Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day Dad

What you taught me...

I think I've restarted this post four or five times now. I have a hard time putting into words everything Dad is to me. What both of my parents are to me. I never spend enough time giving credit where credit is due. So I figure I'll use my little soapbox on the internet to tell you about some of the things about my father.

My Dad is the epitome of the "self-made man." He had to grow up too fast, and become a brother, provider and guardian to his siblings. He did not have the easiest childhood, but I never heard him complain. Because I knew my father lost his own dad at a very young age, I grew up with a deeper appreciation of having both parents with me.

When I was a little girl, I spent so many hours as dad's little shadow. I'm pretty sure that's why I know how to do many more "masculine" things. I spent hours painting boats, carving out poorly shaped decoys, laying tile, sanding old cars, watching oil changes and tire rotations, gutting fish and figuring out how to not bend a nail with the hammer.

I found a love of books from both Mom and Dad. Mom led me to the novels and fiction love stories. Dad introduced me to historical novels, biographies and war memoirs. From there, I found a love of history and all things that time has forgotten.


Dad taught me to keep my eyes open to the world around me. I can often be caught craning my neck to see what year a muscle car is when it speeds by. Or looking up to the sky to see what type of jet is coming in to land at Dulles. I'll intentionally check the History or Military channels to see what's on. And Lord knows I am unable to resist a John Wayne movie. :)


More than the superficial, my Dad pushed me to be better. To not take the bullshit that life tends to throw, and instead find another way to reach your dreams. He never, ever gave up on me, even when it seemed that I'd never catch a break. He supported me and even suffered financially so that I would live more comfortably. I hope someday I can repay the favor.


Everyone is entitled to have a wonderful father, however, so many don't. So many don't even have a man to call their dad. I was incredibly lucky. I'm certain that when I was younger I had no idea how good I had it. When Dad and Mom would refuse to buy that thing, or let me stay out too late. When Dad would make me redo my makeup before school so I didn't look ridiculous. When Dad took me to buy my first car, that I had saved up a chunk of change for. It wasn't new or even within the decade old. But he taught me to value it and care for it, because it was my investment. Not just a gift to overlook. I had no idea how impactful those things would be today. And of course I'm sure there are things now... bits of advice or words of wisdom that I'll look back in ten years and say "thanks Dad, you were right."


But I'm still not so sure about you having them tighten my braces before prom... not cool. ;)

I love you Dad. I love you more than life. You're my hero. I hold you and Pop-Pop in my heart as the men I will compare all others to.

Love, Meg

Friday, June 8, 2012

D-Day Tribute to my Grandfather

This morning my Dad called me after he got my message yesterday asking about my grandfather. In case you are not a war buff or historian, yesterday was the anniversary of the D-Day invasion in WWII. I couldn't reach Dad yesterday to write up this post, but I figure today will do just fine.

I've heard war stories about my grandfather before; some of which he told me himself before passing away when I was an undergrad. However, my father has a much larger arsenal of stories my Pop-Pop told him over the years. So when I forget something, I immediately call Dad to be reminded. A terrifying fear of mine is forgetting details from my Pop-Pop's life... even things that happened well before I was born. It's important for me to remember the details and remember every bit of him.

So in the honor of the D-Day anniversary, I wanted to share a few things I relearned about my grandfather, Albert A. Latwinas Sr.

Albert enlisted in the Army as a Private, First Class at the ripe old age of 18 and was swiftly sent off to Georgia for training.

My grandfather made his debut in the war on D-Day in Normandy. Though Albert was part of the 100th Infantry Division, they were not completely united and verified until October of 1944. However, various regiments derived from the 100th were set to invade Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. Thus, he arrived on the beaches as part of a segmented regiment from the 100th; most likely the 399th regiment. The battles later in the year are documented as part of the 100th (to give you context).

Albert's account (learned third person) of his D-Day landing is reminiscent of The Longest Day or Saving Private Ryan. I even remember going to see the movie with my family and Pop and he couldn't watch more than a few moments of the Normandy invasion. He said, "I saw it once. I remember it just fine without having to watch again." He remembers vividly peering over the side of the landing craft he was on to one next to him. He crouched back down at the sound of mortars and when he peered up at the neighboring craft, it was gone. Completely decimated.

Thankfully, Albert was not part of the first two waves onto Omaha Beach. Those suffered the most devastating casualties. Pop was on the fourth or fifth wave (uncertain as to which). However, his introduction to World War II was just as bloody. He was hit in the neck and scalp with shrapnel from a German mortar not long after landing on the beach. However, he kept fighting. After the invasion he never got the injury treated. Thus, years and years later, until the day he died, he was still finding pieces of shrapnel that was finally working its way out of his body. He kept the pieces in a pill bottle.

Following Normandy, Pop-Pop continued through France to Germany. He was part of many well known battles in 1944/45 including the Ardennes-Alsace campaign and Bitche.

Once, during patrols, they made their way into a small village in France. Bodies of soldiers from both sides littered the streets. However, only one image remained burned into Albert's mind. He came upon a young, blonde haired girl. No doubt a local to the village who got caught in the fray. He said he saw no marks on her, yet she lay still in the street, appearing as though she was merely asleep. The dead girl haunted him for years because all he could do was imagine she was one of his own young children back in New Jersey.

Another story to note was during the winter months of 1945. Albert was trapped behind German artillery with one of his superiors Staff Sergeant Richard Trapani. During a break in the attack, Trapani charged the German machine gun and destroyed the nest. Within the same battle though, he was struck down. Much like the history books, Pop called him a hero. More on Trapani: United States Army Staff Sergeant, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company F, 399th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 15 March 1945, in the vicinity of Reyersviller, France. My grandfather recalled the devastation Trapani's death caused in the regiment. The soldiers respected him and felt it impossible that Trapani could die. I am so glad that his family now knows of his bravery and sacrifice and that he has been honored for it.

A few more items to note before I turn it in for the night... I just don't want to forget.

Pop-Pop crossed the Atlantic on the converted Queen Mary and returned to the States on a Constellation (a very large airplane). Talk about riding in style. When he returned safely home, he was ranked as Staff Sergent. Aside from the first day in battle when he received the neck wound, Pop Pop came home unscathed. Of course he carried around every piece of the war with him, but unlike so many who could not recover, Pop Pop made a promise to himself that he wouldn't waste his life. He saw his closest friends blown to pieces and held men in his arms as they bled out. When he returned him he was determined to work hard and to never go a day without a kind word or a smile. And that is certainly how I remember him. An honorable man with a great sense of humor and a love for life despite not living through the best circumstances. He was a strong and stout Lithuanian-American with the most beautiful blue eyes you could imagine. As I write this I am looking at a framed photo of Pop in his uniform. It sits on my desk every day. If I could be a quarter as honorable as my grandfather, I would feel I've lived a full life.

To me, he can never die. Though he's been gone for over five years now, I still think about him every single day. Every opportunity I get, I find a way to tell a story about him or reuse a saying I used to hear from him. I have a great determination to keep his memory alive, as do my mother and father. Though Pop was my mother's Dad, my own father saw him as a father figure. My Dad lost his own father when he was very, very young. So growing up from a late teen to his fifties, he referred to Pop-Pop as "Dad" or "Pop," even after my parents split. He loved him so much and still does. You can tell... he tells even more stories about my grandfather than I do. :)

To all the vets, old and new, alive and passed on... thank you. God bless you and thank you.

The Greatest Generation is fading away. I can't let the memory of them fade as well. 


Monday, May 7, 2012

Avengers is a Win

internet memes - Señor Gif: GTFO
see more Memebase and check out our Troll Face lols! Avengers = A for Awesome :) -Meg

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oh, Canada

I'm so excited to say I'm writing this from Vancouver, BC! I have already been here a few days so I have some catching up to do on this blog when I have more time. Kristen is traveling with me so of course we are going, going, going, all day. :)

What a beautiful city! I have been to Canada before on the east coast, but I was much younger then. However I did remember having a wonderful time and meeting very kind-hearted individuals. It looks like not much has changed. Aside from a homeless man telling me to F**k myself because I kept walking by him without addressing his questions... lol... everyone has been super duper nice.

So let me get some sushi for dinner and then I'll start posting about the first few days here.

Cheers, eh!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hunger Games Trilogy... WTF Review

SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing events from all three books in the trilogy. If you have not read them and don't want the ending revealed in a jarring manner (much like the books are written) then exit now!!!!!!!

DISCLAIMER: Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and most of them stink. This review/rant is merely my opinion that I am writing on 4 hours of sleep because this book kept me awake. I had to start reading some cheesy girl book to get the taste out of my mouth. And even then, I was depressed watching the sun rise. So yeah, this is me bitching my opinion. I want you to know I LIKED the books overall and that I was very pleased with the movie. However, this needs to get off my chest...

Okay you've been warned. So let me preface this by saying that I never really write book reviews, and Lord knows that is not the purpose of this blog. However, being that I was up until 5:30 this morning, I am compelled to spill my guts over the events of the past few days that I read the three books in question. To clarify, this week I read:

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

All are authored by Suzanne Collins. And before my "critique" I must give credit to the author. She knows how to write, and she knows how to engage the reader to want to continue reading. I think I finished each book in little over a day.

The first book is superior to the rest in my estimation. The character development is solid and steady. The action gets going fast enough to stay engaged and the reader begins to mull over the two male leads. I will say that the end of the book was a bit jarring but nearly as much as the sequels. There are certainly times when I want to reach through the page and shake Katniss into having some human emotions. Her lack of decision making outside the arena reminds me of Zoey, the main female character in the House of Night series. But that's where the connection stops for me. It's just a frustration.

Sooo let me get down to the point. I was horrified by the ending of the last book. And not in the way I expected. Thank God my friends are not soulless and forewarned me that the end of the series would make me displeased. I got a little taste of the abruptness in Collins' writing by the end of the second book, where its like... Action. Action. Gasp. Action. Confusion. Katniss Rescued. 12 Gone. Close Book. What? WHAT just occurred? I had to re-read a good chunk of the end... slowly... so I felt more development of events could occur. No such luck. However it did get me intrigued to immediately start the third book.

Oh Mockingjay. My dear, sweet Mockingjay. There were a few ways I approached this book. All of which involved great trepidation to not read the end. My roommate, Kris, warned me that the end was sudden and somewhat frustrating. However, three chapters in I was already agitated. Now please don't get me wrong, there are points when I fully connect with Katniss and her slipping control over her own mind. However, her complete lack of emotions except for little snippets of time are confusing. Trying to put myself in her shoes I could see being emotionally stunted by the events of the games and even life in 12 before. However, she has this weird habit of dismissing people that care for her, to the point that I'm reading out loud going "What the hell Kat!?" Yes, I call her Kat. Judge away.

So, okay, overall the book is good. HOWEVER... Mockingjay should be two separate books. Wayyy too much stuff happens and none of it is really developed until they get to the Capitol. And even then, after that gets rolling, time jumps again. But let me not get ahead of myself. I knew they would kill Prim. They had to didn't they? Because that was the only person Katniss seemed truly happy with and one of the characters I truly loved. And then there is Finnick and Annie. I figured well I know I'll be pissy about how the author treats Katniss' love choices, so at least I can be happy that Finnick and Annie are together. Especially when I guessed that Annie would die. NOPE! Finnick is eaten by mutts and then blown up... wtf. Okay, okay, I get some of the deaths in the book. Actually, I understand a lot of them. However, Cinna, Prim and Finnick are unforgivable. WTF Collins! Stop that!

So then there is the treatment of time after Katniss kills Coin (which I lol'd about). I wasn't super happy that there was no definite explanation of how Snow died (choking on his blood from laughing...really?) and if I were Katniss I'd be pissed to not take the bastard out myself. So then lets time jump. A lot. To me, the end of the book is like when my Jeep hits 1/2 a tank of fuel left. From F to 1/2 it's a solid few days. From 1/2 to Empty it takes like ... an hour. Okay that's false, but still. It's fast. Too fast. Startlingly fast.

So Katniss just chills in the Capitol suite forever planning the never-ending suicide? Okay. So wait, Katniss just sits in her house for months? All nasty and shit? And Greasy Sae doesn't even try to hose her down? Okay. Oh wait. She starts talking to Peeta again (and he's not choking her). Okay. And her Mom doesn't give a crap enough to come back to her. Okay. And Gale and her are like "okay, it might have been your bomb so you can't be forgiven, even though you couldn't have known. Peace bro." Okay. Soooo Katniss has no one but Haymitch. They even kill off the sweet mayor's daughter? Okay. Um, I'll commit suicide FOR Katniss. By the end of the book I'm pissed and crying. But wait, is this a silver lining? Nope. If it is it sped by at the speed of a Ferrari on the Autobon.

It's like three pages long. Three. Peeta and I talk. Then we like each other. Then we're a thing again, but it's not the same. Then a million years later I'm like "okay impregnate me." And then I'm a sad Mom. No more Hunger Games. Sweet. Then I'll tell my cute kids about my horrible existence and how Mommy killed lots of people. But it's gonna be cool. I wrote it all down. Because that's cathartic. THE END. Okay.

What. The. (pardon me) Fuck. Just. Happened.
I swear to you, this should have been TWO books. Develop the attacks on 13 and the subsequent plan to go to 2 and the Capitol. Fin. Book 2 (or 4 technically). Attack the Capitol. Kill all the nice characters except for the boys. Then DEVELOP THE ENDING. Give the reader something to cling on to. It's almost like Collins was so exhausted from writing the series that she slapped on a three page denouement and a 2 page Epilogue and called it a day. Okay.

So in sum, yes, I liked the books and most of the content. However, as a reader and a narrative writer I felt really disconnected by the end. And mad. I hate ending books feeling mad. That's not to say I approve of happy endings all the time... perhaps that couldn't happen in a dystopian society. But still... develop it. For God's sake man, develop it!

So now I'm tired and grumpy and I need a coffee. The odds seem to not be in my favor. LoL.



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Making Lists

To Dos... Groceries... Don't Forget... Gift Ideas... Class schedules... Student Needs

I make lists. Lots of them. To the point what when I started cleaning today I found about 20 of them. All different kinds. However, there was something universal throughout. None of them were completely crossed off. Some were almost finished and some appeared as new and untouched as the day I thought them up.

I don't finish my lists. And I guess that is alright. I do accomplish what I feel I need to each day, and I always meet the deadline (however close it may get). But these lists got me thinking about other lists I've made. In diaries and journals. In my mind. The greater "to do" list of what I want to accomplish. What I want others to remember. And I wonder now as a woman in her upper twenties... how am I doing? I'm still holding steady to so many ideas and aspirations that I made when I was younger and saw the world with different eyes. So still now, I stand poised with pen in hand, just waiting to cross another thing off or to check the box that it is complete. That it is successful.

Trust me that this is not a post of regrets or even of pessimism. It is however, a curiosity of self. How do I decide what to start on, what to finish, and what to leave on these lists for another day. How do I decide what gets to sit untouched until a colder January day where I feel the urge to de-clutter.

What are your lists? Do you always complete them?
I feel like I'm not the only one.