Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bug!

Look at this handsome fellow! Here is the guy who keeps us young and gives us grey hair all at the same time!

Your first sentence was "I am SPEED!" (from the movie Cars) and it could not be more apt. If you are not sleeping, you are climbing, running, dancing, clapping, smiling, MOVING! It is more entertaining watching you watching a movie than it is to actually watch a movie. You are a sparkling delight, my son.

When I was discouraged during my pregnancy with you, I distinctly remember driving in daddy's Jeep, telling God all of my woes and sorrows. It was not an audible voice that I heard, but just as clear when God said, "Let me BLESS you with this son." You are only two, but God has truly blessed our family through you. As you lie in your crib each night, I pray over you blessings in return. I pray that God will reveal His path to you early in life and that once you set your foot upon it, you will never stray. I pray that you will be a young man after God's own heart, and that you will continue to grow healthy and strong. You are challenging that part! Only two and the only one of the kids to visit the ER twice and the only one to have ever gotten stitches! Such a boy. . .

Your name means "son of my right hand" and is so appropriate and God-breathed, it is as if you could have been given no other name. The story behind this is highly personal to our family, so we will tell you one day when you are older. Just know that you hold a special place in both my and daddy's hearts. And while you will always be a little brother, I envision the young man you will someday be and my heart already swells with pride. Defender of Your Sisters. Right Hand of Your Father. Heart of Your Mother. You are my son. May God richly bless you always, Bug.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bear!

Happy Birthday, Bear! It was four years ago today that I called Daddy at work after he had only been there for about twenty minutes and said, "I think you need to come right now!" Sure enough, it wasn't too long until you were born -- right at lunch time. You had the most hair of all three kids and when you were a baby it went everywhere. No matter what we did, you looked like Einstein so we called you "Bear-Bear Crazy Hair" for a long time.

You are named after my grandma who was an amazing woman. She was a tiny lady with a strong spirit and passions for Jesus, baking, gardening, taking care of people and loving her grandkids. She has had an incredible impact on my life and who I have become. We so wanted to honor her by naming you after her. She had a short name, so instead, we gave you a longer version of that name with the intention of calling you the shorter nickname, just like Grandma E. The summer after you were born, we went to a family reunion where we brought out the old family Bible. Right there was written your name, the longer version we had given you, as Grandma E's real name! Even Grandpa, who had known her since she was five years old, had not known that her real name was the same as yours! I still get goosebumps when I think of it. Your name was meant to be!

Your first name can mean "light" or "God is my strength." We think this appropriate for a lovable little person who we call "Iron Fist in Velvet Glove!" You are quite the character: funny, sweet and smart. Also stubborn, opinionated and not easily swayed (or bribed with "stittas" stickers)! Your middle name is the same as Bean's because as she is, you are a "precious and undeserved gift from God."

Before you were born, I worried, "How could I possibly love anyone as much as I love my little Bean?" (Especially after I was so sick for most of the time you were in my tummy!) It sure seems silly now to have ever worried about that. Of course, we love you like crazy!! We are so excited to see what adventures your life holds. In your four short years, you have amazed, delighted and entertained us just by being YOU. You have expanded the love in our hearts and our family. You are an awesome little sister to Bean and a loving big sister to Bug. Happy Birthday, Bear!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Prayer for America

I couldn't let election day pass by without comment, but I have promised that I would only write the one political post, so I want to be a person of my word. So this post doesn't specifically address the current election, but it is a good representation of true conservative beliefs.

Actually, Paul Harvey read a version of this prayer on air, and it has circulated as an email for a while, but this truly is "the rest of the story." The email is not entirely accurate, so I looked up the official source. (As an aside, do not pass on emails without checking them on Snopes. Snopes is a very reliable source of information regarding the veracity of all those emails that circulate!)

Back in January of 1996, the Rev. Joe Wright, senior pastor of the 2,500-member Central Christian Church in Wichita, was invited to offer the opening prayer at a session of the Kansas House of Representatives. The prayer he offered was this one (which differs somewhat from the version being circulated on the internet):

"Heavenly Father, we come before you to ask your forgiveness. We seek your direction and your guidance. We know your word says, "Woe to those who call evil good." But that's what we've done.

We've lost our spiritual equilibrium. We have inverted our values. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your word in the name of moral pluralism. We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We've exploited the poor and called it a lottery. We've neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. In the name of choice, we have killed our unborn. In the name of right to life, we have killed abortionists.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it taxes. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, oh, God, and know our hearts today. Try us. Show us any wickedness within us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of the State of Kansas, and that they have been ordained by you to govern this great state.

Grant them your wisdom to rule. May their decisions direct us to the center of your will. And, as we continue our prayer and as we come in out of the fog, give us clear minds to accomplish our goals as we begin this Legislature. For we pray in Jesus' name, Amen."

The prayer Rev. Wright used wasn't of his own crafting; it was a version of one written in 1995 by Bob Russell who offered it at the Kentucky Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Frankfort, Kentucky. Either way, it is a prayer that would serve us well, these thirteen years later.

"If we ever forget that we're one nation under GOD, then we will be a nation gone under." -- Ronald Reagan
God bless America.

Beautiful Hands

I have ugly hands. I was waiting in the car the other day, looking at them and noticed the raggedy cuticles, the scraggly edges of my fingernails, the redness of my knuckles and the overall roughness of my hands. "Wow, I could really use a manicure!" I thought to myself. But as I mulled it over, I realized what a hopeless cause it is. I am really hard on my hands. I garden without gloves, wash dishes in scalding water without gloves, strip furniture, do craft projects, lift heavy loads of books at work, repair materials with harsh chemicals and glues, all without gloves. Not to even mention all the times in a day I wash my hands while cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, taking care of pets, children, and household. Yes, a manicure would last unchipped for about, oh, maybe fifteen minutes. And you know what? I don't care if my hands are raggedy, scraggly, red or rough! (Poor El Guapo!) And here's why:

This will make me sound like I am eighty-seven years old, but I used the McGuffey's Eclectic Readers as one of my main literature books in primary school. For those of you not familiar with McGuffey's Readers, they are what hundreds of thousands (if not millions!) of Americans grew up reading in school since the 1800's. They are aptly called "Eclectic Readers" because they contain a whole host of reading samples from poetry to expository selections on animals and natural history to stories and fables with moral lessons. A little selection in McGuffey's Third Eclectic Reader is called "Beautiful Hands." I must have been about ten or eleven when I read it, but it has stuck with me ever since. In the conversation that is the story, Daisy walks home with her teacher and comments on the course-looking hands of classmate Mary. But Miss Roberts tells Daisy that Mary's hands are the prettiest in the whole class. Miss Roberts goes on to explain that Mary's hands are rough because of all the hard work she does around her house and lists all of the grueling chores that women and girls performed in the late 1800's. And besides work, Mary's hands are used to be kind to her younger siblings and those less fortunate. Miss Roberts goes on to say that, "They are full of good deeds to every living thing. I have seen them patting the tired horse and the lame dog in the street. They are always ready to help those who need help." But my favorite lines are the last two. After Daisy hears of Mary's many good works, she feels remorse at having said that Mary's hands are ugly. Her wise teacher instructs, "Then, my dear, show your sorrow by deeds of kindness. The good alone are really beautiful."

I remember reading that story for the first time, and purposing in my young heart that I wanted to have the kind of beautiful hands that are set about meaningful work. This is not to say that caring for oneself or even having nice, manicured hands is a bad thing. For me, though, my hands are a visual reminder of what is truly important. That the outward appearances are much less important than the inward spirit and attitude. So if it takes having ugly hands to remind me that setting about kindness and goodness in my daily life is my goal, than I will keep them as they are and be content.

Often our bodies show the stories of our lives. Sometimes we reveal poor habits or unhealthy living. Other times we hint at our obsession with the superficial and the temporal. We can reveal if we have a low opinion of ourselves or too high of one, if we are modest or proud, if we are scared or confident. When you see people who bear the scars of hard work or hard knocks or hard living, how do you judge them? Think of the etched face of Mother Teresa. She was no beauty by earthly standards, but the lines on her face, the stoop in her walk, the cracks in her hands were testaments to the principles by which she lived her life. I think of One whose body most showed the way He lived His life -- all the way to His death on the cross. Jesus bears the scars of sacrificial love. I am so not even close to living out my love that way. But I'd like to move in that direction more and more every day.

Lastly, I have thought about this little story many times over the years. It has literally been woven into the very fabric of who I am and has impacted how I see the world and others. And it was this last time reflecting on it that something new was driven home. Oh, how the little things can impact who we become. What are my kids filling their minds with? How will those things shape who they become, how they see others, how they view world? What careless words do I say that will burn into their brains? What do we value enough to impart? What are they being "fed" each day to help them grow? So excuse me now. I have to go attend to Bear and Bug -- and turn off Sponge Bob!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why I Am NOT Voting for Obama -- PART II

If you did not read yesterday's post, STOP. Read that first. Then we can still be friends!

I believe in LIFE. Yup, I think that we kind of skip over that part of the Constitution about LIFE, and jump straight to “liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (Please notice that we are NOT guaranteed happiness, just the right to PURSUE it, but that is a different post for a different day!). I hate being reduced to a one-issue voter, though. I am deeper than one issue. I have thoughts about the war, the economy, health care, gun control. Thoughts that I have formed through long and hard consideration, opinions that are well-reasoned and dearly-held. But once again, this year, I will be voting primarily over one issue and frankly, it kind of irks me that I will be forced to do that AGAIN. But I am left with no choice because the issue is fundamental to the core of my being.

Am I pro-life in the anti-abortion kind of way? Yes, I am. And again, I speak from a well-reasoned point of view. I was an unwed woman with an unplanned pregnancy and at the time, my life would have been a whole lot “easier” if I had just exercised “my choice” and made the whole situation go away. I would be a liar if I said I didn't consider it, but I must say that it was only for a fleeting moment. It's amazing how those bedrock principles you think you hold dear really hold up when the opportunity presents itself to actually put them into practice! I literally thank God everyday for my beautiful daughter and the clarity and sanity that prevailed in choosing life. But even the abortion issue is not what I am writing about. I think that most people have pretty clear views on that one way or another and are not going to be swayed. So be it. (I am also one of the few pro-lifers I know who think that Roe vs. Wade will never be overturned. I think it is foolhardy for pro-lifers to think it and alarmist for pro-choicers to say a political candidate will accomplish it.)

Indeed, Obama believes in abortion. At a townhall meeting on March 31, 2008, Obama said of his daughters (in the context of a conversation on HIV/AIDS and sex education), “I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby." Wow. Look into your kid's eyes and see if you could ever think of them as “punishment” or "mistake." But even this is not why I am not voting for him. I am not voting for Barack Obama, a senator from my home state, because he has on several separate occasions voted in favor of infanticide. Yes, killing babies. This is NOT an abortion issue. This is about live babies, with BIRTH certificates, being allowed to inhumanely die without being given any medical care or intervention. I'm sorry, but in a gray world, this is a black and white issue and it is WRONG. And for me, it is unforgivable. Recently the media has picked up on this issue a little, but I have known about this since 2002 and have been stewing ever since.

While Obama was in the Illinois State Legislature he voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act which would have mandated medical attention for any baby born alive. It sought to offer equal treatment under the law for babies who survived premature inducement for the purpose of abortion and wanted babies who were born prematurely and given life-saving care. It was virtually identical to the federal Born Alive Infant Protection Act signed into law by President Bush with only 15 House members opposing it and unanimous Senate support.

The language in both bills meant it would have NO IMPACT on Roe vs. Wade. NARAL Pro-Choice America released the following statement when it was being debated at the federal level: “Consistent with our position last year, NARAL does not oppose passage of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act ... floor debate served to clarify the bill’s intent and assure us that it is not targeted at Roe v. Wade or a woman’s right to choose.”

But Obama voted against the Illinois version of the bill twice and killed it in committee a third time. (To be fair, he voted “present” the first time and “no” the second. Same thing!!) This was just six short years ago. Does he truly support infanticide? Does he merely lack good judgment? This is a bill that was supported at the federal level by the likes of Hillary Rodham-Clinton, Ted Kennedy and other uber-liberal, pro-choice senators. Either way, Obama is totally out of touch on this issue, and it is not one to be taken lightly.

This is LIFE. BABIES. Children who were left to die in laundry closets, cold and alone. I wouldn't treat a puppy that way, let alone a child. And frankly, I have no ears to listen to anyone who would say that this is okay. Ignorance is not an excuse. Protecting Roe vs. Wade has been proven not to be a valid excuse. There is no excuse. This is America. We are a culture of life. We are not China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea. Life is woven into the very fabric of our Constitution. At the Saddleback Civil Forum, Pastor Rick Warren asked, "At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?" Obama dodged the question by responding, "Answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade." Well, that's just great. Wherever you are on the pro-life/pro-choice issue, I think we can all agree that if you are born and have a birth certificate, you might be alive and therefore have "human rights." But apparently in Obama's world, that's not enough.

Even so, I know that my vote is not going to count. Illinois is always a blue state and especially this year, will go to Obama. But I believe in personal responsibility when it comes to civic duty, so I will go the ballot box this year and cast my vote and pray and hope that against the odds, McCain will win. I hope a lot of Illinoisans will vote and make the race close so that Obama knows that his home state doesn't give him a carte blanche mandate.

Finally, I have posted this video after much soul-searching. I don't like being manipulated emotionally, and I don't like to emotionally manipulate others. I don't think that Obama is a closet Muslim, and I don't care that his middle name is Hussein. I don't believe that he as president would have all that much power or be able to make even half of his promises come true so my underwear is not in any kind of a bunch! I also believe in the sovereignty of God and that he “allows rulers their thrones.” But I do believe that it is morally imperative to vote your convictions, and more than any other topic, I believe in the sanctity of life. For me it is not a political issue, but a moral one, akin to the slavery issue of the 19th Century. So I post this video with the caveat that I do not necessarily agree with all of's tenets, but the testimony of the nurse and the final visual of the baby is just too powerful not to be seen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why I Am NOT Voting For Obama

Wow. Here you are, just thinking you’ll pop on over to friendly MSH to see what that crazy ZamFam is up to and you get a giant political smack in the face! Well, before you get all riled up, please read the next two paragraphs. Sit down, relax and let me tell you a little story from when I was a kid. (No politics, I promise!) And then decide if you want to read the rest. . . .

I grew up living in an unincorporated neighborhood on a gravel road. We were an eclectic bunch of folks living in an odd assortment of houses that included one that was meant to be underground, but was built above ground due to permit problems; a couple of Swiss-style chalets; a multi-level house built in a sort of circular style; a house whose front looked like a giant glass pinwheel; a Tudor mansion; and an old Girl Scout camp lodge. Our house was my parents' dream home, a plan they got in a magazine with soaring cathedral ceilings, spectacular hillside views and finished with salvaged items.

In an era before such groups were common, we had a neighborhood association that was responsible primarily for contracting for services to grade and add gravel to the road in the summer and plow in the winter. My dad would come home with spectacular stories about the “fireworks” at these meetings. Get a group of eccentric folks together with their equally eccentric ideas, toss in some hot-heads and watch the fun ensue. One of the hottest was a red-headed, red-faced German named Martin. He was formidable – big, loud, intimidating, prone to swearing while clenching his smelly European cigarettes in his teeth. And that was before he got to these meetings. Apparently he was quite passionate about various issues that came up and wasn't afraid to let everyone within a ten mile radius know what he thought. Then, on cold, January mornings, he would be at the top of our hill, waiting to drive the neighborhood kids to school, all gruff smiles and German-accented pleasantries. I remember asking my dad about this, how you could be at such loggerheads with someone one moment and still be friendly with them later. I knew my dad had deep moral convictions about how to treat people, so I wasn't asking so much how my dad did it, but what about blustery Martin? Martin himself had explained to my dad that Europeans were different from Americans in many ways, but one notable way was that Europeans were perfectly willing to fight about ideas to the death, but when the arguing was over, it was time to shake hands and head out for a beer -- the old “let's disagree agreeably” that is so easy to say, but so hard to do.

I write this rather long introduction partly because it was fun for me to remember our old neighborhood and its interesting inhabitants, but to also illustrate how I hope that friends, family and acquaintances who read this blog and also know me in real life will take what I post today. First this will be the only post this year about politics unless something totally bizarre happens like McCain or Obama turning French. Let me say that I am a “rah-rah” American, probably one of the more patriotic people you’ll ever meet. I am unabashedly proud to be American and think that the United States is the greatest nation ever to grace the face of the planet. Please don’t write to tell me about all the ways America has screwed up or how much we suck. I know that America is not perfect, has screwed up and sometimes even sucks. I’m just saying that other countries are even less perfect, screw up more and are suckier – take France for instance. . . . Just as a crazy aside: I actually like the new French president Sarkozy, so maybe I’ll move to France if this election doesn’t turn out how I want.

And I know it is not polite to discuss politics or religion, but since I already talk about my faith, I guess one political post won’t kill anyone. This is not a blog about politics, work or rants, but it is MY blog, so I reserve the right to write about what I want and occasionally that will be on some of these topics. I write because it is cathartic for me and it helps me solidify and order my thoughts. I have gotten into many discussions about politics this year, even though I avoid them like I might avoid a stranger in a dark alley, and I have walked away feeling frustrated that I wasn’t better able to articulate what I believe. Depending on how happy I am with this post when I’m done, I think I might carry around little cards with my blog address and if people ask me what I think, I’ll just smile, say nothing and hand them my blog address card!

I also know there are several people who know me in the real world who are going to differ with me. I already know you disagree with me (even if you don’t know I disagree with you!) and I like you anyway! I hope we can all be grownups and celebrate the fact that we live in America where we can dissent and not end up in jail or friendship purgatory. Let’s do like the Europeans and disagree like crazy and then all go out for beer together afterward and chum it up. With us it will have to be figurative beer since I only like British ale on tap and not really that much. How about coffee? Whiskey?

And if you want to argue with me in cyberworld, that’s fine too. You can even comment and tell me about it. Let’s just not call names or be reduced to slinging insults (that’s reserved for the French). Frankly, I don’t intend to have a long drawn out discussion about this. This is my manifesto and you’re not going to change my mind. It’s not that I am not open minded. I was. I have researched this situation, formed an opinion and now my mind is closed. You won’t dissuade me from my position. My job as “information bounty hunter” has served me well because my mind is geared toward gathering and synthesizing information. I have gathered, synthesized, ordered, formulated and to use an Olympic metaphor – here is my “stuck landing.”

So now this post is crazy long and I haven't even written about what I actually believe! So I will post my “Why I Am NOT Voting For Obama PART TWO” with the actual “meat” of what I wanted to say in a separate post. You have been warned. Read at your own risk. See, that wasn't so bad, now was it? How about that coffee?

(Part II is written and will auto-post tomorrow . . . stayed tuned . . . then back to regular programming!)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Chica's Big Day Out (or how I took years off my kids' lives. . .)

One of my enduring passions is World War II, mostly because I do believe that the "greatest generation" did nothing less than save the world. The 1940s-era holds endless fascination for me, and I never tire of hearing stories from both the front lines and the home front of the courage, ingenuity and heroism.

So it was with great excitement that the ZamFam5 headed out to the largest WWII re-enactment in North America. It is held every September about an hour away from our house. When we arrived, we were met with all the sights and sounds of a German-occupied French village. Trying to get our bearings, we pulled off to the side of a dirt track that ran through the center of town only to have a volley of gunfire erupt mere feet away! We had inadvertently found ourselves with a front row view of one of the many skirmishes that are held throughout the day. It was deafeningly loud. Bug was so scared he turned completely white, went totally stiff and held his mouth open in a silent scream. The girls kept looking at me wide-eyed for assurance, but shouting at them didn't really convey that everything was okay. El Guapo had a priceless expression on his face that said, "Don't look at me. This is all your mother's doing!"

Before the battle, occupying forces patrolled the streets.

Their friendly and casual demeanor gave no indication of the gunfire that was about to erupt in moments!
The gunfire reports were so powerful, you could feel the concussions on your chest. Awesome!
Some Allied troops had taken up in the General Store and were trying to battle their way outside. We thought the rifles were loud and then they rolled up with this baby! Percussive! In the interest of realism, not all of the battles end with Allied victories and in this instance, the good guys were captured and marched away. Then the occupying forces packed up and rolled on down the street.

There are home front and front lines exhibitions, as well. Here the girls are in the area showing the role of the Red Cross.

Everywhere are period vehicles and folks in costume. So authentic.

This could be on a street corner in 1944. Love the uniforms!

The front lines area is divided into Allied and Axis zones. Visitors hike through the woods to view various encampments. Can you imagine living like this?

There are many impressive military vehicles.

This officer was impressive and realistic with his dapper uniform and dour expression.
Not a real fan of posting pictures of my girls with a N**i, but the horse in the picture is a movie star. He played John Adams' horse in the HBO miniseries. (If I ever run for public office, I might have to remove this one -- can you imagine what someone could write?!)

This is my favorite picture of the day (thanks, El Guapo!) because it so perfectly captures that even though conditions were most difficult, British will, order and patriotism still thrived. Brilliant.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Walking on Broken Glass

I often listen to the pastor from Moody Memorial Church on a local radio station. After I have gotten El Guapo and Bean out the door to work and school, dropped off Bear at preschool and am ready for a strong cup of coffee and some breakfast, Erwin Lutzer comes on. My favorite breakfast is eggs, and it's funny that even if I hear him at some other time of day, I suddenly will get a hankering for eggs as soon as I hear his voice. We have spent that many mornings together! He has a distinctive voice that El Guapo is not very fond of, but I have come to find such a sweet familiarity there, it is like sitting down with a beloved friend over coffee each morning and getting eloquent and humble teaching.

A few weeks ago he spoke about Paul admonishing us to walk circumspectly and to illustrate what this looks like, he gave the following word picture. When he took a trip to Africa, he noticed that most houses and buildings had high solid fences around them. To offer further security, bottles and glass had been broken and then embedded in the top of the concrete to discourage people from climbing over.

He then vividly recalled seeing a cat walking across the top of one of those walls. As it walked along the jagged shards, it picked its way carefully, mindful of each step, placing each paw in a safe spot. It was hard for the cat to always find a foothold, but Lutzer was impressed when the cat reached the end of the wall and leaped gracefully down, with nary a scrape or cut. He had traversed the broken glass unscathed!

(Imagine glass shards on top!)

Of course, the parallel is that we should walk in our own lives as carefully, contemplating each step and choosing the wisest course. I sure need to practice that more! How my life would change if I could just not open my big mouth as much, but use more restraint and reflection! I tend to be more like this:

You know, running headlong, tongue lolling out, stepping in who knows what! So even though I am a "dog person," I guess I need to be more of a "cat person," if only in this one way: to ask God for wisdom at each juncture of my day and to put into practice those things that I SAY I believe, but don't always act on. I guess this is the journey to authenticity that I'll be on for the rest of my life.

"Be very careful then how you live -- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." -Ephesians 5:15

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ZamFam Road Trip: Part 4

See, Bug did actually have fun on vacation. This is chillin' East Coast style! Can you believe those eyelashes? They cast shadows! And you heard it here first, folks. That outfit is prophetic. My boy is going to be a world class baseball player (mostly because I have forbidden him from playing football!)

Uncle Randy's world famous, gut-busting sundaes! Yeee--ummmm!

The proud American (extended) ZamFam at the Washington Monument. We went to Washington, D.C. for the day to walk around the monuments in the mall. The theme of our trip seemed to be insane humidity and crazy heat, but we had an awesome time. We walked our feet off, but even in the heat, D.C. was moving and invigorating. We are definitely going to try to get back and spend MUCH more time. There is a definite atmosphere about Washington that exudes power and drive.

If you know me for about ten minutes, you will know that I am a World War II buff. This memorial was the main reason I wanted to visit Washington. It alone was worth the visit and exceeded my expectations. I found it so incredibly moving that I left everyone at the reflection pool and walked around by myself with tears streaming down my face and a huge lump in my throat. I must have looked strange to some people (I wouldn't really pass for a WWII vet!), but I didn't care.

This is the view of the memorial from the top of the Washington Monument. It is one of the most gorgeous, well-designed public spaces I have ever seen, full of symbolism, gravitas and import -- so befitting the people and events it memorializes. It is amazing to me that this memorial is so new, that we didn't have a national monument prior to 2004. Fittingly, it was begun in September 2001 and was funded primarily through private donations. (Tom Hanks and Bob Dole spearheaded the fundraising. Thanks, Tom and Bob! -- Yeah we're on a first name basis.)

"HERE WE MARK THE PRICE OF FREEDOM" (and here is where the tears flowed even more freely). This is a reflection pond with the above inscription in the foreground and a field of blue studded with gold stars in the background. Each of the 4,000 stars represents 100 American lives sacrificed (400,000) in the war that saved the world from tyranny.

The oval is flanked by two pavilions representing the two theaters of war -- the Pacific and the Atlantic. In the center of the memorial is a large fountain which drowns out street noise and offers a fitting background for contemplation. Fifty-six large columns offer the roll call of the nation -- one for each state and territory that united in the effort. The wreaths on each pillar are of oak and wheat symbolizing the nation's industrial and agricultural strength which were essential to the success of the global effort. There are also quotes and inscriptions throughout the memorial from key battles.

On the floor of each pavilion is a large medallion of the WWII Victory Medal that all who served received. Suspended from the ceiling are four bronze victory eagles holding laurel wreaths. So spectacular! I had a headache when I left because I was swallowing so hard trying not to just burst out weeping. I'm sorry my picture descriptions sound so "guidebook-ish." I just cannot convey how meaningful it was for me to visit this memorial. Never before have so few sacrificed so much for so many. (And just imagine my poor nephews who were with on this trip. They would offer the following advice: never go on a vacation to Washington, D.C. with your aunt if she is a history teacher! If you think this is bad . . . )

We also went to the Vietnam War Memorial. The famous Wall is beautiful as it is not a wall just jutting out of the ground, but is a graceful arc that starts thin, culminates at over six fee tall and than narrows back down to a few inches. It is built into the side a small rise and has the name of each soldier who was killed, captured or missing in the war. If the name has a diamond after it, that soldier is confirmed dead. If there is a cross after the name, that soldier is MIA or captured. There are over 1000 names on the wall designated as MIA/POW. I found this mind boggling, as did Bean, who poignantly asked, "Why did people invent war?" Good question.

The Korean War Memorial was also incredible. "The Forgotten War" is memorialized by a fitting inscription: "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." As a former history teacher, I knew the dates of the Korean War (1950-1953), but until I saw the memorials all together, I didn't realize the ramifications of the fact that the Korean War was just a short five years after the end of World War Two. It was also one of the first major tests of the newly formed United Nations (not a real stellar legacy if you ask me -- considering the present situation with North Korea) and the first time US troops went into battle as UN forces. In three years of conflict the US lost over 36,000 soldiers in addition to 92,000 wounded, 8200 MIA and 7100 POW.

Statistics like these and those from WWII and Vietnam really put the Iraq War in perspective for me. Any casualty is one too many, but on this day of remembering patriots, we really should think about all that our troops have accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq and with some of the lowest troop casualties of any war the US has ever fought.

I have a few more pictures from D.C., but I will post them in one final "Road Trip." Our trip to the nation's capital was amazing and with family living so close to it, we plan on many returns. I'll leave you with one final picture for today:

America. Land of the Free. Home of the Brave.

Waxing ever patriotic,


Never Forget

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? Do you remember what you were thinking and feeling? Do you remember what you were afraid of, afraid for? Do you remember who you wanted to be with, who you wanted to call, who you wanted to embrace? Do you remember the bravery, the heroism, the patriotism?

Pause for a moment of reflection. Fly your flag. Give a loved one an extra hug. Call your mom. Kiss your kids. Praise God for simple blessings. Thank a hero. Never forget.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

ZamFam Road Trip: Part 3

After getting to Baltimore around 3:00 a.m., we went that Sunday afternoon to an Orioles game at Camden Yards, or as the locals say, "Dah Yahds." I'm not sure if it's always as hot and humid as it was the week we were there, but all week was in the nineties and it was close to 100 degrees at the ballpark. We had a great time anyway, even though the Orioles lost to the Detroit Tigers. Most pleasant was how easy it was to get to the park and how clean and gorgeous it was. Other highlights were the air conditioned gift shop and the free hotdogs after last call in the seventh inning!

Here's Bean keeping cool at Dah Yahds.

Here's Bear trying to keep cool.

Again here's Bug having a rockin' time. He loved every outing, as you can tell!

Bear kept asking, "Why are they called the Oreos?"

Here's our godson passed out on his daddy's shoulder. A good time was had by all!