Looking for Lincoln from within

Lincoln by Brady

We have never met him, nor have we ever heard him speak yet we all feel as though we want to be like him, to embrace him, to live up to his standards. Such a man was Abraham Lincoln, a person from humble beginnings who became the President of the United States. His relevance today is applicable for the same reasons he was relevant to his contemporaries; he was a man of integrity, determination, and honesty.

Are these not the attributes that we wish to instill in children? Regardless of differences and similarities one cannot dispute that Lincoln was a leader with human qualities that each of us can find some connection to. He reminds us that it is okay to be who you are, that it takes hard work to make a difference, that not everyone will believe your way is the right way, but rather to live and try your best is a more noble route than to pursue an easier servile path.

The list of reason why Lincoln is relevant today are clearly demonstrated in the stories and speeches he left behind. Great men with great souls will forever remain relevant, and for Abraham Lincoln, from his Kentucky beginnings to his tragic death in Ford Theater, he will live among us forever. As long as those from humble beginning and not so humble beginnings continue to pass along his knowledge,passion, and legacy, we will continue to inspire the rising “Lincolns” among us.

Image: Lincoln-portrait by Brady, Matthew B. Photographs (1864)

The dead do talk; it’s how we listen

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William O. Douglas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, could be considered one of the most uncompromising defenders of the individual. A man ahead of his time, he possessed extraordinary intelligence, excessive work habits, and a willingness to be different. Serving on the Court from 1939 to 1975, Douglas’s experiences were drawn from his life of poverty as a youth and battles with polio.

So the question becomes, why talk about him now? Maybe it is because of the state of the county; maybe because we are continually reminded of the gross misuse of power seeping into the crevices of high public offices. Whatever the motivator may be, the multitude of reasons lie in Douglas’s small but powerful book, Points of Rebellion. Written in 1969, and read 49 years later, it is a disturbing reminder to Americans just how far we have NOT come.

Points of Rebellion was written as a somber warning to the American people. Douglas believed that the pollution of the political system would befoul freedom itself.

We can hear Douglas’s battle cry for the individual. He believed that all citizens were entitled to all the rights that the privileged, by virtue of their money, traditionally enjoyed. In 1969 Douglas wrote, “…Any tax deduction is in reality a “tax expenditure,” for it means that on the average the Treasury pays 52 per cent of the deduction. When we get deeply into the subject we learn that the cost of public housing for the poorest twenty per cent of the people is picayune compared to the federal subsidy of the housing costs of the wealthiest twenty per cent … while we spent 870 million dollars on housing for the poor, the tax deductions for the top twenty per cent amounted to 1.7 billion dollars.”
Daily the media reminds us that we are an affluent society. Ads entice us with expensive clothes, fully shelved pantries, and luxury cars. But are we any different from the society Douglas forewarned us against almost 50 years ago? “…We must subject the machine– technology– to control and cease despoiling the earth and filling people with the goodies merely to make money.”

Still the question remains unanswered, why have we not made significant changes in the laws that would be more responsive to human needs? While ideologies are being watered down by special interests, dialogue between citizens and their government is abating. It is obvious that we must reawaken this urgency which was heeded by Douglas. If our government is in jeopardy, then we must remind our leaders that the tools required for change are present but they must have the moral conviction to proceed. The forecast of 49 years ago remains today. Determinedly, we must continue to explore, to find solutions, to cry out as Douglas did; however, now there must be change.

 

Death in the classroom

the pearl_2At least once during the English teacher’s career, we inflict the heinous crime of beating a perfectly good novel to death. I must confess that some time ago, during my maiden voyage as a new teacher, I perpetrated such an offense against The Pearl.

It all began one day in September as a perfectly legitimate assignment. I was to instruct the students on all the literary nuances that could be squeezed out of the novel. My class of eighth graders and I commenced with an author biography, a lively testament to John Steinbeck’s literary genius. It was from here that we embarked on our thoughtful migration into the book.

As we began to decipher each chapter, characters were delicately probed and analyzed. It was imperative that we assess traits and dispositions. We wanted to understand who and what each character stood for, their symbolic relationship to themselves as individuals and to mankind.
Discussions of the “settings” were tabled. Cooperative group activities were exercised. Students were given opportunity to examine both the historical significance of the novel’s setting, as well as the geographic clues that were relayed to us by the author. And, as if this wasn’t enough, we explored “themes”; the struggle for existence, free will vs. determination, social class, and oppression to a minority group.

September was creeping into October, and by this time of the dissection, these kids were screaming for mercy. But no, relentlessly we pushed on. After all, we had only touched the surface; we needed to consider, “STYLE”! Even though there are a mere six chapters, we sought after metaphors, similes, phrases, and descriptions!
With the patience of an archaeologist, we left no page untouched. Our mission was now to decipher the “point of view,” the third person narrative, our omnipotent action teller who guides us through the universal parable. Determined to seek out more, we struggled with “form and structure.” Was this important novel merely a simple legend or was it an allegory designed to teach us a moral lesson? This probing question lasted a good two classes. With pens in hands, we highlighted, scribbled notes in the margins, and to be sure, probably exhausted any pleasure that was intended by our notable American author, Steinbeck.

So, I confess, I killed The Pearl in a purely selfish attempt to teach the great American novel, to impose my love of literature and all its wonders.

Humbled by this book review

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Although it was a cloudy morning things began to glow when I received notice that my most recent publication,  The Fortune Teller and Other Short Works earned a 5-star review.

Thank you Red Headed Book Lover for your awesome recommendation! And so, without anymore fanfare here is an excerpt from her review.

“Anthologies are soon becoming my favorite type of reads, why? They are the perfect books to pick up and get lost in if ever you are having a busy day. I adore anthologies but only if they are written flawlessly with each story being supremely well developed with a wealth of information. The Fortune Teller and Other Short Works is just this; a perfect anthology book that has flawlessly written stories written throughout it that will compel, intrigue and excite you from beginning to end! Nanette L. Avery, the talented author of The Fortune Teller and Other Short Works, is an incredible writer whose work needs to be recognized and read by all readers so, please book lovers, if you adore anthologies and books with brilliant stories then you will love this! If you are not entirely convinced just yet then read the rest of my review to learn more about this exceptional book! ….

The Fortune Teller and Other Short Works is, of course, an anthology (a collection of short stories) and so the readers get to experience many different stories and witness many different lives and circumstances, however, all of the stories are written from a woman’s perspective which I think is brilliant! Each story in this excellent collection is unique and different from the other one. They never once sound similar, and that is a hard quality to achieve with an anthology, so already I have to applaud Avery for her talent to write original, creative stories! ….”

***

The entire review can be read on her wonderful book reviewer’s site “The Red Headed Book Lover!! 

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Sacrificing for fashion

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One only has to look at the annals of history to see the changes in fashion. Styles have dictated the lives of both men and women for as long as we have chronicled human accounts.  Hemlines have gone up and down, fabrics have gone from cotton to synthetics, and all the while we have been addicted to what the fashion designers have charged as “in style.” However, our intentions of being “fashionable” have created a negative impact; our desire to look our best has often been at the expensive of the most vulnerable creatures that share the planet…the animals.

The use of bird feathers in fashion had become an established trend for women in Europe and the United States. The millinery industry in the past centuries supported and encouraged what was vogue. In the 1880s on average, the millinery trade’s demand for plumage and skins resulted in the destruction of as many as fifteen million American birds annually, from songbirds to waterfowl.

Around 1900 it could be said to be the pinnacle of glove-wearing. To satisfy all the varieties from evening gloves, winter gloves, and even driving gloves, they were made from wool, cashmere, silk, kid, doeskin, and cape (a sheepskin leather) for both men and women.   The 1600s was nothing short of devastation for beavers; Europe had all but extinguished their population. Its fur was used to fashion hats and trim coats. Hunters turned to North America to supplement the appetite of the fashion mongers creating the beaver to become nearly extinct here too.

Boots, shoes, belts, jackets, coats, handbags, hats and wallets produced from reptile skins were supplemented for the fashion industry. By the 1950s, demand for hides and uncontrolled hunting in the southeastern United States had almost wiped out the species of alligators.  Even the whales were not left behind. In the 19th century, “whale baleen” (the plates in the whale mouth used to sieve food) was an important fashion tool. Flexible and strong; dried baleen was used in the manufacturing of “tight structure” in clothing, such as corsets.  And we all know the impact furs have had on the extensive array of animals; seals, fox, vicuna (relative to the llama), otters, spotted cats (such as jaguars and tigers).

Sadly, the list goes on and on. So the next time you are in the Florida Everglades consider yourself very lucky if you happen to see a Roseate Spoonbill. Although it is slowly making a come-back, it is a rare site since its ancestors’ beautiful feathers once adorned so many hats.

Today’s esteemed thinker is not relegated to one person in particular, but to those who uphold and protect the Endangered Species Act of 1973. When it was passed by Congress “it recognized that our rich natural heritage is of “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people.” The law prohibits any action that causes a “taking” of any listed species of endangered fish or wildlife. Likewise, import, export, interstate, and foreign commerce of listed species are all generally prohibited. The act provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found.

Good-bye old friend

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Winter in St. Louis, Missouri… The year was 1976…It was cold…how cold…cold enough to need long underwear. The snow was piling up on the sky light and the battery in the car froze. Too cold and too far to walk to a store when between the pages of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog there they were… Women’s long underwear; I ordered a top and bottom in pink. Not a very monumental order, but at the time it saved my “hide”… literally.

… Fast forward to today… I just read that Sears will close its last store in Chicago, a city the retailer has called home for over a century. A part of me is feeling sad…perhaps it’s nostalgia… As such a tribute to Sears and Roebuck Company seems in order… it wasn’t the most glamorous place but it sure fit the need of many.

And so we say good-bye to a friend; a mail order company started in the 1880s that came to the rescue of many small towns. An American staple like apple pie, it grew into a retail chain of stores that feed the buying appetite of a growing nation.

A little help from our friends

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Labor Day is a time to reflect on those who came before, those who worked in conditions that were feeding the demand of a society at a time the country was embarking on a revolution… the Industrial Revolution.

Labor Day is a celebration for those who stood up and fought for the rights of all workers, and although we continue the battle for equal wages and protection for all workers, Labor Day is a reminder and a time to say, Thanks for your hard work.