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Martin Luther King Jr.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. Five days before my 9th birthday, my mother took me to the Los Angeles Coliseum for a memorial for Dr. King. Being 8 3/4 and my birthday party around the corner, I was not interested in going to a memorial for a man I didn't know. But my mother insisted, so I went.

Martin Luther King Jr My mother and I were amongst 20,000 people, most of whom were African American who showed up to honor Dr. King. It was the first time I felt different, although I couldn't put my feelings into words. Black faces, old and young surrounded me but what I remember most is the tears. I knew someone had died, but didn't comprehend the meaning of the moment. I just knew everyone there was sad. There was lots of singing, holding hands and rocking back and forth. I don't remember much of my childhood (that's another story) but that feeling of sadness has never left me.

Martin Luther King JrI read Dr. King's “I have a Dream” speech many years ago but recently received an email from the Simon Weisenthal Center reiterating the speech. Dr. King's words were so powerful and so relevant for today that I wanted to share them with you. Please don't skim the speech, but read every word. Dr. King was a great man and left an incredible legacy and would be very saddened by current events. As a community, we need to work very hard to conquer racial injustice in ALL facets of our lives. I am committed to speaking out against racism and helping to educate our children that all people are created equal.

“I Have a Dream,” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Lincoln Memorial 
Washington, D.C.
August 28, 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

 

Credits:

Los Angeles Times

Calisphere, University of California

Biography.com

 

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Get to know Queen Victoria and her dog Dash

I've always been interested in Queen Victoria, my so-called namesake. My father said I had a “regal birth” (he's a doctor and I have no idea what that's supposed to mean) and so they named me Victoria. I've read many books about the queen and know that the love of her life was her first cousin, Prince Albert from Coburg (today's Germany). Their marriage was one of great love. When he died at the age of 42 from what was officially named as Typhoid (now they think he died of complications from Crohn's disease), she mourned for the rest of her life. She was crowned in 1837 and died in 1901 and was the longest reigning British monarch until the current Queen Elizabeth overtook that record.

As princess, Victoria was very lonely. She lived at Kensington Palace with her mother, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn and her mother's comptroller, Sir John Conroy. The two of them devised a plan to keep Victoria safe and well called the Kensington System. Victoria wasn't allowed outside the Palace and had to hold someone's hand while going up or down the stairs (so she wouldn't fall).

One day, Sir Conroy brought a young dog to the palace to give to the Duchess. Victoria took one look at the King Charles Spaniel named Dash and fell in love.

I'm pleased to announce my new book, “Dash and Victoria Find True Love.” Dash loves his Queen but when Prince Albert comes he must learn that his heart is big enough to love more than one person. This book will be launched in May, 2019 in honor of Queen Victoria's 200th birthday.

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School Visit

School Visit – My first reading to Elementary school students

School Visit

My First School Visit!

I took the plunge today! I had my very first school visit and reading! It's so important to connect with the kids that are the readers of my book so I needed to schedule some school visits and readings. It happened to be at the elementary school my children attended many many years ago. I couldn't believe was there and that my kids have been long gone. Most of their teachers have left or retired so I didn't know as many educators as I thought I would. The school had gone through major changes as they built new buildings for classrooms, administration and parking. They expanded the library too!

I could hear the students coming…

I was nervous as 50 first graders came into the library. They grabbed their mats and sat on the floor in front of me. On the screen was the first illustration in the book, Thomas Jefferson petting Buzzy on the grass. A couple of the students said they had read my book. Although I doubted that was true, it still made me feel good! Their innocent faces looked at me waiting for me to begin.

school visit and readingI introduced myself and told them that my own kids had gone to their school. I told them that my son just graduated college and my daughter is about to graduate from law school. “What's law school?” one of the students asked. Then I asked them if they knew the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Most of them did. I asked, “Who likes History?” All hands shot up so I continued to explain how this book is “historical fiction.” I can take real people, places and times and make up a story about them. As long as I stick to some facts.

I asked who had a pet and, again, all hands shot up. One student had a frog, one had some fish, and one even had a shrimp! Hmmm. As I read the book, I noticed all eyes on the screen and me. They were entranced and engaged in the story. My worst fear went out the window!

After the 1st graders left, the Kindergarten class came in. This was 1 class with about 15 students. They were just as inquisitive and attentive as the first group.

I'm trying to set up more readings throughout Southern California. In March, I'm visiting the Chicago area and will be doing some readings there.

Stay tuned for a contest I'll be running in March!

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Monticello: the Home of Thomas Jefferson

IMG_2140My first book, “Buzzy and Thomas Move into the President’s House,” will come out in October on Amazon in ebook and printed form. This early chapter reader is about Buzzy, Thomas Jefferson’s dog, moving into the White House with newly elected President Jefferson. But Buzzy loves living at Monticello and doesn’t want to move. What will she do?

To continue my research on Thomas Jefferson, I took a trip to Monticello.

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Northeast Portico

My docent led tour started at the Northeast portico, which then and today serves as the front door. Directly above the door is the “Great Clock.” The clock has a dual face, one on the outside of the door and another on the inside of the door. It also tracks the days of the week and was wound every Sunday. Mr. Jefferson designed this clock to serve the residents of the house and the workers in the field.

IMG_2136Still standing under the portico, I looked above me and saw the “Compass Rose”, a compass connected to the weather vane on the roof. Mr. Jefferson and his family could determine the wind direction without stepping outside! This was altogether different because they didn’t have cell phones to tell them the weather!

 

Inside Monticello

We were not allowed to take photos inside the house but I’d like to tell you about a couple of things that stood out for me. In the dining room, Jefferson had installed a revolving serving door, which connected to the stairs leading to the kitchen. The servants could place plated dishes on the shelves and turn the door into the dining room where Jefferson or another servant could grab the plates to serve. When no servants were present inside the dining room, Jefferson had complete privacy when entertaining if needed.

Jefferson had designed his bed in the same manner as he noticed in France, when he was ambassador for 7 years. The bed was placed sideways in an alcove, which gave the room more space. It seems logical now, but in those days, no one was doing that except the French!

Jefferson wrote many letters and in 1804, acquired a device called a “Polygraph” that could duplicate his letters while he wrote them. Invented by John Isaac Hawkins, the polygraph used the principles of the pantograph, a draftsman's tool for reducing and enlarging drawings. The writer's hand moves one pen whose action is duplicated by the second one, producing a copy strikingly like the original. Because of this device, we have copies of over 11,000 letters that Jefferson wrote!

Outside Monticello

IMG_2151Jefferson was known for many things, but not many people know that he loved his vegetable garden. It still stands today, with many plants that grew when he was alive. In the Monticello Café, I ate sautéed kale, from kale grown in his garden. He grew many kinds of lettuce, peas, beans and strawberries. He also planted sesame seeds, which he used to make his own salad dressing!IMG_2155

We toured the kitchen, stables and wine storeroom as well. While in France, Jefferson collected many kitchen utensils, which he brought back with him to Monticello. In 1809 and kitchen remodel was completed which included a bake oven, fireplace and stew stove. Jefferson is described as America’s “first distinguished viticulturist.” He believed the United States could “make as great a variety of wines as are IMG_2147made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” His wine cellar was built directly beneath the dining room with bottle-sized dumbwaiters that rose into the cellar’s ceiling and into both sides of the mantelpiece in the dining room.

IMG_2158My visit to Monticello taught me a lot about our 3rd President and founding father. As I walked around the grass, flowers and gardens, I could envision my main character, Buzzy, running around, chasing a stick, lounging under a cherry tree and playing in the snow.

I hope you’ll love my new book and share it with friends and family. And if you’re ever near Richmond, Virginia, stop and visit Buzzy and Thomas’ home, Monticello.

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Book Review: “Ben and Me,” by Robert Lawson

While doing research for possible historical fiction stories involving animals, I came across this great book, “Ben and Me,” written and illustrated by Robert Lawson. This 114 page chapter book was originally published in 1939. Robert Lawson was born in 1892 and was the recipient of both the prestigious Caldecott and Newberry awards. As well as writing and illustrating his own books, he also illustrated books for a number of different authors, including Richard and Florence Atwater, authors of “Mr. Popper's Penguins.”

“Ben and Me” is about Benjamin Franklin as told by his mouse, Amos. He starts the book explaining that Amos's manuscript came to him by an “architect friend.” The friend had been working on an old home in Philadelphia and discovered a tiny room “beneath a bedroom hearthstone.” The room contained “small articles of furniture, all of the Colonial Period,” and in the desk was a”manuscript book, the leaves of which, about the size of postage stamps, were covered with minute writing.” Such a cute idea for telling the story of a famous person through the eyes of an animal!

Lawson details the story of the mouse, Amos, his childhood, parents and many siblings and how Amos found his way to Benjamin Franklin's home. Of course the mouse could talk and would freely give Ben advice every day. Mr Franklin was very accomplished and Lawson describes these accomplishments in separate chapters. Amos claimed many of Ben's inventions as his own idea and made fun of the fact that Ben thought that he had discovered them!

Benjamin wouldn't travel without Amos, so he joined him in France. He hid in a special cozy “nest” in Ben's hat, making it very easy to whisper in his ear! Amos met a “royal” mouse who had been exiled from the castle. She implored him to help her return to her family and Amos couldn't resist. A revolution amongst the French mouse population was born!

This book is perfect for children aged 6-9 who can read by themselves or with help from an adult. To buy the book, click on the Amazon link.

I am giving away my hardback copy of the book. If you would like to be entered into the contest, please leave me a comment describing your favorite childhood book.

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January 17, 1706: Benjamin Franklin’s birthday

Today is Benjamin Franklin's birthday. This founding father was a scientist as well and invented bifocals, an instrument called a “glass harmonica,” the Franklin stove and a lightening rod. Watch this video to learn more about this very accomplished man:

He also had a pet squirrel!

Will this be our next Historial Tail? Watch and see!

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