Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Something's Burning

I am about to reveal something personal about myself. I work hard at being private because my family deserves their privacy. But read on.

My oldest son was born in the spring in 1967. With one baby my husband and I were still fairly mobile. By that I mean that if we decided to go somewhere we grabbed the baby and his needs and off we went.

One Sunday we went to visit my husband's brother and his family. It was a pleasant day and we all had a nice time. Nothing unusual, just a family getting together.

Since Monday was a work day we were getting ready to go home when a man who had worked with my husband at one time came in. He sort of wandered from place to place to crash when he needed a place to sleep.

He commandeered the television and we were all slightly amused and slightly irritated. He said he wanted to know what time the curfew was. What?

We lived in Detroit. Big cities like that have no curfews. Many stores are open 24 hours. Curfew?

But there on the television was the newsman announcing that the curfew for the city of Detroit was 10:00 PM.

A blind pig had been raided in the early hours of the morning before. Things did not go well. People in the immediate area began togather. Things went from bad to worse and people were setting fire to buildings and rioting had erupted.

A blind pig is an after hours spot where people would go to gamble and drink. Both activities were illegal mostly because they were not licensed. I knew people who would open their homes after hours for people to gamble and drink. They did not do it all the time but they claimed it was a good way to make a bit of money.

Anyway this was the beginning of the infamous Detroit riot of 1967.

Because our apartment was very near downtown Detroit it was decided that we would spend the night at my brother-in-law's and sister-in-law's house. Things should be quieter tomorrow.

When we awoke the next morning the burning and looting had become worse. We were in Southwest Detroit. The rioting had started in the near west side of Detroit. Not real close but too close.

The sale of alcohol and firearms was prohibited. Most businesses closed. People were warned to stay inside if possible.

We watched the chaos on television. Of course it was pretty much all the stations were talking about. There was no way we could go home. We would have to travel through the worse areas of rioting and where we lived was none too safe. Thank goodness we had enough things for the baby. We also had my two very young nephews and a niece to protect also.

Stores were being looted. Businesses were being burned.

The police were making arrests. They had to ask for help from the Windsor police from Canada across the Detroit River to process fingerprints and guard prisoners. There was no room left in the jails so makeshift detention centers were found.

In the meantime the riots were on national news. That never entered my head. My parents and my husband's parents were frantically trying to find out if we were all okay. Eventually my parents sent a telegram to my apartment when they could not reach us by phone. I was not there so I did not receive it until after things settled down.

The governor of Michigan asked for help from the federal government. The President said that he could not help until the governor declared a state of insurrection. The Governor was relunctant to do so. The mayor of Detroit was also slow in asking for help from the state. Politics were more important to all of them than the fact that people were becoming violent.

Willie Horton of the Detroit Tigers baseball team had grown up in Detroit. He went out and stood on top of a car to plead with the rioters to stop. It did no good.

After about 4 days of being cooped up in the house my husband and his brother were climbing the walls with boredom. They decided against the wishes of their wives to go see what was happening for themselves.

They went to an area that was between five and ten minutes from where we were. The looters were raiding grocery stores and furniture stores there. The looters waved to them and told them to help themselves. They were greeted warmly by all.

When they came home they had tales to tell. I was just happy they came back unhurt.

On the fourth day of the riots my sister-in-law and I were standing in the front yard talking onver the fence to neighbors. Suddenly a car came racing down the samll residential street. Then came a police car racing after them while announcing on their speaker for us to get inside. We did.

The police were having problems with sniper fire. Of the approximately 26 people arrested for sniper fire none was found guilty.

After so much grueling time trying to restore order to the city the police were tired and ill-tempered. They became part of the problem. There were acts of violence committed by them as well.

It was a relief when my little family was able to go home. After calling my parents to let them know that we were all in one piece we relaxed. Life was returning to normal.

Some statistics resulting from the riots which lasted five days:

43 deaths ranging in age from 4 years old to 66

473 injured including firefighters, police, and civilians

7231 people arrested the youngest was 4 years old the oldest 82 (14% were for violating curfew)

2509 stores burned and/or looted

388 families homeless or displaced

412 buildings burned bad enough that they had to be demolished

Anywhere from $40 million to $80 million worth of damages

My family was close enough to the rioting to be able to see and hear a bit of it but far enough away that it did not threaten us directly.

My apartment was fortunately untouched even though it was in the dangerous area.

The Detroit riot remains one of the worst riots in the history of the United States. It was a terrible time for Detroit and its residents. And it is one more story to tell my children.

Friday, March 27, 2015

I Remember

Today would have been my husband's 68th birthday. I was slightly older than he was.

I am often surprised at how much I miss him. We had been divorced for more years than we were married when he died.

We did not have a bitter divorce. At the same time neither of us was happy with the other. And he remained until he died the person who knew what buttons to push to irritate me.

Because we share four children and all the grandchildren we were forever connected. We chose to be civil. Children even if they are grown should not be placed in the position of peacemakers or worse, having to take sides.

At the same time my children are not stupid. They knew if we were at odds about something. I felt free to say that I was angry with their father because they knew that I did not expect them to be angry with me. I am reasonably sure they felt the same way with their father.

I could even vent a bit. If the children stopped me by saying, "That's my dad you're talking about." I shut my mouth. I have friends and family I could rant to.

The main thing was that half of what my children are they got from their father. My children are amazing. How could I deny any part of them?  How could I be guilty of making them believe that half of what they are is not worthy? They have some remarkable traits that come from their father and some that come from me. All parts make these exceptional people.

My husband and I experienced so much together. The most important of course was our children. But we had friends, family, and at times we worked together. We relied on each other to defend and protect. We had fun. We had sorrow. We faced it together.

It is sad when a marriage dies. We did try to resurrect it. It did not work.

When I learned that my husband was dying I took it in stride. He was far too young and vital. I even told him he was too ornery to die. That was when he called me to tell me the doctors told him he only had a few weeks left.

When my son called to tell me that his father had died I already knew. When I called the rest of my children they knew. He was such a force in all our lives that we just knew.

What did surprise me was how much his death affected me. It took me a long time to gather myself so I could be there for my children.

I began writing this as a tribute to him on his birthday. It seems that it has turned into something else.

I guess the thing is that I have my memories both good and bad of our lives together and separately. Most of all I remember the person who should not have been taken so soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Am Special

I cannot bear to hear a child cry. I want to immediately take that child into my arms and give him or her a huge hug.

When a baby cries there is a reason. Perhaps the diaper is wet (or worse) making the baby uncomfortable. Maybe it is hungry. It may have just eaten and not all the gas came up when it was burped. The baby might just want to be held and have a little attention.

Crying is a baby's only way of communicating. The way adults respond is the way the baby learns about conversation. I have found in my own experience that if the baby knows that an adult will meet its needs when asked then the baby only cries when it is important.

I read that a child's opinion of itself is formed during the first two years of life. If that child feels desirable and loved it will always feel that way.

My family always calls the little girls "Pretty Girl". They all answer to it. The boys are the most handsome things we have ever seen. All the children are smart and loved by everyone in the family. They are such special parts of the family and we want them to know it.

I believe in spoiling children. Now I do not mean that they should not be disciplined. And I do not mean that they should think they are above others. Not at all.

Children must be taught respect and responsibility. They are responsible for the way they act. If their actions are wrong it is up to the parents to make sure they understand what they did wrong and that it will not happen again. Respect for other people results in other people respecting them. It is a valuable thing to know.

I have been reading all the recent news about allowing children to think they are special makes them narcissistic. Nonsense! Children should feel they are special. They should also realize that others can be special too.

I have noticed that the children who are the most troubled and most troublesome are the ones who feel less than. Less than is that feeling that one is less than others. No one should feel less than.

I tried to teach my children that no one is better than they are. Someone can be as good as they are but never better. Never better.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Wearin' O' The Green

As I write this it is St Patrick's Day. It is a true holiday in the Irish family I was lucky enough to marry into. My beautiful children and grandchildren have inherited the very best traits attributed to the Irish race.

It seems fitting that as I was out driving today I noticed the first signs of greenery. They are only signs but the real thing will thing is sure to follow.

I have been noticing for a while the color difference. As I lay in bed in the mornings I look out my window. During the winter the trees go into a deep sleep. Even the evergreens become dull and a gray-green color.

Now all the trees a perking up. The evergreens are becoming green again. The browns of the other trees are somehow more vibrant. It seems that they are waking slowly. Soon they will have the buds that will turn into those tender pastel green leaf babies that will grow into various shades of glorious green.

Soon grass and other ground plants will begin to push up through the brown soil to lay a carpet of green over the earth.

As a matter of fact that was what I saw today. Many fields are being worked already. The farmers are busy filling them with fertilizer so that when it is time to plant soon the field will be ready to nourish the seeds.

But in areas where the ground has not been worked I saw hints of green. I did not see actual vegetation. No. All I saw was the hint. If I looked directly at the illusive green all that was there was brown. But indirectly there was that hint.

Soon everything will be green and alive. I was surprised at the spark of life I felt. Usually I prefer autumn. But I came home with a feeling of renewal and joy today. The earth is coming alive.

The holiday of my family is the perfect day for this sense of newness. The world is celebrating too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Right Between The Eyes

 Have you ever stepped into something that an animal left behind? You do not always know until it is too late.

When I was working the midnight shift it was often dark when I left for work. My family parked in the back of the house and there was no pavement back there. The cats that were left to roam wild liked it back there. The woman who had lived there before us left food out for them and they kept looking even after she left. Naturally the dogs who also roamed wild came looking for cats. They all left little and not so little calling cards.

It was so hard to make it to my car without stepping into something. Most of the time I knew and could clean it off before I got into the car. A couple of times I was not so lucky.

I went to work and into the tiny room I worked in with usually one other person. One of the women I worked with was really nice but she could not take the odor. I have very little sense of smell and I was oblivious. I was working away when she finally said,"Did you step in something?" I looked and sure enough I had to leave to clean off my shoe.

When I was a little girl one of our games that we played on the farm was to go into the field and see how far we could go be jumping from "cow pie" to "cow pie". I know it sounds disgusting now but we were kids and you know how kids are.

We were careful not to jump on fresh ones. The old dried out ones were the ones we jumped on. They were like huge clumps of dried mud.

But there was the occasional "pie" that looked old and completely dry. When you jumped on those the crust would break and the middle was often runny. Grandma was not happy with us when we did that. We always made sure to go to the pump and wash off before she could see us.

I hated it when I was doing laundry and I went out to take clothes off the line only to discover that the birds had flown over and dropped their droppings on clean clothes. They seem to like sheets the best. When mulberries were in season was the worst. Then everything was purple.

My friends and I were skipping school. We thought we were so clever by hanging out in the courthouse. We figured no one would look for us there.

Around lunch time we decided to leave to get something to eat. It was a beautiful warm day. The sun was shining and the clouds were fluffy and white. I threw my head back just to breathe in the fresh air. Then PLOP; right between the eyes.

It felt like someone had thrown about a cup of wet cement at me. My friends started to laugh. One of the seagulls had taken a dislike to me I guess.

I advise anyone coming out of a government building to look stright ahead or down at the steps. DON'T LOOK UP!

Friday, March 13, 2015


My best friend is beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. Of course she knows it and uses it to her advantage but she also sees the beauty in other people.

Men always flock around her. As I said she is beautiful. And she gets the special treatment that beautiful people often get. That is a handy asset for her and for the people with her.

At the same time my friend is not a shallow person. She is caring and giving and has a marvelous sense of humor.

My friend has two sisters who are also good friends. We all support each other the best we can.

Her younger sister had two sons. The oldest was in school and the school was having a carnival/fundraiser. We all went to spend as much money as we could.

There was a mildly famous magician who appeared on local television children's shows often. He was appearing at the event.

He noticed my friend in the audience (what a surprise) and called her up to assist him in doing some of his magic. I can attest to the fact that they did not know each other.

He performed a lot of standard magic tricks to amaze and astound. He even managed to take my friend's watch from her arm without her knowing it.

Then came a trick that involved him placing an object into a container that looked a lot like a martini shaker. He told my friend to hold it between her hands end to end and turn it three times. She did.

Then as he was giving his spiel she flipped it once again. He passed his magic wand over it and said the magic words. He then asked my friend to open the container to show that the item had disaapeared or changed into something else or something.

She opened it. Nothing happened!

The magician was mildly flustered but he kept his poise and chuckled that they would need to do it over.

He watched carefully as my friend flipped the container for him. He reached fo his wand and she flipped it again. He passed the wand over it and said his magic words. My friend opened the container. Nothing had changed.

By now the magician was determined to get the trick completed. By now the smirk on my friend's face was impossible for her to hide. They started over.

Once again even under the close scrutiny of the magician the trick failed. He was definitely aggravated.

He said he would try ONE MORE TIME. He watched as my friend flipped the canister. She flipped it an extra time. He waved his wand and spoke the magic words. Then he grabbed her hands and flipped the canister once more. SUCCESS!

He promptly booted my friend off the stage and completed his act. She re-joined us and we had a good laugh. I told you she has a good sense of humor.

Then he called to her that she could come back up onto the stage if she wanted to collect her necklace.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Down With Homework

I had a good education from the very beginning.  My mother read to us and told us stories. We could not afford a lot of books of our own but we had a public library. Until we were old enough to have library cards of our own we could choose books and my mother or father would check out the books we chose.

When I began to go to school I lived in a small town. Each classroom had three grades and one teacher. Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade were all in the same room.

Mrs Cittercup was our teacher. While she would instruct one class the other two would study whatever had been their instruction previously.

In kindergarten we learned to print, read, spell, and do addition and subtraction. In first grade we read more difficult books, learned multiplication and long division, cursive handwriting, and grammar.

My family moved a lot. It was not until the 5th grade that I was in a school with enough pupils to have one grade in the room. But we were kept busy learning geography, science, and history as well as taking music classes and keeping our bodies physically fit.

We did a lot and learned a lot. It came easily to me but even the students who did not find learning easy kept up and learned the same things. I was not the only one. All the kids did it.

Even more remarkable was we did it with no homework. The only work I ever remember doing at home was reading a book in order to do a book report.

That is the point I wish to make. Homework is not necessary. As a matter of fact I believe most homework to be nothing but "busy work". Busy work is something that you do just to stay busy. There is no other reason to do it.

I occasionally had homework in high school. College gives a lot of homework. Those are different times in a person's life.

I was appalled when my grandchildren would come home with so much homework. Teachers tried to plan at least 1/2 hour of each subject.

Children need play time. It is the time they learn social skills. They learn to fend for themselves. They get exercise. Their imaginations are used. They learn to troubleshoot and police themselves. How will they have this necessary time when they have at least 2 hours of homework every night and more for the weekend?

Teachers are paid to teach. They should be able to instruct the children during school hours. Parents should not be the major instructors when homework is the way children learn.

As I said at the beginning I had a good education. Times have changed and technology has added new things to learn. But that happened when I was in school too.

Ask children today to recite the Preamble to the Constitution. Most cannot. Ask them why the Revolutionary War was fought. They have only a vague idea. Ask them to correctly spell and pronounce jewelry. Many were not taught spelling at all. Ask them to correctly use their, there, and they're in a sentence. You might receive a blank look. Do they know what an asterisk is?

Children are taught to use a calculator. They cannot do slightly complex mathematical exercises. How many children know who Madame Curie was and what contributions she made to science? How many children know who Jonas Salk was and what an insidious threat polio was to the world?

Speaking of new technology how many children know the history of telephones? How many know what is involved in the making of a video game? Can they explain what a pixel is?

Too many teachers foist the job of instruction off to the parents. Most parents are not qualified to teach properly. And there is plenty of time to teach at school.

Now I know from experience that teaching is a difficult job. But it is a job. That means someone is being paid to do it. The merits of whether they are paid enough is not what this is about. This is about the children.

Children need to have that play time. They need a few moments of each day to themselves. It is a part of their educations. Organized learning is for school. Free style learning is for home.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Am I Here?

I often wonder if I really exist. I look in the mirror and there I am. At least I think it is me. I hear myself say things and they sound like something I might say... I think. I often cut myself while preparing a meal. Blood appears and I hurt. It feels like me. But am I really here?

The reason I question is because others often tell me I am not the real me. I am the person who has to rush to the electric company to show them the cancelled check to prove I, me, actually paid them. Please do not discontinue service.

Paperwork for me is constantly being lost. My second son was never paid for. The reason? The insurance company had no record of me being covered. I fought them for several years with all the proof I could muster. They had more proof that I do not exist. I finally gave up.

I returned for that dreaded 6 week check-up after my daughter was born. My daughter was with me. They had her file ready and waiting to affirm that she was a perfect little girl. This was at the hospital where she was born.

Imagine my shock when they informed me that there was no record that I had ever been there. My daughter was born there. Where did she come from? I even had surgery two days after she was born. Or did I? They never did find my paperwork.

Then there are the many people who say, "You look just like my cousin's best friend's sister!" Or some equally obscure person. Am I that person?

In a diner one day with my children another person came and said that I looked just like a neighbor's friend. I told her that I was me. But I wonder. Am I?

When we had the junkyard people kept coming in and saying that I looked just like Metacore Mary. Metacore was a business that took used car parts and rebuilt them to better than new. Mary worked there and often made deliveries and picked up supplies. It was similar to the job I was doing. But I did not know her.

One day I was having some propane and oxygen tanks refilled. In walked a woman that looked like a relative. I was staring and when she noticed I apologized.

It was Metacore Mary. I explained that people were constantly telling me that I looked just like her. Once I had gone to pick up an order of work gloves and they gave me the order for Metacore because they thought she was me.

We looked like we might be relatives but we certainly did not look "just alike". Mary started to laugh. She said people were always telling her about this person who looked just like her! She was very nice and said she was happy to meet me.

Then she laughed again and was having a hard time stopping. It was not that funny. Then she said, " You don't look just like me. But you do look just like my younger sister!"

So you see? I am not certain there is a me. Papers do not support my existence. My face is so common that I could be anyone. But perhaps I am not me. Someone needs to tell me. Am I here?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

You Will Meet A Handsome Dark-Haired Man...

I have to confess... I have visited fortune tellers. I do not do it often and it is only for my own amusement. I know that they are nonsense.

Most of these people have a set banter. They usually tell me that 1. I will come into some money, 2. I will meet "the man of my dreams", and 3. that I will live a long life.

I suppose that each time I receive a paycheck I am coming into some money so they are correct there. I have been married... it is a lot of work and I am not willing to put that much work into someone else any more. No dream man for me. I hope I will live as long as I am meant to. I have much I want to accomplish. But it is still fun to play the game.

I first time anyone told my fortune a friend of my sister-in-law was learning to do palm readings.. She needed practice and read us free of charge. She told me that I had been sickly in my early life, would be healthy in my middle life , and be sickly again as I got older. From some lines on the side of my hand under my little finger she said I would have three children. I would also divorce and remarry once.

Even my husband got into the act. When I was pregnant with our fist child he performed the bottle cap test. Bottle caps had cork linings then. He would stick a needle into the center of the cork and dangle it by thread above my abdomen. If the cap swung straight or in a circle it would indicate a girl. I do not remember which was which.

Somehow he and my sister-in-law decided I was having a boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, girl, boy. That is 8 children in case you were not counting. I did not intend to have 8 children. However if you take the first of each set of two you will have boy, boy, boy, girl. That is what I had. Coincidence? Hmmmm....

A friend and I had our handwriting analyzed. All I had to do was write my name on a card. The card was fed into a computer which read it and printed an analysis of my personality. If I remember correctly my friend was much more outgoing than I was. I was more responsible than she was.

A woman and man were reading Tarot cards. I waited in line and the woman read mine. I was going to go into a cycle of prosperity. Prosperity goes in 7 year cycles. I was going to meet a man somewhere down the line. He would not be rich but he would be able to care for me in a comfortable lifestyle.

One woman told me I was going to have a baby boy who would be a musical prodigy. I should encourage him in every way possible. As I always do I smiled and nodded in agreement. I knew that I was unable to have more children. It took her both the cards and my palm for this prediction.

A man told me that a man named George was "standing" next to me. I knew no one named George. But my grandfather's name was George. I was not even a gleam in my father's eye when my grandfather died. But the man went on and on about how proud George was of me and all I had accomplished.

My mother and I took a road trip. When we stopped in Salem, Massachusetts, she wanted to have a reading sone by the official witch of Salem. She was out of town and booked many months ahead. But they said we could try one of the many other witches who had shops there.

We found a very nice young man whose name was Sean. He had a telephone reading that he had to take care of first but if we cared to browse in his shop he could read us after.

Mom went first. He told her that she was not wealthy but that she had enough to make her content. He said that she was never alone because my father was right there. She would live to be a very old woman. He saw 102 years for her. He was worried about her respiratory system and gave her a stone to ease breathing problems. She kept it in a silky scarf and held it to her chest when allergies bothered her. One day she took it out to use it and it shattered in her hand. My mother was 68 when she died.

When Sean did my reading he first told me that I was nothing like my friend (Mom). She was like a calm soothing flowing river whereas I had little bolts of lightning shooting out in every direction. He told me that I would not marry again and that I would be fine with that. Then he proceeded to describe each of my children to me. He was accurate in the descriptions.

He told me that I have the ability to call people to me. I do know that all my life a person who I had not seen in a long time would pop into my head for no reason at all. Within three days I would see that person. Hmmmmm.....

I was given a bag of rune stones as a gift. There was an instruction booklet about what the stones meant. I played with them of course.

One day I was showing them to a neighbor of my friend. I knew her enough to say hello when I saw her. I looked at one stone from her and a sudden feeling grabbed me. I said, "You are seeing someone your family does not approve of."

She jerked her eyes up at me and asked how I knew that. She had been seeing a man that she worked with and her family was very upset with her because she was married to another man. It spooked me a little bit and I stopped playing with the stones.

I even had a health reading. They have you stand in front of a camera thingy and they take a picture of your aura. Your aura is the colorful glow of your body and is supposed to reveal a great deal about you. They gave me a picture of my aura. Then I got a computer printout of the things my aura revealed.  I wish I could tell you what it said but I do not remember.

I approach all of these people with skepticism I know enough to not give any reaction to what they say or do and I try very hard to stay calm and collected. I get some strange predictions and some that are close to the truth. But I chart my own course. They are simply entertainment like going to the movies or a play.