Missing Lauren

I’m taking advantage of my small but steadily growing web presence to spread the word about a missing teen. Lauren Priskorn has been missing since January 31. She and my son Ben were friends in middle school. My heart goes out to Lauren’s parents and twin brother. For more information, see here: http://tinyurl.com/49b376g

UPDATE: Lauren has been found and is home with her family. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. (Updated 5 p.m. PST.)

Valentine’s Day Musings

Today we are surrounded by hearts, flowers and chocolates. Yes, people, it’s that time of year again. Today is Valentine’s Day.

Personally, I’m not a big fan. It would be easy — and a cliché — to say I’m still brokenhearted over Barry’s death, but that’s simply not true. Yes, I miss him. I always will. But life goes on, and if the pain never quite goes away, it at least gets put aside, to be periodically taken out and brooded over. And that will remain true even if I’m fortunate enough to meet someone else down this road we call life. So while I’ll be thinking of Barry on and off today, that’s not why I’m not a big Valentine’s Day person.

Valentine’s Day is like Halloween and Christmas. It’s become so commercialized we’ve forgotten its origins. The holiday was originally St. Valentine’s Day, and it marked the martyrdom of not one but two (and possibly three) saints by that name on February 14. In fact, according to Wikipedia (which I would never quote when editing or writing “serious” work, but hey, this a blog!), the first valentine card may well have been sent by — wait for it — Valentine himself, to an unknown lady as he was waiting to be executed. If you want to know more, search “first valentine card” or “valentine day history”; you’ll end up with plenty to read.

Back to my personal thoughts on Valentine’s Day. As soon as the Christmas decorations in stores came down, the Valentine’s decorations went up. (Tomorrow, the decorations for St. Patrick’s Day and Easter will begin appearing. You’ll see.) The boxes of candy, the cards. The boxes of cards. And the flowers. Roses are everywhere, and at outrageous prices, because somewhere along the way, it became traditional to give flowers, especially roses and particularly red roses, on Valentine’s Day. Here’s the thing, though. All those perfect roses at $50 a dozen have almost no smell. They look alike. They are boring in their perfection. The roses in my garden smell better, and I think they’re prettier, too. And chocolate is chocolate; no matter what day of the year it is, a day without chocolate is a day without sunshine as far as I’m concerned.

I never wanted flowers on Valentine’s Day. Barry understood that, although he would still sometimes bring me chocolate. (Of course, he would also then help me consume it, so we’re possibly dealing with an ulterior motive here.) I never wanted them on our anniversary. I don’t want flowers on my birthday or on Mother’s Day. It’s on some of the other 362 (363 in leap years) days that I want flowers and chocolate. (My math is fine. I’m not counting my anniversary.) I want flowers and chocolate from someone who wants to give them to me just because — not because custom says he’s supposed to on a particular day. And if that special someone doesn’t think to get them for me, that’s okay. I’ll treat myself.

I’m going to take my coffee outside now into my garden and sniff my roses, which are starting to bloom because of the warm spell we had last month. And then tomorrow, the day after Valentine’s Day, I’m going to treat myself to chocolate — at half price.

The Writer’s Crusade

I’ve joined a crusade…the Writer’s Crusade. As I understand it, fellow blogger Rachel Harrie will be faciliating for a group of bloggers. We will follow one another, support one another, and help one another become better writers. If you’re interested, you have until midnight EST tonight. Here’s the link:

http://rachaelharrie.blogspot.com/2011/02/second-writers-platform-building.html

Somehow, I doubt this will be as bloody as the crusades during the Middle Ages — and I bet it will be a lot more fun!

Four Chaplains Day

Today is Four Chaplains Day. Coming the day after Groundhog Day, when people are still talking about Punxsutawney Phil and his shadow, especially given the winter so far, we’re not hearing too much about what today is about. But I did a little digging and I thought I’d briefly share the chaplains’ story. (By the way, despite the date on the blog, I wrote this on February 3, so I stand by my opening “Today is….”)

The four chaplains — Reverend George L. Fox (Methodist), Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Reverend Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed) and Father John P. Washington (Roman Catholic) — were all serving on the U.S.A.T. Dorchester during World War Two. The Dorchester, a liner, had been pressed into service as a trasnport ship. On February 3, 1943, a German sub torpedoed the Dorchester. Many of the men were below decks and panicked. The four chaplains moved among the men, calming fears and handing out lifejackets. When no more lifejackets remained, each chaplain took his off and gave it to a soldier. Survivors of the sinking told how the four chaplains stood at the rails, arms linked, saying prayers and singing hymns as the Dorchester sunk.

Posthumously, the four men received numerous honors and recognition. The U.S. Postal Service issued a comemorative stamp in 1948. A special award, the Chaplain’s Medal of Heroism, authorized by an act of Congress, was awarded to the men’s next of kin in 1961. (This was in addition to the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross, also awarded posthumously.) A beautiful stained glass window memorializing the men can be found in the War Memorial Chapel of the National Cathedral. In 1988, Congress resolved unanimously that February 3 be observed as Four Chaplains Day in honor of the clergymen’s heroism.

In these times we live in, with radical extremists of many faiths (I hesitate to say “every faith,” although it sometimes seems that way) committing acts of violence in the name of God, we should all take a moment to remember these four chaplains, whose courage in the face of death remains an example to us all. I doubt that any of them paused to ask a soldier’s faith before giving aid. They simply helped and guided and sacrificed, so that men — Not Jews or Catholics or Protestants — would live.

In Judaism, when someone dies, we say of the person “may his (or her) memory be a blessing.” We don’t need to say it of George Fox, Alexander Goode, Clark Poling, or John Washington. We know that they are.