Looking back at my most popular blog post

Since I am working on marketing my book, I looked back to what was my most popular post. It happened to be one not about writing, but about a holiday. A holiday that is special to me for many reasons, but it also falls around and sometimes on my mom’s birthday.

Not sure why this one took off so well on social media, but, I’m examining some of those things as I decide what types of posts really work for my audience. Because those will be the places I will focus some of my marketing efforts.

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Memorial Day 2016

Two of the holidays we celebrate in May fall into a theme that May is known for, Military Appreciation Month. That theme leads me right into the final holiday to be celebrated in May, and my blog’s theme, Memorial Day. This year it falls on May 30th which would have been my Mom’s 77th birthday. Every year around her birthday, when Memorial Day didn’t fall on May 30th, she would say the real Memorial Day is supposed to be celebrated on my birthday. I thought she was just trying to make a point that it was supposed to be celebrated on her birthday for the sake of it. As I was researching the history of Memorial Day, I found out that May 30th was the original date that Decoration Day was celebrated starting in 1868. I guess that Mom was right!

According to The History of Memorial Day on the pbs.org website, Decoration Day was a celebration of the men, both Union and Confederate, who lost their lives in the American Civil War. It came out of a tradition of placing flowers on the graves of the soldiers who died in battle.

During its first celebration at Arlington Cemetery in 1868, the former Union General, James Garfield, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, made a speech before the 5000 volunteers who laid flowers at more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers graves. Here was a quote from that speech.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield
May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery
 

That event at Arlington Cemetery was inspired by what many towns and cities were doing for Decoration Day since the end of the war in 1865. New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. After World War I, the holiday was expanded to celebrate the soldiers who died in all of America’s Wars. Once it became a National Holiday it was celebrated on the last Monday in May. That decision made the holiday not always fall on May 30th, to my Mom’s dismay.

There are multiple military holidays celebrated throughout the year. I saw a post on Facebook this week that discussed the differences between three of them. Memorial Day is the designated day to remember those who have lost their lives while serving in our armed forces. Armed Forces Day, which I blogged about last week, is designated to recognize the men and women who are currently serving. And Veteran’s Day, which falls on November 11th every year, is the day to recognize those who have served, but are still living.

So, what does one do to celebrate Memorial Day? At Arlington Cemetery, volunteers place an American flag on every grave. The President or Vice-President of the United States will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. During my research, this became an interesting story to me, one that is a big part of what Memorial Day is all about.

According to the ArlingtonCemetery.mil website, the tomb is a grave that sits on top of a hill at Arlington Cemetery. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified soldier from World War I to be buried in the New Memorial Amphitheater. On Memorial Day 1921, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from a World War I cemetery in France. Here is the story of how the one to be buried in the tomb was chosen.

Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat, highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal in “The Great War, the war to end all wars,” selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The chosen unknown soldier was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France.

The Unknown Soldier lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, 1921. On Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

On  August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill to pay tribute to the unknown soldiers who died in World War II and the Korean War. The same type of ceremony that was done for the World War I tomb was done for these unknown soldiers. They decided to chose one soldier from each of the main battle theaters in World War II, the European and Pacific, and one from the Korean War. Here is the story of how the ones to be buried in the second and third tombs were chosen in 1958.

Two unknowns from World War II, one from the European Theater and one from the Pacific Theater, were placed in identical caskets and taken aboard the USS Canberra, a guided-missile cruiser resting off the Virginia capes. Navy Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, then the Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, selected the Unknown Soldier of World War II. The remaining casket received a solemn burial at sea.

Four unknown Americans who died in the Korean War were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle made the final selection. Both caskets arrived in Washington May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until May 30.

That morning, they were carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade.

The unknown solider from the Vietnam War was designated during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor on May 17, 1984. Here is the story of his burial.

The Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the next day. Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown.

The Vietnam unknown soldier’s story didn’t end there.

The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were exhumed May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, DoD scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. It has been decided that the crypt that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant. The crypt cover has been replaced with one that has the inscription,

“Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

After the research I did for this blog, I have a better understanding about what Memorial day is really about. Many men and women lost their lives fighting for our country’s security. For some of them, we will never know where their final resting places are. The traditions found in the ceremony of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a somber reminder that not all who serve find their way back home after the war.

For Memorial Day this year, I’ll be saying a prayer for all of the soldiers that serve, have served and died serving our country and their families. I’ll also be going to visit my mom’s grave. She wasn’t a solider in a war, but it is still her day. Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy 4th of July! It’s a milestone day.

A couple weeks ago, I realized that I was getting close to 100 blog posts on this site. I looked at the calendar and noticed what day the post was going to fall on. This year July 4th falls on a Monday, the day I post my weekly blog on. This is my 100th post on WordPress and it is going live on the internet on the 4th of July 2016. It’s debut comes on a day designated to celebrate our country’s independence with picnics, parades and fireworks. It is a great day to post this milestone’s debut on.

You may notice some changes to the look of my blog site. Thanks to some new found knowledge from a workshop about WordPress that I am currently working through, I did some updates to my blog. Some of them you will see. Different colors with additional pages containing an author bio and another page with a contact me form. Other changes are working behind the scenes to make things work better on the site.

So, let’s start this post with a little bit of background about Independence Day.

According to Wikipedia, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress. It declared that the original thirteen American colonies would become a new nation and no longer be a part of the British Empire.

From the onset, Americans celebrated the anniversary of this event on the date the declaration was signed and appears on the actual document, July 4th, 1776, rather than the date the resolution was approved, which was July 2nd. Not only is the difference in these dates an issue and disputed fact, but it isn’t even certain that the declaration was even signed on July 4th, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin later wrote they actually did sign it on the 4th.

Some additional bits of trivia about July 4th,

  • Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration to later become presidents of the United States, died on the same day, July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of when the Declaration was supposedly signed.
  • Another Founding Father, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, now the third president who has died on the holiday.
  • So far there has only been one president born on Independence Day, Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, was born on July 4, 1872.

I enjoy doing research for my blog posts. I learn a lot of interesting things that I want to share. I hope you find some of it interesting too. Through my blogs this year I have learned many fun facts about different events in the history of our country. I wonder if one of these facts will win me any money in a trivia contest someday.

Along with my 100th blog post milestone, I have another blog writing milestone to celebrate from this holiday weekend. I achieved the 100 likes mark on Saturday, thanks to another author who commented and liked last week’s blog post. Even though I feel like my writing has been at a stand still lately, these milestones show me the work and time I am putting in on my blog is progressing. I’m also making more contacts and meeting some great people in the process. This networking is helping the typically solitude life of a writer change into more of a social experience.

I have gained so much knowledge and experience about the writing and publishing process through this journey. Not only by the writing itself, but also by listening to the advice of others who have walked the path before me. There are a lot of people to thank for their help, advice, and support along the way. I know now, as a writer, you definitely don’t journey down this path alone. I have made contacts with so many people around the world through blogging and social media groups. I don’t know how I would have done it before the invention of Facebook and the creation of my blog.

Last week while I was sorting out my feelings about my writing progress, I came up with the writing house analogy. It is a way to view what I’m putting together for all my writing processes and goals. I compared it to building a house, because there are a lot of things that go into it. Some are visual, like the colors and furniture on the inside and some are essential but hidden from view, like the foundation, or writer’s platform, which needs to be stable and built the right way. Constructing the writing house is not only putting together what is seen on the outside, the right website, Facebook page, blog, or cover design for the novel. It is also having a comfortable place to go and create the stories and blogs that make the rest of the writing journey work and the house function with it.

Everyone has a happy place. A place where they can go to feel relaxed and calm or maybe just simply be happy. For my writing house, I’m picturing a tree house with a writing desk in it. Birds singing and wind blowing through the leaves. I feel a sense of calm when I imagine myself there, away from the stress of day-to-day life. It gives me a place where I can be quiet with my thoughts and listen to my heart’s passions; for my family and my writing. Even if I can only just imagine being there, it ultimately helps me get creatively inspired to write those stories that are inside of me.

My 100th post is a definite writing milestone for me. It makes me stop and think about how far I have come with my writing. A lot of work has been and will continue to be put into it. There have been a fair share of hard times and happy times on the journey, but anything worth having has to be worked for. And the work isn’t easy, but the results are well worth it in the end.

Memorial Day 2016

Two of the holidays we celebrate in May fall into a theme that May is known for, Military Appreciation Month. That theme leads me right into the final holiday to be celebrated in May, and my blog’s theme, Memorial Day. This year it falls on May 30th which would have been my Mom’s 77th birthday. Every year around her birthday, when Memorial Day didn’t fall on May 30th, she would say the real Memorial Day is supposed to be celebrated on my birthday. I thought she was just trying to make a point that it was supposed to be celebrated on her birthday for the sake of it. As I was researching the history of Memorial Day, I found out that May 30th was the original date that Decoration Day was celebrated starting in 1868. I guess that Mom was right!

According to The History of Memorial Day on the pbs.org website, Decoration Day was a celebration of the men, both Union and Confederate, who lost their lives in the American Civil War. It came out of a tradition of placing flowers on the graves of the soldiers who died in battle.

During its first celebration at Arlington Cemetery in 1868, the former Union General, James Garfield, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, made a speech before the 5000 volunteers who laid flowers at more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers graves. Here was a quote from that speech.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield
May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery
 

That event at Arlington Cemetery was inspired by what many towns and cities were doing for Decoration Day since the end of the war in 1865. New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. After World War I, the holiday was expanded to celebrate the soldiers who died in all of America’s Wars. Once it became a National Holiday it was celebrated on the last Monday in May. That decision made the holiday not always fall on May 30th, to my Mom’s dismay.

There are multiple military holidays celebrated throughout the year. I saw a post on Facebook this week that discussed the differences between three of them. Memorial Day is the designated day to remember those who have lost their lives while serving in our armed forces. Armed Forces Day, which I blogged about last week, is designated to recognize the men and women who are currently serving. And Veteran’s Day, which falls on November 11th every year, is the day to recognize those who have served, but are still living.

So, what does one do to celebrate Memorial Day? At Arlington Cemetery, volunteers place an American flag on every grave. The President or Vice-President of the United States will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. During my research, this became an interesting story to me, one that is a big part of what Memorial Day is all about.

According to the ArlingtonCemetery.mil website, the tomb is a grave that sits on top of a hill at Arlington Cemetery. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified soldier from World War I to be buried in the New Memorial Amphitheater. On Memorial Day 1921, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from a World War I cemetery in France. Here is the story of how the one to be buried in the tomb was chosen.

Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat, highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal in “The Great War, the war to end all wars,” selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The chosen unknown soldier was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France.

The Unknown Soldier lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, 1921. On Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

On  August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill to pay tribute to the unknown soldiers who died in World War II and the Korean War. The same type of ceremony that was done for the World War I tomb was done for these unknown soldiers. They decided to chose one soldier from each of the main battle theaters in World War II, the European and Pacific, and one from the Korean War. Here is the story of how the ones to be buried in the second and third tombs were chosen in 1958.

Two unknowns from World War II, one from the European Theater and one from the Pacific Theater, were placed in identical caskets and taken aboard the USS Canberra, a guided-missile cruiser resting off the Virginia capes. Navy Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, then the Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, selected the Unknown Soldier of World War II. The remaining casket received a solemn burial at sea.

Four unknown Americans who died in the Korean War were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle made the final selection. Both caskets arrived in Washington May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until May 30.

That morning, they were carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade.

The unknown solider from the Vietnam War was designated during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor on May 17, 1984. Here is the story of his burial.

The Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the next day. Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown.

The Vietnam unknown soldier’s story didn’t end there.

The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were exhumed May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, DoD scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. It has been decided that the crypt that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant. The crypt cover has been replaced with one that has the inscription,

“Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

After the research I did for this blog, I have a better understanding about what Memorial day is really about. Many men and women lost their lives fighting for our country’s security. For some of them, we will never know where their final resting places are. The traditions found in the ceremony of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a somber reminder that not all who serve find their way back home after the war.

For Memorial Day this year, I’ll be saying a prayer for all of the soldiers that serve, have served and died serving our country and their families. I’ll also be going to visit my mom’s grave. She wasn’t a solider in a war, but it is still her day. Happy Birthday Mom!

Celebrating Armed Forces Day 2016

Many special events and days of recognition are celebrated on any given day. Some are on a specific day like the 4th of July and others always fall on say the second Sunday in May like Mother’s Day.

Each day has its own reason to be celebrated. Armed Forces Day is a day to thank our military for their service to our country.

Thank you to all of our

service men and women

for serving and protecting our country

On Armed Forces Day 2016, we buried Sam’s Uncle Doug in his final resting place near their family farm in Litchfield, MN. It was a very simple ceremony with a close knit group of family and friends. Even at our private service, a bugle player was brought in to play Taps in recognition of his serving in the army. Military families have had to lay their loved ones to rest in so many different ways. Some in very public ceremonies with color guards and rifles and some in private family services like ours.

Unfortunately, some soldiers are still Missing in Action (MIA). The location of their remains is unknown and a burial couldn’t take place in a traditional way. They may have a memorial service and place a marker in the cemetery, but they live not knowing where their loved one’s body actually is.

I have many friends and family that serve and have served in our military. What a sacrifice of time and life that these people make for our country. They put their lives on the line to protect us and make us feel safe at night. I’m thankful for that everyday.

Each branch of the military used to celebrate it’s own day of recognition. Harry S. Truman led the push to combine all four of these days into one day to thank all of the members of our armed forces for their service. On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson made that happen. It was decided that the holiday would be celebrated the third Saturday in May annually, which this year was May 21st. The Marines continue to celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps annually on November 10th, but still recognize the combined holiday. The month of May is also considered National Military Month.

The day is set aside for civilians to thank those that serve and many other countries do the same thing but on different days. In the United Kingdom, they will be celebrating Armed Forces Day on June 25, 2016. In their honor, there are parades and celebrations where the servicemen show their country the tools they use to protect our country. In some places there are airshows or military equipment demonstrations. There is an assigned theme for the celebration in the United States every year. The first one held in 1950 was themed “Teamed for Defense”. And this year it is “Guardians of Freedom”.

Armed Forces Day allows us to recognize the sacrifices our military makes for us to protect us. That job has changed a lot over the years and it has become more dangerous because of new technology, new weapons, and new methods of battle.

On a side note…

Did you know May 21st had another significant event take place? It was the second annual National Readathon Day. It is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and Penguin Random House. It is recognized as a national day to pick up a book and read from noon to four, but it is also a fundraiser for the Every Child Ready to Read initiative. What a great cause to support. Might even be a good day for an author to promote their books as an option for the readathon. Be sure to look for the date of next years event at www.readathonday.com/about.html.

May Holidays continued

When I posted Monday’s blog about Mother’s Day I noticed that we had two weeks in a row with holidays. Whether they are national holidays or Hallmark holidays, it made me wonder what the weekend of May 14th and 15th could hold this year. I looked at a calendar and saw that the 21st is Armed Forces Day and the 30th is the Monday of Memorial Day weekend, but no big things were posted for this weekend. So, I decided to continue my search elsewhere.

When I typed holidays on May 15th into Google, it came up with some days that were declared to be on May 15th like Stepmother’s Day and National Chocolate Chip Day. As important as those days are, it just wasn’t what I was looking for to be the topic for this week’s blog. So, I looked at birthdays that fell on May 15th and I found one that interested me, an author. It was Laura Hillebrand, the author of the book Seabiscuit: An American Legend.

Not only am I intrigued by authors, but since the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby is in our recent history, it seemed appropriate to write about her and the horse that she based her book on. According to Wikipedia, Seabiscuit was a champion thoroughbred. He was foaled (born) in Lexington, KY on May 23, 1933. The mare (mom) was Swing On and the sire (dad) was Hard Tack. Seabiscuit was a smaller than most thoroughbreds with his height only being 5’2, ironically as tall as me.

Since he wasn’t living up to his racing potential at Wheatley Stable in Paris, KY, he was purchased by Charles Howard for a bargain. Howard left the horse in the hands of two men, whose job it was to make him into a better race horse. His trainer, Tom Smith, and the jockey Red Pollard, worked with him and brought him out of his shell.

He raced during the Depression as kind of an underdog and became a hero to the people at a time when people needed one. Due to the beating triple crown winner, War Admiral, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, he became the American Horse of the Year in 1938. After coming back from a ligament injury, he won the La Jolla Handicap at Santa Anita in 1940. He retired after that as horse racing’s all time money winner.

Sea Sovereign, one of the horses that Seabiscuit was a sire to, did some horse racing and was in a movie about his Dad with Shirley Temple called The Story of Seabiscuit in 1949. He took the role of this father in this fictionalized account about his life.

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Being an author myself, I’m intrigued with the writing journeys of other authors. It was fun to find Laura Hillebrand  through such a random series of things. The fact she had written a book I enjoyed made it even better.

Her book was published in 2001 and was adapted into a feature film in 2003. I remember going to the theater to see it with my Godson. I really enjoyed it.

But, I was sad to find out she suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She was diagnosed in 1987 while she attended college. According to an interview by Monica Hesse, a Washington Post Staff Writer on  November 28, 2010, Hillebrand says that she copes with her disease by detaching herself completely from any aspirations she would have for her own life.

According to Biography.com,  she loved to ride horses as a teenager. She was even considering the idea of pursuing a career as a jockey. Her interest in horses and history led her to write articles about horseracing and have them published in magazines. She did most of this writing while she was staying with her future husband in Chicago, where  he was doing grad work at the University of Chicago. While she was doing research for these articles, she came across the information about Seabiscuit. It was an unlikely story of a less than perfect horse finding huge success on the track. The perfect story idea for a book. This became the theme of what would become one of her best selling novels.

Unfortunately, when the book Seabiscuit was released, she had a relapse from her disease. From that point on, she was unable to leave her house or even meet with many people.

Aaron Gell from Elle.com did an interview with Laura on December 2, 2010 and asked her about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Here’s what she had to say about her writing process,

“I climb into these stories because I don’t want to be here,” she says, “I don’t want to be in this body and I don’t want to be in this place, so I’m on that raft. It takes a while to get my concentration to that level, and then I lose all track of time.”

Using research and writing as an escape is how she copes with her disease and still continue to write. I know that I run to my writing to escape real life sometimes. Joining the story with characters that I’ve created.

I was intrigued by her because I loved her book. Then when I learned more about her, I was even more intrigued with who she is and how she was able to write. By looking at her website, you wouldn’t know that she suffers from a disease with no cure that keeps her at home quite a bit of the time. As a reader, all we see is the end product. We don’t see the blood, sweat and tears that went into making that book. As an author myself, I read books from a different angle. I’ve been honing my craft for many years and am finally on the cusp of publishing my first book. But, after blogging about Laura Hillebrand, now I have another thing to keep in mind when I’m reading. What is the author overcoming to bring their writing and their story to the public? Is it a physical illness? An emotional journey? Or maybe trying to make it happen with life being a constant interrupt?

Even though I didn’t have a specific holiday to write about, the research for this week’s blog took me on a little different, but fun, writing journey.

 

Happy Mother’s Day 2016

Last week I wrote about May Day. This week the topic is Mother’s Day which we celebrated yesterday. I wonder how often it happens that May Day falls on a Sunday too? I suppose that would be a good question for Google, huh? O.k. I loooked it up, 12 times since 1910.

Mother’s Day is a day filled with mixed feelings for me. My Mom passed away eight years ago from breast cancer. I remember my first Mother’ Day without her. I was walking through Hallmark a couple of weeks before and I saw the Mother’s Day cards.  I started bawling in the store, knowing that I wouldn’t be purchasing one this year. My first reality check that she was really gone.

Since my Mom wasn’t in her final resting place yet, after walking in the Susan B. Koman Mother’s Day 5K walk for Breast Cancer, I went to a Japanese Peace Garden where her and I had gone many times together. My mom always loved nature and was a natural at gardening. So, as I walked through the garden, many things reminded me of her. The featured image of the waterfall was a picture from that day.

For Mother’s Day the following year, I did the Mother’s Day Susan B. Koman walk again with many breast cancer survivors and families that have lost loved ones to this disease. Afterwards, I went to Bachman’s to buy a single pink rose to lay on her grave. It was a little crazy to be there on Mother’s Day with all of the last minute shoppers who needed to get flowers for their Moms. But I knew it is what I wanted to do. I went to the cemetery, laid the rose on her grave and sat and talked with her for a while. It was a sad but very peaceful feeling being with her. My second reality check that she was really gone.

Many people celebrate Mother’s Day without their moms. What I have learned about the day is even when you think you aren’t going to be emotional about it, those feelings sneak up on me. My love for her wells up in my heart and tears fill my eyes. She is my angel in the sky.

There are many times in my life I wish my Mom was here for now. To be able to just pick up the phone and call her would mean the world to me. There are many life questions I never got a chance to ask her because I thought she would always be here. Or that she would always be here to seek advice about those day-to-day things a daughter would ask her Mom. For example, let’s talk about gardening. I really could use her help on raising plants. She was the one in our family with green thumb. I have a couple of plants that came into my home from her memorial service. They are philodendrons and I think  my Mom’s spirit is living strong in, since they grow and flourish. Then every year I buy some flower bulbs to plant and grow from scratch in her honor and as an experiment to see if I can do it. This year it is Begonias and Fresia. We’ll see how they do, or if they will need Mom’s intervention.

We spent this Mother’s Day having brunch with Sam’s family. It was nice to be together with the kids, Sam’s nieces, sister and of course his Mom and Dad. It helped to fill in some of the missing pieces of my Mom not being here. After feeling very emotional all day, Sam and I went to her grave last night just before sunset. I told her that I love her, thanked her for being my Mom and for always being the angel on my shoulder.

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After my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I made a point of getting a mammogram every year to make sure that if I did have breast cancer, we could catch it early and have a chance at treating it. Every year at that appointment, I get a reminder of my Mom’s passing when I fill out the medical information form. They ask for my family history of breast cancer. There is a box by one of the questions that I have to check the yes box and fill in the fact that my Mom had the disease and passed away from it.

Mourning is a process and writing has been a big part of mine. I’ve been using it to express my feelings and to get my creative flow. Writing has helped me sort through my feelings and journaling has played a major role in my process. It gives me a way to get my real feelings out and communicate with my Mom in spirit. The creative writing helps to keep my mind moving forward with something that I love to do. And to help me to not miss her as much as I do sometimes.

I started my serious creative writing with a short story about a Memorial Day weekend trip I made to Duluth, Minnesota in 1994. Duluth is one of my favorite places. Last spring I worked on a lot of writing ideas between visits to places and hiking with my family. I love being there with the Northern Minnesota feel and the view of the harbor.

Just like the Japanese Peace Garden, Duluth is another place I can go to feel calm and reflect. Being there usually helps me to make more progress in my writing and finding myself. I know my mom would be happy about where I have been able to take my writing to. Writing a weekly blog, a few short stories here and there, and having a middle grade manuscript edited for publication are all big steps to making dreams of mine come true.

I miss my mom a lot. I wish she could be here to share all of the things that are going on in my life with me. I think of her a lot as I write. It makes me smile. I think about how she would be reacting to all of this, and I see her smiling too.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy May Day!

I was just notified that May 1st was my one year anniversary with Word Press. My blog has been a great way for me to keep honing my craft of writing but has also helped me to build a following and meet some really interesting people along the way. Thanks to all of my current followers and those yet to join me on my writing journey. What a way to celebrate May Day!

One other very important thing that May Day brings to mind is my friend Laura’s birthday. Happy Birthday dear friend.

According to Wikipedia, not only is May 1st May Day, a celebration of spring, it is also International Workers’ Day. The celebration of May Day or “Spring Day” for the seasons goes back to pre Christian times. In early European pagan cultures, February 1st was seen as the start of spring while May 1st was the first day of summer. So May Day was initially seen as a celebration of the start of summer. Now a days, we’ve defined the first day of summer by the summer solstice, which this falls on June 20th. Back in those pre Christian times, the summer solstice was seen as midsummer. Maybe that was part of the back story to the title of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Some of the traditional spring celebrations start on May Day Eve and include many flowers and picnics. There’s also the tradition of placing baskets of flowers onto people’s door knobs, ringing their doorbell or knocking on their doors, and running away before they have the chance to answer. The recipient opens the door and finds a bunch of beautiful flowers, typically in a cone shaped holder. Now, there is another type of door bell ringing activity that has evolved from that called Ding-Dong-Ditch. It is the same idea, but with no flowers or gifts involved. Another traditional part of the celebration included a wooden pole that was usually constructed in a prominent place in town. It was decorated with streamers and flowers and a dance would be done around it as part of the festivities.

International Workers’ Day selected May 1st as their day of recognition in the late nineteenth century. This is an international celebration of labourers and the working class. May 1st was chosen to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in Chicago on May 4, 1886. Workers were on strike fighting for businesses to institute a mandatory eight hour work day. One of the demonstrators threw a bomb at the police and they started to shoot at the group. Four demonstrators were killed. Other May 1st protests occurred after this. For the anniversary of the Haymarket Affair in 1890, international protests were requested and there were the May Day riots in 1894. Since it shares the date with the European spring celebration, some people choose to celebrate International Workers’ Day on other dates that are significant to them. In America, this day is celebrated the first Monday in September and has been made into a holiday weekend, commemorating the end of summer and back to school for most kids.

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I’m happy to report things are moving along with my writing goals. I submitted my short story, Found in West Branch, for A Journey of Words on Friday. It is a book of short stories from many different authors. Hopefully it will be accepted for publication! It would be my first published piece in the fictional world. My Middle Grade manuscript, The Hard Way, is with my editor as we speak. We’ll see what she has to say about it. She did the editing for my short story and that was the first time I had an actual editor go through something I have written. I’ve had friends and other writers read what I’ve written. I even had my book club read The Hard Way before it went to the editor. With that valuable feedback from my readers, I’ve made my writing better. Sometimes that input has given me a different direction to consider for a story line to go too. Those inputs are important to consider, but may not be the best thing to do. They are decisions an author must make to make the story a good one, but also  keep it their own.

Reading through the edits from my editor was definitely a learning experience. She was able to give me copy editing changes and some ideas on how to word things differently. I wasn’t aware of the fact that it was going to lead to more work for me before I’d be able to submit. I thought it would come back polished and ready to send out.

She showed me things I do well and things I need to work on. Writing is a craft, and has to be practiced over and over to make it better. I knew there would be things that I needed to work on, it is good to know what some of them are now. My editor suggested a couple of books that may help me. One is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browe & Dave King and the other is English Syntax by Dick Heaberlin. I’m looking forward to doing some studying with them while I wait for my manuscript to come back.

As I write this post, I realize how much I love to write. It has been a part of me since I started writing my thoughts and dreams in diaries growing up. Remember the ones with the little locks and keys? I still have a key chain with all of those keys on it. I’ll have to ask my Dad if I asked for the dairies or if my parents just tried giving me one as a gift and it caught on. It would be interesting to know, because it is part of what got the writing thing started in me.

Sometimes it is hard to get the time to write. I know that I’m not the only one that struggles with this. I read a blog today and he was showing his frustration over it. My day job is time and energy demanding and family things keep us moving. But, for something I love to do, I’m somehow able to get it done. Maybe it is in bits and pieces, but all of those small contributions seem to get the projects done. The hard work and dedication pays off when I’m able to submit the short story or get the Monday Morning Blog posted. It’s all a part of this writer’s journey.

A look at the Easter Traditions

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. We enjoyed the day and a great meal with close friends. About a week ago, I was talking with a group of people about how certain characters came to represent religious holidays. Santa and Christmas is the most popular one, but what about the Easter Bunny and Easter? He and Santa are both looked to as the judges of whether or not kids have behaved over a period of time. For Christmas, whether they are naughty or nice determines whether they receive gifts on December 25th. For Easter, it is based on whether the kids have been good leading up to Easter Sunday, to determine whether they get baskets with goodies and colored eggs in them or not.

Now let’s talk about the holiday’s religious history and how the traditions came into the story. According to Wikipedia, Eastertide is the season that focuses on the resurrection of Jesus and it begins on Easter Sunday. There are symbols that have carried through the years and things are celebrated the same way even today.

  • Sunrise Service –  Is a service held outside at sunrise to recognize the moment that Jesus was no longer in the tomb when dawn broke on Easter morning. The service allows the congregation to share the sunrise with each other in honor of that significant event.
  • Easter eggs – symbol of the tomb that Jesus rose from
  • Easter lily – symbol of the resurrection or rebirth

Like Santa, the Easter Bunny also has some folklore attached to it. Why a rabbit? Well, people at that time thought that rabbits were able to reproduce without losing their virginity. They associated that idea of fertility with the Virgin Mary, who was also said to have given birth without losing her virginity. Eggs have also been seen as symbols of fertility since for most animals, they play a role in how life begins. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits usually have large litters of bunnies, they both became known as symbols of rising fertility and rebirth.

Back in the earlier years, churches had their congregations abstain from eating eggs during their observance of lent. What would they do with eggs laid during that time then?  They would preserve them by either boiling or roasting and would eat them when they broke the fast after lent was over. These eggs were decorated as part of the celebration of Eastertide and were put into the bonnets and hats of the children to celebrate the coming holiday. This was the foundation of our current tradition of coloring hard boiled eggs for Easter baskets.

Many of the traditions associated with Easter were brought to the United States by German Settlers in the 1800s. The Easter Hare or Spring Bunny would bring baskets with colored eggs, candy and toys for all of the kids that were deemed to have been good. Over time, the baskets would be hidden and kids would have to find them in the morning, leading to the tradition of Easter Egg hunts.

Growing up, I didn’t have a very strong religious background. My parents were both brought up Catholic and we didn’t go to church every Sunday. So when it came to the rituals of the holidays, we did the mainstream ones, but not the ones you would typically do as a member of a church. I have many fond memories of Easter as a kid. We received the traditional Easter baskets and candy and would always get a new outfit to wear for the day. New clothes at Easter was another tradition to celebrate rebirth. Easter afternoon we would have dinner at one of our relatives houses and I would be able to play with my cousins. But, I probably didn’t know where all of the traditions of the holiday actually came from.

When you live in a part of the country that has a definite winter, Easter and the coming of spring is kind of exciting. I love the rebirth theme of spring and the fun pastel colors that are seen on all of the Easter supplies and decorations. How about the plastic Easter grass that would come in the baskets? I remember that stuff ending up all over the house and showing up the following fall. And coloring Easter eggs was always one of my favorite things to do. The colored tablets had to be mixed with the vinegar to make the egg coloring solution to dip them in. Through this tradition, I remember smelling vinegar for the first time.

I do like snow for Christmas, but I smile when it melts. I know that spring is on its way when the green grass and flowers start coming up through the ground. Daisies, daffodils, and tulips are some flowers that remind me of spring the most. I remember doing a fund raiser in school when we sold daffodils for cancer. Daffodils are seen as a sign of hope and life. I checked on The American Cancer Society website and they still do this. They now call it The Daffodils Hope by the Bunch campaign. The timing coincides with the coming of spring and March being colorectal cancer awareness month. When it came to the flowers, I also remember my Dad bringing home an Easter Lily for my Mom to have in the house for the holiday.

How about the song composed by Irving Berlin, Easter Parade? Not only do I remember the lyrics, but we also played it in my high school concert band. The song is about a woman in her Easter bonnet going to the Easter Parade. Wearing an Easter bonnet (or hat) was another example of the new clothes tradition on Easter. For a woman to be able to wear a new or even refurbished Easter Bonnet during the Great Depression was seen as a luxury. On Facebook today, I saw pictures of friends or their kids wearing some fun hats to continue this tradition.

The stories of how traditions originated have always intrigued me. Why it is the Easter Bunny and not the Easter Puppy? Or why do we color an egg and not a shirt? Some of the history of these traditions could have been lost by someone who is not a part of a church. I appreciate that my parents kept these traditions going for us and that we are able to hand them down to our kids. The religious foundations for the holidays are important, but aren’t always specific to a certain religion. I’m kind of glad. That way everyone can enjoy them and add their own traditions to make the holiday special.

 

 

Black History Month 2016 – Bessie Coleman

What a journey it has been! When I came up with the idea to write about Black Americans for Black History Month, I thought that I would focus on those women who made a statement in history. I decided to let inspiration take me where it would and I wound up writing about all men so far. From the creator of Black History Month, to the first black fighter pilot, to a man that fought for the rights of blacks, women and the Irish, and finally to the first Black American to play baseball in the major leagues.

For the final week of Black History Month of 2016, I’m going to blog about Bessie Coleman. What was the inspiration this time? I thought back to what my original plan for the Black History Month 2016 blog was and started researching. My interest in aviation drew me to looking at women pilots. When I started reading about Bessie Coleman, I found out there are many similarities between her and Eugene Bullard’s experiences in life and in Aviation. Then I was even more intrigued. Bullard was the first black fighter pilot that I blogged about earlier this month. Coleman and Bullard both broke through the color line, Bullard as a fighter pilot and Coleman as a woman barnstorming pilot. They both were forced to go to France to escape from the discrimination here in the US to do what they wanted to do, Bullard to make a life for himself in a place where he would be respected. Coleman went there to learn how to fly which gave her the tools to pursue her three life goals.

According to AvStop.com, Bessie Coleman was born on January 26, 1892, the 12th of 13 children. Her father, being part Indian, moved back to the Indian territory when Bessie was only seven, leaving her Mom to raise four daughters and a son. To support the family, her Mom picked cotton and took in laundry. The children all helped out and their mom encouraged them to learn as much as they could. Bessie would pick out books from the traveling library to read to her family in the evenings. This is where her quest for knowledge had begun.

Bessie finished high school and attended one semester of college before she had to drop out due to lack of finances. She moved back home for a short stint then headed to Chicago. She had a hard time finding a flight school in the United States that would teach a black person how to fly, much less a woman. So, she did some odd jobs to earn money for a trip to France, where they would teach her.

Part of her drive to fly was due to something her brother had told her. He said that there were many French women already flying planes, and because of her gender and race, she would never be allowed to fly. She eventually earned the money and took French lessons before heading over to France to learn how to fly in a Nieuport Biplane. While in France, Bullard enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. Upon his recovery from being seriously wounded in battle, he volunteered for the French Air Service and received pilot’s license #6950 on May 5, 1917. Bessie proved her brother wrong when she returned to the United States in 1921 as the first black woman pilot to earn a license.

After attaining goal number one, she would now be chasing goal number two, to become a recognized stunt and exhibition flier. Barnstorming was popular in the Roaring ’20s and was the main avenue for women pilots to pursue. It was a form of entertainment where stunt pilots performed aerial tricks. Some of these pilots went from airshow to airshow performing tricks and giving airplane rides to make a living. Again, since no one in the US would teach her the advance skills needed to be a stunt pilot, she went back to France in February of 1922 to complete the advanced flying course. Shortly after she got the training needed, she came back to the US and during Labor Day weekend in 1922 she made her first appearance in an airshow.

Her third goal was to establish a flying school where young black Americans could receive training. She started raising the funds by doing lectures and flying in airshows. In a letter to her sister, Bessie said that she was on the threshold of making this goal a reality too. But, on April 30, 1926 the day before an airshow she was going to fly in, Bessie and her mechanic, William Willis, went to do a test flight. William had some concerns while he flew the plane from Texas to Florida for the show and wanted to check things out. While doing an aerial maneuver, a wrench got caught in the flight controls, which caused it to roll and toss Bessie out of the airplane. Her mechanic was also killed when the plane subsequently crashed into the ground. Due to her death, she would not realize her final goal.

She achieved some things that most people at the time wouldn’t have been able to. Add into the equation that she was a black woman, made what she did even more remarkable. Through her accomplishments, she also became a positive role model for young girls. Her perserverance in battling discrimination helped to pave the way for other woman pilots to achieve their dream to fly, whether they were black or not.

Blogging in honor of Black History Month this year has opened my eyes to the different battles that many blacks had to fight to get where they wanted to be in life. Many people have fought against discrimination to achieve their goals when they are living in a country where they are a minority. Our country’s history seems to have made that achieving more for yourself harder on some, just because they are different.

With all of the different people in this country, we have the ability and resources to do some amazing things. We just need to support and respect each other, regardless of the color of our skin or the language that we speak.