Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy anniversary, with a little help from the Flintstones

Jeff and I got married eleven years ago today. Time flies when you're too damn busy! But we're all right -- we have each other, and we even still like each other most of the time! ;-)

I thought of this song and video this morning. I remember that my mom and I both LOVED this bit when I was a kid, and she'd sing it on her wedding anniversary. Happy memories.

All Quiet: the book on war

Our book discussion group selected All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque for our November meeting. Before we started talking about it a few months ago, I didn't really know more than the title, and hadn't been interested in finding out more. But now I've read it, and I'm very glad we chose it. War is a horror, and ought to be seen as the last possible option. The ones who fight should not be seen as pawns; they are people, all people.

A couple of sections that struck me hardest (from the translation by A. W. Wheen):

Haie Westhus drags off with a great wound in his back through which the lung pulses at every breath. I can only press his hand; "It's all up, Paul," he groans and he bites his arm because of the pain.

We see men living with their skulls blown open; we see soldiers run with their two feet cut off, they stagger on their splintered stumps into the next shell-hole; a lance corporal crawls a mile and a half on his hands dragging his smashed knee after him; another goes to the dressing station and over his clasped hands bulge his intestines; we see men without mouths, without jaws, without faces; we find one man who has held the artery of his arm in his teeth for two hours in order not to bleed to death. The sun goes down, night comes, the shells whine, life is at an end.

Still the little piece of convulsed earth in which we lie is held. We have yielded no more than a few hundred yards of it as a prize to the enemy. But on every yard there lies a dead man.

Here is a description of what the narrator, Paul, sees in the hospital where he is recuperating:

Two fellows die of tetanus. Their skin turns pale, their limbs stiffen, at last only their eyes live--stubbornly. Many of the wounded have their shattered limbs hanging free in the air from a gallows; underneath the wound a basin is placed into which drips the pus. Every two or three hours the vessel is emptied. Other men lie in stretching bandages with heavy weights hanging from the end of the bed. I see intestine wounds that are constantly full of excreta. The surgeon's clerk shows me X-ray photographs of completely smashed hip-bones, knees, and shoulders.

A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, one single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture-chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another. I see that the keenest brains of the world invent weapons and words to make it yet more refined and enduring. And all men of my age, here and over there, throughout the whole world see these things; all my generation is experiencing these things with me. What would our fathers do if we suddenly stood up and came before them and proffered our account? What do they expect of us if a time ever comes when the war is over? Through the years our business has been killing;--it was our first calling in life. Our knowledge of life is limited to death. What will happen afterwards? And what shall come out of us?

Indeed, what will happen afterwards? What good can come from war, in which fathers send sons away into the world -- to kill others, and perhaps be killed themselves? For what?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A poem that knocked my socks off

I saw a poem a day or two ago on Poetry Daily that awed me. Be warned, it's dark, but I was so impressed with it, I had to share it. It's called "Death by My Son," by Frank Giampietro. I might have to track down more of his work. Read the poem here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Governor of New York proposes large cut in budget for libraries

Read about it in Library Journal here.

Thanks to Library Stuff for posting the headline.

Morning conversation

Me: "Another fun breakfast at home."

Jeff: "For you?"

Me: "No, for the boys. I like eating at home."

Jeff: "Oh yes, another breakfast, with three nutritious servings of Yelling and Screaming. And Fit-Throwing."

Me: "And Bitching and Complaining."

Sigh. It was so much easier when the boys were eating most breakfasts at school. But Ryan says he doesn't like eating there, so now they're back to eating at home most mornings. But it seems that Ryan just doesn't like to eat, period, a lot of the time, whether at school or at home, so his breakfast at home is accompanied by almost constant badgering from Jeff, me, and often Grandma: "You have to eat! That's not enough, eat more! What a waste!" Etc., etc., etc. Kyle isn't as bad about it, but he often needs reminding, too: "It's getting late, finish your cereal!" Etc., etc. Oh, morning time. Sigh.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Last Thursday evening was the third grade music program at school, so our family went to watch Kyle do his thing, and Sue rode with us. It was hard, as everything these days is hard, but we seemed to be doing okay, clapping and smiling, and even chuckling at some of the more amusing parts. Then toward the end of the program, the kids sang a song called "Helping Me Grow." Yes, it was sappy and sentimental, about grown-ups helping their kids to grow big and strong and stay healthy, and just taking care of them in general. Yes, I started crying. I was sitting next to Sue, and after a bit, I looked over at her, and she was stifling her tears, and I put my arm around her and put my head on her shoulder for a bit, and we were sitting in the front row, and I didn't care that some kids saw tears running down my face. I thought, Papa should be here.

I tried to put a word to how I felt, and found it: cheated. Papa had been to all the boys' music programs in the past, and would have been at this one, too - and surely WAS there, in spirit - but we've been cheated of his presence, his warmth, his dedication. His love for our little boys goes on, but he isn't here to show and express it to them, to hug them, laugh with them, teach them. I cried because my sons, and their cousins, have been cheated.