Memorial Day

Coffee With Vets 5-23-15 (2)Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of attending the first meeting of a new Haven Hospice program, “Coffee With Vets”. It was a nice thing to be a part of on Memorial Day weekend. Jean, the Volunteer Coordinator; Cathy, a Gold Star mother; and Liberty and I hosted four members of the local chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association for coffee, pastries, and conversation. There was no formal agenda – Jean just wanted to offer a place for veterans to meet and talk. Everyone agreed that it was a success so the guys will invite other veterans and continue to meet us for coffee on the 4th Saturday morning of every month. They also offered to ride along with Haven Hospice as we walk in the July 4th parade! The veterans liked having Liberty there and one Iraq veteran, who suffers from PTSD, said he will bring his dog next time. I’m sure Liberty will enjoy that ūüôā Many patients are veterans so Haven Hospice has been creating special programs designed around their motto “We Honor Vets” (you can learn more at Haven Hospice). I have respect and a deep appreciation for all the men and women who choose to serve our country by joining the military, many of whom put their lives at risk every day, so I’m glad I’ve been offered the opportunity to give back in some small way. Haven Hospice also does “veteran pinnings” in which they give the veteran a “We Honor Vets” lapel pin, a framed certificate of appreciation for their military service and a small US flag. I was happy to be able to participate in this recently with one of the patients that Liberty and I visit.

Although I’m grateful to everyone who has fought in every war, I have a special place in my heart for the veterans of the Vietnam “conflict” because it was the war of my generation. It was the longest war (“undeclared war”) in US history and it eventually split the nation in half. The 58,220 who died there and the approximately 10,000 who are listed as POW/MIA were my contemporaries. 1968, the year I graduated from high school, had the highest number of deaths – 16,899. The young men who returned from combat in Vietnam had a very different homecoming experience than the ones who returned from combat in WWII. Unfortunately, many people could not separate the individuals serving in the military in Vietnam from US policy that was carried out there. At the main re-entry points returning soldiers were often greeted by anti-war protesters screaming insults at them. They quickly learned not to wear their uniforms during commercial travel. A former boyfriend told me that he was followed through an airport by a jeering group of young “hippie-types”. He ignored them and they eventually left him at his gate but, not before one of them spit at him. None of the people nearby tried to defend him or even seemed to notice. He was returning from his second (and final) tour of duty piloting the big Chinook helicopters, which transported wounded soldiers from the battlefields. He said his experiences in Vietnam twisted him in a way that would probably never get straight again – and this was 25 years after he came home. It took many years for his country to heal the emotional wounds of Vietnam but a good start was the Vietnam War Memorial, which was dedicated on November 13, 1982. If you’re in DC it’s definitely worth a visit.

I’m ashamed to admit that the Vietnam conflict is a period in history of which I am woefully uninformed, even though the worst years of it occurred during my teens and early twenties and several of the boys I went to school with served in Vietnam. In honor of Memorial Day this year I have made a promise to myself to finally study the Vietnam War. I feel I owe it to all the boys who died there to at least educate myself about why the US was involved for so many years in an “undeclared war” in a tiny country in Southeast Asia (FYI, Congress has not declared war since 1942 so Iraq and Afghanistan are also considered to be “conflicts”).

One thing I did learn from Vietnam is that, no matter whether you agree with the military actions of our government or not, the men and women of our military always deserve our support and respect and our wounded deserve the very best care we can give them.

We owe this freedom of choice and action to those men and women in uniform who have served this nation and its interests in time of need. In particular, we are forever indebted to those who have given their lives that we might be free.  ~Ronald Reagan (Arlington National Cemetery, May 26, 1983)

the appropriate bandana for a dog named Liberty

the appropriate bandana for a dog named Liberty

See my greeting cards and books at Lynda Linke Productions

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Stuff I Like-Part 2

Simplicity copy

Simplicity. I like simplicity.

In relationships (romantic and otherwise):

I don’t like a lot of drama (or melodrama) or complications from either friends or lovers. I’m 64; I’ve done¬†complicated and difficult. I’ve walked on enough eggshells. Now I want the simple, low stress of being with people who like and accept me as I am and for whom I feel the same. I like a shared sense of humor – you know, when explanations are unnecessary. I don’t like hidden agendas, ulterior motives, or deception. I don’t have the time or energy to figure out where you’re coming from. I don’t like bragging or self-aggrandizing. I like honesty, integrity and humility. I like people who understand the difference between sympathy and pity, understanding and judgment, analysis and criticism, and curiosity and intrusiveness.

I do my best to live by two maxims “say what you mean; mean what you say” and “live and let live”. Pretty simple.

In my home:

I don’t like clutter. I have a one car garage and I actually have room to keep my car in it. I’m not the type of person who would ever need to rent a storage unit. In decorating, I like simple lines and warm colors and not too many knick-knacks. Many years ago I read a quote by a famous designer (I can’t remember his/her name) “Only keep what you feel is functional, beautiful or of sentimental value” and I have followed that 99% of the time (there is always the odd item that I’m not quite sure what to do with!). I like to go through my belongings every couple of years and weed out anything that no longer fits one of those categories. It must be a zen thing because I always feel mentally lighter afterwards and, believe it or not, when my house is clean and uncluttered I actually feel cooler during the long, hot Florida summer.

In my personal “style” (I’m using the word “style” loosely here):

I live in northeast Florida where, most of the year, my wardrobe consists of shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, sneakers and flip-flops. In the cooler months I add jeans, sweatshirts and long-sleeved shirts. I don’t like a lot of “frou-frou” – just plain, simple, comfortable styles. One of my favorite T-shirts has a pair of tiny flip-flops and the word “simplify” on the front, which I think kind of sums things up. I don’t like to get dressed up and, since retiring 4 years ago, I don’t have to! I wear whatever is easy and comfortable for ME. ¬†So far, the only benefit I can see in getting older is that I am finally comfortable with who I am. I say, whoever you are, just embrace the things that make you unique and don’t change them for anyone. Now, that is simple.

In my attitudes about life:

Somewhere over the past few years, I was blessed with the gift of experiencing¬†simple joy. I believe I got there through practicing gratitude. Gratitude is a conscious way of thinking; whereas, joy is an unbidden and uncontrollable spiritual experience. It is much harder to describe a feeling than a way of thinking but, I think there is a connection between these two. I think the active and consistent practice of gratitude will naturally create the right environment for experiences of joy. Unfortunately, many of us are too focused on chasing pleasure, especially when we’re young. Don’t misunderstand, I think pleasure is great and adds a lot to life but, it shouldn’t be confused with real happiness – and certainly not with joy. Pleasure brings a temporary feeling of happiness but when the pleasure ends so does the related happiness, which means you have to continually seek the next “pleasure fix” in order to experience the happiness again. Joy is a much deeper, more textured form of happiness; it will take root and it will expand your soul but, it is not affected by the presence or absence of pleasure. Pleasure can change the moment; joy can change your life.

It is the sweet, simple things in life which are the real ones after all. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Sittin' on a dock of the bay

Sittin’ on a dock of the bay … (can you hear Otis¬†whistling in your head?)

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Mother’s Day

A drawing I did based on an old photo of me and my son

A drawing I did based on an old photo of me and my son

Being a mother was the most challenging and difficult job I ever had. When I first held my son and saw his little face I was unprepared for the powerful rush of emotion that swept over me. Profound love and fierce protectiveness unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I could actually feel my heart come out of my body and, ever since, as far as he is concerned, it has remained out there; vulnerable and unprotected. He has always been the only one who could so easily fill my heart with joy – and just as easily fill it with pain. I think this is something he figured out when he was very young.

When my son was 4 his father and I were divorced. I just read an article that said recent studies have shown that children adjust much better to divorce when custody is split evenly between parents – commonly known as joint custody. When children split their time evenly between each parent’s home they get a more healthy balance of “Mom time” and “Dad time”. If divorce is unavoidable then that is the ideal arrangement but, unfortunately, most couples are either unable or unwilling to work that out. For one thing, the parents have to live close enough to each other that they are both able to get the children to school or daycare and their extracurricular activities. They have to want to share the job of parenting equally so, if they weren’t doing that when they were married they’re certainly not going to do it when they’re divorced.

My son’s father was a long distance truck driver so shared custody was not even a possibility. I knew instinctively that a child could adjust to divorce more easily if, 1) regardless of the visitation arrangement, the non-custodial parent was a consistent, dependable presence in the child’s life and 2) the parents were civil and cooperative with each other. As long as a child feels loved and secure, they can handle a lot; if they feel abandoned and unimportant, that’s when the trouble starts. My son’s father decided to move from Rhode Island back to northeastern New Jersey, where we had both grown up and where our families still lived and, as a result, his visits became infrequent and unreliable. Try explaining that to a four-year old! I decided that I would also move back to New Jersey so that my son would be closer to his father and our families. I relocated to a town at the Jersey shore where my son’s only aunt and cousins and my best friend lived, about 75 miles from his father and both sets of grandparents. I thought it would be good for both of us to be closer to family. A few months after I moved, my ex-husband was offered a job back in Rhode Island so off he went!

For many years I held a lot of resentment toward my ex-husband for all the times he broke promises to his son, the infrequent visits and the poor job of keeping in touch between visits. It was heartbreaking to watch a little boy trying to deal with disappointment over and over. I’m sure this feeling of abandonment was the contributing factor to all the anger and bad behavior that came later, which, of course, was usually directed at me.

My son’s teen years were very difficult for me – he probably remembers all the good times he had but, to me, it was a lot of reckless and self-destructive behavior. I struggled to keep the lines of communication open between us. Our relationship continued to be rocky throughout his twenties and I was in a constant state of worry. Too many times I “rescued” him from the results of his bad behavior and bad decisions instead of letting him suffer the consequences and learn from his mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes of my own but, in the end, I know I did the best I could and always loved him. I think that’s all a mother can do. Here’s part of the verse from the Mother’s Day card I just received:

I know it wasn’t always easy

keeping me to the straight and true.

But knowing you were there for me –¬†hoping, guiding, praying –

well, sometimes that was all I needed to make it through.

It’s so nice to get a card like that because I know he really feels that way.¬†I’m happy to say that, after all the ups and downs, joy and pain, my son has grown up to be a man I can not only love but, also like and respect. He is kind, generous, loyal to his friends, well-read and intelligent, and successful in his career. He has a great sense of humor and a strong work ethic. I did my best to give him a good foundation and I can now see the fruit of seeds I planted long ago but, I can also see all the characteristics that are unique to him. I hope he will be a father someday – it would be wonderful to see him wearing his heart on his sleeve!

Making the decision to have a child – its momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

My other "baby"

My other “baby”

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Wolftrap Farm

early morning sun in my eyesLast week Liberty and I spent a few days at Wolftrap Farm, a 600 acre horse and cattle farm in the beautiful rolling hills of central Virginia. This was Liberty’s longest road trip so far – almost 12 hours in the car – and she was a little angel. She looked out of the windows, spent a lot of time napping on her bed and gave me no trouble at all. I have been blessed with another great little traveler and I’m so grateful for that.

The farm was beautiful and peaceful, the weather was perfect and the cottage was comfortable. There are two private “driveways” into the farm, each a mile long, and we walked both of them every morning. Our walk took us through wooded areas and past pastures with grazing horses and cattle, who watched us with mild curiosity. The silence was broken only by the sounds of the animals and birds and the only people I saw were the occasional farm worker. I live in an area where there are not many streetlights or other ambient light so I can see the stars but there is nothing like night in the country. When I turned the patio light off I was plunged into total darkness except for the light of the moon and I could see millions of stars in the velvet sky.

Liberty had never seen a horse before so she was scared at first but, after a couple of days, she got used to them and even got close enough to sniff the nose of a mare that stuck her head between the fence slats to greet her. Every morning and evening handlers walked horses past the cottage, no more than 10′ away from where we were sitting on the patio, to and from the barn and pastures and Liberty watched with great interest. I wondered what she was thinking – big dogs?

For many years I have wanted to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and I was finally able to do that. I toured the house and then strolled around the grounds. I liked looking through the windows of Jefferson’s study and seeing the same view he had when he looked up from his books. ¬†Monticello means “little mountain” and the house is on top of that little mountain so there are beautiful views in every direction. Wolftrap Farm is about 30 miles from Monticello and was once part of James Madison’s estate, Montpelier. Madison and his wife, Dolley, were friends of Jefferson and frequent house guests at Monticello. In those days the 30 miles was a day’s journey! I learned that 4 of our first 5 presidents were from this area of Virginia. Whenever I visit a historic home I’m always struck by how quiet life must have been all those years ago. People entertained themselves in the evening with books, letter writing, musical instruments, handiwork, table games and the art of conversation. One of the lost arts, in my opinion.

I also visited Montpelier but didn’t tour the house because I had Liberty with me that day. We walked the footpaths that wind around the beautiful estate and stopped at the Madison family cemetery. I experienced the same feeling I’ve had so many times before while visiting an old cemetery – how fleeting life is. I wondered again what the point of all our joys, sorrows and struggles really is. That might sound sad or depressed but, it’s not. It actually serves to remind me that most of the things I worry about are not important. I like to be reminded of that from time to time.

It is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read.  ~Thomas Jefferson

Liberty watches the "big dogs" walk by

Liberty watches the “big dogs” walk by

See my art and books at Lynda Linke Productions