July 17, 2005
I Love Lucy

Lucy and the kids are visiting Lucy's parents in the Deep South for a bit. They'll be back toward the end of the month.

When she gets back, ask her about the significance of 7:17 AM. Hint: The King of Fools has given me a source of eternal amusement when he once remarked that my lovely wife was an "out of the box" thinker. I admire the King's writings, but he really missed the mark on that call. Lucy is one of best "in the box" thinkers I know and only steps out when pulled, pushed, bribed, or otherwise motivated to do so. She prefers to stay in her box and decorate it…

July 10, 2005
A Life Lived Truly And Well

Once upon a time in the South there was a boy named Johny. He was a good boy from a good home. Then all his family died. He was ten years old, and all alone. He was farmed out to the community. A week here. A month there. Depending on who needed some free labor. Years passed. Then the war came. World War II. Johny signed up. It seemed like the thing to do. He was seventeen when he landed on the beach at Normandy.

For those of you that don't have a visual pop into your head, think about the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. Think about the memory from The Greatest Generation of the medics on the beach realizing that the only way off the beach was through a mine field and deciding to use their own bodies as markers. They split the morphine among themselves, running forward until their legs were blown out from under them. Then they'd shoot-up with morphine so they could be calm enough to tell the soldiers that followed them where not to step as they lay there bleeding to death.

His exact movements during the rest of the war are fuzzy. He never talks about them much. We know that there was an incident where he was trapped in a foxhole for days and days. We know that he was a sniper that could light a match at such an obscene distance that most of us couldn't even see the match. We know that he came home.

When Johny got home, there was suddenly a variety of opportunities available to him. Employment, education, emancipation. He wasn't a ward of the state to be used as essentially slave-labor anymore. He was his own man.

That was the state of things when he saw Mary. She was perfection. Beautiful beyond all reasonable standards. Smart. Funny. Charming. Spirited. Unattainable.

Mary was from a good family, THE family in their community ... if you know what I mean. Her prospects were unlimited. It was unthinkable that she'd marry a nobody. But she knew something that very few women of any generation ever seem to grasp: Substance over shine. Any man can be polished up later, but if there's nothing to his soul then nothing good will come of marrying him. She knew a diamond in the rough is still a diamond. And she saw the sparkle in the gentle boy that rescued hurt animals, but could beat to pulp any man that deserved it. They got married, and fifty years later Johny still can't figure out how he got that lucky. He's a modest fella.

They moved up North to work in the car factories, where they stayed for a few years until they built up a nest-egg. Then, tired of the snow and yankees, they moved home. Literally. Her father gave them some acres at the edge of his farm to build a house. He liked the idea of having them close, and the grandchildren within walking distance. By that time there were children. Eventually six charming children, with pretty eyes and sweet natures. With steel spines and deep tempers. People say they got it honestly from both sides!

Johny had no inclination to be a farmer, especially in the community that had looked down on him as nothing more than cheap farm labor. He went to work for the government. For decades he supervised sensitive construction projects, popular because he brought them in under budget, ahead of time, with superior quality, and fewer accidents.

His free time was never free-n-easy. Johny never quite got over that incident in the foxhole. He couldn't sit still for more than thirty minutes. He had to be moving, doing something, anything but just sitting. Its a good thing he was an usher at church, so he could stand in the back and walk around a bit. He never missed a single time the church doors were open. That might have stemmed from the dream he had several decades ago.

One morning he woke up and told the weirdest dream ever when the family sat down for breakfast. He was so worked up he couldn't eat a thing. In the dream he had been asleep and two men woke him up, but Mary didn't hear them and stayed asleep. They told him to come with them and he did, although he kind of wanted to stay. He wasn't afraid. They walked across the yard, and through the woods, up across the fields past the fire-tower on the ridge. Johny asked them what was going on and they just told him he'd find out soon. Not to be scared. Everything would be ok. It was pitch black in the forest until they cleared the top of the ridge, and they just kept walking up into the air! Johny found himself walking with them. Suddenly one of them shrieked. "LOOK at him! We've got the wrong one!" "Quick, put him back!" Johny woke up in his own bed. Very very alarmed. Now for the weird part: When Johny got to work, he found out that a neighbor had died in his sleep of a heart-attack. They looked very similiar. They lived in houses with the same floor-plan on lots of the same layout less than two miles apart. It rather got hold of his attention, especially for a non-superstitious man.

Years passed, each much the same as the one before. Johny puttered in the vegetable garden, and washed his truck. He played with his kids, and all the other kids in the neighborhood. He ate watermelon in the porch-swing, and played his guitar in the twilight while we chased fireflies. He laughed a lot. He prayed for his boy in Vietnam. He volunteered as a local firefighter. (Well, he did until he realized a few years ago that the neighbor he car-pooled with to fires had driven around with a bloody hatchet in the trunk for two weeks after he dismembered his wife. Johny quit the fire department, saying that if his judgement was so bad he couldn't recognize a crazy ax-murderer he'd be unreliable in a fire-situation.)

More years passed. Johny coddled his grandchildren, and played Rook at the annual Christmas party. He watched his children become successful adults with families of their own. CEO's and truckdrivers, teachers and artists, mathmaticians and special forces.

More years passed. Johny got cancer. The result of some of the "sensitive and classified" projects he worked on for the government. He beat the cancer, fighting with everything he had. Which left him with little to fight the virus that caused the heart damage.

A few months ago he caught a virus, just a cold really. Nothing special. Except that it caused a significant amount of heart damage very very quickly. (Side note: Same virus I caught? Mother did visit Johny and Mary just before visiting us in the Spring) John had a massive heart-attack. On Medicare, he learned that he would have to wait thirty days before getting heart-surgery. The thirty days passed. Then he learned that his doctors have decided that his body is too ravaged by the cancer and its treatments to survive the surgery. So.

Johny went to Mary's family reunion last month. HIS family reunion, hordes of people that love him. That would move Heaven and Earth to save him, and yet can do nothing. Except love him. Which may be everything. Especially to the sweet boy who knew so little love and tenderness. Who was left all alone in the world, with no family. Thats a man who truly understands the blessing of having family.

My husband can't take any time off from work, and supervising house construction. Traveling for me will become more and more uncomfortable as the weeks progress. Besides, traveling for a funeral always struck me as shutting the barn-door after the horse has wandered off. The time to go is BEFORE they die.

Dad is flying in tomorrow to drive me and the children back to the South, since I can't handle the drive all by myself. I'll be gone for two weeks. Then, when I get home, I'll write the letters. I won't be able to go back for the funeral, but the situation demands recognition. I've decided to write a real letter to each of his children (especially Norman) and have the letters ready to go so that I can Fed-Ex them as soon as I get the news that Uncle Johny has died.

At first glance, a little depressing. Until I realized that when he got to the end of his life, he could be proud of a life lived truly and well. We should all be so lucky.

Yahoo! I Got Tickets!

When I was a little girl I loved riding to school with Dad because he listened to the local radio station. Country music. When I rode with Mother we listened to classical. Not that she necessarily loved it, but I needed to listen so that I could develop a feel for it. Mother's main focus in life was developing my potential, all of it. She envisioned me as Condi Rice, except for the black part. She almost took to bed when I got married instead of getting a PhD! But thats another story ...

Anyway, I loved the fact that I could sing along with the radio in my Dad's car. I can't say I was overly fond of most of the artists, but I did love the music of Charlie Daniels. It was so ... upbeat and funny and patriotic and defiant and independant ... giving voice to the things I felt inside and knew I'd have to wait years to say. His songs seemed to say that it was ok to be who you were even if it was blue-collar or red-neck. Not that I felt an overwhelming urge to dig ditches, but it was a novel concept to me ... that digging ditches wasn't the end of the world. That you didn't have to be smart or beautiful to have value, to be worth loving.

Sure, its a lot to read into country music. But you find inspiration where you find it. Even now, hearing his voice relaxes me. Makes that hard knot inside dissolve.

I've seen the CDB about a dozen times in concert. Usually, Dad goes with me. Its one of the few points our musical interests coincide. Which thrills my husband since it eliminates the need for his presence, because men-with-intense-Southern-accents grate on his audio nerve. Although he loves Marty Robbins. Go figure.

The point being, I GOT TICKETS! He's on tour promoting a new CD, which I'll be getting (and listening to when my husband isn't home, because I love him enough to not torture him) I'll be at my parents, so Dad will go with me. Actually, technically, Dad got the tickets. He also got tickets for the boys. Its at an outdoor venue, and it'll be the boys first outdoor concert experience. They're so excited they can't stand it! They won't be disappointed. Charlie Daniels is one SERIOUSLY good act in concert. I can already tell that I'll be fending off pleas for violin/fiddle lessons.

July 08, 2005
My Drop, Plus Your Drop, Plus Another Drop

There is a really good "action" idea at the bottom of the post. Don't let my long-windedness get in the way of you seeing the light. I heard a really great quote once, whose author escapes me, "Forgive me, I don't have time to be brief"

I was reading Clayton Cramer's Blog, which I do occassionally when I'm cruising Admiral Quixote's Roundtable. By the way, that's not a dead site afterall.

Since I can't make trackbacks work yet, here's the relevant part of his post:

"There is at least one person who deserves more than her picture in the paper, and that's Amber Deahn. She's a waitress. I rather suspect that she doesn't make an huge amount of money doing that--maybe $8 an hour with tips? I'm going to write out a check to Amber Deahn, and mail it to her in care of her employer:

2300 N 4th St.
Coeur D'Alene, ID 83814

This is a hint to the rest of you. I suspect that if 10% of my readers could send her $10 or $20 each, it would probably help wipe out some credit card debt, let her go out to a nice dinner, and put a little money into savings. Can you think of anyone who deserves it more today?"

Now, I'm not prone to sending people money. I need my money. But ... what if your child were missing? What if the only difference between life in Hell and death in a shallow grave after torture was the fact that a waitress at Denny's was paying attention and able to stay calm while the mass-murdering freak sits there sipping his coffee?

And, I'm not prone to sending people checks (because checks have my home address on them). But, cash? You know, $10 in cash isn't all that much. Or even $5. Thats a super-huge-jumbo-latte. Or a Martha Stewart magazine. Or two boxes of popsicles on sale. Really, $5 is just a drop in the ocean.

But, what about my drop plus your drop plus another drop plus more drops? It would be nice to have a bucketful of drops.

Sin Against Man And Nature

I went to Walmart yesterday, which was July 7th. JULY 7th! AMong other thoughts in my head were "hmmm, maybe I'll pick up an extra-kiddie pool since the puppies are enjoying the blue one so much. hmmmm, as long as I'm here I should check on sno-cone syrup for the church." Foolish, foolish mortal.

I noticed the pool display had been moved. But it wasn't until I saw the empty sno-cone aisle that I began to get a sinking feeling. Dun-duh ... dun-duh ... dun-duh ...

They've replaced EVERYTHING summery with a huge BACK-TO-SCHOOL section! Its still JULY!

I was still in shock as I staggered into the parking lot, where the wave of heat didn't help the situation. Thats right, people. The heat index was 100-plus. Lets think about that ... It feels like its 100-plus (and probably will for at LEAST another month, maybe two) and the FREAKS in marketing are just SURE I don't want a kiddie-pool or sno-cones.

July 07, 2005
Aieeeee! Or, ...

You KNOW I Love Winston!

Babalu has a comforting post of Winston quotes, which reduces my anger about the London bombings to a more sustainable and yet more dangerous simmer.

(I can't get the link to work, so you'll need to go click on BABALU on the left-side of my site, listed under "excursions". Its worth the trip. Of course, he's usually worth the trip)

Its A Girl, Probably

I had the first ultrasound yesterday. Everything is fine, my bloodpressure is down and stable-ish, and we're very very probably having a girl. Yea! Now I'll have a matched set, the girls can share a room which will be good for Cassie's character, and all the hand-me down dresses won't be wasted. (We have a ridiculous number of incredibly attractive "Sunday" dresses because my Mother is weak-willed and so are her sisters who think Cassie's fondness for girly-clothes is charming.)

We had to take all the children with us to the ultrasound because the baby-sitter cancelled. I was a little hesitant, but then it turns out my husband had already been explaining that the baby was in my tummy (although he did NOT discuss how it had gotten there)! The boys thought this might be the coolest thing they had ever gotten to see. Not the baby, but the nifty camera that lets you see inside people. I'm pretty sure we're raising tech-geeks (and I mean that in the nicest possible way)!

Their excitement led to a babble of chatter as they asked their father question upon question upon question. Why is it in black-n-white? Is that all the baby can see? What about the gel? Does the gel create an invisible barrier? I can't see the monitor because Mommy's too fat! How does it get air? And food? And water? Does the baby get sick when Mommy gets sick?

My husband answered all the questions, one by one. Offering simple logical explanations. Then he got to the question about food and water. He plowed ahead explaining that there was a tube that connected the baby to the mommy so that food and water went straight into the baby's stomach. They had questions about the construction of the tube, what it was made of, etc. In response to the newly generated flow of questions, my husband explained that the tube is attached until the baby comes out and then it comes off because the baby doesn't need it anymore, and thats where your belly-button comes from -- its where the tube used to be before it came off.

Stunned silence. Blinking eyes. Mouths hanging agape. Dubious glances at their own tummies. Still ... nothing. Silence. Finally, Lee slowly and precisely utters ... "Thats a joke, right?"

It was definitely a case of TMI (too much information), but who would have thought they'd freak over their own bellybuttons!?!

July 04, 2005
Across Five Aprils To Arlington

I heard a new song today. "We Made It To Arlington". I'm sure most will recognize it as a reference to Arlington National Cemetary. But do you know why and how Arlington became ... well, Arlington? And why its especially appropriate that its the final resting place of our national heros?

As someone from Tennessee, I have a subtle fascination for the Civil War. Not the re-enactments popular among those who dwell on the exact detail of the right buttons, but rather the personal stories and sacrifices. Like most from Tennessee, I had family involved on both sides. Ironically, I also have a subtle fascination for the ultra-non-personal stories. In effect, the overall politcal picture.

For example, many believe that the War was fought over slavery. However, it was clearly fought over the issue of states rights. The issue is muddied because at that particular moment, the focus was whether or not the federal government had the right to override state governments decisions on slavery (or anything, for that matter). Yes, slavery was evil (and incidentially, very unproductive). But the real point was who had the ultimate authority -- federal or state officials.

Yet, what touches my heart are the personal stories. The ones that make me catch my breath and wonder "what if ..." or "there was the hand of God ..."

And the people. The ones that did the best they could. Like Robert E. Lee. He was a brilliant soldier, and by all accounts a wonderfully good man. I find it sad that it was reported that after the war he never laughed again.

I've often wondered why he surrendered. He could have regrouped and fought on. His men were certainly willing to follow him anywhere, and his military genius could have found a way. What went through his mind in that decision? Did he despair of the corruption in the Southern government? What made enough ... enough? Did he come to understand that a strong central government was the best protection from foreign power? Did he tire of watching men die instead of building productive lives? Did he sicken of loyalty misplaced and betrayed?

He lost a lot personally when he surrendered. His personal property was confiscated. His home seized. His only place of peace forever beyond his reach. Even so. I wonder if he was comforted in his later years, knowing that his action had in fact prevented years and years of inevitable death and destruction for a questionable cause. That an entire generation of young men and women on the brink wouldn't have to know the reality of war at home. I wonder if he's pleased about Arlington.

I think he would be. I think its the ultimate memorial to him, that THE national cemetary ... our military's sacred ground ... the final place of peace for our heroes ... a place of honor and recognition for their valor and sacrifice ... was his home.

July 03, 2005
Skewed Standards, Or ...

... Why I'm Happily Married and My Friends Are Still Dating Freaks, Or ... The Joy Of Being Married To A REAL Man.

Most of you know I'm very pregnant, sick all the time, etc. Well, last week I also had a 24-hour stomach bug. Massive projectile vomit. I only freaked a little when it riccocheted off the wall back onto me. Yes, it was gross. Sometimes life is like that. Deal with it.

Anyway, my husband (who had the bug a few days before) loves me so much that he took all three children to Walmart for the express purpose of buying something he thought might possibly make me feel better -- chocolate ice-cream. The rational was that even if I couldn't keep it down, at least it wouldn't hurt coming up (unlike Doritos, which are pointy).

First, he gets credit for even having the thought. Second, he gets SO much credit for executing it. Third, I can't even calculate how much credit he gets for letting me soak in the bubble-bath while he took all three children. They came home with batman-bandaids, six hot-wheels cars, and ice-cream. This is one of those times when you just KNOW that you're loved. Really really loved, and even liked.

Sam called a few days later, and I told her about it. She shrieked "Gross! Thats not "sweet", thats just disgusting! Ewww."

Think [edit] another friend broke up with a fantastic guy because she decided that his fingers were stubby. That was his ONLY flaw. Good personality, good looks, good job, good family, good everything ... except for the perception of stubby fingers.

Me? I went for the nice guy, who happened to be smart. Ok, so I noticed he had fabulous eyes. Then I replaced his wardrobe and his barber. Soon everyone else noticed he had fabulous eyes! Now my friends whine "There aren't any perfect guys like yours around anymore. He's smart and nice and handsome. You got the only one!" None of them remember trying to talk me out of dating him because they didn't like his clothes.

But I remember. And I don't bother introducing them to the great guys that I do know. Afterall, they wouldn't be interested anyway. They're standards are all skewed. I'm reminded of something my great-great-aunt Rebecca used to say -- "I see I can't make you listen. So be it." I realized long ago I can't help them see the light. They keep doing the same thing and being shocked that they keep getting the same result.

I'm just glad that somehow I managed to keep my standards focused enough to recognize that my husband is practically perfect. Well, close enough to perfect that he retrieved ice-cream.

July 02, 2005
This Is One Of Those Times

Have you ever watched one of those Twilight Zone episodes where you wake up in another dimension or another universe that is almost the same, but not quite?

Living here in the Midwest is like that for me. I grew up in the South. Sometimes I'm lulled by the similarities into a pleasant stupor of familiarity. Then other times I'm abruptly jerked back to reality.

This is one of those times!

This is the Fourth Of July weekend. I suspect even foreigners know what that means. But do they grasp the concept here? No, they do not.

There is no parade. WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE DON'T HAVE A FOURTH OF JULY PARADE!?! I have NEVER lived anywhere that there wasn't a July 4th parade. And, yes gentle reader, I've lived outside the Deep South for many years. They had a great parade in Oregon. They had a great parade in Michigan. Here? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Well, I suppose nothing is a bit strong. There's an expensive little parking-lot-carnival in town and there'll be fireworks when the carnival closes at 11:00pm. Yeah, I'll be keeping the kids up until almost MIDNIGHT for the fireworks!

Thats a real sign of respect. Veterans and patriots don't get a Fourth of July parade, but everyone is SO thrilled with having a St.Patricks day parade for drunk frat-boys. (Sorry the tenor of this post is going downhill. The more I think about it, the more ticked I get)

So, how was I expecting to spend the Fourth? Well, I envisioned it much the way other years have gone. Watching a parade full of veterens and musicians and politicians and horses and antique tractors and vintage cars and Shriners and bands and boy-scouts and bicycles and fire-trucks and clowns. Watching a parade with my children wide-eyed, waving their flags from the curb, dressed attractively in red/white/blue. Maybe going to a cookout with fried chicken (or burgers, or ribs) and corn-on-the-cob fresh from the farmer's market and a kiddie-pool full of ice and watermelons. Children playing in the sprinklers while adults drink sweet-iced-tea-with-lemon on the porch.

Aieeeee. If I keep this up I'm going to bawl like a baby!

So. First, I need a plan.