Category Archives: History

My 68-Year-Old Brain

yeah write editor pick #217

 

As a writer, one of your most valuable possessions is the wealth of knowledge that you have accumulated through the years and locked away inside your brain. It is there at your fingertips, ready to be accessed at a moment’s notice, whenever you decide to open those memory files and put them into use.

While I was growing up, I was always an A student, excelling in English grammar with a knack for writing. I enjoyed writing and it wasn’t long before I was writing on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, writing was so important to me that nothing stopped me from doing what I loved most – not even being bedridden for several years, the many hospitalizations and surgeries I had to undergo, nor the fact that I was pretty much literally on handfuls of pills every day.

But then five years ago I began to notice that I was having a difficult time writing. I was forgetting words. I’d be ready to write a word, have it right at the tip of my tongue, but then I’d forget it. I couldn’t remember what I wanted to write.

This scenario began to occur more.

I wondered what was happening to me. Was it just because of all the medication I was on? Was I going crazy? Was I going senile? Or even worse – did I have Alzheimer’s? I was only 58! On the other hand, I knew of people getting early onset Alzheimer’s. But I didn’t dare mention any of this to my husband because the prospect was just too frightening. So I kept my worries to myself.

Then one weekend my husband went on a camping trip with his buddies. As for myself, I was all set for a weekend of writing and watching movies. The last thing I remember is talking on the phone to my sister Friday evening. I woke up on the living room floor 24 hours later.

Two days later I was standing with my husband in our spare bedroom having a chat. I remember that I fell forward to my knees, and as my husband helped me up, he said: Are you okay?” When I asked him what happened, he told me that I had passed out.

This is when he brought me to the clinic. Although my doctor believed I’d lost consciousness due to dehydration from kidney problems, he wanted me to see a neurologist.

At first the neurologist thought my lost weekend was caused by a seizure. I know – scary, right? So they did an EEG, which was normal, although it was quite a pleasant experience – I even fell asleep during that test, much to my surprise.

Then the neurologist determined that an MRI of my brain was in order. I’ve had plenty of MRI’s done before – mostly of my spine, but also of my brain. I thought: They’re not going to find anything wrong with my brain – the EEG was normal – surely the MRI is going to be just fine, too, because it’s always been fine before.

But then the results came back. First the neurologist said that my loss of consciousness was in all probability due to dehydration, just as my family practitioner had diagnosed. And then there was something else.

I was told that I have spots on my brain. While everyone acquires these spots as they grow older, I have many more than I should.

“As a matter of fact,” said the neurologist, “even though you’re only a 58-year-old woman, you have the brain of a 68-year-old woman.”

Then the light bulb went on in my 68-year-old brain. I asked: “Is this the reason that I have difficulty remembering words?”

He told me that it was. And that it was probably a result of my chronic illnesses. Not my fault. But that didn’t make it any easier. He also said that I might start to have problems remembering events or dates.

My 68-year-old brain knows these things: I cannot reverse this process. I cannot remove the spots on my brain. As much as I want a lifeline, the neurologist cannot offer one. All I have is one more pill for my list, an aspirin every day. This may slow the spots down, but it won’t stop them.

And so I continue to write. Every day it is a struggle to hunt down my words, gather them up, and pin them down on paper. Sometimes it takes hours to write just one paragraph, sometimes days to write just one blog post, perhaps a week or more to write just one story, because the words are so elusive. But the struggle is worth it.

We all have our challenges. This is mine. But I will never give up. Never.

Because I am a writer. And I will find a way.

 

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Red Letter Saturday #10: “The Academy Awards”

On this day, May 16, 1929, the first Academy Awards presentation was held at a private dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with an audience of about 270 people. The post-awards party was held at the Mayfair Hotel. The cost of guest tickets for that night’s ceremony was $5 (the equivalent of $69 as of 2015). On that evening, fifteen statuettes were Oscarsawarded which honored artists, directors and other personalities of the film-making industry of the time for their works during the 1927–28 period. The entire ceremony ran for a total of fifteen minutes. The first Best Actor awarded was Emil Jannings, for his performances in “The Last Command and “The Way of All Flesh.” Because he had to return to Europe earlier than the ceremony, the Academy agreed to give him the prize earlier, and this made him the first Academy Award winner in history. The Oscar stauette which is given to the award winners is made of gold-plated britannium on a black metal base, is 13.5 inches tall, weighs 8.5 pounds, and depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes. The five spokes represent the original branches of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers, and Technicians.

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So I wonder . . . how many of you, dear readers, watch the annual Academy Awards as they’re televised every year? I know that there are so many of us out there who do, so don’t be afraid to admit it, because you are just one of millions of people who do. As a matter of fact, in the year 2014, the viewing audience of the Oscars hit a 10-year high of 43.74 million viewers! But this year (2015), according to data collected, the 87th Academy Awards drew in only 36.6 million total viewers, the lowest total since 2009. But of course, there could be any number of reasons for the low numbers. Was it because of who or which movies were on the list of nominees? Was it because of what was playing on television opposite the Oscars that night? Or was it because the host (Neil Patrick Harris for 2015) didn’t quite fit the bill?

And what about watching the Red Carpet event that is televised before the actual Oscars ceremony itself? This year, ABC’s Oscars Red Carpet Live topped out at 24.3 million viewers in its final half hour of coverage leading into the ceremony. I don’t know about you, but watching the celebrities on the red carpet can be even more entertaining than the Academy Awards Ceremony itself. I mean – have you seen some of those dresses? Some of them are quite chic and others border on the outrageous, am I right? And then there are the sparkling jewels and the newest hairstyles and all the beautiful people to see and listen to as they’re being interviewed.

Nowadays many home viewers even have their own Oscar parties, complete with invitations, black-tie attire, catered food, and drinks to make it a night to remember. But I’d prefer to gather with a close circle of friends and keep tabs of my favorites with a score sheet and a pencil.

Whatever your preferences may be, whether it’s the Academy Awards Ceremony itself or the Red Carpet event, whether it’s an Oscars viewing gala or just watching at home with friends or maybe with just your own family, you can rest assured that even though those viewing numbers that I mentioned a few paragraphs before this may have been low in 2015, this will not be a good enough reason for the Academy to discontinue giving out the Oscars any time soon.

And the next time you hear those famous words: “And the Oscar goes to  . . . ,” who knows? Maybe, just maybe, it could be someone you know!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  Our minds are big enough to contemplate the cosmos but small enough to care about who wins an Oscar.”  – Dean Cavanagh

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This post is presented as part of my special weekly feature, Red-Letter Saturday. If you’d like to to know more information about Red-Letter Saturday, please click here:

Red-Letter Saturday 

Red-Letter Saturday #9: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

RED-LETTER SATURDAY #9:

PaulRevereRide 1On this day, April 18, 1775, during the American Revolution, the British advancement by sea begins. It is then that Paul Revere and William Dawes rode from Charleston to Lexington at midnight warning that “the regulars (British) are coming!” In the days before April 18, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, the sexton of the North Church, to send a signal by lantern to alert colonists in Charlestown as to the movements of the troops when the information became known, in what is well known today by the phrase “one if by land, two if by sea,” meaning that one lantern in the steeple would signal the army’s choice of the land route while two lanterns would signal the route “by water” across the Charles River. After crossing the Charles River by rowboat and slipping past the British warship HMS Somerset at anchor, Revere safely landed in Charlestown and rode to Lexington, avoiding a British patrol and later warning almost every house along the route. He then rode through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, warning patriots along his route, many of whom set out on horseback to deliver warnings of their own.

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I cannot tell you how excited I was to see this particular historical event listed for today. The reason for this is because I am an avid history buff, enthusiast, student, life-long learner, and lover of the American Revolutionary War Era. Therefore, the subject of Paul Revere’s ride is truly a fascinating one for me. There are just so many interesting and intriguing details to about this dramatic night. Oh, how I dearly would have loved to have been present for his historic event.

If I had been there, perhaps I could have witnessed Dr. Joseph Warren as he participated on this infamous night. Dr. Warren was an American doctor who played a leading role in American patriot organizations in Boston during the early days of the American Revolution. He is the man who organized the midnight ride. On the afternoon of April 18, 1775, Warren received information that Joseph Warren death 2there was troop movement of the British army. It was he who sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on their midnight ride to warn the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, then sitting in Concord, the site of one of the larger caches of the patriot military supplies. After receiving the warning, the Concord residents began moving the military supplies away from the town. I wonder how he felt. Was he worried about the safety of these two men whom he was sending out, perhaps to their very deaths? He had hardly any time to ponder this because the very next day, Warren slipped out of Boston and during that day’s Battle of Concord and Lexington, he coordinated and led militia into the fight alongside William Heath as the British Army returned to Boston. It was during this battle that he was nearly killed, and later he became the head of the Provincial Congress. Proving himself to be a true hero thereafter, he died in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Dr. Joseph Warren was a true patriot.

 

And could you just imagine being Robert Newman, the sexton of the North Church on that historic night? Just picture it. You are Newman, just settling down for a good night’s rest. Perhaps you just finished reading old north church 1000a passage in the New Testament of the Bible. Suddenly you receive a message that the regulars (the British are called the regulars instead of the British because even the American colonists were British) were coming by sea. You know that it is up to you to climb the stairs into the steeple of your church where you must light and then hang two lanterns in order to alert the back-up riders in Charlestown about the movements of the British. As you light each lantern, are your hands trembling with apprehension and fear at the knowledge that perhaps you could be arrested for treason? Or are they steady and sure with the confidence and pride of patriotism?

Robert Newman was another true patriot.

 

Finally, what would it have been like to be Paul Revere himself? Revere was a silversmith, and although he is most famous for his midnight ride, a little known fact about him is that in 1800 he became the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets for use as sheathing on naval vessels.Sons of Liberty 1000

With regards to the American Revolution, Paul Revere was a member of the Sons of Liberty, which was a group of militants. It is Boston Tea Partytherefore not surprising that he was a ringleader in the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, when colonists (some disguised as Indians) dumped tea from the Dartmouth and two other ships into the harbor. This occurred after the passage of the Tea Act which authorized the British East India Company to ship tea (of which it had huge surpluses due to colonial boycotts organized in response to the Townshend Acts) directly to the colonies, bypassing colonial merchants.

Then on April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren sent Paul Revere on his midnight ride to warn the colonial militias about the British troop movements. Imagine the scene. First of all, total secrecy was required. There was no shouting of the phrase: “The British are coming! The British are coming!” According to eyewitness accounts, the phrase which was used was: “The Regulars are coming out.”

Let me map out his route for you:

  • 1.  Revere crosses the Charles River by rowboat and lands in Charlestown.
  • 2.  He rides through Somerville, Medville, and Arlington, warning patriots along the route.
  • 3.  He arrives in Lexington around midnight and Dawes arrives to meet him a half-hour later.
  • 4.  He and Dawson continued along the road to Concord accompanied by Samuel Prescott.
  • 5.  They are detained by a British roadblock in Lincoln.PaulRevereMap 1
  • 6.  Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped into the woods; he eventually reached Concord.
  • 7.  Dawes also escaped, though he fell off his horse not long after and did not complete the ride.
  • 8.  Revere was captured and questioned by the British soldiers at gunpoint. He told them of the army’s movement from Boston, and that British army troops would be in some danger if they approached Lexington, because of the large number of hostile militia gathered there. He and other captives taken by the patrol were still escorted east toward Lexington, until about a half mile from Lexington when they heard a gunshot. The British major demanded that Revere explain the gunfire, and Revere replied that it was a signal to “alarm the country.” As the group drew closer to Lexington, the town bell began to clang rapidly, upon which one of the captives proclaimed to the British soldiers: “The bell’s a’ringing! The town’s alarmed, and you’re all dead men!” The British soldiers gathered and decided not to press further towards Lexington but instead to free the prisoners and head back to warn their commanders. The British confiscated Revere’s horse and rode off to warn the approaching army column. Revere walked to Reverend Jonas Clarke‘s house, where John Hancock and Samuel Adams were staying. As the battle on Lexington Green unfolded, Revere assisted Hancock and his family in their escape from Lexington, helping to carry a trunk of Hancock’s papers.

paul revere statue 400Can you imagine how he must have felt when he was given his mission to carry his message to the patriots? Was he excited to be part of the American dream? Or was he terrified? Perhaps there was a mixture of both emotions in his heart as he rode on that fateful night. I can only imagine how Paul Revere must have felt with the cold night wind blowing against his face and through his hair. If I try hard enough, I can hear his horse’s hooves pounding on the ground as he races down the road, going up and down the hills, and galloping across the meadows and fields, snorting with each frigid breath that he takes in and out. And Revere’s heart must have been pounding in tandem, as he willed his horse to ride faster and harder with each gallop so that he could reach his destination sooner, his urgency apparent in each command given to his mount. And then – to be captured. Did he feel as though he had been a success or a failure? I wonder.

But I know that Paul Revere was one of the most courageous Americans ever. He was tantamount to the success of the American Revolutionary War effort.

Paul Revere was by all definitions a true patriot.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight right of Paul Revere, on the eighteenth of April in seventy-five; hardly a man is now alive, who remembers that famous day and year . . . ”  ~ from “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

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This post is presented as part of my special weekly feature, Red-Letter Saturday. If you’d like to know more information about Red-Letter Saturday, click here:

Red-Letter Saturday 

 

 

 

 

Red-Letter Saturday #8: “The United States Flag”

RED-LETTER SATURDAY #8:    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On this day, April 4, 1818, Congress decided the U.S. Flag would consist of 13 red and white stripes to represent the original Thirteen Colonies that rebelled against the British crown and became the first states in the Union, and 20 stars, with a new star to be added for every new state. The act specified that new flag designs should become official on the first July 4th (Independence Day) following admission of one or more new states.

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If you are an American, I’d like you to consider something: what emotions do you feel whenever you see the American flag? Or have you seen it so often that you don’t really have any emotions one way or another? If that is the case, then let us remember what the American flag is all about.

For more than 200 years, the American flag has been a symbol of our nation’s strength and unity. It has been a source of pride and inspiration for millions of citizens.

The American flag serves as a reminder of all the brave men and women who have given their lives to preserve our freedom and to protect our country. It reminds us that we as American citizens have a longstanding tradition of the ability to do the impossible as long as stand together united as one nation. It helps us to remember that with determination and hard work, we can overcome any obstacle – whether that’s landing on the moon or warding off terrorists. It is a symbol of liberty, justice, courage, happiness, and hope.

You can see Old Glory flying just about everywhere we go: On top of post office buildings, in school yards, on bank buildings, at American Legions, in parades, on top of bridges, from police stations, on football fields, on houses, in national cemeteries, even to people waving them in their hands.

The American flag is displayed all over our country, and next time you see it, perhaps you should stop to think just what it means to you.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “I am whatever you make me, nothing more.  I am your belief in yourself, your dream of what a people may become…. I am the clutch of an idea, and the reasoned purpose of resolution.  I am no more than you believe me to be and I am all that you believe I can be.  I am whatever you make me, nothing more.”  ~ Franklin Knight Lane

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This post is presented as part of my special weekly feature, Red-Letter Saturday. If you’d like to to know more information about Red-Letter Saturday, click here:

Red-Letter Saturday 

Red-Letter Saturday #7: “Twitter”

RED-LETTER SATURDAY #7:

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On this day, March 21, 2006, the social media site Twitter was founded by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass and was launched by July 2006. Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets”.  If you are a registered user of Twitter, you can read and post tweets, but if you are an unregistered user, you can only read them. You can access Twitter through the website interface, SMS, or mobile device app. The corporation is based in San Francisco and has more than 25 offices around the world. After its launch, Twitter quickly gained popularity, and as of  December 2014, Twitter had more than 500 million users, out of which more than 284 million were active users.

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When Twitter was originally introduced, it was Dorsey’s idea for a small group, a way of communicating with a small amount of people when he was an undergraduate at New York University. He introduced the idea of an individual using an SMS service, but before long, the idea grew. And according to Dorsey: “…we came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.

Do you “tweet” or “twitter?” Millions of people all over the world do these days. You can discover all kinds of information on Twitter every day. I’ve been doing some research as to what kind of content is available on Twitter and I found that it’s divided into six categories:

  • Pointless babble – 40%
  • Conversational – 38%
  • Pass-along value – 9%
  • Self-promotion – 6%
  • Spam – 4%
  • News – 4%

And there’s the oh-so familar hashtags (#) that we are constantly being bombarded with. It seems that whenever I watch something on television, it’s always being mentioned. Isn’t that right?

And then we also hear about a topic that is “trending” on Twitter, right? This means that a certain word, phrase, or topic is being tagged at a greater rate than other tags. These topics become popular either through a concerted effort by users or because of an event that prompts people to talk about a specific topic.

But there are rules for using Twitter, too. These rules are in place to keep you safe as a user. Rules about impersonation, trademark, private information, violence and threats, copyright, unlawful use, misuse of twitter badges, and abuse and spam. As with any social network, you really should read the rules first before you use it.

So, do you “tweet” or “twitter?” Today might be the perfect day to do so because after all, it’s the 9th anniversary of this ever-growing social media site. I’m sure that its founders would appreciate a “chirp” from you today!

  “QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “”On Twitter we get excited if someone follows us. In real life we get really scared and run away.”  ~ Author Unknown

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This post is presented as part of my special weekly feature, Red-Letter Saturday. If you’d like to to know more information about Red-Letter Saturday, click here:

Red-Letter Saturday

 

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

If I could have personally witnessed one event from history, I know exactly what it would be, for I have often thought about this very thing. You see, I am a history buff. I adore history, and my favorite era to study is the American Revolutionary War from 1775-1783. Just the fact that the thirteen American colonies, struggling for their independence from Great Britain, were able to hold their own and eventually triumph over the greatest army in the world (that being the King’s British Army) has always amazed me and filled me with a sense of American pride. I have always felt that the Americans were fighting for the right ideals— that are all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They felt the need for independence, with the right to be free from the tyranny of King George II and and in turn govern themselves.

Therefore, the event from the American Revolutionary War that I wish I could have personally sighing of declaration of independence 2witnessed would be the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. I wish I could have been at Independence Hall as each one of fifty-six delegates strode up to the table, was presented with a quill pen, and affixed their signature to the document. I can just imagine John Hancock signing his name with a flourish, his signature the most prominent of all. How exciting and memorable it would have been to hear the comments being made as the document was signed:

 “There! His Majesty can now read my name without glasses. And he can double the reward on my head!” John Hancock

 “We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must hang together.” John Hancock

 “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin

 “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.” Stephen Hopkins

 One of the best-known sentences in the English language comes from the Declaration of Independence, written by one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson:

declaration-of-independence

 

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

Thomas Jefferson summed up the Declaration of Independence in a letter to Samuel Adams Wells on May 12, 1821, by stating: “The Declaration of Independence . . . [is the] declaratory charter of our rights, and the rights of man.”

 Truly an exciting time in the history of the United States of America, the American Revolutionary War marked the birth of our nation, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence was akin to its birth announcement. How courageous all of our founding fathers were. And I think that all of their wives and children were just as courageous to have supported them during this perilous time.

To have been present during the signing of the Declaration of the Independence would have truly been an honor for me.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “The Declaration of Independence is a sacred part of American history.” ~ Paul Gillmor

Red-Letter Saturday #6: “The Cotton Gin”

 RED-LETTER SATURDAY #6:  

Eli Whitney Cotton Gin 5

On this day, March 14, 1794 , Eli Whitney was granted a patent for the cotton gin. This was one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution and it helped to shape the economy of the Antebellum South. Whitney’s invention also made upland short cotton into a profitable crop. In the South, the cotton gin revolutionized the way cotton was harvested. Because the cotton gin was a labor-saving device, it transformed Southern agriculture and the national economy.

 

 

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Cotton. When you think about it, old Eli really did us a favor, didn’t he? Because of his cotton gin, cotton could be harvested more rapidly, and therefore, more cotton could be picked.

cotton 1Just think of all the uses for cotton. I’d be surprised if most of you are not wearing something that is made from cotton at this very moment. How can I be so sure of this? It’s because cotton is used to make a number of textile products, which include terry cloth for highly absorbent bathrobes and towels, denim for blue jeans; cambric, which is popularly used in the manufacture of blue work shirts (from which we get the term “blue-collar“), corduroy, seersucker, and cotton twill. Socks, underwear, and most T-shirts are made from cotton.

There are so many things that are made from cotton which we use every day. These include the bed sheets you sleep on. And what about you knitters and crocheters? Did you know that the yarn you use for your beloved hobbies of crocheting and knitting is made of cotton?  And here are some more interesting uses for cotton:  Cotton is used in fishing nets, coffee filters, tents, explosives manufacture such as nitrocellulose, cotton paper, and in bookbinding. At one time, fire hoses were made of cotton.

In addition, the cottonseed which remains after the cotton is ginned is used to produce cottonseed oil, which, after refining, can be consumed by humans like any other vegetable oil.

 

 

So I believe that we owe Eli Whitney a debt of gratitude because even though it may sound like a bit of a cliché, I think that cotton is “the fabric of our lives.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “The touch, the feel of cotton . . . the fabric of our lives.”  ~ Author Unknown

 

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This post is presented as part of my special weekly feature, Red-Letter Saturday. If you’d like to to know more information about Red-Letter Saturday, click here:

Red-Letter Saturday

 

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