About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Magic of Getting Away


From City-Data.com
Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only
Vacation!

In the glossary of the workday dictionary, there's no other word which conveys such a soul-satisfying combination of joy, peace, and freedom.  For 7 or 14 glorious days and nights, we revel in that magical realm of "Don't have to be anywheresville."  The burdens of the job are gleefully unshouldered and cast aside as we dance away the chains of servitude.

(Actually, if you're one of those people who use up vacation just so you can clean gutters and screens and paint walls, you can stop here.)

Vacations actually happen in stages.

In the planning stage, a destination is chosen and dates decided.  Reservations are made while the mind begins to manufacture a virtual reality play called "What It Will Be Like."

In the next stage, we unload our burdens, engaging in the somewhat delicate ballet of shifting jobs to co-workers.  Whether they want them or not, the jobs are taken on, mainly because they (and you) know full well that the reverse will happen when their time comes up.  At home, you arrange for the mail and the newspaper to be held, the dog to be boarded, and the request to the neighbors to "keep an eye on things" during the absence.

The third phase usually kicks in about Wednesday before leaving.  You know Friday is coming, but part of you feels a sort of dream-like unreality that this trip is actually going to happen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Things We Can't Fix


"Broken Hearted Toy" from www.wallpaperdisk.com

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only

A small child stands in front of me, wearing a sad face and the hint of a tear or two.  Holding up two small pudgy hands holding a favorite but broken toy and looking up into my eyes, a small, quivery voice says...

"Daddy, fix?"

For a father, this is a familiar scene.  Whatever other job we might be engaged in takes a back seat.  A small world has been crushed and we have been asked to repair it.

Sometimes its just a matter of snapping a plastic piece or two back in place.  Occasionally the job requires a more complicated approach, involving superglue, duct tape, or a couple of small screws and a battery.  The toy gets fixed, the small face lights up; a small world has been restored.  If you're lucky, the child will favor you with that singular look of love and discovery that has written all over it, "Gee, my Dad can fix anything!"

With a smile and a sense of love and fulfillment, we return to the task at hand.

Its an unfortunate truth that these requests diminish with the passage of time.  Over the years as their self-reliance grows their reliance on parents shrinks.  This is the way it should be, if we have done our jobs as parents.  While we're happy to see them grow up, we still mourn the loss of that special sense of purpose  called "Parenthood."

A Gift of Peace From the Sea


Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Image and written content

Life is a whirlwind; a maelstrom where we are thrown hither and yon by the storm of events that constitute the days of our lives.  Caught irretrievably in the eye of those storms, we yearn for a measure of peaceful silence.  But most of the time, that longing remains frustratingly unrequited.  We do take those periods we call "vacations," but instead we squeeze a whole summer's worth of activities into two weeks meant for rest, relaxation, and recharging, and return to work exhausted.

For both of us, it has been a stressful time.  Losing one job, gaining another, selling one house, buying another, leaving one life behind, and trying to assimilate life in a new location.  We both work in high-pressure vocations where a mistake carries a cost in human life.  In addition, winter for me is...well...tough sledding while I suffer daily from PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome). Thus deprived of my best method of stress relief, I'm left to muddle through till spring.

We did, however, make time for a trip to California.  But not for vacation.  Our oldest daughter and her husband are in the last chapter of what has been a troubled marriage.  Divorce in inevitable.  They have three  small boys, two of them autistic and the third recovering from an open heart surgery when he was one year old.  Hovering over them all is a shroud of mourning for a daughter who left this life at the tender age of six months.  We knew that the tension in the air would be thick as the two of them struggled to maintain a veneer of civility.

The stress of the trip was ameliorated by California itself.  That first day, we left Dulles in a light snowfall.  Hours later, we stood in a city park wearing shorts and t-shirts under a clear sky reveling in the glory of a 72-degree day.  Virginia, with it's cold, snow, and hard work seemed so very far away.

One evening, we drove down to Laguna Beach.  This is a typical seaside community, populated by an eclectic mix of the very wealthy and the very wierd.  We arrived about 30 minutes before sunset, the refreshing smell of the Pacific was in the air.  Following a winding path, we made our way to an overlook.  Down below, gulls and pelicans dotted the rugged rocks, occasionally lifting off to glide gracefully on the unseen winds along the cliffs. 

Before us was the sea.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Civil War: Events of March 1863


On March 3, Naval assaults on Ft. McAllister resumed.  Also, the Conscription Act was signed by President Lincoln.  Although it requires draft quotas by state, wealthy citizens are allowed to buy themselves out for $300.

A Federal force moving south from Franklin, TN on March 5th was decisively defeated by Confederate forces under Van Dorn and Nathan Bedford Forrest.  The Confederates received unexpected help when 17-year old Alice Thompson, after seeing the 3rd Arkansas lose their Colonel, picked up the flag and led the regiment to victory.  She was cheered by the Union soldiers.

Confederate Raider John Mosby attacked and embarrassed Union troops at Fairfax Courthouse, VA, capturing Union General Stoughton.

President Lincoln on March 10, issued an order of amnesty for men AWOL from the Union Army.  They will have until April 1 to report or will be considered deserters.

Union ground and naval forces attack a hastily-built Fort Pemberton, MS on the Yazoo River hoping to punch through to Vicksburg.  The fort held.

On March 13, a friction primer at the Confederate Ordinance Laboratory near Richmond exploded, touching off the entire facility, killing 69 people.  62 of them were women and young girls.

On March 14, Union Admiral Farragut tried to push a naval force past Port Hudson, Louisiana.  His flagship, USS Hartford and USS Albatross got through, but three other vessels were seriously damaged.

On the 16th, Grant ended his attempts to push through Yazoo Pass in Mississippi, but ordered Sherman to attempt an assault on Steele’s Bayou again.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Civil War: Events of February 1863


Union Navy ships made an unsuccessful attack on Ft. McAllister, guarding the southern entrance to the port city of Savannah.

On the 2nd, Union ram Queen of the West steamed past the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg.  She was hit twelve times, but was mostly undamaged.  She then rammed the Confederate ship City of Vicksburg and retired.  The next day, she attacked three southern ships and captured them, destroying their vital cargoes.

Also on the 2nd, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked the Union garrison at Fort Donelson, Tennessee in an attempt to relieve the pressure on Vicksburg.  The attack failed.

On February 3, the French made an offer to mediate between the North and South through Federal Secretary of State William Seward, who declined the offer.

Union General Joseph Hooker reorganized the Army of the Potomac, giving corps commands to John Reynolds, Darius Couch, Dan Sickles, George Meade, John Sedgwick, William F. Smith, Franz Siegel and Henry Slocum.  George Stoneman is appointed cavalry chief.

On February 12th, the West Virginia Constitutional Convention reconvened in response to the U.S. Congress’ request to modify certain wording concerning slaves.

Queen of the West struck again on the 12th, taking more than $2 million in cargo in a single day.  But on the 14th, the ship ran aground and was abandoned.

The U.S. Senate passed the Conscription Act on the 16th.  The next day, West Virginia approved a revised state constitution.

General Grant, who had previously issued an order to halt publication of the Chicago Times as a subversive newspaper, rescinded the order on February 17th.

A Democrat Convention in Richmond, KY was broken up by Federal authorities because some members were pro-South.

Confederate General Daniel H. Hill assumed command of all North Carolina forces on the 25th

February 26th saw President Lincoln signing the National Currency Act into law.  The legislation created a national banking system, a currency bureau, and the office of Comptroller of the Currency.

Also on the 26th, the Cherokee Nation rescinded its previous declaration of secession and also abolished slavery.

On the last day of February, Federal gunships moved up the Ogeechee River in Georgia to destroy a Confederate privateer known as the Rattlesnake.