"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Sounds of Summer

My house smells like Mama’s on a hot summer day!  When I was little, I would come in from playing outside only to smell the aroma of vinegar and dill permeating the kitchen. I would know Mom was making dill pickles. 

I made 5 quarts of dill pickles this morning; then went outside to do some work in the yard. When I came back in for a drink of water, the aroma brought a moment of nostalgia and memory too precious to ever lose. Sometimes I think I make pickles just for that moment.
 Last night as I was lying in bed, I heard the nearby train blow its mournful whistle at the crossing. A gentle, summer breeze swept across my face as I lie on my cool, soft pillow; it felt like summer, and for a moment I was back at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I purposely moved our bed so the head would be at the window and I could feel like I did on those warm, summer evenings when I was a kid visiting my grandparents. That feeling is probably one of my favorite moments of stillness and rest.
My Bible sits on the table by my porch swing where I left it this morning. From where I sit at my computer, I can hear through my open window, the rustling of the pages in the breeze. I am sure it is no longer open to the page I had been reading. That sound of Bible pages rustling - normally noticed as I sit in church and our pastor asks us to “Turn to…” - has long been one of my favorite sounds ever since Matthew called my attention to it when he was about 5 or 6. “Isn’t that a beautiful sound, Mom,” he had whispered.

My little fountain plays its refrain, over and over and over. A crow calls caw, caw, caw and the mama killdeer chirps her warning cries.

I have come to love those ever-present killdeer.  I had 3 little babies running around my yard again this summer. They have become a very important part of my summer days.

The horses graze in the pasture; those “beasts” are probably one of the “material possessions”, for which I am most thankful.  Don’t even go there!  ;-) I hear a calling whinny periodically, letting me
know it’s time for some attention. "A righteous man [or woman] regardeth the life of his beast."
I hear the whish, whish, whish of the sprinkler. Thankful for its cooling touch, I am reminded of summers long ago, and that pleasant rhythmic sound without which the days simply would not be the same.

Ice cubes tinkling in the glass of a cool, refreshing drink; the background hum of a lawnmower, acres away at a neighbor’s home; the hum of a honey bee; the flutter of a hummingbird; the popping of canning lids as they seal in freshness for winter; the snapping of beans; the laughter of children; these are the sounds of summer as we come close to saying good-bye for another year. These are the moments I cherish.

They are the memories of childhood, dreams for the future, thoughts of gratitude for the present moment – the days of summer flaunting their treasure in fleeting moments of time. They are moments to be grasped to hold onto for later, when I am sure I will need to “spend” some of that treasure as days grow shorter, darkness settles in and snow blankets the ground. Some day soon, if not already, summer days fall behind and we move into autumn.

Yep, moments such as these are unspent treasure held in my bank for winter.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"The Ultimate Fatigue"

The Ultimate Fatigue

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Thomas Paine

The Wall That Heals
It was the theme of the mayor’s speech as we gathered there in the park; and it was very moving.  I could tell he believed his words by the way he delivered them. He was quiet, his voice cracked now and then, and he spoke with passion. The traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, known as The Wall That Heals, has come to our area. Also here, is the Wall of Remembrance honoring those that have died in this Global War on Terror.

As is normal for me these days, I had to force myself to go. It is hard for me to leave the house that early anymore, and I knew it would mean spending the full day in town. Upon arriving, I observed that city administration had wisely blocked off roads to give easy access into a parking lot that had been created just for this event. It worked well, and I was pleased to be able to find a parking spot smoothly and easily. They had cordoned off rows and rows in the lot giving plenty of spaces to park and if the number of cars was an indication of turn out, it should be good, though there was room for plenty more.

I am a people watcher, and I immediately noticed that most of the people making their way into the park were Vietnam veterans.  It was easy to tell. They were men of that age; and many of them had a ball cap on, stating “Vietnam Veteran”, or a hat or t-shirt acknowledging the branch of their service. Also nice to see, were a few men in wheel chairs obviously from World War II who had come out to honor those who had first honored them.

The Wall seemed smaller this time, than I remember from the last time I saw it when it came to Spokane in 1996…but it was every bit as beautiful. It’s hard to imagine that there are over 58,000 names on that wall, and administrators of this Commemoration have kept track of every single one of them.  If someone needs to find a name, one need only ask and aids will oblige, giving panel, section and row.

I was almost late for the ceremony, so I decided to come back to the Wall afterwards. Moving over to the ceremony, I recognized a few familiar faces; not necessarily people I know, simply people from the community that are always there to support these kinds of events.

The ceremony began with a meaningful presentation of colors, while being accompanied by local bagpipers. Next, I was pleased to see, they did not leave out an opening prayer by a military chaplain. One never knows about that these days; but fortunately in our area, we have not yet become so “politically correct”.

The city's mayor spoke next giving an “opening welcome”, but for me it was the most poignant speech of the day. It was a heartfelt speech, giving attention to our local veterans as well as those from our area who had spent the “ultimate fatigue”. I am thankful for this mayor; he is undoubtedly one who “gets it”, always being one of the first to support veterans and military activities.  Though I don’t know this for a fact, there is not a doubt in my mind that he was probably instrumental in bringing these walls to this city.

The "ultimate fatigue" he had said. I believe today, we are more familiar with “some gave all”. Regardless, the sacrifices of these heroes is what has ensured we have kept freedom alive to this day.

The mayor, as well as the final guest speaker, also spoke of the lack of appreciation, and even disdain shown for our Vietnam veterans when they returned home from that war. Yes, it was a controversial war, they had both said, but we should never treat someone our nation has sent into “harms way” in the manner these men and women were treated. I will add to that, we should also remember that our nation still had a draft at this time, so it wasn’t an "all volunteer" service like it is today - even more reason why these men and women should have been thanked. One of the speakers mentioned how some of our vets, only in recent years, had received their first “Welcome home, soldier”. And I tried not to cry as I thought of my husband’s own experience regarding that.

Our son was about 6 or 7 at the time, so it would have been about 1999, when Matt and I went with his dad on a long-haul trip to the coast. He was still “driving truck” over 48 states during those years. We needed a break one day and stopped into a military surplus store. At our son’s insistence, my husband came out of the store with a ball cap that read “Vietnam Veteran”. He placed the cap on his head as we walked across the street to the nearby Sears building. While climbing the steep steps to the entrance, a man coming down the stairs stuck out his hand to my husband and said “Welcome Home, soldier; thank you for your service.”

I turned around in time to see my husband’s appreciative response. “That is the first time, anyone has ever said that to me,” he quietly told me, later. It was one of the few times I have seen tears in my husband’s eyes.

But on this day, after the final speech of the Commemoration, those in charge informed us we would be moving over to the Wall for Taps and a 21 Gun Salute. The Young Marines first gave a beautiful and moving flag ceremony, passing a folded flag through their line as another member read a poignant piece of prose about the sacrifice of war.
The Wall of Remembrance

Besides the much needed tribute that these walls offer, they also preserve history. As I walked along the walls later, I was thankful to see attacks on our nation as far back as 1983, to present were listed on the Wall of Remembrance. I believe it is extremely important for our nation to understand just exactly how long we have endured attacks from these terrorists. We must preserve our history; it is a beacon of light reminding us of how we have achieved all that we have achieved, as well as showing us the way to stay there.

Forgotten (by some) at Benghazi
I was especially moved to see the photos of the men who were most recently killed at Benghazi placed upon the wall.

I was grateful to learn that written on this Wall of Remembrance is not only the name of every soldier who lost his/her life during the war on terror, but also the names of the civilians who lost their lives on 9/11/2001. And equally important to my family is the name of every first responder lost; including those from 343.

So well updated is the information on the Wall of Remembrance that Matthew knew someone who was killed just two weeks ago, yet there his name was listed in the final row.

Further, inscribed on both sides of the wall are the words from John 15:13 of our Holy Bible: “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Now in that there is hope.

Every memento left behind at these walls is beyond moving. Especially true was a note that read, “You are much more than…”and listed were the panel number, section and row of someone’s loved one.

As Taps began to play, I heard sniffles throughout the crowd. I looked to the left of me as a man with sunglasses stood, saluting; tears streaming down his face. His hand was visibly shaking as he held his salute during the bugling. His sunglasses could not hide the tears. He was undoubtedly a Vietnam vet. His tears were contagious as I wondered at what he had seen, and whom he had lost. I wanted to reach out to him, to say thank-you, but in this moment, somehow I knew better. Here, at the Wall that Heals, I felt quite sure, he had not come for comfort or acknowledgement, but rather he had come to pay tribute to those who had given their lives…and in that tribute, true healing is found.

In the burdensome memories of these veterans, in spite of the fatigue with which they are fraught, for the rest of us freedom remains. For that vet, and those like him, I pray the wall is a tool that helps heal. For the rest of us, the wall enables us to understand some of that which oft times cannot be spoken. Though we have all anguished over the fatigue of war at times in our lives, (certainly, some more than others) may we never forget “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”  Here’s to those who went.

Neither should we ever forget as that small note likewise stated they are:

More Than A Name On A Wall

I saw her from a distance
As she walked up to the wall
In her hand she held some flowers
As her tears began to fall

She took out pen and paper
As to trace her memories
She looked up to Heaven
And the words she said were these

She said "Lord my boy was special
And he meant so much to me"
And oh I'd love to see him
Just one more time You see

All I have are the memories
And the moments to recall
So Lord could You tell him
He's more than a name on a wall

She said "He really missed the family
And being home on Christmas day"
And he died for God and country
In a place so far away

I remember just a little boy
Playing war since he was three
But Lord this time I know
He's not coming home to me

She said "Lord, my boy was special
And he meant so much to me"
And oh I'd love to see him
But I know it just can't be

So I thank You for my memories
And the moments to recall
But Lord could You tell him
He's more than a name on a wall.

Lord, could You tell him
He's more than a name on a wall.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

These Gloves

"Do you worry about him when he is out on a call like that?" she quietly asked me.

"No, I don't," I almost too quickly answered. And before I knew it, the conversation had changed.

I woke up this morning thinking about the question and wondering to myself why I had answered so quickly and without proper explanation.  Now, I was angry with myself for not better explaining, and also hoping I hadn't made the person asking that poignant question feel foolish, or confused.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I am the biggest worrier there ever could be. I worry about the simplest of things, to the most complex. I foresee what might possibly happen and ponder ways to prevent it. I lecture and warn; and analyze and suspect. But when it comes to my son and his chosen career as firefighter, I can only explain my lack of worry as a continual cloak of comforting grace from God.

I just don't worry. I believe my son is in his Heavenly Father's will for his life; and honestly, what is there to worry in that.  I believe careers such as firefighter, cop, soldier - those that put their lives on the line for others - are made up of those who are chosen by God, and they have simply followed and been obedient to His call. Though they may not even yet realize it, a desire to serve others has only one origin and that desire has to have come from God.

I suppose what triggered the question from the person that asked me that day was the fact that my son had been out all night on a structure fire. He was tired the next day and sleeping periodically throughout our family reunion. Naturally, because of that, there was conversation about firefighting.

However, I should have told my family member who posed that question to me, why I didn't worry.  I should have told her there is only one explanation; it is because I believe my son is walking and working in God's will.

Anyway, when I checked my email this morning I found my son had sent me a beautiful message in the form of a poem written by an anonymous firefighter.

After I stopped to read it, I realized at 20 years old, spending two years as a volunteer firefighter, my son had already experienced several things the author had described in what he wrote.

The message caused me to reflect on the day, my son and I went to the fire store in the city to buy him a pair of Firefighter's Goves. The department of course issues these gloves, but sometimes the volunteers understandably do not get the best equipment. They weren't cheap by any means, but I simply wanted my firefighter to have the best. "Happy birthday," I had said. "Take care of them."

What I had really meant was: "I believe this is what you were born to do. I want the best for you. I support you in this. I hope these gloves will help take care of you, as you help take care of others."

"Firefighter's Gloves"

A Firefighters Gloves hold many things,
From elderly arms to a kids broken swing.
From the hands they shake and the backs they pat,
To the tiny claw marks of another treed cat.

At 2 am they are filled with chrome,
From the DWI who was on her way home.
And the equipment they use to roll back the dash,
From the family of 6 she involved in the crash.

The brush rakes in spring, wear the palms out,
When the wind does a “90” to fill them with doubt.
The thumb of the glove wipes the sweat from the brow,
Of the face of a firefighter who mutters “What now?”

They hold inch and three quarters flowing one twenty five,
So the ones going in, come back out alive.
When the regulator goes; then there isn’t too much,
But the bypass valve they eagerly clutch.

The rescue equipment, the ropes, the C-collars,
The lives they saved never measured in dollars.
Are the obvious things firefighters gloves hold,
Or, so that is what I’ve been always told.

But there are other things Firefighters Gloves touch,
Those are the things we all need so much.
The hold back the rage on that 3 am call,
They hold in the fear when ones lost in a hall.

They hold back the pity, agony, sorrow,
They hold in the desire to “Do it tomorrow”.
A gloves just a glove till it’s on firefighters,
Who work all day long just to pull an all-nighter.

And into the fray they charge without fear,
At the sound of a “Help” they think that they hear.
When firefighter’s hands go into the glove,
It’s a firefighter who always fills it with love.

Sometimes the sorrow is too much to bear,
And it seeps the glove and burns deep “in there”.
Off come the gloves when the call is done,
And into the pocket until the next call.

The hands become lonely and cold for a bit,
And shake just thinking of it.
And they sit there so red eyed with their gloves in their coats,
The tears come so fast that the furniture floats.

They’re not so brave now,
Their hands they can't hide,
I guess it just means they are human inside.

And though some are paid, others are not,
The gloves feel the same when it’s cold or it’s hot.
To someone you’re helping to just get along,
When you fill them with love, you always feel strong.

And so when I go on my final big ride,
I hope to have my gloves by my side.
To show to St. Peter at the heavenly gate,
Cause as everyone knows, firefighters don’t wait.

Author: Unknown


I thought I would add this video showing and encouraging support for our firefighters.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Blue Ribbon Memories - Spending Treasure

I saw the grocery sacks there on the porch as soon as I turned into the driveway to visit my folks. I was fairly sure I knew what was in the bags without even giving it much thought. Once out of my car and up the steps of their front porch, I saw I was correct about it being garden vegetables. I knew immediately who had most likely brought them.

My mom and dad's neighbor has brought them beautiful vegetables from his garden for several years now...probably ever since my parents quit having a garden of their own. I had gone to grade school and high school with this neighbor and he and my brother were good friends. It warmed my heart that he still thought of my mom and dad every summer. It also warmed my heart that he had never left our childhood neighborhood.

I picked up the sack and walked into the house. "Look what I found!" I exclaimed to my mom. "DG must have brought them when you were gone." I placed the bag on the kitchen table taking a peak inside the bag to see what he brought.

"Look at those beans, Mom! Not only does he know how to grow them, he knows how to pick them."

There in the bag were some blue ribbon beans, if I have ever seen blue ribbon beans! They had beautiful color and size; they were uniform and without blemish. I smiled at his success. Also in the bags were a few cucumbers, red potatoes and some white.

Every time I drive by this neighbor's house, I am simply amazed. He and his lovely wife, (also someone from my grade school) have the most beautiful garden I have ever seen. It is hearty and strong, well cared for and meticulously groomed. His plants are always twice the size of anyone else's; and truthfully, his garden is simply a site to behold. My own garden does not even come close!

The fact is; I am proud of my folks’ neighbor! His accomplishments, of course, are not mine to be proud; but every time I see his garden, it is such a piece of nostalgia for me.  It’s a reminder of who we were growing up and what we did. It’s a wonderful memory of childhood, and what our neighborhood was like. We had the best gardens around, hands down. We were proudly “the country bumpkins” and growing large, necessary vegetable gardens - in their spare time - was what our folks did.

Someone obviously learned well from his dad, I have often thought. And maybe I too quickly give credit to my classmate only, when I know his wife (who was a year younger than us) also grew up in a family that had beautiful gardens every year.

“He will be bringing us some corn, soon, I’m sure!” my mom knowingly explained…and I noticed in her voice just a bit of her own pride for this man she had watched grow up from just a little tyke, continuing decades later into his retirement! Now, that’s some serious time.

My dad heard the commotion in the kitchen and walked out to see what was going on.  He picked up a cucumber from the table. “Hmm, hmm, look at that cuke!” he said chomping his teeth and smiling with anticipation for a fresh garden vegetable. “Must have been DG”, he proudly informed us. “I wonder when he was here...”

Not even close - but pretty doggone tasty just the same.