Sunday, December 07, 2014

Remembering that infamous day

December 7 is the 73rd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan.  Pearl Harbor survivors have met at the site every five years for four decades. But they're now in their 80s or 90s.  Many of the survivors aren't able to participate in a 73rd reunion. Still, others have made every effort to report for one final roll call.

A few hundred survivors are expected to make the trip to Hawaii to recall the shocking air raid destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft. The attack killed two-thousand, 390 people, wounded nearly 12-hundred others - and plunged the U.S. into World War II.

Related: Photos at, After Pearl Harbor

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Thursday, December 04, 2014


I may have spent all of my adult life writing for a living, but education has been the other constant in my life. I spend much of my time now as a tutor -- to adult immigrants wishing to improve their English skills, and to public school students studying reading and language arts.

Teaching English as a Second Language comes with great rewards. Shortly before Thanksgiving, one of my former adult students, Isabel, became a naturalized citizen. I was thrilled. She worked hard to become a U.S. citizen. She didn't just study the exam on her own; she tutored her husband, too, so that they could take the vow together.

 While Isabel was polishing her English skills with me, she was also studying for her plumber's license. She and her husband now run their own plumbing business, and Isabel manages it. Somehow my friend also manages to raise two delightful children. In addition, she serves as a volunteer English tutor to immigrants in her neighborhood. Getting to know Isabel -- and watch her pursue the American dream -- has deeply enriched my life.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Google Doodles Pays Homage to America's Veterans

Honoring our military men and women

Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France,
wait for the end of hostilities.
This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on Nov. 11, 1918,
two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect.

The history of Veterans Day

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.

President Dwight Eisenhower signed House Resolution 7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. An act approved in 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday - a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day."

Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the nation’s history. After American forces had fought in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Today we honor America's military men and women for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.  Several of my family members have served, including my father, both of my uncles, and my nephew.  I am proud of them all.  Always remembering the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

How important it is for us to recognize and
celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
~Maya Angelou~

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget
that the highest appreciation is not to utter words,
but to live by them.
~John Fitzgerald Kennedy~

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Black mothers, "the talk" and grief

On many levels, I identify with the anguish, frustration, and grief now being experienced by the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed teen who was recently gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  I saw the images of Michael as he lay dead for several hours in the middle of the street.  His family and friends saw him, too.

Over the years, I have gotten to know many good police officers.  Some became friends.  When I worked in community relations for a previous employer, part of my job was to work with police officers on a regular basis.  I even sat on a board made up of mostly law enforcement.  My parents and grandparents taught me to respect the police, and I instructed my own children to do the same.

At the same time, I'm a mother who sat each of her children down for "the talk."  As each of my sons received his driver's license, I sat him down and let him know that they might be pulled over fairly or unfairly -- that the officer might treat him justly or unjustly.  Here are some of the things I advised my kids in the event that they were pulled over:

  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Let down your window when instructed by the officer.
  • When the officer asks you questions, give him or her only the information requested.
  • Make sure your tone is respectful.  Say "Yes, Officer" or "No, Officer."
  • The police might speak to you in a disrespectful tone.  Don't respond in a like manner.
  • If you believe the stop was unfair, talk to me about it when you get home. Let me deal with it as an adult, if necessary.
  • Do not pull off until the officer tells you that you may do so.

By the time my daughter, my youngest, received her driver's license, I felt compelled to give her the same talk her brothers received.  Call it mother's intuition.  As life would have it, my daughter has been profiled as she has driven to and from college campuses in white neighborhoods -- or to her job in an affluent municipality.

When I was a little girl, police officers stopped my father and my brothers multiple times.  Not because they did anything wrong but because they looked "suspicious."  In those days, officers would ask who you are and where you're going.  They often would insist on searching  the cars and patting down my family members.  It's called DWB -- driving while black.  

My dad spent the last 20 years of his career working as a housing and health inspector for St. Louis County.  His job required him to travel throughout the county to perform the inspections.  My dad wore a shirt and tie every day, and he was a safe driver.  Nevertheless, whenever Dad had to go into predominantly white and/or affluent communities, he would often be stopped.  What's your business here?  Who are you?  License and registration, please.  Dad would comply.  He'd also pull out his St. Louis County photo identification.  Eventually, he'd be permitted to be on his way -- to inspect a home, check on an asbestos case, or work as part of the team dealing with dioxin contamination in Times Beach. 

I've been following the case of Michael Brown and the protests since day one.  For me, the element of grief is multiplied. My oldest son died several years ago at the age of 20.  The circumstances surrounding his death are different than those involving Michael Brown.  Nevertheless, the grief is still there.  I know how it feels to lose a son.  So many memories rushed back as I saw Michael's body lying uncovered in the middle of the street -- as I saw his mother and grandmother crying -- as I saw frightened children and adults looking on.

As a teen and young man, son #1 was pulled over countless times.  It deeply disturbed me, but my oldest never wanted me to worry. Neither of my sons did. 

Recently, I learned that son #2, now an IT professional and writer, has been pulled over by police more than 50 times since receiving his driver's license.  I am certain my oldest son was stopped by officers even more frequently.  I remember begging him to stay out of certain neighborhoods unless he was going to school.  His school was located in one of the areas in question. For those familiar with North St. Louis County, son #1 attended middle school in Ferguson and high school at McCluer North, located in a neighboring community.  Sadly, my oldest didn't live long enough to see his siblings graduate from high school and college.

I now live nearly 2,000 miles from my kids.  Because of busy schedules, it may be a while before I see them again face-to-face.  But when that time comes, I know I'm going to give them the biggest hugs a mother could ever give.

                                                                           My sons

                                                             My daughter, son and I
                                                             at high school graduation

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't Shoot: Flashbacks

As events in Ferguson, Missouri continue to unfold, I try to be mindful of what I post on social networking
sites, especially my Facebook page.  It's my intent to post only information that others might find useful.  It serves no useful purpose to agitate what is already a volatile situation. That said, I think that documentation can be a good thing, especially since the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the aftermath have the makings of an important case study. There's a part of me that still thinks like a journalist.  I try to strike a balance, but it's a juggling act. 

Now -- I want to talk about a video I just viewed that really disturbed me.  The video shows a police officer pointing a gun at civilians in Ferguson and shouting "I will f***ing kill you!"  The officer, who is from another North County municipality, pointed a semi-automatic rifle at peaceful protesters during a verbal exchange.  The police department where the officer is based released a statement, confirming what happened and added that the officer has been "suspended indefinitely." I'm not one who frightens easily, but just looking at this video made me very uneasy.

I raised my kids only a few miles from Ferguson.  One of my children used to like visiting a mall in this municipality, and I remember that I hated driving through the community because law enforcement had a long history of harassing black people.  My mother, who was fearless and had a smile for everybody, even warned me to stay out of the area.

I haven't thought about any of this in a very long time, but a lot of memories rushed back today as I watched one video clip.  I'm not going to post the video because it is disturbing, but I'm glad the officer in question is suspended.


Saturday, August 02, 2014


 Image Credit: NASA, ESA, H. E. Bond (STScI)

As soon as my eyes caught a glimpse of this photo of the star V838 Mon, I was mesmerized.  When this photo was taken in January of 2002, the star was experiencing an unusual outburst.V838 Mon expanded to the point to where it suddenly became the brightest star in the Milky Way Galaxy.  Researchers witnessed a "light echo."  For scientists, who had never seen such a phenomenon, this was a big deal.

As my eyes continued to rest on this vision, I remembered the many visits I made to my neighborhood library as a little girl.  It was not unusual for me to check out three or four books on astrology.  I was a little girl who loved to daydream about space!  Fast forward several years, and I was the young announcer at a classical music station who loved to find an excuse to play Gustav Holst's "The Planets."

I'll probably daydream about space for the rest of my life.  Thank God for space and for libraries where I can continue to explore the final frontier.

Source:  NASA