A Frosty Christmas

We drove to Manchester airport to pick up Mom and Dad for Christmas. We drove northwest through the White Mountains in the thick snow and ice. 2 interstates were closed nearby but we continued slowly onward. Nonetheless, we took the road less traveled to Franconia and the snowy path led uphill to Robert Frost’s home.

Robert Frost is considered the quintessential American bard or poet. He lived from 1874 to 1963. Right before his passing in Boston, he delivered the inaugural poem for JFK.

Robert Frost won 4 Pulitizer Prizes and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was born in San Francisco but moved alot. He lived primarily in New Hampshire and England where he was influenced by Ezra Pound, Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. Frost went to Dartmouth and Harvard. He first published in 1915. He published 2 books called North of Boston and A Boy’s Will. His poetry quickly amassed a great following and by 1920, he was known all over America and beyond.

A Motivational Group

Since June 2021, a new online business has been helping men and women to excel. It is a regular weekly Zoom meeting with folks from all over the country. It is Wednesday nights at 8:00 pm Central Time. It is $20 a month through this link here:

https://possibilityjunction.org/ampy

Every week, the group members encourage each other in our various projects or life issues to tackle. The instructor is a psychologist as well and teaches things like how to identify and replace negative thoughts, how to focus on contentment and gratitude, and how to build confidence in yourself. It is the best and most affordable group therapy as well as group encouragement you will find out there.

There are members from Washington and Alaska and Kansas and Vermont so far. It is beginning to grow as well as there are plans for a retreat focused on meditation, yoga, and writing. This is a fairly new group focused on progress, self-love, self-motivation.

I encourage you to join. It is worth 20 bucks a month in the friendships you make and the communal advice you receive. It also comes with a daily Facebook Messenger group with daily aspirations and positive duscussion. The class welcomes people from around the world too through the use of Zoom. If you are from Germany or India or Israel or Nigeria, you are welcome. The instruction language is in English, however, but the group is very welcoming.

Give it a try. I am glad I did.

After my class last Wednesday, I felt better so I wrote a story on climate change and a little boy. I submitted it to a publishing group and they agreed to publish it. Sometimes the little push of group encouragement is all you need for personal growth and to keep an optimistic perspective. As Mel Robbins says, we have a prehistoric conditioning in our brains to be seen, heard, and celebrated by the herd or group. This is a group that makes you feel visible and part of a team.

Remembering 9/11

What I remember most about 9/11 was seeing my coworker cry.

We were in Germany at the US Army Transportation Management Center Europe. We were working on accounting bills for soldier travel throughout the theater. My coworker from downstairs came to our office and told us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. We didn’t believe him at first. But we followed him down the stairs to a little radio at someone’s desk and we gathered around the radio listening to the broadcast in shock….especially when the towers fell. I remember bringing my hands cupped to my face and I remember that my coworker began crying very hard.

We left work early and I caught a ride to Vilseck. Everywhere all over the military bases, the soldiers were in formation. It was an eerie sight to behold. The woman I caught a ride with also was upset. Her husband was Infantry and she was certain we would be going to war and the soldiers in Germany would be sent first. Turns out, I think it was the Big Red One soldiers from my home state of Kansas at Ft. Riley that got activated first.

The day of the attack, she dropped me off at my husband’s unit where the soldiers there were also gathered in formation. My husband was a 1st Lieutenant at the time. He began pulling double duty shifts for three or four weeks after that. He and his soldiers would work during the day and help guard the gates of Vilseck at night. I remember that we went to Threatcon Delta immediately. I also remember that the German government sent German soldiers to guard our families too and protect us.

The next day after 9/11, I left for work at 2 am in the morning and it took many, many hours to get through security. If I close my eyes now, I can picture the long line of cars in the darkness and the soldiers at the gates checking and carefully inspecting each and every vehicle. We lived off base in a small community called Auerbach. The military commanders at Vilseck sent 2 humvees filled with 4 or 5 armed soldiers with helmets and kevlar equipment and big guns to guard our small community at night. The soldiers protected our families every night for weeks and we would go out there to give them coffee and hot chocolate at times.

I remember sitting in my German duplex in the nights that followed the attack and watching the news endlessly. I remember the conversations with the other wives….all our husbands were working overtime…..and so we gathered around at patio tables to discuss things. We were all kinda worried about the potential of war.

The hardest part about 9/11 was seeing the jumpers out of the World Trade Center buildings. It brought tears to my eyes then. 20 years later, the images still bring tears to my eyes.

The attacks were horrible but GW Bush was right in his latest speech at Shanksville today. 9/11 unified the American people unlike anything I have seen since. It didn’t matter what you looked like, what you prayed, what your background……you were an American. We were Americans together and we felt the pain and suffering on 9/11 together. In some respects, I miss that collective unity……..how in the face of adversity, devastation, and malevolence, the best and brightest of human connection rises to the surface to counter it.

Remember 9/11 but most of all, remember that unity when the American people came together and the many nations of the world such as Germany also stood by our side to offer support, respect, and condolences. God bless America.

Part 2: The Importance of the Redneck

I’ve been watching news in India of the farmer protests with some concern. India is one of the big four producers of food for the planet: China, India, Brazil, and the United States. We should be watching what happens more closely as it may impact the world quite a lot.

Although agriculture represents a very small percentage of our GDP, here in America food producers make a large portion of the total world food supply, enough to feed approximately 10 billion people.

Wait a sec. The current world population is 7.84 so why are there famines all over the place?

I’m not sure. There are probably a myriad of reasons including a need for better food systems that prevent spoilage.

The U.S. is first in the world in corn production, third in wheat, fifth in potatoes, tenth in sugarcane, and twelfth in rice production.

Why is the U. S. such a powerhouse for food supply? The geographical and atmospheric conditions for farming here are some of the best in the world and we have the quickly depleting Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest groundwater resources in the world. It lies under 112 million acres of land and under 8 states: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska and Wyoming. Nebraska has the bulk of the aquifer and the deepest areas. The aquifer can go as low as 1,200 feet. About one third of U.S. agriculture is irrigated by this great aquifer. Once depleted, it will take 6,000 years to restore. We are taking way more water out for irrigation than is sustainable at this rate. Expected complete depletion year for the aquifer is around 2060.

America used to be plagued by dust bowls and drought or even severe flooding in the Midwest. Two adaptations after WW2 fixed some of this: dam systems to control flooding more and also central pivot irrigators for better irrigating of crops. Many of these dams now are very old, at least 50 years and were created under the great infrastructure plans of FDR and Eisenhower.

Maybe the answer to our joint economic and environmental concerns here is to initiate another set of infrastructure improvements that will hire many men and women to build or repair civil engineering and environmental engineering projects.

When you look at Kansas, my state, it is still called the bread basket making 400 million bushels a year with two thirds of this shipped to other countries. Kansas is ranked third in cattle and produces the majority of the grain sorghum. In 2017, Kansas produced 5.69 billion lbs. of red meat.

Texas leads the states in number of farms with around 247,000. Missouri is next with 95,000. Iowa is third with 85,300.

When you think of farming, you imagine the Midwest probably. But the top supplier of a whole lot of farm food is California.

The U.S. makes 139.5 billion in food exporting but, as I said earlier, is just one of the big four: China, India, Brazil, and United States.

We should really watch what is going on in India with the farmer protests because it may impact us all. Also, the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is a major issue. 2060 is only thirty-nine years away.

How do we sustain a growing world population of 7.84 people with depleting resources, older dams and infrastructure in need of repairs, and political strife involving our food producers as well as our food pickers? This topic involves labor issues in regards to immigration policies too. How do we take care of these immigrants that work in agriculture? How do we create more efficient food systems? These are important issues for the upcoming years.

E Pluribus Unum

This was the official motto of the original 13 colonies during the American Revolution. It was proposed in 1776 by three men to become the Great Seal motto. These men were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Later on, this saying would be replaced in the 1950s by the words, “In God we trust.” I’m not sure where the Latin phrase for “E Pluribus Unum” originated. It really reminds me of the phrase of the French Four Musketeers. That phrase was “All for one, one for all.”

E pluribus unum simply means “out of many, there is one.” It means we stand together as a union, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, through tragedy and through celebration. We recognize our unique qualities and diversity yet also lean on our human bond as together we pursue life, liberty, and happiness. This is not a revolutionary idea. It is a motto for all friendships and relationships and it’s loyalty is the fundamental cornerstone of our foundations in life and as a nation.

We need to bring back this motto.

Bleeding Kansas: Making the Trip to Osawatomie

Prior to the American Civil War of the 1860s, my hometown state of Kansas was the site of a contentious battle regarding slavery. The first political election for the territory of Kansas was made in 1855.  The result of the election was a pro-slavery determination for the territory which sparked several years of border skirmishes.  These fights between pro-slavery and anti-slavery groups near the Missouri border caused the territory to be known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

bleeding kansas
Google Images.

At this time in 1855, over 5,000 Missourians that were pro-slavery crossed over into Kansas territory to vote in the election which caused some politicians to refer to the election as fraud.  However, the vote was kept.  Several months afterwards, abolitionist groups established the Free State militia force.  One such abolitionist and preacher was John Brown who later led the infamous raid on Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in 1859 prior to the Civil War.

john brown1
Google Images.
john brown
Google Images.
harper's ferry
Google Images.
hanged
Google Images.

By May of 1856, a group of Missouri raiders led by Quantrill sacked and burned the Free State supporter town of Lawrence founded by Massachusetts abolitionists.

quantrill's raid1
Google Images.
quantrill's raid 2
Google Images.

Today, if you visit Osawatomie in east central Kansas, you can see several John Brown historical sites. We recently saw the site of the Battle of Osawatomie between Missouri forces and Free State Kansas territory forces. At this site, is the Adair Cabin, one of only a few Osawatomie original buildings that survived the ransacking.

If you travel further south along the Frontier Military Route, you will see the site of the Marais de Cygnes Massacre, another border skirmish that occurred near the Travel Post.

IMG_3299
Google Images.

Further south of that is the Civil War era Fort Scott military fort.

Incidentally, Osawatomie also happens to be the place where the conservative Kansas Republican Party was established in 1859 during the “Bleeding Kansas” years.  The Kansas Republican Party was created by Free State abolitionist sympathizers.

Can We Just Talk?

By J. Speer

No one knew what caused the green algae to spread across the pond, threatening the lives of the turtle pile.  It happened rapidly.  Some turtles suspected it was the rising temperatures.  No one really knew for sure but what they all knew for certain was that they could no longer stay in the pond as the green algae spread out like tentacles seizing nearly the whole habitat of the pond. 

The green algae were first spotted from the top of the turtle pile and orders were directed down amid the ranks of the turtles to watch that portion of the pond more carefully.  It was also ordered from the top that each turtle, one by one, must climb down from the pile and evacuate to the safety of the embankment.  At the embankment, the turtles assembled into groups based on familial connections.  Meanwhile, Yertle the Turtle at the bottom of the pile in the mud was feeling the pressure of trying to balance the turtle pile as they came down one by one.  He too was looking forward to escaping from the green algae that even he could see now from his low vantage point. 

Yertle had stayed at this low level most of his life.  He was used to the mud and over time he accepted it as his lot in life even as the other turtles shifted up and down all along the turtle pile all day every day.  Yertle really didn’t move up nor did he expect to.  His expectations had grown exceedingly low.  He was used to taking orders and he complied with little resistance. 

When the final turtles had climbed off his back and moved to the embankment, Yertle was happy to perhaps join them as well.  He felt an enormous pressure had been lifted for a time being.  He eyed his family of turtles happily as he trudged forward to the embankment. 

But the top boss stopped Yertle.  He said to Yertle that he needed to stay in the pond.  It was essential to the safety of the other turtles.  They needed food to continue feeding the turtle community and Yertle needed to bring the lilly pads from the pond one by one to the embankment for the turtles to eat. 

Yertle looked reluctantly back at the pond and the lilly pads near the spreading green algae.  He eyed the algae with concern and looked back to the top turtle. 

“Are you sure?” he asked hesitantly. 

“Yes,” said the top turtle.  “They need you to stay in the pond.”

Yertle was used to taking orders.  He looked again back to the green algae and then to his own family of turtles waiting on the embankment. 

“Ok,” he said and he slowly turned around to face the pond and wade back in. 

“You won’t be alone,” said the top turtle and he designated two other turtles from the middle of the turtle pile to also go into the pond.  It was a male and female turtle and they were designated the heroes.  They were told to find a way to stop the spread of the green algae on the pond.  The two nodded that they would do the task and then the three turtles went back into the pond together. 

The two turtles got to work right away.  They devised a smart plan to haul old and broken limbs from the nearby forest to the pond.  Using their teeth and working together as a team, they would drag the limbs across the green algae in the pond.  The green algae would then collect onto the limbs and leaves.  Carefully, they would work together to lift the green algae on the broken limbs out of the water and dispose of it far away from the pond in the forest.  They worked tediously day in and day out on slowly gathering limbs and clearing the algae and then disposing of the limbs in the forest.  The hot sun beat down of them as they worked but they never gave up.  They really were hero turtles. 

Meanwhile, Yertle was working just as diligently.  For being a turtle at the lower end of the pile, he was proving to be remarkably resilient and smart in evading the spreading green algae.  He swam about the pond all day long gathering lilly pads in his teeth to slowly take back to the turtle community.  He would get one lilly pad and drop it off at the embankment keeping his distance from the other turtles so he would not put them at risk of the green algae.  Then he would swim back into the pond and move around the green algae to get to another clean lilly pad. 

At first, he was greatly concerned about the threat of the green algae.  But as he worked and worked, he became quite tired and worn out even to the point he almost didn’t care if he got green algae on him.  But he was a smart little turtle and kept trying to be cautious and kept going. 

The three turtles would spend the nights on the embankment but away from the turtle community.  They looked often at their family during these times and their family looked back at them.  Sometimes, during the day, the three turtles would see the turtle community relaxing on the embankment and sunbathing.  They would get a slight twinge of envy but all three turtles kept going without much complaint. 

Things went smoothly until one day as the male and female turtle were dragging a limb across the green algae, the male turtle slipped and fell slightly into the pond very near to the green algae.  The female turtle called out for help as she gripped the end of the limb hard with her teeth.  The male turtle also clung on hard to the limb as best he could and kicked his little turtle legs rapidly to propel his shell away from the threatening algae.  She called again for help through her teeth but the other turtles in the community could not hear her. 

Yertle stopped collecting a little lilly pad and looked up from the pond to see the predicament.  He moved as quickly as a turtle can, which isn’t very fast at all, towards the two turtles.  Together, he and the female turtle backed up and pulled the heavy limb out of the pond. 

“Thank you,” said the little turtles and Yertle just nodded.  Then all three got back to work again. 

It took quite a long time to finally clear most of the green algae from the pond.  In the end, there was a great deal of disposed sticks deep in the forest away from harming the community.  The turtle community and top turtle applauded the three turtles for their effort.  They were all three rewarded with much praise although secretly they each would have preferred an increase in food rations for their families. 

The two hero turtles had erected a dam to hopefully contain as best they could the green algae.  It was not a permanent fix but at least the turtle pile could perhaps return to some semblance of normalcy.  The top turtles indicated to the others in the turtle community that they needed to return to the pile so the top turtles could scout the horizon for predators and other threats.  All the turtles, particularly the ones at the lower end of the pile, grumbled some but reluctantly agreed to go. 

Yertle the Turtle sighed to himself.  He was not ready to go back to the life he had before holding up the turtle pile while he sat in the mud.  It was not much fun and quite heavy and burdensome.  But, Yertle was used to that life and to taking orders so he headed out first from the turtle community to his place in the mud.

The other turtles from the community slowly one by one started to ascend the pile and Yertle could already feel the weight upon him.  He looked down dolefully into the mud. 

“Wait!  Please stop!” said the little hero female turtle and the male hero turtle beside her joined her.

“We’ve been talking an…we don’t think…..” and she looked at the other hero turtle for confirmation and he nodded.  “We think maybe we should talk and find another way to restructure the turtle pile.   And,” she continued slightly hesitantly, “Maybe we should work harder on protecting the pond.”

She looked down at that moment.  The other little turtles were in shock too.  They had always lived in the turtle pile.  They had always done things the way they had done them.  That is all they had ever known and they had never even considered a life beyond the turtle pile.  Nor did they know really what to do or how to start to protect the pond better.    

“I’m just saying, well……I don’t know for sure what to say or how to start this even.”   And she looked again at Yertle.  He nodded back from the mud. 

She cleared her throat and said finally what she was really thinking in her mind. 

“Well, can we just talk?”    

It’s Not the Size of the Dog in the Fight

There are two people credited with this quote. The first one is Mark Twain and the second one is Dwight Eisenhower. Technically, it is Mark Twain that said, “It is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” On the other hand, Dwight Eisenhower said, “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

Who knows really? Perhaps this former President of the United States was a Mark Twain fan.

Today, you can go to Abilene, Kansas, in my home state to see the Presidential Library and former home of Eisenhower. He served in WWII and was a 5-star Army General, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, and also the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.  Richard Nixon was his Vice President.  Eisenhower is credited with the development of NASA and the space race, DARPA, and the Interstate Highway System.

Here are some other quotes associated with Eisenhower:

“Pessimism never won any battle.”

“We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it.”

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionable integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible.  No matter whether it is on a gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

“Plans are nothing but planning is everything.”

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”  

(Google Images.)

Years ago around 2002, I visited Buchenwald camp as a military spouse living in Germany. We were stationed near Vilseck and Grafenwoehr. Grafenwoehr is famous for the tower there which was erected for Hitler to overlook the training grounds in the 1930s. Later, when it came under Allied command, Grafenwoehr was a place that Elvis Presley was stationed during his time overseas.

In regards to Eisenhower, however, and getting back to the main subject….among his other noted decisions and achievements, Eisenhower was the first commander in Europe to openly discuss what was occurring at the camps. I remember touring Buchenwald that day in March and it was very cold even with coats bundled up. A wide swath of the forest on the hill had been cleared. This clearing was for the camp and buildings as well as a bear sanctuary oddly enough that was kept by the commander of the camp.

We walked through the old sites and the museums and I remember seeing Eisenhower’s pictures viewing Buchenwald after liberation. The camp means Beech Forest and is located near Weimar but it also rests in the same area that the famous German poet and creator of Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is said to have been inspired to write his works. There is an old oak tree in the camp that had not been cut down because it was called the Goethe Oak, the tree under which Goethe penned his writings. Another famous writer, Elie Wiesel, was also at Buchenwald and he later went on to write the book Night.

But anyway, back to Eisenhower, if you happen to be on the Interstate 70 (created under the Eisenhower administration) which cuts through the top portion of the state of Kansas from Missouri border to Colorado border, stop by Abilene for a visit. Besides being the home of a U.S. President, Abilene was the last stop on the Chisholm Trail where cowboys from Texas drove their herds north to Kansas to meet up with the Union Pacific railway station at Abilene. From there, the herds were shipped to Chicago stockyards and meatpacking industry. It’s in Chicago that Upton Sinclair would write The Jungle which became a bestseller in 1906 and pushed the creation of a Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Upton Sinclair also wrote about prisoner conditions at Ft. Leavenworth and was a journalist for a newspaper from my hometown region called The Appeal to Reason. At the turn of the century, around the 1900s, this newspaper rivaled the Los Angeles Times as third largest news distribution in the United States. That southeast corner of Kansas has a fascinating story. Just look up something called The March of the Amazons. It was the first women’s labor march in the United States as immigrant women, wives of the coal miners, took to the streets of Pittsburg to fight for better working conditions in the mines. At the time, Pittsburg was the third largest producer of coal in America and called The Little Balkans for the large immigrant population from southern Europe that lived there and worked in the mines. However, in the 1930s and 1940s, it was discovered that this coal was too environmentally hazardous and so the mines eventually closed down one by one.

You’d be surprised by the interesting history you can learn in Kansas of all places.