Monthly Archives: May 2013

Why Memorial Days keep getting better, and worse

Last night I was reminded why we live in the greatest country.

Watching the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS, ( I felt we’re getting better at honoring those who give so much to keep our country free.

Brother--n-law Otto, front and center, is one of a long line of my family's sailors. Over the years many of my uncles, nephews and nieces have served in five of the six branches of the military.

Brother–n-law Otto, front and center, is one of a long line of my family’s sailors. Over the years a dozen or more of our uncles, nephews and nieces have served in five of the six branches of the military.

We’re getting better because after September 11th  we began recognizing the real value the United States Coast Guard provides in protecting our shorelines. Last night the concert added the National Guard to the list of armed services. I was happy to see all facets of our military honored at the Memorial Day Concert.

But the event also made the reality of war even worse as we become more aware of its lingering consequences.

Co-hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinese role-played two brothers, Joe and Earl Granville, who enlisted in the National Guard and were called into combat after 9/11. This moving story reminded me of the long lingering and tragic results of war.  The following is from the PBS National Memorial Concert website.

The Longest Wars – The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are two of America’s longest military conflicts, surpassed only by the war in Vietnam. In the 13-year period of our two most recent wars, more than 6600 service members have perished and over 50,000 have been wounded in action.  Of those deployed, 28% of the force is comprised of National Guard and Reserve troops, and greater than 15% of the total force have deployed three times or more.

Joe and Earl Granville’s Story

Two weeks before 9/11, close-knit brothers Joe and Earl Granville started basic training in the National Guard, expecting a traditional deployment in domestic disaster relief and other aid efforts. Within a few months they were called up to provide security in Bosnia. In the summer of 2005 the brothers volunteered for service in Iraq, returning home by June of 2006. In that year of conflict, the brothers experienced a level of danger, destruction, and loss that would change their lives and those of their family forever.  Continue reading

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Those of us who have lost our mothers could slip into a sentimental funk this weekend, feel sorry for ourselves. But we’ve got the kids, right?, to help us celebrate? No? Ohhh, maybe you’re one of those “OMG I FORGOT TO HAVE CHILDREN” people. Well, rather than get all decked out for that pity party, I’ve got an idea. Let’s celebrate the mothers we’ve had and the mothers we are.

First, a toast to the mothers we’ve had.

My mom was better to me than I will ever know.

My mom was probably better to me than I know.

Mom was a peach. My dad worked various shifts at the steel mill leaving her home to do the heavy lifting. She raised five of us and sat with bundles of grand babies, cooked countless meals, did umteen loads of laundry. She signed my report cards, went to choral concerts, tried her best to help with the dreaded New Math.


While I later realized she was “emotionally unavailable” during my early years, she more than met my needs. I thank her for homemade bread with butter and sugar, games after large family gatherings, and introducing me to so many things from choral singing to the joys of Halupki. She sewed my First Communion dress, bandaged my bloody ankle, had the nerve to teach me how to drive. Holy cow. She must have been nuts!

Nope, not nuts. But helpful, happy – except when she wasn’t, and fun. She laughed, sang, played “In My Solitude” on the piano that came with the house. In fact, our last conversation was over that piece. “Mom, what’s that song you always play?” “Oh, this one?” she said, launching into an arpeggio I’ll never forget. She had a stroke a week later.

Maybe it was because of all us kids, or my dad’s shift work, or being too busy in the family store but I somehow missed out on the talks about boys and marriage and having kids and … but her being away caused me to adopt other mothers. I’m fortunate for all the mothers I have in my life. From my sister and brother to a Scout leader, choir director, dorm mother. Some of you reading this have been mother to me more than once, whether you know it or not!

Whether you are male or female  you’ve been Mother more than once in your life. You possess mothering traits such as kindness, empathy, unconditional love, the ability to mend a sock or clean a cut or fix a bowl of soup.

Consider the times you’ve supported someone in need, listened to a sad or happy story, counseled, nurtured. Ever go searching for an extra pair of gloves or a scarf to make sure a friend was warm enough? Ever make up your couch into comfortable bed?

Have you ever picked up a cake on the way to a party? Made your super sloppy joes for friend’s tailgate party? Sent a card for no reason? I could cry thinking of how much my mother-friends have helped me. I am so grateful to you.

I’m grateful for all the mothers I’ve had in my lifetime – men and women, relatives and not – who listened while I choked back tears, encouraged me to keep going, who told me I should do whatever I want as long as it makes me happy.

I feel certain my mother did more for me than I will ever know and I am grateful for knowing her. And thank you to all my moms. I celebrate each and every one of you. Thanks to your mother our world has you. Thanks to you, we all have many mothers.


Whether you use brains or brawn, it’s still work

This week I’ve been week helping a friend who’s renovating a 50-year-old beach cabin. I enjoyed the physical work – a break from desk, being in the moment rather than planning, organizing, writing.

A sore back from peeling tile all day is nothing compared to what some folks do day after day.

A sore back from peeling tile all day is nothing compared to what some folks do day after day.

It was fun, at first, and I started thinking about being a laborer and not a writerer (!) But after awhile, when my back started to ache and my hands were shaking from holding constant tension on a putty knife, I began to appreciate those who work with their bodies all day.

While I was using a chisel, hammer and knife to peel, scrape and chip away at a floorful of asphalt tiles, my friend was in the kitchen – moving a gas line, rewiring  electrical boxes, cutting and laying insulation.

During a break I whined my lower back hurt; he commented but didn’t complain about his upper back. I said I thought peeling tile was easier than writing because I didn’t have to think. He said that’s why some people get into the trades – they can do a hard day’s work, go home tired and not think about that task again until the next day.

We talked about people we both know who have been or are still laborers.  We know guys who have given it up because it’s hard on their bodies. What 50-year-old wants to work on a roof, or install a new boiler in some old basement, or spent hours leaning over a putty knife peeling ancient tiles off a cement floor?

We know guys who are still at it because they have nothing else. Were lucky these folks are still around when we need a good handyman. They are “Jacks of All Trades,” these guys. And we pay them so little an hour given what they put themselves through to accomplish our tasks.

So today, I’m especially grateful to those who have given themselves to learning a trade; to all those I’ve ever asked to repair a broken water main (only inches from the foundation) or replace a roof or paint a kitchen or haul mulch to my garden. Continue reading