Friday, August 27, 2010

Reader Question: "Do Muslims Build Mosques on Sites Where They Have Defeated an Enemy?"

The reader question: "Do Muslims build mosques on sites where they have defeated an enemy?"
The answer: read on . . . Once the seat of Orthodox Christianity, Agia (Hagia) Sophia was converted into a mosque within days of the conquest of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey) by Ottoman Turks in 1453. Among the alterations made during
the Basilica's transformation into a mosque:a cross atop the dome was replaced with a crescent, minarets (slender towers w/ balconies where the Islamic faithful are called to prayer by the muezzin) were erected, an icon of Jesus Christ within the dome was gilded over, the altar and icons were removed, and mosaics described as "irreplaceable & majestic" were plastered over. According to one source, "," during its 553 years of "captivity" by Muslims, many Ottoman Sultans "showed particular interest in embellishing and maintaining Agia Sophia as a mosque."
Today, the once great Basilica is a government-owned museum, convention center, concert hall & tourist destination.
Obviously, the above-question arose from the battle of words and philosophies surrounding the plan to build an Islamic Community Center two blocks from the site where the World Trade Center once stood.
Honestly, my first reaction to the plan was "OK, if you want to build an Islamic Center, then match it with a Christian Center, a Jewish Center and a Nature Center." Or how about an Inter-faith Center, funded, created, maintained and shared by multiple religions/philosophies?
Then I learned that Daisy Kahn, executive director of The American Society of Muslim Advancement, and the spokesperson for the pro-Community Center sector, is supported by Rabbi Joy Levin, executive director of an NYC Jewish Community Center.
During an ABC interview conducted by Christiane Amanpour, Kahn & Levin spoke glowingly and in unity about a Muslim Community Center with a swimming pool and other recreational amenities, a gathering spot for yet another America-as-melting-pot community - its families and its people. The Community Center was beginning to sound much more secular and innocent than a foreboding sign that America is indeed being infiltrated and conquered by Muslims.
This, of course, was too good to be true.
My mental brakes slammed on with accompanying screeching in my head, as Amanpour asked the question, will the Community Center's features include a place of worship with loud calls to prayer several times each day?
Kahn's non-answer was that of course, there will be a place to pray within the Center. She never confirmed or denied Amanpour's "loud calls to prayer" query. I was actually surprised that Amanpour let that slide. Unless, of course, I missed something. I'll have to go back and re-watch the interview.
Personally, in my opinion, the sound of a muezzin calling Muslims to prayer multiple times a day would be a slap in the face to anyone touched by the terror attacks (remember, a parking garage was blown up years before 9/11- in the 90s?) on the World Trade Center- and that's pretty much anyone within a two-block radius, and arguably, all Americans.
I believe the better part of valor for all concerned, the Muslims, the Jews, the politicians, the public, would be to construct an inter-faith center that's board of supporters/directors would include equal representatives from any religion/philosophy that would like to be involved. An interfaith prayer room could certainly be included, decorated with a cross, a Star of David, a crescent, Buddha, a Goddess image, and hey, let's not forget NYC's many citizens of the Hindu faith.
But this isn't about my opinion. As a journalist, I'm charged with truthfully and accurately presenting both sides of an issue, and leaving the decision in the hands, hearts and minds of each and every individual reader. So from here on in, that's what I'm going to do - just the facts, as far as I was able to research the facts, presented truthfully and without bias, regarding the question: Do Muslims build mosques at sites where they have defeated an enemy as a sign of conquest?
I felt this question was likely a loaded one, requiring careful research. I began by Googling the question, and was led to anti-Muslim blogs, where one writer, self-described as someone who had lived and conducted business in the Middle East, cited several examples of incidences and sites where Muslim conquerors have built mosques.
The anti-Muslim blogger named the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem as having been constructed near the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, as a symbol of conquest; St. Sophia's Basilica in Istanbul, Turkey as being replaced by the principal mosque of Istanbul (this statement by the blogger contained erroneous "facts", as the Basilica was not dedicated in reverence to St. Sophia, but to the meaning of the word "Sophia," which is "God's wisdom," with the Basilica dedicated in reverence to Jesus Christ. The blogger also stated that "St. Sophia's" was destroyed for a mosque, leading readers to believe that the Basilica no longer exists. It was not destroyed, as the structure itself still stands, although altered and no longer used as a Christian Church.); the blogger wrote that the Cordoba Mosque in Spain was first a Christian cathedral; that a Pagan pantheon in Mecca had been taken over by Mohammad himself; that the Church of St. John in Damascus was destroyed for a mosque; and that the Babri Mosque in India was built by demolishing a Hindu Temple at the site of Hinduism's Lord Rama's birthplace.
I first researched "St. Sophia's," or accurately, Agia Sophia.
As previously stated, the anti-Muslim blogger's claim that Agia Sophia was razed in favor of a mosque is not true. The Basilica was taken over by an Islamic conquering army, and all signs of Christianity that could be obliterated were. But the structure stands today, and many of the Christian-Byzantine features have been restored. One source stated that a room is set aside inside the structure for use by both Muslim and Christian workers for prayer.
The use of Agia Sophia as a mosque ended along with the Ottoman Empire, and in 1934, the modern Turkish State turned the Basilica into a museum. The Free Agia Sophia Council of America describes the Basilica as a "Holy site . . . brutally violated," by both Islam's followers and the modern day Turkish government.
Free Agia Sophia's mission is to restore Agia Sophia to a functioning Church of the Orthodox Christian faith and to reestablish the Byzantine Basilica as a "Holy house of prayer for all Christians of the world and the Basilica (seat) of Orthodoxy that it was before the conquest of Constantinople by Ottoman Turks in 1453."
The history of Istanbul's Blue Mosque, that was erected opposite to Agia Sophia more than 1,000 years after the Basilica's first existence, should be noted. One source revealed that the Blue Mosque was built by Sultan Ahmen I, with construction beginning in 1609, not because the Sultan was a fierce conqueror, but to placate Allah (Islam's incarnation of God) because the Sultan had not won any notable victories. The construction of most mosques was funded by the spoils of war. However, the Blue Mosque had to be funded with treasury funds, as Sultan Ahmen's spoils of war were paltry. The Blue Mosque does stand on the site of a palace of Byzantine emperors, facing Agia Sophia, which at the time, is described as having been the most venerated mosque in Islam.
On to the story of the Cordoba Mosque in Spain and the claim that it usurped a Christian cathedral. The anti-Muslim blogger I found during my research also pointed out that the name being floated for the Islamic Community Center near Manhattan's Ground Zero is "Cordoba House," described by the blogger as a site of key significance among the history of Islam's conquests of things-Christian.
Cordoba, Spain is the site of the capital of the Islamic Empire in Spain and is the place where Islam established its first Caliphate in Europe. A Caliphate is best described as a jurisdiction or a territory, ruled by a Caliph. The last of the Caliphs were Ottoman Turkish Sultans. In Cordoba, the Grand Cordoba Mosque was erected where a Visigoth Christian Church stood before the Visigoths were defeated by the Muslims.
I'm going to throw in my opinion here, which may be supported by historical fact. Calling the Visigoths "Christians" in the truest sense of the word -all loving, all forgiving, self-sacrificing, as Jesus Christ was - is akin to calling a Great White Shark a guppy. The Visigoths were an Eastern Germanic tribe best described for purposes of common understanding as barbarian/warriors - one of the groups of Goths - who ravaged Rome and established a kingdom in present-day Spain and southern France.
The Visigoths were "Christianized " in the latter half of the fourth century, but theirs is often described as a less-than loving, charitable, peaceful incarnation of Christianity. Many varieties of Christians are less-than literally Christ-like. That does not negate the fact that the Muslims did indeed build a mosque on the site of the Visigoth's cathedral upon defeating them.
So yes, naming the Islamic Center intended for placement close to Ground Zero is honoring and recalling an important site of Islamic conquest where a Christian house of worship was razed and replaced with a mosque.
Agia Sophia was not destroyed in terms of its actual structure, but it was altered significantly for conversion from a house of Christianity to a mosque, after a major Islamic take-over of a Christian Empire.
So yes, historically, it can be said that Muslims build mosques on sites of Christianity that they have conquered.
Next week, we'll take a look at the history of mosques usurping other religious/philosophical sites in Jerusalem, Mecca, Damascus, India, and at the prophet Mohammad as a champion of the downtrodden among his people, a man of God and as a warrior. I'll also delve into the record of Daisy Khan's controversial husband.
Until then, be well & happy. Strive to understand your neighbors as you would have your neighbors understand you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Life is Good & I'm Thankful!

When life is good, it's very good. I'm watching my big orange creamsicle cat becoming mesmerized by the rainbows my crystal projects in abundance each afternoon around this time. FYI, orange creamsicle means he's orange w/ creamy, lush white fur. I sometimes refer to him as "the Pelt," as he's blessed with a luxurious coat, but a brain that only kicks in sporadically. My little Bootsie-kitten is much smarter than her brother Bubbah.
We're in our new home, and it's a delight! It's just up the road from a lake, near my son's school, surrounded by nature. A flock of wild turkeys make a regular pilgrimage through our yard. Deer, chipmunks, skunks and other forest creatures abound. The Commonwealth has yet to produce the compensation it has been promising for more than a year for eminent-domaining our former home , property and business, but life is still good, and as always, we've survived.
Theorizing that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, I shall wait to complain loudly about the Department of Transportation's abysmal handling of our situation until after we receive compensation.
I suppose at this point I should explain, as simply as I possibly am able to, the events that have occurred since I landed in Pennsylvania 3 years ago..
We moved to Pennsylvania in July 2007, following my brother's death at age 49. My brother had lived with my mother from the day he was brought home as an infant, he never left her. This was not healthy, to put it mildly. Following my father's death in 1979 at age 49 (I'm not looking forward to turning 49!), my mother and brother formed a strange, financially disastrous alliance. My mother lost the really beautiful house my father left her, blew all his insurance money, blew all the money she made as a registered nurse (they make very good money) supporting my brother's many failed attempts at being a business man.
She systematically vilified either me or one of my sisters on a rotating and regular basis over the past 30 years, with my brother's encouragement. I should have left my mother far behind on many occasions, but I loved her unconditionally and blamed all of her problems on my brother.
Upon my brother's death, she cried and moaned to my sister that she needed me. I was happily in Florida at the time, having just 3 years prior survived the death of my children's father with no help or support from my mother. I begged her to come to Florida to help me emotionally support my two then-teenage daughters and my 6-year-old son. She refused. She didn't attend his funeral either. A nice message to send one's supposedly cherished daughter and grand children.
Any how, because I loved her unconditionally, I moved to Pa and tried to help save her home. She had bought the home 9 years earlier for $90,000, and mortgaged it up to $245,000, once again supporting my brother's failed attempts at maintaining a livelihood (she worked as an RN until his death, when she was 76.). She paid for a travesty of a wedding to a real slut/grifter only 9 months before he died. (My sisters and I paid for our own weddings).My brother's wife turned out to be a complete fraud. I found evidence that she may not have been divorced when she married him. I found evidence of a meth lab in their closet ( an entire bedroom converted to a closet- wow.) I found e-mails to other men that were written during their 9-month marriage. I found sexually explicit photos the wife had posted on the net.
In March 2007, my brother was told to have a cardiac catheterization as doctors suspected his arteries were blocked. Being a tried and true know-it-all, my brother refused. Now I ask you, honestly, if as an RN your beloved son was given such advice by doctors, would you not insist that he heed that advice? As a new wife, wouldn't you insist that your husband of only 6 months heed that advice? My bother was dead on a client's front lawn 3 months later. He wasn't found for more than 24 hours. The wife had been to the client's home before, but claimed ignorance of its location. Fishy, to say the least. He lay dead, only a block south of I-84, and his wife couldn't find him. Hmmmm . . .
When I arrived in Pa, less than a month after my brother's death, the wife/widow had traveled to a Mexican resort to swim with the dolphins. The mortgage on my mother's house was several payments in arrears. My brother's "step son," a young adult who totaled a car that was in my mother's name and had a job, but didn't contribute, was living in the house, treating my mother like garbage.
So, me being me, I cleaned house. Through legal channels, I banished the wife/widow and the step son. My mother hid in the back portion of the house as her daughter-in-law removed her belongings under my watchful eye. I made the undertaker who was hounding my mother to pay for my brother's funeral back off by reporting him to the state licensing board for harassment. My mother ended up in tears every time the undertaker called for his money. The only payment made on my brother's funeral was made by 2 of my cousins, if Irecall correctly, about $2,000. The wife/widow held an extravaganza that left her owing thousands to the funeral director. This was after my brother lay dead in the rain and mud for more than 24 hours.
I did not attend, but several of those who did said it was obvious he had begun to decay and that an open coffin wake was wildly inappropriate and ghoulish.
The house was disgusting. My brother had 4 or 5 unneutered male cats caged on a kitchen porch. The stench of cat waste was overwhelming. He had the parlor of what should have been a charmingly renovated 100-plus-year-old farm house jammed with tools.
Although my mother and brother had lived in the house for 9 years, and had remortgaged the house at least 3 times, the house was not insulated or ever improved by them. The downstairs toilet was falling into the basement.
I found a fraudulent appraisal that was signed by my mother, stating that the house had more bedrooms, bathrooms and other amenities than actually existed. I found evidence (listed in his own hand) that my brother was wanted in two states for road rage, reckless driving and assault-related incidences.
Somewhere along the line, my mother had turned into Ma Barker. A sociopath who created a son who was destined to fail because she always provided him with a home, money, excuses and businesses to run into the ground. I never saw what a horrible person my mother was when my brother was alive. But in the aftermath, I saw her for the narcissist she really was and is. Needless to say, my mother and I parted ways.
In truth, I decided that I could not save the dilapidated old farm house. I decided that we should move out of the house and let the bank or mortgage company have it back. It wasn't hard to decide in the dead of winter, as the main water pipe burst and flooded the living area in the freezing, uninsulated house.
We moved to a house with plenty of storage and a large attached garage (heated) in which my mother would be able to go through decades and decades of mostly junk. She was a hoarder, and it was important to her to go through everything we removed from the old farm house without pressure or stress. She never did.
Although she and I co- signed a two-year lease, my mother decided, three days after I returned from the hospital and heart surgery, that she needed to move out. She never said a word to me. She left like a thief, only telling my significant other that she was going to stay with her friend for a few weeks to give me a chance to recuperate and adjust. She never said a word to me-never. We never spoke again. I was held responsible for the balance of the two-year lease.
I fell into a deep depression that I am just emerging from.
My S.O., I and my son moved yet again to the house we just left. It was at the intersection of two rural, but well-used by would-be hot rods and high-revving hogs, highways, but it was spacious and a really nice house, a home. It didn't help my depression that another move was looming on the horizon.
We first met with DOT representatives more than a year ago. They came to our condemned-for-a-road-improvement-project home and told us not to fret, that the Commonwealth would pick up the moving charges, find a comparable house for us, and compensate us for the eventual loss of our livelihood. The house was attached to a business the S.O. was partnered in.
We were never told that we would not be compensated until after we moved, so obviously, I didn't set funds aside for moving, which is very expensive and stressful- I know. I've done it numerous times in the past 10 or so years.
The Friday before the moving date, at 3:32 p.m., a representative of the DOT e-mailed me to inform that no compensation would be made until after the move.
I almost lost my mind. Here we were, promised compensation and support for more than a year, and at the last moment, having the rug pulled out from under us.
I was distraught.
But, we sucked it up, and with some financial help from my daughter, Lauren, we survived and are thriving.
It's amazing how the human spirit endures. I'm happy, really happy. My son and my S.O. are happy, too. I'm thankful for the lessons I have learned during this odyssey that began with my brother's death. I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted. I don't have to fret about living in a condemned home any more. I am free. I can breathe easy for the first time in many, many years.
Hopefully, this wonderful state of being will hold for a few more years, and maybe longer. Stranger things have happened!
Thanks for reading. It has been very therapeutic to get all of this off of my chest. I shall never speak of the really horrible parts again!
If you have an honest , truthful, healthy relationship with one or more of the people in your life, thank God. The unhealthy relationships take a very deep toll, but even the most horrendous of experiences teaches lessons if one is willing to learn!
Blessed be all!
Be well & happy!
I'll strive to get back on a regular schedule.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is Immigration Obsolete? or Revolution of the States!

I first started noticing it in the late 1970s/early 1980s. One day, without fan fare or much comment, a grown woman began delivering the newspaper in my home-neighborhood. It was the beginning of the trend that saw adults, mostly single mothers and immigrants, willingly and eagerly filling the jobs that had traditionally been filled by American teenagers, American college kids, and able-bodied young American men & women who for whatever reason chose to labor manually and outdoors.
The woman was a fair-haired, non-accented, fair-skinned blond, most likely not an immigrant. Her four or so young sons swarmed across my neighborhood's well-manicured lawns and pristine gardens, loudly and raucously helping their mom deliver papers, and support the family. The presence of these young, but non-immigrant hoodlums in my fair, well-located neighborhood ruffled the feathers of many of the stoic housewives. There were rumblings about the "fat blond" being one of those single mothers of questionable moral fiber.
Having years before ventured out into the more intriguing and colorful neighborhoods of my hometown, blondie and her thundering hoard of brats came as no surprise to me. I was darkly amused by the distress of the housewives, rather enjoying the spectacle of "the wrong side of the tracks" clashing with not simply "the right side of the tracks," but "south of the highway" and "waterfront" to boot!
Little did I know it, but having delivered penny savers a few years earlier with my best friend, I was about to become a relic. My girlfriend and I, who held the route because she was among another dying breed, kids who feel obligated to help support the family, seemingly were among the last kids on Long Island to hold a coveted paper route.
The times they were a changin', and the needy, uneducated, immigrant adults were moving in on the territory of kid's/young adults jobs.
And as time marched on and prosperity changed our world, the trend continued, erupting all over the landscape of my home-Island and the rest of American Suburbia. The lion's share of "job-stealers" quickly became immigrants. Where I lived as a young wife/mother/adult, on the east end of Long Island, the immigrants were primarily Vietnamese and Latino.
These folks sucked up the jobs that traditionally had gone to students in the summer with lightning speed - landscape assistants, gardeners, house cleaners (a job I held all throughout my high school/college years), bus boys, prep cooks, errand-runners, beach cleaners, the list goes on and on.
And perhaps because the east end is more liberal, "live and let live," artsy-fartsy than the rest of Long Island, many of the immigrants flourished and became the masters of their own businesses. The man who cut our lawn was a well-spoken (still accented, but he learned English), family-oriented, reliable entrepreneur who immigrated from Vietnam.
But for every immigrant who realized the American Dream of business and home ownership, I'll surmise that there were 10 more milling around in the parking lot of Southampton's 7/11, (my Town of East Hampton didn't allow convenience and fast-food establishments!) blighting the landscape and pissing off the good tax-paying citizens. And I'm sorry, those folks were a big oozing sore on what others had worked so hard to build, fund and enjoy. Where is it written that a new wave of immigrants has the right to screw over all the previous waves? And we're all immigrants.
Before my parents moved "south of the highway" my family lived in a more-northern neighborhood, in the same town, that began as farm land. The chief farmer - a Dutch immigrant - sold my parents his house. Irish immigrants established their homes and a large horticultural nursery behind the neighborhood. Italian immigrants, all related in some respect, built their neat ranch houses with the plastic covered, museum-quality first floors and living quarters in the basement in a cluster down the road. The Nieves, with their two lovely, college student daughters neatly, proudly and quietly lived across the street. As did the Sepulvedas, who built their high-ranch when I was about 9 and were wonderful neighbors. I played with their son Emile. I got off the bus and went to their house after school during the hour or so that my teacher-father's and evening shift nurse-mother's work schedules crossed.
Mrs. Sepulveda eagerly and graciously taught me how to cook Latino style. For one multi-cultural day at school, sick and tired of the comparatively bland Irish, I enlisted Mrs. Sepulveda's guidance, whipping up Latino food with flare. She let me wear her brightly-colored and decorated, beautifully swirling, festive dancing skirt.
There were the Rodriguez's whose daughter I played with, and the Mercados. The Mercados were trouble causers, but every neighborhood has them.
The point I'm making is I'm no stranger to diversity. But occasionally witnessing and often hearing reports of the Southampton 7/11 immigrants peeing in the parking lot in broad day light and remaining if they weren't chosen by a work crew and getting drunk in public, well that was more than a bit much. And if you're a woman, or even a young girl (sick!), try to walk by a group of Latino workers without feeling that you've been verbally raped. Many immigrants before these men, my grandparents and great grandparents among them, learned to adapt to American society, traditions and mores. These brazen men never attempted to adapt. They didn't see Americans regularly peeing in parking lots, getting drunk in the 7/11 parking lot during week days, or verbally raping women.
I believe that everyone deserves a fighting chance. Sincerely, I do. I'm not a privileged brat. My Dad died young, before I was out of High School. Although he worked hard and left our family comfortably, my mother was careless and blew and lost everything - including the house south of the highway, within 15 years of his death. She doted on one child and acted as though he was her only financial responsibility. She blew my dad's sweat and tears on buying her one child cars, motorcycles, supporting his everyday needs and wants, at least 2 businesses - you get the picture. No one paid for my college or bought me a car. No one (but me and my husband) paid for my wedding. No one ever left me money. I was kicked out of my mother's house because her "only child" resented that I had a boyfriend (twisted) when I was going to college (getting there by bus) with a broken foot and working the 11 p.m to 7 a.m. shift at my hometown's 7/11.
My husband's financial history is the same as mine. Yet we managed to own two houses and make a pretty nice life in a visually beautiful and socially safe location for our kids.
The point I'm making here is I'm not a privileged snob. I've worked for everything I've ever had. I would likely dissolve into a puddle of pudding if someone gave me a hand in any substantial way, financially speaking.
My point is also that once my kids were grown and out seeking jobs, they had to compete with illegal immigrants. Only two generations after my grandparents, the American landscape has changed drastically, with hard-working parents seeing their hard-working offspring unable to secure summer jobs, because perhaps immigration has become obsolete.
And I won't even get started on the manual-labor friendly and/or jobless-because-of-the- economy adults who can't get jobs because of illegals.
Enter the state of Arizona, present day America. I just can't fathom that OUR Justice Department, with OUR President's blessing is suing a state for simply cleaning up its own, although not self-inflicted, problem. The waves of immigrants past whose children and grandchildren have toiled to build and fund the state of Arizona deserve protection from lawbreaking-criminals who cross OUR boarders illegally. It's that simple. Once again, OUR tax money is being used against us. The power and the money WE GIVE builds OUR GOVERNMENT. The state of Arizona is doing what the federal government couldn't and/or wouldn't - the state of Arizona is protecting and serving its AMERICAN CITIZENS.
And I say "hurray!" for Virginia's Prince William Board of County Supervisor's Chairman Corey Stewart. Prince William County already boasts strict immigration law, with officers required to check the immigration status of suspects in custody. Mr. Stewart wants to enact that law state-wide, and encourages other states and municipalities to follow suite. He reasons that if enough state governments stand up for the rights of AMERICAN CITIZENS, the federal government will be too busy trying to reign governments in to focus primarily on suing Arizona.
Sadly, times, circumstances and needs change.
It's time for the states to exercise their power and sovereignty and to start a lawful revolution.
I am the granddaughter of immigrants. I know that many Americans shunned and were sickened by my grandparent's presence. But that was a different time. They were creating jobs and opportunities, not stealing them. They were becoming citizens legally, not deliberately engaging in criminal activity. They were staying in America till death did they part, not milking our country for all she's worth and blowing town, so to speak.
I turned to the sonnet, "The New Colossus," as I considered that immigration might indeed be obsolete. Better known as the poem engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty, "The New Colossus" was written in 1883 by 34-year-old Emma Lazarus. Ms. Lazarus was a native New Yorker, the descendant of Portuguese Sephardic Jews who settled in New York in Colonial times. She lived and wrote the sonnet in a time when the term "Zionist" had yet to be created. She believed in an independent Jewish nation, but there was no word yet to describe her convictions.
In the sonnet, Ms. Lazarus writes of the statue standing at a harbor that "twin-cities frame." She's referring to Manhattan and Brooklyn, at the time, still separate cities.
Ms. Lazarus was a writer who caught the attention of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The two corresponded until his death.
She created word phrases that I doubt any 34-year-old today would be moved to or able to create. Her writing style is beautiful, but ancient.
She died shortly after returning from a trip to Europe of what is guessed to have been lymphoma. An educated woman, living in one of the world's shining cities, corresponding with a literary genius of the time, yet her cause of death is hypothesized about, but unknown.
That's because Ms. Lazarus, pictured in a neck-high, long,black dress, hair conservatively swept up behind her head, is of a different time and place. A different America where far fewer people took advantage of the bounty and broke laws and behaved disgustingly.
A younger, more fluid America, still able to bend under great weight and responsibility without breaking. Our America is not the young, unbreakable America. Our America is older and used up by the greedy and calloused.
I leave you with Ms. Lazarus's' words for Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's creation, "Liberty Enlightening the World," a gift from the people of France to the people of America more than 120 years ago, memorializing the two country's great friendship forged during the American Revolution.
"The New Colossus," a sonnet by Emma Lazarus, 1883
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beckoning hand glows world-wide welcome;
Her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
So beautiful, but sadly, no longer applicable, I think.
Is immigration obsolete? What do you think?
Be well & happy. Get behind the Revolution of the States!
I nearly forgot to address the related rantings of the right-wing talk-radio posse.
Recently, I heard a couple of the right-wing radio heads going on about President Obama stating in a speech that the American people raised funds for the Statue of Liberty. Naturally, and wrongly, the radio heads were bashing Obama for rewriting history. Sorry radio head right-wingers, Mr. Obama was correct. The American people agreed to raise funds to build the statue's pedestal, as the French citizens raised funds for and made a gift of the statue itself. In fact, the above sonnet was specifically written to be auctioned off at a fund-raising event for the pedestal.
Maybe you wildly ravenous right-wingers would earn some credibility with the truly knowledgeable if you knew what the heck you were talking about. But I suppose it behooves you to preach lies to an uninformed audience. I know you are simply masking your racist tendencies with your rants!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Born on the Third of July

Happy 12th Birthday, Gabe! He celebrated with his brother, Stephen . . .

Scott and lots of yummy bbq - try Martha Stewart's peach-glazed chix on Delish . . .

Water wars, fireworks, family & friends . . .

a very sweet girl . . .

a choc/ van/ strawberry cake (with peanut butter chips!) expertly decorated by Aunt Claire . . .

It was a wonderful celebration of a great year that saw Gabe on high honor roll in the first 1/4 and honor roll for the second and fourth 1/4s- and receiving the President's Award for Academic Excellence! Now on to Junior High and being a teenager!!!

Happy 12th Birthday, Gabe!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Will You Survive?

Fresh from the morning news, I have to continue to wonder what the heck is going to wake people up in large enough numbers to make a difference.
A charter boat captain of 25 years blew his brains out, distraught over the oil disaster's crippling effect on his ability to make a living and by his recent employment with BP. He ended his life where he lived it; in the wheel house of his boat in the town of Gulf Shores Alabama. I've been to Gulf Shores. I've known many boat captains, charter and otherwise. The captain chose to leave two minor children, 11 and 12, a wife and an adult daughter. I feel as though I knew the guy. I feel deeply sad and frustrated.
Adding insult to unspeakable injury, I then read a piece about Mariah Carey owing a NY veterinarian who traveled to California to care for one of Carey's 4 Jack Russell terriers close to $30,000.
Readers know that I believe in being a responsible pet owner. I believe in caring for pets, spaying/neutering, etc. But come on, in this day and age, how can we stand for a celebrity we made famous and rich - or any one for that matter - spending $30,000 on a dog for one month of treatment when there are babies and children and mothers and fathers dying right this second, and every second, because of starvation, pollution, the oil spill, drug wars, dictators - as I've gotten so used to saying I could go on and on . . .
Thirty thousand on a dog when we haven't even taken the initiative to be responsible citizens of the planet, and I'm referring to the facts that we are still oil-dependent, endlessly-consuming stuff we don't really need, star-struck to the point of uselessness, irresponsible fools who can't even clean up an oil spill in a timely fashion - or have the balls to exert enough power over big-business to prevent the carelessness and deception that led to this spill. Day after day, we forsake our planet, we forsake ourselves, having given "the keys to our kingdom,"to those we have made powerful and rich and famous. WHEN WILL THIS STOP?
As previously stated, I could go on and on about politicians sucking the power out of the masses who put them in office. U.S.A. Today reported in Jan. 08 that the movie, TV and recording industries gave $33.1 million to federal candidates and parties in 2004. Names such as George Clooney, Tyra Banks, Chris Rock, Larry David, Ed Norton, Jennifer Aniston and Will Smith are among those who help line the coffers of politicians. The celebrities scratch the backs of the politicians, and vice-versa. They're all living in luxury and oozing power, and we the fools are allowing it to happen as our planet dies and we head closer to disaster every second.
Prior to the oil rig explosion of 4/20, Goldman Sachs and Bp's Tony Hayward both sold off large blocks of BP stocks - that's called insider trading - more of the rich and powerful scratching each other's back to their benefit and to our and our planet's extreme detriment.
Now there's news of a judge who engaged in insider trading related to BP.
Instead of continuing to hurl statistics and news items at deaf ears, I'll share some thoughts I had regarding the future of John and Jane Q. Public - that's you and me.
Last night, I watched the movie, "The Pianist." The story centered around the true account of a Polish pianist of about 30 years old who was caught up in the horror of the Warsaw Ghetto from 1939 until Poland's liberation by Russia at the end of WW II.
I was both amazed and horrified by the main character's family's' (and neighbors') acceptance of the horrors the Nazis subjected them to. First, the family was forced to hide its money and few valuables because a restriction was put on the amount of wealth a Jew could hold. Then, the family was banned from walking on the sidewalks (Jews had to walk in the gutter) and forced to bow to Germain soldiers on the streets and endure spur-of-the -moment and random public beatings. Then, they were forced from their homes, rendered helpless and useless by a lack of jobs and resources within the "ghetto" they were herded into like sheep to the slaughter. They were forced to walk the streets of the "ghetto" among corpses and the dying. They were starved, beaten, randomly attacked and murdered, and finally shipped off to "labor camps," like cattle and to their mass deaths.
The main character escaped and lived alone and hidden by sympathetic neighbors. To put it bluntly, he sucked at survival, and only survived by chance, not by his wits or skills. Although he managed to survive, this urban man with little knowledge of survival skills nearly died because he couldn't open a can without a can opener. He was discovered by a German officer because of the racket he made trying to open the can with fireplace tools. He then dropped the can, allowing its vital liquid to spill out on the floor at the feet of the German.
He certainly brushed close to madness, because he didn't have a clue regarding simple self-preservation.
I thought to myself, "Wow, when the planet is stagnant and fruitless , when there's no more electricity or oil, when there's not enough food to feed the masses, the people I see everyday, my children, my neighbors, are all going to be as clueless and as useless regarding being able to survive as the urban Jews were at the hands of the Nazis."
Think about that. Let it sink into your brain and take up residency there for a while. Think about how you and yours will - or likely will not survive - when our resources are depleted and our planet is dead.
What will you do? It's likely coming in our life times. What will you do?
Like the charter boat captain from Alabama, will you end your life where you lived it and in despair with no hope for the future or for your survival. Will you suffer and die in your home, among your family, in your place of employment? Or will you rise up now and do something to change the inevitable?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reader Request: Address the Oil Spill, Part 1: DO SOMETHING!

Gulf Coast pelicans wait to be de-oiled. Wonder how many will survive?

Thanks to the "Daily Beast" for this poignant image of a pelican attempting to overcome its oil-soaked state and take flight on Queen Bess Island, Louisiana.

When a reader speaks, I listen. I also love hearing from you all!
Reader & follower (and really old friend, I'm talkin' Junior High School) Thomas Dobbler asked via facebook: "Hey Liz, how about this for your next blog? 'Where are all the entertainers lining up to get the oil spill stopped & cleaned up at BP's expense?' "
The line doesn't seem to be forming anywhere that can be pin-pointed, Tom. BUT don't despair, because as readers know, my lines aren't always the straightest or the simplest, but they always have a destination, a point, and a purpose. I guess my lines make up tapestries of thought, and hopefully, truth and solutions.
Let's start with what I know from experience, or simply by perusing the morning headlines.
  • I know that the oil spill's residuals have reached Pensacola, Florida and will soon soil & smother the entirety of Florida's Gulf Coast, the Keys, and likely the Atlantic.
  • I know that several, if not many, celebrities live along the path of that ill-fated current. When I worked at a newspaper (circa 2004) in Vero Beach, FL, on the state's mid-Atlantic Coast, I interviewed John Walsh (America's Most Wanted/ Center for Missing & Exploited Children), who also has/had a residence in Vero. I know that Gloria Estefan (apologies if that's misspelled) lives and has/had business interests in Vero. Arlo Guthrie frequents an Ashram (place of prayer & retreat) a stone's throw from Vero, in Sebastian, Fl. I'm guessing he may have a residence nearby, too. Vero Beach is known as "Dodgertown," the winter home/training camp of the L.A. Dodgers. Port St. Lucie, just south of Vero, is the winter/training home of the N.Y. Mets. I did a stint at the paper's Daytona office, about an hour, maybe an hour and a half if memory serves, up the coast. Auto racing finds its roots on the lovely sand beaches of Daytona (more accurately, neighboring Ormond Beach). It blew my mind, coming from L.I. where beach driving is restricted and frowned on, that anyone -and I mean anyone - could drive on the beach in Daytona. So the race car circuit (NASCAR) and its enthusiasts should have an interest in keeping that beach oil-free. John Travolta lives in Ocala, a fairly straight line west from Daytona, in the middle of Florida, but not far from the beautiful Gulf Coast. My daughter worked at a popular sushi restaurant in Ocala, and waited on Travolta and David Cassidy. Maybe the former partridge lives nearby. I know that Jerry Springer has a house near Sarasota on the Gulf Coast. Tiger Woods, Jimmy Buffet (about - meaning any day now - to open a resort near Pensacola!), Tom Petty (a Gainesville native), you get the picture.
  • I know that entertainers, public figures, sports personalities, etc., all care about the Earth, don't they? I know they care about their fans. I know they are grateful for their talents, their fortunes, their ability to use their fame to help others and to champion causes.
  • I know that people, both regular Joes and Janes and the famous, use the press to further their causes and to bring attention to themselves. Whether its a 4-H bake sale, a book sale to benefit a local library, a gallery opening, a benefit Polo Match for a children's charity, a resort opening, a concert, or a political campaign or cause, people turn to the press for support and coverage.
  • I know that people write, pay attention to, ponder and heed letters to editors of newspapers.
  • I know that many people believe that all things happen for a reason. I'm beginning to see (thanks again, Tom) that the reason for this oil spill is clear. It's time for regular people to take a stand. It's time for Joe and Jane Q. Public to hold the celebrities WE MAKE FAMOUS and the politicians WE ELECT accountable for the glory we have bestowed upon them and for the trust we put in them and for the fortunes we have helped them amass. It's time for the regular folks to stop aimlessly paying taxes and watching programs on TV and buying music and movies and products that make the famous and powerful and greedy more famous and powerful and greedy. It's time for us to stop offering our sons and daughters as easy and endless fodder for the war-machine that distracts us from the great, big giant joke that's being played on us and at our expense. Its' time to say "Stop, enough is enough." It's time to start glorifying ourselves and holding ourselves in high esteem and empowering ourselves and paying attention to ourselves and lining our own pockets and saving our own world. Stop being lulled into oblivious submission by People Magazine or celebrity tweets or Paris Hilton's latest hairstyle or designer puppy or the bimbo de jour's umpteenth plastic surgery. What you are submitting to is the destruction of your prosperity, your life, the lives of your descendants, your planet - and it's time to stop! Seriously folks, this may very well be the common man's final chance to save our world. God helps those who help themselves. And the politicians and the famous have been helping themselves to our blood, sweat, tears, prosperity, climbing on our broken backs and stepping on our blistered hands and on our furrowed brows long enough. Wake up! It's time for us to take control of our own destinies and responsibilities as citizens of planet Earth. If we don't, you can sure they'll (the famous and powerful) all continue fiddling - and laughing at you and me - as Rome burns.
OK, this is what I'm going to do as step one in this process of taking back our world and taking responsibility for our own fates.
I'm writing a letter to the editor of every newspaper in Florida ( and other places where I know the famous live and play, such as my former home of East Hampton, NY, where I also was a newspaper reporter), putting the politicians and celebrities on notice that we the people expect them to start really and truly giving back to us and to our world.
I'll be , and I am here & now & TO YOU, calling for a boycott of television and its advertisers (I survive without it- I have for two years!); of buying music; of going to, buying, renting, paying to download movies; donating to political campaigns; following stars on twitter or facebook; reading and buying celebrity rags such as "People," etc.
I'm also calling for a boycott of BP and its subsidiaries, which include: Amoco (owned by BP), Gulf stations in south east U.S. (BP owned), BP Solar (includes Lucas Energy Systems and Solarex); ampm convenience chain; Aral (BP's retailer in Germany); ARCO (BP owned in western U.S. and West Coast); BP Travel Centers in Australia, which include Wild Bean Cafes, McDonald's (yes, the Golden Arches), KFC (yes, the home of the Colonel), Nando's and Krispy Kreme; BP Connect and Wild Bean Cafes in the UK (in partnership with Mark and Spencer as "M & S Simple Food," ), Europe, U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand, Bosnia/Herzegovina; and in the U.S. being transitioned into ampm convenience stores. Also, BP Express, BP Shop, BP2Go, CASTROL OIL and lubricants (yes, the Castrol many of us use), Air BP & BP Shipping, The Standard Oil Company. And let's not forget BP's top institutional stock holders: State Street Corp.; Fidelity Management & Research Corp.; AXA Financial, Inc.; UBS Warburg, LLC; Morgan, Stanley, Dean Witter & Co.; Barrow, Hanley, Mewhinney & Strauss, Inc.; BANK OF AMERICA Corp.; CITIGROUP, INC.; First Union Corp.; STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE Company.
I will be making form letters to editors of newspapers that "call out" celebrities and politicians, and boycott information available to readers. If you'd like a letter/information packet, e-mail me at
More tomorrow regarding celebrities, politicians, what seems to be pre-explosion/spill/ April 20 insider trading of BP stock by its CEO and by Goldman Sachs, political contributions, what BP is paying up and the government help it's receiving to expedite the claims process (of course, a multi-billion dollar company can't possibly process claims in an efficient manner without the help of the government - SAY WHAT? Can you say "RED TAPE?" I feel another hand in my pocket!!! and the like.
In the mean time - DO SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!!
Sources:; Jacky Jasper Hollywood Street; MSNBC; The Daily Beast

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 in Pictures & an Obama Update

A June 1 update regarding my comments about President Obama in "Remembrance & Reality, Part II" (scroll down to read that post).
After all my years here on Earth, I am, apparently, still too trusting, occasionally to the point of being gullible. As I listened to conservative talk show hosts bemoan the fact that President Obama chose to honor fallen soldiers at a National Cemetery in Illinois, instead of being present at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, I assumed that every president before Obama and all those who were presidents during Arlington's existence, had visited Arlington on Memorial Day.
I was wrong. In fact, the last three presidents who did not visit Arlington were Republicans. In 2007, President "W" Bush went home to Texas and VP Cheney placed a wreathe at Arlington. In 1992, World War II Veteran and then-president George H.W. Bush spent the weekend in Maine, while VP Quayle laid a wreathe at Arlington. And the King of the modern-day Republicans, President Ronald Regan, attended a G-7 Summit meeting on Memorial Day 1983, leaving the wreathe-laying duties at Arlington to a Defense Department official.
Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Obama is reported to be the only president who ever made a night visit to Dover Air force base in Delaware to witness the return of dead soldiers.
Mr. Obama also visited Arlington National Cemetery on Veteran's Day 2009 to pay his respects at the grave of T.J. Barbieri, killed in Iraq in 2006, as TJ's brothers visited the grave. Mr. Obama had planned to visit the Cemetery that Veteran's Day, but it seems that the encounter at TJ's grave was not planned.
Said TJ's Gold Star mother, Carol Barbieri of Maryland, of Mr. Obama's decision to visit a National Cemetery in Illinois yesterday, "Our heroes are interred all over the Nation. The President of the United States should be remembering and honoring the men and women who fought for this Country. It doesn't matter where he does that, as long as he never forgets them."
I'd say a Gold Star Mother is the definitive expert regarding this subject. Case closed!
In pictures from Newfoundland, PA

Veterans who sponsor my son's Troop 29, Newfoundland, PA, with his troop members, Scout Master, and Cub Scout, Aidan. Sorry if I spelled any names incorrectly!

My son, holding the Boy Scout flag, flanked by scouts, Maliciah on his right, Dalton and Scout Master Schafer on his left.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Remembrance & Reality, Part II

"The Old Guard" marches in a funeral procession at Arlington
National Cemetery earlier this month.

So nice, I'm posting them twice. Gorgeous, inspiring stained glass windows depicting the first playing of "Taps" for a fallen soldier in 1862, and of the ethereal bugler, the angel Gabriel. These are among the windows of the Chapel of the Centurion in Virgina, the Nation's oldest, in-use military Chapel.
(Note: Yes, I know Arlington is in Virginia. Just a slip of the brain!)
Remembrance & Reality, Part II (Part I is just below - scroll down)
I just returned from purchasing red geraniums, white dusty miller, and blue lobelia. I believe that planting any living thing, nurturing it, and reveling in the beauty of a growing plant or tree is a tribute to all those who have passed into the next phase of being. I also believe that gardening is an art form, with an almost infinite palate of colors, shapes, sizes, textures, fragrances, possibilities and opportunities for individual artistic expression.
I'll plant in the coolness (I hope) of the evening.
I don't have the patience to listen to "talk radio" all that often. But the significant other (S.O.), who leans ever so slightly to the right, but can still be reasoned with, really enjoys talk radio. Whether he agrees with the speakers/personalities or not, he gets a big kick, and I suppose intellectual stimulation, from listening to the mouthpieces of the right.
I am often held hostage while riding in the car, or simply when hanging out in our bedroom, by his devotion to right-leaning radio. And, as an Independent, (and often to my surprise,) I sometimes find myself agreeing with those I consider to be fanatics, zealots, and out and out nut-jobs whose mouths I'd like to stuff with stinky socks.
One day last week was such an occasion. One of the poster-girls of the right was going on (and on, and on . . . ) about President Obama's plans to spend Memorial Day in Chicago. I'm listening to the news at this moment, talking about the President's presence on the Gulf Coast, which is a really, really good thing, as I was starting to long to see Obama, dress shirt sleeves rolled up, rescuing a pelican from an oily fate - me and my imagination strike again!
I don't want to get too far off the track here, but I suppose it's not a president's place to actually roll up his (or HER!!!???) sleeves and dive into an oil clean-up. Is it? I'd like some feed back from readers. Where does a president draw the line in a case such as this?
But I was feeling that the President needed to become more visible on the Gulf Coast, so I'm very glad, whether some consider it a day late and a dollar short or perfectly timed and appropriate, that Mr. Obama appeared at the places devastated by this disaster this weekend.
I am aware that he was on the Gulf Coast a few weeks ago, but to me, it seems that the time that has passed since the initial incident on April 20 is sadly equating to a lifetime for the humans and creatures that rely on the Gulf Coast's fragile ecosystem, beautiful environment, and breathtakingly blue waters and white beaches to sustain their very lives.
"Not every judgement we make is going to be right the first time out," Obama admitted yesterday, and I have to give him a lot of credit for honesty in this case.
For now, I'll hope that God grants a miracle to the Gulf Coast and to his partner, Mother Nature.
Back to where the President should spend Memorial Day.
If Mr. Obama, a self-proclaimed champion of the war in Afghanistan, chooses not to appear in Washington D.C.'s Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, I believe that those who will be offended by his choice have every right to be offended. The Commander in Chief, during war time, whether he started the war, likes the war, dislikes the war, should be at Arlington in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
Since I first began observing Mr. Obama closely, when he dashed Hilary Clinton's hopes of becoming president (which really pissed me off!) I've developed a theory regarding his personality. I've observed that Mr. Obama has many of the characteristics of a boy and then a young man who developed without the influence of a strong male parent.
The young men I've observed similar personality and social traits in are my oldest son's age, around 25.
But for the first time I see the traits in an older man, Mr. Obama. I'm sure he's not alone. He's just more noticeable and infinitely fascinating as the "first" of his kind.
His audacity, his self-assurance, the aura he projects that he is the ultimate authority, is unsettling to older people, because Mr. Obama, as presidents go, is young, and racially unique (so far).
I think that his Grandfather was probably in awe of, and maybe a bit put off by, his bi-racial grandson. I believe that as a child, Mr. Obama was likely the be all and end all of his family's- his maternal grandparents and his mother's- lives. I surmise that based on his mother's life choices, she was either a young woman rebelling against her white, American, middle class parents, or a golden-only-daughter who could do no wrong and who was encouraged to follow her whims, no matter where or to whom they led.
How many white, middle class women of her generation headed off into the world, first marrying an African man and then marrying an Asian man and living abroad?
These young men, and even the men who are my age, as Obama nearly is, are a new breed regarding their self-assurance and what is perceived as their arrogance by older people, and/or by people who grew up in a traditional family with a strong father figure.
As President, Mr. Obama should be tenacious and self-assured. He is the ultimate leader, and should be the ultimate authority, the ultimate "It" guy, as I believe he was the "It" child among his family.
Now finding himself as a father to daughters in a traditional family, it will behoove Mr. Obama to teach tradition and decorum to his delightful daughters. Instead of reasoning,"I am the President and as such, I deserve to return home (Chicago) for Memorial Day weekend," he should think,"I am the President. By the dictates of honor and tradition, and to show that I respect the citizens who have given their lives and the lives of their loved ones for our Country and for the defense of its ideals worldwide, I and my family belong in Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day."
Along with a strong father to thank, I believe I have my hometown of Bay Shore, NY, to thank for my feelings that tradition is important, that being reverent and observant are important, especially on Memorial Day.
As a Girl Scout, for many years of sweaty but affectionately remembered Memorial Days, I and many of Bay Shore's other residents; Scouts, Veterans, Firemen, Law Enforcement officials, etc., marched proudly and reverently in a miles-long Memorial Day parade that assembled at the town's train station and continued many miles to a local cemetery.
Once at the cemetery, the multitude of marchers remained at silent attention as words and prayers were offered for the fallen, and a wreathe was laid at the town's war memorial.
Later, in my children's hometown of East Hampton, NY, a similar tradition was upheld each Memorial Day. As Scouts, my three oldest kids joined other town-folk; veterans, politicians, marching band high-schoolers, firemen, law enforcement, etc., in a march from Guild Hall on Main Street down to the war memorial at the windmill where Main Street forks off from North Main Street. Again, participants from 5-year-old brownie Girl Scouts to 80-year-old war Veterans stood at silent and reverent attention as words and prayers were offered and wreathes were placed for the dead.
During both events, and over those many years, I observed participants actually fainting, rather than break the attentive silence of the remembrance ceremony.
Both events stirred pride within me that I could feel welling up along the parade routes to the climax of the placing of the wreathes. I wish that every child will experience and feel such pride and love as a member of a community and as a citizen of this Country.
I hope that these parades continue, teaching children that Memorial Day is not all hot dogs and cook outs, but that it's a solemn day to show gratitude to all who have died for our Country and for freedom.
Another beloved memory is the red paper memorial poppy that Veteran's groups offer for donations. My dad always kept a poppy wired to his car's review mirror, or at the feet of the statue of St.Joseph on his dresser. The poppy became a symbol of the fallen as many of France's World War battle fields were first and post-war poppy fields.
Whether you and yours march in a parade, observe a parade, pick up a paper poppy from a Veteran, lay flowers at the grave or a memorial to the fallen, or simply plant a garden or pot of red, white and blue flowers, start or maintain a tradition of remembrance and reverence this Memorial Day.
God Bless all Americans.
Be well & happy!
If MY memory serves, it's time to wish a "Happy Birthday" to my dear, patient, tolerant, S.O.
I love ya, honey! No matter how old you get, I'll be older, and therefore, superior! Keep that boyish charm coming, and everything will be cool!

Remembrance & Reality

Calverton National Cemetery, Long Island, NY, where the
cremains of the father of my four children - a Vietnam veteran
and my former husband - are interred.

Stained glass windows, (right) depicting the first sounding of "Taps," in 1862, and (left) the ultimate bugler, the angel, Gabriel. The windows are among those in the Nation's oldest, consistently-in-use military chapel, the Chapel of the Centurion in Virginia.
Remembrance and Reality Part I
This weekend, and specifically on the 31st, our great Nation will stop for a few moments in time to remember our war dead.
There is no greater sacrifice than to die defending your nation's ideals and freedoms. I have, for as long as I can remember, been horrified and haunted by the thought of being a young person under siege on a battlefield.
From the televised images of the Vietnam War that exploded into the Country's living rooms during my childhood, to the nightmares those images created in my young mind, to the horrors of imagining what it's like for the peers of my children to crawl through sand on a sweltering landscape with the very real possibility of being blown to pieces, or captured, tortured and even beheaded at any moment, I've been terrified and sickened by thoughts of war my entire life.
A wide-eyed young man, staring almost blankly, or perhaps stricken with panic upon realizing what he was in fact involved in, I kept a small brown and white photo of my grandmother's brother tucked into the mirror of my dresser when I was a teenager. During World War I, this young man whose blood flows in my veins ran through the ferocious lines of battle, carrying important messages. An aunt of mine still has the bell he rang as he approached friendly troops so they would not fire on him. Uncle Al, as he was known to me, was said to be "shell shocked." He never married upon his return. He spent his life largely alone. Apparently, he suffered mental damage during that war.
The man I married served in Vietnam, a fact he kept hidden until shortly before we married. I learned of his service while heading out on his 19-foot Sea Craft to view Fourth of July fireworks on Long Island's Great South Bay.
Suddenly confronted with the first explosions of sound, light and color, my then-boyfriend nearly collided with a much-larger Fire Island ferry (an out-of-commission PT Boat from World War II). My shriek of warning jolted him back into reality before disaster struck. He had experienced a "flash back" to the war, where he served on a boat on the treacherous rivers of Vietnam.
That evening, he told me, with very little detail and with very little pride or enthusiasm, of his service to our Country. I've seen only two photos of him from that time, one the formal military portrait of a fresh-faced, clean shaven, smiling despite his circumstances young man. The other, a curled and faded Polaroid of the same fresh face, with an added and pronounced heaviness to his brow and forehead, but with the same cautious, yet youthful and hopeful smile. This time, he's holding a gun of some sort, standing on the deck of a boat in Vietnam.
I could never fathom how a young man like him could possibly survive such a vicious thing as war in such a hostile, far away environment. I could never justify the matter-of-factness with which our government, over and over again, sends young men, and more recently, young women, to their deaths.
I could never understand the courage it must take, the determination, the resolve, for a young person to report for duty and in all likelihood, death, in service to a Nation he or she is just getting to know as an adult.
I will take nothing away from the war dead and those who survive those brave men and women. But, based on my experiences, I don't believe that any person returns from war as alive and vibrant and with as much potential as before. I believe that large portions of all Veterans have died, or have been gravely altered, on fields of battle.
So along with remembering the dead, I remember the shell-shocked, the unappreciated and the ridiculed for their service, the forever changed of war. I remember those sickened by agent orange and the plethora of chemicals used to fight wars. I remember, the "What might have beens."
Yes, where there is life there is hope. Yes, many Veterans of combat go on to lead productive lives and to overcome the horrors of war.
But still, why should any person or spirit or potential be crushed or altered on a battlefield in this day and age? War should be obsolete, and battle should be unnecessary in a truly evolved, civilized world.
War kills - people, hope, potential, dreams, environments - war kills everything its gnarled, ugly, toxic hand touches.
My ex suffered night terrors, flashbacks, alcohol-addiction, and eventual death because of his service to his country. He should have sought counseling, but he came from a war that was not popular or praised or talked about. Veterans of his era put up, shut up and moved on, despite devastating physical and psychological wounds.
I was affected by the residual damage of his service, as were his children. He only began talking about his service in the final years of his life. After his death, one of the last pieces of mail I retrieved from his mail box was a bill from the Veteran's Administration for health care. He did receive a grave, a gravestone, and burial from the government. And my children are entitled to be buried along side their father.
I honestly and deeply believe that combat veterans, their surviving spouses and minor children, should receive full health benefits from the government, and even housing and educational subsidies.
Those two fresh faces, my grand uncle and the man I once loved enough to marry, both deserved better lives and greater compensation from the government they defended.
On a positive note, my son, age 11, and I, had a wonderful experience a few weeks ago, regarding his father's military service.
During a Boy Scout bake sale at our local market, a Veteran of the Vietnam War approached our table of baked goodies, wearing a veteran's cap and t-shirt. I commented that my son's father was a Vietnam Veteran. With that, this kind stranger told my son all about his service in Vietnam, and all about what he knew his father did in Vietnam. This wonderful man took the time to tell my son that the soldiers who manned the river boats saved many, many villages full of people -families and children - from dying. He told my son that his father was a hero, and that he should never forget that and always be proud. The 15 or so minutes it took for that man to tell my son what his father was never able to tell him gave my son new knowledge of his father, it brought him closer to a father he desperately misses. It gave him the knowledge that as a young man of 18, his father was brave enough to go to a far away country and defend its people.
I have more to tell about Memorial Day traditions, memories and how those traditions and memories relate to today's current events. However, my carpal tunnel is acting up, my hands are seriously tingling and painful, so I'll continue tomorrow with "Part II-" which will address our President's observance of Memorial Day, poppies, and parades past.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Proud Parents, Comfort Food, Hope & New Tricks

The 20th was a happy day for our family. Lauren, my eldest daughter, turned 23, and Gabe, my youngest son, participated in an entertaining and delightful choral concert.
A great new (to me) method of serving brownies in cupcake form. No crumbling, still delicious, very festive-looking!

Proud Parents, Comfort Food, Hope & New Tricks
I devoted 2 days this week to my daughter's birthday celebration. She's boyfriendless this year (HURRAY!!!), her best friend, whose birthday is May 17, is in the Chicago area, having joined the Navy last year, and most of her friends were working, as her 23rd fell on Thursday, the 20th.
She took the day off and adopted a kitten she named "Marty." After attempting to bond with Marty and kitten-proofing her apartment, she came over to my house for an early dinner, her brother's choral concert, and our traditional lighting of candles and singing of "Happy Birthday."
As far as a life-long battle with the bulge, Lauren's apple didn't fall far from my tree. She and I constantly fight weight-gain. With that in mind, I decided to cook chicken for dinner, with vegetables.
Tired of the "same old, same old," I googled "Chicken fricassee," a dish I don't believe I've seen since my days as a little child in my grandmother's kitchen.
Gabe is a history buff, so when I found what claimed to be Thomas Jefferson's chicken fricassee recipe, I went for it. I left out the mushrooms (neither Gabe or Lauren care for them, except on pizza), and threw in baby red potatoes and baby carrots toward the end. Spiced with nutmeg, sage, onion, parsley, paprika and black pepper, and with small amounts of half and half and white wine in the gravy, it was a deliciously simple treat! Lauren commented that the dish looked and tasted healthy and fresh.
When Lauren turned 18 (5 years ago!), she asked that I make a brownie cake with white chocolate icing. So, I did. The cake turned out as a hulking (two square layers of fudge brownies with oodles of homemade icing), but delicious creation. Shortly after being decorated, adorned with candles, and set on the table, the massive confection's top slid from it's bottom, to the laughter of everyone present.
With that delightful experience in mind, I decided to tame the brownie cake. I was recently told that crumble,crack free brownies can be achieved by cooking them in cupcake tins. I added white chocolate chips before baking, and strawberry icing after, and viola! I wrangled the brownie cake right into submission!
Obviously, those reading this can tell that I love simple, delicious recipes, as both of the birthday creations are, and that I love my kids.
I'm so proud of the battles they have fought and of the people they are becoming. They have their faults. Lauren has many, many of both her father's and my faults. But when she calls me at 11p.m. to thank me for a great birthday celebration, I know I've done something right, and that there's hope for a shining future!
I often find myself longing to cut out the complaining regarding the state of humanity and the planet, and seek out the positive.'
With "proud parents" in mind, I was thrilled to find a new piece this morning detailing a couple of really remarkable teenagers. I surmise that the ambition and goals these kids have come from the flip-side of the seemingly inherent (but wildly unattractive, in most cases) sense of entitlement today's youth possesses. In past entries, I've blamed Nickelodeon as the root cause, as the network was really the first source to ingrain into kids' heads back in the 90s that they were consumers, separate form adults and entitled to make purchasing, fashion, and just about every life decision once exclusively relegated to parents.
The bravery and commitment of these teenagers far outweighs my frustration with today's over-entitled youth, so kudos to 13-year-old American Jordan Romero, and 16-year-old Australian, Jessica Watson, and congratulations to their parents!
From 29,035 feet above sea level, Jordan became the youngest person ever to climb and reach the summit of Mount Everest. In December, he plans to head to Antarctica, in the final leg of his quest to conquer the highest point on each of the seven continents. If and when Jordan achieves that goal, he will be capturing the record from a 17-year-old American.
Earlier this month, 16-year-old Jessica became the youngest person to sail around the world SOLO, non-stop and unassisted! I can't imagine, at any age, the endurance that would require - simply an awesome feat!
And in the category of teaching an old dog (me) new tricks, we have an organization called "Vital Voices." I learned about this movement while watching an interview with actress Sally Field, who I was interested to learn more about. I have, in past entries, championed the concept of "Charity begins at home," encouraging readers to fix what is immediately around them before venturing off to fix the world. I've softened on that stance, thanks to Miss Field's eloquent and experienced theory that the world is becoming smaller and smaller, thanks to technology. She further reasoned that because of the sad state of the world, it is becoming necessary to address the problems of the entire world immediately. The belief that our problems are bringing us all closer together, giving us all a common cause, making those who are thousands of miles apart neighbors in survival, really rang true.
"Vital Voices" focuses on empowering women, which I am a big advocate of. So check out the "Vital Voices " Web site. Maybe you'll be inspired to lend a hand!
With the hope of the future in mind, our children and our actions today, right now, in this moment to save humanity, I wish you all well.
What do you think?
To my sister, Claire, and her husband, Tom, proud parents as they watch their daughter graduate from college tomorrow - Congratulations and enjoy every moment!
To my niece Cara, congratulations for a job well done - now get out there and live- dig into that oyster of a world!
My uncle, always a proud and loving father and grandfather, will see his son marry this weekend.
Congratulations to you, Uncle Peter, and to my cousin Matthew, a grown man and medical doctor who I have not seen since he was an adorable child. I wish you happiness, good health and success in your marriage, dear cousin!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fighting for the Principles of Motherhood

Two startling images of "Mother Nature:" above, the image of Mother Nature growing in a tree's trunk. Below "Wounded Mother Nature," in this case, the picture is worth infinite words.
The world condition at first rendered me speechless, wordless, tired and sad this morning. I felt as "Wounded Mother Nature" appears - hanging on by a thread, exhausted, defeated.
But as I always do, I began thinking. I have during my life been saved from despair many times by brain power - both mine and the brain power of a precious few who I've been blessed to encounter along life's winding road.
As the course of my life has wound, so has and does my train of thought. There's little chance that I'll ever conform to "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line" school where thought is concerned.
The "Keep It Simple Stupid" of journalism was one of my greatest challenges - a seemingly insurmountable, daunting, frustrating Mount Everest on the landscape of my world.
"KISS," was a principle I learned to surrender to, with great difficulty, sweat and tears, along with the patience of my teachers (red pens at the ready,) for the sake of earning the right to call myself a journalist.
So you'll understand when I next state that today's writing-inspiration came by way of the new black cat family living in our garage.
Our house sits atop a professional garage - bays, lifts and the works.
My S.O. spends a lot of time down there, as he runs a high-end used car dealership. He's an able-enough mechanic to service customer's cars to a limited but useful extent.
The S.O. considers himself quite the beast master when it comes to animals. And indeed, every pet we've had has worshipped the very ground he walks on. But as a kid, I don't think he had much experience with pets, beyond a dog that was killed by a car early on in its and his life.
Unfortunately, that equates to him not realizing the really huge potential for problems and the basic responsibilities that come with any pet.
I won't go into the details, but there have been several instances in which I found myself proclaiming, with no joy and with much frustration "I told you so," "Animals are a huge responsibility," "You don't know what it means to be a responsible pet owner," and the like.
He's learning, however slowly and stubbornly. For instance, our house cats, whom we refer to as "the kids," were spayed and neutered early on and are kept indoors - my doing, my rules.
The S.O. decided about a year ago that he needed companionship and mouse-control down in the garage. I warned him against "garage cats." I told him spaying and neutering would be his responsibility, and that it would surely be a race against time. I told him that he couldn't train cats to stay inside a structure with an open door.
He insisted that he could train his kitties to stay indoors, with a door open (right!). Well, he couldn't train the new kids to stay indoors, and had to learn to deal with cats who have had a taste of freedom rushing the door to escape. As the weather became cold, the kitties relented, and became happy garage dwellers. They both enjoy finding a way into any vehicle parked in the garage. The two felines camp out in style whenever they can manage it, in Land Rovers, BMW's, Mercedes and the like.
And on Mother's Day, they became parents on the floor board of a pretty white Mercedes.
S.O. hadn't been talking about the kitties as he usually does. I inquired as to their well-being several times. Imagine my surprise (and OK, delight) when S.O. announced that "It really is Mother's Day downstairs."
Yes, I'm disappointed and upset that we've contributed more potentially unwanted kittens to the world. NO, I don't need the added responsibility of having EVERYONE spayed and neutered (or the added expense), but I'll manage somehow.
The point is, seeing those little kittens being loved and cared for so diligently by their young mother and father brought to the forefront of my mind, again, just what principles Mother's Day was founded on.
Mother's Day wasn't founded for the benefit of the florist or greeting card industries. It was founded because a mother who lived during the Civil-War era wanted to lessen infant mortality in her community. That same mother later and again used the phrase "Mother's Day," when she organized a reunion event for soldiers of the Union and Confederacy, the brothers, friends and neighbors who were called to fight against each other during our Nation's Civil War.
During the same era, another mother organized a "Mother's Day of Peace," to recognize that war is an unnecessary evil, and that mothers have a sacred right to protect the lives of their children. The daughter of the first mother mentioned worked for the official sanctification of the modern Mother's Day, and lived to regret - and publicly speak out against- the commercial exploitation of the day.
This recollection led me to thoughts of the exploitation of the supreme and most important mother to all of humanity - Mother Earth - and one of the latest and most horrific crimes against her.
Today, the President spoke out against the major players in the April 20 (coincidentally, Hitler's Birthday) and ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
At first stating the obvious, that the system for preventing such accidents has "failed badly," Obama went on to ridicule the disgusting (my opinion) display, as he termed it the "blame game," that went on between oil company executives at Senate hearings this week.
Like spoiled, bratty little children who needed a time out and dare I suggest, a spanking, (my opinion), executives from BP, Transoceans and HALLIBURTON (takin' bribes and living in luxury in Kuwait, stealin' government millions related to FEEDING OUR TROOPS, "DICK" Cheney, need I say more - oops, excuse me, I just threw up a little in my mouth) blamed and ridiculed one another regarding the oil spill.
Why do we allow these greedy pigs to insult our intelligence, waste OUR time and money at hearings and DESTROY OUR PLANET, specifically one of the most beautiful and unique areas of our world?
Obama called the hearings "A ridiculous spectacle ," adding, "The American people could not have been impressed with that display and I certainly wasn't."
The President promised to abolish the "cozy relationship" between oil executives and federal regulators. Let's hope that he is successful. There will be plenty of talk-radio and tea-party nay-saying for every corrective measure Obama moves to make.
As citizens, let us, that's you and me, stop buying into the bull shit.
Let's stop allowing these greedy tyrants the time and attention and honor of spewing their greed-driven philosophies within the hallowed halls of our great Nation. These pigs are making fools of us and of our government and of our Nation every time they open their filthy mouths in public. Behind closed doors, be sure they are laughing all the way to their off-shore accounts. Be sure they would walk over your dead body and the dead bodies of every "average" American to get to said accounts, or just simply to cross the street.
Have the nerve to speak out against the exploitation of "We, the people," and the exploitation of our Mother Earth. As the woman who spoke out alone against the exploitation of Mother's Day and the loss of its real meaning more than 100 years ago did, speak out today against those who will destroy us and our world.
What do you think?
Until next week, be well & happy, and write to your local representative - Fight Exploitation!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Of Gratitude and Space Invaders
I've been walking on air recently, elevated by the joy that my youngest son, almost-12, has brought to my everyday life.
Don't misunderstand, my son is a well-rounded kid, offering equal opportunities for parental pride and gratitude right along side parental annoyance and frustration.
We have battled against life's circumstances to get him this far in one piece. We've stood up against the grief of his father's death, separation from his adult siblings, non-medicated attention deficit with astonishing, but very real short-term memory deficiency, my health issues, and we've come out, at this point and for now, way ahead of the pack of obstacles that have been thrown on the path of our lives.
The teen years are fast approaching, and who knows what challenges that phase will bring?
But for now, today, I am reveling in our immediate victories.
Throughout this school year, he has maintained honor-roll grades, an achievement he has had to work diligently to realize, and he has stayed out of trouble's path.
More often than not, he remembers to complete his chores on the appointed day.
He, and I mean he, primarily by himself and with great determination, raised more than $100 toward Boy Scout summer camp. His next goal is to join the junior high football team. To that end, he is training regularly to improve his endurance and skills.
He has goals and he works for them. I couldn't be happier or more grateful for these wonderful days. My wish for every one reading this is that you each have someone or something in your lives that brings you as much joy and satisfaction.
As I've written before (borrowed from Counting Crows) hold on to these moments as they pass.
A news item that came to my attention examines the flip-side of gratitude.
I'll first remind readers that I'm a staunch Independent, politically speaking. I'm an equal-opportunity supporter or nay-sayer.
A headline along the lines of "Students Told to Remove American Flag Shirts," caught my eye.
It seems that on May 5, several high school students here in the continental U.S.A. were told by school administrators to remove t-shirts and bandannas (worn on the heads of two of the, as I recall, 5 or so students) bearing the likeness of the American flag.
Back in the day, (60s, 70s) it was considered close to treason to wear any item of clothing fashioned from an American flag. These days, the flag as fashion has become widely accepted.
But these administrators were not concerned about acts of treason against the United States, or even a fashion faux pas.
No, indeed, these administrators were concerned that the image of the American flag on an American citizen's shirt, in an American school, on American soil would offend, (thereby possibly inciting violence among), students of Mexican origin on a Mexican holiday.
One young lady of Mexican descent was quoted as opining that the American-flag clad students were "disrespecting" her heritage by wearing the shirts and bandannas.
The patriotic offenders were told to remove the American attire, or face suspension. The boys (I think they were all boys) opted to leave school, rather than forsake their county's flag, and their right to wear the symbol of their Nation proudly and without fear of harassment.
Now, I have considered that there may be more to this story. Maybe the boys are brutish trouble-causers sympathetic to the views and practices of white supremacists. Maybe they were looking to incite unrest or violence. Maybe their aim was to intimidate students of Mexican origin. But as I read through the article, expecting some reference to the students having a history of trouble-making, nothing of that sort was noted.
It was noted, however, that the school district did not agree with the school administrator's determination, and allowed the students to return to school attired in the patriotic garb.
The Mexican girl further reasoned that Americans should celebrate, with honor and respect, Cinco de Mayo.
So back into the far-reaches of memory I traveled, recalling that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (Sept.15 is), but the memorialization of a brave force of 4,000 Mexicans who smashed an army of 8,000 French invaders who were aided by Mexican traitors at Pueblo, Mexico on May 5, 1862.
Led by a Col. Diaz, this force, twice out-numbered by it's adversaries, among other things, prevented the French from supplying the Confederacy during the Civil War, which was raging to the north of the Mexican/French conflict.
Following this awesome victory, Union forces were sent to the Tex/Mex border, and Mexico was liberally supplied with weapons and ammunition sufficient to put-down the French. American soldiers discharged from the Union army were sent on to the border with our government's blessing, their uniform and rifle, if they promised to join the Mexicans against the French.
American soldiers marched in a victory parade in Mexico City.
Now being of French descent on my mother's side, I can be a big enough person to say,
"OK, the Mexicans were good friends to my country. They helped us during the Civil War."
But I can also say that the French directly aided and fought along side the Americans during the Revolution.
Does that give me the right to want that recognized? Yes, it does.
Does that give me the right to insist that a day be sanctified to recognize the French contribution to the birth of the U.S.? No, I don't think it does.
If I'm in France on Bastille Day (French Independence Day, July 14) do I have the right to wear an American flag t-shirt? I believe I do.
If a French citizen is here in America on July 4, do I have the right to ask that French person to remove a t-shirt bearing the French flag? No, I don't feel that I have that right.
Because American troops aided the Mexicans after May 5, do I have the right to go to Mexico on May 5 and insist that Mexicans remove likenesses of their flag from apparel because I am offended that the American contribution is not being respected? Again, no.
The sense of entitlement and self- importance and lack of desire or effort to melt into the melting pot among today's newest Americans is disturbing, to say the least.
European-based immigrants melted into the American pot as well, discreetly and quickly as they could. They were cruelly ridiculed, treated with violence, and many suffered death because of prejudices against them.
Modern immigrants are protected by the law to a much greater extent than those who came before them were. They are able to pursue educations&government benefits even before they become citizens.
Of course, some are beaten to death and discriminated against, but for the most part, versus the lives of early immigrants, and the lives of the forced "immigrants" of slavery, today's immigrants have much to be grateful for. They should behave accordingly. Enough said.
Take a deep breath, I'm almost through!
A news item that brought out my "I knew it all along!" tendencies involved Steven Hawking's prediction that aliens likely exist.
That may be the good news for all you Area-54, X-File, Star Trek, etc., enthusiasts, but the part where I get to say "I told you so," just before being obliterated by an alien's ray-gun comes because Mr. Hawking hypothesizes that the aliens will be far superior to we humans and hostile.
There's that "I knew it all along!"
I have always surmised that any being able to travel through time and space to get to our little rotating orb would also possess the ability and desire to annihilate the Human race.
And why not? Like rats on a wheel with blinders on, like fleas on a dog, the Human race has raped, pillaged and plundered this planet to the extent that would make any pirate proud to call us his descendants.
But you all know how I feel about the Human race and the state of the planet.
The thing is, although we humans may deserve to be wiped out for our greed and piggishness (it'll be interesting to see what spell check makes of that!), I have to disagree with Mr. Hawking regarding the existence of extra-terrestrials beyond bacteria and elements such as water and ice.
I lived on Long Island's South Shore and East End for 38 years.
Never, ever in all my nights on the beach, under a glorious, clear, star-filled, moon-lit sky,have I seen anything that could be construed as an alien space craft. I've seen a comet. I've seen shooting stars and eclipses. But in all those 38 years, never once did I witness a UFO, and that's not for trying.
There were nights and periods when my friends and I actively watched for UFOs.
I've seen ghosts, but never aliens, to my knowledge.
Maybe the ghosts were aliens. Maybe we pass aliens on the street every day. Maybe I'm wrong. But for now, I'm grateful that I feel confident that I will never experience the annihilation of our race by aliens.
For now, I'm grateful for another day here on Earth.
What do you think?
Be well & happy.
Oh, by the way, it looks as though I'm publishing once-a-week on Fridays these days.