Dr. Seuss, Oh No!

Dr. Seuss was a racist?

I love Dr. Seuss books and used them in teaching. Every year I taught a unit on discrimination, and I read The Sneetches to my students. It’s a story about the Star Belly Sneetches and the Plain Belly Sneetches. Each thought they were the best ones on the beaches. In the end, they learned a Sneetch is a Sneetch and stars on bellies don’t matter.

Ted Geisel was born in 1904 and died in 1991. He went to Dartmouth College and is said to have written racist books. A man who wrote the Sneetches could not have been a racist. Knowing the time period he lived in, racism was common and if he did write racists books while in college, he changed. Education and life experiences can correct one’s faulty thinking of his youth.

He also wrote The Lorax which is an environmental book. I loaned my copy to the science teacher who read it to her students. The Sneetches and The Lorax both added to our students’ education in a fun way that they remembered.

I was privileged to sit on my local school board years ago, and I remember parents wanting certain books banned. As a teacher, I had a parent that wanted not only his child not to read a book, but to prevent all the students from reading it. I am against banning books. People should be free to decide for themselves if a book is appropriate for themselves or their family. By the way, my student was allowed to read something else. No problem, that was standard policy.

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in his I Have A Dream speech that he dreamed of people being judged by the content of their character. I think The Sneetches clearly show Ted Geisel’s character.

Lies are Revealed!

Enrico Mazzanti drew this Pinocchio.

In 1883, Carlo Collodi wrote The Adventures of Pinocchio. Walt Disney made him famous in America and many of us grew up being reminded that if we told a lie our noses might grow like Pinocchio’s did. I learned about his origin when we were in Italy because there were Pinocchios everywhere when we were in Tuscany. Collodi was from Florence, Tuscany.

Pinocchio got me thinking about how amazing it would be if our noses grew when we told a lie. I decided that would be physically impossible, but what if we got a case of hiccups, or our eyes couldn’t stop blinking. I can picture politicians’ speeches being interrupted by endless hiccups.

Some people are said to have a tell when they lie. Children frequently look down or away. I’ve heard of people who have a facial tic that is activated when they lie. I’ve never seen this, but can you imagine if everyone in Congress had that infliction?

During this season of Lent, many strive to overcome bad habits. They stop swearing, smoking, drinking, etc. Christians throughout the world use this time to do these things, but to also grow closer to God. They read the Bible in daily devotionals, and they pray more. I’ve never heard anyone say I’m going to stop lying, but it would be a good thing to do.

The stories of my childhood almost always had a lesson. Carlo Collodi taught an important lesson by creating Pinocchio.

Love, Love, Love!

Valentine’s Day is celebrated throughout the world with a variety of traditions.

As a child I loved Valentine’s Day because of the cards. Today the kids get candy along with the cards, but we just exchanged cards. I can remember looking over each card carefully and deciding who to give each one to. When we exchanged them at school, it was quiet while we read the cards’ special messages. It’s a nice memory. Of course cupcakes and punch are also a part of the nice memory.

In Japan it is customary for women to give chocolate to the men in their lives. The quality of the chocolate determines the quality of the relationship. A co-worker would be given chocolate of lesser quality than chocolate given to a sweetheart.

I grew up hearing the expression, She or he wears his heart on his sleeve. In South Africa, girls literally pin the names of their sweethearts on their sleeve. I read that some men do the same.

I think the people of Finland and Estonia have a wonderful February 14 tradition. They call it Friends Day and remember friends with cards and gifts. We teach our children to remember friends with kindness on Valentine’s Day by the card exchange at school, and adults do remember their friends with a card or small gift on this day.

Today is a special day to tell others you love them. There is a lot of love in the world and we need to remember that. Let us focus on loving each other and being thankful for all the things we love like animals, food, books, flowers, etc. The list is long! Happy Valentine’s Day to all my friends!

Candlemas is Feb.2

Groundhog Day is February 2, but why?

Groundhog Day falls midway between the winter and spring solstice. People eager for spring to arrive wanted to know just how long they had to wait for warm temperatures. Like many of our American traditions, it was the German settlers who brought the idea of watching an animal on February 2 to determine if the animal saw its shadow. A sunny day was certain to mean there would be six more weeks of winter.

February 2 was known to ancient people as Candlemas. This was the day that the clergy blessed candles and gave them to the people to see them through the winter. The custom was to set the candles in the windows of one’s homes on this day.

For some reason Germans took to watching badgers on this day in an attempt to make a weather prediction. After all, animals should know, right? When the German settlers came to America, they decided on the native groundhog to watch.

Groundhog Day was first officially celebrated on February 2, 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Germans settled in this area during the 18th century. I can’t help but wonder how long it takes a child to learn how to spell the name of the town they live in. Thank goodness for spell check!

Canada’s famous groundhog is named Wiarton Willie and lives in Bruce County, Ontario. He doesn’t look like the groundhogs we see eating along the side of the road, he is all white. He does predict like the various groundhogs around the U.S.

It’s amazing how blessing candles led to watching a groundhog on February 2. I never knew about Candlemas until I did a little research. I like the idea of candle blessing. That would make a dark winter’s night brighter.

Where Do You Find Joy?

January is a long, dark month and finding joy keeps the heaviness at bay.

I always wish for snow in January because it brings me joy. I’m not talking about a lot of snow, just a couple inches. When snow is on the ground, the early darkness isn’t so bad and when the moon is shining, the night has a magical quality.

This little angel of joy caught my eye with the rainbows on the wall. I have crystals hanging in the window, and in the late afternoon rainbows cover the walls. It’s impossible to enter the room and not be filled with joy. Of course if I have rainbows, that means the sun is shining. Any day the sun shines is a joyful day.

One of my granddaughters called me yesterday to tell me she had used her birthday money to buy a new doll. Talk about joy! Her joy was contagious and as I listened, I smiled and shared her happiness. Later she sent me a picture of herself with her doll. More joy!

I was able to go to another granddaughter’s basketball game this week and the happiness I felt for being able to go can only be described as joyful. I’m so aware that time goes by so quickly that I want to be a part of her activities as long as I can. Graduation comes quickly. It was a joyful evening.

I wish all of you many moments of joy this month. I know if I bake chocolate chip cookies today for my husband, I will bring him joy. My mother used to say, It’s the little things in life that makes us the happiest. I think she was right.

What a Night!

Mary was chosen.

Mary was a young girl by today’s standards. This was her first child and to have been far from home when she went into labor would have been frightening.

I always thought how sad it was that there was no room in the inn until I had a baby. Now I see the wisdom in being sent to a stable. The inns were crowded which meant they were noisy and probably dirty. Who’d want to have a baby under those conditions? Not me.

Clean straw or hay and fresh air would have been better. Maybe Mary could see the star and concentrate on its beauty as she went through labor. I like to think the innkeeper’s wife was there with water and clean cloths to deliver the baby. I think God would have provided support for her.

I wonder what she thought when shepherds arrived telling her about angels announcing her son’s birth. Had she been surprised or had she just smiled realizing God was spreading the word that his son was born. The long awaited child that Isiah had prophesized was here at last. God was a proud father!

This was a joyous night that Christians all over the world remember. I can’t imagine the responsibility of raising God’s son. Mary clearly loved and trusted God or she would not have been chosen. She is a blessing to all of us who celebrate Jesus’s birth. Thank you, God!

A Snowy Path to…?

Where does this path lead?

A familiar story idea is about following paths. I always liked how Gretel tried to mark the path to her and Hansel’s home with bread crumbs. As they continued their way through the woods they found a house made of gingerbread and covered with candy. As they discovered, looks can be deceiving.

Teachers and parents also like to use paths in discussing which path children should follow when it comes to career, behavior or group of friends to follow. In short, the subject of paths has a lot of material for people to write and talk about.

In my mind, the path is leading to a barn that holds an old sleigh that has been lovingly painted and repaired. A sweet old man, who looks like Santa, lets me pet his horse that pulls the sleigh. I offer to help with chores if he will show me how to drive the sleigh. Mucking out the barn is worth the lesson. My fantasy ends with driving the beautiful red sleigh through the woods.

Christmastime is a magical season of lights and dreams. For me, the snow adds to the feeling that anything is possible. I would love to hear where your paths would lead. Happy imagining!

Advent Time

The first of four candles was lit on Sunday.

Advent is a time of preparing for Jesus’s birthday. People are encouraged to use this time to pray and to become more Christ like in our thinking and our behavior. A candle is lit each of the four Sundays before Christmas and they each have a different meaning.

The first Sunday’s candle is known as the Prophecy Candle. The prophet Isiah told the people a young woman would bear a son and call his name Immanuel. (Isiah 7:14) It is also known as the Candle of Hope. That is a word that we need right now. Hope that 2021 will allow us to return to what we use to call normal.

When my kids were little, the five of us put our names in a bowl and then drew a name each Sunday in Advent. We were to do acts of kindness for that person throughout the week. We weren’t to let them know what we were doing, but do it quietly as to not bring attention to ourselves. You can imagine this brought joy and frustration when the act wasn’t even noticed. For example, my daughter hung up her brother’s coat every day for a week and he didn’t even notice it was in the closet and not on the railing or the floor where he left it.

I have an easier suggestion and my daughter is doing it with her girls this year. Whoever opens the door of the advent calendar gets the treat and also the responsibility to do an act of kindness. The act of kindness is not limited to someone in the household. After doing the act, the person writes it on a piece of paper and puts it in a jar. On Christmas Eve, the 24 acts of kindness will be read. This is a gift to Jesus in that he said what we do for others, we do for him.

We are beginning December with snow, and I love it. It’s enough to make everything beautiful and not enough to cause a sore back from shoveling. It feels like Christmas and makes me happy and hopeful for better days to come soon. I have hope and faith. Which is good because next Sunday’s candle is the Candle of Faith.

Thankful for Toilet Paper!

TP is used every day, and is appreciated!

Once again people seem to be gathering toilet paper rolls from the stores’ shelves. I guess it’s part of the fall harvest! I found very few rolls last week at my local Kroger.

When traveling in Europe, I saw the communal latrines the ancient Greeks and Romans used. The wealthy had toilets in their homes, but when in need they used the public latrines and were frequently treated to music as they relieved themselves. Good times, right? Sponges attached to sticks were used to clean one’s bottom and then the sponge was cleaned in salt water. These cleaning sticks were shared.

It is widely known that the Sears catalogue was used in outhouses throughout America as toilet tissue. I know my relatives did. Toilet paper was invented in 1857 by Joseph Gayetty but was expensive. It was made from hemp and treated with aloe. It cost 50 cents for 500 sheets. That would be $10 today. Gayetty was so proud of his invention he put his name on each sheet. The ancient Romans put their enemy’s name on pieces of pottery and then wiped themselves. People do interesting things, don’t they? I just love history!

Leaves, moss, and soft plants were also used to clean one’s bum and there is a list of the most desirable plants to use when in the woods. Lambs ear is a popular plant and the cowboy’s favorite was mullein. It has many other names such as flannel leaf, velvet dock and bunny’s ear. If you find yourself in the woods and need a tissue, just look for a soft plant! They have been used for centuries.

At Thanksgiving, I doubt if anyone mentions toilet paper as something he or she is thankful for, but I know people are. There are so many little things that we take for granted that have now been noticed. Toilet paper comes to the forefront. I’m glad I found some last week!

Spiders are Inspiring!

He’s cute, and not real!

It’s Halloween and spiders are a main item in this holiday’s decorations. Why? It is because of their association with witches. During medieval times black cats, rats, and spiders were all considered companions of witches. All live in dark places.

In countries around the world spiders are regarded as mystical because of their almost magical web creations. In some stories the spider is the storyteller and he can be wise or a trickster. Spiders have inspired many, many picture books and at sometime everyone has probably sung the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Once it starts to get cold, the spiders start to come in the house. I’m not afraid of spiders, and when I ‘m gardening I never kill one. However, when they come inside they are squashed. I had a friend who carefully carried one outside. Since I have been bitten by spiders, I wouldn’t even consider doing that. The swelling and intense itching is horrible! I suppose that does fit with Halloween.

Spider cookies, cakes, and costumes are all seen at Halloween. Legend has it if one sees a spider on Halloween it means a departed loved one is watching over you. Since tomorrow is All Saints Day the veil between heaven and earth is believed to be thin so that fits. I hope my deceased loved ones are watching over me and they haven’t forgotten me.

I love the fun of Halloween and all the cute creatures that go with it. I don’t do scary, so cute spiders and bats are welcome. Rats are never welcome! Not ever!