Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Memories - Dial-Up Speed

Do you remember the sound of dial-up?

I used to take a book to the computer with me to wait while the computer dialed, connected, and downloaded pages.  

We're on dial-up speed again.

All of the trees around our house have blocked our satellite signal.  The raspberry bushes were the final straw leaf.  In the last two weeks they grew tall enough to close the one little hole that allowed the tower signal to reach our house.  

After being without internet for nearly a week, Bob (the internet wizard) looked high (on top of the roof) and low (from the angle of the ground) for a solution.  In the end, he winced as he handed us a little box and said, "It's only about as fast as dial-up, but at least it's something until we can fix the problem."  Fixing means Calvin digging a trench and Bob laying wire for 200 yards and then hooking everything up all over again.

At first I didn't think dial-up speed would be too bad - I'd just read a book while I waited.  But it doesn't quite work that way anymore; our data is much larger than before.  I could almost finish a book by the time a page has surfaced.

The leaves on the trees are also blocking my cell phone coverage.  I have to go outside and stand in a certain area to be able to talk on the phone or download data.

An appraiser once told me that each mature tree improves your house value by about $1000, which means they're our gold mine; but this week they don't feel like much of a bargain.

However, I am reading two books that I've wanted to read for a very long time.  Books that make me think, and when you're on dial-up speed you have plenty of time to think.

Dial-up isn't just a memory anymore.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

52 Blessings - Technology

The longer we have it, the more I like it.

One thing I really like about technology is having access to this channel.

While I certainly haven't exhausted the options, I do like Mormon Messages

and the Bible videos very much.

I also enjoy many of the programs offered in the archives.

Legacy and Stories from General Conference are some of my favorites, as well as Insights

I really enjoyed the program on Abraham Lincoln (episode 11) and Islam (episode 1) and look forward to even the most mundane tasks when I know I will be able to listen to one of these programs.  

This kind of technology gladdens the heart and lifts the mind and that is an appreciated blessing. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Life in Our Word - In Up-Close Pictures

This was a pretty normal week for us.  Normal looks like work.  

One day Calvin had to visit a farmer 90 miles away so he took me with him and dropped me off at Melanie's so I could visit her and get my hair cut.  It's always fun to be with Melanie.

I'm taking a historical biography class and am writing Calvin's history as my project.  I downloaded a free i-Phone app with a good voice recorder and while Calvin drove I interviewed him.  He spent the time talking about his dad.  Calvin's dad was such a pleasant and happy man and had lots of side projects.  One of them was bee keeping.  Hearing Calvin tell stories of collecting honey (and the scorpions, black widows, and rattlesnakes that hid underneath the boxes) was a great way to pass the time driving.   

After the whizzbang-chicken-plucker worked so well, Calvin ordered another hundred and twenty five chicks -- one hundred for a friend and twenty-five for us.

The company shipped them through the post-office.  The post-office should use the fact that they can still deliver live birds in a timely manner in their advertisements.  At least it helped to restore my faith in them a bit.

I made 6 batches of raspberry jam and froze 20 quarts of berries for pies, cakes, and fruit leather.

I was short one box of pectin when I was making jam.  When I realized it, it was too late to do anything but improvise.  I added a bunch of applesauce (apples are a fruit higher in pectin than most) to help it set and it worked.  It's beautiful and good.

Most every morning I go out and pick a handful for breakfast.  And most every morning I tell myself that there is nothing quite like a sun-ripened warm raspberry.

A neighbor called Calvin and asked him if he could borrow the egg incubator.  While the neighbor was swathing hay he had spooked up a pheasant and was afraid she wouldn't come back to claim her nest.  The eggs were just about to hatch (one had cracked open and the bird was completely formed).  Calvin delivered the incubator, but ended up bringing the eggs home instead.  They hatched two days later.  

The little pheasants are w-i-l-d.  They flutter around and bump into each other and then as if on cue they all freeze and hold perfectly still.  Spook them and they're like pinballs bouncing off each other again.

I keep telling them they're going to die of a heart attack if they don't settle down.  So far they haven't settled down nor have they had a heart attack.  Calvin will release them back to the wild when they're a little older.

And then . . . well, and then some hunter will probably shoot them.

Which reminds me of the time that Calvin brought a hurt bird home.  Cali lived at home then and the two of them found that bird a cage, lined it with newspaper, and fixed him some food and water.  Then they waited and waited and watched him heal.  Later when he was strong (hours or days I don't remember), they opened his cage door and helped him fly away.  First place he went was down on the grass to hop around.

Quick as a wink, the dog pounced on him and ate him.

Life is grand, but it isn't fair.

Which reminds me of this quote by President Hinckley:

"Life is like that—ups and downs, a bump on the head, and a crack on the shins. It was ever thus. Hamlet went about crying, “To be or not to be,” but that didn't solve any of his problems. There is something of a tendency among us to think that everything must be lovely and rosy and beautiful without realizing that even adversity has some sweet uses. One of my favorite newspaper columnists is Jenkin Lloyd Jones. In a recent article published in the News, he commented:

'There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young who hold hands and smooch in the drive-ins that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks, to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and ravishing wife. When the hollyhocks wither and boredom and bills appear, the divorce courts are jammed.

'Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . . .

'Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.'"

And that's life in our world this week.  An old-time rail journey . . . 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Happiness is . . . Gutting Fish

"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln

I think this is an interesting statement coming from a man who struggled with melancholy and had many hard and depressing things happen in his life. Few can argue, however, that despite those things we think of Abe Lincoln as a happy man.

This week the subject of being happy came up three times: once in a scrapbook lay-out, once with a friend, and once in an e-mail.

In a scrapbook lay-out: I have been part of a circle-journal group three times. We each make a journal that covers a specific topic and create a scrapbook lay-out to begin the entries. Then we pass that journal to another member of the group who adds her lay-out to our topic. She passes it to the next person and so on  until it has completed the circle and comes back to the owner. One of the circle journal topics this year was “My Favorite Things.” I had a half-hour to quickly think about and create a lay-out on things that make me happy.  I didn't have time to argue with myself and I didn't have time to ponder.  I had to go with a gut-reaction.  Here is what I compiled:

With a friend: My friend brought me a two-layer chocolate cake and a bouquet of flowers from her yard. We walked out to our garden (sprinkled generously with weeds) then sat in the sunshine/shade and visited for an hour or more. The topic of being happy was central to the conversation. I mentioned at some point to my happy-by-nature friend that I remembered watching happy people as a teenager and wanting to build that characteristic. It was something for which I specifically prayed, “Please help me to be a happy person.” The Lord answered those prayers.

She mentioned that sometimes happy looks fake; we also discussed chemical depression vs. being happy. We didn’t have all the answers, but one thing I know is that everyone wants to be happy, albeit we look for happiness in different ways and in different places (and some of those places never deliver).

In an e-mail: The next day I read an e-mail from my niece Jesse. Jesse is on a boat in a bay in Alaska working 12+ hours a day/7 days a week sorting and gutting fish. She is earning money for another year of college. She knew she needed a job with lots of hours so she took this one even though she didn’t know anyone or anything about fish. She doesn’t have regular internet or phone access while she’s in Alaska for the summer. Jesse is 18 years old. She is quick to smile and fast to laugh. Nevertheless, Jesse is not in an easy place. This is what Jesse wrote about being happy this week:

Dear Family,

My goal this week is to find little things to enjoy in life. I noticed that I find myself counting down the hours until my shift gets off. But, it's dumb because once you get off you eat, then go to bed, to repeat it all over.

So this was the list I came up with on why I like my job/day.

1. My dinner was all yellow.

2. Anyone can fart as loud or as deadly as they wish. Nobody will hear or smell it in the factory (proven fact).

3. I will become a champion in water fights, because I don't even flinch when getting sprayed with water/blood in the face anymore.

I've been super busy and tired... and sore. I'm bruised from head to toe. And that's no lie. I still have a scar on my forehead and my toes are covered in blisters. Ha. Last week I was able to pull 95 hours tho! And in those 95 hours I have discovered the trick of falling asleep standing.

I feel like this boat is a reality tv show (that I would never care to watch), and I keep waiting for my interview. I got things to say.

But I'm happy and things are going good. I can tell I've been super blessed on this trip. I’ve been able to like everyone on the boat and everyone has been so good to me, and I haven't gotten sick at all.

Well my nose runs the whole time down in the factory (it's sooo cold down there) and you’re all decked out in slimy rubber so there is nothing to rub it on. So it just drips. But everybody's in the same boat so it's a natural sight (Ha! I didn't catch that pun the first time around.)

Okay, again much love,


I taught Mo how to tell the fish apart, and after I was done he looks at me and goes, "We have to remember all that . . . for 8 bucks an hour?" Ha! Yeeep.

In summary, being happy is something that’s been on my mind this week.  Once again I've determined that the key to being happy is being grateful (funny how 1+1 always = 2 no matter how many times you try to re-think it). I can’t be grateful and wallow in self-pity at the same time, nor can I simultaneously be grateful and covet. I can’t ever find happiness in wickedness and when I'm grateful the last thing I want to be is wicked. The only thing I can be when I am grateful is happy.  And if I'm in an over-sized sweater eating mashed potatoes and gravy, smelling lilacs, and hearing the grandkids laugh then it's even better. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Homemaking Tip - The Spinner

We invested in a salad spinner a month ago.  My goodness!  What a difference.  No longer are the lettuce leaves soggy, or smashed from water-blotting with a dishtowel.  I only wish we would have invested in one years ago.

Even before the spinner, I have had good luck keeping lettuce fresh for a long time.  Here is how I do it.

If I pick it from the garden, I

1.  wash it
2.  spin it
3.  wrap it in a couple of paper towels
4.  put it in a bag
5.  squeeze all of the air from the bag
6.  close (or seal) the bag tightly

If I buy it from the store, I follow steps 3 through 6 to store it and then steps 1 and 2 when serving it.

If our vegetable drawer is too cold (but I don't want to adjust the refrigerator temperature and warm the milk), I put a dishtowel over the top of the vegetables to insulate them.

Do you have any make-your-lettuce-last-longer tricks?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Memories - 2:19 PM

I don't know why my double chin surprises me in the mirror each day.

What a good day.

Ever since I knew I was born at 2:19 pm, I have watched the clock - and have a very unofficial moment of silence - during that minute between 2:19 and 2:20 pm on July 15th.  It's a silly thing.  It really is.  But I can't help but marvel as the hand ticks around the circle, "I was born exactly x many years ago."  (Now having gone through the birth process myself a few times since then, I've learned doctors aren't always paying attention to the clock when the baby arrives.  But that is neither here nor there, because when I was a kid 2:19 pm was the time my birth certificate recorded and that made it official and that was all there was to it.)

This week the family was texting back and forth on my birthday and I told them I was getting ready to watch the clock.  They joined in with me.  I was standing in the middle of the kitchen floor, making cookies, and listening to Pachelbel in D when the clock turned and right there, in the middle of the kitchen floor, I started to cry.   It came out of nowhere.  I was just so overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunity to experience this life and the privilege to love so many.

What a good life.

Same time next year.  2:19 PM July 15.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

52 Blessings - Garden

Between the home-grown pork, beef, and chicken and all of the garden vegetables,
we eat really well around here.  

If you've ever raised what you eat, you understand that wonderful feeling of being self-sufficient.  It makes the potatoes taste sweeter and the meat more tender and flavorful.

We’re eating a lot out of the garden now: basil, parsley, chives, raspberries, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, peas, beans, squash, and peppers. The corn is on in town, too. Every meal has the potential to be good and cooking is easy when you have a garden out the back door.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Life in Our World - 13-13-13-13-13-13-13 of 2013

Atlas (sent in by Ray) - Benjamin Button... his hair is receding, he has hairy
ears, a big gut with no butt, and wears a diaper. I guess life is a chiasmus.

Ray - What one does... so does the other.

Levin:  Joe, Ande, and Zeph dropped by for a minute on their way
to meeting up with some friends. 

Levin: "I go JoeJoe Ande?"
Cali: "Tempting, but I don't think they have room for you."
Levin: "Waaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Cali - (Jane speaking here.  Cali wrote and said there was little proof she
existed today and wondered if I had one in the archives she could use as
a substitute.  Here is one of my favorites from a couple of weeks ago
of Cali making a fresh raspberry pie)

Ande - On the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Zeph showed how much he
loved the ferry by sleeping the whole time.

Zeph - Post bath time. He loves taking a bath.
He alternates between splashing and laughing and total relaxation.

Joe - III and IV asleep. Ande thought she was the one who needed a nap.

Grace - Having a great visit with my mom and Grandma Jean in Atlanta, GA.

Grace - Reading a story about my Grandpa Duane that ran in a local paper a couple years ago.

Afton - Catching rays with Uncle Dallin

Michelle - Coming down the waterslide, Afton flipped around about halfway down,
and this photo is the result. Followed by some tears.

Ty - We had a lot of fun today.

Jane - We took care of Vincent, Sava, Willie, and Lavinia today.
The kids helped me pick beans and raspberries and played miniature golf in the yard.

Calvin - Helping Sava shoot a bow.
(Jane speaking here. Calvin was like the Pied Piper with these kids today.
They followed him wherever he went. If he was spraying weeds, they followed behind him in single file. 

 If he went in the shop, they followed him in (except Lavinia. She was afraid girls weren't invited into "The Boys' Club" 
and waited patiently 'til Calvin told her it was okay to come inside.   
If Calvin got a drink out of the hose, so did every one of them.  
It was pretty sweet, yet comical to watch.  
A time or two Calvin was tempted to go to town to lose his shadows, 
but pulled out the bows for them to shoot instead.  They did it for hours and begged for more.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Life in Our World - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Other

The Good

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Calvin and Ray went to the nethermost side of Wyoming to check out the antelope for a hunt this fall.  They had a great road trip which included stopping at The Battle of Little Big Horn and the Headwaters of the Missouri.  As a historical note, they also stopped at Van Tassel, Wyoming, Population 4, the home of the first American Legion Post.

While they traversed, Cali, Levin, and Atlas came and stayed with me.  We rocked babies, played, very much enjoyed being together, and had good conversation (when Levin is hurt he limps and says, "wounded soldier," at other times he says, "good golly" or "Aye. Yi. Yi."  He's almost as fun to talk to as Cali).  

Joe traveled all last week so Ande and Zeph went to South Carolina to see Joe's mom.

Abe and Grace went to Mississippi to spend the 4th with Ty, Michelle, and Afton.

We were scattered, but mostly we were together and that was a very good feeling.

The Bad

Calvin and I don't argue much, but there is one thing that gets my blood boiling every time and that is when he catches rattlesnakes.

I'll let the family texts tell the story that happened on Wednesday:

Calvin:  Cactus Cal catches another one.

He's alive.

He's still alive.

Ande:  Yikes.  Way to go Dad.  Glad you didn't get bit again.

Ty:  Dad, do you have foonyetta for brains?

Ty:  That is pretty neat though.

Grace:  Yuck.

Abe:  Ha ha.  Where?

Calvin:  Crab Creek . . . over by Royal.  He wasn't too mad.

Jane:  Ohhhh noooooo.  I hate these.  Worse than I hate locking my keys in the car and waiting for the locksmith and getting charged $75.

Grace:  Me too.

Grace:  I hate them worse than I hate our security system going off in the middle of the night and waiting for an hour and a half for the maintenance guy to get here.  My ears are still ringing and I'd still rather go through that than see a snake.

Jane:  We be mates Grace.  I hope your ears quit ringing.  Abe why don't you tell your dad that snake parable again.  (The one where the snake talks the boy into carrying it down the mountain.)

Jane:  Who was taking this picture so that you could concentrate on not getting bit?

Calvin:  me . . . and it was hard . . . and somewhat tense

Cali:  Dad, I'll sing at your funeral . . . with behavior like that, it can't be long.  I think there's a Washington state law against texting and handling poisonous snakes . . . like texting and driving.

Jane:  Where is the snake now?

Cali:  Heaven?

Cali:  Hell?

Cali:  Who can say?  Who can say?

Calvin:  By the time I got back to the office and stopped the pickup . . . he was about 3/4 of the way out . . . I showed him to B & J . . . then caught him again and cut his head off . . . he is in rattlesnake heaven . . . you can rest easy Janey Payney

Jane:  Nope.  There are still tonight's dream to get through first.  I think I'll go lock my keys in the car again so I have time to sit and think about it.

The Ugly

My friend Julie called and invited me to go to water-zumba with her this week.  It was my first experience exercising in an organized group.  Oh my goodness, what fun to dance in the water.  It didn't even seem like exercising.

A downfall was that I didn't realize the elastic in the waist of my swimming suit bottoms was shot until I was in the pool.  I kept one hand clutched to them especially since one of my male students was our lifeguard.  It's bad enough seeing your always-wearing-a-dress teacher sporting normal clothes, but it's another experience entirely seeing your teacher in a swimsuit.  I pitied him.

A second downfall was I locked my keys (and purse and phone) in the car the morning Calvin caught the rattlesnake (which would explain why he never answered my distress call from a borrowed phone).  Since Calvin didn't answer, and our only two sets of keys were inside the locked car, the only other thing I knew to do was to go to our auto insurance company and ask them to call a locksmith for me.

I see our very professional, dignified, and coiffed auto-agents once or twice a year.  I never see them when I'm wearing a dripping, baggy swimsuit and a white bath towel swung around my neck like a scarf with wet-plastered hair and dripping mascara.  Never.

They acted very quickly in my behalf and tried to give me nothing but eye contact.

It was an embarrassing experience no matter how good my 4th-of-July-sparky-red toenails looked.

I finished the day by taking a writing final.   It was short answer and an on-the-spot essay. After a morning like I'd had, I had no trouble writing with fervor.  The essay had a snake in it.

The Other

We had a yard sale to earn money for our Young Women to go to Girls' Camp.

It was two hot days of wondering why-is-it-we-do-these-things-again?  And then at the end when we had made enough money and one of the girls had made me a bracelet from yard-sale yarn, it was this-was-a-great-experience-and-this-is-why-we-do-these-things.

We had some pretty classic things to sell.  I'll let the family texts show you:

Jane:  At the YW yard sale.  Anybody need anything?

Abe:  Is there anything good?

Jane:  Define "good."

Grace:  I love yard sales!

Michelle:  I'll take a snow cone.

Jane:  We're out of snow cones, but we have these . . .

. . . cross-stitched wildlife.  Pheasants in particular.

Michelle:  Oooooh that's a tempting trade but I think I'll pass.  If they were peacocks I might reconsider.

Abe:  Any camping gear?

Michelle:  Or turkeys -- I'd put one in every room to make it feel like Thanksgiving all year long.

Cali:  Hahaha.  This yard sale looks like it's popular.  Let me know if the pheasants don't sell.  I've got "a friend" with a birthday coming up . . .

Jane:  I'm not sure they're your friend's style.

Cali:  Oh.  Well, do they have any quail?  Her husband would like those.

Jane:  No quail.  Just deer.

Abe:  Any camping gear ????

Jane:  No, but there is an ab lounger and I'm modeling it.  It's half off for $10

Cali:  Are you bringing it home?

Michelle:  I'm going to print those pictures and hang them on my wall for motivation.  My mother-in-law has had four kids and still has abs of steel.

Jane:  I'd be glad to autograph them.

And that was life in our world.  What was your good, bad, ugly, and other?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Land That I Love

Atlas, Cali, and Levin at the 4th of July concert in the park

“Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” 
Adlai E. Stevenson II

Calvin and I once received a letter of thanks from a four-star general.  He thanked us for raising patriotic children and said that patriotism is not inborn but it is something that must be taught and it is best learned in the home.  I've thought about that letter often since we received it and wondered how it was we taught patriotism and how we can better teach love and devotion to freedom in our home and to our grandchildren.

My sister Rachel sent pop rocks and a copy of the Declaration of Independence to her grown children this year and asked them to eat the pop rocks (symbolizing fireworks) while they read the Declaration on July 4th.  I determined that we'll read the Declaration of Independence in our home every 4th of July from now on.  It felt very good to read it tonight.

Being a citizen is a great honor with significant responsibilities. Citizenship is more than simply reaping the benefits of others’ participation. The work of citizenship is hard work which calls upon us to use our best thinking, our most careful study, our most rigorous analysis.   

One of the things I admire most about the Founding Fathers was their "if not me, then who?" attitude.  They didn't expect others to provide their safety, convenience, or living.  They recognized their responsibility in living in a free society and that maintaining freedom takes vigilance, sacrifice, and hard work.

Because I don't hold a public office or serve in the military, and my vote seldom makes a difference, I'm not always sure what being a responsible citizen looks like for me and how to best be involved.  However, I have come to understand that being a good citizen can be as simple as buying kool-aid from a child's lemonade stand on the side of the road and supporting them as they learn about our free enterprise system.  Being a good citizen can mean reading and studying about history and what it took to create a free people and what it takes to maintain it.  Being a good citizen means observing the laws of the land and being very concerned when good laws are trampled or bad laws are passed, and keeping contact with my representatives in both cases.  Always being a good citizen means volunteering, serving my neighbor, and helping good causes to go forward.   

 "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil 
is for good men to do nothing." 
Edmund Burke

 The lecturer asked the audience who in attendance loved the Constitution.  There was a unanimous and enthusiastic raising of hands.  Then he asked us specifics about the Constitution and few knew the answers.  He said he didn't wish to offend, but wondered how many of us could honestly say we loved a document when we knew relatively little about it.  He challenged everyone to study and become better informed so that our actions better matched our words.

Good men turn the other cheek.  Good men mind their own business.  Good men act.

And that was what I thought about today.  How about you?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tuesday Tried It - Bread Tab Toy

I pinned 10 Ways to Keep a Toddler Busy (without buying new toys) and my friend Melanie commented on the pin: "My brother Kyle made one similar to this that my kids loved. A baby food jar with a coin slot cut out of the metal lid.  He sanded it so it was smooth.  The kids used bread tabs to drop in and take out. So quiet for church."

The next time I was at Melanie's house I told her what a great idea I thought Kyle's toy was but there was no way I'd ever be able to gather enough bread tabs since I make much of our bread.

Melanie smiled and opened her bread drawer.  She had dozens of bread tabs.  She apologized for having so many and I told her we all have quirks: mine is wiping clean kitchen counters over and over and hers was collecting bread tabs.  She said, "But this is more than a quirk.  Look how many I have.  I just can't seem to throw them away."  We counted over 80 of them, so I had more than enough to come home and make four or five toy jars.

Levin is the only one that I've played this with,  but it has kept him quietly busy for ten or fifteen minutes each time I play it with him.
Obviously there is a choking hazard, so I play it with him.

You can just never have too many friends like Melanie . . . or bread tabs.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday Memories - The Battle at Gettsyburg

Calvin, Abe, Grace, and I went to Gettysburg four years ago.
While I certainly knew of the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln,
I didn’t realize how much land the battleground covered nor how important the battle was to the Civil War.

Today marks 150 years since the Battle at Gettysburg began. Gettysburg (July 1-3) was a turning point in the Civil War for never again did the South have the morale or man power to attack the North. General Lee and the South went from being on offense to defense after Gettysburg.

At West Point there is a place devoted to soldiers of the Civil War. Many of the commanding officers had been roommates and friends at West Point before the war. When the war broke out they were fighting against each other, using tactics they had learned side by side in class just weeks before. Sometimes at night, after the fighting for the day had ceased, these commanding officers would steal away to see each other, or send a congratulatory note, cigar, or bottle of alcohol to an opposing officer to congratulate him for the birth of a baby.  It's hard to fathom a war where friends and family fight against each other.

Ty learned in one of his military courses that many of the guns that were examined after Gettysburg had several balls still in the barrels. I didn’t understand why until Ty explained that there is a natural aversion to killing another human being and many of the soldiers couldn't do it.  Rather than shoot their fellow countrymen, the soldiers would pretend to fire and then ram another bullet down into the barrel as if they had. In essence they were going through the motions so that no one would accuse them of not fighting. One barrel that was examined had over two dozen balls in the barrel. When Ty explained this it made the difficulty of the war where friend fought against friend more real.

My sister Rachel shared an interesting story in her weekly e-mail to her children about one of the flag bearers at Gettysburg. She read the story in the book Songs Sung Red, White, and Blue by Ace Collins.   I asked her if I could share it:

"A man by the name of Mr. Cohan had his driver take him for a test drive in his brand new automobile in 1905. They were driving down a country road when Mr. Cohan saw an elderly gentleman walking alongside the dusty road. He told his driver to stop and asked the man if he wanted a ride. The man was obviously poor and Mr. Cohan soon discovered that it was the first time the gentleman had ridden in an automobile.

"Mr. Cohan studied his guest carefully and said he looked just like any other grandfatherly type except for one peculiar quirk. As he rode down the highway, the gray headed, wrinkled, and bent man held a tattered piece of multicolored cloth in his hands. The man’s hand stroked the rag as if it were a pet. After a few miles the gentleman grew comfortable of the new experience of riding in an automobile and he began to talk. Mr. Cohan was only mildly surprised to find that his guest had fought in the Civil War. He told of many tales in the war, including one that centered on the Battle of Gettysburg. He had been a flag bearer as the North charged against the South’s famed General Pickett. He saw others around him fall to the ground, injured or dead, but his job was to keep the flag flying high. The flag was shot again and again. He heard scores of bullets fly past his head, and as the battle slowly turned in the Union’s favor he was shaken to the core. How he had survived he didn’t know. Surviving wasn’t as important to him however as was the fact that he had never dropped the American flag. He had held it high through the entire battle.

"Mr. Cohan watched the gentleman continue to stroke the carefully folded, ragged piece of cloth that sat in his lap. “It was all for this,” the old vet said. “She’s a grand old rag.”

"Mr. Cohan, a song writer, realized then realized that the cloth the gentleman held was not just a piece of an old coat or shirt, it was flag that he had carried and never dropped during the battle at Gettysburg.

"The gentleman’s courage and devotion to his country inspired Mr. Cohan to write a song about the “grand old rag.” A newspaper reporter said it was slanderous calling the Stars and Stripes a rag, so Mr. Cohan changed it to flag. Today we sing it like this:

You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'Neath the Red, White and Blue
Where there's never a boast or brag.
But should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.

Rachel closed her e-mail by telling us the funny little tidbit that the King of Siam offered a battalion of elephants for President Lincoln to use to fight the South. 

Remembering the Civil War serves several purposes, but one is that forgiveness and reconciliation are virtues never to be underestimated.  Few countries heal after a civil war, but ours did.  Not only did it heal, but it became even better than before.  Today the grand old flag flies just as proudly over the North and the South as it does the East and the West.  That's pretty miraculous.