"Allo, Poppets and how goes the holiday turmoil? Tired of "Silent Night" and/or "Rudolph" over loudspeakers yet? Trust me on this--if you aren't now, you will be. I can, thankfully, look forward to some fun events coming up, as in a lovely tea at our 4-yr. university here, Schreiner Univ., several private "do's", three, movies and a partridge in a pear tree. Oh, and one biggie for me, personally, will be getting my right arm out of its black sling since being operated on Nov. 1, and I've been a good girl and done my exercises 2 to 3 times a day and when the "wing" is free on Dec. 13, I will continue them for another month, I'm sure--but I can drive a car again--a fact that makes both Himself and myself positively jovial!
Truthfully, in case any of you are considering this Rotator Cuff (or is it "cup"?) surgery, it is not--repeat, not--painful and you go home from the day surgery with some helpful pills to ease the discomfort for, maybe, three days. Now, sleeping is tricky, in that you can lie flat on your back, or roll to the unaffected side--period--lower your voice--end of sentence! I think I'll burn the sling and do an Indian shuffle around it! Basta! Enough!
This is my last column for the year 2011, and I gotta tell you, that this Fall and Winter gave me the sensation of space travel cause it went by so fast--did any of you get the same feeling that, right after the Summer ended and Fall began, it was like "Does anyone here remember what happened to the last 4 months?" Odd. The stores are gorgeous, the handbags and jewelry are calling to me--I never feel that way about Spanx and Vacuum cleaners. I am hoping that Santa thinks I've been a "good girl"--which always draws Himself's wry observation that I didn't necessarily had that particular designation but "I'll give you an 'M' for trying. "I've always wondered how I could have been better and I'm concerned that the "M" stands for "Maybe."
Keep looking for that perfect present and here are a few to consider checking out from the library. This first offering is by Glenn Beck, well-known radio host, "Being George Washington; The Indispensable Man, as You've Never Seen Him" and I gotta tell ya, this book is riveting, fascinating history, not only telling stories about Washington's hardships, devotion to an ideal, persistence, physical hardships, spies, double-agents, betrayals--and you will honestly feel the chills of that awful winter at Valley Forge, the bullets through the coat, horses shot out from under him, lack of respect (only at first) from European generals trained in the traditional war colleges of Europe "and the unmistakable hand of Divine Providence that guided it all."
As Beck intended, so much of what happened to him, his troops, his dealings with "the money people" and his battles to keep people encouraged and seeing his vision--and a lot of it is so familiar today. Quotes from the people of that day, from Benedict Arnold to the venerable Benjamin Arnold are given exactly--by that I mean what is written down is exactly and precisely what they men said--fascinating, I tell you. The Germans who came to help and couldn't give orders or hold a conversation in "our language" and refused to learn! The contempt in which Washington was held in that he wasn't a "schooled soldier" from a military school--and, yet to everyone's surprise, most noticeably the "furriners" who came to help us--when the time came to say a final farewell, the usually stoic Germans openly wept, in exchanging toasts of victory in battle and regret at leaving our commander who, according to historians, always treated our allies with respect and courtesy, while being aware of their early attitudes towards him.
The last part of the book dwells on Washington's character and vision and how we have lived up to them or not in today's world and, ultimately, what we can do to make our country stronger by remembering and adhering to what we were founded upon. Really, as far as I'm concerned, this is on the top list of Non-Fiction books for 2011--hurry and get it before 2012 bursts in on us! Great stuff and it will "stay with you" a long time.
Anybody remember the name John Brown or Harper's Ferry, Do ye ken "Civil War"? Right--it's the holiday season and your little pea brain is stretched to the breaking point, so I will remind you of all of the above by telling you about "Midnight Rising; John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War", by Tony Horwitz and, boy, does he do a bang-up job of an historical, years-ago incident and put you right in the middle of history being made. Several facts you need to know. In the early part of the 1800's, slavery was already an issue, although a quiet, festering one, in this nation--rather like a strain on a marriage that could sever it but nobody wanted to bring it up and talk about it. Well, one man, John Brown, "a descendant of Puritans saw the destruction of slavery as a fulfillment of America's founding fathers' principles."
An excuse, reason, justification that many martyrs/saints/ and idealists feel they have a mission to bring about, even if it means war, costing lives and devastating some of the good things people hold dear, in the long run because of "it needs to be done"--whatever "it" is and depending on who's saying it--right? Well, John Brown, in 1859, at a secret hideout in Maryland, "convened a secret guerilla that included his teenage daughter" (now, that one surprised me, particularly in that day and age of women staying in the background) and "led 18 men into Harper's Ferry, seizing its massive Federal armory, freeing slaves, and vowing to liberate every bondsman in the South--a counterattack by U.S. Marines, commanded by Robert E. Lee, led to Brown's wounding and capture."
But, dear readers, and here's the real Important point--that bloody uprising sealed the split between the North and the South that had been heading that way and "papered over (no one wanted to really deal with the elephant in the room" for several years. John Brown became a hero in the South and there were brave -–and strongly worded--calls for secession from the Union. Eventually, Lincoln was elected president "and began to fulfill John Brown's dream with his Emancipation Proclamation."
There's wonderful, descriptive passages talking about his daughter, Annie, and in her later years--because for a long time she wouldn't talk about the summer she was 16--"she began to talk and write freely about the 10 weeks she had spent as housekeeper and watchdog for Brown's band--and while she never witnessed her beloved father's death, when she died after a serious fall, "the coroner's certificate revealed a curious detail--67 years after Brown's hanging, his loyal and loving daughter had died of a broken neck." Harper's Ferry changed hands a dozen times, over the next 65 years, and at one point was a refugee camp for blacks, the Black Methodist Church founded a college there and named its first building Lincoln Hall. A truly fascinating book--and it's all been well researched and pages and pages of footnotes, to demonstrate its being a true telling. Go to the library and check this one out--and you can thank me later.
On a more, perhaps, lighter note---and on a delightful subject which many have been through--there's "The Puppy Diaries; Raising a Dog Named Scout", by Jill Abramson, who is the executive editor of the august New York Times and an unabashed dog lover. However, as any one who's ever raised a puppy soon learns, you, yourself, need training so you can train your dog to be an acceptable part of the family--and this involves learning about tiny treats and praise rather than yelling and physical punishment--and all of that is better learned with a good trainer or tapes. Jill and her husband, Henry, took into their home a lovable nine-week-old Golden Retriever named Scout and along with Scout came bloodied hands and arms from rough puppy play, a dog who barked and whined and begged for food during their mealtime, and jumping up on them and others.
Then, at one bad point, and unbeknown to each other, they both phone Dianne Abbot, a dog professional, for help. Diane was a firm believe in the clicker-treat approach and so she gave them, at home, a few lessons and they were introduced to the Positive Reinforcement method of dog training while they also learned that Cesar Millan is the Leader of the Pack guru. Shawn Stewart, one of the top trainers of dogs, including Homeland Security types, says there is no one method that fits any and all dogs--and this is a very sound conclusion--"the right method depends on individual considerations about the dog, the owner, and the environment." In my personal case, with my many breeds and personalities over 65 years (this obviously goes back to my childhood!) I would seem to lean toward the Leader of the Pack school of thought, but several of my friends did it differently with their dogs and also were successful, so there you gave it.Anyway, she introduced her readers to Scout, put pictures and stories of the puppy in her first year on the Internet and enjoyed a huge reader response. Many lessons were learned, some funny and some poignant. Scout was their entertainment, a source of their disagreements on how Scout was responding--and a lot of their stories were comparing Scout's progress with how their previous dog, Buddy, had either done well or poorly at. I've been there, as have many of you, and sometimes the new dog comes off lacking in contrast with dog who's died. Interesting, sometimes unfair, but a subject of conversation, particularly when the new dog is doing something puzzling or irritating--right?
I, again, praise the book about Scout and the insights she gained, including from Temple Grandin, the auristic author and behavior analyst, who helped explain the nature of animals. She said E.B. Whiye "dispensed the wisest comment about raising a puppy I have ever come across--he said, a really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can't get it by breeding for it, and you can't buy it with money. It just happens along."--and I realized that, with Scout, if was the passage of time, and the inevitable passage of time, and the inevitable calming process that occurred as Scout aged." Ah, would that people who are unpleasant would undergo the same process--maybe they should ponder the message of Christmas!
There are really wonderful books that have been brought into our library, here in Liberal, both Fiction and Non-Fiction and I hope that, during this past year and in reading this column, you've found some books you'd like to read. All our staff and our Director wish all of our readers a delightful holiday--a truly Merry Christmas--and a successful and personally fulfilling Happy New Year. You are our present, each time you come in the library you are welcome, and if we could wrap a big red ribbon around each of you, we'd do it. See you next year--Bye!