Snow won’t keep me from Blooming!

People’s words can feel like icy cold snow.

My daffodils get snowed on every year so I consider them tough enough to withstand it, but young people today are experiencing icy cold words for the first time.

A teenager was working in one of our local small grocery stores wearing a Star of David. A man entered the store and noticed her. He walked up to here and asked if she was Jewish. When she answered, “Yes”, he turned and left the store.

A high school student in Canada was suspended for saying there are only two genders. This is a Catholic high school. According to the Toronto Sun article, Josh stated there are only two genders and that gender doesn’t trump biology. He was told he couldn’t return to class until he recanted his comment. When he did return to school he was arrested for trespassing. The article went on to say there were two transgender students who disapprove of Josh’s religious beliefs and therefore he wasn’t to attend the classes he shared with them if he did return. This is a Catholic School and students object to religious beliefs?

An Arizona school board member opposed a contract with a Christian University because she did not agree with their Christian beliefs. She said their beliefs were in opposition to the beliefs of the LBGT community which she and two other board members were members. The school board did not renew the contract with the Christian University in fear of student teachers teaching Christian values.

Apparently having religious beliefs is not allowed any more. Socialist countries desire obedience to the government, not God. Churches around the globe in 32 countries have been torched over a two year period. Churches have now been closed in the Ukraine and priests and pastors have been arrested.

The world has changed and that includes America. Our churches and synagogues are open but too many are trying to quiet the voices of those who believe. Believers are going to have to stand firm like my daffodils and defend the right of religious beliefs.

Fat Tuesday Celebration and Food!

Parades, customs and food are all enjoyed before the fasting begins.

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday which is the day before Ash Wednesday and the first day of lent. Lent is 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter and a time for prayer and repentance. Lent is not mentioned in the Bible and not all Christian denominations commemorate it. It began in the Catholic churches but in the 1960s and 70s some Protestant churches added this day to their church calendars.

The idea of fasting was and is a part of Lent. In Medieval Europe, people were told they had to eliminate eggs, fats, meat and dairy by the local priests. This was based on the 40 days Jesus fasted before he began his ministry. Today people will eliminate food from their diet or add a healthy practice such as exercise. Many pastors encourage spending more time in prayer and reading the Bible.

In the minds of many, Tuesday is their last chance to have fun and perhaps devour a pan of chocolate brownies. (Not that I can relate to that!) Pancakes and crepes were the first food to become a traditional Shrove Tuesday treat because people had to use the ingredients before Lent began. The German traditional food is Fastnachts which are doughnuts and Paczkis are a Polish jelly filled doughnut. The King Cake is a traditional Mardi Gras treat. It is made in early January to be eaten on Epiphany (January 6) in celebration of the three kings arriving in Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. It is made up until Lent. A small plastic baby is placed inside the cake and whoever gets it in their piece of cake will have prosperity. The cakes all are covered with sprinkles. The purple represents power, yellow-justice and green faith.

I was in Germany as a teacher chaperone several years ago and was shown pictures of people in costumes. I asked if this was Halloween. I was told not many people celebrated Halloween and this was their Mardi Gras. Costumes, parades and lots of food. It sure looked like Halloween!

There is so much unrest in the world but religious traditions unite us. Churches will be filled on Ash Wednesday and people will receive ashes on their foreheads. Ashes were used as a sign of repentance in the Old Testament. People wore sack cloth and covered themselves with ashes and asked for God’s forgiveness. People will try to grow closer to God during Lent and will give up unhealthy habits. I usually struggle the first two weeks with my Lenten choices, but then it becomes easier. Good luck to all of you who plan on doing something special during lent. I think God must look forward to this time when so many find time for Him.

Candlemas Celebrates Light

Candlemas is celebrated around the world on February 2.

I learned of Candlemas a few years ago, but didn’t really understand what it represented until I did a little research. It occurs 40 days after Christmas according to Jewish law found in Leviticus. Luke 2:22 tells us that Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him to the Lord and for Mary to be purified. Following the law, Jesus was circumcised when he was eight days old and 33 days later presented to God in the temple. It is also known as the Feast of Presentation or the Purification of the Virgin Mary. People bring candles to church to be blessed by the priests and in some countries the candles are then placed in the windows of people’s homes. Jesus is the light of the world and the light is believed to protect the home.

Two people received God’s blessing the day Jesus was brought to the temple. Simeon was a devout man of God and had had been told he would see the Messiah before he died. When he saw the baby he knew Jesus was the promised Messiah and held him in his arms. He praised God and he also told Mary that a sword would pierce her soul. The prophet Anna lived in the temple and she too realized this was the Messiah. She gave thanks to God and told the people who the child was.

Like most celebrations food is involved. In France crepes are eaten and in Mexico tamales are enjoyed. Christians in Puerto Rico light bonfires at the end of Candlemas Day. I don’t know if it is celebrated anywhere in America, but it was first celebrated in Jerusalem in 4th century AD and has continued since.

Our world needs the light of hope and love. For Christians Jesus is the light and he gives us hope and strength during these difficult times. I like the idea of placing candles in the window on February 2. Mine are electric but I think that will work. The days are beginning to get shorter and in some countries they consider this day to signify the end of winter. Those of us in Ohio know we have weeks to go before we see spring. It doesn’t matter if the groundhog sees his shadow or not on Candlemas Day.

The spring bulbs have pushed through the soil so I know they are eager for the sun’s warmth. I’m going to accept that February 2 is the first step to spring. I wish you a sunny Candlemas Day and perhaps you’ll light a candle remembering the significance of this day.

Confederate Soldiers Remembered

Camp Chase is a Confederate Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.

I’ve lived in Columbus, Ohio, most of my life and had never been to Camp Chase until this past December. I was part of a group who laid wreaths on the soldiers’ graves. There are over 2000 men buried there. Not every grave received a wreath but many did. At each grave the man’s name was said aloud and then we were asked to say something just for the person. I said a prayer. It was a very meaningful experience.

Camp Chase was a park that became a recruiting station and training grounds. It then became a prisoner of war camp that was over crowded and filled with disease. At one time it held 8,00 prisoners. After the war some soldiers bodies were taken home but most were left. The federal government bought the land in 1886 and built a wall around the two acres to protect the graves. In 1893, a former union soldier, William Knauss, saw the condition of the graves and went to work cleaning the cemetery and held a memorial service in 1895. In 1908, the wooden headboards were replaced with marble headstones.

You’ll notice the headstones come to a point. I read this was because the Confederate soldiers didn’t want a Yankee to sit on their grave. It could also be it was a way to distinguish the Confederate graves from the Yankees.

The word Americans is written on the top of the arch in the top photo. That is significant in that these men were not treated as the enemy or as traitors. They were honored as Americans. It is also significant that a Union soldier spearheaded the project to maintain a Confederate cemetery. I remember going to a little country cemetery as a little girl and was shown the graves of two family members who had died in the Civil War. One had fought for the North and the other the South. They were buried together in the family plot. They were family and those who fought against each other were all Americans.

The Party of the Lamb

The lamb unites people around the world.

This is the time of the year when people around the world unite to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christians celebrate in all countries even where it is forbidden. They worship in hiding like the early Christians did. I’m thankful our churches are open and welcoming people once again.

Jesus has been called the lamb of God and if he had a political party it would be represented by a lamb. What a wonderful party to belong to. Participants gather in prayer and thank God for their blessings and ask for help in handling the problems of today. Pastors talk of God’s love and encourage people to trust in Him and to seek Jesus in prayer.

Movie after movie features Santa and claims that Christmas is a time for wishes to come true. Santa makes both the young and old happy with his jolly smile, gifts and ho ho ho. I love the idea of Santa, but he doesn’t answer prayers and perform miracles. Jesus does that. God also isn’t always jolly like Santa. He’s a divine parent who punishes his children who don’t follow his rules. Read the Old Testament and you’ll see a lot of smiting!

I think Christmas is the best time of the year because it brings out the best in people. Kind smiles are seen and wishes for a Merry Christmas are heard. We share customs and traditions that unite us. Sharing the season with people from different cultures brings the world together. I think that must please God to see his children who look and think differently come together to worship his son. That is Christmas to me. Jesus is the best gift anyone could ever receive and Santa didn’t bring him.

Wishing you all a joyous Christmas filled with love. God loves us so much he sent his son. Thanks be to God!

Thankful at Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is filled with food, memories and much joy.

Thanksgiving Day is almost here. It is one of the best days of the year. Preparing for this big day involves much more than cooking. Cleaning the house thoroughly and then ironing tablecloths and napkins are the first chores. If you are rolling your eyes at ironing napkins, I understand. It’s a once a year thing for me.

Our food choices have been discussed by all and some dishes have been eliminated but most have stayed. Green bean casserole was eliminated years ago. At least two people have to like the dish in order to make the menu. Mincemeat pie made the cut this year. I imagine some of you are groaning but with a lot of fresh apples added to the mixture I think it’s good.

Wednesday will mean my kitchen will be in chaos as three granddaughters will assist in making noodles and pies. I expect a fine coating of flour to coat the counters and floor. Think of it snowing inside and you’ll have the picture. I’ll make the pie crusts because I’m not ready to relinquish that job, but the girls can make the fillings. I’m excited to have them working with me and the mess will be worth it.

The best part of Thanksgiving is having my family here. I’m lucky to have many family members live close by. I give thanks for my blessings every day, but Thanksgiving is a day when I bask in them. Thanks be to God and may you feel his blessings especially on Thanksgiving.

Happy Halloween!

I continue to learn more Halloween history every year.

For many of us, Halloween is a fun holiday filled with costumes and candy, but it began as a harvest and new year festival called Samhain. The Celtic people also used this day to talk with their ancestors and to ask for guidance in the new year. They made bonfires and wore masks to ward off evil spirits that might have crossed over on this night. The Irish immigrants brought Halloween to America and discovered pumpkins made a much better lantern for their jack o lanterns than turnips. Unfortunately, some turned a harvest festival into something evil by performing satanic rituals and welcoming demons. That is truly scary!

Tonight children will carry bags and receive packaged candy. Prior to the 1950s, homemade treats and coins were given to the trick or treaters. Caramel apples, popcorn balls and cookies were popular treats. Candy corn was one of the first manufactured candies and was called chicken feed. The Goelitz Confectionery Company sold the boxes with a rooster on it in1880 and people are still enjoying these sugary pieces of corn.

Dressing in costumes and performing tricks or giving the treat of song was called mumming or guising prior to Christianity in the Celtic countries. Children had to earn their treat. After Christianity replaced paganism, children went souling and agreed to pray for deceased loved ones in exchange for a small biscuit or piece of bread.

People around the world celebrate Halloween. Ireland is the country where it originated and in addition to costumes and trick or treating, they eat barmbrack cake. This is a bread filled with fruit and surprises inside. These little surprises carry a meaning for the person. For example, finding a ring means a wedding in the coming year. In Scotland, sausage is eaten on Halloween and is known as their traditional Samhain food. I think candy is America’s traditional Halloween food!

I love seeing the costumes children choose and every year I still see witches, vampires, and ghosts. I just read they are still in the top five costumes. It’ll be a fun night if the rain holds off. Happy Halloween everyone!

Sin Eaters

Sin Eaters were believed to be able to receive the sin of the deceased.

From the 1600’s to the early 1900’s in the British Isles Sin Eaters were paid to attend a funeral and eat bread that was placed on the deceased and then ingest the person’s sins. Immigrants carried this practice to America and it is believed to have continued until the 1930s in Appalachia. The question one might ask is why?

The Catholic Church had taught the people that sin was absolved after a person confessed and asked for forgiveness. If someone died before having the opportunity to confess his/her sins, the family hired a Sin Eater to accept the deceased’s sins. However, the Catholic Church called these people (both those who did the hiring and the Sin Eater) heretics and blasphemers. The crime of sin eating was punishable by death. The practice comforted the living and it grew to include those whose deaths were not sudden. It also continued because it was believed that the Sin Eaters prevented souls from lingering on earth as ghosts.

Sin Eaters were useful society outcasts. No one would associate with them and they lived outside the villages. People believed they worked for Satan. After all, they willingly accepted the sins of many so they were overflowing with sin.

We are approaching Halloween and remember that people wore masks at this time so evil spirits wouldn’t recognize them or maybe be scared away. People also gave treats to those who promised to pray for a family’s deceased loved ones on Beggar’s Night. Going to heaven was very important to the people. I’m not sure how many people are concerned with that today.

October Surprises!

Roses blooming and surprising information!

As you know by now, I love my garden and even as the temperatures continue to go into the 30s my flowers bloom! I picked these yesterday so I could enjoy them inside. I can’t remember having flowers blooming in mid October before. October has held other surprises too.

My husband and I drove to Connecticut and then into New York a couple weeks ago to see a couple shows. In Connecticut, we saw 42 Street which was choreographed and directed by my brother-in-law Randy Skinner. The show was outstanding but one of the main characters was truly amazing. After the show, Randy told us the actor was blind. “How can he do it?” I asked. Randy said he didn’t really know. This young man sang, danced and literally was all over the stage. All I can say is God provided him with tremendous talent and showed him a way to use it.

In New York, Randy choreographed and directed an Irving Berlin show called Cheek to Cheek. This featured many of Berlin’s songs. He wrote approximately 1,250 songs and the surprise was he only played the black keys. Again I asked, “How?” Berlin had little education but lots of talent and determination. He was born in Russia, lived in poverty in New York and died a very successful man at 101. God showed him a way. Probably the most famous Berlin song is I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, but as I watched the show I remembered many of his songs.

Our drive featured beautiful scenery of colorful leaves and fields that had been harvested and some waiting to be. I’m a farm girl at heart and love seeing the fields and animals. There is something serene about them. I think it’s the same way people feel about the ocean when it is calm.

Hope you are all enjoying October and I would love to hear other stories like I have shared. God is good and his creations are clearly on display now.


The book Weedflower tells the story of a Japanese internment camp in Arizona.

Weedflower was written by Cynthia Kadohata and my students and I read this when I was teaching. At that time, I had no idea I would share two granddaughters with their Japanese grandmother. I recently bought the book for my granddaughters and thought I’d share some of the things I learned from researching Japanese Internment Camps.

Ten internment camps housed 120,000 Japanese who were removed from the west coast of America shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Transports began in February 1942. There were ten camps in the following states: California, Montana, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. The camp in Poston, Arizona, was built on a Native American reservation. This was the setting of Weedflower.

The book is written through the experience of a young girl, Sumiko, and is historically correct. The Native Americans did not want the camp and resented the camp having electricity and running water. The Japanese people were fearful of the Native Americans and believed they were savages because of the stories they had heard. Sumiko developed a friendship with a Mohave boy and a Romeo and Juliet story unfolds.

Interesting things I learned from my research: Canada sent 24,000 to 26 Japanese internment camps. Mexico also had internment camps and zones of confinement. As a result of the Japanese workers digging irrigation canals, Poston, Arizona, became an agricultural center. Men were allowed to enlist in the army and fight in Europe during WW II and 33,000 Japanese Americans did. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was composed almost entirely of second generation American soldiers of Japanese descent (Nisei) and is known as the most decorated unit in US military history.

Why is the book called Weedflower? Sumiko’s family grew and sold carnations, but she loved the weedflowers best and took the seed to the desert where they grew. I have no idea what it is, but I took a picture of a weedflower growing in an area where grass is struggling to survive. It’s my weedflower, but unlike Sumiko’s, it doesn’t have a scent.