Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The All Saints Day Fight Song

Being All Saints Day I went for a stroll on the labyrinth to think of my saints.  There are a lot of them.

For all the saints who from their labors rest, Who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia! Alleluia!

I went to two of the hardest funerals of my life this year.  Ardyce Schmidt died in February and Brad Phillips died in September, six months apart.  They were loved more than most people I will know in my life.  To have two people like that die in one year brings up a lot to think about on All Saints Day.

Ardyce had battled cancer for years and it was a familiar enemy to her. She had done breast cancer walks for years but when the end finally came she was ready.  There was a steady stream of loved ones at her bedside who had a chance to say their goodbyes.  Brad, on the other hand, was far too young and healthy to die of brain cancer.  His death came fast and furious.  It was a battle between two strong enemies.  But in Brad's case, the disease won. And a lot of people were angry at God.

Throughout their battles, both of these saints held tight to their faith.  They inspired everyone they met.

Thou wast their rock , their fortress, and their might;Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;Thou in the darkness drear, their one true light.Alleluia!  Alleluia!
I sang as I walked the labyrinth and the morning clouds hung overhead but when I got to that line the sun broke through and shone as brightly as the noon hour brings a clear sky.  I could only cry at God's touch on my walk. Their one true light had become mine also.

O blest communion, fellowship divine!We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.Alleluia! Alleluia!

It's good for us to set aside a day like All Saints Day to take a little time to think of these saints--both the ones who died in the past 12 months and the ones who were important to us in the years past.  Sometimes saints in our past can be inspirational to us in present circumstances.  "If they can do it I guess I can, too......."

I especially thought of Ardyce's husband Ron when I saw the video someone shot at Brad's funeral.  Since he was the marching band's half-time announcer the band wanted to play for him at his memorial service.  At the reception they played a collection of tunes outside the church on the grass, including the school's fight song. No doubt people driving past had no idea a funeral was going on inside the church nor would anyone ever see a memorial service like this one again. But, of course, that was what make Brad so special.  I thought of Ron Schmidt because he would have loved it as much as Brad. Ron had been the drum major of his high school marching band.

To make the move even more poignant, my two granddaughters who were baptised in that church and loved Brad as Godchildren are in the band so it became a double honor for them to play for him.

The death of these two guys got me to thinking what a drum major Jesus is and I could just picture Jesus leading the parade into heaven with a drum major's baton held high, stepping high, victory his, leading us all to glory.

At the very least, we are reminded of that last line in the song for today:
Because sometimes you need a trumpet blast singing your fight song loud and clear-
to give you courage
to give you direction
to remind you that you are loved
and that you can make it

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thank you God for our drum majors.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I'm Taking Names .

I just came in from cutting down a tree.  Not just any tree mind you.  This one was huge, a foot and a half across.  I’m not sure how old it was but it was old enough that it had moss growing on it.  If this tree had been anywhere else poets might have chained themselves to it to save its life but in this case it was on my land and in my way and I have plenty more. It was in my way so I cut it down. 

I’m feeling pretty feisty nowadays.  We’re about to have a woman president and stuff like that always makes a girl feel powerful.  I used to say that there’s nothing like a chainsaw to make a woman feel powerful but now we’ll have a president to make us feel even better.

I’m tired of this election being about some buffoon with bad manners when it should be about an historic moment when we elect our first woman to be in charge of our country.  And one of the reasons it burns me up is that it takes the glory away from so many of my female predecessors who have waited for this moment --waited patiently, followed all the rules, found a woman who has put in her time, served two terms as a Senator, served as the Secretary of State and been found to be qualified by every endorsing entity out there. We have been patient.  We have followed the rules.  It’s our turn. 

I’ve been driving around with a Clinton bumper sticker on my car for two years, folks. I’ve been pulled over by the cops three times, rear-ended once and had someone dent the hood of my car with their fist in the Walmart parking lot. I have displayed the composure of a saint through it all—after all, Hillary’s reputation is being tied to my own good manners.  I represent the countless women who have been ignored and abused for no reason.  Like generations of women before us we have been conditioned to keep our cool.

But now it’s time to act.  It’s time to vote.  Early voting in Texas starts October 24th. Grab your bumper sticker and head on down to the county courthouse, fire station or school. Don’t forget your registration and your ID.
Here’s something else I’m taking:  I’m taking a list of women I want to remember when I cast my vote.

It’s nothing more than a gesture but it will be a way of having them there with me, allowing them to be part of this historic moment.  I feel like I somehow owe it to those women to take their names with me as I mark my ballot this year.  When I step up to vote this year they will go with me.

Let me tell you who I will be thinking of when I mark my ballot to elect a woman to lead our country for the first time in history:

I will be thinking of Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Eleanor Roosevelt,  Abigail Adams, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Sacagaweja, Anita Hill, Coretta Scott King and Helen Kelsoe. 

You’ve probably heard of most of those women except for Helen Kelsoe.  She was our neighbor across the street who mentored me as a young girl.  She was a strong woman who worked as a legal secretary and hosted the neighborhood rug rats at her house when I was growing up. After my mother died when I was a teenager she was a good source of estrogen wafting over me when I needed it.  She showed me how a strong woman can take control of her life and not whine about things.  She taught me to think about the world and God and a lot of complicated things.  She also taught me to think twice before you try to fix your refrigerator door by taking it apart yourself because if there are tiny springs involved you will never get that sucker put back together.

As I cast my vote I will remember my grandmother Fannie Anderson Stuart, who always voted the way Tom told her and never learned how to drive a car but did have her own checking account, a radically progressive thing for women in 1940.

And my great grandmother, Jane Hash Stuart, who was informed at lunchtime by her husband to ready the family for a trip from Texas to California and was good to go by the next morning, earning her the nickname I have inherited with honor, “Janie Go.” 

I will remember my other grandmother Bertha Kolb Kuhn who supported herself and two children as a widow before social security was invented.

I’ll think of Beaven’s grandmothers, Hattie Eiseman Els and Oma Fox Foster whose major claims to his memory are the food they cooked.  Neither one could drive or owned property in their own name.

I’ll remember my mother, Mildred Kuhn Stuart who never owned a car in her name and got terribly excited the one time she bought a pair of slacks. A pair of slacks, folks. Not jeans.  Slacks.  One pair.

Beaven’s mother, Blanche Foster Els, often frustrated by the male hierarchy of the Els family, who briefly had a business of her own alongside the family business

I only get to vote for the first female president once. I don’t want this opportunity to slip through my fingers.  I want to do it right this time.  It’s the only chance I’ll get.

Send me your mother’s name – I’d like to take her name with me.  I will update this list here on my blog and on the list I take to the voting booth.

Here’s a few names I’ve already gathered:  I’ll update the list as you send me names.  Include maiden name, please. 

Mildred Kuhn Stuart
Bertha Kolb Kuhn
Fannie Anderson Stuart
Blanche Foster Els
Lois Wood Stuart Mehaffie
Helen Walley Kelsoe
Hattie Eiseman Els
Oma Fox Foster
Bette Owens Truly
Joy Fletcher Mullins
Edith Fletcher
Betty Hipkins Ulics
Priscilla Boston Swan
Margaret Brand Smith
Virginia Brown Granger
Helen Kerchival McCormick
Hulda Mathis Granger
Florence Waddell Brown
Jean Stewart Berg
Ellen Claire Siermann Putnam
Lydia Novak
Ann Haynes Tubbs
Althea Jean DeSart
Iva Louise Snook
Lois Ferguson
Itylene Moore Posey
Leta Posey Herring
Ardyce Faye Cornelison Schmidt
Freda Ione Combs
Bertha Allen Schmidt
Ann Heath Stites
LaVerna Jett Elliott
Evelyn Anderson
Katherine Benton Broadhurst
Elizabeth Holmes Benton
Magdelene Jeanette Johnson Blomberg
Paula Peschl Avila

PS:  If you have reached this far and have read my list and feel like making any negative political comments please don’t.  I will delete negative comments.  This is not the place for them.  Besides I have a chainsaw.

I'm Taking Names

Comments from Linda McCormick:

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Jesus Wept

A good man died the other day.

 He had a whole lot of friends and I knew most of his groups. Beyond his buddies at work and a closely knit neighborhood, he belonged to the church I went to in Garland. He was also on the staff of the Synod Youth Workshop with me for many years and to add icing to the cake, he was the half-time announcer for the high school band where my granddaughters both play flute.  It was easy and always a pleasure to run into Brad often. I knew him well enough that after he retired as half-time announcer I could still get him to give me my own personal rendition of his famous introduction:  "The Spine Tingling, Hair Raising' Mighty Eagle Band!”  I received more than my fair share of unsolicited bear hugs.  I saw his goofy side and knew enough of his scars to know he could switch to his serious and sincere side with kids in an instant. He was the kind of small group leader who cried on a regular basis.   Brad was the real deal and kids knew that.  He will be sorely missed. The world needs more people like Brad Phillips.  This isn't the way it's supposed to work.  We're supposed to have more, not less, people like him.

I was pretty angry at God the morning I found out.  It was one of those "Let me speak to the manager" mornings.  So I went outside on my back porch to give God a chance to explain himself.     

I waited.

And waited.  

And wouldn't you know it but God pulled out that tired old Job passage, the one at the end where God asks Job in chapters 38-41 where was Job when the earth was created, mocking him for his puny humanity, that he wasn't as smart as God and how dare he question God.  Put Job right in his place, didn't God?  What a bully. 

I shuffled back in the house, meek as a lamb.

Then I almost immediately turned around and walked back outside.  NO!  I'm not going to accept that answer!  That was the Old Testament.  I want your New Testament answer!  I will not be bullied. I want Jesus' answer! We're not finished. I grabbed my coffee cup and my bible and went back out on the porch. “I want a different answer,” I demanded.

We knew all along it was going to take a miracle to save Brad. So that’s what we had prayed for.  We prayed for it boldly. 

Glioblastoma.  That’s what Brad had.  It’s one of the worst brain cancers you can get.  It’s big and bad and fast. And no matter how much radiation and prayer you throw at it, it’s also pretty much incurable.  And Brad fought it with all his strength and optimism all the way.  If you could cure cancer with optimism we wouldn’t be having this conversation because he had enough for the whole world and Brad could have beat cancer with optimism alone if that was all that was needed. 

But we don’t get it that way.  We don’t get to make the rules.  We have very little control of what happens most of the time.  Shit just happens.

That’s when I realized that’s what I was looking for:  I needed a “Shit Happens” scripture. Have you got one of those, God?

I went back looking through the bible and in a few pages I found just what I was looking for.  It was one of the old standards that I’ve known since I was a kid; the one we always relied on every Monday morning in elementary school when you had to recite a bible verse to prove you had gone to church over the weekend-- old reliable: the shortest verse in the bible, two words: John 11:35, “Jesus Wept.”  Shit Happens.

The bible describes the scene when Jesus hears that his friend Lazarus has died. Shit happened and even Jesus couldn’t prevent it from happening.  When God created life there were built-in frailties that came with the package of mortality. And one of them was that we all have an expiration date. Jesus weeps out of love for Lazarus. Then Jesus performs a miracle and brings His friend back to life.  Jesus is mightier than death. 
Some of us have long lives and some of us don’t.  And we rarely have much notice of when our expiration date is due.  Even if we did, we would want more time.

My friend Leeann was talking about the Jesus Wept passage a couple of months ago and she had a totally different take on the quote than any I’ve ever heard.  Her theory was that Jesus wept because Jesus knew what he was taking Lazarus away from when he brought him back to life.  As much as Jesus wanted to see his old friend again he knew Lazarus' family wanted to see him even more and they were already accusing Jesus of falling down on the job, "If you had been here you could have saved him."  Did Jesus, knowing he had the power to raise him from the dead, weep at Lazarus' death? Or did Jesus weep because he knew that he was about to bring Lazarus back to a life here on earth and away from a heavenly life?  Did Jesus, knowing both worlds, weep at the change Lazarus would have to make?

We forget in this story that heaven is a better place than earth. And Jesus was bringing Lazarus out of heaven and back to life on earth.

Let our grief be for Brad’s family and ourselves but not for Brad.  Shit happened to us not Brad. Brad is in a good place.  Jesus loved Brad Phillips as much as he loved his friend Lazarus. And Jesus weeps with us. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Our Trip to Europe

We planned our "Trip of a Lifetime" over a year before we actually took it and it happened kind of accidentally.  It started when I asked Beaven to do a chore around the house.  It was something ordinary that he normally does quite readily--like cutting a tree down.  But this time he declared that he was "too old" to do it.  Then he went into a whole list of things that he's now "too old" to do.  And one of the things on his list that he is now "too old" to do is travel.  When he got to the part about not being able to travel to Europe anymore because he's "too old" I stopped him.  Wait....I'm not too old.  Do you care if I go without you?  Given his blessing I suddenly wanted to go to Europe with a passion I had never felt before.  So I called Elizabeth, the only daughter with the money and the vacation time to make it happen.  "Sure!" she said.  So we started planning a trip. It would be so easy. Elizabeth and I travel well together. 

Then once we got to looking at the ideas, I noticed that our favorite tour group had one for families.  I called her up, "Hey!  Wanna take the girls with us?"  "Sure!" So now we were taking my granddaughters.  Easy enough.  We would just split the costs in half.  It would be so much fun to show them the world.  They are the prime age for this.

And, of course, once Beaven got wind of this, suddenly he wasn't so "old" anymore.  But as luck would have it, I couldn't remember the chore I had asked him to do for me that started this whole thing. But it did bring more energy to him. And for that alone I think the whole thing was worth it.

Now, my theory about vacations is that it really doesn't matter where you go. You can plan it all out to every last gas station if you want.

But the real purpose of a vacation is just hanging out together.  All the rest of it is just scenery. According to my theory you could just rent a van and cram the whole family into it and drive around town for a day or two, stopping once in a while for snacks and lunch, maybe stopping in at a motel for the night.  Everything valuable, all the memories--most of them, anyhow, the inside jokes, the laughs, are made while you're "getting where you're going."  A vacation to Europe is just better scenery with a little history thrown in. Most of the stories we told when we got home were of standing in lines at airports and what happened on the Metro, not what we saw at the museums.

It's been over a month since this vacation and I haven't posted anything.  You have my cousin Ann to thank for this.  She has gotten impatient for news and she doesn't do facebook.  Neither does Linda Terpstra.  Thank them both.

I thought I might have better luck  just moving the stuff I posted on facebook to the blog to describe our trip since I posted a lot about our trip on facebook, with the theory of one picture is worth a thousand words.  And it turns out there are very little words and a whole lot of pictures on facebook.

Still, I didn't take a lot of conventional photos.  This is one of the few of them.

This is one of the first photos I took once we landed in London.  It turned out to be the morning they had a huge parade for the Queen's 90th birthday--which we hadn't a clue about.  And the only thing we knew about was that when we checked into our hotel we found out it was across the street from the Lord's Cricket Grounds and there was a huge cricket match going on.  This made for boisterous noise and spirit all over the hotel so we assumed that was all that was going on in London that day.  When there was a red, white and blue fly-over with military jets as we walked down the street we thought it was the cricket matches.  The girls couldn't understand why England was doing a fly-over with the USA colors until we explained it was their colors before we stole them.

We enjoyed a good walk around London.

The next day we took a ride on the London Eye which gives you a great view of London.  While I was waxing glorious about how the east end is more modern because it was where the docks were and was bombed into smithereens during WWII and thus re-built recently their eyes glazed over and I knew we weren't going to learn any European history this week.  Still, it made for some good photos.

We knew going into this that food would be a challenge.  Sarah won't eat anything more foreign than a hamburger with catsup.  I sent out a challenge to both of them to try new things.  They did pretty good.  Both girls tasted duck.  Essie declared it tasted like beef.  Sarah said it was nasty.  Essie was a lot more adventurous and tried several new things, though both girls drew the line at snails.
But once we discovered a Five Guys Burgers and Fries in London Sarah was in heaven.  I think we ate there twice if not three times.  There may have even been one in Paris. They kind of blur together.  We also found a Hard Rock CafĂ© in Rome and, of course, MacDonalds were everywhere.  Once Sarah tried the chicken nuggets at MacDonalds I asked her if they were different from the ones in the US and she declared they were a LOT better.  When I asked why, she thought for a minute and declared with quiet suspicion, "I think they are made with real chicken."

Beaven hates taking cabs and loves the public transportation system in Europe.  We bought city passes for London and Paris before we even left home.  We could get on any bus or subway car we wanted with just our card.  The girls picked up a knowledge of the maps like they had been taught it in first grade.  We moved around faster than above ground and I found myself feeling sorry for the Queen until Elizabeth pointed out they stop traffic for her.  Still, we got to go a lot faster than I'll bet the Queen travels. And we met people I'll bet the Queen NEVER meets.

When we got to Paris the Eurocup was playing.  This meant several things:  they were EXPECTING a terrorist attack and there was a military presence like I've never seen before. Once we needed to cross through the fan zone (which was free) and found it wasn't quite a walk in the park.  The fan zone was surrounded by (1) metal riot fencing forming a ring around the fan zone  (2) Gendarmes, which is the French military police.  They had Humvees parked bumper to bumper in a circle around the fan zone and two Gendarmes stationed at each Humvee.  Outside this ring was (3) the Paris city police with their police cars parked bumper to bumper and policemen stationed at each car.  To get past this corridor you had to be frisked.  I've never been frisked so thoroughly before.

There were people from all over Europe crammed into Paris.  You could drink to your heart's content on the Metro since you weren't operating a motor vehicle. The people from all over Europe who were drinking to their heart's content were on the Metro with us.

At 10:30 A.M. That's right: Ante Meridiem
 .....BEFORE noon..... we got on the Metro in Paris with a group of English guys who were supporting their team in a soccer match that day.  The game had not even started.  Yet they were already in the "spirit" of the game.  Each guy had a plastic sack with a six pack of beer.  And the instant they got on the car and the car started they each opened a can of beer.  They were loud and boisterous but with an English accent which sounded SO PROPER that they almost didn't sound drunk.  But they were still obnoxious so we were glad--everyone on the car was glad-- when they got off.

We went to Europe as part of a Rick Steve's tour.  I can't say enough good things about the Rick Steve's tours.  For our family it's the perfect blend of doing things on your own with just the right amount of having a tour guide drive you places and explain things to you.  Our guide was fantastic.  The tour left us with lots of time on our own.  One of the things the tour didn't cover that we did on our own was going to the Eiffel Tower.....We marked our calendar six months ahead and made our reservations on the first opportunity you could get them because they sell out so fast.  It's one of those tourists Must Do" things that we didn't want the girls to miss.  Plus they got fantastic photos of the Eurocup game below the tower.  We had several discussions over whether this was the actual game site but we do know this was also the site of the Fan Zone.  The Fan Zone was free and anyone could go.  There was a huge TV screen so you could see all the action--probably better than if you were at the actual game.  The ground was muddy.  Remember how full of spirit our friends on the Metro were?  I heard a sighting of one guy with mud all over the front of his shirt and muddy footprints on the back of his shirt. 

And the girls have a picture of themselves atop the Eiffel Tower.  There's about three levels.  To get to the top you have to climb stairs. They actually went to the top.  I didn't.  I don't do heights.

Because this was a Family Tour there were some unusual activities for kids.  One that we enjoyed in Paris was learning to play Petanque, which is a lot like the British game of Boule.........maybe more like bowling in America.  It means in French, literally, "put your ankle"  and you throw a heavy ball trying to hit another ball without doing something.....I got cloudy on the rules once they brought out French pastries to nibble on while we played.  I nibbled more than I played.  Beaven kept his British hat and cut a very Continental pose. I was distracted by knowing there were pastries on the bench right behind me.

A day earlier some madman n Orlando, Florida had attacked a bunch of people at a gay nightclub and killed a lot of people.  We were feeling very sad and disconnected.  Then we saw the Paris municipal office with the rainbow flag on display in solidarity.  We would later see this same thing in Florence and Rome.

We went to the Louvre and saw all the standard stuff like the Mona Lisa and such.  The biggest attraction for the Els family, however, was the bathroom at the Louvre.  Notably, (thanks to our guide's advice) the Japanese Spa treatment for an extra Euro payment.  For this extra payment you get not just the regular clean bathroom but an "extra" clean and "sanitized" bathroom plus a built-in bidet which was much better than the ones the bathrooms had.  (And by the end of the trip we were experts on bidets.)  You could also buy colored toilet paper there--which Essie did, and later found out it was also scented. OK, yes, we go to the most famous art museum in the world and bring home toilet paper.

We split up once which only meant that I got lost and it took them an hour to find me.  But I had some great moments with Michaelangelo's Prisoners.

After Paris We traveled to Burgundy to a villa for a couple of days.

For dinner that evening our guide wanted everyone to get to know each other so she encouraged all to dance. She brought in a local accordionist to play for us and later that evening a guy came and played the Alpenhorn.

I can't add the video of the alpenhorn or the accordion yet.  I'll have to do it later.

Then we went to Switzerland.

Believe it or not this is the ONLY photo we got of all five of us together.  We're not very good tourists. This was before we went inside the Trummelbach Falls--a waterfall inside a mountain.

I can't get the video of inside the waterfall inside a mountain to post......and I'm only half-way through the vacation and this blog already posted accidentally.  So I'll fix the typos and let you have it.  Then I'll post the second half of the vacation later.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

A Letter from Fannie

As promised, I received a letter from Fannie.  Fannie is a busy gal and I'm used to her always sending me notes from around the world.  Ever since her time in Guatemala when she spent some time with the Quetzal birds learning about the peace and justice issues in that country she has dedicated her life to helping others.  Shortly after that a friend, Mamie Broadhurst, caught sight of her in North Carolina and sent me a photo.  Neither of us were sure what it meant and I'm not really sure if the picture was taken before or after Fannie checked into the Betty Ford Clinic but it does show that Fannie had started questioning things.

But every since then Fannie has been on the move wherever there was a need.  She was in New York City on September 11, 2001 and helped lead people across the Brooklyn Bridge when  they were able to see her bright pink plumage through the gray dust.  Then she stay on for weeks afterwards to managed the Displaced Pigeon Project, helping to find new homes for all the pigeons who had lived atop the Twin Towers.  For that work she received a nice plaque from Mayor Guiliani.

She did so much work and kept moving so fast after Hurricane Katrina that no one was able to tie her to any one agency or effort that could recognize her efforts.  Suffice it to say that she has a bed and a bowl of gumbo waiting for her at any house on the Gulf Coast.

I seldom see her nowadays except around the fall when she usually comes to town to see her sister Fernie who runs a funnel cake stand at the state fair. Most of her time is spent with her long-time boyfriend, Sam who lives in D.C.  He's a bald eagle--retired from the postal department with a nice pension.  She met him during the Anthrax scare in 2001.He has a nice nest on top of the Washington Monument.

But I did get a letter from her yesterday from Paris because she knows we are travelling there next week and we'll have a chance to see each other. I always enjoy a reunion with Fannie.

Musee de Louvre

Paris, France

Dear Jane,

The State Department called and asked me to fly to Paris to help with the flooding.  Of course, I accepted at once.  A little too quickly it seems, because I didn’t realize they have cut back on their spending and when they said “fly” they didn’t mean in a luxury jumbo jet as I am accustomed to under these circumstances in the past.  No…..they meant for me to flap my own weary, tattered old wings. When I tried to complain to Michelle she just told me to get over it; I was one of the few resources they have who could shave a few bucks off the total bill and I should be grateful for my talents and I might think of losing a few pounds while I’m at it and eat more vegetables.  My, how things change when people aren’t not running for office any more. 

So I arrived in Paris a little later than I had hoped or we might have been able to sandbag this lovely museum.  Instead we had to go to Plan B and move things from the basement to the halls upstairs.  Also by this time they had lost power so the only light was the emergency lights.  It was very dark and dusty work.  But since I travel without baggage or need of hotel rooms I was able to go straight to work. 

Almost the first thing I did, however, was step on some tubes of paint they had piled up in the corner. Paint squeezed all over my feet.   Then I landed onto some blank art canvases they had leaning against the wall.  In the floundering about I ended up walking over one of them a bit.  I put it aside back against the wall and cleaned up my mess.  I don’t think they could even tell. It all looked like a pile of trash if you ask me.  This would be a great time to clean things up. They need to organize this place, throw a bunch of trash out and vacuum the place. 
I moved to another side of the basement where I could see better and inserted myself into one of the lines where they had a kind of bucket brigade passing artwork and valuables along the line moving things upstairs to safety.  Oh, such marvels!  And these were the things deemed not good enough to show to the public.  The bargain basement of the Louvre, so the speak. Each one beautiful in its own right.

We worked until we had everything moved and were going out for a drink.  Everyone was exhausted.  Just then someone shouted out that they had found an undiscovered masterpiece of Picasso’s in the corner!!  All rushed to gather around and I was left on the fringes of the mob.  I’ve never seen people so excited in my life. Who knew it had been there in the basement all this time!  One of the master’s most dramatic works!  They started making plans immediately.  They would have such an announcement!  They would have an exhibit of the painting with some other Picassos as support pieces but with this one as the main centerpiece.  After a year, they might let it tour but wait!... it was far too valuable to allow it to tour.  They would have to convene a panel of experts to consider the matter. 

I was in awe to be present at such an historic moment.  To think it had been hidden in the basement of the Louvre all this time unnoticed.

Finally the crowd thinned out enough for me to step up and see the painting for myself.  It was the canvas I had stepped on with my painted feet. But by now the project had advanced too far to stop it. If they wanted to venerate something a clumsy flamingo painted with her feet as world class art, let it be their business. Nobody understands the French.
The Seine is receding and the museum should re-open in time for your visit.  There is still a lot of clean up to do around town.  You wouldn’t believe the trash the river brought.  Just wine corks alone surfacing on the river have littered the banks with enough cork to build a boat. 

See you soon!
Your friend,
the Picasso of the United States

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Possum Story Again

I washed a possum in the washing machine once. It wasn’t on purpose. I really don’t care how clean the neighborhood animals are. And I rarely invite them into my home for social functions. No, it was totally by accident. Years ago the house we lived in had the washer and dryer in the garage. And we lived close enough to a vacant field that we occasionally harbored wildlife. I guess I left the door to all the wrong things open. Our friend must have wandered into our garage, fallen in the washer and started on a good nap when I came to add a few clothes, shut the lid and start the machine.

No, I did not grab him and say, “looks like you need a dusting off old boy, hop in.”

And I certainly did not realize what had happened when I opened the machine the next morning. Half asleep, I reached out to move the wet clothes into the dryer. I was stopped by the strange odor. My clothes don’t normally come out of the washer smelling like the landfill. Then I saw what appeared to be either a very large rat or a very ugly cat. And a very dead one. After examining this sight for about a billionth of a nanosecond, I slammed the lid shut and went inside the house to write my husband a note. It read something to the effect that I loved him veryveryveryvery much and would do anything in the world for him and hoped he felt the same way about me because there was something dead in the washer and would he please get rid of it. Then I left for work.

I wasn’t a completely liberated woman at that stage of my life. God help me, I probably will never be that liberated. I’ve always agreed with the great television sage, Suzanne Sugarbaker from Designing Women, who decreed that “the man always has to kill the bug.”

When I talked to Beaven later that day, he assured me that the possum was gone from my life forever and went to heaven in a very clean condition. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

My brother was in the Navy on a nuclear submarine at that time. They were on a secret mission somewhere at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Each family member was allowed to send him two letters, which would be radioed to him. The rules were very strict: our message to him could be no more than 50 words and you couldn’t send any “coded” messages. This sounded simple but, actually, the 50 words was a real challenge. That’s not enough for a real story. But I wanted to use every word available and send a little bit of “home” to him. And to cap it all off, my life at that time was actually pretty boring. The most exciting thing that had happened to me in months had been Perfect Panty Day, when the youngest had finally gone all day with dry underwear. I couldn’t really expect Doss to get excited about that. Somewhere between “We’re all fine.” and “Take Care, We love you” I had to give him something interesting. So I included the sentence: “I washed a possum in the washer today.”

Somewhere at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, in the middle of the night, my brother was summoned brusquely from his bunk to see the Captain. I’m sure he was concerned and intimidated at the same time. The captain handed him the cable to read and demanded an explanation. “Allard, you know you can’t receive messages in code” My brother read the letter, threw back his head and laughed. “Captain, this isn’t a code, it’s just my sister. She probably DID wash a possum in the washer.”

Maybe in that quirky message I sent more of home to him than 50 words could say.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day

Allow me a short lesson on Memorial Day.  Memorial Day is to celebrate military folks who died in a war.  It’s not for veterans who served in the military.  They have another day and it’s called, coincidentally, Veteran’s Day.  Even my husband who never carried a gun in the Viet Nam war but instead took a bunch of correspondence courses in Air Conditioning during his night shift in a power plant—even he gets to celebrate Veteran’s Day. I don’t think he suffered anything more than long lines and bad food in his war.

You gotta die to get celebrated for Memorial Day.
I say this because I’ve never had anyone to celebrate on Memorial Day.  All the military folks I’ve known all made it home safe and sound. The closest thing I ever had to a relative in danger was Uncle Harry who earned the Purple Heart for getting shrapnel in his butt yet he never liked to talk about it. I guess the circumstances were a little embarrassing. 
The thing is I’ve never had anyone to name on facebook or anyone to visit at a cemetery.
And a lot of people get their holidays mixed up and try to claim veterans on Memorial Day and I get a little upset or maybe jealous.  I’m not so sure what it is that upsets me.
But now I found out that I have someone I can celebrate on both days and it’s not everybody you can do that for and if I have to bend the rules a little I will because I think an exception can be allowed here.  I’m only sorry I didn’t learn the story until after my veteran’s death…..a good death, of natural causes, in his own bed five days after his 92nd birthday.  Technically, it wasn’t a battle death but hear my story.
My step-father was a quiet man of few words.  He was my step-father longer than my father was my father.  He married Daddy’s second wife who had been my step-mother longer than my mother had been my mother.  Neither one raised me but they functioned as my parents longer than actual parents had. 
In the over 40 years I knew Terry I heard far less about his time in the Army than I heard about my Daddy’s service in the short time I spent with him.  Daddy told stories and showed photos; he loved to talk about the war.  But Terry was  a humble man who didn’t go into a lot of details about his life.  About all I knew was that he had trained to be a paratrooper but landed wrong on his first practice jump and crushed his ankle.  I knew he was part of a platoon that was scheduled to land as part of the D Day forces but he missed the whole thing because he was still in the hospital.  And that’s all he ever said. A lot of time people would accuse him of breaking his ankle on purpose to get out of the Army.  He would merely deny it and let the conversation go.
I think he was discharged from the Army when he got out of the hospital.  I know he had a medical benefit for his ankle so I guess the Army didn’t think he was of much use to them anymore.  For the rest of his life the ankle would swell periodically and hurt most of the time. But he never had a limp or anything.  I always thought he got a pretty good deal out of it.
It wasn’t until after Terry died that his widow, Betty, told me the part of the story that Terry never told anyone. She said that he spent a lot of time in his last days getting things off his chest.  Every once in a while he would tell her to come sit by him. “I’ve got something I need to tell you.”  Mostly it was plans for what she should do after he was gone, how to handle the bills and such.  But sometimes it was a detail from his life.  And, at last, he told her the story.
While he was laid up in the hospital on D Day, his whole platoon was killed parachuting from the sky into France.  He was the only one left alive. All the man of few words said was, “None of them came back.”
I can only imagine what it was like to live with that knowledge for the rest of his life.  No buddies to reminisce with about the war. No stories to swap.  Everyone gone.  The survivor’s guilt. 
Terry was a quiet and humble guy.  And now I wonder how much of that was a result of having your entire platoon killed while you were laid up in the hospital.  What does life become when your own is somehow singled out in such a seemingly miraculous manner? 
I can only imagine what Memorial Day was like for him.  And he never let on.