Memorial Weekend…again

Went back to my 2014 remembrance post this morning, knowing that for too many people every weekend is memorial weekend.

It’s a typically perfect Memorial Day morning here, like so many from my childhood, when every year we could count on it to be raining or blistering hot and windstill, or freezing cold, or all of the above, in gusts, or maybe cool and clear after one of those rains. In Lawrence this morning it’s 79º headed for 82, sunny, blue skies, humidity has dropped from 89% when I went out at 7am to 60% five hours later, and it’s exquisitely beautiful out.

But life holds more than beauty  – especially for those who will never see any of it again – and cloudy skies take over sometimes.  By 2pm we’re supposed to be mostly under cloud cover here, which seems altogether fitting for the day.

In 2016 I reshare my family’s story out of gratefulness, and out of reverence for, and abhorrence of, unspeakable loss on all sides throughout the generations.

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First posted Memorial Weekend 2014 (with edits 5/30/2016 – a personalized haiku for anyone who’s bored enough to find them all – link provided below.)

My grandpa enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 and served at the front as an infantryman during WWI.  His six sons were all military men, Army, Navy, and Marines.  The three Marines, 18, 19, and 21 were in the Korean Conflict at the same time, in the same general location, under miserable conditions.  All seven Reese military personnel returned home intact in body and went on to raise thriving families of their own.  Many of my cousins have also served with honor in the military.  The only family member I’m aware of, without digging into the archives, who was directly lost to war, was my Aunt Bette’s husband, making her a teenage widow with a baby. The baby, my cousin Vickie, is standing in front of her mother and between our grandparents in the family portrait. My mama is top right in both the portrait and the thumbnail pics, somehow descriptive of her position in my life for all time. And kudos today to my Baby Aunt Barbara, lower right in both, who put this collage together.

So thankful to have four of the original Reese Dynasty kids – Vic, Jerry, Barbara, and Roger – present and accounted for, on this Memorial Remembrance in the year 2016. Hugs and kisses all around, beloved.

Ongoing family is priceless. Feeling deeply thankful right about now.

Reese Family

 

Okay, Constant Reader, the edits took on a life of their own, so don’t even try. If, however, you’d originally thought you might, for the haiku, throw me a subject and I’ll do it anyway!

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Red Leaves

Celia 1 She stepped off the train in Atchison, weary and vaguely conscious of stares as she made her way to the station, maintaining a firm hold on the well-worn carpet bag she’d inherited from her mother.  The long trip out from New York had sapped her energy and optimism — just getting as far as Chicago had been a daunting challenge in itself — and she wanted nothing more than to find her boardinghouse and sleep for a week, not that she’d be afforded that luxury.

During the layover while arrangements were being made for continuing to Kansas on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, she had given serious thought to staying put.  Chicago in 1905, after all, was a place of substance — diverse, full of life and no doubt abundant opportunity.  But she’d made a commitment and when the time came she set her jaw for the Jayhawker state.

In 1887 the state of Kansas had opened the Soldiers Orphans’ Home in Atchison, and when St. Patrick’s Catholic Church wrote to the East Coast dioceses some years later appealing for young women of integrity to care for the children, our girl saw an opportunity.  Celia Miller (neé Mianovskis) desperately wanted out of the tenement flat on the edge of a New York ghetto that she shared with her father and two of her five brothers.  She was almost eighteen and beginning to picture herself as an old maid, and she didn’t appreciate the slightly breathless feeling that gave her.  As the baby of the family, whose mother had died as a result of her birth, she’d been spoiled and coddled by her father and brothers, gruff as they all were.  She’d been allowed to avail herself of the bits and pieces of education that were accessible, to ask questions about the world, to dream … now she needed to try her wings but there was no ladder in place for a lower-class girl with ambition.  The Orphans’ Home, ironically, offered freedom, independence, and excitement, three things notably missing in her life to date, and all she had to do to reap those rewards was  travel halfway across the United States, giving up everything she’d ever known.

Her father had told her stories of Lithuania, and her brothers, too, as if they hadn’t been born in America just like she was.  Proud and feeling unfairly disenfranchised by their first-generation foreignness, they pretended to remember, as their father did, a Lithuania before the Tsar, before all the strife, before hunger and relentless hardship.  Their bravado and inventiveness became an important part of the protective shield they tried to form around their small sister.  The brothers thought, and managed to articulate among themselves after a fashion, that if she had a “real” country to believe in, a “real” history to cling to, her own slightly alien persona would matter less to her, and thus come across in a more pleasing way to the people she met.  So their stories were wide-ranging and sometimes fanciful, but always with a lesson underneath.  For instance in Lithuania, they said, there grew something called a tallow tree, with heart-shaped leaves that turned bright red in the fall.  It was a temperamental tree, but once established it was difficult to uproot or control, and tended to eventually overtake the surrounding area.  That one they especially liked, and savoring their cleverness they repeated it to her over the years until it was part of her DNA.  There were other stories, most all of them about being brave, strong, and determined.  She was a lucky girl, our Celia — other brothers in their circumstances might have counseled a fey coyness, a manipulative sort of avoidance, a safe and chaste route through life.  And just so is a life determined.

Papa Mianovskis, baffled from the first hour by his tiny daughter and more so with each year that passed, was anxious to do right by her.  He loved her in his own way and didn’t want her to leave, but life had made him a realist — he knew he had nothing of worth to offer her, not even his continued protection.  He thought she might be beautiful, and he hoped that might somehow save her.  Thus confused, well-meaning, feeling slightly broken by all that had transpired since he last saw his homeland, he blessed her, and with a sob in his throat gave her more money than he could spare, wrapped in a handkerchief from the Old Country, along with his mother’s rosary.  Her two brothers were equally generous, not only with cash earned from prized American jobs, but also with small food bundles and bear hugs.  Her three eldest brothers were long out of the house, living by their wits like everyone else, and Celia knew it was unlikely she would ever see them again.  She wondered if Papa would hug her — he had never done so — but of course he simply patted her lightly on the shoulder, sniffed, cleared his throat, and took out his hankie, swiping it across his mustache before walking resolutely to the door.  It was time for him to go to work, and for Celia’s brothers to get her to the train station by hook or crook and still make it back for their own shifts.

As Celia’s various trains wended their way cross-country toward an entirely new life, she found herself watching for glimpses of red along embankments and in tree copses of every sort.  She was thankful for the benevolence of St. Patrick’s in providing funds for the trip to Kansas, that she would earn a small stipend for her work at the Orphans’ Home, that she would be provided room and board, at least in the beginning, and most of all that her heritage and the caring of family, haphazard as it may have been, had prepared her for life.  She sincerely hoped that was true, as she could only imagine the obstacles and challenges to be faced in an orphanage.  And Atchison — would it be anything like New York?  A red-leafed tree along the way would be just the thing for easing anxieties.  She knew her own heart, she knew she’d been strong under certain circumstances … but what more was life bringing?

Later, she couldn’t recall the details connected to locating her boardinghouse, or exactly how she got there.  She remembered being thankful that she had only the one bag, an ancient Persian once cherished by her dead mother, to safeguard.  She knew she’d had some soup — delicious! — and a night’s sleep on a feather mattress.  And then it was morning, with its eastern Kansas sunrise, and time to see what reality looked like this far from New York.

An officious-looking man collected her from the boardinghouse and trotted her to the orphanage forthwith, speaking not a word on the way.  She tried to think of ways to start a conversation, but the ride was jouncey and her head seemed to still be sleeping after the long journey.  It scarcely mattered, the distance was short and the destination in sight before she could fully get her wits about her.  Atchison, it turned out, was nothing like New York.

Her escort deposited her on the lawn stretching in front of the orphanage and she could only assume she was to present herself at the front door, so she set out on the curving sidewalk, looking around her as she went.  An imposing red brick building, along with others of the same description, how many she couldn’t tell, loomed in front of her.  She shored up her courage once again and had just rounded a shapely hedge when she saw it, ten feet from the main doors — a small tallow tree, its heart-shaped leaves turning from green to shades of red.  Celia Miller caught her breath, paused, and strode forward into her new life, looking for all the world like Papa.  She could not know then that she would marry well, bear children, and live a life of genuine service … but she was on her way, with a small red leaf tucked up her sleeve. tallow leaves

Soldiers Orphans' Home Atchison

Soldiers Orphans’ Home Atchison

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**Author’s note:  The preceding is fiction, made up out of whole cloth, based on the photograph of Celia Miller, found while sorting through boxes of family pictures with my two sisters.  The only thing I know about Celia is her name.  Correction, two things:  she was also beautiful.  She was clearly connected with Kansas and my family line in some way, and much of my Dierking/Fuhrman family settled around Atchison, so it wasn’t a stretch to imagine a story for her.  I’ve grown to love her and need to know more …

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Rainy days and holidays …

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The rain … on the plain … leads cruelly to pain … (think Bob Dylan) … but I’m fatally attracted, I’ll never not love rain.  We’ve had buckets of it this spring and summer and our rivers are flowing full and beyond.  The trees are glorious!  Everything’s green and blooming and couldn’t feel more conducive to smiling and laughing and cavorting outside and taking naps.  What is it about an accidental, or entirely on purpose, nap on a soft sunny day that tells us we’ve been kind to ourselves and it’s more than okay?

Yesterday was full of family, food, and fireworks.  Oh, yours too?  And did you have the feeling all day that you could easily nod off and not miss a thing because it would all go right on swirling around you and soaking into your DNA for yet another year?  Yeah, works every time.  All that rain did its thing and produced a perfect day here — blue skies, quiet beauty, and peace, other than the astounding amount of ordnance being detonated all around us especially after dark.  Like true American warriors, we assimilated the audio into our psyches and marched on … through a mountain of burgers and brats, potato salad, baked beans, pasta salad, deviled eggs, guac & chips, an array of cold liquids, and homemade Butterfinger ice cream.  (Not a complete list.)

Little girls lighting pastel-colored smoke bombs with Papa, sets of sisters in three generations being goofy together, bros bro-ing, beer chilling before swilling, everything easy-going and sweet-feeling.  Turns out the America we grew up in … and were pretty sure we remembered … still exists and is way worth saving.  The friends who friend us, the family who love us, the times spent just being together, are still the real stuff, and there are days when you know you’d lay down your life for it.

Happy July 4th, America.  Thank you for your patience and long-suffering while we try to solve the puzzle of being human.  You’re a Good Girl.

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When Easter feels like the pagan festival it is …

The world is a cruel place for dreamers — we tend to be motivated by beauty, kindness, and justice, the biggest pipe-dream of all, and then when the world turns ugly and vicious, as it so frequently does, we don’t even know who to talk to about it.  I mean, I’m as ecumenical as the next person — bunnies and eggs and chocolate and death and whee! so fun how we’ve cleverly combined it all into a little something for everyone!   But when Easter Week coincides with the spectacle of its celebrants disenfranchising an entire chunk of society — people their religion requires them to at least proselytize* if not love — I’m finding it far more honorable to go full-on reality and identify with the original pagans.  I won’t slow you down with the details, so Google is your friend on this one.  I just think those guys didn’t line up good PR, because they actually did a ton of cool stuff and didn’t seem to hate anybody in the process.

So, now I’m seeing “Don’t worry, the Supreme Court will fix it.”  THIS Supreme Court?  You’ve observed them in operation, right?  We’ll leave that right there for now.

And filed under Things That Make Me Go WTF?!  Well, today it’s knowing that a Teabilly with three teeth, one of which is just a baby tooth stuck back in there for luck, who voluntarily smells like a rhinoceros and sleeps with his sister has, as of this week, the legal right to discriminate against, disrespect, disparage, and disgust an intentionally unprotected class of people with whom said Teabilly could not intelligently converse if his or her peapickin’ sorry little life hung by a thread on the success of that very task. And statistically it’s a given that there are gay people within the Tea Party fortress, God help them.  I’m pushing away a thought that maybe they drown them all.

And here’s something we can all file under Things That Count.  Every lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered person covered under this legislation is somebody’s lovey.  Because if I say somebody’s son or daughter you’ll be all “Yeah, yeah, me too, so what?”  No, you heartless jerk, every person on earth deserves to have his or her sweet guts loved out by somebody even if that somebody ends up being solely his or her self.  And more often than sometimes those somebodies are beaten to a pulp and half dead inside, a lot of it self-inflicted, before it’s real that they can love themselves that completely, and if you make a double entendre out of that you officially suck.  This whole thing is so heartbreaking — and so unnecessary for anyone to suffer through.  Once we emerged from the Dark Ages, the question of sexuality should have been a non-issue, so how do we, a supposedly intelligent, enlightened people, find ourselves still looking like frothing idiots?  Never mind, rhetorical.

One more for the Things That Count file.  A bloodbath doesn’t happen overnight, so write this down … homosexuals were among the very first to be harassed in Germany for their “inferiority,” and thousands eventually died in the camps after brutal torture ordered specifically for them.

This one’s a freebie:  If you don’t know what fascism is and you have only so much time, look it up instead of the pagans — they’ll keep.

“If fascism comes, it will not be identified with any ‘shirt’ movement, nor with an insignia, but it will probably be wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution.” 

James Waterman Wise, 1936 issue of The Christian Century

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*Because if you’re gay you can’t be a Christian, you know.

We survived another week!

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President Barack Obama was here in Lawrence, Kansas, on Thursday, a few short blocks away on Mt. Oread.  The University of Kansas hosted him and I would have stood in line for hours to get a free ticket, and then for hours more to see and hear him, if my face didn’t look like a jigsaw puzzle and feel like rubbish.

As you know, there was no throwing it back on Thursday because the pitching arm was sleeping it off.  No Friday Funnies, because twern’t funny, McGee.  Which brings us to SaturYAY and a guest editorial, graciously loaned by my dear friend, playwright Philip Grecian.  Thank you, UncaPhil, for sharing your unadulterated thoughts with us.

(By the way, Kim and I love Lawrence because it isn’t just for Smurfs — everybody gets a say here, and plenty took advantage of that opportunity in reference to the president’s visit.)

And here’s Philip …

Been lookin’ over fboo today and see that an awful lot of ignorant people said an awful lot of stupid things while the president was in the area.

I understand if you’re a racist (and some of you are and think I don’t know it), and I understand if you’re a moron (Most of you aren’t. A few of you are, and demonstrate it regularly. I try to deal with you charitably).

Some of you are just blindly Republican (The thoughtful Republicans don’t spew hateful, stupid things. Some of you would be surprised how many thoughtful Republicans are actually reading this. I pray they’ll wrest some power away from the others. It could happen).

When George Bush was president I admit that I didn’t much care for him in the office and said so. Usually I waited till he’d done something that seemed…odd…or clueless…or thoughtlessly mean-spirited, and I’d comment. Usually making a little fun because, well, let’s be honest, he was easy to make fun of.

But, you know, my comments about George Bush…and comments made by others who didn’t like him much…were never as bone-deep mean and hateful and angry as what I’ve read here about Barack Obama. Some of you folks take my breath away with your hate.

And when I ask you why you feel that way…you give me some boilerplate FoxTrot talking point…one that’s usually made up out of whole cloth by some Foxy Barbie or Ken or dissolute Jabba the Huckabee. And if you’re called on it…if it’s pointed out that somebody just made up that “fact,” you’re quiet, retreat, and bring it up elsewhere on somebody else’s wall…like some extremist whack-a-mole.

Whaddya got? “Obamacare?” Wanna bitch about that? Hey, idiot, IT’S WORKING. Wanna talk about how we need to “Take Back America?” Yeah? From whom? He handily won office by vote of the majority. Twice. He reminded you of that, didn’t he?

Wanna talk about how he’s “ruining the country” and how you “can’t wait till he’s gone so we can put America back together?” Yeah? Really? Show me how he’s doing that. Jobs are up, economy’s up, we avoided a Great Depression–The Sequel. We’re better off than we’ve been in a long time.

So why all this palpable…hate?

Racism is all I can come up with…racism spiced up with a little party loyalty on steroids…a lot of “poor me” victimology…and a lot of foolish belief in the Murdochtrine of Fox News.

If George Bush had accomplished what Barack Obama has accomplished, you’d be building statues to the guy. And, except for a very few days when President Obama first took office (No, not two years…not 365 X 2. Do the math to see when Congress was in session during those 24 months), he did it with Congresspeople whose main raison d’être was to keep him–and by extension, the American people–from having any success at all.

And look what he accomplished in SPITE of that.
And just think what he MIGHT have accomplished beyond THAT, if the House, especially, had been working for the country…instead of for their exclusive club…and instead of for the Koch Brothers.

Just think.

For once.

If you are this clueless after all this time, you will always be this clueless. The world isn’t just passing you by, it’s passing over your head.

And you just sit there…engorging yourself with Fox News lies and Koch Brothers treachery.

I pity you.

So very much.

~ Philip Grecian

Time for the Monday rant …

Someone I used to respect told me several months ago that he’s an Ayn Rand devotee, which is entirely his business.  For years, though, and maybe still, he was an evangelical Christian minister, so, the two philosophies being mutually exclusive, I hardly knew what to do with that information other than dismiss it out of hand.  Dude, pick a hero — if it’s the biblical Jesus your life will look a certain way.  If it’s Ms. Rand, good luck, you’re already morphing into the polar opposite of a Christ-follower.  Please don’t think I necessarily care one way or the other — I don’t have a horse in the race, beyond knowing that truth still matters and it never disavows itself.  At the end of this post there’s a link to a Salon article, brief-ish and succinct, that illustrates the disconnect required to be both a Christian and a disciple of Randian Philosophy aka Objectivism.  Not enough Xanax in the world, lollipop.

Key quote from the article:

“Rand … stated on national television, ‘I am against God. I don’t approve of religion. It is a sign of a psychological weakness. I regard it as an evil.’  Actually … Rand did have a God. It was herself.  She said:  ‘I am done with the monster of *we,* the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: *I.*‘”  So, yeah, that happened.

Having been stalked by tragedy and pain over the past three decades, both physical and existential, the road forward was in trying to make sense of the human experience in time to survive it, as a result of which I’m no longer an authority on the subject of a God like the one the evangelicals paint for us.   IF, however, just say, there WERE to be such a God who cared, loved, nurtured, was intimately engaged in the human sojourn on this planet and took a personal hand in events great and small … then it should be excruciatingly, ostentatiously, nakedly clear, despite Ms. Rand’s deistic stance, that *I* would not be that god, ergo neither would you, and — I know this like I know the universe is ginormous — nor would Ayn Rand.  What in hell would be more terrifying, overwhelming, and totally ludicrous than to think that I am/we are/she was in charge, amirite?

You get where I’m coming from, you can’t have it both ways!  Either there’s no god, as a true atheist asserts, or there’s an Infinite God who actually gives a flip about every molecule.  Or maybe somebody something somewhere between — a Force.  A Power.  A Powerful Life Force.  Or … as Ms. Rand apparently believed … god is/was her, therefore you and me.  But probably just her.  So that’s more than two ways, yeah — just … really not an expert anymore, but pretty sure the *I* thing can’t be right.

Here’s another quote from the Salon article:
“Ayn Rand removed Americans’ guilt for being selfish and uncaring about anyone except themselves. Not only did Rand make it ‘moral’ for the wealthy not to pay their fair share of taxes, she ‘liberated’ millions of other Americans from caring about the suffering of others, even the suffering of their own children.  The good news is that I’ve seen ex-Rand fans grasp the damage that Rand’s philosophy has done to their lives and to then exorcize it from their psyche. Can the United States as a nation do the same thing?”

I don’t know, see, because the generally-accepted rallying cry is that we’re a Christian nation, which clearly gives us a leg up on the rest of the world because we’re right.  We can torture choke shoot tase beat and otherwise dispatch fellow persons including animals and it doesn’t make us any less Christian or right because WE’RE CHRISTIAN AND WE’RE RIGHT, dammit!!  We’re Christian, man, serious, but you know, things have changed and we’re supposed to just care about ourselves now anyway.

And so she did — cared foremost, apparently, about herself and what she wanted, and anointed herself her own god.  A god that stood appropriately god-like against Social Security and Medicare and other government spoils until said god was in need of same.  A god that some of my Christian acquaintances seem to co-worship now in a strange brew of sudden jarring philosophical ninety-degree right turns.  Whatevs.  I don’t even know what the “C” word is currently supposed to mean, I just don’t want my name associated with whatever it is.  That’s me talking, not Salon.

Article in the link:

http://www.salon.com/2014/12/15/one_nation_under_galt_how_ayn_rands_toxic_philosophy_permanently_transformed_america_partner/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

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ScaryAR

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The Monday rant …

 

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The giving of the thanks …

A hearty … Boy-We-Sure-Put-One-Over-on-Those-Stupid-Indians Day … to one and all!  

“Fine meal, chaps.  Burrrp.  The corn was a nice touch.  Sweet little country ya’ got here.  

Be a shame if somethin’ were ta’ happen to it.”

 

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On Mondays we rant, on Tuesdays we dahnce, dahling …

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Voter Lookup

 

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