Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Liberty & Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto

I had to order Mark Levin's new book, Liberty & Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, from online. When I stopped by the local Barnes & Noble the day after it was released, it was already sold out, which was a little surprising, given Austin's liberal reputation. I started reading it shortly after it arrived in the mail. However, I've had a bit of a crazy schedule, so I didn't get to finish it until the trip back from the 2009 Milblog Conference this past Sunday.

I cannot more highly recommend this book. What Levin has to say is too important for me to try to paraphrase here. All I will do is say that he gives a history of Conservatism, and also of what is more correctly labeled Statism, and the threat that the growing trend toward Statism poses to the freedoms and liberties the Founding Fathers set forth at this nation's beginning. He does this through what really is a series of essays:

On Liberty and Tyranny
On Prudence and Progress
On Faith and the Founding
On the Constitution
On Federalism
On the Free Market
On the Welfare State
On Enviro-Statism
On Immigration
On Self-Preservation

He closes with a guideline for what Conservatives need to do to stop the slide towards Statism, to preserve the free country we have always believed the United States of America to be: A Conservative Manifesto.

So, if you are worried about the path the government is on, and want to know what we - what I believe has been The Silent Majority - can do to prevent further erosion of the Rights of the Individual in favor of the Power of the State, you need to read this book, and get as many others as you can to read this book. Conservatives, who have until now mostly been content to mind our own business and take care of ourselves and our families, need to break that mold and become more engaged with how our governments - federal, state and local - are being run.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Princess and the Castle

The Princess and the Castle, written and illustrated by Caroline Binch, is a little different than the other children's books I've picked up. The first thing you'll notice in reading it is that it doesn't sound "American". It was originally published in Great Britain. As such, in addition to the "sound" of the book, you'll also see the English spellings of some words. If you're sharing this book with a child old enough to notice the differences, it will be a "teachable moment" about how, although we share a common language with Great Britain, there are some differences, as well.

Genevieve lives with her mum and baby brother in a seaside town, but she "hated the sea." Her father was lost at sea while he was out on his fishing boat. Her mother used to cry a lot, along with the baby.

She likes to pretend that she is a princess and that her father is a king and he lived in the castle on an island out in the bay, "waiting for her to come home." She doesn't go with her friends when they go to the beach to play in the sand. She prefers to stay home and play at being a princess, riding her horse, or being kissed by a prince.

One sunny morning Genevieve watched a small boat enter the harbour. A tall dark man lowered the red sails.

"Ah, here comes the Red Knight," she told her court.

Some days later Mum introduced Jack and Genevieve to her new friend, Cedric.

"Hello, you must be Genevieve," said a deep voice. It was the giant, the Red Knight from the boat. Genevieve gasped in fright and fled to her room.

Mum talked a lot about Cedric after that, but Genevieve refused to meet him again, even though Mum got upset.

Genevieve thought Cedric was a "scary giant" who would catch her, or maybe Mum. However, Genevieve began to notice a change in her: she was happier "and hardly ever got cross. Genevieve knew that after she went to bed, Cedric came to visit Mum. She became familiar with the gentle music from Cedric's guitar flowing up the stairs."

Eventually, Genevieve warmed up to Cedric. He would go places with Mum, Jack and Genevieve. Genevieve was even coaxed into going down near with water while sitting up on Cedric's shoulders. They played on the beach, but she got scared when the tide came up to their sandcastle. But, she eventually found the courage to get in the water and play.

Genevieve didn't want Cedric to go out in his boat. She was very afraid something would happen to him. Mum tried to reassure her that he would be okay.

So when Cedric said one day, "How would you like to visit the castle, little princess? We could sail across the bay," Genevieve was struck dumb. It was a terrifying idea. Yet she hated the thought of being left behind. All her stories were set in the castle.

She had to go.

They all went on Cedric's boat, sailed across the bay and went all over the castle, and they also had their own feast while looking back across the bay, seeing their house instead of the usual view she had of the castle.

"I'm a really happy princess now," smiled Genevieve. "We are in the castle with our own king," and she gave Cedric a great big hug.

I could see this story being helpful in helping a small child (this book is recommended for ages 4 to 8), who has lost a parent - for whatever reason - in learning to deal with the changes that come with that unfortunate fact of life. Also, it is an example of facing fears and overcoming them.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream

Sadly, too many sports stars today are not proper role models for young people. Fortunately, there are still some that can be held up as good examples. One of those sports stars is Michael Jordan.

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream
, written by Deloris Jordan (Michael's mother) with Roslyn M. Jordan (Michael's sister) and illustrated by Kadir Nelson tells the story of a young Michael. It is recommended for children age 4 to 8.

"Michael loved to play basketball." He likes to go with his older brothers in hopes of getting to play on their team if one of the regular guys wasn't able to play. But, Michael had a hard time against the bigger boys on the other team, especially Mark, who would taunt Michael about not being tall enough. Mark blocked the ball when Michael attempted to pass it to one of his brothers.

Michael blames himself for losing the game and apologizes to his brothers: "If I were taller that wouldn't have happened." His brothers tell him he played well, and to not worry about it. However, Michael is still bother by it. His mother talks to him, and he asks how he can become taller:

Now, Mama knew the answer to a lot of questions, but this was a tough one. She thought for a moment as she sprinkled salt and pepper on the chicken she was making for dinner. Then she smiled, looked at Michael, and said, "Salt."

"Salt?" Michael looked at his mama.

"Salt in your shoes. We'll put salt in your shoes and say a prayer every night. Before you know it, you'll be taller!" she replied.

"Salt in my shoes?" Michael said quietly to himself. Surely Mama was teasing. He sat staring out of the window trying to figure out how salt was going to help him grow.

He noticed the rose bushes outside in Mama's garden. They had grown high along the fence, and roses of all colors were blooming on the vines. He thought to himself, I remember when Mama first planted those bushes. Michael's face lit up. If Mama knows how to make those rose bushes grow taller, then maybe she's right. Maybe salt in my shoes really will help me grow.
He wanted to know how long it would take. Mama tells him to be patient and to say his prayers every night. He asks what his prayers have to do with it. "Everything."

Michael wanted to be taller before going to play basketball again, but he took that time to practice. But, after 2 months, he discovered he wasn't any taller. Mama asks Daddy to go talk to him:

"Michael, why do you want to be taller?" Daddy asked.

"If I were taller I'd be a great player, and I could help our team win," Michael answered.

"But you are a great player, son. And you already have everything it takes to be a winner, right in here." Daddy tapped Michael on his chest. "Being taller may help you play a little better, but not as much as practice, determination, and giving your best will. Those are things that make you a real winner."
Michael decides to go to the park to play. The game had already started, but he got his chance when one of the players on his team got hurt. Michael volunteers to score the one point they'll need to win the game.

Mark was there, and he was again giving Michael a hard time, but Michael didn't let it bother him this time. The game continues, and Michael gets past Mark and makes the winning basket!

After that day, Mama stopped putting salt in Michael's shoes, but Michael didn't stop being patient and working hard and praying.

I just think this is a wonderful story. It is a portrait of a real American family who has a deep faith in God, and it teaches a good lesson: be patient, but also work hard and practice!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't Mess with Texas Tea Party - Austin

I made myself unavailable to substitute teach today because I wanted to attend the Tea Party at Austin City Hall. I've never done anything like this before - attending a protest of any kind - and I wasn't sure what kind of gathering it might be, given the liberal tendencies of the city in which I live. Let's just say, it turned out very well. I'll only be posting a few pictures for now, but when I have time, I'll write more, off the notes I took. I got there early (parking garage ticket said 10:17am, and the event was scheduled to begin at 11:30). They announced that the police department estimated attendance was 1500, and when that announcement was made it was said to be a "conservative" estimate!

Uncle Sam was passing out these:

Mine now hangs from my rearview mirror...

Some kids were there, too:

Some people displayed flags with historic significance:

From the Texas Revolution:
"Come and Take It"

The 1824 flag

From the American Revolution:
The Gadsden flag: "Don't Tread on Me"

The Betsy Ross flag

The MC today was a bricklayer from Odessa, "Jason the Mason":

There were all kinds of signs, as well:

There was lots of Red, White & Blue being worn. I even wore the t-shirt I got last summer that I couldn't wear until recently, and someone was passing out buttons:

Everyone was very well behaved, I didn't see anything that could be considered "trouble". The crowd got a little loud and raucous at times, but that is only to be expected. More later when I have the time...

They did say there would be another event later today, at 4:30, at the State Capitol Building, but I've got someplace else I have to be: work...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Help a Soldiers' Angel give the gift of time to her returning soldier

Forwarded to me via email:

A Soldiers Angel has planned a special gift for her Soldiers homecoming. She needs help in voting for him. See below:

My name is Roselle Portin and I am a friend of Lorraine Blacklock.

I have a favor to ask of you. Your consideration of this would be greatly appreciated.

I am a member of Soldiers Angels. My family and I have been blessed to receive Kxxxx Xxxxxxxxx as our adopted soldier. Through the program we write to him, send care packages and keep him in our thoughts and prayers every day. He has a family in NY that he will be returning home to soon.

I wanted to do something very special for Xxxxx upon his return. In order to do this I entered a contest to win a family dude ranch vacation in Idaho. The kids went door to door, we asked our church family for help, we asked everyone at school, everyone we came into contact with throughout the day and all our friends and family for help. We were winning.

Now we are not. My family will cover air fare for the Family but we cannot afford the ranch if we don't win it.

I was wondering if you had a network of people that would be willing to help me out in this. It is VERY easy to vote. No personal info is required and it only takes a minute.

Here's how it works.
1. go to www.redhorsemountainranch.com
2. click on 'win a family dude ranch vacation' under Guest Story Contest
3. click on Roselle Portin and VOTE.
The contest ends April 15th.

I know it's a big favor. I just wanted a really special way to send a very big 'thank you' to Xxxx and his family (he is not aware of this). If you could help I would be so thankful.

Please let me know what you decide.

Thanks for your time and all you do,
Roselle Portin

I've voted. Currently, Roselle is 313 votes behind the story with the most votes (currently in the lead with 827 votes). Please help. It will, indeed, only take a minute...


The code was supposed to embed the poll, but it's doing the results, instead: Looks like they fixed it...


Road 2 Recovery Texas Challenge

I wanted to posted this the week it happened, but I've been a little busy: working for a paycheck and working on job hunt stuff (it is the season where schools start the search for any new staff they'll need for next school year...). I'm forcing myself to get it done before another day goes by!

Monday, March 30th, began the Road 2 Recovery Don't Mess With Texas Challenge, starting at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, and ending at The Ballpark in Arlington. Unlike the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride that took place about two-and-a-half weeks earlier, the cyclists ride the entire route, instead of riding a course one place, then traveling to a new city for the next route.

The Don't Mess With Texas Challenge was nearly 350 miles, and was chronicled over at Big Hollywood:
Day 1: BAMC to San Marcos
Day 2: San Marcos to Austin
Day 3: Austin to Fort Hood
Day 4: Fort Hood to Waco
Day 5: Waco to Cleburne
Day 6: Cleburne to Arlington

My part of the story starts with my acquaintance with Jason Denny. I came to "know" Jason via email after I posted about attending the Vets for Freedom National Heroes Tour event here in Austin in March 2008, but I did not meet him until he invited me to attend last month's dinner held at American Legion Post 76, where he currently serves as Historian. Jason also invited me to come to the dinner the post was hosting for the R2R riders on March 31st. I was very glad I was able to take him up on the invitation.

I got there a little early, both to miss rush hour traffic, and to help out with anything that still needed doing. A lot of the setup had already been done, so there wasn't too much they needed me to do at that point. I did meet some of the ladies from the American Legion Auxiliary, and also Jason's aunt, who I learned is a Gold Star Mother. In talking to the ladies from the Auxiliary, I learned that one of the riders was an actor with the last name Baldwin: Adam Baldwin. I didn't recognize the name, and I never saw a face I "recognized" with all the people who showed up with the riders. I saw Nathan Hunt, who I had chatted with briefly after the Soldier Ride event earlier that month.

Nathan was one of several riders in wheelchairs. While the Post building itself can't completely accommodate wheelchairs (the building dates to 1858 and is a state historic landmark), the event, thanks to the lovely weather, was taking place on the front lawn. Tables and chairs had been set up in front of a stage area, and there was also a buffet table set up with all the food that had been provided by several of the local American Legion posts. I'm pretty comfortable around people in wheelchairs: I grew up with a grandmother who has been in a wheelchair since long before I was born as the result of contracting polio in the 1950s. But, I also know that, depending on where you are, getting around in a wheelchair isn't always easy, and trying to carry things (such as plates of food or open cups full of a drink) and also propel a non-motorized chair around can be kinda difficult. So, I directed the guys in the wheelchairs down to a spot where they could more easily transition from the walkway in front of the Post building onto the lawn, moved some of the folding chairs out of the way at the table they selected, and then I offered to do a beverage run.

A cover band, APD Under Cover, entertained everyone. I thought they were pretty good! There was also some "ceremony": local dignitaries, and the fire department presenting one of the riders with the flag they had flown over the ride route earlier in the day. All the American Legion posts put on a pretty good spread. There was barbecue sausage and brisket, burgers, plenty of sides, water, soft drinks, tea, and even some beer, and a cake. General Cheek, the commander over all the Army's Warrior Transition Units, was in attendance, and he would be joining them for the ride to Fort Hood the next morning.

I also meet the family of LCPL Nicholas S. Perez. His mother arrived first. When I learned who she was, I informed her that I had substituted at the school named in honor of her son. LCPL Perez's father and sister (who had also served in the Marine Corps) also attended the dinner, as well as his nephew, who is named after his uncle. I told Nicholas' mother I really liked the display case with the uniform and photos. LCPL Perez's parents seem to be active at the school, but I'm not quite sure in what capacity. Part of the time I was speaking with LCPL Perez's mother, Jason's aunt was there. Listening to how they have a school named for their son, and also how another Gold Star family in the area has a post office named for their Fallen Warrior, and how 1LT Kile West now has the field house at his high school alma mater named for him, Jason's aunt would like to see about having something named in honor of her son.

I did chat a little bit with some of the riders. One of the guys at the table I'd served earlier was wearing a Red Sox ballcap. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to ask if he was looking forward to opening day. We talked about baseball a little bit, me sharing about going to the minor league games up in Round Rock. I met the president of Save A Vet, an organization whose goal is to help vets who are dealing with PTSD, but with an alternative approach from what is typical of current treatments that rely heavily on medication. I also met a woman who is also a veteran, but is now with the VA Vet Center here in Austin. As the event was winding down, I was chatting with her on the front porch of the post , and a man in a t-shirt and ballcap walked up, thanked us, and gave us both a big hug before departing. Only later, after I saw one of Jason's photo's on facebook, did I realize that man was Adam Baldwin. I got a big hug from a celebrity! I was watching Independence Day last night after getting home from the Express game, and I recognized Adam as Major Mitchell ;-)

Overall, it was a lovely evening. Everyone involved in organizing the event can be proud of themselves, and it was an honor to be able to be there and help out, even just a little.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Kingdom for a Horse: An Anthology of Poems about Horses

Back when I was in summer school, working on my M.Ed., I would find myself up in Round Rock with some time to kill before the gates opened at the Diamond, so I would sometimes stop in at the Hastings up there. They happened to have a shelf in the children's book department full of used books. One of the ones I picked up that summer was My Kingdom for a Horse: An Anthology of Poems about Horses (recommended for ages 8 to 12 years old), edited by Betty Ann Schwartz and illustrated by Alix Berenzy.

I've had a love of horses since I was a little girl. Always wanted to go on the pony rides whenever we went to a fair or fest or some such. Got to get on one of the Army's horses from the equestrian unit out of Fort Hood when they came to Fort Bliss for some sort of exhibition when I was in junior high. Went on a couple of trail rides in my 20s, and I was finally able to really learn how to ride when I lived in Austin in the early 90s, taking adult beginner hunter/jumper lessons at Switch Willow Stables in Northwest Austin. I still like horsey books and art (yes, I read The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Sparks, and saw the movie, which was a decent adaptation, but not for kiddos...). So, it was only natural that I would be drawn to a book of poems about horse that were accompanied by lovely illustrations in charcoal and pastels...

Poems included range from those by famous poets - Robert Frost and William Shakespeare - to those adapted from Native American songs, to those composed by names otherwise unknown to me. As with any poetry, not all of the pieces struck my fancy, but I liked the majority of them, with a few really striking a cord:

Early One Morning on Featherbed Lane
by Jack Prelutsky

Early one morning on Featherbed Lane,
I saw a white horse with a strawberry mane,
I jumped on his back just as fast as I could,
and we galloped away to the green willow wood.

We galloped all morning with never a stop,
where mockingbirds whistle and ladybugs hop,
we drank from a stream where the water runs free,
and we slept in the shade of a green willow tree.

In the Beauty Parlor
by April Halprin Wayland
(accompanied by a charcoal drawing of a little girl with her toy horse, seen peeking out from behind her mother's skirt, which is draped down from the beautician's chair...)

I am sitting under the chair
the haircutting lady is trimming Mom's hair.
My horse is asking, "Is there any more?"
grazing in the curls upon the floor.

The Policeman's Horse
by Betty Ann Schwartz

Standing tall
Gentle and brave
A marvel of poise
Despite the city's incessant noise

Do I dare approach
And touch his nose?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Any Soldier Raffle

I was just checking up on Any Soldier's website, and I see they have a raffle on that ends on Memorial Day, May 25th. There are some very nice items up for raffle, and not many raffle tickets have been sold to date (anywhere from 3 to 95 tickets, as of this writing, depending on the item). Any Soldier does excellent work and is a worthy cause, so please go check out the raffle items and see if there is something you like. All items are $5 per chance to win.