Friday, August 19, 2016
Our Daughter Breaks a Glass Ceiling
We always have enjoyed traveling to visit family. Our latest trip to beautiful Charlotte, N.C., to see our daughter, Debra Anderson, was outstanding.
On July 27, we basked in the admiration of thousands of people as Debra was elected the quartermaster general of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. She is the first woman to break that particular glass ceiling.
The VFW is a not-for-profit veterans service organization with 1.3 million members. The quartermaster general serves as the chief financial officer and is responsible for a variety of functions, including information technology and asset management.
“I am thrilled that this position gives me an opportunity to use my diverse skills developed over many years while serving a great organization and our country’s veterans,” Debra said.
As parents, we were impressed with the number of activities Debra participated in during her time at Rock Bridge High School. We were even more impressed when at dinner one night she announced she was to be the valedictorian of the school’s first graduating class.
She attended the University of Missouri, joining the ROTC and in her senior year becoming cadet battalion commander.
She graduated cum laude and earned the George Marshall award.
She served as an Army officer at a time when leadership opportunities were opening for women. She was commander of an equipment repair company in Nuremberg, Germany, and inspector general at Fort McPherson, Ga.
Her combat experience came in Desert Storm, and she received a bronze star for her work as a division strength management officer in the 1st Infantry Division. She also received two meritorious service medals, four Army commendation medals and various other honors.
She left the Army as a major and for years held various management and administrative jobs in private industry.
Her husband, Steve Bourque, took a teaching job at Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff College, bringing the family to Kansas City. She took a job at the VFW National Headquarters, quickly moving up the ranks and gaining recognition for her innovative ideas on improving the VFW’s effect on the lives of veterans.
Charlotte was a beautiful city for a convention. Like Kansas City, it has many fountains and statues with the addition of half dozen quality art museums. Fine hotels and restaurants line the streets around the city’s convention center.
While we were there, several thousand veterans crowded the elevators and lobbies, most from the Vietnam War. We were impressed that they all knew our daughter and some even recognized us as her parents based on our name tags.
Debra had the opportunity to get her picture taken with presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who spoke at the convention on separate days. Those pictures will join the photo of her with President Barack Obama on our dining room wall.
During her installation, her nephew, Sean Anderson Harper, a marine lieutenant, and her husband, Steve, were both part of the presentation. Her acceptance speech that emphasized the future of the VFW received a standing ovation.
My two older sisters and my aunts were all talented women born at a time when few doors were open for women to develop that potential. We have been so pleased to see all four of our daughters achieve their goals in life.
Debra Anderson with her husband Steve Bourque and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton
Debra Anderson with Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence
Travel plays a role in educating children
We have been fortunate — sometimes on a shoestring, but many times with lucky opportunities — to be able to offer our children and grandchildren a variety of world experiences to help them understand and succeed in life.
This obviously is not the case for many children who don’t have the resources to experience the world. I empathize with children living in impoverished areas who have relatively few opportunities to see more than their own neighborhood.
Our first two daughters started to learn about the broader world as we traveled around the United States, initially camping in tents. After adding two more daughters, we had to start traveling with a trailer housing a toilet, a shower and sleeping space for six.
We later worked in five European countries for several years, allowing our children to learn quite a bit about other cultures. We encouraged them to give us feedback, which was mostly positive, but we also got comments such as “Cathedrals in France are beautiful, but we really don’t want to walk through another one,” or “The Spanish guys in the bullfight were treating that bull terribly, and I don’t want to come back here again.”
Our children also had the occasional opportunity to live for brief times with their grandparents in a rural community. Our grandchildren also live in families where they are exposed to a variety of lifestyles. We once took two of our grandchildren camping in northern Minnesota, where we took a ropes course, boated, hiked and generally enjoyed the great outdoors.
Although learning opportunities are not possible for children in many areas, there are a few good models of ways to create those opportunities to learn about the wider world. We had an inside view of one of these programs in Hillsdale, Mich., when we attended a Road Scholar music program coordinated by the Michindoh Conference Center. In our spare time, we explored what the center was doing for children.
The campus at Michindoh Outdoor Education School covers about 250 acres. There is housing for more than 300 visitors at any given time. The children come in for four or five days from a variety of support systems. Some come with religious groups, some come with school groups and others visit through Scouts.
The outdoor adventure often is the first time many kids from large cities, such as Detroit, have a chance to get away from an urban environment and into the wild.
Campers can go for a swim or cruise around in canoes or paddleboats. On our hike through the woods, we passed a ropes course with a zip line at the end. An indoor ropes course with a climbing wall also was available.
Out in the woods, we saw groups of kids learning survival skills. Some looked like they were learning about the life of pioneers. There appeared to be as many girls participating in the activities as boys. We noted the dining hall was arranged so girls and boys would sit at the same tables.
We also visited a nature center, where a young male docent brought varieties of snakes out to be handled as he talked about several different types of turtles in a nearby pool and a variety of other small animals. A swampy area nearby features a variety of birds and reptiles.
We were impressed by the variety of experiences and learning opportunities available to the visiting children, many whom are from disadvantaged homes. Four or five days was great, but we felt they would benefit from even more time at the camp. Our meals were planned, so we didn’t have to stand in the long lines that plagued the children’s side of the dining hall.
While not specific to any one denomination, many programs at the camp include some element of Christianity. Part of the fees we paid to attend our program help support the program for children who need financial aid.
Living History Farms: Des Moines, Iowa
Visitors enter the millinery shop at the 1875 town of Walnut Hill, part of several attractions at the 500-acre Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa.
Living History Farms, a 500-acre outdoor museum covering 300 years of the agricultural past, is one of the finest attractions of its kind for adults and children in the United States.
The museum has four sites — a 1700 Ioway Indian farm, an 1850 pioneer farm, a 1900 horse-powered farm and the 1875 town of Walnut Hill — housed on its property in Urbandale, Iowa, 8 miles west of Des Moines.
When we stopped at the entrance to Walnut Hill, a tour guide suggested we take a tractor-towed cart to the farms to save some energy.
At the tractor pickup, a large crowd of 4- and 5-year-old children awaited a tour. The guide told us the museum is open daily from May 1 to Aug. 28, with schools rushing to visit before classes end for the year. The venue is open for a second season from Aug. 31 to Oct. 21, though its days are more limited during that period.
Part of the appeal is the expertise and enthusiasm of the staff that includes students from local colleges as well as retired seniors. They wore period dress but were not re-enactors, interacting with visitors while answering questions about how things were done in the time period.
When the cart dropped us off at the 1700 Ioway Indian farm, we explored three shelters: one for deep winter, one for summer and one for when they were following the buffalo. A large drying rack held beans, corn and squash, which the Ioway people would bury in jars to use during the cold season.
A walk through the woods brought us to the 1850 pioneer farm, complete with a cowshed, a chicken coop, a smokehouse and a small log cabin. Two women in the cabin were preparing onion bread and steak — steak because a raccoon had gotten into the smokehouse and ruined the pork that had been inside. The recipe for the bread sounded so good that we asked for it. The ladies said steak was relatively uncommon at the time, noting pork was the primary meat pioneers consumed.
Two re-enactors prepare onion bread and steak for dinner
Rather than ride, we walked along a long path to the 1900 horse-powered farm. Great changes had been made in 50 years. This farm had a large barn and other smaller buildings, a windmill and many more animals. The house had four rooms downstairs and two upstairs.
A worker makes a corn broom at the Living History Farms. The brooms are built with corn that produces a sturdy straw rather than traditional ears.
We recognized the equipment from our own childhoods, including a wood stove and butter churn. The lady of the house was making brandied carrots and planned to serve it with steak.
An employee inside the barn briefed us about Living History Farms visits during the cold season, when exhibitions are closed. People can stop in for meals cooked in the style of the various periods.
After we rode the cart back to Walnut Hill, we first observed fifth-graders seated in a classroom with girls on one side and boys on the other — as was the style in 1875.
Our next stop was the broom factory, where we learned about a strain of corn that produces a sturdy straw rather than ears. A woman in the factory was making a variety of brooms using several machines. The brooms were for sale in several places around the village at prices much higher than they would have been in 1875.
When we visited an implement dealer’s building, we were familiar with much of the equipment. However, we were fascinated by devices for planting seeds, washing clothes and churning butter. One particularly amazing butter churn harnessed the power of a dog running on a treadmill to turn the plunger in the churn. The dealer said people also could put a sheep on the treadmill.
The guide told us that businessmen had been overcharged for equipment because it was so difficult to transport.
A group of farmers that called themselves the Grangers decided to unionize to buy the equipment for lower rates.
At the doctor’s office, we got a good overview of medicine in 1875. Most of a doctor’s work was done on the road, and he only spent one day a week seeing patients in his office. He mixed many of his own medicines and carried them in a saddlebag.
Probably the hardest job we saw was done by the volunteers setting type for the weekly newspaper. Both women working on the newspaper were knowledgeable, and we learned a lot. For example, how did they keep up on national and international news? Who were their sources?
It turned out that a major paper in a nearby city with proper contacts would send them the inside two pages already printed with articles. The local worker had to write and print only pages one and four of the paper. At 300 papers a printing, it was hard to break even. The paper made its profit by handling other printing jobs for people in the community.