Monday, November 28, 2011

Raising Teenagers

Last week's post was an essay my sister, Pam, wrote when her boys were ages two and four. It's titled "You Can Dress Them Up But..."  If you missed it, you can read it here.

One year when the boys were teenagers, she wrote another essay for our mom for Mother's Day. It's even better than the first essay, in my opinion. I've been telling her for years she should be a writer, but she's not really interested. Clearly, she has a natural talent for writing. See if you agree!

Many Years Later
"My boys are typical teenagers in many ways. They have mood swings, they question authority, and they are outstanding debaters. At times, too, they are confused about life, but they would never admit to that. 

"I was just telling my husband the other day that my oldest son is the smartest person I've ever met. It's just amazing the way he knows everything. Everything I tell him, he says he knows. He knows everything about everything, before it happens, as it is happening, and everything after it happened. His favorite saying is, 'I know. I know.'

"I try to keep the stress level at a minimum, as hard as that is raising teenagers. I try not to fuss over too many issues and I try to overlook petty differences. I believe home is where a person should be able to relax, to be themselves (without being obnoxious), and to have their friends over. 

"My sons have their own private suites with room service right here in our home. And their privacy is not invaded because we have built our home on the honor system and we're practicing living our lives on the honor system, learning as we go along. My sons know that no matter what, I try to understand them, try to make life pleasant for them, try to be a good mom even though I am far from perfect, and they know that I am always here for them. 

"Now I also have a beautiful little girl, the daughter I never thought I'd have. She is my buddy. She still likes to go out with me, loves to shop all day with me and search for coordinating outfits, loves to cook and sew with me and just hang out with me. 

"I'm still cool. I'm still her comfort zone. And I know this will someday pass. That will be sad. But I'll wait for her to come back around. No matter what, and I mean no matter what, I will never give up on any of my children, even when they give up on themselves. I will do this, I know, because my mom did it for me."

My nephews, all grown up. One is a parent now himself!

Invitation to my niece's 5th birthday celebration, a tea party. 

She's all grown up now, too!
The years fly by so fast.

So, do you have a parenting or grandparenting story? If you're not a parent, memories from your own childhood count, too! 

Warning: I might feature your story in a future post. (Names can be changed to protect the guilty!)

I'd like to thank everyone who shared a parenting memory with me last week. I'm saving them and will publish some in future posts.

If you don't want to leave a comment but would rather contact me by email, here's my address: lynkelwoohoo (at) yahoo (dot) com.

(This essay first appeared in the Highland Community News in July 1999.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Circle Game & Thanksgiving

My niece about ten years ago. 
She's the youngest of my parents' 16 grandkids.

If the picture below looks like a tight squeeze, that's because it was. It's from Thanksgiving thirteen years ago. We were lucky we all fit in the same area to eat together. At the time I had a camera that took panorama shots, so I stood on top of a bar stool and was able to fit everyone in. 

Looking back at the picture below, I now realize what a special Thanksgiving it was. At the time, it seemed like an ordinary family holiday. Three of my four siblings and their families, plus my parents and grandmother, celebrated at our house. We ate and laughed and joked and ate and played charades and ate some more.

Little did we realize that some of us would be moving away. Get-togethers like this are a rarity now. The kids grew up in a flash, went their own ways, and now the family is more scattered than ever. My grandmother has since passed away (we miss you, Grandma), the children are grown, some have married, and some are now parents themselves. My folks have five great-grandchildren and more on the way! 

And so the cycle of generations continues.

This Thanksgiving I'm reflecting on how thankful I am for my family and friends and times like this. For some reason, The Circle Game comes to mind. It's a beautiful folk song by Joni Mitchell from the '60s. The lyrics are below. 

Thanksgiving at my house in 1998

The Circle Game

 by Joni Mitchell
Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Then the boy moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you're older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won't be long now
Till you drag your feet just to slow the circles down
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There will be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

What are you thankful for? Can you relate to these lines in the song, "Take your time, it won't be long now - Till you drag your feet just to slow the circles down"?

Monday, November 21, 2011

You Can Dress Them Up But...

This week I'd like to share an essay my sister, Pam, wrote years ago when her boys (now grown) were little. She wrote it for a composition class she was taking. 

Good thing I saved it because she didn't. When I sent her a copy, she wasn't impressed with it. Well, I think it rocks, but of course I'm partial. Here it is:

"Snazzy little high-topped sneakers, miniature pair of Levi's and an attractive flannel shirt, laced with colorful suspenders. Yes, you can dress them up, but can you take them out? Children, those fiery little bundles of energy, who are lacking most social graces, and who seem to enjoy driving their parents buggy every time they're taken to a public area. 

"As a parent, I can testify to the constant annoyance, distraction and humiliation I am overwhelmed with every time I merely wish to grocery shop or wait in line at the post office. Family outings always begin with cheerful smiles and positive attitudes, but somewhere between start and finish, I become aggravated. 
My nephews - the cutest little mischief makers ever!

"Overly excited rearing-to-go children screaming, 'I want!' while running wild can bring any parent to instant frustration. I've come to realize that excursions with children are a major test of endurance. 

"Standing in long, slow-moving lines at the bank is a real treat. Amid the quietness are the never-ending sounds of my rambunctious boys, ages two and four. All eyes are on me throughout the wait. That would be fine, if only I was the type who loves attention. Walk-in movies are really rather a joke than anything else. The kids talk through the whole movie and we all leave wondering what it was about.

"Large amusement parks are stimulating and filled with fun, until one of the little ones refuses to get off a favorite ride, resulting in a temper tantrum. After awhile, overly tired children begin to wear down overly tired parents. 

"And you'd think that parks are a relaxing and enjoyable place to picnic and stretch out on a blanket, but right when I'm convinced that parenthood is for me, my youngest is hurled off the twirling merry-go-round, landing flat on his face. At the very same moment, my oldest is blocking five bigger kids, laughingly, at the top of the tallest slide. 

"After I've doctored my injured one and rescued my daring one, I return to my point of solace, only to step in a pile of yucky stuff left in my path by a wandering canine. Who says parks are a getaway?

"Restaurants are the spice of life! As soon as we are seated, the kids develop an acute case of 'ants in the pants.' In the course of the conversation with my spouse, every other word is directed at the children, instructing them to either 'sit still,' 'stop yelling,' 'please do not pick your nose,' and 'absolutely no throwing.'

"Strange how children sense their parents' embarrassment and continue to misbehave. After finally agreeing on what each child wants to order, they balk once it's set in front of them. Instinctively they drink more than they eat. After two interrupting trips to the rest room, I say, 'NO MORE.' They whine. I threaten. We all leave wishing we had stayed home and brought in McDonald's.

"After so many years, I have wised up. I put my four-year-old in preschool two mornings a week. I constructively use that time to grocery shop and run errands. My son anticipates kindergarten next year, but not half as much as I do. It is a milestone for all of us. 

"It's no wonder God put such an abundance of love in my heart when he elected me as a mother. Without all this love, I would be lacking in the patience and tolerance which solely gets me through my many tests of endurance." 
My sister, Pam, and her husband, Dave.
Next week's post will feature an essay Pam wrote years later when the boys were teenagers. 

So, do you have a parenting or grandparenting incident? If you're not a parent, memories from your own childhood count, too! 

Warning: I might feature your story in a future post! (Names can be changed to protect the guilty.)

I'd like to thank everyone who shared a parenting story with me last week. I'm saving them and will publish some in future posts!

If you don't want to leave a comment but would rather contact me by email, here's my address: lynkelwoohoo at yahoo dot com.

This essay first appeared in the Highland Community News in July 1999.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Star Wars Mashup

It seems lots of Star Wars fanatics are mixing characters from George Lucas' classic film with other favorites, resulting in creative new twists. 

"Darth Vader v. Barbie"? Who thinks up this stuff? 
Who do you think prevails? You might be surprised!

Here's a video that takes dialogue (voice of James Earl Jones) 
from the movie "Coming to America" (starring Eddie Murphy) 
and mixes it up with scenes and dialogue from Star Wars.
"Coming to Alderan"
All for laughs and amusement. Who doesn't need that?

This is a fun one. 
The Stormtroopers got the moves, man! 
"Stormtroopers Wonder Girls Dance"

And one more, Legos and Star Wars. 
 "Lego Star Wars - Luke Skywalker VS Darth Vader"
I think someone has too much time on their hands!

I wonder what George Lucas thinks of all this? Who woulda thunk back in 1977 that this would be the future of Star Wars? YouTube is exploding with this stuff. 

Where would we be without creativity? 

"We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode. Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful. 

"If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies. When you charge the enemy machine-gun post, don't waste energy trying to see the funny side of it. Do it in the 'closed' mode. But the moment the action is over, try to return to the 'open' mode—to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is needed to improve on what we have done. In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent."
~ John Cleese

Are you a Star Wars fan? If you could pick one of your favorite characters to fight Darth Vader, who would it be?

I think I'd like to see Katniss from THE HUNGER GAMES go up against him. Or maybe Bella from Twilight after she's changed into a vampire. Nah, maybe not. That's a no brainer, but maybe my old fav, Popeye, might make for an interesting match against Darth Vader!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Audie Murphy - Most Highly Decorated World War II Hero

I'm taking a timeout from my usual goofball self to pay tribute to one of the many veterans we're honoring for Veterans Day on November 11th.

I'm grateful to all the brave men and women who have served and are serving our country, and I'd like to spotlight one of my favorites, a true underdog who rose above great odds to become a hero on many fronts in addition to his amazing feats during combat duty.

Audie Leon Murphy, 1924 - 1971
Most Highly Decorated Combat Soldier in World War II

"I never liked being called the 'most decorated' soldier. 
There were so many guys who should have gotten medals 
and never did--guys who were killed."   Audie Murphy
Photo from Wikipedia

In this YouTube video, Audie Murphy was featured in a radio interview on Veteran's Day 1963. 
You can listen to his own humble words.
Audie Murphy Discusses WWII

I've been fascinated with Audie Murphy's story ever since I saw the movie "To Hell and Back" (1955) where he starred as himself. It's based on his best-selling autobiography, written in 1949 with the same title. He oversaw the making of the movie and insisted on sticking to the facts, no fictionalizing. He even had them omit parts of his story, fearing people would think he was exaggerating the truth.

Audie Murphy was one of twelve children born to poor Texas share croppers (three siblings died before his birth). His father abandoned the family in 1936. At age ten, Audie dropped out of school and worked on farms picking cotton or plowing to help care for his five younger siblings. He also hunted small animals to put food on the table and became a sharp-shooter as a result.

His mother died in 1941 when Audie was only 16 years old. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he tried to enlist, but he was too short for the Marines at 5'5", plus he only weighed 110 pounds. The Navy turned him down because he was too young.

In 1942 at age 16 or 17 (depending on the source), he enlisted in the Army, thanks to falsified documents which stated he was 18. The paratroopers didn't want him because he was too small. After passing out during a drill in basic training, his commander wanted to send him to baker and cook school, but he insisted on combat duty. He finally became part of the 3rd Infantry Division, where his platoon members nicknamed him "Little Texas" and "Baby Face." Little did they know that he would soon become a legend in their division.

Starting out as a private, he was quickly promoted through the ranks, from corporal, to staff sergeant, and up to 2nd Lieutenant. Audie Murphy cared about the men under his command and became known for his fierce revenge when one of them was killed.

At one point, Audie's best friend Lattie Tipton was killed by a German in a machine-gun nest who had faked surrender by holding up a white flag. Audie went ballistic and charged them, single-handedly cutting them down, then used the German machine gun and grenades to wipe out two other enemy nests.

One of my favorite scenes in "To Hell and Back" is during the Battle of Holtzwihr in France, when Audie, the lone surviving officer, ordered his men to take cover in the woods. He climbed on top of a burning tank destroyer, a ticking time bomb. For an hour, he used the machine gun to hold off the enemy, now approaching from three sides. Some got as close as 10 yards from the destroyer before he gunned them down. 

The Germans couldn't figure out where the enemy fire was coming from. They never considered that anyone would be crazy enough to be on top of a flaming tank destroyer that was about to blow up.

When he ran out of ammo, Murphy abandoned the tank destroyer and at that point realized he'd been shot in the leg, but he refused treatment and planned a counter-attack to force the enemy back. That was one of three injuries he incurred during his service, in addition to suffering bouts of malaria. 

For his heroics on the burning tank destroyer, Audie Murphy received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award for bravery given by the United States of America.

Congressional Medal of Honor

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Audie Murphy received 32 other awards, citations, and decorations, 27 from the United States of America, five from France, and one from Belgium. Most were received before age 20.

After the war, Audie was invited to Hollywood by James Cagney, but it was rough going with only bit parts. He was homeless and slept in a gymnasium. He finally caught a break in 1949 with the starring role in the movie "Bad Boy," then went on to make 44 feature films, 33 of them westerns.

Hollywood took notice of Audie Murphy 
when he was featured on the cover of Life Magazine.
Photo From Wikipedia

Audie Murphy also found success as a country music songwriter. "When the Wind Blows in Chicago" and "Shutters and Boards" were his biggest hits.

Back when post-traumatic stress disorder was known as "battle fatigue," Audie Murphy was well aware of the scars the war had left on him: He suffered from nightmares, depression, and insomnia. His first wife claimed that he slept with a gun under his pillow.

He didn't try to hide that fact that he suffered from the emotional effects of war. In the mid-1960s he faced the realization that he'd become addicted to prescription sleeping pills, so he locked himself in a motel room for a week to battle his addiction, suffering withdrawals until he was finally clean.

He openly talked about his fight with "battle fatigue" and the emotional impact war has on veterans, especially those returning from the Korean and Vietnam wars. He became an advocate for veterans and sought aid from the government to provide treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions and to conduct studies to better help veterans.

On May 28, 1971, Audie Murphy died in a plane crash at age 46. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery near the Amphitheater, and his grave site is the second-most visited grave. President John F. Kennedy's grave site receives the most visitors per year.

Tombstones of Medal of Honor recipients are usually decorated in gold leaf, but Audie Murphy asked for his tombstone to remain plain and inconspicuous. 

Here's one of the poems he wrote:

Dusty Old Helmet

Dusty old helmet, rusty old gun,
They sit in the corner and wait -
Two souvenirs of the Second World War
That have withstood the time, and the hate.

Many times I've wanted to ask them -
And now that we're here all alone,
Relics all three of a long ago war -
Where has freedom gone?

Mute witness to a time of much trouble,
Where kill or be killed was the law - 
Were these implements used with high honor?
What was the glory they saw? 

Freedom flies in your heart like an eagle.
Let it soar with the winds high above
Among the spirits of soldiers now sleeping,
Guard it with care and with love. 

I salute my old friends in the corner.
I agree with all they have said - 
And if the moment of truth comes tomorrow,
I'll be free, or By God, I'll be dead!
Audie Murphy 

Do you remember the game show What's My Line?
Here's a clip where Audie Murphy appeared as the mystery challenger.

If you want to watch the entire movie of To Hell and Back, it's on YouTube. 
Here's a link:

Or you can go to YouTube and type in: To Hell and Back (1955) 

Other sites with info and photos of Audie Murphy:

So, who are some of your heroes? What are you doing for Veterans Day? 

I think I'll watch To Hell and Back. I haven't seen it in many years. What a surprise to find the whole movie on YouTube!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

OPEN MINDS - A Mind-Boggling Page Turner!

Congratulations to Susan Kaye Quinn! Today is the launch of her young adult novel, Open Minds, first book in the Mindjack Trilogy. I'm honored to be taking part in her Virtual Launch Party by doing a book review. 

I LOVE this book so much that I had to re-read it right away. The last novel that affected me like this was The Hunger Games. 

Open Minds gets more than a 5-Star Rating in my book, and I predict it's going to sky rocket to the top of the charts. No kidding. It's that intriguing, amazing, and compelling.

This first book in the Mindjack Trilogy will entertain and thrill you as you follow the dilemmas and dangers 16-year-old Kira faces. First, she grapples with the fact that she'll never fit in at school or anyplace in society since she never changed into a mind reader like the rest of her peers did during puberty. She's now considered a 'zero,' a low-life, and because the others can't read her mind, few people trust her. I mean, come on, no wonder the poor kid suffers from teen angst.

Just when she's resolved to accept her lot in life, Kira changes in an explosive moment from a zero to a dangerous freak who can control the minds of others, with one major glitch: She has no idea how to control her mind-controlling powers. Good thing Raf, the guy she loves, doesn't realize what hits him when her thoughts almost accidentally kill him. What a way to get a guy!

All kidding aside, this is a powerful story. I became invested in Kira's predicament from the get-go, and she gets in deeper and deeper from there. The concepts and circumstances of her world challenged me throughout. Here it is a week after I read it (twice), and I can't stop thinking about it.

I'll be the first in line to read the second book, Closed Hearts.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available in e-book (Amazon US (alsoUKFrance and Germany)Barnes & NobleSmashwords) and print (AmazonCreatespace, also autographed copies available from the author).

Come to the virtual launch party and celebrate Susan's accomplishment. Details below.

Her blog has a list of links where she's guest posting. I'm going to check them out because I want to get the full scoop on "The Story of Open Minds."  


Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! (Check out the prizes here.)

Three ways to enter (you can have multiple entries):
1)      Leave a comment here or at the Virtual Launch Party post
2)      Tweet (with tag #keepingOPENMINDS)
Example: When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. #keepingOPENMINDS @susankayequinn #SF #YA avail NOW
Example: Celebrate the launch of OPEN MINDS by @susankayequinn #keepingOPENMINDS #SciFi #paranormal #YA avail NOW

3)     Facebook (tag @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn)
Example: Celebrate the launch of paranormal/SF novel OPEN MINDS by @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn for a chance to win Open Books/Open Minds prizes!

What do you think about mind reading?
Would you want this weirdo reading your mind?
Would you want to read this weirdo's mind?