Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jamestown Memory

Flipping through old photos I came across this one that I took on a visit to Williamsburg a few years ago. My niece, Carolyn, was about to graduate from The College of William and Mary. I hadn't been to the picturesque city in many years and was surpised by how much the surrounding area has changed. With Thanksgiving two days away my imagination kicked in. I wondered how the "newbies" to the Jamestown Settlement might have felt upon first arriving there. The island has been preserved as close to it's original state as possible. It has marshes, loads of trees, shrubs, wild flowers and, naturally, poison ivy and slithering critters. Summers would have been hellish with swarms of mosquitos compounding the misery of the heat and humidity. I've read about baskets being made from the 8" needles of these evergreen trees. Weavers' fingers must have been bloody and sore. I know this because, like an idiot, I had to play around with some myself. [No, I didn't rip any off the tree, just tried to bend three into a braid. Ouch!] Getting back to Thanksgiving -- I wish I could say my entire family will "gather together to ask the Lord's blessings." Alas, we're spread out in the Midwest and East coast and as far away as Alaska. But we'll be together in spirit and via Skype. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. Keep in mind that, despite mainstream news, we do have much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scent of a Man

To my sometimes great embarrassment, I've always had a sharp sense of smell. It is sometimes pleasurable and other times, a curse.

I've read that scent-memory is one of our strongest. For example, the aroma of a peach pie fresh from the oven conjures lovely memories of dessert on my family's screened porch during the hottest days of summer. Freshly cut grass reminds me of struggling to mow the lawn with an old, rusty, push mower. It can also trigger earlier thoughts of lazing on our lawn under a magnificent Elm tree with a brand new sibling sleeping in a baby carriage closeby.

When I first met Spouse, he wore some hideously odiferous yet popular cologne. I didn't feel I could say anything about it for the first few months we were together. As soon as I felt our relationship was on solid ground, I talked him into dumping it. His own clean fragrance is so much more appealing.

The fact that I loved the smell of the mosquito fog sprayed regularly on neighborhood trees when I was a kid may explain some of my quirks. ;-} Nevertheless, I hope to God I never lose my sense of smell.

A drive in the country would be almost pointless without being able to smell the clover, hay, honeysuckle and, yes, cow manure. Keep those car windows open so you can enjoy all that nature has to offer!

During a trip to the Caribbean years ago, I bought my Dad a bottle of Royall Spyce cologne. He had always worn Old Spice, a familiar, comforting scent, so I thought he might like something similar. He did! From then on, it was on the top of his Christmas wish list.

Four years ago, today, my Dad died. His scent, however, still can trigger bittersweet memories. Every year about this time, I get an email from an online vendor reminding me to reorder Royall Spyce. Gee thanks. . .

Monday, November 14, 2011

. . . and they begin

We are blessed with beautiful sunsets during the autumn and winter. This one is crisscrossed with jet vapor-trails. The building in the lower righthand corner is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Peforming Arts. I think it is one of the loveliest landmarks in our neighborhood.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Helluva Gift

Every month, The Washington Post prints pictures of America's war dead. I am always staggered by the two, full pages of pictures. Each young face represents a child whose parents joyfully anticipated his birth and carefully chose his or her name. This child was a beloved family member and, no doubt, someone's BFF. We will never know if one might have become a brilliant scientist who discovered a cure for some dread disease.

When a young person dies it is so unnatural and unexpected. A child is not supposed to die before his or her parents do. As one mother said in another Post article, she never expected to see her baby's name on a headstone. That did it -- I lost it. How do soldiers' parents and friends cope with such a huge loss!

No words, medals or certificates can provide comfort for such a loss. The rawness of losing a child in such a violent way -- well, I don't have words to describe it.

Deaths caused by warfare have happened for centuries; eons, really. How have we not concluded that this is wrong?

Modern warfare is deadlier and less selective than ancient methods of killing one's enemies. A sword, arrows and spears could not compete with guns, bombs, land mines, poison gas and nuclear weapons. Still, countries find reasons to build and maintain arsenals of ever more deadly weaponry. Land mines left over from long finished wars kill and maim thousands of civilians in several countries every year. Many of them were made in the good ole U.S. of A.

Is the industrial-military-complex too big to fail? Just think if some of the billions of dollars and thousands of man-hours spent developing new weaponry were redirected to medical research, caring for those who cannot care for themselves and improving the miserable standards of living for people around the world. Peace might just happen!

Thousands of refugees from manmade and natural disasters are still caught in an unending cycle of loss and lack of real recovery perpetuated by half-measures of aid. But then, some of those refugees may actually be better off than "America's invisible poor."

Homelessness and hunger are not exclusive to dirty, bearded men who hang out on heating grates. Too many of those dirty, bearded men are veterans who, for whatever reasons, were unable to assimilate back into society. Others could not find employment which further broke their spirits after sacrificing so much for their homeland. Many did not agree with U.S. military stands, but served anyway because it was the right thing to do. Each and every one of us owes a significant debt to our military -- past and present.

It's all fine and good thanking service members for their service. What they need is not a handshake but a hand-up into a job that will help restore their self-reliance and facilitate a more normal life out of the military. It can be a huge adjustment, but with understanding and patience from employers and co-workers, it would be one helluva great home-coming gift!

Friday, November 11, 2011


"Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me."

Monday, November 7, 2011

5 days

Five days from today is Veterans' Day. All the ads in the Sunday newspapers made me think about how veterans themselves might view what has happened to this day of remembrance and thanksgiving.

Yes, I know the official Thanksgiving is the last Thursday in November. The sale ads for the day after -- "Black Friday" -- are already being hinted at. That holiday is observed for a completely different reason and has evolved far away from it's original intent.

Even now with so many American military members overseas, we are encouraged to focus on buying stuff on the one day intended to honor our veterans.

Veterans' Day isn't even observed by many employers. It has become a regular work day so that employees can be off to spend bundles on "Black Friday"! For the folks who remember their family members and friends who served their country, this may be a painful reminded of how their sacrifices are ignored.

For a high school classmate of mine, Veterans' Day and Christmas Eve are two difficult days. Nancy's older brother John was sent to Vietnam in 1968, within days of completing basic training. Five days later, he stepped into a rice paddy and was shot dead.

Five days after completing grueling training which was rushed because so many young men were dying in Southeast Asia and needed to be replaced, John was no more. Five days wasn't even enough time to grow a decent mustache . . .

His family was at the airport when his remains were brought back to the States for burial -- on Christmas Eve. As sometimes happens, a SNAFU on the identities of several other caskets caused even more agony for the families.

Losing a family member messes up family dynamics. It certainly did in Nancy's family. Her younger brother was so traumatized by his brother's death that he ran away. All these years later, he has very little contact with his parents and siblings.

Military service is honorable and noble -- no doubt about it. It can also throw families into turmoil and cause unimaginable pain. With both men and women being deployed thousands of miles away for incredibly long periods, it's a wonder families can survive. Children can feel abandoned. They cannot understand why Mom or Dad's job sends them so far away from home for so long. Sometimes they blame themselves.

I don't care about missing "fantastic sales" this Friday. I'll sacrifice the sales to remember family and friends who sacrificed their time, health and often their sanity to protect me and our country.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Friday Chuckle

Dad took this picture of my younger brother, Peter and our younger sister, Patty a long time ago. Pete has always been a bit of a teaser . . . maybe I should leave it at that. Our youngest sibling would probably have a different take on Pete's humor. Anyway, they were both adorable babies and I was enough older that I could enjoy them. Hope you have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


What I dreaded most about a recent, horrendous crime was confirmed by a Washington Post columnist today. I had so hoped that I was wrong.

The gist: two females at a high-end suburban store got into a fight that ended in murder. One was the manager and the other was an employee who had been caught stealing. It was a very noisy, bloody fight that lasted for quite a while and only ended with the manager's gruesome death.

This high-end store is in a shopping mall and shares a wall with another store whose employees were also working late. They heard everything, including screams for help and did a b s o l u t e l y n o t h i n g.

I cannot imagine what was going through their heads as they listened to terrified screams and pleas for help through the wall. It's not as if their lives were in danger. So why didn't they call 911? Not one of them has offered an answer to that question.

It's been about 50 years since Kitty Genovese was repeatedly stabbed outside of her apartment complex in NY. People watched and listened to her screams from their windows yet did nothing to help her.

If we all maintain an attitude of not wanting to get involved what is to stop criminals or sociopaths from harming others? With the 911 system, it's so easy to simply pick up a phone, dial the number and report anything suspicious. It's easy and necessary and can be anonymous!

I still live with my shame of several years ago. We had a neighbor who had recently separated from his wife. They had two sons, one of whom was 3 or 4 years old. We often heard shouted telephone conversations between our neighbor and his estranged wife through our bedroom wall.

When the younger boy came to visit his father for a weekend, the parents got into a tug-of-war over him on the side walk. The father had the boys torso and the mother was pulling on his legs. Both were shouting at each other and the boy was hysterical.

Having heard this man berate and curse his wife, I was afraid of him, so I tortured myself hoping that they would realize what they were doing and stop. After several minutes of their ugly scene, I looked up the number for Child Protective Services and called them. The man who answered advised me to call the police, but by then the parents had left the scene.

Helping someone in trouble doesn't always require endangering your own life. Police are trained to handle all sorts of gnarly situations, but they have to be alerted to them to do anything.

I would hope that if I were in a scary situation someone would come to my rescue or, at least notify the police. I have to live with my slow actions but I won't repeat them. If I see or hear something untoward, I won't hesitate to notify authorities. We are, after all, our brother's keeper.