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.

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!

Trees are a Gift that never stops Giving!

Trees are Inspiring!

One my favorite books is a Berenstain Bear book called The Spooky Old Tree. The bears have an adventure through the tree and encounter the Great Sleeping Bear. I asked myself what adventure I’d create if I went inside a tree. I’d choose having a conversation with the tree. Hearing about what the tree had experienced would be quite an adventure!

I’d have to select the tree’s location before I asked my questions. There are endless ones to choose from. Trees saw battles, weddings, funerals and religious figures. Remember Zacchaeus from the Bible who climbed a tree to see Jesus?

We all appreciate the beauty of trees and what they provide. Food and shade are easily thought of, but they also provide inspiration for writers. I’m sure all of you can think of a poem that honored a tree. I know several of you are thinking of Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree.

A walk through the woods for many is a spiritual experience. It surrounds us with silent beauty and offers stories waiting to be written. Trees are one of God’s most precious gifts, and I am grateful. Just a note of interest. California is the home to Methuselah a bristlecone pine tree that is believed to be 5,000 years old. Now, that tree would have stories to tell!

Batty About Bats!

These little mosquito eaters are welcome to my yard!

Every night at dusk two brown bats come to my back yard for dinner. Bats can eat 1200 insects an hour. My neighbor has a small pond, so I think that is why Bart and Bertha come to dine. Sometimes Sylvester joins them for dinner. Yes, I named the bats. Since they come every night, they deserved to be named.

I’ve learned a lot about bats. Their excrement is called guano and is a great fertilizer. Since it is high in potassium nitrate (salt peter) it was used for gun powder during the Civil War and was used up to WWI. One hundred pounds of guano was needed to make four pounds of salt peter.

Bats are important to over 500 plant species. They pollinate plants and bananas, mangoes, guava and agave depend on them. The tube-lipped bat that bananas rely on have extremely long tongues in order to reach the nectar. Their tongues are one and half times the length of the bat’s body. Amazing!

When Halloween arrives, I will hang my black bats with a lot more appreciation for them. I learned a lot about these furry, flying mammals. Perhaps Bertha and Bart should star in an educational story for children.

Laughter is the Best Medicine!

Laughing burns calories and relieves stress!

Rudolph had a bad case of fleas in our Christmas show last year and his agent Saulie was frantic trying to find a cure. She had lined up several appearances for him. Rudolph was very tall as you can see, and every time he scratched people laughed. He and Saulie brought the house down as the expression goes! I wish people had this to watch again and again.

I’ve written the Christmas show the last four years at my church and my goal has been to write a lot of humor for the show. I want the laughs for many reasons. It relieves stress and Christmas is a stressful time. Laughter boosts our immune system, decreases pain and adds joy to our lives. We need all of that all year round.

I’m working on the show for this year and I keep looking back to what I’ve done in the past. Frosty didn’t want to dance and play with the children because the Buckeyes were on TV. Rudolph’s nose turned brown as a result of a nose spray product he was promoting in a commercial. And then there was Helga the witch who complained to Santa about Rudolph stealing apples from her tree. Just remembering makes me smile!

Laugh, smile, and chuckle are all good words that express happiness. I hope reading this might bring a smile or a happy memory from Christmas. I know remembering has put a smile on my face.

Hippity Hop!

The Easter Bunny Keeps on Hopping!

The egg delivering Easter bunny has been active in the United States since the 1700s. It is believed that German immigrants brought the tradition with them. They called the bunny Osterhase. Children made little nests for the rabbit to lay colored eggs in. It sounds a little crazy, but we have carried on the tradition for centuries. Of course the tradition evolved to Easter baskets and of course egg hunts. My personal favorite is the egg hunt.

I found it interesting that there are other animals that bring eggs besides the bunny. In Switzerland it is the cuckoo. That makes more sense than a rabbit. I also read about an Easter witch in Switzerland who brought chocolate to the children. Witches are scary, but if they bring chocolate they must be okay!

Easter is the most important religious holiday for Christians. Without Jesus’s resurrection, the religion most likely would not have formed. The Easter lily represents that Jesus has risen. It is one of the fragrant spring flowers that bring us reassurance that the winter has ended. Jesus assured us that another kind of darkness had ended. May all of you find joy in Easter wherever you are today, because Jesus is always with us!

The Praying Mantis!

The Praying Mantis is not calm!

When I was a child, I thought the praying mantis was the pastor for insects. I actually pictured one holding a service. So many insects buzz, they would have created beautiful songs. As an adult, I think it looks like Ichabod Crane! Notice the skinny neck and bulging eyes, see what I mean?

I read that the praying mantis represents calm and meditation. Why? It’s a vicious little insect. It has a voracious appetite and eats just about anything. I made the mistake of watching one catch a hummingbird on youtube. I saw the catch, and then I stopped watching.

The female praying mantis eat the male’s heads after mating and one scientist observed this during mating. Talk about a crazed lover! They are said to be related to cockroaches and termites which are both insects that cause trouble, so I guess it’s in the gene pool!

In some cultures seeing a praying mantis is good luck. This one was on my hosta plant last summer, and I thought it was cool. Now, I’m a little disgusted by it knowing that they actually kill hummingbirds!

What Inspires You?

Where does the path lead?

This picture hung in my classroom all year. It was now spring and one of my students asked, “When are we going to write about that picture?” I had not thought about making that an assignment. I told her if the picture inspired her she should write about it, and I would love to read it. She said she didn’t like to write that much! So Sad!

The picture could be the basis for several stories. At the end of the path there’s a tree that the cat would climb in my story. The tree allows the cat to have a different perspective of the garden. She would see the homes of the garden insects and critters and appreciate the beauty of what the gardener created. Maybe she’d see the gardener differently and understand why he didn’t want her using his flower beds as a giant litter box! It’s just a thought.

I enjoy art and don’t feel every piece speaks to me. But when they do, I feel I have a connection with the artist. Someone took this picture who had an artistic eye. I wonder what he or she would write about it. Any thoughts?

Fairies and Fires!

A Fire Provides More Than Warmth!

I love our wood burning fireplace. No, I don’t mind building the fires or removing the ashes. I think a fire has a magical quality as many stories have been told along side one.

Obviously man has used fire for centuries for heat, light, and cooking. It also keeps unwanted animals away. It even keeps the fairies away until the fire dies down and only the embers are left. The soft, red glow of the embers is an invitation to the fairies to come out of hiding. They cautiously gather in the ring of light and the ceremony begins.

The dance of the fairies is well known for its beauty and mystical quality. Only a few have witnessed it. I was told the fairies’ wings were silver and their clothes shimmered in soft colors of blue and green. After the dance, wishes were taken to the embers to see if they would be granted. Wishes that caught fire were accepted and white smoke carried them into the night sky.

I wonder if this will work in my fireplace. I think it’s worth a try!

Waiting, Just Waiting

Waiting for Snow!

A sled without snow is useless. All it can do is sit and wait for the flurries to fly. It makes me think of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and the Waiting Place where people just wait. Over the holidays I heard a lot about what people were waiting for in 2020.

Students are waiting to hear where they will be accepted for college, others waiting to hear about jobs, a few waiting for medical tests to be completed. All are waiting. The question is what do we do while we wait?

I admit I’m not very good at waiting. I choose not to be like the sled and just sit, so I’ve learned to redirect my energies if I can’t affect the wait time. There is always someone who needs help and there is always something that needs to be done. I love a new project that takes my mind off whatever I’m waiting to happen.

I don’t want to spend much time in Dr. Seuss’s Waiting Place. It isn’t a pleasant place and nothing gets accomplished. If you find yourself there, look around and see where you are needed. Giving of your time and talents will help you feel confident about what lies ahead. Also if it ever snows, get on a sled and enjoy the ride!