Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Centennial Remembrance


My mother, Katherine Pié Fleming, was born this day in 1915.  She was the fourth of eight children born to Charles and Nora Pié and grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania during the depression.  She wanted to become a librarian but college was out of the question and she ended up going to nursing school at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, DC where she worked as a psychiatric nurse in the late 30's and during the war years.  She met my father, Frank Fleming, in Washington when he was stationed there before going overseas.  They married after his return and began a family.  In 1949 my father accepted a pharmacist job with Peoples Drug Stores in Danville, Virginia where they lived the rest of their lives.

Mother was not your typical neighborhood housewife in Danville.  Compared to my friend's mothers, she was not especially good at keeping house and her cooking was adequate but not especially inspired.  I'm sure that having picky eaters for husband and son (me) didn't lend itself to creative cooking.  Her creativity was channeled into her writing.  She wrote two novels and lots of poetry.  She had a good sense of humor and, like my father, was an avid reader.  My most enduring memory of both parents is them sitting on the two sofas in our living room with drinks beside them and books in hand.  She was also an excellent seamstress.

Her life fell apart when my father died in in 1962.  She was highly dependent on him and never fully recovered from the loss.  She suffered numerous breakdowns and hospitalizations in a town with absolutely no psychiatric services whatsoever.  Not that she did not try--in 1964 she went back to work as a nurse but one mistake cost her the job and she spiraled downward for the next 15 years before dying of complications from emphysema in 1979.  Her last years were spent in an adult home in Richmond.  I lived nearby and did errands and laundry for her.  Even took her to two operas.   

With that history in mind, it's no surprise that my memories are mixed.  I can't say that I ever really knew my mother.  We were not a close family--my brother describes us as four individuals sharing the same house--and after my father's death I was too self-absorbed as a teenager and pre-occupied with my own pursuits.  What I remember most is the encouragement she gave to my reading.  One of her most enduring "gifts" to me was introducing me to the works of Gore Vidal.  

After her death, I found a "journal" of sorts that she kept from about 1938 to 1948.  The entries are typed letters to a friend, maybe one a month, describing her life in Washington.  I don't know if she ever actually mailed those letters but I am glad to have found them.  They tell me more about her than I ever learned from living with her.  In the journal she is independent, active and engaged, making do on a limited salary, coping with rationing, and impatient for my father to return from overseas.  She wants nothing more than to be married and having babies.  Once married with two children, she found it overwhelming.  I think that's one reason the journal ended in 1948.

Aside from losing her husband after only 17 years, I think her greatest disappointment in life was not being  published.  She never forgave Bennett Cerf for rejecting her novels.  If she had dreams beyond becoming a published author, I don't know about them.  What I do know is that she gave me my start in life, literally and figuratively.  For that I am eternally grateful.


(The photo is from 1942.  She sent it to my father in Africa during the war.  The backside is stamped Passed by the Base 204 Examiner.  She also included a cleverly serf-deprecating poem about her looks in a b verse.)


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Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Most Eloquent Statement

Governor Jerry Brown of California commenting on Senator Ted Cruz:
"That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of the existing scientific data.  It's shocking, and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office."

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Best Ever Advice for a Writer

“I can’t write with those people on my shoulder, I just have to do my work.”

     --Cheryl Strayed

 

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Unintended Consequences

The Republican's attempt to prevent the District of Columbia from legalizing marijuana turned the District into the "best place in America for marijuana aficionados."  According to the Washington Post,

The GOP efforts to block marijuana sales have created great conditions for dope-smokers: no taxes, a black market flooded with product and the ability to grow your own ganja legally.
 In the process, the mayor also got in some licks against DC's semi-territorial status.
[Mayor] Bowser secured national attention for the District’s lack of full self-governing rights. National media that yawn over the city’s quest for budget autonomy were gripped by the spectacle of GOP representatives warning the mayor in writing that she could face prison for allowing a voter-approved law to take effect.
Not what they had in mind, I'm sure.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Elizabeth Says

Senator Elizabeth Warren has an op-ed piece in the Washington Post today that lays out a strong case against the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement now being negotiated, largely in secret, by the US and Asian trading partners. 

Warren sums up the whole thing nicely:

Replacing the U.S. legal system with a complex and unnecessary alternative — on the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong — seems like a really bad idea.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Half Past Winter Velo News

Along with the usual wet, foggy weather Olympia gets this time of year, we've had some very nice sunny days for cycling.  Today was one.  It started with a morning fog and clouds but all that was gone by the time I got out at one.  The air was a bit chilly to start but I warmed up pretty quickly.  I rode south on the Chehalis Western Trail, across SE Olympia and North Tumwater. out to The Evergreen State College and back through NW Olympia and downtown.  was never at all cold. The wind was blowing hard from the northeast so a few of my climbs were more challenging than normal.  Total miles today: 25.8.

Friday was even warmer.  I got out for a short 10 mile ride in the afternoon.  I rode in shorts and without my fleece earband.  I don't believe I've ever dressed so lightly for a February ride.  Last week was mostly rainy but Sunday offered some clear weather early on so I was out by 9:00.  Mist was rising from many places as the early morning began burning off the the previous days' moisture.

So far I've ridden every week in 2015 and have a total of 184 miles on the year.  That puts me two weeks ahead of schedule toward my annual goal of 1040 miles.  2015 will be the year that I break 10,000 miles on my bike computer although probably broke 10,000 on the bike a year or two ago.  My previous computer died at 1,500 or 2,500 miles so I can't say for sure.

Last year's cycling totaled 1,046 miles.  I eked out my annual goal with about 6 miles to spare despite missing 8 weeks after my hip surgery.  I ride with no joint pain in my hip these days.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

We Never Do Learn

Today's BBC front page juxtaposes the commemoration of the American-British firebombing raid on Dresden in 1945 and news of continued fighting in Ukraine even after world leaders announced a truce.  A visitor to Dresden says it all:
"I can't believe that we learn nothing from all this. Ukraine, the Balkans. The world learns nothing."

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