Memorial Day: A solemn responsibility

Memorial Day is not a happy day, nor is its primary purpose to give everyone a three day weekend – it is a day for a grateful nation to stop our daily lives for just a few seconds and remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy every day. So, while you are preparing your barbecue or packing up for your trip to the local park or beach, give me just a moment of your time.

Below is the speech my husband – Commander, American Legion Post 479, Poway, California – will give at Dearborn Park cemetery today. The audience he will address includes two remaining World War II veterans who will stand to attention for the entire service in homage to the many friends they lost. It will include, too, veterans from Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon and Grenada, plus – like my husband and his buddies – Iraq and Afghanistan. Together, at 11:00 am local time, we will all pause and remember those who sacrificed their lives as well as those they left behind – the widows, widowers, and children who struggle every day to rebuild lives devastated by the real cost of war.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. The first observance of this sacred holiday occurred on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).

Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored and neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day and, while there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people even mistakenly believe that this day is for honoring any and all dead, not just those fallen in service to our country.

For those who have forgotten, or who perhaps never knew, and for all of us assembled here, too, I would like to end my remarks with a portion of General Logan’s proclamation from 1868 – a reminder of our duty to our fallen service members which rings as true today as it did all those years ago:

“Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us – a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude: the soldiers’ and sailors’ widow and orphan.”

Thank you for your participation today. May God bless the United States of America and the families of her fallen heroes.

Will you please take a minute today, just 60 seconds, to stop and remember our fallen war dead for all of the wars that the United States has fought, starting with the Revolutionary War that created this country? And if you have friends or neighbors who have lost family members, whether in our current war or in some previous conflict, will you take a moment of your time today to remember their sacrifice?

I now return you to your regularly scheduled three day weekend.

Happy Food Revolution Day

Today is Food Revolution Day, a day to celebrate and encourage not only healthy eating but also the act of preparing healthy meals with fresh, local ingredients. If you’ve read my post from yesterday then you know that this isn’t something I’m particularly familiar with, but I intend to use the day as an excuse to change that.

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(That picture, by the way, is of an artichoke growing in our community garden, in case you’ve never seen one of them in the wild.)

I’m going to grab breakfast, including a lovely nonfat latte, then head to the farmers market to see what interesting, fresh vegetables I can find to prepare tonight for dinner. Next stop is our local healthy food grocery store – think Whole Foods except small, local, and GMO free – to pick up either some poultry or seafood, depending on what looks good and is priced well. I also need to exchange my empty glass milk bottle for a new one.

Small steps but steps in the right direction.

Buying more, doing less

It occurred to me, as I was stuffing laundry into my state-of-the-art washing machine earlier this week, that I do almost nothing around the house. When I think about my grandmothers – both of them, really, but particularly my mother’s mother who lived in England – and what they had to do to take care of their homes and their families, I am a complete slacker in comparison. This is not in and of itself a bad or good thing, but I believe that it has had a negative effect on my level of connection and commitment to the rest of my life.

Examples:

1. I do not clean my house, I have a cleaning service that comes in every other week and dusts, vacuums, changes sheets, mops floors, cleans bathrooms, takes all of the trash to the garbage can in the garage, and puts new bin liners in all of the trash cans throughout the house. If I forget to put one of our dirty dishes in the dishwasher – another example of a chore I do not do! – then the cleaning people wash that item, too.

2. I do not iron my or my husband’s clothes, everything that needs ironing goes to the cleaners to be laundered and ironed.

3. I do not cook. Every single meal that my husband I eat is cooked by a restaurant, picked up at a fast food establishment, or a microwaveable dinner picked up at a store. Every single meal. I never, ever use my kitchen for anything except storing prepackaged dinners in the refrigerator, microwaving said dinners, making coffee (with a single cup, drop in cup coffee maker), and feeding the Pug. Oh, and it also serves as a horizontal surface for my husband’s clutter collection, unfortunately.

4. I do not change my own sheets (see #1 above).

5. I do not grow my own vegetables. My grandmothers both had huge gardens that provided all of the vegetables they used for feeding their families.

It is my belief that my decision to outsource all of these homemaking activities has created a fundamental disconnection between me and my home. This disconnect does not help with my desire to lead a healthy life, either. If I can check out of my home then it’s just that much easier to check out of my body and my responsibility for taking proper care of both of these important pieces of living a happy, healthy, harmonious life.

Poppies in Community Garden

And what’s possibly worse is the fact that I have replaced taking care of myself and my home with shopping and acquiring more things; this is not something that either of my grandmothers ever did. The amount of clothes in my closet is insane. Really, seriously, and deeply insane. Clothes, shoes, handbags – more than any one person should ever need. My grandmothers were both beautifully turned out at all times but they had about a week’s worth of clothes whereas I could go 3-4 weeks without repeating an outfit. Why?

I don’t have answers at this point but I wanted to come here to start a conversation while I ruminate a little longer. If you have thoughts or just want to share your own deep, dark secret, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Indulgently indolent

After a long period of “go, go, GO”, this weekend I’m not going anywhere.

What am I doing?

  • Reading (with the Kindle app on my iPad)
  • Napping (whoever came up with the idea to curl up and sleep in the middle of the day should have a day – or week – named for them; genius)
  • Tweeting and re-tweeting
  • Bare minimum of laundry so that we can get by next week

I did have a brief burst of activity yesterday when I got the batteries changed on a bunch of watches that haven’t worked for about a year (yes I still wore them – they’re decorative even when non-functional, sort of like me), did a phone consultation with a designer who is going to make this space a little more “me”, dropped off electronic waste and paper products to be shredded at the Earth Day event at work (where I also picked up the package from Eloquii that was waiting for me), and went to see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at our local movie theater (it’s good).

What’s on the agenda for tomorrow? Not really sure, to be honest. More napping and reading will definitely make appearances and I’d also like to drive over to the coast (where it’s cooler) for some quality time with my camera. I picked up a macro lens over a month ago and still haven’t ventured out with it, so no better time than the present, right?

It might be time to think about dinner. Of course I could also take another little nap. (Yawn.)

Aftermath

It’s been a crazy few months. Travel. (Fun.) Holidays. (Mostly fun.) New volunteer opportunities. (Exhilarating, exhausting, and fun.) Making changes around here. (Fun. Scary, but fun.)

In the midst of all of that fun, it was also our busy season at work, which is not always fun but it’s required and I work with amazingly talented, dedicated people, so it’s not so bad. For better or worse, that part of our work year ended Tuesday night and now we’re all sort of hungover and want to find a dark, quiet place to nap. Once upon a time, a very LOOONG time ago, we would take at least a month off from doing anything significant, to recover from the insanity, but that practice is long gone and instead we’re jumping into next year’s development efforts with vigor. It’s a good thing because it’s how we stay on top of our games, but a day or two of rest wouldn’t go amiss.

I bring this up because I got a bit sidetracked – OK, it was more like a complete derailment – from Project HealthFirst, the healthy eating initiative intended to improve my diabetes outcomes. The backsliding must stop now and renewed focus and energy will be applied in the coming days to ensure I’m back on track as quickly with my health as I am with my work commitment. I wouldn’t slack off there and I can’t slack off when it comes to avoiding a heart attack or stroke due to high blood sugar!

With Mummy and Daddy

I share this picture of me with my mum and dad earlier this month because it’s a reminder for me of what’s really important: friends, family, love, life. None of those things will be possible without my health, so it’s simply got to be a commitment for me  there are no other good options.

One thing leads to another

We’ve all heard the saying before – one thing leads to another – and I’m seeing evidence of its truth in my own life.

Six weeks ago I was tired and uninspired. I had lost a key opportunity with the Junior League because I didn’t receive enough votes from the membership, and that made me feel old and unappreciated. My plan was to either apply for sustainer status (kind of like going into retirement) or quit entirely. My blog shamed me every day by my lack of posting and lack of any desire to do something about it. Then came Blissdom and new friends, new ideas, and a new confidence in myself that I barely recognize.

Now I want to post, want to write. I feel that tingle at the base of my brain that says, “go, create something.” I love taking photos with my new camera and I feel like a photographer instead of just someone who messes around with my camera.

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I have wanted to move my blog to its own URL forever but never got around to it until some anonymous Internet company had already taken lottalatte.com and that made me very, very sad. Then, last week, Mick came to me with a huge smile on his.face and told me he’d bought my URL for me for our anniversary, and I knew it was time to make the change.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anaïs Nin

I will always love my original blog because it was where I remembered the joy of writing again, but i want the ability to expand and do different things – maybe not now, but one day – and this framework will make that easier. So I hope that friends who have been reading me for a few (or more) years will come and visit, and I hope that a few new people might find me and stay awhile, too.

So, what do you think of the new digs? Suggestions for improvement are gratefully accepted so send a comment if you think of something I can do better.

When doing my best isn’t good enough

During April, I will be participating in the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge (HAWMC), sponsored by WEGO Health. As part of the challenge, I’ll write each day about the challenges I have in dealing with Type II diabetes. My hope is that my writing will help others who might be dealing with diabetes or another chronic disease to understand that they are not alone (and also work through some of my own issues at the same time). This post is in response to the provided prompt: Quotation Inspiration. Find a quote that inspires you (either positively or negatively) and free write about it for 15 minutes.

My Grandma – Mom’s mom – was a huge influence on my life. She was a powerful figure, smart and strong, and I hung on her every word. When I was still quite young, she introduced me to a quotation and concept that has served me well ever since. I can’t remember what it was that she’d asked me to do – probably something to do with Math – and I’d tried really hard to do it (or so I thought) but just couldn’t get the hang of it. So I told her that: “Grandma, I’ve tried and tried and I can’t do it. But I did my best!” I waited for her to praise me for having done my best. Instead, she said, “It’s no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” I didn’t know then that she was quoting Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War, only that I was going to have to get the thing done and stop waffling about it.

So much of my life is about trying to do things. I try not to curse. I try to keep ahead of the laundry so that it doesn’t overflow the hampers. Heck, I’ve been trying to finish a half-finished blog post – not this one – for over a week now. What really hits me between the eyes, though, is this statement, which is something I tell myself all the time: I’m trying to live a healthy life and take care of my diabetes. As my grandmother would have said, “Denise, that’s simply not good enough.”

Diabetes doesn’t care how hard I’m trying. Diabetes is silently destroying my body as we speak and I can try all I want not to binge eat and to get some exercise but in this particular case – as in so much of life, really – trying hard just isn’t good enough.