Sunday, October 31, 2010

Would You Like a Cup of Tea?

George Washington Was a Fascist and Lincoln a Dead Beat!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blog O' The Irish: Irish Halloween Book Recommendation..

Ireland always has good ghost stories! You may still have time to check out this book from the library and it's review at this blog:  Blog O' The Irish: Irish Halloween Book Recommendation..

What! Belgium Has a Monarchy?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Forgotten Man in a Haunted City

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Move Over Xena: Queen Isabella Was a True Warrior Princess!

You always dress your finest for battle!
Last night I was reading David Starkey's book, "Six Wives:  The Queens of Henry VIII."  Thinking I knew a lot about Henry's first two wives, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, I skipped ahead to read about his third wife Katherine Howard.  Katherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, was Anne Boleyn's first cousin and a mere teenager when she became queen.  Her teenage antics and eventually beheading, however, didn't enthrall me.  After a while beheadings, adultery accusations and Henry's violent temper no longer entertain, so I began reading about Katherine of Aragon.

I had always pictured Queen Isabella of Spain, Katherine's mother, as a zealous Catholic and a typical woman of her time period.  During her reign with King Ferdinand, the united kingdoms of Castile and Aragon drove the Moors (Muslims) from Spain, sent Christopher Columbus on his infamous voyage and began the Spanish Inquisition.  Being the typical 21st century woman, I figured that her husband was in charge of everything.  Was I ever wrong!

Queen Isabella was a true warrior princess!  After marrying Ferdinand of Aragon, her brother disowned her and she fought a war against her niece for the crown of Castile.  After defeating her niece and sending her to a nunnery (mental note, never mess with Isabella), she turned her attention to the kingdom of Granada to the south.

Granada was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain and Isabella was determined to rid Spain of them forever.  Isabella, however, didn't sit around in her castle, greeting courtiers, looking beautiful and have babies.  She was on the front lines, even when she was nine months pregnant with Katherine.  Only retiring back to her castle after a key Moorish stronghold had fallen.

Remembering my own pregnancy, I can hardly imagine riding into battle with a swollen belly, surging hormones and bad indigestion.  Perhaps it was the acid reflux or the raging hormones that kept her energized on the front lines.  Or maybe she wanted the pomegranates that the Moors grew?  Pregnancy cravings are a vicious thing.  I had to have ice cream mixed with milk.  What ever works, Isabella, what ever works...

Queen Isabella also believed the reconquering of Spain was the perfect time for family bonding.  Katherine, her two sisters and brother, often accompanied their mother to the front lines and spent a large part of their childhoods in military encampments.  This makes my childhood look like a piece of cake.  All I had to wear was a hobo costume, which I still need therapy for.  Katherine, however, had plenty of baggage.

I guess this goes to show, that anyone, anywhere, in any time period can surprise you!  We can never assume we know anyone, even if the facts are staring us in the face.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Roman Synod: Eastern Catholic Bishop Calls for End to Ban on Ordaining Married Men

The Roman Synod in the Middle East hasn't gotten the press coverage it deserves. Some of the issues facing the Christians in the region are increased dicrimination and violence, emmigration to more tolerant countries and increased respect from Rome. While the synod is meant to address all Christians in the holy land, some Eastern Rite churches, who joined with Rome in the past desire more respect. Never the less, I found this article interesting!

Roman Synod: Eastern Catholic Bishop Calls for End to Ban on Ordaining Married Men

When Did the Puritans Get So Cranky?

They were two people in love.  Thrust together by a bloody Civil War, determined to live a quiet life after the fighting had ceased.  She was from the Midwest, he from New England, both looking for the perfect place for a family.  The New Englander, enamored by the beauty of Northeastern Ohio, consented to settling in the Mahoning Valley.  His wife, a fun loving woman of Pennsylvania Dutch descent, ecstatically agreed with her husband.  New England was stuffy, prudish and home to the non congenial Puritans and while her new husband was descended from their stock, she didn't want to suffocate in New England.  According to family lore, this is why my great great grandparents, the Moodys, decided to settle in Ohio after William had served in the Civil War.

Why did my great great grandmother Caroline despise the Puritans so much?  Hadn't she read my previous posts on how rebellious and sexy the Puritans were?  Apparently, rebels weren't her thing, or maybe the views on Puritans had changed by the 1860's in America.  Which makes me ask the question, "did the Puritans become prudish over time or did something about American culture change?" 

According to the book by Bruce Daniels, "Puritans at Play: Leisure and Recreation in Colonial New England" Puritans enjoyed an active social life and many foreigners who came to Boston in the 17th century were impressed by the merriment that surrounded them.  According to Daniels, a Dutch painter described a joyous scene of full taverns, children milling about and colorful houses and gardens.

Daniels, however, suggests that while the foreign traders were having a wonderful time in Boston, other colonists, especially in Virginia and New York, began creating the image of the dour Puritan.  By the 19th century, the poor reputation of the Puritans had been set in stone, by novelists such as Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I believe two things happened in America, creating a perfect storm of a bad reputation for the Puritans.  First, it was the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, which placed reason over religion.  While the Puritans valued reason, they were obsessed with sin and salvation.  This didn't blend well with the increasing humanist and scientific culture. 

The second reason, I believe, why the Puritans obtained their dour reputation is that they were prolific writers.  Thinking back to my colonial history classes, most of the primary sources came from New England.  One of the first things the Puritans did was set up schools to teach the children how to read and write.  Since the Bible was the only authority Puritans accepted, everyone must be able to read and interpret it.  The Puritans became well educated and their sermons, religious pamphlets, letters and dairies are still in abundance.  In a sense, the Puritans became the Lindsay Lohans and  Britaney Spears of their day.  They were over exposed and very opinionated.  Thus, other Americans began forming opinions based on these writings.

Unfortunately, as Daniels points out, popular Puritan sermons, books on child rearing (take that Dr. Spock), and the religious propaganda they produced, only reflected a small portion of their society and beliefs.  In modern terms, it would be like judging Catholics only by the statements made by the pope.  While the Puritan reputation is being revised by historians, it may take a few hard ciders and an open mind for many to accept a new view of this complex group.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Don't Let Your Children Dress Like Hobos!

My parents never spent money on Halloween costumes.  Instead of the nice, shiny princess or star wars costumes from the store, the three of us "creatively" wore whatever was handy.  For three years in a row, long after they didn't fit, we wore hand sewn clown costumes.  Never mind that I was terrified of clowns or by the third year, I had grown so much that it looked like I was preparing for a flood.  I can still feel my ankles quiver.

That costume, however, was nice compared to others I have worn.  One year I was a robot and the costume was purchased at a garage sale.  Don't get me wrong, I love garage sales, but my mother didn't bother checking if the costume was still intact. As I was trick or treating, nuts and bolts began falling off.  I looked like a walking trash heap, instead of a robot.  sigh

I know what you are thinking, those costumes were pretty bad.  How could it get any worse?  While I could blame the other failures on frugality or lack of creativity, but it has taken years of therapy to forgive my parents for the next one.  I told my parents I wanted to be a princess.  I wanted a store bought costume and I was tired of being made fun of on Halloween night.  Hoping this would get me a beautiful store bought costume, I was looking forward to Halloween.  I should have know better when my mother came home with pink hair dye and a sparkly hat.  (The story gets worse)

I wasn't a princess that year, or any year for that matter.  My parent's sprayed a little pink dye in my hair, put on the sparkly hat and made me wear one of my father's old, smelly, flannel rag (I mean shirt) for trick or treating.  Apparently, I was suppose to be a "punk rocker."  I know, every eight year old's dream right?

While it was obvious to my parents that I was a "punk rocker," the rest of the neighborhood (both children and adults) kept asking me if I was either a hobo or wino.  Why any adult would think that a parent would purposely dress their child as a wino is beyond me?  But there I was, an eight year old who looked like a cross between a white, female, eight year old version of the rapper "Flavor Flav" and a druggie looking for her next hit.  The worse part was, I had no idea what a wino or hobo was.

Why am I telling you this?  I don't want you to make the same mistakes my parents did.  I have done the thinking for you.  There is no reason to be mistaken for a wino, instead you can dress as an historical figure going as another famous person.  While it may confuse people and you won't win any awards, at least you won't be mistaken for a drug addict.


Thomas Jefferson wasn't a big fan of kings, just read the "Declaration of Independence."  However, he would make a dashing Charles II at any Halloween party.  Both Jefferson and Charles had plenty of illegitimate children.  To pull this off, you must have a powdered wig and a copy of the "Declaration of Independence."


Think how you'll stand out as the lovely Anne Boleyn dressed as Hillary Clinton.  They were both ambitious women:  Anne became queen and Hillary was basically president.  Some of Anne's biographers claimed she had a sixth finger, so don't forget to add an extra one to your hand.


Remember the good old days when singers dressed up.  Well Henry VIII, dressed as one of Herman's Hermits will make any girl swoon.  Break out the karaoke machine, Henry just might sing "I'm Henry the VIII, I AM!" 


Don't worry I didn't forget the kids.  Imagine your neighbor's delight when they see your little dolphin dressed as the Dauphin of France.  Before Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette got their heads cut off, the heir to the throne was called the dauphin.  Granted women were never allowed to inherit the throne, but this is the 21st century!

Hopefully I have given you some wonderful ideas for Halloween costumes.  Remember:  Friends don't let friends dress like winos!

Friday, October 15, 2010

More Devastating Facts about the Puritans!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

These Ain't Your Mama's Puritans!

I was reading the book, "A Royal Passion: The Turbulent Marriage of King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France," last night and was reminded of a lesson I taught at a local community college several years ago.  I was fresh out of school and had landed a part-time position, teaching two American history classes.  I was desperately trying to make history fun, while giving my students a different perspective of history and it's actors.

The topic that week wasn't easy.  There was no war, gruesome battles or exciting characters I could use.  "Darn, those Puritans," (I was more liberal in my word choice, but this is a family blog) I thought, "my students are going to fall asleep within the first five minutes, instead of the first ten!"  After all, most people think Puritans were religious extremists, who were judgmental, critical, stuffy and prudish. 

King Charles I of England certainly would not have argued with those statements.  As an Anglican, married to a Catholic, he sought to suppress those who wanted to "purify" the church, otherwise known as Puritans.  The Puritans felt that the Anglican church didn't go far enough during the reformation.  They detested the office of bishop in England, the elaborate masses, the communion of saints and other relics of "popery."

Charles felt the Puritans were dangerous and after several bad parliamentary sessions with the Puritans demanding that Henrietta's Catholic entourage be returned to France, he refused to call another Parliament for a decade.  Feeling that their rights as Englishmen had been violated, many Puritans emigrated to Massachusetts.  However some stayed behind in England, attempting to rid England of the corrupting influence of Archbishop Laud and Henrietta.

After a decade of exuberant spending, Charles needed money to fight the Scottish Presbyterians in the north.  With no money and thinking that the Minister's of Parliament would feel passionate about his crusade against the Scots, he called Parliament.  Making a long story short, the Puritans demanded greater freedom of religion, a regular meeting of parliament, the ability to chose the servants in the King's household and hold trails of those accused of treason.

Charles, not wanting to violate his conscious and unable to make decisions, wouldn't agree to their terms.  The Puritans, incensed, became radicalized and within a couple of years, the English Civil War would begin.  At the end of the war, Charles was a mere prisoner of parliament.  After a long argument on whether Parliament could even try a king for treason, Charles was sentenced to death.  After he was executed, Parliament, at the urgings of Oliver Cromwell, abolished the monarchy.

In the modern era, none of this seems shocking.  Few nations even have kings or queens, Congress meets regularly, we are free to worship as we chose and many kings, queens, czars and dictators have shared the same fate as Charles I.  We must remember, however, that Charles's execution by his own people was unthinkable during his day.  These rebellious Puritans in Parliament changed the way society viewed monarchy and paved the way for democracy.  Now what do you think of the Puritans?  Perhaps you still want to cling to the Nathanial Hawthorne version of the Puritans, but for those who desire a new view; take a drink of some hard cider.  The Puritans believed it was good for your health.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ode to Christopher Columbus

Last year on Columbus Day, my husband and I found ourselves on vacation in Southern California.  The sun was shining, the warmth radiated through the trees and we were enjoying a restful vacation.  So we decided to see the old Spanish Mission, San Juan Capistrano in Orange County.  When the Spanish ruled the west, there were Catholic missions stretching from San Diego in the south, to Sonoma in the north.  The purpose of these missions was conversion of the local population to Christianity.  Today, they provide a glimpse of what life was like on a Spanish mission during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Being a history buff, I was looking forward to sharing this trip with my husband and son.  The day looked promising, until my husband refused to cross the street to the mission.  My husband is reserved and hates conflict, so when he saw protesters outside the mission he stopped dead in his tracks.  Since reading Spanish isn't my husband or I's forte, it was difficult to determine what they were protesting.  I honestly didn't care, people have the right to protest and I have the right to see the mission at San Juan Capistrano.  I began moving forward when my husband yelled, "Wait, we can't go!  I don't want a confrontation!"

Seeing the five protesters with their children in front of the mission, I was doubting there would be any controversy.  Besides, I had come all the way to California and wasn't going to have my vacation ruined by protesters.  I told my husband to "get over it," and politely walked past the protesters.

The protesters were kind, and family orientated, who simply wanted to share the view that Columbus was a mass murderer who committed horrible atrocities.  With the advent of political correctness and so called "revisionist" history (all history is revisionist), Columbus has fallen from grace.  While he still has a national holiday, he no longer gets parades, festivals or much recognition.  The most he gets is libraries, banks and the post office to shut down for a day.

We can debate all day on whether or not Columbus deserves his new treatment, but the fact remains that throughout history popular historical figures have fallen from grace.  Much like celebrities, we build up certain people we feel best represent our nation and ourselves.  Then we promote him/her endlessly and shamelessly, ignoring their faults, until a culture shift occurs and another historical figure takes his/her place. 

Take Benito Mussolini, the Fascist leader of Italy during World War II, while he was trying to rebuild Italy's reputation and economy, he was evoking an image of a new Roman Empire and he was it's Julius Caesar.  Never mind the fact that Caesar routinely killed or enslaved entire peoples he conquered, his image propagated a new image of Italy for the 20th century.

Historic figures have been used, abused and thrown out like yesterday's lunch for centuries.  As America's culture continues to evolve, historical figures we glorify now will either fade quietly into the background or become villains. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

For the Anne Boleyn Obsessed

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Feed the Starving Writer!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Confessions of a Book Banner!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Screwtape Letters and the Catechism of the Catholic Church

I have never been a fan of C.S. Lewis, but the author's use of the Screwtape Letters to teach teenagers about sin is brilliant.

The Screwtape Letters and the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Beware of the Primaries: Not Primary Elections, But Historical Sources

Monday, October 4, 2010

Save Our Belgium Chocolate!

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