Tag Archives: freedom

Ask What They Can Do. Not What They Can Not

This is Luke after walking 3 miles on a trail on the beach with his care provider.  Yes. Luke you can do it!!! You walked the whole way!

This is Luke after walking 3 miles on a trail on the beach with his care provider. Yes. Luke you can do it!!! You walked the whole way!

“Luke, are you there?”
Sitting down next to my son, I gathered the rocks he was moving from one pile to another. Luke has always loved putting things in order. If it was not the rocks in one place all together, he was busily in the home putting all the chairs around the dining room table in perfect order. Pushing as hard as he could at times, he was bound and determined those chairs had to be just right.
“Luke, are you there?”
Moving to the computer room, Luke noticed the closet doors were not shut completely. From the corner of my eye, I watched Luke push the door shut until it was closed to his satisfaction. He pushed his body on the door and felt it to make sure it was exactly how his mind thought it needed to be. He was happy then.
“Luke, are you there?”
Luke looked up this time and he started coming rather rapidly toward my direction. He pressed his face and especially his nose into my hair. He took a deep sniff and inhales my aromas. These sniffs were not one or two times, but rather several until I said, “Luke, I know you are there and you can stop smelling my hair now.” He did.
“Thank you Luke.”
Luke does not seem to remember, but I remind him every time when he pushes too hard on my face or head that he is hurting mama. It takes a lot of reminders. I mean A LOT!!
In bringing these examples of some of Luke’s unusual autistic behaviors, I fail to describe too much of the damage that some of these strange motor movements can do to inanimate objects until he starting hurting me. It is because I want to make it clear that I want to see Luke showing me something HE CAN DO. It may not look pretty. In fact, a chair or table may get scratched up, and a closet door may get broken over and over as Luke believes he can fix it. That does not matter to me. As his mom, I am interested in seeing Luke just do. It is not being afraid to let go and bring a CAN DO spirit in my son. Autism does a lot to our children afflicted with this devastating neurological calamity, but we CAN DO a lot to show how proud we are of them even in the midst of quite possibly not understanding for ourselves what the behavior really means for the autistic mind.
“Thank you Luke for fixing my door and putting the chairs so nicely under the table. Mama is so proud of you. I love what you can do Luke. You are my best guy ever! You gorgeous boy.”

“Mama, Luke is your best guy ever and gorgeous.”

Yes. You are Luke and you can do….luke and cap

Berlin Wall

A portion of the Berlin Wall. Photo taken by Alesia in 1989

A portion of the Berlin Wall. Photo taken by Alesia in 1989

In 1989, I was living in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down. This week in 1961 over a period of several days, the wall was first erected to keep freedom away from communist-controlled East Berlin. May we never forget this history. Nothing more dramatizes the fall of mankind than this wall. Nothing more causes one to pause than the taking down of that wall. Liberation can prevail. May other parts of the world that are in conflict learn from this wall.

Corn Patch Hiding Place

This is an actual photo of my dad's  B-17 that was shot down over Germany during WWII!

This is an actual photo of my dad’s
B-17 that was shot down over Germany during WWII!

Roy McGinnis, a WWII POW, remembers vividly hiding in a corn patch after sliding through mud from a crash landing in his B-17 over Schweinfurt, Germany. The day remains etched in his brain which was October 14, 1943. More than 53 B-17 planes were shot down to the ground from the clear skies over Germany on THAT day. War historians would come to call this day BLACK THURSDAY.
Roy and his crew of 10 service men were on a raid during WWII to destroy ball bearing factories. Instead they ended the day’s mission captured as war prisoners at Stalag 17 near Krems an der Donau, Austria, 43 miles from Vienna. In fact, Roy recalls thinking all of the military planes must have been shot down because of the amount of soldiers he saw captured.
Roy remembers vividly the RED CROSS packages he got that kept him somewhat sane for a short while. It was something to look forward to. It contained coffee, salmon, sardines,cheese, crackers, chocolate and cigarettes. This was a big deal to a soldier. But as the war lingered on, the red cross packages diminished and mostly were stolen by the guards. The packages also had a lot less in them. Roy remembers the bread contained 20% sawdust and 10% straw!
As the war came closer to the end, Roy and his fellow soldiers who had survived were made to march 280 miles. This march led to his freedom. General Eisenhower had at the time set up processing camps in France. This liberation took place on May 5th, 1945 after a painful walk to freedom. In fact many had no clothes and had to use bark from trees to cover themselves.
This story is told in remembrance of many men who did not come back as Roy did. He considers himself one of the lucky ones. If not for his story, we would not really understand what our soldiers went through. Roy volunteered for his service. This was an honor to him to be doing what he believed was the right thing to do and that was to fight for the cause of freedom.
Today Roy at the age of 91 and his wife and my mother, Hilde, live in Montgomery, Alabama. They attend church regularly and live full lives. Roy is asked to speak on regular occasions to the active and retired military throughout the country.
I am lucky to be able to share tidbits with my readers at times so you understand a bit of American History through the eyes of one that lived it.
Thank you for dropping by my blog. It is a versatile blog and I try to share on many topics that typically are about my family. This is one of those stories.

Breakthrough

Valentine's Day Brings A Nice Surprise for me. I took this photo of two lovebirds in Victoria, Canada.

Valentine’s Day Brings A Nice Surprise for me. I took this photo of two lovebirds in Victoria, Canada.

Recently I began thinking of how much information should I share on my blogging? This blog began as a way of pouring out my story for family. As I learned how to share on WordPress, I than realized my life was resonating with others. Yesterday I shared about my disability from my brain tumor. In December I also wrote this blog post: (http://alesiablogs.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/are-you-homeless/). It is a poignant description of a visit to the Veteran’s Administration in Seattle, WA. To sum things up, my sister had helped me apply for disability through the military almost two years. I had all about given up on all this until today.
It is interesting how life takes twists and turns. We never know what may come our way. If you asked me 25 years ago that my life would have turned out the way it has, I would have said you are nuts. I was very self-sufficient and taught to be extremely independent. Yet, now I need help.
Today’s mail came dated on Valentine’s Day from the Department of Veteran’s Affair. I thought to myself could this be my “love” letter from them that began two years ago? Indeed it was. After serving in the military as active duty in Desert Storm overseas and then staying “available” for 15 years for call back, the military finally wrote me a “love” letter.
Here are the HIGHLIGHTS:
Dear Mrs. Alesiablogs (changed for you who know me by this name),
We made a decision (in my favor) on your claim for service connected compensation….This letter tells you about your entitlement amount and payment start date…Your Award Amount and Payment Start Date is shown below…………….
As you can see it was a good letter for me to receive. I do not feel happier from this though to be honest with you. Please do not take this in the wrong way. I am happy for the decision, but my life is so different due to my illness that it is a catch 22. I am learning a new way though. In fact as I received this letter I was on my way to a volunteer effort. Giving back and providing my time for a needed purpose is becoming part of my legacy. What is yours going to be? Did you know there are over 50,000 nonprofit organizations across the country? By volunteering, I am learning a new kind of happy.

Incidental Finding

This document Identifys my three times great grandfather Whit Jenkins in court to obtain a guardian.  Right above his court appearance was a little girl only Identified as a BILL OF SALE.

This document Identifys my three times great grandfather Whit Jenkins in court to obtain a guardian. Right above his court appearance was a little girl only Identified as a BILL OF SALE.

Few human practices bring more rage in my mind then what slavery did to humanity before the civil war ended it. When I was beginning my genealogy work to understand my family, I found my 12-year-old orphaned three times great-grandfather Whit Jenkins obtaining a guardian in 1808. I was so excited about this information. Yet I found an incidental finding right above his name that has haunted me over the last several months. If you look at the document you will see an eight years old girl who had just been sold. She was in court and identified by a bill of sale.
These two children just because of their color and the times that they lived in would lead different lives. Later Whit lived in Kentucky which was a divided state in regards to slavery. Some families in Kentucky would have a union and confederate soldier in the same household. It was horrible times. I just wonder if Whit and this little girl’s eyes met in that court house. Their innocent eyes only glancing for a moment yet both forever changed by the court’s decisions that day. Whatever may have happened when Whit was twelve years old, I am convinced he influenced his own family immensely. My three times great-grandfather made sure three of his sons were union soldiers. Indeed I find this in my documents of my family line. May we never forget what Martin Luther King, Jr Day is all about and be reminded there was a BILL OF SALE in Tennessee of a little girl who was just as important as my three times great grandpa.

The Letter

Roy in 1967 in another war- Vietnam.  He served our country for decades upon decades. He was a true American Hero.

Roy in 1967 in another war- Vietnam. He served our country for decades upon decades. He was a true American Hero.

Dear Mom and Dad,
How are you? We have been assigned for five combat flights with our B 17 Bomber plane and have completed three of them. I am very scared. I am writing this to tell you I love you, but I do not think I will come out alive. We are losing a lot of men after their planes are being shot down over Germany. I don’t think we will make it. When you are in the sky dropping bombs, the germans are right above us to see what we are up to and then below on the ground they are shooting anti-aircraft flak at us. We can’t see a damn thing from the black clouds the flak make. No one has our back. It is not a good thing. I hope one day to see you again, but if I do not I want you to know how much I love you.
Your son,
Roy

On Roy’s 4th combat flight as a gunner of a B-17 Bomber, he was shot down. Something in Roy told him that his days were numbered. Roy’s parents received the news he was missing in action by the Red Cross as was customary in those days. No one knew for sure what had happened except the 10 member crew on that fateful day in 1943. The Bomber was shot in several places, but with the handiwork of Coles, the pilot, the plane was able to be crashed landed in a field. The crew all survived and ran for their lives. All were captured alive.
Roy then spent the next 19 months in the notorious Stalag 17 camp. The Americans occupied five compounds. There were at least 4000 American GI men in the overcrowded barracks. Hollywood has made films about this camp and what our American soldiers had to endure. Roy recalls many times when they were forced to stand outside in extreme cold weather for long periods. He lost a huge amount of his body weight during this time, but did survive to come home and tell his story.
On April 8, 1945, Roy was among 4000 POW forced to march to where freedom was at hand. He with his fellow soldiers were finally liberated on May 9, 1945. General Patton’s Army had arrived on May 2nd to where they were closely located, but it took an additional week before Roy was finally free. Roy said he never prayed much before in his young life, but after being captured he prayed ALOT. Roy still prays alot. He can not believe he is still alive! Tomorrow is his 90th birthday. Why don’t you leave a comment on my blog and I will send it to him tomorrow with all your well wishes for his birthday. Roy has been married to my mother for 20 years when they both lost their respective spouses. If you ask Roy today what he thinks of Germans. He looks at my mother and smiles and says, “I love them. I married one.” My mother was born in 1939 in Berlin right in the middle of war. Roy knows his life was spared and he thanks God everyday as I do. When I call him and ask how he is doing, I always get the same answer which is, “I am better now that you have called.” It makes me smile every time.

Central Park: ON TOUR


Nature is calling me home. Photography has always been one of my favorite hobbys. I especially love the works I see online and in WordPress Blogs I follow. These photos I took were with my Panasonic DMC-ZR1 this spring as I relaxed alongside others enjoying a stroll in Central Park. I found peace here. It brought calm for me and it still does as I ponder life in general.These are ordinary photos taken in an extraordinary setting. Enjoy my unique tour today of the World’s Most Beautiful Park.

May God Grant Serenity to You Today.

Death on the OHIO RIVER

If you are like me, when I think of steamboats I imagine slowly going down  the Ohio or Mississippi River listening to Mark Twain read to me from his classic book Tom Sawyer.  After all, Tom Sawyer was an adventurer and being on a steamboat fills my mind of  adventure.  As I am stepping out on the wide deck outside,  I smell  and hear the sounds of the water around me.  Seeing the riverbank while looking at  all the beautiful  trees growing along the shore mesmerizes me as well as the thick riverfront vegetation.

Jump forward to our current times, I learn of the many deadly accidents that occurred due to these beautiful steamers.  It was so bad that at times 1000’s of folks died from the dangers of steamboats. In due time, the government began to regulate the steamboat business.  This helped , but there were still many accidents and deaths.  In fact, I imagine that steamboat I am on and Mark Twain is reading to me and suddenly a fire starts onboard near the engines.  In front of my eyes, Mark Twain takes off his reading glasses and author’s hat to put on a different sort of hat.  It was a riverboat captain’s hat.  Mr. Twain was the captain that needed to put that fire out and save us.

Now to the facts.  Yes, Mark Twain actually was a steamboat captain. No, he never read to me his story Tom Sawyer.  But one thing you might not know is that Mark Twain watched his brother Henry die from a riverboat accident. Today’s installment relives through the newsclippings of The Gleaner in Henderson, Kentucky the death of one of my ancestors in 1917 due to a steamer called the Enterprise made in Louisville, Kentucky.

This story’s details did not come easy to myself.  I had been working with Nancy Towns a family researcher on common lines of interest.  The line of interest that had captivated both of us was my ancestor Laura Jenkins’s husband who was Robert W. Nichols. He was a victim of a steamboat drowning accident.  The body was never recovered.

After months of wondering about if we would ever get to the truth, it became apparent that this was a road block that we may not be able to overcome.  Out of faith, I shared with Nancy that I thought we would one day get to the truth of this story. That one day arrived in the form of an email from my brother Donnie Jenkins. He had information about other researchers in the family.  One of those contacts was a cousin named Judy Jenkins.  Judy and I began discussing our common family lines and I found out she was just as interested in this story as Nancy and myself.  Nancy in particular was doing the study for  her brother-in-law Jim Nichols who as of late has been ill.  Jim is  a great, great grandson of Robert Nichols.  Judy offered to get closure for Jim on his long lost ancestor.  Today we can say we know what happened to Jim’s ancestor Robert Nichols, Laura Jenkins’s husband and we thank Judy Jenkins for helping in this matter.  These news clippings are sobering, yet the legend can now be validated with the truth in these articles.  May Robert Nichols and all the others who died in the vast rivers of America rest in peace:

Death on the OHIO RIVER

Descriptive News Clipping of Drownings

Bodies never found!

As you read through these news writeups of the incident, you understand how important the newspaper was in those days.  It was the only form of communication the townspeople had unless it was by word of mouth.  Below I want to share a photo of Robert Nichol’s descendant and his family. This is Jim Nichols taken over 40 years ago.  He now knows what happened to his great, great grandfather in 1917.  The sorrow he knows that his great, great grandmother  Laura Jenkins Nichols had to suffer is indescribable.

Jim Nichols with his grandparents and three of his daughters.

This next photo is my friend Nancy who inspires me with her own genealogy work:

Nancy Towns with her family.

What better way to finish off this story as we learn the truth of our ancestors by a quote from Mark Twain: ” Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”