Sunday, August 17, 2014

Grandpa's War Letters--Part Two

Upon finding the letters that my grandfather, Charles Arthur Kline (1891-1970) wrote home to his parents during World War I, it was hard to read the original letters, so it took me some time. He wrote a few letters to my grandmother also—she would have been 18 and he was 27—but he never mentioned her in his letters to his mother and father. That leads me to believe that there was not a romantic relationship between them until after he came home in 1919. They were married in September 1920.

The first letters come from Chillicothe, where he must have been training, although he found life redundant there. (Keep in mind, it’s just another kind of redundant at home.) He missed the comforts of home, could not always get passes to come home, but I did not get the feeling he was lonely.

He found time to write to family and several friends. He mentions aunts, uncles, “grandma” and cousins that I have never heard of. It would seem that he was part of a close family network, and this was a surprise to me. He only had one sibling, Hazel, and she died of something we could cure today at 19. If he was 27 and a few years older than she was, it was a fresh loss. He speaks of sending his mother money to put flowers on Hazel’s grave for Christmas Day. My grandmother told me that I looked somewhat like Hazel as a young woman; keep in mind that Grandma died when I was 18. She never knew me in my full maturity.

By the time I came along, I never knew of this large family connection. His parents, step-mother and Hazel were long gone, and I never heard much about cousins.

He also mentions going to the YMCA every evening for movies and other entertainment. He uses the YMCA stationary to write home. He talks frequently of his pals in the army, and asks of other Medway fellows and how they are doing. So, a surprise to me, he was very much a social being.

They waited in Chillicothe for orders to go to France. There was illness and quarantine and eventually they move to New York City. He regrets not being able to see more of NY because some were able to get passes. They waited in NY also. It seemed that nothing went fast in the army, as he repeated more than once.

The letters begin in October 1917 in Chillicothe and two letters, in early June 1918 are written from New York City, but by July 1st he is “somewhere in France.” His letters pass through censorship and are initialed on the bottom of each one. His November 14th letter speaks of the peace, but that nothing happens fast in the army and although they all want to be home for Christmas, he isn't holding his breath.

In late 1918 and early 1919 he writes of seeing some of the areas of war-torn Germany. He experiences hospitality of the German people in their homes. These letters truly describe Germany in post-war condition. Beautiful and terrible.

The last letter is written April 4, 1919 and then he must have headed home.

First of all, I was impressed with Grandpa’s penmanship. (My great-grandmother, not so much). He did not write short letters, and they were not flowery, but he described in detail the surroundings (until he was in France) and everyday life of the soldiers. It was much more intense in France, and he couldn't tell about it, but I could gather from the words he did use that it was dirty, nasty and he was close to shooting. He described living in “dugouts” they dug with their own hands.

I was amazed at his family dynamics. He mentions all the relatives and sends his wishes. He tries to write everyone who writes to him, but sometimes that is not always possible, so asks his mother to share the news. He mentions a person named Alma that he writes to often; but other than that said, I have no idea if she is a romantic interest. He did write to my grandmother, but she lived in Fort Recovery at the time. She was hardly “the girl next door.” I know nothing of their courtship and these letters give me nothing about that.

He sent money home regularly to his parents. I was particularly touched about his request for the flowers for his sister’s grave. He asks them what they are doing with it, but I don’t have their responses.

He certainly wasn't a “lifer.” In one of his last letters, he says he looks forward to being home and never wants to hear the word “army” again.

One has to wonder if he ever experienced what we call PTSD today. I have no idea. By the time I remember him, he was retired and sometimes he was crotchety, but he would play cards with me and talked to me while he painted pictures “by number.” He loved doing that! We didn't talk about deep things, but I felt loved by both my grandparents.

I am so grateful to have had this window into a time I knew existed, but never talked about. This discovery has been a tremendous blessing.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lost Letters From My Grandpa!

Every once in a while a “Connection Intersection” entry begs to be written. Something happens in life that is remarkable and is an illustration of our shrinking world, opportunities to share information and truly create connection.

To my Great-Grandmother, who
came first at that time!
I realize not every person likes history the way I do. Even so, perhaps you can understand my thrill. This blog is for all Facebook nay-sayers. It is what can happen that is just short of miraculous.

I know much about my mother’s family. There has been much physical and oral sharing of history, stories and information. I am very familiar with my mother’s home town—mainly because I worked in business and non-profit there, and I understand my own history, as well as the interconnections with other families’ history.

That said, I have very little history from my father’s family. Upon the death of my grandmother in 1972, my father and uncle, who were basically good guys, didn't have some of their finer moments. They threw out boxes of family history, including the family Bible. My mother was beside herself; but it was one of those minutes she kept her mouth shut. I’m not sure she was right in doing that, and although I have been at that place myself with my husband’s family, I have to think I would have been, uh, vocal!

I do have pictures, but I know very little about these people. I can see a resemblance of my brother to my grandmother’s brothers, who I never knew. I just know their names.

So, you can imagine my glee (I can’t think of a better word), when I was on Facebook and someone posted a letter FROM my grandfather to the “friend” (who would become his wife) from WWI in 1917. It wasn't long, but it was a window into their world. I thanked the poster publicly on Facebook, and he wrote a private message to me (for those of you not on Facebook, you can private message those who are not your friend, but that you might have information for) telling me he won these on eBay along with some other things and he was planning to donate them to Wright State, but that he would create a CD for me with all 51 of the letters.

I went to his house to get the CD, and I beheld a home with as much history of the area as I have ever seen in once place. This man is 77 years old and very computer-savvy. I asked him if everything was backed up, and yes it is, in two places. I didn't stay long because I had groceries in the car on a summer day; but the amount of images and stories he had was fabulous! I could have spent the entire day with him.

I brought my CD home and put the files on my computer and began reading them that evening. I was transported to another world, of a man that I did not know. I figured out that my grandfather was just about my age when I was born, and I am expecting my second grandchild. There’s a whole lot of life that has been lived before the age of 61.

Next time I will get into the specifics of what I learned about my grandfather, his family and a war that was fought 100 years ago. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another Road Trip and a Wedding!

This trip was needed and wanted on several levels and did not disappoint.

My friend Brenda from Wisconsin was getting married to her fiancĂ© Scott, in a wedding to be held at an annual festival in their town; on a date when the follow-up would be a concert by their favorite band, “Here Come The Mummies.” They are studio artists who started their own band and they are very good! More on that later.

I have known Brenda since high school choir. We did not go to the same middle school (we called it junior high back then). My traveling companion, Debbie, has known her since third grade. Debbie and I have been friends since summer of 1969, when I needed a ride to the pool and she was already driving and we took our three younger siblings with us and kept them out of our mothers’ hair. We get a lot of mileage of how we met.

Last year when Brenda and Scott decided to marry, I really wanted to go, but I wondered if I could make this happen. My other good friend, Beth, was going to be matron of honor, just as Brenda had been maid of honor in HER wedding 41 years ago. Beth wanted to fly, however, and I didn't want to be limited by flights. When Deb said she wanted to go, I was on board. We have been very good friends since we were 16 and we know each other so well that we know what each other is thinking.

We are pretty much on the same page with our religion and politics and other important matters; but we are polar opposites in lifestyle. I am an early riser and she was ALWAYS a night owl; even in high school when she was forced by society to get up early and get an education. I didn't know how this was going to work.

We left at 8:30 AM EDT, and made excellent time. We made two wrong turns, but my google map app let me know right away we were headed the wrong way and we corrected our mistake. It might have added—with both situations added together—a half hour to our day. We make pit stops and we did have lunch at 3:00 PM at a Subway. It was good to get out of the car.

We had a lovely day, two country girls who loved the drive through the lushest part of the growing season in the Midwest. Illinois was beautiful. Deb had never seen windmill farms before and she was fascinated by them. We totally enjoyed the uneventful ride, the scenery and the banter in conversation. We became friends at 16 and we are now 61. I guess you could say this was our 45th anniversary trip. In 45 years, we have a few stories to tell.

Arriving at the Holiday Inn Express about 5:30 EDT or 4:30 CDT, we were delighted that our motel was less than a mile from Brenda’s house. After settling in, we went over to the house and visited for a while. I got the guest book, which was “my job” at the wedding. We later had a light meal at Applebees.

On Saturday, we slept in—both of us—and then went to the breakfast in the motel lounge. We went swimming in the pool and sat in the hot tub, which was wonderful. While swimming, I got a text from Brenda to come to the Perkins restaurant in front of the motel, so we got dressed and walked over there. We weren't really hungry, but I can always find room for pie, and we were able to meet some of the others coming to the wedding. These were mostly relatives. I've heard about them, but never met them.

The wedding was not until 6:00, so Deb and I had time to shower and rest and pick up a sign at Brenda’s house. By now it was Wedding Central and we didn't stay long. We were to drive to the middle school, pick up a shuttle provided for all by sponsors, and it took us directly to the festival. Debbie stayed at the bus stop with the sign, while I traipsed off to find out exactly where this wedding was going to be held. I had two “professionals” (we all know they are volunteers) tell me two different stories, but I finally found the spot and so I stationed myself at a place to direct people more precisely to the area.

I missed this!
Because of my location, I missed the wedding party’s arrival on a vintage fire truck. Durn. I did get to see the pictures, but would have liked to been there. The wedding started a little late because someone had pinned the photographer’s car in at the house. A taxi was sent for her, and that took some time. In the meantime, I passed the guest book around.

It was a beautiful service and represented the two individuals very well. It was sincere and heartfelt, and sweet. This couple has been through much together already, which I am not at liberty to discuss, but I felt like, “Well, of course they are going to be together through ‘thick and thin.’ They have a track record!”

After the short service, we went to an area where the groom’s cake had been set up and we all had some cake and got to know each other better. I didn't count, but I think there were about fifty of us and we really could genuinely converse at a deeper level. Later in the evening, some of us went to the other side of the park to the “Here Come The Mummies” concert. It reminded me of one of our concerts in the park in our hometown, with lawn chairs everywhere. There were many people standing also. Not me.

Here is a link to information about  Here Come The Mummies but the short story is that they were studio musicians that formed a band and dress up like mummies. They played and sang and danced for almost two hours without a break. They must be young and very energetic!

The FHS Group!
Debbie and I took two of the bridesmaids back to the house and headed on to the motel. I suppose we settled down about 12:30 CDT. We slept well until 10:00 CDT! Checked out by 11:00, and then headed to the reception/cookout at Brenda’s. We had perfect weather, great food and again, wonderful people to hang around with. Deb looked at her watch at 4:30 OUR time and we wanted to get on our way, but it felt like the party was just getting started! I hated to leave, but we had decided to drive home in one stretch. Again, Debbie the night owl could bring us on home. So we said our goodbyes and gave our hugs.

It was a good trip until we hit our home state and some pop-up showers that were quite heavy. By that time I was glad she was behind the wheel. In Illinois, we were coming up behind an oversized ½ “house” (never did see the other half) that had an entire tire fall off. The tire did not come into our path and what I would assume to be the bolt holding it on became a projectile and hit the windshield, shaking me up a little! It happened quickly, only the windshield sustained damage, and the truck got right off the road and did not affect us or any other driver. I don’t know where the tire ended up.

So we did a little slow breathing and settled down, and that was enough excitement for the day. Only later did we admit that we BOTH thought of a mutual friend who was killed in 2004 in a very similar kind of accident. The difference is that the windshield held back the projectile in our case.

We pulled into my driveway at 12:30 AM EDT. I did not take my keys. (Well, I wasn't going to need them!) My husband was SOOOO happy to see me!

Whether you want to consider this road trip a trip to witness a good friend’s wedding, a 45th anniversary trip for two good friends, or just a road trip with a good friend for a change of pace—it was really a wonderful time and we are ready for another!

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Fitness Journey and My Cancer Journey: Acceptance.

If God has accepted me, I need to
accept myself.
This is a difficult post to write. Following the “keep on keeping on” theme; there is a place where the keeping on is all that’s going to happen.

I have not met my expectations—no matter what I do. I can exercise 6 days a week, eat all the things I am supposed to eat, and nothing happens (of any consequence).

So, here’s what we’re dealing with. (1) A medication that causes weight GAIN—which I am happy to say has NOT happened! This is the anti-cancer pill which I take for 3-5 years. I have heard women say they stopped taking it because it made them gain weight.


(2) This medication—Arimidex, although I am taking the generic—also “causes” osteoporosis. I don’t want that any more than the next person, but what is a person to do?

The answer:
  •  Continue to challenge myself with boot camp classes and lifting weights. Some of the lifting I can do at home.
  • Continue to strengthen my cardio limits in whatever shape or form that takes.

This summer, I was discouraged to buy three pairs of capris that were a larger size. However, they look good on me. It looks like I will be investing in some things for fall and winter too. (My tops are not an issue: yes, I work on my “wing flaps,” but none of that work is going to change my size.)

So, I am at this place: acceptance of what is going to be, until I go off this medicine. In the meantime, I will continue to work as I know what to do, and hopefully, if the weight doesn't fall, the body mass index will.

I have a few problems though, and I just have to work at it. Water really makes me nauseous. Really. So when I go to my classes, I am nauseous. Getting up and down also makes me nauseous, so I have to manage that. I am juggling balls of waves of nausea, the relationship of when to eat with exercise, and fitting that in with the rest of my life.

I also had a shot of cortisone in my left knee and I AM going to obey the doctor on this. No planking, push-ups, burpees or mountain-climbers. However, I do substitute exercises that build strength in my legs. It’s funny how there are things that others are grunting at that come easy for me. An example is spreading my legs and stretching them, which I believe comes from years of cheerleading. My core is terrible and I am working on that specifically.

Underneath all the work, and all the eating, is a place of “This is going to be as good as it gets for a while, so I need to accept it.”

I will keep doing what I am doing.

While my husband is not completely on board with the eating, I will do as much as I can. I will make good choices in restaurants and I will NOT fix two meals at home. I will do as much as I can do within my lifestyle.

Today I took the big tote of clothes in a smaller size to the basement. I hated doing that. It seems like failure, but the other side of it is that seeing that tote in my closet every day was depressing. I don’t need that. Now I can see exactly the clothes that fit me! That, in itself is fun!

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Fitness Journey: Staying the Course

It’s been awhile since I've written. I promised myself in beginning this that I would be inspired by SOMETHING and not just write to write. So, sometimes we settle into a routine that is not marked by unusual thoughts or circumstances. Actually, that’s a very good thing, at least it is for me.

I continue to work at my fitness program. I go to the gym and I do exercise at home also, because the orthopedic surgeon gave me some exercises to do, and while I can work them into a class when the class is doing exercises that I am FORBIDDEN (for the time being) to do, I can also just do them at home. I go to boot camps at least twice a week and have another day of “hard labor.” Haha! Then there are other days that I either just do some cardio at the gym for 30 minutes or I work my lifting in at home, because of time constraints. In all things, I MOVE! That’s the key.

It is summer and I am eating fruits and vegetables. My one medication seems to make me nauseous. I don’t know why this is, but I go in spurts. I have already changed meds and I don’t think I will again. After all, it is always temporary, so I know I’ll feel hunger again. Somehow, I always have room for a piece of cherry pie. I don’t know why that is.

The scale moves slowly BUT I can feel the changes in other places. I am not going to be graphic about this, but be assured, I know.

Stamina is still an issue. I work through this. Fundamentally, I don’t plan more than one big thing a day. There will always be housekeeping chores, and I can break them down. I am not in that place where everything has to be done on my day off! Exercise is key, but there are just some things that I don’t do. For instance, I don’t plan on traveling far, spending all day with someone, and driving home after dark. That’s too much. Going from one social event to another is too much.

Stay tuned, however. I have a road trip planned in August. We’ll call it “Thelma and Louise,” because it’s with one of my best high school and beyond friends. I have no doubt there will be stories. Most of all, I really AM looking forward to it. And I’ll probably be wonderfully exhausted.

There is much to look forward to, and I just keep on keeping on. We have a granddaughter to be born in a few months, and I don’t know how Grandma is going to wait. But wait, she will. Football season is soon upon us and the Coach’s Mom is looking forward to the fall. (By the way, the baby must not be born on a Friday. Haha!)

As I previously mentioned, there are changes going on at the gym and mostly how that affects me is in the class schedules and MY schedule. I will continue, I will continue. How I will continue is to be determined.

And you know what? Mixing it up isn't all bad, either!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Let Me Hear Your Body Talk!

As I channel my inner Olivia Newton-John, I had an experience the other day, and I would like to share this with my fellow fitness friends.

We go to the gym and we love our classes and we talk and we move to music and meet physical and social and mental needs all at once. It is wonderful.

But last week, I got another cortisone shot for my knee and the dr. wanted to send me to Physical Therapy and I said “Why do that when I go to the gym and it’s paid for already? Just tell me what to do and what NOT to do for the next few weeks!”

So I was given some specialty exercises that I can do at home, and told not to do squats and planks and pushups whatsoever, unless I could do them from my feet.


So I try to do most of my exercises at home, and when they start doing any of the above, I just do free weights in some shape or form. My arms are going to be awesome! Haha!

As I lay on the floor at home and do the leg exercises she gave me, I don’t have any music going on and I can give the task at hand my full attention. What I have come to find out is that it is very interesting to listen to my body.

We all know that we talk about the creaking of our bones and joints as we age. I am nowhere near a knee replacement although there may be arthroscopic surgery in my future, but not today. But, it’s not really the knees that I am talking about. As I quietly lay on the floor, I can listen to the pops and cracks of my pelvic bones, my lower back and to a small extent, my hips. It is interesting to focus on exactly what is going on and where.

I want to strengthen these areas for what I can, but I also am aware of where the weaknesses are, in a way I can’t hear when I've got the TV on, or listening to the upbeat music at the gym. I mean, whoever heard of a silent gym???

This may be an experiment for you to try, and it doesn't matter how “fit” you are, because this is about bones. It is not about how much meat I have on those bones. Give it a try some quiet evening, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Exercises to do? Nothing major. Slow leg lifts. Crunches. The keyword is SLOW so you CAN hear your body talk!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How Medicines Affect Weight Gain/Loss

Yesterday’s blog was a hard one to write because it’s about people. This one is hard to write because it’s just plain depressing.

I am working like a dog. I am doing an “ab challenge” to work on The Last Frontier. I am usually at the gym five days a week.

…..and the weight is creeping up, or at the very best, staying the same.

This is about the medicines that post-menopausal women have to take to keep the breast cancer AWAY! I take Arimidex because I am post-menopausal. It is my understanding that the other drug, the pre-menopausal Tamoxifin, does the same thing. So pre or post, is not really the issue.

I am eating the things I need to eat to fight cancer and I am working out and I AM getting stronger! But the scales do nothing and the clothes are tight.

This past week, I bought three pairs of capris in a larger size so that I would not look like so many people who think it is cool to be poured into their clothes. I am going to talk about clothing in another blog as it has been asked for, but for today—it’s hard to work so hard, and NOT see results.

I have to take the medicine for three to five years with one year down (!!) and I will continue to work and build strength and endurance and SURELY, when I go OFF the medicine, something will start to happen!

Seven pounds, seven ounces is more accurate.
Now, I will add this, since we are talking about the Fitness Journey and it’s a recommendation I would make that you probably are not going to see anywhere else, because it’s politically incorrect among fitness people. When I lost a full size, I dutifully got rid of clothes, except some pants that I kept because I knew that I would need a larger size to wear leggings under for football games.

I am extremely glad that I kept a few things. Now, I am not talking trendy garments, but solid staples that do not go in or out of style.

My point is this: NONE of us know when we are going to get an illness which requires medication that will put weight on! It could happen any year to any of us. Take the clothes, the good ones, and put them in a box in the basement and don’t think about them. Hopefully you never will!

I have gained 10 lbs. since my diagnosis. That is NOT horrible. I have heard ladies talk in the neighborhood of 30 lbs. gain. I am NOT there and I am going to work my a$$ off not to BE there!

And I may need to accept some things.