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An Open Letter to Congressman Darin LaHood

February 2, 2017

The Honorable Darin LaHood

United States House of Representatives

 

Dear Mr. LaHood,

I’m from a proud military family. I lost family in WWII and Vietnam. My dad was wounded in the Philippines, and my great-grandpa in the Civil War. My nephew is now deployed on the USS Carl Vinson in the Western Pacific. I am his guardian, because his mother is recently deceased. I am here because his safety, and the safety of other sons and daughters in the military, is at risk.

I am not speaking to the immigration ban, which is unnecessary for the security of our homeland. I am speaking to the process by which the President got to his executive order.

President Trump did not vet his executive order with the Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, the Customs and Border Officers, or even his own Vice President, who is on record as saying that such a ban would be unconstitutional.

The President didn’t want other opinions because power has intoxicated him and those around him. The problem is one of temperament and character. That will not get better. It will get worse. Trump is unfit to be President and he is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief. When he does not consult established governmental institutions, when he acts punitively and impulsively, he puts our military, and my family, in unnecessary danger.

As a constituent in your district, I expect you to speak out against this unnecessary immigration ban. I expect you to voice your concern that the President and his advisor Steve Bannon acted without the counsel they needed. A tactic exactly like this one will start our next war. As your constituent, I want to meet with you.

Finally, when the House has to vote on impeachment—and it will—you need a simple majority. That will be a defining moment for you, Mr. LaHood. I hope you will stand for what is right for our country.

Very truly yours,

Dr. R. Kay Moss

 

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Open letter to a sailor

We had a family tragedy in October, when a sister died, leaving our nephew without parents. He’s 22 years old, in the Navy, deployed in the Pacific. Ships go weeks at a time where sailors cannot contact family members. It’s hard, on both sailors and families. Here is my open letter to Quaid, our sailor, in one of the most difficult of weeks.

 

January 22, 2017

Dear Quaid,

Not one day goes by I don’t think about you and hope you and your shipmates are safe during your deployment on the USS Carl Vinson. I’m packing a care package for you, with something inside for Christian as well. I remember you said you might pull into port by mid-February. We are trying to be patient as we wait to hear from you.

I wonder if you received any news of the inauguration? Trump was sworn in Friday. Whenever you come to port, wherever that is, you will be setting foot into a world that is different from any you have known. His speech set a tone heard around the world:

          This American carnage stops right here and stops right now….

          We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first — America first….

Within moments, the White House website changed. Gone were pages confirming LGBT rights. Gone were pages helping citizens with disabilities. Gone were pages on climate change. Gone were pages on healthcare and civil rights.

Then, on the day following the inauguration, millions marched through cities on every single continent. Yes, even Antarctica. What started as a Women’s March on Washington turned into a global march in protest of this President and his administration. The news is saying it was the largest protest in history. Marches were held in every major city in the US, in numbers that shut down parts of the cities. Washington DC, the center of it all, had an estimated 500,000 people, three times the number attending the inauguration itself. Every major city, from London to Los Angeles, Paris to Chicago, Melbourne to Denver to Seattle.

On that same day, as people protested around the world, Trump launched two new direct attacks on the press. For those who know history, silencing the press is an ominous sign.

Some conservative friends are trying to back up a bit, saying he wasn’t really their candidate! They try to reassure their Facebook friends they really are nice people! Why, they do good things all the time! Yet, they go to bed every night, tucked safely into their white privilege, unaffected by their vote.

I spent the day in a seminar learning how to make the voices of resistance heard. Organizationally, it’s all about showing up, speaking articulately on specific national issues at the local level. It’s about getting our elected officials to represent all of his or her constituents. It’s about forming a more perfect union, despite the odds just now.

My dear Quaid, I open my emails every day hoping you had a little window of Wi-Fi so you could let your family hear you are OK. Your family is surrounding you with prayers for your safety and for the safety of everyone on the ship.

Fair winds and safe seas. We love you, Quaid. Your mother would be most proud. 

Love, Kay

 

 

Cousin Dee

dee-ann-editMy cousin, Dee Ann, passed away suddenly in October. We grew up in the same small town in Indiana. I had no brothers or sisters, so my cousins meant everything to me. This was half a century ago in rural Indiana, in the 50’s and 60’s. The front yard was the baseball field and the sand box was in the back. Grandma Neva lived in the house trailer beyond that. Dad taught us how to tie a lure to our fishing line and he taught us how to cast. We had a merry-go-round and rope swings and a teeter-totter and a tree house or two. Our moms wanted us out of the house. So the cousins played outside a lot.

After Dee moved to California, I lost track of her. We fell out of touch. Life got in the way. It wasn’t until this year that I figured out how to find her. I contacted her son through Facebook and he told me Dee’s phone number. Dee and I started texting. A couple times after her death, I’ve reread those texts. They stop in April, because we started calling and that was better. Still, having more texts to reread would be nice right now. On the phone, we talked about her son, mostly. He was her everything.

In one of our phone calls, Dee reminded me of a time I was baby-sitting her. I’d forgotten this ever happened, but Dee remembered.

I was eight years older than Dee Ann. This made me prime baby-sitter material. I was sitting for Dee and a friend of hers. They were maybe 7 or 8 at the time. That night, one of those huge Midwestern thunderstorms came rolling in. The kind where lightening strikes, and you can see it out over the prairie. Then you count how many seconds until you hear the thunder. That tells you how many miles away the storm is. Then the skies open up and water just pours.

The little girls were scared, screaming and running around, crawling under the bed. So I invited them to come out on the front porch with me. I don’t know how I knew to do that. Perhaps from my own dad. Out on the porch, we could see the lightning. Count the seconds. Reach our hands out from under the roof and get wet. Sit on the porch step and stick our bare legs out into the rain.

Pretty soon, they weren’t afraid any more. We’d seen the rain and thunder for what it is: the beauty in those bolts of lightening, the water that will wash us clean.

Dee reminded me, earlier this year, of our night on the porch so long ago.

This October, Dee died sitting in her favorite chair on her front porch. I’d say that’s a good thing. Out on the porch, you can face down any fears you might have. No hiding under covers. Out on the porch, you see the beauty in those bolts of the lightning. Then count the seconds, without fear, as the sky opens up and the splendor surrounds you.

 

Sheep Heid Inn

I’ve read Roddy’s blog a few years now. He’s smart and funny and writes well. He travels a lot and goes to concerts and book festivals. Before he retired, Roddy was a librarian for Hariot-Watt University.

Roddy lives in Edinburgh. Lindsey gets him out on adventures. Wives can be good that way.

Lucky for us, Roddy and Lindsey were not on an adventure when we visited Edinburgh so they could have dinner with us. We met at the Sheep Heid Inn.

Sheep Heid is the oldest pub in Scotland, established in 1360. (This is not a typo. I’ll pause while those of us in the States try to grasp 1360.) This pub also had the distinction recently of serving a meal to the Queen. This surprised the folks in the pub. “Gobsmacked” is the word Lindsey used.

I knew we’d have a good time with Roddy and Lindsey . We ate and drank and laughed and told stories until they closed that little pub. The Queen didn’t revisit Sheep Heid for a second helping of lamb rump the evening we were there. That’s ok. Meeting our friends seemed royal enough.

PS: If you go, order the box-baked Camembert served with a cherry and thyme sauce.  I’ve prepared it a few times for friends since coming home. When I serve it, the topic of Sheep Heid just happens to come up.

 

Edinburgh

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After a week in Wales, Tom and David and I flew from Cardiff to Edinburgh. We stayed in New Town. The construction of New Town started in 1767. Expansive streets with names like George and Queen and Princes were built for the large homes of wealthy Scots. Narrower streets behind allowed servants to enter the homes from the back. These narrow streets, now closed to cars, are filled with pubs and shops and restaurants. Our apartment was located on Rose Street, the narrow street just behind Princes. From this central location, we could walk to everything. We walked to the National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. We walked down the Royal Mile and into shops selling shortbread and Scottish cashmere. We walked to the Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle is home to the Stone of Destiny. This stone is a symbol of Scotland and the monarchy, even though it seems rather unremarkable. Our Liberty Bell is unremarkable, too, yet touching it still brings me to tears.

The Scottish National War Memorial feels like a chapel on the Castle grounds. We hush and look up at the names of the fallen soldiers carved on the walls.  Family members find their loved one and reach up to run their hands across the letters.

Overlooking Edinburgh, just beyond the Castle parapets, a little garden is set aside as a cemetery where soldiers, since the time of Queen Victoria, have buried their dogs.

Wales

In July, Tom and his brother and I flew to London and then took a train to Wales. We rented a car and drove this beautiful country for about a week. The whole of Wales is about the size of New Jersey.

  • Cardiff: We rented a car in Cardiff. David and I programmed the GPS and Tom practiced driving from the right side of the car. We ate porridge for breakfast at the Trade Street Cafe.
  • Swansea: We visited the birthplace and boyhood home of Dylan Thomas. Matthew, the curator, gave us a 3-hour private tour and told Thomas family stories. Florence gave birth to Dylan in the front bedroom. That room was warmer. Her daughter, Nancy, lay sick in the next room with the measles while her husband, David, was drunk at the pub.
  • Fishguard: We visited St. David’s Cathedral and walked the Pembrokeshire Coastal Pathway. We met Michael and Jeanette. They invited us to share their table in the little pub on High Street. Michael taught us about unpastureurized beers and talked about the recent Brexit vote. They like the Great British Baking Show as much as we do. The UK is several seasons ahead of us so Jeanette already knew about Mr. Hollywood running off with someone from the show.
  • Laugharne: Dylan Thomas wrote some of his later works in a boathouse. The coastline is beautiful here.
  • Brecon Beacons: Parts of the castle in Brecon still stand. We stayed in the Castle Hotel. We drank beer on the rooftop and watched the sun set over Brecon Beacons, a national park.
  • Hay-on-Wye: The village of Hay is known for its second hand book shops. Our favorite, down a little side street, was Belle Books. The owner showed us photos of his dog, Belle. She died last year and he mourns her still.
  • Cowbridge: After lunch in Cowbridge, we returned the car and flew to Edinburgh.

The car’s GPS routed us using the shortest possible distance. Sometimes this meant one-lane roads lined with hedges. This seemed not to bother the onlooking sheep as much as it bothered our driver. Tom drew the line at taking the grassy lane, however, so we backtracked a bit.

 

 

 

Tools

When I first started gardening, I purchased a hoe like Uncle Raymond’s. A metal stirrup attached to a long wooden handle. His garden was the best I’ve seen. A little square of Eden, right in the back yard. He knew garden tools. My new hoe didn’t make my garden like  Uncle Raymond’s though.

I don’t know what happened to that hoe. I probably didn’t take care of it. As I’ve gotten older, I take better care of my tools. Dad taught me a lot about tools and machines and how they work.

Dad didn’t hang his tools just so. They might be on a pegboard or they might not. Maybe in the red tool box. Blades were always sharp, though. I have the stone he gave me to sharpen my knives with. Today I took apart my Felco pruners and used it to sharpen the blade.

A sacred rendezvous

WWI cemetery 3 copySome 150 miles northwest of Paris lies an American cemetery. Soldiers from World War I are buried there. Families don’t visit much. Families remember WWII veterans and go to Normandy. If you want to visit digitally, click on Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. When you zoom in, you see the rows and rows of crosses. These hills were once battlefields. Now they are home to boys who never came home.

The inscription on the chapel wall:

This chapel is erected by the United States of America as a sacred rendezvous of a grateful people with its immortal dead. 

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Easter, 1958

Easter 1958I was lucky. I got a lot hand-me-downs from my cousin, Carol.

Water is Life

Cambodian WellAs in most developing countries, Cambodians have little access to clean drinking water. We saw grass huts with jugs of cloudy water. Maybe the water was for washing. I suspect it was for drinking, too. With the help of Phal, our guide in Cambodia, Tom and I donated money for a well to be built in a Cambodian village.

Phal sent us a photo of the new well. It’s located in Tanorl Trorng, a village in the Soni Kum district, 25 miles east of Siem Reap, Angkor. Phal thanked us with this note:

We would like to say thank you for all your good heart. 
Your donation make our people life difference.
Water is life.