Veterans, Horn Mufflers

As we come to Veteran’s Day next week, I’m thinking of those who sacrifice for the United States. I’m not a veteran. But I know some. My husband, Vietnam; my dad, WWII. Neither speak/spoke of war unless pressed. My Air Force grandsons will be veterans, one day.

I even wrote a book about the experience of a veteran, at his request, when he could see his end was near. My father-in-law, who spent most of WWII as a prisoner of war of the Japanese, rarely had anything to say about his time in the Army. Only the radiation burn on his cheek told us he’d been near Hiroshima and Nagasaki when we dropped the bombs on them. We knew he had shrapnel in his spine and wore compression stockings to help the pain in his legs that resulted from having them frozen. That about covered it as far as he was concerned, even for his own children.

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But as he talked with the staff at the veteran’s hospital he visited more frequently as he aged, they pressed him to write his story. He did me the great honor of helping him bring it to light. He called it Triumphs and Tragedies, Corregidor and Its Aftermath. It’s available on Amazon, Arthur B. Baker and J. Carlile Baker authors. Please buy the one you get from me. I can’t believe some others are asking over $100 a copy because it’s out of print. I’ll be happy to send you one for the $10 he initially asked. Dad has gone on to live with Jesus, but he showed me what a hero looks like and does before he left. And I am blessed.

Affection with Thanks to C.S. Lewis

Get ready, this one’s going to be long. I’ve been reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis and I came upon this section under affection that helps me deal with people in my life. I hope since I’m not getting paid I can share it with whatever public I have, and I hope it helps some of you, too. Get ready for a huge quote:

the chronicles of narnia book

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“It would be absurd to say that [King] Lear is lacking in Affection. In so far as Affection is need-love he is half-crazy with it. Unless, in his own way, he loved his daughtrs he would not so desperately desire their love. The most unlovable parent (or child) may be full of such ravenous love. But it works to their own misery and everyone’ else’s. The situation becomes suffocating. If people are already unlovable a continual demand on their part (as of right) to be loved – their manifest sense of injury, their reproaches, whether loud and clamorous or merely implicit in every look and gesture of resentful self-pity — produce in us a sense of guilt (they are intended to do so) for a fault we could not have avoided and cannot cease to commit. They seal up the very fountain for which they are thirsty. If ever, at some favoured moment, any germ of Affection for them stirs in us, their demand for more and still more, petrifies us again. And of course such people always desire the same proof of our love; we are to join their side, to hear and share their grievance against someone else. If my boy really loved me he would see how selfish his father is … if my brother loved me he woudl make a party with me against my sister … if you loved me you wouldn’t let me be treated like this …

And all the while they remain unaware of the real road. ‘If you would be loved, be lovable,’ said Ovid. That cheery old reprobate only meant, ‘If you want to attract the girls you must be attractive,’ but his maxim has a wider application. The amorist was wiser in his generation than Mr. Pontifex and King Lear.

The really surprising thing is not that these insatiable demands made by the unlovable are sometimes made in vain, but that they are so often met. Sometimes one sees a woman’s girlhood, youth, and long years of her maturity up to the verge of old age all spent in tending, obeying, caressing, and perhaps supporting, a maternal vampire who can never be caressed and obeyed enough. The sacrifice — but there are two opinions about that — may be beautiful; the old woman who exacts it is not.

The ‘built-in’ or unmerited character of Affection thus invites a hideous misinterpretation. So does its ease and informality.

We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters’ side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents. Who has not been the embarrassed guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simpy have terminated the acquaintance? Dogmatic assertions on matters which the children understand and their eleders don’t, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously — sometimes of their religion — insulting references to their friends, all provide an easy answer to the question ‘Why are they always out? Why do they like every house better than their home?’ Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?

If you asked any of these insufferable people — they are not all parents of course — why they behaved that way at home, they woud reply, ‘Oh, hang it all, one comes home to relax. A chap can’t be always on his best behaviour. If a man can’t be himself in his own house, where can he? Of course we don’t want Company Manners at home. We’re a happy family. We can say anything to one another here. No one minds. We all understand.’

Once again it is so nearly true yet so fatally wrong. Affection is an affair of old clothes, and ease, of the unguarded moment, of liberties which would be ill-bred if we took them with strangers. But old clothes are one thing; to wear the same shirt till it stank would be another. There are proper clothes for a garden party; but the clothes for home must be proper too, in their own different way. Simlarly there is a distinction between public and domestic courtesy. The root princple of both is the same: ‘that no one give any kind of preference to himself.’ But the more public the occasion, the more our obedience to this principle has been ‘taped’ or formalised. There are ‘rules’ of good manners. The more intimate the occasion, the less the formalisation; but not therefore the less need of courtesy. On the contrary, Affection at its best practices a courtesy which is incomparably more subtle, sensitive, and deep than the public kind. In public a ritual would do. At home you must have the reality which that ritual represented, or else the deafening triumphs of the greatest egoist present.  …

‘We can say anything to one another.’ The truth behind this is that Affection at its best can say whatever Affection at its best wishes to say, regardless of the rules that govern public courtesy; for Affection at its best wishes neither to wound nor to himiliate nor to domineer. You may address the wife of your bosom as ‘Pig!’ when she has inadvertently drunk your cocktail as well as her own. You may roar down the story which your father is telling once too often. You may tease and hoax and banter. You can say, “Shut up. I want to read.” You can do anything in the right tone and at the right moment — the tone and moment which are not intended to, and will not, hurt. The better the Affection the more unerringly it knows which these are (every love has its art of love). But the domestic Rudesby means something quite different when he claims liberty to say ‘anything’. Having a very imperfect sort of Affection himself, or perhaps at that moment none, he arrogates to himself the beautiful liberties which only the fullest Afffection has a right to or knows how to manage. He then uses them spitefully in obedience to his resentments; or ruthlessly in obedience to his egoism; or at best stupidly, lacking the art. And all the time he may have a clear conscience. He knows that Affection takes liberties. He is taking liberties. Therefore (he concludes) he is being affectionate. Resent anything and he will say that the defect of love is on your side. He is hurt. He has been misunderstood.

He then sometimes avenges himself by getting on his high horse and becoming elaboratley ‘polite’. The implication is of course, ‘Oh! So we are not to be intimate: We are to behave like mere acquaintaneces? I had hoped — but no matter. have it your way..’ ”

As you breathe a sigh of relief, I call a halt. Lewis doesn’t acutally say how to deal with someone like this in your life, but I think if we chew on it a while, that will become clear.  Thinking this through should do me a world of good, and I hope that it will also do some of you a world of good. Have a nice, thoughtful day.

 

The Jewel of California’s Central Valley

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It’s going to be one of those over 100 degree weeks in Modesto – where we are known for water, wealth, contentment and health. I bet you’re wondering why I stay here, aren’t you? (Truth is: when I have to get out in this heat, I wonder why I stay here.) However, Modesto is a good town, mostly. We still smile at you on the street, most of the time. We still have an A&W. Our movie drive ins have given way to theatres with recliners. I wonder if that’s a response to the graying of the nation. We have a Costco and a Winco, and what else do you need? Gallo Winery is here and we’re in a valley that grows a good deal of the food consumed in the whole world. We have a junior college and the four-year is right down the road a bit. You can get frozen yogurt to beat the heat or you can swim in one a bazillion pools. And we’ve got a whole bunch of churches, I mean lots. All good.

But why I like Modsto the most, past that most of my kids, my friends, and my doctor are here, is that we look out for each other. I think that has to do a lot with there being a whole bunch of peope who love God in Modesto. We’ve got Love Modesto in April when thousands get together and do projects all over town. But that’s once a year. We also help relocate refugees through World Relief, care for the poor through a bunch of agencies. Lately, we’ve set up MOES, a tent city for the homeless, and people all over town support that, too. The Shower Shuttle folks, who offer free showers to the homeless in these really cool, decked out vans, have just added a laundry van, so the homeless can get their clothes clean. Imagine if you were on the street, how much those two blessings would mean to you. I like this part of us most because Jesus said to look out for the little guy, the one who can’t help himself. The one who, when you do something kind for him, can’t pay you back. We don’t need organizations to help us do that, by the way, or government. We can pull on our boots and do it on our own. Just a thought.

 

The Odyssey of a Diamond

Way back in 1968, a thin, blonde, blue-eyed man asked a hippy, brunette, green-eyed woman to marry him, for the third time. This time, she said yes. Phew! The man was the hubs, better known as “Bake,” and the woman was, you guessed it, me.

I had had this principal in high school, Mr. Carson Wilcox, of whom I was terrified. He must have been ten feet tall, and he definitely had the brow ridges of a neanderthal. Bushy black eyebrows and jet black hair. I turned and hurried the other way every time I saw him coming down one of the hallways of Mariposa High. It was rumored he had been a wrestler before he went into education.

As life will do you, he became my Sunday school teacher. Correct, I had to sit within ten feet of him every Sunday. I found out on those Sundays that under that screechingly fearsome exterior beat a heart of compassion. He played devil’s advocate every Sunday to help us strengthen our faith in Jesus.

I bring Mr. Wilcox up because he and his wife offered to throw an engagement party for us. And we accepted. So the plan was that on the day of the party I would meet Bake at Judd’s Jewelers in Merced, where we had found my rings. We had looked in what seemed like every jewelry store in three counties. The ring I chose, and love to this day has three gold leaves, with the diamond set like a flower at the top of them. I love gardening, nature, the outdoors, and it spoke to me. Loved it then. Love it now.

But I digress. I drove down to Merced on the appointed day to meet Bake at the bus station. But he wasn’t there. so I thought maybe he’d walked over to Judd’s. But, he wasn’t there. So I asked Mr. Judd if he’d seen him, giving the above description. Nope, hadn’t seen him. So I drove back to the bus station, thinking I’d missed him. Searched all over among the benches and travellers. No Bake. Drove back to Judd’s, and asked again. This time, Mr. Judd said, “Oh yeah, a young man did come in here. He left this suitcase.”

About that time, the bell on the door rings, and Bakes slows from a dead run to a screeching halt. With a Mickey Mouse grin I have come to recognize as he’s been up to something, he said, “I lost track of time, sorry.”

“Where were you?”

He hesitated. … “Playing pool down on the corner.” He pointed in the direction he had come. We got the rings and headed for Mariposa.

Okay, so I got over it, we had a wonderful engagement party and a year later, a little earlier than we had planned, in the midst of his enlistment because of Vietnam, we got married. Two weeks later he was in boot camp. At Christmastime that year, I lost the ring. I looked everywhere. Turned out it had fallen off in the backseat of the car when I was bringing home a Christmas tree. I got it sized.

fb_img_1548512187741  You can kind of see my new diamond in this pic of our 50th anniversary party.

Time passes, lots of time, like 40 years. Bake decides the ring needs a new diamond. He wants to give me a marquis diamond for our anniversary. So we take out the old diamond and put in the new. I don’t see any point in having a daimond laying around in my jewelry box, so I give the original to Maryann, my oldest daughter.

More time passes, ten years, and this year, 2019, the year of our 50th anniversary, Maryann’s oldest son, Ethan, proposes to the love of his life Elena.

fb_img_1557591314642  He needs a diamond, and there just happens to be one. This diamond is the symbol of true, lifelong love, and we’re delighted that our grandson put it in the engagement ring he gave his fiance just the other day when he had graduated from Modesto Junior College. Who knows where it may go from here.

Life

How’s that for a broad subject? Perhaps a little narrowing is in order.

The older I get the more I think I don’t know anything about anything.  Now there’s the topic.

grayscale photography of person using phone

This is not me, but it could be.

I’m a writer, at least most days. Sometimes I get published, and sometimes I don’t. Am I still a writer when I don’t? Should I just smile and wash the dishes instead?  And since the Bible says what pleases God is when we love each other, care for widows, orphans, immigrants, and so on; are slow to anger, etc., does writing – or any other occupation – even matter? Maybe I should just smile and feed an orphan. I don’t know. My mentor, Ethel Herr, who now looks at Jesus face-to-face, said our books can reach love, acceptance, etc. to a whole lot more people than our small circles of influence. So if I glue my face to my computer and knuckle down, what happens to the hubs, the kids, the friends? Ecclesiastes even says the writing of books is endless.

Maybe it’s about balance. Except, my days can blow up in a phone call. Sometimes the writing bite is huge, and sometimes the relationship bite is huge. Wait, am I starting to see something here?

Or how about truth and grace? I used to think telling the truth could hurt the people I love or cause them to get real angry. So I didn’t bother with telling it, thinking I was giving them grace. I guess I have learned one thing. Grace isn’t grace without truth, and truth isn’t truth without grace. Only, now I have to figure out how to tell the truth in grace, and I don’t even think I’m capable of figuring that out. Wretched woman that I am.

Maybe what’s really going on is that my plans aren’t God’s plans, and my understanding of life, or any part thereof, is way smaller than God’s understanding. What to do? What if I consider interruptions, not interruptions, but redirecting from on high? But wait, am I just making excuses? What if when I don’t have a clue what to do, I ask God? What if He doesn’t answer? Reminds me of when the grownups used to say, “We’ll see.”

Okay, here I go again. I used to come up with great ideas and go into implementation phase before checking in with Him. I’d look over my shoulder, having left Him in the dust, and say something like, “What do you think, God?” He put up with that for a lot of years. Over time, I found myself confused and exhausted a lot. What’s the verse, “Come to Me, you who are weary,” etc.?  I finally noticed the “Come to Me” part of the verse. Take it from an old broad, it’s much better to check in first, get your marching orders, and then strike out.  If there are no marching orders, stay put. That’s easy. Writing this conclusion at Christmastime seems supremely appropriate, now that I think about it. Merry Christmas, every one!