Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Reading A Hillbilly Elegy

I love learning new words. I didn't know the meaning of the word elegy when I picked up Hillbilly Elegy to read. And I still didn't when I finished reading it. Just now as I sat to write my response to this honest description of growing up in working class poverty by J.D. Vance, did I finally look up the definition. As a reader who grew up in a working class family, I suspect J. D. would understand that order of fulfilling my curiosity. I love learning new words. My interest in incorporating new vocabulary into my speech is just one small example of how this story resonates for me. I relate personally to this memoir on many levels, the most obvious simply the familiarity of the experiences described. 


el-i-jee ]

a mournful, melancholy, or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.

a poem written in elegiac meter.

a sad or mournful musical composition.

It isn't actually my interest in learning new words that provides one of many connections to J.D. Vance's story, but more accurately the experiences of being rebuffed for trying to use any new vocabulary in my day to day speech in a working class neighborhood as a child. The culture I grew up in was not Kentucky "hillbilly" the label J.D. Vance uses for his own family background but the experiences of my own raised poor working class upbringing would be recognizable to the folks in Vance's childhood community. 

I made a new acquaintance recently during my reading of the book, carrying it along on a recent trip. Having already read the title she saw I held, she said it was hard to read. After sharing her thoughts of dismay and shock about events in the story, she asked my reaction to the book. I launched into my own disturbing family stories. My retelling of similar family experiences was probably more than she expected. My own life is filled with crazy poor working class substance abuse stories passed down from earlier generations of my family and lived through in my childhood. 

Addiction, co-dependence, domestic violence, teen pregnancies and limited higher education were all a part of my life growing up, but fortunately so was a reasonably good public education system, a neighborhood of families who kept an eye on each other's kids and accessible public libraries. Those community resources were contributing factors in being able to rise above the disfunction I was raised in, but so was my own innate curiosity about the lives of others and the options I had a glimpse of. It was books filled with words of the life stories of others, books with promises of more somewhere else, sometime in the future, books that offered a mental escape. Holding those promises in my heart was a way to get through it all with the hopes of more and dreams of peace intact.

Hillbilly Elegy presents the hardships suffered by the working class in a specific part of our country but I've lived through and seen similar problems in other geographic locations in the US.  Despite the hardships presented, Hillbilly Elegy is a story of hope and the accomplishments that can be made by one individual with the right love, encouragement and support to back them. 

In just the last few days, I've learned that J.D. Vance is currently making an attempt to spread that hope further by running as a candidate for the US Senate in Ohio. Based on what I've come to know about him, I'd say he'd be an excellent voice for the people he would represent.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Year End - Into 2022 Reads

For me, 2021 ended with the luxurious opportunity for some cozy long days of reading. I plowed through two titles by a writer I recently discovered. Rod Dreher is a Christian writer whose words in these works provide an analysis for a deeper understanding of our current times and for encouragement I've been in need of. New directions have been brewing both spiritually and geographically for me as I've struggled with the new realities of post modern, post pandemic living. Both The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies include thought provoking ideas for personal spirtitual consideration and what to consider going forward in communty.

Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option provides a potential guide for Christians during these times and place of what he describes as a post-christian nation. Not neccessarily a welcome description of where we are as a country but it is always a relief to read or hear the words of someone as they describe what one has been witnessing but unable to articulate for oneself.

The second title I dove into immediately after finishing The Benedict Option holds even more direct relevance to the immediate events in our times. The acknowledgement by more and more Americans of the similarities of what is currently happening in our country in the name of safety to the tyranny that our countrymen fought to eliminate in the past. As stated inside the jacket cover, Live Not By Lies is the wake-up call we need. Whether drawn to the Christian aspects of Dreher's work or not, I hope many will find their way to this title in particular with it's poignant examples of immigrant citizens who have experienced the drama, fear and horrors of living through and escaping from totalitarian governments.

My own experience includes hearing stories from survivors of authoritarian regimes, as well. Their recollections have remained with me, in some cases for decades now. Their knowledge and insights demand that we heed their warnings. Rod Dreher has put together the intellectuall reasoning as well. His writing is worth your time to read whatever your personal spiritual approach is.

Another enlightening story that reveals current lived reality from around the world is In Order to Live, A North Korean Girl's Journey To Freedom by Yeomi Park. Yeomi Park's first hand experiences of living in and risking an escape from North Korean is told in her recent bookHer real life story is a fast and dramatic read that is another important title to aid in the understanding of what tyranny still exists and where it has the potential to develop further. To raise awareness of the fact that totalitarianism could indeed happen in the USA, I highly recommend this memoir.

I anticipate 2022 to be a year of contiunued adaptation and learning for all. My reading goals for the New Year will include catagories that stretch my mind and improve my understanding of history. With courage and God's leading I pray I will be able to learn to be a greater influence in my community.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Arts, Artists & History

Last summer, my daughter, joyfully accepted the opportunity to participate in the studio training company of The Texas Ballet Theater. The sole purpose of her move to Dallas was to dance and perform. Opportunities to perform with The Texas Ballet Theater Company were promoted extensively as an important aspect of the studio training company. The potential to be a part of The Texas Ballet Theater Company's performances was a dream come true for her.

"Under U.S. law, you have the right to
refuse EUAs. And you must be informed of
all that is known and unknown about
risks and benefits." Meryl Nass, MD
Following several weeks of class, she along with a few select studio training company students, were asked to perform with the Texas Ballet Theater's professional company in the upcoming production of the Nutcracker. After accepting the offer, the students were informed of the requirement to have the non-approved FDA experimental injection, as a condition for participation. This condition was presented only after we made major decisions including her acceptance to joining the studio training company, paying fees, apartment rentals, etc. She submitted a notification of exemption per her God given right to bodily autonomy protected by our constitution.

On September 20, 2021, she received notification from The Texas Ballet Theater's Human Resources Department denying her the opportunity to participate in the Company's production of the Nutcracker, discriminating against her due to her religious beliefs and violating her constitutional right to be exempt from an experimental medical requirement. 

After several abandoned attempts to compose my thoughts in writing regarding this unexpected, unconstitutional, and unethical requirement, I've decided to change my approach. I've decided not to dwell on the science, given that evidence based peer reviewed research (or lack there of) is not considered in any of the required Covid responses inside or outside of the arts community. Nor will I continue to bring to the table any discussion based on religious beliefs, as many dance companies including The Texas Ballet Theater have also made the decision to disregard any & all personal beliefs of conscience and discriminate against dancers and staff who provide notice of religious exemption.

History Repeats Itself

Instead, I'd like to share a true story of my daughter's heritage. Her great-grandparents on my husband's side of the family were performing artists in Estonia in the 1930s. Her great grandmother, Ellie Eskola was a professional ballerina. She danced with the Tallin Ballet in the capital city of Estonia. Her great grandfather, Ants Eskola was a well-known actor and singer. He was also a painter and pursued other artistic interests. The couples' flourishing and successful careers in the arts were interrupted by WWII. Their small but vibrant country of Estonia became occupied by tryannical regimes on both extremes of the political spectrum from left and right. Dictators hungry for power can come from both directions, geographically and ideologically.

Performing Arts Careers Interrupted

Ants and Ellie were well known public figures in Estonia at the time. Ants especially had enough notoriety to be recognized as an influential voice. His outspoken opinions against the world's dictators were not appreciated and landed Ants in the hands of the Soviet troops. Arrested by the soldiers occupying their country, Ants was reported to his family as dead. It was reported to Ellie that her husband had been shot and killed by his imprisoners. Along with about ten percent of the population of Estonia, Ellie and her two children fled their home country. 

Housed in a refugee camp for a number of years, Ellie and her two children plus an added infant relocated to the USA in the late nineteen forties.  Actually alive during those years, the truth that Ants' life had been spared was revealed much later. Details of his life in a gulag were not disclosed to his family during his imprisonment. 

Having survived years of imprisonment, Ants was released from the deplorable conditions of the Soviet prison. He had like all other Estonian survivors still living in their homeland, without consent, become a soviet citizen. 

"The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic was a republic of the Soviet Union. The ESSR was initially established on the territory of the Republic of Estonia on 21 July 1940, following the occupation of Soviet troops on 17 June 1940 and the installation of a communist government backed by the Soviet Union, which declared Estonia a Soviet constituency."  - Wikipedia


Celebrity status didn't confer many benefits during the Soviet occupation of Estonia. Ants was not allowed by the state to leave the country to visit his family once they rediscovered the where abouts of one another. Ants was allowed however to resume practicing his craft and began acting again. The arts were of course Soviet controlled and government centered at the time. All productions were state approved propaganda. Even within that context Ants Eskola's fame continued. He was awarded the honorary title of  People's Artist of the USSR in 1964 granted to artists of the Soviet Union.

In the 1960s, still under the rule of the Soviets, Ants was finally allowed to visit his first family in the U.S. but only solo without any family members including his second wife and the family he had since established with her. 

So, what's the point of telling you this story of family history. Well, here's the point - history repeats and certain human characteristics remain the same for individuals, groups, cultures, and societies. 

The spotlight confers value to artists. They hold an influential position in society, especially if they are well known. Many have a personal message of insight, belief or vision to share. In a truly free system or society their message will be widely displayed and welcome. Their vision may touch some and not others. Their message may take hold, it may spark a movement in any number of possible ways; artistic, spiritual, economic, or political. In a government-controlled society such as the Soviet Union or the Third Reich and Nazi Germany, if a message is contrary to the politically powerful that message will be silenced. In the context of government overreach and tyranny, the only story given consideration or even allowed to see the light of day will be the one useful to those in positions of power. The narrative will be limited to one that promotes more power for those who desire control over the lives of others.

Human Nature Loves Power

Individuals and regimes seeking to gain power will do whatever it takes to establish and maintain it. Establishing control of the artists, what they produce and present, in a society is a well-known and very useful tool for maintaining the story line. The artists, dancers, musicians and writers provide access to beauty, to relevant questions, and to the powerful insights needed to discover truth.

Once in power, a regime in control will construct every obstacle imaginable to limit the ability to share insights most notably provided by creative individuals. No new insights allowed, no new thinking allowed, and absolutely no challenges to a dictatorial political class holding power. Only messages giving a boon to political power and death to creativity.

The lives of true artists are filled with insight and revelation. They hold historically valuable insights as well as the discovery of new approaches. Creative individuals with a unique viewpoint and an encouraging message to others to pursue individual dreams and creativity will be first on the lists targeted for repression. Demands for obedience by the state, to the state, of the messengers of individual creativity will be high.

Individual thought and unique responses to life's ever-changing circumstances & challenges will be discouraged and even outlawed. Threats to the livelihood and potentially to the very life of any rouge and successful living artist will be made.

This is in fact what has happened in the past in our world. My daughter's ancestors have only one of the many sad stories from the proliferation of tyranny around the globe during WWII. Their story illustrates that when the state grabs power over its citizens there will inevitably be loss, chaos and human suffering. We live in a unique country in all the world and our history of freedom has been unprecedented in world history. Here it was established that the government would be limited and controlled by 'we the people' not the people controlled by government. All of that is currently in jeopordy by the extensive overreach of our government; local, state and federal.

Artists Have Influence

That the arts have become a useful agent of control for those in power is obvious around the country. Arts organizations are flexing muscle as agents of governmental control. The Texas Ballet Theater is no exception. For the arts to continue as a truly creative activity of beauty and revelation; striving to elicit insight, to encourage discovery and to engender courage, arts organizations are going to have to stand up together against the desire to control the personal choices made by the artists they claim to support, not participate in it. If the organizations claiming to be for the arts cannot stand against the threats to the autonomus thinking and freedom to make personal choices without being ostrasized from community then we are already a long way down the road of only producing propaganda and not art. If there is any hope for those within the dance community with dreams of sharing their unique artistic vision it lies only with those willing to stand against the tyranny and medical segregation, we are all now experiencing.

Supporting the arts has taken on a whole new meaning. Please, join me in standing for freedom in the arts and in all of American life.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Fall Student Attendance Concerns - My Letter Shared - Local Classrooms Part 2

This photo is from my local elementary school district's website. (The one my kids didn't go to because we homeschooled.) I was looking up school board member contact info to share my concerns regarding school mask mandates on children, (my email and the board president's email response below, the subject line mispell was from the board pres, not me). The irony of the photo struck me. Given that I would happily wager that the most often asked question of homeschooling parents is "What about socialization?" Over the years I developed a collection of my own potential responses to the socialization question but I won't go into those right now. I'll just let the school website pic below speak to that and wonder if parents and educators will now finally turn that same question back to their school boards. 

"What about socialization?"

D95 Bord response


Mark Kuzniewski

to meBarbJackieJessicaKatieMeaghanMelissaElizabeth

Please accept this response to your email to board members on August 12.  I am responding 
on behalf of the Board.

Thank you for expressing your views on masking.  At this time, we are under an executive 
order from the Governor wherein masks are mandatory for all students, staff, and visitors 
to a school.  Once this mandate is lifted, the District will evaluate the local metrics to determine
if masking will be optional for vaccinated people.

Again, thank you for sharing your opinion.

Dr. Mark Kuzniewski
Brookfield-District 95

Angie Runyan

to mmcateer
Thu, Aug 12, 6:09 PM
Dear District 95 Schoolboard Member,

I am contacting you as a Brookpark District 95 resident and homeowner.
As an engaged community member, I spent many years as a La Leche League volunteer 
and morecurrently as a lactation consultant supporting new mothers in Brookfield and the
surrounding suburbs.In that capacity, I share evidence based information with mothers of 
newborns as they work to achieve their breastfeeding goals.

My investment in my community may not be as obviously visible as some of the more outwardly 
parent results made by contributions of other Brookfierld and Lagrange Park residents, but to the 
parents who learned about newborn and early childhood care my input has frequently been 
significant at a crucial time in the life of a family. I know that my support during the life altering 
time of welcoming a new baby into a family hasinfluenced many parent/child relationships long 
after I met new parents.

It is with that investment and influence in my community as my catalyst, that I am writing to 
share my deep concerns about any requirements for school age children to cover their faces 
with masks throughout the day in a classroom or other educational setting. Masks, social
distancing and the fear induced by these practices are all hindrances in an educational 
setting, specifically to academic learning and in general to human development in all areas 
of growth and achievement. There are many concerns regarding delayed language skills, 
emotional and social development and more imposed by enforced social obstacles and 
installing excessive fear in children. Socio emotional learning and functioning is jeopardized 
by the restrictions placed on children's ability to read and erceive the expressions of both 
peers, teachers and caregivers.

Add to those concerns that there is ample evidence based on research that there is 
"no reductionin viral transmission with the use of face masks".(1) and I think there is a 
strong case for allowingthe option for families to come to their own conclusions regarding 
the costs and benefits of masking their own children.

Given the concerns of harm imposed on developing young ones and based on a lack of data 
tosupport the efficacy of mask wearing to reduce the spread of the Covid virus, I request that 
the School Board of Brookpark District 95 institute the option for families to choose for their 
own children whether or not they will wear masks during school attendance.

Angie Runyan

1. Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare 
Settings—Personal Protective and Environmental Measures, Jingyi Xiao1, Eunice Y. C. Shiu1,  
Huizhi Gao, Jessica Y. Wong, Min W. Fong, Sukhyun Ryu, and Benjamin J. Cowling 
(Volume 26, Number 5, May of 2020). 


Angie Runyan M.A. IBCLC  PCD(DONA)

A Baby Moon Company                                                                                                        

Every new mother deserves the best company during her baby moon. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Is this learning? Local Classrooms - Part 1

Not my photo.

This is the website cover photo from my local elementary school district. This is meant to be a promotional image for back to school, showing a best case scenerio in the local elementary school in our current fear based culture. How can this be better than days at home or in the backyard?

This photo is so disturbing to me.  It is apparently the current promotional image of a healthy happy public school student. Closed off, free from any human interaction or distraction, "learning" sans human contact. Forced focus on a screen. Only a few short years ago, overuse of screen time was something that we were all concerned about. Parents were warned and encouraged to limit our children's screen time. Now it is being portrayed as the safe effective learning option. 

This child has several devices blocking her from other people and from the world. No air, no sound, no visual distractions. How will she develop the skill of focus without shutting out all stimuli? Is this really safer and what kind of future is it preparing her for? How is this student developing social emotional skills? How will she interact with others? How will she interact with the world? How will she learn to apply whatever information is being promoted on that screen? 

What have we given up?
The most striking irony to me of the photo of the student at the screen, is how the narrative has changed. It was only a few short years ago that homeschooling parents were constantly questioned about their children's socialization. Warned by family, friends and complete strangers that if their children weren't in a classroom filled with peers they'd never be able to function in society. Is this what those questions were getting at? It's a retorical question, of course, this isn't likely what they imagined a student was missing by staying home with family to learn but look how fast our concept has changed.  

As we fumble our way through by refusing to look at reality and take responsibilty for our own children, we are creating a fearful, disengaged society. If we continue down this road, I doubt the destination will be a very fulfilling place to live.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Books and Cowboy Boots Tulsa Summer Reads 2021

For a month of this summer, I was fortunate to be able to spend time in a location I had never been to. I visted Tulsa, Oklahoma with my daughter who was there for a summer dance intensive at Tulsa Ballet. While she danced, I enjoyed relaxed down time and spent hours knitting, doing embriodery and reading. A lovely longed for opportunity to catch up on some of the tiles in the stacks I've collected over recent months.

My Tulsa summer reads are listed with some thoughts below:

Faultlines The Social Justise Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe by Voddie Bauchum is excellent well researched information about how Critical Race Theory is dividing the Evangelical Church. Based on extensive study including understanding from James Lindsey's work (see title below) Faultlines includes personal experiences from Mr. Baucham's life that make for engaging reading for a more informed inderstanding of the current hot topic of Critical Race Theory.

Cynical Theories How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About  Race, Gender, and Identity by Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsey. Cynical Theories gives a thorough academic explanation of the what, where, when and how to of Critical Theory. It is a tough read in that it is very academic and critical race theory itself is confusing in it's co-opting of language and the alteration of the common understanding of many words. This is a definitive guide though - highly recomended it you are interested in the background of Critical Theory.

by C.R. Stewart This title is the second in a series of adventure novels. I read the first in the series as part of the SchoolhouseTeachers homeschool review crew which, by the way, is an excellent place to read about a variety of homeschooling resources if you are looking for materials for your family's learning lifestyle. The series helps fill the gap of good reads for pre and early teen boys. The hardest part of encouraging an interest in the boys in reading in our family was finding titles that satisfied their interest in adventure and excitment with a touch of danger. The titles usually intended for this age range for either boys or girls are typically, in my opinion, usually too mature in certain subject matter, too light on healthy adventure and too simple in the reading level. C.R. Stewart covers all of these requirements with a healthy dose of western civ mixed in. Recomended for your preteens and would be an exciting family read aloud.

Why Place Matters Editied by Wilfred M. McClay & Ted V. McAllister. Why Place Matters is a collection of essays that explore the connections people have to the places where they live. The value of appreciating those places, the history and the engagement in community of where we live is presented by a range of writers. 

"Every place is a universe unto itself."
 Local History: A Way to Place and Home -
Joseph A. Amato
Included in Why Place Matters
The essays reinforced my desire to drive outside of Tulsa to the largest Prairie Preserve in the U.S. Having grown up in Nebraska, the view of a native prairie lanscape soothes my eyes and soul. A ninety minute drive out of town presented us with a wide open horizon and a stop in the town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Pawhuska is the nearest thriving small town to the Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma. The town offers shopping and dining options made available by locals including the well known Pioneer Woman's Mercentile. Our hunger pangs were met with a wait for dinner at Ree Drummand's popular restaurant, so we wandered the small town while we waited for our table. Even on the small town streets we were met with a few unexpected obstacles. 

Our sidewalk stroll was blocked despite the traffic free streets. A few questions, asked of others milling around and of the cashier at a stop in a chic clothing store displaying the most beautiful cowboys I have ever seen, revealed the purpose of the road blocks. The barracades were placed to provide unintruded space for the filming of a movie.  

Which led of course, to just a few more questions (and here finally is the cowboy boots to summer book list connection). The movie, being filmed by Matin Scorsese and staring Leonardo Dicaprio is based on (here's the additional summer read) true historical events of the Osage tribe on the Oklahoma plains, written about in the book Killers of the Flower Moon, The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. We were directed to a local shop that had the book in stock. An easy sell to this prairie history loving fascinated reader.  Also, more within my travel budget than the gorgeous cowboy boots.

Killers of the Flower Moon is a full out high drama mystery that is based on horrific events of the 1920s during the oil boom in Northern Oklahoma. The research David Grann did to pull this story together had to have taken years. I had never heard of the writer but the extent of the research required to present this narrative shows a tenacity that is exhaustive and exhausting to contemplate. Hooray for David Grann for having made it available to read and for the much deserved honor of having the work turned into film. This was an adventure to read and added to the adventure and meaning of our Oklahoma visit. Both the read and a visit to the Oklahoma prairie are highly recomended as I assume will be the movie once released. Until I see the movie though, I'll continue to enjoy any pairie view with an endless sky in attempts to erase any visual imagrey of the Osage tragedies.

The wide horizon of the Oklahoma prairie.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The White Rose

Die Gedanken sind frei.
The past year of  lock downs, emergency orders and other unexpected government actions has forced me to take a long pause and consider the results of circumstances I have never before experienced. It brought back memories of travel and interactions that had faded in my mind. Due to the extended time at home, plus the stirring of experiences past, I began to follow some paths of study for myself. The restrictions imposed on us have had me thinking about many issues that as Americans we have all been able to happily live life without being concerned about.
  • Safety and fear. 
  • Personal responsibilty and government overreach. 
  • Freedom and tyranny. 
Despite my life of living in freedom, I have had a few hand fulls of personal encounters with people who have not had the benefit of liberty for the entirity of their lives. I have met and had conversations with people who have lived without the blessing of being able to take the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness for granted. 

I've written about one of those connections in another post regarding the grandfather of the host family I lived with in Germany. The year following my highschool graduation, I spent a year in Germany. That was long enough ago to actually have oppportunities to speak with Germans who had lived through WWII. Knowing even one person who has survived a tryanical regime in their homeland during their lifetime is enlightening. Listening to their experience can have a lifelong impact on understanding more than just that person's life experience. Due to the fact that this past year of 2020, governments world wide have taken many personal decisions out of the hands of citizens to declare that bureaucrats are assuming the responsibility for health and safety of every individual, conversations I've had with people who have lived through tyranny often came to mind. 

 "Do not forget that every people
deserves the regime it is willing to endure."
from the first White Rose leaflet
 produced in 1942.
An important story I meant, over the years, to learn more about was the story of the White Rose. The White Rose was the name chosen by a resistance movement in Germany during the Third Reich. It is a facisnating story of the resolve and courage of young german citizens to speak out against the tyranny that was happening in their country. The background of and the circumstances that created a group of young people willing to make attempts to wake up the consciences of their fellow german citizens should become a story of awareness and warning to us all. 

In reference to the censorship taking place under the regime, Richard Hanser writes, "The word verbot (prohibition) was taking on increasing significance for more and more Germans in every phase of intellectual life. It was not necessary to be an artist or sculptor or writer to feel the weight of it. No one of inquiring mind or active intelligence could escape its impact."  A Noble Treason The Story of Sophie Scholl & The White Rose Revolt Against Hitler pg.53

"So it was in their years of adolescence and early maturity the members of the White Rose had witnessed the choking off of all voices of moral protest. They had seen their own churches grow silent and ridgid as the spirit animating them departed under the aegis of brutal force." Sophie Scholl & The White Rose. pg 64.

Reading complicated and detailed history often takes more effort than even the most enthusiastic interest can carry a beginning student through. Starting with more simplified outlines of an era can contribute to a basic understanding which can then lead to more detailed reading as interest builds.

The following titles all tell the story of the brave young people of the White Rose, who stepped up to the self assigned challenge of awakening Germans in the midst of tyranny and brutality. I've listed them in order of reading level and more detailed accounts. The atrocities that took place during WWII are heavy and hard to fathom. Please, review all of these for yourself before including them in learning materials for younger readers. Also, consider the temperment and maturity of your students before diving in.

The White Rose book list below and link to AbeBooks:

The White Rose Movement by Bridey Heing (a title in the Peaceful Protesters series by Cavendish Square Publishing)

We Will Not Be Silent by Russell Freedman

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose by Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn

A Noble Treason The Story of Sophie Scholl and The White Rose Revolt Against Hitler by Richard Hanser

Monday, May 31, 2021

Decoration Day

I remember, as a child, the last weekend in May being observed as Decoration Day. It included as the central activity, a family outing to the cemetery. Carrying a full bouquet of fresh cut bobbing peonies in full bloom along for the ride, we would head to the cemetery. There we would do a bit of clean up of a the relatives's grave. We would pull the upside down heavy metal vase from it's hiden below ground cubbyhole next to the gave's marker, fill it with water from a faucet that jutted directly out of the cemeteries lawn, place the top heavy backyard blosoms bouquet of peonies. Somewhere during the process children's questions regarding who was that, when did they die, how are we related, etc. would be answered to varying degrees of childish satifaction and we would head back home. 

No one in our family was a veteran nor did we have any relatives who had fallen in war but, that focus of the day was mentioned none the less. Decorating the graves were to honor those who went before, in particular those who had gone before and had fought in wars to protect our freedoms. For our family, that was pretty much the extent of the explainations and the observation of what we now more commonly call Memorial Day.

These days I hang a U.S. flag, we have a family gathering with bar-b-q and picnic food. That pretty much sums up the day. A day honoring those who gave their lives in wars and conflicts engaged in by our country deserve more though. A greater understanding of the freedoms we have inherited because of the courage of so many, deserves a pause to acknowledge with gratitude what we have been given. 

What I learned from a bit of internet searching includes some history from the website of Nursey enterprises:

The first national celebration of Decoration Day took place May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried. Shortly thereafter, some Americans, including high officials in the U.S. Government, began to refer to it as Memorial Day. Its focus, though, still lingered on the Civil War. The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs states, “By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation.”

After WWI, the federal government went further and declared the last Monday in May to be called Memorial Day as a day to honor all Americans who have died in military service for the United States and to decorate their graves. The most recent official acts came in 1968 and in 1971 when Congress declared Memorial Day a National Holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May.

After WWI Red Poppies were added as a symbol to the annual observence. From a Good Housekeeping article: 

Poppies, often made of fabric or crepe paper, symbolize more than a fundraising effort to support our country’s veterans: They honor and memorialize fallen soldiers. The red poppy officially became the national emblem of remembrance in 1920 – but the resilient little flower's roots run deep, all the way back to the battlefields of World War I, where it grew in the unlikeliest of places.

“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

So Many Books. So Little Time.

In my house the shelves are full of books. There are also table tops filled with stacks of  books; just read, half read and to be read. I also keep lists of titles for reference. List a) includes books I've read with a few notes, comments and thoughts I want to remember based on something recently read. List b) includes suggested titles I've heard mentioned or read about that I hope to have time to read in the near future. 

Books as gifts linger long after the package
is opened. Aunt Jane of Kentucky was sent
to me by an instagram friend.

Homeschooling our children as they grew from little ones into young adults added to an already crowded book collection. Many of the titles we acquired for homeschooling still continue to crowd the shelves. Some I have recently spent time rereading or browsing, particularly some of the history titles that weren't completed together as a family or were read by our "students" but not by myself at the time.

Books shared are an excellent way to create memories. The shared experience of a story and the questions, consideration or discussions that follow become bonding experiences that will always be anchors for intellectual and emotional connections. We shared many read alouds as a homeschooling family. Despite the volume of reading together we did, looking back, I wish we had found a way to squeeze in even more.

Biographies are a great way to dive into history with a more accesible hook to draw the reader in. They are also a great way to find mentors to emulate. I've been filling in some of the gaps in my own understanding of history with stories of people from the past. Good examples come from author, Eric Metaxas. He has written about many historical figures. He wrote the go to biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that is a must read if you have any interest in WWII.

Currently, my to be read stack is pretty hefty. The trick for me in keeping the still want to read stack managable seems to be holding off on acquiring new titles until the already read is taller or at least even with the to be read. So many books, so little time. Wish me luck and much uninterupted reading time to get through what is still to be consumed of the titles in the piles of books below. More detailed reviews of selected titles coming soon.

Favorite things:
Flowers, painting and stacks of books;
library books, books recently read and
books still to be read.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

My Sew Journey

In many respects, this past year has been one of reviving many interests and activities. As the months of staying home continued on longer than expected, I endulged more and more into long neglected crafting & sewing skills. I honestly don't know how I would have handled the restictions imposed on us without an interest in and love of creating things with my hands. Looking back over the months, I probably could have created even more if I had commtted to doing so sooner, given the amount of unscheduled time presented itself.

One of the minor making challenges I took on during the stay home months was the creating of fabric wallets. The most recent is pictured. I initially created them with the idea of having a wallet to hold the spiral bound cash envelopes we began using that are suggested in the Dave Ramsey budgeting system. The Dave Ramsey program provides info and resources for individuals and families to eliminate debt to take and maintain control of their finances. He promotes a budgeting system utilizing cash in a monthly predetermined amount. We've moved in and out of using this system ourselves but personally I appreciate the hands on and visual aspect of the cash system he promotes. 
With each catagory of spending planned in advance using a monthly budget, 
when the envelopes are empty, they are empty, when the cash is gone - it's gone! 

This year has presented some challenges to using a household cash system. We have done more shopping online utilizes cards instead of cash. There were a few places we shopped in person that weren't comfortable accepting cash and required digital payment for a period of time. So despite having made these lovely wrist walles suitable for carrying cash and a phone, I am just beginning to fill and use mine. And in the meantime continuing to make more. Sew on!