To read about the creation and early history of the American Flag, please click on “New Eyes for Old Glory.” Celebrate Flag Day!
This Memorial Day, as we honor our fallen men and women in uniform who have served since America’s birth, let us take a moment to reflect upon the sacrifices they have made in the name of freedom for all.
The following poem pays tribute to those who have given their lives so that others may pursue America’s great promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Fallen For Freedom
With every fallen hero,
And every sacrifice,
Each man and woman serving
Knows freedom has its price.
As stars and stripes fly higher
Over lands, both far and near,
New generations take the pledge
To protect what we hold dear.
And should that mean they offer up
Their lives for liberty
Their sacrifice is not in vain—
For freedom isn’t free
And so today we honor those
Who have been laid to rest—
Remembering that these brave souls
Gave better than their best.
The Academy of American Poets created National Poetry Month in 1996 to build awareness of the rich heritage of classic and contemporary poets and poems and their impact on our culture. Celebrated by bookstores, libraries, schools, and bloggers, the hope is that more of us will become aware of the joys of poetry. Celebrated Poet, Billy Collins, wrote this somewhat humorous piece about our desires to understand poetry.
“Introduction to Poetry”
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with a rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
~Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States 2001-2003
Billy Collins writes, teaches, and inspires all of us with his gifts of poetry. From Shakespeare to Milton to Dr. Seuss, we have a long and diverse heritage in the art form
So, what can you do to honor and participate in National Poetry Month? How about carrying a poem in your pocket? You could either write a piece yourself and share it with others, or you can find a poem from one of your favorite classics and sit with it, enjoy its mood and intention, and write it in a card to give a friend.
Look for poems on themes that make you happy. Poems exist on every subject imaginable. Find a good poem on love, or marriage or raising children and then write it down in your journal or on a note card and post it on the refrigerator.
Look for poetry books at local bookstores or visit websites. Encourage people in your family to try their hand at writing a poem, perhaps about a favorite pet or cooking dinner together. Any topic that brings a new light on the everyday moments can be fun to share.
Be more intentional about reading poetry newsletters, writing reviews, or letting publishers know that you appreciate the genre of poetry and want to see more books on the subject. Let a poem walk through your mind, do a little dance, and give you some new insights today.
The Seder Dinner
Got matzah? That’s a good start in preparing for Passover, which begins at sundown Monday, March 25, and continues through Tuesday, April 2, this year. But many other additional foods and items are needed to perform a Seder (meaning “order” in Hebrew), the annual ceremonial dinner held on the first two nights of the holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.
The Seder Plate
The focus of the Seder table is the Seder plate, which can range from a laminated preschooler’s Passover art project to elegant glass, silver, ceramic, or metal interpretations. http://www.moderntribe.com/judaica/passover_store/seder_plates_store
All Seder plates must feature areas for particular, required religious symbols that include:
- a green vegetable (to be dipped in saltwater reminiscent of the tears
shed in slavery)
- roasted shank bone or poultry neck (representing the sacrificial lamb)
- hard-boiled egg (a sign of mourning)
- charoset (a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine resembling the mortar
used by slaves to build Egyptian structures)
- bitter herbs (often horseradish, as a reminder of how harsh life in
- a bitter vegetable (often romaine lettuce, which has bitter roots —
another sign of how difficult living in captivity was)
These icons remain on the Seder plate while portions of certain symbols are set out on the table for all to eat at times specified as the Seder progresses.
Throughout the Seder, each participant reads from a Haggadah (Hebrew for “telling”), a booklet of the Seder blessings, Exodus story, and Passover songs in a specific order. The basic content is the same, but all kinds of Haggadahs are available to present it. http://passoverhaggadah.com/
The Four Cups and Matzah
Along with consuming the ritualistic foods and then a full dinner, each person drinks four glasses of wine, celebrating freedom and four aspects of God redeeming the Jewish people. The Seder ceremony ends with the eating of the afikoman, a portion of matzah that has been hidden and found during the evening in a fun effort to involve the children. This matzah is eaten last, after dessert, so that the ‘taste’ of the Seder ceremony remains with participants.
Although age-old traditions provide the framework of the Seder, contemporary variations can bring personal relevance to the event. Some people include an orange among the Seder foods, honoring the fruitful role women and homosexuals play in Jewish life. Others place an olive on the Seder plate to signal hope for world peace. Vegetarians replace the shank bone with a roasted beet. No matter how the ritualistic symbols are displayed or interpreted at the Seder, they are indeed food for thought on this very special holiday.
For delicious charoset recipes, go to http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/passover/charosetrecipes
Christians around the world receive palm fronds today in many churches to symbolize the palms that were waved at Jesus and were laid in his path as he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week before his death and resurrection.
Referred to in many churches as Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday falls the week prior to Easter and marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
The warmest thoughts come with Springtime…of sunshine, blue skies, warm breezes, and dancing butterflies. It’s a time for long walks, meandering bike rides, and opening up the house to let in the freshness of the cool spring air, which is filled with the sounds of children finding their way outdoors again and lawnmowers humming along on Saturday mornings.
It’s a time for putting away the heavy sweaters and bringing out the tees, trading snow shovels for garden hoses, woolen hats for umbrellas, boots for tennis shoes, and roasts from the oven for hamburgers on the grill.
There’s fishing to do, baseball to play, wooded paths to hike, books to read, hammocks to hang, naps to take, and swings that have sat quietly for far too long.
It’s Springtime…what makes yours special?
In the mood board: “Day Brightener Postcard” from bluemountain.com
Ah, springtime! Something in its name gives us hope. We can literally see the barren earth come back to life. The faded grasses turn green again and daffodils, those ambassadors of sunshine, dot the landscape.
March 20 brings new life to our spirits as we are awakened by the Vernal Equinox and the sun begins to shine more brilliantly on our upturned faces. As it begins to melt our cares and woes, we’re touched by its magical warmth. It gently persuades us to release the bonds of winter and to usher in the newness of spring.
How can you bring that feeling into your life right now? Well here are a few ways to add a little bit of springtime to your heart and home today…
- Take a good walk and breathe in the fresh air. Remind yourself of those things that make you feel strong and energized and make a plan to pursue more of those things in the weeks ahead.
- While you’re out there, wander around the outside of the house and see if there’s a good spot for a flowering potted plant or a new bush that will brighten the landscape.
- Get out those plant magazines, or visit a local greenhouse and start making plans for a little herb garden or a potted plant bearing fruit or simple flowers. (You’ll really be glad you did.)
- If it looks like winter will not be leaving your neighborhood for a few more weeks, then inspire yourself with the home magazines that abound with ideas to refresh and renew your home and spirit.
- Of course, the proverbial spring cleaning is one that always makes you feel refreshed and renewed as you give good stuff away to Good Will or other organizations and make room for the things that are really important to you. Get the whole family to help you “lighten up.”
- Bring some springtime color inside. Change out the pillows on the sofa or your bed and add a splash of color with flowers or birds and butterflies.
- Put away the darker shades of winter in your candle and accessories collection and find a few vibrant shades in yellows, pinks, and blues to lighten up your home in a fresh way.
- Send a happy little note for Easter or Spring to your friends and family, via bluemountain.com. Share a smiling face, a chirping bird, or some other budding bit of joy and let them know you’re thinking of them at this happy time of year.
The best part of spring is that it offers the opportunity to take advantage of all the things that make us feel alive and well. Little touches of color, thoughtful cards and notes to friends, planting seeds of hope…these are the things that bring more sunshine into our lives. The sun of the Vernal Equinox is not just on the equator–it also fills our hearts. Happy Spring!
“Luck o’ the Irish to ye!” We’ve all heard that phrase countless times. But have you ever wondered why Irish lads and lasses are known as the lucky ones? Like many Irish sayings, those lighthearted words actually have a deeper meaning.
While the “luck of the Irish” currently refers to good fortune, the phrase wasn’t exactly complimentary when it originated during the 1800s gold rush in America. Many prosperous miners were Irish, so the “luck of the Irish” carried a bit of a dark or jealous tone, as if to say their success was simply a lucky break. Still, Irish eyes were smiling all the way to the bank—and, as we see on St. Patrick’s Day, their celebratory spirit hasn’t been broken.
Maybe that’s because the Irish know that the true treasures in life have nothing to do with gold. Love, friendship, happiness and peace are the most common themes of Irish toasts and blessings. However, as in the “lucky” expression above, some of their favorite sayings aren’t always as simple as they seem.
Here are some interesting classics…
“A guest should be blind in another man’s house.”
(A grateful guest would never talk ill
about how a host runs his household.)
“Put silk on a goat, and it’s still a goat.”
(Even if you disguise the truth, it’s still a lie.)
“As the big hound is, so will the pup be.”
(Like father, like son)
“Never dance in a small boat.”
(Don’t tempt fate.)
“Here’s to your coffin. May it be built of 100-year oaks which I will plant tomorrow.”
(May you live a hundred more years!)
A few favorites…
“There are good ships, and there are wood ships, and ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships are friendships and may they always be.”
“I have known many, liked not a few, loved only one, so this toast is for you.”
And one last blessing with an interesting twist (literally):
May those who love us, love us. And for those who don’t love us, May God turn their hearts. And if he can not turn their hearts, May he turn their ankles, So we may know them by their limping. May you live as long as you want,
and never want as long as you live.
If you’re reading this from China, Armenia, Mongolia, or one of many countries that honor International Womens Day (IWD) as a national holiday, enjoy your day off! Yes, it’s that big of a deal in some areas of the world…while many others are still struggling to attain what IWD was originally created to do—advocate equal rights for women.
Fortunately, thanks to historical strides like the 15,000 women who marched through New York in 1908, demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights, IWD is predominantly a celebration of women. This year, all over the world, there will be theatrical performances, poetry readings, songs, films and visual arts shows honoring and celebrating women and their accomplishments. And since it was founded in 1910 (by Clara Zetken, Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Economic Party in Germany), the amazing achievements of women continue to soar—
from becoming powerful political leaders to billionaire entrepreneurs (Spanx anyone?).
Whether you acknowledge IWD by donating to a cause (Kiva.org/women helps women obtain loans and invest in their futures), putting on red lipstick for the Rock the Lips campaign “to help women around the world create better lives,” or simply by appreciating the amazing women in your own life, this is a day of motivation and inspiration for everyone. IWD reminds us that we are all capable of reaching higher, doing better and making a positive difference in the world, regardless of our gender.
While IWD can be acknowledged with flowers (the symbol of the day) or free cupcakes (in England), many people view it as an opportunity to improve lives—not just for women, but for the world. The “Join Me on the Bridge” campaign for women’s equality started with Rwandan and Congolese women meeting on a bridge to join their two countries to demonstrate that women could build bridges of peace. This year, women will march on bridges in London, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
For more information on International Women’s Day, please click on the IWD logo above.photo credits: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/
Celebrate National Anthem Day!
“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming…”
On March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed into law “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the United States’ national anthem. In a concerted effort begun on April 15, 1929, by U.S. Rep. John Linthicum from Maryland, over 5 million signatures, countless letters of support, and twenty-five governors submitted their enthusiasm for the measure. Taking more than a year to make its way before the House Judiciary Committee, this emblematic song has an awe-inspiring history starting over a century prior to those seeking its patriotic expression.
The Key to Unlocking a Nation’s Patriotism
Written by Georgetown lawyer and dabbling poet Francis Scott Key on September 14, 1814, the lyrics originated as the poem, “Defence of Fort McHenry.” The verse was inspired when Key spotted the American flag still waving over the military stronghold the morning after the British Navy stormed the Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. Key’s lyrical poem was later set to the popular melody, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” composed by John Stafford Smith. Not long after, the song’s title was changed to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” named for the flag that was raised over FortMcHenry, and the song became an immediate sensation
Song Stanzas, High Notes, and Passage Through Congress
Even though it’s four stanzas at full-length, most perform only the first stanza when singing the anthem for military ceremonies and public events. Given the considerable range of the melody, Congress hesitated to adopt it as the national anthem due to the difficulty for the general public to reach the highest notes; however, more often than not, the song is sung by trained singers. Furthermore, some officials questioned Representative Linthicum’s motives, whether his House Bill was to promote the nation’s patriotism or his own district, which included part of Baltimore. Nevertheless, its passage prevailed and “The Star-Spangled Banner” replaced “My Country ’Tis of Thee” as America’s national anthem.
Celebrate National Anthem Day by following the example set nearly two hundred years ago—hang your U. S. flag with pride and salute those who kept American patriotism alive and well. It’s a gesture that will inspire just as it did so long ago.