How Old Are You?

I would give credit where credit is due, if I knew who started this on social media. But I don’t know. It’s fun though.

I am aspergum years old.

I am had the measles and chickenpox but not mumps years old.

I’m wore white gloves to church every Sunday years old.

I am Chatty Cathy years old.

 

How old are you?

 

 

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Deenie And The Problem With Names

When working on memoir essays, I frequently change names to protect people’s privacy. Except my own, of course, which if I did, would probably mean that I was turning my essay into fiction. I’m sure that many of you change names as well.

How do you pick your names? When I was first writing, I thought it would be easy. Choose a name I think the person is like. What? I mean if someone looks like a Devon, for example, I would name him Devon. But is that how you spell Devon? What difference does it make? I’M MAKING UP THE NAME. But now I’m obsessing about how to spell Devon.  A made-up name. I don’t even know anyone named Devon. A friend of mine’s son is named Devon but I haven’t seen him in years and I don’t remember how she spells his name. And was Devon a name someone that age would have?

Concern over which name to pick definitely ruins my stride.

Popular names change. Take mine, for instance. Barbara used to be a common name for girls my age. In my second grade class I think there were five Barbara’s out of 25 or 30 students. I was named for an aunt, but Barbara was also a common name in her generation. There were a few famous actresses named Barbara as well, which added to the popularity of the name.

Now it’s unheard of. Last week a student of mine said “That’s a grandmother’s name.” Well, I am a grandmother, so there’s some truth there.

Recently, for a memoir that I’m working on, I chose to pick different names for some people in my life, realizing that specific names, like Barbara, are very specific to different decades.

I was stumped. The important thing about the memoir was telling my truth, my story, and here I was taking an inordinate amount of time changing names.

Here’s an example. I changed a college friend’s name to Paul. But I knew a lot of Paul’s and have cousins named Paul. So changing a name to Paul would just mean that anyone I knew named Paul would think it was him.

Then there are nicknames. Richard’s were often Rich, Rick, Dick or Ricky. Were boys born in the 70’s called Rick or Ricky? Now I have to research popular names and nicknames by decades that aren’t names of actual people I am writing about.

Really? It became a monumental task.

An editor was reading some chapters I had written and said that I had done a good job of fleshing out Tommy. Who’s Tommy?  Okay, now I have to keep a spreadsheet of real people and the new names I have given them.

But the most difficult task of all was writing about my early childhood in Washington, DC. There weren’t kids in our neighborhood to play with and I wasn’t yet in kindergarten. The most important young person in my life was my imaginary friend, Deenie.

Wait. Was it Deanie or Deenie or Deeny or Deany?

When my imaginary friend Deenie entered my life, I didn’t know how to read yet. Why was writing about her a problem?

She was my best friend before I knew how to spell.

My imaginary friend Deenie

 

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Tell, Don’t Show

 

CW: Sexual assault, non-graphic

It sounds a little callous to say I heard Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s heart-wrenching testimony in front of the Senate committee and the nation, and immediately thought about my writing. But I related to her testimony, and put myself in her emotions—not that my experience was identical, but that my details are also fuzzy.

My memories of similar incidents compel me to write. Yet I don’t remember every detail—only those part of the trauma of the memory.

We all know “show, don’t tell.”  Avoid summary, the Writing Clinic advises, because “a story will engage the reader if it is dramatised in a scene, like a film, in real time with action and dialogue.” But I find it unnatural to write in scene.

Read the complete article at Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction

 

 

 

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On Finding My Grandfather

100 years ago this month, the world saw the end of the Great War.

This day has special meaning for my family. While my father, two brothers, two uncles, and one nephew served in our military, some as career officers, the person who makes the Armistice that was reached on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 so important to my family is my grandfather.

Seven weeks and five days before the end of World War I, my grandfather, Major Harry Aloysius Harvey, was KIA in France, where he was buried until his body was re-interred in the cemetery at the USMA at West Point.

And this is about all I knew of him growing up. Just facts.

1.He was born on January 9, 1890 and grew up in McComb, Mississippi.

2.He was from a large family.

3.He graduated from West Point in 1915.

4.He died in France on September 12, 1918.

5.My grandmother remarried.

6.We never met any relatives from that side of the family.

7.He was rarely spoken of.

He was a dream, a shadowy figure from our past, a hero about whom we didn’t speak often, but of whom we were proud.

Then on Memorial Day weekend, 2018, C-Span aired a special program commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, and focusing on the battlefields of France. My ex-husband, also a veteran, happened to see the program and texted me. I was shocked to see a portion of my grandfather’s funeral service in this clip.

I sobbed.

What are the chances that the Army Signal Corps would have been on hand to film in St. Mihiel, France at that time? What are the chances that they would have included the funeral of my grandfather? What are the chances that C-Span would include that clip? What are the chances that my ex-husband would watch it, recognize it, and contact me?

The next day, two things happened. I emailed C-Span, taking a leap of faith that out of the kazillion emails they receive they would read mine. And I made a decision to get to know this man whose grave I visit on Memorial Day. This man who graduated in the most famous class of United States Military Academy, the Class of 1915, the Class The Stars Fell On but was a stranger to me. This man whose life gave me life. Whose DNA courses through my body. I was determined to find out who this idol of mine really was.

Incredibly, C-Span contacted me the next day and sent me the Army Signal Corps film clip showing the entire funeral, which is available on YouTube from the National Archives. My grandfather’s funeral is at approximately the  7:47 mark at the end of the footage and lasts for one minute.

I googled for hours. I bought and read the book by Michael E. Haskew “West Point 1915: Eisenhower, Bradley, and the Class the Stars Fell On,” looked at memorabilia from our family, and spent hours working with a researcher at the library at West Point.

Cadet Harry A. Harvey and classmate

I read about a man who talked all the time, argued his ideas, didn’t let another person get a word in edge-wise and looked at life with a sense of humor. Then he talked more, and then talked more again. In other words, for anyone who knows me, I found proof that I am more like him than not.

I discovered what it must have been like for a boy who left Mississippi for New York and survived the physical and academic rigors of the USMA to become a man able to lead soldiers and put Duty, Honor, Country first.  I discovered a man who loved life, missed his mother and siblings, who fell in love with a girl from Brooklyn, married and had a son he only knew for 5 months.

This full of life man was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, a feat that is unimaginable to me, surviving one of the war’s most horrific battles for the American Troops, and surviving it against all odds while protecting his men.

Then, after surviving the battles of Chateau-Thierry and the Battle of the Aisne-Marne among others, my grandfather, having been promoted to Major, was killed instantly by a shell while leading a reconnaissance of German lines near St. Mihiel, France.

 

 

 

In June of 1955, the editor of the local paper, The McComb Enterprise-Journal, sent a letter and article to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a classmate of my grandfather, announcing that the American Legion Post in McComb was being named for Harry Harvey. They received back a letter from President Eisenhower, on White House stationery, which was then forwarded to my family.

 

My grandfather is no longer a list of facts to me. He is no longer a man my heart yearns to know. He no longer lives in my heart as someone to idolize from afar.

He is a flesh and blood man. From whom my flesh and blood came, two generations later. He is a man of humor and love. A man of bravery and sacrifice.

As we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the end of the Great War, I celebrate getting to know this man, this extraordinarily normal yet heroic man.  My grandfather.

 

 

Posted in history, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

No Horsing Around

 

Spaces or Stalls?

 

Hmmm………ok

 

p.s. There are no horses here.

 

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Catching Fire (The Hunger Games)

Where’s Katniss?

 

 

 

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Can’t Talk Now…I’m Hydrating

Oh boy. I don’t know about you, but I listen to doctors. Take this antibiotic, Barb. Okee dokee, antibiotic it is. Take this heart medicine. I like being alive, so absolutely oh favorite cardiologist of mine, I will take it religiously.

Drink more water, Barb, say my kidney doctor and cardiologist. Ok say I, when I remember to.

I like water, I don’t mind drinking water, I just don’t think about it. I don’t even remember what is recommended for me. I don’t remember what is recommended for the average person. When the nephrologist (kidney specialist) told me to drink a lot of water throughout the day, I was still processing the fact that I have a kidney disease, albeit minor at this point, so I don’t remember exactly what he said. Just drink water, and especially before and after meals in general, and specific foods, well, specifically.

Then a friend of mine in real life as well as blogging life had a serious episode while hiking that has me rethinking my water intake. I owe a debt to Mike at The Zen Hiker for reminding me through his experience about the importance of water. And that I drink about 1/4 of the daily amount I should.

I hope you aren’t getting bored yet, because this is my new crusade and I want you to jump on the bandwagon.

Why should you stay hydrated? Here’s my list.

  1. I like living.
  2. I like having functioning, healthy kidneys. All 3 of mine. Even though they are a little screwed up.
  3. I love my husband.
  4. I love my children.
  5. I love my grandchildren.
  6. I love and need my job.
  7. Did I mention that I like living?
  8. I’ll rephrase. I love living.

What does my future hold? A future.

But I can’t talk now. I’m busy hydrating.

ps. When you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. For real.

 

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Oh, I’m Sorry Thief

I was raised to be polite. To have social skills. Etiquette was a requirement, not an option.

Yes ma’am.

Yes sir.

Excuse me.

Curtsying.

A month or so ago my husband and I were in New York City. We have been there a million times. I feel safe in New York City. I mean I would avoid dark alleys in neighborhoods I’m not familiar with at midnight, but I’m not an idiot.

Grand Central Terminal is iconic and not only does this photo not do it justice, I’ve never seen it so empty. Just sayin’

We had brunch with my son and his fiancee, then had to rush to get to Grand Central in time to catch our train home. We lucked out hailing a cab almost immediately.

God forbid I spend 5 minutes without grabbing my  iPhone to check every app I have and text my son thanks, we had a great time (there goes that etiquette again).

The cab pulls up in front of Grand Central while I’m texting something like “At GCT gotta go.” I shove the phone in the outside pocket of my bag, jump out of the cab, and dash across 42nd Street.

 

Tons of people were doing the NYC combination of rushing by, milling around, taking photos, speaking 400 languages and being lost. Navigating this crowd like a quarterback looking for an opening, I felt someone bump into me.

“Oh I’m sorry.”

We made the train with a few minutes to spare, and I reached for my phone.

No phone.

I searched the pockets of my purse. No phone.

I asked my husband if he had my phone (why on earth would he have my phone?). He gave me that you lose everything look  He said “No, check your bag again.”

Then I remembered being jostled just before I entered Grand Central.

And apologizing to the thief that stole my phone.

Ever polite.

 

 

 

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#legit

Grandson: Mamoo, you aren’t a stereotypical grandmother…..you’re legit.

Me: What’s a stereotypical grandmother?

Grandson: One who knits ugly sweaters and does boring stuff.

I’m legit.

That was such a cool compliment. He did have an ulterior motive, though, because he wanted me to take him to the mall. And the idea about knitting sweaters must have come from TV.

Notice he didn’t mention the scarves I knit. None of my grandchildren wear the scarves, so I’ve stopped knitting for them.

This is the part of the post where I want my own children to stop reading. 

The standard saying is that we love our children unconditionally. And that our parents loved us unconditionally. That isn’t exactly true. I love my children with every cell in my body, but there are some issues with that.

With our children, we get mad and feel guilty about their transgressions. What did I do wrong? I am a firm believer in natural consequences to inappropriate behavior. If I were going to take one of my kids out when they were in middle school or high school, and they were rude about it, or threw a fit about it…..natural consequence. I wouldn’t take them. Oh, what a responsible mother I am. A bad report card? Oh no, I didn’t help them enough. Or what is wrong with them that they aren’t studying enough?

Every achievement and every bad decision they make reflects on the parents. Great achievements? “They must have had such a wonderful upbringing.” Every bad decision? “I wonder what goes on in that house.”

Such pressure!

But then the grandchildren arrive. Total unconditional love. No guilt on our part. If they screw up, we think of ways to help them. No taking credit away from them by thinking of their successes, phew, we did a good job.

Is it because we’re a generation removed? Maybe, because in my case, they don’t live with me? Sleepovers are awesome, visits a treat. Perhaps it is our visceral reaction to seeing our DNA is being passed down to yet another generation.

I think it’s just love, without our putting conditions on that love.

My opinion. But, to my grandson? I’m……

#legit

 

 

 

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The Oral Surgery/Heart Attack/Vegan Diet

If you meet me, you will think I’m a healthy woman. I’m 64 years old, but don’t feel that way at all. I’m always unpleasantly shocked when I glance in the mirror and think who is that person?

Now that I’ve stopped coloring my hair (I always felt uncomfortable pouring chemicals on my head….I mean really….society makes us think we need to do that?), and it’s much more salt than pepper, I do look more my age.

Many people think I’m a little younger than 64, though.  I tell them it’s because I’m immature.

Anywho, the point I’m taking a long time to make is that while I usually look healthy, on paper I’m old and unhealthy.

I’ve had 4 small strokes (TIAs), have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, some kidney craziness and have a couple of other health issues that I don’t feel like talking about here (depression type issues) and have had a kazillion surgeries.

I don’t like red meat much but love chicken and turkey, and really love desserts and junk food.  I eat healthy meals and eat crap in between.

And while I look pretty healthy, I gained a lot of weight over the years. The calories I used to burn off as a teenager and young adult now sit on me like balloons.

Okay, so at any rate, I had oral surgery over the summer, which made me not want to eat as much, so I said let’s try getting rid of sugar. I started to lose weight.

Then in September, I had a mild heart attack. Are you still with me or am I boring you to death? Another brief hospital stay, lots of tests and then bedside visits from 2 cardiologists.

They said that I have to go on a vegan diet. I immediately said okay. But it’s been a tad harder than I thought.

I stopped eating meat, which hasn’t been a hardship, and have been replacing things in my cupboards and refrigerator slowly.  Then Christmas came and I couldn’t resist the sweets and other junk foods that abound.

Now I’m eating almost 100% vegan. The one thing left to give up is cheese.

I’ve lost about 30 pounds.

Does anyone know Angela Lidden with her Oh She Glows blog/website ohsheglows.com? My son’s girlfriend gave me The Oh She Glows Cookbook for Christmas. It’s available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon….that’s the Barnes and Noble link. I’m having a blast trying recipes and finding where everything is in the grocery store.  I’m still avoiding the dreaded word my cardiologist keeps using: exercise.  Shhhhhh…….I’ll tackle walking next.

I want to share a smoothie recipe of my own that I make almost every day and bring in the car as I commute to work. The first few smoothies that I tried made me want to spit them out (some I did spit out). But just throwing this stuff into a blender, I made a smoothie I love. By the way, I measure nothing, so you’ll have to figure that out for yourself if you’re interested.

Almond milk– the amount I would drink in a glass of milk

Oats – a handful or two

Flaxmeal – a heaping tablespoon

Banana – 1/2 a frozen banana (If you wait until your bananas are on the soft side and cut in half and throw in the freezer, they are sweeter)

Baby carrots – I cut 3-4 in a couple of pieces so they blend better

Frozen fruit – I bought a huge bag of frozen mixed berries. I use a tablespoon or two of those

Baby spinach – Rinse and throw in a couple of handfuls

I have a Ninja Blender (that’s really the brand name) that can make individual servings, so I blend, put the drink lid on it and off to work I go. For newbies, this combo of ingredients may sound strange, but it’s super healthy and delicious.

From start to finish it’s about 5 minutes.  Filled with nutrition and a great snack.

Tonight I’m making a new recipe from the Oh She Glows Cookbook.

I’ll let you know how it goes. And please share your recipes if you have some you love.

Peace out.

 

 

Posted in humor, nutrition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments