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.

Pie for Everyone!

Fruit pies were not eaten until the 1500s.

Summer is pie season at my house. Fresh fruit calls me to showcase it in a flaky crust. I read that Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) enjoyed fruit pies and cherry was her favorite. Early settlers brought their love of pie to America with them. They imported bees in order to have honey to sweeten their pies and maple syrup, molasses and cane sugar was also used. Pies were cooked in long narrow pans called coffins and coffins became known as crusts in the late 1770s. I’m glad that change occurred!

The first pies were meat pies and and were eaten in Egypt. These had a single crust that could have originally been made from reeds. The early crusts were not edible. This was true for centuries because they were designed to hold the filling. Hand pies were meat pies that had thick crusts for workers to carry in England in the 1800s so taste was not a consideration. The Romans created the first top crust and in the 16th century was used to hide a surprise for guests of royalty. The nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence was based on fact. Live birds and other critters were baked in pies to impress the guests. (Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.} If a bird flew out of my pie, I’d never eat pie again!

A recipe for American pumpkin pie is found in American Cookery written by Amelia Simmon’s in 1796. It was called pumpkin pudding and was baked in a crust. Apple pie became known as America’s favorite due to soldiers in WW II writing they missed mom and apple pie. It is almost apple pie season and the types of apples that are best for baking can be found online. Cortland apples have always been a favorite, but I use a variety.

Many are familiar with the saying eat humble pie. Humble pie (originally umble) was a poor man’s pie frequently made from deer innards in medieval times. To admit you were wrong means is to eat humble pie.

The peach pie in the picture tasted as good as it looks. Labor Day will require more pies. It’s just not a holiday unless there’s a pie!

Life is Like a Garden!

The needs of a garden are similar to a person’s.

I love my garden and so do the weeds, rabbits and deer. I spend a lot of time tending it, and I enjoy doing it. The quiet time spent in my garden gives me time to think and reflect on life. I realized that the events that occur in a garden can be compared to life’s events.

Everyone experiences surprises in their life. Some are good and some are not. A visit from a deer is not a good surprise for the plants. Having their buds eaten deprives them from showing their beautiful blossoms. Illness and accidents alter many of our plans and may keep us from showing what we are capable of producing.

Plants need water and sunshine and so do we. Plants also need to be divided and weeds need to be pulled so the plants can thrive. That’s where people may have difficulty. Pulling weeds out of our lives is not always easy. It’s not always easy in a garden either. Sometimes a shovel is required.

Identifying the weeds is step one. Weeds that interfere with a person’s life can be an attitude, another person, a habit or even a job. Pulling out the weed changes the entire look of the flower bed and it changes lives.

I use fertilizer to help my plants grow. My personal fertilizer is prayer. Talking to God is uplifting and I highly recommend it if you don’t regularly pray. Seeing God’s creations in the garden is a great starting point. Praise comes first and then prayer. August has arrived which means summer is going quickly. Enjoy the plants of summer and consider pulling the weeds in your life that are keeping you from blooming.

What’s Inside?

Everyone has hidden treasures and sorrows inside.

I remember being in a group and was asked to share something no one knew about you. I was appalled and didn’t think anyone would share, but they did. Some were serious events that were shared and others were funny. I think I shared castrating my cat in cat anatomy by mistake and the instructor telling the class he thought it revealed I had deep seated psychological issues against men.

Many of us have scars on our body and we can tell others what the injury was but people can’t see the scars that are inside. Those are the ones that frequently don’t heal and some of us pick at them to make sure they don’t heal. Asking God to help us forget and forgive is the only thing I know that works.

We all probably know people who never appear happy. They complain about others, their job, and various others things. When they enter a room, a cloud of despair is with them. It is difficult to even talk with someone like this because nothing positive seems to get through the doom and gloom. I don’t know the scars that are inside, but I believe God could help heal. I know he helped me heal my inner wounds.

I believe we all have gifts to be discovered and shared. We need to feel good about ourselves. So much time is spent on electronics, I wonder if both young and old are finding time to discover or remember their inner gifts. Would it make them happier?

I’m not much for making lists or keeping a journal but I know many are. Keeping a gratitude journal helps them have a positive attitude and to have a relationship with God. I just thank God every day for all my many blessings and this time of the year I praise him for the glorious nature that surrounds me. My garden, the baby birds in our tree, the rainbow and the beautiful moon this week have all filled me with gratitude. One of my gifts is the ability to appreciate God’s glory!

Summer Solstice comes with warnings!

The longest day of the year is a day to be wary of evil spirits!

The seasons have always been dictated by plantings and harvests. Bonfires were built to boost the sun’s energy and to ward off any demonic spirits. Flowers and herbs were worn to ward off evil spirits and St. John’s Wort is thought to be very powerful. The name of the herb is attributed to John the Baptist whose birthday is celebrated around the summer solstice.

When Christianity spread through northern Europe, pagan customs and Christians beliefs were combined. This affected the Celtic Calendar. There are four quarter days for the four seasons, but the Celts had four Cross-Quarter days that are in the middle of the season. For example, February 1 was considered the first day of spring (not March 21) and Christians called this day Candlemas. I wrote about Candlemas in a previous post.

Lady Day was March 25 (spring equinox) and was the day for hiring men to plant. The church called this the Feast of Angel Gabriel in celebrating Gabriel’s visit to Mary and announcing she’d be the mother of the long awaited messiah.

The summer solstice (Midsummer Day) marks the midpoint of the growing season. Bonfires are still lit today in some communities to ward off evil spirits while St. John’s Day is celebrated with festivals and prayer. The importance of having a good crop to harvest has not changed. It was also a time for weddings. Couples met on May 1 which was celebrated because it was halfway between the spring and summer solstice. They then married on Midsummer Day. The couple had six weeks to get to know each other!

August 1 is the halfway point between the summer and fall equinox and was called Loaf Mass because it celebrated the harvest of wheat. Farmers took the first loaf of bread to be blessed by the priest and then broke the loaf into four pieces. The pieces were placed in the four corners of the barn to protect the wheat that was stored there. Festivals continue to be held to this day.

The fall equinox is known as Michaelmas and it is the beginning of harvest. The angel Michael is celebrated and festivals are held. It also was the time for elections because it was a time when people gathered.

October 31 was Samhain and many believe this was the Celtic new year, but I also read many believe February 1 was their new year. Meat was slaughtered at this time for their winter supply and of course bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits. Fortune tellers predicted what the new year would hold for the people.

The year ends with Christmas and the winter solstice. Since today is hot and humid, I’m thinking the cold of December sounds pretty nice. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Cross-Quarter Days.

We Remember

A day to honor those who lost their lives for America and remembering loved ones.

The first Decoration Day was held in Arlington Cemetery in 1868. President Ulysses S. Grant officiated. It was held to honor and remember the 620,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War. Decoration Day became known as Memorial Day and was celebrated by states before it became a federal holiday. New York was the first state in 1873 and Waterloo, New York was named the birthplace of Memorial Day because the citizens placed flowers and flags on soldiers’ graves.

It is interesting to note that women laid flowers on soldiers’ graves in Columbus, Mississippi, in April,1866, to honor those who had died in the hospital from wounds and disease. Research showed prior to that year in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina, former slaves and missionaries gave the 257 Union prisoners a proper burial. These graves were placed in rows and a ten foot fence was built around it. The sign read “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Ordinary people did extraordinary things to honor those lost in war.

In 2005, Jeff Miller and Earl Morse formed the Honor Flight Network to honor those who served in the military. Honor Flights take veterans to Washington DC to visit the nations’ memorials. It began with WWII veterans and now Vietnam veterans are the primary recipients. Today there are 128 hubs throughout America and approximately 22,000 veterans make the trip each year.

As a little girl, I remember watching the soldiers march down the street behind the band. My mother picked flowers (mainly peonies) and we went to the cemetery to put flowers on relatives’ graves. We honored veterans and remembered loved ones.

This week 19 children and two teachers were killed by a disturbed young man in Texas. The shortest verse in the Bible is Jesus wept, and I believe Jesus cried with us as we wept. On this Memorial Day we pray for the families of those who mourn their loved ones, whether they were lost many years ago or as recently as this week. I pray that God will bring comfort and strength to all who have lost loved ones.

What I Never Thought I’d See!

This is unexpected, but not shocking.

My grandmother was born in the late 1800s and saw many things in her 98 years. She went from riding in a horse and buggy to seeing a man land on the moon. She lost loved ones to disease and wars and the only thing that was constant was her faith in God. Even though there were many times she thought the world had gone crazy, she knew God was with her.

I shake my head in disbelief at what I recently saw in the news. I can honestly say I never thought I’d see this and I wish I hadn’t. Satanic groups are opening after school programs. Why? They say they are just offering arts and crafts and games. Many other groups do the same, so why do they really want to work with children if not to indoctrinate them.

I’m a Christian, but I know people of the Jewish faith and Muslim faith are taught that Satan is evil. Why would communities allow a group that proudly uses Satan in its name be allowed to work with children?

Over the last couple years children have been told they can’t wear crosses, can’t bring Bibles to school and can’t meet for prayer in schools across America. Now they can meet in a group sponsored by Satan worshippers?

When religious statues were vandalized and torn down I waited to hear the outrage. I didn’t. When churches were vandalized and some destroyed I thought people would be furious. It could be those voices were raised and the news media didn’t care to share the distress of Christians. Now I wish all those who love the Lord will speak out against these Satanic groups whose only purpose must be to bring them to Satan.

This is not just a battle for Christians to wage, but it is a battle for all those who believe in God. Please pray for our children and our country. I know I am.

Newfangled Appliances are Noisy!

My house is filled with talking appliances!

Something is definitely wrong if I’m telling my dryer I’m coming. That’s what happens when it beeps repeatedly to tell me the clothes are dry. It obviously has no patience. My washing machine plays a little tune, and the lid pops up when it has done its job and then thankfully it sits in silence. I appreciate that.

My coffee maker tells me when the coffee is ready and when it is shutting off. My dishwasher is just plain noisy while it runs, and it lets me know when the dishes are clean. They aren’t always dry, but they are clean.

The other two kitchen appliances that feel it necessary to make noise are the refrigerator and microwave. The microwave talks about everything it’s doing. I think it has its own broadcast system. The refrigerator doesn’t talk, but its ice maker loudly announces each new load of ice it deposits into the bin. Talk about being a prima donna!

The only thing I loudly announce is dinner being ready and that is important. I am old enough to remember quiet appliances, and I must say these newfangled ones are way too chatty!

Christmas Nostalgia!

Christmas items awaken memories.

Unpacking the boxes filled with Christmas items is an emotional time for many. My mom had two strands of bubble lights that were glass. Mine are plastic, but when I see them I remember how she arranged them around a table and being told not to touch them. Of course I touched them and quickly pulled my hand away because they were so hot. I still enjoy watching them bubble, and they don’t burn my hand.

My grandmother made a delicious fruitcake. People make fun of fruitcake but I like it. She made it with fresh coconut. I buy Claxton every year even though I’m the only one who eats it. It’s a memory.

The Christmas quilt was bought for my daughter years ago, and I put it out every year. It’s on the bed the granddaughters sleep in and it brings Christmas into the room. I told them they could take it to their house since it belongs to their mother, but they said they like seeing it here. That makes me happy! After all it provides a memory.

Last item in the picture is sugar cookies. I can’t remember when I didn’t make sugar cookies. By the time I was in high school I was the baker who made them. My family has turned cookie decorating into a competition and watching them this past weekend was hilarious. Of course we all had a different opinion on whose was the best and that made for a very loud discussion!

I would love to hear some of the things that evoke memories for you. Please share and Merry Christmas!

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!