Welcome to my blog. Thanks for coming! One day I hope my little piece of internet real estate will be home to lots of family photos, pictures of my scrapbook and card art, with some random thoughts and memories posted on a somewhat regular basis. Mostly my world is very predictable, but occasionally some excitement will find me, so visit often. Who knows what useful (or useless) information you may find here.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lake Memories

The time has come for our annual 4th of July family gathering at the lake!!!   

First things first, though - I don't know what's up with all the blue links in this post.  I didn't make them, and have no clue where the link will take you, so you might not want to be clicking on them.  

Now - back to The Lake!  In the olden days, when people didn't have to work 7 days a week, and holidays/weekends were a time of relaxation, our clan would gather at the lake most every weekend in the summer. 4th of July was always special, though. The whole family, and sometimes a few stragglers, would gather at the cabin for a wonderful time of outdoor fun, contraband bottle rockets, and firecrackers.  We would wait impatiently for dusk, load up all the boats, and head for The Islands for the best fireworks show around. It was as much fun watching the hundreds, maybe thousands of boats gathering perilously close, as it was to watch the skies light up like magic. The colors were vivid, and the booms were deafening.  
The adrenaline would really start to pump as the myriad of vessels would slowy disperse, moving at a snail’s pace until a safe distance from the others, each making its journey back home in the black of night.  I loved facing backwards during the trip home, to watch the red and green lights slowly fade away, like a starburst in slow motion.  It was an ominous feeling, gliding over the black waters, and I dared not trail my hands over the side of the boat, for fear of whatever might be lurking underneath. 

Once back at the cabin, we would crank up (literally) a freezer of homemade ice cream – we cousins taking turns sitting on top of the churn until our butt cheeks were as cold and frozen as the ice upon which we sat.  The menfolk would turn the crank until the ice cream would be so thick and frozen, the handle would no longer turn.  An eternity later, to us kids at least, we’d finally get to open the churn and enjoy the homemade deliciousness.  Grownups would gather around the table to play cards, and we kids would go outside to catch lightning bugs, or spin tall tales about most anything.  Far into the night, the younger generation would finally settle down.  Back in those days, there were three bedrooms upstairs with a screened porch that ran the width of the cabin.  The kids got the middle bedroom.  We’d lie in bed, whispering and giggling for a while, then the muffled voices of the grownups on the porch would lull us to sleep.  Pitch black dark it was, except for the glow of cigarettes (that thankfully, they all gave up!)  out on the porch. Next morning would find us all starving, and ready to devour the huge breakfast of bacon, eggs, grits, and toast.  The kitchen folk had a finely-tuned system for getting everything on the table, hot and steamy, for that many people.  Later on (we had to wait 30 minutes after eating!) we’d jump in the lake, where we’d stay for hours, our fingers and toes shriveled up like prunes.  Until it was time to cut the watermelon. Boat rides, zip-boarding, water skiing, and watermelon – the only things that could get us out of the water in those days.  We’d be so waterlogged that when we lay down at night, it still felt like we were bobbing on the waves.  What fun times!!!

Back then we couldn’t wait to be grownups.  So we could do whatever we wanted to.  Have our own apartment, car, job, etc.   Oh well, the grass is always greener on the other side.  (though often we find that it’s not grass at all, but astroturf!.... or if it IS grass, the reason it is so green is the fertilizer from all the CRAP you have to go through to get there)  Life as an adult isn’t what we thought it would be.  We are all blessed, for sure, and do not take our amazing family for granted.  But the adults from our childhood are now in their golden years, and we ourselves are coming face to face with our senior years.  Every day I get solicitations for a walk-in bath-tub, a Lil’ Rascal scooter, a Health Alert necklace (“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”)  The years are whizzing by in warp speed.  Now, our lives are spent enjoying our own adult children and grandchildren, while at the same time, keeping a cautious eye on our aging parents.  We face and conquer challenges that we would never have dreamed of while we were kids having grand adventures on the water.  And that’s as it should be.  There is plenty enough time to be an adult with responsibilities.  

My generation of cousins is so very fortunate.  We saw each other two to three times a month, sometimes every weekend.  We spent lazy summer days and nights at Mama Nay and Daddy Bill’s house together, and we were perfectly satisfied with only our bicycles, some jack stones, and our imaginations to keep us entertained.   I wouldn’t take anything for those times with my brother and my cousins, growing up together.

Our children experienced that to a much lesser degree than did we.  As young parents ourselves, we were busy.  We saw each other for a few hours on designated family days.  Except for one or two trips that our parents (their grandparents) took them on, they didn’t experience what it’s like to spend days together, the way we did. 

And now, a new generation of children has come along, and they barely know each other. 

Time passes, things change.  We work ourselves to death, we over-commit ourselves, and somehow another year passes by. 

We don’t gather at the lake every weekend like we used to do.  We hardly gather at all any more.   With busy work schedules that no longer encompass just M-F work hours, and kids involved in every activity imaginable, it’s just impossible to get everyone together at the same time.

But we try.  And even though we will not celebrate the 4th of July on the 4th of July, in a few short hours we will gather at our old stomping ground – The Lake.  These days it’s no longer a cabin.  Joyce and Gene retired almost 30 years ago, sold their home in the city, and remodeled the cabin into a lovely home.  Though the screened porch has been turned to a day porch, and the creaky outdoor chaise lounge is no longer a focal furniture piece in the great room, “the lake” will always be “the lake”, and hold precious memories for us.  It was on those bare steps leading upstairs that Sharon, Jeff, Michael, and I were forced to watch the first man on the moon – on a tiny little black and white tv with rabbit-ears for an antenna.   We thought it was undue punishment to have to watch something so boring.  But – our parents were right.  Some day we could say we saw it, and we’d remember exactly where we were. 

With the stormy night behind us, and more forecast for the day, I am praying the sky will empty itself soon, and leave us with a nice day so we can spread out and enjoy the outdoors – and The Lake!!   We will miss those who are no longer with us.  There’s a big empty hole in our hearts because they are gone.  We will miss those who are unable to attend for various reasons.  But you're with us in spirit.  

I love this crazy family of mine.  And while there’s the usual chaos and disorganization (think herding cats) to get everyone gathered for the blessing before we eat, the love between us is palpable.  And I can’t wait to be with My People. 

Happy 4th of July, everyone!!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Food Face

The other day I was browsing around on Pinterest, and came across a poster that cracked me up.

Sometimes the weirdest things make me laugh.  But this one did in particular - because that's how all of us look when GiGi says she's cooking dinner for us.  I knew Whitney would appreciate this, so I sent the picture to her.  I included a message that said something like "I never got that face from you - but this is for GiGi"  To be more specific, I'm quite sure NO ONE has ever made that face with regard to my cooking.  I just knew she would find it hilarious like me.  Apple / Tree kind of thing. 

Smarty Pants that she can often be, my darling daughter sent this picture back to me with the caption:


Wasn't that mean?  I have no idea why she would be so mean to me.  But then again, this might explain it.

I get my chili from the Wendy's 99-cent menu these days.  Works out well for me (and the planet).

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lone Survivor

Where to begin.  I saw this movie on Friday, and still it haunts me.  And I hope it will haunt me for a very long time.  Military/war movies have always fascinated me.  I won't say I *enjoy* them, because that's not true.  I like to watch them, because I like the way they make me feel.  No, that's not quite right either.  I don't like the way I feel.  But the burning deep in my soul, the hot tears on my face, the searing in my heart - is a reminder of sacrifices made not only by brave soldiers, but by the families they leave at home.  Watching them helps me remember to be grateful to those who serve.  It reminds me that while I'm sitting in a climate-controlled comfortable movie seat (or my sofa at home in my jammies), that there are soldiers in faraway places whose steps are measured with danger. 

There was a time when it would irritate me to hear people criticize the government for all the wars and 'conflicts' that we involve ourselves in.  I blamed their "lack of patriotism" on liberalism.  I have no clue what it takes to run the armed forces, and how best to manage foreign policy.  But I will say this:  I firmly believe that if we were the same nation we were on December 7, 1941, there would have been no 9/11.  If this "sleeping giant" was still considered a giant by our enemies, they would leave us alone.  Instead they laugh at us and spit on us like ants, because they know we will not retaliate effectively. 

Our involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts seems too little too late.  The borders of our nation have been infiltrated by terrorists, and they live in our neighborhoods.  There may be one next door to you or me.  We can kill all the Taliban senior leaders we want to, but there will always be plenty more to take their place.  And even if we kill all of them, there is nothing to stop those living among us from carrying out their plots of destruction.  

Perhaps it is necessary to engage in warfare with these people.  But I'm thinking less and less so.  Don't misunderstand.  I will support the American soldier with all that is in me, and respect their service and dedication.  I just think I've crossed over that line and now agree with my friends who say we have no business being involved in the affairs of these foreign lands.  

Perhaps we would be better served to keep our soldiers at home, and track down the terrorists who live on our soil.... just biding their time until they strike again.  Tighten up borders, send all undocumented people home.  Stop subsidizing the education of foreigners who come here to learn technology, then take it back to their motherland and use it against us.  Stop arms trafficking.  How many American soldiers are killed with guns that the enemies got from America to start with?  Instead of worrying so much about background checks for law-abiding citizens to legally purchase guns, how about doing intelligence checks on foreigners before allowing them to enter the US?  I'll never believe that we do not posses the technology to weed these people out and take them down.  But we won't do that, because we've become such a politically correct nation that we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings (unless they claim to be Christian, then they're fair game), and we don't want to 'discriminate' against illegal aliens, or foreigners trying to come into the country. 

It was just a movie.  But when some of the scenes still flash across my mind, my eyes begin to sting again.  It was much more than just a movie.  As horrible as it was to watch, I know it can't even to begin to depict just how terrible it was in reality.  We spent 2 hours getting to know these four men, a little bit about their personal lives, and then watched them execute the skills necessary to complete their mission.  A fluke encounter with the locals was the beginning of the end.  For each of these men, there have been thousands before them who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  We would be sitting in theaters for months on end if movies were made about every mission gone bad, every brutal attack, every band of brothers who didn't make it back home.  

I have a friend who was an on point soldier in Viet Nam.  First in after a mission.  He never got over it, and requires mental health management and medication. How does one lead a normal life after witnessing such atrocities? It is hard for me to breathe, and my eyes and head will ache for days after only watching their stories. How does a human return home from war and not be changed?  I am old enough to remember the way Viet Nam soldiers were treated by those at home protesting our involvement.  (Does the name Hanoi Jane ring a bell?)  The memory sickens me.  Two of my uncles did several tours on a battleship during that war, and I would probably nut up on anyone who showed them disrespect for their service.  I once saw a stranger wearing  a baseball cap that said Viet Nam Vet.  I went over to him and gave him a hug and said "thank you".  It was all my constricted throat would allow me to say, and I barely got it out.  (I hope it was his hat!). The sight of soldiers walking through an airport just about does me in, and I can find no words - a high five, or my hand over my heart has to suffice. 

All the men in my close family are military men.  I my ownself decided to join the Air Force in 1977.  I had done everything but sign on the dotted line.  My physical was scheduled and a tentative departure date to Lackland AFB in Texas had been assigned.  At the last minute, I allowed someone to convince me that "nice girls" didn't go into the military.  I was ready, and I was willing.  (Of course, at that time, there were no active conflicts - perhaps that would have impacted my decision.) Shortly after that, I met the man I would marry, and a few years later, we had a child.  So there was no looking back, and it's one of those things that no matter how much I say "what if", I wouldn't change it, because I can't imagine not having my daughter and grandchildren.  

Freedom is not free.  That's a quote I love. And for those who fought the Revolutionary War, it is true.  For those who fought with William Wallace, it is true.  For those who fought against Hitler, it is true. Throughout the pages of history, the price of freedom has often been the bloodshed of war. However, I have a hard time equating it with what's going on in the world nowadays.  What we are doing in these snake-infested, godforsaken desert lands over there seems to have little to do with my freedom, or your freedom.  Bin-Laden is dead.  Hussein is dead. Some of their top guys are dead.  Tragically, many of our soldiers are also dead.  Yet we are not free.  We have become a slave to those who would harm us, and in the process, we are imploding from within as a country. We are prisoners of our own government and the terrorists who they can (supposedly) neither locate nor eradicate.

I hope you'll expose yourself to some of these terrible war movies from time to time, and allow your discomfort to remind you to be respectful and grateful - no matter what your personal political feeling about the military may be.  Maybe it will anger you, as it does me, at the waste of precious lives.  Hopefully it will call us all to a point of humility, and to pray (or send good thoughts - whatever you do) for these men and women, and the families they leave behind.  One day it might be our loved one coming home in a flag-draped coffin.  I pray not.