coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018: My Uncle Joe

On Memorial Day 2018, I choose to honor my my maternal uncle, Joe. He was initially stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with the Army Air Corp. On the morning of 7 Dec 1941, he was walking back to the barracks after attending mass when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The heel of his shoe was hit by flying shrapnel, but Joe was not hurt. After Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to Canton Island, a South Pacific coral island, where he helped to operate one the first radar facilities.

Later, he received a transfer to Europe. While traveling from Hawaii to England, the B-17 he was in flew over Griffith, Indiana and “buzzed” his hometown. My mother said they had been expecting it, and everyone knew who it was. Joe, being short (about 5’8”), was a tail gunner flying bombing missions over Germany.

The first week in December, on his 13th mission, his B-17 was shot down over the Black Forest. The crew parachuted to safety. All survived but the pilot. Joe hid in an abandoned farmhouse for 4 or 5 days. He melted snow to drink, and in one of the houses he found one egg, flour and sugar. His feet froze, and he wrapped them in old rags. He decided to try to make it back to the American line. He was dressed up as an old lady, and some German solders spotted him crossing a river.

I wonder if he stole the clothes? He was a beautiful young man, charming, and he spoke German. Perhaps he talked a kind older woman into giving him the disguise?  We never felt like we could ask him, he didn't like to talk about those days. Regardless, he was captured and imprisoned at a German prisoner of war camp until the end of the war.

War, of course, is Hell.  

Uncle Joe, Uncle Jerry, and Grandma (before he was captured)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Blueberry picking

It is almost the end of blueberry season in Central Florida. There is a U-pick blueberry farm near us I had never been to. I talked myself into taking my grandson.

I picked N up from school and asked if he wanted to pick blueberries. He was surprisingly enthusiastic, so we went. The farm has a bouncy house for the kids next to the concession area where they sell things like blueberry popsicles and blueberry muffins. First he bounced. Afterwards, he chose the muffin and raved in ecstasy the entire time he was eating it. He hates everything, so this was interesting to me. I'm going to have to find a good recipe for blueberry muffins.

Turns out he is a remarkably good farmworker. The concept of picking enough little berries to fill his pail was not daunting; it inspired him. Of course, he also assumed it was a competition and wanted more than anything to pick more than me. This is what blueberry picking is like when one is all hopped up on testosterone. I tried to be grandmotherly and ignore the competition, but it was a formal challenge! In fact, this challenge was shouted out with great bravado, arms raised with fingers pointed to and jabbing at the heavens. You know how I like to win. I picked with abandon. 

We ended up rather even, but when weighed I had a few berries more. That bothered the boy, so the next day he insisted we go back. This time he had a quiet plan involving going into rows all his own, not following me as he had before. Nothing was said about winning or losing. However, he picked fast and furiously. I pretended not to notice, and picked leisurely as a Grandma should. 

When we had the pails weighed, one weighed more than the other. I told him the heavier one was his and congratulated him. He bellowed in delight. I think you know the truth.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

uuuh, what?

I apologize for how sporadic my posts have been. We've had a lot of visitors, which has been wonderful. It is the end of the school year so there have been plays and kindergarten moving up ceremonies, and the like.  As the Florida primary approaches (August 28, so late) I am busier than ever with coordinating candidate FB Live Q&A's on my beloved secret group.  We are on fire, and some like it hot. I know I do.

I sat down with the sole purpose of writing a blog about something specific.  After writing the first paragraph, I have completely forgotten what I wanted to say.  It was gonna be good, too! 

I can muster up a photo, though.  Will be back in a few days with something of substance.  I'm almost sure of it.

palm fronds and fruit

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The ghosts of academics past

I could not sleep when I went to bed last night. I was awash with memories of people I knew at the University over the 37 years I worked there. I was not remembering my work friends in this trip down memory lane. In this particular bout of insomnia I was obsessing about the many faculty members I knew over the years. They paraded by me, in chronological order by place of work. I worked one administrative job or another in 9 different departments in those years, so the parade went on for a long time. I was reminded how deeply I care about most of them, and what an impact they each had on my life.

They are an interesting bunch, those academics. Except for a few notable jerks, they were/are lovely people. The engineers and mathematicians are less sociable with staff than humanists and social scientists are. However, the theoretical and applied "science guys" are still lovely because they are gloriously logical and conflict averse. There is little drama in those departments. I especially liked working in the Department of Mathematics. 

The humanists spent more time interacting and building relationships with the staff. However, they also tend to pull the staff into interpersonal conflicts.  It is a toss up as to what environment was best. I will say I preferred the humanities despite the emotional wear and constant drama. I guess I am a glutton for punishment, or perhaps they were simply more interesting to me.

I worked at an Ivy League research university, so the faculty's contractual duties involved teaching, research, and public service. Some of the professors are the best in the world at what they do. All of them were probably the smartest kids in their high schools. They all made top grades in college. They studied for their PhD's with icons in their respective fields. If they had an overriding fault as a group, it is that they all needed to be perceived as "smart." It needlessly stressed them out! More on that some other time.

None of them were rah rah boosters of the University. It just doesn't seem to work that way at a research university. The faculty identified with their international field first and foremost. Where they were employed was of secondary interest, as long they derived sufficient status and salary from the appointment. The central administration never quite understood that. Those bozos are business types who don't quite understand the community they serve. Actually, they may not even understand they "serve" the faculty and students.  Education was our business product, for crying out loud!

Anyway, it was interesting to be around people of such distinction and drive, because I'm not that.