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!

Memorial Day’s Flower

Poppies are America’s flower for remembering those who died in war.

The National American Legion voted to make the poppy the official emblem of remembrance in 1920. This followed the effort of Moina Michael who had been raising money for veterans by selling fabric made poppies. She had read John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Field in the Ladies Home Journal.

McCrae was a Canadian surgeon in northern Belgium in 1915 and was struck by the sight of red flowers blooming on war torn fields. The Germans had used chlorine gas for the first time and 87,000 Allied soldiers died or were wounded and 37,000 German soldiers were killed. He wrote a poem that was first printed in Punch magazine from the perspective of the soldiers that had died. This poem became very popular and was used at numerous memorial services. McCrae died in 1918 from meningitis and pneumonia.

Moina Michael was a college professor in Georgia, but she took a leave of absence to work with the YWCA. After reading In Flanders Field, she wrote her own poem We Shall Keep the Faith and the idea of selling fabric created poppies to help veterans was born. She then was able to convince the Georgia American Legion members to adopt the flower and the idea flourished to become the national emblem.

In Europe, a Frenchwoman named Anna Guerin supported the idea of selling poppies and began a campaign in France. The idea spread to England and other countries. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand joined the people of European countries in wearing poppies on November 11, Armistice Day.

I don’t know when I stopped seeing poppies worn on Memorial Day, but I remember them being sold and worn when I was a little girl. My poppies aren’t red, but I remember. I remember my classmates who died in Vietnam. My mother remembered those who died in WWII. Her parents remembered those who died in WWI. Will a time come when there is no war? I can only pray.

Decorating Eggs is an Ancient Custom

Wooden Easter Eggs are a Polish tradition.

Pinsanki is the Polish word for Easter eggs. It comes from the verb pisac which means to write. Beautiful carvings on wood or melted wax drawn on an egg to withstand dye was used to decorate the eggs. I had students from the Ukraine who knew women who used the wax and dye method, and they said it was a tradition in some families but not theirs. I would have loved to have seen these eggs.

I don’t know where I got my two wooden eggs, but I display them every year. I read that wooden eggs have been used at the White House Easter Egg Roll since 1981 when President Reagan and his wife offered eggs that had the signatures of famous people. They became a valued treasure. Egg rolling represents the stone being rolled away from Christ’s tomb.

Decorated eggs have been associated with spring for thousands of years and in burials. Farmers would bury them in the field to ensure fertility of their crops. Eggs also represented rebirth and Ostrich size eggs made from silver and gold have been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians. Real ostrich eggs that had been decorated were also found in tombs that were painted, and engraved. These are believed to represent the soul would be resurrected.

Early Christians dyed eggs red to represent the blood of Christ being shed on the cross. In Greece, the red eggs are used to play an egg cracking game. The tips of the eggs are tapped together and the person with the unbroken egg then tries to crack the other end of his opponent’s egg. While cracking, one person says, Christ has risen. The other responds, Indeed he has risen. The person with the unbroken egg believes he will be rewarded with good luck.

Many of us will color Easter eggs soon and will fill baskets with chocolate eggs and bunnies. Cadbury made the first chocolate egg in 1875 and they are still being made. I am a fan of Hershey’s little chocolate eggs. They fit nicely inside a plastic egg. One of these years I want to try the wax and dye method. If I do, I’ll let you know.

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!

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!

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!

Lawn Art for Everyone!

I miss the summer arts festivals!

These are two examples of lawn art in my yard. The kitty could use a fresh coat of paint, but he’s still cute. A few pieces placed among the flowers makes the yard fun. They are also good spots to leave clues for the grandkids’ treasure hunts. Of course if the clue mentions a mushroom, they have a problem because there are two in my yard.

I certainly don’t need any more items, but my husband would disagree. I know it’s unusual for the wife to tell the husband no, but that’s how it is. I do love looking and admiring the pieces. So much talent is on display at the art festivals. Pottery, glass, leather, weavings and metal are amazing creations to admire and buy.

The first art festivals were music festivals and they date back to the early 1700s in England. Athens, Greece held the first drama festival in 543 BC. Playwrights and poets competed to have their work performed. Auditoriums were created by cutting into the hillsides and 10,000 to 20,000 people could be seated.

Like most people, I love summer and this one is unlike any I have experienced. There are no outdoor concerts and no arts festivals. When they return next summer, I anticipate large crowds in attendance. I think it’s true that we don’t appreciate something until it’s gone.

There’s a Mask for Every Occasion!

Not Halloween yet!

I love Halloween, but I’m not a fan of masks. I find them scary. I didn’t even like the Lone Ranger or Zorro because they wore masks. However, I do find them interesting.

The oldest mask that has been found is from 7000 BC, but since masks were made from wood and leather it is believed they date back even farther. Most people know that Halloween came to America with the Irish. The pagan custom of wearing masks to ward off evil spirits came with them. I don’t know about evil spirits, but they certainly scare people.

During the 1918 flu epidemic masks were made from gauze in an attempt to protect people from the deadly flu. It wasn’t very effective. Today people are wearing masks in protection against the coronavirus and people have gotten quite creative with them. If this continues, I have the perfect Halloween material for a mask!

Masks for theater, meditation, funerals, and worship are all reasons to wear a mask. I learned that creating a mask with a large forehead meant wisdom and a mask with the eyes closed represented tranquility. The Romans and the Greeks were the first to wear masks for the theater and their masks were quite elaborate. I wonder if much character development was required when a mask said it all.

All cultures appear to have used masks to connect with an ancestor or the gods. Masks were made to represent ancestors to honor them and to receive a blessing from them. Perhaps insight into a problem? In worship, the masks were worn to honor a god or in fear.

I see masks worn on a daily basis and none are scary. I miss seeing people’s faces. I now see smiles in people’s eyes. I’ll send you all a smile without a mask. They’re the best kind!