Moms Love Their Marines: Letter 5–God and B. F. Skinner

Phone, You're Breakin' This Mother's Heart

Another letter sent to my Marine son when he was stationed in Iraq–slightly edited so that he won’t hunt me down and kill me when I reveal what his favorite Barney song was.  If you like order in all things, you can get to the first letter, here.
Dear Justin,

Thank you for the CD.  I enjoyed the picture of you the most.

Loved the Photo, But...Maybe It's Just Me Being a Mom:  Don't These Boys  Look Too Young to Be Soldiers?

Was happy that you remembered Mother’s Day over there, but of course disappointed to miss your call that day–yet again!   Jonah had taken me to the movies for half of his gift, and we had our phones turned off.  (This was the third missed call in a row.  Not to put to grim a point on it, but any call could be our last.  Military moms out there?  You know how I felt.)
Your living quarters, in the tents and now, are actually better than what I’d imagined.  Looks like if you go on to college, you can skip the whole dorm and fraternity thing, ’cause you will have been living it.   All but the panty raids.  (I hope.)

Scots Guards in Iraq, Not U.S. Marines, But Similar Quarters to Justin's Shipping Container (Daily Mail)

Regarding what we spoke of, when we finally spoke–whether people can change their behaviors in the same trigger situations:  Yes.

(I guess Justin had been feeling the same doubts we all feel–that we are condemned to repeat our mistakes.  I wonder if it was solely a young person’s normal questioning, or if being in one of a series of ill-planned and executed wars had anything to do with that?)

  • 1. Behavior therapy[1]  has been effective at this–much more so than the once-common psychoanalysis sessions (duh).
  • 2. Spousal abusers and other physical aggressors who express a desire to change have been successful in many cases, learning to recognize what triggers them and to respond differently.
  • Learning How to Respond With Different Words Is the First Step

  • 3. UCLA‘s behavior modification social-skills training for kids with Asperger’s is supposed to be highly effective.
  • 4. People who keep “happy thoughts” diaries (a.k.a. “gratitude journals) are typically proven to modify their outlook and behaviors.  They are supposed to write only the good things that they experience or see each day.

    That Doesn't Mean We Sit Around Watching Cute Kittehs All Day

    And it doesn’t mean we “avoid negative people”, either–at least, not all the time.  Whoever started that unchristian attitude should experience a year of no job, poor health, severe depression, and then have it seasoned with a rich dose of that same lack of a shoulder to cry on that they wished on others.

    I’m supposed to be keeping a happy diary, but never remember to.  However, I do now often do it mentally, making an effort to note anything nice, no matter how small—a nice breeze, someone smiling at me, a good smell[2], light traffic, etc. You might try that, even over there.

    Nice I-Phone App, But Drop the Stars--Why Point Out the "Not So Good" Days?

    Regarding that other thing we discussed: 

    (If reading about prayer bores–or angers?–you, by all means, you may wish to scroll to References)

    When praying is hard for me, it’s because I feel lazy, I don’t want to do the work, my faith is feeling low, I feel guilty and don’t want to face God, etc., etc.  Lots of reasons not to pray.  The one thing I’ve found works the best, tho’ not all the time, is to make myself say SOMEthing to God when I wake up.  Something short and sweet, like “Thank you for another day–please help me do something worthwhile today.”  If that’s all I manage, great.  Better than nothing.  For me, I usually try to say a quick prayer for people in terrible pain, as well.

    Just Another Day

    Am attaching the whole prayer I sometimes read in the mornings.  Actually, when I do say the entire thing, and think about the content as I’m saying it (mentally saying it), and do this for days in a row, my life always has improved [3], and that makes it really really really stupid that I don’t stick to it every day.

    I love you.

    Love, Mom

    P.S.  My dental student is Iraqi-American and says that the U.S. would never abandon Iraqis by entirely withdrawing, like we did to the South Vietnamese.  I felt so sad when he told me that.  (because he didn’t know how bad we can be).

    Prayers for Ten Fingers:  Five Thank-Yous, Five Pleases to God

    Ten Fingers

    Yes, I actually touch my fingertips together and say a “thank-you” on one finger, and then the corresponding “please” on the opposing finger.  It’s nice, because I always have my hands with me, but it’s bad, because that takes away my excuse not to give God a measly fifteen minutes out of each day.

    (I included the prayer in my letter to Justin, but not in this post, because you folk probably have your own prayers, if you pray.)


    [1] For a crystal-clear layperson’s definition and description of behaviorism, see here.  When I see the word, besides Pavlov’s drooling dog (that’s an adorable game, that link) and Skinner’s pecking pigeons (vid below), I’ve always thought of  ole’ B.F. experimenting on his own daughter just like on one of his pigeons, even keeping her inside a box.  Thank goodness I decided to check out Snopes and have finally been set straight! Skinner was a fine ole’ Dad. (But a dry ole’ speaker–my gosh! The video’s pigeons are far more interesting than the man. His content is okay, but his delivery–yikes! If only he’d used something to spice it up–like pigeon puppets!)

    [2] I am grateful to God every day for this: Oh my gosh, does anyone else, when they stick their nose deep into a Starbucks bag of Columbia roast and sniff deeply, oh, so very deeply, and again, and pull those heady, intoxicating vapors up into their whole being…

    Nasal Nectar From the Gods

    …well, for me, it is almost orgasmic–I mean literally almost orgasmic.  This is the best part of every morning–and will continue to be, until that glorious day Denzel leaves his wife and wakes up next to me (without cringing, that is).


    "Mmp-mmp-mmph. You'd Best Not Be Covetin' There, Missie!"

    Even better than drinking the liquid coffee (not that drinking it isn’t also a wonderful and essential part of my day).  Thank you, God, for Starbucks Columbia coffee, medium grind, for the pleasure I derive from smelling it–and for my oversized nose.  (But Denzel, you know I’d get it fixed, for YOU.) [4]

    [3] It is scary that prayer works–that a big, powerful God really listens to us–would that imply that we own a share of the responsibility for the bad in this world not getting better when we don’t pray?  (That is not only too scary to think about, but too egotistical and god-like…)

    [4] I’m sorry, Ms. Washington.   I didn’t mean it.  Clearly it’s the flesh that is willing and this Babe’s spirit that could use some work.

    [5] The Venn diagram is from the comics side of the  Daily Dot.
    2013/11/27–Copied the paean to Starbucks Columbia coffee over to the mommy blog “The Last Half”, in tribute to Thanksgiving, since no one has read this blog and it is only going to waste here.
    Next letter, please. (Thank you.)

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