Animals – the beautiful, elegant, and cuddly creatures we share our humble planet with.

As a student of military history, I’ve come across many spots in otherwise grim battlefield memoirs about the love and kindness of animals. Baby rabbits who turned fierce World War I fliers into maternal care givers. Wounded forest critters who cracked through the hearts of grizzly foxhole dwellers. Dogs who served as honorary mascots to their regiments, warning their human friends of impending danger. Birds who carried messages which saved entire battalions. Cats who provided good luck and giggles aboard battleships.

In this crazy world of darkness and pain, animals have a way of steering us toward the light. Perhaps that’s why people turn to them to fill the void, and not just in our souls. You’d be surprised how many times, even in recent history, humans turned to animals for leadership. Honest to God leadership in the form of an electoral ballot. Think I’m crazy? Here’s just a few examples. Read More

Hello Dear Friends of WordPress and beyond.

Like the rest of you, I am disturbed and troubled by the outbreak sweeping the globe as I sit here and type this. It’s a bit overwhelming, almost paralyzing. As the days go by, it feels like things go from bad to worse. There’s an ever present tingling and tension in the air. I go through the world (or rather, my house since I’m under shelter in place orders) with stooped shoulders and an upset stomach.

In times like these, it feels hard to keep writing, reading, making art, taking pictures, and going about my routine. However, the writing muse still crackles in my veins and it will not be ignored. It tells me that as hard as it is, now is the most important time to keep doing those things. Because art and literature are powerful human sun rays in a storm like this. More than that, they can bear witness for a future generation, those who will look into the hearts and minds of people like us, locked in this scary time and unable to see the other side.

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The year was 1851, and it was a still, silent night on the Harvard Campus in Boston, Massachusetts. Dew beaded the spacious and lush grounds. Night birds sang and crickets chirped. Most students and faculty were sound asleep in their cozy dormitories.

Suddenly…. KABOOM. An earth-shattering roar split the air. Students rolled out of their beds. Some stray dogs barked and windows rattled. In the Cambridge arsenal on campus, smoke rose from a cannon that hadn’t been fired since the War of 1812.

And that was how a scrawny, ornery student named Francis Channing Barlow entered the national arena with a bang. Meant as a harmless prank, the cannon incident drew the ire of many a Harvard authority figure. However, Barlow was well-known for pranks. A favorite was when he arrived at a writing and debate meeting adorned with brightly-colored plumes and curtains. He caused the biggest uproar of all when he graduated first in his Harvard Class of 1855.

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Call Me. Be Mine. True Love. Kiss Me.

Don’t get any ideas, I’m not flirting with you. These are just some of the most common sayings found on everybody’s favorite valentine candy. Except… well, they’re not quite everyone’s favorite, but they are one of my favorites. Sure, it’s unclear what they’re really made of, and I get massive heartburn when I eat them, but that doesn’t always stop me when it comes to certain things. Valentine Conversation Hearts fall into that category. Although many wish they didn’t exist, I am definitely in camp L-O-V-E when it comes to those chalky little hearts.

Back when I was single, they were the only thing to boost my spirits around Valentine’s Day. Not only are they delicious, but they are also perfect little projectiles to whip at those oh-so-happy couples (I NEVER did that…). They come with a real sense of nostalgia too, because they’ve been around forever. I really do mean forever. The company that first cranked out these hearts was the oldest candy company in America. It was so old that I can finally talk about the Civil War during one of these confectionary posts.

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What’s the coolest present that you’ve ever received for an anniversary? My husband and I do anniversaries a little bit different. We don’t really buy each other gifts. Instead, we pick out something nice for the two of us to enjoy, usually a trip of some kind. Of course, he always sends the obligatory (and gorgeous) flowers. He has also slipped in some very unique trinkets along the way, because he spoils me way more than he should (shhhh – don’t tell him). 

Anniversaries can certainly see spouses outdoing each other for gifts, and here is a whale of an anniversary tale (Yow! Pun alert) that I discovered last summer on the Historic Route 66. It was a road trip packed to the gills (zing!) with so many quirky stops. One of the most unique was the Catoosa Blue Whale. It’s exactly like it sounds. In a tiny lake by the side of the road in Catoosa, Oklahoma, there resides a gigantic blue whale. You don’t have to go out of your way to find it either. It’s right off the 66, and that neon blue gentle giant is pretty hard to miss.

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The Twinkly History of Christmas Lights

Once upon a Holiday season in 1885, some generous folks put up a Christmas tree in a Chicago hospital. As everyone did back then, they illuminated the evergreen with lit candles. Candles symbolized the coming of the light or the Christ child, and they made the tree look oh-so-pretty. Indeed, the glow and flicker from those candles must have been dazzling… until one fell off the tree and landed on the floor. Since evergreen is quite catchy when it comes to fire (you’ve all seen that Christmas tree fire video right?) it wasn’t long before the blaze flared out of control. Mass panic ensued as personnel scrambled to evacuate patients. Most of the building burned to the ground. As the incident gets scant mention on the world wide web, I wasn’t able to learn of any deaths or serious injuries. So, hopefully a Christmas miracle prevented any, but that wasn’t the case with many a Christmas fire back in the day. Fires from Christmas tree candles claimed a lot of unwitting victims and caused serious burns – especially for children. Read More

You know, I was so excited to post this yesterday for 11/11, but sometimes things don’t go as they ought! I took a bit of a tumble off the kitchen counter (always use a step ladder, folks) so I spent yesterday dealing with a broken wrist instead! However, my thoughts still often turned toward the day itself and what it means to me. Not just the overwhelming debt I feel towards all veterans, but also the end of WWI. When my husband and I went to Belgium last year, we visited the Menin Gate. Seeing all those names struck me to my core. I couldn’t even say a word the whole time we were there. I could only look at all those names and think of what each one represented. A family shattered. Hearts broken. So many tears. And the questions. Because many times in WWI and a lot of other conflicts, loved ones don’t even have the closure of knowing what happened to their fallen soldier. So, as part of my ongoing poetry series, this one is for the missing. 

LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DIED

PART II – SEGMENT 4

The Missing

Try as you might, but you won’t find me

Because when I died, there was no one to see

I was just one soldier in this sea of death

Just one in a million, my dying breath

You’ll find my name on some lists here or there

“Missing in Action, but we’re not sure where”

You’ll search and you’ll search, you’ll scour the ground

But there wasn’t a trace of me left to be found

You’ll go to an office and bang on the door

You’ll sit in a waiting room, you’ll pace the floor

You’ll pour out your heart in a letter or two

But they can’t really tell you what you should do

No closure is hard, I can sure understand

But this was a war that consumed the whole land

Every battlefield was covered in bones

So many men from different places and homes

And I was just one that passed through those years

Your sobs count for few in an ocean of tears

Because I’m just one name on a huge roll call

One Unknown tomb will have to count for us all

To Be Continued…

To Read Part II segment 1, click here.

For Segment 2, click here.

Segment 3, here

And remember… always use a step ladder! 

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Once upon a late night in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, two college administrators were throwing in the towel. It was a long day at Old Dorm – one of the few original buildings on the campus of Gettysburg College. It was a busy place on the fourth floor. There was paperwork to file. Admissions to check. Records to store. It was a lot of work, and it was easier after the students were gone for the day. So, these two dedicated ladies clocked some serious overtime in exchange for the peace and quiet. However, it was long since quitting time. Now they headed for the elevator.

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Let’s set the mood before their bizarre tail unfolds. The corridors were probably dark. The few lights that were on flickered with a quiet hum. The women, chatting and happy to be headed home, stepped into the elevator. One pressed the button for the first floor. With a jolt, the box began its slow, creaking descent.

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I first read the Grapes of Wrath when I was in junior high. Perhaps a bit young for such heavy content, but sneaking “grown up” books was one of my favorite childhood past times. I’m glad I got my hands on this one, because it remains one of my favorite novels ever written. It wasn’t just the dramatic struggle of the family Joad that hooked my attention (although, that was hard to turn away from, and you’ll never forget that ending). It was the story of the so-called “Okies” in general. Because in the Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck used a brilliant technique of weaving the Joad family into the history as a whole. Side by side, he told two stories. He unfolded the trials of the Dust Bowl at large, but he also made it human with his family Joad.

He also introduced me to a road. A mother road. A road of flight. A single road that was a vital artery for Westward travelers, and that spanned most of the way across the United States. “Route 66 is the main migrant road,” Steinbeck wrote in his novel. “…66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land… they come into 66 from the tributary roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads… Cars pulled up beside the road, engine heads off, tires mended. Cars limping along the 66 like wounded things, panting and struggling… People in flight along 66. And the concrete road shown like a mirror under the sun…”

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Cool Springs, Arizona

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An Ode to the Mother Road

Hello readers!

I bet you’ve been wondering where I disappeared to over the last several weeks. Well, I’ve been a little bit of everywhere, if you want the honest truth. Sometimes, we all just have to refill the old well – both the spiritual well and the writing well. As for my husband and me, one of our favorite ways to do that is with a road trip. Usually, it’s just a short jaunt to somewhere close, like Solvang or Santa Barbra. Maybe if we have some extra time, we’ll do Big Bear or Yosemite. For this road trip, well… we went a little grander in scale.

Both of us have had long-time dreams to do Route 66. Not just a state or two. We wanted to do the whole dang thing. I had wanted to try it ever since I first read the Grapes of Wrath (which was much longer ago than I will admit here!) My husband’s parents went several years ago, and he had always wanted to follow in their footsteps. Read More