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Independence Day

Every year on July 4th, Americans celebrate the freedom fought for and achieved by our ancestors. On that fateful day in 1776, all of America was finally able to see the fruit of their labor. Black and white soldiers alike were celebrated in their acts of heroism. Independent from the tyranny of Britain, these brave soldiers could now embrace their freedom to religion, expression, and, at the root of it all, a voice. The women who served as cooks, seamstresses, maids, and many others were rewarded for their selflessness by gaining representation in the government they helped form. As a whole, the American people decided to form a government that represented, for every citizen, the independence they fought so hard for. 

Too soon?

Although we would like to believe that our history is clean and beautiful, one can’t help but notice the hypocrisy and inconsistency of our claims vs. actions. The same men who chanted “No Taxation Without Representation” left a whole race of people stripped even from the title of human. Similarly, those who wanted freedom from the tyranny of a king dubbed themselves dictators of their wives and homes. Many of the different faces of America look to our country’s history with a feeling of betrayal. If this is our country’s version of freedom, why are we celebrating it? 

The truth is that freedom is rarely fully achieved at the deciding moment in which it’s claimed. In fact, the life of one who accepts salvation reflects this unintentional and paradoxical design of liberty: the design which necessitates a gaining of new independence after freedom is supposedly already achieved. When a believer accepts Christ, he accepts freedom from the sin that enslaves him. If this sin no longer has a hold on us, why does it come naturally to us? The gift God gives in freedom is free will. Because of salvation, we become aware of what separates us from God, and we can choose to walk away, thus expressing our love to God.

America is blessed to have a Declaration of Independence founded on the freedom of its people. Although it took some time for everyone to be fully represented, this set in motion the formation of a country who would fight to prove that all colors of people deserve to be considered as such. This country birthed women who recognized rights being infringed upon and spoke up in defense of themselves and their sisters.

In all honesty, there probably isn’t one good thing to say about the United States that would be agreed upon by all of its citizens. However, this acknowledgment of differing opinions represents that our country allows room for such diversity. Even though our problems will never be fully solved, our freedom of speech allows us to address them and leads to solutions. When we hear of injustice happening in our country, most are appalled and left with a sense of shame. I find this presence of shame and offense encouraging.

This shows me that I live in a country built by people who recognize the inalienable rights in which we are founded and embrace their civic duty to speak up in defense when infringements are made.

I celebrate Independence Day not because those who formed our country did it perfectly. Rather, I’m proud to be part of a country willing to recognize and address the ways we fall short. Because of God’s grace, my walk with Him isn’t defined by my shortcomings. Although Christ paid the price for my freedom, I have the daily choice to walk in accordance. America didn’t have the purest birth, and our founders made a lot of mistakes that hurt a lot of people. But what a beautiful thing it is, our ability to look back and see in the darkness, hear in the silence, the value of those not mentioned. How did we learn to do this? 

Every year on July 4th, Americans celebrate the freedom fought for and achieved by our ancestors. On this fateful day in 2020, America is able to recognize the fruit of all labor. Black and white Americans alike are celebrated in their acts of heroism. Independent from the tyranny of our history, these brave Americans can claim and embrace their freedom to religion, expression, and, at the root of it all, a voice. The women who work as mothers, teachers, CEOs, and many others are rewarded for their labor by gaining recognition and respect in the country they helped form. As a whole, the American people continue to shape a country that represents, for every citizen, the independence that was fought so hard for.

Written by Jordan D.

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Memorial Day: Why It’s More than a Three-Day Weekend

Memorial Day is often taken as a day for companies to have an enticing sales event or an opportunity for a three-day weekend. However, there is much more significance to this holiday. It originates from an immense loss, with over 620,000 soldiers dying in the Civil War, and sadly, it has become commercialized.

Though all of us may not know a veteran or have a close relationship with someone in the military, we all have been affected by those who have fought and fallen to give us the freedom that we experience today in America.

Memorial Day first began as Decoration Day, established by the head of the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868, three days after the Civil War. The title, “Decoration Day,” was coined to convey the intention of the holiday, which was to decorate the graves of those who had fallen during the Civil War. After World War I, the holiday broadened its purpose to honor those who had died in all the American wars. In 1971, an act of Congress established Decoration Day as Memorial Day and instituted it as a national holiday to take place on the last Monday in May.

Each family may have a unique way of honoring this holiday, but there are a few customs that have developed over the years. Some communities hold parades that incorporate military personnel and veteran organizations. Others observe the day closer to its original origin, taking the time to visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of their loved ones. One of the customs is to fly the American flag at half staff until noon, then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset. One of the more recognized customs was established by Congress, the National Moment of Remembrance. It is the act of taking a moment of silence at 3pm on Memorial Day to honor past and current soldiers and their sacrifices.

It is believed Major General John A. Logan set Memorial Day to the original date of May 30th because flowers would be blossoming all over the country at this time. This reflects the beauty of the holiday. Memorial Day is meant to be a day of remembrance, a day to reflect on the soldiers who gave their lives in service of our nation. We can look around during this blooming springtime and think about how our lovely American land came at a price. May we use this day to reflect on the security of our country, those who have sacrificed their lives for our safety, and those who are currently bravely serving in the Armed Forces.

Written by Deneen

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Works Cited

Holzel, David. “10 Things to Remember About Memorial Day.” Mental Floss, 20 May 2019, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/27858/10-things-remember-about-memorial-day.

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. “Memorial Day History.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 July 2015, https://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp.

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Palaces Out of Paragraphs

Curly hair, a sharp nose, and a laugh you can hear from backstage: that is how most people would describe my mom. Intense, goofy, and always making an impression. They would say she is a fantastic teacher, friend, and daughter. However, when I think of my mom, I think of words: of bedside stories and snack-time chapters, of the different voices she would use for each character, and how she would pretend the chapter ended with a huge cliffhanger. I think of magic, entire worlds created with nothing but a hat from the costume box, a pillow fort in the living room, and her explosive imagination. When I think of my mom, music plays in my head. The 70s rock-and-roll we would dance to in the kitchen, the musicals we watched repeatedly, her hands on the piano keys, and her voice effortlessly harmonizing with mine.

My mom’s name is Beth Key, and she was all these things long before I was a part of her life. She taught at public middle schools and high schools for over ten years before retiring to be a stay-at-home mom, and though she didn’t know it at the time, she would also become a homeschool mom.

As I left the terrifying toddler years, my parents began to teach me how to read. This is when they realized something was wrong. I’m pretty sure it started with a book about princesses. We read it every night; however, as I read along with my dad, a single word kept tripping me up: “princess.” No matter how many times my dad sounded it out, I could never read it easily. It didn’t matter if the word had been in the previous sentence, I never knew it. This experience and a few other symptoms pushed my parents into getting me tested for a learning disorder.

Scene change to the Fundamental Learning Center, which is currently a full-time school for students who have dyslexia and an assessment center which creates curriculum and trains dyslexic tutors. I don’t remember much about the assessment, except for a row of wooden blocks I had to line up in different orders. They were heavier than they looked, and I wasn’t very good at it. Afterwards, I was officially diagnosed with Dyslexia.

So, what next? This was a question that dogged my family constantly as I began tutoring sessions three times a week at a small Catholic school down the street from my neighborhood. The tutor was amazing, but my mom longed to be more involved. The place I got diagnosed was, as mentioned, more than an assessment center. It also certified teachers to assist dyslexic students. This aspect began calling to my mom, and soon, she began training to become a dyslexic tutor. After several weeks of hard work, my mom got certified, and we began working together. That turned out to be tougher than either of us expected.

Homeschooling is hard, teaching dyslexic students is very hard, and homeschooling while teaching your own dyslexic child is even harder. Receiving assistance for learning disorders can make a person feel extremely vulnerable. Acknowledging you have a problem with learning, thinking, and understanding can hurt. After all, what kind of person are you if you can’t think right? Dyslexic students are not stupid. Dyslexic people are not stupid. However, when you can’t even spell the name of your own diagnosis, there is a part you that can’t help feeling…stupid.

Having to sit there and watch your tutor across from you rip out every coping mechanism you rely on, open every inconsistency you have hidden, unbolt the walls over the parts of life you just don’t understand, is scary. When that tutor is also your mom, there is something that can make every mistake seem a little more permanent. She had to make me rewrite the same sentences twenty times because the letters were tilted incorrectly and misspelled, and no tears of defeat could stop her from making me do it again. When I got papers back with big red slashes over them because ‘L’s only go right, and ‘b’ and ‘d’ are not twins, and ‘q’s are not whatever I just turned in, it was so frustrating because I know she knew I had learned it, even as it never came out correctly. I worried about what she thought of my future. How, I often thought, while clutching another failed assignment, could my mother ever be anything but disappointed? How could she ever not be disappointed in me?

However, vulnerability is not like a wound, it is like a flower bed, and teachers are the gardeners. If instead of being overlooked or beaten down, students are sowed with hope and encouragement; with hard work, they can grow into full bloom. The hour of my day that I dreaded most as a child enabled my mother to guide and encourage me. Not only did my mom help me work through my dyslexia, she also showed me how this disability could never keep me down.

My mom helped me continue in my love for reading, develop a passion for writing, and overcome my fear of failing. She helped me see that not only was she proud of me, but I could be too.

As my training became less hands-on, my mom began to take on more students, which she continued to do even after we moved to Texas. I think this is what I am the proudest of my mother for. I watched terrified parents come in with confused, vulnerable kids by their side. They would go into my mother’s office, and they found peace there. Whether they go on their journey with her or not, they find answers, and a warm smile. The communities my mom has helped through bringing awareness and assistance increase every day, and I could not be prouder.

I don’t know how different my life would be without dyslexia. However, I can say that because of my mother, this condition has not kept me from anything I have wanted to do. Because of my condition she can now help people in a way many people didn’t even know they needed. Seeing her work, I will never regret having introduced her to this world. With my mom’s help, I have been successful in school, made friends, and excelled at activities. And that’s just the stuff she’s helped me do by being my tutor! I have also continued to love books, poetry, and music. For a while, it felt like words had made me their enemy and cut me when I tried to use them. They weighed heavy in my head, becoming useless when I attempted to create. However, they are now weapons I am trained to use. They are building blocks that I can create worlds with, just as my mom does.

My mom and my favorite musical is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” which talks about the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. In one of the most beautiful lines in the musical, Alexander’s wife talks about her disloyal husband’s prolific writing. She says, “You and your words flooded my senses/Your sentences left me defenseless. You built me palaces out of paragraphs/you built cathedrals.”

My mother may not have built the palace of my childhood dreams, but she helped me and so many others build something much more, she helped build us a future.

Written by Robyn

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A Joyful Home for Me

Golden are the sunbeams lighting up my way, 

Golden is the meadow inviting me to play, 

Golden runs the winding stream upon its way to sea, 

And Golden is the morning world a joyful home for me. 

Silver is the moonlight shining on my bed 

Silver is the pillow on which I lay my head,

Silver are the rustling trees out in the garden fair,

And silver is the silent world with moonbeams in her hair

Gold and Silver by Mark Hayes 

I sang this song in high school choir without a true understanding or appreciation for what it meant. The ballad is beautiful, graceful, and delicate; I knew to treat it with care during a performance. Thinking of the song Gold and Silver today saddens me, especially when discussions or news reports of climate change, brutal natural disasters, and destructive human interactions arise. Now, I realize that this song paints a picture of God’s creation: animals, humanity, and Earth. It also emphasizes his unceasing involvement with His gorgeous gifts. Humanity is called to see itself and its “joyful home” as a place of great works, peace, and life (Hayes). 

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Poor farming practices, pollution, use of fossil fuels, and other damaging human contributors have severely harmed God’s creation. To ensure humanity abides by God’s command to “subdue [the earth] and have dominion over…every living thing that moves on the earth,” humanity must drastically improve interactions with it (Genesis 1:28 ESV).

Therefore, everyday should be Earth Day. Every new day on Earth is people’s prize, a new opportunity to create and cultivate.   

In order to fully grasp the holiday’s meaning, one must first revisit its origin. Gaylord Nelson, Wisconsin Governor and U.S Senator, created Earth Day on April 22, 1970 to inform “more than 2,000 colleges and universities, 10,000 public schools, and 20 million citizens…nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population at that time,” about poor environmental standards and practices (NOAA par. 2). According to Earth Day Network, Earth Day protests and civic involvement led to the passage of legislative environmental protections such as “The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts… as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).” This initiative inspired many nations around the world to follow America’s lead. In fact, the United Nations enacted the Paris Agreement on climate change on Earth Day in 2016 (Earth Day Network). 

Today, we must continue to pursue the goal of subduing the Earth by controlling our behavior and finding new ways to sustain ourselves while limiting the damage we cause to the planet. More efficient farming and dietary practices, fossil fuel replacement, new energy sources, and legislative action can be taken to limit the damage to the earth’s atmosphere and the planet itself. Most importantly, humanity must understand and appreciate that God, our Gold and Silver, is ever present and involved but we too must appreciate this precious prize, “a joyful home for [you and] me ” (Hayes). 

Written by Ashley

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Works Cited

Earth Day Network. “Earth Day 2020 FAQ.” Earthday.org. https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce. “When was the First Earth Day?” National Ocean Service, 2019. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/earth-day.html.

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St. Patrick’s Day: A Guide

Tuesday is March 17th; you know what that means, right? Or, like me, you may not. Unless you are Irish or claim the Irish culture, perhaps St. Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays on the calendar that comes and goes without a second glance. However, this year let’s be challenged to not only take a glance, but to celebrate.

Where Did This Holiday Come From?

It is fairly crucial to have some basic understanding of the holiday before diving into the festivities. I must confess that I am not personally a historian, but through some intensive google searching, I found more than I thought I wanted to know about this particular holiday. Lucky for you, pun intended, I am willing to share my newfound knowledge. The holiday falls on the day that “St. Patrick” is thought to have died. Originally, it was intended to celebrate his contributions in helping to Christianize Ireland. Surprisingly, St. Patrick was neither a saint nor a Patrick. The Catholic Church never officially embraced him as a saint, but he did take on the name Patricius, though he was born Maewyn Succat. As the Irish immigrated to America during the 18th century, the holiday was celebrated to commemorate Irish culture among the Irish community. Then as time went on, the holiday grew bigger and bigger.

Bust Out Your Green Because?

Surely you are aware of the tradition that those who choose not to wear green on March 17th are subjected to exposing themselves to receive a pinch. Perhaps this has never affected your life. In that case, you are missing out, because a free day to pinch a sibling or friend can be quite fun. But still the question lingers: why green at all? Apparently during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the British chose to wear only red and the Irish chose green. The Irish civilians also wore green in support of the rebellion. After the rebellion, the Irish claimed green as a symbol of pride. Ireland, due to its bountiful green landscape is also known as the “Emerald Isle,” which certainly adds to the cementation of Ireland’s claim on green. So of course on the day celebrating all things Irish, the countries claimed color is paraded to the extreme.

The Power Behind the Pinch

The most logical answer I found was that the pinch represents and encourages a boldness in Irish culture. However, what fun is logic? Instead there is also a mythological reasoning behind the mischievous tradition. A one-word summary: leprechauns. As legend goes, the little devils are notorious for pinching those who refuse to wear green. Wearing green provides one an invisibility cloak from their eyes. Now, everyone is welcome to take on the role of the leprechaun in order to carry out their job.

Now that you are caught up on all things St. Patrick’s Day, feel free to share your new-found knowledge with all your friends. Or, keep it to yourself and embrace the mischievous nature of a leprechaun.

Written by Jordan

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Celebrating Dr. Seuss

If you spend any amount of time reminiscing on your childhood, chances are you will remember reading a book authored by Theodor Seuss Geisel, more famously known as Dr. Seuss. Books like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! have become iconic works within the realm of children’s literature and pop culture. Today, we are celebrating what would have been Theodor’s 116th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than by looking back at his most memorable works?

Horton Hears a Who! (1954)

Horton the Elephant discovers the microscopic planet of Whoville after hearing what he thought was a talking speck of dust. He places Whoville on a clover and vows to protect the town from all the dangers of the much larger world that surrounds the tiny community. However, Horton is harassed by the other animals of the jungle for caring about people whom they cannot see or hear. This does not stop him from going to great lengths to ensure the safety of Whoville after they are captured by a black-bottomed eagle. When the other animals threaten to destroy the small town, Horton implores Whoville to make as much noise as possible to prove their existence. After the smallest shirker of Whoville cries out, the animals finally hear the town and promise to preserve it.

Considering the time period in which it was written, Horton Hears a Who! is very much reflective of the social conscious Geisel possessed. The 1950s saw the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in America, as well as a great deal of animosity towards nations of the Axis Powers in the recently resolved World War II. With many of the racial minorities experiencing systematic marginalization, Geisel encourages these oppressed groups of people to speak out against the injustices they encounter. Even while these individuals represented a small portion of the American population (in the same way that the Whos of Whoville were microscopic compared to the animals), Geisel still pushes for them to use their collective voice for good, for “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

The Cat in the Hat (1957)

Perhaps his most widely celebrated work, Geisel tells the story of two siblings left alone on a boring, rainy day until a cat enters the house with many games and tricks to entertain the children. The children’s fish discourages the cat’s activities, to which the cat responds by balancing the fish on his umbrella. The cat eventually brings out two identical characters, Thing 1 and Thing 2, both of whom wreak havoc throughout the house and create a giant mess just before the children’s mother comes home. After the Things are caught in a net, the cat quickly cleans everything in the house before the children’s mother walks through the door.

Geisel creates an interesting dynamic between the troublesome cat and the paranoid fish to represent the children’s conflicting desires between chaotic entertainment and orderly obedience. Even as the cat brings a fair amount of trouble into the house, his eagerness in attempting to brighten the gloomy day of the kids makes him a jovial and likeable character. On the opposite side, the fish’s longing for order dampens the cheeriness that the cat brings into the house, despite the fish having good intentions. Geisel’s ability to speak to the childish and imaginative nature of older readers while simultaneously simplifying his language for the younger audience makes for a classic story appealing to audiences of all ages.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957)

The Grinch, who dwells in a cave high above Whoville, is annoyed by the cheery, Christmas spirit of all the Whos below him, so he devises a plan to dress up as Santa and steal the presents, trees, and feasts in Whoville. With his dog dressed as a reindeer, the Grinch flies down to the town and sneaks into the first house to enact his plan when he is interrupted by a little girl, Cindy Lou Who. She asks why he is taking the Christmas tree away, and the Grinch lies about fixing the tree’s lights before sending her back to bed. After he has stolen all the presents, trees, and fire logs from Whoville, the Grinch returns to his cave, only to hear the Whos belt out a joyous Christmas tune. Shocked by the Whos’ unwavering high spirits, the Grinch comes to realize that the meaning of Christmas expands beyond material possessions, and he gives all the belongings back to the Whos, with his heart growing three times its previous size.

Geisel puts a unique twist on the tale of Christmas by shifting the main perspective to an unhappy, yet strangely relatable, pessimistic protagonist. What the Grinch goes through is indicative of Geisel’s belief in people’s ability to change for the better, no matter how far gone they appear. In this sense, Geisel is not only speaking to the Grinches of his audience, but also those who know a Grinch. Obviously, if you’re being a stinky little Grinch, your attitude needs to change. However, if you see someone who is a Grinch, do not berate them. Show them the same kindness you would want to be shown if you were being a Grinch.

Green Eggs and Ham (1960)

Sam-I-Am spends almost the entirety of the book trying to convince his friend, Guy-Am-I, to try a plate of green eggs and ham. Even though Guy-Am-I adamantly refuses his offer multiple times, Sam-I-Am persists in asking, following Guy-Am-I to numerous locations. Finally, Guy-Am-I decides to try the dish just to get Sam-I-Am to leave him alone, and he ends up enjoying green eggs and ham much more than he thought.

Green Eggs and Ham is one of the more interesting works in Geisel’s catalog, as its simplistic vocabulary is not merely a product of writing for young children. After Cat in the Hat employed a total of 236 words, Bennett Cerf, Geisel’s publisher, bet that Geisel couldn’t write a book without exceeding that word count. As a result, Green Eggs and Ham was completed with only 50 words being used. So while he was challenging his young audience to expand their horizons by trying new things, Geisel was challenging himself in his own creative endeavors. He was willing to practice what he preached.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)

The narrator speaks directly to the reader while detailing the journey of an unnamed character going through the highs and lows of life. The character, representing the reader, gets to travel down the fun, opportunity-filled roads as well as the low, gloomy valleys. One of these low places is “The Waiting Place,” where everyone is waiting for their situation to improve, but the narrator implores the reader to get up and create a better life for him/herself. The narrator challenges the reader to fight for success despite the roadblocks faced.

One of the most popular graduation gifts, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was the last book published during Geisel’s lifetime and serves as a challenge to the generations coming after him. Instead of crafting a narrative with specific characters and events like many of his past works, Geisel opts for speaking directly to the reader and uses his own reflection on the ups-and-downs of life to encourage younger generations as they enter new stages of life. The book functions as a wonderful model of Geisel’s youthful optimism which extended through the entirety of his life.

While it’s likely that most of us haven’t thought about Dr. Seuss in a few years, the impact he continues to have on children’s literature with his simplistic language and thoughtful messaging is undeniable.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Written by Ryan

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Are You at Work?

Today is the third Monday of February, and it’s a national holiday. Some choose to call it Washington’s birthday, but others, especially retailers, prefer the moniker Presidents Day. Many think it’s supposed to be “Presidents’ Day.” Historical events and the fickle nature of Americans caused the confusion. Now, before you get all bent out of shape at the accusation “fickle,” let’s take a short (really short because this writer has no dog in the race) gander at some history. We’ll go way, way back, all the way to 1732.

On February 22, George Washington was born. No doubt his parents wanted good and wonderful things for him, but they could not have foreseen that he would become the President of the United States of America. Heck, the U.S. didn’t exist as an entity when Washington entered the world. I’ll bet they didn’t even give him a toy musket for his birthday or worry that he’d shoot his eye out if he got one!

In the brief history, the next date that counts is 4 July 1776. I’ll bet you all know that epoch and why it matters so much. Yep. That is the day the Second Continental Congress decided that this country should break free from England and her taxes. The Declaration of Independence was actually written two days earlier, but all the t’s were crossed, i’s dotted, and signatures affixed on July 4, so that’s the day we celebrate.

Washington died in 1799, and the entire country grieved. It was decided, by the power of Congress or the People, that his birthday should become a day of remembrance. In 1879, that honoring became a real holiday through the stroke of President Rutherford B. Hayes’ pen, but only the District of Columbia got the benefit of the law. Finally, the entire country was extended the same pleasure in 1885.

Of course, you’d have to have lived your entire life under a rock not to know that good old George Washington was elected in the first presidential race that soon followed. But this story isn’t all about Washington. There is at least one more president important enough to mention by name: Abraham Lincoln. That tall, bearded icon entered the world on 12 February 1809. You all know that he wanted to unite the North and South and that he wrote the Gettysburg Address, and you also know we’ve never (really) stopped arguing since the first president. But that’s another story altogether. Lincoln is certainly important enough to celebrate.

Now we come around to some more disagreements. First of all, not every state thought we should add Lincoln’s day to the official holidays. Though it was observed in some states, it never became a national holiday. Still, school children already knew Lincoln’s birthday, and many people thought it should get stronger recognition. Nevertheless, Congress did nothing to add Lincoln’s birthday to the national roster of holidays.

What Congress did do was listen to labor unions, voices in the private sector, and employers who thought that moving holidays to Mondays and creating some three-day weekends would reduce employee absenteeism. Retailers loved the idea, knowing they could capitalize on it and create targeted sales when people were free to shop. Many suggested that Washington’s birthday be renamed Presidents’ Day to honor both Washington and Lincoln. Congress ignored that request, too. Calling it the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, Congress passed the measure in 1968, and in 1971, it took effect.

The population, though, preferred Presidents’ Day, and most people see it as an opportunity to honor all men who have served in the White House as the nation’s top executive. In truth, many of us see it as a day to shop. Not all employers add it to the official holidays they honor.

So, what are you doing today? Are you honoring Washington and Lincoln and other presidents? Are you shopping? Or are you, like me, at your desk working? No matter what you’re doing, at least you know why you don’t get any mail today. Some people are off celebrating our presidents.

Sources:

https://nationaltoday.com/presidents-day/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Presidents-Day

https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/washington-birthday

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/presidents-day

Written by Kā

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Celebrating Love

Ironically, the eldest person in our office is writing about, conceivably, the most romantic day of the year, at least according to Hallmark and retail candy/flower sales. Is Valentines Day really a construct of card companies? What is the history, and why on Earth do we celebrate the idea of love on what sometimes feels like a random day in February? History.com tells us that it’s possible to date the origin of this day all the way back to 6 Century B.C. and a festival called Lupercalia, where dogs and goats became sacrificial devices in fertility blessings. Women bore the brunt of what we’d now see as strange and horrific: they actually lined up to be literally hit with the bloody hides and enter a lottery allowing them to live with a particular man for a year!

As if that isn’t shocking enough, NPR and LifeHacker inform us that Pope Gelasius I desired to stop the pagan rituals. Toward that end, he dubbed the formerly bloody day for two Christian martyrs, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. The two men coincidentally lost their lives years apart, but on the same date in the 3rd Century A.D. What are the chances?  Perfect apparently!

So, how did we get from the bloody fertility rites to the romantic ideas we entertain today? There are several answers to this question. First, and most simply, some think that the two Valentines were actually one man, who was responsible for performing illegal marriage rites for soldiers.  Others, Reader’s Digest included, point to the Normans and their celebration of Galatin’s Day. Since “galatin” means “lover” or “gallant,” the idea of romance is introduced both from the actions of St. Valentine and the language of the Norse. Geoffrey Chaucer underscored the romantic aspect of the day with his flowery words written to commemorate the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. In any case, people began to pen their own lovelorn notes by 1415. Among those who scribbled notable verses or letters are Duke of Orleans Charles, “A Farewell to Love,” and Shakespeare’s words embedded in “Hamlet.”

The Industrial Revolution brought a new spin on the practice, ushering in machine-made, mass-produced, straight-from-the-factory-to-the-retail-store cards that could be easily mailed. Hallmark Cards got in on the action in 1913, and Valentine’s Day (Keep that apostrophe, please! The day belongs to an actual person.) was reborn as a commercial holiday.

Chances are that if you’ve stuck with me thus far, you’re beyond the days of decorating lunch bags or shoe boxes and being mad that you must give a card to every classmate or none of them. Here’s guessing you might want some ideas for celebrating with your own loved one. Of course, you can always fall back on the standards: heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, store-bought cards, and red roses (Now we know why red ones signify love, don’t we? It harkens back to those pagan practices!). Or, you can stay with me, and I’ll offer you a couple of alternate ideas.

First of all, there is a plethora, well, at least a handful of Dallas excursions that include chocolate. Woohoo! Let’s go! Choose from these tours:

  • My Heart Belongs to Chocolate
  • Chocolate in Your Heart
  • The Vintage Valentine’s
  • Decadent Valentine Dreams Chocolate
  • “My Funny Valentine” Dinner and Comedy Show
  • Winery, Chocolate, Pizza, and Jazz
  • Tacos, Margaritas, and Valentine’s Celebration, or
  • Valentine’s Champagne and Chocolate

Tours not your thing? Got a pocketful of cash? How about a flight over the Dallas skyline at sunset and dusk followed by a fabulous meal for two? Or, consider a hot-air balloon flight at sunrise or sunset that comes complete with champagne and photos for your scrapbook. Flying gives you the jitters? Little to no cash in your tattered jeans? Visit TripSavvy (https://www.tripsavvy.com/unique-valentines-day-ideas-1004736) or the City of Dallas website (http://www.dallascitynews.net/six-ways-celebrate-valentines-day-dallas) for more ideas. Prefer Fort Worth to Dallas? Here are two websites for things to do in Cow Town: Brumbaugh’s, an iconic furniture store for over 50 years, has some ideas, (https://brumbaughs.com/6-unique-places-to-go-on-valentines-day-in-fort-worth/) and so does Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.com/d/tx–fort-worth/valentines-day-events/. Whatever you do, be glad that bloody rituals have ended and soldiers are no longer confined to the single life. Have fun and enjoy precious time with your loved one.

Written by Kā

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The Last Speech

The name Martin Luther King Junior evokes feelings of strength, courage, and truth. It carries the legacy of a man who dedicated his life to upholding justice, equality, and liberty for all. His famous works such as the “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” and the “I Have a Dream” speech are known for their powerful and convicting personalities. However, King’s last speech is one that is rarely discussed, yet perhaps the most important one.

King was on the balcony of the motel where he was staying, about to head to dinner, but was shot and killed moments after this picture was taken. Many believe that his last speech prophesied this tragic event. Even though most Americans are only familiar with the last 60 seconds of this speech where he triumphantly declares, “I’ve been to the mountain top,” it’s the entirety of his speech that holds the real message he wanted to leave us with. It is a contemplative and reflective look upon his own life; a beautiful demonstration of the power of the Gospel complimented by fervent commandments to carry on the fight for justice.

King begins his speech by examining the perspectives through which he was able to experience life. He reveals his desire to understand the past through a hypothetical journey he takes over the course of human history. Perhaps he understood the importance of learning from the past in order the solve the problems the world faces today.

“Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, ‘If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.'”

King speaks as though he might not be able to see the second half of the twentieth century for himself. This attitude sets the mood for the rest of his speech and leads him to pour out all kinds of wisdom, admonition, and even practical steps that could pave the way to freedom for his people. For instance, instead of riots and violent protests, he urges his listeners to use economic pressure by boycotting businesses. This, he believes, is a nonviolent way to be heard and bring about true change.

King also highlights that everything that is evil, namely racism, is a heart issue. It is due to a “sickness” that cannot be remedied by force but by perseverance, kindness, and justice. He stresses that the promise of eternal life in Christ is not an excuse to idly stand by as injustice runs rampant. He candidly states, “It’s all right to talk about ‘streets flowing with milk and honey,’ but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day.” King cared about what God cared and still cares about and recognized that true change is not possible without meeting the needs of the poor and forgotten, so that they, too, can fight for what is right.

“And you know what’s beautiful to me, is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel.”

What we can learn from all that King has said in his last speech would be too long to list, but perhaps the most important lesson is that “the issue is injustice.” His passion and unabashed forthrightness should not only inspire us but move us to fight the injustices we see in our world today. We ought to honor his words by speaking up for the voiceless and shining the light of the Gospel in this dark world. Developing “a kind of dangerous unselfishness” is essential to accomplishing this task and commencing a movement that creates a ripple effect throughout history—a movement that secures a brighter future. May we live our lives to make sure we did our part for the good of this world.

This is what King said about his life when he knew it was nearing its end, will we dare say something similar?

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Written by Kenean

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New Year…Old Traditions

Happy New Year! Wow, another decade has flown by. Yes, 2020 marks the third decade of the 2000s. Wild. By this time, many people have specific traditions reserved for the changing of the year. Ironically, people celebrate something new, the year, with old celebration habits.

My family does not go all out for New Year’s Eve, by any means. We keep it simple, yet memorable. My parents order Indian food, which I am not a fan of, so I always get Thai food. After eating our traditional New Year’s feast, we begin the festivities. Growing up, New Year’s Eve was the annual Lord of The Rings marathon, before the Hobbit trilogy. Recently, my immediate family began throwing a game night. We play games until midnight and then go to bed. The next day we start off the New Year by serving together at Mission Arlington.

It dawned on me that I celebrate New Year’s Day the same way each year. Thus, I became curious as to how the people in my office (Dallas Baptist University Writing Center) celebrate this unique holiday. It is fascinating to compare festivities that are all occurring simultaneously, yet so differently.

Director Kā Riley

Sherlock, Kā’s dog, is terrified of fireworks. Unfortunately for Sherlock, her neighborhood cannot have New Year’s celebrations without them. Thus, Kā spends her New Year’s Eve lovingly taking care of Sherlock and protecting her from the big bad loud noises. While being on doggie duty, Kā and her husband enjoy a smorgasbord of summer sausage, cheese, crackers, and other condiments. There is a toast made at midnight, with sparkling grape juice. On New Year’s Day, after Sherlock survives the night, lunch is had at Black Eyed Peas, which consists of black-eyed peas and cornbread, a nod to the traditional southern good-luck practice.

Consultant Coordinator Trisha Gracy

Trisha spends her New Year’s Eve back home in rural Texas and has a mini-reunion with her high school friends. They participate in an annual sleepover.

Office Manager Ashley Green

Ashley keeps New Year’s Eve simple and partakes in an annual toast to the New Year with her family.

Consultant Kenean Bekele

Kenean spends the evening with her entire extended family. The family cooks and feasts together. They catch up while watching the New York ball drop on TV. After the ball drops, their celebration continues outside while enjoying fireworks together.

Consultant Meredith Rose

Meredith’s family spends the New Year together and with close family friends, who host the celebration. The group spends the evening eating and playing cards. There is a toast to the New Year as they watch the ball drop on TV. The party for Meredith’s family does not end at midnight. No, they queue up a movie at midnight as the conclusion to the festivities.

Consultant Amanda Soderberg

Amanda spends the New Year with her friends and family. They eat food, play games, and enjoy each other’s company. Of course, the grand New York ball drop is watched. Amanda’s family also prays together thanking God for the year they were blessed with and to ask for guidance for the year to come.

Consultant Ryan Thompson

If Ryan’s family stays up until midnight, they play board games or watch movies. At midnight, the New York ball drop is viewed while toasting with sparkling grape juice. However, it would not be unusual if the Thompsons decided to be in bed by 10:30.

Consultant-In-training Karina Baganz

Karina has a unique New Year’s Eve tradition. She does not stay awake to wait for the year to begin. No, on New Year’s Eve she is in bed, asleep, by 10 pm. Her philosophy is that she will get to wake up refreshed and ready to start the new year. She celebrates New Year’s Day with a traditional big plate of pancakes.

Consultant-In-Training Deneen Sanchez

Deneen’s family watches the ball drop while sipping eggnog. Her mom counts out twelve grapes, symbolizing the twelve months. Her family eats the grapes as a tradition of good luck for the upcoming year. Her family marks an end to the festivities by watching fireworks.

Consultant-In-Training Jordan Dockery

Jordan chooses not to drink soda 364 days out of the year, but on New Year’s Day, she indulges. Her family toasts their coke bottles high to the sky, while the song Albanza plays in the background.

Receptionist Robyn Key

Robyn hangs out with friends on New Year’s Eve. However, the catch is that she must be on the road heading home by midnight. Since she is on the road, she does not get to watch the ball drop.

Receptionist Princess Adeya

Princess anxiously awaits the ball drop, because then she is able to leave the house and go hang out with friends.

To sum up, in no particular order, here are 10 ingredients to a successful New Year:

**** God ****

  1. Friends
  2. Family
  3. Food
  4. Games
  5. Movies
  6. Dogs
  7. Fireworks
  8. Rest
  9. The Ball Drop
  10. Toast to the New Year

Written by Jordan

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