Pilgrim on a Lonely Journey

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

This is the week of the mass American pilgrimage. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is the day we Americans travel home. It is the one holiday we all share, no matter what our religion. The day when we gather as families.

Some of us will have genuinely happy reunions. The stuff of Norman Rockwell.

 

Image from Office of War Information, 1942, wikimedia commons.

Image from Office of War Information, 1942,
wikimedia commons.

 

Most of us will have mixed days. A bit of hassle and a family fuss getting out the door. Then we will roll our eyes at Uncle Freddie’s bad jokes and Aunt Marge complaining that the dressing is dry. But once everyone settles in for the football, it will all be good.

For some, though, Thanksgiving will be a gut-wrenching ordeal — an endurance test of dysfunctional abuse that demoralizes and convinces us that we deserve nothing from life but the crumbs of inadequacy and failed expectations.

Most people who persist in that brutal existence do so from habit and from the fear of change. But a brave few walk away into the unknown with the conviction that whatever lies ahead, it cannot be worse than the hell they left behind. They quit showing up for the beatings.

 

Canstock 2014 Girl Alone with Suitcase

If you are having joyful reunions this week, we celebrate with you. Such family experiences are the source of strength that sustains us through life’s turmoil.

If you are biting your tongue in between hugs and laughter, we admire you for your tolerance and commitment. Such commitment is the foundation of civilization.

If you are suffering, our hearts and prayers go out to you in the hopes that one day, you too will get out.

And if you are one of the ones who walked away, we salute you. You will be alone this week, or with close friends, or with people you barely know who have unfamiliar traditions. If you have persevered down your lonely path, you may even be with a new family by now, making Norman Rockwell jealous.

We know what it took for you to walk away, and we count you as our family. Your “not being there” didn’t come for free, and we honor the price you pay each day. It never gets easy, but it does get better. This song says it all.

 

 

Wherever you are in Life’s pilgrimage this Thanksgiving, we wish you peace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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There Are No “Boots,” Only Men and Women

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

 

No one who serves is a “boot on the ground.” That is a phrase for politicians and bean counters. Each is a man or woman, someone’s child, spouse, sibling, lover, and friend. Each lives, loves, bleeds, and dies. Each commits his or her life to the service of our great nation, risking all.

 

Poppies

 

Our profound thanks to all who serve in the military and clandestine services, allowing our nation to enjoy peace and prosperity at home.

You are, each of you, a blessing. Our prayers are for you on this

Veterans Day.

 

 

Why Remembering Matters

By Piper Bayard

America is not a location. America is an ideal. It is the dream of a country where the government answers to the people, and not the other way around.

Because America is an ideal, Americans are not born. Rather, America, itself, is born anew with each generation that embraces the ideal and chooses to take up the mantle of responsibility for its self-governance and its freedoms. For America to exist, each generation must make that choice, and each generation must defend the ideal.

Today, we honor those who have fallen in defense of the American ideal. May each new generation remember these American men and women and honor their sacrifices that they shall not have died in vain. If the day comes when we forget these soldiers, we will have forgotten ourselves and our purpose, and in doing so, we will no longer be Americans.

A most profound thank you to all who serve in our armed forces and clandestine services.

Canstock 2014 Memorial Day Boy saluting flag

4th Annual Love-A-Spook Day – An Insignificant Quaker Woman

By Jay Holmes

Three years ago, my writing partner, Piper Bayard, declared October 31st to be Love-A-Spook Day in appreciation of the quiet contributions of the intelligence community. In real life, versus Hollywood, not all spooks are highly trained supermen and superwomen who look like Daniel Craig and Scarlett Johansson. Many are simple people who rise to the occasion of their moment in history. Lydia Darragh was one of those people.

Lydia Barrington Darragh

Lydia Barrington Darragh

To learn about this remarkable nurse, midwife, and spy who affected the course of history, please click on the link below, and remember to transfer your subscription. We want to welcome you all to our new digs.

Bayard & Holmes

4th Annual Love a Spook Day

An Insignificant Quaker Woman

Life in the Cold

By Piper Bayard

Independence Day was not the end of our fight for freedom, but only the beginning. Most of the men who signed our Declaration of Independence lost their fortunes and their lives in the battle. It is a battle that has been fought by each generation since 1776, as freedom is a great responsibility that we must continually earn, and not something bought and paid for once in the past that we can now take for granted.

My generation is the Cold War generation. This Independence Day, I would honor those of the intelligence community who served quietly, often giving everything to protect us from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The following is an excerpt from “From Inside the Cold War,” written by my writing partner, “Jay Holmes,” who is a veteran of that conflict. A conflict which, in spite of the wishful thinking and historical ignorance of younger politicians, continues in a very real way to this day. In it, he gives us a window into his world and what it is like for him and his compatriots to walk through ours.

Anonymous Man Canstock

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

From the end of World War II in 1945 until the fall of the Soviet government in Russia in 1991, Western nations faced off with the Soviet Union and its allies and captive satellite states in what became known as the “Cold War.” Basically, the Soviet Union, led by the ruthless Joseph Stalin, felt that it was its duty to spread communism throughout the world, while Western nations governed by democracies felt it was their responsibility to keep the entire world from falling under Soviet domination. . . .

Most Western citizens think of the Cold War as being without casualties, except during the proxy wars in Korea and Viet Nam. Few Westerners will even remember that the allied nations fought a war against Soviet-backed communists in Greece from 1946 -1949, or that the United Kingdom struggled with a communist guerrilla war in Malaysia until 1960. Beyond the publicly acknowledged battle fields in Korea, South East Asia, Lebanon, Grenada, and Panama, the United States thus far acknowledges 382 American servicemen killed in combat against communist forces between 1945 and 1991. This figure does not include the officially acknowledged civilian losses of the CIA and other civilian personnel, nor does it include the deaths of “denied” personnel working under “deep cover.”

I believe the figure of 382 to be wildly low and a long, smoldering debate is currently underway in DOD and CIA circles concerning casualty figures during the Cold War. It is unclear how they should be counted and how much information should be released. After a lifetime of living in a necessary state of denial, “old hands” have well-founded fears about releasing too much information. For one thing, releasing dates and locations of deaths will assist belligerent parties in identifying and killing those who assisted US efforts. Our word was given that our friends would never be exposed, and they never should be.

For nearly four decades, the deaths of American Cold War combatants were explained away as accidents and sudden acute illnesses. Wives and mothers buried their husbands and sons without ever knowing what happened. The battlefield deaths of most of America’s Cold War combatants will likely remain unrecognized for years to come in order to protect the living. Some day, if a future generation gets around to dealing with the information, it will likely seem too distant for anyone to pay much attention to it. This is a natural consequence of the type of battles fought.

If it seems sad, we should remember that it is far less sad than the alternatives would have been. Armageddon was avoided. Freedom was not lost. That matters, at least to me and to those who have gone before me. My brothers paid a price. I knew none who were unwilling to pay that price quietly. None can now regain their lives by being identified.

When we review espionage activities from the Cold War, it is easy to take an academic view. If the seriousness of some of the participants seems almost comical from our current perspective, they seemed far less humorous at the time that they occurred. The events seem distant now, and the causes may have been forgotten by many, and never understood by some. I point out the issue of casualties in an attempt to describe an important aspect of clandestine activities during the Cold War. The contestants on all sides played for keeps.

Between the bright lights of international diplomacy and the dark cloud of the threat of nuclear war, life in the shadows in between was a bit different. Some of us feel as though we have lived in a parallel world far away from this one. We walked through this world every day, careful not to leave too many footprints here on our way to somewhere else. That other world became our home. This world where we trust our neighbors and love our children, is the world that we desperately wanted to see remain intact. But in a sense, we will always be visitors here in this world that we hold so dear. For some of us, our home remains somewhere else, far away.

~ Jay Holmes

Two Worlds Canstock

 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
From our world to your world, Holmes, thank you.

The Happy Man Manual — Valentine’s Day

By Piper Bayard

Guys get the short end of the stick on Valentine’s Day. It’s a day that’s geared toward women. Make her happy, win her heart, pop that question. Buy her roses, get her chocolates, give her a massage, say things to make her swoon. Everywhere men look, television, magazines, the internet, and their girlfriends and wives bombard them with expectations, most of which they can never meet.

Valentine's Day Tree Johntex wikimedia

image by Johntex, wikimedia commons

Women, on the other hand, have it easy. That’s because men come with a three sentence Happy Man Manual: 1) Feed me; 2) Feed my ego; 3) Feed my libido. If a woman does at least two of those three things, she’s made him happy. Three, and bliss ensues. As a result, pleasing men on Valentine’s Day, or any other day, is almost as difficult as watching ice melt, but not quite.

To test this, I asked my husband to suggest ten things women can do to please their men on Valentine’s Day. This was his response:

  1. Show up naked.
  2. Show up naked.
  3. Show up naked.
  4. Show up in a negligee.
  5. Cook his favorite chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy and chocolate cake.
  6. And make those little prosciutto pastry pinwheels to go with that.
  7. Say again what a good job he did remodeling the bathroom.
  8. Tell him now that you’re with him, you don’t think about Jason Stathom anymore.
  9. Bake him some cookies.
  10. Ask him to show up naked.

So this Valentine’s Day, my heart goes out to men everywhere. Thank you for being men in all of your simple glory. The fact is that if you weren’t so easy, you would have put an end to this holiday before it even got off the ground. I appreciate it that you didn’t. I’m looking forward to whatever creative surprise my husband comes up with this year, whether it’s a pink hat or a heart-shaped mug warmer. Perhaps I’ll thank him with a chocolate cake. Among other things.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Pilgrim, As You Journey

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

This is the week of the mass American pilgrimage. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is the day we Americans travel home. It is the one holiday we all share, no matter what our religion. The day when we gather as families.

Some of us will have genuinely happy reunions. The stuff of Norman Rockwell.

image from Office of War Information 1942, wikimedia commons

Most of us will have mixed days. Something we have to hassle with a bit. Perhaps a family fuss getting out the door, and then putting up with Uncle Freddie’s bad jokes and Aunt Marge complaining that the dressing is dry. But once everyone settles in for the football, it’s all good.

For some, though, Thanksgiving can be a gut-wrenching ordeal. The hassles are extreme, and the holiday becomes an endurance test of dysfunctional abuse that demoralizes us and convinces us that we deserve nothing from life or ourselves but the crumbs of inadequacy, malcontent, and failed expectations.

Most people who persist in that brutal existence do so from habit and from the fear of change. But a brave few walk away into the unknown with the conviction that whatever lies ahead, it cannot be worse than the hell they left behind. They quit showing up for the beatings.

image by Christina Matheson, wikimedia commons

If you are having joyful reunions this week, we celebrate with you. Such family experiences are the source of strength that sustains us through life’s turmoil.

If you are biting your tongue in between hugs and laughter, we admire you for your tolerance and commitment. Such commitment is the foundation of civilization.

If you are suffering, our hearts and prayers go out to you in the hopes that one day, you will get out.

And if you are one of the ones who walked away, we salute you. You will be alone this week, or with close friends, or with people you barely know who have unfamiliar traditions. If you have persevered down your lonely path, you may even be with a new family by now, making Norman Rockwell jealous.

We know what it took for you to walk away, and we count you as our family. Your “not being there” didn’t come for free, and we honor the price you pay each day. It never gets easy, but it does get better. This song says it all.

Wherever you are in Life’s pilgrimage this Thanksgiving, Holmes and I wish you peace. We will see you back here on Monday, November 26.

Happy Thanksgiving!