His eye is on the little ones. . .

Front Page, Health, Opinion/Editorial
Infant Charlie Gard and his parents Connie Yates and Chris Gard, 2017

     We are living in an age of politics that seems to know no end to divisions of all kinds. But, when President Donald Trump, the Pope, European Parliamentarians, and even Cher are all putting pressure on the United Kingdom, perhaps this is a situation that needs to be watched. There is a hospital in the U.K. which has been making a decision that an eleven month old child needs to have all “the plugs” pulled, and thus are saying he must die. The parents have been spending at least half of this young boy’s life begging to be able to make that decision themselves or to at least take him home to die, if dying is what must happen. Little Charlie Gard has a rare condition called infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome or MDDS. The hospital staff and government entities have said he cannot survive. His parents have begged to fly him to the United States for even experimental treatment to give him a chance at life.

     The parents will make another court plea on Monday, July 10, 2017. They have at least one doctor in the U.S. who has offered help, and possibly more. The Pope said on June 30, 2017, “To defend human life above all when it’s wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.” The hospital officials have said he will be blind and unable to speak, and his life will be meaningless. Does anyone who has read about Helen Keller believe that Helen’s life was meaningless? And who are these “death panel” participants anyway to decide that parents cannot make this decision for themselves?

     In February of 2017 there was a story online on several sites about a bridge being repaired just above San Francisco. The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge repairs were put on “hold” for at least two weeks at the cost of an estimated seventy million dollars because ONE tree that needed to be removed in the process of this bridge repair had in it a TINY hummingbird nest. In that nest was ONE egg. No work could be completed until the tiny hummingbird was born and left the nest. (At no time was this called a clump of cells within the eggshell.) The species of hummingbird was called Anna’s hummingbird and is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The tree must stay until the “baby” was gone.

     We shall all have to wait now to see what happens to little Charlie Gard. His parents are fighting for his life. A website has raised enough money for them to travel to the U.S. for experimental treatment. His parents have managed to get him a travel visa to the United States. A Pro Life group in the United States has started a hash-tag “We are all Charlie Gard.” But societies and countries have sunk to a really bad place when the hospitals and the courts who are designed to protect the vulnerable now can decide on death for a child…and the parents have no say.

     I, for one, am hoping the outcome for Charlie and his parents will be a positive one, with at least the parents having the ability to decide what to do. Around the world, people are praying for little Charlie Gard. For now, I have a song that I keep hearing in my head…”For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”

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When you think you are having a bad day. . .

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Local history, Personal History

   

Pictured at top, Fannie Brown; children from left to right are Gussie, Davie Darlene, and Giles.

     On January 20, 1890 twins were born in Runge, Texas, to a couple who already had ten other children. The fraternal twins were Fred and Frances Alma Brown. It most likely took them many years before they realized that occasionally on their birthday, there would also be a new president being sworn into office. The governor of Texas at the time of their birth was a man named Lawrence Sullivan (Sul) Ross, and these twins probably had no clue at the time of their childhood that Sul Ross had fought in the Civil War, and he had been a Texas Ranger who served in the pursuit of a Comanche raiding party in the winter of 1860 called “The Battle of Pease River.”  In that battle Cynthia Ann Parker, mother of Quanah Parker, was recovered. Sul Ross had also helped write the Texas Constitution of 1876, which governs Texas today. Perhaps the parents of these twins, Samuel and Emma Simmons Brown, knew all these things, but the family children may or may not have thought of such events or people.

     Most of the Brown family time was spent farming, going to church, going to school, and – even though electricity was available in cities – doing their homework by lantern light. They had horses and buggies, but cars were not in their lives just yet. Education and religion were important for learning and becoming good citizens but also served as a place to learn socialization skills. Once Frances, known as Fannie, graduated high school, it made sense that she would look for work close to home. Her first job was in a rural school at Couch, Texas, an area in Karnes County that isn’t marked any longer. She made $25 per school month as an assistant teacher. She lived with a family and walked to and from school with the children daily. Her job was to sweep the floors, build a fire in the winter, and teach the children – some of whom were older and bigger than she was – every subject. They were all ages and of all abilities. Fannie was eighteen.

     Fannie Brown’s next job was as a teacher at Moore Rural School in Texas. Then she went to Southwestern in Georgetown for more education. Her next few years were spent in Mathis and Pettus. By the 1914-15 school year, she was a principal at Alta Vista School in Nueces County. Her permanent Teacher’s Certificate was earned in the 1915-16 year at the San Marcos teachers’ college. By the next year, she was the principal at Alta Vista. Since there is no evidence of where Alta Vista School was located, one can assume it was in the area of Ocean Drive where the Alta Vista subdivision now stands, but that would have been out in the country then. There is a reason for going through Fannie’s various teaching positions and her move upward. She never stopped improving her education nor the education of those she taught, whether they were her students or her family members.

     Then came the years of 1917 through about 1922. That’s when she met and fell in love with a man who was a widower and a school board member. She quit her job to get married and suddenly had three stepchildren who were almost her same age. But, they were grown and married. Her husband was David Munchausin (Munchy) Dodson, a farmer. They proceeded to have two children, Gussie Mae, and Giles Louis. Then in 1921, while pregnant with her third child, she endured a radical mastectomy due to breast cancer. She was also told by the doctors that, once this baby was born, she would have to undergo a total hysterectomy. All this was on her mind.

     David, her husband, became ill with cellulitis, and three days before Fannie Brown Dodson was about to have her 32nd birthday, she became a widow. David M. Dodson most likely could have survived with antibiotics of today, but that was not to be in 1922. Widowed, eight- months pregnant, and facing more surgery, she found herself on January 17, 1922, in the depths of despair. Yet, she rarely felt sorry for herself. Less than a month later, on February 15, 1922, her little baby girl was born. The doctor, Dr. W. C. Barnard, who knew well her condition, and who was the father of three sons, pleaded with Fannie to allow him and his wife to adopt this new baby since they had no girls. She told him, “Dr. Barnard, you tell me which of my three children I should be able to give away.” He understood and didn’t ask again.

     Fannie named her new baby for the baby’s daddy, dead less than a month. Davie Darlene Dodson was born on February 15, 1922. Never a quitter, Fannie enlisted her sister, Mary Dobie, to take over the care of the baby so her surgery could be performed. The other two children, Gussie and Giles, about five and not quite three respectively, were most likely under the care of their grandparents. Once Fannie was able, she was back to finding a job in the education business. There were no safety nets for widows in 1922. She was a principal at Alta Vista, and later at Sunshine School, which was located near the present-day intersection of Rodd Field Road and Wooldridge Road. There was a home next to the school called the “Teacherage”, where she and her children lived, and Fannie enlisted her father, Samuel Brown and Fannie’s Aunt Sarentha to baby sit the ones who were not of school age. She recalled that some days she would boil a chicken and share it with students at lunch. Her salary in 1926-27 was $125 per school month. Giles remembered that his Grandpa Brown would sit on the porch and tell them not to leave that area because there were “Wild animals out there that would get them.” While that may have been true, it was probably also true that Samuel Brown didn’t want to have to chase after the little Dodson children.

     One day in 1928, Fannie was complaining to her eldest child, Gussie, that there surely were a lot of things that needed to be fixed. When a windmill repairer came to see if he could fix their windmill, Gussie ran to find her and said, “Mama, I found us a handyman.” The man was Fred Weber, a farmer and a widower who had three children of his own. His were a bit older than Fannie’s children. He lived at the corner of what is now Gollihar and Weber Road, a road in existence today that was named for his family. Fannie Brown Dodson Weber was a difficult person to convince she should retire and take it easy. She ended up teaching a total of about 55 years. She was honored by the Texas State Senate on March 24, 1966, and lived until she was almost 96. In 1976 Bill Walraven wrote an article about her in the Caller-Times. Mathis, Texas, named a school for her. She is the main reason I became a teacher. She was a tremendous example of a person who met each struggle head-on.

     Any time any of us has a bad day, or a bad month, or even a hard year, I just try to remember my grandmother, my daddy’s mother, Fannie Weber. This week, on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, that little baby born after that truly difficult year of my grandmother’s life turns 95 herself. We grew up calling her Aunt Darlene. She became a nurse in World War II and met a Naval pilot named Frank McBride. They managed to live all over the world during their times in the service, including Guam and Hawaii. Aunt Darlene now lives near her daughter in Colorado. I am so grateful that my grandmother was brave enough to face the world without giving up her baby for adoption. Without this baby, my brothers, my cousins, and I would never have had the opportunity to know our Aunt Darlene.

NOTE:  The following is a poem written about Fannie Brown by her granddaughter, Margie Lambert, the writer of this historical account.  Margie followed in her grandmother’s footsteps by becoming a teacher, as well.

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Critical Thinking Skills and “Little Red Riding Hood”

Education, Front Page, Government and Politics, Teachers' Corner

 

     With a new year beginning, teachers’ thoughts turn to statewide exams. In some courses, math as an example, most questions have but one correct answer. But in other courses, such as reading, history, or English, students need to have knowledge of the three basic kinds of questions so that they can understand what is being asked of them. This knowledge can help them in the classroom, on the ever-present exams, and even in later life. One way to learn about the three basic kinds of questions, which seems to stick with students, is to discuss FACTUAL, INTERPRETIVE, and EVALUATIVE questions as they relate to one little story almost everyone has read, “Little Red Riding Hood.”  When I taught seventh and then eighth-graders from the Junior Great Books shared inquiry method, the first thing to do is to have students know which kind of question is being asked. Teachers and parents may need to help with these critical thinking skills.

     A FACTUAL question has only one answer. If students have read the story or the piece of literature assigned, they could just place their hands over their mouths and POINT to the ONE answer. Using “Little Red Riding Hood” as an example, pretend the question after the story asks, “What color is the little girl’s hood in the story?” Only one color is correct. It is not purple, mauve, orange, green, blue, or rainbow-colored. The one answer is red. Any student could just point to the answer in the title, but all students agree that only one answer is correct. So, factual questions, as seen on many standardized tests, can only have one correct answer. There is no discussion or disagreement.

     An INTERPRETIVE question about a short story, a poem, or longer piece of literature is a question where there could be more than one correct answer, but the person answering the question must go into the story for proof and explanation about the answer chosen. There is no way a student can just point to the answer. These questions are sometimes dreaded by students, because they KNOW they must prove their answer with evidence. These are the sometimes dreaded discussion questions. Using “Little Red Riding Hood” as the story, an example of an interpretive question is this: “What kind of mother was the little girl’s mother?” Some students may say the mother was very nice and use as evidence that she had baked cookies for her own mother and was teaching her daughter to be a giving and benevolent person. Or they might mention that her clothing in the picture looked well-kept and clean, and therefore she must have been a considerate and neat mother, not a neglectful one. Other students may say she was a particularly bad mother and use as evidence that the mom had sent her young, innocent daughter into the woods known to be roamed by wolves. Or they may mention that the mother SHOULD have gone with the little girl in order to be sure she was protected. But these interpretive questions cannot be answered with just “the mom was good” or “the mom was awful.” Explanations from the story are needed as proof. It’s harder to answer these questions and bluff one’s answer without having read the story assigned.

     EVALUATIVE questions are easy to answer, and the answers may come from one’s own experiences. A student can answer an evaluative question without even having read the assigned story. An example is this: “Should parents make their children learn by experience?” Now the students go into their own backgrounds to answer the question. One student might mention that parents do not have to stand their children on a railroad track with a train bearing down at sixty miles per hour to teach the dangers of standing on railroad tracks. After all, there would be no way to use this lesson later if the child were killed…at least not for THAT child. Another student might answer that he was warned to stay off his older brother’s skateboard since he might break an ankle. And then he DID break his ankle when he secretly got onto the skateboard as a toddler. These are fine answers, but they do not relate to the story in any way. In fact, the story does not even have to be mentioned in the answer. Evaluative questions are where some students who have never read the assignment may shine, but that does not mean they learned anything from the reading assignment.

     In math, most answers are either right or wrong, so one could say that many, if not most, math questions are factual. After all, two plus two equals FOUR, not twelve or nearly four. In history, the date of a certain battle has but one answer. In science, there is one symbol for oxygen, and one alone. But in literature, all three kinds of questions are found, as they are in life itself. When teaching students or one’s own children about answering questions, it is really great to then make them look at today’s news stories or political happenings and ask some factual, interpretive, and evaluative questions. Ask them, “Who won the electoral college vote in 2016?” There is only one answer. This is how critical thinking is ingrained. Be careful of what children watch on television and read online. Much of it comes from people with their own ideas, their own evaluative answers to OUR well-being, and these people’s ideas may not promote critical thinking or our well-being. Discuss what is being put out there as factual. Even many people who are on television as “commentators” and “journalists” might not be as smart as seventh- and eighth-grade students who know about the three kinds of questions.

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Over 109 Deaths DAILY in America

Front Page, Health

 

   

     Americans are reminded almost daily of the number of people who have been shot in Chicago this month or in past months. Inevitably, the guns instead of the killers, are blamed. The citizens are warned about every kind of mosquito problem known to mankind, so much so that people are buying mosquito spray in massive quantities. When a case of Ebola arrives or appears on this continent, we all buy masks and gloves as if we are about to be attacked by aliens from outer space. We hear the phrase “If we could save just ONE life…” when people are advocating new laws and new restrictions. Every life lost is sad, but did you know that there is one killer that takes approximately 110 lives a DAY just in AMERICA? What if there were a massive reaction by the populous that would decrease the number of these deaths? This killer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is breast cancer. It takes over 40,000 deaths a year, and this number is only for people in the United States.

     October has become Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Businesses decorate their shops with pink flags, people wear pink, and even NFL players don pink ribbons, towels, and all manner of pink items. While the pink campaign does bring awareness to the cause, the pink things don’t make families’ lives a whole lot better if they have lost a loved one. What happens instead is that families trudge onward with their lives, which will never truly be the same after a loved one has died because of breast cancer, or from any cause, for that matter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that breast cancer in America is the second most common type of cancer to occur in women. The first most common among women is skin cancer. Every year more than 200,000 women are diagnosed with the disease, and more than 40,000 die. A woman does not need to have a family history of the disease to be diagnosed with it. Men can also get it, but they make up about one percent of new cases. About ten percent of new cases in the U.S. are in women younger than 45 years of age. Ten percent of 200,000 new cases each year is a huge number.

     Regular mammograms can lower the risk of death due to this killer. The U. S. Preventive Services Task Force says a mammogram done every two years for women between the ages of 50 to 74 can aid in finding the cancer early enough to treat it. Women 40 to 49 should talk to their own doctor about when a screening mammogram should be done. Risk factors vary. The main factor that increases risk is simple: just getting older increases risk. But the earlier it is found, the sooner and easier it is to treat in most cases.

     What are the symptoms? Sometimes there are no symptoms. But women should go to their doctors if they have any change in the size or shape, pain in any area of the breast, discharge other than breast milk, a new lump under the breast or even in the armpit. Watch for irritation or new thickening or red, flaky skin. Many lumps are caused by conditions OTHER than cancer, but it is better to get checked and be safe rather than to do nothing and possibly be sorry later.

     Some of us don’t need to see pink things in October to be reminded of this disease. Most of us know of, or have been related to, someone whose life was lost to breast cancer. I certainly do not have a need to see the October pink show up in order to remind me to get a mammogram. I get one each year because my mother’s birthday was in October. She died in 1996 of breast cancer that had been treated, but later spread to the bones. She had no relatives who had breast cancer. Now when the lady at the mammogram place asks me if I have any relatives who have had breast cancer, I have to list three on my daddy’s side of the family (and YES, your dad’s side of the family counts), and then tell them of my mother’s history. Don’t let this month turn into November before you make an appointment for your checkup and your mammogram. My mother would certainly encourage it if she were here to do so!

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August 3, 1970

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Personal History
Celia max wind speeds
NOAA

 

. . . wishing the weather forecasters had been more precise. First, we were informed that a storm had formed in the Western Caribbean on July 30, but that it really was not a big threat to us. Later, it brushed the western coast of Cuba, but we were told the winds were not expected to go above 90 mph, so most people in Corpus Christi didn’t even bother to board up their windows. Many were caught unprepared for the strong winds and devastation to follow.

https://i1.wp.com/www.srh.noaa.gov/images/crp/stories/hurricane/celia/cprreport.jpg?resize=500%2C190

Life cycle of Celia

. . . standing first at one window and then another. On the hot afternoon of August third, much of life seemed to be unfazed. THEN came winds, and all the phone lines went dead, and all electric power was gone by about 3:00 p.m. There was hardly any rain, and that turned out to be a good thing. At least, we thought, this is a “daylight” storm and not one that hit in the middle of the night. But, that was not much consolation.

Film Courtesy of Texas Department of Public Safety Historical Museum and Research Center

Silent | 1970  (Texas

. . . making sure nap time in the hallway had swept our two toddlers away from this real-life nightmare. Luckily, we lived in a sturdily-built older home and not in an apartment. Most of the second-story apartments in town were being terribly damaged. Wooden fences across the city were being strewn around like a large game of “pick up sticks.”

Aftermath of Hurricane Celia.

. . . hearing the thud of trees which had seen thirty years but would not see the next one. Giant palm trees shook our home as they hit the ground. A huge tree in our front yard lost all its limbs. By then, we were nowhere near any windows or doors! But, since it was a trash pick-up day, we could hear metal trash cans rolling down the street as if they were racing each other to some finish line.

Source: HolyCoast.blogsite archives

. . . wondering when it would end. There was a brief quietness as the winds changed directions, but we knew better than to venture out into the eye of the storm. We did dare to look out the windows at downed trees and downed power lines as far as the eye could see. Neighbors across the street had lost their front porch. Windows had been broken by flying objects.

https://i2.wp.com/www.texasarchive.org/library/images/3/31/Aftermath_of_Hurricane_Celia_-_August_3,_1970_tn.jpg?resize=407%2C298
Texas Archive image

. . . finding life from Kingsville, Texas, on the battery-operated radio dial. It was a welcome sound, but the speaker had no news from the Corpus Christi area. There were no cell phones, no Wi-Fi, nor were computers around with which to stay in contact with anyone outside the area. After the storm stopped, it was seventeen LONG days and nights before electrical power was restored to our side of the street. Think about that!

https://i2.wp.com/s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/c3/26/f0/c326f012e0a2374d76c9ebc33a919e9f.jpg?resize=236%2C312&ssl=1
Photo from Michael Hennesy files

. . . feasting on the bounty of a silent, but well-stocked refrigerator… only because we had a gas-powered stove. But, alas, most of the food was destined to be thrown away because of lack of further refrigeration. And, it would be days before any trash trucks were able to pick up trash. Eww!

. . . thanking God that we only lost replaceable items and were able the next day to somehow criss-cross our way through some barely open streets to check on other family members around town. Everyone had a story, and none of them would forget!

. . . vowing to never stay for another storm headed this way and to never, ever name a child for CELIA! (The song “Ce-Ce-Celia, you’re breaking my heart” brings back this storm in my mind.)

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/23/Alamo_Loan_after_Hurricane_Celia.jpg?resize=500%2C291&ssl=1
Alamo Loan and Ritz Theater after Hurricane Celia, August 1970

     Many photos and stories can be found online of Celia’s devastation to the area, and one can find the estimated cost in 1970 dollars for rebuilding. Where Sutherland’s store is now located on Staples, there used to be a store called Woolco’s. It was fairly flattened. The streets were lined with downed power lines. One estimate said about 80% of buildings were affected by Celia’s winds. Damages would have been worse had there been huge rain amounts or a larger storm surge, too.

Picture
Hurricane of 1919

     Padre and Mustang Islands had few buildings compared to today. There was a store on the way to Padre Island called Jito’s and a hotel called The Million Dollar Inn. The storm surge swept through the entire first floor of the now-defunct hotel. For those who today have property on Padre and Mustang Islands, please heed any order or warning to evacuate…if you value your lives. Doing otherwise is foolish. You cannot get help during a storm, and if the surge is great, whatever is left of you and your belongings might never be found. Research another bad storm of the area that hit in 1919 before storms were given names. Families on North Beach were swept toward Sinton. Few survived. My grandparents’ generation of men were asked to help gather bodies.  A so-called “Hurricane party” is a truly horrible idea.

https://i0.wp.com/media.victoriaadvocate.com/img/photos/2013/05/29/sl_surviving_celia_053013_1_210712.jpg?resize=500%2C337&ssl=1
Photo courtesy of Victoria Advocate

     For those who dwell in the city and decide to stay for a storm, do not expect to get cash from an ATM, buy gasoline, get prescriptions filled, buy groceries, or gather supplies after the fact. Stores and their cash registers all work with electricity. You need several days of water for each member of the family. Buy a clothes line that could be used for hanging hand-washed clothes. One only has to think back a few weeks to remember a thirteen day “water boil.” If a storm has a large amount of rain or a large surge from the Gulf, who knows when the water from your taps will be suitable for cooking, bathing, or drinking? If you need more home insurance, remember that no one will sell any insurance to you if there is already a storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Think ahead! Locate all important papers and take them with you if you leave, or put them in a waterproof container if you stay. If you decide to leave, don’t wait too long. For one storm, it took us over ten hours just to get to San Antonio. And if there are any relatively NEW citizens in the area who have some warped notion that storms are fun, I sincerely hope you change your mind and take hurricanes seriously. For those of us who were here on August 3, 1970, Celia made an indelible imprint on our minds.

 

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Cursive Writing, an Important Skill for All

Corpus Christi, Education, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

https://i1.wp.com/www.monticello.org/sites/default/files/uploaded-content-images/Declaration_Engrav_Pg1of1_doctored_0.jpg?resize=434%2C515&ssl=1

 

 

     On May 18, 2016, and maybe even earlier, parents of students in Corpus Christi Independent School District learned that their children are not being taught to read or write cursive because of “lack of time” to teach the subject. Whatever happened to integrating the learning of one subject area into each and every other subject area? This is rubbish! Learning to read and write in cursive must be integrated into each district’s curriculum in order to produce students who can meet and exceed the expectations they will face in life. Making excuses NOT to do so is wrong-headed.

     The practice of learning cursive is very good for the brain, and the earlier in life it is learned, the better it is. Even as recently as a week ago there was a study which proved that students who take notes by hand have better recall than students who type notes into a computer. The standards in Common Core, which are found in other states, do not require elementary students to learn cursive. Why would that be? Texas used to have CSCOPE, and perhaps this “throwing out of the cursive teaching” was begun with CSCOPE in this state. CCISD stated this is an “ancient skill” and it no longer needed to be taught. But hand-eye coordination is important. Psychology Today has an article by William R. Klemm touting the importance of learning cursive in which he says it helps the brain learn “functional specialization”, integrates sensation, movement control, and thinking. Cursive activates areas of the brain that are not activated during typing or visually seeing print. Fine motor skills are aided because one must pay attention to and think about what one is doing. To say that the STAAR test takes too much time and there is not enough time left for teaching cursive is like putting the cart before the horse. Cursive is a foundation for other learning.

     The practice of learning to write in cursive along with printing the alphabet is possibly an indicator of future success in life. Everyone can point to some people who have done just fine in life without good penmanship. But how can a person sign his or her name to a document, a marriage certificate, or a contract if he or she doesn’t know how to do anything but print? As a grandchild, how would it feel to become an adult, run across a letter from your grandfather to your grandmother, and have to ask for someone to explain it to you? What about the oldest family document in your family’s possession? Do you want to have an interpreter read it to you? This doesn’t even take into account the loss of income of people who today earn their money by being handwriting analysts, but I digress.

     Students of today who fail to learn cursive doom themselves to trust that printed books and computer sites are correct examples of America’s founding documents. After the week Facebook has had trying to explain that they do not “lean” to the left, when it is perfectly obvious that they do, who would trust others when he or she has the perfect opportunity to study history from founding documents? The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States of America, the letter William Barrett Travis wrote asking for reinforcements at the Alamo which was being besieged by the troops of Santa Anna were all written in cursive. Teachers of today do not need to put the STAAR test as a priority when an entire generation of Americans need the ability to read history from first-hand primary accounts. Websites and computer geeks surely can type whatever they wish to type and change a word here and a thought there to make the statements say whatever they wish them to say. The idea of NOT being able to read documents which are written in cursive puts too much power in hands that may not need that power.

cursive alphabet chart

     What can parents do? Go to local school board meetings and ask for cursive to be taught as early as is possible. It CAN be done if it is integrated into other subjects and not taught just as a “stand alone” topic. It needs to be done throughout the week and not just an hour or so when time allows. It needs to be started in the earliest of grades when learning is easier. When all else fails, begin this summer to set aside at least one day of each week as a parent to gather pens, pencils, and paper and teach cursive yourself. Parents, or older siblings, will be doing a great service to the children in the family. Online and in stores one can easily find print copies of correctly written capital and lower case letters. Make it a game. Practice signing autographs as if famous. Write letters to grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Thank you notes for birthday gifts are always welcomed. If schools will not teach cursive, make sure the children in your own family know and can write well. English teachers who assign essays, if those are still required, will thank you. But more importantly, you will have helped your own children. Summer is almost here. Do what is necessary to help a child succeed.

A note from the editor:  Many elementary teachers today use a program called Handwriting without Tears because it is easy to learn, easy to read, and easy to write.  Third graders in Texas, as per the TEKS, are required to learn cursive.  After that, they are allowed to choose cursive or print, whichever is “more appropriate.”

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Life’s Little Paper Trails

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Personal History
Giles and Evelyn Dodson, 1987
Giles and Evelyn Dodson, 1987

     After our parents are gone, we cannot ask them pertinent questions about where important papers are located, what funeral preferences exist, and other everyday questions, which earlier could have been easily answered by a simple phone call. How much broth goes into the dressing? What songs would you like to have at your funeral? Too late! Every person alive right now who has a parent who lived through and remembers such events as the Great Depression or World War II should take notice that your parents are of an age where one had better talk openly about any nagging questions, no matter how trivial they may seem. Otherwise, we are “condemned” to follow whatever paper trail the parents have left for us in places both expected and unexpected. That quest can take strange turns.

     My parents could not be called true hoarders, but they DID live through the Depression, which left a great impact on them. They remembered World War II as if it were a recent event. When my family and I went through their things, we found that we could not just grab a box of clipped cartoons, or a tin of rubber bands, or even a stack of old Christmas cards and throw the entire thing into the trash. Invariably, there would be one little “nugget” in each pile of what had appeared to be nothing…a nugget we would have missed if we had not been careful and deliberate. Many times I found myself asking, “WHAT were you THINKING?” of my absent parents. Mama was a great seamstress, and left me the contents of her sewing room. I had three brothers, and I suppose she thought I would be more interested in those items than they would. I sorted through boxes and boxes of fabric, enough to totally outfit an entire cast of any movie set in the 1970’s…a LOT of double knit! I have patterns, thread, fabric, and buttons to last my lifetime and a couple more generations. Daddy was careful to keep “good” rubber bands in a big coffee can. Sure enough, after I had finally decided to throw them away, I actually NEEDED one!

     Mama kept little clippings of quotations and favorite phrases, but she also kept the newspaper item showing when my youngest brother’s birthday appeared for the Selective Service draft, as the draft was still ongoing for our “Viet Nam experience.” Tucked away in the drawer of her sewing machine, she left it to remind herself (and now me) that whether or not he was drafted was an ever-present worry on her mind. Daddy had left notes in his handwriting in his Bible, whether they were ideas for his Sunday School class or notes from a sermon he had heard. One was entitled “Work,” and for every question in life, his answer was to work. He was always busy, and never seemed to take a vacation unless it corresponded with work or church responsibilities. My parents kept letters, postcards, and calendars with important names and birth dates indicated.  These have proven to be great markers of important life events such as graduations, births, and even hospital visits. I found a tiny card that had been attached to flowers Daddy had sent on the day I was born. I have a Valentine he sent to Mama when they were both in second grade. These items are priceless, but are not considered valuable in monetary terms.

     War Ration Book 1      Another group of papers in the nightstand on my mother’s side of the bed shows how important war time had been to my parents. She had kept four war ration cards, one for each person in the family at that time…with some of the stamps for gasoline, sugar, and such still attached. (What were you thinking, Mom?) The notice on the ration cards said, “Do not throw this away. You may need it again someday.” My mother truly believed there might come a day in her lifetime when these ration cards would come in handy. Luckily, they were not needed. Another quote on the government-issued documents said, “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without.” Do you know of any person who lives by this mantra today…in the “throw-away” society in which we live? I had to be meticulous going though their things, partly in search of something of value. I watch Antiques Roadshow, but still have not stumbled onto anything of monetary worth. But I also had to be careful, because once something is thrown out, it is GONE…and, like yesterday, it cannot be retrieved. Mama had a clipping in her pattern cabinet from an advice column dated before her own mother had passed away. The advice given was not to grieve for relatives who had died, but to enjoy the holidays and every day. I am happy I found that.

War Ration Book 2

     I saved the laundry room shelves for last. After all, what could possibly be up in those shelves other than cleaning solutions, light bulbs, and such? Finally, using a stool and getting on top of the dryer, I reached the top shelf. There was the Hopalong Cassidy lunch box which had been used and abused, and it even had a “replacement” handle made of a coat-hanger. (Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without?)I found cans of Singer sewing machine oil and an unopened box containing a bottle of white shoe polish. Maybe it was a little on the “antique” side, but it wouldn’t be worth much.

Lunch box

     At last, at last, I reached for the final item. It appeared to be a shallow, sturdy box with the lid under the bottom so that it was open on top like a boxy tray. It was very light and felt empty. Then I saw that there was something inside. It was the leather-like back of what used to be a Bible, probably a small New Testament. The BACK of a Bible? Why keep that? Then I turned it over and saw, in my mother’s handwriting, a statement she had used raising all four of us kids. This was a statement we all THOUGHT she had invented. I was an adult before I realized it was actually in the Bible. It said, from Numbers 32:23 “BE SURE YOUR SINS WILL FIND YOU OUT.” As I was standing on top of the dryer, all I could say was, “WHERE ARE YOU? OK, I FOUND IT!”

     Never take a day for granted. One day your own paper trail will be a quest for those who follow in your footsteps.

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