Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thank you to all our Veterans and Active Duty Personnel

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  A personal thank you to my husband, my deceased father, my brother, my brother-in-law, my nephew and niece, and all other Americans who either are currently serving or have served in the Armed Forces and kept the United States the land of the free.

I recently received the following in one of those emails that makes its way around the Internet in record time.  It seems appropriate to share it with you on the eve of Memorial Day.  It was written in 2007.  I don't know if this ceremony still takes place at the Pentagon every Friday, but I certainly hope so.  I worked in the Pentagon for 7 years and I can tell you what an impressive building it is and how important a ceremony such as this would be.  Hats off to whoever started this ceremony .. it is well deserved.

Mornings at the Pentagon

by Joseph L. Galloway
May 23, 2007

"Over the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers, Marines, sailors and Air Force personnel have given their lives in the terrible duty that is war.

"Thousands more have come home on stretchers, horribly wounded and facing months or years in military hospitals.

"This week, I'm turning my space over to a good friend and former roommate, Army Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who recently completed a yearlong tour of duty and is now back at the Pentagon.

"Here's Lt. Col. Bateman's account of a little-known ceremony that fills the halls of the Army corridor of the Pentagon with cheers, applause, and many tears every Friday morning.  It first appeared on May 17 on the Weblog of media critic and pundit Eric Alterman at the Media Matters for America Website.

"It is 110 yards from the "E" ring to the "A" ring of the Pentagon.  This section of the Pentagon is newly renovated:  the floors shine, the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright.  At this instant the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the walls.  There are thousands here.

"This hallway, more than any other, is the 'Army' hallway.  The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 s around the corner.  All army.  Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz.  Friends who may not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other, cross the way and renew.

"Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center.  The air conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies i this area.

"The temperature is rising already.  Nobody cares.  

"10:36 hours:  the clapping starts at the E-Ring.  That is the outermost of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building.  This clapping is low, sustained, hearty.  It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

"A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence.  He is the first.  He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating.  By his age, I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.

"Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier.  Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were somewhat different.  The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden ... yet.

"Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran.  This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment.  We have all been there now.  The soldier's chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel. 

"Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal, or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

"11:00 hours:  Twenty-four minutes of steady applause.  My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my own head.  My hands hurt.  Please!  Shut up and clap.  For twenty-four minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this hallway - 20, 25, 30 ... fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts.

"They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the generals.  Some are wheeled along ... some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience.  Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade.  More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly.

"These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our brothers, and we welcome them home.  This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all year long, for more than four years."


God Bless all of you. And thank you, again.

Friday, May 27, 2011

And On the Second Day ....

I promise I will not continue this biblical titling of my postings ... it just seemed appropriate for the first two days ... 

I'm still thinking about the focus of this blog ... why DID I start it?  I am sure that the majority of people who stumble across it are going to wonder if it is just a conglomeration of random utterances from someone with the initials KK.  I'm hoping lightning bolts will come out of the heavens and give me some great inspiration.  Unfortunately, we've got nothing but rain, rain and more rain falling this spring, so no great inspiration yet.

I'll tell you a little about me and my family today and then share a recipe.  I love to bake, so if I do share recipes, they will most often be desserts.  Cooking is not my favorite thing to do, but I do enjoy making comfort food recipes ...  although this one tonight is not a comfort food recipe ... just a favorite.

I am married to Ed.  He was a federal government employee for 40 years and retired 8 years ago!  (And, yes, I just retired 4 weeks ago!)  He couldn't wait for retirement and had been counting down the days for several YEARS before the actual date arrived.  He has loved being retired and having the house to himself for the past 8 years.  He has taken on the cooking and cleaning during that time ... well, except for toilets and floors.  Those continued to fall to me somehow.  Until recently, he never really seemed eager for me to retire ... actually he often reminded me that I had had 10 years at home in the 70's while he worked, so he felt entitled to 10 years at home ALONE now.  I reminded him that I had raised 3 children during those 10 years and offered to find 3 stray kids for him to care for.  No enthusiastic show of acceptance for that suggestion.

I think he finally got tired of cooking and cleaning .. don't we all after 8 years or so?  It does seem so novel at first.  About 6 months ago, he started making subtle suggestions that I might want to think about retirement.  Words such as "You know if you work forever, we're going to have all of this money in the bank and our health won't be good enough to enjoy it" started coming out of his mouth.  I, who have always loved my job and the people I work with, was really not quite ready to retire.  I was sure when the right time came, I would know it.  Not too sure what the sign was going to be, but I would know it.

I was a paralegal who worked for a major medical device company.  It was a fulfilling job and one that made you feel good about what you did .. our products saved people's lives!  I wasn't sure just where my "purpose" in life would come from if it wasn't from my job.  I told Ed I would think about retiring and even went so far as to talk to my manager about going part-time .. my way of "easing into" retirement.

In February, the company hastened my decision by offering all of us aged 60 and over an "enhancement" package if we retired early.  Not exactly one to refuse free money, it seemed like taking it was the right thing to do and so, I suddenly found myself retired as of Aprll 30.  I'm waiting for the "Oh-I-have-no-idea-how-I-ever-had-time-to-work" phase to set in, but so far I find myself doing a lot of cooking and cleaning (funny how quickly that got back into my column in the divided duties marriage ledger), visiting my 92-year old mom in her assisted living and walking around the house at 2:00 in the afternoon saying "Isn't there a meeting I'm supposed to attend?"  

We have 3 adult daughters whom we love dearly.   They bring 8 grandchildren, 2 sons-in-law and a "good friend" into the mix, so, when we are all together, there are 16 of us.  Having been the 2nd oldest of 10 kids, I love the attendant chaos of family gatherings.  Having been the oldest son of 3 quiet siblings, my husband is still (after 45 years of marriage) adjusting to that chaos.  The girls are all successful young women of whom we are justifiably proud.  

That's the bare bones of who I (we) am/are.  I will fill in as I go along.  The grandchildren range in age from 16 to 8 and many of my sharings will be about them I'm sure.  Nodding off is allowed.  I won't be insulted.

I know this is dense.  Pretend we are in the "newly dating" stage of our relationship during which we talk, talk, talk, talk.  Down the road apiece, we'll get to the stage where we barely exchange words over the dinner table stage, and you won't have to wade through such massive postings.  

On to the recipe.

This is a cranberry chicken salad that I used to order at Doolittle's Air Cafe, a local restaurant that closed a number of years ago.  It was a fabulous salad and I have replicated it as best I can.  Since Doolittle's is closed, I can't look at the menu to ensure I have all of the ingredients, so, if anyone has the REAL recipe for this salad, I'd love it if you would share.

This served 2 of us generously.

Romaine lettuce (I made this really easy by buying a bag in the produce section)
Grilled chicken strips (Again - easy - Tyson's makes these and you can find them in your freezer section ready to be heated up and eaten!)
Candied pecans (see notes below)
Craisins (dried cranberries - available in the produce section)
Crumbled blue cheese (I used reduced fat)
Poppyseed dressing

To make the candied pecans:  
Put 1/4 cup of pecan halves into a small pan.  
Add 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp water.  Stir to melt sugar.  
Bring to a simmer on low-med heat.  
Simmer for 5-7 minutes until pecans are a dark golden brown. Be careful as they burn easily.  Turn pecans onto parchment paper and cool.

When ready to serve, combine all of the ingredients except the poppyseed dressing.  Serve poppyseed dressing on side so each person can dress to their taste.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

In the Beginning

All of my life I have loved to read and write.  In 5th grade, my best friend and I decided to write a book similar to the Betsy, Tacy and Tib series (anyone else out there a Maud Hart Lovelace fan?!)  Because her last name was Pence and my first name was Kathleen, "Penny and Kitty" seemed to be perfect names for the main characters.  I even went so far as to advise my family (6 siblings at that time) that I wouldn't answer to "Kathy" any more (that was before I changed the spelling of my name to Kathie .. which occurred in 8th grade .. but that's a story for another day).  I told them to call me "Kitty" if they wanted me to respond to them.  

Bless their hearts, my parents and brothers and sisters did that for a while.  To this day, one brother still periodically calls me "Kitty," bringing back fond memories of being a 10-year old aspiring author.

Penny and Kitty didn't last too long.  We moved quickly into being more interested in boys and make-up, than writing stories.  So now my writing is pretty much limited to boring my family and friends with a very long Christmas letter every year.  Every now and then fans of the letter (a few) will advise me to take up writing for a living.  Critics (a few more) claim they don't have enough hours in the day .. or eyes strong enough ... to read the small-sized type I must use to cram all of my words onto a single sheet of paper (double-sided of course).  One friend gets honorable mention in the letter every few years if I feel I have succeeded in reducing the annual missive.  So far, he hasn't acknowledged that success.    

My husband has encouraged me for years to write a mystery novel.  He even has the plot all laid out for me!  The problem is the plot and all that goes with it is in HIS head, not mine.  I think he's just interested in having me become the next Danielle Steele and visualizes how he is going to spend the millions of dollars we'll be raking in when I start churning out those overnight best sellers.

I recently retired (like just 3 weeks ago!) and now find myself needing to identify a "task" that will hold my interest and utilize my brain ... otherwise, I'm afraid I will become a vegetable sitting in front of the computer playing Free Cell games (in order!) until I reach #30,000.  I'm only to 7,601 and that's taken me 10 years and probably a million brain cells.  I really have to find something a bit more productive to do with my time.

Why not "write" I thought?  So here I am ... starting a blog.  I struggled with the name ... wanting to find something that really defined me ... I'll share with you a few of the potentials that made it to my list.  First I must tell you, I am an inveterate 3 a.m. worrier.  I sleep for about 4 hours a night and then wake up and worry about, or try to solve, every possible problem or situation that is occurring in my life.  To date, I can't claim a great deal of success for solving .. but I'm a world champion at the worrying part.  

Once I landed on the blog idea, my 3 a.m. worry time became devoted to possible blog names.  When I arose at 7 a.m. each morning, I would try to remember what, at 3 a.m., had seemed like the perfect name for the blog, only to find that most of those perfect names had fled my memory.  (Another 3 a.m. worry is that I have Alzheimer's and this is proof positive of it as far as I'm concerned.)

I started jotting down the 3 a.m. name ideas as soon as I got up, rather like good dream interpreters advise you to do.  Among the rejects were "I'm Not a Diva," "The Split Infinitive," "A Conspiracy of Friendliness," "Living with the Holy Spirit Guy" (another story!), and "Random Utterances."  None of them really seemed to define me or what I thought the blog might be about (which is actually nothing at this point).  And looking at them now, none of them were very good anyhow!  

Last night (or early this morning), the name K Squared came to me.  My first name starts with a K and both my maiden name and my married name start with a K.  So I've been KK all of my life (never assuming the triple K initials for obvious reasons).  Thus, K Squared seemed to be the most fitting descriptor.  I've been called that by a couple of people in my life, including the friend who suggested I write this blog, so it just seemed right.

This adventure is the precursor to the day that might arrive when I decide to write a novel.  Dave, my "Christmas letter friend," might say I already have quite a few chapters complete!  

If I do decide to write the "Great American Novel," I figure I should get some exposure to writing for the public .. even if the public consists of family and friends who already know me and will say (for the most part) "Well done, Kathie," and those unknown people who will stumble on this blog and say, "What DOES this woman think she's doing writing for the public?"  Either way, I will have gotten some exposure and some feedback that I'm sure will be helpful.

Thanks for tuning in.  I'll try to add items of interest now and then that will cause you to want to come back.  No guarantees, but if you see or read something you like, please let me know.  I'm happiest when I'm relating to people .. through the written word or otherwise.