Weedflower

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.

Granny Witch to Role Model!

Mother’s day has been celebrated in America since 1914.

Every time I smell fried chicken I think of my grandmother. She was a hard working farmer’s wife who cooked a huge noon meal every day for my grandfather and uncles who worked the farm. Endless chores filled her day and I believe my work ethic was influenced by her. “Take time to do it right. If it’s worth doing, do it right. Finish one job before starting another.” These are all sayings I grew up hearing.

A friend of ours asked his university freshmen students who their role model was growing up. He said that 20% of the students said their grandmother and that was followed by a parent or a teacher. That led me to doing a little research on grandmas.

I had never heard of Granny Witches, but am familiar with herbal medicine. Appalachian grandmas became known as Granny Witches because they used plants, prayer, and wisdom in treating people. German, Scottish and Irish traditions for healing came to America with the first settlers and they learned more about plants from the Native Americans. This knowledge was needed since doctors were scarce. Religion came with the settlers and Bibles were regularly read and church was attended. Superstitions about the grannies’ abilities were not erased by attending church. Grannies believed in prayer and superstitions.

A part of a girl’s education was identifying plants. Women passed their knowledge from one generation to the next and were able to find water with a forked stick, treat ailments with herbs and deliver babies. Grannies quoted scripture, read tea leaves, and gave advice. The importance of the Granny Witches in the communities can’t be emphasized enough.

Today many grandmas receive gifts and cards. I recently taught my 13 year old granddaughter how to make a lemon meringue pie. She appreciated the help, but she gave me a gift by asking me to teach her.

Happy Mother’s Day!

April Foolery!

April in Ohio makes the entire month subject to unwanted surprises.

This picture was from April 21, 2021, so it wasn’t nature playing an April Fools’ Day joke. In Ohio, any day in April can reveal a joke played by nature. I remember one Good Friday in April when my children made a giant Easter Bunny from the snow. I wish nature would agree with me and not allow snow after March 1. I’m perfectly happy with it December through February, but when March arrives I want spring.

Historians aren’t sure of the origin of April’s Fools’, but some suggest it began in 1582 when the calendar was switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. It took awhile for people to hear that the new year was to begin on January 1 instead of April 1. These poor uninformed people were called April Fools.

I have never been a fan of practical jokes which are performed on April 1. I remember both as a child and as a teacher seeing signs stuck on someone’s back. These were not words of praise. There were many acts of meanness performed and it made the day miserable. What would have been nice was to see people surprising others with a compliment, a candy bar, an invitation or for me a flower.

The other problem I have with this day was the person humiliated or hurt wasn’t allowed to be upset because it was just an April Fool’s joke and that was expected on this day. They were to laugh it off. I don’t agree. There is no day that should encourage people to embarrass or harm another.

I have come to accept nature’s jokes, but I can’t accept cruel acts. Why ruin a person’s day when you could do something to make them happy?

What will 2022 bring?

A picture from the past but the message is still the same.

Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar and moved the new year to January 1 from the vernal equinox. This was because the existing calendar no longer was aligned with the sun. After consulting with astronomers, he added 90 days and honored the Roman god Janus who had two faces. It was believed that Janus could look into the future and was able to examine the past. The year was 46 BC and the calendar is very close to the Gregorian calendar that Pope Gregory XIII issued in 1582 and is still used today.

It is amazing that the calendar has not changed in centuries, but we did add daylight savings which I am not a fan of. I say choose a time and stick with it! The other thing that hasn’t changed are all the joys each year holds. Births, weddings, holidays and graduations all provide opportunities for celebration. I look forward to all of these in 2022.

I have mentally been comparing leaving 2021 to taking a shower. I want to wash away all fear, nastiness, and negativity. When I am mentally clean, hope, joy and positivity will replace all negativity. I wish that for everyone. Attitude is everything and I choose to believe 2022 will be a great year full of opportunities and great blessings. I wish you all a year filled with happiness and one filled with delightful surprises. They are the best!

Poe’s The Raven

Many students read The Raven and wonder what it means.

I never got tired of reading and talking to students about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. The rhythm sells the poem and even if students didn’t understand it, they enjoyed hearing it read. To understand it, one has to understand the time period. The Raven was published in 1845.

The question asked of many writers is what was your inspiration? Some have tried to answer that on Poe’s behalf and some attribute it to the loss of his wife, Virginia, but she died two years after The Raven was published. However, Virginia died of tuberculosis and she would have been suffering from it at the time the poem was written and published. Poe could have been looking ahead to his life without his beloved wife. There was no cure for tuberculosis and one suffered an average of three years before passing.

Poe clearly believed in an afterlife and the suffering man in the poem questioned the raven about being reunited with Lenore when he passed. The raven was thought to be a messenger between the living and the dead, so this conversation was appropriate. The bird was merciless in answering Nevermore when asked if he’d “clasp a sainted maiden name Lenore” in Aidenn which is heaven.

The man asked if angels sent the bird, and if there is balm in Gilead which means relief in heaven. The raven is shouted at and called a prophet and a thing of evil, but anger did not change the raven’s answer from Nevermore.

The ending is painful because the prophetic bird’s words have been realized. Hell is spending eternity in that room with the demonic bird and never being reunited with Lenore. That is Halloween horror!

America’s History is filled with Goodness!

America was dedicated to God in 1607.

One hundred and five settlers arrived at Cape Henry, Virginia in 1607. They brought with them a seven foot, heavy wooden cross from England on a very small boat. Pastor Robert Hunt declared that the gospel would go forth throughout this land and to the whole world. The settlers moved to what became Jamestown and established the first permanent English colony. They gathered three times a day at the center of town to pray and dedicated America to God. They prayed that for generations to come America would be a country where God’s work was fulfilled. America’s history is filled with many who worked to make this a country where God’s presence was felt and his love for his children was seen. One of these people was Anna Gardner. She was born into a Quaker family in Nantucket, Massachusetts in 1816. Anna was raised in the Quaker belief that all men and women are equal. She became a teacher, writer, and abolitionist.

In 1841, Anna held an antislavery meeting where Frederick Douglas spoke. When she was a child, her father had helped save a runaway slave and his family from slave catchers and she never forgot. Anna worked tirelessly against slavery and for women’s rights. After the Civil War ended, she taught in Freemen’s schools in North Carolina and South Carolina.

In the late 1870’s, Anna turned her attention to women’s rights and spoke out on this injustice. Many of her former students were now teaching in the Freemen’s schools and she felt the need to address another inequality issue. Anna died at the age of 85 and was remembered as a servant of God who fought for equal treatment for all his children.

The Quakers were instrumental in establishing and running the underground railroad. According to National Geographic, 100,00 slaves found freedom via the underground railroad between 1810 and 1850. The Quakers were considered the first to actively help slaves escape, but many others joined them in order to accomplish this large number.

There are many people throughout America’s history who remembered that America was dedicated to God by the first settlers. We have come a long way in accomplishing this, but have farther to go. I think it’s important to remember all the good that has been achieved and the people who carried the load. Maybe remembering the acts of faithful people in the past will inspire us today.

Our American Symbol!

Our flag represents freedom to people all around the world.

Seventeen year old Robert Heft of Lancaster, Ohio was in high school in 1958 when he submitted his design for the American flag. His design was selected by President Dwight Eisenhower and has lasted for over 50 years. Previous to this design, the design had changed 27 times.

The colors were chosen by the founding fathers of our country and each color has meaning. Red represents valor and hardiness. White stands for purity and innocence, and blue means justice and perseverance. The fifty stars represent each of the fifty states and the 13 stripes stand for the first 13 colonies.

Flag Day is a national holiday (not federal) which is celebrated on June 14. Why June 14 one might ask. It was on June 14, 1777 that the American flag was approved at the Second Continental Congress. At that time, thirteen stars were put on a blue background to represent a new constellation. I found it interesting that creating a new government was compared to creating a constellation. It must have seemed that overwhelming and grand.

Every store seems to be selling flags of all sizes in preparation for July 4. People have decorated their homes and yards with flags. I see them everywhere, and it adds to the excitement. I’m excited to be able to sit in a field and watch fireworks this year. Hope everyone is able to see friends and family this weekend and enjoy being together! Don’t forget the sparklers!

Little Red Cap

The Grimm Brothers’ story was about Little Red Cap.

Most people are familiar with Little Red Riding Hood. In fact there are 25 adaptations of the story that I read about and probably more. Children in Spain to China have enjoyed this story. One version is written with a Cajun twist, another is written from the wolf’s point of few, and another is written from a kind little wolf who only pretends to be bad for the sake of the story.

The Grimm Brothers ended their story with an alternate ending. They begin by saying, ” Some folks say the last story is not true…,” and then explained what really happened. Red Cap was not fooled by the wolf and she and her grandmother tricked the wolf and he died when he fell off their roof. I liked that ending better than having the wolf eat the grandmother and Red Cap.

The book that I have was published in 1944 and the copyright date is 1920. In reading these stories, I found they were different from the ones I remember. For example, Snow White was not awakened with a kiss. She was awakened when her glass encasement was shaken and the piece of poisoned apple fell from her mouth.

I never read that the witch’s cottage in Hansel and Grethel had “caskets of pearls and precious stones” which the children took with them when they escaped. I think that made the story better.

Grimms’ Cinderella was a very different story. There is no fairy godmother, and there isn’t a ball the three sisters attend. Instead of a ball, there is a festival that lasts for three nights and birds bring dresses for Cinderella at her mother’s grave. The prince pours pitch so Cinderella will lose a slipper on the third night and a golden slipper gets stuck in it. The slipper is not glass.

Parents tell the children in both Cinderella and Hansel and Grethel that God will watch over them. I know that isn’t found in later versions. The first edition of Grimm Brothers stories was published in 1812 and had 86 stories. I wonder how different those stories are than the ones I read published in 1944. (Grethel was spelled this way in my book)

Dandy Dandelions!

Dandelions are flowers that are considered weeds because of how easily they spread.

Dandelions are one of the few plants that every part can be used. It arrived in America in the mid 1600’s when settlers brought the seeds because they knew the value of the plant. Dandelions had been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and the settlers knew this. The Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all knew they improved various conditions from fevers to constipation.

As a child, I remember eating dandelion greens. I was told it would taste like spinach which I liked. I remember it being very bitter. I know it is very nutritious, but I’m not inclined to pick any leaves. I read it’s best to harvest the leaves before the flowers bloom. The internet has recipes if anyone is interested.

If you want to dig up your dandelions, consider waiting until they are finished blooming. They are a food source for bees, butterflies, moths and some birds. They are also pretty.

I was surprised to learn that dandelion wine is made from the flowers. I read a recipe for it and it sounded pretty good. Lots of sugar, but it also had lemons, oranges, and raisins. Fermentation is one to two years. Tea is made from the roots and that is what is sipped to relieve ailments. It really is a wonderful plant, but I’m a gardener, so I dig them after they bloom. In case you’re wondering, the picture is not from my yard. I only have a couple.

Hope everyone is enjoying the spring. Blossoms are every where and those with allergies are suffering. My eyes itch, but I don’t care. I can’t resist being outside in spring’s beauty.

Anyone Have a Match?

Where have all the matches gone?

I still enjoy the thrill of striking a match. Yes, thrill. I like the sound, odor and of course the flash of bright light. I don’t remember what age I was when I was allowed to strike a match, but I know I felt very grown up. This past Christmas, two of my granddaughters were allowed to strike matches and throw them into the fireplace. They had never down this before at ages 11 and 12.

I read on the box that the Diamond Match Company has been making matches for over 100 years. Its founder was Columbus Barber and his company was in Akron, Ohio. He later moved it to Barberton, Ohio. The company produced 85 percent of matches used in the United States during the early 1900’s. Unfortunately working there created a serious health problem for the workers. Inhaling the phosphorous that was used in the matches caused the cartilage in the jaw to deteriorate and people were unable to eat and speak. By 1910, red phosphorous replaced white phosphorous. The side of the box (striking surface) contains red phosphorous, binder and powdered glass. The head of the match consists of sulfur, potassium chlorate, starch and glue. I am always in awe of how people think of these things.

The spark of a match is frequently used to represent an emotion. Writers say sparks fly when people argue or when people feel a spark of attraction for each other. When an idea comes to me, it feels like a match has been struck in my brain. Sometimes those matches take awhile to light, but I am thankful when they do.

As I look at my various flower beds today, I need those matches in my brain to start igniting. As always there are plants that need to moved, but to where?