In the blink of an eye

Lucky Apr 11 2011A golden heart stopped beating on Saturday, and I am very sad. Losing a furry family member leaves a big hole, and I remind myself that it is so much better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. So, I’m painfully aware of how blessed I am to have had Lucky, a not-so-small retriever-lab-? mixed breed yeller dog.

She was an accidental family member. One afternoon in the fall of 1998 a young cop found a young pup wandering around. We later learned that someone had dumped her near the police station in western South Dakota, and I think that somewhere deep in their miserable soul, they thought that leaving her there would assuage their guilt of abandoning her. Standard procedure for the cop was to take her to the humane society shelter. He recognized that taking her there at that particular time would be a sure death sentence, because the shelter was fighting an epidemic of parvovirus. So, alerting local animal rescue agencies of her foster home, he brought her to his parents’ house, where there was a big fenced yard, a playmate, and dog-loving people (alias suckers). He was sure that a hunter had lost his dog, and would soon reunite with her.

So, the mom said she could sleep in the garage (she never did) and she could stay for a short time (13+ years) until her owners found her (and they did, in a matter of speaking). The cop’s wife named her “Lucky” for her good fortune at landing with these people. After 2 weeks with no one claiming her, the family sought out a new home for her. When a prospective family came to inspect her, the dad saved Lucky from the torment of the family’s rambunctious kids and pronounced that she was staying. Huh?

Lucky bonded immediately with her new family’s springer Jack, and the cop’s pup Emma. Jack feared Emma, Emma feared Lucky (only a little), and they all 3 feared the 15 pound Maine coon cat (with claws) Suzi Q.  Lucky didn’t play favorites, but she always had a preference for the cop who found her and his brother, and would do whatever they bid her to do. She very quickly learned that this new family did not like her habit of walking over the chain link fence, and she gave it up except when there was something she really, really wanted to do. After her escapes she always showed up at the front door, looking very penitent. She wasn’t fond of rabbits that got into the fenced yard, and put a quick end to two of them, although after bringing them down, she left Jack to stand guard until the people took care of disposal.

Over the next years Lucky’s family moved to 2 places in Minnesota. Lucky loved going for walks. When she went with her mom, who discussed work problems with her, Lucky always gave good advice. The family expanded to include grandkids, and Lucky loved them too. When one of the grandkids got very very sick, Lucky was his loyal companion through the first scary months of his treatment, and listened to him read his homework to her.

As the years passed, first Suzi Q, then Jack, then Emma crossed the Rainbow Bridge where all animals go to await their owners. Lucky’s mom and dad adopted an annoying little creature that looked more like a gerbil, and after Lucky set the pug dog straight she  decided she was a worthy companion. Lucky got slower, but never lost her happy countenance. When the family came and filled the empty bedrooms, Lucky went from one to another basking in their love.

After everyone left New Years Day, she seemed to get more tired. She enjoyed her meals and begged for all the treats she could get. She would take longer to go up and down the stairs in the multi-level house, but always stayed near her mom and dad wherever they were. Finally, on January 28th she got her mom up even though it was Saturday (she always did that) and went out with the pug dog to do her business. When she came back to the house she stopped on the patio outside the door, fell, and her soul floated off. The pug dog barked at her and nosed at her, but Lucky was no longer there. She had crossed the Rainbow Bridge and even now is playing with Suzi Q, Jack, and Emma.
Lucky, Lucy, Noah

Reliving my history

Moammar Gadhafi was killed today. All day long I’ve been reliving the fear he brought to me and my family 25 years ago. And I’m sure that’s small compared to terrors he’s wrought upon people in his own country.

25 years ago, I was a military wife with young children. We lived in Berlin, at that time an occupied territory as it had been since the end of WWII. Berlin was a city where many people came for political asylum, and there were many Libyans in the city, especially on the east side of the Wall.

April 6th is carved in my memory, as the day of the bombing at La Belle discotheque. I’ve never been there, but lots of our soldiers and airmen went there. The bomb was hidden under a table, and when it blew up, U.S. Sergeant Kenneth T. Ford and a Turkish civilian woman were killed instantly. A second American, Sergeant James E. Goins, died from his injuries two months later. 230 people were injured.

37 military members were awarded the purple heart in a ceremony on Memorial Day that year, in accordance with an Executive Order made in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan authorizing the Purple Heart for military members injured as a result of terrorist actions. I was a Cub Scout leader, and we took the pack to the ceremony at Clay Headquarters. It was a sobering event, and one I hope the kids still remember. The online archived Berlin Observer takes me back to that day like it was yesterday. The Observer lists the names of the Purple Heart recipients on page 12.

On April 15th of 1986, I woke to AFN (Armed Forces Network) radio reports that President Reagan had ordered a bombing of Libya in retaliation. What followed was a period of highest security, to protect against potential further Libyan action. Berlin American High School, where I taught, was surrounded by tanks. One of our biggest problems as teachers was keeping the girls from going out and flirting with the 40th Armored tank soldiers.

Each of the school buses that carried the American kids across the city was assigned 2 armored jeeps (front and back). Lining up all those buses and their jeeps (who would NOT leave their bus) was a real challenge.

The elementary school had infantry soldiers guarding all the doors. They inspected every backpack and lunch box that entered – and critiqued the kids’ lunches (to their delight).

It was quite a time. Vehicles were inspected for potential car bombs driving in and out of military installations and housing. And yes, there were a number of bombs. One day I saw one explode in a parking lot.  Whenever we found an unattended parcel anywhere, we called the military police, and they dispatched weapons experts. I still experience paralyzing fear when I find backpacks in the library – and yes, I do take precautions. It’s funny how we become the sum total of all our experiences.

Memorial Plaque
Memorial plaque reading, "In this house on the 5th of April, 1986, young people were murdered by a criminal bomb attack"


The war is over

So the President spoke from the Oval Office tonight and told us the war is over. Just like that, troops are coming home because the President says the war is over. I work hard at being apolitical and this post isn’t intended to make a statement on the war. I find the whole history of the Iraqui wars (how many?) very curious and confusing. I guess I’m not the only one, since someone posted a page on Wikipedia titled “Iraq war (disambiguation)“.

Having lived most of my adult life as part of military community, I have personal memories entwined with many of the happenings in the Middle East . . . a family member who lost all her savings in a bank in Kuwait while she was home on break from her teaching job in Kuwait; January 16, 1991 lying on my bed watching bombs fly in Kuwait on TV, assuring a small boy that his daddy was in Alaska (secretly praying that he was still there);  meeting streams of returning military with desert sand still clinging to their boots as they first landed on American soil at Bangor International Airport; five years later thankful that the boy’s graduation kept his dad behind his squadron long enough that he missed being in a car-bombed dormitory in Saudi Arabia.

In recent history, there was the First Gulf War (which was only the Gulf War until the 2nd iteration), the Second Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqui Freedom, and a few other named conflicts. Some of these are different names for the same thing, or overlapped until I didn’t know when one ended and another began.

But now it’s proclaimed — the war is over (or is it a conflict? I can’t ever remember.) Troops are coming home. I so hope he’s right. It’s long overdue. But somehow, I just know that there will be more entries on that Iraq War disambiguation page.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day Salute

circa 1946

Today is Veterans Day,  a national holiday, first proclaimed as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 with the following words: To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…

Armistice Day commemorated the end of World War I – known at the time as “The Great War.” The War officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. November 11, 1918, was regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Family photo - 80s

circa 1985

Armistice Day became a legal holiday through congressional action on May 13, 1938. (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a). Armistice Day was a day dedicated to world peace and to honor veterans of World War I. In 1954 the 83rd Congress amended the Act of 1938 by changing the word “Armistice” to “Veterans” following World War II and the Korean Conflict. With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

The observance of Veterans Day moved to Monday, along with Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day, when the Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968. This was unpopular with many states, who continued to observe Veterans Day on November 11th, and ignored the legislation. In response to the desires of the the majority of state legislatures, all veterans service organizations, and the American people, Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479) on September 20, 1975, which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.

Source of information, Department of Veterans Affairs
See also,

Berlin Wall Anniversary

Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For over 25 years a city existed within the confines of a wall that encircled it, keeping its residents in and everyone else out. Travel to and from West Berlin was only permitted through applications and documents. The Wall was a symbol of the Cold War and a grim reminder of the differences in lifestyle from East to West.
Now for a short history lesson: Following World War II, the defeated country of Germany was divided into four sections and governed by the Allied Control Council or Allied Control Authority, the Alliierter Kontrollrat, a military governing authority. The members were the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. France was later added with one vote, but no duties. As was the country divided, so too was the capitol city, Berlin. Berlin was well within the Soviet controlled section known later as East Germany.  When the Soviets and East Germans erected a wall around the portions of Berlin governed by the Americans, Brits, and French, West Berlin was isolated from West Germany. Armed guards patrolled the wall and the checkpoints going in and out of West Berlin.
Berlin was a divided city in 1983 when I moved there as a military dependent. My mother was terrified when we announced that we were taking her two young grandchildren “behind the iron curtain.” Now there’s a term I haven’t heard in a good while. In truth, while we were excited to go on the adventure, it took me several weeks after we had settled in to get up the courage to actually go look at the Wall.  Soon, going to the Wall, or even hiking the trails around it were as common as going to Como Park is now.
During our time there, the political climate was relatively calm and we traveled back and forth into East Berlin fairly often. While we lived a relatively normal lifestyle, getting “Flag Orders” every time we wanted to travel outside the city was an inconvenience. Taking a bus was much easier than getting clearance to drive our own car (not to mention the difficulties surrounding trying to park). The exchange rate was embarrassingly high, and Americans were welcomed by the shopkeepers in the East for all the money we spent. While they claimed to be Communist, capitalism wasn’t so far removed.  Bus drivers who drove through Checkpoint Charlie often played “God Bless the USA” or “Born in the USA”  as we passed through — with the windows open.
One very tragic incident in 1985 affected us personally, when Major Arthur Nicholson was killed in the line of duty. His daughter Jennifer was in my son’s class. We were also there when President Reagan cried “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” at the Brandenburg Gate.
Shortly after we moved from Berlin to Maine, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I watched throngs of East Berliners pour through the torn down wall. I feel that way yet.

Family photo
Family photo

Happy Father’s Day

Today is the longest day of the year – or the shortest night. Depends on how you look at it. In short – it’s the Summer Solstice. Couldn’t tell it here . . . thunder storms obliterated this evening’s sunset.

It’s also Father’s Day (for one father), or Fathers’ Day (for many fathers), or Fathers Day, but nobody seems to spell it that way. I’ve missed my dad for over 14 years, since he crossed over. I visited my wonderful father-in-law yesterday.

I have lots of pictures of my dad, all dressed up in a suit, or positioned exactly behind my mother by an unseen professional photographer. But it’s photos like this, in his Oshkosh overalls, that I like best.  This is vintage, Dad posing for a child taking an imaginary photo, playing with the dog. Posing in front of a shed my mother wanted torn down, beside a rusty barrel that she wanted thrown out.

Smile, Grandpa!

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

Beatles – In My Life

In memory of song


In memory of Edna (age 90) and Inez (age 95) – 2 artists at the organ, who both passed over this week.

The Organist in Heaven
by T.E. Browm (b 1830)

When Wesley died, the Angelic orders,
To see him at the state,
Pressed so incontinent that the warders
Forgot to shut the gate.
So I, that hitherto had followed
As one with grief o’ercast,
Where for the doors a space was hollowed,
Crept in, and heard what passed.
And God said:—
” Seeing thou hast given Thy life to my great sounds,
Choose thou through all the cirque of Heaven
What most of bliss redounds.”
Then Wesley said :—
” I hear the thunder
Low growling from Thy seat—
Grant me that I may bind it under
The trampling of my feet.”
And Wesley said:-” See, lightning quivers
Upon the presence walls—
Lord, give me of it four great rivers,
To be my manuals.”
And then I saw the thunder chidden
As slave to his desire ;
And then I saw the space bestridden
With four great bands of fire ;
And stage by stage, stop stop subtending,
Each lever strong and true,
One shape inextricable blending,
The awful organ grew.
Then certain angels clad the Master in very marvellous wise,
Till clouds of rose and alabaster
Concealed him from mine eyes.
And likest to a dove soft brooding,
The innocent figure ran ;
So breathed the breath of his preluding,
And then the fugue began—
Began ; but, to his office turning,
The porter swung his key;
Wherefore, although my heart was yearning,
I had to go ; but he
Played on; and, as I downward clomb,
I heard the mighty bars
Of thunder-gusts, that shook heaven’s dome,
And moved the balanced stars.

As I’ve blogged before, when something comes up twice in a short period of time, it’s appropriate to take notice of what the universe would like me to hear or learn. These 2 ladies had great influence in my early passion to play organ. Not because they were my teachers, but because they inspired me with their passion for sharing their music. I’ve played all my life, but the last few years other things have taken precedence, and sometimes weeks go by without the feel of ebony and ivory. There is no balance in my life, and I feel like I’m not whole without my music. Thank you for the memories, dear friends, and for leading me back to my center.

Memorial Day

A charcoal-grilled hamburger (no gas cooking here), potato salad, a cold beer, rhubarb crisp — ah, now it’s summer. All on our newly built deck. I doubt that nowhere in the world does anyone glory in a sunny warm day more than in Minnesota, and especially after this past winter, the longest the natives remember for a long time. I remember previous years that we hoped for at least one dry cookout-worthy day during the Memorial Day weekend, since this part of May is typically rainy. Not so this year — the lawn is already crunchy dry, and we’re hoping for rain. Not a good omen for the farmers!

According to the History Channel site, Memorial Day was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. In my memory, while we celebrate the memory of veterans’ sacrifices, we also decorate family graves on Memorial Day. And so, this weekend we ran between multiple cemeteries, placing decorations and flowers.

There are two constants in almost all small towns around here . . . a library (of course) and some kind of park that memorializes local war heroes. Just across the state border in my hometown, there is a bench remembering my cousin, killed in Vietnam. Also a wall, that looks not so strangely like one in Washington D.C., that honors all local guys and gals who’ve served in the military service.Mirror Lake Park, Mondovi WI

Yin and yang of life

Welcome to the world, little one

In the midst of sorrow for losing one, comes the joy of birth of another.

Ecclesiastes 3 – A Time for Everything
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Why a baseball stadium needs a roof

We went on our regular family pilgrimage to a Milwaukee Brewers game on Saturday night (Brewers win 8-4). We planned it all summer, and cousins came from far and wide. We traveled through the beginning of the record-breaking rainfall across Minnesota and Wisconsin. And guess what! The game was not rained out – thanks to the Miller Park retractable roof. Yeah, I was disappointed that it wasn’t a beautiful night out for baseball. But I’d have been more disappointed had our one shot to carry on a family tradition been rained out and our miles on the road been for naught.

I’m not terribly invested in the Twins stadium debates (being an immigrant from across the border), but it just seems so short-sighted to build a fair-weather stadium without a roof. Think of all the fun family outings that won’t happen. Glad my family gathers at Miller Park.

OK – so what has this got to do with libraries? Well, at the appointed time, everyone with ATT phones sends text messages, and the messages come up on the scoreboard, and guess what – “Librarians are sexy” appears in lights (and no, it wasn’t me, with my Alltel phone.)

Librarians are sexy – 3rd line down
Miller Park

The roof – dry as can be
Miller Park

Here we are
Ron and Barbara