A re-write of history…

I just finished reading Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It, by Larrie D. Ferreiro.

I’d love to know what is taught in our current high school history classes. All of this was new to me and I found it fascinating.

I’m primarily a reader of fiction, plus this book is three inches thick so I was surprised when I reserved it at the library last month. I believe it was on the NY Times best seller list, but I can’t recall with certainty. It isn’t an easy read, but the historical research and the details of each and every aspect of the war from Versailles to Madrid makes it worth the effort.

Here are a few quotes near the end of what was a fascinating and enlightening read:

(after the war), “Narratives were infused with the notion that the progress toward a democratic republic was a uniquely American undertaking, derived from its exceptional nature. Americans believed they were an exceptional nation because of their distinctive ideologies of republicanism and liberalism, or as it was more often expressed, liberty and equality.”

“Americans’ views of the revolution and the war of American independence were most powerfully shaped by George Bancroft’s’ magisterial ten-volume History of the United States from the Discovery of the Continent, published from 1834 to 1874 —.

“In Bancroft’s’ account and countless others that followed, Lafayette became the main character who represented French interests in the prosecution of the war, until Rochambeau and de Grasse arrived at the end to defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown. Otherwise, the Americans fought the rest of the war themselves.”

“The creation myth that America bootstrapped itself from colony to nation, that it fought the war and gained independence all by itself, was never correct and was never a good fit.”

“France and Spain had supported the War of American Independence before it had started, even before the Americans themselves knew that their revolution would lead to war.”

“John Adams wrote to Jefferson, ‘What do we mean by the revolution? The war? It was only an effect and consequence of it.’ Adams explained that the Revolution began with Britain’s mishandling of America after the Seven Years’ War (in Europe), and the War of American Independence was its inevitable outgrowth. Yet France and Spain understood this long beforehand”

“— France and Spain were present at every step, even before the Declaration of Independence invited them to do so.”

“Ultimately, 90 percent of the arms used by the Americans came from overseas, while close to $30 billion in direct monetary aid came from France and Spain (and) kept the —war from unravelling —their role went far beyond money and weapons. ”

“— these brothers at arms who saved American independence did so in the interest of their own nations, but along the way they made the American cause their own.”

“Instead of the myth of heroic self-sufficiency, the real story is that the American nation was born as the centerpiece of an international coalition, which together worked to defeat a common adversary.”

Even if you just skim this book, I think you’ll find it a fascinating, surprising and most truthful story of how America really began. I’m so glad I broadened my reading this year.

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions & other wasted thoughts

I sat over coffee this morning thinking through my goals for next year. I refuse to call them resolutions. Resolve .. what does that even mean? We live in an era of personal best, end game, plot points, launch, pinnacle, and pay off.

A personal debate began to rage in my brain. Finish the novel. Can the novel. Contact editor. Cancel editor. Make the trip to England. Are you kidding, with your bad back? The house is too big. I love my house. ya da ya da ya da…

Thing is — life seems to happen if one stays in the present moment. How many years have I studied meditation and mindfulness, Christian prayer and Buddhist teachings? I plead the fifth on that question.

So instead I think I’ll head into nature today and let the answers come to me. It may be that this is the year for quiet and doing nothing. Not much of a goal I suppose, but perhaps it might be the best one I’ve made in a long time.

Happy New Year to each of you! May your goals and dreams take you to your pinnacle (just kidding). Enjoy each moment and bring happiness to others. Bonne année!

and so this is Christmas …

20171221_175438Olaf, my new favorite Disney character, waits patiently for Christmas to arrive. Me … I’m finding it difficult to believe it will arrive at all this year. After so many years, I find it nearly impossible to get excited about almost anything. So I think back on childhood memories in the hopes of finding it there.

The square in Enid, Oklahoma glowed with magic exactly like the songs described … a magic no indoor mall could ever recreate. The simple single string lights hung across the narrow streets surrounding it and each department store created window displays that glowed in the dark and drew you in. Just after Thanksgiving the Sears Roebuck catalog arrived with a few pages of toys to dream about and beg for. The only Santa in town was at Newman’s department store and once there you made your final choice of that one unwrapped present he would bring Christmas Eve.

Now, we cruise around neighborhoods to see huge displays that brag on the millions of lights used this year. Music loops and blares in every store and parking lot until you can’t remember why you are there. Stores are lined with toys six shelves high on numerous long wide aisles. Competition and extravagance abound in America. No wonder we can’t find Christmas amidst all the hyperbole.

My favorite Christmas quote is from the Dr. Seuss story, the Grinch.

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages boxes, or bags! And he puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

As I search for my excitement for Christmas, I think back on Olaf making snow angels in the snow and his infamous words: “some people are worth melting for.” And “I like warm hugs.” And the meaning of Christmas comes back to me. Giving is far more fun and far more meaningful than receiving. So I head to the kitchen to cook for my adult children and to fill the stockings I’ve filled for over forty years. I turn on the tree lights, tell Alexa to play some Christmas music and smile at Olaf. And so this is Christmas …

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Revisiting Christmas Past (part 2)

(continued from 12/14/2017 post which can still be found on this blog site.)

Gifts were small and inexpensive – new panties and socks, pj’s or mittens, but Santa never failed to visit. Dolls that wet themselves, metal play kitchens, a rocking baby cradle, home-made clothes that mother had sewn when I wasn’t looking. How my parents ever found the money for Christmas Santa, I will never know, although my mom, like every other mom in that era, could stretch a dollar further than I could ever imagine.

Christmas eve we sat under the tree in the dark except for one table lamp so dad could see the scripture, and he would read the Christmas story from the book of Luke:

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

There was no American Standard, New International Standard or English Standard, just his simple worn black leather King James Bible with our family genealogy penned in the front pages. Mom made hot cocoa (not from a packet) and placed a few of her home- made cookies on a plate which we ate as I opened “just one” present even though I begged for a second. We left one cookie on the plate with a small glass of milk and it took hours for me to fall asleep as I lay there listening for Santa.

This story played out in every Christian house in the country. The War was over, except in my dad’s nightmares. The men had jobs and the wives worked from dawn to dusk doing every chore by hand. No electric washer and dryer, no microwave, no dishwasher or blender or food chopper or Keurig.

My generation has now reached ages 70-80. What we are left with are memories, along some intense feelings: Appreciation and Gratitude. For those who went before us, we thank them for their dedication, their sacrifices and their love.

So as I sit here gazing at my lovely tree surrounded with gifts, I think back on those simpler times and I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the “good old days.” I hope you are enjoying your own childhood memories this week. God Bless and an early Merry Christmas!

vickey, rodger me xmas

approximately 1951 – that’s me on the right with friends Rodger Clements & Vickey Clements Grammont

Revisiting Christmas Past (part 1)

angel ornament 70 2
As I paid $10.00 for a two-piece Elf on a Shelf outfit yesterday, I thought back to my childhood Christmas stockings. In the 40’s and 50’s we were excited (truly excited) to get an orange, an apple, some mixed nuts and possibly a candy cane or two.
It was post-WWII and these items were not food staples in most households. I always ate the orange first – sweet and juicy running down my chin and sticky on my fingers as I pulled it apart at its veins trying not to squeeze the paper thin flesh. In Enid, OK there were no such things as Cuties or navels the size of small grapefruit. These were plain old grocery store oranges and a rare treat.
Daddy cracked the nuts with his strong work-calloused hands. We got him a ribbed stainless nut cracker years later, though he preferred the sound of the shell cracking into multiple pieces in his hand. I’m certain he enjoyed the amazement on my small face as well. A few days later, when I got around to the apple, he slid his pocket knife from his pants and sliced it into pieces as I ate each slice.
Our Christmas topper was a slightly crumpled silver tin star and each year I placed my swaddled ceramic angel on the tree and carefully placed each strand of hanging tinsel on the lower branches. I’d never heard of fir trees or balsam anything. We bought a simple scraggly pine – usually too tall which required dad to saw and hack off a foot from the bottom to fit it through the door and into the living room. This, of course, created his next task – trimming off the lower branches in order to fit the trunk into the square box tree stand he’d built in 1945. If it was too thick, he’d whittle away with his pocket knife until it fit. All of this happening as my mother exclaimed, “Lewis, that’s too much.” “Lewis, it’s crooked.” “Lewis take those branches and tie them on the back where the ugly hole is.”
I don’t remember dad every arguing or complaining. He had a job to do and he did it. And finally, a few hours later after the tree was properly trimmed with strings of bubble lights, mercury glass bulbs, and silver-bright lead icicles, he plugged in the lights and we stood in amazement at its beauty.
Gifts were small and inexpensive – new panties and socks, pj’s or mittens, but Santa never failed to visit. Dolls that wet themselves, metal play kitchens, a rocking baby cradle, home-made doll clothes that mother sewed while …. (to be continued – part 2)

 

Books Make a Great Christmas Gift

I have signed books for sale directly from me this month. If you order both The House on 4th Street and its sequel, We’ll Find a Way, pricing is $15.00 +$2.50 for shipping.

Individual books are on sale for $10.00 each (+$2.50) – or you can order directly from Amazon, Nook or Kobo. E books available to gift on Amazon.

Order soon so they arrive in time!

Tempe Book Festival

Last Saturday was a fun day at the Tempe Book Festival. A few sprinkles and a little wind made the day interesting but was short-lived. Thanks to every one who stopped by. Still looking for the pics of the full table display and me peeking from under an umbrella. LOL