Happy Birthday Declaration !!!

signing-the-declaration-of-independenceLast night, I had a great idea to do a review for the 4th of July on my favorite history books.  Books that were easy to read and really informative. I would still like to suggest that you read through Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. It is a great book and easy to read.  Although I would like to point out that when I have taught history I never lied to my students. The textbook and curriculum were other stories. Whole sections of history were just skipped over and while others were only just skimmed over.

But one thing that really helped my students this year was when we read the Declaration of Independence  in English class. Students were all familiar with the preamble which they have read over and over again, but none of them had really examined it.

The Declaration of Independence

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

The whole text can be found at www.monticello.org among other places or you can have it read to you at NPR.org (my favorite)  If you do read the whole thing, read it like it is a Dear John letter addressed to the King of England. It really helped my students (and me) delve deeper into it.

Happy 4th of July Everyone!!


Pennies for Peru

Sounds like fundraising campaign, doesn’t it.   It is actually the savings plan for a trip I am dreaming about this spring.

Dreaming against logic that I will be standing on ancient ground wondering at the marvel of a city all but forgotten until the descendents of its destroyers found it again.  Machu Picchu was rediscovered  in 1911, by an American archeologist named Hiram Bingham.

It is completely unrealistic dream given my financial reality, but what is the fun in dreaming of something safe.  Something that easily obtained.

So in my kitchen are several empty wine bottles that I am filling with dimes and dollar bills since pennies won’t actually fit. Everyday money is deposited in the jars with a kitschy saying “From money grows money” to remind me of the importance of savings.  I am not sure how much is in the bottles at the moment, but that really isn’t important.

What is important is that I allowing myself to dream, hope and plan for something that I want for myself. Just for myself.


The Lucky Ducky Savings Plan

Wool Over Our Eyes!!

The United States of America  is in a crisis, not the financial one facing the economy; it is a crisis of conscious.   A crisis that I believe has been created by the media and the politicians to distract us from their lack of leadership. I also believe that it occurs on both sides of the political spectrum.

It didn’t start with the Muppet’s or with Chick-Fil-A. Both companies are exercising their rights. It has little to do with boycotts or Christianity.  The only thing I will say on issue of Christianity is that Jesus spoke of love not hate and said to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.  He didn’t say anything about hating our neighbors or legislating morality.

However, nothing sells papers or increases ratings like conflict. Attack people’s faith or religious beliefs, even allude to someone else doing it and they will shout to the heavens, not to mention post on Facebook. Words, we forget at times have power; more power than we want to admit. A blogger & author that I admire came out with a post against the boycott inferring that it was anti-Christian. I disagree with her, but I respect her opinion.  Something I was raised to do.  Something I believe in doing.

Somehow America has forgotten that basic ideal that disagreeing does not mean hating the opposition. It isn’t a us verses them. We are no longer in the Cold War. One of my best friends disagrees with me on the new healthcare law, another on conservatives issues and don’t get me started on the difference between me and my Papa’s political philosophies.  Yet, none of these people have un-friended me or told me I am going to hell. They love me and I love them.

We are all Americans. We have the right to choose where and how we spend our money.  I boycotted a locally owned business for the better part of ten years because of the insulting manner that two of my friends were treated at that store. These two people had actively support the company and were humiliated in front of friends and customers.  I made the decision after a sermon at my church on economic power and faith.

I may be one person, but my money has power and where I choose to spend it has meaning.  So I stopped shopping at the store until the owner  changed how she treated her customers.  I didn’t condemn anyone who chose to shop there. When asked I told people how I felt and didn’t worry about whether they agreed with me or not. Nor did I criticize them when they decided to shop there.

In harsh economic times likes these sometimes the only way to protest is to boycott. If you hit them in the wallet, it can sometimes cause them to rethink their decisions. I learned that lesson in history class after the lesson of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

I am not going to allow a politician or media personality to tell me what to believe or what attacks my faith.  We need sound economic policy, an education systems that is supported by funded mandates and continuous improvements on infrastructure.  As a teacher, I see the damage done to students when the system fails them. When people look the other way because it is just too hard to help them or worse they don’t believe they can learn.  Some kids can survive it if they have the support of their families and faith in something more than themselves. Those two things can not be legislated or willed into existence they have to come from the home and the heart.

The wool has been pulled over many American’s eyes and it is time that we all take the blindfolds off and stand-up for what we want and need our government to do for us. Our nation was founded on many principles; the Separation of Church being one of them.  A principle that I learned while attending Catholic school.

Listen to both sides, think, reflect, pray and then act.

Sense and Sensibility without Sea Monsters

As my first unabridged, non-zombie version of a  Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility has taken a firm hold of my mind.  It didn’t let go last night until around 1:30 in the morning.  My eyes simply gave out, not my desire to read.

The tale follows the lives of two sisters after the death of their father.  One having a sense and the other lacking it entirely.  Both are young; still in fact teenagers when the novel begins.

Most of the story is told in dialogue which would surely drive my students insane. It is, however, quite refreshing in my mind especially the scene where the Dashwood ladies and Edward Ferris discuss what they would do if they were all gifted with large fortunes.  It reminds me of conversations that my family has concerning what we would do with lottery proceeds.  The irony of the conversation is that Marianne delights in the idea after declaring the money does not bring happiness. She goes on to declare exactly what she believes a household staff should include.  If it wasn’t obvious before this point, it should be crystal clear after it, Marianne is immature and has no internal filter.

Her older sister, Elinor, has the sense, maybe too much for her own good.  She perhaps defines the propriety of the age.  She also reminds me of my own sister, Ann.  A natural leader in the family.  I only wish she was as loving as Elinor is in the novel, family gatherings would be so much nicer.

There is a third sister in the novel, Maureen, who at thirteen doesn’t play much of a role.  In movie adaptations, she often has a larger part. In both she is the awkward little sister caught between childhood and adulthood.

Some of the problems faced by the ladies are of their own creation and others by the times in which they in. They are victims of their own lack of communication.  The Dashwood ladies fail to ask each other questions which would have avoid some of their drama.  I can’t imagine not asking either of my sisters if they were engaged if I suspected nor can I imagine them not telling me.

Thankful for all involved, Marianne grows up after having her heart broken and nearly dying.   Her new maturity allows her to sees the loving man that has been waiting for her.  Elinor’s love interest untangles himself from his own impulsive love match and she marries.

Perhaps that is another parallel to our times, people causing themselves problems by failing to communicate. People marry for money and greed causes people to do horrible things to maintain their wealth. The treatment of the Dashwood ladies by John Dashwood is decried in the novel, but far worse things happen these days.

Something that bothered me was that the Dashwood family is said to be improvised after the death of Henry Dashwood, but they are allowed to stay in their former home until a new residence can be found and have enough money to bring three servants with them.  No, they aren’t living in a grand manor, but they are far from living in the slums of London.

I don’t enjoy reading, watching or discussing the selfish lives of the rich.  It is one of the reasons that I avoid reading the novels of Jane Austen and the like in the past.  It was a pleasant surprise to find that the heroines of this novel were not stereotypes.  Austen creates well rounded, intelligent and lovable characters.

Austen’s writing not only captures the ills of the age she lived in, but does so in a way that captivates the audience.  One can see what is wrong in the society today and how the choices of women are limited, but Austen leaves us to decide how we feel about it and what actions to take.  She doesn’t sugar-coat her entire world.  We do have to face the fact that her characters wouldn’t have seen much of the really ugly side of life.

The people who do things solely for money are unhappy or at the very least portrayed in a negative light.   Today, she still has an audience because of the clever dialogue and plot twists she worked into the novel. Oh, and the English teachers, who assigned it their student.

It isn’t a silly romance, it is a well thought-out novel that happens to contain romance.  At least to me…

Day Five of Gratitude: Truth

Truth, Sekhar reflected, is like the sun. I suppose no human being can ever look it straight in the face without blinking or being dazed. – Like the Sun by R.K. Narayan

It can hurt. It can heal and can never completely be concealed.- Lucinda Rose

As idealistic as this may sound, I truly believe that truth is not a matter of perspective,  but is as Obi Wan said somewhere in between.  There can be no doubt that it exists. We just can’t always see it; if we stare to much looking for it we sometimes find only convienant lies. Or worse we go blind when we aren’t prepared to handle it.

I know I did when I learned the truth behind my father’s lies.  We was leaving us, not going on a business trip.  His roommate was not a guy named Murphy, but my stepmother to be.  His lies caused numerous fights between me and my mother immediately following his departure. They left our family divided to this day.

We need the truth to guide our lives. We need to hear the truth most especially when it hurts. Yes, it would have been painful to know that he was leaving; his lies only made it easier on him to walk out the door, not the children left behind to deal with his absence.  As a six year old girl, I don’t know if I would have understood everything that happened.  I do believe that I deserved the chance to try.

Two humorous notes on my father’s lies.  The first was when he took us over to his apartment, I wondered into Murphy’s closet and saw men’s and women’s clothing.  I concluded that my father was living with a transvestite. A “fact” that I concealed.  The second happened a few months after the first, my grandparents took me and my siblings to a church.  As soon as I walked in the door, I was asked if I wanted to help Laura get dressed.  A few moments later I was whisked into a room where I helped (actually stood around watching) a lovely woman get dressed. I was introduced to her sisters. Ten minutes later, she married my father.  No one explained anything to me.

It took a while for everything to sink in and I will admit telling a few lies in the aftermath; all of which I was promptly caught for.  Lies I had been shown were acceptable, thank goodness for my Granny and Mother who instilled some common sense into me.

I sincerely wish that I could count the number of times that I have been wounded when the truth was concealed from me.  Each time, I know it would have hurt knowing up front what was going on; concealing the truth only added betrayal and confusion to the pain.  Those lies caused scars from which I am still healing.

I am grateful for those who tell the truth when it needs to be told.  No one deserves to live a lie or live along side them. Yes, the truth can hurt. We all know this.  Still, it is better to be cut than run through with the sword of truth.

Today is a day that many Americans gather together to give thanks for all they have in life. Many have forgotten the truth of the first Thanksgiving that it was a day when American’s indigenous people saved the Pilgrims by feeding them and showing them how to survive.  Something that many may have regretted later.  It is essential that we remember history as it was not how we would like it to be.

Failure to tell the truth or even see the truth when it concerns Indigenous Americans nearly lead to their cultural extinction.  Even today, they fight for the survival of their culture and the restoration of their native languages admit poverty, alcoholism and drug abuse.  This is not the case for every tribal group. Some have prospered.  Many have  not.

We need truth to help us balance ourselves and to see just what we have to be thankful today.