Who and Why

Hello, I am JJ ODonnell.  This post is about who and why I am starting this blog.  I have two main reasons for starting it. One I hope this can be a form of therapy for me and hopefully can help others with this blog.  Second is to practice my writing skills.

When I was young I used to like to write.  I would write poems and short stories, unfortunately many of them have been lost in my many moves over the past two decades. Then for some reason I stopped in my early 20’s, most likely I just got to wrapped up in the chaos that was my life for so long.  I have been diagnosed and dealing with Major Depressive Disorder.  I have a hard time finding enjoyment in many things,  I am always tired and I hated myself and others. I have secluded my self in my home, except for work and even that is hard at time and of course the really bad thoughts about myself.

Over the past couple of years I have been trying to get stuff together.  Before that my depression had taken a large toll from me.  I had 2 hernia surgeries in the span of 2 years. My family had moved back home to Minnesota from Florida, where I was still living with my with and step daughter.  This is where I really felt trapped I loved my wife and step daughter, I still do care for them dearly.  I also despised living in Florida  and missed Minnesota so bad.  I ended up moving back to Minnesota and filed for divorce.  She was not a greedy person despite what some people would have you believe.  All she wanted was for me to be happy and get the help that I needed.  The only material thing the divorce took from me was the lawyers and court costs.   I could go on but I will save the rest of the details of my descent in future blog posts.

Fast forward 2 years, In 2014 I here on the internet about this Young woman who stood up to the Taliban in Pakistan so that girls had a right to an education.  Malala Yousafzai’s story stirred something in me.  “With all the death and destruction in this world here is this kid at the age of 15 was shot and came back a couple years later to win the Nobel Peace Prize.”  I said to myself.  ” This young woman can take on a ruthless extremist like the Taliban. Look at me I am almost 40 and have not done?” I asked myself again.  So I decided to make a loose plan to get me on the right track.  What am I good at? What inspires me? And what do I want to do?  I realized I wanted to go back to school to become a teacher, specifically Social Studies.  I also realized I want to try and help people as much as possible.  So, I also want to join the Peace Corp and help out around the world. I also feel if you are going to teach about other cultures I should at least experience a few other cultures than just the American Culture.  This way I can be able to put context into my teaching tool chest.  I also had to get help to battle through my depression and went to the VA.

Which leads me  to here. I just finished up a group counseling class at the VA (Veterans Administration) Hospital here in Minnesota.  The class was called CBSST (Cognitive Behavioural Social Skills Training). In this class we are taught how to think of things in different way using critical thinking skills.  I started this class 3 months before I started back to college, in September of last year.  Now I am About to go into my Third semester of college at the end of August.  I use school as a form of therapy for me.  It is a place where I can exchange ideas with people and become a custom to more social situations.   Instead, of hiding from the world.

I am doing this to learn as much as for therapy.  So if you have constructive criticism it is welcome.  If you have questions or need clarification about anything do not be afraid to ask.

Apologize

I am sorry friends.  I have been busy with my class and have not had much time to write on my blog over the past month.  Things should open up come the middle of July.  I did not realize the intensity of the class until it was to late and I would risk losing my funding for college if I dropped it.  So, I must continue even though I know my grade is going to be the lowest I have gotten since I have started.  I will hope for the best which would be a B and expect the worst a D or F.  I will try my darndest but the instructor is know for driving people to drop his course.  There is such a thing as to much passion.  I will admit i am partly to blame. My mind just can not get around school in the summer and the fact that I need another job to help me.

This class takes up a majority of my time.  So, scheduling is a pain.  I just do not know what to do.

Whats Going On

Well I have finished my first draft of my first assignment last nite.  I just now finished the analysis of the stories I had to read.  They are both due tonight at 11:59.  My first story is the one about my time down in California when I was in the Army.  I was hesitant about doing this piece because it delves into some really personal details I felt needed to be explored.  I wrote about drunken stupers where I could not remember anything, what I consider the my official loss of virginity and explain why I use the term Official.  The road trip I took with sort of friend Sam and the woman I want to get with Angel.

I will be posting this story along with other writing projects I am putting in my portfolio in mid-July.  I do not want to do it now because I don’t want to plagiarize myself and this way I will be forced to take my time to rewrite it as well.

I will be getting out of my house this weekend with my camera to take photos.  I am thinking of starting a survey of the week.  This would be a way for my followers to help keep me on the ball here on my blog.  It would also be a way for me to explore Minnesota to broaden my horizons a bit.  I would look up four different places to go shoot and have you all vote on where you would like to seem my point of view.

By July I should hopefully have my crowdfunding campaign set up for a study abroad trip I was invited to go on.  I have a choice of South Africa or China.  This class is for people going into the Social Sciences, studying diplomacy.  I have never traveled out of the country before except to head up to Vancouver, British Columbia for a weekend.  I was planning on trying to use my scholarship money to take a trip to Australia this past May.  But, as always life likes to kick me in the ballsack and I had to cancel the trip.  I will get to travel to different places around the world though.  This is something I have wanted to do as a kid, though my family could not afford it at the time.  Back then it was Germany I wanted to go to for class.  Now, I that I am in my forties, I want to see the world.

If anyone knows how to set one up a crowdfunding campaign and could help me it would be much appreciated.  I have an idea of what to write and maybe a video for it.  The Issue I have is I have no idea what I could give people as a reward for donating at different levels.  What can a poor man give to those willing to help him achieve a dream?  Please leave a message in the comment if you have any ideas.

Peace be with you my friends.

First Week of Summer Semester

Today is my first day of summer semester at Normandale Community College.  I have one class now, which is Introduction to Creative Writing.  I have another College First Aid and CPR starting in July.  Looking over the syllabus Creative Writing seems like it will be a bit daunting for me.  Time management is something I do need to work on, this class is definitely going to push me to do better.  I will not have this class hurt my GPA, I have yet to get anything less than a B, so far. I will just have to go at this class a bit harder than the others.  This instructor is asking us to open up and push my limits.  This is going to be hard for me, even though on my blog here I am fairly open, I hold myself back.   It has been kind of drilled into me “you have to watch everything you say.  You may offend someone.”  Especially since I want to become a teacher.  So, I never really let loose.

I am always the nice guy, the safe guy.   I do not not want to hurt people’s feelings, therefore I stifle myself.  If I tell a story I don’t want some people getting angry or embarrassed because I share how I remember event.  So, I change their names, of course I do that if I can not remember their names as well, I am horrible with names.

In the first week we have to come up with three options for a creative nonfiction piece.  I was finally able to come up the third this afternoon.   The first one is of my time down at Camp Roberts, California.  This story takes place in the central desert in California, right smack dab in between San Francisco and L.A..  This was basically a coming of age story where I am finding myself, filled with alcohol, sex and an orange Chevy Nova.

The second was about the crazy relationship between me and my ex-wife Liz.  It would go through how we met the issues we had with her family.  The add issue of being a stepfather and dealing with the father of my step daughter.  Also, the good times with the parks we went to and the way we tried to make due in a lower middle class lifestyle.

The third is the is The Morels and Ethics of an Atheist.  This one will be a sort of build off of Me and Religion. This piece explains my personal moral and ethical beliefs and how I came up with them.  This helps my goal show people that Atheists are the same as everyone else we just do not need to believe in a god to be a good person.  Next assignment is due on the 6th.  I should not have a problem getting it done.

Peace Be With You

Normandale TRIO SSS End Of Year Celebration

Tonight was the end of year Celebrations for TRIO SSS at Normandale Community College.  TRIO SSS is for people who are first generation, persons with disabilities and low income students, if you were wondering.  This was our second annual banquet to celebrate the accomplishments of all the awesome people in the program.  We started with dinner and good conversation with our peers.  I just happened to be sitting next to the President of the school Joyce Ester.  She showed us the new motor scooter she had bought, it looked pretty cool, It looked more like a motorcycle than a scooter though.

After dinner the ceremony  started another one of my friends Dee Parker was one of the speakers.  Dee is another really inspirational people who moved up here from New Orleans after Katrina.  We went through the Academic recognitions for the semester.  The categories are as follows:

Roaring Red: 3.0 – 3.49

Roaring Lion: 3.5- 3.99

Lion’s Club: 4.0

I happened to be in the Roaring Lion category for a 3.73 GPA for the semester.  My goal with the VA is to keep a 2.5 or better, My personal goal is to keep a 3.0.  I just keep on surpassing it.  In the fall I was admitted to Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society for 2 year colleges.

The Next Speaker was Ushna Altaf a really funny and crazy Pakistani woman who is full of life and loves to crack jokes with everyone, this was her last semester at Normandale and she will be missed.

Next we had a musical performance of John Lennon’s”Imagine” sung by Sam Dylia.  Even though I have the words to this song memorized, I do not think I could get up and sing it in front of a group of people and he should be commended for  the job he did.

The awards came up directly after the performance, this is where I was filled with shock and amazement. The first three awards were the partner, Champion and Game awards These were given to faculty and staff.  Then we got to the Most Active scholar which was won by Ushna Utaf, her fellow nominees were Yuanyuan Cui and Jackson Code.  The next was the most Persistent Scholar which was won by Jenny Steck.  Her fellow nominees were Chamab Nhel, Dee Parker and Amber Branch.  The Last of the awards was Scholar of the Year won by yours truly JJ ODonnell with my fellow Nominees Amber Branch and Ella Komianvi.  This was a shock to me, I knew I had been nominated for the award but I never thought I would win.  In fact I was actually rooting for Amber or Ella, both of these women are strong, good students and have fought through their share of adversity.  This is not to say I have not; I just thought that one of them should be the winner.  Amber I know the most about she was my peer mentor and is my friend and just a kick ass chick.  Ella I know in passing from when I worked in the diversity center, she was always so cool and very courteous.  She is also the President of the BSA (Black Student Alliance) and participate in numerous other groups and activities.   I was just honored to be nominated.  I was not looking for anything else.

The last performance was by Joe Charley who spoke a riveting poem about being more than just what people see and encouraging people to dive deeper to get to know others of different races and cultures.  It was astounding.

The Keynote Speaker was President Ester who kept her speech short and to the point.  She was also still reeling from the previous speaker.

The closing words were spoken by the Head of Normandale’s chapter of TRIO Frederick MacDonald-Denis, coincidentally he is my advisor till mine gets back from paternity leave, James.

All in All this was a very interesting night for me.  It was a shock to my system I am glad to share some of it with you all.

Peace Be With you all.

Me and Religion

I grew up loosely Catholic.  My parents had me go to my first communion and confession, other than that the only time we went to a church it was for weddings and funerals.  I hated going to church every time I went in one I felt I had done something wrong and they were always so cold.  This was a problem when I was in the Boy Scouts.  If you have been in the scouts you know the laws.  I could follow just about everyone of them except one.

Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, Obedient ( at the time yes, not anymore), Cheerful (I did my best), thrifty, brave and clean were not such a big deal.  The one I had problems with was Reverent.  I got picked on alot when after camp at Tomahawk and did not go to church there.  I left the troop I think it was the fall of 1987.  After that I started looking into other religions the Greek myths, a little Buddhism and cults.   I actually did a paper for myself on the Children Of God cult in South America in the 7th grade.  That was one sick group they allowed for the rape and molestation of children.  I will be honest it this was when I really started to wonder if I believed in a god.  The clincher was when I actually read the Bible for the first time, but that was not until years later.  To this day I still do not know if I actually ever believed in the Christian god or if I was just believing what friends and family wanted to believe.

In 1994 I joined the Army, on my dog tags I had them list my religion as Agnostic.  In Basic training I realized the military was not the life for me.  During the initial dusting my glasses fell off and a drill sergeant, who looked like Sergeant Slaughter, crushed them under his foot as I was doing push-ups.  I had to wait about a week before I could get my “birth control glasses”, these were so named because if you were wearing them you were guaranteed not to get laid.  During the waiting period I could not make things out more than anything more than 30 feet in front of me.  That Sunday morning, which was the only free time we had other than sleep, I went to the Protestant Chapel, I wanted to take comfort from something, I wanted to believe in god at that time.  That was the only time I went to Church in Basic Training.  I did not enter another church until I was in active duty.

This is when I met someone who invited me to their Episcopal Church at Fort Lewis, Washington.  That was an experience to say the least. The Church was off base in what looked like a wooden house painted brown on the outside.  Inside the walls had brown wooden paneling with a pulpit and chairs in two columns and four rows in the front room and a open room on the side.  It seemed like a normal sermon at first then they started speaking in tongues.  They encouraged me to join in and I tried, but I guess i just could not feel the Holy Spirit.  That was so weird to me, I did not understand a single thing going on I just went with it till I got a ride back to the barracks.  This was also about the time I started to realize I was an Atheist, though I stuck with Agnostic because I was worried how others may view me.  I did not enter a church again until my Uncle Butchie’s Funeral in 2001.  I did however read the Bible in between these two church outings.

When I was first starting to read the Bible I saw contradictions within the first two chapters of Genesis, Specifically the order in which the animals and the first man were created.  In Chapter one the animals came first then man, then in chapter two it said that man came first then the animals. Back then this was confusing as hell to me.  Now I understand that the old testament is a bastardization of a multitude of other religions, specifically the Torah of the Jewish faith.  I was able to make it through Genesis just barely with all the who begot who and other stuff.  I eventually made it through it took a long time though.  There is one part in revelations that I used to try and de convert a couple of Mormon Missionaries when they stopped by my dad’s mobile home one day, I was confused on how they were able to justify the book of Mormon when in the Book of Revelations states  in Chapter 22 Verses 18-19 that “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” This did not work but I got to test my knowledge and gave my dad a laugh in the process.  He was in his bedroom when they came over and heard me talking to them for about hour.  He just sat back there watching T.V. and heard me trying to convince them to give up their faith in a polite way.  That was fun.

I remember my uncle because I was homeless living with my ex girlfriend at the time and her parents in their camper, this was also before 9/11 like about a week or so.  A couple of days before I had just gotten off work and sitting in her driveway behind her house and smoking a bowl of some decent pot, I said to myself ” this hit is for you Butchy.” I knew he was not doing well and my cousin b got him some weed so he could eat, his liver was failing and he wanted to eat his favorite food Pizza again before he passed.  The next day after my little salute to my uncle my best friend had taken a message for me that my uncle had died that night.  He had wanted me to be a pallbearer at his funeral, how could I say no to one of my uncle’s dying requests.  So, that weekend I was in the St. Paul Cathedral, I felt awkward as hell going in there even if it was for family, I felt cold shivers down my spine on top of mourning the loss of my uncle.  I made it through though. The next time I would step into a church was when I met my ex wife after chatting with her on line.

We actually met a couple days before that,  Liz (my ex wife) was stuck near me and needed a ride home.  I told her I would help and picked her up and we talked a bit till I got her home.  I agreed to meet her again at her church right down the street from me in Sanford, FL.  I had told her I was “Agnostic and that I normally would not meet at a church”, but I figured I would try the religion thing again.  I went with here a few times when we were dating, I even went as far as almost signing up to the church.  Then I went to the house of the pastor for an introductory meeting.  When I saw this place I could not believe my eyes.  Here this guy is preaching to people who are living modest lives while he and his family were living in a house worth, I would say from $500,000 to $750,000.  This was a beautiful home Beige on the outside with a couple of columns at the front door and a three car garage.  You walk into the house this place had 20 ft vaulted ceilings all 3 kids had their own rooms plus the master.  There was a 10 ft. patio door that you could look out into the backyard, which was not that huge but had a nice view of a pond.  Oh, did I mention this was in I think it was Altamonte Springs, FL in a really nice neighborhood, I guess that goes without saying.  Since then I have not stepped foot in a Christian place of worship.

About 4 years ago I came out as an Atheist to my friends and family on Facebook.  I was tired of hiding who I was for so long.  This stirred up a bit of shit with my mom and her husband Rick, little did they know I had came out to his parents a couple of years before.  They had no problem with it.  Rick unfriended me from Facebook my mom was in denial still thinking I was Agnostic, which I am I do not know if there is a god or not, I just do not believe there is a god.  This does not make me immoral I try to treat people the way I want to be treated do I always do so, No.  Am I perfect, there is no objective perfection, so No.  My Goal in life is to try to help make the world better, not perfect, for future generations.  To help bring peace through understanding of other cultures and religions.  I am not one of those Atheists who say all religions are bad.  Religions are neither bad nor good they are tools to help people.  It is how people use religion that matter.  Some Pray, Some go to Church, most just want to live their lives in peace.  There are those who would and have used religion to subjugate, torture and murder that use religion as a justification for these things.  Most of the people I have met be it Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist have been good people just trying to get by.  Who am I to say what they should or should not believe.  As long as they are not harming anyone who really cares.  Most people in America today hold on to religion as a tradition carried down through there families and will admit they are not sure there is a god or not.  Hell, I met an Evangelical Christian that feel the same way I do about the LGBTQ and Muslim communities.  That they should be able to live their lives the way they want to as long as they are not hurting anyone.  That shocked the shit out of me, I thought we would be battling it out.  He even accepted me which was really cool I thought.

My journey with religion has been long and hard, but it has not ended.  I will be learning more about other religions in the future and hopefully make some friends along the way.  I hope this may help some people understand me better and maybe themselves.  The next time you meet someone who is an Atheist try to remember we are not evil incarnate.  We are people just like you.  We love, we feel pain and we get lonely just like everyone else.  We are each individuals and should be treated as such.

Peace Be with You My Friends, Peace Be with You.

How I Relate to Star Lord

Spoilers

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hit a chord with me that few movies do.  Yes the special effects, explosions, and action were awesome.  The thing that struck me the most was the relationship between Peter Quill (Star Lord), Ego and Yondu.  This hit me because I know the feeling that Peter has about Yondu, the man who raised him, and Ego, his father.  Like peter I grew up not knowing my birth father and like him I imagined my father was someone else.  Where Star Lord his dream father was David Hasselhoff mine was Marc Singer.  More specifically it was the character named Mike Donovan, in the mini series “V” just like Michael Knight from “Knight Rider” for Quill.  My dad though he did not help in making me in the physical sense the did help to create the person I have become today.  Yondu was a lot like my dad in his way, granted he was not a galactic thief, but certain qualities of my dad did filtered down into me.  Some good, some bad I suspect most children end up with these problems.

My father though not a living planet trying to act like god.  Mine from the little contact I have had with him, a total of about 20 phone calls, and what people have told me; he is has schizophrenia and he is very religious.  He also thinks he knows what is best for his son and has a bad temper.  Just like Ego.

It was easy for me to put myself in Peter’s shoes, they were just a different style than mine are.  Though I am still looking for my Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot.

 

My Best Friend

I met him in the Humane Society, when I was with one of my EXs.  We live with her for a awhile then we broke up.  It was most likely my fault, I have just noticed thing about myself.  When I am in an relationship I lose interest about midway through the second month or get to clingy.  I hate when I do that. I think we made it to 5 months which back then I think was my record.  Boo (my dog) came with me when I left.  I stayed with my mom and her husband for a bit.  Then found a place in about 6 months.  It was an ok place, nothing that spectacular that is for sure.  It was rustic brown single story apartments.  Within about 3 months after I move in I start dating Julia.  She was tall taller than me, and I am 6ft, and blond.  She was also going to beauty school, and teaching there as well.   This lasted about a month.  Then about 2 weeks later I met my now ex-wife.  She was living with her family and was looking for a place.

As fortune may have it the unit right next to mine was open.  She took care of Boo while I was at work. She worked from home and she had a kid from a previous marriage.  6 months later we move into a 2 bedroom