It’s Monday and the weather is awful. It began to rain and sleet this morning and it transitioned to snow, then rain. Normally, at this time in my day, I’d be on my way home from school, but it’s the second Monday of Christmas Break, the last Monday, I remind myself.
Christmas break has been good. We stayed home this year and it has been a good time albeit a bit awkward, the first Christmas without my in-laws, B’s parents, and a trip home to Ohio. Christmas day was a mix of new and old. It felt right. We’ll spend New Year’s by the lake, but for NOW, I am home. Christmas break has been what our family has needed.
This morning, I made sure w was up and off to wrestling practice. Then, instead of getting busy, I succumbed to the weather crawling back in bed to read a book, then fell asleep, and woke, then read some more. I am reading A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin. It’s an interesting read and the subject is right where I am in my history curriculum – pre-Civil War.
The weather changed throughout the morning. But the weather here is nothing compared to what the south has endured yesterday or on Christmas Day.
weather at 11
weather at 2
weather at 6
Screenshots courtesy of the Weather Channel app for iPhone.
Ivy knew, too. she’s been out twice – all day – content to curl up beside me and live the dogs life.
Today’s Tuesday’s Tune post is a guest blogger – Eli Pacheco from Coach Daddy: fatherhood, futbol, and food. The blogging world is amazing. I ‘met’ Eli several years ago and have been following him ever since. Last year, I realized we were travelling in parallel universes – he in the Carolinas and me in the Midwest. We both have children -he has three and I have two – and the oldest is a senior in high school and both are competitive athletes – making the two of us sideline supporters. We are both very proud of our kids and it shows in our blogging. I am excited to have Eli here at Making the Days Count – because we are both making our way through life Making the Days Count.
When you make the days count – what does it look like?
I envision life brimming with abundance and adventure. Family, wall-to-wall. All-out experiences that shun fear and trepidation. We make the days count in so many ways – so much positive, so much forward-leaning. It’s where joy bumps into bliss and amusement builds to euphoria.
It took a text message from a dear friend today to remind me that Billy Joel’s River of Dreams held a significant spot on my life’s playlist. She’d just heard it, right after leaving Five Guys Burgers. If that isn’t a sign from above, I’m really not sure what goes on in heaven.
In the middle of the night I go walking in my sleep From the mountains of faith To the river so deep
It’s been a busy week. The week before Holiday Break is always stressful. At school, my students were counting the days until Friday and the time off. Secretly, the teachers were, too. At home, my two kids were counting, B, my wife, is shopping and decorating our home in addition to all of the other tasks she does to keep the home running.
During the school year it’s a delicate balance for me keeping up with school work, home jobs, and family. I am constantly procrastinating with tasks I should do at home so I can do something for school – grade, plan, or reflect. In the end, somethings just don’t get done. Like my desk – it’s a mess. I am behind on my Christmas cards, I need to write a note to my mom and step-mom and thank you notes to my students who remembered me this Christmas season.
Regardless, I try to keep the kids engaged. I remind them to make the days count – to go beyond getting it done and to learn. We are covering the period in American history immediately before the Civil War.
Last week my 8th graders took a field trip to the Naper Settlement. The settlement preserves the local town history and offers educational field trips for the local schools. I had gone last year and was impressed; this year I was excited to return and I promoted the field trip with my students.The field trip is more than a visit – it’s a re-enactment of history. The history of 1856. It’s pre-Civil War and the nation is tense. Abolition is the hot topic of the day and the Naper Settlement re-enacts the period with six separate scenes. Students travel from one location to the next encountering differing viewpoints on the slavery \ abolition issue.
a Constitutionalist who wants to follow the law
a pro-slavery advocate
a printer who wants to stay neutral
a slave catcher
and a runaway slave
The students get a feel for what it might have been like at the time, including the vernacular of the time. We debriefed Wednesday in class and many students reflected that history came alive and went beyond ‘book learning.’
We finished the week watching Glory – the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and their unsuccessful assault on Fort Wagner. The 54th Massachusetts was one of several units comprised of African Americans. In our text, it is a paragraph. But the 54th Massachusetts is more than a paragraph the unit led to President Lincoln
History, it is our story: there is always an event that happened on this day sometime, somewhere that is meaningful.
Today is the 155th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession from the United States. Mississippi would follow on January 8, 1861. Nine more states would secede and the United States would be embroiled in a great Civil War, which would test the limits and resolve of our nation.
Friday was the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution. The 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States. The anniversaries present irony. The wording of the amendment is simple and plain:
Amendment XIII Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
49 words. So much meaning.
The politics behind the passage of the amendment is the subject of the movie Lincoln for which Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.
Slavery is now viewed as wrong, at the time it was the political third rail. The Civil War was fought over the issue, though Lincoln contended that the southern states could not legally secede. It was his ‘line in the sand.’
Though most people in the North were opposed to slavery, many weren’t willing to step out and openly support the abolition of slavery.
Article V in the Constitution lays out the procedures to amend the Constitution. Two thirds of the House of Representatives needs to approve any proposed amendment and three fourths of the state legislatures needed to ratify it for it to become law.
President Lincoln pushed the limits of politics and Congress approved the amendment on January 31, 1865 by a vote of 175-56, a narrow margin of two votes more than was needed to send the amendment to the states for ratification.
The United States had 36 states in 1865. The 36 included the 11 Confederate States that seceded, beginning with South Carolina on December 20, 1860 – one hundred fifty-five years ago tomorrow.
Illinois was the first state to ratify the amendment on February 1. Georgia was the twenty-seventh state, ratifying the amendment on December 6. The amendment was formally adopted into the Constitution on December 18.
Two more amendments were passed first, the 14th amendment extending citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and last the 15th amendment extending the right to vote to all citizens regardless of ‘….race, color, or previous condition of servitude.’ Source: University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law
History has a way of repeating itself, today we struggle with an assortment of issues that are clearly unjust for which we are unwilling to budge. A few push the issues and others push back.
Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of a military cemetery in southeastern Pennsylvania in November 1863. His remarks were short and to the point.
Washington, November 19, 1863.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal”
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow, this ground– The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.
It is rather for us, the living, to stand here, we here be dedica-ted to the great task remaining before us — that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
246 words, 246 powerful words. Today we remember Lincoln’s words, his deeds, and we honor his legacy.
The Gettysburg Address. Initially, the speech was panned. Too short the critics claimed, but it has stood the test of time and is perhaps one of the greatest speeches in American History calling for us to re-dedicate ourselves to a new birth of freedom.
A new birth of freedom is lost on some of our students and some of or citizens, it’s not lost on me. One vote meant the difference to the passage of the 13th amendment. One vote, one person, one moment.
Over break, I have few books on my plate – all related to the Civil War and I’ll be re-watching Lincoln and Ken Burns documentary The Civil War. Looking for some angle to use with my students. Follow my books on Good Reads in the sidebar.
Today is going to be a great day, in some ways it already is. It’s Christmas time and the Christmas season. I have a few things on my plate and we have our visit to the zoo and picture with a reindeers on our agenda. In between, I have cleaning, sorting, shopping, and yes my desk and so much more. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one remembrance, one nod to history, learning all the time
Today’s post is a guest post from Margaret, a blogger friend of mine from England. She blogs at From Pyrenees to Pennines. I first began reading Margaret’s blog several years ago when she and her husband lived in southwestern France. They moved home to England and I love reading of her exploits. I don’t recall how I found her, but I did, and I am ever grateful for the sunshine and joy that reading provides. There is nothing like an English Christmas, nothing. Thank you Margaret, keep Making the Days Count.
“He who sings scares away his woes.” ― Miguel de Cervantes
There’s a programme on British radio called ‘Desert Island Discs’, which has been running regularly since 1942. Just about everyone fancies being on it, and if you’ve made a name for yourself as an actor, a politician, an academic, a musician, a journalist, a physician, a TV personality, a sportsperson …. whatever, really, you may just get your chance. For 40 minutes, the ‘castaway’ for the week has to imagine themselves washed up on a desert island, with only 8 gramophone records (how quaint that sounds) of their choice, one luxury with no practical use, and one book, together with the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. On air, they have the chance to talk about themselves, and more importantly, and just as revealingly, the opportunity to choose the 8 pieces of music that may have to last them for the rest of their lives.
What would I choose? The list I occasionally idly compose in my head varies wildly, according to my mood. But what I observe is that it’s always dominated by the human voice. My list always includes some of the great sacred masses by the likes of Bach, Haydn and Mozart. There’ll be some traditional music, maybe from Africa or India, and some ‘blasts from the past’ of my teenage years in the 1960s. The voices range from the pure clear notes of children, through elegant, warm and melodious female voices, to resonant deeper male tones. It’s hard to think of a single musical instrument with such range or versatility.
And washed upon my desert island, aside from listening to my recordings, what else would I be doing? Well, singing for sure. I don’t have the sort of voice that anyone would want to have in a top-flight choir….. or any choir, really. I read music only very insecurely. Yet you won’t find me missing from our weekly choir practice unless I really, really can’t get there.
We’re engaged from the first moment we arrive. We pat our faces and our bodies awake, stamping our feet rhythmically, or giving each other impromptu massages. We practice rounds and play musical games with notes from the highest to the lowest to get our voices mobilised. And we sing. We sing in canon, we sing in parts. We learn that sometimes the hardest thing to do is to sing well in unison: there’s nowhere to hide.
Nicky’s in charge of us, and I can’t think what kind of title to give her. She enthuses us; she won’t accept less than our best; she generates an atmosphere in which we all trust one another – our false notes will be forgiven and we’ll even be persuaded to be the sole singer of a line or two of song. She’s the one who finds pieces none of us knows, from Africa to Finland, to lesser-known Gospel songs. She’s the one who hunts out unfamiliar pieces from the English repertoire. And this is the one I’ll share with you today. It’s Christmas song, but a secular one, sung at table at Queen’s College, Oxford. Here’s ‘The Boar’s Head Carol’
During that hour or so on Thursday evening, we forget our woes and day-to-day worries. We open our throats, and joyfully, we sing. American philosopher William James summed it up perfectly:
‘I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing’.
It’s Christmas time. The season is upon us. Christmas will be here in sixteen days. I’ve survived Black Friday – I didn’t shop, or even leave the house.
I was four years old the first time the Charlie Brown Christmas first aired. It was 1965. We were living in Houston. We be there one more Christmas and then, we’d move to Sugar Land where I would grow up. My mom still lives in the house I call home, even though I haven’t lived there for close to thirty years.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The network produced a special 50th anniversary special and then replayed the cartoon. I watched it, again.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is an animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. Produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez, the program made its debut on CBS on December 9, 1965. In the special, lead character Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a school Christmas play, but he is both ignored and mocked by his peers. The story touches on the over-commercialization and secularism of Christmas, and serves to remind viewers of the true meaning of Christmas. (Wikipedia)
Rewind, I can imagine us, my brothers and I, sitting on the couch watching the Christmas special in our jammies. For us, it was in black and white; we wouldn’t get our first color television until 1971. I don’t have a specific memory of watching it, I just know we watched it. Sitting on the couch.
My kids have watched it, too.
A lot has changed since then. I can watch A Charlie Brown Christmas anytime I want – regardless of the season. And, much has stayed the same, A Charlie Brown Christmas was, in a way, a protest show about the commercialization of Christmas.
It bothers me that the Christmas season seemingly begins earlier every year. But, I don’t let it get me down.
A few years ago, I purchased the music from the show and loaded it on my iPhone. I play it as often as I can. I plug in my speakers in my classroom and play it before school starts and sometimes in class when my students are working, no one tires of the tunes. The music is calming and peaceful and it reminds me of the importance of the season.
I remember driving home to Ohio once – I don’t recall when. But, the backseat was in an uproar. My two backseat passengers couldn’t seem to get along, the dog was whining and barking, there was heavy traffic on the road and I popped in the CD. Presto, chango. We listened, whistled softly hummed, and thought of the gift of Christmas.
We won’t be driving to Ohio this Christmas. I am not sure what our plans are, but it will be Christmas. But, wherever we go we will remember the meaning of Christmas.