Tag Archives: United States

What Is On My Mind Today? Memorial Day and Cupcakes


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…..




What is on my mind today? Special Prosecutor…..Damn!


Election 11I do believe that this whole Russian business does call for a special prosecutor.  It is time to have an adult in the room and the issue settled.  I frankly am sick of hearing about it.

That being said, the gleefulness of the mainstream media and Democrats, as they convict the president almost daily with hearsay, reminds me of a story a veteran once told me, about himself and his best buddy.

These two young men were both stationed in Germany.  They enjoyed going out and having fun.  Heavy beer drinking and obliging women filled many an evening.

As it happened, on one of these occasions, the boys drank a bit more beer than they probably should have.  As they stumbled around dead drunk in the dark, trying to flag down a cab driver, they ran right into a very old, very ugly, very large woman.

The gal, while not having been created easy on the eyes, more than made up for that deficiency by having been blessed with a kind heart and a giving nature. She immediately offered to help the uniformed lads get a ride to her home where they could spend the night.

The boys did not remember another thing from that night.  When they awoke early the next morning they were in bed together with the ugly woman laying naked between them.

As she snored away in peaceful slumber, the soldier’s friend vigorously pointed at him and mockingly mouthed, “You did her, you did her!”

Well, my veteran friend, thought for a second about the situation.  He then decided that the best way to find out the truth was to just pull back the covers and reveal what was underneath. As he lifted up the blanket on his side of the bed, it was discovered that he still had all of his clothes on.

Then, his gleeful friend very slowly peaked under his side of the blanket only to shout, “DAMN!.”


Just Saying: Bullying and Political Theater


Jennifer Holliday receiving death threats and backlash over performing at the Trump inauguration as reported in a CNN article is bullying pure and simple. It is not honorable. It is not justifiable and its sole goal is to silence opposing views. If the shoe was on the other foot and conservatives were doing this to Clinton supporters, they would be called new age “brown shirts” and rightfully so. Have Clinton’s supporters become the demeaning and intolerant tyrants that they profess to so vehemently oppose? In this case, it would appear so.

There is a vast difference between this type of mean-spirited tyrannical behavior and peaceful protesting. I condemn the former from any political source or group and wholly support the latter.
In addition, I believe that it is not honorable for the losing party’s elected members of Congress to boycott the inauguration of our next president. Have these members of Congress forgotten the first rule of politics…those that show up rule?  I cannot imagine the public and media outrage at Republicans had they refused to go to an Obama or Clinton inauguration. This political theater of boycotting the inauguration demonstrates a total lack of respect for the Constitution and Hillary Clinton’s adamant call during the presidential debates for the losing candidate and their supporters to respect election results and the peaceful transition of leadership. Their support for the politics of division will only serve to embolden our nation’s enemies at the cost of American lives when, not if, they test our new president.
Tomorrow I will watch the inauguration, be proud to be an American and celebrate the peaceful transition of power. I will pray for unity for our nation, respect for the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the rule of law; safety for our people; wisdom for leadership; and rigorous peaceful political debate. That all of our new governing officials come together with a sincere interest to do what is best for our nation as a whole and rediscover that our political system’s great strength has always been compromise.
I would encourage the members of Congress who are boycotting tomorrow’s inauguration to reconsider and take note of Trump’s philosophy of encouraging a “friendship” with Russia…it is important to keep your friends close, but more important to keep your enemies even closer….just saying.

Letter to My Grandson: Cat Warfare…Christmas Revolution Cat


Dear Grandson,

Wow, just a week to go until Christmas.  I suppose you gave Santa Claus a very long and detailed list.  Did you write it out in cursive or just print it out from the computer? Santa, I am sure, treasures all the letters he receives from children, but is something that is extra precious about a handwritten note from a kid. Why to old folks that is be a present all in itself.

When I was young we did not have computers, printers, Gameboys or even television.  That’s right…I grew up in a time when the best entertainment available was your own imagination, the great outdoors and books. I loved reading then, and as you are well aware from the size of my library in the den, I still love reading.

Do you know what the first book I ever read from was?  It was the Bible. I remember sitting on my grandma’s lap, while she rocked me in that old wooden rocker that still sits in my living room, as she read Bible stories.  As she read, she would always move her finger along the lines of words.  It wasn’t hard for me to begin to match the words she spoke to the ones on the page.  I was just three years old when I would read to grandma.  She was very proud of me for that.  Grandmas are always proud of their grandchildren.

One of the first words I figured out was the word righteousness.  It really looked different than the other words.  It looked so long and complicated. Grandma explained to me that it wasn’t.  It means to be good. A righteous person is truthful, kind, loving, forgiving, honest, content and respectful of others and God.  She said that righteousness is humbling and not arrogant or fake.  Grandma Esther was a firm believer in God, Jesus, the principle that honest is as honest does, and that a good reputation is worth more than gold.

Do you know who had a reputation of gold and was considered a very honest man? Our nation’s very first president, George Washington!  Yes, there actually is such a thing as an honest politician.

President George Washington

There is a very famous story about him and a cherry tree. As the story goes, when Washington was about six years old he received a hatchet from his dad as a birthday gift.  He was so excited to try it out that, when no one was looking, he took a few whacks out of a cherry tree.  He just chopped off some bark, he did not chop down the whole tree.

This may not seem like a big deal now, but in those days when you had to grow all your own food or starve, damaging a fruit tree was…well, just not done.  When Washington’s father found the damaged tree, he got very angry and confronted his young son. Washington looked his father in the eye and said, “I cannot tell a lie, Pa.”  Then, he admitted to the deed. Washington was not punished by this father.  His dad felt that having a truthful son was much more important than any old tree.  This story cannot be proven or disproven, but it makes the point that honesty is the best policy.

George Washington’s was born on February 22, 1732, into the family of a wealthy tobacco plantation owner. Yes, his father did own slaves and when his father died Washington became their owner.  There is nothing but ugly involved in the enslavement of black people. However, Washington was the only notable Founding Father to free all of his slaves following his death.

                                     George Washington as a young man. Notice the dark hair. 

When young, Washington was very strong and athletic.  He grew up to be quite tall for those times and stood at about 6 feet 2 inches and weighed 200 pounds. About the size of Grandpa Doug.  In his portraits he is always shown with white hair, his hair color was actually red.  He did not wear a wig, but used white powder to achieve that very popular and dashing look.  Grandpa Doug’s white hair is from getting old.

Thomas Jefferson, another of our nation’s Founding Fathers, was quite impressed with Washington’s athletic abilities and said that Washington was the best horseback rider of that era.  Which is a very high compliment and accomplishment since riding horses was the main mode of transportation.

In addition to honesty and horsemanship, Washington is also known for….his very bad teeth. He had positively terrible rotten teeth.  His adult first tooth fell out when he was in his twenties.  By the time he was president, he only had one of his own teeth left.  He suffered from mouth pain constantly and probably had very bad breath.

His tooth troubles did not result from poor dental hygiene practices such as not flossing or brushing.  Some say his teeth fell out because he used them to crack open hard nut shells like Brazil Nuts. Others speculate that his loss of teeth were the result of his taking mercury-based medicines for diseases like small pox.

Since he had no teeth of his own, Washington used false teeth.  Contrary to rumor, none of them were made out of wood. They were made out of elephant, cow or hippopotamus ivory, lead, silver and gold.  He even had false teeth that were made out of real human teeth. How’s that for recycling!

  George Washington’s false teeth.  Look painful, don’t they?

Washington was a famous guy even when he was alive. During the Revolutionary War Washington served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army…the Americans.   He was one of our nation’s Founding Fathers, he was in charge of the meeting that drafted the United States Constitution and is often called the “Father of our Country.”  He was elected unanimously by the Electoral College in our nation’s first two presidential elections.

He really was a legend in his own time, but not in his own mind.  His always put his country first. After the war he refused to become a ruler for the colonies.  Washington felt so strongly that America should never have a king-like ruler that he refused to run for president again after serving for only two terms.  He set the example of a two-term presidency. That tradition was followed by all subsequent presidents right up until World War II and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which is another story.

The Revolutionary War, or the War of Independence, was between the thirteen American colonies and the mighty British Empire who ruled them.  At that time, the British ruled over so many countries around the world at that it was said, “The sun never sets in the British Empire.”

                                       David killing Goliath the Giant

It really was a David and Goliath type of deal. That story is in the Bible and is about a young shepherd boy named David who kills a great warrior giant with just a sling shot.  The stone hits the giant right between the eyes, then David runs over and cuts the giant’s head off with the giant’s own sword and saves his country from military defeat. David had faith in God and though he was weak and small vanquished a much bigger foe. That is just what the colonists needed to do.

The Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775 when the “shots heard around the world” were fired in towns of Lexington and Concord.  By the summer the war had commenced in earnest.  The colonists did well at first, but by the winter 1776 the Continental Army was in dire straits.  They had been pushed back and had lost much of their fighting strength due to soldiers leaving the army for many reasons.

Washington’s soldiers were depressed by their losses…as a matter of record Washington lost more battles than he won.  To re-energize the public and soldiers’ support to continue the fight for independence from England, Washington needed a victory.  He decided to attack on the day after Christmas.  He felt that enemy soldiers would not be feeling well from all their Christmas Day partying, hung-over from drinking too much alcohol, and would be easy to defeat

At about 11 p.m. on Christmas night, George Washington’s 5,400 troops began crossing the almost frozen Delaware River to attack a group of German soldiers that were helping the British fight the colonists.

Bright and early at 8 a.m. on the day after Christmas, Washington divided his 2,400 soldiers that had successfully crossed the river into two columns, marched to the city of Trenton, New Jersey, and attacked the surprised German soldiers called “Hessians”.

Hessian soldiers were known for being very aggressive fighters. That is why the British hired over 30,000 of them to fight the Americans. However, on that morning and to quote Bugs Bunny, “The Hessian had no aggression.” By 9:30 a.m. the Americans overwhelmed their enemy, surrounded the town, captured almost 1, 000 prisoners with the loss of only four Americans.

While this battle was not a large one, it was a very important one.  The American public realized that their army could in deed win victories.  This revived the will of the people.

Since, the French seem to have a real gift for revolutions, they joined the Americans in 1778 to help defeat the British and that is just what happened.  The war basically ended when the Continental Army forced the British to surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781.  The war formally ended in 1783.

So, how did Washington get an entire Army, horses and artillery across an icy river in December?  The colonists united and worked together. Washington, his soldiers and the Pennsylvania Colony Navy collected a large quantity and wide variety of watercraft from the surrounding area.  They had ferries large enough to transport large wagons and coaches.  A boat called a Durham was used to float the soldiers across.  These boats had high sides and a flat bottom, and were poled not rowed.  Before the war they had been used by Durham Iron Works to carry heavy loads of metal.


        Revolutionary War Era Flintlock Musket

The most common weapon used during this war was the muzzle loading smoothbore flintlock musket with attached bayonet.  Muskets have no rifling in their barrels to put a spin on their bullets, so it could shoot either balls or shot.  A good Revolutionary War soldier could load and fire every 15 seconds for four minutes.  Then, the gun barrel would get too hot and need to cool off.

These guns were not very accurate and had about a 75 yard range where they could hit a man-sized target.  To make the guns more effective battle tactics were used that lined soldiers up in tight rows or ranks and marched them right up to each other to shoot volley after volley into each other.  The goal was not to necessary kill the enemy, but to disorganize and frighten them into leaving the battlefield.

A British musket was called a “Brown Bess” and was 75 caliber.  The Americans for the most part used a French musket with a 42-inch long barrel called “the Charleyville”.  These shot a 65 caliber ball.  The bayonet was very important in those days, because when it was mounted on the end of the very long musket it was used almost like a spear for defense against cavalry attacks.  When soldiers formed into a square formation with their bayonets pointed outward, they could keep cavalry horsemen from riding among them and killing them with swords.  The Continental army also had artillery cannon, some rifles, pistols and the ever popular and lethal swords and knives.

George Washington’s Sterling Silver Sword

George Washington was a sword guy and it was rare that he ever left the house without one dangling from his hip.  He had some very beautiful swords…some that were made of real silver.  This website has pictures of his more famous swords: http://www.mountvernon.org/preservation/collections-holdings/washingtons-swords/.

Yes, George Washington was a man of firsts.  He was the first general officer to cross a frozen river on Christmas Day to launch a surprise attack on an enemy army.  He was the first president of the United States.  He was the first president of the United States to lead troops into battle while in office.   He is the first and only general officer to ever be given the rank of General of the Armies of the United States.  Congress awarded him this rank in 1976 during our country’s 200th birthday commemoration so that George Washington would always have the highest military rank…EVER.

Yes, he was a man of many firsts and a cat with nine lives.  He survived many diseases that should have been fatal, had several horses shot out from under him in battle and had a coat he was wearing absolutely riddled with bullets.  Yet, he lived until he was 67 years old. He probably would have lived longer if he had stayed away from doctors.  He caught a cold and his doctors, in an effort to cure him, bled him to death.  He was buried the week before Christmas on December 18, 1799 at his precious estate at Mount Vernon where his many farm cats lived.

Remember that Jesus is the real Christmas Revolution Cat.  His birth changed the entire world and is reason for the Christmas season!

Lots of Love,

Grandma Pat

Rotten Egg Tag and the Burning Hay Stack

I don’t know why I woke up this morning thinking about rotten eggs, but I did.  Maybe it was this week’s card I made for my Uncle Myrwin, who has been in assisted living for three years, that was covered with old tractors and folks putting up hay.  I always try to make him cards about farming for that is what he has always loved and it is haying season.

Or maybe it was the tornadoes that struck so close to my home farm place last evening. Did you know that sometimes when a tornado gets really close you can smell it.  It smells like sulfur…just like a rotten egg.

Rotten eggs are not uncommon on a farm.  Hens who think they want chicks often make a nest in the hay to hide their eggs and sit on them.  If there is not a rooster present to fertilize them…you get rotten eggs, and they have an awful stench that once exposed too is never forgotten.

While there were many different tests of manhood among the lads on our farm, such as the green apple eating contest, how long you can hold on to the electric fence and the ever popular who can remain standing the longest after taking a jolt from a cattle prod,  rotten egg tag was just for funsies.

Both girls and boys could participate willingly or if you were within range unwillingly. The rules were very similar to the age old classic abusive game of dodge ball, only instead of balls the goal was to hit your opponents with rotten eggs. There were extra points for getting egg in someones hair or mouth. Once the eggs were gone, the game was over and everyone had to rinse off at the well before going near adults or a homestead.

However, I think what reminded me of rotten eggs this morning was one of the pictures in my uncle’s card.  You do not see stacked hay bales in mounds this large, high or up to 1/2 mile long anymore, but they were very common in Minnesota when I was young.

hay bales

These monolith’s of forage were so very beautiful.  The golden haystacks stood like large buildings against an otherwise wooded and hilly landscape. They were local monuments built to acknowledge the hard work of farmers and the abundance of our blessings.

The biggest hay stacks in our neighborhood belonged to Mr. Johnson the owner of a large herd of black Angus cattle.  Yes, this is the same cattle herd whose pasture I had to cross as a five-year-old every morning and evening to get to first grade in our one-room country school. They were big black sleek beautiful animals and it took a lot of hay to keep them fat and sassy over a long Minnesota winter.

The time of the last of the big haystacks was also a time when political parties were trying to get farmers to join unions.  Being an independent lot to begin with, this was a hard sell. Soon, political agitators on behalf of unionization had folks so stirred up and divided that neighbor was pit against neighbor. Tempers flared, righteous indignation spread and soon waving at neighbors became a selective activity instead of the universal one it had always been.

This war of words ended one night, when someone set fire to Mr. Johnson’s large haystack.  I can still remember seeing the sinister dance of the large angry flames against the night sky and the firefighters from town and neighbors scurrying around the great inferno trying to save Mr. Johnson’s winter cattle feed.  The hay was lost, but our community was saved.

A strange thing happened as everyone worked together to put out that flaming hay, the neighborhood once again came together and I don’t remember hearing anymore about the “rotten eggs” that had stirred up such a fuss among neighbors and friends.  I just remember that people seemed to like one another again and that made it pretty nice for us kids……just saying.

Careless Words–Deadly Consequences


Words can be loving, tender, soft, kind, gentle, calming, peaceful, truthful, false, wise, foolish, heated, cruel, offensive, hurtful, hate-filled and violent.   Words motivate, educate and manipulate.   Words are powerful things.

No great revolution or societal upheaval in history began with weapons and guns…they began with words. Divisive and dehumanizing words.  Words that lifted up some at the expense of others.

Obviously, we have not learned that lesson from history, for today words such as: hater, godless, nazi, racist, bigot, thug and any number of racial terms including propaganda based phobias are constantly being used to bully and shame.

Furthermore, we live in an age where truth, as defined by God in the ten commandments as not bearing false witness, and the truths revered by our nations founding father’s as self-evident, “that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have now become merely relative.  I do not believe that most people recognize that there is a difference between opinion and truth or fact and fiction.

My professional career was in politics and communications.  I worked for both Republican and Democrat leaders and as much as I hate to agree with Donald Trump about anything he is right the system is rigged. It has been strategically rigged by the use of careless words over a long period of time.

For decades now instead of loving one another as fellow members of a united colorblind society we have allowed ourselves to be divided by words with hyphens…African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Gay-Americans, Christian-Americans, Atheist-Americans, Poor-Americans, Wealthy-Americans and the list just goes on and on.

To further separate neighbor from neighbor cold impersonal sophisticated overly simplistic words are deliberately created and used as propaganda to advance treasured often self-serving causes…many of which are not equal, ethical, moral or respectful of other people’s freedoms.

These careless words are then repeated as “talking points” over and over again to change truth to fiction, advance a related or unrelated agenda, reassure the voters who are dependent on the paternal services of that prospective political party, or used to just keep voting blocks in line.

Again, yesterday, more careless words.

President Obama and Governor Dayton both made public statements about institutionalized racism in law enforcement escalating already raw, and rightly so, emotions after the horrible situation in Baton Rouge and of Philando Castile’s death after a traffic stop. The governor went so far as to publicly convict the officer.

Last evening, Dallas law enforcement lost five police officers when they were ambushed as they worked protecting peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional right to speak out against institutionalized racism in law enforcement.  The shooter just, “wanted to kill white people, especially white cops.”

My heart and prayers go out to the families of the young men who were killed by police this week and to the families of the fallen members law enforcement in Dallas, Texas. May our country seek resolutions of peace, and put people before personal and political agendas. Let our leaders practice the politics of respect, reject the the politics of division and be recommitted to insuring the equal application of justice and the rule of law.

The use of careless words are much more dangerous to a free society than guns.  As the Bible says in James 3, verse 5, ” So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire.”

Careless words can have deadly consequences….just saying.