655: Andersonville, GA

This tiny town was the site of a Civil War prison camp for captured Union Soldiers. Near the close of the war, it was every bit as horrible as German concentration camps. The death toll from starvation and disease was high, and the commemorative grave stones stand shoulder to shoulder, marking trench-style graves. There are stories of those who worked to relieve the suffering there in those last bleak years of the Civil War in the devastated South. The Union states who had soldiers die here erected monuments to their memory in the early 1900’s.

Wisconsin

The monument from the state of Wisconsin to commemorate fallen Union soldiers from that State who died and are buried at Andersonville.

Since then, this has become a National Historic Site in commemoration of Prisoners of War, with a museum on site, and a National Military Cemetery. It is less than an hour off Interstate 75 on the vacation trek to Florida, and can be seen in a few hours. It is worth the visit. Admission is free.

The neighboring village of Andersonville also has a small museum of Civil War artifacts, including uniforms of the armies and regiments, both Confederate and Union. This Confederate Drummer Boy uniform is one of only two like it known to exist. The little museum asks a small donation to view.

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654: Missing

Numbers

I started numbering these posts when I began purging myself using this medium as an outlet years ago when I lived and worked (teaching) in Morocco. There is a place here where some post numbers are skipped (no, I’m not telling), because I wrote some things that I was literally afraid to publish, but I still needed to process the feelings via this method of vomiting out what’s the problem (or the success, or the random thought) on this blank page that begins with a number.

This is therapy, and it damn sure costs less than a professional.

Speaking of that, I live and work now (again) in the United States of America. Very, very few of us here can claim to be impoverished (by world-wide standards). Yes, many of us are struggling here, but here, “struggling” usually still happens with a place to live, food, power, and running water. Of course there are exceptions, but generally, that is true in the USA: poverty is relative. This relative affluence (even in poverty) explains why so many hate us and still try mightily to come here. Where they are doesn’t come with relative affluence in poverty. I get that.

I understand that I am blessed beyond measure just by the happy accident of being born where I was to the parents who had a hand in creating and raising me. No, they weren’t perfect. Who is? I am mature enough (always have been, in this regard if not in others) to appreciate what they did for me. They were certainly quite good enough.

They raised me right, which I tried to pass along to the children I have contributed to this planet. I did wrong on my own – which any adult worth the title has to own. We don’t get every decision correct, and there are also the things we have left undone – even when we had good excuses/reasons.

I have had a good life – even the chapters I dislike, skip over, and just choose not to re-read. Thank you God, for being far more merciful to me than I ever earned.

653: Just Do It

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In the relationship scenario where partners are “supposed” to be equal, THIS is the guiding motto: Just Do It.

I am not counting the relationships that are based on servitude and power. I am not including relationships where service is bought and paid for, and yes, those relationships certainly do exist. I mean a relationship where two people are attempting to get along and share lives with each other – you know, the relationship most of us would like to think we have, are providing and are contributing towards.

Just Do It. If you see something that needs doing, just do it. Do not see it, and just pass it by, knowing that your partner will take care of it, because they usually do. If you are there, and see that it needs doing, Just Do It.

This includes cleaning the toilet, changing out the empty roll of tissue for a new one, cleaning the tub/shower when the mildew starts growing, sweeping/vacuuming, dusting, washing the dishes, putting the clean dishes away, starting a load of laundry, or folding and putting away a clean, dry load – feeding the dog/cat, or handling other pet needs like a bath, litterbox, walk, or vet visit, cooking a meal, or handling the billion and one needs associated with having children to care for and raise. This is only a starter list, and believe me, when the relationship gets lopsided with one partner handling most of the “maintenance” chores that just come with living? That isn’t a partnership. That is unpaid servitude. And it justifiably incites resentment in the person saddled with the unavoidable tasks of daily living. They ARE unavoidable tasks – that YOU are avoiding.

Just Do It, unmet, can be the reason why there isn’t any sex between you anymore. It is difficult to feel loving towards someone who is shirking daily tasks and leaving work for the other to do. It can explain why your partner is quiet and distant. You aren’t contributing to  shared living when you refuse to contribute to the little chores that come with living. Both of you live in your home. Both of you need to take responsibility for taking care of it, and your belongings within the home. Neither of the two of you should be responsible for all of it – and not even the lion’s share of it.

That’s why it is called sharing. That’s why you are called partners.

It your toes are smarting, good. Step up. Just Do It. Try your new commitment daily for thirty days, so it becomes a habit, and see if your relationship improves. An improved relationship is worth thirty days’ investment of your time and energy, right? If it isn’t, why are you even still there?

Just Do It.

652: Momentum

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Too much stuff: events, duties, responsibilities, dates, commitments, opportunities

happening

all at the same time.

Long days with little restful sleep and too many things to orchestrate that don’t appear to want to be orchestrated.

Dissonance. Harmony long gone.

Control? Control a runaway train?

No.

But it is possible to ride a runaway train until its momentum slows and becomes manageable.

And saying ‘no’ more often will certainly help.

Meanwhile – enjoy the ride.

 

649: College Pathways

You didn’t kiss me when I left.

I traveled two and a half hours over two-lane roads to arrive at this University, where I will spend six days a week this summer working on a research project, attending class, conducting research, and returning to my youth as a responsibility-free college student.

Except…. I’m not. I am not a college student, even though I feel very much the same as the teenager that I was then. The outside does not match the inside, and hasn’t done so for at least the last thirty-five years. Inside, though, inside – that’s pretty much the same person that walked the shaded footpaths at the University of Georgia, Athens in the late 1970’s. But this is Georgia Southern University, Statesboro in 2018, and the silver sparkles in my hair aren’t glitter, and I didn’t add them on purpose just for the wow factor, either.

The sidewalks don’t seem to be as shady as I remember they were, and the South Georgia sun is hot on my neck and shoulders, making me grateful for the travel size sunscreen I slathered on the back of my neck and the cheap sunglasses I’m wearing. Heck, everything I’m wearing is cheap. I visited Goodwill today for a pair of closed toe shoes and another pair of jeans, instead of the old lady teacher clothes I brought with me fully intending to wear while I am here. I probably will wear them, even though they make me stick out from the fresh-faced millennials like the sore thumb that I am.

The trees and shrubs that have been planted along these university walkways have been strictly pruned – this far you may grow and blossom, and no further. The flowerbeds contain lush profusion, all the way up to the edge, where a military haircut neatly ends the clipped foliage like an invisible force field. The expanses of mulched bed beneath the evenly spaced young trees are flawless. No weed seed would dare sprout to mar the unblemished field of uniformly aged, dusty grey-brown chips.

There is remarkably little human detritus to be seen, either, in the twelve minutes it takes me to purposefully walk from the student residence apartment I have been allotted to the imposing brick stateliness of the College of Engineering building. The paver blocks (two shapes, three colors) that make up the walkway I’m on were meticulously laid in a deliberately decorative pattern that required a concrete saw’s precise cuts to match up the paver blocks’ disparate shapes and colors at the edges to produce this ornate and ordinary walkway that borders this ordinary and unimportant side road.

I imagine the thoughts of the stonemason laboring in Georgia’s heat and humidity as he cut, set, and fit these walkway pavers so precisely that so few people will see and use. Perhaps he was missing his wife, like I am missing my husband. And then, why am I so sure that the person was a he? I chide myself on my thoughtless sexism. Probably was a he, though.

It occurs to me, after two days of College of Engineering workshop sessions and research laboratory tours, that these men (and most of them are men) are a lot like professional athletes. They come to work every day and pursue their own very narrow interests, playing at deriving better numbers in the same way a professional athlete seeks to shave a place value off their previous best number. Their projects have impressive sounding names (my brother and I christened one of our backyard forts “The Impregnable Kingdom of Fuller,” even though the rain later proved it not to be). Some of those research projects are probably going to be useful (some day), and maybe even affordable (one day quite some time after that). At least, unlike the athlete or the stonemason who paved the pathway to their building, they mostly work on improving their numbers inside in the air conditioning.

I am here at this university this long hot summer to narrow my own far-flung interests down to an Engineering research project on renewable energy, to construct a prototype, and to derive some numbers of my own that I can take back to my impoverished school district to perhaps ignite some youngsters who can dream and maybe believe that the world does not end at the county line the way their lives have shown them, repeatedly, is true. Perhaps some of them might then set their sights on achieving better numbers in air-conditioned comfort, instead of trying to win the professional athlete lottery against their own genetics, or instead of simply opting to labor outdoors in the hot sun, which they all know is a possibility, however unwelcome.

First, though, they have to believe such a future exists, that it isn’t just another fairy tale like the stuff they see on the TV screen and in the movies which they all know is just make-believe, of course. Then they have to believe it is possible, seeing beyond the effort it will cost and the money they don’t have. Then, the biggest stretch of faith of all, they have to believe they maybe, just maybe, they could do it themselves, instead of watching someone else do it who had more than they had to go on. Faith isn’t easy, and changing your beliefs isn’t encouraged, where they come from.