Tag Archives: Memorial Day

kicking off 99 days of summer blogging (1/99)

99 Days of Summer Blogging

Time to get this party started!

Today’s the official start to 99 Days of Summer Blogging, a little impromptu project of mine where I plan to blog every day this summer. Yes, every single day. I’ve started an editorial calendar which is already helping.  I’m using Evernote to capture post ideas for those days when I got nothin’.

Best of all, a few of you are joining me in this crazy endeavor and a few are considering it.

More importantly, today is about much more than the beginning of summer. It’s about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and never taking that for granted.

As if on cue, the live version of Frank Sinatra’s “The House I Live In” just came on The Husband’s Spotify.

Always a powerful song, but especially worth the listen today.

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sunday salon/currently … memorial day weekend edition

Sunday Salon banner

It’s a steamy start to the summer. (And yes, while the calendar may not consider it to be summer until June 21, Memorial Day weekend is the start of summer in my book.) Yesterday my car’s thermometer said it was 95 degrees outside. I’m really not kidding when I say two weeks ago it was so chilly that I wore turtlenecks to work for three days.

I’m on our enclosed deck, enjoying being outside for as long as I can stand it. It’s humid enough to have the box fan going, which helps for now. We don’t have any grandiose plans this weekend. The usual appointments and errands. The Girl needs some summer clothes and that’s on the agenda for tomorrow.

99 Days of Summer Blogging!

99 Days of Summer Blogging

Tomorrow starts my attempt to blog for 99 consecutive days. I’m thrilled that a few of you are joining me in this little project.  (You can too. Participating is intentionally very low key. No real requirements. No linkys. If you like, feel free to use the button above for any #99DaysSummerBlogging posts.) The accountability factor makes this more daunting (can I really keep up this pace? what if I run out of things to write about? what happens on the days I have a migraine?) but also exciting.  I’m looking forward to getting back in the swing of writing every day and clearing out some of those half-baked posts in Drafts.

Big Book Reading Challenge

Big Book Summer Reading Challenge

Another summer project that I’m taking on is the Big Book Summer Reading Challenge hosted by my friend Sue of Book by Book.  I usually participate in this because it only involves reading one book that’s at least 400 pages between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Definitely doable. If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s a partial list of what I’ve read for this challenge in previous years (links go to my reviews):

America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins (572 pages)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (415 pages)
With My Body by Nikki Gemmell (462 pages)
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (436 pages)
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts (630 pages)
The Years by Virginia Woolf (435 pages)

Currently Reading …
LaRoseWith 372 pages, my current read — LaRose by Louise Erdrich — is just shy of qualifying for the Big Book Summer Reading Challenge. It’s a fascinating novel about family and culture.

Currently Listening To … 

Sin in the Second City

Still listening to Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott.

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately. Part of the reason is because I work in an semi-open office environment, which can be challenging when one needs to concentrate. I usually just hit Shuffle on my entire music collection and And every day, I hear at least one song that seems to describe the day — or our current situation, or something, or someone I’m thinking about, or a memory — absolutely perfectly.

These are the songs that resonated most this week:


A few weeks ago, I purchased The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson because it seems like a book I’m going to want to own. Although I haven’t started it yet, Hilton Als’ feature on Maggie Nelson in the April 18 issue of The New Yorker (“Immediate Family”) makes me want to read this very soon.

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has a great list of mental health resources for teens In addition to books (fiction and nonfiction), blogs, and websites, there are apps that link to immediate crisis intervention and online discussion groups.

Once in a Lifetime is a new blog to me, thanks to Keith’s and my connection through Pittsburgh Bloggers. Keith’s post “A Month of Mental Health, An Eternity of Suicide”  makes some great observations about the hypocrisy of the media’s relentless messages of perfection and its embrace of Mental Health Awareness Month.

I’m a big fan of the Netflix series “House of Cards.” In this article from The New York Times, Robin Wright may have more in common with Claire Underwood than we previously thought. #FUCU2016

Some thoughts on … well, the power of our thoughts.

What are you thinking about on this Memorial Day weekend?  

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Honoring Our Troops, in Twenty Seconds, on Memorial Day

Photo taken by me at the Flight 93 Memorial
in Shanksville, PA, October 2011

I could write this Memorial Day morning about what books I’ve read this week. I could post photos of the flowerbed project I so proudly completed yesterday. I could tell you about the elderly woman all alone eating a sundae at the next table at Eat’n Park yesterday as I enjoyed lunch with Boo and how she looked so damn sad, like she was missing someone this holiday weekend … and how I decided to pay her $12 bill for her, just because.

I will tell you about all of those things. But they can all wait.

Because today is about something a little more important than books and gardening. (It does tie in with the whole idea of paying it forward, though.)

A bit of background. This post that follows comes from A Diary of a Mom, which is written by my friend Jess, who has a friend named Rachel.  I don’t know Rachel very well, but I know her story … mainly because Jess has written about it extensively on her blog (and I follow Rachel’s blog, Welcome to Stim City.)

I also confess that I have not taken as much forceful action for this cause as I could have and, more importantly, should have. I’ve posted the links to my Facebook page. I’ve liked numerous other posts on the issue. I think I blogged about it once. I signed the Change.org petition.

I hope, after reading Jess’s words and those of Rachel’s as to why this is important, you will do so too.

From Diary of a Mom (because, as always, she says it better than I can):

Who kept the faith and fought the fight;
The glory theirs, the duty ours.
~Wallace Bruce

My friends,

If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ve heard me talk (ad nauseam you might say) about the absolutely egregious lack of care for our nation’s military children with autism. You’ve also undoubtedly heard me talk about my friend, Rachel, who is leading the fight to fix it.

Yesterday, Rachel sent the following letter to every single chief of staff of every single member of the Armed Services Committee. When she shared it with me, I knew I had to share it with you. Because together, we can help to right this disastrous wrong. We can step up to the plate to care for the families of our nation’s heroes just as they step up to the plate every day for us. We can, in twenty seconds or less, do the right thing.

If you’re pressed for time, please feel free to simply click HERE and then be on your merry way. If not, then read the following to find out why this matters so damned much.

Thank you and God Bless.


Happy Memorial Day Weekend, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Armed Services Committee Offices.

My name is Rachel Kenyon. I am a proud and battle-tested Army wife and mom of two beautiful babes, one with autism.

Currently, “TRICARE” military healthcare provides less than half the recommended treatments for autism, and only to children of active duty service members.

Service members who retire after more than twenty years and Wounded Warriors forced to medically retire are stripped of what little treatment TRICARE allows via the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO).

On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Congressman John Larson took to the House floor armed with embarrassingly large photos of our little family and made the case for Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act to be included as an amendment to the FY2013 NDAA. It worked, because for Mr. Larson, this had become personal. It worked because Rep. Tom Rooney had the courage to walk up to Chairman Buck McKeon and tell him it was personal. Mr. Rooney has two nephews with autism. Mr. McKeon did the right thing, because now he understood, it was personal. The amendment passed as part of the NDAA in the House.

Senator Gillibrand attempted this past week to do the same in the Senate Armed Services Committee markup session. The amendment was rejected.

I contact you today because this fight is so very personal for so many of us serving our country each day. Not only do I want my husband to feel that his more than 25 years of service warrant the medical care our daughter with autism needs, but I want my daughter to have the security of being able to access the tools that can give her a richer, more meaningful life.

It’s personal because I now hold 23,000 other children in my heart, and more than that many parents who serve our country. I love them as I love my own. I want them to feel proud of their country’s service to them in return. I want them to sleep at night, knowing that though autism may have knocked on their door, they can live their lives to the fullest with the care they need and deserve. It’s personal.

I know once you read the attached comments from your constituents, both military and civilian, you all will choose to do the right thing. To take this fight personally. To share with your fellow staffers and your Senators and Representatives that our families are proud. That our children are worthy. That if just one military child was denied the cancer treatments he or she needed, we would not be wasting time with emails and petitions. A true American who hears that 23,000 military children are being denied the medical standard of care for autism takes that personally. Well, for real American patriots, it is so very personal.

I appreciate your time and I wish you all a fun, relaxing Memorial Weekend in remembrance of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Our little family will be spending another weekend living with autism in our house and struggling to understand why we have to fight this battle, too.


Mrs. Rachel E. Kenyon

Wife to Command Sergeant Major William W. Kenyon

Mother of two beautiful babes – one with autism.


Ed Note: As promised in the letter above, Rachel passed on scores of comments to the Armed Services Committee. You can read them all HERE. But of the comments, one stood out to me the most.

Jennifer Lockwood Stafford VA 22554 United States 5/26/12

“I am signing this because My husband has 25+ years AD Army Special Forces, and we have an 8 year-old son with Autism. My husband has deployed multiple times throughout the various wars, which our country has been involved in since the 90′s, risking his life each time. He recently returned from a yearlong combat deployment in Afghanistan and is scheduled to deploy again in August.

My son was diagnosed with Autism at 3 years old and began Applied Behavior Analysis therapy from the age of 4 years via the Extended Heath Care Option (ECHO) Program. Although the recommended amount of ABA therapy is 30 – 40 hours/week, my son only receives 10 hours/week, not near what is recommended, but better than nothing. Due in part because of these services, my son has gone from functioning as an 18 month old to functioning of a 6 year-old; And this would not have been so had these services not been available.

Although my husband has more than enough years to retire from military service, he cannot retire for fear of losing all autism therapies for our son, because retirees are not eligible for ECHO services. As stated earlier, my husband will soon be heading back to Afghanistan for another year-long deployment. What I think is important for you to know is that if my husband is injured while serving his country in Afghanistan, and forced to medically retire, my son will no longer be eligible to receive autism therapies. Additionally, if my husband is fatally wounded while serving his county in Afghanistan, my son will no longer be eligible for autism therapies.

My husband has made many sacrifices for this county and his family. I’m signing this petition because the medically necessary therapies that my son requires should not preclude him from having a father present in his life.”

From me: So, here it is again:   http://www.change.org/petitions/congress-make-recommended-autism-treatment-available-to-all-military-children 

Thanks.  And Happy Memorial Day.

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Memorial Day Guest Post from The Husband: True Son

Harold Becker [bottom] holds the rifle that belonged to his father, Charles Conrad Becker [top], who fought in the Civil War.

I remember in high school I had a teacher with whom I became friendly. In conversation one day, she mentioned that her father had been born in 1870. “1870!?!?” I said, with my sledgehammer tact. Indeed, 1870. It turned out that her father – a German immigrant – fathered her when he was 70 years old, dying shortly thereafter. Later, I’d learn about the founding of the German federation out of a series of city-states – Prussia being the largest – in 1871 and realize that my teacher’s father had been older than the nation of Germany itself.

Today, there are a few examples of such primogeniture that even outstrip that of my teacher. One such case is that of 93-year old Harold Becker, a retired chemist from Western Michigan. Becker is a rarity, what is called a “true son”: a man whose father fought in the Civil War in the Union Army.

The story is pretty amazing. Becker’s father, Charles Conrad Becker, lied about his age in 1864 to enlist at 17. Like in the case of my teacher, Charles Becker was 70 when Harold, his youngest child, was born. Charles lived to be 87, thus leaving his son with plenty of stories and memories about the war.

“I think my dad was always interested in keeping the country together,” Becker told the Detroit Free-Press, explaining what motivated his father to fight for the Union. “He’d go to the porch overlooking White Lake and tell me stories about the Civil War.”

Today, of course, is Memorial Day. While there is much confusion in popular culture as to the origin of the day – it was a holiday created in 1868 to honor the Civil War dead – we all know it is a day to honor those who have died in our wars over the last 235 years.

Today, Harold Becker remembers seeing his father’s blue Union Army uniform hanging in an upstairs closet, the pockets always filled with chocolate for a curious little boy. He remembers the Civil War veterans pension checks — about $100 a month — that were used to pay bills. He remembers the short, mustachioed figure, dashing in Grand Army of the Republic regalia, heading off to a meeting at the G.A.R. post.

Becker is among fewer than 50 men nationwide who can say their fathers fought in the Civil War, which began 150 years ago last month. His father died of a heart attack when Harold Becker was in his late teens. This left time for Charles to pass along to Harold numerous stories of the conflict that divided the nation.

Charles Becker was just 17 in 1864, but claimed he was two years older to join Co. H, 128th Indiana Infantry. He saw action at the Battle of Franklin [Tennessee], telling his son of a supply line that stretched for a mile. After the war’s end in April 1865, Charles was one of many given the morbid and solemn assignment to disinter the dead from mass graves and bury them individually.

Harold Becker recently visited the historic Tennessee battle site. “The [guide] showed me where my father actually fought,” Becker told the Free-Press. Becker also traveled to the storied Gettysburg battlefield, where he even met the son of a Confederate soldier.

Becker said his father had four or five children – he was never clear on the exact number – with his first wife and then married Elizabeth Ofenloch, a woman 30 years his junior, with whom he had four more children. Harold was the youngest of all Becker’s children. When he was still a boy, his father, who had owned a grocery store in Chicago, relocated the family to Montague, Michigan. There Charles Becker, who died in 1934, is buried.

Occasionally, Harold Becker said, his father would regale him with stories of Civil War experiences he shared with other grizzled soldiers from the Grand Army of the Republic Lyon Post No. 9 in Chicago, where he was a member and former commander. “I don’t think he enjoyed the fighting. I think it went against him,” Becker said of his father. “I’m guessing on this. From all the things he told me, he wasn’t proud of the fact he could kill someone. He ended up feeling that way. I know he didn’t dislike the South or the people, necessarily.”

Today, 19 true sons and 21 true daughters of Union soldiers are still alive, according to Bruce Butgereit, a Grand Rapids-based Civil War historian, who has done extensive research on Harold Becker’s father [although the Michigan Historical Center counts 16 sons and 23 daughters] . According to the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, about 30 men known as ‘real sons’ are still living.

“One thing Mr. Becker loves to do is meet and greet the children, and he loves to be able to tell when they shake hands that you just shook the hand of a man who held the hand of a Civil War soldier,” said Butgereit, the historian. He has created a card featuring photos and biographies of father and son that Becker autographs.

The star of these appearances enjoys doing them.

“It makes me think about my dad,” Becker said. “It just amazes me. We go to Pontiac, and there’s thousands of people there and hundreds of people who are redoing some of the work the Army did.”

Ironically, Becker the son never served in the U.S. military. A bad left eye kept him out of World War II, which angers him to this day — after being taught to shoot by a man who learned as a soldier eight decades before.

Instead, Becker studied chemistry in college and went on to work as a chemist and an engineer for a variety of companies throughout the Midwest. He and his wife of 69 years, the former Dorothy Reynolds (a distant relative of Benjamin Franklin), moved to Rockford, Michigan in 1963 and had five children. They now have seven grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

He’s a member of the Grand Rapids-based John A. Logan Camp No. 1, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Unfortunately, a fire years ago robbed Becker of almost all of the mementos of his father’s Civil War service. Only a picture of the elder Becker — a compact, clean-shaven 5-foot-6 man — and his heavy, military-issue rifle survive.

On this Memorial Day, as he has on so many other special days, Becker will hang out the American flag that his father adored, although with 16 more stars than the banner under which his father served.

“I’ve always flown it at the right times,” Becker said.

Today is the right time.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Taking Chance (an HBO movie that is a must-see this Memorial Day)

In honor of Memorial Day, tonight at 9 p.m. (EST) HBO is re-broadcasting its phenomenal movie “Taking Chance.”  Starring Kevin Bacon, this is the true story of Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who volunteers to escort home the body of Pfc. Chance Phelps after he was killed in Iraq.

When “Taking Chance” first aired in March 2009, I blogged about it here.  Following is a clip, and then my thoughts about the movie. 

Interview with Kevin Bacon & Lt. Col. Michael Strobl

“You brought Chance home. You’re his witness now. Without a witness, they just disappear.”

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, the Department of Defense has identifed 4,246 American servicemen and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice. [Note: current numbers at the time of the movie’s airing.]Behind the numbers are the names of people who have disappeared – in body, not in spirit – from the lives of those who love them.

“Taking Chance” is the true story (and HBO film) starring Kevin Bacon as Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who volunteers to escort home the body of Pfc. Chance Phelps. On April 9, 2004, Chance was killed in Iraq while protecting his comrades from enemy fire. He was 20 years old. While reading a list of that day’s casualities of war, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl recognizes that he and Chance hail from the same hometown; he then volunteers for escort duty, the military ritual where a Marine accompanies a fallen Marine through every step of his journey home.

It’s a story that needed to be told. I had no idea this even happened, that there was an escort assigned to accompany every fallen person in the service. (I am unsure if this happens in other branches of the military, or if it is only the Marines.) “Taking Chance” chronicles every aspect of this saddest of journeys – from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany to the arrival at Dover Air Force Base, to the flights through Philadelphia and onto Wyoming. Along the way, the viewer sees the dignity, the respect, and the honor rightly given to our fallen heroes – not just from the military but from everyday citizens, young and old, black and white, men and women, everyone. In just 78 minutes, the film is packed with several incredibly poignant moments – the most moving for me being the two young kids in the airport, watching the unloading of Phelps’ casket on the tarmac.

And yet, “Taking Chance” transcends politics without taking a position on the Iraq war. It sounds like an impossible feat, but the film accomplishes this superbly. It is a film about the myriad of ways, large and small, that our military are given the respect, honor, and dignity they so richly deserve as they journey home.

I highly recommend this movie, especially for young adults. It’s important for everyone to see the way this is conducted and to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by those who should never be forgotten.

If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon: Getting Back Into the Groove, Post Book Blogger Con

It’s no secret that my reading life has been a bit stuck in neutral of late, but I have discovered the sure-fire cure for that: spend a day immersed in the bookish goodness that was this year’s Book Blogger Convention and you’ll be on literary fire.

You’ll also be rendered temporarily immobile, as your shins and feet continue to ache more than 48 hours after your return home.  I honestly don’t know how you people who attended BEA for a week or several days are still standing because after one day, I was parked on the couch in my PJs for the majority of Saturday.  If it wasn’t for the need to retrieve my children from their grandparents (who watched them while I was at BBC – whooot!)  then I would remain RIGHT. HERE.

(And if I could get someone to do my grocery shopping and prepare my meals while I sit here and read blogs and write a bunch o’ post-BBC posts, and finish up two great books, I would be in heaven.  I have my first post-BBC post ready for you and will probably start posting them later tonight and throughout this upcoming week.)

I’m thisclose to finishing Breaking Night, a memoir that wasn’t on my radar until I saw it on the New Books shelf at the library.  This one has been compared to The Glass Castle (which I loved) and indeed, there are some similarities in both Jeannette Walls’ story and Liz Murray’s.  The subtitle of Breaking Night is A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard. 

Liz was raised by parents who blew the family’s only source of income (her mother’s monthly social security check, due to being legally blind) on cocaine instead of food, leaving Liz and her sister Lisa to barely exist (sometimes) on rotten mayonnaise sandwiches and eggs.  Growing up the Bronx, Liz would eventually become a homeless teenager, honing her survival instincts as she lived on the streets or occasionally with friends or in seedy motels.  Obviously, Liz survives this rough hard-knock life of hers, but getting there is a journey that is compelling and one keeping me turning the pages of Breaking Night into the night. 

While Amtraking it to and from New York on Friday, I was reading my friend Rachel Simon’s new novel, The Story of Beautiful Girl. I’ve been talking about this one forever, I know, and it is living up to all my expectations.  Can’t say much more about this one until I get further into it (I’m only on page 50), but trust me … you’ll be hearing more about this one.  It’s getting a lot of accolades and is currently #30 on The New York Times Bestseller list.  Deservedly so, I might add. 

And finally, in the car I’m listening to Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books, by William Kuhn.  The premise of this one is that, since Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis never wrote her memoirs, we can learn all we need to know about her life, passions, and interests through the more than 100 books she acquired and worked on in her role as editor for Viking and later, Doubleday.  I’m enjoying this one, too – and I think it is a book that helps to shatter the misconception of Jackie as “rich woman who is pretending to be an editor” that some may still hold, even 17 years after her passing. (Creepily, I started listening to this audiobook on the very anniversary of her May 19, 1994 death.  Kinda freaked me out.)  

Anyway, I’m off to try and finish Breaking Night over breakfast followed by a quick trip to the farmer’s market in desperate search of a side dish to bring to our friends’ cookout this afternoon. 

Whether you are spending this Memorial Day weekend (here in the United States) remembering and honoring those who served and sacrificed, or doing something else entirely, I hope yours is a good Sunday. 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Remembering Their Names

At a cemetery in Riverside, California, more than 300 volunteers have spent the last week reading aloud the names of the 148,000 veterans buried at Riverside National Cemetery.

The names are printed on pages – 2,465 pages, to be exact. Each name representing a life lost and a memory kept alive.

They read in shifts in the morning, in the hot sun, in the quiet darkness of night. They read the names so that others will remember.

Read their stories here.

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