Baseball, Hot Dogs and Apple Pie

Americana.  That little slice of life that is uniquely American.  No where else in the world do people celebrate, mourn and remember the way we do here in the United States. 

I am a city girl.  Born and raised in the city.  I lived in the suburbs for awhile, but the city was just a short drive down the highway.  For the last 16 years, I have been living in the bedroom community of a much smaller metropolitan area than the one in which I was raised and lived for the first 26 years of my life.  I left the city; nevertheless, the city has never left me.  10 years ago, we went even more remote and moved out to the "country."  Natives kept telling us were going to go crazy driving back and forth from home to town and vice versa everyday.  They were talking to commuters who regularly drove 45 minutes one way on the interstate to work 5 days a week.  A 10 minute drive through the country to town is nothing!

We live in a  commonwealth state.  We have villages, townships and boroughs.  Our specific area has all 3.  The school district encompasses 40 square miles.  Despite this, the population is only large enough to support 1 high school, 1 middle school and as of the 2011-2012 school year, 4 elementary schools.  Class sizes average well under 300 students.  So we are talking small town.  Where I grew up, we had 5 public high schools, 1 Catholic high school and 1 Protestant high school, averaging over 300 students per class per public high school!  In 16 years, I have yet to get over the culture shock!

There is one big thing I have relished all these years in this small town:  the way the community celebrates.  Yesterday was Memorial Day.  Every year, a parade is followed by a Memorial Day service held in the Middle School auditorium.  I will be forever amused by some of the parade entries.  Besides the High School band, the churches, businesses, civic organizations and leaders of the community, every firetruck, ambulance and municipal/township service vehicles pass us by on the parade route.  If those vehicles ever fail to show, the parade would last about 30 minutes.  This is truly small town America and small town pride.

The Memorial Day service is expressly small town.  It opens with a prayer proceeded by the Pledge of Allegiance (led by a veteran) and the National Anthem.  A high school student from the graduating class and a dignitary speak.  Patriotic songs are played and sung.  Our veterans and current military service members are honored.  This year, a video was presented to memorialize those who died in service to protect our freedoms.  The tribute was very moving. 

I like the way small town America honors and remembers our military service members.  Respect, dignity and sanctity for life are at the core.  We as a nation desire peace, not war.  War is an ugly means, sometimes necessary, to achieve peace.  Our current enemies choose to "honor" their dead by shooting guns in the air and kidnapping, torturing and murdering our own.

Despite the fact that I have never really adjusted (or expect to at this point) to small town life, I am better able to appreciate it.  I will someday move back to a city with all its hustle, bustle and noise and will yearn for a weekend in the country.  Along with my husband, I have happily raised 2 daughters in a  small town.  It is a good life to live.

Now, pass me a slice of that apple pie.

Elizabeth I Murder Mystery Series

Similar to the Jane Austen Mystery Series, Karen Harper has written a series starring Elizabeth Tudor.  Ms. Harper (and Stephanie Barron) have taken two of my loves, history and literature and combined them into exciting adventures, worthy of my time and attention.

The first title in the series, The Poyson Garden, was released in 2000.  The most recent, The Hooded Hawke, was released in 2007.  The Poyson Garden takes place in the time just before Elizabeth gains the crown.  Subsequent titles follow Elizabeth's progress as Queen of England.  Each mystery weaves history and fiction, creating a tapestry for the reader as the mystery itself unravels. 

Elizabeth, while still in control as Queen and executing her duties as such, becomes a detective (as if she did not have enough to do!), solving each murder.  Elizabeth convenes a group of close allies to aid in exposing the murderer in each case.  She calls this group her "Privy Council."  Elizabeth delegates much of the leg-work, going out into her kingdom as she sees the need.  Her excursions give her council much cause for worry as her life is always under threat from rivals.  What if the murderer is really targeting our dear Queen?

I love the way Ms. Harper includes many real characters and events from Elizabeth's realm and time.  She is very thorough in her research of both.  It is easy to confirm and learn more about the people and historical episodes occurring throughout the stories.  Ms. Harper's author's note at the end of each book elaborates on the situations and historical figures.

A timeline of events in Elizabeth's life, a pedigree and a map detailing the area of each title's locations are included at the beginning of each book.  These have been a very helpful aid as London and surrounding environs have changed greatly since the late 1500's.  I am a map user and use the maps frequently as Elizabeth and her Privy Council go forth to nab a murderer and protect their beloved Queen.

I have not yet read all 9 books.  Our library system has the first 3 and 6-8.  If I cannot find the others to borrow, it will be worth it to purchase the others.  I have really enjoyed this series and look forward to reading all 9 books. 

Ms. Harper has other historical novels, some related to Elizabeth I, although perhaps only peripherally.  She also has a few titles set in the Amish country of Ohio in addition to other novels in contemporary settings.  She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.  Ms. Harper formerly taught English at the college level and taught high school literature and writing.* 

*Source:  Karen Harper

Scars Tell a Story

Scars tell a story.  Injuries heal with time; scars remain. 

I was going to post a few pictures of a variety of scars.  Old scars, however, do not photograph well.  Maybe there is a reason why. 

Most scars fade with time.  Some scars that form are relatively insignificant and don't have much to tell.  I have many small, barely visible scars.  I don't even remember the injury behind their birth.  I have others such as the one from chicken pox that is clearly visible to all.  It is a reminder to me of my family's month long encounter with chicken pox as it spread throughout the household.  There are six of us children.  My poor mother!

Other scars remind me to appreciate the life God has given me.  One is from a bone marrow biopsy I had when I was a freshman in high school.  Another medical concern led to blood tests that revealed a bigger concern.  I had the bone marrow biopsy to check for leukemia.  Fortunately, it came back negative and I moved on with my life, left with the scar to remember that scary time.  A series of scars recently acquired are the result of relief from years of pain, but I choose to be reminded of the lives issued forth from my body by the grace of God. I can no longer sustain the life of another in my womb, but I can appreciate the two daughters in my life even more so.  The scars will forever remind me of the blessings they are to me.

Still other scars come from wounds that don't heal well or wounds that run deep, remaining raised and discolored.  However, the scars that run the deepest are the ones hidden from the world.  Scars developed from emotional wounds form in our hearts.  Sometimes, we don't even allow the wounds to heal to the point of scarring, purposefully or subconsciously.  Sometimes, the wound begins to heal and scar, but something happens to us and we rip the wound wide open again.  The deeper, hidden wounds we do allow to heal, leave scars that tend to continue to cause us pain.  The stories behind these wounds and scars make us who are.

Scars are testament to a life lived.