Speak Truth To Bullshit

I find myself shrinking away from political debates because there is too much misinformation being slung around that it’s nearly impossible to have a decent conversation.

The amount of “drive-by” online journalists is appalling. These individuals haven’t been trained, or understand the basic rules regarding what’s considered news and how important it is to share only credible sources.

If you’re confused, these are the people who spend way too much time on the internet fighting with strangers in the comment section and share every article from every online ‘source’ that is geared with like-minded people and then spout off information after only reading the header and by-line.

But, I digress. This is only a small portion of the problem and admittedly, I’m biased against these random peeps because I did go to school for journalism. This isn’t the main topic of today’s post, so I’ll get on with it.

If you haven’t heard what’s going on at our borders then you might have been under a rock the past week/month, and if it’s a nice beautiful rock on Cabo, do you mind sharing some space with me?

Just kidding, kinda.

Here is what I constantly hear being thrown around half-hazard. “Separating families at the border is the law, everyone must follow the rules! All you Dems just hate Trump and are looking for an excuse to pile on the hate, this has been going on for years! If Republicans wanted to change it they could, they’ve got the majority! Trump to the press – if this was such a terrible law, why didn’t the Dems outlaw it decades ago, it’s their faults!

All of this is bullshit and here’s why.

  1. Separating families at the border isn’t a federal law, never has been. There is a policy that was put in place back when Clinton was president and has been used by border patrol at their discretion for the last two decades, and they didn’t participate in the family separation until last month when Jeff Sessions and Trump stated this ‘zero tolerance’ policy.
  2. There is a distinct difference between policy and law, stop using them interchangeably. The difference between a policy and a law. A policy outlines what a government ministry hopes to achieve and the methods and principles it will use to achieve them. It states the goals of the ministry. Laws set out standards, procedures, and principles that must be followed.
  3. Yes, the Republicans hold the majority but you still need 3/5ths vote to pass anything and not all Republicans and Democrats will vote according to their party. I think John McCain is a perfect example within the last year. So while shouting they hold the majority is true, it doesn’t mean anything will easily pass, even if every Republican voted similarly there’s still a need for the Dems to vote similarly, too.
  4. Trump blaming the Democrats is also utter bullshit. He signed so many damn executive orders the first six months of his presidency, why the hell the sudden urge to wait for the legislature? Because this is a stunt (in my personal opinion). We have a president who is a reality star and hasn’t worked for a damn thing in his life, living out his ‘biggest role casted’ on a world stage, and it’s fucking embarrassing.

Fact Checker: Separating families at the border isn’t family law, here. The distinct difference between policy and law, here. Understanding the ‘Republican majority,’ here. Trump blaming the Dems for what’s happening while plugging his mission to build a wall and why I think it’s all a big fat stunt, here

Trump has embellished since his inauguration when he stated it was the most attended precision in history! So how come there are still those refusing to wade through the bullshit to find the truth? Is it because it’s easier to follow than lead?

Bottom line: what’s happening at the border is traumatic for both the officers and families. If we’re the world police and responsible for setting an example for the rest of the country, lets’s act like it. We all know this isn’t the best solution, those children don’t deserve to experience any more trauma.

Shout all day about, “it’s the parent’s fault and they are the ones that put their kids in this position.” Nobody got anywhere pointing the finger at everyone else and displacing blame. Take responsibility,  rise above the bullshit and let’s set the example for how to treat those desperate enough to risk everything to live in a country that isn’t a living nightmare.

Now to keep up with my promise to practice gratitude to fight my tendency to forbode joy: Currently feeling gratitude for the luck I was given to be born in this country.

Cultivate it.

I play better on Instagram than Facebook but regardless, be my friend online. RamblinRandol is my quest for true belonging. 

Deployment Miracles

While my sanity teetered too close to the edge of landing myself in a padded room, my saving grace were two strangers. It’s wondrous how many tiny choices had to lead them straight to me, it’s almost like they were sent …  


Snow had begun to frost the tips of the branches and blanket the ground in Virginia Beach. A whopping 630 miles away from the comfort of home and family. It had only been six months since I said goodbye to my husband aboard the Dwight D. Eisenhower in his shop with 10 sets of looming eyes, all sailors who had partook in the same sad ritual with their own loved ones. It would be nine and a half months before I would feel Matt’s embrace and somehow, managed to hold it together in front of his peers. It would be the second deployment we both lived through in our own ways, this one for me would be ineradicable.

Peppermint, hot coca and gingerbread danced through November’s crip air. Thanksgiving had passed for another year and was instantly replaced by the general public a-buzz with holiday cheer. As I’d hand out Country Fried Steak and Chicken Dumplings, rosy red cheeked kids proudly announced Santa was coming! “He’s gunna bring me a ….” Their excitement brought on waves of nausea. Matt wouldn’t be home this year and because of work, traveling to see family was out of the question. Plus, I felt an awful lot like Scrooge, without a doubt good ol’ St. Nick would pass over his stop at my house.

During those six months everything and anything that could break or go missing, did. I got locked out of my house three times, spent $300 to re-chip a new set of car keys and spent numerous hours wasting time at an auto-shop waiting for my car to be fixed—dead battery a couple times, power steering pump, new tires.

The air conditioner shorted out during the summer more than a few times and when the seasons changed to winter, the heater broke. For two days and nights I wore Matt’s heavy coat to fight off winer’s frosty bite. And on top of all that, it wasn’t irregular to come home to something chewed to pieces. My wonderful husband had thought a new puppy made for the best pre-deployment gift …

This series of unfortunate events was expected with seasoned military wives. A military addendum to Newton’s law. A whole year could pass while your husband was home with no incidents. The moment he left all bets were off.

In between fixing the garbage disposal and working shifts as a waitress, time passed with new hobbies and self-made busy work. A Pinterest DIY master (and failure), baked good goddess extrondaire and the conquerer of eating holiday, birthday and anniversary meals alone, made up my deployment resume.

Wasted time was of no concern because there was nothing else to do or anyone waiting for me to do something. I stopped keeping track of it, merely going through the days and weeks based off shifts at the restaurant. If I was working a double, it was probably the weekend. If it felt like Hell, it was defiantly a Sunday.

Friends from home asked all the wrong questions while complaining they hadn’t see their boo in two days and coworkers thought it was appropriate to inquire about Matt’s faithfulness. Eventually phone calls ceased, old friendships felt foreign and the only form of communication I could tolerate was with Matt through email. The obsessive need to refresh my inbox was maddening. Loneliness felt permanent and the silence at home was deafening.

Not to mention the guilt ate me alive. Matt was the one suffering leagues away without the comfort of his own bed.

When did I become such a wuss?

____

It was the first week of December when I was pulling a closer at the restaurant. An hour left before the doors were locked for the night, a couple wandered in looking for a late dinner. The two would easily fade into a sea of people, nothing striking would draw attention to their features. A typical couple, tall man with thick black frames and a shorter woman who knew her way around a curling iron.

I brought out their food and sequentially asked them if they needed anything else.

“My wife and I are about to pray. Is there anything we can add to the list, for you?”

After almost a decade in the service industry this wasn’t the first time I had been asked. Typically I’d give a smile and say “no thanks.” Religion made me uncomfortable because I wasn’t scriptural nor brought up in church. Wouldn’t God know I wasn’t a regular on Sundays, so what business would I have asking for prayers?

“Actually,” I squeaked out, “please.”

“Can you ask for my husband to come home? I think I’m at my breaking point,” I said with an apprehensive laugh, my attempt to fight off brimming tears and embarrass myself.

The strangers extended out their hands and I grabbed ahold of them and bowed my head, no internal inhibitions talking me out of it.

_____

A week had passed since my intimate moment with the devout couple. The memory had all ready began to fade, and I was back at work serving a 4-top when my phone buzzed deep inside my apron pocket.An abnormally long number with symbols caused an abrupt sprint from my table to the back of the restaurant.

“Matt!?” I shrilled.

“Hey babe, can you talk or are you at work?”

“No, no, I can talk, I can talk. What’s up? Are you okay? I miss you!” I said in one breath.

“Miss you too, but I have some news and I wanted to be the first one to tell you.” He said with a long pause. “Have you heard any of the rumors?”

Another pause and I held my breath, afraid if I sucked in any more air this moment would deflate.

“We’re coming home in two weeks. There’s a problem with the flight deck and it needs to be repaired.”

In the same moment my manager came out of the break room, eyeing me, “Shannon get off your …”

“MATT’S COMING HOME! HE’S COMING HOME!” I screamed jumping up and down.

_____

Christmas would come that year after all and it was wrapped with the answered prayers from a faceless, nameless couple. Chalk it up to coincidence if you must, it might’ve happened regardless. I mulled over the chance phenomena until it was left semi-tasteless and decided some of the best things in life are better left unsaid.

Sex Trafficking In Our Backyard

I wrote this blog for work back in July after attending Orangewood Foundation’s Sex Trafficking Forum. The contents of that education still haunt me and I don’t want its lesson to be lost over time. It’s not old news because we haven’t found the solution.

We live in an imperfect world and bad people will always find a way to inflict harm on their victims, but this doesn’t mean we throw in the towel. We fight.

Please take the time to read the forum recap below and listen to Oree’s story. She led the forum discussion that night and I couldn’t begin to describe the amount of strength this woman holds. Orangewood Foundation asks to please help spread awareness to help end the growing pandemic of sex slavery, we can all do our part. 


Last night the Marconi Staff attended Orangewood Foundation’s Forum on sex trafficking in Orange County. The moving dialog from a survivor stirred up a fiery determination to do more in each staff member’s stomach.

The Marconi Foundation for Kids did recently donate $3,000 to the Orangewood Foundation, but it’s not nearly enough and there’s plenty of work to be done; we want to do more! The number one goal Orangewood has in regards to its sex trafficking program is to bring more awareness to this sensitive issue.

With the need for awareness on the brain, here is a recap of what was learned and spoken about on Monday night’s gathering.

Disclaimer: This post will use potentially alarming vocabulary to promote awareness about sex trafficking. Viewer discretion is advised.

Sex Trafficking Statistics:

  1. 100,000 – 300,000 American children are victims of sex trafficking per year.
  2. 1 out of every 3 runaway girls in the U.S. is approached by a pimp within 48 hours of running away.
  3. Almost 400 victims of sex trafficking in Orange County have been identified in the past 10 years and almost half of them were children.
  4. In the past two years 1,277 victims have been identified in California.
  5. 50-80% of sex trafficking victims in California are or once were in the foster care system.
  6. There were 145 victims in Orange County in 2014.

Q:What is sex trafficking?

A: The use of violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Also known as: sex slavery, human trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC). 

Terminology:

  • “In the life”: involved in sex trafficking
  • “John/Trick”: child molester; the buyer
  • “Bottom bitch”: the pimp’s head girl
  • “Wifey”: the girls who work with you and your pimp

Q: Who are these girls?

A: These girls are the regular “run-of-the-mill” children. It can happen to anyone.

Victims are predominately young females who are insecure, questioning their self-esteem or looking for a way out of an abusive family.

Listen to Sex Trafficking Advocate and Survivor, Oree Freeman, tell her story in the video below.

In addition to Oree telling the forum’s crowd her story, she shared numerous survivor stories, or in her terms, her “survivor sisters” stories.

“My survivor sister grew up in South County and like most young girls in Southern California, dreamed of becoming a model and walking the runways for the fashion world’s most elite. But, early on her dreams were crushed when she didn’t have the support from her parents. Determined to make it in the industry, she got in contact with a reputable agent who continually booked her in successful events that advanced her career. 

Until one day, the gigs stopped and she had no money to support herself and didn’t want to ask her parents for help after they had previously voiced disapproval regarding her career choice. The agent became her pimp, even though he spent time furthering her career, turning her over was always his end goal.”

Kinds of pimps:

This kind of pimp (in above story)  is considered a CEO Pimp; the character who has all the opportunity to give out and uses it to lure in  victims.

A Romeo Pimp will wine and dine you for however long it takes until sold into the ring.

Women pimps are referred to as Madams and have usually been former workers “in the life.”

Recruiting Spots:

Any area where a large group of children frequent, i.e: bus stops, malls, skating rinks, group homes and the Internet.

Oree told the crowd she once walked into a skating rink during the afternoon and saw her ex-pimp and “bottom bitch” scouting out the mobs of kids, looking for the weakest link.

Girls’ Expectations:

One pimp’s formula his women must make:

  • $600 to eat
  • $800 to sleep
  • Didn’t collect the money from the John, punishment was sleeping with the next man without a condom.

This math equates a need to make $208,000 a year and work 16 times a day for 5 days to achieve it. This means one woman experiences 4,160 rapes a year to be able to eat and sleep. 

Other facts to keep in mind:

  • Orange County is a number one destination location for sex trafficking because of its high prospect to make money.
  • Sex trafficking is almost as lucrative as drug hustling because gangs are becoming more interested in selling kids than selling drugs, it’s “safer.”
  • Recent reports have shown pimps come from violent upbringings and/or have experienced sexual assault while growing up.
  • Sex trafficking victims often get mislabeled as prostitutes.

The Good News:

  • The Orangewood Foundation has been working for nearly 35 years to care for abused and at-risk youth. The foundation has numerous programs to aid children in need.
  • First responders are being taught how to recognize a sex trafficking victim and what questions to ask.
  • The creation of a new program called The Lighthouse Program, by the Orangewood Foundation.

The Lighthouse Program is transitional housing for young women who have left “the life.” It’s a house with 24/7 care for women aged 18-21 (minors are generally placed in foster care) that will help a survivor recuperate and plan for their future, and stay as long as needed to become successful.

This program will work in tandem with other Orangewood programs which offer help with basic needs, independent living skills, employment and education.

As the first kind of home/program in the Orange County and L.A. area, the foundation needs our support. Below is a list detailing how YOU can support The Lighthouse.

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If you are interested in attending a forum, the meetings happen every second Monday of every month from 6:30-8:00pm. Plan to be a part of the discussion on August 8th and September 12th at 1575 E. 17th St., Santa Ana.

Awareness is the first step in stopping the problem.

Maybe Angels

“I swear, I swear they’re out there, I swear, maybe angels, maybe angels” — Sheryl Crow

A iridescent hue illuminated an unknown yet familiar figure. I aimlessly floated behind the shape throughout the small house—no bigger than a small cottage with two bedrooms and silent creaky wooden floors. The corners of my vision were clouded with a bright misty residue, and the faceless shape still hadn’t voiced why I was here. 

With so many unanswered questions still looming in my dreamy haze, my feet continued to follow hers, one step at a time, until she stopped … 

________________________________________________________

Eight weeks after my husband and I began our new adventure in a small, dusty, cow littered town in Texas, the pieces to our happy ending began to crumble. The euphoric feeling of his separation with the Navy began to fade, the grass wasn’t greener on the other side and he was drowning in depression. Our marriage was in trouble.

After spending six years in the Navy with two deployments and 2,190 days on mandatory duty under his belt, a decision to be honorably discharged was made. Matt wanted to switch careers and go to school to become an EMT/Firefighter. Training began at the end of August, the calendar had just been flipped to April and we had finished unpacking the last of our boxes from Virginia.

The first three weeks were filled with hope. New job, new beginnings and a sense of wonder as to what will happen next. Matt spent countless hours filling out applications, but not one interview, email response or phone call came. I was spending every waking moment picking up serving shifts, working as long and as hard as I could to keep our joint bank account afloat. Between my exhaustion, his depression and his slipping sense of self purpose, the light at the end of the tunnel grew dimmer as days past.

Life became unbearable as the weeks turned into months. Time was running out to secure our financial situation and it was only going to get worse. At the end of summer, college classes would begin and I would be forced to limit my hours at work, which was our only source of income. Matt felt the pressure and began applying to janitorial positions, another blow to his after military dream and ego. The hours we spent together were tarnished by bickering, cold shoulders and tense moments of silence that could be sliced with a butter knife. Sadly, I began stashing a little bit of tip money in a box hidden behind clothes on a white painted wire rack in our closet, preparing for the worst.

After three years of marriage and five dating, this was how it would end with an ironic twist. Matt separated to focus on his family, he didn’t want to spend his whole career on a ticking time clock plagued with goodbyes. Finding another career felt promising and a step in the right direction to a normal lifestyle. Except living out this new adventure outside of the Navy was about to tear us apart forever, not just separate us for several months while he deployed.

Unfamiliar with the phrase “give it to God,” one night I threw caution to the wind and dropped to my knees to pray. A notion both foreign and slightly uncomfortable. Growing up my parents never brought us to church or put the fear of God in us, but my mother did practice a vague sense of spirituality to help cope through life’s ups an downs.

“Maybe our angels are those we’ve loved and lost, they look after us from above.”

Not sure where I needed to start, I began shakily with silent whispers and eyes squeezed shut. “Dear God, I know I don’t chant to you often, but please don’t think of me as hypocritical.” The pressure between my eyebrows started to sting, self doubt creeping in, but instead of throwing in the towel, my head buried deeper into the comforter, and I focused on my plea. “Give me the patience and strength needed to see this through, help my husband find peace and for the love of all things, a job. Amen.”

After the Sandman worked his magic, an intense and lucid dream took over my subconscious. A familiar figure appeared and led me through an unfamiliar house, following from behind we wove around the living room and down dimly lit claustrophobic hallways. The figure had broad shoulders, silver hair rolled up in soft curls and salmon-tinted octagon shaped glasses that drooped low on her dainty nose.

“Nannie?” I called out. Silence.

A white haze fogged my peripheral as she continued to guide me through the house. The figure didn’t turn until we entered a room that was filled with organized clutter, items neatly stacked against all four walls and a rocking chair silhouetted with bleached sunshine. As she shifted, my suspicion of her familiarity was answered.

Nannie was my great grandmother who had died when I was 12-years-old.  She was a strong, independent woman who survived the Great Depression, didn’t crumble after her husband died long before her and willingly raised grandchildren at an elder age. Though her gaze was loving and smile was warm, you didn’t mess with Nannie—she was a no nonsense woman.

All the air felt like it had left the room when I finally saw her face. I had spent years wishing to see her one last time and rejoiced when my Mom would bring her up in conversation, commenting on our similarities and loving how proud that made me feel to be compared to a female who played an important role in my own mother’s life.

Silence still draped our unexpected reunion and though she didn’t ask for me to start spilling the beans, all the stress and anxiety came flooding out of my mouth in one long breathless ramble. Nannie listened and rocked back and forth with the precession of a crashing wave, which had the same calming affect as listening to the ocean. A faint smile lifted her cheeks and her gaze never wavered.

Finally, my words fell silent and I stood quiet reciprocating her smile. We stayed that way for a long while before at last, her lips parted and she said one simple sentence, “ you’re going to be just fine.”  Her words struck me like tranquil lightening. I welcomed the quiet that followed, feeling comfort in the silence, instead of trying to fill it.

Tears threatened to spill from my eyelids when I woke up the next morning, they weren’t filled with sadness but instead, newfound confidence. For the first time in months, calm reverberated throughout my whole body. Getting out of bed that day didn’t feel daunting or impossible, it felt optimistic. Nannie and the dream carried me through the next few days and of course, she was right. I was going to be just fine.

On the third morning since she had come to me in my dream, Matt got a job.

Maybe angels do exist.