Getting Away With Murder

[I have been waiting to post on this for a while because I have been trying to assess my own feelings about it.  A new revelation was brought about this morning, and it really helped me to solidify how I felt.  I hope I don’t offend anyone because that is the furthest thing from my intention.  If I do, I apologize up front, and sincerely hope you will leave a comment expressing your own point of view- We all have our own.  This is mine]:

How silly is this Stand Your Ground Law in Florida?  Does this make sense to anyone?

Don’t get it twisted-  If someone entered my house intrusively, or threatened my children physically, the claws are comin’ out, and Momma Bear is coming after you.  I would do WHATEVER it took to protect and defend.  
But this law does not deter murders from happening and it does not ward off criminals.  No.  It does the complete opposite!  It encourages violence, promotes conflict, intensifies fear and paranoia, 
and allows for misinterpreted “threats” to turn into a tragic and senseless murders.
Treyvon Martin’s murder was a total tragedy; awful in every way.  But was it the racially driven hate crime that it has been made out to be?
This would be a tragedy regardless of race, age, gender or  sexual orientation, would it not? 

He is a person.  He could be MY son.
The real issues here are:
* the total neglect shown to the victim’s side of the story,
* the utter ignorance of the police department to do a comprehensive investigation,
* and the LAW itself, which states:  
(a) person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death...”

These are the REAL tragedies.  We’re doing ourselves (and Treyvon) a disservice by classifying this as a racially charged event.  
This is a HUMAN event!

What’s even more unfortunate is how the media has manipulated the situation:
The Today Show edited the 911 transcript to fit a particular angle.
They spun the story.  They doused an existing fire with kerosine.

Here is how NBC handled the 911 call:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

Here is how the 911 call ACTUALLY went:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy – is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.”

 Look at what effect the media has had on this. 
Zimmerman only mentioned Treyvon’s race when he was asked by the dispatcher.

Today Show– HOW could you do this?  Why?  Do you know how heavily you contributed to the problem?   
Are we in LA LA LAND??? 

The saddest part of this whole thing is that there is a life lost

I would love to see this Zimmerman dude arrested and face a jury of his peers.  I would love to see him charged with murder and have his guilt or innocence determined by a fair and thorough trial process.

I see people using this awful event as an excuse for hate, for more disagreement, for unnecessary outrage.  That’s not what Treyvon deserves.  He deserves more than that.

Treyvon should be a symbol of something much more beautiful, much more profound.  We should be injecting LOVE into the core of this situation.  We should be honoring him by bringing to light the actual events that took place, and we should be honoring him by bringing him justice.

Race is not the issue here.
In fact, I believe it is taking away from the real issue:
A legal system that allows people to get away with MURDER.

This should not be about ME and YOU.  Or ME against YOU.  Or YOU against THEM.  This should be about one thing:  Justice.

Note: I am not insensitive to the fact that hate crimes happen.  My views in this blog post pertain specifically to this situation, and do not fully reflect how I view racial issues or hate crimes in a general sense.  These are complicated social and human issues, and I am in no way condoning, dismissing, or making light of them. 



Last Minute Party Planner

So Liam’s birthday party is three weeks away (less than), and I have been tossed/shoved into the role of “party-planner.”  Not that I mind planning parties…
About 2 months ago, a deal came through on Living Social that I could not resist:  A voucher for half off of a themed birthday party through the local company Oogles and Googles.  I did a little bit of research on it, including reading some reviews, and it seemed like a GREAT deal- $150 for 2 hours of party activities designed around a chosen theme (costumes included), a coordinated birthday cake, and customized invitations and thank-you cards.  In my area, you can’t book a Chuck-E-Cheese party for less that $300.  
So I bought the voucher, thinking it was the perfect scenario.  
I was in contact with the woman who plans these parties, and she seemed to be really competent.  She took all of my information, asked important questions, gave honest answers, and told me she would have my invitations to me within 2-3 weeks so I could get them out to Liam’s guests as soon as possible.
It’s been 6 weeks, and guess who doesn’t have the invitations that were promised to her?  THIS GIRL!
So I have reached out to her and asked for told her I would not rest until I got my money back.  I was nice enough about it, but at the same time, I’m not letting go of that money, honey.  
As of today, I still have not heard back from her.  
Needless to say, I DO NOT recommend this company.  What a shame.
Money aside, (and trust me lady, I’m coming to get ya), I still have a birthday party to plan.  In less than 3 weeks.  With a budget MINUS $150.  Which means one thing… it’s time to DIY.
The theme is a “Superhero” party, so my initial thought was to have the kids make masks and capes.  But the more I consider that, I think it would take too long. 

So instead, they will be making their own masks, and I will be making a personalized cape for each kid before the party.

Pinterest via Apartment Therapy
How CUTE is this idea?
I definitely have my work cut out for me, but I am always up for a creative challenge.  
Any other ideas for a Superhero party for 4-year-olds?  Games?  Activities?  Food?
Any insight would be awesome!
Happy Tuesday, Friends!

Constant Liam

He is in the 90th percentile for his height and the 75th percentile for weight; a big boy!!  He’s hoping that will help him make it big time in pro football someday (any team but the Steelers), but he knows that it is just as impressive (and necessary) to be smart, too.

Just a wittle baby
He is the best dancer on this side of the Mississippi, and he has a great instinct for music.  His singing voice is awesome, and even if he doesn’t quite know all the words to a song, he still gives it his all. 
I so admire his enthusiasm and passion.

Gerber Baby
He has very strong muscles… biceps, calves, abs… and he knows how to show them off too. 
 Soon, he’ll be so strong that he’ll be winning wrestling matches against his Daddy on a regular basis, while I sit by and cheer/laugh/peemypants.  He’s funny too (hysterical, actually), and he loves to be the center of attention.

Being goofy with Dad
His head must be holding one of the biggest brains ever to exist.  That’s how smart he is!  And let me tell you a little secret: He’s only going to get smarter….
He can count to 100 and he’s already learning how to read.

Luckiest Momma on Earth
But those are just the basics to this guy.  Oh yes, he is far more dynamic than his muscles and good looks.  His gifts are felt… not seen.
He sees beauty in people and places.

Handsome Boy
He is kind to those who need kindness, as if he can smell their sadness.
He loves to make people feel good… just because.

Angel Face
He remembers to consider how people feel, 
and he has the uncanny ability to put himself in other people’s shoes.  
He shows sympathy, and he has empathy pumping through his veins… innately.

BIG smiles!!!
He KNOWS himself, and what’s even cooler is that he loves himself, 
And this rubs off on those around him. 
I hope he keeps that… there’s no reason to ever let that go.

Loving life!
He’s a dreamer, and he’s not afraid to dream big.  
He knows what fairness is, and not only does he give it freely and equally, 
but he expects it in return… because he knows he deserves it.

He is the BEST brother in the whole world.  
He cherishes his family and friends, and knows what a true relationship looks like.

Holding his baby brother for the first time
He exudes pure joy and patience for and to everyone he knows.
 He’s a lover boy. 
He is pure brilliance.

Loving on Collin
He is my son.
I could not be more proud of him, and I love everything about him.

This is constant Liam
Constant Liam-
I could never have imagined that my son would be my greatest teacher.  
I never thought it was possible to have so much love for one person.
But it is more than possible… it is my reality. 
You have taught me forgiveness, 
honesty, gentleness, 
simplicity, sincerity,
and so much more.
You continue to teach me daily.
  Thank you for unknowingly 
setting such an amazing example for me.
I fully believe you are a living angel, 
and when I look at you, 
when I hold your hand, 
when I hug and kiss you, 
I hope you feel fully loved.
Because my dear, you are.

Stay steady, Constant Liam.  
Happy Birthday!!!
I love you-

Friday’s Letters: 5.0

 DEAR LOTTERY GODS AND GODDESSES:  Please.  Just please.  And if not me, then someone I know well.  And if not them, then make sure whoever gets it does good with it.  But really.  Pick me!!!  Please?
Dear Dad:  Thank you for buying and sending me a copy of “The 5 Love Languages.”  I have been wanting to read this book for a couple years, and now I have it in my grips.  I’m ready to learn, as always.
Dear Liam:  Thank you for petting my hair this morning on my way out of the door and telling me: 
“I’m going to be four soon, and I’m getting bigger.  But I will always be your Bubba.”  
Seriously, could you be anymore amazing? 

So as a side note:  This was prompted by the “you’re not allowed to get any older” game that my friend Bri and I play with him.  I was making dinner last night, and I said that I was going to cry on his birthday (just joking with him), and he says: “No you won’t.  You’re going to have a cupcake.  And chips.  And that will make you happy.”  I wish you could all know him personally.  This kid is something special.

Dear Collin:  Thank you for choosing “Momma” as your first “kind of” word.  We’ll keep practicing.  😉
Dear Ray:  Watching you push through this week has been nothing short of admirable.  I know how much Jewel means to you, and she will always always always be with you.  Her sweet spirit will carry on in your actions and in the love you give to others.  She was one of most precious doggies I have had the pleasure of petting, and I will certainly miss her dearly, as well.  
Jewely Jewel
 Dear bladder:  Any way that we could strike some sort of a deal where you didn’t harass me every 20 minutes?  I’ve got work to do.  kthanks.
Dear semester:  I will not be sad to see you go in 5 weeks.  But I have learned a lot… including things about myself.  
Dear work:  You have kicked my ASS this week.  My blood pressure is up, my stress level is through the roof, my body is tense.  I am so glad that next week we’ll have our trusty sidekick Ellen Bo Bellen back in the office with us.  Aren’t you, work?
….and finally…. 

Dear Brenny:  If we win the lottery, let’s not lose ourselves.  Let’s stay true to our values.  Let’s continue to show our boys what hard work and sacrifice looks like, and what selflessness means.  Let’s go on a trip together.  Just me and you.  Let’s open the cafe we have always talked about.  Let’s still shop at Target.  Let’s be us, because no one will ever do that for us.
Linking up with Ashley for Friday’s Letters!  Check her out! 🙂 

Dear Friends:  What would you do with 540 million dollars?  
Wishing you lots of luck in winning the Megamillions jackpot, and wishing you all a fabulous weekend!

On Bullying

It’s not easy to be thrown into the social and educational demands of adolescence.  
It’s not easy trying to figure out the complexities and confusions of an evolving body and mind.
It’s not easy to have braces, or acne, or a unibrow.
It’s not easy to be the subject of ridicule when all you really want is to be accepted.
It’s not easy to get to know yourself.
Growing up is tough.  

Today’s post serves a dual purpose. 
I already had a post in mind on bullying and have been drafting its genius for a while now.
Earlier this afternoon, I came across this cute post, from a blog I found a few weeks back, and in it Torie is linking up with Chelsea at Life is a Sunset. 
She does a series called “Journey Forward” and it’s all about self-empowerment and motivation and setting healthy goals and happiness. 
Right up my ally.  Have to participate.
So in Journey Forward, you pick a word that means something to you on your path to self-discovery.   

Obviously my word is kindness.  

This week, the series is focusing on role models.  I will get to mine a little later.  
Let me first say a few words about my original thought for this post: 
I was bullied as a kid.  I remember how awful it made me feel to be publicly humiliated during a time when I was trying to figure myself out.  It was a setback, honestly.  The more I was picked on about things that were totally out of my control, the further away it pushed me from knowing my true self.
It has taken me a long time to work through the residual effects of being picked on as a kid, and I have realized:
Meanness is a sick disease.  It damages.  It destroys.  It hurts.  And sometimes, it kills.  Much like some of the more serious illnesses threatening human beings, there doesn’t seem to be any cure for meanness.  It hasn’t been studied enough to identify solutions.  
Meanness fosters meanness.  Hate fosters hate.  You cannot combat a bully by being a bully back.  We cannot find a solution for this threat by being hateful in return.  We can only love, and care, and forgive, and be kind.
Ray Rice is a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, and he is a role model on and off the field.  On his Facebook page today, he reminded us all of the difference between right and wrong:
“I want to say something to the kids out there: Bullying is a BIG deal. It is NEVER acceptable and you may be causing a lot of damage to another person. If you don’t want to be friends with someone, then you don’t have to…but there is NO NEED to gang up on that person, tease or insult them. The consequences of hate can be devastating. You can be a HERO to someone who is being bullied, just by being their friend. Parents: Have a SERIOUS talk with your kids! Whether you think they are involved in bullying or not, they DO see it! Encourage your child to be a kind person and reach out to a kid who needs a friend!”
 -Ray Rice
I am so touched by his words, and by his sprirt.  Here is a man who makes millions and millions and could spend his time and energy doing countless other things.  And yet, he’s on Facebook, trying to spread a loving and inspirational message.
This is exactly what I am trying to instill in my sons: The importance of kindness and fairness.  
Thank you Ray Rice, for being such a role model for young kids out there who are struggling with this issue in one way or another.  With someone of your celebrity and humility, people are SURE to listen.  I know I am.

If you would, watch the trailer below for the movie Bully (2012), and if it moves you, click here to bring it to your city.  


Kindness is: Flushing the Toilet

Warning:  This post contains the word “poop” in several instances, and could possibly bring about a nauseating sensation.  
Reader discretion is advised.
Ladies, ladies, ladies.
What is WRONG with some percentage of the female population?  Why must we behave so poorly in an already uncomfortable situation?  
I hate public restrooms as much as the next chick, and I hate the fact that I need them.  
Yes, in fact, we all need them.  No one can go all day, everyday without “the urge” overtaking the strength of their bladder (or sphincter– love that word).  
When ya gotta go, ya gotta go.  
Am I right, or am I right?
The problem I have is this:
Not everyone goes to the bathroom with the same amount of grace and dignity that I personally try to demonstrate, whether at home or in public.  
I mean, let’s just start with washing your hands when you’re done with your business.  Is this not considered important any longer?  Is it just acceptable and not-digusting-at-all to finish up and touch surfaces with your germy hands?
Moving on… I realize that some of us would rather be “the squatter” than use seat protectors- they are loud, and crinkly, and totally pointless anyway.  But… if you’re a squatter and mess up the seat beneath you, is it not in MY best interest that you clean up your nasty pee from the seat so that I don’t have to worry about accidentally sitting on it when it soaks through my previously mentioned pointless seat protector?  Toilet paper serves many, many purposes, ladies.  Let’s get creative… and sanitary?  please.
It gets to a whole other level of sofouligaggedjustthinkingaboutit when poop comes into play.  
First of all, I get it.  The bottom line here, folks, is that everybody poops.  (that’s right men- we poop just like you!!!).  But could we all just agree to be respectful of each other?  
Here are some things that I think would help in poopy situations:
The Courtesy Flush:  I am a HUGE fan of this one.  Not only do I believe in sparing my stall-neighbor, but I don’t wanna smell your doo either.  Just a quick, fair flush.
The Double/Triple/HoweverManyTimesItTakesToGoDown Flush:  Don’t just leave your doo in the toilet for me to stumble upon.  Take care of your own shit, literally.
The Once Over:  Let’s all just make sure that our poo, in its entirety, makes it INTO the toilet bowl.  Not onto the seat, not on the wall or floor.  We’re not animals here, are we?  ARE WE?
And lastly, please, no grunting.
Hilarious via one of my favorite websites
Okay… well that felt good to get off my chest.
I’m sorry for the sofouligaggedjustthinkingaboutit post, and I apologize if it offended anyone. 
But I was inspired in a not-so-good way earlier today
when I was the unsuspecting victim of another woman’s disgustingness.
Thoughts?  Reactions?  Have you ever felt this way?  TMI?
Have a GREAT rest of the day, and may the Poop Gods be in your favor.

A(nother) Favorite Song: Part of Me

I remember Katy Perry debuting this song at the 2012 Grammy’s, and I remember begin all school-girl giddy about it.  Great song, great performance.
A week ago, she released her music video for Part of Me, aaaaaaaand it rocks my sock.  So here ya go!!  
Days like this I want to drive away
Pack my bags and watch your shadow fade
You chewed me up and spit me out
Like I was poison in your mouth
You took my light, you drained me down
That was then and this is now
Now look at me

This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
Throw your sticks and stones
Throw your bombs and your blows
But you’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no

I just wanna throw my phone away
Find out who is really there for me
‘Cause you ripped me off, your love was cheap
Was always tearing at the seams
I fell deep and you let me drown
But that was then and this is now
Now look at me

This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
Throw your sticks and stones

Throw your bombs and your blows
But you’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no

Now look at me, I’m sparkling
A firework, a dancing flame
You won’t ever put me out again
I’m glowing, oh woah oh
So you can keep the diamond ring
It don’t mean nothing anyway
In fact you can keep everything
Yeah, yeah
Except for me

This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no (away from me)
Throw your sticks and stones
Throw your bombs and your blows
But you’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no

This is the part of me, no, (away from me)
This is the part of me, me, me, me, me, me, no
Throw your sticks and stones
Throw your bombs and your blows
But you’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no

Feel the power?!  OOOO RAH!!!

PS- My little Liam turns 4 on Monday… be prepared for a sappy post in honor of him  🙂


A Favorite Song: Be Here Now

Hey y’all!  So sorry I was post-less yesterday.  I take classes on Tuesday evenings, and was scrambling all day to do work and homework simultaneously in preparation.  Unfortunately, the ol’ blog took a backseat.
Wednesday’s have become a musical day here at Smile at a Stranger.  And today, I have two songs that I simply cannot choose between.  
This first one is brought to you by Ray LaMontagne, and it is just beautiful.  
Don’t let your mind get weary
And confused your will be still, don’t try
Don’t let your heart get heavy
Child, inside you there’s a strength that lies

Don’t let your soul get lonely
Child, it’s only time, it will go by
Don’t look for love in faces, places
It’s in you that’s where you’ll find kindness

Be here now, be here now
Be, be here now, be here now

Don’t lose your faith in me
And I will try not to lose faith in you
Don’t put your trust in walls
‘Cause walls will only crush you when they fall

Be, be here now, be here now
Be, be here now, be here now

I hope you enjoyed this, especially if you had never heard it before.  His voice is magic. 
Happy Wednesday!


[in Photos]: My Low-Key Weekend

Hub works every Saturday, so I have the entire day with my boys.  We usually get out of the house, because contrary to what some might think, it’s actually a harder day to manage at home.  I would much rather be out and about, letting Liam run himself crazy at a park somewhere, getting our shopping done, giving Collin a chance to nap (because he won’t at home… I mean, why would he?)

But not this weekend.  This weekend, it rained.   This forced me to STAY HOME!  And not spend money.  And instead, spend time on the couch with my babies, watching Disney movies, eating popcorn, drinking soda and dozing when I felt like it.  Saturday with my boys was so low-key and so very perfect.
Here are some of the things that made my weekend special:

Kony 2012 poster on campus.  It’s starting.
Baby kissy faces
Another amazing car that I want.  Right now.
These little ditties that I made the same night I pinned them .
My zexy hub
My family!!  This is Ray and Bri, who are affectionately known at Uncle Ray and Auntie B.  Like I said, family.
If these three pictures don’t make you smile, I don’t know what will….
His eyes…. are INCREDIBLE!

So proud of himself!
Sqeeeeeaky clean!

Sunday Dinner– Open-Faced Steak Sandwiches via Rachael Ray
Because who doesn’t have their own personalized ice cream bowl that they’ve had for the last 15 years of their life?
I have a leeeeeeetle obsession….
Whatever you did this weekend, I hope it was perfection!!



Friday’s Letters: 4.0

Well, well, well Friday–  We meet again.  What do you say we go somewhere we can have a little privacy, just me and you.  It’s just that I’ve missed you terribly….
What a hellish week this has been you guys.  HELLISH.  I mean, I am still smiling, don’t get me wrong.  But I have been on the verge of a panic attack for about 3 days now.   
Wine helped.

That said… let’s play Friday’s Letters with the adorable Ashley at Adventure’s of Newlyweds and all of her bloggie friends!  My fav link-up!
Dear Person Who Hit My Car When I Wasn’t in it (again) and Cracked my front Bumper and Chose Not to Leave a Note (again)–  What the eff, man?  Really?  I drive a Scion xD… one of the smallest cars on the road.  How hard is it to avoid hitting my car?!
Dear Ruby- Next time someone hits you and I am not there… jot down a quick description of the culprit, would ya?  kthanks!
Dear Tick that Bit my Son in the Most Awkward Spot Ever– Shame on you!  How DARE you bite my son and suck his blood.  Don’t you know how precious he is?  You better be glad he doesn’t have an infection from your nasty self, cause if he did, you’d be toast Mister!  Well… you are toast any way, but you get the drift.
Dear Aunt Flow– Just get it over with already…. this PMS thing is really cramping my style, literally.
Dear Hub– Can you see the little hearts floating out of my eyes when I look at you? [sigh] I just LOVE you!
Dear Raymond Ray Ray Rizzle Carey-We are here for you however you need us to be.  Just know we are thinking of you and sending you all the love and strength and HUGS we can muster.  
Dear Football Season–  Hurry up and get here!!!!  Sunday isn’t as fun without you!!!
Dear Liam and Collin–  Who loves ya?  🙂
Dear Friends–  Happy Weekend to you all.  I hope that everyone gets exactly what they need out of Saturday and Sunday!

I’m hoping this weekend will shift me back into Miss Happy Pants. 🙂

To link up with Ashley, click the button!!