August 13, 2016

Knerd Mom Recommends: Steven Universe


I know I know.  It's been forever since my last post on this blog.  I've been having a lot on my plate lately with my health, moving to a new place, and the fact that it's Summer Vacation so I'm trying to make it a good one for my son before he starts 2nd grade in a whole new school, in a proper public school, and here in the next day or so, get use to going to where his new bus stop will be.

Aside from the mini-update (details at a later date as to issues), I have discovered a new cartoon love in my life this summer; Steven Universe!  This show is everything this generation needs in a cartoon.  Strong Female roles, A boy who is both respectful to others AND fights with his Surrogate Mothers (of a sort), and best of all, this is a show where GENDER ISN'T THE ISSUE!!  Let me explain...

For starters, this show is about a boy (I think they mention he's at least 10 years old) named Steven Universe.  He is the product of his Father, a failed rock star named Greg Universe, and his mother who was the leader of a small band of "Crystal Gems" in which her name was Rose Quartz.  It is said that Steven was born when his mother "turned into" Steven.  How this came about, I don't know because at the point I've seen, they haven't shown how he was born and if they have finally revealed Steven's birth, it would be spoilers.  Since his mother's disappearance, Steven has been cared for and lives with the 3 remaining Gems; Garnet, Pearl, & Amethyst.  The story starts around the time when Steven is starting to come into his powers.  Like each Crystal Gem, he has embedded in him a Gem (in his case, he inherited his mother's gem, the Rose Quartz).  Unlike the other gems, Steven is Half-Human and therefore isn't as powerful as the Crystal Gems (so far) but ages & feels the same as any other human.  I could go into detail, but this show is so story driven that it's easy to spoil for those of you yet to watch this amazing show!

So now onto the reasons why I think this show is so amazing!

1.) It has elements of Anime, though it is most definitely a product of Modern American Culture.  Like a good anime, this show has a continuing and central story line.  Each of the main characters have their own compelling back-story that directly contributes to the main theme.  Also similar to a great anime is the action.  The action & fighting scenes are pretty darn great, even though the show itself is clean of "ultra violence" (gore, blood, obvious death).  Though the show does have it's more "Kawaii" & "Moe" moments, I have no problems admitting that I am a 35 year old woman starting to fan-girl this show.

2.)  The show has something for everyone.  It's cartoony for the kids and has some kid level humor, while tweens have the fighting, and us "forever kid" adults, we have the complexity of feels & story line that keep us wanting more!  I'm 100% invested in learning more about the relationship Greg & Rose had, though learning the back-stories and history of The Crystal Gems and who they are is extremely compelling to me.  As for my soon to be 8 year old son, He really gets a kick-out of the action.  *SPOILER*

**my son giggled learning that steven's spit had become "healing spit".  Really?**

3.)  I'm addressing the elephant in the room about this show:  I know The Gems refer to each gem with feminine pronouns, but to be completely frank, The Gems (all the ones you see on the show) are actually gender neutral!  Sure, some are more girly than not, and others you could swear are butch to the point of wondering if this is the elusive "rare male" Gem no one has mentioned to ever have existed, but in all honesty, I don't think anyone even cares!!  Well, anyone who enjoys the show. 

having said that, there has been some controversy with the show (and other countries have been editing the show because of it) because **spoiler, but important to the show** there is an ability the Gems have called "Fusion".  Fusion is where two (or more) Gems meld together to make a whole new gem!  The controversy comes because to fuse, the Gems must dance together.  Let me show you...


I'll grant you, it's a bit "suggestive", but honestly, I think the dancing is mesmerizing.  I also don't mind if my son watches it.  It's all part of the show and how this unique race of humanoids make two become one.  It's almost a visual representation of how "Two become One", in a "biblical sense", but without anyone getting nekkid and REALLY inappropriate for children!!

The other controversy is that BECAUSE the gems are female (I still debate this), that some find it REALLY inappropriate that Pearl had/has been openly in love with Rose Quartz.  That's one's not so big a spoiler.  She had willingly gone "Poof" for Rose so many times trying to protect her, yet in the end, her heart is broken because Rose fell for a human man.  Either way, you will see relationships happen between the gems through out the show.  Honestly, I think this should really drive home that no matter who you love, love is a beautiful thing and let no person tear that asunder. 

Anyway, I highly recommend watching this show from the beginning.  Seasons 1 & 2 are available on Hulu.  Really great animation, FANTASTIC story line, and great for a family who are raising their families with gender neutrality as a standard moral code.

May 18, 2016

Inside Out: The Resonance of Luke


A few months ago, our family finally watched "Inside Out".  My husband and I thought it was a pretty good movie, considering the potentially heavy subject matter of kids and their emotions.  What we didn't think about, was how this movie would affect our son, Luke.  I can't speak for Matt, but I honestly thought Luke was going to find this movie as extremely lame.  Never have I been so wrong.  If anything, this movie's personification of emotions and how the mind works actually RESONATED with him! 

As you've read in this blog, Luke has some pretty bad behavior issues.  None more so than his attitude toward school and actually going to school as was the case with Pre-K and Kindergarten.  I know a lot of times, when we asked him about why he had such a bad behavior report from school again, he was always saying "I don't know why!  My brain tells me to do it!"  We were constantly telling him "Your brain may have told you to call your teacher a B**** and that you would cut her up and eat her, but that doesn't mean you just do it!" (True Story).  Now that he's watched Inside Out, it's like he was watching his literal brain process.

I love this interpretation of what each mixed set of emotions brings.
This year, after our trip to the Comic Book Shop on Free Comic Book Day, Luke and I went to the Barnes & Nobel on the other side of the mall.  I got him the Junior Novelization of Inside Out.  On the night we read the first chapter, he was squeezing his Tennis Ball pillow.  I asked "Is that a Happy Memory?"  he replies with "It's ALL of my happy memories!"  So I decided to take the lead here and asked him, "Who leads your Emotions in your head?"  From here he told me "Joy.  She's in charge most of the time."  I said "Really?  Who's your favorite emotion?"  "I like Anger.  His hair goes on fire!"  To me, this spoke volumes. 

Usually, Luke is for the most part a happy child.  He doesn't usually cause issues unless he's really focused on what he's doing, then he gets extremely angry.  It's like his own hair goes on fire with how much he escalates.  It's like at school.  The second he steps onto the bus to leave, Anger takes the controls and runs the show from there.  It's kind of disheartening to see.

As I continued the conversation, I told Luke that when I was his age, Sadness was in charge of my controls.  I then told him that I was always a sad little girl because all the kids picked on me and bullied me.  As a grown-up with depression, Sadness is still the leader, but Joy usually is at the controls.  He then told me "Well, don't be sad Mom."

It's kind of interesting how this movie took this subject matter and turned it into something that resonates with kids who have emotional and behavioral issues.  This now gives me a new tool to work with when it comes to how to handle my boy's anger issues.  This is now what it looks like to him when he tells me his brain is making him get angry.  So now when he acts inappropriately to a situation, I think I'm going to start telling him "Don't let anger drive!  Find someone else to take over, but not him.  He makes the wrong choices."

Well done Pixar.  I salute you.

May 10, 2016

I Don't Hate Dogs Persee...


Now for a break from the constant stream of news that is the 2016 Presidential Election to present to you why I am not a dog person.

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I want to start by saying, I don't hate dogs.  I USED to be afraid of dogs, but I don't hate them.  Having said that, I am not and will never be mentally prepared to own dogs?  Why is this?  Because I feel dogs are just a huge commitment that I'm not ready to put a ring on. Here's my story with dogs.

My parents had a dog before I was born.  His name was Buddy.  He was a good ol' boy so he was not where my fear of dogs came from.  If anything, Buddy was the exception because he was an awesome family dog for having to deal with 2 young girls almost all his life.  I think the beginning of the fear started when I was about 6 years old.  My dad went to our neighbor's house and was attacked by their pit-bull.  I didn't see it happen, but I saw the aftermath.  Seeing your father in that much pain and tears is not something any child wants to experience.  Since then, my dad had also started having a bad opinion about Pit-Bulls.  This has since changed, but that's a story for another time.  Years later, I would ride my bike by a neighbor's house and would be bit in the right flank by another neighbor's German Shepard.  These experiences made me HELLA apprehensive about dogs in general.  Especially large dogs. 

Years went by and when I got older and graduated High School, I found myself in a job with a Vehicle Repossession company.  They had 2 dogs; a Rottweiler and a Doberman.  My boss showed me how to make friends with "The Girls".  It was then I discovered that Rotties are one of my favorite breeds on Earth!  Oh that big girl was a LOVER!  Since then, I got over my fear of dogs.  Does this mean I really am a dog person?  HELL NO!  Now on to why I am not a dog person...

1.)  My biggest problem with owning a dog is simply this:  you can't leave for a day or two without having to take them with you.  Unlike with cats and other small animals, you can't just leave out a huge helping of food and water and say "See you Monday, Cuddles!  I'm going to my sister's for the weekend.  No wild parties while I'm gone!"  Dogs are easy to get anxiety and will do damn near ANYTHING when under that much anxiety!  Also, if you don't have a fenced yard and a pet door, you also know why keeping them at home is also a big no-no.  Yes, you can take them to a kennel or have a friend stay and watch them, but still.  That's money I don't have nor do I know anyone who'd be willing to stay at my place and watch any dog I owned.

2.)  Bathroom habits.  Dogs don't do litter boxes.  I always hated having to get up and let the dog out to do his/her business then hear them whine about coming back in.  Luckily, we had dogs that didn't need leashes and never chased people who even sneezed by our place.  Then, my husband moved in with me in 2007 with Basset Hound in tow.  Unfortunately, she was an indoor dog who had to be put on a leash to go potty.  Ugh!  I'm too lazy for that!

3.)  Dogs.  Eat.  Everything!  They know they shouldn't, but they do it anyway!  Then when caught, they give you the look of "I'm soooooo sorry!  I'm a bad dog!  I so SOWWWWY!"  Ugh!

4.)  I have since developed an allergy around dogs.  I never used to, but in the past decade I have developed one.  This doesn't make me happy only because both my dad and sister are both dog owners and dog lovers. 

5.)  Small dogs piss me off.  Very rarely will I meet a small dog I am any level of okay with, but not often enough.  I hate the yapping.  I hate the Napoleon Complex they get.  I hate that they are every bit the issue I stated above.

Now, aside from the negatives, I don't want you all to think I hate them.  Far from it.  To me, I more see dogs like I do my Nieces & Nephews; fun to love on their derpy butts for a short while but at the end of the day, you can send them right back to their respective Moms & Dads!  I love how they love anyone and everyone unconditionally while having that dog ability to know who's a total creep.  I love that they are derpy as hell and don't even give a damn.  I also love that they are cuddle bugs. 

But at the end of the day, my heart will always be with Cats.  I miss having a cat so bad!

March 29, 2016

The Most Important Presidential Election in Decades


I'm taking this moment to break away from my usual Knerdery to talk to you (be you a parent who frequents my blog, someone just passing by, or even a person who has just turned 18 or will be 18 before the last chance you can have to register to vote in the US) about why this is the MOST CRITICAL TIME FOR YOU TO STRENGTHEN THE MASSES AND CHOOSE THE NEXT PERSON TO LEAD OUR COUNTRY INTO WHAT WAS AND CAN BE A GREAT COUNTRY AGAIN, OR INTO FURTHER CHAOS AND ULTIMATELY A DICTATORSHIP LEAD BY CEOS AND COMMERCIALISM!

At the time I write this, it is March 29th, 2016.  There are 3 main contenders for President of the United Stats of America:  Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump.  The first two are vying for the Democratic Nod.  Trump pretty much has the Republican side on lock down at this point. 

Why is this such an important election year/cycle?  Let me break this down.  16 years ago, George W. Bush took office and within the year, he had already bootched it.  The Twin Towers in New York City fell due to a terrorist attack from a now infamous sect called "Al Qaeda".  Instead of sending troops to find the main figure head and take out the sect, GWB decided the whole Middle East was the enemy and sent everyone from every branch of the military over to pretty much commit genocide...in the name of democracy of course...oh, then he had them search for the Al Qaeda leader.  This drove our country into economic turmoil because GW decided to allocate the majority of US funding into this useless war, while the stock market, coincidentally (not really) took one of the hugest nose dives since it's beginnings in the early 1900's.  House prices plummeted, mortgages went up, people were loosing jobs, and people who never thought they would ever see homelessness, well, saw homelessness.

Here's how this happened and why so quickly:  When companies lose money, they have to let people go to make-up the difference.  Those people then have to make up their own difference by finding other employment, often less paying, just to attempt to stay afloat.  Because those people are now without money, they are no longer spending as much money at stores or other businesses.  Again, the businesses are losing even more money, so again must make more cut-backs, thus more people lose jobs, obtain less paying jobs, then making it EXTREMELY difficult for those who could only obtain low-level jobs to find any work at all.  Those people then must go onto public assistance, which is now worn thin from the influx of newly poverty leveled people seeking housing, medical, and food help.  Families are now going homeless.  A new surge of children are going into Foster Care, but not enough families are qualified, or make enough money to take in these children. 

In the end, The US was put into a recession all because the President felt he needed to retaliate on an entire country with all the resources he assumed we had.  So many men and women joined the military not because they wanted to defend our country and loved ones, but because it was the only choice they had in an attempt to support their families.  Even then, soldiers make just enough to support a family...just enough.

So at the end of 2008, Barack Obama was voted into office.  He became our first Black President.  Shoot, he became our first non-completely-white president.  I make this distinction because Obama is bi-racial.  His mother is white, his father is black, and he more or less grew-up in Hawaii.  I digress.  Sad to say, one of the first actions he took, was to "bail-out"the banks with a lump sum of money in hopes that they would pass those funds onto the people.  Sadly, his trust was mislaid.  The people resounded with a huge "WELL DOY!!"  Political Cartoonists don't draw bankers as fat pigs for nothing. 

Having said this, Obama has had a HELL of a time trying to put things right in our country, but sadly, with Global Warming and so many terrorist tragedies, including the formation of a new terrorist cell called "ISIS"...which has admitted to forming because of the actions taken by GWB, these last 8 years has put our country into a very delicate yet importantly critical state.  We are finally seeing equality for the LGBT community, Marijuana is finally being seen as a beneficial drug and cash crop (from Hemp & Cannabis), and the people are finally coming to realize that Capitalism was a bad idea for this country.  Mostly because Big Corporations became too greedy and decided that the best way to cut spending was to outsource the creation of materials and merchandise to poor economic countries such as Mexico, China, and India, to name the most popular sites.  Even Walmart, which it's founder, Sam Walton started with beautiful intentions and with families in mind, went the way of Corporate Greed the second he passed away.  His own family didn't even stick to his ideals post mortem.  Because of this, recovery for the USA has been slow and at times, even regressive.

So now it's 2016.  We are in dire need of a leader who can take us out of this quagmire of too low paying jobs, corporate greed, and constant drain of resources to countries who caused their own destruction.  Here is the Break-Down of the 3 main candidates and what each is presenting to the people:

Donald Trump:  I'm just going to say it, he is the personification of what's wrong in this country.  He IS a CEO and is part of the much hated 1%.  He has made Millions, if not Billions on both failed and successful enterprises.  The man had his own "Reality" television show and "owns" the Miss USA pageant.  He has openly, and unashamedly stated that when elected president, he will erect a (better) wall blocking Mexico from the US and deport ANYONE in this country who is here illegally (or what ever he feels illegal means because I have a feeling "Visas" don't count to him).  He has also implied that he will make segregation legal again, but he just might let "the gays" keep their rights.  Sorta.  Regardless, he is the voice of Capitalism and, in my opinion, on the side of Chaotic Evil.  He wants America to burn so he can create it in his image.

Hillary Clinton:  She is still not 100% clear on her motives for this country, but a lot of people have NO LOVE for her because of the scandal involving sensitive e-mails and government secrets that she failed to keep.  Regardless, though she is democratic (erring a touch more toward the liberal), she's kind of in the middle as far as where she's going with things.  She agrees with Bernie Sanders on some points as far as the fact that our Country needs help.  As for everything else, she's flip flopped so much that I have no idea what policies she's for or against.  Probably not the best idea for president, but I'd rather her than Trump at this point.

Bernie Sanders:  This man is VEHEMENTLY fighting for Joe Everyman.  He has stuck to a main an central issue his whole run and it is simply this:  We need to get 1% out of politics and law-making, and give the people back what it deserves; their right to live out of poverty.  He has recognized that "The American Dream" has turned into a damn nightmare.  It's time for America to wake-up and set things right.  He feels the federal minimum wage needs to reflect the times of all this inflation and get the people back to livable minimum wages.  The Super Rich have been given WAY too many free things and increases into their own pockets while the majority of Americans are working way harder for their scratch yet receiving less for the effort.  This needs to stop.  Bernie wants to make our country more socialist than capitalist, but the word "Socialism" scares some folks because of countries who did it wrong (Russia & China specifically).  He's not wanting to make this country into a Dictatorship, he just wants this country to be great again.

 I understand my views are biased right now, but people should want to do proper research during election times so do yours.  Open a tab and search each name.  Learn about their causes properly and see who you would want in the White House.  I will post more about Media vs. The 2016 Election on my Knerd Mom: NSFK blog later.  But now, my kid needs the computer so he can do his Speech Therapy session.

REGISTER TO VOTE TODAY!!  THIS ELECTION WILL PROBABLY BE THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ONE FOR THE NEXT 4 YEARS OR MORE!!

March 7, 2016

Knerd Mom Recommends: Fortunately, The Milk...

Click Here if you want to read this great story to your kids!
Tonight, I just finished this GREAT story by one of Nerdom's greatest Authors/Comic Writers, Neil Gaiman.  It is called "Fortunately, The Milk..." 

It is about a Dad who goes walks to the neighborhood market to get milk for his children, is gone for what seems like forever, and comes back with this EPIC tale of his trip home!

I'm sure you're thinking, "That's it?  Dude comes up with an elaborate excuse as to what took him so long to get home?  Lame."  This is when I counter with "NEIL.  GAIMAN!"  Let me put this book into another perspective.  Would your rather read a news article about the local St. Patric's Day Parade, or read a news article about the local St. Patric's Day Parade written by J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame, if you've been living in the game Jumanji for the past 20 years)?  This book is all about the details, I tell you what.

I came by this book last week when I was looking for a copy of "Winnie the Pooh" for my son to read for his upcoming book report.  Sadly yet oddly enough, the book seller didn't have WtP, but what I did find was This book nestled between it's siblings of the same author "Coraline" & "The Graveyard Book" (both also hella wicked and for a later recommendation).

Aside from who wrote the book, here are more legitimate reasons why I recommend this book:

First, unlike Gaiman's usually macabe & dark writing style, "Fortunately" is the COMPLETE opposite.  It's bright, highly imaginative, and the story doesn't stay in the same place very long.  If anything, this is a great story for intermediate readers looking for a first novel to dive into.  It holds the interest of kids who usually don't have a long attention span to begin with. 

Secondly, THERE ARE NO CHAPTERS!  Very much like the longer and more boring "Old Man and the Sea" (sorry Hemingway), with no clear division  of chapters, it compels the reader to keep going.  There are breaks between some sections where the kids stop the dad to ask questions or make comments, but not in a clear way to indicate a change in subject.  This isn't to say the story is a total run on of mashed ideas.  Far from it.  If anything, those moments sober you into remembering that this is Dad making this elaborate reason as to what took him so long to come home from the store with the milk.

Last, this story is the story about a story.  I'll let you process as to what that means for a second...

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The story, is ultimately told in the 1st perspective of the son.  He starts us by telling us how the morning is progressing.  Mom leaves for work, the sister and son want cereal, and Dad sits to his cup of tea but there is no milk for cereal or tea.  When the Dad leaves and ultimately returns, the son then tells about what his dad says to them as to why he was gone.  From there, you are reading the brunt of the book in the perspective of the dad, save for the breaks where the son tells about the questions he and his sister ask about this grand tale/nee, excuse their dad is giving them and so on until the end of the story/book.

I know I'm not divulging a lot about what the dad tells the kids because frankly, THAT'S WHAT MAKES THE BOOK FUN!  I don't want to ruin the adventure for any of you.  Just trust your gut, me, and the fact that it's Neil "The Literary Tim Burton" Gaiman that this is a very worthy read.  Click the link below the picture up top to order a cheap copy for yourself or hit your local book seller.  It's a great read and perfect for everyone.  The subject matter in this book is great for every age so feel free to read this to even your youngest of little ones.

January 12, 2016

My Family is Bad-A$$, So is Yours!


Last week, I got to talk to my son's class about my paternal Grandmother, Noreen J. (Komen) Irwin.  The week's topic in Language Arts was "The Women of Space".  My Gramma Irwin was a woman WAAAAAY ahead of her time.  She was born October of 1921 and more or less grew-up in Michigan.  In her young adult years, she was a barrel racer.  This is where you ride on a horse, most popularly a quarter horse, which I believe is a shade smaller than your average horse, figure 8 style around 2-4 barrels.  You're doing this for speed & agility.  This event is traditionally female only, but a few guys have done this as well.  Eventually, she worked in a machinist factory making artillery items for the American Soldiers during WWII.  She eventually married *cough*afewtimes*cough* and had 3 children; Dorrence, Doug, and Jack.  Now, keep in mind, when my dad was a kid in the 1960's, my grandmother was working as an engineer for NASA & Boeing.  Yes; THE NASA where American Astronauts come from & THE Boeing that makes Airplanes.  She wasn't a secretary, she didn't type dictation, she was an engineer.  She worked a STEM career during the time when the sexual revolution was just starting to make some pretty bold stances.  My Gramma Irwin was an utter and total BADASS!  She could just have easily been one of the first, if not THE first woman in space...but wasn't.  This, about a woman who also almost was an Olympic swimmer.  I'm still not clear as to why she decided not to participate in the Olympics, but she could have.  Lastly, but not at all the least, she was a breast cancer survivor...TWICE!  She even had a small melanoma carcinoma (cancerous skin tumor) on her nose once!  Thank GAWD it was benign!  I think the only reason more people don't hear about this woman in history books was probably because aside of ALL of these HUGE accomplishments, she was a VERY humble woman.  I'm not saying she was demure.  Shoot, she probably smoked that word in her morning cigarette.  She just honestly thought none of it was as big of deal as everyone (appropriately) thought it was!  To her, all of this was life.  To her, she was just a single mom doing what she could for her family and herself because she could.  As far as her daughter goes...she also grew-up to be an amazing woman.  An Architect (also a STEM job, like her mother).  Unlike her mother, my Aunt Dorrance (us family call her Alia) knows she's a bad-ass.  She gets to brag.  Even her daughter (My cousin Lucienne/Lulu) is bad-ass!  She's a University Professor (last I heard)!  My sister?  She works in a Veterinary Clinic.  Before that, she worked at our local Humane Society in Benton County.  She helped animals find their forever homes, took animals to get spayed & neutered, she even fostered a few animals.  My little sister is a bad-ass!

I honestly can go on and nerd over how cool my family is.  Heck, this is just my Dad's side of the family...JUST THE WOMEN!  So why am I choosing now to nerd out over them?  Because after giving that brief lecture to a bunch of 1st Graders about my Gramma, I just realized that I never really thought to ask Gramma Irwin about herself when I was a kid.  She was just never one to talk about herself or her life, unless she's talking about all the shenanigans she did as a kid with her brother Gary, or talking about Michigan with my dad and Aunt Alia.  As a kid, I didn't know enough so I never thought to ask.  To me, she was my Dad's Mom who smoked a lot and drank beer.  She wasn't an alcoholic, she mostly drank socially...as far as I knew.  I was so used to seeing my Maternal Grandmother and Maternal family that her habits and quirks make me a little turned off by her.  I wish I knew then how amazing she was as I know now.  She earned her right to chain smoke and drink.

Aside from gushing over my family and dwelling in the coulda, shoulda, woulda, I am here to make a point.  My family is cool.  I had to stop, think, and really evaluate what makes my family members awesome.  As a kid, I wish my dad went on more benders over talking about how cool his mom was.  Knowing all of this now as an adult, I can now fully gush to my own son over how bad-ass his blood-line is! 
...and if you look, evaluate, and think on it, you will also find that your family, as well, is really worthy of a good nerding out session!

I want to propose to you a challenge.  That's right.  A challenge.  I know those of you in the internets love to do challenges.  This one isn't about bringing awareness to a problem that can be better solved with REAL monies than people trying to gain instant noteriety through 5 second idiot and/or dangerious challenges that actually acheive diddly.  I'm saying I'm challenging you to actually see the good in people.  People you know.  People related to you by blood.  I do acknowledge that a lot of you have family members, usually parents, who you feel have no real value to your life because of bad life choices they made or because they gave you up, or treated you as nothing more than a burden.  I want to challenge you to look into their stories.  Look at their life starting from childhood and what they survived long enough to create you. 

But this challenge isn't just for those of you who had toxic family members.  There are some of you who had really boring and uneventful childhoods.  Your parents gave you the standard cookie-cutter childhood and they had really average jobs, or your mom stayed at home to raise the kids.  If they are still alive, ask them what all odd jobs, events, or things they did.  Ask them what drove them to make certain choices.  Challenge their reason if you don't like their answers.  Understand that they are bad-ass in their own way because maybe something in their lives (aside from you) made them super stars in your eyes.

Then there are those like me.  You have one or both parents in the ground.  Maybe you have a half-sibling who was adopted.  Maybe you were adopted.  What about your step parents if you have them?  What makes them bad-ass?  Dig around!  Tell us about one or two people in your family who are complete and utter bad asses in your eyes and tell us one great reason why this is!  Share in the comment box below or on the Facebook Page this gets posted on.  My hope is that this will change the way you see the person described.  I double challenge you to tell us about a person in your family you wouldn't otherwise give a second thought about.  I only ask that you don't choose family who abused, raped, or caused you physical harm.  I'm not wanting anyone to relive the bad.  I'm challenging you to see the amazing in those who you just don't put too much though into.

January 1, 2016

The Process of Grieving as Demonstrated by Captain Usopp






*Spoilers only if you haven't reached Water 7/Frankie's story arc*

This blog post was months in the making.  It's on a subject near and dear to my heart:  The Grieving Process.  I know it's an odd thing to have an interest in, but when I was at Job Corp at the age of 21 to get my NA-C (Nursing Assistant Certification), we touched on The Grieving Process and why it is important to human health.  I understood the steps enough:  Anger, Denial, Barganing, Depression, and Acceptance.  I also understood that they came in no particular order.  Even Acceptance could be the first thing you feel, but rarely.  It wasn't until I lost my own mother in a car accident 3 years later that I fully understood WHAT it is to grieve and how much it really does matter to do it correctly and to reach each stage to be able to come full circle and move on.  Also, as I will have Usopp demonstrate, that Grieving isn't just for the death of a loved one.  Grieving IS also an important process for any major loss such as the loss of an important or deep relationship, death or loss of a pet, the termination of work, a massive change in your circumstances (like losing a job or home), and even, losing a beloved object:

In Usopp's case, The "Going Merry".


ANGER:  For Usopp, and for most, Anger is often the first step in the grieving process.  Usopp's anger started when Luffy had a Ship Wright inspect "Merry" so that they can have her properly fixed once and for all.  When the Ship Wright returned, he declared Merry was beyond repair and didn't have much time left before she would just fall apart completely.  Luffy made the hard call (and if you saw this and thought this didn't hurt him to call it, you haven't watched enough One Piece) to purchase a new ship.  Fast Forward past some events, Luffy finally has a chance to break the news to Usopp.  Usopp put in a LOT of hours on this girl to keep her afloat, even though he has no prior experience in ship carpentry plus his very dear friend Kaiya was the one who gave the Straw Hat crew the ship back when it was just Luffy, Zoro, Nami, & Usopp (who had just joined at that point).  So of course, Usopp lashes out at Luffy.  He yells at Luffy and accuses him of not giving a damn about Merry like she was nothing more than just a mode of transportation.  Of course, we and the characters all knew this to not be true, but again, this is grief talking.  Usopp knew in his heart the girl was done for, but he didn't want to hear it.  Regardless, I think everyone who is a fan of this anime can agree on this point; The crew all loved Merry as more than just a home and ship, but Usopp loved her most, but just a small nudge more than Luffy.



BARGAINING:  At the end of Usopp's rant to Luffy, he challenged Luffy to a duel.  If Usopp won, he keeps the Merry;  if Luffy won, he can do as he will with her.  Eitherway, Usopp wanted out of the crew. 

I do want to take this moment to say this:  When you undergo a traumatic event, it is advised by every professional to not make major decisions without taking time to think on it.  Usopp suddenly deciding to end his ties with his best friends is one of those things.  Never start or end a relationship immediately after a trauma.

Here is a video of how this fight went down.  If you ask me, this was my favorite battle to date if only because of the raw emotions involved and the cunning of Usopp vs. the Brute Strength of Luffy.

  
This video is 10 minutes long, but worth the watch.  If you decide just to watch enough to get the point though, that's fine too.

DEPRESSION:  After the fight, Usopp lays hurting, healing, and sad upon Merry.  Chopper left him a 1st Aid kit but is not allowed to look after Usopp (as so ordered and wisely done so by Zoro) so that he can tend to his (Usopp's) own wounds.  At this point, everyone has taken all of their belongings and Usopp is by himself to stew in his feelings.  He is feeling insanely sad and hurt (emotionally this time) because now his ship is at it's last moments, he feels abandoned (though he brought that upon himself), and as far as he's concerned, life just can't get any lower.  This, itself is short-lived because when Frankie approaches Usopp and offers him a place to work, Usopp moves seemlessly into...

DENIAL:  Usopp's denial is in the form of the attempt to repair Merry.  Frankie and his girls watch Usopp do his best at fixing an irrepairable ship.  Frankie understands what's wrong and saw it with his own eyes.  He explains why the ship can't be helped but in the end, he doesn't push it.  While Usopp works on Merry, he eventually confides with Frankie about The Going Merry and the adventures he went on with the other Straw Hats, all the repairs he's made resulting from various battles and events, and even admits that he knows he can't fix Merry!  Now, this doesn't mean he has hit acceptance yet.  It's one thing to know you're wrong, but acceptance is a full mind and body agreement.  Mentally, Usopp is still not there yet.

***Grief Interlude***

Now, Grief is also a tricky mistress because if I've already stated it before, everyone grieves differently.  But grief is also not as quick, nor do you just hit one stage and move on to the next.  It is 100% possible to revisit stages.  That itself is a tricky business because when you revisit stages of grief, or are stuck in one mode of grieving, your chances of never being able to get out of grief, or even letting go and moving on become harder to do.  Usopp himself eventually does revisit a few stages when come the story arc at where he becomes Snipper King/Soge King.

Where is "Sniper Island" you ask?  It's in your heart.
Quick list of when Usopp revisits grief:

Anger: The Merry was released by a total jerk and was presumed demolished/lost at sea.  This, of course, brings Usopp back to anger.
Denial/Bargaining:  He refuses to help save Robin because he renounced his place with the Straw Hat crew, so instead he dons a mask & cape and busts out a new weapon.  He pretends to be a "Super Hero" named Sniper King/Soge King and uses this new persona to justify it.  Denial in the sense of denying his place as a worthy friend, bargaining by saying to himself "I can't do this as me, but if I can be someone else, then I can assist without guilt."
Depression:  They Lose Robin again.  He feels partly to blame.

***interlude over***


ACCEPTANCE:  Toward the end of this story arc with Water 7, The Merry does show back up and saves the crew one last time.  When they get back to Water 7, she falls apart.  Usopp knew her time was over and has now finally been able to process all of his feelings and is ready to let go.  They send the girl off with a Viking Style funeral by setting her ablaze at sea.  Usopp (as Sniper/Soge King) watches on with tears behind the mask.  It was a bitter sweet moment, but his grief process is complete.  Well, almost.  

As the crew is leaving Water 7 (with their new ship, The Thousand Sunny, and new Crew Mate, Frankie), they leave in haste.  Prior to leaving, the crew did make one important decision regarding Usopp:  If Usopp decides to swallow his pride and appologize, he can rejoin the Straw Hat crew.  It was last second, but Usopp did finally hit his second moment of acceptance and yells to the crew an appology.  Luckily, they all were keeping an ear out for him and Luffy stretched his rubber arm the furthest he can get it to take Usopp by the hand and pull him on board.

If you or your child(ren) have ever experienced tragedy or trauma in your life, remember going into this new year that grief isn't just for the death of loved ones.  Grief is for any major event change in your life that affects you directly.  I, myself, have had to grieve quite a few times in my life.  The loss of my mom, the loss of our home, I've even had to dissolve a marriage (not this marriage, my prior marriage before Matt).  It's a healthy and necessary part of life that keeps us from becoming permanently depressed, over stressed, and able to move on and continue living.  The biggest lesson of all, when you finally reach acceptance with your whole mind, body, and soul, it doesn't mean that you have finally forgotten.  If anything, never forget what you lost.  It's those memories that keep those people, events, and items precious forever.