Things to read...

If time is short, I'd suggest reading at LEAST The Prologue and Legend of The Pinto Bean Posts!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Follow-Up!

Hi everybody.... I've not just fallen off the face of the earth, I've just been really busy trying to recover my house from my trip...

When I finally arrived home from my trip, all was relatively well at the Daniel household. The lawn was a little overgrown, and it was really hard to get the environmentalists to stop protesting my destruction of the wildlife reserve that it appeared to be when I finally mowed it down, but otherwise it was ok. Rockstar was thrilled to get to frolic through the weeds and pee on his favorite schnauzer next door. This is a pretty ritualistic thing for them. He goes outside, the schnauzer runs to the fence to squeal, and RTD calmly pees on him. Repeat as necessary. The only real difference now is that there's a second schnauzer. Fortunately for RTD, they stand close together...

Once in the house it was evident that no one had broken in to clean my place up, and I was slightly disenheartened at this. The only issue presented itself when I waded into my garage. Yeah... waded. Unfortunately, Johnson City apparently had been the victim of heavy rains and animals marching two by to, and my garage apparently served as the reservoir for the water that came with it. The good side of all of this would be that I don't really have much of value in my garage so there was no real "damage" done. It took a few days to mop and evaporate it all out, but now it's back to being the dank place that I know and love. That all said, I spent the rest of the week attempting to landscape my yard a little bit. I'm not sure if anyone here has ever attempted to operate a shovel with one hand, but let me suggest that you pass on it if that was in your weekend plans. I planted a lot of liriope and put in some cheesy walkway lights since whomever designed the stairway on my front walk was obviously a fan of M.C. Escher... After digging roughly 100 small holes and planting a metric arseload of vegetation, my good friend called to inform me how I did it all wrong, so who knows if it will take. Even if it does, I have to keep and eye on RTD as he is excited at the prospect of this new and intriguing smorgasbord that I have given him. He's already managed to ravage a couple of plants...

So now on to lessons learned. First off, this is what I feel I've learned. I don't necessarily AGREE with it all. Saying this, I'm sure I'll still get a little hate mail from someone who didn't catch that.... These are based on my discussions with people, as well as the thousands of e-mails I've gotten and the comments on the blog. So onto the lesson!

The best thing I think that most surprised me would be American people's desire to help people. I am not even going to limit that to "vets, wounded, bloggers" or such, because so many people were willing to help for reasons that had nothing to do with my service. While many people were voiced their pleasure at getting to help a vet, a number of people readily admitted that they weren't too concerned about my service at all. Some people even just wanted to see Rockstar... The sheer number of offers I had to stay with complete strangers was simply overwhelming. People who had nothing to offer other than a meal and a floor were still vying for the chance to help. Had I been able to stay one day with every person who offered, this trip would have lasted into the "years" category. I had offers from all walks of society, too. I met people who obviously were liberal, conservative and other. There were those who were well to do, and those who were scratching to make ends meet. In all honesty, I feel that the "economically poor" were probably more willing to help than any other group. Don't confuse me here, I'm not passing judgement or looking down my nose. I am simply awestruck that those who themselves are worse off than me still want to help. I met and corresponded with people throughout the USA, as well as the rest of the world. I had e-mail bidding me well from around the world, from people who've never set eyes on my country, and will likely never meet me. I met people who were nearly speechless as they tried to convey their feelings about my trip to me in a thickly accented English, underlining their immigrant background and their pride to be here now. All in all, I'm that much more proud to be a citizen of these United States, and above that a member of this worldwide society.

Conversely, if there is a "negative" to this outpouring that I've been able to detect it is this. While I think the majority of Americans WANT to help, I think we suffer from a few problems. The biggest one I would venture to say would be a nationwide sort of "bystander effect" and "crowd psychology." The analogy is this: If you were standing alone and saw a little old lady fall down, you would MOST LIKELY offer help. However, if you were standing around with twenty strangers and saw this, MOST LIKELY everyone would stand there and ignore it, silently wondering what to do while actually doing nothing, just like the rest of the crowd. This phenomena has been demonstrated many times over, and I feel it exists in this context, too. While most American's are aware of combat wounded coming home, we don't know "what to do" about them. We want to help, but we look to our left and our right, to our neighbors and friends, and we see that they are doing just as we are. They are doing nothing. So there we stand, awkwardly wishing we could do something, perhaps even voicing that something should be done, yet never taking the initiative to do it. We don't do this because we're bad people, we do it because we ARE people. I think people were so willing to help me because they saw in my trip an outlet for their desire to help. I appealed to the masses on my blog, though those who read it were largely "alone" at the moment. Quietly you sat at your computers, reading my adventures, seeing the "little old lady fall down" and alone you decided to help. In my blog, there was no crowd to look at, no one else to draw an initiative from. There was simply me and you, thousands of people all standing alone, ready to help. For all of this I thank you. So now here is what I hope to see. I would love to see people find an outlet for their desire to help. I'm going to leave my blog up and even update it where I can for everyone's entertainment. I'm also going to leave my paypal link up for donations, every penny of which will now go to The Wounded Warrior Project. I also may try to link a few other worthy organizations to this blog in order to present other opportunities to help to those who want to. I know some people only have time to donate, and maybe this will give an outlet for that.

A few other things I'd like to mention... I received quite a bit of mail from my Pisgah trip, both good and bad. Some people were glad I "told it like it was" while others were discouraged that I was so "shallow and sophmoric, and won't make a good doctor" because of it. That said allow me to expound a bit on my beliefs as well as probably anger more people... I mentioned the obesity thing for a few reasons. It's a problem. Period. There is no other way around it, it is an issue that is only getting worse. At 18 years old I had a 38 inch waistline and did what most everyone else I know did. I blamed everybody BUT myself for the problem. That and I downed no less than three bags of peanut M&M's a day along with 4-6 20 oz pepsis. Even after I got in the Army I was still "overweight" by standard, and barely passed the bodyfat test. Then one day I had an epiphany. Maybe if I ate less food and worked harder, I'd be in better shape. No more blaming Mickey-Dees for serving me that burger. No more cursing "my genetics" for being "big-boned" (which actually I'm not... I have the bone structure of a small woman... stupid genetics!) I again faced this issue when I lost my hand. I was in amazing shape at the time of the accident, and I dropped from 215lbs of solid muscle to 168 lbs of not so solid muscle. Then I started the climb back up to 215 lbs of no muscle. I got chubby enough that my underwear band rolled over on itself... I realized that many amputees simple gave up on working out, and accepted that they would no longer be in shape. Not all, but many. Especially upper extremities. Eventually I found out that there was a prosthetic made for weightlifting, and after a bit of self-pity, back to the gym I went. Now I'm back to 195 pounds, can bench press well over 300lbs, and can knock out 25 pull ups and 90 push ups on a good day. I still suck at running, but now it's more to do with my legs going numb from my spinal issues.... Why am I saying all this? To qualify the rest.

I realize that not everyone will or wants to look like a magazine model. However, I also realize that people are allowing themselves to go down a bad road with obesity. When I see children that are maybe ten years old, and they are my weight, SOMETHING is WRONG. Some people will cite genetics, but sadly that is not the case most of the time. The reality is VERY FEW people are genetically unable to maintain a healthy body. Most people just follow that path I was on and blame everything but themselves for it. Anyhow, some people felt that I lacked empathy for voicing my thoughts on this, and poking fun at it. To that I say I must disagree... I am quite empathetic and I try to do all I can to help anyone I know to get themselves to where they want to be. Ask any of my friends and they'll roll their eyes at just how much I try to help. However, as an aspiring physician, while I think empathy is indeed important, I also feel that the ability to be frank about situations is also needed. Too many healthcare professionals turn a blind eye to issues like this out of fear of "offending someone". I come from a family of nurses who can all tell stories of parents who become angry if they or the doctor even hints that junior or themselves might be... oh my word... FAT. While it is a touchy subject, happily it is a CURABLE subject! Some will have to work harder than others, and most would have to make sacrifices, but all can attain the results! Very few other "diseases" can offer that. Finally, as for the "penguin" comment... this IS just a blog, which I have been writing for entertainment value as well as to tell my story. Sometimes something just seems funny, and I go with it. Would I walk up to someone, or even list them by name or picture on here with such a crude comment? No. No, even I am not that mean spirited of a person...

This all brings me to a last point of learning that I can take away from this. I've written a lot, covered a lot of ground, and touched on a lot of subjects. One thing I have certainly learned is that the maxim "you can't make everyone happy" hold true. Some people e-mailed telling me I didn't deserve t call myself a Christian because my stories and my blog didn't bring enough credit to God or His word. On the same day I'd receive mail from people attacking me for mentioning religion, chiding me for "shoving it down their throats." The same held true many of the subjects I mentioned. In the end I responded minimally to any of this because I am not here to argue viewpoints on the Internet. I merely took away for myself the viewpoints of others, both good and bad. Here at the end I offer my view on life. Live it and let it go. If I read something I disagree with, something "offensive", something "ignorant", I take a moment to try to view it from the other side, then I let it go. I don't let it eat at me, and I try not to let it color my view of the issue. Entirely too many people get up in arms over non-issues which simply serve to empower the issue. If you laugh at the "offensive statement", you take away it's power to offend. When you consider the "other sides" position rather than just discrediting it because it disagrees with yours, you make yourself more knowledgeable on your issue. Anyhow, these are just my thoughts, laugh at them if you want...

Well that sums it up for today.... I definitely have more topics I plan to discuss here so no worries, the blog is not yet dead! Alaska merely days away so I hope to provide more entertainment and life experience for your reading enjoyment. Also, still looking into the calendars, so please keep a watch there!!

Finally, The Book. Sadly, I don't think anyone is interested in publishing this, so who knows. I had a number of contacts initially, but most have fallen away, and the few who have responded to me basically voiced that the story "didn't hold the emotion they were hoping for." Loosely translated as far as I can tell, happy stories don't sell like a tragedy does. If you need any more proof of that, buy a newspaper or just turn on the news and see how many "tragedy stories" there are compared to "feel good" stories. That or maybe this thing just kinda sucks.... hehe

Anyhow... stay tuned for more!!

With pictures!


Anonymous said...

We're all glad you made it safely back home. There are a lot of us who want to help in as many ways we can. Some of us do it via a warm meal and a place to sleep, others with a little money to help through, some simply a prayer and kind words.

Everyone has their niche in life. Sometimes it takes us a while to find it. Some of us have to search for it and for others it comes naturally. I found mine a couple of years ago and mine focuses on military/vets/families of those, it's my niche. I get accused of turning my back on "my neighbors." It is then I have to remind people where these folks come from; they are our husbands, brothers, sisters, neighbors, doctors, tellers at the bank and the waiters from our favorite restaurants. My "extended family" spans the globe while my immediate family, for the most part, falls within a four-hour radius of me. Our job as family is to help those who need it. If everyone did the same thing, someone would be left out. It's what makes us what and who we are. It helps us to make sure everyone gets that little bit of something they need.

You are a Hero, whether you consider yourself one or not. Those of us who are part of the military community in some shape, form or fashion, appreciate your sacrifices and admire your tenacity and strength. For those who are not part of the military community, I'm sure you've gained some admiration from them and they, too, appreciate you.

You have touched on a lot of subjects and have shown some of us parts of the country we never would have otherwise seen. I've enjoyed your stories and have smiled with you. My mom has shed a tear or two reading your words and the meanings behind them.

I think you'll do fine as a doctor or something else if you decide to walk another path. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to follow your journey. I'm proud to call you a member of our family. I'm proud to support your brothers and sisters in arms who are still fighting the fight. I'm blessed to have had my life touched in so many ways and consider myself truly blessed to live in our country. Despite the fact we're a divided nation on so many things, at the end of the day we are all the same. Some of us apply ourselves differently and, while it makes us no better than our neighbor, we deserve to relish in our successes and learn from our mistakes. One of our greatest gifts is the ability to make choices. Sometimes I think people forget that. I am reminded of it every DOD report I get of a hero lost. I'm reminded of it when I smoothe my husbands ACUs before I send him off for training (we're a National Guard family). I was reminded of it when I crossed off items on his check list before I sent him off for his first deployment. I'm reminded again as we begin to gather items for his next one.

I'm humbled by all that I have been given; the good and the bad. I enjoy my successes and I learn from my mistakes, but I apologize to no one for choosing the paths I've chosen.

Thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for letting us follow your journey. I wish you had passed through our part of NC, but I know those west of us enjoyed you.

Be safe in your travels and your journeys. Keep your wits about you as you begin this next chapter of your life. I'm confident you will succeed in whatever you do.

Our best to you, always.

The L Family

pjamas said...

Try contacting
I sent them a short email re your trip/blog/book idea.

Mattexian said...

Glad to hear you're back home safe. Rocky's glee at being in his own yard is great too. The only advice I can suggest at using a shovel one-handed might give you bad flashbacks to Basic, if you had done that in the 60's, using an old M-1965 folding shovel. I tend to use mine like a pickaxe, for digging shallow-ish holes.

Sounds like your observations about peoples' natures, good and bad, are spot on. Certainly the "if it bleeds it leads" style of news reporting is nearly everywhere, but I did find one small town in West-Central Texas called Brownwood, that had a "good news on the front page" paper that was a warm-hearted read while I was there just outside of town for my State Guard annual training.

Again, glad you and Rocky made it home.

anita said...

well, i think it would've made a great book!

yours truly said...

I'm glad you and Rocky made it home safely. I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed your outlook on your experiences as you traveled as well as your opinions on various subjects. I enjoyed your stories, too. Best wishes and many blessings!

TheBronze said...


Glad to hear you made it back home with all the pieces you started with.

I enjoyed hearing your comments about what you found out during your travels.

Like you said, you can't make everyone happy. And for those you didn't...

F*ck 'em!

Anonymous said...

Am glad that you got to see that many people do care and do want to help. Yes, it is hard sometimes because I begin to feel does it make a difference, does it matter?
And then you'll get that quick thank you and it DOES matter. So that's enough for me to keep on.

Glad you're back, know you're incredibly busy, but keep in touch, keep us updated. Plus, don't you think Rock needs the attention??

Have fun in Alaska.


Anonymous said...

Glad you home safe.

Good luck in Alaska. I want to see pictures :-)

Do you know how many miles you did in total ?


Malc, England

Anonymous said...

Also forgot to tell you, his picture for this post was so cute. See, if he would do anything bad and then turn that look on you -- awwww.


Miss Em said...


Silly, your were using the wrong tool to dig all those holes. Try RockStar next time. I'm sure that he would be more than glad to dig those holes even where you really don't want them. {snicker, snicker,}

As far as people e-mailing you with their 'ultra do as I say attitude' well you can only graciously say I'll think about it knowing that it won't change your outlook on life.
Let me say that if you change that outlook then it will be because you have improved it for yourself and NO one else. Just like when you decided that you needed to be in better shape before and after you were injured - IT WAS FOR YOU that is why your outlook changed with a lot of hard work and scarifice.

FAT IS FAT. There, I said it and I have the right to say it because my backside is not what it should be and it's is Mostly my fault.

To many sweets
not enough of getting on my feet and move that large backside
down the street
at a very quick pace.

If that hurts any who read my comment then they can do what 'thebronze' said, "Fuck em"

obtw Welcome Home. Glad you got the Bean back without to many stops at the repair shop.
And be sure to turn the sprinkler on for the Rockster to play with once in awhile. AaaaHHHHH! Maybe not because you may have to go buy a new hose.

Siobhon said...

Dear Daniel,

I've been reading your blog since I saw a flier in Vermont. I've wanted to write to you for a long time but felt shy.
I am what some call a bleeding heart liberal so as you can guess I didn't agree with many of your posts of the political sort but you know what? This is your blog and it is not my, or anyone else's place to call you out on your beliefs.
I very much enjoyed reading about your travels and all the people you met and the places you visited and your stories about Rockstar. You are very articulate and I love your self-deprecating sense of humor.

While I do not agree with our reasons for being in Iraq and Afghanistan I do honor those who have served.
Something that I'm very thankful for is while there are many who like me do not agree with our being in Iraq or Afghanistan, and while I know there are people protesting the war, I do believe our returning soldiers are being treated better than the returning Vietnam Vets were. (I could be wrong, I pray I'm not)

Whether I agree or not is not important though. You and all those serving deserve honor, respect and thanks.

I'm glad you got home safely but I'm also sad to see the end of your travels.

I have a suggestion. Maybe you could compile some sort of email list of those who are interested in getting updates to your blog, or at least an update when you start your Alaska trip.

Oh! One more thing! Danial, you are very attractive! Oooohhhh yeah! You make some lucky girl very happy is my guess. ::winky::

Nico said...

I've subscribed to your blog for a short while now, and I love reading it. Glad to hear you'll still be writing updates even though you're home. :)

Andrea said...

I think an email list is a great idea. That way I won't keep checking everyday and find no new posts. :(