Love For Texas

Long after the flood waters have receded and the television news cameras have moved on to the next big story, the state of Texas will continue healing from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey. According to the experts, it will take years.

During the seven and a half years that I’ve called Texas my home, I’ve grown to love my adopted state and the big-hearted people who live here. It’s been heart-wrenching to watch the news and see the devastation in Houston and in the other South Texas Coastal Communities.

Image result for love for texas

Living in North Texas where it’s completely dry and our only inconvenience is a shortage of gasoline, I feel half guilty getting into my bed at night when so many have lost and are displaced from, their homes.

On the NBC News last night, they said that the internet and social media have been a huge help in finding people who were stranded and needed to be rescued. The internet and social media are also providing a lot of ways to help the residents who have been directly affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Image result for hurricane harvey 2017

Many of us want to help but aren’t sure how best to do this. We all help in our own ways and all of it is a positive contribution to the whole. Whether you are donating or gathering items to be sent to the hurricane area, opening your home to people, cooking food for volunteers and shelter residents, sending money, donating airline points, volunteering in South Texas, or praying, your help is important.

Image result for texas map with cities

I have a friend who is driving to the Houston area to volunteer and to help rescue and care for pets that have been separated from their families. Other friends are helping to organize relief items to be sent to the shelters where people are staying. Many of us are contributing whatever amount of money we are able to send.

Image result for love for texas

And if you aren’t in a position to help right now, perhaps you will have an opportunity to do so down the road. The relief effort will be ongoing for a very long time. Whatever you can do…it all adds up, and counts, and helps.

Image result for american flag and texas flag

Author’s note: There is a website at charitynavigator.org where you can check out charitable organizations before you donate money to them. According to the website, they have a list of charitable organizations that “execute their missions in a fiscally responsible way while adhering to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities.”

Don’t Throw That Away!

I grew up in a close-knit family with grandparents who lived during the Great Depression. For those of you who are foggy on the subject, the Great Depression was a severe, worldwide economic downturn that began in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930’s. It was the longest and most widespread depression of the 20th Century.

The depression began after a major fall in stock prices in the United States in September of 1929. On October 29, 1929 (known as Black Tuesday) the stock market crashed in this country and the depression was felt world-wide.

Image result for the great depression

To give you an idea of the scope of the Great Depression, let’s compare it to the recent Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 when so many of us lost money and where the world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell about 1%. (The GDP is the total value of goods produced and services provided during one year.)

Between the years of 1929 and 1932, the GDP fell by an estimated 15%. International trade plunged by 50% and everything dropped…profits, tax revenues, and personal income.

Image result for the great depression

During the depression years, unemployment in this country rose to 25% and people did whatever they could to get by. In some countries, the unemployment level went as high as 33%.

Image result for the great depression

One of my great-grandmothers and grandmothers (who was a little girl at the time) sold flowers from their garden at home to help make ends meet during the Great Depression.

My grandparents on the other side were farmers so they at least had food to eat during those difficult years. All of my grandparents had big vegetable gardens every year even into old age. One of my favorite pictures of my mother’s father was taken when he was around 80 years old and was using his roto-tiller to get his garden ready for spring planting.

People who lived through the Great Depression tended to be frugal for the rest of their lives. Some didn’t trust the banks with their money and would keep it hidden somewhere at home such as under their mattress. All of them saved everything, some to the point of hoarding. When one has lived for years and had to do without, it’s just not something a person wants to experience again.

When I was growing up, I loved nothing more than time with my grandparents. But I also knew better than to throw anything away at their houses. Before anything was thrown in the trash, it was looked at to see if it could be repaired or repurposed. When they all died, their homes were full of lots of interesting saved items that made their children and grandchildren smile.

One of the things I remember most vividly about my farm grandparents was that they even saved the envelopes from their bills in the mail and would reuse them to make grocery and to do lists. As a child, I used to think this was a very funny habit, but what a smart thing to do if one couldn’t buy paper!

Today, I picked up over 1000 books at Taylor Printing in Dallas. It’s the second printing of my book, “The Button Box”. I think all four of my grandparents would be delighted that I wrote a book about our family button box and that early form of recycling where buttons were removed from worn out clothes to be reused on new clothing.

I didn’t live during the Great Depression, but I did learn a lot from others who did. I’m especially good at repurposing leftovers into a fun second meal. I don’t save everything like my grandparents and to some extent, my parents, but I don’t just throw things away because they are old or because I no longer have a use for them.

My current non-writing project is to restore two 50-year-old chairs given to me recently by my parents. If you read my blog regularly, you will recall them from my post, “The Golden Chairs” published on June 7th of this year. I’ve finished stripping the very old varnish off the legs and plan to re-stain them this week before I take the chairs to the upholsterer to be dressed in their new fabric.

One of the things I really like about our modern computer age, is that we have websites like nextdoor.com and freecycle.org and craigslist.com where we can find new homes for our castoff items so they don’t add to the modern trash heap. If you have items you no longer want, you can sell them online or list them in the “free” section of the online classifieds.  As the old adage goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Or woman’s…

The Great American Eclipse

My husband tells a story about a day in the summer of 1968 when he was just seven years old. He was with his mother in the Pine Bluff National Bank in Whitehall, Arkansas.

The bank was sponsoring a community fund drive for the U.S. Space Program’s race to the moon, and he decided to donate his entire life savings…$8.00…to NASA. He says from that moment on, astronauts were his heroes and he felt as if he had a part in helping the space program move forward.

Eight Dollars

Image result for space program race to the moon

Many of us in my generation remember watching live on television the night of July 20, 1969 when the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon. For more on that, see my blog post from February 15, 2017:

http://www.walkdownthelane.com/look-up

Next Monday in this country, we will be looking up once again as the skies show us the first solar eclipse since 1918. Called the “Great American Eclipse” this eclipse is special because the path of totality will sweep from coast to coast over several hours in the United States.

Image result for great american eclipse 2017

The path of totality means the path across the country where the moon will totally cover the sun and create a shadow that is approximately 100 miles wide. This stunning celestial sight will appear from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. People outside the path of totality (such as those of us in Texas) will see a partial solar eclipse where the moon will cover only part of the sun, but that should be spectacular too!

Image result for great american eclipse 2017

Total solar eclipses occur every 18 months to two years, often in the middle of nowhere but this one is special because it’s the first time in 99 years that one has cut diagonally across the entire United States. For some, it’s a once in a lifetime occurrence because 2045 is the next time a total solar eclipse will cross the entire United States.

Image result for great american eclipse 2017

During this eclipse, which will pass through your viewing location in about two and a half minutes, the sky will darken and temperatures will most likely drop. Nasa has created a special eclipse site which displays the locations of the path of totality across the country as well as some viewing safety tips.

https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety

It is suggested that people take safety precautions when viewing the eclipse because looking with unprotected eyes can cause permanent eye damage and even blindness. Sunglasses are not enough to protect your eyes!

Image result for great american eclipse 2017

You can watch the eclipse happen live on NASA’s eclipse site or you can buy some inexpensive eclipse glasses or even make your own pinhole camera to use as an eclipse viewer. There are directions for making a pinhole camera out of cardboard and aluminum foil on the NASA site under the “Safety” tab.

Image result for great american eclipse 2017

There are maps on the internet showing the best spots in the country to view the eclipse and people are planning trips to those places. The two locations in the country where the passing of these two celestial bodies will last the longest with a duration of two minutes and forty-one seconds, are Carbondale, Illinois and Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

Image result for great american eclipse 2017

We have close friends who are traveling with their family to Wyoming to be in the path of totality during the eclipse. We will be here in Texas looking up but wherever you are on Monday, August 21st, be safe and enjoy the Great American Eclipse!

Bound By Books

Today is “National Book Lovers Day” and is a day for bibliophiles (a fancy name for book lovers) everywhere to celebrate their love of literature, reading and books. As an author and a self-professed lover of actual books with intriguing covers, paper pages and ink smells, I’m delighted that there is a day set aside to celebrate them!

The Gutenberg Bible which was printed in 1455, was the first major book that was printed. The printing press had been invented around 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg and this marked the entry of books into the modern age. Before the printing press, books were handwritten and copied by scribes for a price.

Image result for gutenberg bible

Most of the early printed books were published in Latin. As the printing industry grew and libraries were established, books were chained to shelves to keep them from being stolen. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you have probably seen books on the show that were chained to shelves and displayed horizontally standing on the edge opposite their spines since this is how books were shelved for hundreds of years.

Image result for books chained to library shelves

According to the American Library Association website, (www.ala.org) there are 119,487 libraries of all kinds in the United States today. A sales report released by the Association of American Publishers on August 1, 2017, indicates that book publishers’ revenues ($2.33 billion for the first quarter of 2017) are up 4.9 percent compared to the first quarter of 2016. The book business is alive and well!

Image result for denton public library

And in case you are wondering, the Bible is still the best-selling book of all time in the world with over five billion copies sold. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is followed closely by Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung also known as the Little Red Book, and then the Qur’an.

Here are the top ten best-selling non-religious books and the year they were published:

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, 1605

2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, 1859

3. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1954-1955

4. Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1943

5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, 1997 (Published in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1998.)

6. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1937

7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, 1939

8. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin, 1754-1791

9. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, 1865

10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, 1950

Image result for quotes about books

I’ve read most of the books on this list and even read The Little Prince in French in either high school or college. I may still have my copy around here somewhere… My favorite books are not on the top ten list but I’ll share them with you anyway.

My favorite novel of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and I make a habit of rereading it every few years. My favorite non-fiction book is Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. After I read it the first time, I bought it for everyone on my Christmas list that year. If you haven’t, you should.

The book that haunted me for weeks, maybe months after I read it, was Night by Elie Wiesel. It is a difficult read because of the subject matter even though it is not a long book…just 115 powerful pages. I think it should be required reading for every high school student.

Of course, my favorite children’s books would be The Button Box, Which Came First?, and the soon to be released, The Day the Turkey Came to School. For those of you who are waiting for the new book, it should be out in early September!

I hope you will find a few moments to read on this day to celebrate book lovers and reading and books. I wonder where I put my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird?

Author’s note: I’d love to hear your favorite book titles!

Image result for quotes about books

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit For Good Luck!

Yesterday was my birthday but it was also the first of the month. I received an email from a friend telling me you’re supposed to say “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” on the first day of the month to have good luck throughout the entire month. I had never heard of this before so, after I said it, then I had to do some research!

It seems to have originated in Britain and North America in the early 1900’s. The exact time and origin of this is unknown but there was an article about it in Notes and Queries in 1909. Notes and Queries is a long-running scholarly journal established in London in 1849 which publishes short articles about the English language, literature and history.

There seem to be several versions of the phrase “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” including “rabbits”, “white rabbit”, and “rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit” because like most folklore, there are several variations based on the time period and area where people lived. It was thought that one should say the words before saying anything else on the first day of the month and they would either have good luck all month long, or they would receive a present before the month’s end.

It’s been reported that in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt admitted to a friend that he said “Rabbits” on the first of every month for good luck. It has also been mentioned in books throughout the last century including in a 1962 Trixie Belden book, “The Mystery of the Emeralds”.

Image result for franklin d roosevelt 1935

Even as recently as the mid-1990s, the Nickelodeon Channel would promote the last day of each month as “Rabbit, Rabbit Day” and would remind kids to say it the next day.

Image result for nickelodeon channel number

I didn’t know any of this but I do remember when I was growing up people used to carry a lucky rabbit foot. They were often dyed some really bright, unnatural color and attached to keychains. My husband said he carried one in his pocket for luck when he was in elementary school.

Image result for lucky rabbit foot

Why would a rabbit be connected with good luck? Since rabbits have been a symbol of fertility and prosperity because they multiply so fast, carrying a lucky rabbit’s foot was seen as a way to increase wealth.

Image result for rabbit, rabbit, rabbit

While I wasn’t a fan of carrying a dead rabbit’s foot around as a girl, I did spend a fair amount of time lying in the grass and looking for lucky four-leaf clovers! One day after I had married, I was looking though my Bible for a certain verse and I found two very old,  dried, four-leaf clovers between the pages.

Image result for 4 leaf clover

My brothers and I would ask our mom to save the wishbone from a cooked chicken or turkey. Once it had dried out for a day or two, we would pull it apart and whoever got the bigger half was supposed to have good luck. We called it the “wishbone” but my husband says his family called it the “pulley bone”.

Image result for wishbone

When my children were growing up, I would always give them a shiny new penny at midnight on New Year’s Eve for good luck in the new year. One year I actually forgot and got myself into trouble because they all wanted their good luck pennies! There are some other penny connections to good luck such as putting a penny in your shoe on your wedding day and keeping a jar of pennies in your kitchen.

Image result for penny

When I moved to Texas seven years ago, I adopted the habit of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.  This “southern” tradition is thought to bring  good luck throughout the new year.

For many people, the number seven is considered to be very lucky. For Christians, it’s the number of days that God took to complete the world. Lucky seven is also the world’s favorite number because there are seven continents on Earth, seven seas, seven days of the week, seven colors of the rainbow, and seven notes on a musical scale.

Image result for 7

Some other things that are thought to bring good luck are ladybugs, crickets, dreamcatchers, upturned horseshoes, barn stars, bamboo, chimney sweeps, a falling star, red lanterns, rainbows, sapphires, amber, turtles, dolphins and acorns.

Image result for horseshoe for luck

Do you have anything in your life that you keep around for good luck…just in case?