I have just created the Emma Award, to be given as the mood takes me for whatever takes my fancy. I hereby bestow the first Emma on Carrie Vaughn for her new novella, Paranormal Bromance, for most creative use of Pizza and Pizza Delivery in any medium. Since I haven’t decided what the Emma Award looks like yet, actual bestowal is at this time virtual.
The autumnal equinox is almost here, so I took the camera out yesterday to capture the golden sidewalk effect. This happens before and after the equinox, when the sun rises between two houses facing the straight east/west portion of my street. My friend RJ Diogenes, writer, cartoonist, photographer and all around good guy, named it The Golden Sidewalk Of The Equinox. Good name for a beautiful natural effect.
Probably I should learn how to do this as a slideshow, but for now, please scroll down to see the sun pour golden light down my street as it rises.
They meant well, my parents. Mom and Dad were both youngest children of large families, and neither had the parenting skills they eventually developed when I came along.
It’s not as if I arrived express either! Though the firstborn, I was not “premature” nor was I a nine months from the day of the wedding baby. I showed up a good 16 months after they shared their vows.
By the time Mom ran into Dad after WWII and showed him her ringless finger, she had two nieces and a nephew, and I’m guessing she babysat them, but maybe not when they were tiny infants.
Dad would come home from working on the railroad to find me screaming, Mom crying, my diaper loaded, and Mom unable to do anything about it because she was so terrified she’d break one of my long but otherwise tiny legs.
So Dad would step up, announce Operation Mustard! and go to work completing his mission. I’d be clean, dry and happy, Mom would dry her tears, and Dad was our hero. Eventually Mom’s on the job training kicked in and she took over this duty.
Mercifully, I have no actual memories of this, but growing up I sure got to hear about it.
Mom was a terrible cook. I still gag at the memory of green beans. There wasn’t much Mom couldn’t ruin. As a toddler, I would drink milk and push the rest of the meal away. Milk didn’t need cooking. But cooking was woman’s work, so Mom did the best she could.
Mom was a quality control inspector at Fisher Body during WWII. She was working as a secretary, noticed all the more interesting jobs other women were doing, and asked her boss about it. It required certification, he told her, and she’d have to go to college to get it. If she got certified, could she have the job? she
asked. Sure, he told her, apparently not expecting her to follow through. She did, he kept his promise, and she got the job.
Though Mom had shown her stuff in the workplace during WWII, she and most of the women who had stepped up were laid off, and the crack in the division of labor was hastily repaired to divide women’s work from men’s work once again. Go home, get married, have babies, they were told.
The boys they knew before the war were coming home as men. My parents had met at Collinwood High when Dad was the new “dreamboat” after he was kicked out of Cathedral Latin. I think they dated, one of my sister’s isn’t so sure, but I do know that Mom had been engaged to somebody else for a while and Dad had known about it. When they ran into each other after the war, she held up her ringless left hand. They married soon after.
Mom was a world class tennis player. I realized recently what a bad move it was on my part when I refused to let her teach me how to play. Okay, so tennis was not my passion, but what insights into hers I could have had!
If Mom had had the tiniest chance, she could have gone pro. But even if she’d had the chance, would she have? Like many men of the 50s, Dad forbade Mom from taking a job outside the home.
Like some women of the 60s, Mom did anyway. We three oldest girls took turns babysitting our new baby brothers and sisters as Mom worked part time.
So I’m thinking, yes, if she’d had an opportunity to go pro, she could have, and I’d like to think she would have.
And she would have done very well. Tennis was her passion and tennis was what she was good at. Not cooking.
Growing up with a German last name in the 1950s had its moments. Kids would tell me that I was a Nazi, and I would nuh uh and they would yah huh, and eventually I’d point out that my Daddy took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. “Whose side was he on?” they used to taunt. All these years later, I finally thought of a better reply, “Well, whose side invaded?”
Dad seldom talked about his WWII service. He’d tell the same joke:
An American soldier goes into a pub.
“Well, Yank, what’ll ye have?”
“Gee, I haven’t had cocoa in a long time.”
“Cocoa?!” says the barman. “Even the bloody King don’t get cocoa!!”
We’d laugh, every time, but we’d forget to ask more questions.
He let us play with his peacoat, even let me have it when I was a teen. But he didn’t talk much about his actual experiences. I knew that he’d been on a ship for D-Day, but for years was confused about the date. D-Day is not June 7th, that’s D-Day Plus 1, and I think that’s the day his ship arrived to support the invasion.
Now that I’ve seen his Navy personal file, I know he was all over the world. Wales, coast of Normandy, North Africa, Pacific. He was a machinist’s mate with a diesel specialty. He stated an interest in continuing his education, so stated on his discharge papers, but as far as I know he never did. He married Mom, went to work as a locomotive engineer for the New York Central, a family tradition. Mom had me and six more. He hated smoking, couldn’t quit.
Some years after his death, Mom told me that he came home from the war changed, but she thought she could love him enough to make him better. From my own experience of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, I recognize that as a classic symptom and a classic response. Of course, they didn’t call it PTSD then. Among other things, it was put up, shut up, don’t talk about it. Combat Fatigue was a name that doesn’t do justice to the trauma suffered by combat support, medical support, and others on the battle sidelines. Soldier’s Heart, the Civil War name, feels right to me.
It’s probably easier to be Daddy’s Girl when Daddy isn’t suffering from something he can’t talk about, but such was my lot. Knowing what I know of PTSD now, what Mom told me about Dad over the years, and my own memories of him makes me wish that the therapy I receive now from my VA hospital could have been available to him then, and that the stigma that keeps suffering people from seeking help would just go away. Slink away into oblivion and free up men and women to ask for help when they need it.
It’s been 46 years since he shot himself. I miss him.
I joined the Joshua Tree National Park Association yesterday! I’ve been meaning to join JTNPA since the Joshua Tree National Park Arts Festival. I’ve also been meaning to visit the park more often since my first wildflower trip in a while a couple months ago. Yesterday I packed a lunch, tossed a couple liters of water and my camera in the car, and went.
I live fairly close to the south entrance of the park, so I stopped at the Cottonwood Visitor Center to show my Golden Access Pass, and was inspired to join JTNPA with no further delay. There’s a night photography class in my future, and what better class to take than the one offered by JTNPA’s Desert Institute?
As I drove through the park, I took a few photos, but learned the hard way to take the BEE ALERT seriously. I managed to persuade the last of my visitors to leave my Honda, and took more photos mostly from inside the car.
At the Oasis Visitor Center I found Ranger Lacy administering the Junior Ranger oath to a young visitor. The next young visitor to take the oath was shy. The young fellow with the owl was not at all shy, and neither were his shoes. I did a continuous shoot to make sure I got at least one photo with the lights on.
When I go to Joshua Tree National Park I usually head to the Marine base, 29 Palms MCAGCC, to shop at the exchange and the commissary. I was telling someone that I am a veteran when a former Marine came out of the Exhibits room to ask if I was a Marine. Air Force, I told him, and–AMAZING!–no ribbing! We had an excellent conversation about helping fellow veterans deal with the VA.
On the way home I noticed a large round cloud in the sky, but didn’t get a good shot of it. Best I managed was a surprise when it showed up in my driver side mirror. Here’s the same cloud from a different perspective, my home.
I am a disabled American veteran, 100% service-connected p&t for PTSD. I have never for one moment been anything but proud of my service in the United States Air Force. However, when somebody thanks me for my service, I listen to tone of voice. Believe it or not, there are folks who fling the words in my face like an insult.
Often it’s somebody who has assumed that, because I am a veteran, I share their politics. Here’s a clue: veterans hold as broad a range of political belief as the general population. Many of us can’t help but notice that the problem with VA healthcare is that it’s underfunded and understaffed. A few years back a hiring freeze kept VAMCs understaffed even as newly disabled young veterans poured into the system. That and other problems couldn’t be fixed due to the underfunding.
Here’s another clue: if you send us to war, you must prepare to care for the wounded. You cannot cut taxes after you start wars. And if you cut taxes after you start wars, you cannot blame the wounded for the care we will need for the rest of our lives, and you may not tell us that we haven’t sacrificed enough.
Before I received my service-connection and my comp&pen, I used to say that America likes its veterans dead or healthy. Recently I took to saying it again. I disagree with the American Legion over why that is. It is not the fault of our Commander-in-Chief, nor is it the fault of the Secretary for Veterans Affairs. The problem with VA healthcare is the the fault of the political party that cynically and tragically puts the deep, deep pockets of our wealthiest citizens above and out of reach of the needs of the rest of us, most notably disabled veterans.
Richard Burr (R-NC), the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has never served in the military, but I bet he wears a big, shiny flag pin on his lapel. He seems like the kind of man who would call into question the patriotism of any man who does not. He recently condemned veterans’ groups that had not called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. He wrote an open letter in which he argued that the VSO that attended every single one of my VA appeals hearings with me, helping me survive the years of that terrifying process, and the other VSOs unwilling to lay the blame carelessly are less interested in helping veterans!
I am proud to be a life member of Disabled American Veterans. If I had given in to the half dozen requests to join American Legion that I received earlier this year, I would be resigning that membership over their wrongful demand for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki.
Give Shinseki the resources he needs to fix our healthcare system, not just another load of hot air, and if you want to point fingers of blame, Mr Burr, point them at yourself. When you voted (or was it one of the many filibusters? Hard to keep track) against funding our healthcare at a healthy level, when you struck down a bill for jobs programs for us, you betrayed veterans and the service we have rendered to the country we love.
And if, Mr Burr, you really are the kind of politician who sports a big, shiny flag pin and thinks that it makes up for the rest of your anti-veteran agenda, then I can assure you that, no, Mr Burr, that flag pin does NOT make your patriotism look big.
This is something I wrote last year after heading to Orange County for the annual Highland Gathering for the first time in nearly two decades. Tomorrow I plan to go again.
1974, Air Force basic training, TI tells us not to expect VA healthcare. She does not use her TI voice. She uses her Not Happy Woman voice. 1992, Congress passes the public law that stops VA hospitals from turning us away. 1994, I find out. I also find out about WIMSA, Women In Military Service for America, and become a charter member.
That Memorial Day weekend, I head to the Orange County Fairgrounds for the Highland Gathering, as was my custom. At the drumhead service, the minister asks all veterans to rise to be honored, so I stand up, and some much older woman turns to me and rasps, “Siddown, honey, this is for the REAL veterans.”
I did not sit down so much as fall back onto my seat in shock, but resolved that day that I would never let any other person tell me that I was anything less than a REAL veteran. And that prepared me for the next ten years, once I enrolled in the VA healthcare system that summer.
Yeah, it took a good ten years to get the less friendly to women patients portion of the VAMC staff to get used to us (or retire), and there remain a few holdouts, but most of the care I receive now I would rate pretty darn good to excellent. The pt that strengthened my ankles and the ptsd care that strengthened my willingness to be around a lot of people all at once has made me stronger, so last week I decided it was time to try the Highland Gathering, now called ScotsFest, again.
This time, women were well represented among the veterans, and we were honored, brothers and sisters alike, in a ceremony that brought happy tears to my eyes, and a whole lot of smiles and handshakes from my fellow veterans.
Emma Glitch is writing her memoir! Yes, that is my remedy for the blogxhaustion of my previous post. An aerospace company that apparently purchased the hellhole where I once worked came in search of my current address, reached into my latest attempt at a peaceful life as stable as I can manage, and ripped open a badly healed scab from the injury that caused the physical portion of my disabilities. Notice that I did not say “accident.”
I found the letter upon my return from the WGF Veterans Writing Retreat, one of the finest experiences of my whole, entire LIFE, and spent the next two weeks dithering, crying, shaking, hurting, and generally reliving the trauma of a time three decades past. Not just the injury and the pain, but the advantage the company took of my pain medication-fueled muddled state to deprive me of good health care, the horrors inflicted upon me by the company orthopedist, resulting in chronic pain back in the bad old days when it was called “malingering,” and the whole sad, sorry, stupid mess.
I spent Tuesday at my VA hospital, discussing the matter with my clinician. I had a form that needed to be notarized, but the notary public is off on Tuesdays (of course! LOL) so we called March ARB, were directed to the Staff Judge Advocate office, and that’s where I went.
This would be a good moment to provide information helpful to veterans about legal services available to us at military bases, but I’m afraid I didn’t take the opportunity to get the details. All I know is that the notary service was provided to me free of charge, and that I enjoyed my chat with the young sergeant with the Lord of the Rings tattoo around his bicep (wow, have times changed!) and the friendly, helpful manner. He directed me to the office center at March Inn where I was able to get my form faxed. I hope I remember to follow up with an in depth report on base legal services.
Yesterday my brain was still churning with the retrauma, but I was pulling out of the tailspin and coming up with my plan of action, because I do mean to follow this aerospace business to its conclusion, and hope that this time it won’t be a bitter end for me. I was a good electronics technician. I had skills, training, military experience in avionics, an AA in Electronics Computer Technology from American River College, a community college in Sacramento, CA, where the amazing tech & industrial faculty was turning out the best technicians in the country in the late 70s, but none of that was good enough because I am a woman and women were far too often being hired to fail back then. I didn’t fail, and I stood up to the harassment, sexual and otherwise, so my test station was sabotaged. I was so gung ho to keep on proving that I could do any tech job they set for me that it never even crossed my mind that it was a set up until that fact was hurled at me much later.
So. Here’s my plan. I follow through with the aerospace company that contacted me. Whatever happens, I will tell the story. But it is my story. I am taking back my narrative. I will tell the tale of a bright little girl who sincerely believed that all the men and boys who told her that girls and women couldn’t do stuff were simply mistaken, and that just showing them that we could would make everybody happy.
That girl is now an old woman, and even though she has cried, she has also laughed, and even laughed at some of the worst things that happened to her, because once you shift your perspective, things really do look different to you, and that’s how we heal emotionally.
My memoir, my healing.
I still mean to post about Day 2 at the Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Writing Retreat, but I have spent the last two weeks in a state of blogxhaustion, or so I thought. When I got home I found a letter in my mailbox that was upsetting in the extreme. It took me back to my days in aerospace, where military experience in avionics, an AA in electronics computer technology, one of the highest scores on the company’s entry test, good troubleshooting skills, and an outstanding attitude toward technical work was not enough to overcome the crime of Tech While Female. I have spent the last two weeks stunned by the latest ripping off of a badly healed scab from the job that robbed me of my physical health.
I have decided to follow through on the request in the letter, just because a door that was slammed in my face more than three decades ago has opened a crack, and I want to know why.
Oh yeah, I’ll keep you informed. You bet I will.