Category Archives: Family

The Other Thanksgiving Thing

Thanksgiving. The day in which we spend three hours preparing for dinner, twenty minutes for everybody to eat, and then three hours to clean up.

But wait, as they say on television, there’s more.

In my house, after Thanksgiving dinner is over and the guests (we always used to have guests) have left, the other tradition to kick off the Holiday Season is observed.

When no one is looking, I go down into the basement, to the far corner which was once the fruit cellar. Many of you may never seen a traditional fruit cellar. There are shelves, which originally held the Mason jars of home-canned fruits and vegetables. Underneath, is a small section where no concrete floor exists. Instead, there is a 3′ x 3′ patch of soil that was once used to store home-grown potatoes and carrots in the fall so they would remain fresh over the winter.

No one ever thinks to reach behind the patch of soil, which is just as well, because it is a perfect hiding place. I get down on my knees and prop the flashlight just right so I can see under the shelf. In the very back, where no one ever looks, is the target of my search.

I reach back and wrap my fingers around it and pull it out into the light. I unwrap the multiple layers of ancient cloth, then tin foil (Yes, tin, not modern aluminum) until its multicolored splendor is visible.

It is THE fruitcake that my family has been passing from one to another for generations untold. When my great grandmother gave it to me, she pulled me and whispered that her grandmother swore that it dates back to the days of King Arthur. If looking at it doesn’t convince you, the smell should, even though all fruitcakes smell the same.

I turn it over in my hands and ponder, “To whom should I gift it to this Christmas?”

COVID-19 Update 10/31/2020

Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | FDA

Whether it’s the second wave of the first surge or a second wave, the number of COVID cases has begun to increase significantly.

First the (sort of) good news. Deaths have more or less stabilized at average of just under 900 per day. There are exceptions, such as the 27-29th of October when there were over 1,000 deaths each day.

I cannot comfortably say that this trend will continue. The medical community has learned a lot and become more effective, but this stability in death rates cannot be expected to be maintained as the number of new cases increases. Once the number of cases that require intensive care exceed the available ICU beds, it can be expected that the number of deaths will increase. Reports are that this is already the case in El Paso, Texas where adult patients with non-COVID medical issues are being sent to a pediatric hospital to make beds available for pandemic patients.

DAILY DEATHS

Now for the bad news. The number of new cases per day has begun to significantly increase. Yesterday, new cases exceeded 101,000–a record number.

NEW CASES

Because the data now include over 150 entries, a sudden change over a short period of time tends not immediately impact the trend line. However, if the increase that began in late September continues, the trend will follow.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Preliminary data do not indicate permanent or long term immunity for those who have been infected.
  • Treatment options from hydroxychloroquine to Remdesvir do not seem to cure the disease. The best they have been able to do is to mitigate some of the symptoms. While recovery time was shorter when Remdesvir was administered, death rates among patients treated with Remdesvir were statistically similar to patients treated with a placebo. [Link]
  • COVID-19 outcomes are not limited to death or recovery. So called long-haul patients experience a number of long term–and possibly permanent–changes that impact the quality of life, in some cases severely.

My personal interpretation:

  • New cases will continue to increase until either an effective vaccine or a cure is discovered.
  • Given that a segment of the population chooses to ignore prophylactic measures, such as social distancing and wearing masks, numbers can be expected to continue to rise.
  • Family interaction during the holidays will increase infection rates as some people who are normally careful relax their safety measures due to the overarching importance of families.

I fear that many future holidays may be remembered in terms of the death of a loved one due to COVID. I have racked my brain trying to identify even a tiny new idea as to how to deal with the pandemic without success. The best I can offer is: 1) wear a mask; 2) maintain social distancing; and 3) practice frequent and thorough handwashing.

75th Anniversary WW II

Seventy-five years ago, the Second World War ended.

That was my parent’s war. The Greatest Generation’s war. At that time, every American was, in one way or another, invested in it. It was a very different time with very different values.

In a small gesture, I’ve been watching Band of Brothers–the story of one company of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army during World War II. The first time I saw any of this series was at the Pat Tillman USO in Afghanistan. I didn’t see much of it, as I was waiting for transportation to a FOB (forward operating base) or something. Nevertheless, the small exposure piqued my interest. Years later, my family gave me the set of DVDs.

The movie portrays the essence of the soldiers’ experiences. if not every precise detail. The movie is too intense for some, so the first time I watched it was with my son, Adam, when everybody else was away on a trip. Even for me, it was intense–as well it should be.

Today, when people view the history of warfare, some say, “I don’t get it, what was in it for them?” They’re right they don’t get it,” and it’s sad that they have passed through this life without  experiencing honor, courage, commitment, and camaraderie.

Virtual Flying

NOTE: I recently had shoulder surgery so I’ll be typing one handed for a while and may not blog as frequently.

I love flying–not riding in an airliner, but actually being pilot in command. However, as I’ve gotten older, it’s no longer practical. I was originally licensed as “private pilot, single-engine land.” I still qualify to fly as ‘recreational pilot,” but it would make my family nervous. Not to mention that renting an aircraft is about five times as expensive as it was when I first flew. Ouch!

The big issues over the years is that when I had spare time, I didn’t have spare money and vice-versa. Actually I’ve never really had either spare time or spare money. Sigh!

Nevertheless, in my lifetime I did learn how to fly and will be a licensed pilot for the rest of my life. Ta-da!

A few years ago, my family gave me a flight simulator as a gift, including the yoke, pedals, and throttle/lever assembly as well as the Microsoft Flight Simulator program. Wow!

Shortly thereafter, Microsoft stopped selling or supporting their flight software. Bummer!

Recently, Microsoft released a 2020 version of Flight Simulator. Yay!

I tried loading into my new lap top (circa February 2020), only to be informed that my computer wasn’t fast enough. Awww!

So, yes, I broke down and bought a real gaming computer. Ka-Ching!

My son hooked it up and I was ready to play. Hoorah!

So far, all the program seems to do is to tell me to wait while it downloads another update. Booo!

I’ll update you when I can, but this one handed typing wears me out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Up in the 21st Century

Most the world is moving from analog to digital. It’s no longer “A bit before 8 o’clock,” it’s now “7:58.” On the other hand, raising kids has gone the other way.

It used to be:

  • Birth to age 3        Infant
  • Age 3 – 6                Toddler
  • Age 6 – 13              Grade/Middle School Student
  • Age 13 – 18             High School Student
  • Age 18 – 23             College Student (Away at school)
  • Age 23 – 35             Young Adult (Moving out and on their own)

Now, it’s a bit different:

  • Birth to ~ age 3        Infant
  • Age ~ 3 – 6                Toddler
  • Age ~ 6 – 13              Home Schooled / Online education
  • Age ~ 18 – 23            Distance Learning College (Living at home)
  • Age ~ 23 – 35            Living at home looking for a job

What used to be distinct stages have become a continuum, with blurred lines. It’s common for our children who are now mature, educated, and desperate to be employed and independent. They’ve done everything right, but it hasn’t turned out the way they–and we–had planned.

It’s no reflection on our kids, it’s just the way things are today. I don’t know how I would have reacted to the current situation, but I suspect I would more-or-less hate it. Just like our kids.

Sorry, kids.

 

 

 

Today’s Cartoons

New! Series 2 LOL Dolls! - YouTube

Image courtesy YouTube

I grew up with cartoons that were leftover from the 1940s. There was Popeye fighting Nazis, Woody Woodpecker, and, of course, Looney Toons with Chuck Jones art and Mel Blanc voices.

The newest we had were Hannah Barbera products–the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, etc. Television was only available during limited hours, ending with the playing of the National Anthem after the Tonight Show.

My granddaughters watch cartoons on cable. Cable cartoons are apparently like cable news (You get the picture). I can only watch about 30 seconds at a time, but as near as I can tell, they are all commercials all the time.

One they watched on their latest visit was LOL Dolls, which is apparently a Disney product. The entire program–based on the compilation of the aforementioned 30 second views–seemed to consist of hands opening up the various LOL products accompanied by manically enthusiastic girls’ voices.

My favorite (?!?) was the kitten character series, which come with various accessories, including a litter box. Children are expected to gleefully peel through simulated cat litter to find surprise toys that are hidden therein.

These cartoons are truly different than Popeye.

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.