Saturday, July 11, 2015

You Cannot Justify the Confederate Flag Flying on Public Property; but maybe in your own yard.

This year has been eye opening for an old Pacific NW white woman.  I knew racism was alive, but I didn't realize it was doing so well. Police brutality, a church massacre, church burnings, and the revelation that the Confederate flag still flies on public property, not only in the South, but right here in Western Washington! 

There used to be a house along highway 302 that sported a Confederate flag.  It infuriated me when we drove past it on the way to the beach.  I'd tell my husband how I'd like to come in the night and cut down the pole! My constitutionalist husband pointed out that as hateful as it was, the home owner had a perfect right to fly it.  They may not have been the home owner.  After a while the flag went away and appeared at a dilapidated house in Shelton which we still passed on our way to the coast and then even that went away.  I'd like to think that neighbors complained, but I realize that Dave was right.  As heinous as that flag is, individuals have the protection of the constitution to express their political beliefs on their own property.

That said, I cannot believe that the battle flag of traitors who created a nation that went to war with the Union in order to maintain a way of life that had been built on the blood of slaves, is allowed on public property.  Pride? What is there to be proud about? What is there to be nostalgic about? Unfortunately, Gone with the Wind romanticized the South and made us feel sorry for poor Scarlet whose way of life was destroyed, but her steadfast mammy stuck by her because she was such a good slave. That gentle, mannerly way of life was made possible by the enslavement of human beings.

People spend summers recreating Civil War Battles.  I wonder if there are reenacting groups who recreate WWII battles or concentration camps?

Germany has gone to great pains to prevent Nazism from being venerated the way the Confederacy is here.  Their neo-Nazis have glommed onto the Confederate flag as a sign of hate to replace the Swastika they are not supposed to fly.  As Larry Wilmore pointed out on his program, the Confederate flag is a racist back-up flag for an illegal racist flag.  I am of German, albeit a long time ago, extraction and I feel only shame about the Nazis.  The Swastika is a widely agreed on symbol of hate, the same as the Confederate flag.  Why else does the KKK carry the Confederate flag and sometimes the Swastika if this is not so? They are proud; proud of their hate.

On Facebook I've shared quite a lot about the S. Carolina flag coming down and this morning received a message from a FB friend attempting to bully me into stopping.  I was accused of sending him "political mush." Is that like "apple sauce" or "jiggery-pokery?" Clearly he has little idea of how FB works, but I have very nearly unfriended a different and racist friend, but isn't the public square about the exchange of ideas and doesn't our constitution protect freedom of speech?  I did unfriend someone once for being downright nasty so I can sympathize with someone highly offended.  That was before you could hide yourself from particular people. I suggested that this mornings outraged friend hide me, but maybe I should do it for him.  Or maybe not. I do have the courage of my convictions.

I briefly thought that maybe racists ought to be forced to fly the Confederate flag so we "could know them by their limping."  But I might be more surprised than ever by how many would (and may) go up, so maybe it's not a great idea.  I am gobsmacked by how far we haven't come in 150 years, especially the last 60. I take heart from the fact that I've lived to see a Black man in the oval office and may live long enough to see a woman.  I am not without hope, the hope the President has always spoken about.

Friday, June 19, 2015

We move through our lives making connections, some that last a lifetime and some that seem to fade like an old Kodachrome snapshot. For me, Facebook means reconnecting threads long broken, but unless that person belongs to Facebook it's more difficult and in some instances comes just plain too late. I've had two such instances lately.

Only just this week I learned of the passing of a Sammamish High School classmate that I don't think I'd seen since graduation in 1969.  He was not a close friend, but was with someone of whom I have fond memories and also mostly lost contact with.  Mark Byrski was shy even in grade school and never did come to reunions.  This week I learned of his passing and despite the fact that we did not travel in the same circles really, I feel  thread from the weave of our shared childhood has one more hole in it.  At my age there are several holes and doubtless more to come.  Our In Memorium poster will have one more picture when we meet at Lake Sammamish this fall.

Several nights ago I dreamed of a couple with whom I'd lost touch back in the 1980s.  During the 1970s they had been a large part of the lives of my then husband and myself.  Father Sam Poulos baptized our daughter Amy and baptized and was godfather to our son Joshua, his wife godmother.  In my dream they were aged as they might be forty years later.  I recognized Dimitra immediately even though her hair was gray.  Fr. Sam was much thinner.  He was a jolly Friar Tuck sort of parish priest at the Church of the Assumption in Seattle.  Their adopted boys were roughly the same age as Amy and Josh and we traded parenting tips and baby clothes.

We were sad when Fr. Sam was reassigned to a California parish, but it was better for Dimi's health.  After their departure we had another son, but our connection with the parish seemed diminished and our lives were changing.  Soon we divorced.  A number of moves on both end of the snail mail trail meant that eventually even the Christmas cards stopped.  A lot of history water has flowed under the bridge and except when I glance at a montage of pictures of baby pictures of the children and see Fr. Sam and Dimi proudly holding Josh on his baptism day, I haven't thought much about them.  I always worried that my subsequent marriages would be a disappointment to them.  Now I am inclined to think I would be welcomed as an old friend to trade stories of our children.  But it's just plain too late.

When I awoke from this vivid dream of visiting with Fr. Sam and Dimi I went straight to the computer, determined to find them.  There was blessed little.  I found that Fr. Sam had been a parish priest in the San Francisco Diocese in the early 1980s.  That made sense.  They went to Pittsburg, CA, but it was too foggy there for Dimi and they moved on to Bakersfield which suited Dimi's health much better.

A little farther down my Google search was something I had not anticipated.  It was an obituary for Fr. Sam from 2010 in Maryland.  He'd been dead for five years. Undoubtedly he touched many lives in the last forty odd years with Dimi's quiet gentleness bringing grace to their impact on the congregations they served. 

Why I had my dream lately when I'd not even thought of them recently is a mystery.  As mysterious as the mind is.

It is one thing to believe that connections with someone can be reestablished, but it's quite another to know that that thread has been forever severed in this world.  I guess if there is a moral to the story it is to work hard at maintaining relationships.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Remembering the Battle of Midway

From the moment the Japanese flew back to their carriers from Pearl Harbor, my father was no longer that fresh faced boy from the Missouri Ozarks

Seventy-three years ago the United States Navy dealt a strategic blow to the Japanese plan to dominate the South Pacific and my father, Conrad R. Frieze, was there.

My father and his brother Richard had been at Kaneohe Bay on December 7th, 1941 and together fought back against the Japanese attack from he waist hatch of a PBY w: the ith a 50 caliber machine gun.  Uncle Dick even shot down a Japanese zero.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was not only a blow to the United States military with losses of ships and airplanes and some 2,000 soldiers and sailors, but it was a blow psychologically.  Years later my father wrote that he never felt the same again.  He'd gone from being a 19 year old sailor stationed in paradise, scheduled to take an entrance exam for Annapolis. Midway was booster shot to his psychology and that of the United States.

From the moment the Japanese flew back to their carriers from Pearl Harbor, my father was no longer that fresh faced boy from the Missouri Ozarks and by June of 1942 he was a fighting man and the gunner on a PBY.  The PBY was not a fast or glamorous airplane, but it was the workhorse of the Navy and much loved by him.  PBYs were instrumental in locating the Japanese fleet on their way to Midway and by the end of the battle, the one my father was on flew circles around a Japanese lifeboat, my father's 50 cal trained on the officers therein, until a rescue could be exacted by the Navy.

When my father's plane returned to base a messenger sought out my father with the cap device from a Japanese lietenant and with it was the message  "Tell the gunner thank you for not killing us." That and a sword, which came from where I know not and disappeared by my father's death, were among his momentos of the war.

In 1967 Walter Lord published his book Incredible Victory: the Battle of Midway.  My father, now working at the Boeing Company as an aeronautical engineer and an executive, read the book in the early 1970s and saw a picture of the Japanese officers he hadn't killed.  Through his connections at Boeing and the National Archives he was able to track down the men in the boat.  All were still living and the lieutenant was now Retired Rear Admirable Mandai. 

By this time my father had been traveling all over the world, including to Japan, on a regular basis selling first the 727 on through the 747 and saw an opportunity to create publicity for Boeing and to meet the men he didn't kill.  With help from Boeing a meeting and photo op in Tokyo was arranged (one of the men, for whom the war had not ended, refused to attend) and my father got to meet them and present the cap device to Admiral Mandai.  The tall stately man refused to take it back, declaring that it was my father's war trophy.

After that my father and step mother became friends with Admiral Mandai and his wife.  They did the tourist bit around Tokyo with them and the Mandais made visits to Seattle where my father got to be tour guide. 

I don't think as my father watched the Japanese planes disappear on December 7th, 1941 that my father could have ever imagined that one day he would be friends with a Japanese officer or that he still contained enough humanity to save his life.  I am glad for both.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Creating Home

While picking out flooring yesterday, I received a text from our realtor/friend Ada Williams saying that our "new" house had closed.  Daughter-in-law Ana and Grandson Gabriel had accompanied Dave and myself to the house yesterday morning to meet Ada and get the keys to our new family kingdom.
Dave had measured all the main floor living spaces in both houses and the windows (just in case something turns up at Goodwill) and after biding Ada goodbye we went to a flooring store where the sale items didn't appear to be on sale and the salesman didn't seem to know the price of anything. 
Our next stop was Lumber Liquidators.  We purchased hardwood flooring 20 years ago from them and were pleased to find just what we wanted.  This time we are going for bamboo.  Being, as one friend says, "Old Growth Hippies," we wanted something that is sustainable.  I also wanted something that is prefinished so that we can lay it and get moved in!  If you aren't familiar with Lumber Liquidators they are a no frills flooring outlet.  Enough flooring for our two houses (we all decided on the same floor) can only be got by Dave driving around the Puget Sound Area to all of the outlets collecting it, but our salesman found and claimed enough for the job so we ended our first day of owning Haeck Haven on Ana Alley feeling accomplished.  Now to rent that truck!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Moving On

Today is an exciting day for our big household for we've purchased a new, and probably forever, home after twenty-five years in Gig Harbor.  For twelve years my middle son Frank and his wife Ana have lived with us and eleven years ago their son Gabriel was born.  It was intended to be "temporary" but graduate school, student loans, and raising a baby made it logical to continue and most importantly, I am a mama who loves having her chicks around.  Where many parents are "bummed out" when school lets out, I was always thus when it was time to have them go back to school.  I loved summers with my four children.

We are not always in agreement as to how to do things around our five bedroom house.  We frequently have different schedules for eating.  Dave, my daughter Amy and I like an early dinner and settling in for the evening.  Ana, our daughter-in-law, is Brazilian and accustomed to eating much later than we.  I am sure Ana will agree that it is difficult sharing a kitchen.  I know that because she lamented it once a few years ago and now she shall have her own for the property allows us to stay together, have a bit more space and two kitchens. 

It was listed as a duplex, has been used as triplex at times, but is actually two homes with no common wall.  That last bit I consider to be a downside.  I would have liked to had a common door that our grandson could run through and would make it easy to care for each other's animals.  When Frank and family are in Brazil, their cat McGonagall will just have to come live on our "side" and when we are away without our little dog, Loki will have to go to them.  There are too many upsides to this new property to complain about something so small.  After all, we will only be steps away from each other and Gabriel will be doing homeschool in our basement.

That is an upside to the property.  It has enough space for there to be a room dedicated to Gabriel's homeschooling and violin practice.  Although my son Frank is a public school teacher they chose to homeschool Gabriel because of Ana's frequent extended trips to Brazil. In addition he takes violin lessons and plays in a youth orchestra. Although he's quite good enough after eight years that I do not mind the practicing, it will be nice for him to have a room where he knows his music is.

The new property will put us in Tacoma and on the other side of the Narrows Bridge and its ridiculously high toll.  Frank is the art teacher at Clover Park High School and so has to cross daily to work and Gabriel once or twice a week for lessons. Although we've loved living in Gig Harbor, once all my children were grown and I retired from the school district, there was no particular reason to stay.

Our current house does not serve my special needs adult daughter.  Her declining mobility makes it difficult for her to negotiate stairs and in the new place her bedroom will be on the same floor as family activities.  She will have three steps in the back door and Dave plans to eliminate even that with a ramp.  It will be lovely to feel that she's more a part of what's happening at home although she's always preferred her own company to that of anyone else.  At least if she wants a glass of ice tea there will be no reason for her not to get it herself.

We will also be in the same town as my oldest son and his family which will be a joy.  We have been only about 25 minutes away in Gig Harbor, but now we should be able to be at each other's home in half that.  We will be close for school events which tonight include Granddaughter Linda's performance in the Tacoma School District's Young Ambassadors, a group that demonstrates tumbling and calisthenics to grade school children and performs at high school sporting events.  She and her sister Lydia are also involved in dance and drama and we will be minutes away from those performances.

Both Dave and I are retired and beginning an exciting chapter in life, but mindful of what lies ahead.  We saw my in-laws move from the family home into a smaller more functional home, but didn't stop to think about it being far from public transportation and shopping.  Our home in Gig Harbor is in exactly the same situation.  I do not always want to be dependent on my children for rides to the doctor and shopping.  The new property is on a busline and walking distance to a huge grocery store. Especially happy for my husband is the fact that we will be very close to the Seattle Mariners' farm team, the Tacoma Rainiers!

Today we get the keys to our little kingdom and can measure for flooring and paint.  The work is about to begin!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Finding Flatware

I was a young wife and stay-at-home-mom in the early 1970s. Like many women I collected Betty Crocker box tops from products I prepared and saved them to buy flatware.  I still have come of those pieces, but 45 years of wear, garbage disposals, and moves means that there are a few key pieces left and our family went on to have a couple of other sets of flatware.

Twice I've purchased flatware with purple handles only to have them begin to break.  They had been hand washed and well cared for and were disappointing.  I have determined not to get any sort of plastic handled flatware again.  A white handled set we had held up well, but the white discolored in the hard water of Gig Harbor and the handles were so heavy that they fell off plates being carried to the table or the family room.  Yes, we ought not to eat before the television, but it happens.

Betty's offerings were made by Onieda, who also made silver-plated flatware.  It really was stainless, unlike the set I bought a couple of years ago at Costco.  The forks weren't huge which I suppose is a commentary on Americans' eating habits. I only use the salad/dessert forks.

Now that we are preparing to move to a "new" home after 25 years in one space I feel a bit like a bride, collecting things I'd like to have to start the new chapter of our lives.  I got on eBay to see if there was any Betty Crocker flatware available.  There is and depending on the pattern it's rather spendy!  The Brahms is ridiculous, with a single knife going for as much as $15 so that patter, of which I may have a few pieces from Goodwill, is out.

I'd like to find a complete set of something that serves 8 and be done with it without having to get pieces thither and yon which I did for my hard-to-find Corelle wisteria.  What I won't do is go to Costco or Ross or any other store and buy flatware that is either too flimsy or two massive. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

What's Wrong with Public Schools?

I'm on a broom.  As the member of a large family of teachers, I am tired of the mindless criticism leveled at public schools, the source of which, I am pretty sure, is the mouth piece of the Right, FauxNews. 

There is at least one post floating around FaceBook purporting that the Pledge of Allegiance is no longer being said in schools.  It doesn't provide the information as to what schools aren't teaching it to children, but this fact alone is probably responsible for 9-11, ISIS, Ebola.

I worked in four public schools from 1987 to 2014 and it was always said. 

But let us step back and look at the tradition of the Pledge of Allegiance.  It's always been there, right?  It is so ubiquitous that it must have been written by one of the Founding Father's and used to swear allegiance before the troops went off to fight the British, right?  Wrong.  It was written by a socialist minister, Francis Bellamy, in 1888, paid for and marketed by James B. Upham to sell more flags.  Daniel Sharp Ford used the pledge to market not only the flags, but his magazine The Youth's Companion. Eventually Congress adopted it to the Flag Code and during the Red Scare of the 1950s added the words "under God" as a hedge against communism.

It could have been "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame bun." I am not saying that repeating the Pledge isn't a lovely tradition meant to instill patriotism into children and adults alike--although I wish the pledge were to the country, not the flag--but is the fact that it MAY NOT be said in every American public school be what's wrong with schools?  I don't think so.

As the member of a large extended family of a dozen teachers I think that the number one problem with the learning environment of public schools are the parents of their students.  American children are by-and-large not being taught at home to respect the institution of the school, the education they are being given for free (and which plenty of children around the world are willing to risk their lives to get), and the teachers who work their butts off dealing with governmental regulations and behaviors.  The parents and coaches teach children that everyone is a winner and a perfect snowflake and when their child doesn't get the grade they think they deserve they make the teachers lives miserable.

Instead of mindlessly passing on something criticizing teachers and schools, ask questions.  Where is this happening?  Is it REALLY HAPPENING? What can I do to help schools and teachers?

The children are our future.  If we want them to continue a tradition of greatness in America let's focus on making them rational beings who can solve problems and learn all of their lives.  And yes, let us spend those approximately 17 seconds teaching them a pledge and making them take off their damn baseball caps while they do it.  Those damn caps are another blog.