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?