I want to tell you about some incredible people I met at the Veteran’s Administration office building in Wyoming, MI a few weeks ago. Two nice gentleman had set up a table and were hoping to reach out to the community to invite members to join the Kent County Veterans Honor Guard through Operation Honor Guard U.S.
To be honest, I wasn’t drawn to the table by a strong desire to re-connect with my military past. No. There were other motivating factors…
Ron Hayward and Ernie Fiebig may be the last of a generation of selfless individuals who go beyond the call of duty and serve their fellow men and women. In fact, they go all the way to the grave to salute the fallen and honor their memory.
Ron talked to me for a while as I enjoyed a slice of cake. He was proud when describing the dedication of the volunteers and he stood a little straighter when admitting how many ceremonies he had participated in.
“I attended over three-hundred services myself in the past year.” Ron said.
And then he mentioned that they were looking for a few good men and women to join their crew of about sixty veteran Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, as well as Coast Guard servicemen and women. (Where have I heard that before? It sounds so familiar…)
“All you need is to be an honorably discharged veteran and able to attend a minimum of two funerals or ceremonies a year.”
There was hope in his voice. Many of the members were getting up in years. It was getting harder and harder to meet the demand; they sometimes had to turn families down. I suspect he’s given this speech to hundreds of people before. I wonder how many had listened, heard the pain of not being able to serve everyone.
I hated to break his heart, but I explained how my son requires my full attention and I can’t be sure I could even commit to the minimum expected. I really hated that I couldn’t say “Yes.” So I made a promise to get the word out.
“I’ll tell everyone about it on Facebook.” I assured him.
He handed me a flyer, letting me know the history and requirements of joining. Here is a summary of what it said:
According to the tri-fold pamphlet: “The Honor Guard has two units serving northern and southern Kent County by supplying members for over 500 funeral services per year as well as for participation in ceremonies on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and other events honoring veterans.”
“The Kent County Veterans Honor Guard invites all honorably discharged veterans who share our commitment to join this organization. It is not necessary to have served in a combat situation.”
“Prospective members are required to attend two funerals as observers and two monthly meetings before being voted in and provided with uniforms. There is a $50 copay for the uniforms.”
“The Honor Guard meetings are held at 7 pm on the third Tuesday of the month at selected American Legion and VFW Posts in Kent County. “
If you are interested, contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
During elections, you often hear politicians and campaigns loudly proclaiming that they support veterans. Perhaps they do.
But if you really want to witness selfless support of veterans? Search out your local veterans organization. And, if you are a veteran and can stand up for the fallen, become one of the volunteers who march in memory.
So, the next time a parade goes by with service men and women, carrying the flag, holding the ceremonial rifle, please, give your attention when those sentinels go by to honor those who didn’t come home.
According to the above Facebook page, you can have the chance today, the Kent County Veterans Honor Guard will hold a parade in Grand Rapids in honor of Veterans Day:
A final thought:
It is very hard to give of one’s time and energy. It is much easier to salute a flag or drop a donation in a kettle than it is to slog out in horrible weather, to face bereaved families, or, worse, a funeral where a service member had no living relatives or family left to remember them. If you cannot give of yourself by joining this community, find your own way to serve.
I’m sharing a link to a friend’s post on the topic of Veterans Day. She and I met at basic training in South Carolina thirty-four years ago. We’ve discussed how awkward we feel accepting anyone’s thanks for our service–seeing as we both served during peace time. But, as I like to think of it, I am accepting thanks on behalf of my fellow servicemen and women. Even if I don’t deserve gratitude, they certainly do.
It is kind of hard to write something funny about getting a diagnosis of breast cancer, but it helps if you were signed up for G.I.S.H. (W.E.S) before even a hint of trouble arose on the horizon. GISH(WES) stands for The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt (the World has Ever Known.) It may not cure cancer…but it sure cured getting the diagnosis.
If this week had a sound track, it would be Cosmo Sheldrake’s “Come Along”:
If you ever wondered what it would look like if I went off the deep end, this one’s for you.
My week of GISH started with…
A Bull Named Fu Manchu
Item #14 – No Bull About It. Ride that bull like the zen master you are.
My next genius decision took me, my autistic son, and a cousin (who made the mistake of saying, “Sure, why not?” before reading the fine print) on a very long road trip to make music at Niagara Falls. Don’t worry; she got her revenge. She had to practice the recorder in the car all the way there. I may never get those high notes out of the crevices of my brain where they are lodged.
Trip to Niagara Falls, sort of
GISH Item #30. Perform the Kansas song, Wayward Son, at a natural world wonder.
I can’t take too much credit for the performance at the falls. All the kudos go to Anna. But, we did manage to drive almost all the way there and back again in a 24-hour period. If I could do anything different, it would be to stay at the falls and give us all a better morning. But, there was more GISHING to be done!
But, as we crossed the border home, it seemed a waste not to knock out Item #166 “Love has no borders, play a game at an international border crossing.”
This required playing a game like charades which would not require crossing of the boundary nor passing any item back and forth. We were pretty punch drunk by midnight, so take our giddiness with a grain of perseverance.
Too Perfect Not To:
Most of the GISH Items were beyond my skill set–requiring a team or the ability to wing walk a bi-plane while painting the landscape below–but others seemed like I had been training for them my whole life.
Item #91–A Cairn Terrier Named Rocky. (Hint: he won’t come when you call him.)
I’m fairly sure my family is starting to become concerned about my over enthusiasm for this scavenger hunt. But they gamely play along.
I beg on Facebook and an obliging family who barely know me offer up their basement and their children (but only in an advisory capacity) to accomplish the next hunt-worthy construction. Lego Shoes!
Gish Item #3 Sounded Sooo Easy
I have so much more respect now for the ‘play’ of little boys and girls (and their parents too!) I started by sorting my blocks into piles of color to best determine what color the shoes should be made of. (It is entirely possible a person with some sort of OCD disorder shouldn’t be handed LEGOS!) Despite the excellent instruction provided by Noah and Jonathon, it took me much longer than I thought to build a pair of shoes! Honestly, this project was time and labor intensive. I will never call what people do with LEGOs silly again.
After hours of building the stupid things, it turns out my foot is too big. My mother-in-law’s feet are tiny…but her balance is a bit iffy. She nearly fell trying to walk the required three steps. So, I sent a hail mary request on Facebook. And Mary answered. My mother, Mary, to be precise…
Bouncing back and forth in activities required a lot of energy. Fortunately, I always had a handy supply of sweet relief.
As I was making this dessert-worthy entry, I did wonder if I was sending my child the right message. But, since he ignores all my good advice anyway, I decided to tackle a little foundational feng shui. Candy Man Style!
Item #61: Funderwear!
This particular item seemed a no-brainer. What could be more fun? I worried that I might have picked too obvious a selection. So, I doubled-down on my craziness.
I made both a Life Saver brassiere as well as Twinkie, Ho-Ho, and Hostess Cupcake Spanx.
My breasts were minty fresh and I could honestly say, “Eat my shorts” and be perfectly appropriate.
I highly doubt anyone else made an outfit quite like mine. Mostly because nobody would be that crazy! I needed help getting into both items. I wore a shirt and shorts underneath because I wasn’t sure there wouldn’t be a wardrobe malfunction at some point. In fact, I had to hold the pants up for the entire photoshoot. The combined weight of that many baked goods was threatening my structural integrity. And my blood sugar levels.
GISH was surprisingly touching at times.
My mother-in-law chipped in where she could before heading home to California. When an item came up that called for someone over the age of eighty, she was my go-to-gal.
Item #49 – Diorama Digressions
I’m putting the long version of the video interview here. (Most entries had to be under 14 seconds, but this one had a whopping 30 second allowance.)
After Laura related the momentous facts surrounding her favorite memory/day, I had several days to create a diorama of the events. But I dithered trying to come up with the perfect idea for how to make her item unique and personal to her and not just reflect anybody’s wedding day. So, I went to my favorite antiques store to hunt for inspiration. And I found it:
I made a calculation error in timing. The little Hugo clothespin doll was achieved simply by painting the wooden peg with acrylic paint. Which dries in 20 minutes…if your house isn’t soggy with humidity. Guess what!??
The damned peg just wouldn’t dry. It’s Tuesday night, and the mom-in-law is scheduled to catch a flight out really early on Wednesday. So we end up fudging the reveal by handing Laura her still-tacky husband to juggle while she fumbles with her box. (Insert your own joke here. No, wait. I think I’ve just made a very crude and inadvertent reference to my mother-in-law’s box. Nevermind.)
Consummate performer that she is, Laura tackled the late-night recording of her reaction to her diorama with panache and grace. It was truly a labor of love…and it’s the piece I will remember when the years pass and other things fall away.
Item #127 – Moose Call
I think this was the easiest one, overall, but the pace of filling my many obligations was starting to show.
All we had to do for Item #127 was go to a Tim Horton’s, dressed as a moose. Moose costumes aren’t that simple to come by, but headgear was. Since I was dragging a moose-sized child around with me, I just slapped a pair of antlers on him and called it good.
You may be sensing a theme by now…
I generally tried to pick things that appealed to me, or that I could do in a reasonable amount of time with some accuracy. I can make a loaf of bread crisp…but can I make it do anything else?
As it turns out, I’m not a particularly exact entomologist.
Item #79 – Bug Nuts
When invited to “make icky bugs great” I grabbed my glutinous flour and ran with the instructions to “Create a realistic-looking, oversized detailed sculpture of an underappreciated arachnid or insect out of bread…”
Done and slightly over done!
Of note: if you decide to bake black-colored bread, put the dye in the bread machine. If you try to hand-knead it, like the far dung beetle pictured above, you get mottled results.
I tended to opt for a lot of kitchen based challenges. Thinking that I had a home court advantage. But some of my efforts fell flat.
One in particular was a most spectacular failure!
Item #23 – You have something on your…everything.
This video wouldn’t be possible without the help of a really good friend who stopped by to film. If you listen, you can hear her laughing in the background as well as making salient commentary. The Best British Bake-Off this ain’t! But, I dare any of those contestants to do better. The basic instruction: bake a cake without using your hands or any measuring tools. The only implement allowed? Your face!
Face Cake Fails: Parts I and II
I probably lost points on execution, but in intent? I nailed it. I was laughing so hard throughout this enterprise, I’m surprised I didn’t snort more flour than I did.
There are two videos because the longer one (below) filled up the SD card on the camera. The first video is high-speed reformatted (above.) The one that follows should include commentary. Really, you need to hear the snarky commentary.
The cake was inedible. But the instructions were very clear. It had to be eaten by you and a loving family member. Thank goodness Alexei is so very fond of Easy Bake Oven cakes. When they are cooked better than this:
Carrot cake is my favorite dessert…so this segue shouldn’t hurt too very much.
Item #97 – So very, very orange…
Food was a definite theme for me.
The only instruction given for this was the following: See Item #97 (pictured below) only said “8554J46H+FH. You, the Carrot God, have summoned them.” I couldn’t figure out what the code stood for, so I decided to get some grease paint and hair spray and do my best.
I was ridiculously proud of the results:
It wasn’t until I went to upload my most excellent Carrot God interpretation that I figured out what the code: 855 J 46H + FH stood for. Apparently it’s a way to write global coordinates and it is somewhere in the Newport Beach Civic Center in California. (California friends and relatives, you lucked out that I didn’t figure this out in time to corral your assistance, otherwise I might have asked you to paint yourself orange and dash about with fistfuls of carrots.)
From carrots we move to espionage with one simple leap of deduction.
SO, you want to be on a CIA watch list?
Item #50 – Write a letter to the director of the CIA. How could this possibly go wrong?
All I had to do was crypto-translate a sculpture that the finest minds at spy headquarters hadn’t managed to translate. No biggie.
…and post the letter to a social media account.
…tagging the CIA so they couldn’t miss it.
If I’m audited next year, this is why. #StillGladIMailedThatLetter
What Exactly is the Point of GISH again?
While all this is going on, I have been fielding calls from various doctors’ offices and doing my best to stay on top of feeding and watering the child. During one of the ABA sessions, the tech eyes me for a while doing various goofy tasks and finally asks me why I’m doing this. I briefly explain that the registration fees for participating are used to remove landmines from farms in Laos.
Her response, “What does dressing like a carrot have to with charity? Couldn’t the money you spent on this stuff go directly there?” #She’sNotWrong
I don’t think I gave her a very satisfactory answer. Up to that point, I was doing all the fun items. The crazy ones. The slightly quirky and downright ridiculous ones. But the main purpose of GISH is to raise funds for charitable goals. And I haven’t mentioned those once!
So, I took the list and checked it twice, to find out to whom I could be nice.
So, Saturday, on the last day of GISH, and with the help of my son, I:
Made up gift baskets and visit the elderly…
We also try to do a good deed in our neighborhood while also encouraging my child toward philanthropy–not an easy concept to get across for anyone, none less a teenager with autism.
Time was starting to fly, and I decide to teach my son the importance of sharing would do for a good, concrete lesson.
My last GISHY act was to buy a tree to be planted in Kenya. I wish I could say Kenya was my intended destination, but no, it was the default option when you went to the OneTreePlanted website. From what I could see, many people made the default donation. Kenya should be nice and leafy real soon.
Doing charitable acts to participate in a scavenger hunt might seem like a waste of time and money to most people. It also feels somewhat wrong to do nice things for credit. But, this week helped to make up for getting some pretty bad news. I had fun. No one was hurt…much. And maybe, just maybe, a little good was accomplished.
And, at the end of the day…and a very long week…that’s not a bad thing.
Kudos Go To…
To all the friends who helped me along the way, thank you. I couldn’t have done it without you. I’d stop to express my gratitude personally, but it is almost 2:00 a.m. and I’m falling over exhausted. I may just sleep the next week away.
I’m finally getting around to taking care of a small matter of imbalance. It seems I’ve been a bit lopsided lately. Leaning a bit to the left, if you will. Turns out there’s a reason for that! With the news the doctor gave me, I’ve decided to go ahead and have some work done.
I don’t have all the details yet, but I wanted to keep you abreast of the situation; I’m having a little corrective surgery. Before you panic and start picturing me as a centerfold model in the next AARP circular. It’s nothing that drastic. I’ve just reached an age where the fun-fun mammograms I’ve been having routinely for decades have finally paid off. They found something worth looking for.
To be honest, I’ve been waiting for something to happen for a while. Bad news comes in threes, and after the tree killed our roof two summers ago, and last year we experienced the dubious pleasures of salmonella and the criminal justice system for minor children, I had the feeling the Bad Sh*t HappensUniverse wasn’t finished with me. The trilogy was yet to be completed.*
I go through a few more medicinal hoops, ring a few more lab test bells, and the doctors schedule me for surgery in a few weeks. Now all I have to do is tell everyone I know the good news.
In a manner that suits my personality…
I want to have a last hurrah before picking my son back up from camp. I send out a hurried request for a Girls’ Night Out. Friends join me at Noto’s Restaurant on the beach. It’s insanely busy and loud, but has a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan. We chat about everything–which includes someone introducing me to a term I’ve never heard of before. The friend mimes pulling an imaginary peanut M&M from her generous cleavage, saying, “Hashtag: Boob Snack,” and pretends to nosh on it. This seems like a great segue for my announcement.
I order a desert appropriate to the occasion. While handing out our choices, the helpful waiter, Chris, makes the mistake of asking, “So, what’s the big reveal?”
In the spotlight, holding up my mounds of ice cream with cherries, I blurt. “I have breast cancer!”
In the appalled silence that follows, the waiter escapes, and I hurry to explain. “It’s really, really small! It’s so small that finding it was very lucky.”
It’s like a micro-tumor. Only about 5-6 millimeters. And today I learned that it is moderately slow growing and is responsive to hormone therapy. I got a grade of Stage 1-A. Or as that doctor put it,”If you have to get breast cancer, this was the best kind to get.”**
Hugs are given and I feel warm and fuzzy, especially after the waiter comes back to tell us he comped me my ice cream! A friend says we should go out more often…and I agree, adding, “We can take turns being the person with cancer to snag a free desserts! Hashtag: Boob Snack!”
We leave the place cackling like mad women and tromp to the nearby beach to take selfies in the sunset. It was the best end to a day a girl can have, surrounded by loving, laughing ladies.
That’s the news, everybody. I go under the knife on August 20th. And while I appreciate thoughts and prayers, I’m even more appreciative of thoughtfulness and practical help. Which leads me to my second bit of news.
Before any of this happened, I signed up to take part in something called GISH, an acronym for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt (the World has Ever Known) which starts JULY 27th. I’ve never done it before and, from what I understand, I will be performing acts of charity while dressed entirely in cheese, or some other wild suggestion, created by a team of very disturbed/imaginative people.
This brings me to you…my adoring friends, my extended family, and wacky Chicago fan club! (Please note the use of the Oxford Comma per your request, K, J, and MJ!) I hope I may call on you all in my hour of need. If I require someone to go out, dressed like sasquatch in a tutu, to serenade strangers on a street corner while playing a stringed bass (the fish, not the instrument) I am totally playing the ‘C’ card and asking for help. It’s either that, or you get to mow my lawn for me. You decide. But, I’m totally milking this cancer thing for all it’s worth. Consider yourself warned.
Tomorrow I get the kid back from camp. So, if I miss your kind words, know that I will look forward to reading them once life gets back to normal. For a given value of normal equal to infinity plus or minus the deviation of the norm over pie.***
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*The third movie is always the one where the hero wins in the end, right? So, it’s all good.
** Unless one could be diagnosed with unnaturally young and perky boobs after 50? It could happen. Right?
I try to remind myself of this every time I see something that my avaricious soul desires.*
But it is so very hard to be good.
What I need is a little Christmas Discipline.
I am currently enjoying a period of forced minimalism, otherwise known as being broke.
I have never budgeted. As a result, I have also never saved much money. I just let the paycheck drop into the account and spent said moolah on whatever I wanted and periodically looked to make sure I wasn’t dipping below the fill-line, so to speak, trusting that the bank will never run out of money.
But it did…for about three days.
November had five Thursdays in it.
Did you notice? I certainly didn’t.
Fun fact, our social security payment arrives on the last Thursday of the month. I auto-pay my bills electronically on or around the 25th because, usually, by then the check has hit the bank.
Unless there are five Thursdays.
Five Thursdays spells disaster with my current un-budgeted way of life. If I’m not careful, the money doesn’t quite stretch to cover the month unless I pay attention and not buy every indulgence that catches my eye.
I had no idea what a spend thrift I could be until I realized I couldn’t spend ANY money for three days.
I mean none.
I got through the days of parsimony and rue recognizing that I have some really bad habits.
It was time to enforce some strict discipline…
I looked at my love of fancy compressed curds and altered my favorite Thanksgiving side dish to omit the Grueyer and Emmenthaler cheeses.**
Turns out, I might just need a cheddar-vention.
I have some expensive, thoughtless, habits that I now need to pay attention to.
A sudden need for a french fry fix makes me commit a fast food drive by almost without thinking about it. The doctor, at least, will be happy to hear we are cutting back on our deep-fried addictions.
The road to my personal hell is paved with indulgences that would make angels weep.***
So, I’m submitting myself to some long-needed tightening of the purse-strings.
I am become an acolyte for pleasure through self-deprivation.
All books will come from the library for the foreseeable future.
We won’t mention over-priced chai lattes that you can get at Biggby’s.
And I’m going to cut back on the diet cherry coke habit, though I worry I might actually kill somebody for a taste of the sparkling poison, so be warned.
I am now faced with the consequences of life-long bad habits. I must buckle down and pay attention to my finances and make fiscally restrictive choices. Or, find another way to make income.
Which brings me to my brilliant sub-theme.
My New Year’s Resolution will be to find out which of the following jobs is the least repellent way to bring in extra cash:
Will Humiliate for Food
I once read a profile on OKCupid for a guy who was willing to pay women to come out to California, dress in appropriate costumes, and humiliate him for hard cash. I’m not entirely sure if this one wasn’t an invitation to join a sex-trade, but maybe he has Skype?
Phoning It In
Sex phone operator. In which we find out whether I can suppress the giggles long enough to achieve a quasi-sultry conclusion. Also, where exactly am I going to do this in a house full of therapy techs and my ever-present child? I’m yawning the minute it hits 8:00 pm…this will take some thought.
Lashing the Page
Or, based on what I’ve seen while Googling images for this topic, there’s an aching void waiting to be filled in the Christmas-based sadomasochism/erotica market. Now how shall I plug that hole?
With such exciting job prospects, I’ll be sure to report back I am once more swimming in something festively green…hopefully it’s money and not jello with marshmallows on a pay-per-view fetish site.
Oh, and could someone remind me in the third week of January that the month has five Thursdays? Thanks.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Which, at Christmas, means everything. My inner child is a window-shopping glutton.
***It doesn’t make angles weep–which is what I originally wrote–but then I decided the heartless bastards would just laugh for 90 degrees in their corners until it was no longer funny or acute. How obtuse!
Nine out of ten people won’t read past this sentence.
You can’t believe how this story turns out!
Who would have thought anything so strange, bright, bold, beautiful, and bouncy could happen here?
Only my real friends will read to the end, and copy and paste this, and dance naked in the rain while singing the theme to the Brady Bunch.
“Here’s the story…of a lovely lady…”
Try not to hate me.
I guess I am as guilty as anyone else. I click the title that leaves me hanging, that asks for, nay, demands attention. A dangling question mark with a spurious answer. Unless it has a mysterious sea creature or a poisonous arachnid that I absolutely must know about before going to bed. (‘Cause that’s not gonna cause nightmares at all!)
What I’m saying is, I’m a sucker for flashy headlines that drag me onto an eye-blistering site with multiple pop-up ads, hidden read-more arrows disguised by embedded commercials. Oh, and let’s not forget the blinking GIFS causing neural disruptions. FUN!
I hate that I fall for these things because they drag me away from real life and important things…like laundry and grocery shopping.*
Sometimes I lie to myself–that following these idiotic stories is in pursuit of knowledge.
I’ve watched videos on the metamorphoses talents of cuttle fish and octopi which change outfits so often they are the aquatic equivalent of The Next Top Model, but underwater.**
Though my favorite videos are by the guy who voiced Dear Kitten Commercials. It’s awesome when he goes off the deep end:
If you’ve got a hook, I’ve probably swallowed it:
Pseudo science dumbed down to bite-sized consumer factoids?
Bring on the quasi science fiction babble about neutrinos emissions formed with pop rocks and microwaved coca-cola.
Something innocuous actually poised to kill or permanently maim mankind?
I swear, everyday someone is ruining a favorite treat with a gross video or unsubstantiated claim about the poisons in our everyday life. My mom sent me one about my favorite ‘Don’t Kill Anyone Today Beverage.”
I read the whole thing, but didn’t see any links to data or studies. But then, I was reading it on a microscopic phone screen while simultaneously trying to keep track of my boy child. Still, who has time to follow up on the facts? Not when there’s all this junk to sift through!
Why stop to fact check or at least think for a moment about how likely the fear really is?
(Google this yourself. I’d break the internet trying this on my old laptop.)
I’d like to say that, knowing the dangers and misrepresentations, I won’t fall for these time wasters any more. But I really don’t have any answers. All I know is that putting the iPhone down for a weekend won’t kill you. Will it?
Hang on…Googles topic…Okay…finds story on the Daily Beast (which is no doubt a reputable news source with a name like that):
DISCLAIMER: if you plan to become a luddite and leave the internet behind, perhaps you should consult a doctor before taking any drastic measures…or take away a teenager’s XBox.
There should be an easy path back to a normal life. A life unplugged and free from anxiety-inducing ersatz drama. One where you don’t jump at every text DING like a Pavlovian pooch or fall for sleezy, but alluring, tabloid-esque, ALL CAP article headlines. There must be a way back to normal!
But that’s a story for another day. I’ve got the car packed to go camping and a teenager waiting for his car ride away from electronic distractions.
Hopefully we will both survive to meme another day.***
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Okay, I really hate doing laundry and grocery shopping so it doesn’t take much to distract me from a task…oh look, a SQUIRREL!
**You know that an Underwater reality show is in the works somewhere. Hosts will be Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid and Charlie the Tuna from the Star Kist commercials.
***I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while. And to do a much better job of it than this. Sorry.