Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “May, 2016”

Respecting Memorial Day


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I was taught at a very young age, the meaning of Memorial Day and the weekend that we celebrate every year.  From the earliest I can remember, my grandmother and aunt would gather my sister and I, to watch a small parade of veterans, march to a triangular intersection around 4th and North Streets in a small town of Emmaus, Pa.  A decent sized group would gather around a memorial, a service would be held honoring our fallen vets, and the service would conclude with a 21-gun salute.  Vets belonging to our local VFW would hand out hand made flowers with wire stems, recognizing Memorial Day.  And as many Pennsylvanians would agree, especially this year, this time of year, the weather was often gray, damp, just plain miserable.  Quite fitting actually for such a sad day really.

For me, like many others, Memorial Day has morphed into something that it was totally not intended to be, like Christmas and Easter holidays for Christians (Santa and chocolate bunnies).  And admittedly, I fell into this trap.  Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to the Summer (which officially does not start for a few more weeks).  This weekend is the reminder for many, that it is time to start thinking vacations.  We have barbeques, picnics, and for some of us, beach time.

I cannot speak for others, but even as we were having our fun times this weekend, I did continue to recognize our men and women who served, and lost their lives.

In my mid-20’s, a different outlook towards Memorial Day was given to me.  In my church one particular year on Memorial Day weekend, the minister made his traditional recognition of those who served, but he also mentioned that on this day, we should also take this day to memorialize those we have lost, even if not having served.  We may realize the special date of a loved one who has passed, or their birthday, or some other day.  But we really may not take time to truly memorialize someone on those days as they pass.  And it seemed like a wonderful thing to do, that my pastor had us give names of loved ones who had passed, and remember them, along with our fallen heroes.

Recently, my youngest daughter posed the question to me, “I thought we honored our vets on Veterans Day?”  As a cancer survivor, this was a question that I knew I could easily handle, the difference between “honor” and “memorialize.”  And there is the difference.  On Veterans Day, we “honor” our servicemen and servicewomen who are serving in our military.  We “honor” the living.  On Memorial Day, we “remember” those who died fighting for our country while in the military.  We memorialize those who have passed.

Regardless of what your plans are for the weekend, picnics, parties, beach, fireworks, please be safe, and have a nice weekend.  But also, please take some time to remember those who gave their lives so that we can have the freedom which allows us to celebrate the coming summer months.

I am now of age where I have lived through several wars, and like my parents and grandparents, I now have my share of friends and family who unfortunately lost their lives in battle.  They will always be in my thoughts.

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Sometimes, The Best Advocate Is Yourself


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Advocate ad as defined in the image, “one who pleads the cause of another.”

In my life, I have taken on many advocacy roles, and the list almost grows daily.  From health, I advocate for patients with their care, and their rights in the work place and in the rest of the world.  This started around the time that I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and the first hurdle that I had to jump in my care.  I considered it unacceptable, and knew that if it was happening to me, it was happening to others.  Buy my advocacy in health did not stop with the world of cancer, but has expanded to cardiac, long term survivors of cancer, geriatric care, and simply, the right to receive medical care when it is needed.

With having two daughters adopted from China, I became an advocate for families seeking and dealing with adoption issues, not just internationally, but domestically as well.  Because of having children, I took an interest in public education and fighting to make sure my daughters got the best education possible and supporting those trusted to educate my daughters.  Which of course led to my first and only political run, for local office, school board.  And of course I began paying more attention to politics on the larger level.  But to be honest, the lessons I learned at the local level leave me feeling hopeless at the higher levels.

Getting back to children, well, not just children, I have always been an advocate fighting bullying in any environment.  Sadly, society still does not recognize by ignoring the bullying in schools, those bullies grow up to be adult bullies.  There are plenty of programs to deal with this, but unless they are used or enforced, they are paper tigers.

And then there is Parental Alienation.  This is the blatant act of causing mental and emotional harm to a child, by interfering with the relationship between a child and another parent, usually through divorce.  Talking negatively in front of a child or even as “matter of fact”, causing the child to miss opportunities to spend time with a parent, manipulating the child to develop a negative concept of the other parent, are just some of the examples of Parental Alienation.  And I will not beat around the bush with this, PA is child abuse.  Children have the right to love their parents.

But there is more to being an advocate than just having a cause to fight for.  There is more than just defending someone who just does not know where to start to find the answers to start their fight.  Perhaps, they just do not have the strength to express their needs.  Sometimes we have to be that voice.  And in many cases, it is as easy as just showing someone “where” to begin, or even guide them along their course.

There are also times, when even the slightest effort, without realizing it, you can become an advocate.  Just being there for someone, as an “ear”, makes you an advocate because you are showing someone, who may feel alone, that you care.  And that act alone makes more of a difference than doing nothing at all.

No matter the cause I advocate for, it has made me who I am.  And it helps me to deal with the many things that I face.  I have no quit in me when I know that something, or someone is completely wrong.  And I have paid a price over the years with employers, friends, and family because of my decision not to pick battles.  Even the smallest issue to me, if you let enough of them go, it leads to a big issue.  And I have learned, if you are dealing with the smaller issues alone, when you face the bigger ones, you will still be alone, and that fight is even more difficult, because the other side is not alone.

You will never be taken more serious, when you, yourself, advocate for yourself.  After all, you know more about your particular situation than anyone else.  Sure, the help of another advocate is great, but your own words will be the loudest and get your heard.

The Changing Lessons Of A Dad


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There is no set guide to raising children.  Things happen that change the original ideas whether it be health related, geographical, or relationships.

But each parent has the same responsibility no matter what the changes that occur.  And that is to provide a safe and loving home, teaching the children to be respectful, well-mannered, caring, you know, all the common sense stuff.  And to be honest, I do not think that I failed my daughters in this.  The compliments that I hear from their teachers and other grown-ups are all positive, echoing what I tried to get my daughters to value.

Once they entered school, another major player would enter the picture in helping to build their lives, their teachers.  Teachers probably spend more time with our children during the school year, than they do with their own family (sorry, being asleep or in front of a television in another room of the house does not count as time spent).  So it now becomes a team effort to prepare our children for their future, reaffirming what has already been taught to them, and showing them the importance of having those values, combined with their education, and how that will hopefully make them successful and happy adults.  Oh, I forgot to specify, this particular time period is the elementary age.

Now that I will soon have a daughter entering the next level of grades, we will take the parental involvement, and everything that has been learned in elementary, and add the much more difficult level of studies of middle school.  Again, all focused on preparation for the future.

But we have to add in  new wrinkle.  And it was something that I had thought about a long time ago, because I had to.  If you did not notice from the picture, my daughters are of Asian descent, as they are adopted.  Part of the adoption process involved education for the parents in what we, as a multi-racial family might face, and need to be prepared for as they got older.

Over the years, I have light-heartedly brushed off references to “boyfriends” and “crushes.”  It was supposed to be a long time before I was ever going to have to concern myself with this.  That time is here now that I cannot brush these feelings off as hoping they would not happen.

My youngest daughter actually sparked the conversation with me some time ago.  As she had informed me, about  someone who had a crush on her for Valentine’s Day.  And so, my questioning began…

Dad:  Is he a nice boy?

Daughter:  Yes

Dad:  Is he well mannered?

Daughter:  Yes

Dad:  Does he respect you like opening doors at school, offering to carry things for you?

Daughter:  Yes

And so it began.  The new role as a Dad, was now teaching my daughter not only how to respect herself, but also, teach her when it comes to relationships, how she is treated has to be a priority.

Many have asked me at one time or another, with them being Asian, was there going to be any issue with dating ethnically?  I answer “of course not” because my daughters have never been taught that race or ethnicity should make a difference in who they are friends with, or in a relationship.  Though they know they are Asian, they only see themselves as people.  Color, religion (or even lack of), appearance, mean nothing to them.  They only see the person, and their heart.

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I will be spending a lot of time with my daughters this Summer.  I will be teaching my oldest, that hopefully I have led the life with her, that she respects, and would want anyone that she dates to treat her the same way.  My youngest, not far behind, will be taking mental notes, and I am certain watching her sister, possibly keeping score to see if I was right.

I want my daughters some day… not necessarily now… to find someone who will treat them with respect and dignity.  Open doors.  Give flowers.  Treat them special, because they are special.  I hope I have shown them that.

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