Monthly Archives: May 2017

Memorial Day, a Day of Rememberance

Repost from last Memorial Day – sorry for the repeat, but I’m a bit under the weather and these thoughts are still relevant as they were last year. I’ll be back up to speed next week. 

Please don’t wish me a happy Memorial Day. Please don’t thank me for my service today. Today isn’t about celebrating the first weekend of the Summer season, backyard barbecues, or fantastic deals at the mall. Today is a memorial service, a funeral of sorts.

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Let me explain.

Today, I went to the Victorville Memorial Park as requested by my American Legion post to participate in the Memorial Day ceremony. While waiting for it to begin, I had a conversation with Rene De La Cruz, a reporter for the Victor Valley Daily Press. We discussed the meaning of the day and the “celebrations” we saw, and frankly, we found it a little disturbing.

We have three holidays to honor our military. Veteran’s Day, a day of giving thanks and honor to those who have served during all of the wars and conflicts. Armed Forces’ Day, a day to celebrate and encourage those currently on active duty, a holiday that is largely forgotten. And Memorial Day, a day to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate price and gave their life in service to us, the people of the United States of America.

Memorial Day came out of the Civil War. General John Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, gave this order: “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

He called it Decoration Day and chose the date because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle. And at the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield (and future President) gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery. That day 5,000 came to decorate the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

The day became alternately known as both Decoration Day and Memorial Day, the name was not official until 1968. It was fixed to the last Monday in May, rather than the 30th, in 1971.

Okay, history lesson over.

For me, Memorial Day is a somber day. A day I approach with a tear in my eye and a heavy heart.

I remember as a child, there were friends whose fathers, uncles and older brothers didn’t come home from Vietnam.

I remember friends and colleagues that didn’t come home from Desert Storm, during my time on active duty.

I remember friends whose sons and daughters, brother and sisters, wives and husbands haven’t come home from the current conflicts.

I remember my great-grandfathers, who served in World War I. Great-grandpa Kimball, my maternal grandmother’s father, never made it home, he was one of the many soldiers and sailors who died in the flu pandemic at the end of war. He died and was buried at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia (His last “duty station” was my first.) Great-grandpa Nelson, my maternal grandmother’s step-father, was a shipmate of Great-grandpa Kimball’s and told wonderful stories about him.

Great-grandpa Nelson, “Gramps” as we called him, loved it when we would recite poems to him. In Flander’s Field by John McCrea, was a favorite of his. I memorized it and recited at a school Memorial Day assembly when I was in junior high school.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872 – 1918) Canadian Army Medical Corp

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place: and in the sky

The larks still bravely singing fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved: and now we lie

In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe

To you, from failing hands, we throw

The torch: be yours to hold it high

If ye break faith with us who die,

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields

Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915, during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

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On this day, remember those you gave the greatest measure and sacrificed themselves so you can spend the day sunning yourself on the beach, go to the mall and live your life without fear.

Until next time, remember – the door is always open, and the kettle is always on.

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Not a Mom, but I do Mother

Today is Mother’s Day, my least favorite day of the year.

I often go out of my way to stay home on the second Sunday in May. The reason being I get asked the same two questions every year, not just by strangers but by friends who should already know the answers.

  • What did you do for your mom for Mother’s Day? Nothing, given she died 21 years ago this November. The most I can do is go put flowers on her niche. I will always miss my mom.
  • What did your kids do for you this morning? Nothing, I have no children unless you count the ones with four legs and fur.
Furbabies

Argos and Rowdy Girl, my furbabies.

Cheryl Lacey Donovan wrote in her book The Ministry of Motherhood that “Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are.”

But the truth be told, as an educator (both public schools and Sunday School) and a Girl Scout leader, I have mothered a lot of children.

You don’t have to give birth to be a “Mom.” I have many friends who have fostered, adopted, or been step-mothers. This doesn’t make you any less of a mother. What makes you a mother is loving a child unconditionally through life’s bumps and turns.

If you’re lucky like me, you’ll have a few who will bestow upon you the title “Other Mother” or “Auntie.”

One young man, who still calls me Auntie, had the staff at the high school convinced I was his real aunt. This backfired on him, when he was in trouble instead of calling home they threatened him with calling me. I’d give him an earful, and when he got home, he’d get it a second time.

Another young man, broke my heart when he told me, “You’ve been a better mom, than my own mom.” It was a bittersweet moment, in that I was glad I was there for him, but I understood what he meant.

The students who belong to the writing club I sponsor at the high schools often look to me to be a mom/auntie. Sometimes I forget that then a mom tells me, “Thank you so much for being such an important mother figure in my girls’ life!” It makes the hassles of paperwork, scheduling, and fundraising worth it.

Then there are my “mini-me” girls, who are now taller than me.

I’ve known Erin since she was six and she was in my Sunday School class. Her mom and I came to be “sisters.” When I’ve taken her places, even with you mom with us, people thought she was my daughter as her coloring and build are more like mine than her tall, dark mother. Through the years I have been a teacher, Girl Scout leader, and friend. She’s in high school now and doesn’t need me that much anymore, but that’s okay, I can still make her roll her eyes at my dumb jokes.

My other mini-me, Jessica, is another that looks more like me than her own mother. We met in the beginning orchestra of the local community college when she was ten. We both were learning to play the cello. She was this cute little thing whose toes barely touched the floor when she sat to play. Now in high school, her playing makes me sound like I’m still very much a beginner.

Erin and Jessica are the same age. They attend the same high school. They are best friends, and it’s my fault.

What is funny is neither of them remembered when they first met. I introduced them one afternoon when I had a Christmas cooking baking party with them and Jessica’s siblings. I had four children – Erin (11), Jessica (11), Kaylee (10), and Derrick (10) – in my small kitchen baking cookies. The kitchen was a mess, the cookies were impressive works of art, and they were happy, giggly kids.

 

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Jessica, Me, and Erin

I love “my kids” and don’t you mess with them. I can be a fierce mama bear and will defend my cubs as quickly as their real mothers would.

The world is full of both wonderful women and men, who care for children, guiding and mentoring them. Just because they didn’t give birth to these children does mean they care any less than their parents do.

Let me wish you, the mothering non-moms out there, a “Happy Mother’s Day.” You too make a difference in the lives of the children. And though you may never be told “Thank You,” it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Until next time . . .

The door is always open, and the kettle is always on.

 

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The Wolf and the Butterfly

Once upon a time, in the dark forests of eastern Europe, there was a creature that changed its victims into wolves. Not really, but there is a disease that gave people red lesions on their faces and reminded a thirteenth-century physician of a wolf’s bite. In the seventeenth century, the same rash would be described as a butterfly spreading across the face. But the name “lupus” (Latin for “wolf”) stuck.

Those who have known me for a while know I’ve been dealing with chronic joint pain, rashes, unexplained fevers, and fatigue. After seeing half a dozen doctors, multiple blood tests and examinations, I have a diagnosis – lupus.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, including skin, joints and/or organs. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue (tiredness)
  • Painful or swollen joints
  • Fever
  • Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
  • Sun- or light sensitivity (photosensitivity)

It isn’t contagious; you can’t “catch” lupus. And it isn’t like cancer that can be treated with surgery and/or chemotherapy.

It doesn’t go away, but it can be managed with diet, exercise, and medication. It’s not going to kill me nor stop me from writing, traveling, or drinking tea.

For more information, go to the Lupus Foundation of America.

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I’m not going to share with you a litany of my symptoms and treatment, what I am going to share are things friends have said trying to be helpful. I know it’s easy to mean well and say the wrong thing. We often blurt out the first thing that comes to mind or speak without thinking. Over the past five years, if I had a nickel for every time someone said something unhelpful to me, I could have a night out at the Cicada Club.

Here are just a few:

  • You don’t look sick. Not all illnesses manifest themselves outwardly. I’ve become adept at “pulling it together” and not showing pain and fatigue.
  • You look good, did you lose weight? Illness can take a toll on a body and medication can cause weight loss or gain. Don’t go there; trust me, it’s best not to even mention weight.
  • Have you tried (insert name of drug or herb)? It really helped by sister’s friend’s gardener. You are not a doctor, don’t give medical advice. ‘Nuff said.

 Here a few things I find supportive:

  • Ask me questions about lupus. It’s okay to talk about it, really. It shows you are interested and want to understand.
  • Ask, How are you, today? Every day is different, some better than others.
  • Empathy and validation go a long way. I know it’s hard to know what to say but just saying, “That must be frustrating.” Or “It’s okay, I understand you don’t feel up to it. We’ll reschedule.”

 What if you’ve already said something unhelpful? That’s okay. Take a deep breath, apologize, and start over. You’ll be forgiven, after all, we are all just trying to do the best we can.

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As for me, this just means I’m traveling down a different road than I had planned. This one will have more bumps, hills, and curves, but I’ll just put one foot in front of the other and see where it leads.

Until next time . . . The door is alway open, and the kettle is always on.  di6xK6MrT

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