July 19

Featured Blog Posts

Hey ya’ll, welcome, and thanks for checking me out.

 

If you are looking for a good laugh, a little inspiration, or just something to distract you for 5 minutes, then you came to the right place!

 

My blog is very unique. I like to take every day sort of issues and smash them together with wit, insight, humor, and a good old fashioned moral lesson. Please, don’t let any of the titles scare you, they ALL have something important to say.

 

So, read, laugh, be inspired, and get emotional… because, honestly… you’re not livin’ if you’re not feelin’.

Thanks, again!

 

(There is some language throughout and some material may not be appropriate for young children.)

Jacob Paul Patchen

Speaking From A Burnt Tongue

 Wisdom, in its infant stages, is nothing more than ignorance and courage.

 

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering where I fit in in this world. And, if that wasn’t such a damned cliché, then I would actually feel somewhat philosophical about the whole thing. But the truth is, who hasn’t wondered where they belong before? I mean, here I am, 29 years old, I’m in the 2nd or 3rd best shape of my life, I almost have a real Bowflex body, I’m single, looking for a “good” job and contemplating the meaning of life. Let’s face it, where we want to be and where we end up, are seldom the same place.

 

So, where do I want to be? Well, honestly… hell if I know. I mean, how should I know? To my knowledge, this is the first time that I’ve ever been alive, so how am I, or anyone else for that matter, supposed to have any inkling of an idea of where they want to be?

 

Wait… happy, right?

 

We want to be HAPPY. I mean, the people who like nice things, want money; the people who fancy romance (me), want love; those who love to control, want power; and so on and so on. But, seriously, does anyone really know what they want out of life? Hell, I figure we could argue about that for a good 32 minutes or so, but I don’t have enough energy nor enough beer to listen to you tell me what you think you know….

 

Whoa, whoa, whoa… I’m getting a little off track here. This is my point… wisdom. The knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment. It’s the insight into the “why we did that” or the “why didn’t we do that.” It’s the reason that you don’t dial the numbers scribbled onto bathroom stalls, it’s exactly why you should always make and hide a spare key, or the reason that I stopped dating redheads.

 

It’s wisdom that will lead us to where we want to be. In other words, it’s experience, it’s mistakes, it’s bumpy roads that let us know how much we need a new suspension. In essence, we learn as we go.

 

Alright, so they say that we should learn from our mistakes; to get up after we fall down, to bend but not break. They say that there’s a lesson inside the pain, that we cannot have the good without the bad, the right without the wrong.

 

Well, I say…

 

Go skinny dipping every chance that you get. Kiss her. Kiss her. KISS HER! Learn to start a fire, but still bring a blanket. Learn to whisper… a loud mouth drowns out a soft song. Touch her… not inappropriately, well, I mean, unless she wants you to… but, I’m saying touch her face, her back, her shoulders, her neck, her leg and most importantly, her hand. Take a dare. Give a dare. Run, if not for fun, then out of fear… of getting fat. Chase someone, not like a creeper or with a knife, but through the yard and with love. Take the time to say your manners. Give respect. Earn respect. Smile. Laugh. Laugh again. And again. Keep laughing. Never stop laughing. Play as hard as you can, as often as you can. Stop working so much, one thing that I can positively tell you, is that we were not blown breath into our souls just to work our lives away. Spend your money, save your money, and find the right balance between both. Write, sing, dance, draw, EXPRESS yourself. And finally, Love. Love with all you have. Each time, every time. No matter how many times it hurts you. Love for the sake of humanity, love for your children, for their children and love for those who loved before you.

 

Because without love, the most powerful force on Earth… is hate.

 

Where, And Where NOT, To Put Your Penis

I’m a firm believer that owning a penis comes with great responsibility.

 

Matter of fact, I would even petition that each penis should come with its very own user manual. I mean, let’s face it, for those of us who have penises, one of the hardest things to figure out, is what exactly to do with it. I’m completely serious right now (well, kind of). How are we supposed to know where, and where we shouldn’t put our penis? It seems that we are left merely to the trial and error of drunken Saturday nights, or the embellished stories of our overly-eager-to-impress friends who want to share with us an easy place where WE could possibly put our penis, too; or we hear from those same friends (who aren’t so eager, anymore) to sadly share with us a place where we should not put our penis.

 

We are simply left to these devices: trial and error, and word of mouth.

 

Now, as with any loaded gun, proper training and safe handling is required. So, why is it that we are handed this little pea shooter at birth and tossed into the shooting gallery of our teenaged years, without any knowledge of where we should pull the trigger and where we should probably just leave it on safe and put it back into its holster? It’s no wonder that we end up with so many misfires and negligent discharges. Hell, we were handed this thing and told to go bag a damn lion. But, how can we slay the king of the jungle when we don’t even know how to un-cock our cock? How can we be responsible penis owners when we haven’t the slightest idea of where, and where NOT, to put our penis?

 

Well, luckily, I’m here to help.

 

Let’s imagine for a second that we all had this wise, caring, brilliant, expert-penis-owning father, who sat us down when we were 12 years old and explained to us exactly where we should, and should NOT, put our penis. I would have to imagine that it would go something like this…

 

Father: “Son, come have a seat here next to me on the bed.”

 

Son: Just starting to learn that he carries with him a God-given loaded weapon, with a seemingly unlimited amount of ammo; sits down nervously beside his father, worried that he might be in trouble for blowing up his brother’s GI-Joe’s with M-100’s. “Yeah, dad?”

 

Father: A bit nervous himself, just blurts it out. “Let’s talk about your penis.”

 

**(ok, ok, that’s just kinda creepy)** Maybe, he says instead… “Son, let’s talk about penis responsibility… specifically, where, and where not, to put your penis.” (yeah, that’s better).

 

Son: Not weirded out at all (because this is completely fictional and MY damn story) simply says “Okay.”

 

Father (continues): “Well, you know your friend, Jimmy, right? The one who eats earth worms for attention and farts at the dinner table for laughs… well, anything that Jimmy puts his penis into, well son, that is NOT where you should put your penis.”

 

At this point, his son just nods his head in agreement.

 

Father: “Ok, now… you know Ms. Davis, right?”

 

Son: “You mean, Loose Ms. Lucy?”

 

Father: “Uhh, yeeaaahh… her. Son (shaking his head), this is NOT where you put your penis.” (thinking) “Matter of fact, as a general rule… anyone with a similar nickname, is NOT where you put your penis.”

 

Son: “But, what about…”

 

Father: “No, son. Buts will only get you into trouble. And, speaking of BUTTS, son, this is, also, NOT where you put your penis.”

 

His son crinkles his nose in thought… and then nods his head with understanding.

 

Father: Shifting with awkwardness. “Alright, now… just bear with me on this next place. You know how Uncle Ted sometimes uses the sweeper late at night? Or, you remember that time when we had to rush Uncle Ted to the hospital because he slipped and fell out of the shower and his penis somehow got stuck in a 16oz aluminum beer bottle??! Well… son… (his father looks down, pauses, and then meets his son’s anxious gaze), only put your penis in places that were meant for penises, alright?”

 

They both chuckle at Uncle Ted’s expense.

 

Father: “Now, for some of your friends, they’ll learn this the hard way… but, son… never pay someone money to put your penis there. This is NOT where you put your penis, son. And, if you don’t believe me, just ask my buddy, Nick, the next time he comes over for drinks… alone.”

 

Son: “The one who’s always scratching himself?”

 

Father: “Yes. Yes, that guy.”

 

Father: “Now, there’s one more place that you should NOT put your penis. It’s a little difficult to explain, so if there’s any questions, just feel free to ask me when I’m done. Well, imagine that it’s summer, son. And, you have worked up a pretty powerful thirst ALL day long sitting at the beach. Now, son, you have an unlimited supply of water, the same water that has quenched your thirst for many years. The water that you take with you wherever you go, because, you just enjoy this water so much, son, you love this water… and, well, this water is cold, and crisp, and very satisfying. Son, this water is good. But, on this particular day, you don’t want water… on this particular day, you want something with a little more flavor, let’s sayyy… juice, son, today you want juice. You with me so far?”

 

Son: “Uhhh, ok. So, I’m thirsty, and I have water to drink, the same water that I’ve had for years and I love it, but today I want juice, instead?”

 

Father: “Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Okay, so you want juice… instead of this perfect water that you’ve been drinking for so long now. So, you decide that you’re not going to drink this perfectly fine water… that you’re going to try a sip of this small, tan, skinny, sexy, younger, new juice, instead. Well, son… do NOT take a sip of this juice; this is NOT where you put your penis. Understand?”

 

His son takes a second to let that sink in, and then nods his head “yes.”

 

His Father goes on: “Now, this might be hard for you to understand, right now (as he pulls out his wallet and removes the high school prom photo of him and his son’s mother, and hands it to his son) “Look at this picture real close. Look at me and your mother. Do you see that smile on my face… that spark of life in her eyes? Do you see that ring on her finger? Do you see how close we are? How much we refuse to let any kind of distance between us? Son, can you see all of the happiness and love that’s right here in this picture?”

 

His son looks closely and nods.

 

Father: Well, son… (he wraps his arm around his son and squeezes him tightly), when you find something like this… something this amazing and magical and incredible, well… son, this is where you can put your penis.”

 

 

Socially Awkward

I’m that dude at social gatherings who doesn’t know whether to fist bump or hand shake.

 

I often get tripped up by the half-a-hug handshake that bros often do. I sometimes creep into social circles at parties and laugh at the first thing said so that I fit right in. And then I say something stupid like, “Hey, I just read an article about how they discovered 10 new exoplanets and that one may even be able to support life….” Yeah, I say weird, awkward shit, but by no fault of my own. I can’t help it. I’m just not good at being cool in social situations.

 

Sometimes, I bring up politics when we are out at the bar. Why? Hell, I’m not real sure. It just seems like more people should be worried about their right to live freely.

 

The truth is, I never really know what to talk about. I have no idea what the Kardashians are doing. What Bieber jam is hot right now, or if he’s even important anymore. I don’t know what happened on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette… and I don’t understand why they don’t just hook those two people up in the first place. I mean, they’ve gotta have mutual friends within the network, right?

 

I never know if someone wants to hug me, kiss me, or punch me in the face. And that makes it hard for me to feel comfortable when we’re all together. I mean, just imagine, trying to hug someone who wants to punch you in the face.

 

My friends never seem to have any problem fitting in. They walk into a crowded room and know right away who they’re going to fight, buy a drink, or dance with on the dance floor.

 

Nope. Not me. I’m over here in the corner, where it’s safe, watching and waiting (probably like a creep) hoping that some decent looking gal gives me an obvious sign that she’s interested. And by obvious, I mean, walk up to me, rub my shoulder, and whisper something into my ear like, “Hey cutie, you don’t have to do a thing, I’m all yours.”

 

That’s how it works right? I mean, it seems that easy for my crowd pleasing, life of the party, rowdy friends. So, what class did they mostly skip that taught them how to be this social? Where did they learn how to interact so easily?

 

Shit, I’m usually six beers and 4 shots of tequila deep before I’m finally out there on the dance floor getting weird. But they walk right into the club, buy a beer for each hand, and leave me at the bar while they go make friends with the slutty girl droppin’ it low.

 

But I’m the shy, cute one. I mean, there are those days. But that’s not really who I am. There’s a God Damned lion inside of this gazelle! A very talkative lion, who always knows what to say. One that never experiences those long moments of awkward silence. A lion who struts out into the open, his long beautiful mane flaring in the savanna sun, drawing in all the eyes of the African plains, looking important, being heard and seen, owning that shit.

 

Yes, there’s a lion inside of me.

 

He’s just… drunk right now.

 

The Modern American Slavery

Freedom: exemption from external control, interference, regulation; the power to determine action without restraint; personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery; the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc. (Dictionary.com)

 

Liberty: freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control; freedom from external or foreign rule, independence; freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice. (Dictionary.com)

 

“Give me Liberty, or give me Death,” Patrick Henry, 1775.

 

I am appalled to believe that what we have today is called, Freedom.

 

We have replaced the chains of slavery with bills, debt, and bad credit. We invite you to the land of opportunity, only to bury you waste deep in a hole of dues, and then hand you a fork to dig your way out.

 

We tell you to become educated, that a degree will earn you a Million Dollars More than those who don’t have one. And so you do, you go, you pick up that pen and take notes, you study for hours and hours (well… some of you), you balance a part time job with full time play, but you still have to take out loans just to get by. And you keep chugging along (sometimes literally) until you find yourself walking across that stage grabbing that certificate (rather quickly) and off you run into the great unknown of money money money… or so you think.

 

The days pass like summer, fast, loud, and carefree… after all, they give you a full six months until you have to pay back all of that money that you borrowed anyway… shit, life is gravy.

 

But then, one winter day, you skip out to your mailbox in your fleece robe and ear flap hat, trying not to spill your spiced caramel mocha white chocolate pumpkin vanilla coffee, and as you rip into those still-trickling-in “Congratulations!” letters, you stumble across something odd, something foul, and rancid… a $1253 bill for your first months payment of your school loans.

 

You puke, drop your 50 flavors of coffee onto the ground, and briefly consider life as a bank robber.

 

What the fuck!? This can’t be real? Where in the hell am I going to get this kind of money?!

 

And in those first few moments of bewilderment, dread, and anger… you question everything that you have ever done in your life.

 

The next few years are Hell. Deferments, Forbearances, lowering your monthly payments, moving back in with your parents, working three jobs so that you can have unlimited data on your cell phone, insurance, a car that drives further than 28 miles, and a new wardrobe of “work clothes”. You sacrifice your dignity, fun, and credit so that you can eat more than Ramen noodles and the dollar menu.

 

Now fast forward to some resemblance of stability five years later.

 

You have a steady job, an apartment, bills that you can pay the majority of the time, a steady girlfriend/boyfriend, a dog, maybe a kid, a new car, a few suits, a big screen TV, the NFL Sunday Ticket package… hell, you have everything you need.

 

Except freedom… your job pays $30,000 a year (with your degree) and you have to work 50, 60, and 70 hours a week just to keep the lights on. Your hobbies are napping and job searching.

 

But you are stuck in Small Town America, where oil and gas jobs are where people sell their life for six figures, and if you want to live comfortably, then you have to live a long, long work week uncomfortably.

 

And now you are owned by those who pay you. You show up when they say, leave when they tell you, and work as long as they want you to. You cannot do the things that they tell you not to do, or else they will take away your bread. You come and go when they say; you ask permission, and for forgiveness. You wear what they tell you to, their brand, their mark. You do the job that they want, and sometimes more than you should. You say what they want to hear, and you speak in a manner in which they approve.

 

You follow their rules, their guidelines and their policies, because if you don’t, then you will get reprimanded, disciplined, executed from your means to provide. They will end your dreams and fantasies.

 

Yes, they own you.

 

Work has become the reason that you live. Without it, they would come and steal your life away.

 

This is our slavery, this is our captivity… we are workers, dreamers, and wishers. We are the ones who dream of living while we are at work. We are the bound and chained; the confined and broken… we are the working class Americans.

 

We are so enslaved by the modern world of money, that we freely spend our lives away from our family and friends, new experiences and lessons, home and comfort, just so that we can make the money that we think we need to provide for those things that we do not have the time to do.

 

Since when did working become the reason that we live?

 

Whoa whoa whoa, you lazy son of a bitch… How dare you not contribute society! You’re a waste of flesh and breath.

 

What?! No. That’s not at all what I am saying.

 

I’m saying, live. I’m saying… why are we forced to work so hard, so long, so much, for so little? I’m saying… why are we not questioning this idea?

 

Who came up with a standard 40 hour work week? Fuck… who actually has a job where they only work 40 hours a week, anymore?

 

Why can’t we work 30 hours a week and get paid more on the hour? Hell, why can’t we come in for 3 days a week and work really hard for 5 hours to accomplish all that we need to do, and then go home to our family and friends, our experiences and hobbies, our adventures and lessons about life?

 

Well… if you’re looking at these words with a scrunched up face… then you know that it is because of money. Because we are held captive by a piece of paper. Because we sell our lives in order to feel like we are in control of it.

 

We have become so focused on chasing the American dream, that we have forgotten why we started it in the first place… to be free of worry, to live comfortably, to come home to a home, to a family, to live with the ability to experience life.

 

How much life do you experience working yourself to death?

 

Wages are too low, too many people are willing to work too long, too hard, for too cheap.

 

This noble idea of killing oneself in order to provide for the people that they rarely see, is absurd.

 

Damn it… spend time with the ones you love. Laugh with them, cry with them, be there for them, and experience life with them. Travel, explore, learn, and try new things. Punch through this bubble that you think you are comfortable living in.

 

Work is not life. Working your life away is NOT living. Why in the fuck do we accept this? Why do we let them control our lives like this? Why do we chain ourselves to a piece of paper that’s only real value is in a flame…

 

We are slaves to those string holders and policy makers. We are puppets that do and say what they want us to.

 

We are a culture of prude, judgmental, arrogant, flashy, materialistic lost souls who believe that life is about owning things instead of ideas and experiences.

 

Hell, I don’t have all the answers (I’m lucky if I even have one), I don’t have the perfect solution, or some easy fix. But I can see our problems; I can see our downfalls, and shortcomings. I think that someone needs to stand up and point them out. I think that we need to raise our voices and speak out. And I think that we need to work together to make our culture better.

 

So, go do more than just exist. Go be. Go inspire and achieve. Go do the things that make you breathe. Find a way to make us better. And for Fuck’s sake… Live.

 

Halloween Sluts And Creepy Creeps

Well, it’s upon us, folks. Another spooky Halloween. The one weekend out of the year where all of the half-naked ghouls and goblins, sexy mini-skirt zombies, and cleavage clad whatchya-ma-call-its, come out to play.

 

And, let’s just be honest, forget about Christmas and Thanksgiving, Halloween has become our new favorite holiday. I mean, what other time of the year is it socially acceptable to go out into the community and put your male parts and lady bits on public display? I damn sure, I don’t see Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny doing that shit….

 

So, here we are, squeezing into our teeny tiny costumes, pushing up our ta-tas, and finding ways to draw attention to our meat sticks. We’re cool, we’re hip, and we’re only doing it to win that $50 Wal-Mart card in the costume contest. I mean, that’s what this weekend is really all about, right… Wal-Mart and sex?

 

Look, ladies, I understand that it’s hard to buy a costume that isn’t skimpy. Those ass-clowns in the fashion world, the ones who tell us exactly how we’re supposed to look, have done a really good job of sexualizing everything. Hell, Halloween doesn’t even scare me anymore, because everything that used to want to harm me, now just wants to hump me.

 

Okay, I guess what I’m really trying to say is… I want to respect you. I want to treat you with class and dignity; as a woman, a man, an adult and a human being, not as a symbol of sexual fantasy and eroticism. But it’s hard for me to think of you any differently than that of an attention gathering, “look at me, I’m sexy, because I’m naked,” barely clothed, “sex me please,” kind of slutty clown that you’re acting like.

 

I mean, how can I even hold a semi-decent conversation with you when every time you “get low, get low” I see your “oh no, oh no?”

 

And hunny, yes, you are beautiful, there’s no denying that… but I think that your nipple is showing. Is that intentional? I mean, should I tell you… or do I just let you figure it out on your own? I really don’t wanna make it weird.

 

“But I’m a slutty pirate.”

 

Yes. Yes you are.

 

And dudes…. duuuudes… the ones with the body suits and cock socks… what are we doin’? Why is this a thing?? I mean, how proud can you really be?? Personally, I think you look ridiculous, put something else on, please. I understand that it’s Halloween ‘n’ all, but there is absolutely no reason for you to be scaring everyone away like that.

 

And bro, no. No, she doesn’t want you to rub it all over her leg and ass on the dance floor while she’s trying to get down with her girlfriends. Just stop. You’re embarrassing me, and I don’t need your help, I can embarrass myself just fine without seeing any of that. Go try the slutty pirate chick, she looks like she’d dig it.

 

I understand that we’re all here to have a good time; that we all just want to have fun. But listen, we don’t really have to advertise our goods this much… do we? We can respect ourselves a little bit, right? Yeah, I get it, you’re young and dumb and just wanna have fun. Okay, well good. Me too. But if you’re idea of fun is being naked, then hey, be a stripper. At least, then, you’ll get paid to have everyone staring at your who-dee-who’s and shanaynay’s.

 

But, hey, on the flip side… I really wouldn’t mind searching for your (semi) hidden treasure, can I buy you a drink???

 

10 Years Ago I Wanted To Kill You

There is a Demon tied to a stake deep down in the darkest corner of my soul; and 10 years ago, I sliced him free with a Ka-Bar knife.

 

***

 

For those of you who knew me back in my younger days, you all are probably nodding your head “yes,” right now. You must’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of dealing with that baby demon (while babysitting, or in church, or wherever) back before I had whipped him into his corner. I apologize. With my deepest, most sincere apology, I – Am – Sorry.

 

And for those of you who have no idea how big of a temper tantrum my 8 year old self could throw… consider yourselves the lucky ones. Because, luckily for everyone opposed to temper tantrums, phone throwing, running away, and other mischievous acts, I buried that son of a bitch a long time ago…

 

But 10 years ago today, I cut him loose.

 

***

 

What going to war does to the mind is astonishing. To convince myself that taking another person’s life is right, was difficult to do. And accepting that they could possibly take mine, was even harder to do. But I did. I switched whatever human psyche switch I needed to in order to kill and/or to be killed.

 

I went as far as to write a death letter that was meant to be sent home if I was killed in action. I still have it. And, occasionally, I revisit it, and try to remember the love, fear, and appreciation for life that I felt as I wrote those shaky, sweaty, and tear stained words.

 

To be honest, it amazes me that it was never mailed. Even though they had their many chances, for some reason… I just wasn’t called home.

 

But, Joey was.

 

He was my squad’s 1st team leader. He was good at what he did. He was kind hearted and just. He had a sense of humor that would change your day. He was cool, he was good, and he was a brother to us all.

 

We were at an outpost called the B/U Split. It was an intersection for a “civilian only” road and a “military only” road. Simply put: we were there to keep the bad guys from driving onto the “military only” road, where they could rig up I.E.D’s and landmines.

 

Not much happened out there, honestly. I think those sandbagged bunkers took fire 1 time during the whole time that we were there. So, we were slightly more “relaxed” than anywhere else we had been, so far. Hell, I think we even played a game of baseball with some rolled up duct tape for a ball, a time or two.

 

We were supposed to be a on 2-3 week rotation with the other platoons. While there, we did 8 hours sitting on post watching traffic and looking for suspicious behavior, and then 8 hours off post resting or whatever. We would watch movies from a generator on our down time, write letters home, look at stolen girlfriend pictures that some idiot forgot to put away, read magazines, shower from a water bottle and sleep when it was cool enough to do so. What I’m trying to say is, in the hell hole, shit storm of a landmined, IED’d, rocketed and pop-shoted world that we found ourselves living in during this deployment, this was the one place where nothing was supposed to happen.

 

But it did.

 

Lights were reported the night before about a mile or two out at some abandoned stone buildings in the desert. So, the next day, the order was given to do a mounted patrol out to these buildings and check it out. But, by the time that they had everything finally approved, it was time for me to stand my shift of post. I wasn’t able to go with them, and I was pissed.

 

We flipped each other the bird as they headed out of the wire, everyone joking and smiling, ready to go do what we get paid to do; find the bad guys and eliminate them. I watched them stop traffic and slowly head down the road with their gunners sweeping their sectors of fire. I was envious; I hated post.

 

***

 

That was the last time that we would all be together. It was the last time that I would see Joey’s smile, as he made fun of me for having to stand post instead of going out on patrol with them.

 

His Humvee hit a landmine, throwing them all into the air from its opened back.

 

Gunny and I ran, as fast as we could go, together, down that same road that traffic was still stopped on, in our full gear, dying inside the closer we got to that black smoke cloud.

 

I’ll never forget my brothers laying there in the sand, the Corpsmen over top of them, trying to patch them up.

 

I’ll never forget the rage that swelled up inside of me as I felt the pain in their screams. I’ll never forget the fear, and the fever that boiled over from knowing that things would be different now… that no longer will our demons stay chained in the corner.

 

I WANTED TO KILL YOU!

 

Whoever you were, wherever you were, hiding, blending back into the crowds of innocent people. I wanted to find you, to cut you open, and to watch you bleed like my brothers were right in front of me.

 

That’s the first, and the last time that I have ever let my Demon out of that darkness…

 

They say that time heals all wounds. I don’t know, maybe it does. But 10 years has not healed that pain.

 

Drunk Jake: The Warrior

He’s a pretty fun guy, charming even; out there among the laughter and the good times, careless and fearless of reprisals. He’s a hero to those who walk this Earth in anxious chains; a true badass in the face of the cares and care-nots; a renegade, charging headfast into your social gatherings and saying something that’ll make you smile.

 

He’s everything that I want to be when I’m around everyone else.

 

We live in a world full of misdirections and brick walls, a place where we struggle to find who we are without smacking blindly into reasons to change. But do we even want to change? Or should we? Shit, the change inside of me is heavy.

 

We are the he woeful, so full of worry and panic; overthinking the socks on our feet, the names of familiar faces that we cannot remember, the exit plan for when we run out of words to say. We are the burden of solving problems before they are even problems; the exhaustion of analyzing our surroundings and finding the comfort corners that overlook the room, observing, waiting, hoping that we don’t have to talk to people.

 

This has become my reality. The fear of the social. The haunting task of being like you when I am ME and so much different.

 

And you know, I’ve seen it inside of you, as well… the desire to be the things that you are not.

 

What is this social sting that pricks at you and me? Why do we feel so pushed to fit in? To blend? To mix with the ones who have no fear of judgment?

 

Hell, I can’t stand the thought of you misinterpreting my intentions.

 

And here I go, back into the dark waters of overthinking every move that I make, living in the heaviness of being wrong. And living with the pain of never knowing, because I didn’t try.

 

So, I like drunk Jake… weekend after weekend, free spirited and fun. Out there talking and nodding about the things that I know nothing about. Shaking hands and smiling, calling him and her by a name that may or may not be right, but not caring because at least I’ve tried. Going here, going there, making rash decisions and loving it. So free, so alive, so me.

 

And those of us who walk this path, the ones who bear the weight of caring, we go on living these doubled lives; the one that is carefree and loud, coozy in our hand, singing the wrong words to our new favorite song while holding onto the cutie that we just introduced our self to, laughing and wild, accepting whatever the night might bring….

 

And then, the one of a pregame pep talk in the mirror, deadlocked on sorry eyes, angry because you cannot leave the house without reminding yourself that you can overcome this anxiety.

 

 

This Is Not Liberty

**Warning: possible political statements and probable political incorrectness ahead**

 

America, the modern day symbol of Freedom, where you are forced to give up a fourth of your income to support programs that give it to those who do not earn it; a place where any citizen can be President, as long as you are a career politician with years of corrupt experience; where criminals hold seats in Congress and create laws that are meant to hold you and me accountable.

 

America, an Oligarchy enriched by those with deep pockets who buy votes, who buy opinions, and who buy the “facts.” It’s a place where political corporations own the media and then spin their own political agenda to persuade the public in favor of their own ideas, instead of the transparent truth.

 

It’s a place where racism is taught and hatred is learned.

 

I, so badly, want to blame it on smart phones and dumb people. But, honestly, it’s all of us.

 

Because here, intelligence is pushed aside for a cute photo of puckered-up lips and a low cut top. Here, sexism, discrimination, and bigotry are justifiable by culture, by region, by religion, and by circumstance. It’s a place where we walk on eggshells to not offend a culture for doing what is morally wrong. Here, we are forced to accept all different ideas, views, and opinions… except for our own.

 

The United States of America… where we are lied to, misled, misguided, oppressed, and controlled by the very same body of government that we created to protect us and our rights.

 

And, quite frankly, I’m fucking sick and tired of it.

 

We, The People, are so face deep in our Twitter accounts, our Facebook newsfeed, and Instagram selfies that we don’t even care about our lives outside of social media. We couldn’t give a shit less about what law was passed to limit our constitutional rights, or what politician was caught breaking what law only to have it simply brushed underneath of the rug, out of view, out of mind, out of existence.

 

Where is the frustration of the inhumanities that go on every day, right HERE, in our free nation?

 

Where is the accountability of who WE are, and what America stands for?

 

Instead, we post a political meme making fun of the way our leadership looks; what utensil they ate with, their hair, what they were wearing. We try to justify hate and racism with “what ifs” and “could have beens.” We give up our freedom of knowledge, our right to the truth, so that we can sleep comfortable and clear headed at night, because shit, reality is scary.

 

People, our values, rights, and freedoms are in jeopardy. Not just by the wicked who are leading this great country, but by the complacency of US, of WE, of the PEOPLE, who care more about how many “likes” we got on a post or a photo than what injustice has happened at the hands of our elected officials and leadership of today.

 

But how in the hell can we hold them accountable when we don’t even hold ourselves accountable? We lie, we cheat, we steal, we bully, we kill, and we corrupt our communities daily. With no regard for what our children and youth see, with no care in the world other than ourselves.

 

We have gone from a powerful nation with ideas of liberty, justice, and happiness for all, to a country that fusses more about “who wore it better?” than what terrorist organization was created, funded, and supported by our own government.

 

It’s OUR fault, ladies and gentlemen, because we sit back and tolerate it. Because, we accept it. Hell, we even encourage it.

 

And for that, I am ashamed.

 

This isn’t MY country. This isn’t what I enlisted and fought for. These are not the principles of honor, courage, and commitment that I swore to. This isn’t freedom. This is NOT LIBERTY!

 

Moral men and women of this free country, I beg of you, I implore you… stand tall, be fierce, and give not a grain of ground more in the direction of tolerance.

 

Because, I fear for us. I fear for freedom. And I fear for the future of United States of America.

 

50 Shades Of Crazy

CRAZY: mentally deranged, demented, insane, senseless, impractical, totally unsound.

 

Hmm, sounds like the type of girls I seem to go for.

 

You know, I once had a girl tell me that she loved me more than her on-again-off-again boyfriend, but that she couldn’t be with me because he just loved her too much. What?! Then, there are those women who just seem to disappear…the ones you make plans with but then you don’t hear from them again until 3 days after you were supposed to hang out. I mean, what the hell? But hey, at least the house gets cleaned and the dishes get done, right?

 

More recently, I’ve had a woman ask me when I was going to ask her to hang out (literally 2 days after I had just asked her to hangout, but she was too busy), and then I spend the next 5 days asking her to hang out, but she says that she doesn’t like to make plans, and then, like clockwork, all of a sudden she vanishes into the thin air of you’re-no-longer-worthy-of-my-reply. Damn it.

 

Where does this come from? Seriously, when did crazy become the new cool? When did it become acceptable to treat people this way?

 

Ok, so women are crazy, that’s nothing new, we all know that. And if you want to argue with me about it, then I challenge you to observe a woman trying to find something to wear for an important date, or better yet, have a woman explain to you what she looks for in a man and then when “an asshole” doesn’t come up on the list, ask her why she’s still with that douche who keeps cheating on her or beating her?

 

But see, that’s not even the type of crazy that perplexes me so much. What is really hard for me to understand, is how a woman will want, no, expect a man to treat her with the upmost respect, dignity and compassion, but when a “good guy” is trying to court her, she insists on ignoring them, lying to them, being rude and disrespecting them, and yet, goes on to complain that there just aren’t any good guys left out there.

 

See, I’m confused. How can you have a blatant disregard for, and completely disrespect a decent man, but then go on to question where all the good guys are? Hunny, that’s just crazy.

 

Alright, look… this isn’t about bashing women, who are obviously nucking futs… it’s about trying to understand why we, as a society, have turned on our values, have taken up the bitter accolades of dishonesty, disrespect, cruelty and rudeness, and then decided that not only will we make this kind of behavior routine, but we will actually celebrate its wickedness and wear it like some shining badge of honor.

 

I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve witnessed where people (both men and women) are actually amused by how poorly they treat others. I’ve seen girls literally laugh in a guy’s face when he offered to buy them a drink, make fun of him as he walks away, and then later complain because they’re not getting enough attention. I’ve also seen dudes high five each other for getting some tail while their girlfriends were out of town. It disgusts me.

 

Men aren’t innocent. As a gender, we’ve had a long history of mistreating women. Everything from cheating, to beating, to suppressing, to disrespecting, sexualizing, and harassing, we’ve done more harm than good. Hell, maybe this is why women are crazy in the first place. Maybe we’ve forced them to be that way with how harsh we’ve been in the past. Maybe the sooner we men start treating women better, maybe the sooner they will be able to keep their sanity to begin with.

 

And hey, look… men are whack jobs, too. Shit, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m crazy. How else could I explain why I keep giving out my heart to people hell bent on destroying it? Look, I’m not perfect, I never will be… but I am courteous, I am kind, I am compassionate, I am loving and caring and gentle. I am decent, and I have to wonder why it’s so easy to be so hard on guys like me. We’re on your side; we eat, sleep, breathe, live and die for you. So, treat the nice guys better before it’s too late, and all the good guys are gone.

 

I guess, when it comes down to it, what’s really crazy, is choosing not to love, but to hate.

 

Finding Love In A Bar

There you are, in what you think is your lucky shirt, sitting at the bar laughing, drinking and having a good time with your buddies, when all of a sudden, you look up and happen to notice some beautiful little thing standing off in the corner with some of her friends.

 

Now, the loud one with the low top you’ve seen before, but not her, not this one. No, this attractive, awkwardly-out-of- place angel standing right over there swirling her still full glass of pink drink, you’ve never seen before. You start to get excited. But, she catches you staring and you nearly choke on your heart. You dart down to your drink. Shit, you think, real cool. So you try to look out of the corner of your eye. Is she still looking? You can’t tell, so you turn your head and meet her gaze. But this time, she’s smiling. So, you smile back, then panic, and raise your drink to a toast. She laughs, and does the same.

 

The rest of the night you spend telling her how ready you are to find a good girl and settle down. She tells you that she’s a nurse and wants to change the world. You hit it off as if it were meant to be, and laugh the night away.

 

But the next morning she texts you to say that she’s sorry, but she was just drunk and is getting back with her ex-boyfriend.

 

Hell, it happens more times than you think it possibly could… and yet, there you are, every Friday and Saturday night, in another one of your damn lucky shirts, buying drinks, getting drunk and trying to convince some pretty little thing that you honestly, truly, seriously, really are a good guy.

 

But to no prevail. You’re still single. You’re still heartbroken time and time again. So, WHY? Why do you still think that somehow, someway… in some distant magical fucking universe that you will meet the love of your life at some stinky, sticky, life-sucking little bar?!?!

 

Well, it’s quite simple, really.

 

You have CONVINCED yourself that this is where people like you come to meet. You think, hey, I’m a good guy, I’m dateable, I’m decent, I’m loving and caring and respectable… so, if I’m here looking to meet someone new, then there’s bound to be some wonderfully charming, sweet young woman out there in the loud crowd of low cut tops and too many shots looking just for me.

 

Dude. W.T.F. are you thinking? Yes, you want a girl who has the same hobbies as you. Yes, you want her to be fun and drink and dance and be social with all your friends… but, look here…Good. Girls. Do Not. Go Out. To a Bar. To Meet Their Future Husband. It’s that simple.

 

Ok… ok… so there are some exceptions to the rule. Yes, it’s happened before. There’s always that one couple who’s sooo happy that they’re friends drug them out of the house on that one special night so that they could meet the one true love of their life! Alright. Good for them. But, dude… dude… seriously. You’ve been in the game long enough to know that, #1 any good girl that is out drinking is out to simply have a good time with her friends, a.k.a. she’s NOT interested in you… #2 how charming and sexy can you really be slurring your words and smelling like stale beer… and #3 her parents will hate you already.

 

So, what’s a guy to do? Hell, you’ve already invested thousands of dollars, moments, and pick-up lines, right? So, now what?

 

Well, you could always clean yourself up a little, be more friendly, donate some of your time to helping others, walk with your head up and shoulders back, smile more, laugh as much as possible and hope, and pray… that someday, somewhere (but hopefully here in this magical fucking universe), some beautiful, light-hearted savior will care just enough to come and save your soul.

 

And if not… then, go grocery shopping every chance you get.

 

A Veteran’s Sacrifice

First and foremost, from the bottom of my humbled heart, I want to thank all Veterans for their willingness to sacrifice for my freedom, protection, and peaceful way of life. Thank you.

 

For the last 2 weeks I’ve anticipated this post with angst. The idea of capturing the meaning of Veteran’s Day: what it means to be a Veteran, what it feels like to share that honor with so many other glorious men and women, the gratitude for their courageous sacrifices, the appreciation and understanding of what they had to go through to protect our freedom and peace of mind; it seems too big of a feat for me to handle. And I go into this knowing that a few long paragraphs will, most certainly, come up short.

 

But, if I don’t write something, though, only mere words… words that, to many, will lack an understanding, a connection, or clarity, because they have not lived through the kind of hell that we have savored; if I do not try, then I have done nothing but disgrace those heroes who were willing to give everything for me to have the ability to sit here in the comfort of a peaceful home, in the sanctuary of a free Nation, and write these earnest words.

 

*** I’ve stared at this blank space for over an hour now. There’s so much I want to say but no meaningful way to say it.

 

SACRIFICE. The word is engraved into the heart of a Veteran. It’s as real as writing your will before you deploy; as sobering as trying to remember what you actually have worth value, at the age of 19, that you would want your family to remember you by: the .22 rifle that would go to your younger brother because he needed a new one, the 870 12 gauge shotgun that would go to your older brother because he was a horrible shot, the love letters and secret knickknacks that you would want your girlfriend to keep. It’s taking 20 minutes out of your “gear prep time” in order to quickly jot down your own death letter in case you were the one to hit that next landmine or I.E.D. It’s the “I love you’s” that you didn’t quite say enough before, but now, realizing that this 5 min satellite phone call back home before a 17 day “Op” might be the last time that you ever hear your mom and dad’s voice again, so you say it 3 times before you hang up.

 

The stories of sacrifice and heroics on the battlefield are endless. But I lack the ability and the talent to tell them justly. Instead, I want to dedicate the remainder of this post to those metaphorical gashes and scars that still bleed and stay with us long after we return home.

 

I’m talking about the changes in perception… when a pile of trash along the road goes from “a pile of trash” to “a possible I.E.D. explosion,” when a person with a cell phone goes from “innocent” to “a spotter for incoming mortars and rockets,” the jerk of adrenaline and reflex to “take cover” at the BOOM of any loud noise. I’m talking about the thousand-yard-stare, combat look in my brother’s eyes the day I had to put him into a choke hold in order to pull him off of some ignorant low life trash who started a fist fight with our friends. I’m talking about the scars on my knuckles from the time I put my fist through a window to relieve my pain and frustration of another girl not being able to love the person I had now become.

 

Like many other Veterans, I keep a firearm near me as I sleep. The comfort of knowing it’s there when I wake up from some noise inside of my house, or inside of my nightmares, is worth more to me than what you could ever possibly understand. A man without a way to defend himself… is a dead man. A Marine without his weapon… is useless. It’s a philosophy and mindset that was only enhanced by the spoils of war. Kill, or be killed. KILL, because if you hesitate, then you are a liability to the safety of your squad. KILL, because that is your job, that is what you are here to do, to kill the enemy, to stop them from killing you or your brothers or other innocent men, women, and children.

 

And the toll for accepting this responsibility to take a life is grand. To convince your mind, no… your heart, that it is acceptable to end a person’s life is a demanding task. But, to actually contemplate, to rationalize and inevitably accept that at any moment, your life could end in fire and smoke, or perhaps from some distant trigger pull and pop of some coward who will surely slither away into the shadows… accepting that death, and living with that acceptance… is a gross burden to endure. But we do. We weather that storm.

 

To get a taste of the mental toll Veterans pay, sleep in a room full of Marines post deployment.

 

I’ve been witness to countless screams of fear and fits of rage from sleeping Marines. I’ve actually witnessed a Marine stand up in his sleep, kick his leg into the air, point his empty arms forward and scream “get some fucking light on that room!!” Then, he laid back down, asleep, as if nothing had even happened. And personally, during one nightmare, I’ve felt the blood drain from a shrapnel wound in my neck. The feeling was so real that I woke up kicking and screaming holding pressure on the imaginary gash in my jugular. These are just a small fraction of the stresses that Veterans face on a daily basis. And they absolutely have a lasting effect.

 

The suicide rate for Veterans is 22 a day. Twenty-two Veterans a day, who made it through combat, come home and commit suicide. It’s an unbelievably tragic reality that these 22 Veterans every single day, feel that their life is no longer important enough to remain existent. I’m shakingly reminded of the handful of Marines from my Company who ended their lives after our tour to Iraq. Or the time that a buddy of mine called to talk because he just pulled the handgun out of his mouth and decided not to pull the trigger “this time.” Without a doubt, these are the hardest tragedies to understand.

 

When I think of Veterans Day, I think about the constant troubles that these brave men and women endure daily because they chose to dedicate their life to defending ours.

 

What could be more worthy of a simple “thank you” than that?

 

Surviving The Fall

Look, we’ve all been there… laying on our backs in a mangled, twisted mess, looking up at the cloudy grey skies in devastation, with desperation, and wondering “how in the hell did I end up here?”

 

“How did I let myself get so low; get so far off track? At what point did I lose sight of who I am and what I want? And for God’s sake, how do I pick myself up off of my bruised and battered ass, and carry on?”

 

Yeah, we’ve all been there… and if you deny it, then let me remedy your denial with a backhand to the face.

The Fall.

 

It’s funny how we never see it coming, how we never see that stumbling block until we’re lying next to it, on its level, just as low and as hard and just as much an obstacle to ourselves as whatever it was that put us there in the first place. It gives new meaning to the words “too late,” as we struggle to realize that we are already drowning.

 

You see, at this point, we have already failed. We have already allowed ourselves to succumb to whatever hardship, whatever turmoil, whatever travesty we have encountered. And, to be quite honest, we simply became our own enemy. We failed to remember the last time that we were here; the last time that we were broken, and yet, we healed. We failed to see the true value that we possess; the kindness, the compassion, the ability to help others, to help ourselves, the strength of love and hope…

 

But, damn… here you are again, beat down by the blows of life… swollen… red… and ready to give in, to give up….

 

If you were ever looking for that defining moment… THIS IS IT!

 

This is where you make your stand.

 

But, I’m not going to tell you to stand up and brush yourself off… No, that’s bullshit. That’s something people say after they forget what it was like to ever be that low.

 

You see, sometimes, you just can’t get back up. Sometimes, you have to fight from your back; and even then, you’re forced to claw and scratch and bite your way back to your broken knees, just so that you can jab and punch and gouge your way to your limping feet. Hell, sometimes, it’s not about standing back up at all… it’s just about surviving.

 

I’ll admit that I’m a self-tripper (no, not the psychedelic kind, although, I do, occasionally, see neon sound waves after too much coffee). I simply mean, that I tend to get into my own way. I am my greatest obstacle. But even when things seem as low as they can get; even after sabotaging my own success, after taking up arms against my own sanity, even after becoming my own worst enemy… there is no greater ally to myself, than, myself.

 

What I mean is, if you want to survive the fall, you have to start by helping yourself. Life is ebbs and flows. It is waves of highs and lows. This isn’t some soft pond tucked neatly and calmly into the rolling hills of Mother Nature’s farm, no… we are stranded on some beautiful glimmering ocean that does all it can to push and pull us under.

 

Yes, there will be calm days, but there will also be rough seas. And when you’re rattled from whatever flotation device that you’re in and you fall, and you plunge into those cold, sharp waters… just remember to take a deep breath… to float, and swim, and float, and swim… until you see land, and then kick like hell… and hope for a nude beach.

 

Brotherly Love

One of the things in life that we don’t have much control over, is who gets to be family and who doesn’t. I grew up the middle child of 3 boys, well, unless you take into consideration that my younger brother has always been a bit of a sissy girl, then more like, two-and-a-half boys. But I didn’t have any choice in this matter, I didn’t get to choose who I wanted to be my brothers (and, well, I’m still angry about that). Being roughly 2.5 years apart from each other, we were more rivals than anything. We fought more than we played, and when we played, we cheated (which is probably one of the reasons why we fought in the first place).

 

Most of my scars came from my brothers. This isn’t even a joke, we “played” hard. I remember (well, kinda) one of the biggest fights that me and my older brother ever had. Hell, I don’t remember what it was about… maybe G.I. Joes or something, but I remember that he armed himself with a folded up lawn chair and I picked up a board with a nail poking through it. He swung the chair at my face, the metal corner hitting me just beside the eye, leaving a decent sized gash and knocking me to the floor, and almost over the 10 foot drop-off of the fort that our dad had hand crafted himself. By the time I had realized what had happened, there was already a pool of blood forming on the steps.

 

I probably didn’t cry, because I was more of a hard-ass back then. But either way, the babysitter was in shock and crying when she had to call mom home from work. Mom, understandably, was pissed, but, personally, I thought the stitches were kind of cool.

 

My younger brother left his mark on my face, too. After a day of playing tennis in the basement with an oil covered tennis ball, we were left to ourselves with soap and water to clean the concrete floors. And by “clean,” I mean that we were mostly sliding around and moon-walking in the soapy mess. That is, until my younger brother decided to throw a ball at me and I lost my footing and smacked my chin off of the wet concrete floor. So, another call to mom, another trip to the ER, a special trip to the dentist to fix my chipped tooth and another couple weeks of being grounded (not sure why I was grounded, too… I was mostly innocent), and another scar to remind me that I, in fact, did NOT get to choose who my brothers would be.

 

This became a very typical kind of childhood for us. From holes being punched into locked doors, and toys being lit into flames, to choke holds and ninja moves; we were more than a handful.

 

But you see, the truth is, my brothers were my first friends (and first enemies). They were my teammates in baseball, football and basketball. They were who I learned from, who I experienced new things with (even if that included stitches or getting spanked and grounded), and they were, in one way or another, always there when I needed them (because mom and dad made them, but still…).

 

Here’s the thing that brothers often don’t think about… no matter how different we are (Jeremy the mechanic, Jason the engineer, and ME the good looking, well mannered, charming, caring, athletic, romantic, intelligent, funny, imaginative, creative, ((did I say good looking??)), writer, hunter, firearms instructor (self-appointed), and friend), no matter what sets us apart… we are STILL very much the same.

 

We have instilled in us the same drive to help others, to protect others, to love and to do what’s right. We were raised up together in a family based on morals and values and character. We share the same type of humor. We have the same blood running through our veins (or spilling out of those brotherly scrapes and cuts). We are the same, no matter if we chose it or not.

 

Even though I sometimes wish that I was an only child, spoiled by the fruits of my “good behavior” and only-child-cuteness; I can’t help but to sit back, think about a boring brotherless life, and appreciate the fact that I had everything a child could ever need growing up, and everything a man could ever ask for, in the loyalty, direction, and love of my brothers.

 

And eventually, I’m sure that our parents will love them just as much as they love me (because I’m clearly the favorite).

 

I Didn’t Get A Pony

Well, I didn’t get a pony, this year. Matter of fact, I didn’t even get a saddle. No rope. No hat. No gun. Hell, I didn’t even get a “Yeehaw!”

 

“What the hell, Santa? I’ve been good. I brushed my teeth twice a day (well, most days), I used my manners, I said my prayers, I even donated again this year. So Santa, I’m not sure if you’re getting lazy or what… but maybe you didn’t check your list twice??? I have two names, you know? Jake and Jacob. “Jacob” is usually the one everyone uses when I’m in trouble… so how about next year, you look for “Jake,” instead? Thanks, Love Jake.”

 

Okay, so my horse phase only lasted a year or two. But honestly, you know, like most kids (note the sarcasm), for the longest time growing up, all I wanted for Christmas was a sword and ninja stars. Like, the real kind… not all the plastic one’s that I was getting. But here’s the thing, I wouldn’t really remember how badly I wanted them until, well… about 2 weeks before Christmas. In other words, I wouldn’t start being “semi-good” until then. Unfortunately (or fortunately, rather), I never got a real sword or real ninja stars until I was 18 and able to buy them on my own.

 

Look people, don’t judge me, I’ve been a ninja since I was 5 and a half years old. And I’ll straight up ninja kick you in the hip (because that’s all the higher that I can reach) if you think otherwise.

 

Moving on.

 

It took me more than a few years to learn that Christmas wasn’t actually about getting all of those things that I was trying so hard (for, like, 5 minutes) to be good for. Yes, it took me a while to understand that Christmas should be more about giving than getting. But look, I don’t want to fully commit to that mostly full bandwagon. Because, honestly, while we say that it’s all about giving, I have to deeply disagree… folks, Christmas can be just as much about receiving as it can be about giving.

 

Now, before you boo me and call me a jackass (but not to my face because you know that I’ll ninja kick you right in the hip), let me explain…

 

For me, Christmas is watching as, one by one, family and friends pop through different doors of my mother’s house, bearing smiles, and hugs, and handshakes that truly say, “I have missed you, I am glad to see you, and I love you.” Receiving this affection and family love, is exactly what Christmas is all about.

 

You see, Christmas is that feeling you get while you watch with excitement as your mother opens the present that you spent days making yourself because, this year, you just couldn’t afford to buy much more than a few wood screws and some paint. It’s that smile that lights up her face as she digs through your old gun box and those crumpled up newspapers that you used to wrap the present that she now proudly holds up and displays for the rest of the room to see. It’s the appreciation and love that comes pouring out of her knowing that all you could wrap for Christmas this year was a hand-made wooden name plaque with shotgun shells and bullet casings representing each child and grandchild that she has. It’s the understanding that shows through in the underlining of her smile of what it’s like to have a Christmas where you struggle. It’s that hug and kiss she gives you because she loves what you made for her and would have loved whatever you would have put into that old beat up cardboard gun box, because the best present that you could have given her, was just simply being there.

 

It’s the mouthwatering smell of your dad’s house and the taste of the feast that he and your stepmother prepared. It’s that belly busting full feeling that stays with you the rest of the day. And it’s the laughter that you all share, because dad gets a little embarrassing with the baby talk around your 1 year old nephew.

 

Christmas is catching my Grandma and Grandpa taking a break together on the couch from the loud crowd of laughing, drinking, and story-telling family and friends that filled my mother’s house Christmas night. It’s seeing the golden opportunity for a picture with them as they open the same kind of present that I made for everyone else. It’s getting that same exact smile and appreciation that each one of your family members gave you when they opened their presents that you had to make, instead of buy, this year. It’s receiving that hug, that warmth of love that lets you know just how special you really are to them.

 

It’s watching and listening to your cousin and brother play guitar and sing as your family drinks and laughs the night away.

 

It’s a room full of love and acceptance for the “new friend” that you brought with you this Christmas (even though your 7 yr. old cousin says that you have too many “new friends” and that they all break up with you, anyway). But, it’s, also, that kiss that your “new friend” asks if she can give to you in front of them because, for some reason, half a song in harmony and the numerous wrong-word-back-up-singers, along with the hot (too hot) crackling fireplace, just sets the mood.

 

Christmas is being the last ones up; you, your “friend”, your mom and your stepdad… drinking outdated margaritas with the tequila that your brother got you, talking about the good times, the hard times, and laughing at all the rest…

 

No, I didn’t get a pony, or a sword, or ninja stars… But what I did get, is a very loving, caring, understanding, hilarious, entertaining, talented and accepting family that knows how to give, how to let you receive, how to let anyone or everyone receive the gift of love. You see, Christmas is truly about both giving and receiving love. It’s about all of those moments and memories that you create with the people that you love, that you will hold onto, and that you will cherish for as long as you possibly can.

 

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