Celebrate Black History Month by reading

February 4, 2022

Every February since 1976, Americans have been celebrating Black History Month. Black History Month is an extension of Negro History Week created in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland to make all of us aware of the significant contributions of black people to our country and the world.

Way back in 1967, I took a sociology course entitled Black History. I was attending, what was then, Southwest Texas State College in San Marcos. It was a shit-kicker and future teachers school, so just the name of the class got the campus all lathered-up. The slightly-nutty professor–sometimes standing on his desk to make a point–opened our eyes, and minds, regarding black people in America. Included were black authors who brought forth their experiences as individuals and as a people. So to help celebrate Black History Month, I’d like to recommend a few books I was introduced to in that class.

Go Tell it on the Mountain A short, but powerful book, written by James Baldwin, a prominent voice in the civil rights movement. His partially auto-biographical novel echoes the struggles of the soul blended with the social struggles of being black in America. He expresses the role of the Christian church in the black community as both repressive and hypocritical.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin So, Griffin, disguised as a ‘Negro’–he actually darkened his skin through medical treatment–traveled in the segregated South and journaled his observations. Even though I thought I knew the injustices perpetrated on racial minorities, this book took me to the depths of the crushing world of racism as Griffin aptly describes how he becomes filled with hopelessness and despair after only a few weeks of living as a black man.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Hailey). Malcolm X was big back then another rallying point in the civil right movement. His conversion to Nation of Islam, and association with leader Elijah Muhammad, directed his preaching the radical and controversial concepts of black pride and social justice.

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois Manning Marable says about this particularly intellectual book, yet moving book, “Few books make history and fewer still become foundational texts for the movements and struggles of an entire people. The Souls of Black Folk occupies this rare position. It helped to create the intellectual argument for the black freedom struggle in the twentieth century.”

And, most of all the poems of Langston Hughes. Sadly, this poem is still relevant today. We have not evolved much and even seem to be going backwards as a society and country.

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak. –excerpt from Let America be America again. 

So, why are these books important? Because they provide evidence to the racist attitudes and practices that are our history. In a recent study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, it seems the Texas State Board of Education is trying to erase the reality about segregation from the standard history/social studies curriculum at public schools. “Incredibly, segregation is not even mentioned except in a passing reference to the 1948 integration of the armed forces,” the study states. Even though we think “we’ve come a long way, baby” there is still work to be done to ensure everyone is treated as belonging to the same race–the human race.

“Always look for another point of view, always learn from people not like you.” Hey, I said that!


Counting on joy

December 12, 2021

Sometimes in social media there are posts on finding joy in your life. Often we are asked to list every day what constitutes a joyful experience for us. I never lasted more than a day or two of keeping track. Today, I did think about it because… it’s Sunday.

Recommended watching: This past Thursday, the last season of The Expanse (on Prime) premiered. It’s based on James S A Corey’s novels The Expanse. In all my considerable years, this is the most amazing and thoughtful sci-fi show ever.

Humanity is out in space. Unfortunately, we still haven’t learned to get along. There are the inners (Earthers), Mars (who want to be free from Earth), and the Belters (Beltalowdas) those who live on the outer moons and asteroids. Before the premier, fans from all over the globe did get along thru a ZOOM meeting to discuss aspects of the show. It brought me much joy to see and hear the ‘expanse’ of the show’s fandom.

Rocinante is the name of the spaceship the heroes fly in all their missions

Recommended reading: Amor Towles’ Lincoln Highway. A tale of travel, discovery, heartfelt characters and a quite emotional ending. At first, I didn’t think he could outdo his A Gentleman in Moscow. And, while this book is different, it is that same irresistible unfolding of a good story.

Recommended human contact: Man, these past almost two years have been rough as far as in person contact. As more folks are vaccinated, lately I had the total joy of visiting with several friends in person. A few of these folks are long-time friends and catching up was glorious. Thru the Messenger App we saw our grandchildren look for candy canes and an elf in their Christmas tree. Also, a group of volunteers I work with met for a small party and White Elephant gift giving. I got this!

Recommended outdoor exercise: I try to walk everyday along the city trails near my home. I see the season changing finally to Fall. And, there are deer! All sizes from little guys to big bucks. They are so domesticated they will amble right in front of you–expecting you to wait till mom and her kids cross the trail. Yesterday, the squirrels were fussing at me as they seemed to be chasing each other perhaps in some squirrelly mating ritual.

Recommended: Find your joy and share it!


Top of my Best Book List

June 12, 2021

Every once in a while I run across a question on Twitter or Facebook that goes something like this, “what are some books you read and still think about? Or, what’s your favorite book or author?”

That’s a really hard question to answer for anyone who is a life-long reader such as I am. And, anyway, I always go especially blank when I see those questions. So, I started making a list that, over time, probably includes some of the books that answer those inquiring minds.

This is a quote from a reviewer on Amazon who tells it better than I could. Sir Richard Francis Burton was a mid 1800’s British explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. (and I’m going to add ‘lover’) Known for entering Mecca as a non-believer disguised as a Muslim, a act that would have brought him death had he been discovered, is also credited with translating the entire original sixteen volumes of “The Arabian Night” and Kama Sutra. Furthermore he is known for his public debate with Captain John Hanning Speke over the discovery of the source of the Nile. After I read this book I thought, If they ask me what deceased person I would like to meet, I will always say Sir Richard Francis Burton first. He could teach me some Kama Sutra poses. Also, check out the excellent movie “Mountains of the Moon” about the trip to find the source of the Nile.

The Scar by China Miéville This book won many awards in the Sci-Fi genre. I have a hard time imaging the brain this book came from. What a long strange trip it was reading. And, I’ve never forgotten the wonderful uniqueness of this book. Shucks, I might read it again!

Gertrude Bell Queen of the Desert If you saw the movie about this book with Nicole Kidman–forget it!. Read the book! Seven facts about Ms. Bell from Wendy Mead

Bell was the first woman to earn first-degree honors in modern history at Oxford; Bell was unlucky in love; A skilled mountaineer, Bell almost met her end on a slope; Bell’s fascination with the Middle East began with a visit to Iran in 1892; Bell was passionate about archaeology; Bell was the only woman working for the British government in the Middle East; Bell helped establish what is now the Iraq Museum.

Read the book especially if you are a woman. You’ll say, “Why haven’t I heard of her before?” Yeah! good question.

Whatever your reading pleasure–just do it.


What do you remember from elementary school?

March 24, 2021

Just a quick post today before continuing to cut and remove dead trees and other plants damaged in the Great Texas Snowmageddon.

The title of this post, ‘what do you remember from elementary school’ comes from a question asked on #Twitter this morning. It got me thinking. I attended four different elementary schools up thru the 6th grade. That’s the way it is with Army brats.

I attended Kindergarten and 1st grade in Iowa. I don’t remember much except I walked down a big hill to get there. In Kindergarten, we took naps on floor mats after lunch. At the same school, I learned to read in 1st grade and fell in love with books.

Second and 3rd grade was in Texas. Our 3rd grade teacher read us the “Wizard of Oz.” which became a life long favorite. I was able to walk to and from school and even came home for lunch. I stopped by the candy store in the afternoons for 5¢ treats. Horribly sugary stuff! I think we received our polio shots at school as well. Oh! and there was a Duncan YoYo salesman who came by and did tricks and then sold us yoyos. I actually got fairly good with one–all forgotten now.

Next, we moved to South Carolina. Again, I was able to walk to school cutting across several peoples’ front and back yards. How I learned that particular route is a mystery to me. My mother thought I wasn’t learning enough. So when we moved on base, I took the bus to Catholic school.

Now, we weren’t Catholic. In fact my folks only sent me there because the school was much better. We went to Mass every morning–still in Latin at that point. I prayed to Jesus and the Saints, and fainted during a High Mass with the Bishop. The nuns wanted me to convert, but I wasn’t having it. However, as one of life’s little ironies, later on I enjoyed working for 20+ years total with two different Congregations of Sisters. I also still pray for whomever the ambulance is rushing to save.

Jesus and the Saints

I’m convinced the older I get, the more it’s good brain exercise to remember things about my life. I was fortunate to experience many different people and places, travel and cultures, and interesting adventures. I’m not done yet either!!


July 2020–What already!

July 6, 2020

Time flies when you’re having fun. Or, evidently, even if you are NOT.

Week 17 of COVID-19 self-quarantine

Mind you, I’m not complaining, as the alternative to staying home and being healthy would be no fun at all.

In most of our states, positive cases of Covid-19 continue to increase, and there are still many fun-loving, don’t f**k with my personal liberty to have fun, wearing a mask isn’t fun, citizens out there helping ‘Rona’ spread her evil disease.

At least our complex pool is now open so I can do water exercises in the morning. My knees, which never bothered me when I regularly walked via treadmill, do not like walking on the pavement.

TIPS FOR SENIORS

Here are some tips for seniors-who like myself-are staying home for what might seem an eternity.

Complete at least three tasks a day that will feel like an accomplishment.

Examples are:

  • exercise– outside or in a pool if you can, at least 30 minutes a day #SilverSneakers Facebook page has some great exercise videos you can do in your living room.
  • minimize your possessions–give away, throw away enough stuff so you have at least one empty closet in your home. I know–what a concept!!
  • try a new recipe–something vegan or vegetarian if you don’t normally cook that way.
  • Eat some dark chocolate every day. Grab a handful and enjoy.

    My favorite chips

  • If you still keep paper (which I do some) clean out your file boxes. Reuse the blank backs as a note pad.
  • read a book in a different genre than usual–lots of free ebooks from your public library and other places
  •  deep clean your refrigerator–seriously, how often do you do this? It probably needs it
  • Keep a prayer list-meditate-or otherwise have a quiet moment
  • last, but not least–talk with someone every day–kids, grandkids,  friend, shout at a neighbor from the appropriate distance, or the mail person

Peace be with with you all. Stay healthy wear your masks.


Standing on Sinking Sand

May 3, 2020

Pandemic week seven, or maybe eight–but who’s counting.

Even though there is a push to reopen ‘Merica, we are still staying home and wearing masks when going on our weekly shopping trips. The San Antonio community has generally been complying and following the guidelines to continue social distancing.

This week I read “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope” a book from Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. (Both who I have seen in person!)

If you think we are still the greatest country, I’ve got news for you. We ain’t–not even close. One thing the pandemic has done is highlight “the state of our disunion.” (Tara Westover)

“For starters, America doesn’t adequately invest in children, whose potential so often goes unfulfilled. One reflection of the state of the American dream: 76 percent of adults expect their children’s lives to be worse than their own. The World Bank Human Capital Project estimates that American children reach only 76 percent of their potential because of inequality and shortcomings in our health and education systems. That gives the United States a ranking of 24 out of 157 countries, in line with its score on the Social Progress Index. Many other countries, even much poorer ones, do better.”

Another quote: “The United States has chosen policies over the last half century that have resulted in higher levels of homelessness, overdose deaths, crime and inequality—and now it’s time to make a different choice.”

My question is-but will we make different choices?  We’d better or you can kiss your red, white and blue ass goodbye.

On the other hand…

The hubby and I watched about six hours of “The Call to Unite” live stream. It was full of beautiful people from all over the globe with hopeful, helpful, interesting and entertaining messages. We both got so saturated with emotions we had to turn it off. Now they’re posting some of the pieces on their website and Facebook page

So two sides to reconcile. Do we despair and throw up our hands? Or do we work to make things better thru all this time?  What will it look like on the other side of Covid-19? I don’t think we can count on anything just yet. The only thing I know for sure is it’s going to be what ever we make it.

Meanwhile.


The Future looks a lot like now

June 15, 2019

I recently rediscovered the amazingly good science fiction novels by Jack McDevitt. I’d read a number of his books published in 2000-2012. His stories specifically interested me because they were action loaded, pithy, and plausible–in a sci-fi kind of way. The Priscilla Hutchins series starred a strong female character, which I like as well. space

Now as I re-read them in order, I see that almost 20 years ago he was telling the far-away future, with insights that are still quite relevant today. The following are some quotes that made me think he could have written these stories last week.

“There’d been studies over the years supporting the proposition that groups composed exclusively of women usually made intelligent decisions, that exclusively male groups did a bit less well, and that mixed groups did most poorly of all, by a substantial margin. It appeared that, when women were present, testosterone got the upper hand and men took greater risks than they might otherwise. Correspondingly, women in the mixed group tended to revert to roles, becoming more passive, and going along with whatever misjudgment the males might perpetrate.” Chindi (The Academy series (Priscilla Hutchins) Book 3) by Jack McDevitt

“There is, he’d said, an inverse correlation between the amount of power a person has and the level at which his or her mind functions. A person of ordinary intelligence who acquires power, of whatever kind, tends to develop an exaggerated view of his own capabilities. Sycophants gather. There is little or no criticism of decisions. As his ability to disrupt the lives of others advances, these tendencies become stronger. Eventually you end with Louis the Fourteenth, who thinks he’s done a good job for France, although the country he left behind was ruined.” Infinity Beach by Jack McDevitt

https___cdn.pixabay.com_photo_2018_08_29_04_20_planets-3639154_960_720“Freedom and idiots make a volatile mix. And the sad truth is that the idiocy quotient in the general population is alarmingly high.”

“It is not faith per se that creates the problem; it is conviction, the notion that one cannot be wrong, that opposing views are necessarily invalid and may even be intolerable.”  both attributed to Gregory MacAllister, “Downhill All the Way” in the book Odyssey (The Academy series(Priscilla Hutchins) novel Book 5) by Jack McDevitt


Holidays, Tangerines and Politics

November 25, 2018
I hope y’all had a swell Thanksgiving with your respective families. From what I’ve been seeing Christmas season began in October now, with decorations going up in the shopping centers and streets right before Halloween.

 

The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion, the National Retail Federation estimates. I’m no fan of all the commercialization. However, I realize what I think matters not a whit.  More on Christmas economic facts if you are interested.

The hubby and I were on our own for Turkey Day but were in touch with all our relatives via the wonders of modern technology. We watched the Minnesota daughter and family put up their Christmas tree via live chat. I’m wondering if it will survive the two small boys and very large puppy until the 25th.

 

The kitchen was sticky for a week as Richard worked on juicing 6 gallons of tangerines from our two trees in our back courtyard. We also ate plenty and had multiple bags of gift fruit. (there were a few grapefruit and oranges as well)

 

Still busy with work both paid and unpaid. But, always make time for reading and live streaming on the telly.

 

I save quotes from books via my Kindle. Here’s one from Varina, by Charles Frazier. She was the wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States. V had a very adventurous and long life. This quote seems to explain not only our history but our present politics as well.

 

“Take a king or a president or anybody. Put a heavy sack of gold in one hand and a feather-light declaration about freedom in the other. And then an outlaw sticks a pistol in his face and says give me one or the other. Every time —ten out of ten—he’ll hug the sack and throw away the ideals. Because the sack’s what’s behind the ideals, like the foundation under a building. And that’s how freedom and chains and a whipping post can live alongside each other comfortably.”

 

I leave you with a quote from The Oregon Trail by Buck Rinker for whatever path you are on, whatever your passion is.

“Crazyass passion is the staple of life and persistence its nourishing force. Without them, you cannot cross the trail.”


My Encyclopedic Beginning

May 30, 2018

Evidently, I was still a very young child when my mother introduced me to books, setting me on a life-long safari of endless reading adventures.

Lazing in the pool soaking up sun always sets my mind to wandering. Yesterday I was reminiscing about how when I was about seven years old my parents bought a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. It was a big dollar investment in those days (1954). I remember the salesman talking about an installment plan. It was also a big load of books for an ‘always on the move’ Army family.

I started with the first letter of the alphabet  and, over time, worked my way through XYZ. I finished up as I turned 11. It was glorious journey. My siblings were younger, but the books grew up with them as well.

Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”  I’m so glad my parents invested in our knowledge in this way.  

Of course, there is now a very different set of Encyclopedia Britannica online which is just one of the places I go for information. It’s worth checking out.


Of Coffee and Jellies

April 23, 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual San Antonio Public Library’s Book Festival. Out of a good many speakers, I chose to hear Juli Berwald the author of Spineless–the science of Jellyfish and the art of growing a backbone. She was very good–entertaining and well-versed in jellyfish. So now I am about half way through the book. The hubby is reading it as well. Who would have thunk it! Jellyfish are quite the animal! I’m looking up Jellyfish documentaries on Netflix asap.

I recently read The Monk of Mokha a tale of Yemen, coffee and a tenaciously motivated young man who resurrectes the coffee trade in Yemen. If you think this would be a bland read, guess again. It’s as rich as Yemeni coffee itself. And, there’s the volatile, multi-leg journey racing across Yemen–as it turns into a war zone–carrying his coffee samples to the conference that will make or break his multi-year efforts. Dave Eggers is the author and he never disappoints.

The newest book from Yan Martel, author of Life of Pi, is The High Mountains of Portugal. Three seemingly different tales weaving together with a slightly surreal tinge. Parts of it seems to go on a bit, but stick with it for a fine reading experience.

I dearly love British crime/mysteries whether they be books, TV shows or movies. Author Alex Marwood was recently recommended by Stephen King on Twitter. I figured her books were damn good if he recommended them. The Wicked Girls and The Darkest Secret are psychological thrillers hard to put down till you get to the end. And, as the Brits might say ‘bloody good characters’ as well.

Get a book or three this week and happy reading.