All Gave Some, And Some Gave All

Memorial Day. I love this annual holiday. It is the unofficial kick off of summer, and there are never too many barbecues, sunny days, and happy voices for me to tire of this oncoming hot, sweaty, shorts and sandals season. But more than the joy that accompanies evenings of winking fireflies and waves crashing on vacation shores, I have memories of those people who filled my life with humor and purpose; people who set before me the goals of honor, integrity, and commitment simply by living out their lives doing the best they could. There is not a single memory of holidays back in my little valley home that does not include each of them fulfilling their part in the family tapestry of love. 

And there is more. There is the sacred part of this day which forever draws me to the history, recent and distant, of those who also are part of the we of me; my ancestors who participated in every conflict fought here, and in foreign lands, since the Revolutionary War. 

I do not know how brave they once felt, how scared they might have been in battle, or how they died. I do know they loved their country, proudly wore the uniform of that to which they were devoted, and saluted their flag with dignity and honor. 

All this is legacy. It is the legacy which was passed to me, and which I have passed to my children. We humbly remember on Memorial Day what it cost to be here, celebrating another year of freedom in this country. And with our social compasses pointed north, our plumb line straight and true, I believe there still will be an enduring legacy for passing on to future generations.

Posted in American History, Baby Boomers, Childhood, Current Events, Family, Heroism, Home, Memorial Day, Memories, Nostalgia, Summer, Uncategorized, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Losers, The Main Stream Media, And A Coup 

Main stream media has become dishonest, disreputable, and deceitful. I can find no historical precedent in the US where sore losers deliberately and publicly avowed to take down a duly elected president, aided and abetted by the main stream media.

This is an attempted coup being worked out daily, in plain sight, all the while misguided participants believing they are doing something respectable and worthwhile.

Civility is gone. Honor is gone. Integrity is gone. It is a national disgrace, and the peaceful transfer of power guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America is being destroyed.

This must stop. Now. It is time to wake up, remember who we are, and begin a reinvigorated commitment to the principles and values that define the United States of America, a Republic, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Posted in American History, Baby Boomers, Communication, Current Events, Life Journey, Newspaper, Presidents, Protest, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

When Angels Intervene

I awoke in the middle of the night with incredible abdominal pain. Probably the worst I had ever experienced. Certainly worthy of an immediate trip to the Emergency Room at my local hospital. 

Memories of that night still are as vivid as when everything unfolded. No beds available in the ER; I was on a gurney in the hallway, somewhere in the hospital, so grateful someone finally had given me a big injection of pain medication. 

X-rays had been taken, and I was able to settle down a bit, lying in the hallway, staring at the ceiling, wondering what had gone wrong. My gurney was outside a room with large windows separating me from it and the hall. Two doctors walked into the room carrying my x-rays; one patted me on the shoulder as they passed by. Turning my head to the side, it was easy to watch them as they looked at my x-rays. 

What I heard next was not easy. In fact the words forever will be etched in my mind as possibly the most startling thing, ever. 

“Oh my God, she’s not going to make it!” 

Somewhere during the shock of such drastic words, and extreme speed with which everyone was moving around me, the doctors said my one remaining ovary had twisted, just as the other previously had done three years earlier, requiring emergency surgery when I was two months pregnant with my daughter. This time, it was even worse. Due to lack of blood supply, the ovary had become gangrenous, and there was seepage into my abdominal cavity. Surgery had to be performed, immediately. 

It is with crystalline clarity that I recall the next event of that night. Moved to an area with a little more privacy, I had been flipped on my side, people were buzzing all around, and I was being given a spinal anesthetic. My face was towards a wall, and I could only hear what was going on behind me. 

As the pre-surgery activity increased, all I had on my mind were my children. Two little ones, ages three and one, who, when I died, would be left alone with a not particularly competent father. I silently cried out to my God, in whom I had put the weight and trust of my life, asking him over and over, “What about my babies? What will they do without me?” I could not begin to imagine what would happen if they were left alone. 

Mid-plea, mid-cry to God, the anesthesiologist began to sing as he worked. I was shocked! My favorite song from childhood being sung to me by a Japanese doctor, whose English was very challenging to understand. Yet, there it was, perfect and beautifully appropriate. 

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong. Yes Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me; the Bible tells me so.” 

And that was all it took. My fears and concern vanished. I knew at that moment if God could cause a Japanese physician, whom I could barely understand, to sing my favorite childhood song, He had it under control. If I went home that night to be with Him, He would make sure my babies would be all right. Peace. I felt complete peace after that little song. 

I woke up in recovery, so surprised and elated to be there, all I did was shout repeatedly, “I’m alive, I’m alive!” The nurses laughed, and one stroked my forehead, saying of course I was alive, that’s what they were there for. Fading in and out of a post-surgical fog made it impossible to explain just how miraculous I believed my successful surgery was. It was all right, though, because I would be returning to my family, and nothing could ever be more important than that. 

Jump ahead one year. We had moved from Tacoma, Washington to Spokane. During the previous year, I fully recovered, but could not forget about the singing doctor, and impact his song had on my life. At one point, when I could not shake the memory, I wrote a letter to the anesthesiologist, thanking him for singing that night, and explaining how much it had meant to me. 

A couple weeks later, I received a phone call from his office manager, who was crying. She called to tell me the rest of the story. She, too, was a Christian, and had been answering her doctor/employer’s questions about God, Jesus, and Christianity, but felt he wanted more than she could tell him. 

When my letter arrived, she gave it to him, and he was stunned. He swore he had not sung to me that night. He was so curious, he took the letter to the hospital, and showed it to everyone who had been involved with my surgery. Each stated, emphatically, he or she had not sung my song. 

The doctor was so moved by the experience, his manager said he was convinced an angel had sung to me, and to him that meant God was indeed a personal, caring Heavenly Father who made sure His children would find comfort in times of life and death struggles. He had become a Christian. As had the rest of his family. 

To this day, I am so grateful to be alive, to have seen my children grow into the amazing adults they are, and to know that in my moment of being separated from death by a very thin veil, I was and still am but a child. And this child has an Abba father who can cause an angel to sing a song that reaches from His heart to mine, and stills all fear and concern. 

Yes, Jesus loves me…

Posted in Baby Boomers, Death, Faith, Family, Health, Heaven, Life Journey, Memories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Songs Of My People

Last night I dreamed of Rosannah, my great great grandmother. The things I know of her have been gleaned from years of searching for my family. And I’ve learned, the best of her are not the dates and places that define a brief sojourn that we call life; but rather, the small, powerful, daily activities she and all those surrounding her called “jest bein’ happy”. 

As my dream began, she was showing me inside the cistern, which was in her back yard, and in which I knew snakes swam. She told me not to be afraid, they wouldn’t hurt me. Really, Rosannah? Not you too! I will never buy into that nonsense that a snake is more afraid of me than I am of it. Never, not even in a dream. I told her, rather hysterically, to put the cover back on, and she cackled at my silliness over a little old snake.  

Then, we instantly were sitting on her porch, rocking in our respective chairs, and she asked if I had brought her tobacco. Because we can do anything in a dream, I naturally pulled from my pocket a bag of Granger Twist Tobacco; her favorite. I thought this particular type was for chewing, but Rosannah smoked it. She was delighted. 

It was sweet to watch as my little great great granny packed her corncob pipe and lit it, took a deep drag, and with her eyes closed, exhaled that beloved tobacco. She had been smoking a pipe since she was twelve, and according to her, was the reason she always felt so good and strong. 

No way was I going to contradict, and advise smoking was bad for her health. I mean this was a woman of courage and fortitude who had outlived three husbands, was the mother of seven children, lived alone in the middle of nowhere, chopped her own wood, cooked everything from scratch, polished her floors and furniture with wood ash, and had snakes swimming in her drinking water! She could do precisely as she wished. 

And next, two of her boys, Amos and Thomas were with us in the living room, playing music she loved most. Amos with his violin, and Thomas strumming his guitar. Mountain music. Songs that were taught to the boys by their father so many years ago, handed down to him by his father and uncles. All the tunes and songs having originated in Ireland, and with a creative twist here and there, became the music of mountain folk who settled in the Appalachians before we were a nation of our own. 

I woke up with those notes still fresh, lingering, as though my people and I had just bid farewell to another day in our mountain home, another day on our prairie farm, another day with those we loved. I felt peace and a sense of joy, which always is a good way to begin, or end any day. 

It is a gift, for which I am grateful, to be accompanied in life by family memories, songs, and music; those parts of the we of me which have brought us this far, and will see us through each of our tomorrows. Yes, it is a gift being forever accompanied by the love of home and family; those are the songs of my people. 

Posted in Aging, American History, Baby Boomers, Courage, Dreams, Elderly, Family, Genealogy, Irish, Life Journey, Memories, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Fog Comes In…

I looked outside this morning, and it’s foggy. I love it! Maybe because fog takes me back to my little valley home, and memories of ghostly stark and barren peach trees out back; those shrouded walks to school where I heard and saw nothing but my feet, one step in front of the other, and marveled how a world of white silence engulfed me, and I could be alone and happy, without anyone wondering what was wrong with me. Or, maybe I am transported to those times spent in foggy San Francisco, wandering about in a private adventure, soaking in as much art, music, and counter culture as I possibly could. Then again, perhaps I simply appreciate the stillness and romance fog brings to my soul. And my one fantasy. 

I’ve wondered over the years why I am not one given to fantasies. I understand everyone has them. Everyone, aside from me. I’ve only ever had one, and it’s been mine since I was in my early twenties. And I gather from those I’ve told about it, it’s not very exciting, nor worthy of much more than a casual “hmmm”.

It is night, very cold and foggy. I am riding a ferry, outside on the deck, cloaked in a floor length, black, hooded cape (I believe I look rather romantic and just a bit gothic); the ferry is approaching the end of its crossing, and I’m straining to see if he’s there. Yes, the object of all my longing and desire is supposed to be waiting for me at the other side of wherever I’ve been. And as we come within view of the dock, my heart leaps for joy, because I see him, leaning against a lamp post, wearing an overcoat and a hat, searching the distance for the ferry and its lone passenger…me. As the boat closes in on its destination, we see each other, and ….that’s the end of it. My mind stops at that juncture, and through the years, I’ve never been able to force it any further. I admit, what a lame ending!

Maybe when I experience a foggy day, the old fantasy is triggered, and I have hope it will be realized. Imagine finishing something left with so much possibility in real life. It could happen. Or not. 

In the meantime, if this is going to work, I need a black cloak, a passenger ferry, and better eyesight. Since I live in a valley without anything more than a couple rivers that have plenty of bridges to get from one side to the other, a temperate year round climate, and I already wear glasses; I know there are challenges ahead. 

But really, what good is a fantasy if there aren’t a few obstacles in the way? And I have the fog, so I am part way there, already. The rest should be a cinch!

Posted in Aging, Baby Boomers, Fantasies, Fog, Life Journey, Memories, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Saga Of A Brassiere


When I graduated from elementary school and entered 7th grade junior high, the primary issue in my life was not changing classrooms and teachers for each subject; homework, which previously had been unknown to any of us; mixing with an entirely new set of kids who were drawn from several other elementary schools; nor even my Physical Education teacher also being my next door neighbor, whose telephone calls I had spent a good deal of my childhood listening in on, because we shared a party line.

My main concern, and object of abiding anxiety that did not present itself with an easy solution, no matter how many possible scenarios I ran through my mind; underwear. Specifically, every girl in that school wore a bra. Every one of them except this girl.

No matter how much I pleaded, reasoned with, cried, negotiated, threatened to run away, or bargained; my mother was resolute in her decision. She said no. She told me I did not need a “brassiere” (I still practically double over in horror at the speaking of that dread word), and when I “developed” and had “breasts” (Oh, how I hated that word, too) to put in it, she would buy me one.

Now, this was not totally unreasonable. I have mentioned before, I was the skinniest kid in school. In junior high, I was 5′ 6″ tall, and weighed 77 pounds. And none of those scant pounds appeared on my boney chest.

But, chest size wasn’t the point. At that age, it’s critically important to belong, and to be as similar to the other kids as possible. We had a locker room, and dressed for P.E. Every girl saw every other girl’s everything. And being different was a huge leap toward rejection, and quite possibly becoming the object of derision and bullying. Those were places I was determined not to go; and it would be many years before I learned to turn a deaf ear to peer pressure, and disallow anyone’s judgement of me to define my sense of value as an individual.

From the summer before school started, and each day after, I cut pictures out of our Sears Roebuck Catalogue and newspapers showing my mother what the other girls were wearing. It was called a training bra, and although I never figured out how some little piece of jersey fabric trained boobs, nor exactly what it trained them to do; I wanted that specific bra. In white. With sweet little pink embroidered rosettes between the flat cups. So simple.

Autumn came and went, with me still deficient in the undergarment department. I was unrelenting in pursuit of that unobtainable training bra, and would continue begging, nagging, and bargaining until I had one.

Christmas arrived, and my yearly behaviors went into overdrive. My mother had, for as long as I could remember, given me gifts for any occasion that, regardless of what I asked for, she liked. Her reasoning was the best gift given is that which you want for yourself. So wrong on so many levels.

I knew where she hid the wrapped packages, and took advantage of every opportunity I was left alone to carefully open each of my gifts, shudder thoroughly, wrap them back up, and replace them in her hiding spot. This advance shuddering and disappointment prepared me for the actual Christmas day, when I would then open my gifts in front of everyone, giggle, clap, and thank them for what I always never wanted.

That Christmas day rolled around, and I was comfortable in knowing what was in each package, and how I would react. Opening activities proceeded smoothly, and just as I believed we were done, my mother went to her bedroom, and came back with a package I had not seen before. She was grinning, and told me I might want to open it in my bedroom, alone.

I eagerly took it from her, and ran to my room. Ripping the wrapping off, my heart soared, because I was sure I knew my desperately longed for training bra was in there. Wrapping off, tissue paper gently spread apart; there it was!

I stared, tears welled up in my eyes, and I lifted my new bra out of the gift box. Silently I looked at the tag sewn inside: Size 28 AAA. I already had learned that was the smallest size made, at that time. And it was mine.

I was so grateful I had opened the present in my room, alone. Having not seen it before, I had not been prepared for what was before me…my mother had done it again. A cream colored, size 28 AAA, padded, pointy, 1950’s style, bullet brassiere! Those cups stood straight out, stiff and stitched in circles around their cone shape. And no pretty little embroidered rosette. All I would need to complete the picture was a cigarette and martini.

I put my bra on, and wore it that day. My mother was so proud at what I only can guess was her scrawny daughter finally having developed. All the extended family showed up for our traditional Christmas dinner, and I would have paid each one of them to stop staring at my transformed chest.

I survived that pivotal time in my life. Working extra hard gave me the means by which I could save my allowance, and finally buy the bra I really wanted. My mother never knew, because her permission was what I had needed, and from then on, it was easy to move forward with the real thing.

I always remembered what that bra represented, how hard I worked for it, and the challenges I had to overcome when I burned it in the 70’s. This I know, it wasn’t just an undergarment.

And though I doubt many women, today, have experienced much of a journey with their bras, I know what it meant to start with one whose predominant purpose was to attract males, to next participate in the bonfires that symbolized women’s freedom and emancipation from stereotypical roles, and then become a nursing mommy who was so grateful for those flaps in front. Finally, the reward, after so many years of confinement, to experience, literally, unfettered joy at the end of a day when that thing was whipped off, and one settled in for relaxation and sheer comfort. 

No, the bra never was just an undergarment. It was a type of metaphor for any woman’s experience in a society where she can allow herself to be defined by others, or more importantly, by only herself. It’s an ongoing story, and let’s hope it gets better and better with each telling.

Posted in 1950's, Aging, Baby Boomers, Childhood, Christmas, Clothing, Family, Life Journey, Memories, Nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

In Her Honor

Every Hallowe’en I offer homage to a remarkable woman. In that tradition, I am reposting, in her honor, my heartfelt tribute.

There had been rumors, rustlings of something very bad afoot. Those with whom she had spent a lifetime, and shared in the most intimate of household experiences, from childbirth to preparing a departed loved one for burial, shoulder to shoulder, together through it all; those who once sought her out for help, comfort, and wisdom, averted their eyes when passing her on the street.

She knew it was bad, and as always before in times of extreme challenge, family drew close and embraced each other, fortifying themselves against the coming storm. Embraced, fortified, loved, and supported; thoroughly repented and prayed up, there was nothing more she could do but trust God would be with her in this time of need, and sustain her soul in spite of the dread fear clawing at her insides day and night.

Arrests in the village had begun, and on March 19, the accusations fell. Four days later, on March 23, a warrant was issued, and she was arrested the following day, accused of attacks on adults and two young girls. They took her from home and family, held her in jail, there being subjected to examinations, both oral and physical. On June 2, with a doctor and several women present, her whole body was examined, searching for evidence to confirm accusations leveled against her. The doctor and witnesses reported finding a “preternatural excrescence of flesh” which later in the day, by 4:00 o’clock, had changed, and appeared to be only dry skin.

On June 3, she was indicted. Thirty-nine neighbors, at great personal risk, signed a petition and presented it on her behalf, and during the ensuing trial, neighbors and relatives testified for her. In spite of the dire accusations, she represented herself in court, proclaiming repeatedly, innocence and unshakeable belief there would be intervention, pleading truth to come forth, so she would be delivered from such heinous defamation and the intended destruction of her very life.

Witnesses continued testifying for and against her on June 29 and 30; finally, the jury found her not guilty. There was such a hue and cry by the accusers and spectators when the verdict was announced, the court asked for the verdict to be reconsidered, and upon that request, she was found guilty and condemned to hang.

On July 12, her death warrant was signed; on July 19, she was hanged on the accusations of two children for being a witch.

And John Greenleaf Whittier wrote the epitaph for my ancestor’s gravestone:

Rebecca Nurse
Yarmouth, England 1621
Salem, Mass. 1692

O Christian Martyr who for truth could die
When all around thee owned the hideous lie!
The world redeemed from Superstition’s sway
Is breathing freer for thy sake today

Many words, plays, movies, and books have been written about Rebecca Nurse. In her honor, I would like to add, she was seventy-one years old, a devoted wife, mother of eight children, grandmother of eighteen children; dignified, respected, not unlike any one of us. She was my family, and not a witch.


Posted in Aging, American History, Baby Boomers, Courage, Current Events, Death, Faith, Family, Genealogy, Life Journey, Rebecca Nurse, Salem Witch Trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments