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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pausing at Sixteen

Somewhere between Zachary and Matthew, I determined not to let my mind get mushy. I absolutely love history, American being my ultimate favorite. I have taken a lot of classes, had taught it to 7th graders for three years as an American history teacher and well...you get the idea.

Also being a lover of biographies I thought it would be a cool idea to read a biography of every president in order. What better way to understand the men who have led this country and at the same time get a great picture of our history as a whole. On top of all of that, biographies written about many of our presidents can range from 500-1000 pages and most are written above the typical 7th/8th grade reading level. I would have to think and at the same time enjoy the process.

That brings us up to Sunday. I started A. Lincoln back in August when we were away on our 25th anniversary trip to Door County. This book sucked me in right away but as you can see, I don't buzz through any of these books quickly. I read many times on my Nook when I get into bed so a 1/2 chapter here and there. I also read other things at the same time. I know, but that is just how I roll.

I spent a wonderful afternoon on Sunday sitting in my chair reading the last few chapters. Reaching the beginning of the last chapter, I put it down. I know what happens to my beloved 16th president. But yet...I read on. I had been excited to get to Abraham Lincoln and there are a couple other Lincoln books I need to read before I move on. I also have biographies on my list of Lee, Sherman and Jefferson Davis. So it may be a bit before I move on and that is okay. I am still grieving with my country that has just lost its 16th president.

You see, by reading presidents (many who only served one term to this point), so much overlaps. I have really gotten a unique feel for how the country survived and how these men who led us worked together, or against one another. If you haven't read much between the founding and the Civil War, I HIGHLY recommend reading a few of the presidents in between. I would recommend John Tyler, James Polk or William Henry Harrison, or just start at the beginning and get the whole picture.

Some have asked me the books that I chose. Thankfully, about the time I started with Washington (which I could have still been there this day there is SO much out there to read about Washington), there was a series being written called "The American Presidents" not found in the juvenile section of the library but run 250-300 pages and they are good overviews if the 500-1000 page books are not sounding exciting to you. I pepper those in as I go too.

I will list the books I have read that have brought me to this great book that I enjoyed thoroughly. Any book that includes a lot of his words or quotes from correspondence and speeches are my favorite. This book did not disappoint. I really feel like I know this man and feel the burden that he bore as much as I possibly can living over a century later.

  1.  Washington: Indispensable Man by Flexner (this book was very heavy with Revolutionary War which was great but I didn't feel it gave the best overall picture, so I tried: The Real George Washington put out by the National Center for Constitutional Studies
  2. John Adams by David McCullough...duh best by far and yes, watch the HBO miniseries too, if you want to borrow mine, I would gladly let you! This book is chock full of Adams' own words and writing. The relationships these men had in the beginning to disagree so fully with one another yet still be able to put together what it takes to make a nation. (can you tell, I love John Adams? Well, I read this book TWICE before I went on!) During this time, I also got side tracked with Sam Adams A Life by Ira Stoll, Benjamin Rush by David Barton, Founding Brothers by Ellis, and a book of letters between John and Abigail Adams. I left behind a biography of Alexander Hamilton and glad I did because Chernow has since written his book and yes, I have read the intro and one day will go back and read it. I also left behind McCullough's 1776 which is another on my shelf that will get read when I feel like taking a break and revisiting the revolution. Yes...it took me awhile to move on!
  3. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Ellis. This was a very different handling of Thomas Jefferson and I enjoyed it a lot. I had already read so much about Jefferson up to this point that I felt like I knew him and much of his story. Ellis got me thinking and rounded out my thoughts on Jefferson. I can't say that I understand him and for all of his own writings that I have read, I still am not sure where he was coming from. I think he liked to be mysterious that way.
  4. James Madison by Richard Brookhiser
  5. James Monroe by Gary Hart was the first book I read in the American Presidents series. They are more concise and shorter. It wasn't until I was almost finished when I ran across the book The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call toe Greatness by Harlow Giles Unger. I enjoyed the story of James Monroe and sensed the end of the "beginning" as he left office.
  6. John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger. Yes, I liked the author from the book on James Monroe so read this one. I actually think that it was about half way through John Quincy when I found the James Monroe book. I am not sure exactly. They were both good. There has since been another John Quincy Adams book that has come out and since I enjoy his life and the service he gave to his country both as a boy and after he was president, I may find a little time to read that one too. So many books, so little time!
  7. American Lion: Andrew Jackson In the White House byJon Meacham I liked this one but the focus was as president. I also read Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands and liked that one about his whole life.
  8. Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. This was another from the American Presidents series.
  9. William Henry Harrison by Gail Collins another American Presidents series book but I got sucked into Harrison's involvement in Indiana with the indians. Which was much more time spent than in the actual office of president. He was not a good man but I found a book Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier by Adam Jortner that was very interesting. As you can see, I get sidetracked easily.
  10. John Tyler: The Accidental President by Edward P. Crapol I loved this book. It gave me a perspective on the country that I didn't have before. As I read I found slave owner presidents, anti-slavery presidents. John Tyler was a citizen of the Confederate States of America when he died.
  11. Polk: The Man Who Transformed the American Presidency by Walter R. Borneman Again with this one, the politics and process of dealing with an ever dividing nation. I enjoyed this book as well.
  12. Zachary Taylor by John S. D. Eisenhower This was a short and sweet book from the American President series.
  13. Millard Fillmore  by Paul Finkelman I seemed at this time to be entering the part of our timeline where there isn't much interest in writing biographies of these men. Great again, short but informative book from the American Presidents series.
  14. Franklin Pierce by Michael F Holt which was also from the American Presidents series. Before I read this book I had run into a digital copy of a biography of Franklin Pierce by none other than Nathaniel Hawthorne. I read this one before I got a copy of the "official" biography. I found out that Nathaniel Hawthorne and Franklin Pierce were good friends. Lets just say that his version of the life and presidency of Franklin Pierce was obviously rosey, as any biography one writes for a friend should be.
  15. The Worst President by Garry Boulard Obviously a little harsh but before you think I was being bias by choosing this book, you must know that every other book I found about James Buchanan and read samples were in total agreement. After reading it I am too. I kept finding myself shouting in my head "DO SOMETHING!!!!" He would not address the important issues or take a stand one way or another to move the country through the growing pains leading up to war. But God has a plan and he left the office in very capable hand as we all know.
  16. A. Lincoln by Ronald C. White was very readable and full of Lincoln's own words which I love! If you want a comprehensive book about Lincoln's life this is it. It was a wonderful glimpse into his life and it is easy to see he was given to our country for "such a time as this". There was much emotion that I felt through his life. I was able to read of a man who knew of his melancholy and learned how to handle pain and grief in a way that helped him keep on going. That spoke to me volumes because I relate to that fully. He was willing to learn the art of war in order to be a qualified Commander in Chief. I have pondered often what our country would be like today if Lincoln had been able to serve his second term and been actively involved in reconstruction. It wasn't to be though as you all know how  his story ends. John Wilkes Booth snuck into the president's box at the theater and I am yelling "STOP! Everyone just STOP!" in my head. No one heard me though so I wasn't able to change history. This is not my only book before I go on to president 17 Andrew Johnson. I have already started Team of Rivals and am enjoying it in the first chapters. I love how I know all the names already of the people Lincoln so wisely surrounded himself with. I will also read Killing Lincoln too before I go on. Like I said, I have the other extras that I am interested in too before I go on.
So that is my list so far. I highly recommend it if you are one who enjoys biographies and history. I do so it is fun. I am amazed at the things that I learn and have been pleasantly surprised at the faith that some had as they led our country. So now you know. I am thankful for digital books as I have spent a lot of time in the last few years sitting in doctor's offices and it is amazing how much I can learn and enjoy as I wait.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Look Back Into Younger Minds

I learned a little something in the van on Thursday night after the concert. I had four of mine and a friend riding to Orange Leaf after the concert. There was an empty seat in the back and I heard a small commotion about buckling that seat belt. Upon inquiring I was told about when the triplets were little. Ryan and Dawn shared with me that whenever they were riding in the van and there was an empty seat they always buckled the seat belt because they knew Jesus was always with us and they wanted Jesus to be safe.

Wow, I never knew that was going on with the passengers in the back of my van all of those years ago. I was thankful for that little insight into the minds of my elementary kids even now as teenagers. They agreed now of course that Jesus would not go flying out the window if Mom slammed on the breaks but as they told me that Thursday night, I had to smile thinking how God reveals himself to us as we grow and mature with Him.

I consider that little insight into their "little people" minds a gem to hold on to. They now know of course that Jesus doesn't even "take the wheel". He is our life as we follow Him. He certainly cannot be restrained by a seat belt but how fun it was to hear how their little minds cherished Him enough to "keep him safe" while Mommy was driving.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Show Choir Season!

Thursday night was the debut performance of Marion High School's two jazz bands and their two show choirs. Ryan is involved with most of those and so we could see him almost everywhere throughout the concert. He started at the piano with the Jazz Band II.

Ryan during the ballad

Lots of hard work and hours have gone into learning and performing the show choir routines. They started back in July with choreography camp and Thursday night we got to see the fruit of their hard work. Competitions start for both the show choirs and jazz bands soon. Show choir is actually at their first competition today at Prairie.

Ryan shows off his moves...he is a natural showman.
I took video of Thursday's performance by Revelation which is the show choir that Ryan and Dawn perform in this year. It will be fun to compare later in the spring with their last concert in May. They did very well and seem to have most of the glitches out. Their show is great and the choreography is fun to watch.

Dawn during the ballad
Capturing photos from my video isn't a talent I would say I have mastered so a couple of the photos aren't as clear as I would have liked them to be, but I thought I would share a little of the evening in pictures.

It is fun to watch through the season as they get better with each performance. That is why comparing the first to the last is fun. Getting used to a clothing change is new for the freshmen this year as they don't typically do that on the middle school level.

Dawn is easier for me to see this year in the front!
I sat in the gym and thought about my kids. Last night Stacey got to do her thing in the same gym playing basketball. When you hold your little one in your arms for the first time, it is an amazing feeling. But seeing their lives, interests and talents develop before your eyes is the very best part of being there in the front seat to watch. I could have never predicted this and I love the variety.

Zachary and the middle school show choir will be starting their competition season soon too. I am excited to be witnessing his debut as well.

Ryan was the busiest tonight playing in the jazz band, singing/dancing with Revelation and then playing keyboard for New Creation's show. He thrives on his full calendar.

He also is usually the one to instigate the after concert plans which always include Orange Leaf. So we debriefed and celebrated the first of many performances this season.

 The perfect ending to a perfectly freezing day. We have had late starts every day this week and these kids choose Orange Leaf. For me, it was great! The place was empty til we got there and the frozen yogurt was wonderfully yummy as always. And...I had coupons!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday From the Heart: Living What I Believe

About two weeks before Christmas I was shopping for books for the kids. That day I was led to this great find at one of the many bookstores that I stopped in. I am a stickler for truth where it comes to authors who write about the things of God. I have mentioned this before, but I have to fully vet a speaker/author against what I know the Bible says before I will really even take the time. Life is too short to be wasting time on something that won't bring me closer to Jesus.

Erwin Lutzer is an author I enjoy reading and when I saw that the forward was written by R.C. Sproul I was very interested. But what caught me was the title. It made sense to me knowing that my God is sovereign and that He controls all that He has created but I stood there in the store wondering if I really live like I believe that the enemy I battle is under God's command.

I don't write very many book reviews but this one I highly recommend. I had cause to stop and ponder almost a decade ago that I give Satan too much power when I believe that he can read my mind. He can't, he doesn't and that was helpful as I struggled through some things and grew in the process. But here, the way Lutzer lays it out we see the argument (which really is a no brainer but isn't something I really ever thought through fully) that Satan is NOT the opposite of God.

So, the "omni's"...all of them...OMNIPOTENT...OMNIPRESENT...OMNISCIENT...Satan has none of those characteristics. But, I think in a way, I have been living like he does have some of those abilities. Not only does he NOT read my thoughts, he also had no idea what would result from his tempting Eve in the garden. He had no idea that God has a plan, that God would use him and so he is wandering the earth, going "to and fro" simply reacting to God's great love for us.

Satan thought he could win us to him by his temptation and has through history been coming up with a game plan with the help of the demons to react to God's plan of grace and salvation from the fall. It is a battle that Satan may still believe he can win...or at least take many with him. These things aren't really what we as believers would like to think and ponder about long.

Here are a few great quotes I noted in my journal as I read so I can go back over them when I need some reminding:

  • Incredibly, Adam was seduced by a creature who was beneath him. He withdrew from his God-given responsibilities and accepted the word of a beast. Man, who could have walked tall among the creatures, now stoops to the suggestion of one of them.
  • Satan could not foresee this divine intervention. He did not know that God would take the initiative and reconcile humans to Himself.
  • The will of God is something all of us would choose if we knew all the facts.
  • Even today, through doctrinal confusion and moral degeneration, Satan continues his relentless pursuit of the people of God. He wants us to poison our commitment to Christ through contamination from the world.
  • Even righteous people feel sinful in the presence of God. (Zech. 3:1-7)
  • Though most agree that at the end of the day God will win, some people live and talk as if it will be a close finish. Well it won't be.
  • REMEMBER: Satan will take all the power that our unbelief gives to him!
  • As parents we have all taken our children to the zoo. As we have walked past the lion's cage, the children are frightened, but we aren't. That is because children usually look at the lion, but parents usually look at the bars.
  • Many times believers might be seeking a quick deliverance when God might be seeking a lasting repentance.
  • Do not believe the lie that Satan has a right to you if you have been purchased at high cost by the blood of Christ. (Col. 1:13)
  • If he cannot keep us from heaven, at least he can keep us from usefulness on earth.
  • Today Satan can no longer tempt Christ to avoid the cross, but he can tempt us to belittle it.
  • If we remember that the devil is under His supervision, we will believe that God has a purpose in deepening our walk with Him even while the struggle rages.
  • We are blessed when we can still see the face of God even when a demon speaks in our ear.
  • Hopelessness is one of Satan's most believable lies.
  • If we really feared God, we would have to fear little else.
  • If we could see the devil himself in the midst of every sin, we would be more prudent, for while sin attracts us, the devil repels us.
  • Though we abhor him, we often find ourselves comfortable with his attitudes and behaviors.
  • What is the difference between a believer who slanders the people of God and the serpent who does the same?
  • REMEMBER: Satan wants us to ascribe to him what he does not have, namely invincibility. He is as strong as we believe him to be.
  • The wolf turns back when the sheep he has been pursuing stay closer to the shepherd.
  • We must get beyond the notion that something has to be pleasant in order for it to be good.
As you can see, there is so much to ponder in this, the first book on my 2018 reading list. I will review this often as my human finite mind doesn't always remember that I need to live what I believe. Satan is the father of lies and he throws them out at us all of the time.

If you have read this far in my review, you should definitely read this book! It is reassuring to know that I shouldn't be surprised when my life feels like a battle. Then again, I shouldn't fight it like I am defeated because I know my enemy and I know my God. It really is a no brainer. The trick is living, making decisions and relating to others with the understanding of what is really going on.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Bartholomew...Our "Fish Out of Water"

There were no sushi jokes this morning, and no guessing how many aquarium pebbles were in his stomach, about this freak of nature that came to be our annoyingly loved pet. Two years ago last month, the 70 gallon aquarium was ready for inhabitants. From all we had read, getting a goldfish to "test the water" before spending money on the more pricey fish was recommended.
Baby Bartholomew...the lone survivor!

Thanks to Auntie Betsy who was teaching in 4th grade that year, we had plenty of goldfish following their science unit studying goldfish and guppies. The goldfish we were told, would eat the guppies so when Dawn decided to put the guppies along with the goldfish (nine I believe there was) into the aquarium I didn't override the decision against my better judgement.

Long story short, instead of the goldfish eating the guppies, the guppies started nipping at the sides of the goldfish and when there were about three goldfish left Dawn finally got angry and scooped out all of the guppies and flushed them. After the drama of all of that, one lone goldfish survived. Our annoyingly beloved Bartholomew. I was sure I had blogged about him before this but going back through the archives I realized I haven't.

Bartholemew...about 10 inches long

This morning our pet was floating lifeless in the tank. So, I guess it is during this eulogy that I tell you a little about him. We have always talked about that dumb fish that just kept on living. He was like a dog, every time Dawn would come over to the tank to feed the fish, he would swim around crazy-like and splash up out of the water. He ate EVERYTHING! (Including a couple of his roomates which was NOT an endearing quality).

Bartholemew and Link
I would say "one day we will come home and he will be dead on the floor" since the tank doesn't have a lid. Seriously, he would jump up out of the water practically eating out of her hand if she let him. We would also say stuff like "when Bartholomew dies we are going to cut him open to see how many of the aquarium pebbles are in his belly". David would joke about sushi and talk about how he is too big to flush.

Seen in the background, the orange streak
Bartholemew heard the Grinch for his first
You see, this wasn't an ordinary goldfish. He was loved (you know, like how Clifford the big red dog grew because of Emily-Elizabeth's love for him). I truly think that Dawn's aquarium is the heaven on earth for water creatures. During the sad goodbye this morning, She weighed and measured him and he was 14.4 ounces and 12 inches long. Thankful for the late start of school, she was able to put him in a ziplock and put him outside the back door. She decided she would bury him in the backyard after school.

Finding a spot to dig

And, that is what she did. We both did actually. The ground is frozen you know. So some water was put on to boil and we found a spot at the edge of the garden where we no longer plant things because it is too shady there in the summer now that the tree has grown so big.

A pretty cold day to be digging a hole!

Good-bye's are not easy

There were not many words to say other than he was a great fish and we will actually miss him. Our hands were freezing and here we were when today and tomorrow both late starts. Cold enough for late starts and we are out digging a hole in our frozen tundra, all for the love of a fish, our Fish Out Of Water. I bought that silly children's book for Dawn this Christmas and wrote endearingly in the front a special note to tell her that I love how she loves her water creatures. If you are a fish, a snail or actually a plant of any kind (because she has quite a green thumb) and you happen into Dawn's care, you will live the very best life on earth that is possible.
Marking the spot so we can find it
this spring

Sad day
As I hugged her this morning I told her that every word in that note is still true and that Bartholemew did truly have a great life in her care. Despite the sushi jokes and the guessing how many pebbles in his belly (he would suck up a pebble and then spit it out) we will miss him. Boy was he annoying. (He ate a couple of Dawn's tetras we are almost positive) and he was a big bully to the littler fish, a few who are still after a day without him in there cowering in the corner of the huge tank to stay out of his way. He and Link (Dawn's plecko) finally settled on a love/hate relationship.

He hadn't been eating much if anything the last few days and so I wondered if he was not doing well. It is funny how many times I glance over there to see the orange streak in the aquarium. I did it probably 20 times every time I walked into the living room today, only to remember he isn't there anymore. It is a big tank to fill. I am sure that there will be new inhabitants to join the three that still remain.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Fun Gift #3

As Christmastime approaches it is customary in our extended family to draw names and give gifts when we meet at my parents' house on December 26th. It is an all day affair. This year David drew Loretta and I drew my brother Johnse. I told David I would help him a little with his gift for Loretta and he said that would be fine.

He did contribute to the project as about 90% of the denim that I used was from the pile of jeans he found when he cleaned out his closet a couple months back. So, technically it is from him. I love making denim blankets. They aren't so much for snuggling in but for decor, or in the summertime, they are great for laying in the grass and keeping dry when it may be a little damp.

The way things were going during the days leading up to Christmas, I thought for sure that I would be working on it Christmas afternoon, things were so busy, but, I got it done, wrapped and under Mom and Dad's tree the day before Christmas Eve.

Stacey said "Mom, she will love it" and I think she did. She sent me this great picture of it on the bench on her porch. It was a fun gift to make and even more fun to give.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Creating the Beaten Path

When we moved into our house in November of 2013, we had a talk with our back yard neighbor. There was a chain link fence across our property in the backyard and if there was no way through that fence, the kids who went to the elementary school (K-2) would have to walk about three extra blocks out of their way to get to school.

She was very nice to say the kids could walk through her yard when they were going to school. I asked her if she minded if we put in a gate so they wouldn't have to climb the fence and ruin it. She was more concerned about their safety which was so sweet. I put out word on Facebook that I was looking for a chain link fence gate and got two people respond that we could have one that they wouldn't be using.

Well, it went well for a few years. Zachary walked it for a half a year until he started 3rd grade at the intermediate school a mile away and Matthew started kindergarten. Fast forward another couple of years and Matthew is at intermediate school and not longer attending the elementary.

BUT...First year of high school for three means that three freshmen are walking through the back yard to the high school which is located on the next block past the elementary school. Not only are they all walking to and from school before and after, but to evening practices and meetings and everything else that high schoolers have on their schedule.

It was just the other day before the kids helped David pull in the patio furniture for the winter did I realize that we may need to have another talk with the neighbor and promise to reseed her lawn. Talk about a beaten path! I guess they will have to start zig zagging a bit to keep from killing all of the grass!