Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day, 2007

When George Pullman invented the Pullman sleeping cars for the railroad back in the 1850’s not only did he build a name for himself, but he also he built an entire town.

If you happened to live in Pullman, Illinois in the1880’s you lived and worked for George Pullman. If you worked for George Pullman, you lived in a George Pullman row house and you probably went to a Pullman Church and did your shopping locally at a Pullman market.

All was cozy for a little while, but eventually the recession hit and he laid off a large percentage of his workforce and reduced the wages of the remaining employees. I thought that automated deductions from paychecks were something from perhaps the last fifty years or so, but he was doing it way back in the 1880’s. If you worked for him, your rent was taken out of your check before you ever saw it. With the high rent and low pay this didn’t sit so well and his employees began walking out.

When Pullman workers joined American Railroad Union thus beginning strikes and boycotts, President Grover Cleveland called the strike a crime and deployed the Army to break the dispute. When the strike was officially declared over the employees promised not to unionize again and this remained true until the great depression.

"The day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed...that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it." ~ Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor 1898

A small yet important bit of history on this Labor Day, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Living in My Heart

Living in My Heart

“Hail Mary, Mother Of God…” I said as I counted the beads out with my small fingers, just as the Father had instructed me to do. I had confessed to him that I had taken two cookies before dinner. I remember my mother and grandma thought that was funny.

My Grandmother was a devout Catholic and I was raised Catholic, too. Although I grew away from Catholicism, the memories of Church and Grandma are still close to my heart.

I remember holding her hand and skipping along like busy little girls do as Grandma and me walked the six or seven blocks to Church. This would be the same Church that I would stand in front of family and friends, pick up the head of her casket and carry her down those steps for the final time.

If you have never been a pall bearer for a loved one, you can’t have any idea of the effects it has on you. I found myself looking at all the faces of those that loved her as we carried her towards the steps to leave that Church. As I walked, the fact that I was carrying my Grandmother to her final resting place hit me hard. Tears began rolling down my cheeks. Me, the hard one, the one that never cried, walked forward with my face drenched in tears and I could do nothing to wipe them or hide them. They were there for the world to see. I will never forget that feeling as long as I live.

When I would visit her as a young girl, one of the treats we had together was Dunkin Donuts. I would walk to the next block and visit the little shop there on Saturday evenings. I would pick out a couple for me and a couple for her for twenty cents or so each. We would have them before we walked to Church together on Sunday mornings.

I ate some dough nuts today to celebrate her birthday. I went all out, too. I ate a long john with creamy filling and chocolate icing and a raspberry jelly filled dough nut with white icing. I thought of her the whole time.

As Grandma neared the end of her life, she spoke of the wonderful dinner that had been prepared in her honor. She could actually see it, she said and she spoke of it. It was relayed to me in whispers, as Grandma lay there unable to move. It was then that I understood the mystery of faith.

The Good Book says some things are not meant for us to understand and when that time comes, the understanding will be granted. While my Grandmother lingered between life and death, her time to understand was granted to her. As her visitors wished her well and kissed her soft, cool cheek, she waited for the dinner bell to ring.

She laid her head on the soft pillow and her eyes fluttered softly as she realized a peace and contentment that she had been denied in this life. She drifted off to a peaceful retreat as she left the broken temple that had been her home and reached for the hand that awaited her presence at the table as she did so.

The precise moment that her fingers touched His, her golden heart stopped beating and she was gone… But never forgotten.

Happy Birthday, Grandma.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Old Soldier

For all those Veterans
whose injuries don’t show up on x-rays

The Old Soldier nudged me
and called me closer with his eyes

his past wrapped tightly in secrets
his future bleak and locked in

"What is it Trodden Soldier,
that you wish for me to know ?"

~ Honors Duties Commands Creeds ~

broken bodies are bandaged
but how easily does the mind heal?

weariness, shrouded in blankets of green
eyes bleeding secrets and half truths

you pledged all, Dutiful Soldier
with a heart long ago plastered white

in death you grasped an old brass emblem
Rest In Peace, at long last, Proud Soldier

copyrighted, tamara a isaac

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kentucky Hills

The hills of Kentucky are blazing

under an unforgiving glare
drought settles in
and takes a hold of this land
while crops wither
and pastures choke

Parched lips frown
as the sun smolders down
while tired backs slump
already spent
and slowly turn away

stale air lingers
as hope dwindles
and turns into despair
leaving hearts to sink
and heads to bow
in common prayer

The Hills of Kentucky are Blazing
while man and beast alike
slowly starve