A Day to Remember

In the midst of chaos there is also opportunity.

Sun Tzu

Since 2017, this day has been set aside to honor and remember Vietnam Veterans; it is the anniversary of the withdrawal of military units from South Vietnam in 1973. I was a freshman in high school at the time. As you might imagine, I didn’t know a great deal about the war. I had three cousins who were in the service at the time. Two were marines and one was in the army. They were all a good bit older than me, and I didn’t really understand the entire situation. I did know that one of them went “overseas,” but I don’t think I put two and two together. I do remember worrying about draft numbers when my older brother was getting close to turning 18. He did not get called to serve.

Vietnam by the Numbers

  • 20 years – the length of the war – second only to the war in Afghanistan
  • 9 million US military personnel served
  • 58,000 soldiers are memorialized, for being killed in action, in the black granite of the Vietnam War Memorial
  • 1500 are still unaccounted for.
  • 19 was the average age of a soldier fighting during the war
  • 27 young men from Father Judge HS in Philadelphia (where one of my brothers would later attend) were killed in action. 1961-1968
  • 27 young men from the former Cardinal Dougherty HS in Philadelphia also lost their lives in Vietnam. These two high schools each lost the most alumni of any other parochial or private school in the nation.
  • 64 alumni of Thomas Edison High School lost their lives from November 1965 to January 1971 while serving in the Vietnam War. Edison holds the distinction of having the most casualties from Vietnam than any other single high school in the United States.
The memorial outside of Father Judge HS

When I was around ten or eleven (1968-1969) I began to notice the war and the protests against the war. I know I did not understand the politics of the times except for the arguments that would sometimes break out at family gatherings. I still don’t know enough – not what I should know. I have vague memories of the Kent State Massacre, and “Hanoi Jane” Fonda. For me, those years are etched in my memory via songs – the soundtrack of an era. We would sing songs around the fire on Girl Scout camping trips not knowing if they were for or against the war – at least I had no clue at the time. You could hear the echoes of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” through the trees as the guitars gently strummed the accompaniment. I would listen to my transistor radio and sing along with tunes like “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Peace Train,” “War,” “The Times They are a-Changin’,” and “Get Together.”

I do know that Vietnam Veterans were not welcomed home with parades and fanfare. Often they were disrespected and the victims of taunts and shouts. They came home with physical and mental health problems and some people didn’t even seem to care. Only now are they beginning to get some real recognition – too late for some. In just a few short years the US will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of our involvement in Vietnam. I promise to know more by then.

Within the soul of each Vietnam veteran there is probably something that says, ‘Bad war, good soldier.’ Only now are Americans beginning to separate the war from the warrior.

Max Cleland

Personal Day

Spent the day with my hubby
Made no plans
Set no alarm
Slept in late
Watched some TV
Drank a cup of tea while it was still hot
Read a few chapters of a book
Took a nap
Cleaned out & organized the pantry
Ate a delicious dinner thanks to my personal chef
Sat down to watch the Phillies
BAM!!
Got another migraine
🤷‍♀️
At least it waited until after dinner!
Good thing I didn’t make plans!

Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon

Jazz is alive and well in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys of Pennsylvania.

The sounds of Duke Ellington, Chick Corea, Sammy Nestico, and Miles Davis just to name a few echoed through the Musikfest Cafe at the Steel Stacks Music Venue in Bethlehem, PA https://www.steelstacks.org/about/what-is-steelstacks/. This was once the home to Bethlehem Steel, the second leading manufacturer of steel in the United States. The men and women who worked here from its inception and through its heyday lived through the Jazz Age – what a melding of the old and the new.

The view through the windows behind the stage.

We were there to watch our son, Charlie, lead his high school jazz band students in the finals of the HS Jazz Band Showcase. This was our first live concert of this year, the only other one since Covid being the Holiday Concert at the high school where Charlie teaches.

These high school musicians were so talented that if you closed your eyes you could imagine yourself in a speakeasy in NYC, Chicago, or New Orleans. You could be transported to the Cotton Club, Birdland, or the Apollo Theater. It was magical.

What impressed me most is that these young musicians weren’t just playing the music; they were feeling it. You could see it on their faces, coming through their bodies as they kept the rhythm and beat, feel it in the music they were bringing the charts to life. The students who soloed and improvised amazed me with their incredible confidence and poise. This is to the credit of their passionate music teachers who are tirelessly working to keep music alive in our schools.

I am hopeful that the legends of Jazz will be kept alive for generations to come so long as there are music teachers to share their love of the genre, students who step out of their comfort zones and answer the call, and audiences who appreciate the their efforts. American music stands on the shoulders of giants. Let’s not forget them or their music.

Return of the Migraine

Dear Migraine,

Do you realize you visited me a mere ten days ago?!? TEN! We have been adversaries for over 40 years, and I have no intention of making nice with you now!

Take your annoying aura, horrible head-wrapping pressure, and sour stomach and beat it! I don’t want to feel your pressure when I wake up in the morning.

Excedrin Migraine – work your magic. Please!

Everything Old is New Again

Ooh
You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life
Ooh, see that girl
Watch that scene
Digging the dancing queen
(ABBA)

Today’s slice is brought to you by the 6th-grade girls in the room next door who were spending their lunch recess with their homeroom teacher. All of a sudden the above lyrics came boldly ringing through the mid-day air bringing a smile to my face as well as a question to my mind. Why were they singing ABBA, and why did they know all the lyrics?

This song was released in 1976, the year I graduated from high school. I was NEVER a dancing queen, just ask my family, but I did enjoy dancing (complete with bell-bottomed pants and platform shoes) and imagining myself as that 17-year-old dancing queen. The movie, Mamma Mia!, based on the songs of the Swedish pop group, Abba, debuted in 2008 with a sequel in 2018. Apparently, there is a Mamma Mia tour happening in 2022. I have to admit that I always enjoy a trip down memory lane when I hear musical selections from those movies including: “Take a Chance on Me,” “SOS,” “Waterloo,” and of course “Mamma Mia!”

So this chance encounter with a blast-from-the-past would not have me concerned for the present generation of young people if it weren’t for the picture my daughter sent me earlier this week from The Hollywood Reporter.

The 20 Best Wide-Leg Pants to Wear for Spring

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed my teenage years in the 70s including bell-bottom pants, frayed jeans, midi skirts, maxi dresses, Tie-dye, peasant blouses, and ponchos. I had my share of Hippie accessories of chokers, headbands, scarves, and jewelry made of wood, stones, feathers, and beads. However, I am not sure I want to see the latest generation of teenagers in those “vintage” outfits. Been there. Done that. Don’t want to be reminded of just how old I am!

Wit or Witout?

Today is National Cheesesteak Day. “Every March 24 America pays tribute to one of the all-time classic sandwiches — the cheesesteak. Much like national liberty itself, the cheesesteak is elegant, necessary, pure, and was born in Philadelphia. The cheesesteak rose from humble beginnings in South Philly to the cultural icon it is today: safely secure in the sandwich hall of fame.” (https://nationaltoday.com/national-cheesesteak-day/).

Being a Philly native, I have had my share of debates over who serves the best cheesesteaks in the area. Most notable is the rivalry between Pat’s King of Steaks (established 1930) and Geno’s Steaks (established 1966); the two venues are situated on opposite corners of 9th St. and Passyunk Ave. I have had them both, and I prefer Geno’s. But not all great cheesesteak joints are in South Philly. I have fond memories of having cheesesteaks with my Roxborough relatives from Dalessandro’s Steaks and Hoagies on the corner of Wendover St. and Henry Ave. Of course, some of my Philly friends will tell me to mention Tony Luke’s, Steve Prince of Steaks, or some other sandwich shop but that could make my post go on forever. Did you know there is a Facebook page dedicated to rating cheesesteaks?

If you are a true South Philly regular you know how to order your cheesesteak just the way you like it without holding up the line. Here are some pointers.

How to order a cheesesteak
“A cheesesteak wit,” is what you say if you want onions.

“A cheesesteak witout,” is what you say if you don’t want onions. (You can also order your cheesesteak “with onions” or “without onions” and nobody will mind.)

At some places, you may be asked to specify whether you want American cheese, provolone, or Whiz. Don’t ask for Swiss cheese. Presidential candidate John Kerry made that mistake.

Don’t ask for rare, medium-rare, or medium. All cheesesteaks are well-done.

So, for example, you might order “One Whiz, wit (or witout)”; “One American, wit (or witout)”; or “One provolone, wit (or witout)” (https://www.inquirer.com/philly-tips/how-to-order-philly-cheesesteak-20210609.html)

You may think you have eaten a “Philly” cheesesteak before, but unless you have eaten it in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, what you had was just an imposter!

SONY DSC

I Get to Decide

Well, it has been a rough couple
of days
of weeks
of years

Today I give myself permission
to rehash
to be angry
to grieve

For now, I am stuck
in this bad moment
in this confusion
in this betrayal

But not for long – it is not worth
the bad memories
the anguish
the pain

Tomorrow I start to move forward
one moment at a time
one day at a time
one week at a time

And in time this will become
A lesson to be remembered
A distant memory to be forgotten
A non-threat to my peace of mind

You don’t get to have power over me anymore
I get to decide my path
and it leads to better days

Something is Better Than Nothing, I Guess?!?

Today is by far the hardest day of this challenge. Every idea that pops into my head is immediately shot down and tossed out like last week’s leftovers. I don’t know why today is so particularly difficult, but I cannot quiet my mind enough to write. I thought about waiting until later, but I have a list of things that I want to accomplish this evening before I sit down to lose myself in, “This Is Us” at 9:00 PM.

I can’t quite put my finger on the problem. I am feeling tired and restless, weary and on edge. I scrolled through some other posts – nothing. I looked up quotes of the day – nothing. I paged through my writer’s notebook – nothing. What do you do to break through writer’s block?

Is Courtesy a Dying Art?

Today is National Courtesy Day which “is a great way to remind ourselves that the world is better off when we show gratitude and graciousness in both big and small ways.” Sometimes we forget that simple things can make a big difference.

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I have to say that manners and courtesy are not something I see regularly in school. I remember as a child my mother taught us how to be courteous and mannerly, to say please and thank you, to hold a door open for the next person, and to push in our chair when we were excused from the dinner table. While I love my middle school students, I am always surprised when I drop something (even my cane) that no one moves to pick it up. When I was in elementary and middle school students would be flying out of their desks trying to be the first ones to help! When students are moving in the hallway hardly anyone stops to let an adult pass in front of them. Very few times do students ask if they can help carry something for a teacher, and I am forever reminding my students to push in their chairs before they leave my room. Please don’t get me wrong. My students will do ANYTHING they are asked to do to help me or another teacher, but few do things without being asked.

How do we get manners and courtesy make a comeback? Has it fallen out of fashion to be courteous? I try to lead by example, but sometimes I think I need to do direct instruction. 🤷‍♀️. What are your thought?

Planning for Spring

The first day of spring is always filled with hope and trepidation for me. I am hopeful for the warmer days with more sunlight and the increase in outings, but I am also worried that I will plan too much and burn myself out or fail in my ambitious undertakings. So today I am making a list of all the things I would like to accomplish before I have a total knee replacement in June.

Are you a list maker? Lists help me to stay on track and give me a good feeling as I check each item off when completed. Sometimes I add things to my list that were not on there just so I can cross them off as I do them. I have broken my lists into three categories – my home, my health, my heart.

Our home is on the smaller size yet it has so many things inside. I keep saying I am going to start purging so that I don’t leave a big mess for my children to deal with when we are gone. My family had to downsize my mom’s belongings three times, and it was such an emotional task. A Facebook friend, Paula Bourque, posted a book recommendation to help with this process.

This is now on my list to read. I just have to decide if I will purchase it or try to borrow it from the library so I don’t add another book to my still LARGE library even after a recent purging day with my daughter.

My health has been relatively good, but as I age there are definitely more challenges. I began reading The Obesity Code, a book recommended by my PCP, but only got a few chapters in before it sat ignored on the table. My ability to sustain a reading practice during Covid was practically nil, but I am ready to pick it up again. Burnout was a book I did read and need to revisit.

I certainly know what I should be doing for my health, but I never seem to make it a priority. No better time than right now to get back on track. Paying more attention to my heath can only be beneficial to my upcoming surgery and improve my overall wellbeing.

My heart is sometimes bullied by my head. My head can say mean things to myself that trouble my heart. So I am making a concerted effort to give my heart its own space each day. A Field Guide to the Heart is a recent purchase that is helping to shape that time for my heart. I have several other resources to help me reflect on what my heart needs at a particular moment.

I am not quite finished with my current writer’s notebook, but the goal is to write enough to fill its pages by the end of March so that I can begin using this beautiful duo that was a birthday gift in October. I have been saving it for Spring.

OK, so now it is time to go back to my list-making then I can prioritize and make a plan for what projects I will tackle first. Wish me luck!