Category Archives: Family

Juneteenth

The South’s “Peculiar Institution”of slavery allowed wealthy property owners to have millions of laborers work without pay. Not only was this free labor valuable, but selling the children of slaves was profitable as well.

The American Civil War was initially fought by the North to preserve the Union. This was after years of conflict, both in the legislature and elsewhere, regarding slavery, especially regarding which new states endorsed their citizens to buy and sell human beings.

The Civil War began on 12 April 1861. Under his war powers, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in all states engaged in armed conflict with the Union on 1 January 1863. Any slave who reached Union territory or if Union military lines reached them, they were, by law, free.

The South ignored the Emancipation Proclamation, even when the war ended. In Galveston, Texas, African Americans who had legally been free since 1863 only found out on Juneteenth, 19 June 1865, when Union Army General Gordon Granger read the federal orders that all slaves in Texas were free.

That is why Juneteenth is such an important day and should soon be a national holiday. How could we not honor and celebrate it?

 

Congraduations!

In Chesapeake, VA, like many other places, normal high school and college normal graduation ceremonies in 2020 are impossible due to the pandemic. Chesapeake is a city/county. so it has both its own Police and a Sheriff’s Department.

Today, I heard sirens, which seemed to continue for a very long time, so looked out my front door. There were several Sheriff’s Department cruisers with lights and sirens driving by slowly. Behind them were a number of vehicles, bearing signs and decorations to celebrate Grassfield High School’s graduation.

Two of my kids graduated from Grassfield. They had the normal, formal graduation ceremony, held at Old Dominion University. The graduation for every area high school used the same venue, so entry was strictly regulated, and when the ceremony was complete, everyone was rushed–I mean ushered out–quickly so the next high school could begin their ceremony. It was a like a well-oiled Swiss—–car.

On the other hand, today’s inordinate parade of Sheriff’s Deputies and graduates is probably something that the 2020 graduates will remember and talk about for a very long time.

In the midst of the pandemic, some things turn out to be special.

COVID-19 and the Future

There is a computer program that gives a real-time update on the Coronavirus, COVID-19 [LINK]. Today, I watched it roll up several hundred new deaths over a matter of hours.

It’s tough for a small business to have to worry about surviving during the pandemic. It’s tougher for a family that lives paycheck-to-paycheck to try to figure out what they’re going to do. It’s disgusting to see large corporations with cash on hand and cash in the bank grab the federal aid intended for small businesses.

Every single number that program showed today was an actual person–someone whose family is now grieving. These aren’t statistics–these are people. Unfortunately, they are now dead people.

Pandemics throughout history have had long-lasting effects, which are often overlooked. When large numbers of people die, those at the top of the socioeconomic ladder had to compete for workers. Kings made edicts that their subjects must work for the same salary as before, which was generally ignored. Workers chose jobs that paid better and the divide between the rich and common folks narrowed.

I don’t know what is going to happen after we get things back to normal, nobody does, but the new normal is going to be different.

 

COVID-19 Special Circumstances

Some of the rules for avoiding COVID-19 have the usual confusing special circumstances that need clarifying:

Is it okay to touch your face when you’re in the shower?

Speaking of showers, do you need to wash your hands before taking a shower, after taking a shower, or both?

Do couples who live together and sleep in the same bed need to stand six-feet apart in public to avoid being criticized?

If your family has more than 10 members living in the same house, do number 11 and above have to leave and find somewhere else to live?

Sorry, I may be getting silly after self-isolating, but so far I’m still healthy!

Pointless Easter Questions

Why are the ears of a chocolate rabbit a delicacy when the whole confection is made of the exact same chocolate?

Did you ever hide Easter eggs so well that they weren’t found until the lawn mower hit them?

Wouldn’t Easter be more interesting if instead of ham or lamb, the traditional meal was rabbit?*

What do peeps (marshmallow chicks) have to do with Easter?

In this time of COVID-19 and its side effect–especially cabin fever from self isolation–I wish everyone a happy Easter. To my Jewish friends chag Pesach sameach and as Ramadan approaches,  salaam to my Muslim friends.

 

 

*It’s delicious.

Premeditated Twinkie Offenses

I have no inherent dislike or paranoia about guns. I served in a war zone and carried a weapon. I like to go to a range and plunk at targets.

However, there are those today who are purchasing guns to protect their “stuff” in the event of shortages. It’s disturbing to think that anyone would kill another person over a loaf of bread, a side of beef, or a twinkie.* Talk about premeditated murder.

Somewhere around 250-280 AD, there was a pandemic–probably smallpox. The Roman death rate was around 30 percent, but in areas with a Christian presence it dropped to 10 percent. Why? The Romans deserted their sick friends and relatives to avoid catching the disease. Christians, even knowing that they might catch the disease, cared for one another.

 

* These are probably the same people who physically fought their way through the crowd to grab 18 cases of toilet paper.

Form Follows Function – Sort of

There are huge misunderstandings about many of the marvels that inhabit our everyday lives. They were not invented for the purpose that we are led to believe. Instead, they are some kind of cruel joke imposed on us by–well someone, but I’m not sure who.

With all of the labor saving devices we buy, you’d think that we’d be spared from any and all household chores. Instead, we spend as much time washing, cleaning, vacuuming, and cooking as grandma and great grandma did. In fact, the workload has gone up so that it is now expected that both adults devote most their timer at home to the effort.

Each of the following are believed to be labor savings conveniences:

The microwave was invented to encourage people to purchase packaged foods loaded with salt, sugar, and fat.

The crockpot was designed to remove all flavor from food and give it the consistency of soggy cardboard.

Perhaps the most fun the engineers had was with the dishwasher. Although it does clean dishes and cookware, its original purpose was to repeatedly bruise shins.

Now that you know, take appropriate protective measures.

Clear Title

Sometimes, in our effort to remain relevant, we change simple, explanatory terms to ones that are less so. For example, when people reach middle age and there are hormonal changes, we now call it menopause. First, it’s not a pause; when we pause, we usually start up again. Second, a lot more happens to the female body than the lack of menstruation.

In my parents’ day, they referred to it as “change of life,” which in my opinion is a much better description. Everything seems to change–muscle mass, skin tone, libido, moisture in the mucosa, hair color, energy level, hot flashes, etc., etc., etc.

Menopause sounds more clinical even though the name refers to only one symptom. In reality, pretty much everything is different.

Men may not have the same physiological catalyst or the hot flashes, but life changes for them as well–muscle mass, skin tone, libido, energy level, etc.

I think the old title worked better.

Then and Now

Thanksgiving is 0ver–the table has been cleared and the dishes washed. Everyone is complaining (bragging?) about being sleepy. I’m willing to back my words up with action and actually doze off.  (Oh the extent that we’ll reach to prove our points).

Holidays make me reminisce about how things were done in my youth. The food hasn’t changed much and we are still using my grandmothers trivets. They have been broken, carefully repaired, and kept in circulation.

The biggest changes? In my youth there were three networks and at least two of them were showing football on Thanksgiving. Everyone tended to watch the same game and critique it among themselves.

Today, there are a gazillion channels (give or take), but as soon as one person leaves the table, everybody else immediately grab their smartphones. There is no need to discuss what they are watching because everyone is probably watching something different.

Houses have certainly changed. My parents’ and grandparents’ homes still had  a flip up metal door that connected the outside to a room in the basement that had a built-in ramp. That room,was called the coal room  and the ramp, a coal chute. Our furnace had been designed as a coal fired furnace but had been converted to natural gas, so we never had the coal truck back up to the house and dump a load of coal down the coal chute.

However, the most Thanksgivingy thing were the stoves. Almost everybody had updated their kitchens, which invariably included a new stove. The old stove was moved to the basement and connected to the gas line. For big family get togethers, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, both stoves were in full operation. Items that took longer, such as the turkey were cooked down in the basement oven while the foods that needed more frequent attention were cooked upstairs.

Things change, though. We had ham instead of turkey (by majority vote) and we used the kitchen stove to cook everything, because we don’t have a backup stove in the basement. This shortfall was caused, at least in part, by the fact that our house does not have a basement.

Surrendering to iPhone

After trying almost every other brand of mobile phone over the past quarter century, I finally ended up with an iPhone. I guess it was inevitable. The kids have had iPhones for the past few years; they’ve told me why  they like them, but it didn’t seem to make an impression. Nevertheless, it was important to them.

Several of the family smartphones were showing their age. I’m suspicious that just like the Mission Impossible tape players, smartphones self-destruct when their amortization is complete, but I cannot prove it. In any case, one had several cracks across the screen, while another had a chip out of the side of the screen.

In any case, we ended up with iPhones because of one feature not available on other smartphones.

When we can’t figure out how to do something, we can ask the kids for help.

Cut!

I finally figured out how I could finally become rich and famous–well, at least rich.

I planned on producing a reality TV show in my part of the world. Naturally, it was going to be titled Real Housewives of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

I went scouting for locations and talent. Location isn’t a problem, this area is very picturesque, with the beaches, Chesapeake Bay–you know, lots of excuses to show women in bathing suits, which appears to be a requirement for a reality TV show.

Talent was the problem. I’m not saying the women in this area lack talent, but every time I thought I had someone convinced to star in the show, I’d hear:

“Can’t, I’ve got to get to work.”

“Sorry, I’m the designated driver for soccer, tonight.”

“Ooooh, can’t make it. That’s my kids’ band concert.”

I even had one who laughed at me with this comment, “After the day I’ve had, you have got to be kidding. Thank heaven that tonight my husband is grilling, otherwise it’d be do-it-yourself peanut butter sandwiches for everybody.”

These women are all too busy dealing with real life to appear in a reality show about real life.

Much Ado About Nothing – How We Describe Our Hometowns

Back in the stone age, when I was young, we described different parts of town with specific words. In northwest Ohio there was downtown, but no uptown. There was the East Side, the West End and South Toledo. North Toledo was described by the various neighborhoods–Polish, German, Lebanese, etc.

That was simple. In August, Mom would take me downtown to buy school clothes, which, by October, by the way, I’d managed to mangle.

Over time, downtown disappeared, replaced by shopping malls—which also meant that the local stores such as Tiedtke’s and Lamson’s also disappeared.

Oh, there was still a downtown, but it was the haunt of lawyers, bankers, and others who were in a different caste from my family. There was the main branch of the public library, but libraries don’t define an area.

Where I live now, there is a city center with the various city offices and courts, but except for the main branch of the library, that’s it. Unless there is a food truck event, there isn’t a restaurant or even a drive-through, fast-food, franchise place in the “downtown” area.

There are (more or less) seven cities in this area: Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach (in alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone). The area has had various monikers—Hampton Roads, The Historic Triangle,* Tidewater, Virginia Beach (it’s the tourist attraction, after all), but none of them have ever been adequate. We’re still working on it. However, if there are lakes, rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, beaches, and the Atlantic Ocean, there are more pressing issues than deciding on a metropolitan name.

We divide our area into the Peninsula, which includes Hampton and Newport News (along with Williamsburg, Croaker and Norge), the South Side, with the other cities, and various other areas like the Eastern Shore and the Outer Banks just over the line in North Carolina.

 

*Jamestown—the first permanent English settlement, Williamsburg—an early capital of Virginia and arguably a birthplace of American Independence, and Yorktown—the last major battle of the American Revolution, after which British General Lord Cornwallis’s troops surrendered to George Washington.

Commitment

Have you ever read the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America? Most people don’t recognize that as the actual title of what we call the Declaration of Independence. Written in Philadelphia, approved on 2 July 1776, and published two days later on the fourth of July.

Those who signed the document risked much if they failed. If they were lucky, they would be hanged “until dead.” The practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering was the prescribed punishment for high treason. In this case, the condemned would be hanged, cut down while still (barely) alive, often disemboweled (again, while still alive), then beheaded and their body cut into pieces.

These founding fathers had to work hard to reach common ground since they had agreed that unanimous consent was required so as not to force brother against brother so many vehement arguments led to revisions that the authors vehemently opposed. The issue of slavery was particularly difficult, and striking a phrase prohibiting slavery did, in fact, lead to the war of brother against brother.

While most of the body of the declaration deals with the grievances against King George the third, I believe the most important part is at the end.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Who among us has that kind of commitment today?

 

(Anti-)Social Media

I was able to get on the Internet in its earliest days. In Cleveland one of the universities had 80 or so phone lines dedicated to dial-in access. It was first come, first served, so busy signal was not uncommon.

There were chat groups for every interest, noble or profane, but people generally interacted with a “live and let live” attitude. Perhaps this was because most users were either certified geeks or geeks-at-heart.

Then the Internet evolved into the World Wide Web (for those who are too young, that’s what the “www” at the beginning of many web addresses means.

As they say, “There goes the neighborhood.”

Now it’s seen as a way to express hatred, to spread falsehoods or half-truths, and–if you’re a malevolent government–a place to promote division and create doubt.

It’s also the avenue for some people to post their suck-in-the-gut,  best-angle, cosmetically enhanced, and Photoshopped virtual reality picture that can cause normal people to despair. Comparing themselves to these phony perfect bodies and faces are believed to have contributed to an increase in suicide among young people.

I suspect that every supermodel, movie hunk, K-Pop Star, or whatever went though awkwardness acne, and/or hating their body during their teen years. The Internet has gotten so huge that we’ll never see an objective, scientific analysis of truth vs. falsehood.

If you have kids, make sure they understand that if it’s on the Internet, it’s not necessarily true.

The Internet was less harmful when only the Geeks knew about it.

 

 

Fair Winds and Following Seas

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George H. W. Bush’s service dog says goodbye for the final time (N.Y. Times)

I have rarely met high and lofty people, but there have been a few, very few.

During my deployment, which occurred while George W. Bush was President, his father made a trip into theater and shared some impromptu chatter with everyone present in the theater/chapel/auditorium/etc. building. The only specific I remember is that his son, “W,” had switched from jogging to riding a bicycle. He had a habit of, well, trying to be as courteous as possible, succumbing to gravity (i.e., falling down). George senior said that he and Barbara both wished he’d choose a safer physical activity.

After he made his comments from the stage, I saw him outside chatting with a number of the enlisted folks and junior officers (in desert cammies, we all looked pretty much alike). I would have liked to have joined them, but my presence would have distracted from their time with “41,” so I went about my business. He knew where he needed to spend his time and so did I. 

Among those in the Navy, the traditional, final farewell is “Fair winds and following seas.” May the wind fill your sails without threatening your ship and may the tide be favorable to your trip.

Mr. President, you were truly an officer and a gentleman; not perfect, but a very real human being. You are in a better place, with your wife and your daughter, and you deserve to be with the ones you loved.

 

 

Exit Stage Left

The old saying—and the old tee-shirt—that advises that, “He who dies with the most toys wins” is totally wrong.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, my youngest will be off to college, I will retire, and my wife and I plan on moving to a smaller house. So now, I’ve got to figure out what to do with my eclectic, but vast, collection of treasures–before it’s time to move.

A few things have sold on eBay, but eBay has apparently lost its magic. Things either don’t sell, or sell at an embarrassingly low price (i.e., not worth the trouble to list it, pack it up, and ship it). Therefore, Goodwill thinks we’re their very best friends based on the number of donations.

I’m asking the kids what they want (If they don’t want it when you’re alive, why think they’ll want it once you’re dead—or moved?). The rest, that won’t fit into a smaller house, is too good to throw away or donate, but I have absolutely no idea what to do with it.

I’ve contemplated getting a Recreational Vehicle and spending my retirement years driving around the country and having a tag sale at each place where we stop. Another option would be to have an estate sale “due to a death in the family.” While it might seem slightly disingenuous, if I have the dog “play dead” I might be able to claim that it fits through a loophole. He’s family—more or less.

I could get three of those portable storage pods. That would take care of moving into the smaller house. When I actually die, (Heh, heh, heh!) I’d have one delivered to each of my kids’ homes so they would have to figure out what to do with the stuff all the treasures.

If you had ever seen their rooms when they were teenagers, you’d understand the subtle message and irony.

Writing Is Sometimes Work

Writing can be like a partial conversation among friends. Writing can be therapeutic by admitting to things that concern or anger you. Writing can be artistic as you commune with the muse whose job it is to inspire you.

However, writing can also be work.

Lately, I haven’t written much because inspiration has been difficult. As an idealist who likes to believe that by pulling together we can accomplish anything, today’s “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude is a definite buzzkill.

What’s wrong with “My opinion and your opinion are mutually exclusive and universally exhaustive, but go ahead and tell me about your opinion anyway,”? Nothing, but instead of conversing, we prefer to find an internet site, radio station, organization, or whatever that reinforces our own opinion. It’s easier than critcally thinking.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a flawed–if not faked–study that linked autism to childhood vaccinations. The study was discredited and the former Dr. Wakefield was stripped of his medical license. However, some believed–and continue to believe Wakefield’s tripe.

Right now, in Asheville, North Carolina, 36 children are suffering from chickenpox. While chickenpox may not be fatal–although in some cases it has, it hopefully won’t be for any of these children. Meanwhile, their parents will most likely continue to limit themselves to associating with others who agree with their concerns about vaccinations.

MOM

Today is my mother’s birthday. If she were still here, she’d be 91 (as would my dad, whose birthday is earlier in the year). They were a matched set who belonged together. Mom died first, after a fall, and Dad grieved until he joined her. Now that they’re back together, all is right in their world.

If your parents are still alive, cherish every day you have with them, even if–especially if–they don’t measure up to your expectations. As we get older, and gain a modicum of wisdom, we begin to understand and accept people for who they are, not who we think they should be.

Happy birthday, Mom.

I’m No Angel

With apologies to Gregg Allman . . . .

At work–or even worse, at home–I sometimes get so wrapped up in my own ideas that I never give a thought as to whether or not I’m even close to correct. Fortunately, from time to time, I remind myself that when I shave in the morning, if I need to turn the lights on, that means there is no glowing halo to illuminate the room–therefore I’m still an imperfect human being.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

As humans, we have free will, make choices, and while some might be great, others are flat-out mistakes. That goes along with free will. We try and succeed and pat ourselves on the back. We try and fail and blame it on someone else, the conditions, the weather, or whatever.

But then we quietly admit to ourselves that it really wasn’t anything except a well-meant decision that didn’t work out. It might have been the right decision one minute before or two minutes after; it might never have been the right one, but it was not the best choice for that time and place.

We don’t have the answers in this world–hell, we’re lucky to figure out a few reasonable questions. But that’s okay; that’s our lot in life–to face challenges and respond in the best way we can.

And, when we succeed, it’s glorious.

Interesting Facts

I try to stay out of politics for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I have a hiatal hernia and gaastro-esophogeal reflux disease. However, from time to time, I come across facts that are just too interesting to keep to myself.

However, beware, for as John Adams said:

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.*

Anne Frank

—–Every western nation seems to be wrestling with the issue of immigration these days. Interestingly, there was a recent discovery by the Anne Frank House and the Holocaust Memorial Museum that Anne Frank’s father had applied–twice–for permission to move his family to the United States, but was turned down due to  “American bureaucracy, war, and time.” ** As everybody is probably aware, Anne Frank spent much of the war hiding in a secret room in the attic, was eventually found, arrested, sent to a Nazi concentration camp, and died only a few weeks before the British Army liberated the camp.

911

—–NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is an organization formed among western nations in 1949 for their mutual protection. Article 5 of the NATO treaty that essentially says that an attack on one member nation would be viewed as an attack on all the NATO members.  Interestingly, Article 5 has only been invoked once, with the other NATO nations coming to the aid of the United States after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.***

 

* Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_adams_134175

** https://www.click2houston.com/news/national/anne-franks-family-tried-in-vain-to-flee-to-the-us

*** https://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/13/us/after-attacks-alliance-for-first-time-nato-invokes-joint-defense-pact-with-us.html