This Date Shall Live in Infamy

This date not only commemorates the day the United States of America was purposely attacked by the Japanese military. Chaos reigned in the area, until we gathered our senses, made our plans, and locations like Midway, Guam, and other islands became key areas to defend and win back for freedom. Whatever the other history is, where we made serious mistakes and overlooked intelligence, many young men were lost in this horrible attack. Those who survived never forgot. The people of America united easily to support their military in not only Europe, and Africa, but now in the Pacific. The Japanese awakened the sleeping dragon.

This date is also the birthday of my first mother-in-law, Josephine Gerdun Tomasek. I often thought how difficult it must have been to have this terrible event happen on your birthday. Her family was still growing in numbers, and her husband Frank eventually worked at the Martin Bomber Plant in Bellevue, Nebraska. Offutt Air Force Base was built on the property and became home to the Strategic Air Command.

Josephine had a hard life, many children, and many challenges with life with her husband. She took her marriage vows seriously. Til death do us part meant something to her. Some relationships thrive with struggle. She was a creative woman, fed seven children, clothed them, and made sure they all had a Catholic education. God meant the world to her. She was always kind to me after her son and I divorced. She felt it was important to keep me in her life, and I always appreciated that. She loved that my kids came first to me. Happy Birthday in heaven, Josephine.

The third event on this day has caused my family it’s own day of infamy. In 1988, my father, Thomas M. Jewell, Jr. died of lung cancer. It was a horribly fast moving cancer. He lost 51 pounds in the 51 days from diagnosis to death. He was only 64 years old, had just retired, and was looking forward to traveling for the first time in his life. He made reservations to a European Campaign of his Army Blackhawk Division, following the route he and other soldiers took following General Patton through Europe, liberating each country from Nazi takeover. He never got to take the trip. Mom did.

So today, as America remembers, I’ll remember a lovely lady along with my dad, who Josephine called a gentleman. He was. And yet, he was a badass, too. When I received his medals from the Army, there were many, and also two bronze stars. Badass, indeed. I’m so proud to be his daughter. Remember today. Remember freedom. Remember our military, still sacrificing for our freedom. Thank them if you see someone in uniform today. Be kind to the old gentlemen in their VFW hats. Respect the Honor Guards as they lay heroes to rest. Be grateful. And we’ll see each other tomorrow.

#800 Club!

As I’m sitting in our living room, fireplace blazing, dogs chewing on bones and napping, I happened to look at how many of these blogs we’ve shared. 800! Wow! That’s over two years! I’m grateful to each of you for reading. You’ve stuck by reading good blogs and not so good ones. You keep coming back, regardless of how you feel or how much time you have, and you check out what we have to say. I’m delighted with that.

Over 400 of you are following me; no, not in a creepy stalker way (I hope not!), but but you ask to be notified when we publish a new blog. I’m grateful for that! Feel free, please, to post a comment on the blog at WordPress, not just on the Facebook notification. I do appreciate a comment in the Facebook area; I believe others may open up and comment if someone will just start commenting on the blog itself. PM me if you’re not sure where to start. I’ll answer!

As the month of December is on the horizon, I’m looking forward to decorating our home for Christmas. Even without a lot of “company” during the season, I can still enjoy it. Why not? Sure, it’s a lot of work. Sometimes, we just need to do it and quit analyzing it to death. Mom and her sisters all went crazy with Christmas decorating. Mom still has more than ten trees, all decorated, in the various rooms of the old family home. Some she leaves up all year.

When I was a kid, it was an extravaganza when Mom decorated the house and tree. The fake mantle was always decked out, complete with the sequined Christmas Stocking her mother made for each grandchild. It was a nice thing of Grandma to do that. Mine didn’t have my name on it, so I let my daughter have it. I put her name on with glue and green glitter. She left it when she moved and got divorced, I think. Oh well. She can make her own!

In the 50s and 60s, we had the old antique looking glass ornaments. No plastic whatsoever. Chemically, I believe many of those had mercury and lead in them, but don’t know for sure. It blew my mind how you could see your distorted face in the glass balls. Yes, I was easily entertained. It’s one of the things the Babe loves about me.

Dad would wait until later in the month (probably mid-December) to get our live tree. Sometime as a kid, my grandma had a silver aluminum tree with the light wheel. A good friend of our folks, Alice and Jack, always got spectacular flocked trees, usually in white. Wow. Blew my mind. One year, she gave me a little mint green Kodak camera. I took photos of my little brothers, my dad, anyone who would sit still. Of course, the thrill came from waiting for them to develop from the camera store. You couldn’t just drop them by Walgreens. Click on the blue to check out the history of Walgreens, I found it interesting.

Grandpa Jewell had a Drug Store, Sundries, and Prescriptions. He had a pharmacist, Cliff Chase. Back then, much of the prescriptions were compounded. Mom said the Jewell family didn’t celebrate Christmas until she married Dad. Grandpa always kept the store open in case there was a sick child who needed medicine. Grandpa finally closed his store by 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, then re-opened the day after Christmas. Quite a feat, I think.

So, just like the Dad in A Christmas Story, mine had to haggle with the salesman. He always went alone, and teased us unmercifully about not being able to find one. One year, he convinced me we had to put it up and drill a hole into the ceiling so the top would be in my closet. Of course, I believed him. He would never lie! He was the King of Dad Jokes, before there were Dad Jokes!

After much grousing, he would set the tree up in the stand, and let the branches fall. Sometimes, they fell completely off, since he was also the King of buying Charlie Brown trees. He’d drill a hold into the skinny trunk, then put glue in the hole. He’d whittle the end of the branch until it fit. Once it dried, you never knew. Well, Mom did. She never let him forget it. We laughed as we grew older. When the Grinch came out as a thing, his favorite phrase was, “Bah Humbug.” Truer stuff never happened. My older brother and him exchanged a gift wrapped in paper with “Bah Humbug” all over it.

As I return to my novel for today, I am warmed by the memories of Christmas instilled in us by Mom and her sisters. My cousins all know what I mean by Christmas addictions. They’ve all lost their mom’s, so if they’d like to have their memories jogged, I’m sure Mom would love a visit for you all to view her tree addiction. I mean collection. It’s from where we all came! Thanks for reading today, our #800 Blog! See you all tomorrow!

Dear Dad,

Things are coming along here. It’s been a long time since you’ve seen how crazy this planet is, and especially the country we live in. I’d love to get your opinion on all the goings on, from the Pandemic to Politics, to our Military, to technology. I’d love to linger with you over a keyboard and show you what you could read, right at your fingertips.

I know how you loved Kaiser’s Book Store in downtown Omaha. You’d most likely still want to hold the books in your hands to read, I prefer that, too. It’s an option, though. As quickly as you read, you might enjoy it. Speaking of books, I’m writing several. Too many ideas that seem good. I couldn’t pick a favorite, it would be like picking your favorite child.

I’m also working with an attorney to establish a publishing company. I want to have control over my publications. I’m concerned if I publish traditionally, I’d may not recognize my work. If someone makes me an offer, I can’t refuse, great. Otherwise, I’ll go it alone. I think you’d be proud; I am. That’s hard for me to get used to saying; I’m not used to saying it. It’s not ego talking, it’s confidence. I’ve gained more of that since you died. I remember where we all came from. Humble roots. I thank you for all you provided; not just physical things, but also the example you set every day. It is one I try to follow, and one I hope my kids remember.

Writing a book or several has been a dream of mine for a long time. My Becky encouraged me to get going. She’s a wise young woman, married with two beautiful children, a girl and a boy. You would love them. Nick married and lives in Kansas City. Frankie still lives in Omaha, he’s still cooking. He’s quite good at it. They’re all good.

Today would have been your Happy 97th Birthday! What an accomplishment it would be! Maybe I’ll make it to that age. I’m hoping. You weren’t born yet during the Spanish Flu, and I can tell you, living during a pandemic is scary. I don’t need to tell you that. You always kept us away from harm, in your own way. Even though other kids went barefoot and wore thongs, oops, Dad, thongs now refer to underwear, I mean sandals or flip-flops. Yes, I’m serious, Dad. You wouldn’t believe some things people are doing.

We’re actually wearing masks when we’re around other people; I know with your medical knowledge, you’d be all for that. Masks, questionnaires, drive up testing sites, and people just staying home from March last year through December 31, 2020. It came from China, and I know you wouldn’t approve being friendly with them, or with Russia. Even North Korea. Yes, that god-forsaken place where you served your country during the “Conflict.” I know a couple Korean Veterans, and I tell them about you. I’m still proud to be your daughter. You left an imprint on my heart and my being, and I miss you, but not weirdly. I just wanted more good times with you. Conversations. Sharing. And you seeing your grandkids grow up. They’re up there in age now (but then I am too!)

Mom let me send for your military medals. You were a badass! Sorry, I know I shouldn’t talk like that. It’s true. Yes, you never called attention to yourself. For anything. I didn’t know you carried a black rosary in your trouser pocket every day, just like you did in WWII and Korea. You were deeply spiritual, and no one knew. It was between you and God. I like that. You always were a very “do it, move on, and don’t brag about it.” That is one of your best qualities. I hope to be that way, too. I don’t enjoy talking about myself and the Babe. He’s got to be the one you pulled strings for to meet me. It wouldn’t surprise me. He has a lot of your qualities, including loving me unconditionally. You’d love him, too. Thanks.

I’m going to keep writing in 2021. I want to publish some books. It would be so cool to hold a book with my name as the author. It’s not to make a living, it’s to make something in my life. It’s the achievement I’m going for. You taught me well; I’m just going to go for it. Doing my homework all along the way. Learning all I can. It’s enjoyable. I love it. Stretching, reaching, serving. Thank you. Happy Birthday, Dad.

The Babe and I Wish You All a Happy New Year!

Love you, Dad

I don’t recall Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t born yet. In fact, I would be over a decade in arriving on this planet. We grew up having a great respect for our country, our Armed Forces; after all, Dad was a medic/support person in both WWII and Korea. I’ve told this story before, but please cut me some slack. Today is the day, in 1988, that we told him goodbye. Nothing has hurt that badly since. I wouldn’t let it. I retreated from everyone I loved; even my children. And for that, I’m sorry, guys. I just didn’t know how to handle what I felt. All I knew was I wanted nothing to hurt that badly again.

Not being unkind, my mom is like a Drill Sergeant. Very stoic. We never saw her cry. I’ve not heard her say she misses him, not even once. If my brothers and I were all together in her presence, she would get angry if we talked about him. We didn’t know what to do. We needed to grieve together, and that didn’t happen. They had taught Mom to be that way. It’s what got her through. We all had unhealthy ways of coping with those feelings of loss. It wasn’t pretty.

My oldest son was seventeen. They diagnosed dad with lung cancer on Frankie’s birthday. Cancer, the gift that kept on giving. Fifty-one days later, Dad died. He lost over fifty pounds. I’m glad he didn’t lose his hair. He had beautiful hair and was a handsome man. I learned to listen to Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Harry James, and how beautiful Lena Horne was from Dad. All significant memories. No one can take those from you. Dad spent a lot of time with Frankie, and taught him what to look for when you buy a used car, etc, etc, etc. Dad was the best male influence on all my kids.

My younger son, at thirteen, grieved openly and hard. He gets it all out of his system, and he’s done. He remembers funny things, and he tells us stories and asks questions. He was such a brainiac. Dad loved to tease him and his little sister, Becky. She was “Dolly” to Dad. He adored her, and I loved that he did. He told me what good kids they were.

I’d see him every weekday at the hospital, over my lunch hour. We talked about lots of stuff. We talked more in those fifty-one days than we had in my life. It was wonderful. The last thing he told me, on my lunch hour, Wednesday, December 7, 1988 was, “Sis, I just can’t fight this anymore. I’m tired.” I took his glasses, covered him up, kissed him on the forehead and told him, “Do what you’ve got to do, Dad. I’ll always watch out for Mom. Love you.”

At 4:20 p.m., Mom called me at work and said, “Call your brothers, you all need to come.” around 5:45 p.m., he passed. Quietly. Painlessly. No more pain. Thank God we had such a wonderful dad. He was tough, no doubt about that. You learned lessons, as we should have. The thing I learned most from him was “Do it right, or don’t bother.” I hear his voice while I’m writing. I feel his encouragement. No one can take that from me. I miss you and love you.

Dad’s Medals. I wrote to get them in 2016. He’s my hero, always. Two Bronze Stars? Bad Ass.

I learned a better way to grieve. I have told my kids about my mistakes and apologized. It’s a case of hoping they learn from your mistakes. It’s a gift when you do that for your kids. It’s a way to stop the craziness that travels from generation to generation. People always used to keep things to themselves. “Don’t tell your business.” Now, with social media, perhaps people share too much. We need to put aside the idea that we know everything, how to do everything. No one is that balanced; after all, we’re human and full of flaws! It’s a courageous act to admit it. And then learn a better way to do something. Ah, balance.

I know Dad would love the Babe. They have similar qualities. Deep sense of right, deep love and caring of others, firm yet fair. I was lucky my kids were good people; they have all turned out well. It’s the best thing you can hope for. It was hard to transition into being an empty nester. When you’re busy providing and working and studying and family dinners every night, you build up a momentum you keep on until you look around one day, and by gosh, they’re gone! On their own! You raised them to do that, now what?

You decide to write a book, and you write a blog, and you work with a book coach to learn. Life is good. We balance life. Life is the Babe and me, making the most of it; in sickness and health, in pandemic and wellness, in respect for the unknown and certain. We’ll make it. Together.

Thank you for reading today. I appreciate it. Spread happiness, not the Pandemic. Be Kind. Be Safe. Be Careful. Count your Blessings. We all have a lot. See you tomorrow!

Tactical Tuesday

Good Morning to you from the Home Office in Gretna, Nebraska. Tuesday’s are the rare day the Babe is home and not working at the Post. So, of course, we need to do errands today, like most folks do on Saturday. The trick is, it’s not crowded. And we get done in record time, and still get to have lunch before picking up Addison from school. Yes, her Cross Country season is over. She did well for a first timer. Now it’s back to whatever normal used to be for us, before school was called.

My Yesterday and Today “Ugly Christmas Sweater” Merch.

I had to show you the whole photo of the entire piece of art hanging in my studio/office entrance. I had to buy this when I saw it, and every time I enter the room, I can hear my dad tell me, “Just keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll get there.” He told me that when he was dying of cancer. I had just told him the only regret I had was I hadn’t graduated from college. At that time, I had a couple associate degrees and certificates.

He died in 1988, and in Summer, 1995, I finished my Bachelor’s Degree, Management of Human Resources. We graduated from Bellevue University in January of 1996. It was bittersweet, I had just survived a December 1995 ten hour spine surgery to perforate a cyst on my spinal cord. I was still having home IV treatment for disk infection and nearly full bed rest. The Doc told me I needed to go to the graduation. I could rest before and after. It was great for my mental well being. And God really knows what He’s doing – I met the Babe in March, 1996. Right after I shed my “turtle shell” I had to wear constantly.

Anyway, if you want a cute, fun, sweatshirt for the colder weather, these are only $15. Check them out. I wear an XL. It’s just fun. We all need some fun at this point in time.

This morning is Day 2 of the Confirmation Hearings. I was aghast at some of the questions Diane Feinstein asked. “How do you do it, with your large family and work.” Excusssssssseeeee me? That question is illegal in an everyday job interview. It’s a Federal Law, Diane! How dare you!! Would you have asked a man the same question? If not, you need to issue an apology. Stat.

While I am working on my daily writing, the Babe is working to finish the bench he’s building for the patio next spring. It will be fun to have something new to display and use. I need to get the rest of the plants inside in the next couple days before the cold nights zap them. They did well as long as Goldie couldn’t touch them. She uprooted my Hibiscus plant from it’s pot and played with it before I saw her. The wind knocked the pot off the table, and she figured whatever was on the ground was hers. Silly puppy. Note to self: When it’s windy, check to see if anything fell into dog territory.

How do you like this meme?


Truth!

There are many people who comment to me about my blog. Yet, they don’t put a “like” on it. And that’s ok. I know they read. And they may even mention one to a friend. And the friend reads it. That’s cool, too. I love it, and I would guess that happens, too. I do this because I love doing it. I’ve always wanted to write. And, a blog counts as being “published,” just as a physical book does. I have to accept more people will probably read my book as an e-book or Kindle edition than who will buy and read a physical copy. That’s ok, too.

When I think how I think it will feel to hold a book that I wrote in my hand, and to read my name as the author, it makes my eyes teary. And as long as I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll get there. And I’ll see my dad, off in the background, smiling at me, whether it be at a book signing, a craft fair, or a writers guild conference. We’re getting closer, boys and girls! Let’s keep each other going. Slow gets there, don’t lose hope. You can do it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, too. Thanks. See you tomorrow!