Flag Days — Caring for my Great-Grandfather Barnard’s Flag

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A few years ago I re­ceived the flag that was placed on my Great-Grandfather Barnard’s cas­ket when he died. He fought in World War I and was a POW, twice. The flag hadn’t been prop­er­ly cared for, stuffed in­to an old card­board box that was too small to hold it, along with a sheet of pa­per de­scrib­ing how to prop­er­ly care for the flag, and who is en­ti­tled to one at their fu­ner­al.

The doc­u­ment is cer­tain­ly pre-World War II, as it made men­tion of World War I, but noth­ing else. Discolored with age, and some­what brit­tle due to acid con­tent, the pa­per, in con­junc­tion with the an­cient card­board box, had stained the flag.

For sev­er­al years I tried to fig­ure out the best way to re­move the stains with­out harm­ing the flag it­self, which is at least 50 and per­haps as many as 90 years old. I want­ed to safe­ly re­move the stains, have it prop­er­ly fold­ed and put it in­to a flag case. I tried con­tact­ing the Cleveland Museum of Art to talk to a spe­cial­ist in tex­tile preser­va­tion, scout­ed around on­line & even Asked MetaFilter. I read fo­rums on flag eti­quet­te and ran across some some­what “ex­treme” views on what con­sti­tutes des­e­cra­tion of the flag (e.g. wash­ing it pe­ri­od). I didn’t find any­thing con­clu­sive or even some­what help­ful in deal­ing with a flag of ad­vanced age.

So I washed it. And the stains came out! And I when I spread it on my bed to dry, it cov­ered the whole bed, and then some. And I called my mom to tell her about it, and she asked how many stars were on it. And there are on­ly 48 stars on it! 6 rows of 8.

I end­ed up hav­ing to fold it my­self, and I did a pret­ty good job at it. The flag case I got for it was too large though & then the glass in it broke. I still don’t have some­thing to prop­er­ly put it in for dis­play or stor­age. But I feel a lot bet­ter know­ing that it has been suc­cess­ful­ly cleaned and is prop­er­ly fold­ed.

How Becoming a Parent Changed Me

Friday, 1 October 2010

Becoming a par­ent does change things. I’ve heard that near­ly my en­tire life, but no one has been able to suc­cess­ful­ly ex­plain what the hell the state­ment means. It just rings a bit hol­low as an un­ex­plained tru­ism. However! I think I’ve fig­ured out a cou­ple of ways to ex­plain things; or, at least, ex­plain how be­com­ing a par­ent changed me.


Watching Bram dis­cov­er the world al­lows me to dis­cov­er it again. I used to boast that I’d nev­er lose a child­like sense of won­der, but watch­ing the lit­tle bear wig out over a train or an or­ange car shows me just how much I’d lost of that amaze­ment. One of the com­plete­ly un­ex­pect­ed and un­de­served ben­e­fits of be­ing a par­ent is the abil­i­ty to re­live those first mo­ments of won­der vic­ar­i­ous­ly. This vic­ar­i­ous feel­ing is sweet­ened and en­hanced by a nos­tal­gia born of re­mem­ber­ing things you’d for­got­ten you’d known. Being with Bram when he saw a freighter leave the mouth of the Cuyahoga from the Coast Guard Station at Whiskey Island pro­vid­ed me with lay­ers and lay­ers of emo­tion stretch­ing from my own child­hood: nos­tal­gia at that lev­el of en­thu­si­asm, the joy of re­mem­ber­ing some mo­ments of my own tod­dler ex­pe­ri­ences; and in­to the present: vic­ar­i­ous­ly ex­pe­ri­enc­ing that emo­tion again, grat­i­tude at be­ing present for your own child’s mo­ment of satori, and pride that you in some way fa­cil­i­tat­ed the process.

Extrapolating from here, I imag­ine that grand­par­ents feel much of the same; a third chance to ex­pe­ri­ence child­hood with the added bonus of a sec­ond chance to ex­pe­ri­ence par­ent­ing.

Reference Manual

I’ve gained a whole new per­spec­tive of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the par­ent­ing ex­am­ples of my par­ents. When I find my­self in a sit­u­a­tion where I’m un­sure of how to pro­ceed, I can think back to what worked and didn’t work on me, and adapt those lessons to what­ev­er I’m try­ing to fig­ure out with lit­tle bear. If I find my­self sec­ond-guess­ing or un­sure of my de­ci­sions, I know I’m just a phone call away from a to­tal pro.

So, par­ent­ing has changed my life by the ad­di­tion of con­text; vic­ar­i­ous nos­tal­gia by al­low­ing me to com­pare my child­hood to my son’s & a whole new ref­er­ence man­u­al of be­hav­iors com­ing from what I ob­served about par­ent­ing be­fore I be­came one my­self. I un­der­stand that some folks don’t get why oth­ers would want to be par­ents, and that’s cool. For me, it’s al­ready pro­vid­ed a wealth of new and old ex­pe­ri­ences that I nev­er would have ex­pect­ed, and that I ex­pect will nev­er end.

New [to me] Wheels

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

I have a great fam­i­ly. My mom came up for Easter and spent a lot of time with Bram. Today we made an im­promp­tu trip to Fort Wayne so I could buy a car from my un­cle. Just like the last time I bought a car from him, he gave me a great deal. They re­al­ly look out for me, and I’m lucky to have them.

Here are the new wheels, it’s a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Civil Service

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

My fa­vorite dis­cus­sion this year in my Public Administration class cen­tered around whether civil ser­vice was a call­ing [or not]. This led me to think about why I get so much sat­is­fac­tion out of my gov­ern­ment web de­sign gig. The an­swer I usu­al­ly shell out is be­cause every day I get a chance to im­prove the way gov­ern­ment in­ter­acts with its cit­i­zens. Despite this be­ing true and the most im­me­di­ate re­ward of my job, I fig­ured there has to be more. It’s my fam­i­ly, and Catholic school.

My grand­pa fought in World War II and then was was a mail car­ri­er with a ru­ral route for the Post Office for years. My moth­er taught spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion her whole life. The Holy Cross broth­ers at Notre Dame al­so em­pha­sized ser­vice. After awhile it gets in­grained. I en­joy work­ing for the gov­ern­ment be­cause it is ser­vice-dri­ven, not prof­it-mo­ti­vat­ed. Whenever I get a call for­ward­ed to me from the help desk, I al­ways make sure I don’t send them around on an­oth­er bout of trans­fer-tag. If I can’t an­swer their ques­tion or help them out, I make sure that if I do have to trans­fer them, they get sent to the ex­act­ly cor­rect per­son, not just the cor­rect of­fice. The re­ward is their grat­i­tude.

So, I guess it is easy to see where I fall on the ar­gu­ment. I feel called to civil ser­vice, so I think it is a call­ing.

It might seem like an ex­cep­tion, but the Selective Service (a fas­ci­nat­ing Wikipedia ar­ti­cle), and the fact that I had to reg­is­ter for the [non-ex­is­tent] draft in or­der to re­ceive fed­er­al stu­dent loans is a big rea­son why I nev­er signed up for the Armed Forces. I’m non-com­bat­ive by na­ture, but I’m al­so stub­born as hell when some­one tries to force me to do some­thing. It is fit­ting then, that I would re­sent sign­ing up for the draft; it is an en­forced civil ser­vice (among oth­er things), and there­fore in­con­sis­tent with my opin­ion that civil ser­vice is a call­ing.


Tuesday, 11 February 2003

Millions of young men have now been vin­di­cat­ed by the ac­tions of one of the great­est anath­e­mas of our time. Steve (a.k.a. Benjamin Curtis; a.k.a. The Dell Guy) was ar­rest­ed on 2÷9÷2003 for crim­i­nal pos­ses­sion of mar­i­jua­na. Now all of the moth­ers, friends of moth­ers, aunts, great-aunts, grand­moth­ers, old­er fe­male cowork­ers, lunch ladies, and nuns all must ad­mit that we, the Young Men of America, are noth­ing like the Dell Guy. We do not pref­ace or wrap-up every sen­tence with the word ‘dude.’ and most im­por­tant­ly none of us smoke pot. not a sin­gle one. and you know it too. right now half of all the afore­men­tioned wom­en who know of this lit­tle newsy tid­bit are think­ing to them­selves: ‘Oh My! Steve smokes Wacky Tabaccy? And I com­pared him to my own son/friend’s son/​nephew/​great-​nephew/​etc… What a hor­ri­ble mis­take I have made!’ the oth­er half of the wom­en, so con­vinced that the young man who hap­pens to know which end of a mouse to click is just like Steve are think­ing: ‘Does my son/friend’s son/​nephew/​great-​nephew/​etc… have a prob­lem smok­ing the gan­ja?’ I’m sure my mom fits in­to this lat­ter cat­e­go­ry.

per­haps Benjamin and Ellen Feiss the chick from the apple/​switch ad should get to­geth­er…

Dirty Toenails

Monday, 5 August 2002

my moth­er seems to think i am just like her broth­er, my un­cle Collier. she de­cid­ed this quite sud­den­ly when i de­cid­ed to go in­to town. wear­ing san­dals. with ‘dirty’ toes. ap­par­ent­ly by un­cle did the same when he was my age. i hap­pen to feel hon­ored by this com­par­ison. my un­cle Collier was a gui­tar-play­ing hip­pie, who then went on in­to the Air Force and is now a gui­tar-play­ing Mennonite with a great fam­i­ly. if i am like my un­cle Collier, dirty toe­nails are a badge of hon­or. it means i’m get­ting grimy with the dirt of a life well-lived and grub­by feet sym­bol­ize my in­volve­ment in day to day ex­pe­ri­ence. peo­ple with clean toe­nails are the ones who stay on the con­crete path and watch peo­ple like my un­cle and my­self out there liv­ing. How are your toe­nails look­ing?