Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #4)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson

Pages: 146
Age Range: Adult
Published: 1962
Genre: Horror/Suspense
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: ***
Rating: P

I'm not sure I'm qualified to review this book.  I'm pretty sure there are a lot of things I missed.  (For exampleJonathan Lethem, who wrote the introduction, talked about how Uncle Julian was possibly spared from the first round of murders because he was homosexual.  Not sure why that would spare him and no where in the book did I gather anything to suggest he was. But then again, maybe I missed something...)

Anyway, with that disclaimer, on to the review!

I went into this really hoping for a good, scary summer read (not sure why I need a scary book in the summer but somehow it just feels right) but it was rather disappointing.  Not that it didn't have its creepy moments and eerie characters, but I read it late at night and didn't have any problems turning the lights out right after and drifting easily to sleep. Bah! Check out that cover though.  That is pretty darn creepy!

Two sisters live together with their wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian in a house on the edge of town. The rest of their family members all died from poisoning several years earlier.  The townspeople have a hey day with the events creating chants and taunts about the house and the girls, daring each other to touch the front door or cross the property and so on.  Constance, the oldest, contributes to the strange tales by never leaving the house but steps into the mother role doing the cooking, cleaning and nurturing of the other two. Mary Katherine (Merricat) ventures into town every now and then to purchase supplies and stop by the library but she does her best not to talk to anyone.  And Uncle Julian spends his time trying to reconstruct the events of that fateful night in order to write a book.

They're comfortable in their self-imposed exile.  Some of the more well-meaning/nosy neighbors stop by regularly for tea and to pass judgments and distribute advice but for the most part they are rather isolated until one day their cousin Charles shows up. His flattery and attention woos Constance and she begins making plans to change things and perhaps even leave the house. He forces his way into their father's room, usurping his possessions and begins to make decisions for them all.  His flattery and attention woos Constance and she begins to fall under his spell, making plans to change things, leave the house, put Uncle Julian in a home and send Merricat off to school.  But Merricat sees the cruel way he treats Uncle Julian and how his conversation is always turned to money and she inadvertently (?) takes matters into her own hands. 

As a result of her trashing his room a fire starts from his dropped pipe.  They all escape to the front lawn where they helplessly watch their house burn. Neighbors come and initially help but quickly the scene turns ugly and mob mentality takes over. Furniture saved from the fire is smashed through the remaining windows.  The chants and taunts are screamed out by maniacal adults wanting blood and the girls are pushed, surrounded, and terrorized before they are able to escape and find refuge in the woods. Uncle Julian dies and Charles melts away into the night. After things calm down the girls return to the home where they barricade themselves in never to be seen again. Several townspeople come by again and call through the windows to the girls they know are inside shouting apologies and swearing they didn't mean anything by it. And eventually Charles resurfaces and attempts to worm his way in again.  But the girls have learned their lesson and trust no one but themselves. The end.

Like I said earlier, I really wanted this to be scary but it was mostly strange and disturbing. There are some serious psychological issues at play here. Without giving away all of the major plot points let's just say that the family is twisted and they all have their own little demons that make them literally crazy. But the townspeople aren't much better. 

In her short story The Lottery the townspeople all gather on a regular basis in order to stone someone to death. Every other day of the year they are your average citizens, your friends, co-workers, neighbors, and yet they find a way to set all of that normality aside and logic their way into committing cruel murders over and over again. The townspeople in Castle are much the same. It's scary how easily a person (or group of people) can put aside morality and conscience to commit a truly heinous act. There's a bit of demon inside all of us I suppose but Ms. Jackson has a way of zeroing in on the worst case scenario and reminding us all how fine that line between goodness and twisted evil really is. (Hmm, I think this will get spookier the more I ponder it, but I would have liked a little more instant gratification during the reading process...oh well!)

Recommended for fans of the slightly creepy from teens on up.  And if anyone has some brilliant insights or additions to my haphazard thoughts, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #3)

Play, Louis, Play!: The True Story of a Boy and His Horn
Author: Muriel Harris Weinstein
Illustrator: Frank Morrison
Pages: 99
Age Range: 7-10
Published: 2010
Genre: Biography
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: ****
Rating: G

I'm always a sucker for biographies, especially of the picture book or short chapter book variety. I love that you can get a chunk of a story or glimpse into someone's life and learn so much in just a few pages. Make it the biography of someone I grew up with (not literally of course) and I'm sold!

I don't remember a time when I didn't know who Louis Armstrong was. His unique voice is as powerful a memory device for me as certain smells can be. Closing my eyes and listening to him sing and wail away on his trumpet can instantly take me back to my grandpa's living room or a long car ride with my family or a dozen other places. He and Ella Fitzgerald (whom he partnered with extensively in his later career) are as much a part of my family as any of my blood relatives, I just haven't had a chance to meet them...yet!

So, this little gem of a book is a brief and simplified introduction to Louis' life, told from the viewpoint of his horn. Watching a small, eager boy from his perch in the pawn shop window he sees him scrabble to make a few meager coins to help support his single mother and baby sister. He watches Louis mimic the musicians in the parades that traipse through the streets of New Orleans on a constant basis. He mourns when Louis is sent to a correctional facility after a misunderstanding and rejoices when Louis returns home and is finally able to scrape together enough money to make the horn his own.

The book is filled with words and phrases that paint pictures of the time and place as well as the music, the voice of the horn carrying just enough slang to flavor the text but not so much that it will confuse young readers. Here are a couple of samples:

Louis soft-shoed up to the counter. He put the five bucks down. When Louis picked me up, I wanted to blow so darn loud that all the horn players in New Orleans would cry, "Now that's what I call a horn"
Louis looked at my old, stained body and said he could shine me up so good I'd make everybody squint. Then--without ever reading a note, without ever taking a lesson--Little Louis picked me up, puckered his lips, and blew "Home, Sweet Home" as if it were born on his tongue. (pg. 43)

Louis walked to the front of the stage. They had no mics then. Louis tilted his head back and blew a new kind of blues, blowing notes higher than anyone had ever heard, holding them longer than anyone else--notes that moaned, then turned sugar sweet and soared so high they touched the moon. One by one each note turned colors: first blue, then lazy purple, then spinning round like pink molasses and cotton candy, then into swirls of rainbow-colored ribbons. All floated down as soft as velvet, turning in the air, curling into your ears. (pg. 74-75)

Good stuff, eh?

The story leaves off just as Louis is rising to fame and fortune but there is an afterword that gives the reader some additional information about jazz music in general, his influence on musicians everywhere and the rest of his life. There's also a glossary for some of the lesser-known and slang phrases and a nice list of references (including two autobiographies which have landed on my ever-growing TBR list!)

There are also some illustrations that nicely complement the text. The black and white charcoaly sketches lend themselves to the feel of the time period and will encourage any reluctant readers who will only read books with pictures!

Louis Armstrong had a rough start but his effervescent spirit and his willingness to work hard saw him through the tough spots and helped him succeed. A great lesson for all of us! Highly recommended for anyone interested in African American history, jazz music, or a host of other topics.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I'm off to daydream about a long overdue trip back to 'Nawlins but I'll leave you 
with a sampling of greatness from the man himself.  (It's not the best version but I wanted to give you a sample of his character along with his singing and his playing.) Happy listening!

(*sigh* One day I will learn to play the trumpet!)

Happiness is...contagious!

Blog hopping earlier today I came across these two videos which I think are fantastic.  The first is a gazillion authors and illustrators sharing their enthusiasm for life and encouraging youth not to give gets better. What a great message.  Life is hard, for everyone. But add the hormones and the uncertainty and the identity crises and the small world (ie middle school or high school) that these kids have to face every day and everything is compounded at least a hundred times. Things really do feel like the end of the world sometimes.  And if you've got someone telling you that you're no good (or worse) it won't take too long before you start to believe it unless you've got ten someone elses telling you that you're not.  So here they are.  Listen to them.  They are wise and know what they are talking about!

The next one comes from TED (a non-profit organization devoted to spreading worthwhile ideas specifically in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design) and is all about the power of a smile. I dare you to smile without feeling better.  You just can't do it. And if you're smiling the odds are the people you come in contact with are going to feel a bit better too. There's some interesting stuff here.  (I can't figure out how to embed it so...) Click over and take a listen.

So, your task for today (should you choose to accept it) is to simply smile and hopefully in doing so you will help lift someone around you and give them the courage to hang on a little longer because 'this too shall pass' and it will get better!

Thanks to Fuse 8 for the links!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #2)

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia NicolsonAuthor: Louise Rennison
Pages: 247
Age Range: 14+
Published: 1999
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Cover Score: ***
Overall Grade: ***

This is Bridget Jones for the teen set.  14-year-old Georgia has a 3-year-old sister who leaves dirty diapers in her room, a mother who may or may not be cheating on her father (who is in New Zealand trying to find a job) with the interior decorator, a 'best' friend who doesn't know the meaning of tact and is obsessed with a certain boy,a mad cat the size of a Labrador (Angus) and a knack for getting herself into embarrassing situations involving stuffed olive costumes, tennis rackets, kissing cousins and her best friend's crush's gorgeous older brother she's dubbed the Sex God.

Written in diary entry format we follow Georgia's exploits on her quest to impress the Sex God while suffering the typical teenage angst, confusion, frustration and melodramatics all with a British accent! The slang abounds and Georgia's dry and (one imagines) straight-faced delivery add to the charm of her voice and character.  (There is a handy glossary at the back to aid the American readers who might not understand that 'snogging' means 'kissing', 'joggerbums' are sweat pants, 'naffs' are basically nerds as are 'swots'.)

Her unabashed self-deprecating comments will be recognizable to any teen who feels she herself may be 'too ugly to ever get a boyfriend', yet her actions are strong and basically independent.  She stays true to herself and laughs in the face of popularity and expected behavior, if not always on purpose. She's a highly endearing character. 

As with the Bridget Jones books the focus tends to be primarily on the male/female relationship. There is some mention of sex but most of the talk revolves around kissing and it's various stages (simple closed mouth, open mouth, tongue, etc.) though there is a bit of talk about fondling and breasts (both her hopes that she'll actually grow some and then the subsequent fondling of them by various boys in her life.) And she constantly wonders if she might actually be a lesbian, although she has no idea what that really entails. All in all a humorous read but possibly not for everyone.

This was also Printz Honor (think Newbery for Young Adults) book back in 2001.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #1)

We'll start things off right with a fun little fairy tale.  Once upon a time...

The Salamander Spell
Author: E. D. Baker
Pages: 248
Age Range: 10+
Published: 2007
Genre: Fantasy
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: ****
Rating: G

Princess Grassina is the younger of 2 princess daughters of the King of Greater Greensward and his wife the good Green Witch. She's not as smart or composed as her older sister Chartreuse and is constantly struggling to find a way to shine outside of her sister's spotlight. When her mother falls prey to a curse which turns her into a cruel old hag and her father dies and becomes a ghost inhabiting the castle's dungeons she finds her chance.  

Fleeing her mother's evil spells and her sister's cruel words she runs away from the castle to live in the surrounding swampland.  There she meets Haywood, a young boy with magical abilities who has run away from his family's intolerance of his magic (who's ever heard of a nice wizard,  after all?) He helps her discover her own hidden magic and together they practice their power and make it grow. She hears of a band of marauding werewolves terrorizing the countryside, headed toward the castle and vows to do what she can to help stop the onslaught. She and Haywood defeat the werewolves, encounter a Vila, stop a manticore and return peace to the kingdom. Grassina also comes into her full power and inherits the ring of the Green Witch from her cursed mother while Chartreuse reluctantly accepts that she has no magic, chooses a worthy husband and prepares to become queen.

This is a prequel to earlier books in the Tales of the Frog Princess series so while there are several questions left unanswered in this volume readers will find all the loose ends tied up in the additional installments. I've only read one other but Ms. Baker is a consistent writer with enough of a modern feel to her tales to make them easily accessible to young readers but with the familiar taste of a classic about them as well.  This is a fun, newly imagined fairy tale sure to delight fans of magical creatures, princesses and light adventure.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happiness is...a to do list.

The start of summer came and went without my noticing last week. We've had a bit cooler weather than normal and things have been crazy busy with a couple of friends and roommates leaving and getting married and doing a million parties and get-togethers and packing and cramming in last minute events and I blame it on that.  It doesn't really feel like it should be summer yet.  (That is one thing I miss about not working in a school setting is the very clear delineation between 'school time' and 'summer vacation'...I miss my summer vacations!) I realized that the summer could very easily slip away from me if I didn't do something about it.  So, I sat down to make myself a list of some summery things to do and goals for the next couple of months. 

Here's what I came up with: 
  • camp on the beach
  • catch fireflies
  • go to the 4th of July celebration on the Mall
  • make some homemade ice cream
  • go to a baseball game
  • take advantage of the pool at the new place
  • go to an outdoor concert
  • kayak the Potomac
  • go to a movie under the stars
  • Go to Yellowstone, Southern Utah, the Shenandoahs, 
  • go to a performance at Wolf Trap
  • do more hiking
Am I missing anything? What are some of your favorite summertime activities/traditions?

This week we are starting our big Summer Quest Reading Programs at the library.  We sign the kids up to read books throughout the summer and host fun activities (puppet shows and magicians and such) each week through the first part of August.  I decided I needed to shake up my reading just a bit and if I was going to spend time encouraging kids to read and set goals for the summer I could do the same.  So, my goal is to read one book each day and blog a short review about it for the six weeks that our Summer Quest program is going on.  My hope is to do at least one 'adult' book each week because I just never seem to be able to find the time to read things other than my kid books. And I'm hoping to limit myself to no more than two picture books each week as well.  The rest will be a mixture of juvenile and young adult, fiction and non-fiction depending on what strikes my fancy.  

I have about 12 books on my desk at work at the moment so the first few shouldn't be hard to choose.  I would love some suggestions for grown-up books though. What are some of your absolute must-reads? Those books that you are constantly trying to foist on people so you have one more person you can talk to about it and share your love/pain/frustration/excitement etc.? I'm open to just about anything (though really long books may get nixed for now due to the time constraints).  

Here are a few I'm thinking about:

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (I'm just about halfway through this one so it's cheating a little but I may count it anyway!)
Room by Emma Donahue
My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Portable Dorothy Parker
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (except this is a series so I may postpone it for when I have nothing else on the docket and can read the whole darn thing!)
something by Georgette Heyer
Divine Signatures by Gerald Lund

I'd like to maybe throw in a purely beachy chicklit-type read, something light and fluffy akin to a Hallmark movie.  And maybe a classic of some sort.  My bookclub takes a summer hiatus and suggested Middlemarch as the longer read to keep us busy but it's like 700 pages or something ridiculous so I may skip that and just watch the movie! (Shhh, don't tell!) Any others I should put on my list?

Thanks for indulging my list-making once again. I look forward to any suggestions anyone may have for additions to either list. I'm off to bed but I'll be back tomorrow with book review #1!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happiness is...environmental art.

I wish I had artistic ability.  Sometimes I like to pretend I do but really it's more of a talent for mimicry than anything else.  I am not very creative, but I'm appreciative. I can spend hours wandering through museums or galleries marveling at everyone else's talent to think and create.

I also love nature. You've already had to endure my waxing rhapsodic over the colors and sights and sounds of gardens and mountains and whatever else happens to be floating my boat at the moment so I won't make you go there again. But I want to sing the praises of a few artists who use the best pieces of nature to create pieces of art. (This is by no means an art lesson, merely my own ramblings so forgive me if my terminology or anything else is off.)

My current obsession is environmental art. To me, an environmental artist views nature as a palette of possibilities. They take the picture that the rest of us see, shatter it to pieces and then put it back together mosaic-like, creating something wholly new and yet familiar and recognizable in its strangeness. Sometimes the piece is removable and separate from the world around it, something that becomes its own individual creation to be enjoyed of its own accord.  But more often it is left where it began to return back from whence it came with only a photograph to remember what it was, its other life lived for a short time.

Here are a few of my favorite artists right now.  All of the images are from their websites unless otherwise noted below.

Andy Goldsworthy was my first introduction to the genre. He has an installation at the National Gallery here in DC that's rather impressive but I find some of his other pieces far more breathtaking.

Rowan Leaves and Hole 
Pebbles Broken and Scraped
(images found at the morning-earth website, here)

Then there's Jim Denevan. His pieces are larger and even less permanent, often brushed onto dirt and sand like this...

There's just something haunting and otherworldly about these creations. Crop circles anyone? Love them!

Stuart Ian Frost tends to follow somewhat in Goldsworthy's footsteps. I see a lot of similarities in their styles and materials though Frost's don't seem to stay in their natural habitats. Instead he pulls out of nature  items to create very geometric sculptures.  This one is made from seagull feathers.

Another artist is  Strijdom van der Merwe.  I'm not as familiar with his works but again there are familiar tendencies and flavors here reminiscent of the others. He is also more what I would qualify as a 'modern artist' meaning that rather than just geometric shapes or designs there are abstract forms and images that I feel should represent something that I just don't understand. These are probably my least favorite and yet some of his pieces are enchanting in their own right. (I can't find any linkable/borrowable images to post but take a few minutes to check out his gallery on the website. I love the rocks stuck on toothpicks floating over the water...yeah, not technical at all but that's what it looks like!)

I love that so many of them look as if they are something you might happen upon in your own travels if you were lucky enough, quick enough, special enough to be in the right place at the right time. There's a touch of magic and sorcery to them, as if elves or fairies or woodland creatures have been at play. Just for the moment you can believe that maybe it all happened naturally and absolutely anything is possible.

Do you have a favorite artist or medium? Are you more partial to abstract or realistic images? Paintings or sculptures? Modern or classic? Do you have artistic skills or inclinations of your own? I'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happiness is...your own garden.

I have a black thumb.  I have the very best of intentions with all the houseplants I buy.  I've started several patio gardens and herbs in the kitchen and despite all I do everything seems to end up shriveled and sad looking, or brown and crackly like it just couldn't survive the invisible drought that struck only the plants in my care.

I also happen to love gardens. I've spent countless hours wandering through garden stores, greenhouses, arboretums, botanical centers and gardens of all varieties with my mom and grandpa, my sister and my little old lonesome self. I love the variety of smells and colors and shapes and textures. Flowers and greens and fruits and vegetables, trees and shrubs.  I don't discriminate!

Maybe one day I'll actually learn how to keep them alive long enough to benefit from them.  I'm not so big on weeding but I actually love to water. There's something therapeutic about sending a bit of life back to the parched earth, watching the colors brighten and the leaves revive.

My new place has a garden out back.  I can't claim any true ownership of it since it was all put in before I got here.  But a little part of me still calls it my own.  We've got squash and zucchini plants, tomatoes and potatoes, peas and a whole host of herbs and flowers. We've used the basil and the cilantro and the green onions already and I've got grand plans for broiled tomatoes and zucchini bread....Mmmm! There's nothing better than a fresh out of the garden tomato!

Take a gander...


Can't wait to see how it grows and changes over the coming weeks!

Do you garden? Or do you frequent farmer's markets or participate in a community program to get the benefit of someone else's gardening expertise? What's your favorite thing to grow or eat? Anyone have any brilliant gardening books or techniques to help me on my quest?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happiness is...modern technology.

I don't watch a lot of TV.  I don't have a lot of patience for it. I hate commercials. I have never been able to sit through an entire episode of any sort of reality show whether it features song, dance, bachelors, survivors, apprentices or housewives. And that right there limits my remaining options considerably. I can never seem to be able to remember when the shows I can actually tolerate are on. And then there's the fact that I have a million and a half other things to do and can rarely find the time to just sit and watch. Plus having to share a TV with roommates who never seem to share my taste in shows (they always fall into the category of people who watch shows that require vote-offs and ridiculous amounts of what I would consider public humiliation but the rest of the world seems to think of as fame) makes carving out a bit of time to have control over the remote even harder.            

Enter the DVR.

I have silently mocked people who have worshiped their DVRs for being addicted to television and not having enough of a life to find something more worthwhile to do with their time. I now apologize to all of you from the bottom of my heart. What an amazing invention! I can now pre-program and record the shows I would have forgotten to watch otherwise and watch them at my own convenience sans commercials. Yes, I'm always a bit behind the technology curve and those of you who have had DVR for years are now mocking me. (That's okay, I can take it.)

Like iPods, this is one of those things I'd originally deemed superfluous and would never have gone out of my way to purchase or pay for. (Who needs to have access to all of their music collection at any given moment in time, I mean really?!)  :)  But having moved into a house where it was already part of the package I shrugged and figured I'd never use it.  My iPod, when I finally got one, became an indispensable part of my life and so too, shall my DVR, I'm afraid. Just one more way to be tethered to technology.  *sigh*

But I can go to book club tonight knowing that I will have this week's episodes of


waiting for me when I get home.

I can live with that!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Happiness is...a hike up a mountain!

Well 'mountain' may be a strong term. They don't really grow mountains out thisa-way. But it's about as close to a mountain as you come East of the Mississippi.

I got up oh-so-early Saturday morning to drive to Harper's Ferry, WV and after being thwarted several times by road construction we finally found a path that we could take and still be on the same side of the river as our car when we were done. We ended up walking up to the view at Jefferson's Rock. At this overlook of the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers the former president made the audacious statement "this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic." (We all begged to differ just a bit. Though it is a nice view I'm not sure it quite lives up to the presidential hype.)  What do you think?

Next, we walked back down to the bottom of the hill, crossed the Shenandoah river by way of an old railroad bridge to meet up with the Appalachian Trail and then up to an overlook looking back onto the town. We killed ourselves (though it did end up being nearly 7 miles all told so we weren't quite as wimpy as we'd thought we were) seeing as how none of us were in the shape we used to be and this being the first hike of the season. (Yeah, let's blame it on that!)

Regardless, it was a gorgeous day.  The weather couldn't have been better if we'd ordered it ourselves.  And it was great to be out and about enjoying nature and laughing it up with good friends. Thanks for the memories ladies (you know who you are) and let's not too long go before we do it again.  I swear my knees and lungs will get used to it if we do it enough, right? I refuse to believe it's just that I'm old! :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happiness is...remembering a hero.

I know I wrote a bit about heroes before but today I want to mention the real life heroes rather than the comic book/fictional ones. This post is a few days late in coming and I apologize but I didn't want the week to pass without taking a moment to express my extreme gratitude for all of those who have gone before.

I have a great legacy of ancestors as I've mentioned before. I come from a long line of pioneers (in the literal trekking across the plains sense and the more figurative sense) and those who have lived and died for their faith, their families and their beliefs. I continually wonder if they are looking down on me from the great beyond and shaking their heads in exasperation, cheering me on, or laughing at my constant stupidity. Either way, I know without a doubt that they are aware of me and what I am doing, at least to some extent, and we'll have an opportunity to commiserate or laugh together when my mortal sojourn is complete. That's a pretty great feeling as well as a big responsibility.

I also have what can only be called reverent pride for those who serve our country. Both of my grandfathers served in WWII; one in the Pacific Theater and one in Europe and Africa. Several of my uncles have served in the Army and Air Force in Vietnam and the current skirmishes in the Middle East. I've been blessed to have them all return relatively unscathed (can anyone who has seen war be truly unaffected? I doubt it.)  But I know that there are others who aren't so lucky. And I know that they rarely get the credit, recognition and appreciation they deserve.  Often they are the targets of public ridicule from those who oppose whichever war may be going on (as if the service men started the wars themselves) or the government when the war isn't going the way they'd planned (when do wars ever go as planned?) They sacrifice their time, their families, their sanity/health and often their lives for very little in return. And I want to give my personal appreciation for every single one of them past and present who fight and patrol and serve in so many ways to help preserve our way of life.

One of my favorite things about living in the DC area is the pervading influence of patriotism in the air. Rarely a day goes by that I don't see someone in uniform or see a reminder of what they are fighting for. I love the spirit you feel at the monuments and memorials and want to share just a bit of it here in honor of those who give so freely.

Air Force Memorial

WWII Memorial (with Washington Monument in the background)

Korean War Memorial

Vietnam Memorial

Arlington Cemetery

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Heroes don't always wear capes or have mystical powers but they always save the world, even if it's just their little corner of it. My hope is that I will be able to live my life in such a way that I in no way cheapen the sacrifice that others have made to get me where I am today. God bless those who have gone before and God bless those who serve. Happy (late) Memorial Day.