Readin’ and Writin’ Presidents

I am reading: Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and The Books They Wrote, by Craig Fehman. While it is not in the title, I would add that past presidents are enthusiastic readers. I already knew about Thomas Jefferson, but he was not alone. These leaders had the space and wealth to acquire massive personal libraries. It appears that some were addicted to reading.

Here are a couple of interesting facts:

  1. They wrote in their books…A LOT! I loved learning this because I, too, write in my books. I underline and make notes all along the page edges. It makes it difficult to pass these books on to others and impossible to sell. A few friends told me they like my notes. It tells a little about me, for one thing. One friend said, “You don’t read books; you study them.”

2. Biographies written by the presidents were of two types: campaign books and legacy books. I have read some of each.

The campaign books were written before a person ran for the presidency. In the early years, humility was considered so important a virtue for presidents that they didn’t even campaign for themselves. Their friends and supporters did all the work. Some newly elected didn’t even attend their own victory parties. While tooting their own  horns was frowned upon, a person could write a biography that told of his life and philosophy. If done well, the general public wouldn’t even know of a man’s ambitions. JFK wrote Profiles in Courage and Obama wrote two, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams of Our Fathers. One could argue whether they weren’t really writing with the idea of campaigning for the presidency, but I would suggest that the books indicated that both of them were pretty ambitious when it came to politics. Some earlier presidents wrote under a ghost writer…to maintain their humble image.

Legacy books are written after one has left office. As you might expect, such a book gives a former president an opportunity to defend themselves against their critics and to justify decisions they made while in office. Obama wrote one of these, A Promised Land. I read both of his books. I happen to have been a supporter of President Obama, but I could clearly see that he wanted an opportunity to defend actions for which he was criticized.

This morning I read about Lincoln who didn’t have access to books until his fathers’ second marriage. His father thought reading was a waste of time, better to put your time into physical labor. Add to this the dire poverty and lack of access to books. One time Abe’s neighbor loaned him a book to read and it was spoiled when rain leaked through the Lincoln shack. It took him a long time to pay for the damage. Lincoln also liked to write and was known to write on paper anywhere he could find it and on wood slices from the wood pile. One of the reasons he settled in Springfield IL is that there was a library there, rare for areas in the boonies…those areas west of the elite East.

I feel I have more in common with these folks than with my peers today. I am eager to learn about more recent presidents and their reading and writing practices.



Thinking About 2

I don’t believe in numerology. I don’t pooh-pooh it either. Along with astrology, I pay very light attention to it. “All things work together…” says the scriptures that I claim to follow. The Old Testament writers believed in both. Among those who came to visit the Bethlehem family were astrologers. So, I am open but you won’t find me consulting any charts.

But today perked my interest. It is the second of February in the year 2022. In addition to being Ground Hog Day, one of my favorite holidays (right up there with Pi Day), the numbers look like this: 2-2-2022. I thought that perhaps this could bring good tidings as the wise men believed when they followed the star. I found an article by Shereen Campbell on Yahoo News. Here is what it said:

Today’s date is the first of the last three 222 days 2the century. The three are today,  February 20, 2022 (2-20-2022), and February 22, 2022 (2-22-2022). After that the trio of threes doesn’t occur again until February 2, 2222. The 222 sequence is called angel numbers. The number 2 in numerology references the energy of duality, partnership, relationship and balance. The key lessons in dealing with the number 2, Campbell says, center around compromise, acceptance, compassion, cooperation and harmony.

Golly gee…the world could sure use a heavy dose of all of that right now. Imagine when 2/2/2222 comes around!


When my husband’s mother moved from her apartment into a nursing home, it was up to us to clear out her place. We brought home a few furniture pieces and  boxes and boxes of dishes and collectables.  We still have a few of the furniture pieces, a couple of chairs, book cases, end tables. Some pieces were taken by any children who were setting up housekeeping at the time. It is Bernie’s family that blessed us with the dishes that we continue to use for holidays. There are also knickknacks that we kept and sit out on shelves around the house. Many items we just packed away for sentimental reason. The rest went into a garage sale.

I can still recall the well-dressed woman who came to our sale and scooped up a bunch of the little figurines that, as far as I was concerned, were just dust collectors. After paying for the items, around 10 cents each, the woman handed me her card. She was an antique dealer. “Call me if you get more,” she said. Ugh.

Clearly we will be leaving this house at some point. What will become of all the items we have saved over the years? For the most part, it isn’t important, but I can imagine a grandchild some day wishing to have a keepsake that reminds them of us or speaks of their ancestry. Since our grandkids are starting to marry we decided to give each of them one of these treasured items as part of their wedding gift. Along with each item, we write a note describing its origin.

Looking through the boxes for an item to give the most recent grandchild to marry, we came across a tall glass vase that neither Bernie or I can recall seeing before. Should we not give it because we can’t think of a story to tell? Bernie suggested looking the vase up on line since there is an identification on the bottom of the vase. I did so this morning. While I didn’t find this particular vase, I found other items by the same manufacturer that were produced around the 1940’s the right time for his parents to have acquired the vase. The prices ranged around $500 to $1000. Well, go figure!

We may not be able to tell a story to tuck into the package when we send our granddaughter the gift, but I think it would be a good idea to suggest she not ever put it in a garage sale.


Exploring New Things

It is fun to explore new things. Last week I bought a piano keyboard and I am expecting a learn-to-play book for adults next week some time. I am hoping playing an instrument will improve my thinking.

Also, I am sick of not contributing that Covid seemed to impose on me. I find myself bored and feeling without any purpose on this earth. I was talking to Bernie about it the other day. I said that I would make a wonderful volunteer to work with kids. In addition to motherhood and grandmotherhood, I had a career in youth ministry and another as a parent educator in early childhood. The Morrison County Record had an article this weekend about the Foster Grandparent Program. I think I will check it out this week.

No more feeling sorry for myself being stuck in these winter days.

A Walk with Dyer

I went to the New2You store in Little Falls on Thursday, senior discount day (25%).  For those unfamiliar with the store, it was opened a few years ago to help support the Boys & Girls Club next door. My husband Bernie had a hand in it and he continues to serve on the store board and volunteers hours each week helping out in the office.

I stopped by to take a quick look at their used books and ended up walking out with 6 for which I payed $2.50. How’s that for a bargain? Two I will give as gifts and I expect to read the other four.

One that I picked up is Wayne Dyer’s There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem. I liked the title because without even reading the book, I believe it. I just think reading Dyer’s take on the idea will deepen this belief. I paged through the book and read the Foreword and Introduction. I find I can’t wait to get into the meat of it.

I took a peak at the Index and found that he refers to David Hawkins several times throughout. I will often do this when buying a book. If I am drawn to one philosopher or spiritual teacher, I find that I can usually trust another who is drawn to the same. At 77, I have read many ways of looking at how the worlds work and have come to settle on some ideas of my own. I imagine my spirituality will deepen and grow but not likely change. Reading insights by others on a similar path helps me with this.

In the forward, Dyer talks about surrender or turning a problem over to a higher power. Already we are on the same page. For me this is the first step in recovery. It can be a slight turn that aims one in a totally different direction. He also talked about helping others as a path to joy. Bingo.

The third idea that stands out for me I shared with some friends this morning and these dear sojourners all nodded with recognition. He said we can shift out of low energy patterns and access spiritual guidance in a matter of moments…simply a thought away. Bingo again.


Cathedral Ceilings

My husband and I went shopping today for new counter tops for our kitchen. The old counters are just fine, but the color green is 21 years old and we thought something lighter might brighten things up. It is our second update on the house since we built it. The first was a new sliding glass door out the back onto our porch. That was three years ago. Don’t want to move too fast when it comes to change.

I just got up from my nap which always takes place on the couch that butts up against the tallest wall in our house, about 14 feet from floor to ceiling. When we built the house cathedral ceilings were “the thing”. You could buy a tiny little house with very little floor space that looked spacious because of the high walls. What a scam! Cathedral ceilings belong in cathedrals.

First of all, repainting the walls is out of the question. We are both 77 years old and ladders are no more a sensible option, so this is a job for professionals. The new owners whoever and whenever that may be will be blessed with that chore. On the wall behind my couch we have a hung a 4′ by 8′ Aztec design blanket. I think we got it from my daughter and her husband when they went to Mexico years ago. My daughter doesn’t remember giving it to us and we have never been to Mexico, so here is no sentimental attachment to it. But what in the world would we put on such a large wall if we didn’t have it? Cathedral ceilings belong in cathedrals.

Heat rises so we have a fan installed to force the rising heat to the floor so our feet don’t get so cold. Not a bad idea until one has to clean the fan…another ladder chore. I remember a friend who had such a fan but it was so out of reach  she had to have a professional come in just to dust the damned fan. Cathedral ceilings, ugh, belong in cathedrals.

Sound, it seem, also rises and bounces off of things like walls and ceilings. That is great if the sound is a magnificent organ or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. In our house, my husband can be talking on the phone in the kitchen and I can’t hear the television in the den which is a totally different room down the hall. Yes, yes, I know. Just turn up the volume and I have done that…and Bernie yells from the kitchen, “Turn down the TV! I am talking on the phone!” Cathedrals can keep their ceilings, as far as I am concerned!

How did I get from counter tops to ceilings? If you give a mouse a cookie…


Memorial Day Message

I watched President Biden’s Memorial Day Speech today. It is the best speech I have heard from him thus far. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

He talked about the Right of Remembrance. He may have meant “Rite”, but I thought about the current efforts in the country to keep particular parts of our history out of the history books our children will be using in schools. Every community’s history needs to find a place in those books. Our children should know the truth even the bad so that we can learn from mistakes and continue to grow.

He refers to the United States of America as “the Great Experiment.” Of all expressions this stirs patriotism in me the most. This nation is attempting to make a democracy work in a world where many in the world believe it can’t. It takes work, honesty, willingness to tell the truth and to change when needed. This phrase stirs me to be part of those who keep trying to make the country better.

“They died for us, for the freedom to…” I have heard this phrase multiple times. This morning I ask myself “freedom to do what?” For many Americans, it mean freedom to do whatever they want. But Biden stressed the importance of oneness…which for me, means caring for our fellow Americans. It is the golden rule applied. As I seek my own freedom, I seek the freedom of all Americans, especially those who have been deprived of their rights thus far.

He said, “Empathy is the fuel of democracy.” YES! As I implied above, Democracy only works if we are working for one another as much as for ourselves. Empathy is the capacity to see and feel experience from another person’s vantage point.

This was my favorite: “Every year we get a little more inclusive.” This gave me hope. When we are studying history, we need to tell the truth about the harms we have done, yes, but we need to also acknowledge the lessons we have learned and the improvements along the way. Sometimes I lose sight of these and that is when my patriotism wanes.

Today I thank those who gave their lives for my country. I hope to make their sacrifice worth it as I try to work with others toward the American ideal:  One Nation Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.