Seven Decades Swept Quickly By
I have lived to experience all the changes of the past Seven Decades. It’s impossible not to think about the fact that my beloved Grandfather was only 74 when his heart failed him. How much time do I have left? Actually, how much time do any of us have?
The most massive shooting ever to cripple our American psyche occurred last evening in Las Vegas. As I write this, it suddenly seems essential that I improve on all the things I’ve done over the past Seven Decades. Yes, I’ve learned from experience that competing with others is a dead-end. I can achieve success in life only in those moments when I commit to doing better than I did yesterday.
Life is Good
I’ve spent the majority of Seven Decades attempting to fix myself and the broken people around me. Suddenly, it’s important to realize that each of us has to concentrate on our happiness and well-being. When broken, we’re incapable of making the positive difference we need to protect and grow our civilization. The average citizen loves this country. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the dreams we all share in America.
There is no place in my life for hatred, demeaning behavior, nasty rhetoric, or division. Honestly, I’ve worked far too hard to improve my life and my community to tolerate the ugliness so many cherish for their daily dose of adrenaline.
Moving Forward Not Backward
The average cost of a new home in 2010 was $232,880.00, and a gallon of gas cost $2.73.
There were 152.3 million citizens in this country when I celebrated my third birthday in 1950. As of 2010, that number rose to 308.7 million. I’ve traveled through most of our 50 states, and I have to admit I love the diversity of this nation. My friends come from all parts of the world. But they are now American citizens who strive to make their dreams come true, the same as I do each day.
The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, causing an even more profound rift among those who disapproved of the legislation and those who favored it. Healthcare for the aged, poor, and those with pre-existing conditions wasn’t attainable during my Seven Decades in this country.
Tragedy in the Gulf
As we headed back north from the Gulf Coast at the end of April, the stench of kerosene filled the air. The Deep Water Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf, devastating the fishing and tourism industries. We smelled the stench of the oil spill all along the coast, from Louisiana to Mississippi.
My brother and his staff worked for months on initiatives to protect the environment and wildlife along the coast of Mississippi. It was a record-breaking environmental disaster in U.S. history. My brother is a professor at the University of Southern Miss. One of the graduates from that school donated a boat to help in the rescue efforts along the estuaries in the days after the spill. I am forever grateful to Jimmy Buffett for his love of home and the beautiful wildlife which lives there!
As the calendar turned to 2011, I wept when a deranged man shot eighteen people, including U. S. Representative Gabby Giffords in a supermarket parking lot in Arizona. I keep praying for the hatred to end. How long do we have to endure these acts of hate?
The mastermind of the 9/11/2001 attacks, Osama bin Laden, died at the hands of American Navy Seals after a ten-year manhunt in May of 2011. Many hoped this would end the leadership and strength of the group called al-Qaeda.
An End to the Space Shuttle Program
I grew up in a town surrounded by the cornfields of Iowa, watching my brother attempt to launch his homemade rocket into space. Somehow, I always thought he might be able to do it. But, we were just kids with a huge dream. Perhaps, that’s why I was so sad to see our Space Shuttle Program end in July of 2011.
The Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour flew a total of 135 missions. Incredible crews helped construct the International Space Station and inspired several generations of kids like Jay and me. We grounded our hopes and dreams for the future in our expectations of space travel.
A New Princess
That same year, Kate Middleton married Prince William of Great Britain on April 29th.
As I watched the footage on every television channel, I couldn’t help but remember Princess Diana on her wedding day.
Every family faces tremendous joy and unbelievable challenges in this world, and yet we each carry on. (Watch the wedding again here.)
By 2011, the price of a gallon of gas was $3.52 while a gallon of milk sold for $3.39.
Mike and I headed to Europe in September of 2011. I didn’t dare hope to ever travel to a foreign country in my lifetime, and I was now beginning my second journey there.
We flew out of New York City on Singapore Airlines. I was extremely impressed with their service. It was a long flight into the Frankfurt ‘Rheine-Main’ Airport. We quickly cleared passport control, claimed our suitcases and passed through customs.
Our first stop on tour was Heidelberg. It’s one of the oldest universities in Europe. Law and chemistry are two of the major studies. Heidelberg was the only city in Germany that was not bombed during WWII as there was no industry there. It sits along the beautiful Neckar River. The Romantic Movement started here. Also, the 30 Years War between the Catholics and Protestants helped define this city, where both religions now live together peacefully.
We headed to the medieval city of Rothenburg along the ‘Romantic Road’ – Adelsried. Inside the walls, the citizens preserved Rothenburg in its entirety without a single modern building. The streets are narrow cobblestone with many historic inns and quaint shops. For clarification, this area is known as Bavaria.
Commercial Vineyards are plentiful here. They never use chemical substances on the hops, etc. Every little town in Germany has a local brewery.
Oktoberfest occurs during late September and citizens celebrate throughout Germany. The most significant celebration is in Munich compared to the most prominent festival in the U.S. during Oktoberfest in Milwaukee.
Germany Founded 1869
Germany has many borders and boasts the most robust economy in the entire European Union.
It wasn’t until 1869 that Germany came into existence. Bavaria didn’t join Prussia at first under Bismark. “Crazy” King Ludwig II invested tax money in lavish castles and other extravagancies. Understandably, Bavaria went bankrupt under him and that forced them to join the German League.
We toured Rothenburg but chose not to climb to the top of the Rathaus Bell Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city. A short walk atop the old city wall surrounding the town offered an interesting perspective on this beautiful place.
Also, I loved shopping at the “Weihnachtsdorf,” the year-round Christmas shop in Rothenburg.
Trade & War in Rothenburg
The “Romantic Road” during the 17th & 18th Century remained unspoiled. Romans established it for trade with Northern Germany. Free Imperial Cities like Rothenburg built walls around their towns so that soldiers could guard them against invaders.
During WWI, a French General challenged the Mayor of Rothenberg to a drinking contest…The Mayor won, and the city avoided destruction.
Also During WWII, the Americans went around the town to attack the SS troops without damaging Rothenburg.
After 1945, the Constitution changed and allowed ‘Freedom of Religion.’ Protestants and Lutherans lived in the north, and the Catholics lived in the South.
The River Isar flows from the Alps thru Munich to the Danube. Munich hosts many business meetings and is considered a “Green City.” Every section of the city has a green space. It’s impressive to drive through the town as there is so much green that it feels like you are always in a city park.
Munich (Munchen) came from the Wittelsbach family dynasty—a Bavarian Duchy.
No trip to Munich is complete without a stop at the Hofbräuhaus
according to my brother. We finally received an English version of the menu and gave our drink orders. No one ever came back to take our food order. I was starving, but we had to leave and catch our bus.
Innsbruck became the capital of all Tyrol in 1429, and during the fifteenth century, the city became the center of European politics and culture as Emperor Maximilian I resided in Innsbruck.
Between 1943 and 1945 Innsbruck experienced 22 bomb attacks and suffered substantial damage.
The KZ Innsbruck-Reichenau Concentration Camp here is a vivid reminder of the horrors of war.
We sat in the old pedestrian district of Innsbruck with the famous Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) and the Alps in the background for an afternoon snack.
The Beauty of the Alps – The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music
Innsbruck is the cultural and economic center of western Austria and is one of the most famous tourist centers, with more than a million overnight stays. It’s a beautiful city, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
We drove from Innsbruck to the Hotel Gasthof Purner. It was the most ornate and beautiful hotel of the entire tour.
During our evening there, we saw an authentic Austrian wedding, complete with men wearing Bavarian Lederhosen.
We stood on the street after the wedding dinner and watched the wedding party as they danced in the street.
On the Road Again
The scenic Brenner Pass “Europa Bridge” was a spectacular way to move from Austria to Italy. It is one of the most romantic countries in the world, and I looked forward to seeing Lake Garda.
Lake Como and Lake Garda are all freshwater, deep, and long lakes from North to South. The lakes support Carp & Pike.
Our travels took us from the beautiful islands of Venice to the peaks of Switzerland.
Venice to Switzerland
From 1515 on, Switzerland declared itself an independent, neutral country, which was unique in world history. It’s the reason the Vatican uses the Swiss Guard. There are protestant and catholic areas, yet there is total religious freedom here. We drove through the famous 11-mile long St Gotthard Tunnel, moving from the Italian section of Switzerland into the German part. It was sunny and hot on one side of the mountains, yet we found fog and rain/cold on the other.
I loved the stories of the Swiss Guard of Lucerne and history of the lake. We enjoyed an afternoon on the water and views of Sophia Loren’s castle on the shores of Lake Lucerne.
No trip to Europe is complete without a stop in Paris. I had my heart set on seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, but the lines were so long we decided to take a walking tour instead to the Arc de Triomphe.
Our tour group had a lovely dinner in Paris before traveling by bus to the Eiffel Tower to view the evening show of lights.
“La Ville Lumiere,” The City of Light, ” was fabulous, but one afternoon isn’t enough in Paris. There was no time to do any shopping!
On to Antwerp, Belgium
One thing I learned in Antwerp is that the Belgium waffles over there are entirely different from their namesake in America. The waffles there didn’t need any syrup. They had an excellent crunchy sugar-coating that made syrup unnecessary on these yeast cakes. We ate our waffles with strawberries.
I loved seeing the windmills in the Netherlands, but one of the most moving stops on our travels was the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. There is no shame in admitting that I could barely breathe as we moved through the house. I kept thinking about the tragedy of war and the fear Anne and her family had to endure.
We returned home a few days after my birthday.
(Yes – A few minutes after I took a picture of the windmill the skies opened and we ran for the bus.)
Seven Decades – History Marches On
The Iraq war officially ended by December 2011. President Obama ordered the remaining combat troops there to leave.
I was busy with my watercolor groups in Mississippi, Eau Claire, and Menomonie. Our European tour provided loads of pictures for the subject for my artwork. I highly doubt anything I paint in this lifetime will ever come close to even the proper taxes paid on the record-breaking price of Edwin March’s “The Scream,” which sold at auction in New York at an astonishing $120 million in May of 2012.
The first driverless car licenses appeared in 2012. By September, the states of Nevada, California, and Florida passed laws allowing the use of driverless cars. Fantasy is becoming our new reality!
2012 was the year we celebrated the Diamond Jubilee celebration with Queen Elizabeth of England. I had loaned my Queen Elizabeth Coronation Doll to my aunt in the late 1900’s for a party she had for doll collectors. She’d decided to “redress” my doll in an early American dress and matching parasol. I have no idea where the coronation dress ended up. It’s a pity. I loved that collector doll, and the dress was in perfect condition.
Another shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colorado killed twelve and injured fifty-eight. I’m finding it more and more difficult to accept the monsters who believe they have a right to hurt others. Mass murder is more than an illness. People are looking for fame in these barbaric acts carried out on innocents.
I held my breath during the Summer Olympics in London. There was no killing rampage.
Terrorism, A Hurricane, and an Election
A terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya killed four American citizens. I have no wish to rehash what happened there, other than to say it would have severe consequences in the Presidential election in 2016.
Hurricane Sandy stormed up the east coast, slamming into the Jersey Shore near Atlantic City. The cost of this hurricane was $65.6 Billion compared to the $128 billion we endured after Hurricane Katrina.
President Obama won a second term in the Office of the Presidency of the United States during the elections in November of 2012.
We bid farewell to 2012 and looked forward to 2013. Little did we know that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil would rock the foundation of this great land when two bombs exploded near the finish line during the Boston Marathon. Mike and I had visited Boston on a trip out east to see his brother and family. What if they were in the crowd? Horrified, I saw yet another attack here in America live on our television. More phone calls to make sure friends and family were safe.
Somehow, I wasn’t surprised when Lance Armstrong admitted to doping in all of his Tour de France cycling events when Oprah questioned him.
North Korea continued their nuclear and missile tests in spite of all the international pressure brought to bear on them.
During the civil war in Syria, they used Sarin gas against citizens there.
Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor, released information about the NSA’s secret surveillance program “Prism,” to The Guardian and the Washington Post. Citizens were now concerned about the privacy of their personal information.
During the Christmas season, Target was the object of a cyber attack, and the thieves stole data from roughly 110 million customers. Cyber attacks are the new form of warfare on our democracy.
The deadliest outbreak of Ebola yet began in the spring of the year in West Africa. They contained it in three countries by the end of the summer, but there were two diagnosed cases in the U.S. A total of 17,100 cases resulted in the deaths of 6,000 people.
American intelligence sources blamed pro-Russian separatists for the deaths of all 298 souls on board Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 near the Ukrainian border.
The U.S. and others placed economic sanctions on Russia as a result of the border clashes in the Ukraine.
In addition, the Gaza strip became a hotbed after the kidnapping of three Israeli teens and their murders there. The formal Israeli offensive against Hamas would result in the deaths of 2,192 civilians and 72 Israeli civilians and military.
Even al Qaeda distanced itself from the new extremist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). This movement was responsible for plundering villages, mass executions, and the posting of beheadings of American and English journalists and aid workers.
The Republicans took control of the Senate in the mid-term elections. Voter turnout hit an all-time low with only 36.3% of the eligible voters showing up. (If you don’t think your vote makes a difference, dig a little deeper. It always has.)
2014 was the year I released Elle Burton and the Reflective Portals.
The British Isles
For my birthday in 2014, we made another trip “across the pond.” This time we visited the British Isles. We heard the rumblings about Brexit as we traveled through England, Ireland, and Scotland.
My Burton ancestors arrived on the American continent with an original land grant from the King of England.
The Kennedy family came during the potato famine from Ireland. These are the lands of my Irish-Scottish-English heritage.
A police officer shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, and we began to think more about how insufficient the training is for those who protect us. It wouldn’t be the first or the last riot of this decade.
Again, I cried when I heard of the death of Robin Williams. Do you ever think about how easy it is to hide a broken soul behind the jokes and laughter? Mom used to call me her “Little Pollyanna.” She said I always laughed through the tears. She had no idea how well I hid my broken pieces. I wish I could have talked to Mr. Williams before he made his final decision.
Do you remember the threat from the “Guardians of Peace” who warned that any theater to release the movie “The Interview” about the assassination of Kim Jong Un would meet a “bitter fate?” The threats continue.
As an artist and an author, I’ll never forget the anger I felt when al Qaeda stormed the offices of Charlie Hedbo in Paris, killing twelve people over a cartoon.
2015 was the year I became incredibly weary of hearing about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Talk to me about the future of the country. Find a better, more qualified candidate, but this went far beyond emails and into the arena of threats and degrading comments.
Brian Williams did a bit of exaggerating in his reporting, resulting in his removal from his NBC evening news post.
We prayed for my friend’s husband who was in Nepal during the 7.8 earthquakes that hit Kathmandu, causing avalanches on Mt. Everest. She knew he was leading a climbing party at the time. We were so relieved to find that a simple act of fate had moved him to an area where he was safe.
“Black Lives Matter” became a leading hashtag. We shouldn’t have to remind people about this. Every life matters, yet I’m amazed at how much racial hatred still exists in this country. I’ve walked away in silent protest when I’ve noticed the KKK tat on the arm of service people in the south. Why haven’t we declared these hate groups to be illegal?
Former Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, businessman Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, and U.S. Rep. Rand Paul all participated in the debate held by Fox Business Network for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 10. We didn’t attend. The year 2016 is filled to overflowing with election events!
2016 – 2017
The country inaugurated Donald Trump, after he won the Presidential election, as President of the United States in January 2017.
I sound like my grandmother here when I say I have never heard the type of rhetoric that has become the norm in this country. Grandma would have turned the televisions off in disgust. Civilized behavior no longer appears to be the norm. Hate groups no longer hide in the shadows but instead believe they now have the right to parade their hatred through the streets of this country. I miss the integrity of my grandfather who left the room when the first bra commercials began to pop up on the television screen. Things have certainly changed.
Love One Another
I refuse to get into politics and all the discussions about things on which we apparently no longer can find common ground. And yet, I learned that we must all “Love one another.” That lesson didn’t come with restrictions. I pray that during this next decade we will find a way to learn to work together and compromise for the best possible outcomes for not only our citizens but as representatives on the world stage.
The Songs We All Loved