Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Six-Pack Blessing

Everyone has their own mental image of what a "six-pack" is. Some of us think of those fabulous abs that make us look so good in a swimsuit (if you can wear one), while others think of grabbing a six-pack of a favorite drink. In my home, a six-pack refers to our six daughters, a phrase coined by their dad since 1983. He considers "6" to be his lucky number which will automatically get him into heaven. Over the years, he's had six stents placed around his heart, one for each daughter, but he only had a 5-way bypass--just missed it on that one!

This month marks our 45th anniversary, and in honor of that, our Six-Pack is treating us with a trip to Portland, OR, where we will get to spend some quality time with our youngest daughter and her husband. As an extra benefit, I'll get to see my favorite cousin who used to take me with her riding horses so many years ago.

This is absolutely a "Great Adventure" for us, and I am very thankful to have a family that thinks enough of us to want to do this. It's been more than 50 years since I visited that part of the country, and I am looking forward to seeing the sights that have brought my daughter and husband so much joy in the two years they've been there. I may not be able to do an 8-hr. hike, but I'm sure I can explore those kitschy shops without losing my breath!

This is the time of year in which I like to look back and attempt to count all the blessings I've received, but after a while, I simply have to acknowledge that there are too many to single out. How grateful I am for a terrific husband (who can drive me to distraction) and for our Six-Pack. I appreciate
how they are willing to help each other out by sending boxes of treasured toys to the one that has the right age group of little ones. Though separated by many miles, the bonds of sisterhood are strong.

There have been many people along our journey who have helped us reach this point in our lives, and we know we still have at least a few more "miles" to go. I'm grateful for my strong faith in a loving Savior, a husband who has stood by my side through the good as well as the rough times, my daughters who have tremendous strengths of their own, and the incredible friends who always seem to be just where I need them.

May you enjoy this blessed Christmas season not just this month, but every month of your life.

Our "Reserve the Date" card
December 20, 1969
Sonoma, CA

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

For the Times....

I am a veteran, and so is my husband of forty-five years. We both served in the US Navy during the late 60's and early 70's, a time that was turbulent and anti-war. The Viet Nam war had polarized this country, and the factions against it were loud and aggressive in their protests and demonstrations. Some of those people burned their draft cards, some burned the American flag, and still others fled to Canada rather than be subject to having to serve in the military.This was the environment in which we served. We did so because we believed in our country and were willing to defend its precepts at the behest of our Commander-in-Chief

In 1940 Franklin Delano Roosevelt had instituted the Selective Training & Service Act that required all young men to register with Selective Service once they turned 18. It was the first peacetime draft since WWII and was used to fill vacancies that weren't filled through voluntary means. In the anti-war environment of the Viet Nam era, the draft became a major focus of all those who opposed the war and everything connected with it. It was abolished in Jan 1973, and the military has since become an all-volunteer organization.

It was a difficult time to be in the military, and there were many stories about soldiers being attacked on the street, spit upon in airports, and generally disrespected for serving their country and being involved with an unpopular war. ROTC buildings on college campuses were blown up as well as businesses construed as being "sympathetic" to the federal government.

This was also the first war in which the news media was present in force on the front lines, videoing the battles and how the military conducted maneuvers. Cameras became part of the equipment seen both in camps and the battlefields, and their influence was profound on American thinking about the war. Never before had it been possible for the average person to see such carnage right in their living room on a TV screen on virtually the same day it happened.

I worked as a neuropsyciatric technician at Oak Knoll Hospital in Oakland, CA. I spent many hours talking with the young men who came back from Nam suffering from a lot of psychological trauma, and I can only hope that most were able to put their lives back together.

My husband served aboard the USS Higbee DD 806 as an electronics technician, and he was there when the ship was attacked by Russian MIG-17 fighter planes in April 1972, the first ship to be attacked in an air strike since WWII. I know that God had a hand in protecting that ship from being sunk, and in spite of the tremendous damage done to it, there were no fatalities. Fire, oil, and munitions make for a dangerous mix on a ship, but the fire was contained, and the ship eventually made its way to Subic Bay in the Philippines. If you want to know more about this conflict, check out the link:

We wives heard about the bombing on the 11 p.m. news which only consisted of a few sentences. This happened as the same time as the Apollo 16 moon landing, and that was the focus at that time. It was a full two weeks before any of wives received any contact from our guys. News had been very sketchy, but we figured that the longer no one heard anything officially, the better the odds were that no one had lost a husband. It was a difficult as well as terrifying experience.

The good news is that the times have changed with regards to our men and women in uniform. No longer does society revile them, but rather they are honored and even thanked for their service. I've often wondered if our Viet Nam vets had come home into a positive environment if there would have been fewer who became homeless and without hope. Instead, too many fought a solitary battle against the demons they had no defenses against both in their bodies and their heads. Far too many of them are still fighting for their disability benefits due to their exposure to Agent Orange, and far too many have lost.

Much needs to be done to provide the services needed for our wounded veterans, and thankfully, this is the right time. Our men and women have sacrificed much for our freedoms, one of which allows me to be able to write this blog. I am grateful for the improved environment that supports and encourages businesses to actively honor veterans with free meals and special discounts in services on Veteran's Day. No longer do I keep quiet about my milatry service. May the times keep changing.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Eye on the Weather

Is there anyone who does not pay attention to the weather and its effects on how we live our lives? Already, this winter has provided numerous examples of extreme situations and their potentially devastating consequences. In 2013 alone, we experienced blistering heat waves, bone-chilling ice storms, severe drought that is continuing into this year, Dorothy-and-Toto style tornadoes, as well as floods. People's lives are not only turned upside down, but they have to somehow find the strength to get up and start over. This process can easily take years, while some never make it, choosing instead to find a new place somewhere else.

In the constant effort just to live our lives as peacefully as possible, it is easy to forget about times in our past in which we had to rely on some ingenuity to get through some unexpected weather events. Having lived more than half my life on the Gulf Coast, it was very important to be prepared for hurricanes, tornadoes, and torrential rains that often accompanied tropical storms. Having experienced all of the above, my husband and I became very adept at handling many of the trials and inconveniences that followed one of these events which took out our electricity for days and weeks at a time. When you're faced with these situations, it's easy to have great respect and admiration for those that came before you--how did they do it?

The devastating hurricane of 1900, that almost destroyed Galveston Island, forever changed that city. Over 5000 people lost their lives as the island was literally underwater. What was left after the storm was a huge pile of debris and bodies, but the survivors refused to give up. The rest of the story is that the people literally raised the elevation of the island and built a huge seawall to protect it from being battered by incoming seas during a storm. This engineering feat has proved successful time and again, even during Hurricane Ike just a few years ago. Ike did produce widespread devastation on Galveston, some of which still has not been cleared away, but other places nearby were literally swept away by the sea. The storm surge was much higher than anticipated, and it literally drowned a couple of the coastal towns, leaving only minimal evidence that they had even existed.

The true test of a person comes after the event in dealing with the lack of amenities and resources. For my family, we were as well-prepared as one could be. We were without power for two weeks, and by the end of the second week, it had really gotten old. We teamed up with one other neighbor, and between us, we managed very well. I had to travel to do laundry, and we did have to look around for gas to run our generator, but overall, we didn't suffer like others we saw. It took quite a while to rebuild the power infrastructure due to all the downed trees and broken lines, but eventually, the power came back, and we had the luxury of a hot shower once again.

This winter, a severe ice storm hit the Dallas area which literally shut it down. We lost at least another dozen trees that made sure our power lines were useless, and we learned that it is different to be prepared for the cold. Many people this year have suffered from the intense cold, places that don't normally get this kind of weather and don't have the resources to deal with its effects.

Flooding can be a major issue in many parts of the country. This was our front yard at our log cabin after a few days of torrential rains. The driveway was completely underwater, and we found ourselves living on an island.

These experiences all become stories in our lives, and as such, we should record them for our descendants to read. Just how much do we actually know about our parents' lives, and I, for one, would love to know in more detail about some of their experiences. I can never say enough that it only takes a generation to lose your family's history, so it is vital that we write down what we can remember. If you don't know what to write about, think about an event that occurred and how your family got through it. All these little chapters will add up, and you will have a family record of your life before you realize it.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Words Matter

The art of crafting a well-written, cohesive, and cogent story is a challenging prospect. The process requires intense thought, care, and mountains of time! Simply sitting down and writing something worthy of publication with the first try is next to impossible. We all need another set of eyes, an impartial opinion, and an expert in grammar to help us reach the goal of submission to a publishing house and, ultimately, the opportunity of seeing our literary masterpiece in black and white.

You can rely upon me to carefully critique your grammar, spelling, sentence structure, content, and overall organization. I am committed to helping you reach your goal of submitting works ready for editorial review by a publisher. I work quickly as I offer insight and suggestions to improve your work. I want you to succeed; together, we will work to produce a compelling, well-written manuscript!