Sunday, May 30, 2010

In Flanders Fields

In honor of, and in grateful remembrance for those who gave their lives.

In 1915, Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae saw his friend die during WWI and was inspired to write "In Flanders Fields",
the most popular poem of the era.

The scarlet of bloody battlefields has transformed into the scarlet of endless fields of poppies,
growing in profusion on the graves of Flanders,
an area encompassing parts of present-day Belgium, France, and The Netherlands.

In Flanders Fields
- John McCrae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

And one more:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day

I'm not going to wish anyone a "Happy" Memorial Day this weekend.
Memorial Day isn't supposed to be a 'happy' holiday.

A sad reality of our consumer-driven society
is the loss of some of our meaningful national holidays.
Or, I guess I should qualify that to say that the holiday isn't lost,
but the original meaning of the holiday has changed.

Memorial Day.
A day set aside to
those brave men and women who died defending and protecting freedom at home and abroad,
has devolved into 3 things. But first, what is the history of Memorial day? To find out,
I looked up its origins on that great fount of all knowledge and wisdom - Wiki.

Originally know as "Decoration Day", it had its beginnings as a day set aside to honor the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. The first "official" Decoration Day took place on May 5, 1866, and the support of 2 Civil War generals was instrumental in promoting the holiday. On May 5, 1868, one of those generals issued a proclamation that Decoration Day be observed nationwide. The date of May 30th was chosen because it was NOT the anniversary of any of the many, many Civil War battles.

Many southern states refused to play along as there was still some lingering bad blood, and besides, hardly any of them Yankee soldiers were buried in the South. Rising above the sore losers was Columbus, Mississippi (defended during the Civil War by General Nathan Bedford Forrest, of "Forrest Gump" fame). In their Decoration Day observances in 1866, they honored both Confederate and Union soldiers. The good ladies of the church decorated the 'graves of the glorious dead' (movie reference) with flowers, not caring which side they fought for. Poet Francis Miles Finch was there that day and was so moved that he wrote "The Blue and the Grey" in commemoration.

But, really, the first observance of a memorial to the fallen soldiers played out a little differently. According to Professor David Blight of Yale University, it was observed by freed slaves at the Washington Race Course in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865. The race course had been used as a temporary Confederate prison camp for captured Union soldiers toward the end of the war, and those who died there were buried in a mass grave. As soon as the war ended, the former slaves exhumed the bodies from the mass grave and gave them proper burials in individual graves. A fence was erected around it all and it was declared a Union graveyard. They accomplished all this in just 10 days. Afterward, a crowd of around 10,000, mostly black but including some Union veterans, gathered there for sermons, speeches, singing, and picnics, thereby creating the first Decoration Day. By the end of the century, the bodies had been moved to nearby national cemeteries.

It wasn't called "Memorial Day " until 1882, and the new name wasn't really very common until after WWII. It became official in 1967.

Then, in 1968, Congress, decided that it really would be more convenient for workers to have certain holidays on a Monday, thereby giving them a 3-day weekend. So they enacted the the Uniform Holidays Bill, which took Washington's Birthday (now defunct), Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran's Day and moved them all to a Monday. Veteran's Day, however, rose up in rebellion and got to go back to it's original date.

(After all, American workers are deserving of a bit of a break now & then, since they work longer hours, on average, than most of the rest of the industrialized world. That's why we have Labor Day, right? A day to honor the American labor force by having huge sales on items made in China and other countries that exploit low-paid workers ;-)

Japan did the same thing, only they called theirs the "Happy Monday System". I think I like that name better.

So, here's why I am sad for Memorial Day:
  • An excuse for a 3-day weekend. It didn't used to be a 3-day weekend. It was a fixed holiday on May 30. There are now some groups and individuals that advocate returning it back to its original date to try to preserve the meaning of the day instead of relegating it to the status of an excuse to get a day off work.

  • The newspapers are chock-full of sale ads, promoting the remembrance of Memorial Day by buying stuff we mostly don't need and putting it houses that are too cluttered anyway.

  • It now heralds the 'official' start of the summer tourist & vacation season. Sitting on the beach in a skimpy bathing suit soaking up some skin cancer (or watching cars with giant engines drive around in circles) is just a dandy way to honor the dead, don't you think?
How many fly a flag on Memorial Day?
How many lay flowers at someone's grave?
How many take a moment of silence to remember & honor those who died?
Many do, but not enough.

The Blue and the Gray
Francis Miles Finch

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the one, the Blue,
Under the other, the Gray.

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day
Under the laurel, the Blue,
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
Alike for the friend and the foe;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day;
Under the roses, the Blue,
Under the lilies, the Gray.

So with an equal splendor,
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Broidered with gold, the Blue,
Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment -day,
Wet with the rain, the Blue
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
No braver battle was won:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue,
Under the garlands, the Gray

No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day,
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.

Saturday, May 22, 2010



April was Occupational Therapy Month, and our OT Department at St. Mary's put up giant pieces of colored paper on the wall. We were all to write down what our legacy would be. That's fun, so I wrote "I made my coworkers eat brown rice & recycle." Now, I hope that's not my only legacy, but everyone else was writing mooshy wooshy stuff, and it was getting boring. But, it's true. We are now rabid recyclers in my department. Or, maybe it's that I am the rabid recycler, and they just play along to shut me up.

When I see cans,



or boxes in the trash,

I have to be restrained.
Held back.
*breathe in a paper bag*
I need a tranquilizer.

If it has a recycle code on the bottom, it goes in my big blue bin.
I know you're supposed to pay attention to the number inside the triangle . . .

(hee. 'PETE' is #1 - inside joke)

. . . since not all areas take everything, but I'm getting old,
and I can't see the number without my WallyWorld reading glasses on.
Besides, if it wasn't supposed to be recycled,
they wouldn't have put that little symbol on it to begin with, right?

So why does this make me a hypocrite?
Because while I am wildly recycling my cardboard, glass & plastic,
I wantonly waste other things.

Waste, as in
throw away,
fill the landfill,
it'll still be there in 100 years

With these:

I use a lot of this stuff.
I buy it from the Price Club.
In bulk.
I use it, then I throw it in the trash.
It can't be recycled,
and I won't give it up!
(Actually, I can live nicely without kleenex & napkins
as long as I have t.p & paper towels.)

So, I'm a hypocrite, right?
Or does it all balance out in the end?

I remember when BS & I went to Italy. He was 10, and we went to visit friends who were stationed in Gaeta, a beautiful little seaside city just north of Naples. A day trip to Rome was part of the plan, and I went to use one of the public restrooms at the train station in Rome. There was a lady sitting at the entrance SELLING TOILET PAPER! There wasn't any in the stalls, thank you very much. For your handful of lira, you got 4 squares of paper. 4 SQUARES! I don't know about any of you others out there, but there ain't no way 4 squares of toilet paper is getting the job done. Neither job, if you get my meaning.

Did I care? NO!!!

Having been forewarned of this, I went on in with my WHOLE ROLL safely hiding in my big ol' handbag. Ahhhhh! Enough t.p. and a moist towelette, and I was feeling fresh & clean. Probably more than you wanted to know, huh? But feeling fresh & clean is a big thing with me, hence my selfish, evil, wasteful use of paper products.
The earth weeps.
The landfills grow.
Does this make me a bad person?

ps - I think the lady selling the t.p. thought I was dirty and smelly, on account of I didn't buy any of her scratchy paper. Mwaahaha!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Not Just Tolerance - Love

I post this with love for and in honor of my Egyptian family:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mother's Heart

There's something about a mother's heart

It has magic

No matter what kind of fur we have

We love

We nurture

We guide

We protect

We endure

Even if they're not ours

Even if they aren't so pretty

We will love them always.

Before you were conceived, I wanted you.
Before you were born, I loved you.
When you were born, I saw your face and knew I was in love.
Before you were a minute old, I knew I would die for you.
To this day, I still would.

Happy Mother's Day!

ps - None of the photos are mine. The poem is not mine. It was all found online.
I put this together in a hurry, but I will gladly give credit. Just let me know.

pps - my nephew informs me that the penguin is the dad. Tough.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Just Yesterday, They Were Our Babies

Yes, our kids are in wheelchairs.
No, they don't talk.
Yes, they have disabilities so profound, we can't comprehend the hurdles they face.
No, their schooling doesn't involve high-level academics.
Yes, in spite of their physical disabilities, they have the spark of life that dazzles us.

So, just as any high school senior looks forward to certain rituals,
so we want our kids to experience those things as well.

Last Sunday they had their senior prom,
and St. Mary's own blog has the story here and here.

Graduation was today, and we even made the local news!

I wrote about graduation last year, and this year was no different.
With one exception.
I immersed myself in picture-taking, so my tears weren't flowing as much.
Ah, the power of distraction.
It was deliberate, because I embarrassed myself enough last year.
This year I was all business.
Kinda. Mostly.

But at least I didn't need too many of these, generously dispersed throughout the room...

Every student deserves the pomp and ceremony, no matter their disabilities.
St. Mary's and the SECEP REACH Program (our school)
went all out to make them feel special today.

We had our Color Guard,

a great speaker (one of our most well-respected local news anchors
and managing editor of the news division of our CBS affiliate, Barbara Ciara),
a lovely and gracious woman with a wonderful sense of humor,

a special friend of each graduate speaking on their behalf,

the mother of one of our graduates to give a very moving tribute,

presentation of their diplomas by the principal,

a giant cake,

and a catered lunch of pulled pork barbecue and all the fixins,
which was just as good as Texas barbecue, thank you very much!

See St. Mary's blog post about the event here.
It's much better than this one.
It has quotes and everything.

It was a very special day, filled with very special people.
I am so lucky to be part of St. Mary's, SECEP, and the lives of those kids.

Today's stars:

Devonta, Greg, Katie, Justin, Demetrias, and Steven:
don't leave us too soon, hear?
We'll miss you too much, and your absence will leave an awfully big hole in our hearts.
We love you guys.