When we moved into our first home in June of 1971, in Andover, Minnesota…it was in a Backyard 1new addition that was being built on what used to be a farm field…there were no trees and the ground between houses was still rutted with rows that used to be planted with crops…our builder bought this acreage between two county roads for the purpose of dividing the land into half acre lots…enough room for a house and septic system, the allotted land needed at the time to do that…so between our house and the next was plenty of room and behind our house was  adjacent land still used for pasture, where horses grazed…yup, we were out in the country at that time, though things changed rapidly…many houses were built around us…and we planted trees…just “sticks” really…Green Ash, Maple, flowering Crab apple and a number of evergreens…balsam, Colorado blue spruce…Oh, maybe 20 plus trees in all…no shade for a long time with those trees…but we had hope…

Backyard 2All this to tell a story…something that I had never seen before, nor since…but let me fill you in a bit about how this came about…the pasture behind our house was all grass with horses grazing…the kids played in that pasture over the years as it changed…even back then I remembered what I learned in 10th grade Biology class…I remember the topic, the book, the pictures on the page…the lesson was about “ecological succession”…and how a bare field would change…and over the 36 years we spent in that house, not only our kids grew up, but our lot and the field behind the house changed too…simply, the idea of ecologic succession is that if you have a  bare field of land it will change…first grass, then small woody plants, then bushes, then trees, etc…coming to what they called a climax or what it was before it was a field…animals change as well as vegetation…mites and ants, bugs and spiders, snakes and worms, mice and voles, squirrels and fox, deer and raccoon, etc….that is as quick a biology lesson as I can come up with…it is more complex than that…but that will do…

The story, okay the story…I’ll get to that…just hang on a bit…I remember all the MeadowMeadowlark Larks that we had in that field behind the house…our kids would love its “call”, that is “before” the ecological succession I talked about…the kids used to find their nests in the grass…and see them fly right to it…sit on a fence post and sing their hearts out, its a beautiful song…thinking of that always makes me think of Willa Cather’s book “O Pioneers”, about first and second generation life on the prairie, and relates to what I write about here…a quote from the book I love:

“Yes, sometimes, when I think about father and mother and those who are gone; so many of our old neighbors.” Alexandra paused and looked up thoughtfully at the stars. “We can remember the graveyard when it was wild prairie, Carl, and now–“

“And now the old story has begun to write itself over there,” said Carl softly. “Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.”

Each generation is so certain they are the first…like the larks…same five notes over for thousands of years…oh, listen, he’s so sure he’s the first…

But when the changes happened over the 36 years we lived there…the Meadowlarks disappeared…they need open land, grass and few trees to live as they have for thousands Backyard 3of years…so the last 20 years…no Meadowlarks…we think things are going to remain the same…but they never do…life is moving, we need to get on board…there may be only two or three human stories, repeating themselves like the lark but they are our stories…

And so things changed, the Meadowlarks were gone but the trees grew…the field behind our house changed too…Cedar trees began to grow there as well as the ones in our yard…we put up bird feeders…it was one of Jeremy’s hobbies…we had feeders for hummingbirds and every other kind too…it was fun to see how many we had coming to the feeders…but like all other things in life, one moveMinnesota backyard 7 seems to make other things happen…one move causes another…(just a little Sir Isaac Newton there)…

When we put up the bird feeders, and like expected, the birds came…in droves, then we added more feeders…during migration we had visitors on their way to many places…birds of all colors and kinds…some bold and bossy…some big, some small…just all kinds…Jeremy bought birdseed by the fifty pound bag…we had a feed mill in town that we bought it from…and the birds loved it…but with birds come problems, that’s where my story comes into play…birds attract predators…and with backyard feeders come hawks…the kind of hawk most attracted is the Cooper’s Hawk…it is a smaller hawk…the Red-tail Hawk picks on bigger meals, like rabbits and the Bald Eagle goes after bigger prey…but for the Cooper’s hawk songbirds are a perfect sized meal and if you have a hawk at your feeder, it Hawk, Cooper'sis most likely a Cooper’s Hawk…they are a beautiful bird even though they can cause problems at the feeders…

Now my story has nothing to do with a hawk and songbirds…even though I could tell you about the many times we saw a Cooper’s Hawk perching on the deck railing eating a Bluejay or some other bird…or on the logs around the fire ring…and we would see the feathers that it left after eating the bird…but birds are not stupid…they warn each other if a hawk is in the area…which is what happened the day my story happened…I was on the deck looking out at the backyard…it was all the sudden very quiet…no birds at the feeders and we knew when that happened there is a hawk in the area…the warning had gone out…but out on the ground under one of the feeders was a squirrel…just eating away…he evidently didn’t “get the word”…I looked around and didn’t see any birds or hawks in my view…now, for backyard bird feeder enthusiasts, squirrels are a pain…and unlike me, Cooper’s Hawks love squirrels…so I just sat and waited…

Minnesota Backyard 5It only took a few seconds of waiting…I don’t know if you have ever seen a hawk in motion or going in for the kill…but it is a natural and beautiful thing to behold…they are quick and lethal in their movements…this Cooper’s Hawk came gliding in completely silent…a couple of flaps and a long glide…it flew through trees and bushes gliding around all the trees we had planted so long ago…the squirrel all the sudden saw him out of the corner of his eye…and though he had ignored the earlier warning and had made himself a lonely and very obvious target, he ran for his life…the closest thing to him was one of our Colorado Blue Spruce…it was about 25 feet tall and about 20 feet from where he was…the hawk was right on him but missed him as he scampered into the tree…the hawk was now on the ground having missed him…but if you know about the Cooper’s Hawk, they will fly into Squirrel, Greyheavy brush or even run on the ground in pursuit…

The hawk did just that…this is what I had never seen before or since…the hawk ran into the blue spruce and climbed right after the squirrel, using his wings like we would our arms and hands…and he was quick about it…the squirrel went up, so did the hawk…the squirrel changed positions, so did the hawk…finally the squirrel must have realized as I did that he was “toast” if he kept on moving around…he found a place up high and hunkered down…so did the hawk…no one moved for a few seconds…then the squirrel tried to break down the tree, so did the Minnesota Backyardhawk…the squirrel decided that his best bet was to stay quiet…he was right, I don’t know if he even breathed…after a few more seconds…finally the hawk must have thought this was taking too much energy and time…he came out of the tree…probably said “Harrumph” a couple of times…and flew away…the squirrel after a minute or two came down and left for home and a nap…the birds???…they came back as if nothing had happened…me??? I sat there amazed…a once in a lifetime experience…

Okay, catch your breath…okay maybe not “that” good…but an okay story right???…and best of all it was all true…nature is wonderful…get out and enjoy it…plus we had a little lesson on life…a Biology lesson…and no one died…I’m giving myself some kudos for that…

 

 

 

 

I thought you might like to read this on Memorial Day 2014…I get Fox News First everyday…and it is mostly political in nature…but not today…it is just, very good writing…and touches the heart, which is what good writing does…it’s all good, but two of his comments are also poignant comments about our culture…
 
Americans don’t much do cemetery trips these days – or cemeteries, for that matter. If Marine on the St. Croix cemeteryyou don’t believe in those words “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” then a cemetery wouldn’t be of much use to you. But more than that, we have a culture now based on “closure,” in which we learn to seal off the hurts of our hearts and bury them deeper than the deepest grave. Remembrance is of no virtue to people who believe that their purpose is the pursuit and maintenance of their own happiness.

What an impoverishment of spirit that is. I once had an editor who believed that the best way for foreigners to understand Americans was to read our obituaries – to meet these gentle, kind, faithful, loved and loving people who passed their lives unknown to all but those whom they touched directly. I increasingly believe she was right

Livingston Cemetery, Clark County, IllinoisI found myself, as I read this, in southern Illinois, near Marshall…near “The Farm”…everyone in the extended Yeley family knows what that means…strolling through the Livingston Cemetery…but also I found myself looking through the Marine on the St. Croix Cemetery, in Minnesota, high on the bluff above the St. Croix River…searching to find the Elmquist family graves…and of course Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, where my Mom and Dad are buried…thoughts and feelings explode into memories, as I move through those relativelyFort Snelling 1 small plots of land…all within my own mind…
So enjoy this the way I did…slowly read and let your experience, your history, waft through your mind…remembering those who’s legacy you carry…Jim E

 

Fox News First: May 26
By Chris Stirewalt

On Memorial Day, Some Portals to the Past

My recollections of Memorial Day are dusty and filled with the creaking sound of the springs on my cousin’s Buick Roadmaster as it forded dry streambeds and trundled along rutted country roads in southern Illinois – and then the thwack of fat June bugs popping on the windshield as she picked up speed on the blacktop down towards the Harmony Grove church.

To the eyes of a suburban boy, the places she took my father and me were just empty prairie. To my father’s eyes, they were filled with the faint lines of places and people he had known as a boy. That caved-in pile of sheet metal and rotten boards was Wick Cage’s general store where his father carried eggs to sell. That empty corner was where his grandfather’s little house had stood in the dirt yard where the old man, standing in his best starched overalls at the head of a long table carried outside for the occasion, had poured dippers of iced tea out of a galvanized bucket. Where the hens watched nervously as one of their own made for Sunday dinner.

Just as my old man would start waxing nostalgic, our tour guide moved us along. We were not there to remember life. We were there to visit the dead. My cousin had been retired from the Air Force longer than I had been alive, and she took seriously her job not just as family historian, but as one who would see that our family would do its part for Memorial Day – for Decoration Day as it was once properly known.

GravestonesAnd on to another cemetery we would go, this one clutched by slender locust trees and set back from the road on a rise above Hurricane Creek. Who came to this ancient place keep it up? Who oiled and painted that wrought-iron gate? Who trimmed back the grass from the tiny headstone of an unnamed stillborn child dead for 120 years? Why? No time for questions. Cousin mustered us out and deployed the flag markers for the military men and flowers for the civilians. Back in the Roadmaster and back on the road. A whole day went by that way, graves of my ancestors and graves of those unknown to us. The Black Hawk War, the Civil War, World War I, and on and on.

You can stand at the Dodge Grove Cemetery up the highway in Mattoon, where my Flags on graves, Memorial Daygrandmother’s people were well-off enough to be laid to rest beneath monuments amid mausoleums. From there you see the rise of the earth reveal the graves of hundreds of Civil War dead, including three generals, as the locals will tell you. And any of them, officers or enlisted, who had no one to decorate their graves that day, got a flag, courtesy of our little honor guard.

Americans don’t much do cemetery trips these days – or cemeteries, for that matter. If you don’t believe in those words “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” then a cemetery wouldn’t be of much use to you. But more than that, we have a culture now based on “closure,” in which we learn to seal off the hurts of our hearts and bury them deeper than the deepest grave. Remembrance is of no virtue to people who believe that their purpose is the pursuit and maintenance of their own happiness.

What an impoverishment of spirit that is. I once had an editor who believed that the best way for foreigners to understand Americans was to read our obituaries – to meet these gentle, kind, faithful, loved and loving people who passed their lives unknown to all but those whom they touched directly. I increasingly believe she was right.

Marine on the St. Croix houseBut I have a corollary to add: The best way for Americans to know themselves and their history is to walk among the quiet headstones of our graveyards. See the dates and realize how young they were. Read the inscriptions. Feel the cool marble. Imagine. You can know your family that way, but you can know what America is by placing yourself among the remains of the men and now women who died to make her and to defend her.

No politics today. Instead, we offer you a few of the portals from which to begin that journey – places to let that knowledge start to wash over you. Places where you can leave a flag and offer up a little word of thanks.

– The inscription at the Daughters of the American Revolution Memorial Marker in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania reads  “Near this spot, lies Lieutenant John Waterman, died April 23, 1778, whose grave alone of all his comrades was marked.” Some 2,000 Continental soldiers died at Valley Forge or in distant hospitals. Most expired not in the dead cold of winter, but in the spring, when influenza, typhus, typhoid and dysentery more than decimated the camp. Waterman died during this time. His lonely gravestone on the grand parade ground was marked simply, “JW 1778.” He was later identified by his initials as aAmerican flag Rhode Island officer.

– In Grafton National Cemetery, Grafton, West Virginia rests Private Thornesberry Bailey Brown, believed to be the first Union casualty of the Civil War.  Brown mustered into service in Company B, 2nd Virginia Infantry, and served under Captain George R. Latham as part of the “Grafton Guards.”  On May 22, 1861, near present-day Grafton, a Confederate sentry ordered Brown to halt.  Brown refused and shot the sentry in the ear.  The sentry returned fire, shooting Brown in the heart.

– At Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York lies Sgt. Wilbur E. Colyer. Served in the U.S. Army in World War I and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery near Verdun, France, on October 9, 1918. His citation reads “Volunteering with 2 other soldiers to locate machinegun nests, Sgt. Colyer advanced on the hostile positions to a point where he was half surrounded by the nests, which were in ambush. He killed the gunner of one gun with a captured German grenade and then turned this gun on the other nests silencing all of them before he returned to his platoon. He was later killed in action.”

– Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee is the final resting place of Cornelia Fort. Nashville’s first woman flight instructor,  she was giving a flying lesson as a civilian instructor over Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941 and witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Fort was the second woman to join the Woman’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, which ferried planes to free up male pilots for combat assignments. She was the first WAFS pilot to die in the line of duty. Cornelia Fort was killed while ferrying a BT-13 Valiant trainer when it collided with another plane over Texas on March Flags Memorial Day21, 1943.

–On April 5 1951, Naval Hospitalman Richard D. Wert was serving with the Marines as they cleared North Korean guerrillas from rural areas of South Korea and as they aided in driving the enemy beyond the Thirty-Eighth Parallel. While with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines during an attack on Chinese Communist forces, De Wert continually rejected medical treatment for his wounds to provide first aid to fallen marines. Under intense fire he provided treatment to four marines, De Wert was killed in action while tending to an injured comrade. The Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient was originally buried in Korea, re-interred at the Woodlawn National Cemetery, Elmira, N.Y, but in 1987 upon request from his family, was laid to rest in his home where his grave can be found in section 5 at the Massachusetts’s National Cemetery in Bourne.

– At Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Oakville, Missouri you can find Air Force Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who served in the 8th Special Operations Squadron. He was shot down and killed while piloting his A-37B Dragonfly aircraft in the vicinity of An Loc, in South Vietnam. His remains were buried in Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of The Unknowns as an unidentified soldier from the Vietnam War. After petitioning the United States Government for permission, his family had his body exhumed. DNA tests confirmed that the previously unknown soldier was, in fact, Michael Blassie.

– Staff Sgt. James M. Christen of Loomis, California died in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, on his third deployment overseas. Sgt. Christen previously served two tours in Iraq. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Staff Sgt. James Christen now rests with many of his comrades from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan in Section 60, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.


 

Worth the trip don’t you think???…hope you enjoyed reading this trip into all our Fort Snelling 2past…and then I will leave you with another picture where my folks are buried…Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis…its a cemetery for all who served in the armed forces…my Dad served in WWII, in the Navy…they both wanted to be buried there…my Dad kept reminding us that they were to be buried there…he was proud of his service and wanted to be buried with those whom he related to best…I think all who served never lost that bond…the war changed my Dad in profound ways, too many to talk about here…but his relationship to other veterans never changed with all that he experienced since WWII…may they all rest in peace…with our thanks for all they gave…

Posted by: Jim E | May 24, 2014

Memorial Day, I Remember…

 

Memorial Day, I Remember…

(This is something I wrote in 2010,  for Memorial Day…thought I would post it again…enjoy and if you can,  fly the flag…and remember how fragile our freedom is…how precious our liberty…and though it seems impossible, how easy it would be to lose it…we have come close in our history a number of times, who knows we could be close to it now…so this is not the time to forget that or to lose hope in this special and exceptional country…)

Another Memorial Day…and I don’t mean, “just another Memorial Day”…I do mean, “It IS another Memorial Day”…I am humbled by the day itself…this is not, as even some presidents mistakenly view it, a day to honor all our men and women in the armed forces…(though we do honor them)…there are other days set aside for that…Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, days to honor the different services…this day is for the fallen…those who have given their lives for this great country of ours…

On the way to church this morning we went by a sign in front of Parkway Automotive, an auto repair shop, it said…”Closed Memorial Day…to honor those who have fallen”…that pretty much says it all…across our country there are ceremonies to remember what it takes to be free…it takes men and woman who are willing to give their lives to make sure we stay free…I have our flag flying outside our house all year…but as you can see, I add a few others to honor Memorial Day…

Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington D. C., is very well known…it was the family home of Robert E. Lee before the Civil War…but it was basically “taken” because of he fought on the side of the South during the war…(there is more to that story if you would like to Google it)…and it was turned into a cemetery during the Civil War…and after…many famous Americans are buried there…this song by Trace Adkins may make the story a little more personal…

But Arlington National Cemetery is not the only place our fallen are buried…my Dad, who served in WWII, is buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN…and because of his service, my Mom was is buried right beside him…this picture of Fort Snelling is so beautiful…I remember very well the day we buried my Dad and then the day we buried my Mom…and I remember exactly where it is…I think I could drive right to it…but all those markers sure tell a story…they all served, many of them died far before their “time” in wars that keep us free even today…and many others were able to live full lives because others gave theirs…and my Dad knew the difference…he often told us that the real heroes never made it back…

He served in the south Pacific in the Navy…saw more than he ever wanted to…didn’t talk much about it…but was so proud that he served…and he wanted us to know, when he and Mom died, they wanted to be buried at Fort Snelling…along with all those who went before…he lived to be almost 83…and he along with so many that I knew, were forever changed by The War…and much like that war, men and women who serve today are changed in ways the rest of us cannot know…

One more picture of Fort Snelling…my Mom and Dad are there…I honor them today…but not only them…all of those who served and died to keep us Free…We honor them today…

Posted by: Jim E | May 7, 2014

Jeremy’s 44th Birthday…A Rehash…

Birthday rehash…so Jeremy went to work this morning…could have had the day off…but wanted the hours (no doubt wants to buy his wonderful Dad something special)…so I asked him last night and this morning too…”So did you have a good day for your birthday?”…he said yes, he enjoyed the day…let me tell you my interpretation of his goodJeremy's 44th birthday day…as he related it to me…
 
He got up and I fixed him the breakfast he wanted…sausage and eggs…course the eggs weren’t done to his “high standards”…but the Jimmy Dean sausage was fine (Jimmy Dean would be happy to know that)…we told him, “Heavens, for someone who wasn’t suppose to make it to four and now you’re forty four, you’re doing quite well.”…then lunch at “Senor Te…”…Oh, never mind, he always calls it “The Mexican Place” (too difficult to say it’s name, I guess)…I wait in the car, he and Mom take in “The Mexican Place”…he can eat 6 or 8 times a day, I can’t…well, I could but I don’t…then “His Birthday Meal”…for those who were there, by watching the “Ever Effervescent Jeremy”, you might not believe he enjoyed the meal or the company…but you would be mistaken…he is thinking more than he says or tells…Mom Jeremy's 44th birthday 4and I can “read” him after all these years…
 
While the rest of us are “Chopped Liver”…when Jared Jr. came in…that was one of the high points of his evening, he knows Jared has other things to do…like work and so on…but he asked Jared to come, but didn’t think he could make it…and was satisfied that he would have to work late…Jeremy wanted Jared to have some of his birthday cake…Creme de Menthe cake (white cake with creme de menthe in it…frosted with chocolate frosting…then frosted with Kool Whip/with creme de menthe in it, over the top the chocolate frosting)…now this cake recipe was from one of his favorite cooks at St. Francis High School, with whom Jeremy worked in the kitchen in high school…this cake is his favorite and one that Jared Jr. likes too…so Jeremy asked Jared to come…somehow, though some might not understand, those things are important to Jeremy…therefore, when Jared came in, lights went on for Jeremy…
 
And his FBI hat…Jeremy makes friends easily…they may not always understand Jeremy's 44th birthday 2him…verbal skills being what they are…but somehow they are enamored with him…I don’t know if they even know why…but I have seen it over the years…when he was very young…3-4-5 years of age, what he has now, he had then…I would notice as (something we say in Minnesota) “we had people in”…they may or may not have met Jeremy before…but all the sudden he was up in their lap…talking away (a bit of his Mom in him, dontcha know)…they being so interested in what he had to say…I sat and watched that happen over and over…”How did he do that? He just slipped up in their lap without them even understanding what happened and seemed to have no problem with it.”…he still has that ability today…maybe not “up in their lap” but finds himself within their personal space that they would not give up to most anyone else…but to Jeremy, it seems somehow okay…how he does it I don’t know…and those that know him, “in family” for example…find it hard to understand…
 
So the FBI hat…Gary and Sharon are neighbors here in Montagne Court have “taken to Jeremy”…now first, that makes them a special pair…no one has to do what they do with Jeremy…so kudos to them…but when Gary came before his birthday party started, and Jeremy's 44th birthday 3came in and gave Jeremy a card…(which of course, will be read later) but also gave him one of his FBI hats (Gary is recently retired from the FBI)…now that was a big deal…Jeremy wore that around all night long, including during the meal…and when Gary was here, Jeremy talked to him about his birthday meal…”Mom’s meat loaf”, mashed potatoes, green beans, El Grande salad (lettuce, pepperoni, black olives, red onion, grated Monterey Jack Cheese, topped with Green Goddess dressing/thinned with a splash of vinegar…voila…delicious)…every year it’s the same, along with his cake…
 
Ah, the cake…Jeremy told Gary about the cake…and told him he would bring him a piece if there was any left…Gary told Jeremy that it sounded good but that he should enjoy it and there probably would not be any left…of course, for anyone that knows Jeremy “real well” would know…that would be on Jeremy’s mind the rest of the night…and at the table and opening the gifts, he was his normal “pain in the backside Jeremy”…but on his mind during that and the “eating of the cake”…more than one piece for some…and if those who were there noticed…when all the cake was served…Jeremy disappeared…he had cut a couple of pieces and put in a container…and he was gone…Gary and Sharon were going to get the cake he promised “if there was any left”…a promise is a promise…there may be some missing links in Jeremy, as in all of us, but though he isn’t the size of an elephant…he, as the proverbial elephant, never forgets…(flavored honey at the Jeremy's 44th birthday 5Minnesota State Fair or anything else, that reference is for Jessica)…
 
So, did Jeremy have a good day…”Ya”, he said…and he meant it…he had his favorite meal…his favorite cake…Jared Jr. came directly from work…when he didn’t have to…he enjoyed the cake…received a “dancing pickle” card from Don and Carol…a card and hat from Gary and Sharon…and of course, the rest of us, yup, “Chopped Liver”…but all put together, makes a perfect birthday for someone who has a special gift to give…we, like so many over the years just have to “pick over the life” we know so well and find those special things…we, Mom and I, have decided long ago to give ourselves to that quest and to “see” the gift that we know to be Jeremy…
 
Posted by: Jim E | May 6, 2014

I Took My Mom To Lunch…

I Took My Mom To Lunch…

Mother’s Day is this weekend…I will post this as I did last year, in honor of my Mom…I wrote this years ago…April 2006, it was over a year after Mom died, but I had to “get it down” so I wouldn’t forget it…enjoy and if possible call your Mom…it will make her day…as my Mom did mine, on the day I describe below:

                                           

“Something reminded me this morning about taking my Mom to lunch…who knows how memories are jarred loose in our minds…but this morning this memory randomly arrived…

It has been only a little over a year since Mom passed away…but most of the memories of those days are still fresh…I know they won’t always be, so I decided this one I would write down before it becomes irretrievable…that happens to all of us as time goes by and other experiences take img070over…this lunch happened a few years ago…after Mom’s stroke and after Dad died, but before Mom slipped away from all of us…she was handicapped by some of the remnants of her stroke but still lucid enough to remember things of the past…she still knew everyone, though sometimes she called me “George” (her husband, my Dad)…and though she knew that wasn’t quite right, we both just let it go…it really didn’t matter to me and it was okay with her to let it go…just seemed like too much work for her to change it after it came out…if you don’t know what I mean, you will soon enough…

That day Mom had a doctor’s appointment…and so I picked her up…and off we went…first to her appointment, then to lunch…I really hadn’t planned to go to lunch but Mom was so “with it” that day…we talked and laughed as we drove along…she was so enjoying the ride, she commented how she would just like to keep driving…so I drove passed things that she would remember, pointed out things that were changing…she was so interested…she was always interested in what her boys thought and were interested in…that had not changed…I often wondered if that was real…was she as interested as she seemed???…I never could see anything to make me feel otherwise…and that day it was more than usual…it was a high point in these last years of her life…

I asked her if she wanted something to eat, “My treat”, I said…she laughed and said let’s go somewhere easy…I knew what she meant, she had lots of trouble getting in and out of the car…”Where do you want to go?”, I asked her…she didn’t know…so I made some suggestions…and she picked the one with the golden arches, she wanted some French fries…andPond with willows and cattails 3 of course, a drive-thru…I knew one not far away and we drove slowly to get there, talking along the way…we got our meal and parked behind the McDonald’s…so let me paint the picture…behind us was one of the busiest roads in the north suburbs of Minneapolis…but in front of us was a large swamp (called a wetlands today) and we were parked on some of the fill that had been put there to build the McDonald’s and paved…there were still piles of fill beyond where we parked…it was a warm sunny day…cattails waved far into the distance…birds flew here and there…the small willow trees along the bank moved to the motion of the wind…and here I was with my Mom…just talking, eating…sharing French fries…me watching to see if she needed help…it was perfect…Elmquist family WW II 1944

We talked of things she remembered, of things she wanted to talk about…I told her how much she meant to me…she waved it off as she often did…and talked of times past…her folks, my grandparents…she loved them…and now in her 80′s, she still honored them…they, like the rest of us were not perfect, but to her and to me…that didn’t matter, both of us agreed how wonderful they were…she remembered the days of her youth, before all this…and all that was before her…we laughed and some tears were shed…but overall it was a wonderful time…right there overlooking that beautiful swamp…

It’s a picture I will always remember (now bear with me)…from 50 or 100 feet above…do you see it???…looking down you see a McDonald’s, next to a busy highway…and behind a large swamp…and there behind the McDonald’s…right there in the parking lot…an old white Buick and inside…can you see them???…a son and his Mom, he in his 60′s, her in her 80′s…eating, talking, crying and laughing…but enjoying for one of the very last times, each other…

She was and is in my memory…loved and honored…”

Last Sunday, April 27, 2014 was like many Spring Sundays in Little Rock…it was cloudy, and warm, with warnings of possible storms…and in Arkansas this time of year, that means the threat of tornadoes…being from Minnesota and living there for most of our Clouds storm coming June 11, 2011lives, we had tornadoes…but here, when they say a threat of tornadoes, we have learned, you have to take it seriously…but other than watching the weather, the day started like most early Spring days here…we went to church and came home, spent some time reading and watching the weather on TV once in a while…Jeremy worked until 5:00, and that was when they said things might start “popping”…for as long as we have been married and had kids, I always felt better “when everyone was home”, safe…I know that maybe a bit weird but I always have felt that way..so getting Jeremy home was a good feeling…

We “tucked in”, as I told Jeremy we would do when we got home…I turned on the TV and watched what was happening…there really wasn’t much going on…Oh, there were thunderstorms on the radar but nothing as of yet ominous…that would all change at about 7:00 pm…I mentioned that things were a bit different in Arkansas in how they follow weather, especially tornadoes, they are good at it…they follow them very closely and can “see” the “signature” of the tornado…

In fact they follow it along town by town, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood…and that is exactly what happened on Sunday, the names of the town, street, neighborhood are on the screen…as long as we have power and the TV is working or have a smart phone working you can get that kind of warning…it is a bit frightening but at the same time wonderful to have that kind of specific warning…we watched the tornado on Sunday, its whole way until it lifted up…they pointed out that “it was on the ground”…I wondered the first years down here, “How do they know”…it’s hard to understand but they do know…

Tornado April 2014We saw on radar, the “debris ball”, as they called it, on the screen, so we knew there were trees, houses and possibly people being effected by the storm…and it was wide and we watched it as it moved along…and as we watched we thought “out loud” who we knew that were in the path of the storm…so as I told Judie that night…”It’s right out where the ‘strawberry lady’ parks her van.”…and it was just West of there, about a half mile away…we followed it town by town, road by road…we knew right where it was all along…even down to “that’s just East of Will’s folks”…”it just missed Roland (a small town North of us) by a football field”…and so on…so we never know if it will happen…but when it does we will know just when it will hit…I’m still amazed by the technology…letting us know down to a half mile, maybe less…

I have kept a page from “Our Daily Bread”, a devotion I use everyday to start my day, I Our Daily Breadnever know why I save them, maybe it was for today…(called “Her Worst Day Ever”)…I will include a small portion of it here…“In May 2011, a young woman took cover in a bathtub during a tornado that devastated her city of Joplin, Missouri. Her husband covered her body with his and took the blows from flying debris. He died, and she survived because of his heroism. She naturally wrestles with the question, ‘Why?’ But a year after the tornado, she said that she finds comfort because even on her worst day ever, she was loved.”

“When I think about ‘worst days ever’, I think of Job right away. A man who loved God, he lost his animals, his servants, and his 10 children in one day! (Job 1:13-19). Job mourned deeply, and he also asked the ‘Why?’ questions…God did not give him the reasons for his suffering, but he listened to Job and did not fault him for his questions. God assured him of His control over everything, and Job trusted Him (42:1-6). The Lord may not give us the reasons for our trials. But, thankfully, even on our worst day ever, we can know for sure we are loved by Him (Romans 8:35-39)”…

And so on that Spring day in Arkansas…and in Little Rock…a small city really…we know or know of, many people here…it is a beautiful time of the year…everything is “new green”, if you know what I mean…the trees are fully leafed out…the azaleas are blooming, dogwoods, flowers of all kinds…it is just beautiful…but even on that kind of day storms can take the heart out of you…when you see the how many people are effected by it…there were 15 people who died in that storm around Little Rock…and hundreds of others with stories from that day…most of them trying to put their lives back together… Tornado, Tittle family

Let me tell you about two stories we know because they work at Family Life…the Tittle family’s home was one of the first ones hit in the storm…as the storm came Rob and his wife, Kerry, were shepherding their kids under the stairway…when the storm hit…he and two of their daughters were killed…his wife and 7 other children were safe…their house disintegrated and only the slab was left…and another large family a few miles away took refuge in their storm shelter just before the tornado hit…they all were safe, their house totally gone…a car was up against the door of the shelter so they couldn’t get out…they called 9-1-1 and they got them out a half hour later…but with all this devastation, things Tornado, April 2014, Tittle homecould certainly have been worse…and those around those who survived are giving thanks for their safety…

I am old enough to not ask the “Why?” question anymore…I really don’t know why these things happen, don’t pretend to know…but I do know this, we can ask “Why?”…it’s okay…and maybe because I am “older”…and have seen so much over the years…I know God is in control…and as I have told so many people over the years, “He knows the answers but He’s not telling”, just as with Job…and though it is a hard world sometime…it is good…I will trust the One Who created it and runs it…because there are no other answers that make much sense…So in the end I have found, “God’s love does not keep us from trials, but sees us through them.”…I am fine with that…

And this same God will see these families through this hard time…His love and care will be there for them…as these two fathers showed us their love and care for their families…know this, these and others will find comfort because even on their worst day…they were loved… 

A little over a month ago…I got up early as is my wont to do…did a few things I usually do…open the blinds, clean out the dishwasher…heavens I always run it as I go to bed…sit on the couch for a few minutes as I think through the day…then go in and turn on the computer…look at the news, read a few blogs and websites, so I will be up to date on theCandlelight vigil for murdered 10 yr old overnight news and views…then move on to other things…but that morning when I read the home page news…and as I read the story about a 10 year old girl who was abducted in broad daylight…found murdered in the basement of a neighbor…in trash bags and storage containers…and a picture of a candlelight vigil in Springfield, Missouri, where hundreds came out…that put me over the edge…as my Mom used to say, “that’ s the last straw”…I knew I had to write something, though I didn’t know then and even now, as I write, what it would be…even though it was as the proverb said, “…the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.”…

You probably know the scene in the Christmas movie, “The Christmas Story”…called the Scut Farkus affairScut Farkus affair, where Ralphie loses it after months of being picked on by Scut Farkus and his toady, Grover Dill…standing there after being irritated by a number of problems that stretched Ralphie’s endurance beyond his limit…”the last straw” happened, Scut Farkus hit him in the face with a snowball…and that was “it”..the fight was on and Ralphie “lost it”…it is kind of the way I felt that day…after seeing all the negatives on the news…where almost all of the things I believe in are being attacked almost everyday…where even at the highest levels of society, government, entertainment and culture…seem to be turning away from what I believe has made our country great…and how I saw this little girl being killed as part and parcel of that downward slide we are on in this culture…

And I see things on a fast trip into the abyss…I remember so well, in my former life, B.R. (before retirement)…I was  a principal of a large high school…one of my axioms was, “it takes a week to lose it and a year to get it back”…I saw it happen many times…at the high school level, if you change something, like a rule, and it is less controlling than the former, it is easy to change the rule…but almost impossible to change it back…it can be done but it takes a lot of time and a lot of work…I’ve been there, I know…I remember when I became the principal of our school…there were many things I felt I had to “clean up” to return the school to do what we were charged to do…educate…to be a place where teachers can teach and kids can learn…that seems simple but there are many things which work to stop that from happening…look around you, at schools that work and those that don’t…it doesn’t take much time to see why…but getting the right person or group of persons on board and willing to do the hard work to make it happen is the difficult task…but I digress…it is also true in our culture..as we give up mores and cultural principles that we have live with “forever”…easy to change, difficult to return to them again…

I have a poem written in the front of my Bible…it goes like this:Alexander Pope

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Written by Alexander Pope, 1688-1744, from his epic poem, “An Essay on Man”…published in 1733-34…vice meaning sin…mien meaning conduct…so if I have written this way in the front of my Bible…”Beware of this human weakness: first we abhor…then we pity…finally, we embrace“…put another way: ”sin first unthinkable, is grudgingly tolerated, then condoned, then endorsed, then openly promoted as acceptable in God’s eyes”…we see it all the time…things thought unimaginable are being endorsed…

So when I see people being mislead by whomever they are listening to or watching, I know how the process works…it is a breakdown of morals and values, that have been taught by parents, schools, churches, synagogues, culture in general for generations…then I read about Miley Cyrus…a young girl, maybe over 18, but young…and her move from being Hannah Montana to what she is today…how did that happen…drugs, sex, and all the rest…I look to her parents, her “handlers”…they have talked her into this kind of life…if this continues, it will not go well with her…those of us who are older have seen this many times…and her parents think this is a great thing for her…I see it as tragic…I feel badly for her…but she has been “groomed” by those around her…though she would not see it that way now, I’m sure…we desperately need to return to the morals and values that many in this country still hold dear… 

I read a memoir recently by Jeannette Walls, “The Glass Castle”…it is a good read…almost unbelievable but a good read..without going into the book itself…one of the last lines in the book goes like this:Glass Castle

[“A wind picked up, rattling the windows and the candle flames suddenly shifted, dancing along the border between turbulence and order.” -Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle]

It’s where I see us as a culture…dancing along the border between turbulence and order…there still are those who want us to stand against the onslaught of turbulence but even in the highest places in government, in churches, in entertainment…no one seems too interested in providing the role models to follow…and seem to attack those of us who still want high standards…let me pick on churches for a moment…like Calvin Miller wrote in “Letter to a Young Pastor”…“Confess what the centuries have labeled the historical faith, or, well…follow the crowd of those “new kind of Christians” who arrive at the old kind of nothing yet still believe themselves faithful…”…I know, I am only hitting the high ground, ignoring the valleys, gulleys and draws…but you get my drift…Where are we going?…What shall we be if we continue down this path?…I say put on the brakes before we can’t stop at all…this will end badly if we don’t…that 10 year old girl and all the 10 year olds around us deserve a better world to live in…the one we are headed for is not so good…

I just finished “Goodbye, Darkness”, a memoir of the Pacific War by William Manchester…a story of his time in WWII…at the end of his book he tries to put it all in focus…to answer why they served…it is a bit more than I will share here…but this is some Goodbye, Darknesss by William Manchesterof it…“It was an act of love. Those men on the line were my family, my home. They were closer to me than I can say, closer than any friends had been or ever would be…Actually love was only part of it…we had to be tough too. To fight WWII you had to have been tempered and strengthened in the 1930’s depression by a struggle for survival…devotion overarched all this. It was a bond woven of many strands…You also needed nationalism, the absolute conviction that the United States was the envy of all other nations…Wickedness was attributed to flaws in individual characters, not to society’s shortcomings…to accept unemployment compensation, had it existed, would have been considered humiliating…Debt was ignoble. Courage was a virtue. Mothers were beloved, Fathers obeyed. Marriage was a sacrament. Divorce was disgraceful. Pregnancy meant expulsion from school or dismissal from a job. The boys responsible for the crimes of impregnation had to marry the girls. Couples did not keep house before they were married and there could be no wedding until the girl’s father had approved. You assumed that gentlemen always stood and removed their hats when a woman entered a room. The suggestion that some of them might resent being called “ladies” would have confounded you…All these and “God Bless America” and Christmas or Hanukkah and the certitude that victory in the war would assure their continuance into perpetuity…”

But it is not so…every generation must fight the battle for the survival of this great country…so far this generation has not done well…I still have great faith in America…there are still millions of Americans who believe in values that have made us great…that includes American’s in every walk of life, every background…churches, families, individuals need to stand…we may be the last one standing but we must stand…it will be a struggle but one we must win…God help us…Jesus said in Matthew 12:25…Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

It’s about noon, a couple of days ago…I am in a very normal spot for me…sitting in our GMC Yukon, in a parking lot, in Little Rock, Arkansas…now it could be any parking Yukon 2007lot…normally I am waiting for Judie while she is shopping and since I am not a great companion when shopping…you know…for me shopping is a bit different…I know what I want before I go in, I go in…I get the item or items and walk out…but shopping to Judie is a bit different…she may not need anything so she is just looking…and without going into detail…you get the point…

So I sit…and wait…I believe, this being our 7th year in Little Rock, I am no doubt well known on the various parking lot cameras throughout West Little Rock, where we live…don’t get me wrong, I prefer it this way…no amount of encouragement or threat can get me in most stores on most days…without needing something, that is…so I sit and enjoy the weather, read, think, plan…and of course make my lists…another story, but a “rich” one I assure you…

Now where was I…Oh yes, it was about noon…this time I was waiting for Judie while she was in the dentists chair…I need room, air, freedom, so, far out in the large parking lot, away from all cars…I was reading, thinking and of course going over my lists…it is late Dennis the Menace and JoeyMarch and it should be in the 70’s and more by this time…but this year, we are a bit behind, like most of the country…but the flowers, bushes and trees are blooming…no wind, the sun was shining and it was beautiful…I had my arm out the window of the Yukon…the sun shining down…just a Bluebird day (as my Mother used to call them)…just perfect…the sun’s angle is high enough to make you warm all over…just a wonderful day…so in this setting, my mind wandered…just thinking…like Dennis the Menace said to his friend Joey, as Dennis was on his back looking up at the sky…Joey had evidently asked him what he was doing…Dennis replied, “Just watching the world go by, Joey…just watching the world go by.”

Not only was it warm but the air had a wonderful smell…it smelled of Spring…the grass, the trees budding, the flowers…heavens it was a grand day…perfect blue sky…and wait, all Bougainvilleathis reminded me of something…Oh, ya…I remembered…I was immediately in Tucson, Arizona…at Judie’s Mom and Dad’s…back in the 80’s maybe…we used to go and visit from time to time…the sun was hot but not too hot…like today, I said…yup, like today…sky blue, light wind…sitting on their deck smelling the blooming orange tree and grapefruit tree…and warm, it was warm…the aroma was wonderful…and next to the deck was Bougainvillea…flowering as it climbed up the arbor…beautiful pink blossoms…and that triggered a thought or two…

Bougainville…WWII…my Dad…Milne Bay, Manus Island and the Admiralty Islands…New Guinea…the Southern Cross…all of that from a parking lot in Little Rock, Arkansas…Bougainvillea gets it name from a French explorer Louis Antonie de Bougainville…heavens he has nothing to do with the Bougainvillea except for the plant and flower to be named for him…and the island too…he was the first French explorer to circumnavigate the earth…and they named the flower for him as they were in South America, because that it where the plant was found…and the island, because they were there…Bougainvillea doesn’t even grow there…so much for my mind working…but it Milne Bay, Papua New Guineadoesn’t end there…

My Dad went into the Navy on October 28, 1943, leaving Mom at home with two little boys…my brother Jack, about 5 and me, about 2…after basic training, he shipped out on the USS Cinnamon, a net tender, and left for the South Pacific…via Hawaii and then on to Milne Bay, New Guinea, and Manus in the Admiralty Islands which were near the Solomon Islands, of which Bougainville is one…it was the site of a major battle for the Marines in 1943…he served near New Guinea until the end of the war in 1945…the net tender protected the harbors from submarines and other attacks by surface ships…all that from the parking lot in Little Rock…

The Southern CrossAnd the Southern Cross, not something we in the Northern Hemisphere know much about…but in the Southern Hemisphere, right there in the night sky is the Southern Cross…it is also on the flag of Australia and New Zealand…it’s much like Orion here in the Northern sky at night…not large but easily seen…I used to scan the skies at night as a kid looking for the Big Dipper and how the Little Dipper “pours” into the Big Dipper…and the North Star is part of the Big Dipper…and that cluster of stars so close together…Oh, you bet, that is Orion…so it is with the Southern Cross…it stands out in the night sky…and you can navigate by it…my Dad saw it, he was there, near Australia…so many years ago…

Not quite all…if you ever saw “South Pacific” or heard the music…by Rogers and Hammerstein…the movie and play were set on a South Pacific island…in the movie Mitzi Gaynor played Nellie Forbush…she was from Little Rock, Arkansas, and had fallen in love with a Victory At Searich French plantation owner…and Richard Rogers wrote the music but he was also famous for other music…for example the “Victory At Sea” series from the 50’s… …it was on TV at the time and I have it on DVD now…I also have the music on CD…I will add it here…it was great music to go along with the naval history of WWII…one of his songs in that series is for the episode called “Beneath the Southern Cross”…it depicts the battleships in convoy and the loneliness of the sailors in the South Pacific during WWII…this tango melody is also used in “No Other Love Have I” from the musical “Me and Juliet”…and was itself a popular song in the 1950’s…

So how was the trip…I had a great time…a March day, 2014…in Little Rock, Arkansas…join me sometime…just grab a piece of parking lot on a wonderful sunny day in your area…just you and your own history…with your interests…all the rest is free…have a great Spring…

 

Posted by: Jim E | February 26, 2014

Growing Up…An Adult…Or…Pajama Boy…

Now in my 72nd year, it seems odd that I can still see me as I was growing up…Oh, not everything but many things…the people around me, my parents, my grandparents, other relatives, neighbors and friends…they are still at the age that they were the last time I saw them…many have died and others drifted into their own lives, as I have…but growing up was a wonderful time, many uncertainties of course, many sorrows…but mostly good memories…as I have said many times, “life is hard but life is good”…and it is that…img027

But as I remember those years, I realize that my memories are only snippets, pieces of a puzzle that we all toil over, as we grow into who it is we will become…I do remember though, I always wanted to be an adult…to make decisions that adults got to make…go places, do things…but mostly to be a man, have a job, have a family…heavens, I wanted to be like my Grandpa…he was a man’s man, he had a job and worked hard…he was talented, he could build…he built his own house…he knew about plumbing and electricity…he fixed his own car…he was faithful to my Grandma, to his family, to his neighbors, to his friends…he was responsible, was in control of his life…did not want to depend on anyone…he was a free man…he lived in that kind of world…

The world has changed a lot since those days, I know…but even today, the right and chance to be free…to be in charge of our own lives without interference from the government or anyone else for that matter…we see that kind of desire from many in our society…when I saw our own government come out with a “sales pitch” really, about Obamacare…with the picture of what some detractors havePajama Boy described as “Pajama Boy”…living at home, with his parents…a 27 year old in a “onesie”, drinking hot chocolate…it was disquieting to me…I thought, “Are there adult age “kids” like that?”…and I guess there are…but it runs against everything I believe and my Grandfather would wonder, like me, what is happening to this country?…

And though there are things which are disconcerting to me…I somehow still believe in America…I still hold on to the beliefs that established this country…based on freedom, liberty and self-reliance…I still think it is there, though there are forces which are trying to undermine it day by day…the desire to get a job, to be on your own, setting up goals and working over years to reach those goals…I believe that is still within the heart of most Americans…to move on, not be dependent on parents or the government to reach those dreams…

It’s funny, thinking about growing up…I think I remember when “it” happened…now I don’t know if it was that moment in time…but a “happening” made me believe I was on my way…and maybe you can remember the same kind of thing…it was one particular Christmas, I describe it this way, “the year I grew up”…that Christmas came and it was just not the same, we had the same kind of Christmas, the tree, presents, the meal, friends and relatives…but something was missing, I didn’t know what it was for sure…it was somehow less fun, though I still loved it…then I realized what many have said since then, Christmas is for kids…the magic of being a child at Christmas is wonderful…and even as an adult there is a certain magic about that season…but for a child, it is more, and that is what happened…there was a changeover, I didn’t necessarily like it…but knew it was good…it was what I always wanted…to become more Babes in Toylandlike the adults that were around me…and so I left childhood behind…

There is a song, from the Christmas season even…I heard it again this year…”Toyland”, written by Victor Herbert, in 1904, one of the songs in his operetta “Babes in Toyland”…in the song which is the theme of the operetta tells the story of what I am talking about…happy in childhood, that toyland, but once you pass its borders, you may never return again…I think you will remember the melody of the song…

Toyland, toyland
Little girl and boy land
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy there

Childhood’s joy land
Mystic merry toyland
Once you pass its borders
You can ne’er return again

When you’ve grown up, my dears
And are as old as I
You’ll laugh and ponder on the years
That roll so swiftly by, my dears
That roll so swiftly by

Childhood’s joy land
Mystic merry toyland
Once you pass its borders
You can ne’er return again  

And so, we who’ve passed its borders, though we may not have wanted to let it go at the time…once we have, we can never return again…and those who wish to, or try to, or remain beyond the years allotted to childhood, are in for a “rude awaking”, as my Mom used to say…life passes by with astounding speed, with experiences we must have to make it successfully through the gauntlet that lies ahead…

It reminds me a bit of the film “Field of Dreams”…at the end of the film, Ray Kinsella, having brought Archibald “Moonlight” Graham to play baseball on his field in Iowa…his brother-in-law urges him to sell the farm…The next morning Mark implores Ray to sell the farm. Karin says that they won’t need to because people will pay to watch the ball games. Terence agrees that “people will come” to relive their childhood innocence, and Ray refuses to sell. Frustrated, Mark scuffles Field of Dreamswith Ray, accidentally knocking Karin off the top of the bleachers. Archie runs to help and, stepping off the field, becomes the old “Doc” Graham. After he saves Karin from choking, Ray realizes that Graham cannot return to the field as a young man. After reassuring Ray that his true calling was medicine, the players shake his hand and he leaves. Suddenly able to see the players, Mark urges Ray not to sell the farm.

Given the chance to stay young and play baseball, “young Doc Graham” decides to cross “that line” between staying forever young and becoming the “Doc” Graham he was always meant to be…it is always the choice we all have to make…I know people who never have decided to “grow up”…they always stayed immature and dependent…thinking this was a choice they could make and things would remain as they were…but it never works that way…the ends are difficult and most of the time disastrous to all involved…an immature person is ineffective in life, making little impact in their own lives or the lives of others…

My Grandpa was forced at an early age to chose…he was sent by his father from Canada to Minneapolis to friends who said they would take responsibility for him and his two brothers…it did not go well, it was an abusive situation and at about 13 he ran away to make his way…it was a difficult time…spent some time in an orphanage, went West and worked as a cowboy and in the end fell in love, married, had a family, and grandkids…one of them, me…he was my hero, my Saving Pvt. Ryan whispersidol…I wanted to be like him…responsible, be a leader, be loyal, and all that he was…and like at the end of the film “Saving Private Ryan”…Private Ryan, now an old man, stands at the grave of Captain Miller…he remembered the words of Captain Miller, “James, earn this… earn it.”…this follows:

Old James Ryan: [addressing Capt. Miller's grave] My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.

Ryan’s Wife: James?…

[looking at headstone]

Ryan’s Wife: Captain John H Miller.

Old James Ryan: Tell me I have led a good life.

Ryan’s Wife: What?

Old James Ryan: Tell me I’m a good man.

Ryan’s Wife: You are.

[walks away]

Old James Ryan: [stands back and salutes]

That’s really all my Grandfather ever wanted…to be a good man…it’s all I have ever wanted…

I guess there are many answers to the question, “What day is it?”…I was just reminded the other day of Winnie the Pooh’s conversation with Piglet, about this very question…pooh-and-piglet What day is itwhen Pooh asked Piglet that question, he answered as we all know he would…”It’s today.”…”My favorite day.” was Pooh’s response…I guess it couldn’t have been put any clearer…any simpler…and more concise than that…heavens that’s my view on things too…to rate days according to any other set of standards would be presumptuous, given we have no assurance of tomorrow…and only have yesterday to compare to…Oh, I suppose Piglet could have answered, as someone else did, with “Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Saturday”…but he didn’t, he answered the way Piglet would answer…and really the way I would answer if I were as quick as A. A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh…because today is my favorite day…

When you put a few years on, as I have, you have a tendency to live in the present…not next week or tomorrow…though I guess we have a tendency to relive our lives a bit…remembering days gone by…but once that is done, we enjoy the fact that we are alive…and can still enjoy everything around us…my answer to those who ask how I am doing or how my day it going…I most always respond with, “I upright and breathing, I can’t ask for anything more.”…it is kind of like Pooh’s response I guess…my favorite day is today…

Recently, Geico Insurance has asked a question like that in a commercial of theirs…you know, “Happier than a camel on hump day”…it has been around and around online…and still, every time I see it, I can’t help but smile…you Camel Guess what day it isknow, the camel, hump day, the voice, the humor and the ever ready thought that Wednesday is the middle of the work week…and so we are half way there…it has a very strong message…and whether the insurance part of the message ever gets across I don’t know…but it does help answer the question of what day is your favorite day…

When I was working as a principal of a large high school…I never had a favorite day…everyday had its full compliment of problems and we had to deal with them no matter what day it was…I use to tell my staff  that there are a certain number of problems that we were going to have every week and if there were one or two “easy” days…watch out, because the rest were coming tomorrow or the next day…and it always seemed to be true…and it always seemed that on Friday it would be a late day dealing with issues…and Monday, we always had weekend issues that spilled over into school…never a letup…and though we never got “used to it”…yet we worked it out between us, trying to get ahead of the curve, so to speak…so even there, today was my favorite day…

The other day I read an excerpt from a book by Joseph Balkoski, “Beachhead toBrittany and Brest Brittany”, the story of the Army’s 29th division during the D-Day and beyond…he has written a five volume history of the 29th from D-Day to the end of the war…in this passage you will see that this particular day after experiencing thousands of casualties in the battle to this point…this just had to be their favorite day…here is the 29th division’s best day…September 18, 1944…from the book, “From Beachhead to Brittany”, by Joseph Balkoski…

 

If the beginning of the end at Brest could be defined by a single moment, that moment came at 7:45 AM on Monday, September 18, 1944. At sunrise the alert 29ers of the 115th Infantry’s Company E, under the command of 2nd Lt. Roderick Parsch, had peered through the ground fog toward the massive, fortress like buildings of the French Naval Academy, the focal point of the enemy’s last-ditch defensive line in front of Brest’s inner harbor. The GIs were on edge, for they held orders to execute a frontal attack against those buildings at 10 AM, and they knew the assault, which would have to be carried out across 600 yards of wide-open no-man’s-land, would be grueling and costly in lives. But as sunlight gradually dissolved the mist, Parsch’s men observed an astonishing sight. Someone was waving a large white flag back and forth from a window of the academy. It was an electrifying moment, and the 29ers willingly held their fire as four Germans emerged from the academy and steadily tramped toward the American lines.

That particular day had to be their best day…they had to go on and fight many battles in WWII…but on that day…that day…it was their best day…the surrender just made their day…

So how about you?…What day is it?…Today?…My favorite day…for me sometime a particular day is more difficult than another…but though our days may This is the day that the Lord has madebring, like the 29th division, many more battles ahead, yet today is the best we have…it’s today…my favorite day…and since I think of most things from a Biblical perspective, I thought immediately of Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

 So we come full circle…today has to be my favorite day…it’s the day the Lord has made…and just as simple as Pooh and Piglet…since today is my favorite day…I intend to rejoice and be glad in it…hope you do too…

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