Weather as history

Here in America, we're experiencing some very unusual weather patterns. January has extended into April and our planting season has not yet begun, although normally it has.

While we don't often think of weather in any type of historical context other than those using the Farmer's Almanac or those who watch it for "climate change" I challenge all readers to discuss weather with the "old-timers" in your community.  It's amazing to talk about weather with them.  

Example: I recently was able to discuss a massive flood event here in my county with others. It happened in the late 19th century, so no survivors remain, but locals remember hearing old-timers of their generation talking about it.  

This flood wasn't caused by climate change, but rather it was caused primarily by deforestation from logging in the area.  The lack of tree roots in the area caused landslides and rushing water as there was little to hold it back.  While the sheer volume of water would have been horrific at best anyway, the fact that flood water flows the path of least resistance did factor into this hellish night.

So, I encourage you to revisit historical events for weather patterns and anomalies.  You may be surprised at what you can glean from it.

INTRODUCING: My newest research project tentatively titled "Remaining Dutch"

I have come to the conclusion that I am a community historian at heart.  This was an odd revelation for me because I went into history wanting to tell larger stories, but along the way I realized that I liked being the voice of those smaller areas that had no storyteller of their own.

Therefore, I am excited to announce my new research project. I’m following the steps of five families from their arrival in New Netherland through their move south and into the region of Randolph County, WV where they remained after the American Revolution.

Beginning in New Netherland in the 1640s, these individuals came separately over a period of decades.  They all had close ties with their church, and somewhat of a dislike for the English takeover of their area.  They kept moving south as the English moved into and populated areas all around them, ending up in the Virginia backcountry where they lived in relative isolation from the world despite the dangers from the Native American population.

George Washington’s diaries mention the early Dutch settlers during his time surveying the Northern Neck Proprietary.  His entry is rather disparaging saying they were more uncivilized than the Indians.  Despite his initial impressions, later on Washington notes that they were part of the early fort and militia systems in place and speaks more highly of them as being reliable, if nothing else.

Those in these family groups who fought in the American Revolution show up as Patriots, and it seems clear that they love their adopted homeland and once they settle in West Virginia they seem to maintain a presence here.  With much of the history of early West Virginia populated with tales of the Scots-Irish or German ethnicities, the Dutch influence is rarely, if ever, mentioned.  Therefore, this is a tale not of the genealogy of these families, but rather a new study in the sense of community of these people who arrived as strangers in a strange land, but who remained together as family for centuries. They made their mark on the land they loved, but did so quietly remaining in the background of history except for a short remark made by George Washington as a young surveyor.

I’m excited to work on this project and plan to update as I can on how it goes as I delve deeper into who these people were.  Their story is begging to be told now, and I have apparently adopted them as their storyteller (or they adopted me—I’m no longer certain).  I can’t wait to share snippets with you.

New Era and Realigning Elections

This month we will enter a new era in American politics.  This new era includes a president-elect who has chosen to use social media rather than the main-stream media.  This new era promises to focus on American citizens and the needs from coast to coast, but of course that has yet to be determined if this will happen or not.  This new era will certainly usher in changes in the Supreme Court and perhaps even changes in the Constitution itself since it was just announced that Senator Ted Cruz has introduced an amendment for congressional term limits.

Regardless how you feel about the elected officials ANYWHERE, there is one thing on which we can likely agree--this was, by definition a realigning election.  "Realigning elections or political realignment describe elections that cause a significant shift in the way voters align themselves, that is, in who they vote for."--Hank Edmonton of Georgia College.

There have been many realigning elections in the past.  Among those were Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and some even choose to include Reagan.  These elections, as Dr. Edmonton says, showcase a shift in the way voters align themselves or in who they vote for.   Trump certainly qualifies for that.  

This is also true OUTSIDE the venue of the President.  Many state governments switched to predominately GOP candidates for the first time in a very long time.  My home state did so in the statehouse, but not with our governor.  He is a Democrat.  

However, what has my mind churning is not whether the GOP or the Democrats have any majority or power.  Rather it is that the voice of the American people shouted loudly from the rooftops that they wanted CHANGE.  Not the catchphrase change of politics, but real and MEASURABLE change.  

What does that mean?  Well, I used to teach a concept called SMART goal setting (lesson can be seen at  S=specific, M=measurable, A=achievable, R=realistic, and t=timed.  I believe those currently elected officials have only two years to create SMART change and if they're not specific changes that are measurable, achievable, and realistic, they'll run out of TIME in the end of two years.  

Does that mean they need to toss the baby out with the bathwater and change EVERYTHING?  Of course not.  However, there are people in this country who are in desperate need of a well-paying full time benefitted job.  There are children who need better education than they're receiving, and we need to ensure that healthcare actually BECOMES affordable for EVERYONE--not just those with subsidy payments.

When I discuss this, I often hear things like, "But what about gay marriage?"  Well, in my home state, it's been legal for quite some time now. It was ushered in with no fanfare, no protests, and no gnashing of teeth. Just good legislation and it was done.  I also hear "What about gun laws?"  Again, in my home state, we have some of the toughest purchase laws in America.  We also have had legal conceal carry with no permit for over a year.  NO rise in gun violence has occurred.  So, what makes my state unique?  Nothing other than good ol' common sense.  

We don't need to be splashy or make headlines.  We just do the right thing and move on.  I truly hope this realigning election has brought an end to the oligarchy politics and reinstated some good ol' common sense.  If not, we'll see a new crop of elected officials in two years.  

In political time, two years isn't very long, so let's get it right the first time, OK?

Happy 2017 to all, andI wish you all the prosperity you deserve.

Bullet Journal 101: Saving my sanity one square at a time

Welcome back.  If you read my previous blog post, you are undoubtedly scratching your head wondering what the HECK is a bullet journal and why you need one.  I'm not saying you need one, but I am saying it is the best organizational tool I've ever had and I think it's adaptable enough to help nearly anyone.

So, what the heck is it anyway?  Imagine a bullet list with everything you can think of that needs done in the next week, month or year moving from one line to the next instead of being assigned a specific date on the calendar to be bypassed and forgotten over time.  Sounds too complicated?  Not at all.

A TRUE bullet journal was a bit overwhelming for me, but you can certainly view that here:  Bullet Journal--Getting Started

However, once I modified that technique for my needs, I found it worked very well.  That's the beauty of the system as a whole--it's so flexible to the user.  Here's a mock up of how I COULD use a bullet list.  All names are fake as is the list, but you will quickly get the idea. 

Now, notice how these items are not all similar to one another, and they're not meant to be.  Each bullet point represents a task--something to be accomplished at some point in my life, not necessarily today.  It's something I thought of and knew it needed done.  SO, into the bullet list it went.  From there, here's what happens:

X = task completed

/ = task started but not completed

--> = task moved to the next day's list

-------- = a total strike through means task cancelled or no longer required.

! = task is VITAL or it's an important meeting

* = an appointment I need to make

I also use check boxes and check marks for lists of tasks beneath the primary item that must be done in that specific order to finish the task at hand in its entirety. 

Not only are the symbols customizable, some people color code theirs--one color for work, one for home, one for kids, and one for spouse is usually how I see it divided.  I have no need to do that, so I keep it all in one color.

Once the item is listed it remains on the list until it's finished entirely.  But what if I can't finish my whole list that day? You're not expected to.  That's what --> is for.  You move it to the next day's list where it gets a new bullet point and if it's not finished by day end, it gets --> moved again or cancelled, whichever is required. 

The point is that by day end, EVERY THING ON THIS LIST must be addressed in some way or other.  There is no looking back through a calendar because everything not addressed/completed gets moved to the next day.  Once your day is finished, all tasks are addressed or in some stage of completion.  That's what I love about this.  I don't have to keep up with days and weeks of notes, nor do I have to wonder what I forgot because it's always on today's list until it's done.  

This has absolutely saved my sanity.  NO, I'm not kidding.  This method is amazing.  I get up in the morning and over breakfast, I consult the bullet journal and add things I've thought of since that need done.  Then, as I do the tasks, I open the book and mark them off.  Sometimes, I need to readjust my day, but it's easy with bullet journaling.

My bullet journal lives in my Webster's Pages Color Crush Traveler's Notebook.  Inside that are other inserts for daily calendars, project ideas, inspirational quotes and the like as well.  However, it's my bullet journal that keeps me on track, and I doubt I'll be without it again.  It truly makes me more productive.

I just had to share with my readers just how much I love the traveler's notebook system and bullet journaling.  They're a perfect pair just like peanut butter and jelly. 

Travelers Notebooks--An organizational tool I never knew I wanted or needed

I know this is a bit different for a blog posting, but since I juggle many things all at once, I have often struggled with productivity and organization.  My newest tools in my arsenal are Travelers Notebooks and Planners. 

Now, before you say "I do all that on my phone" you must understand that I am a tactile note taker.  I remember best when I write it down.  However, once I paired these with a modified bullet journal, it became clear to me that this was a great find.

What is a Travelers Notebook?

Designed in Japan, the travelers notebook was designed with a leather cover and removable inserts of paper that the user can use as a journal, scrapbook, sketch pad, or any number of other things. Most TNs, as they're called, can hold up to six notebooks in one leather cover.  The most well known name is Midori.  

These covers now come in a variety of sizes and are made by a wide variety of folks, but mine is approx. 5.75"x8.75" and is by a company called Websters Pages in their Color Crush line.  Here's a photo of my TN.

These notebook covers are closed by an elastic band.  Inside there are four elastics along the spine under which the notebooks slide so they don't fall out.  In this way, you can add and remove at will and change the contents to suit your current needs at any time.  Here's the inside of mine:

The brown notebook came with the leather cover, but the flowered one is a product of the Practical Paper Company.  The brown notebook is being used as my daily planner and the flowered one has lines inside for notes.  Then, I have a third flowered one behind this one for bullet notes of things I need to do for work and tasks that must be completed.  I could put as many as six notebooks in this one cover OR I could add folders to keep loose papers or zip pouches for things like money or business cards, but I haven't found a need to do that as yet.  Notice the left of the leather cover has slots for credit cards and ID, but there are also slots to slide papers or lists into those as well.  You can find all that online, but the idea is that this cover is VERSATILE and I know many who use them as a wallet.

Now, TNs have quite a cult following and it's no wonder due to their versatility.  Many use them as an adult sticker book or an art book, but that's not for me.  I use mine merely as a tool.  Now, that doesn't mean I can't "color it up" a bit.  So, I made my own weekly calendar page with a notes page with some fun stickers from a company in New Zealand called Sugarloop.  Bernadette is an amazing graphic artist and her products and delivery are top tier.

Notice how I have Monday through Sunday in stickers on the right with a horizontal line? You can do yours in cubes, vertically, or however you like, but this works for me currently.  On the left is a "little things" sticker where I put things I need to remember, but not necessarily must do this week, and below that I put a list of things I need to buy.  Out of milk?  Put it in the TN.  Out of cereal, it goes here, too.  Need a new stapler?  Yep, it goes here, too.  That's the beauty of this type of setup.  It is literally a BRAIN DUMP location.  Next week, these two pages will be finished, and I'll begin again with a new set of pages for next week.

In a nutshell, that's a TN setup.  You can find GOBS of photos and videos online about it in much more detail because there is a bit of a cult following, but I wanted to share this here as just a basic concept.  My next blog post will be on bullet journaling and how I've adapted it to my own use.  THAT is where the true magic happens, folks.  It's already increased my productivity and I'm sure it can help you as well. 

Watch for the next installment in a couple of days for "Bullet Journaling 101" and if you want to order anything from Practical Paper with a great discount code, you can use my affiliate code in the checkout box.  Just type in "affiliateFREDA" without quotes in the code box for $10 off $25 or more.  They have all types of paper products, but my favorites are their traveler's notebooks like the flowered one above.   Check them out and check out Sugarloop, too!! 

Book Review: The "Good War" In American Memory by John Bodner

The “Good War” in American Memory.  By John Bodnar.  (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,  2010.  299 pp.  ISBN978-0-8018-9667-5.)



            The “Good War” was a myth.  That is the basic premise of John Bodar’s book on the Second World War.  Bodnar digests the war years and the post war years in order to show his reader that no war can be collectively “good.” Using World War II as his subject, he delves beneath the surface to show that even the war that polarized the American nation as none other was actually a source of political and cultural debate rather than the cohesiveness that is often depicted and memorialized.

            Bodnar’s book seems to be written almost in reflection of the upswing of interest in the Second World War as those who lived through it began dying en masse due to age.  It's as if he wishes to show that the virtuous nature of the depictions are false and misleading.  To that end, he begins his book by discussing the soldiers themselves and questions their moral character as he explores their blatant sexual exploits, binge drinking, and lack of self-control.  The book seems to flow along this same path throughout with Bodnar additionally revealing the seriousness of racial tensions, the degrading of social mores, and the privilege of the upper echelon in the war. 

            Bodnar then shows how Hollywood used their relatively new technology of film to produce films both as propaganda and later to show the horrors of war.  He also discusses books written after the war by former soldiers, which Bodnar says are more reflective of the true nature of the war than was allowed to be depicted during the conflict itself.  He even delves into the mourning process for those that lost loved ones and shows his reader that most of these bereaved were not satisfied with the government’s handling of the death of their loved one and thus began to have anti-war sentiments. 

            All this is written with a decidedly anti-war overtone that will leave many readers put off.  However, inside all this is the realization that no war is “good” even those fought with the best goals in mind.  It shows war as a particularly barbaric event that tends to emphasize the worst in human nature, and it is.  It also shows that even those wars that nearly all can agree are fought with the best intentions will have their detractors and opposition, and they will.  The true gem of this book is that Bodnar uses the same sources that most average citizens will use to learn about the war--fiction, movies, old family letters--and shows all these things in an entirely new light.  Bodnar skillfully uses the common person’s source of information and further digests it showing that sometimes we memorialize an ideal rather than a reality. 

            Bodnar never blatantly disrespects those families of lost loved ones or the soldiers who fought, although he does challenge their collective memories saying their depictions tend to show a one sided cohesiveness that truly did not exist.  Importantly, Bodnar gives his reader the benefit of copious notes and a full bibliography, he tends to express personal bias throughout the book without benefit of citation for his conclusions. Thus, the reader is left to assume this truly is Bodnar’s personal bias.  It finally becomes clear that Bodnar has a distinctly anti-war stance when he includes a particularly unnecessary chapter on the Iraq war under the guise of consideration for the future, and that creates a blot on the entire book since the book would have been entirely complete, and better served, without it.

            This book does challenge the belief that World War Two was a “good” war.  It also challenges the belief that everyone was supportive of and had clear understanding of the goals of the war effort.  Bodnar is brilliant in using the usual public information about the war to show that same public that there was another side to the story.  In this effort Bodnar is not only brave, but accurate.  For that reason alone, this book should be on the shelves of anyone interested in the “Good War,” but potential readers should keep in mind that it does have it's faults predominately due to its biased anti-war stance.




Changing Formats---My first post on the website

For many reasons, I am leaving Tumblr as my micro-blogging platform and moving to the one website.  Part of that is that I wasn't maximizing my web presence there.  

So, what is this blog about?  

Mostly, it will be updates on my research, book reviews I've done (both historical books and genealogical ones), and interesting tidbits I come across.  However, it may be about organization, teaching, or even my garden where I grow historic vegetables.  

At any rate, it will be here, on my website, where it should have been all along.