Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

I am going to share some of the people, places and things that I have discovered since being in India. Some in my neighborhood and others in nearby places.

Don’t worry. I am not going to share all of my discoveries at once.

This is my new tailor, Rajender. A happy, good-natured man.

rajender

Rajender sets up shop every day (except Sunday) on the sidewalk a block from our home.

I had noticed him on one of my strolls. I mean it is kind of hard not to notice him. He is literally on the sidewalk.

One day I thought I’d go and have a look. Check out this local business. But when I got a little closer there was a big crowd of men so I wimped out and kept going. I just didn’t want fourteen pairs of penetrating eyes on me while I tried to awkwardly make my small talk English understood.

The following day I swung by again. He was at the sewing machine with only one fellow sitting on a motor bike chatting with him. So I went over and introduced myself. Got his name. Asked his hours. Prices. His English isn’t great so the guy on the motor bike helped out a bit. I grabbed his telephone number and was on my way.

So the next day I gave him material to make four zippered pillows. I left him one to copy. He did a great job.

The following day I had him do my husband’s pants. He also fixed one of my T.J. Maxx bargains and hemmed a pair of my pants.

He is definitely not overcharging me. A new hem on my pants cost about $1.50 USD.

Anyway, a lovely fellow. Has a sweet daughter who is the same age as my youngest. She may or may not be learning how to sew. Seems to be more interested in her mobile phone. No different from most twenty year olds. Makes me chuckle.

I never imagined I’d be getting my tailoring needs met by a man on a sidewalk. But here I am. Now thinking it is the most normal thing in the world.

Every time I pass by, walking or in the car, I get a big wave and a smile from my new friend at the sidewalk stall.

I respond with my usual, “Hi! How’s things today? All good?”

They always seem to be all good.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! I hope it’s all good!

 

 

 

 

 

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A lot of people ask me if I like living in India.

The answer is absolutely.

Well, except for the air quality. 😦 No good.

Also the temps are starting to rise a bit. Today it is 102 degrees (F) or 30 degrees (C).

Despite those two things I do enjoy being here.

I love my neighborhood. Every day I discover something different, new or exciting. I’m totally learning.

We are getting ready to move. Again. LOL. But only a couple of blocks away. Same ‘hood.

Our house is in a lovely area. But the construction next door was/is driving us batty. It is like Chinese water torture. Every. Single. Minute. Drip. Drip. Drip.

We considered moving to a popular expat area across town.

Big skyscrapers in a gorgeous golf course setting. The apartments are ridiculously spacious-like 6000 square feet. The building boasts a movie theater on ground floor. Along with a gym, coffee shop and restaurant. Even a pub.

The outdoor pool would put you in mind of a Caribbean resort. Swimming through a labyrinth that’s shielded by towering palm trees.

Went to dinner there with my husband’s associate and his wife. They reside there and love it. Who wouldn’t? Very nice setup.

Couldn’t punch holes in it if I tried.

The wife of the associate was gracious. Explained how safe it was.

We totally figured that one out.

Had to register with guards to enter the gated community. Told them who we were visiting. Then we were on our way.

Came upon another gate at their actual building. Same drill. Security fellows allowed us entry.

Last line of defense against solar panel guys, Jehovah Witnesses and people like us who slipped past the first two gates? Yes, you guessed it.

One more smiling fellow on the ground floor of the building. Located near the elevators.

I was impressed with all of the amenities that the community offered. The woman told me about yoga classes, golfing, groups, etc.

She continued, “You’d never have to leave here.”

Ahhhh. And there it was. My hole punch.

I tried to hide my “deer in the headlights” look.

I’d never have to leave the grounds of this secure and closed community.

Which is totally fine for a four day stay at an island resort.

Okay, I understand that there are a lot of folks out there that would love this. Never have to worry about a thing. A pristine, sanitized, happy bubble.

I’m not knocking anyone. It’s just not me. At least, not the me I am today.

I know that no one stays in the community all of the time. They do leave the compound. LOL

We don’t drive here in India (company doesn’t allow) so I do a lot of walking. We have a driver but I have him drop me off at a park or I will just roam our neighborhood on foot. I always feel safe and I am careful.

You lose some independence by not driving. So I regain a bit of it by walking and exploring the dusty side streets. Never knowing what I will see. Monkeys, mongoose or sick bat stuck on a fence.

Strolling through the acres of the public parks with the funky birds and different sights.

I told my husband (we were waiting to hear on one last house in our current neighborhood) if the last house didn’t pan out then we needed to do what made the most sense financially, work transportation, etc. If that ended up being this expat spa resort then so be it.

I’d find friends and make the best of it. And leave the compound every now and again. 🙂

 

In the end, the house in our current neighborhood did pan out and we will move there in the next week or so.

Yay!

It really made me realize just how much I enjoy discovering something different, new or exciting. Each and every day in my wonderful host country. In my colorful neighborhood.

I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you.

 

 

 

 

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When I wrote about Kyle, two postings back, it was prompted by a few different things.

Yes, a pal and I were discussing him because one of Kyle’s friends recently passed away.

But there were other reasons that prompted my writing. Soon realized it would result in more than one blog posting.

Here is one of them.

I was reading an article that disturbed me. It was the story of a decorated veteran, like Kyle, who also brought back something from Vietnam.

This hero’s name was Andrew. He came from a Southern military family. His father and brothers served our country. Andrew volunteered for Vietnam.

His position was “Forward Observer.”

The following is a quote from a guy who served with him.

“During the period when Lieutenant Brannan served, the Forward Observer had the shortest life expectancy of any category of soldier in Vietnam.”

Can you imagine what horrors he witnessed? What horrors he might have inflicted?

All accounts show that Lieutenant Brannan returned from Vietnam a changed person. He had experienced warfare. Like Kyle he had been exposed to Agent Orange. Family loss and weakening mental health only added to the trouble that was brewing ahead of him.

It just sounds like he couldn’t get it together after the war. He isolated himself. Couldn’t finish school. Wasn’t successful with his marriage. Was eventually put on meds. Lived in a plywood shack he constructed. Spent lot of time trekking alone in woods.

He was off his medication for a few days when he was pulled over by a young police officer for a traffic violation in 1998.

The end result is that Andrew Brannan killed a Sheriff’s Deputy. There is a video of the actual confrontation and crime. No disputing the video.

The video shows a man (who did not know he was being filmed) exhibiting erratic behavior. Dancing around weirdly. Then he grabs a rifle from his truck. If you notice his stance and movements toward the policeman’s car it would put you in mind of a soldier during the middle of a war scene.

No disputing the man wasn’t right in the head.

This veteran murdered an innocent, young man that day.

A heart-breaking tragedy for the family of the deputy. And so many others.

On January 15, 2015,  Andrew Brannan was executed by lethal injection in the state of Georgia.

His lawyers tried to get his sentence commuted to life without parole. But they lost their appeals. So Lieutenant Brannan, decorated veteran with severe PTSD, ceased to exist.

Just feels kind of rotten to kill someone who served our country by killing for us. So much wrong with that sentence. No pun intended.

In a prepared statement given to his lawyers, he said: ‘I am proud to have been able to walk point for my comrades, and pray that the same thing does not happen to any of them.’

In his official last statement, moments before the injection was administered, Brannan said: ‘I extend my condolences to the Dinkheller family, especially Kyle’s parents and his wife and his two children.’ 

I was discussing the death penalty with my friend, Jenny, on a recent visit to Malaysia.  There are many viewpoints on this very hot topic. We touched upon a few.

There is this one. How about we don’t kill anyone at all?

The guilty could suffer every day. Just like the surviving victims of their crimes. Or become remorseful. Or get help if they are mentally ill.

One “newly available” cell will not make a difference in America’s already over-crowded and over-burdened prisons. The death penalty does not deter.

Evil exists. I have no doubt about that. But not all criminals are evil. That’s another blog posting.

No one is above the law. Whether you served your country or not. Everyone needs to be accountable in a courtroom in they committed a crime.

The punishment, however, is the tricky thing. Especially for the U.S. because we actually have States that still practice the death penalty.

Side note: Along with more than fifty countries in the world. If you look at that guest list you’d reconsider going to the party. Not exactly the finest bedfellows.

So can a person who is or was mentally ill be executed?

Sure.

Usually not mentally retarded folks. But history will show more than a few, with IQs less than 70, got the chair or injection. More than a few.

Mentally ill? Jury is still out on that one.

Is everyone who commits an act of murder mentally ill? Even if it’s temporary?

I do not believe that the late Lieutenant Brannan, Bronze Star recipient, was evil. He was just very ill.

Andrew Brannan was a fresh-faced young man from the South who proudly served his country. He came from a family who all served their country. He was one of the “lucky ones” who came back.

But he brought something back from those jungles and it was called mental illness. In the form of PTSD.

Honestly? I think we killed him twice.

His lawyers might have failed him by not getting the “life without parole” sentence but it sure is tough for folks not to be emotionally moved by a young widow with small children. Especially when it’s the family of a police officer.

But who is really responsible and could this all have been avoided?

We (our nation) is responsible and yes it could have been avoided. If we never sent our boys off to war. If we never exposed them to chemicals and atrocities that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.

 

But that horse is already out of the barn.

Nothing to be done for Kyle or Andrew. Too late.

What can be done for the many others who are still out there suffering?

Maybe every time we say “Thank you for your service” to a veteran it’s not just a rote “see how patriotic I am” reaction. Instead of that gratefulness recusing any work, charitable or not, on our part why not explore how we can actually support them. What if every “thank you” prompted a knee-jerk act of kindness of compassion? Being an advocate for their needs. Donating time or resources. Reflect on those suffering. Before posting passive-aggressive memes “Helping homeless U.S. Veterans before refugees” without doing anything except moving digits on a keyboard maybe take the time to actually help homeless U.S. Veterans.

So many opportunities to help so many.

In memory of the Kyles and Andrews who sacrificed their minds and their bodies.

For us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”

I’ve read that quote more than once and I believe this to be the absolute truth. You all know how I feel about family. If we share the same blood/family we are members of a very special club. Ain’t nobody getting kicked out of it. Even if we no longer see each other very often.

I have more than twenty-five first cousins. But when I was a kid most lived in Ireland and some in England.

So, sadly, I didn’t share a childhood with all of my cousins. But that was just reality.

The ones who I did share my childhood with consisted of three families who lived in the U.S. like me.

They were my Dad’s sister, Rose Marie and her family in New York. In Rhode Island we had the families of Mom’s sister, Patsy and her brother, Jimmy.

Summer holidays and other times during the year were spent with the New York cousins.

Christmas, Easter, cookouts and regular Sunday visits to the grandparents were spent with the Rhode Island cousins.

Oh, what fun we had when we were young.

There were the older cousins in our (my brothers and me) age range and then a few younger ones came along in the 1970s. That was pretty exciting for us. Everyone liked babies and they were just absorbed. Welcomed into the fold.

That’s the funny thing about babies. They are not like the future in-laws who take awhile to break into the family. To be a part of the club and inner circle. Going through the initiation and all.

But a baby? Born into the family? The bouncer just lets that little bundle of joy right into the club! Like a celebrity with status. No stopping at the door, stamping its hand or questioning their right to be there. They’re totally in!

One of my baby cousins died on March 18th. John was just shy of his forty-seventh birthday. He will be interred tomorrow with his beloved mother.

I last saw him when he made the trip to Rhode Island for my Dad’s funeral three years ago. Even though it was a sad time I was really happy to see him and so many family members. These days everyone lives in different places and reunions are not always easy or frequent. So weddings and funerals are the “go to” places for the big catch ups.

John was a beautiful child. An adorable kid with a mop of curly red hair. He was intelligent and good humored. He was a nice and decent boy who grew up to be a nice and decent man.

He died young. Too young.

For the record, I think all deaths under the age of eighty are sort of tragic.

Today is no different.

John died because he was a human being. Lest we forget -we are all afflicted with that title.

A death reminds us that we are all human. Some might dodge the bullets of life. Others aren’t so fortunate and get hit head on. But we all know, really, that sometimes we just have no say or control. Our expiration date, like a milk carton, might (I say might) have been printed long ago. Even if we argue or beg that it could have been/should have been different.

It’s still tragic. It’s heartbreaking and sad.

One of the benefits of being in the cousins’ club is that there is only love. No jealousy or judgement. We’re family and are grateful for the shared and special memories. We take joy in the success and happiness of each other. We are sympathetic when one is experiencing family problems, job loss, illness and other maladies of life.

There is profound and utter sadness when we lose one of our gang.

When John was a baby I was sleeping at his house one weekend. Poor little thing couldn’t pronounce my name (Mary Beth) but he tried. In the morning I heard a little voice coming from the crib, “Maybell?”

Since then it’s been “ours” and we didn’t ever let it go.

So every year on our birthdays and other Facebook messages we used Maybell instead of my real name. Now, I’m wondering if he actually ever knew what my real name was.

Anyway, it was like we were little kids. He in his forties and me in my fifties. In a way, a simple word brought us back in time and kept us young. Even if it was for a minute. It was a shared memory.

See, because a cousin is a little piece of childhood that can never be lost.

John will always and forever be a part of my childhood that can never be lost.

We will miss you, John. Rest in peace. Like one of your sisters said, “Rest is not so easy right now on this side of Heaven.”

The club will no longer be the same, little cousin.

With all my love,

Maybell

 

 

In memory of John J. Kelly

1971-2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A friend and I were recently discussing a guy who grew up in our neighborhood.

When Kyle left to serve his country in Vietnam I would have been about five years old. He was eighteen or nineteen. Same age as my youngest daughter who is now in her first year of university.

Kyle was not the only young boy from the neighborhood who went to Southeast Asia during that time.

Of course, I don’t remember when they left. I was too young.

I do have memories of when the American boys came back. Watched the grainy news footage on television with my family. Of planes on the runway depositing our men. No longer youthful.

I remember the POW bracelets that people bought and promised to wear until the service people captured or missing came home. I heard all of the scary stories. I remember that it was a time of protest. I remember who served in Vietnam.

War is horrific and I cannot wrap my head around it. But some wars are worse than others. The Vietnam War would be one of those filed under “worse than others.”

The “lucky” ones came back.

My next door neighbor, Dick, came back home. With a terribly scarred face and a black eye patch covering the socket.

Pretty frightening to see when you are a kid.

Wait, he was only a kid when his life was in such peril. So how freaking frightened was he?

Kyle also made it back home.

But some scars are visible and some are not.

Kyle was a cousin of our friends and he lived across the street on the corner. I would see him around but actually only met him in my teen years. The age difference and all. I didn’t know him well but he seemed like a nice guy. Good humored. Cute in a long, shaggy hair, five o’clock shadow way. Remember a bunch of us at a party and having some good laughs. He was in college and studying theater then. A group of us attended a Shakespeare performance of his at Rhode Island College.

Kyle died, one year ago, at the age of sixty-six. The cause of his death was the Vietnam War. He was exposed to deadly chemicals during his time there. Everyone has heard of Agent Orange. For Kyle, chronic illness and an early death were the results of his exposure to it. I’d say he died from friendly fire.

Just like using a jug of Round-Up. Spray and kill. These chemical weapons (that is what they were) would be dumped on vast areas from planes and defoliation took place. Benefits were two fold. 1) No bad guys can hide in the jungles or forests without the cover of green canopy. 2) Kill all the crops so the bad guys will starve and die.

Obviously, Agent Orange was just one piece of the huge horror show called Vietnam. But its harm continues to reverberate to this day.

The spraying didn’t help. It only hurt. The destroyed crops led to widespread famine and innocent civilians starved to death. The environment was damaged. Our boys came home and began to get sick. Every spray inflicted harm. Illness, genetic damage and death were all a part of its ripple effect. The U.S., Vietnam and other countries who were exposed during the war all suffer the effects.

This could be viewed as old news. But it’s not. It’s continuing news. Because people are still dying. Kyle did.

We sent our fresh faced boys into a jungle war that they had no chance of winning. No one came out of it unscathed. Those who did make it home were changed and scarred, one way or another, for the rest of their lives.

That is our history and our responsibility.

I suppose, in a way, this is a posthumous thank you to Kyle for his sacrifices. Tinged with sorrow for his suffering. It shouldn’t have ended like that. Terribly unfair.

A thank you to all the young boys who left our neighborhoods. Those who made it back home and those who didn’t. Bless them all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is one more story about social media. And using it responsibly.

Maybe it’s more about responsible parenting.

I saw a posting/link on Facebook that someone shared.

About a father in Virginia teaching his ten-year-old son a lesson. The kid was kicked off the bus for bullying others.

Dad made his son run the mile to school each morning. Even in the rain. He filmed the kid’s punishment from the car.

It went viral.

His message to other parents?

Don’t be a friend. Be a parent. That’s what kids need these days.

He felt like filming his son’s punishment and sharing it with millions of strangers was a good parenting move. And I suppose some type of public service announcement for the world.

The father received a lot of positive feedback.

“Good for you!”

“Great parenting!”

“Yay!”

No one wants their kid to be a bully. I’m on the same page and I certainly appreciate his “no bullying” stance.

I don’t agree with anything else.

Good God, I hope he doesn’t run for elected office. Laugh out loud. You all know how crazy stuff can go down. Like a locomotive picking up steam.

I’m not into family shaming. At all.

Why on earth would I publicly shame my own kids? Or even my dog, Thumper?

I didn’t name any of them Hester Prynne.

They trust me. As their parent.

I’m not sure that kid is ever going to trust his old man. Any time that guy whips out a camera everyone is going to stop, drop and roll.

It’s our job, as parents, to determine why a child is bullying others or behaving inappropriately. What is the root cause?

Sure, punish the kid. Even make them walk everywhere because they lost the privilege of riding the bus.

But film it? And share it?

Sounds like something a bully might do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I read an article that was just terrible. I know. I know. So many articles out there are terrible.

This one was about a young lad who was in a Welsh medical school.

Seems he had a fling with a young woman. Also a student. That has been known to happen. So far. So normal.

He then chose to share this information with his rugby buddies in a private on-line group.

That’s where it started to go bad.

His “pals” decided to share his postings with hundreds of others on social media. And the young lady became aware.

Who knows how she reacted.

The fellow then becomes worried that his words could even cause expulsion from the school.

He hanged himself.

I don’t know all the details. The newspaper gives you bits and pieces.

But this is how I imagine it all.

Girl is absolutely mortified. The sheer embarrassment of it all.

Boy is now mortified that this information was shared. Maybe feels shame and guilt once he knows the girl is aware of what he shared.

Feels hopeless. Can’t imagine that this will ever fade. Starts to think that even his future is doomed if the school expels him.

This could have played out in a few different ways.

The young woman might have been the one unable to handle the situation.

Or there could have been apologies on behalf of the boy. Maybe a suspension.

Life could go on. Human beings make mistakes all the time.

But there is no going back in this particular case.

Just devastated people left behind. Grieving parents.

So many lessons to be learned.

We need to be kind. Especially on social media.

We need to be better at using social media responsibly. Think about the consequences of our words and actions.

It wouldn’t ever hurt to use that quote we have all heard. Before speaking (or writing) ask yourself these three questions. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?

There is a “gofundme” page as a result of this death and it states that the money will be used for projects and forums aimed to avoid a reoccurrence of a similar tragedy.

I certainly hope that those projects and forums will be successful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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