Category Archives: Just Saying

What Is On My Mind Today? Memorial Day and Cupcakes

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I was watching the news this weekend and there was a segment where a baker was demonstrating how to decorate cakes.  At the end of her demonstration, she showed off cupcakes that she had decorated especially for Memorial Day.  They were bright red, white and aqua blue.  Then, with chipper voice she joyously explained that the cupcake icing design resembled fireworks.

Memorial Day is not a day to hold celebrations, in truth, it is a yearly national funeral for our military dead.  It is a day of remembrance….of loss…not victory, freedom or national pride.  It is the day to think about all of those young men and women whose lives were cut short and whose beautiful bodies were torn, mutilated and so grievousness wounded that they could not survive their injuries.  Their trauma and deaths were horrific.

I have been reading the book, “Unbroken”.   This book is about World War II soldier Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, who spent much of World War II as a Japanese Prisoner of War after his plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean.  The brutality of his war experiences are so vividly described as to, at times, seem to be frankly unbelievable.

I do believe them, because I have had the privilege of knowing many veterans both personally and professionally and their stories were oftentimes very similar to Mr. Zamperini’s.

For instance, take my friend El.  Now in his nineties, he is the last man left on this side of the turf from his army unit.  I first met El on a World War II Honorflight.  I was his caregiver and he was one of my folks.

That day as we chatted together, he mentioned that he had once been a Japanese prisoner of war for four hours.  I chuckled and said that nobody was a Japanese prisoner of war for a couple of hours, how did he manage that?

He then told me how this happened. His platoon had been ambushed, all of them were killed outright or wounded.  For the next several hours Japanese soldiers walked among those American boys, stabbing them with their bayonets to see if anyone was left alive. Any groan that was heard, was quickly followed by a gun shot. El always says the same thing, “Thank, God, I fell on my stomach and that my eyelids never fluttered.”

Then, there was Sid Schmuckler.  What a great name! Sid was quite a guy, at over 90 years of age, he still worked every day and drove himself to his office on Minnesota’s freeways in his station wagon.  Sid was a navy man and fought in the Pacific. He was a beach commander.

The night before an invasion was launched, he would go ashore to scout the position and help radio our soldiers ashore.  He was a beach commander on Iwo Jima and was in a few other very notable battles.

Sid could tell me about boys, who were just his age, that he had seen blown to bits just as matter of fact as if he was describing restaurant menu.  He did have this sad chuckle about the ironies of war that he had witnessed.

He once told me about this chaplain that was walking right down the beach on Iwo Jima as it was being heavily shelled and under constant fire by the enemy.  From behind their fortified breastworks, he and the soldiers with him screamed at the chaplain to get down!  The chaplain, as calm as if he was taking a Sunday stroll, just kept walking down that bomb pocked beach, stopping to check on each wounded, dying or dead soldier in his path.

As they were yelling at the chaplain, the boy next to Sid took a bullet to the head.  Still alive, it was immediately determined that his wound was mortal.  When the chaplain was much closer to Sid, he was grabbed and thrown behind the breastworks. Sid pointed at the young dying soldier and asked the chaplain, to give the Catholic boy last rites.

The chaplain quickly went about his business.  Just as he concluded, the young soldier breathed his last. As he closed the boy’s eyes the chaplain said, “I hope his Catholic mama never learns that a Ra bi administered her son’s last rites.”  Before anyone could detain him, the chaplain quickly leaped from relative safety of the breastworks and continued his mission of mercy on that beach.

However, there was one war story that brought instant tears to Sid’s eyes.  He was back on his ship, the war nearly over, and they were smack dab in the middle of the entire Pacific armada with vast air power protecting the fleet.   American air superiority was so complete that even Kamikaze’s were no longer considered much of a threat.  He finally felt safe from the enemy.

The ship next to his was a hospital ship.  That evening, the deck of the hospital ship was brightly lit as the nurses and doctors operated feverishly to save the lives of wounded soldiers.

Sid was on the deck watching the hospital ship when one lone blip showed up on his ship’s radar.  It was determined that it had to be an American plane….it wasn’t. The Kamikaze pilot targeted the hospital ship.  His plane crashed onto the ship’s deck and burst into flames as it skidded across the top of the entire ship. I can still hear the despair in Sid’s voice as he described the horrific scene, “He killed all of the nurses, those girls, those girls, they all died!”

Memorial Day is set aside for us to think about human cost of war and to solemnly remember and honor our nation’s military dead and their families.

It is not about ……cupcakes

Just saying…..

 

 

 

Election 2016: The Alamo and American Voters

Today, is a good day to reblog this post written before Trump was even the Republican nominee for president. The tone of our nation’s politics certainly did not improve after November’s election.

However, contrary to the media hype, this White House is not the Alamo. Even a politically embattled president is considered innocent until proven guilty and has the right to face their accusers.

No, this White House is not the Alamo. Nor will it be. Too, many experienced generals in the cabinet. Besides, what do Republicans really have to fear? After all, if President Trump is hounded out of office, the next three in line are also conservative Republicans.

Its always important to be careful what you wish for, especially in politics. Oh, there may be a political massacre. Who ends being massacred, is the question at hand.

For the sake of our great nation…may truth will out and justice be done.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

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I have been reading a book about the battle of the Alamo.  It is a sad tale of a besieged and surrounded fort near San Antonio, Texas. There in the early morning hours of March 6, 1836, its brave defenders all gave their lives for their state and country.

The over 160 American men, of diverse ethnicity, that held that small fort from February 23 until the final assault by Mexican troops on March 6, knew that the Mexican General Santa Anna did not take prisoners and that their time on this earth would shortly and violently be over.

There were several famous American frontiersmen, including Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett who died at the battle of the Alamo.  Accounts recorded later by Mexican officers and an officer’s widow and a male black slave, the only adult lives spared, are filled with the horrors of kissing a young husband goodbye as he ran out to meet certain…

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What Is On My Mind Today? Auto-correct and Too Few Dictionaries

I think that one of the major problems of auto-correct is that many folks use terms or words for which they do not know the meaning.  For example the term “rule of law”  or the words, “hate”, “fascism” or “intolerant”.

As a public service, I have provided the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definitions  for these terms.

Definition of rule of law


a situation in which the laws of a country are obeyed by everyone.  The courts uphold the rule of law.

Definition of hate

intense hostility and  aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury

extreme dislike or disgust :  antipathy, loathing.

Definition of fascism

a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascist) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Definition of intolerant

unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters

unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights

Using political propaganda or “spin” to advocate a policy or personal position with the intention of shaping or changing personal or public opinion has been around since the Garden of Eden.   I have sat in political meetings where the goal was to use language to confuse the voting public.  I expressly did not approve of that tactic then, nor do I now.

“Spin” terms are chosen because their connotation is perceived as more positive than the word or term being replaced.  Examples of this would be: “undocumented immigrant”  replacing the term “illegal immigrant;  “gentrification” replacing “urban renewal”; or “white privilege” replacing “white guilt”.

Some words are chosen because they are intimidating and people have a natural aversion to them.  Their calculated use is intended to bully, shame or scare. Excellent examples of this propaganda tactic would be the words fascist and hate.

The cry of fascism produces instant mental pictures of history’s most brutal tyrants. Our government is a republic with a constitution that includes checks and balances on executive power.  I have no fears of American’s ever tolerating a king. However, the use of fascist tactics to shut down opposition speech has reared its ugly head. Anyone who has or plans to shut down free speech from opposing political view points through intimidation or violence has become the monster they claim to fear.

“Hate” was chosen to replace “disagree or dislike” because of its intense intimidation  “wow” factor.  It’s overuse has numbed its sting and only succeeded in promoting greater divisiveness.  Name calling is rarely a good idea. Sugar has always been known to attract more flies than vinegar. Like the school rhyme said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

So, whether you are politically on the left or right, when on top of your loving tolerant democratic religious pedestal you use these terms to bully, condemn, confuse, shame, or scare, any reasonable person would then have to provide one further definition:

Definition of hypocrisy

a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not :  behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel:  the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion

 

 

Just Saying…Cancer, Capitol and Grizzly Bear!

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My cancer battle against multiple myeloma was a very long and painful one.  It began in earnest during the Christmas holiday’s in 2012 when I first broke my spine taking the turkey out of the refrigerator.  Over the next four years, I would have many new unpleasant experiences.  Such as being in a body cast for 18 months, confined to a hospital bed in my living room for years, months of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, baldness, drug withdrawal and other physical, emotional and mental challenges.

Having cancer is just plain tough.  I have now done it twice. Thyroid and multiple myeloma. No matter what your age, a cancer diagnoses is terrifying.

Cancer patients suffer.  They become quick friends with much of the worst that life has to offer. Their new companions include the fear of death and dying; pain; nausea; anxiety; depression; isolation; loneliness; and job and financial loss.

Cancer patients lose.  They lose body parts, hair, appetite, mobility and independence. While most of those things can often be compensated for or regained, there are permanent losses.  Relationships change. Friends and relatives drift away, because they are either too busy to be bothered, your situation is bringing them down or they just cannot stand to watch the suffering.  Some of those relationships will never be made whole again.

In addition to physical, mental, emotional and financial loss, cancer patients often miss out on everyday things that most people take for granted.  Like being there for the special children in your life as they grow up. Then, too, due to circumstances beyond control special events cannot always be attended. When I was in chemo and still in a body cast due to my broken spine, I missed my only daughter’s wedding.

Cancer patients surmount.  This morning when my latest round of cancer tests indicated that I am still cancer-free, I told my husband that it is time for me to experience the things that for so many years were beyond reach and only dreams.

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Stairs to the Senate Chamber at Minnesota State Capitol

When I was hospitalized for weeks for physical rehab to relearn standing, walking and stair climbing. I vowed to myself that not only was I going to conquer those five steps in the rehab room, but that someday I would, again, climb the steps to the Senate Chamber at our state Capitol.  After four years, God willing, next Friday, March 17,  after my oncology appointment and infusion at Regions, I am going to return to the Capitol.  I am going to visit friends, deliver some cookies and check out all of the changes. And, I am, again, going to climb all of those beautiful marble steps.

Later this spring,  I will need to complete a short test run of a trip. So, my husband plans to take me to see where my daughter was married two years ago.  Then, I am going to return to the land of Lincoln to visit my daughter and her husband and finally see their apartment.

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Our last trip to Illinois before my cancer struck. 

If my back can survive a car trip to Illinois, then, later this summer I am going to Montana. I am going to visit my dear Aunt Margaret in Great Falls, Montana, who spent so many hours in prayer on my behalf. When I was totally bed bound, with not much light at the end of my tunnel, Aunt Margie called me every week, for months on end, to lead me in bible study.  I need to give her a hug.

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Great Falls, Montana

Then, I am going Glacier Park.  I am, again, going to stand outside of the cafe at Swift Current, look up at those God made granite cathedrals and hear the Lord whisper in the winds that race around those cliffs.

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Glacier Park, Swift Current Lake. 

After, I get my fill of the view,  I am going to take on a few trails with just as much determination as I did my cancer while trying my best to avoid a  bear.
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Although, after all I have been through, the bears would be wise to watch out for me.

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….just saying.

 

 

Just Saying: Soft Christians, Politicians and the Media…If they aren’t just the limit!

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I have had the worst writer’s block since my Uncle Mrywin died in December.  Last week my cousin Chris Schneider sent me a few old family photos I had never seen before. I have looked and looked at them. She is right, I look very much like my grandmother when she was young.

The relationship I had with my Grandmother Esther was a very special one.  She was a special person…a soft Christian.

You may not have met many of those.  They aren’t showy and are often found in the very back pews in most churches.  They don’t attend worship services to be seen, socialize or sing. Sunday was the day God set aside for them to worship and rest.  It was a time to humbly meet with their maker in his house to repent for wrongdoings, seek forgiveness, express gratitude for blessings, partake of the sacrament of Holy Communion and assess the needs of other members of their faith family.

Soft Christians were also quiet Christians. They knew their bibles and loved their Lord, but would not dream of ever shouting out a hallelujah in public for fear of being mistaken for a biblical Pharisee. Prayer was private, on your knees and between you and God. To be moved by the Spirit meant seeing human hurt and need and doing something about it. Faith was action. They would stealthily go about life doing good whenever and wherever possible, not needing or taking credit for their good deeds.

These folks would never have stood for anyone teaching a biblical falsehood. They took very seriously God’s admonishment,”that it would be better to have a mill stone tied around your neck and be drowned that to ever teach one of his little ones to error.” While there was still right and wrong, they believed that everyone, including themselves, had fallen short in the eyes of God and had no cause to boast. The, “judge not, less you be judged” was taken every bit as seriously as the drowning thing.

Oh sure, some people would label these folks as meek pushovers. Now there would be a mistake!  Mistaking mercy for weakness is always a mistake. Soft Christians are some of the strongest people that you are ever likely to meet. During their lifetimes this imperfect world forced them down onto their knees many times.  Too broken and weak to rise again on their own, they sought strength to persevere from a loving God and felt Jesus lighten their burden. They serve God, because they know God.

The grace of God they experienced during those hard times honed their character. They are the ones who have developed the patience of a saint; learned that a kind word can turn away wrath; chosen to turn the other cheek when wronged; forgiven when it was hard and bestowed undeserving mercy.

Day after day these humble, at times invisible, folks do their best to share the love of their savior Jesus Christ with a world that rejects, mocks and tries to humiliate them and Him. Determined to set a good example, these faithful followers of Christ understand that actions speak louder than words.  It is what you do, not what you say.  True leadership is by example.

When I was writing all of those history lessons on leadership, disguised as letters to a grandson on this blog, I deliberately chose examples of good and bad leaders.  All of these men and women had great oratory and leadership skills.  However, it was not their learned leadership lessons or excellent communication skills that made them heroes or villains, it was their moral values or lack there of.  The historical record provides many examples of famous leaders whose epitaphs should read, “what goes around, comes around.”

As a child when I had been the target of someone utilizing less than moral leadership by example skills that ended in unfairness, physical or emotional hurt, my grandmother would often comfort me.  Then, under her breath she’d crossly mutter, “Well, if they aren’t just the limit!”

That is how I feel about our nation’s politicians and media.  I think they could all greatly benefit from a good old-fashioned dose of Grandma Esther’s moral lessons.

Such as:
…truth will out (liars eventually get caught)
…cheaters never prosper (be honest)
…well, if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black (don’t be a hypocrite)
…a kind word can turn away wrath (deescalate)
…leave it go (compromise)
…turn the other cheek (refuse to sink to their level)
…forgive them (forgiveness is good for them and for you)
…move on (accepting that there are things you can change and things you cannot)
…show a little mercy once in a while (everyone makes mistakes so be kind)
…there but by the grace of God go I (have empathy)
…no good deed ever goes unpunished  (do good anyway)
…pretty is as pretty does (manners and social skills count)

Soft Christians, like my grandmother, knew that violence begets violence and hate begets more hate and that no good can ever come from that.  I cannot count the number of times I was told that two wrongs can never make a right.  It never has and it never will ….just saying.

 

 

Just saying…Just saying: A very wise tweeter…Happy Birthday President Abe!

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There are two things that I bet many of my former confirmation students will never forget about me. That one of my favorite books of the Bible is the book of proverbs and that I have a thing about Abraham Lincoln.

In just two days it will be Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. In my classes and at home Lincoln’s birthday was always strictly observed each year.

There are so many reasons to admire this man.  His humble beginnings, rise to the presidency with less than a year of formal education, his ability to overcome depression and huge personal losses and still function as the leader of a nation during the Civil War, and his ability to act kindly towards others when he received so little back.   Lincoln is a remarkable example of empathy; self-determination, honesty, smarts and excellent leadership skills.  He had an unfailing belief that representative government is the best government and was also one of history’s greatest communicators.

Lincoln’s mastery of the art of storytelling is legendary. His humorous stories and one-liners were earthy, self-deprecating communication tools used to reduce complex ideas, policies and practices to their simplest form. He could then present them to a semi-literate general public in a way that they could easily identify with and understand. Lincoln was a master at using what today would be called, “common speak.” It is no accident that many of his one-liners resemble Biblical proverbs.

When you read about Lincoln the person, it becomes very evident that from a very early age he used humor to salve a sore soul. By any standard his relationship with his father was abusive.  The loss of his much loved mother at age nine was devastating.  He often said that all he was and could ever be was because of his mother. In those days death was an ever ready companion in most homes, even so, think of how hard it must have been for that softhearted, sensitive, intelligent nine-year-old boy to whittle the wooden pegs for his mother’s casket.

Lincoln never made any secret of his emotional baggage.  He called the place over his heart his “sore spot.”  Several times in life that sore spot grew until it became clinical depression so severe that his friends feared for his safety and had to remove sharp objects from his room and guard him.

While Lincoln’s intellect may have had few equals, this brilliant man over and over again left his heart wide open to being wounded by those he loved. To survive he needed to bridge this gap between heart and head sense. His coping mechanism was humor. Lincoln often said that if he did not laugh he would die.  When Lincoln’s melancholy homely face lit up and his grey eyes danced with laughter at a good story or joke, it was said that he was almost handsome. That description alone would have made the man laugh.

He often told stories that made fun of his looks. Like the one he told about when he was chopping wood and a man carrying a rifle walked up to him and demanded that Lincoln look him directly in the eye. Lincoln stopped his work and obliged the man, who continued to silently stare at him for some minutes. Finally the man told Lincoln that he “had promised himself years ago that if he ever met a man uglier than himself, he would shoot him. “Lincoln looked at the man’s rifle mischievously and said nothing. Finally Lincoln pulled open his shirt, threw out his chest, and exclaimed, ‘If I am uglier than you, go ahead and shoot—because I don’t want to live!”

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Mary Todd Lincoln

Lincoln had a longstanding political and personal rivalry with Senator Stephen Douglas. In fact at one time they had both dated the future Mrs. Lincoln…Mary Todd. Once while debating the good Senator, Lincoln received a great shout of laughter from the audience when he said that, “Senator Douglas arguments were as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”

Lincoln’s “one-liners” are notorious for being succinct, wise and humorous. They were the presidential tweets of that day and are just as relevant today.

Religion:
“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”

“Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day! No, no, man was made for immortality.”

“We trust, sir, that God is on our side. It is more important to know that we are on God’s side.”

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

“Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.”

Attitude:
“I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.”

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” 

“People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” 

“If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” 

Character:
“I desire to so conduct the affairs of the administration that if, at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall have at least one friend left — and that friend shall be down inside of me.”

“I don’t know who my grandfather was; I’m much more concerned to know who his grandson will be.”

“You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.” 

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

“I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”

“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”

“I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end. “

Communications
“What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.”

“Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators.” 

“Tact: the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four; calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

“He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.”

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.

Friendship:
“If you would win a man to your cause first convince him that you are his sincere friend.”

“Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” 

“A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have.” 

Economics:
“I can make more generals, but horses cost money”.

Governing:
“The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities.”

“The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.” 

“Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.”

“Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.”

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”

“Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.”

“There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.”

“The people — the people — are the rightful masters of both congresses, and courts — not to overthrow the constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it.”

Education:
“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” 

Freedom: 
“Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere.” 

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Happy Birthday President Lincoln! You were a very wise man….just saying.