Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016: Year's End (A Bit Belated)

Dear George,
Aside from various national and international catastrophes, we had an up and down year in 2016 in our household.  The most memorable event occurred in early April when a pipe burst in our second-floor bathroom while we were out for the day and flooded our kitchen, dining room, and half of our basement.  Fortunately our insurance covered the $40 thousand restoration costs, but it took a full six months from start to finish and was thoroughly stressful.  We emptied the first floor of our house and lived like captives on the second floor.  We have been back to normal for several months, but it left us with an unpleasant feeling of vulnerability.  

This also was the first year that we’ve been without our beloved sheepdogs, Mike and Duffy.  I’d say we’ve gotten past the grieving stage, but the loss of the dogs has left a big hole in our lives.  They were a great source of pleasure and affection, and they were an important emotional focus that Katja and I shared with one another.  When the vet’s office called to offer us a pair of labradoodles, our hearts skipped a beat, but then we thought better of it.   

One of the year’s highlights was our early August trip to a family get-together at my parents’ Farm in Birch Creek (just north of Menominee).  Our son J, daughter-in-law K, and grandkids L and V had flown up from New Orleans, and our niece Jessica had brought her one-year-old twins, Maya and Peter, up from Detroit.  The Seattle contingent included Greg, who manages Farm, and Jennifer and Win and their sweet kids, Vincent (13) and Ingrid (9).  Our cousins, Ann and John B., who live in the Twin Cities, also joined us several times.  Katja and I stayed at Bob and Lois A.’s wonderful house on the Green Bay shore.  As always, our visit to Menominee had a comfortable, nostalgic feeling.  We enjoyed meals at Schloegels, Jozwiak’s, The Waterfront, the Rail House, Culver’s, and the Wild North Tavern, as well as an enjoyable visit to the DeYoung Family Zoo in nearby Wallace.  

Much to my surprise, Katja said she’d like to take a camping trip through the Upper Peninsula after our Menominee visit, and we headed up for Munising where we enjoyed the Pictured Rocks sunset cruise (highly recommended).  We followed that up with a boat trip through the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie.  After a stint in St. Ignace and a trip across the Mackinac Bridge, we drove down the Lake Michigan — Petoskey, Charlevoix, Traverse City, Manistee, Muskegon, and others.  We’ve done that trip several times in recent years, and it’s always a treat.  Katja was a hardy camper, even though her air mattress kept going flat.  

I had bought a pair of hearing aids at the big box store just before leaving for Menominee, and, just my luck, I lost one in the forest on our first day of camping.  Because the store guaranteed one free replacement, it wasn’t a complete disaster, but it left me feeling nervous and guilty.  I’m not a completely enthusiastic user.  According to available research, they correct about 25% of hearing loss (but that leaves an annoying 75% to struggle with).  Katja had nagged me for several years to get hearing aids, and one of their best benefits is that they reduce about 80% of spousal complaining.  

Katja and I have reached an age where hearing losses are among the more manageable health disasters possible.  Two of my friends from work died in 2016, as did several of my high school classmates, and too many of our friends and acquaintances have struggled with dire, distressing health problems.  We have been fortunate to date, but I keep my fingers crossed and spend more time at the fitness center than I otherwise would.

For me, the worst part of 2016 was Trump’s nomination, election, and post-election actions.  We’d followed the primary season closely, and I was initially pleased with Trump’s selection since it seemed to guarantee a Hillary Clinton victory.  That, of course, didn’t work out.  My personal (admittedly subjective) opinion is that Trump has irretrievably damaged America’s standing in the world in his first two weeks, and it’s difficult to project how much more destruction he’ll cause.  My worst fantasy is that I’ll spend the remainder of my life in complete misery from a Trump presidency.  

On a cheerier note, we celebrated Xmas with our friends the Minkarahs and then flew down to New Orleans to join our family.  Our grandchildren turned eight in September and are wonderful kids, bright and spirited.  I can’t think of a happier way to wind up the year.  

Katja and I did a number of OLLI classes in 2016, my favorite being poetry writing.  We celebrated birthday dinners at the Chart House and Jean Robert’s Table.  We’ve taken in lots of music (symphony, opera, chamber music, musical theater) and art exhibits (Cincy Art Museum, Taft).  Though we’re not sophisticated fans, we watched lots of Bengals and Packers games, as well as all the Grand Slam tennis tournaments.  I do line dancing on Tuesday nights, Dayton flea markets throughout the year, lots of TV offerings (e.g., Ray Donovan, Homeland), and Katja, Donna, and I regularly go to Friday night movies.  All in all, our lives are punctuated by various pleasures, major and minor.  I hope 2017 will be still better for us all. 


Sunday, January 22, 2017

U.P. Winter

Dear George, 
Influenced by Japanese haiku and tanka, the cinquain is a five-line poem developed in American poetry by Adelaide Crapsey (1915).  The five lines of the cinquain have 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 syllables respectively.   Typically, the lines offer (1) a subject, (2) descriptive adjectives about the subject, (3) an action, (4) a feeling or effect, and (5) a conclusion.  There are several variations on the basic five-line cinquain.  One of these, the garland, is a sequence of six cinquains, the last of which is formed of lines from the preceding five (usually line one from stanza one, line two from stanza two, etc.).  Below is a garland cinquain prompted by our childhood experiences of winter on the Menominee River.

U.P. Winter

White North
Barren forests
We snowshoe toward the bend
Watching for deer and porcupine

Up stream
Ice a foot thick 
Fishermen in shanties
Shivering at pot-bellied stoves
No bites

Deer cross
Fueled by hunger
Foraging for dead weeds
They struggle in the windblown drifts

Soft ice
A deer falls through
Dad pushes out the boat
But the deer sinks into the depths

March wakes
The river melts
Flowing crystals tinkle
My mom names it “Chinese Bells Day” 
Pale skies
White North
Ice a foot thick 
Foraging for dead weeds
But the deer sinks into the depths
Pale skies

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Quiz for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Dear George,
We probably know more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. than any other historically important African American figure, at least part because of the national recognition of his birth and legacy each January.  Below is a quiz for the occasion.  Some of the items involve well-known facts; others are more obscure.  I personally think a score of 25 out of 30 would be very good and 20 is good.  Had I not compiled this, I think I would have scored about 17 or 18 — more middling.  The answers are given at the end.

1.  Martin Luther King Jr. (hereafter, MLK) was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in: 
(a) Atlanta, GA; (b) Detroit, MI; (c) Birmingham, AL; (d) Clearwater, TX

2.  MLK’s name at birth was: 
(a) Mark; (b) Matthew; (c) Michael; (d) Mitchell

3.  In his family MLK was:
(a) the youngest of six children
(b) the oldest of four children
(c) the middle child of three children
(c) an only child

4.  According to MLK, his father regularly whipped him during childhood and his early teens.
(a) True; (b) False

5.  12-year-old MLK allegedly attempted suicide by jumping out of a second-story window when his grandmother died of a heart attack.
(a) True; (b) False

6.  MLK began college at the age of:
(a) 15; (b) 17; (c) 19; (d) 21

7.  MLK received a Sociology degree from:
(a) Georgia Tech; (b) Howard University; (c) Morehouse College; (d) University of Alabama

8.  Though he had not intended to join the ministry, he changed his mind under the guidance of:
(a) his grandfather
(b) his older brother
(c) the pastor of the church he attended
(d) the president of the college he attended

9.  MLK’s wife, Coretta Scott, was a graduate of:
(a) Alabama State; (b) Antioch College; (c) Howard University; (d) Oberlin College

10.  MLK discouraged Coretta’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, expecting her to be a housewife and mother.
(a) True; (b) False

11. The Kings had ___ children:
(a) two; (b) three; (c) four; (d) seven

12. MLK was a _____ minister:
(a) Baptist; (b) Church of Christ; (c) Lutheran; (d) Presbyterian

13.  In 1955 MLK received his doctorate degree from:
(a) Appalachian State U.; (b) Boston U.; (c) Harvard; (d) University of Mississippi;

14.  After Rosa Parks was arrested, MLK was elected to head the bus boycott in:
(a) Atlanta, GA; (b) Birmingham, AL; (c) Montgomery, AL; (d) Selma, AL

15.  The bus boycott lasted for ___ days:
(a) 8; (b) 31; (c) 119; (d) 382

16.  MLK’s principles of nonviolence were inspired by:
(a) Buber; (b) Gandhi; (c) Lincoln; (d) Spinoza

17.  In 1963 MLK spelled out his theory of nonviolence in a famous letter from a jail cell in:
(a) Birmingham, AL; (b) Houston, TX; (c) Detroit, MI; (d) Savannah, GA

18.  MLK was president of the:
(a) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(b) National Urban League
(c) Southern Christian Leadership Conference
(d) Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

19.  MLK’s close associates included all but which one of the following:
(a) Ralph Abernathy; (b) Stokely Carmichael; (c) Bayard Rustin; (d) Fred Shuttlesworth

20.  Between 1957 and 1968 MLK gave over ____ speeches and was arrested over ___ times. 
(a) 900/a dozen; (b) 1200/35; (c) 1900/6; (d) 2500/20

21.  In 1958 King nearly died when he was stabbed by a mentally ill woman in a Harlem department store.
(a) True; (b) False

22.  When MLK was sentenced to 45 days in jail in Albany, GA, his bail was paid by: 
(a) Spiro Agnew; (b) Billy Graham; (c) J. Edgar Hoover; (d) Jackie Kennedy

23.  MLK gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963, in:
(a) Charleston, SC; (b) Nashville, TN;  (c) New York, NY; (d) Washington, DC

24.  In 1963 Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy authorized the FBI to begin wiretapping MLK and other SCLC leaders.
(a) True; (b) False

25.  After multiple successes in the south, MLK and associates extended the movement to the urban North, first launching the open housing movement in 1966 in:
(a) Chicago; (b) Detroit; (c) Milwaukee; (d) Pittsburgh

26.  In the final years of his life MLK broadened his focus to include:
(a) criminal justice reform
(b) environmental issues
(c) health and infant mortality
(d) poverty and the Vietnam War

27.  MLK was assassinated at a motel in Memphis in April of:
(a) 1964; (b) 1968; (c) 1972; (d) 1976 

28.  MLK’s honors and awards include:
(a) the Congressional Medal of Honor
(b) the Nobel Peace Prize
(c) the Presidential Medal of Freedom
(d) all of these

29.  The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site is located in:
(a) Atlanta; (b) New York; (c) Philadelphia; (d) Washington, DC

30.  Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been a U.S. federal holiday since: 
(a) 1976; (b) 1981; (c) 1986; (d) 1991

* * * * * * * * * * * * 

1.a.  Born in Atlanta.
2.c.  Name at birth: Michael.
3.c.  Middle child of 3.
4.a.  True; reported regular whippings.
5.a.  True; attempted suicide at 12. 
6.a.  Began college at 15. 
7.c.  Morehouse College
8.d.  College president encouraged ministry. 
9.b.  Coretta Scott King, Antioch College. 
10.a.  Discouraged civil rights involvement.
11.c.  Four children. 
12.a.  Baptist minister. 
13.b.  Doctorate from Boston U.
14.c.  Montgomery bus boycott.
15.d.  382 days. 
16.b.  Nonviolence, Gandhi. 
17.a.  Birmingham jail cell. 
18.c.  President of Southern Christian Leadership Conference. 
19.b.  Not Stokely Carmichael. 
20.d.  Over 2500 speeches; arrested over 20 times. 
21.a.  True; nearly died from Harlem stabbing. 
22.b.  Bail paid by Billy Graham. 
23.d.  “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC. 
24.a.  True; R.F. Kennedy authorized wiretapping. 
25.a.  Expanded movement first to Chicago. 
26.d.  Expanded movement focus to poverty and the Vietnam War. 
27.b.  Assassinated in 1968.  
28.d.  Honors include all of these.  
29.a.  Historical Site in Atlanta. 
30.c.  U.S. federal holiday since 1986

www.biography.com, “Martin Luther King Jr.”; 
www.history.com, “Martin Luther King Jr.”; 
www.nobelprize.org, “Martin Luther King Jr. - Biography”; 

www.wikipedia.org, “Martin Luther King Jr.”