Archive for December, 2012

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2012 in review

December 31, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Battle of the Ironclads…

December 30, 2012

Check out the Official Historical Blog of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on the 150th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Monitor. BTW, it has been pointed out to me that my title is a bit misleading–the Monitor sank in a storm but did fight in a historic sea battle with the CSS Virginia on March 9th, in what is called the battle of the Ironclads. The following article is full of information like that, not just about the sinking. ūüôā

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sinking and Loss of the USS Monitor ~ 150 Years Ago on December 31, 1862

Blog #24. December 29, 2012 by Marcus W. Robbins

Thanks to Belle Grave Plantation and the Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society for posting this link. History does matter!
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Tell Me About…

December 29, 2012

My mother came down on Thursday–it was her first Thursday free since September. No chemo. No Herceptin. And it was going to be a girls’ day. I posted earlier that we went to see the Hobbit … mainly because I forgot to see if I could get dinner theater tickets and because my father is funny about being without her right now. My mother enjoyed getting to sleep in so instead of a movie and dinner we had to go for a late lunch and movie. It’s all good.

Where I live now there is a New York style pizza joint that is owned–according to a friend of mine–by the same family that runs a joint with the same name back in my home town. None of us were craving pizza; we wanted good old-fashioned subs. Meatball marina and steak and cheese to be precise.

**If you think steak ums¬†and velveeta¬†cheese is a steak & cheese–you’re so mistaken. It needs to be hoagie¬†style. Diced meat, provolone, lettuce, tomato, mayo. You can add onion, green peppers, mushrooms if you like. But lifeless and practically tasteless mystery meat with fake cheese is just not a steak and cheese. And I’ve eaten at Genos in Philly and I was so disappointed (but the late Joey Vento was so nice to our scouts!). It’s got to be more like the authentic steak & cheese my folks took us to get on MacDade Blvd. Let the debate begin… ! ūüôā **

Okay, so while we were sitting there, T1 asks, “What was your grandmother like?”

Thus began a wonderful conversation. And an idea for some posts. I may even have to “ghost write” some posts from the Chief about his grandparents. Before she asked this,¬†I’ve actually been looking for the electronic copies of a story written based on a tape recorded conversation between me and my grandmother to post here. (Otherwise I have to retype the whole thing… ugh!)

So not in any particular order I will post some of the recollections I had and the conversation we had on our girls’ day. I hope this inspires T1 and T2 to write down their memories of their grandparents for their children.

The Grandfathers

I have no memories of my dad’s father. He died the summer I was 1 and half. He was a master mechanic and served in WWII in the Navy. From what I understand he did not see action in the Bering Straits. He was Irish. Well, he acted it but not really. The family history is that we’re really English but were forced to leave because they were Catholic. They lived in Ireland for a while–we actually had an Irish nun doing the family history contact my grandmother and say they still had family there. But PopPop¬†was Irish in that he drank and was¬†a bit unreliable. In my father’s family there is a large age gap between the oldest four¬†and the youngest three. My father, the oldest of the youngest, remembers “collecting” his father from bars. I think this shaped his drive to be a workaholic–but the older three boys took after their father, some more than others. If I’m correct, PopPop died from an enlarged heart from drinking and smoking. From pictures I gather he was a very handsome and roguish young man.

On my mother’s side, Poppy came from hard-working¬†German stock. He was handsome. A bear of a man–though short. Or at least my 7-year-old self thought he was larger than life. ūüôā He was a master plumber. He was a hard worker. Jeans and t-shirts kind of guy. “The Chief is a lot like him,” my mother said to my girls. Yeah, I can see it. That kind of guy. Poppy was in the Army for WWII though he rarely spoke about what he saw. According to my mother he liberated at least two concentration camps. It was a hard thing to do with such a German last name. We were actually talking briefly about gun control, which I think prompted T1’s question later, and my mother recalled that he never went hunting with his relatives again after returning from the war though he kept two weapons in the house.

I have few memories but they include telling him my cousin had pulled my tooth and of him sitting in the chair and snoring. Great big snores. I think he was just getting interesting because 7 is when some children are just getting interesting themselves. I think I would have had a great relationship with him. “I felt cheated [when he died]. I was only 7.” My mother teared up when I said this. She had only been in her thirty’s–imagine how she felt. He died of lung cancer; more from the environment he worked in rather than the smoking but it may have also been from the type of skin cancer he had that can actually show up later as lung cancer. On my 7th birthday they threw a big retirement party for him. I remember getting all my gifts early the day before we left. All of the family was there; his friends and coworkers. I remember he came in a grey suit. He looked a little smaller–the cancer beginning to take a toll. But he was handsome. I also remember that our headlights had been smashed out in the parking lot and we had to drive back to my dad’s mother’s without lights. My mother assured me it was only a few blocks but must have seemed so far away to my 7-year-old self. Poppy died 6 weeks later. He was adored by his mother and sisters. “He could do no wrong–even if he was chasing his sister out the hay loft doors with a pitch fork for daring to go into his room!” (No wonder the males in my family have anger issues.) Funny that my mother describes him this way–for a long time she touted his “sainthood” too as she struggled with her mother.

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Opening Up A Can of Worms…

December 27, 2012

Everybody parents differently. Everyone has different standards.

So I posted the question about which movie to go see with my mother and daughters today. Life of Pi, The Hobbit, Les Miserable, or Parental Guidance. I wasn’t personally interested in seeing the first or fourth choice but my mom had mentioned Parental Guidance¬†more than once. I really have to be in the mood to see a comedy. And watching a movie about familial dysfunction however humorous with my mother is not entertaining. My mother is not that into fantasy so I wondered about the Hobbit. When the original LotRs¬†all came out we saw them with my in-laws. The final LotR the Chief and I saw solo because the girls were now of an age where they actually stayed awake for a film. So that left Les Mis … but being a disgrace to all those that call themselves English Majors I have neither read the book nor seen the Broadway play. I have caught snippets of the PBS anniversary special featuring Nick Jonas though. So I know it is about the French Revolution. War. War can be ugly.

My question got lots of votes for the Hobbit and a few cautionary remarks about Les Mis. I looked up reviews on a website that scores movies for sexual content, violence, and other. Remember War can be ugly so there did seem to be some scenes I might find a bit much for the girls.

And beheading a giant goblin isn’t?

So here is the deal: when I posted our choice and why (that Les Mis might have more objectionable material) we went with the Hobbit¬†and my mother loved it, one acquaintance posted that “if the Hobbit was okay for them to see than so was Les Mis and even her 8 year old loved it.” I posted back that the Chief and I are sort of weird parents.

“Fantastical violence with a healthy discussion about reality is preferred over historical¬†violence or violence with more of a chance of happening or something innately¬†evil–for example they have not seen Anakin¬†become Darth Vadar yet … or Raiders of the Lost Ark or Braveheart … but battling orcs and goblins or evil wizards as long as we discuss it … well just makes us weird parents.”

I didn’t want to offend this acquaintance. But I strongly disagree with letting third graders read the Twilight series and taking them to the midnight showings of the movies. The inner monologue of the main character is just too much for any young girl trying to figure herself out. My children have not seen the Half Blood Prince or either part of the Deathly Hallows because we felt the theme was becoming a little too mature for them. They need to finish reading the books and have a discussion with us about them first.

Last year we objected to T1 reading The Hunger Games solely on the idea that it is a possible future on our planet–not some Star Gate–where children are killing children for entertainment. We explained to her that when she reads The Lottery and Lord of the Flies we’d love for her to read it and discuss all of them with us. Lord of the Flies was 9th grade reading material–not 6th grade. Thankfully it was only for a book club and there were other choices and the librarian was totally behind us. As I posted, T1 read it behind our backs but I couldn’t fault her for it as I did the same thing (only it was because of all the hype surrounding North and South and the miniseries).

So is there a difference between flying orc blood and the death of a Nazi by propeller blade? Yeah … yeah there is a difference. We have emphasized fantasy is fantasy. Nazis were real. War is real. Death in war is real. Let’s look at Captain America. Nazis are in that movie. It is about war … but ray guns and genetically enhanced heroes and villains just aren’t real–and I really feel the makers of that movie kept it campy enough to¬†keep it fantasy.

Are we splitting hairs? Are we still desensitizing them toward violence? Maybe. After reading the summary of a scene where soldiers were “enjoying the spoils of war” I just felt that was a little too real to be an enjoyable movie experience just yet. BTW, that ratings website gave Les Mis a score of 6 for violence and the Hobbit a 5 but Les Mis obviously got a higher score for sexual content for the aforementioned scene and nudity. I actually had to laugh about the Hobbit‘s near-naked trolls and ogres being objectionable according the website. Heck, that’s the poster child for exactly¬†why any male not a Olypic¬†diver should NOT be wearing loin cloths and speedos.

But as I said I hope I didn’t offend this acquaintance¬†for her choice of letting her 8 year old see the movie. I didn’t go on a rant about Twilight or midnight premieres. Or what about a show called “Pretty Little Liars” on ABC FAMILY? Oh that’s quality family television. I am exploring what we do let them see–Alphas¬†is a rough show and it does blur the line of fantasy and reality but we are dialoguing about it as we watch it. It has a lot of social issues and morals to discuss. I do wish I had started them off with Heroes. We’re watching Once Upon A Time together but Grimm is all mine for that gritty and blurred line. And one deep social discussion is about all I can juggle right now.

I usually don’t like to post any controversal and I certainly don’t want my opinion and parenting style attacked. I hope it didn’t stir up a debate or offense. We shall see.

I’m happy with my choice. Glad there will be two more movies. We will have a LotR marathon tomorrow. I will get to see Les Mis when the girls are back in school. Maybe I’ll finally see the last Twilight too!

And just when I thought it was safe to go to bed… I remembered that my much touted quality family television Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman had quite a few mature themes in them, least of which as a very brutal scene where Grace has her “hair cut”. Not to mention Myra’s profession. Those made for interesting discussions. But maybe being able to hit pause and to actually discuss gives me more of a sense of control of the flow of information. Yup. It’s splitting hairs. Sorry.

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