Black History Month

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Somehow it is expected to fit all of Black History into the shortest month, and the more we study Black History, we find that it encompasses all history, from the African continent to the New World. I usually post a link to a terrific Black History Resource, but unfortunately, it is coming up with a 404 error. I hope to find it again soon. I’m hoping it has just moved since it really covered so many aspects of the diaspora.

This post will share links to some online offerings to get everyone started.

First, beginning on February 6, you can sign up to join the Black-owned Tw*tter alternative, Spoutible. It is definitely having some growing pains, but as a pre-registrant I’ve been using it since yesterday and it looks like this could be the one. On the 6th, I’ll be creating an account linked to this website, so join me.

Second, this link highlights free online resources for kids, and while the website says, “It’s never too early to teach children about Black history,” I believe it is also never too late for anyone to learn what’s been missing from mainstream curriculums, and in the case of Florida, being eliminated.

Free Online Resources for Kids that Celebrate Black History and Culture

Next, from The Smithsonian: Heritage and History Month Events

The History Channel’s Black History Month

Common Sense Education’s Best African American History Apps and Websites

And finally, from multiple government agencies: Black History Month

I will leave you with a local mural of Medal of Honor recipient, Henry Johnson, WWI hero who served in France.

Mural of Henry Johnson and other WWI heroes on Henry Johnson Blvd. in Albany, NY. (c)2023

Book Rec – A Year with Thomas Merton…

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A couple of years ago, I bought this Kindle book through a discount posting, and I read it daily for one year. It was eye-opening in many ways. The first was my introduction to Thomas Merton and his way of thinking and his life as a mystic. Another thing that struck me as mystifying was how much Merton’s words, written from 1952 to 1968 made perfect sense in today’s world with the upheaval here in the states with the 2016 election and subsequent events. It was hard for me to reconcile the timelessness of his words that fit so well in our modern world and with his death in 1968. I couldn’t believe that this wasn’t written that year or the year before I read it.

Each month’s journal entries begin with Merton’s pen and ink drawing or black & white photograph. Each day is an easy to read, thought-provoking way to begin your day. The entries have been chosen and edited by Jonathan Montaldo. As much as I wanted to read ahead, I disciplined myself and stuck to the meditation per day schedule that the book is written in.

Celebrate the anniversary of Merton’s birth (108 years) by beginning this yearly devotional today.

A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals

The Year of the Rabbit

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Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year. As you may know, the Asian new year is based on the lunisolar calendar and celebrates the spring season. In reading up on it, it sounds a bit like our American Thanksgiving where you gather with family and friends and reflect with gratitude on our lives. In the Asian countries it marks the end of the winter season. The evening before is commemorated with a Lantern Festival and there are many cultural rituals and customs to be done to bring in a happy and healthy new year. I will suggest that you google some of them. I don’t want to give out the wrong information on a culture that I do not belong to. I can tell you, however how we, as non-Asian Americans celebrate the Chinese New Year in our house.

One fun feature of googlingChinese New Year” or “Year of the Rabbit” is there is an animated fireworks display across your screen with an accompanying bunny. It is very colorful and fun. Mesmerizing to watch.

I’ve done it three times now.

Typically, the New Year begins between January 21 and February 20 on the new moon. This year it starts today. It was first mentioned during the Han Dynasty which flourished between 202 BCE and 220 CE. It was written that the celebration included worshipping the ancestors and toasting their parents and grandparents.

We don’t go overboard in our house; we’re not of Asian descent, but we love to enjoy multicultural holidays and usually (if not always) celebrate with food. We’ll get take-out from our favorite Chinese restaurant. I think the last time we had take-out was for Christmas Eve which is our yearly tradition. One year, we took the kids to the local Chinese buffet – it was my daughter’s first new year – she had been born that year on the 5th of January, so she was a tiny baby, but cutely dressed in red with a bow on her head. They gave the kids red envelopes for luck and there was a dragon dance through the restaurant around the tables along with a train that traveled just below the ceiling. It really was a special time for the kids. They loved it.

At home recently, we’ve been enjoying barbeque chicken tenders in Hoisin sauce. It’s my version with Chinese spices and sauce. It’s funny because my daughter is quite picky and won’t really eat a lot of sauces or dressings, but she loves the hoisin sauce as well as the sesame chicken she gets from the restaurant. I also do a great fried rice, and now that I’m thinking of it, maybe I’ll whip that up some time this week. I’ll need sesame oil and I already have the eggs; those are probably the biggest expense.

The bunny picture that I’ve shared above is one that we’ve seen in our backyard. I think because we don’t have dogs, the rabbits tend to congregate in our yard. We even had babies in a burrow one spring. This one is probably the biggest rabbit we’ve seen locally.

Two customs that everyone can do is clean your house to sweep out the ill and welcome the good fortune. This is similar to our Jewish custom at Passover of cleaning and getting rid of any bread and crumbs to make ready for the unleavened matzo. Decorations in red are also fun to hang in windows and on doors.

For anyone wondering, my zodiac sign is the Horse.

Tea for Tuesday

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This advice from VeryBritishProblems may sound a bit peevish at first, but for tea, the microwave is very uneven. You’re likely to find the first sip warm, and then drink it faster only to discover the middle scalding. Best to boil new water and brew another tea bag for evenness. One thing I learned from Douglas Adams’s advice on the perfect cup of tea is to boil the water, fill your mug, and pour it out. Then refill the mug with the boiled water and a tea bag. Let it steep. This will warm the cup and keep your tea warmer longer. I’ve tried this method and it really is perfect.

We also invested in an electric kettle. It is very fast and does a great job, and by invest, we paid about $25, so it easily pays for itself if you start brewing your tea at home.

Proper British Tea. (c)2023

National Hot Tea Day

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My breakfast nook! My special place for tea preparation. (c)2022-2023

I finally broke down and created this special area for our breakfast needs. My husband works from home and makes himself coffee every morning. For myself, I drink tea, especially during the cold months, and I wanted a space that spoke to me and that I could find everything I needed for my cup of tea since tea is more than a drink – it is life-giving and life-sustaining. There is so much more to tea than drinking leaves steeped in hot water.

One of my favorite ways to make tea is the way Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy described in 1999. It really works well. It’s the using a hot cup that really does the trick. You can read his brilliant way to brew tea by clicking here.

Here is George Orwell’s take on it as well: A Nice Cup of Tea

What I’ve discovered about brewing tea is that the simple ways are the best ways.

  1. If you’re making tea one cup at a time, the cup should be hot.
  2. The water should be boiling.
  3. The tea bag should not be left in the cup once it has been steeped.
  4. And under no circumstances should the tea bag be squeezed.
  5. Sugar, honey, agave, your sweetener is your choice, but I prefer the tried and true sugar.

Enjoy.

Check out my instagram later today for the cup of tea I had this morning with my breakfast bagel!

Blessed are the Peacemakers

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I was out this weekend for some breakfast and holiday shopping, and I saw a man wearing a dark hoodie with an American flag on it, although it was black and white with a blue stripe for the middle stripe. I recognize this as a call out in support of law enforcement. I don’t disagree with supporting law enforcement when it’s called for, however there is a lot to be done to improve their strategies, especially when it comes to working with people of color and the mentally ill and people not necessarily mentally ill but in crisis in the moment they meet up with LEOs.

I am certainly not going to solve this problem in one blog post.

On the back of this hoodie, above and below the black, white, and blue flag was the phrase:

Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they will be called the children of G-d.

Matthew 5:9

I was drawn to it in a negative way. It bothered me. It bothered me enough to start writing about it here. Part of that is some of the study I’ve been doing this Advent season through readings and a couple of faith enrichment and scripture classes throughout the month of December.

I recognized that phrase as from Scripture, although my initial thoughts were incorrect in assigning it to Isaiah (his readings are quite prominent during Advent) rather than where it actually comes from: Matthew 5:9; the Beatitudes.

The entirety of the Beatitudes is contained in Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

I won’t relay them here. You can google or open any Bible and read all of them. There is also an addition that Pope Francis expressed on an Ecumenical trip to Sweden in 2016 that can be read here.

Reading through this part of Chapter 5 of Matthew and getting to verse 9, it is clear to me that this Scripture is entirely misinterpreted by the people who created (and wear) that hoodie. The implication that law enforcement and military are the peacemakers is inconsistent and contradictory.

I also found it ironic that I saw this on the hoodie during Advent when we are reading the Book of Isaiah who prophesizes an unlikely peace among foes: the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, calf and lion, cow and bear, children and snakes (reversing Adam and Eve’s punishment in the Garden of Eden). (Isaiah 11:6-8)

When I see these types of scriptures on hoodies that promote law enforcement and military soldiers as peacemakers it just fills me with exasperation and even a touch of anger. The misinterpretation that soldiers are peacemakers and not warriors first is simply wishful thinking. This isn’t to say that all soldiers are bad; I don’t believe that, and I understand the need for a military. I understand that when the UN sends its soldiers they are called peacekeepers, and I get that too. Peace is the goal. The UN tries to be neutral despite arguments of its futility and the presence of its flaws. I think that neutral isn’t the objective though as much as fairness and the desired overall good of society.

Are the peacemakers the ones with guns? Or are they the ones with food? With books? With pens and clothes and shelter? The pen is mightier than the sword is it not? That aphorism (as wella s many others) credited to author Edward Bulwer-Lytton has been known similarly as far back as before Biblical sources including an Assyrian sage in 7th century BCE and Greek playwright Euripides using different words in place of pen: word, tongue. Talmudic and Islamic sources also reference words, both oral and written, a means of knowledge and peace as being stronger than the strength of the sword, a means of war. The implication being that with the pen/word being mightier, peace is also mightier than war.

It’s important that we call out these misuses of words and reclaim our Scriptures that have been corrupted and used in opposition to what they actually say.

War is sometimes necessary, but it shouldn’t be considered inevitable, nor should it be considered the path to the kingdom of heaven and to the discipleship of G-d.

Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart; those who are persecuted; those who are reviled and persecuted falsely on the account of Jesus.

And blessed are the peacemakers; those who make peace. They don’t force something they call peace on others; they create a lasting peace, an eternal peace.

Those are the peacemakers; they are the children of G-d.

Holiday Shopping

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Some of us are finished with their holiday shopping. I am not one of those people. We’ve had a few mishaps since thanksgiving week, but we’re hoping to get our tree up this week and possibly put a few gifts under the tree then.

One of our traditions was to buy the kids a pair of new pajamas and a book to read for opening on Christmas Eve. One selfish reason for that was to get them into bed, but also to have them appropriately dressed for Christmas morning photos.

Other ideas are gift cards. I know that gift cards are one of those gifts that people feel strongly about in both directions. Some love them, and some would rather have a physical present. I love gift cards if they’re thought through. My brother-in-law gets me an Amazon gift card and I use it to buy a bunch of e-books. Couple that with a Starbucks card and I have hours of entertainment alongside my Hot Chai Latte.

If you’re still looking, check out some of these super people. I know most of them personally even if I haven’t ordered from them all. The books recommended in this post have all been read and enjoyed by me.

These are some people who I know personally even though I’ve not ordered from all of them. They are all creative and talented and making their way with their small businesses. If you’re looking for gifts for this holiday season; whatever holiday you’re celebrating or birthdays coming up, take a look at these friends and do yourself a favor.

My most recent purchase from Ms. Creation Soap. They smell so fragrant; it’s bold and soothing.
(c)2022

Ms. Creation Soap Artisanal Soaps from Ms. Creation Soap; hand crafted in small batches

The White Rabbit’s Glove Crafts from the creative mind of D.

Courdorygirl Crafting and Gaming Handmade toys, puzzles, and plush.

Samantha Wallace, ColorStreet Nail polish strips, nourishing hand and nail care products, and premium makeup.

Rain City Handcrafts Glass and Stainless steel tumblers. More selections at her Etsy Store.

Books!

Carolyn L Huston is an author of several books. Writing and educating others about autism has enabled her to be available for her son’s needs while pursuing her writing career.

Empty Shoes by the Door: Living After My Son’s Suicide by Judi Merriam

The Truth and Legend of Lily Martindale: An Adirondack Novel by Mary Sanders Shartle

A Prisoner and You Visited Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle A This is a book to read weekly throughout the liturgical year. I’m friends with one of the authors and the artist. This is the third in this series (one each for Cycle A, B, and C) that I’ve read. It is excellent opportunity to expand your spiritual life.

From the same publisher: The Best Present Ever: A Sinner’s Guide to the Holy Land by Sean Gunning I read this book through the fall, and I loved it. The realistic way he wrote about his journey made his spiritual awakening that much more emotional to witness.

Election Connection

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Why This Election is Like No Other

If you’ve watched this space for any length of time, you have seen the call to vote in this once in a lifetime, critical election several times since 2016. It is hard to believe that all of these elections are the most important one in your life. I am sad to say that they are.

For many people, more than you may realize, the outcome of this election is important not only to their well-being, but to their very lives.

Dramatic, I know.

  • But tell that to kids who are being taught BOTH SIDES of the Holocaust.
  • Tell that to kids trying to read The Diary of Anne Frank in Oklahoma, but being told it’s banned due to its being a “graphic” novel. The folks doing the banning think it’s graphic, as in adult when it’s actually really a bound comic book.
  • Tell that to transgender youth who see no way apart from suicide.
  • Tell that to women who have and will die IN HOSPITALS (with doctors beside them) from treatable emergencies because of new anti-abortion/anti-women laws.
  • Tell that to kids and adults with rheumatoid arthritis who can’t get their medication because regardless of their future plans, they are of child-bearing age and can’t get their regular medicine because it MIGHT cause a miscarriage.
  • Tell that to married couples who can’t get birth control because a pharmacist doesn’t agree with contraception. This has already happened recently.
  • And all of this is in addition to the Insurrection on January 6th that this country as yet to come to grips with. Many of the insurrectionists are still SERVING in Congress.

Video was released just last week of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi on the phone with then-Vice President Pence discussing what was going on in the Capitol. She was telling him to be safe while the President of the United States was encouraging a mob to “find” him. In the room witnessing this were GOP (Republican) leadership who subsequently went out and denounced her for not doing enough. I’m speaking specifically of Rep. Steve Scalise of LA and others. He knew she was taking care of business and lied, trying to blame her for not calling the National Guard, which she is legally not authorized to do.

That is the real problem with today’s elected Republicans. They lie. They’ve lied about things they’ve witnessed, things we’ve seen on video, things we know to be true. If this is their demeanor when we see the lies, what are they saying about things we don’t know first hand?

Have you watched the debate between Georgia Senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker? It is no exaggeration to say that Walker is barely intelligible. His past and his lies about his past are disqualifying. And in polls, they’re tied.

The hit-job they’re doing on John Fetterman against carpetbagger, Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania is reprehensible. Yes, Fetterman had a stroke and is in recovery, but anyone can see that his cognitive function (and physical for that matter) is equal to what it was before. They refer to his accommodation of using closed captions during interviews as if they don’t use teleprompters or that perhaps they feel the deaf and hard of hearing should be excluded from running from office.

The Supreme Court is outdated, and that’s the least of its problems. It would not be hyperbole to say that two of the nine justices are sitting in stolen seats. Three of those Justices were appointed by a man who tried to and fortunately failed to stage a coup and overthrow the government. This has been painfully shown over and over again through witness testimony under oath to Congress. Most of those witnesses are lifelong Republicans.

I’m begging you: Vote Democratic across the board, from dog catcher to US Senator. We need to hold the House and expand the Senate, not to mention Governors and local legislatures.

We need to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which would protect elections from voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the continuing sabotage of insurrectionists.
The bipartisan January 6th committee showed us how things could be if honest people work together.

Visit Vote Save America and see what you can do in your region to help save America. Everything begins with voting and free and fair elections.

Other sites to visit and support include:
Fair Fight
Democracy Docket
ACLU
When We All Vote
Vote dot Org

We have 20 days to get it done. Let’s get it done!

Thank You, Jes—Angela. <3

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I watched a lot of television as a child. One of my deepest memories is lying on the living room couch, sick from school, and watching Happy Days. It wasn’t this particular episode, but I actually watched live as Fonzie jumped the shark. I wonder when my own teenagers use that phrase if they know where it came from or if they realize that Mom and Dad were there when history was made.

Consequently, when I think back on my childhood television watching it is blended together. I can’t distinguish how old I was when I watched certain things. Was it in elementary school? High school? College? And the plethora of genres and actors are infinitely uncountable.

I went through an Abbott and Costello phase. A Claudette Colbert phase. Katherine Hepburn. Cary Grant. Grace Kelly. Harrison Ford. Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys. Simon & Simon. Matlock and Murder, She Wrote. Lou Grant. The list goes on and on. I even wrote Star Wars fan fiction, which I hope is buried deeply in an abyss somewhere never to be found again.

I was especially drawn to shows about detectives, lawyers, and writers. If they were all three, well, that was the ultimate trifecta jackpot.

One of my favorites was Murder, She Wrote starring Angela Lansbury. I have always continued to admire her and follow her career as much as possible. In reading celebrations of her life, I’ve learned new things, although while they sound new, they also sound familiar. Perhaps I’ve heard them before and they sit in the back of my brain waiting for the reminders.

Two stand out in particular. Her daughter had fallen in with the wrong crowd and was abusing drugs, being encouraged to steal from her family. Angela moved the entire family to Ireland. The person influencing her daughter? Charles Manson. The second to stand out was that Angela hired, and even wrote specific characters for specific actors so that they would get their acting hours in to remain eligible for their union benefits. She was good people.

I was much younger than the core demographic for the show, but I was drawn in, to the stories, the characters, and the writing – both Jessica Fletcher’s writing as well as the writing of the show itself. I would find myself being able to anticipate plot points and guessing who the murderer might be and why I thought that. This is one of the reasons I love Only Murders in the Building so much. It gives me the same interactive feeling of being a part of the show.

With Murder, She Wrote since I was so much younger than Jessica, I had something to look forward to; something to attain, to reach for. She started writing later in life – a middle age that was far off for me – and so it was never an impossible dream, but something to sit on in patience; to strive for.

The picture I’ve used of Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher epitomizes my idea of a writer. I sit at my dining room table right now, clicking and clacking my keyboard as the words form on the screen. Where the sink and window are behind her, mine are within my field of vision, a tea kettle quietly bubbling, its blue light illuminating its base in place of Jessica’s tall, silver coffee pot. Next to me, there is a cup and a straw of Diet Coke, but it is often hot tea. I have papers and pens, pencils, and markers strewn about the surface of the table, a three-hole hole puncher, a pencil case, a church bulletin, a handful of bills, and of course, I’m wearing my glasses. It’s as if the fantasy life of Jessica Fletcher has come alive for me here.

And it is alive. I’m teaching a writing class, I’m writing a book, among other things, I’m drinking something full of caffeine, and I’m moving onto the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next chapter.

I’ve been thinking a lot about chapters lately, but that needs another sheet of paper, and the groceries need buying. Maybe I still have a little Jessica Fletcher in me after all.

Thank you Jessica. And thank you, Angela Lansbury. Rest well.

Black Poetry Day

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I only just discovered that this was Black Poetry Day. I saw it on the calendar, and was excited to find that it falls during the week when my class is focusing on poetry. For a subject I consider my weakest, I’m learning quite a lot about poetry, including from my book club facilitator who is a poet and who I’ve included in my class notes.

Black Poetry Day is official in New York State, thanks to adopted resolutions in the state Assembly and Senate and Governor Kathy Hochul. Now that these digressions are out of the way, let me tell you about the origins of Black Poetry Day.

It was created in 1985 as a commemoration to African-Americans and in celebration of their literary works and contribution Black poets hae made to our culture in America. The date of October 17 was chosen to honor to honor the birthday of Jupiter Hammon, considered to be the first published Black poet.

Jupiter Hammon was born on Long Island in New York on the Lloyd Manor. He was enslaved his whole life, serving several generations of the Lloyd family. However, unlike many enslaved peoples at that time, he was allowed to receive an education, and so he read and wrote. When he was fifty, he published his first poem, An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries.

He was a preacher and a clerk and as an evangelist, he wrote about slavery and the Gospel, eventually using his gifts to criticize slavery. He did this safely through layering his writings with metaphors and symbolism.

He was a great admirer of Phillis Wheatley, viewed to be the first female Black author. He wrote a poem to her in the hopes she would follow a Christian journey. It consists of twenty-one rhyming quatrains and included related Bible verses.

At 76, and still enslaved, he addressed the African Society in New York City with his Address to Negroes of the State of New York. This work has been reprinted by many abolitionist groups including the New York Quakers. In it he talks about keeping high moral standards, and since “being slaves on Earth had already secured their place in heaven.”

He is thought to be buried in an unmarked grave on the Lloyd family property.