An Anniversary and Some Questions

Normandy, 1944

Normandy, 1944

Today is the 69th anniversary of D-Day.  In case you are an American student and have never heard the term before, D-Day was the beginning of an operation involving over 150,00 Allied troops landing on the beaches of the Normandy region of France.  The invasion has been called the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.

Those men you see in the photo wading through the surf toward the smoky beach ahead are now referred to as the Greatest Generation.  But get this…they were Twenty-somethings.  Some were as young as 18, but many were in their mid-20s.  General Eisenhower inspired the troops before the invasion by saying: “You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.”  Just a little pressure, that.

Of course, that was then, and this is now.  How times have changed.  Nowadays, we refer to 18-25 year-olds as “emerging adults,” a whole new demographic group.  Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, the brains behind this new developmental stage, argues that people in this age group don’t believe themselves to be adults yet and struggle with identity and focus.

Gee, I don’t know.  Maybe they just need a Gen. Eisenhower to help them focus.  Since I can’t think of anyone to fit that bill, I would refer Twenty-somethings to this Ted Talk (entitled “Why 30 is not the new 20”) by clinical psychologist Meg Jay.

She argues that the 20’s are actually the “defining decade of adulthood,”  rather than a continuation of adolescence.  In one’s 20’s, the brain undergoes its last growth spurt, so she argues, “Whatever it is you want to change about yourself, now is the time to change it.”  And I love this insight:

Leonard Bernstein said that to achieve great things, you need a plan and not quite enough time. Isn’t that true? So what do you think happens when you pat a twentysomething on the head and you say,”You have 10 extra years to start your life”? Nothing happens. You have robbed that person of his urgency and ambition, and absolutely nothing happens.

Rather than spending a decade in finding one’s identity, Jay recommends doing something that develops “identity capital.”  In other words, do something that adds value.  Like liberating a continent from a genocidal tyrant.

To the ever-dwindling number of veterans of D-Day and World War II who are still with us, thank you.


Leave a comment

Filed under life in America, Uncategorized

The Wisdom of the Waitstaff

Apparently, the popular TV show, “Big Bang Theory” was on to something when it  placed one of its characters, Bernadette Rostenkowski, on the payroll at the Cheesecake Factory.  Bernadette waits tables at the casual dining chain restaurant as she defends her doctoral thesis in microbiology.  Life indeed does imitate art, as Plato said.  A week ago, we had a lovely family dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, and now I’m wondering if the chain seeks out only the bright candidates for its waitstaff.

Our server was a lovely young gentleman from England.  He was cheerful and polite.  When he found out we were celebrating SuzyQ’s return home from college, he revealed that he is a graduate student at the nearby university.  He told us that he also teaches some courses there.  I don’t know how long he has been in this country, but he proved beyond a doubt he knows Americans.

  • Many American college students are as dumb as a pile of rocks.  Our server expounded on the sad state of higher education with searing clarity.  Most of his students have no business sitting in a college classroom.  According to him, they spend the whole class texting or playing games or internet surfing on their laptops instead of paying attention to the lecture.
  • The American university, in our server’s experience, is essentially equivalent to British high school.  He explained that the first year classes most students take in college are covered in secondary school in Britain so that by the time a student reaches university, he is prepared for advanced study.  In other words, Americans waste a whole lot of money on so-called “college” while the rest of the world laughs about it.
  • Our server was quick to confirm that the United States used to be recognized as the world leader in education, but now, well…
  • The best insight of the evening, however, concerned the lack of sincerity among Americans.  According to our server, Americans are quick to say how much they like you or even “love” you.  In his estimation, however, Americans rarely mean what they say.  After all, “When someone says he loves you, he should be willing to take a bullet for you.”  Amen, brother!  We quickly echoed that point to SuzyQ: “When a guy says he loves you, he had better be ready to take a bullet for you!”

So there you have it.  Powerful words from a Cheesecake factory waiter.  Americans, get over yourselves!

Leave a comment

Filed under culture, education, Uncategorized

“Nothing to See Here…”

“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jury deliberation continues today in what is perhaps one of the most famous criminal trials most Americans have never heard of.  The case involves the beheading of infants by severing the spinal column after live birth, infant corpses and severed body parts kept in glass jars and cat food tins and assorted other containers, along with rusty surgical instuments and blood-soaked exam rooms.  Surely such carnage must capture the top story position and front page of every major news outlet.  Except that it hasn’t.  Apparently the story of Kermit Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” abortion practice is too awkward to probe in-depth on the nightly news.

As they say, “Ignorance is bliss.”  And what a happy, happy bunch Americans are.  According to a new survey conducted by the Poling Company for the National Right to Life Committee, 55% of Americans don’t know that Planned Parenthood provides abortions.  The survey also revealed that 38% of those who call themselves pro-life have a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood.  I have no words.

Mark Steyn has plenty of words, however: “And so a progressive society evolves, from the me-generation to the meh-generation.”  That’s his response to the following Tweet about the Gosnell trial:

Nope.  Nothing to get excited about.  Just ignore the fact that Gosnell is not an outlier in his practices or the fact that abortion clinics across the country are given a free pass when it comes to inspection and regulation or the fact that these so-called “healthcare providers” are often untrained (also here) and/or more focused on profit than safety.

The there’s that catch phrase, “reproductive health care for women,” that makes Americans so much more comfortable than the ugly-but-accurate term “abortion.”  Just throw that phrase on the sand dune of euphemisms in which American society buries its collective head.  That’s how we get the majority of Americans and over a third of pro-life Americans applauding the “service to women” that Planned Parenthood provides.

I wonder how many people believe Josef Mengele was just a doctor providing access to healthcare.

Leave a comment

Filed under culture, Uncategorized

Like Lazarus, Only More Fragrant

File:Giotto di Bondone - No. 25 Scenes from the Life of Christ - 9. Raising of Lazarus - WGA09204.jpg

Raising of Lazarus, Giotto (c.1306)

Lazarus was only in the tomb for 4 days.  My blog has been “at rest” slightly longer, if the Christmas header image that I just replaced is any indication.  Don’t suspect for a moment that I have had nothing to say.  Rather, I was more overwhelmed by the unrelenting waves of events that left me scratching my head and wondering, “WTF?”  I found I didn’t have the energy to blog about what I now see as the inevitability of American decline.

Oh, and there was also a series of life changes.  Since I last checked in, Darling Husband retired from the US Navy after a career of 21 years, 9 months, and 4 days.  His new career in the civilian world began right away, thank Heaven, but lasted 3 weeks.  And then he changed jobs.  This new position is what he was looking for in the first place except…wait for it…it required us to move.  Thus, since late January, this Housewife has been neck-deep in real estate listings.  Our move is half complete.  We are settling into our temporary dwelling while we wait for our new home to be built.

So where does this blog go from here?  My take on military life will now be from the distance of a retired family member.  With budget cuts targeting retirees’ military benefits, I’m sure I will have thought to contribute.  I’m halfway between mom-of-teens and empty-nester right now.  Junior is finishing up (Please, God!) his junior year of high school, leaving one more year at home for him.  That means his college search will be in full swing soon.  SuzyQ will be returning home in a few short weeks after her first year away at college.  I’m sure that will mean some readjustment for all parties.

Is there a niche for over-forty, retired military, conservative, Catholic, almost-empty-nester bloggers??

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogging, family, military life

October Surprise

Surprise!  I’m posting.  And it’s not October anymore!

Think of this post as capturing the last month in the style of time-lapse photography but using words.

  • Please stop calling me.  I understand that I live in a swing state.  I am painfully aware of how important the upcoming election is.  But I’m also fed up with all of the political calls.  We went away for a weekend and returned to a voicemail box completely full of recordings from the local campaign office, various PACs, and political surveys.  Is there anyone who actually listens to these robo-calls?  I imagine that on the day after the election, our telephone will go silent.  We’ll go back to days without even one phone call.
  • Oh, Facebook.  How you disappoint.  First, there’s this: “Over the weekend, Facebook took down a message by the Special Operations Speaks PAC (SOS) which highlighted the fact that Obama denied backup to the forces being overrun in Benghazi.”  This story from Breitbart was updated to indicate that the message has since been allowed by Facebook.  Then, of course, there are all of the political posts by “friends.”  Whatever happened to politics being off-limits in polite conversation.  If it’s a no-go topic around the Thanksgiving table, then I don’t want to see it on Facebook either.  I have two or three Facebook friends who insist on linking to politically charged articles or making snide partisan comments on a daily basis.  If we were meeting in a coffee shop or talking over the fence, the conversation wouldn’t go that way.  So why does it on Facebook?  I couldn’t help myself last week and got sucked into a Facebook debate with one of these friends.  Did it make me feel better?  Nope.  It just makes me wonder how the real conversation will go the next time we meet in person.
  • What happened to the rest of them?  Why am I not hearing about more of this: “Peoria (Illinois) Bishop Daniel Jenky ordered priests to read a letter to parishioners on Sunday before the presidential election, explaining that politicians who support abortion rights also reject Jesus.”  Churches walk a fine line during election seasons.  They can’t come out and tell the faithful which candidate to support for fear of losing their tax exempt status.  But religious leaders also have a duty to instruct the faithful on how to apply religious teaching to real life.  In my parish, the closest we got to guidance about the election was a web page listed in the bulletin.  I wonder how many parishioners made the effort to check it out?  I have also seen pamphlets which, although well-written, vaguely discuss choosing a candidate according to the teachings of the faith ahead of self-interest and party loyalty.  The problem is that there is so little practical direction given from the pulpit.  How many pastors have taken the time to discuss issues in terms of Church teaching?  Of course it’s risky to do this.  Certainly some parishioners will be turned off by this type of preaching.  But how else are we to inform our consciences?  Shepherds, won’t you guide your flock?
  • Frankenstorm, Superstorm…Thank goodness someone had the good sense to stop calling Hurricane Sandy “Frankenstorm.”  What is it about our culture that is compelled to nickname everything?  Every political scandal has to have the suffix “-gate” attached to it.  Then there’s Obamacare, Romneycare, and so on.  Are we so freaked out by anything serious that we have to assign it a cutesy name to make it more palatable?

And that was October in a nutshell.




Leave a comment

Filed under life in America

Left Behind: After Your Only Daughter Goes Off to College…

…It’s not so easy to get used to the new gender balance.  Before, we were just that: balanced.  Dad and Junior plus me and SuzyQ.  While she and I don’t have perfectly matching tastes in everything, in general we appreciate similar TV shows, music, hobbies, etc.  Now that SuzyQ lives away from home, things look a lot different here:

  • All sports, all the time.  When I walk into a room with a TV these days, I am guaranteed to find a sports event shouting at me.  Baseball, football, NASCAR, golf.  Oh yes, there is yelling in golf!  Sometimes, one game will occupy the TV, while Darling Husband keeps track of another on the iPad.  We own 3 TVs.  It shouldn’t be that hard for me to carve out a time and place to watch my few meager shows.  Unfortunately, the 2 men in the house can’t seem to watch TV together.  They each have their own channel flipping habits that are incompatible.  My only option appears to be recording my shows, in non-HD, and watching them in bed.  No, wait.  That won’t work because Darling Husband will want to “just check the score” before he goes to sleep.
  • Stimulating conversation.  This is the follow on to the point above.  Suddenly the vast majority of conversation at the dinner table and elsewhere revolves around sports.  When SuzyQ was with us, we would sometimes talk about music or politics or other cultural things.  It’s not that Junior and Husband are not well-informed or culturally literate.  They just prefer to talk about bad officiating, recent trades, which players are injured, or the next big game.  Yawn.
  • “What are we doing this weekend?”  That’s easy: playing golf, going fishing, or watching  fill-in-the-blank sports event.  I’m on my own if I want to go to a craft show, head to the mall, or check out the parade of homes.  Don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes it’s nice to have time alone.  But it’s also fun to “ooh” and “aahh” with a companion.
  • “What’s for supper?”  Even the menu has shifted these days.  Hot dogs, burgers, and buffalo chicken wings make recurring appearances.
  • Music, anyone?  There is no more music in the house.   SuzyQ is the only one of us who plays an instrument.  Now there is no one at home practicing piano or harp at random times during the day.  For years, we always had that background music as she prepared pieces for the next concert or recital.  Even the dog would hang out in the music room and listen.  It’s awfully quiet these days.  Once, I put my iPod on the speakers to have some background music during dinner.  Junior heard it and asked, “Is there someone coming over?  What’s up with the music?”

Moms of all-boy families likely would say things are like this all the time in their homes, so there’s no big deal.  That’s probably true.  But shifting to that predominantly male atmosphere all of a sudden is a lot like moving from Florida to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Gentlemen, act a little more girlie, if you please!

Leave a comment

Filed under family

America in Crisis…over Football

America has finally gone over the cliff.  The major actors dilly-dallied for months without making progress.  So now, the crisis has touched countless Americans where it really hurts.  Of course, you know I’m talking about football and the NFL referee lockout.

What else could possibly capture the headlines for 3 days straight this week alone?  The national debt, which topped $16 trillion recently?  As Mark Steyn put it, “The $16 trillion is really just the surface. We need to pay back $16 trillion, Washington does, just to get back to having nothing.”  Nope.  America doesn’t really seem too concerned about that.  Especially after President Obama went on “Late Night with David Letterman” and said that we don’t have to worry about it for now.  He couldn’t even put a real number on the debt.  That’s how nonchalant he is.

What about the war in Afghanistan?  Surely America demands to be kept informed about a conflict that has cost the lives of over 2100 service members.  Well, not so much.  You would have to dig deep to discover that on September 14, 2012, the US suffered its worst airpower loss since the Tet Offensive of 1968.  Even Fox news reported just that “Two U.S. Marines were killed, several injured in the attack on the base where Britain’s Prince Harry is stationed with his Apache helicopter unit.”  Thankfully, Prince Harry went unharmed, but American firepower wasn’t so lucky:

Under  the leadership of Barack H. Obama, though hardly noticed by the pro-Obama  mainstream media, the U.S. Marine Corps has suffered its worst air squadron  catastrophe since Vietnam, and its prized VMA-211 squadron has taken its worst  hit since its defense of Wake Island in World War II.

It happened  on September 14, 2012, northwest of the city of Lashkar Gah in southern  Afghanistan.  A team of fewer than two dozen Taliban fighters attacked the  USMC’s massive Camp  Bastion base there, killing VMA-211 squadron commander Lt. Col. Christopher  Raible and destroying or permanently disabling eight of the ten top-of-the-line  harrier AV-8B attack aircraft stationed under him.  Out of production for  more than a decade, these aircraft can never be replaced.

By  the time the smoke cleared, roughly 7% of the total harrier fleet operated by  the USMC had been wiped out on a single day by a small force of ground  combatants whose most potent weapon was the suicide vest, one of which was used  to breach the camp’s perimeter fence.

Is the average American outraged about the cover-up by our own government, starting with the President, of the 9/11 terrorist attack against our embassy in Libya?  Apparently, US intelligence agencies knew the real story within 24 hours of the attack, but as recently as yesterday, Obama was still harping on that ridiculous video as the root of all evil, embarrassing himself and the whole country in front of the United Nations General Assembly.  Still not headline worthy, though.

It seems to me–but who am I really, but just a housewife–that if Americans, and American voters in particular, were as fired up about our collapsing economy or disappearing liberties or our weakness in the world as they are about botched officiating in football games, this country might stand a chance.  Will football survive this crisis?  Who cares?!  Will the United States survive?  Meh.  As long as we get back football like it’s supposed to be, America has no complaints.


Leave a comment

Filed under life in America

Sandwich, Anyone?

Hello, blog.  Remember me?  What did you do on your summer vacation?

I wish I could say this was the best summer we have had in our household in a long time.  After all, both kids finished school earlier than in previous years (end of June!!).  We had a fabulous week at a beach rental planned.  SuzyQ and I were excited to get her packed up for college.  Oh, how plans do go awry.

It turns out that excitement about outfitting SuzyQ’s dorm fell victim pretty quickly to anxiety about whether she and her roommate would be able to coordinate color schemes, disagreements with Darling Husband about what is “essential” to take with her and what is excessive, and plain frustration over the daunting task of packing our child’s life up to fit into the back of our SUV.  Ultimately, it all fit; only minor things were forgotten; and SuzyQ is happy.

I wish I could say the same for those of us not away at college.  Both of my parents saw their health deteriorate this summer.  My dad had a particular crisis in a progressive decline, while Mom experienced some mobility issues.  He’s 77, and she turns 73 today.  And neither of them are spry or active for their age.  As the only one of their children living close by, I find myself assuming the growing role of caretaker.  The big problem is, my parents don’t want to need help.  Does that make sense?  They know that they need help, but they are definitely not happy about it.

So to anyone who is in similar circumstances, I put to you a few questions:

  • What do you do when you don’t agree with their medical decisions?  I’m not talking about, “Get me a power of attorney; they’re unfit to make these decisions.”  I mean things like refusing physical therapy or feeling too awkward about asking for a second opinion or settling for the same old course of treatment instead of asking for something different.  Neither Mom nor Dad seek any input from us adult kids when it comes to what test or procedures they will have done.  Should we have any say in the matter at all?  What if they then complain incessantly about their doctors or all the pills they are taking?
  • How do you help your parents downsize when they both tend toward hoarding?  No, it’s not time to call the producers of that “Hoarders” show on TV, but both parents would be better off with more open space in the house to make getting around safer and easier.  And eventually they will have to move into a single-story, maintenance-free home.  Both my parent grew up in essentially poor families.  To them, everything is valuable and must never be thrown away.  They rarely even donate things they aren’t using because, “We might need that one day.”  Add to that the fact that Mom especially has an irrational emotional attachment to most of the “things” in the house.  This too-big piece of furniture reminds her of a particular Army posting.  That ugly ceramic was made by a dear deceased sister-in-law.  All of those years worth of greeting cards were sent by someone special and therefore cannot be thrown out.  I don’t see how they will ever get past the emotional hurdles of downsizing, never mind the physical work involved.
  • Will you always disappoint someone when you are trying to balance your roles?  Mom and Dad will vehemently stress that I must consider my own family first.  And yet…  With Darling Husband facing military retirement and hunting for a new job, what happens if we relocate because of his second career?  How will the parents manage with no family nearby?  Should that be a factor in how broad his geographic search for a job should be?

As I recover from packing one child off to college 6 hours away and get the other one started on his AP classes and SAT prep, I have to shake my head again about all of those helicopter parents out there.  They should be saving their energy.  What they might want to consider instead is helicopter parenting their own parents.

Leave a comment

Filed under family

What I Learned on Summer Vacation

I’m recovering from a not entirely restful week of family vacation.  In looking back over the days spent at a lovely beach rental in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I’ve gained some interesting insights:

Hello. My name is Lunch.

Don’t name anything you might possibly eat.  Blue crabs are delicious.  They are also a little sad when they are scrabbling around in the crab pot.  I feel much better about picking them apart and devouring them if I don’t see the lovely morsels until they are already on ice and ready for the pot.

Olympic Beach Badminton

Are you sure that’s not a real Olympic event?  Everything else seems to be.  White water canoeing, synchronized diving, beach volleyball, and trampoline are recent additions to the Summer Games.  Who knew the kids in the neighbor’s backyard might actually be young Olympians in training on the trampoline cage?  Of course, Junior (pictured above) takes every sport seriously.  He did stick that landing, in case you were wondering.

When did my kids stop being kids?  Two weeks to go until SuzyQ leaves the nest.  Junior towers over me.  This is a bittersweet time of life.  Yes, children, you have a sentimental Mom.


Leave a comment

Filed under family

Baby Birds and a Nest Becoming More and More Empty

Last week, my sister found a bird’s nest in one of her potted herb plants.  And in that nest were some eggs which then hatched.  She found it entertaining to keep track of the 5 bald, hideous, scraggly hatchlings.  One day, she went out to water the plant and found that some had jumped (fallen?) out of the nest and into the pot.  Were they learning to fly?  Another day went by, and she discovered that several of the birds were gone.

The empty nest is a rather over-used metaphor.  And I don’t actually have an empty nest, but a vacancy in my nest is just around the corner.  In about 6 weeks, SuzyQ will depart for college.  We have begun accumulating stuff for her to outfit her dorm room.  My guest room, now the staging area, is out of commission until she leaves.  Having spent 4 years living in dorms, I feel that I have a reasonable idea of what she needs.  Still, there is a sense of panic about forgetting those odds and ends one takes for granted at home.  Headache medicine, sunscreen, Ziploc bags, clean towels.  She is not attending school in a desolate frozen tundra miles from any trading outpost, I know.  But minimizing runs to big-box stores will help her stay within budget.  Yes, I am an naive optimistic parent!

I had mixed dorm experiences.  None of my roommates became my best friends, although mostly we stayed friendly.  Learning to live that closely with someone I wasn’t related to wasn’t easy, even after sharing a room with siblings almost my whole life.  SuzyQ has never had to share a room (except for summer camp experiences), so I fear she will have a prickly adjustment period.  Of course, with all of the Facebook chatter and texts flying back and forth right now, perhaps she and her intended roommate will ease some of that tension before they arrive on campus.  That’s one benefit of social media, anyway.

The other baby bird just got his driver’s learner permit.  In my state, teens 15 and 6 months can begin supervised driving.  Thankfully, Junior is showing an appropriate amount of fear behind the wheel.  Confidence will come, too, with practice, but I also believe in a healthy fear.  Especially when he’s driving my car.  It will be at least 9 months before he’s eligible to get his license and drive solo.  Thank goodness.  That’s a lot for a mom to take all at once: one college freshman and one new driver.

I can’t help wondering how some of my friends from school who are just having a second or third child will cope with such things in 15 or more years–at the age of almost 60.  If they asked me, I would advise them to spend the intervening years taking good care of themselves and learning how to manage stress.  Then they might be better prepared, at 60, to haul their daughter’s belongings up 4 flights of stairs in the quaint dorm without an elevator.  And perhaps coaching their teen boy to finesse the brake pedal, ease around corners, and negotiate city traffic will come easily.

Today, my nest is bustling with all kinds of activity.  In a few weeks, it will seem a little more bare.  The metaphor has to end there because, in reality, my sister’s birds didn’t just leave their nest.  All evidence points to a slaughter.  The call of the wild and all that.  Cruel, cruel world.

1 Comment

Filed under family, parenting, Uncategorized