes, some come from broken homes(constant turmoil in the home), abusive homes, and some from homes where there just is no parent and kids are left to raise themselves. Our teachers have a lot on their plates, but that's not an excuse to turn a blind eye but teachers can only do so much-they have to have a policy or policies to back them up. The same goes with principals and deans. Schools today have little funding. Teachers are out of work and I get it! I GET IT! However, that doesn't mean that a school gets a free pass to ignore what's going on with the kids that attend their schools. IT doesn't give them a free pass to look the other way and pretend that all the power talks and pep talks will solve everything. NO parent should have to bury their child because that child felt their only way to be free of being tormented was death! I am a mother of two and my eldest has been bullied. I never wanted that for her. I didn't want her to go through what I went through. I told her early on, "Olivia, be a leader not a follower" and "Listen, treat people how you would want to be treated! You're not better than anyone else but no one is better than you. Make friends and those you can't be friends with, don't let them make you miserable!" Those were things I told her repeatively. That didn't stop the times when she came home in tears or the times I had to go to her schools. I tell her now to hold her head up and keep her nose clean and to go to her teachers and people at her school that are in positions that can help her.No one wants to be a tattle tell. There is some unwritten shame I think that a child or teenager feels to where they don't want to tell. The fear of further torments weights heavy. It did with me. One thing I can say is that it doesn't last forever. School doesn't last forever. Most of the people that bullyied me haven't went anywhere in life and that doesn't give me any satisfaction-but I look back and I wonder how it was that I thought they had so much power, how they were so much better than me. They weren't. So if your child is being bullied or if your a teen reading this, don't feel ashamed to ask for help! Don't feel second rate or even bottom of the barrel because you're being tormented! Consider the source-anyone who has to resort to underhanded bullying techniques has more going on in their head than you and they only have power if you let them have it! It can be overwhelming and terrible but don't be afraid to stand up! Don't be afraid to succeed, and most important-Don't let it stop you from being who YOU are!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Indiana Govenor Pulls Planned Parenthood Funding

I am not a political nut, but sometimes I read something and it just really sticks in my crawl. First I would like to state that I am NOT Pro-Abortion. For me, it is wrong but I will say that to make it illegal or nearly impossible to obtain one I am against. Indiana's govenor, Mitch Daniels has pulled funding to Planned Parenthood because they make through the funds they get from the state, because they help women who decide to go through and terminate their pregenancies. To me this is wrong. Planned Parenthood stood at the forefront of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and provide education as well as condoms to promote safe sex. They provide birth control to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it as well as education to prevent unwanted babies that doesn't always result in abortion. Up until Roe vs. Wade-women obtained abortions in back alleys and in back rooms where more than half the women ended up dying afterwards. In Indiana up until the famed Becky Bell case, young women had to go before a judge to obtain an abortion without consent from their parents. I don't like abortion-in this day and age it's practically obsolete with all the help a woman can receive not to mention open adoptions and such. However it is one of those necessary evils that has to be legal. Planned Parenthood should not have their funds cut. There are worse things that tax money goes towards and this is a slap in the face to every woman. We have separation of church and state for a reason and I can't help but think that Mitch's religeon is playing a major role here. It's the same was the gay marriage debate. Cutting funding to Planned Parenthood is only going to cost the tax payers more money because they are going to take it to court and will probably fight all the way to the Supreme Court and Indiana will still have to refurbish those funds back that they sought to take from Planned Parenthood. I've said it already-I don't like abortion and I'm not a supporter in it. I believe that if you get between the sheets with someone-you choose-you are choosing whatever consequence comes along with it. Now that is not to say that goes for women who are the victims of incest or rape because they didn't get to make that choice. However to those of us that decide to have sex and not take precautions-we've made that choice. However, some women cannot bear a child. Some women either because of age or circumstance after all the options are weighed and every consideration has been taken-still have the right to choose whether they want an abortion. It may not make it right-but I would still rather a woman be able to have one in a clean sterile environment with a doctor doing the procedure than to be forced to go to a back room with dirty equiptment by someone who has no clue what they are doing! I don't like war, but sometimes it's necessary. I don't like alot of things that we simply have to have because if we didn't it would cost lives. So if you live in Indiana-let's vote these folks out!