Memorial Day 2010

The Cemetery at Stones River Battlefield

So, today is Memorial Day 2010. We will, en masse, head to our grills and coolers. Some of us will stay home; many will head to a family reunion. We will be with friends and family. I think you would find more ribs and hamburgers consumed today than any other day of the year. Oceans of soft drinks and beer will help us celebrate this day. Dear Reader, why and for what are you celebrating? You get an extra day off, maybe with pay? You get to sleep in? Maybe you spent Saturday doing all your yard work so you could have this day to play. Yes, you will have a great day and I am glad for you. But….

1,303,696

That’s one million, three hundred and three thousand, six hundred and ninety six men and women who have died fighting our country’s wars.  It is not an exact number. This day is for them. I visited a Civil War battleground last year and wrote about it at the time. The original story is posted as follows and is my tribute to 1,303,696 patriots.

(From the National Park Service Website) “The Battle of Stones River was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. More than 3,000 men lay dead on the field. Nearly 16,000 more were wounded. Some of these men spent as much as seven agonizing days on the battlefield before help could reach them. The two armies sustained nearly 24,000 casualties, which was almost one-third of the 81,000 men engaged.”

We visited this battlefield not long ago. It is just outside Murfreesboro, Tennessee. As most Civil War sites are, it is quiet and well cared for. In the serenity of the fields, it is hard to imagine the carnage that took place here 145 years ago. You really don’t. At least, not until you see the National Cemetery. There are 6,162 graves there. 2,100 some odd were never identified (“known but to God” as the military is fond of saying). Most of the graves are for Union soldiers who died in that horrific three-day battle. It is deservedly a quiet and reverent place.  This is the place where the term “hell’s half acre” was coined. One is moved to reverent silence.

Throughout this hallowed place of rest, there are small signs reciting the poem “The Bivouac of the Dead.” Here is the first verse:

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
their silent tents are spread,
and Glory guards, with solemn round,
the bivouac of the dead.

It is a long poem (you can read it at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hist/BODpoem.asp). When I get to the end, I am further moved and choked up. These men died for an ideal. They died for you and me. They died for freedom.

I am shocked and saddened at the memory of this place but very glad our nation has made it a scene of peace and solitude. As we left, I let my family go ahead to the car. In silence and near tears, I turn to face the graves of these men. The only appropriate response was a silent, slow salute. They each had their own story. Each had their own way of dealing with those awful three days. They were one man. Imagine.

On arthritis

I have just today been informed that I have arthritis in my hands. The Doc actually called it osteoarthritis. That’s a ten-dollar word for my hands don’t work worth a hoot anymore.  “What am I supposed to do now?” I asked the Doc. “Welcome to your 50’s” was all he said. Great guy, my doc. Always full of good news. Next thing he’ll tell me is I’m bald. Oh, wait. I already am.

This getting into one’s 50’s is not what it’s cracked up to be. Stuff either leaves altogether (like my hair has), quits working or works only sporadically, or just up and moves where it is not wanted (usually down or out but sometimes both).

I went bald years ago so really can’t blame that on the 50’s. Up until just recently, my hands have been pretty faithful. They have almost always done what I have asked them to do. The times that they did not got me into trouble. Anyway, they are now perpetually stiff and a little sore. I have noticed that they get worse when the weather changes so maybe I’ll be like that proverbial old guy at the barber shop that  stands up, looks around, and says “My old bones are aching – reckon it’s gonna rain.” I figure I’ll need to get some bib overalls or something like that to go along with my newly acquired weather forecasting skill. Images of Walter Brennan and The Real McCoys come to mind. The fact that I know and remember Walter Brennan is very scary.

The Doc did not offer me much hope for my hands. They are pretty important to me and I want to keep them as long as I can. I decided that I needed to do some research on the subject in the hope of finding a cure that did not involve death. I heard that Glucosamine / Chondroitin is useful in lessening the effects of arthritis so I bought some of that. It’s expensive stuff you know. The instructions tell me I have to take three a day for maybe 2 months before I can expect anything resembling a cure.  I guess they want to make sure they get their investment back before I figure out I can’t afford it.

I was told that warm weather is beneficial too. I thought that the wife and I could move somewhere that’s always warm but she reminded me that those places have lots of people with less working parts than me. That just did not sit well with me so I decided I would just stay right here “back home” in Indiana. I can fall apart here as well as anywhere else thank you so much.

My partner at work told me that his mom had this malady and wore a copper bracelet to ward off the effects of arthritis. She actually swore by this method, it being the only one she would ever employ. Having just heard of this ancient cure, I have not had the opportunity to try it. I will do so at my first opportunity and update you when I have sufficiently tested it.

In the hope of giving the benefit of my experience in treating this ailment, I will, from time to time, write something here as an update for you dear friend. Until then….

Open House

We had our open house today to celebrate our youngest son’s graduation from High School. It was a great time with many of our friends stopping by. We enjoyed lots of laughs and good food.  I have no doubt that I am heavier today from the event.

Now, what I want to tell you about is the amazement and wonder of a little girl that was there. She is, I think, nine and the oldest of four daughters of good friends. She has a highly inquisitive  mind and is not afraid to ask questions. I have two sizeable strawberry patches in my backyard and she was fascinated by them largely, I think, because they were full of ripe strawberries. She asked me if she could pick some so I sat down with her in the patch. Together, we found a cup full of strawberries that I told her she could take home with her. She was so excited to pick her very own strawberries! I showed her how to know when one is ripe and she could not wait to show her Mom what she picked! She then informed me that she intended to keep these for tomorrow’s breakfast. I thought that a fine idea and said so. For a time, life was joyful fulfillment for a little girl with a cupful of strawberries.

She came back a few minutes later and asked me if she should share them with her sisters. I told her she could do whatever she wanted with them as she herself picked them and they were hers. That seemed to satisfy her and off she went. They went home, Mom, Dad, and four little daughters. The eldest proudly carried off her prize strawberries. I have no doubt the strawberries will be the center of attention tomorrow at breakfast.

I think sometimes we adults have forgotten the amazement of the simpler things in life. Maybe we ought to take a new look at things around us. It is a gift from God that I am able to walk out my back door and pick something fresh to eat and share it with others. Take that same gift and add to it the wonderment of a young mind discovering things we adults take for granted. What an amazing encounter. I wish I could convey the excitement of this little girl as she examined each strawberry to make sure it was ready to eat.

What a gift nature is to us. The same God that made strawberries made this little girl. This same God made all of creation and gives it as a gift to us. Enjoy!

Open House season

(DISCLAIMER: This story is in no way reflective of any one person or group of people. This story is written with one’s tongue firmly anchored in the cheek.  It is what could be called an exaggeration. There. I’m off the hook).

You are no doubt aware of the annual tradition of hosting an open house when your kid graduates from High School? If you are not there yet, you will be. I myself have endured this experience twice and am about to do it for a third (and last) time. It is my deep hope that this short letter might aid at least one husband in his attempt to survive this ordeal with his mental and emotional faculties intact. I am not optimistic though I will do my dead level best.

You will find that your biggest obstacle to surviving the period before the actual event will not be your kid. Well, maybe not. If your kid happens to be male, that will be one less hassle to deal with. He will probably not care. No, my friend, your problem will be with the female of the species. I pity your immortal soul if you have to host an open house for a daughter. You will not only have to deal with your wife but your daughter as well. Let me explain. Forewarned is forearmed…. Maybe.

How do I explain this? Your house’s condition for the event will reign supreme in the minds of the matriarch of the household (and the daughter if it is her open house). Your loving bride will concoct all manner of unpleasant and downright nasty jobs for you to do. At a minimum, you will paint the entire house, inside and out, pressure wash anything that can’t be painted to include every inch of concrete. You will also dust and/or clean every square inch of the house to include the attic and crawl space. God forbid there should be one weed anywhere in your yard. Think of the eternal shame on the family name should anything anywhere on your property be out of place. Your dear wife will insist that YOU personally ensure no birds fly over your house during the open house in the (horrors!) event that one stray bird might defecate on a guest whilst they are in the backyard. By the way, you will render your yard more immaculate than the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

You will also have to put new toilet seats on EVERY toilet in the house as well as purchase new, matching hand towels and something called a “bathroom set.” Oh, and you will also have to make sure that all of the settings for the food match. Lord help you if one cup does not match. Do you get the picture here? Anything and everything that could possible reflect ill on the household and, in particular, your wife / daughter will be YOUR fault. It does not matter that you had no part in choosing the finger foods or the drinks. If anything is amiss, no matter how minor, it will be your fault. Deal with it.

What to do? I really don’t know. You are on your own. Let me know how it works out.

Today

I wrote an article for this morning but am not going to use it. Instead, let me share some thoughts that came across at 5:30 this morning.

I am blessed beyond measure. This morning, I woke up with the good fortune to be my wife’s husband for another day. She is at the end of her radiation treatments for cancer and all looks good. She has shown me a level of integrity and strength of character that I did not know she had. We have been married 31 years now and she still amazes me. Cancer has a way of changing one’s life and priorities. I know it has changed us and will do so for the rest of our lives. Karen has fought this cancer with determination and the love of the women of our church. They have stepped up and in to be a support to her. I am deeply grateful for all of them.

At the end of all this, the most I can say is “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He has been our strength and fortress. I am forever amazed that the God of the universe is interested in the affairs of my family. I am also forever shamed that I do not trust Him more.

Enjoy your day as the gift that it is.

Why?

Somebody asked me not long ago why I spend time writing this blog. I am just telling silly little stories about everyday stuff, they say. (Someday I am going to find out who “they” are). Why spend the time writing about common place stuff when there are more important things to do and write about? OK, so now I will answer my critic. Yes, there is only one that I know of. At least I have one.

For one thing, I like the challenge of looking at common place things and writing something mildly humorous about them. It’s up to you whether you think any of this funny or not. I think it is. So there. It’s a challenge to cook up something funny about a bird or a bunch of women working in a bank. There is even a story here about an old car that I own.  My focus is to make the everyday stuff of life a little humorous and, in so doing, lighten your day a little. If it does, feel free to subscribe. If it doesn’t – I don’t know what to tell you.

Secondly, I am a right brain thinker and this lets me have an outlet for that. My day job in the car business does not let me do much of that. I have yet to write a story about the car business and doubt I ever will.  There is much more creativity to find in dealing with a rogue squirrel than in selling a Chevrolet.

Finally, I am hoping to sell a column to a newspaper or two and maybe make a few bucks in the process. I have had two articles published this year. I also am hoping to find a venue to actually tell these stories. I will be telling a few of them at the Mooresville Chamber of Commerce on May 20th. We’ll see how that goes.

OK, so now you know. Now that you do know, well, I’m not sure how much the better you might be. If I make your day a little lighter, then I have done my job. So, next Monday, I will tell you about something very common and hopefully funny. You will also, I hope, forgive me when I stray from my task occasionally for something resembling serious writing. Until then…

All the best,

Scott

A bad mood ruined

I keep several bird feeders in the backyard to attract birds on the theory that they will eat bugs. The bugs I want them to eat are the ones that tend to dine on my vegetables.  I have always assumed the birds know that and adjust their eating habits accordingly. I have not seen any bugs eating away at my vegetable garden lately so I guess the birds are on top of things. It works out pretty well except my bird seed budget is getting pretty expensive.

The problem with birds is that they talk amongst themselves. A lot.  No sooner do I fill up the feeders than the “network” is abuzz. Those chirping sounds aren’t for our listening pleasure you know. They are bird talk for the location of the most food or maybe the best nesting trees. As it stands right now, I know I have four nests in my yard. Two are occupied, one is abandoned for now, and the fourth one is too high for me to see. There are three bird feeders out there and I’ll eventually put up a suet cake and maybe a bird house or two.

You know, though, we live in a sad world. I was sitting at my kitchen table one morning, coffee in hand, gazing out at the back yard watching Stanley the Squirrel root around in my garden. I happened to notice that the largest of the bird feeders was missing. It is a little miniature house that sits on a stand about seven or eight feet in the air. I surmised that my wife must have put it in the mini-barn on the expectation of rain. I thought it odd that the other bird feeders were still in place. Well, I wandered over to the barn to put it back in its rightful place before the morning breakfast rush. Have you ever seen birds that show up expecting breakfast and finding none? Remember Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds?” Need I say anything else?

I got to the barn only to find the feeder was not there! I came to the quick conclusion that it had been taken during the night by some neighborhood thugs. I was enraged! I had bought that thing as a present for my wife and now some punks had ruined my morning. This was terrible! The birds will starve or, at worst, attack and destroy my house. The only solution was to make a fast trip to the store and get another feeder before we see an Alfred Hitchcock remake right there and then.

I went into the house and told my bride what had happened. She got that sweet smile on her face that she has whenever she gets “patient” with me. “Honey,” she said, “I took it off the pole last night and brought it inside in case of rain. See, there it is on the fireplace.”

Harrumph. She ruined a perfectly good bad mood.  Well, that’s just fine.