Monday, November 30, 2015

Colonial Williamsburg Thanksgiving Weekend

This past Sunday got to spend the day in Colonial Williamsburg! I have no idea if we'll get to return in December because college finals are late this year.  Therefore we were looking forward to history, colonial atmosphere and an opportunity to shop for Christmas presents.

Looking at all the Christmas wreaths on the doors has become a fun tradition for us. Although they are not historically accurate to the 18th century, they were a concession during the restoration of the historic area in 1936. I wrote more about it here. It was a wonderful compromise for those who still lived in the restored historic area. We like to see the creativity. However we were sad that there weren't many wreaths on display. Even though many are up by Thanksgiving, the decorators have until Grand Illumination to finish hanging all the wreaths. That was another week away. At least we got to see a few.

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We also got to see James Madison, set in 1773. He shared his fascinating with the study of liberty for mankind. With his collegiate studies complete, he was wondering what to do with his life.  
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He kept emphasizing his love of books. He was a lso quite articulate on his ideas of freedom, which many of us today recognize in the Constitution. Madison actually had his ideas that influenced the Constitution years before he helped to make them happen in 1787. 
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A cold front had begun to descend on the town so we escaped into the Silversmith Shop to keep warm. 
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Then of course we had to visit the milliner/tailor shop.
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We got to visit with Colonel George Washington...
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...and of course we did lots of shopping!
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Friday, November 27, 2015

Getting Our Christmas Tree as Inspired by Walton's Mountain



The day after Thanksgiving we went to our local Christmas tree farm to chop down on our own. We had never done this before moving to Virginia. Even though we still have our artificial tree from Texas (which is a pretty looking blue spruce) we can't resist breaking this new Virginia tradition.

Every year that we go, I think of the Walton's first Christmas movie, The Homecoming. Set in 1933 and based on the life of the author, Earl Hamner, Grandpa and John Boy look for the perfect tree on Walton's Mountain to chop down for Christmas. We don't live far from Walton's Mountain outside of Charlottesville, so I think of that every time we drive "over the river and through the woods." All of the road names in the movie are roads that run near our house!

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Grandpa Walton already had the perfect tree selected. When they reached the spot, Grandpa merely pointed out the tree to John Boy who ran over to chop it down.

However we have to do quite a bit of searching. Blue Spruces, my favorite, are available at a slightly higher price, but my kids prefer the soft needles of the Scotch Pine, so that is the type we always get.
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After the shaking of the tree and bagging, we get a drink of hot cider then journey home.
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My kids were busy with work and college but they helped as much as they could...
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... branches cut from the bottom of the trunk to use for the nativities in the Mexican tradition...
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...and I decorated my first tree since moving here! The kids sort of took over by the time we moved here, leaving me in charge of the rest of the house. Now they are too busy. Even though this tree is only a foot or two taller than our artificial tree, which also means the girth is much wider...it takes much longer to decorate! I hadn't quite realized until now. I used to be done  much quicker, but somehow I got  the decorations up, train set up around the tree and village placed inside the train...at some point after nightfall. The next day I finished the rest of the house.     
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Well, I'm pretty much done. I'm still moving things around here and there and need to finish a touch or two here and there.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Legacy of Sgt York

Every Veterans Day we watch Sgt York, a true story about a man from the back country of Tennessee. He grew up in Daniel Boone territory in poverty with only 9 months education. Alvin York, himself, became a legend in WWI.  Although his marksmanship skills made him legendary, something deeper became his legacy. Even though I've watched this movie nearly every single year since I was a teenager, York's story powerfully affected me and my family especially more this season. Perhaps, the shooting in Paris had a lot to do with that.  (We didn't actually see the movie until the night after the shooting.)

York's marksmanship skills were legendary, as was his drinking and carousing. After becoming a Christian he reformed to become a model citizen of his community. Then the European war came to the backwoods when he received a telegram to report to duty. As a conscientious objector, he refused on religious grounds. However the law over ruled so he reported to Camp Gordon for training.

While there York drilled with superior sharpshooting skills, yet it was known that he was a conscientious objector. Therefore he met for many evenings with Maj. Buxton, a history scholar, and Capt. Danforth to discuss his concerns about fighting. The officers shared much Scripture, as well as history with York. Coming from the backwoods, York did not have a strong education. His schooling totalled only 9 months. (This was quite obvious to me when I read his diary.)

York was not familiar with his history. Yet after many talks with the major and captain, York was given a 10 day leave to think things through. I he still wanted to be discharged from the army, that would be granted. However York decided to stay in the army. 

During one of the battles on October 8, 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, sharpshooter York led an attack (which was mostly done singlehandedly) taking 32 guns, killing 20 Germans and taking 132 Germans prisoner, then marching them with the last few remains of his infantry ten miles to the American forces. (Video clip from the movie can be scene here.)

York received the highest honors of America and France. Why? Because he killed people? No, because he saved people. This awful war had been dragging on endlessly. York's heroism helped the allied cause in a most stunning way. A month later the entire Allied forces claimed victory with their many heroes when the war finally ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Of course York did not want to be remembered for the killing. No soldier does. One does not become a soldier to kill. One becomes a soldier to save lives and defend freedoms, putting down tyranny.

When York returned home, he was offered wealth and fame, which he refused. He did not want to benefit from war even though he and his family were financially struggling.

However the state of Tennessee did gift York with a lovely home, something York would never have been able to afford on his own. Through the years he fell into debt, (as I recall from one of his biographies I read years ago, in part to trying to keep up with taxes). Furthermore numerous guests dropped in (literally) on a daily basis so they could meet the war hero. He always invited them to dinner, and feeding them cost a pretty penny that he rarely had. He never discussed the war though. (This is actually reminiscent of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who also went into debt, in part in daily hostings of 20 or more for dinner and/or lodging so all could meet their heroes.)

After York's experiences with the war, he began to speak at public functions with the hope to raise  money for a school, so that the young people of his part of Tennessee could have a better education than he had.

By the1930's, as Hitler grew in power, York became unsettled. More and more he understood his role in WWI and became a firm advocate for fighting the tyranny of Europe, to put down the despots and free the innocent.

As a result, he eventually consented with Hollywood to make a movie of his life.  It was now expediently important to him, and the producers, to make a movie about fighting for freedom. While they were making the movie, America entered the war.

Sgt. York entered the movie theaters in 1941. After watching the movie, men headed straight to the recruiting office.

Alvin York still didn't like war, or what he had to do in WWI. However the allies were not the one who started the war. Despots do not merely seek one corner of the world, but worldwide domination and the conquering of freedoms. The allies job was to conquer tyranny to restore freedom to mankind. That is what Veterans Day is all about. Today in America, we have the freedom to agree or disagree, because of those who have risked/given their lives to defend that freedom. It is important to know our history to understand the battle between freedom and tyranny throughout the history of mankind so that we can recognize it and stop it before it gets out of control.   

Resources:

Sgt. York: His Life, Legend and Legacy: The Remarkable Untold Story of Sgt. York by John Perry

The War Film by Robert Eberwein

Sgt. York movie, 2-disc special edition with documentaries

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The French American Alliance

France and America has held a special friendship since the American Revolution, which amazingly began with the Marquis de Lafayette. In 1777 he arrived to help America fight for freedom. He had nothing to gain and everything to lose.
Lafayette fought in the Continental Army without pay. His own money fed and clothed the  men in his charge. Officially Lafayette was aide de camp to General Washington. Personally he was an adopted son to the Washington. 
Lafayette later returned to France to convince his king, who was quite angry with him for having left France, to support America. Many other dignitaries were also involved, but Lafayette played his part.
The French American alliance began in 1778. In 1780 French troops arrived on American soil to help fight. An amazing sequence of events unfolded in 1781, with France and Lafayette as the key players. As a result, America gained independence from the powerful Great Britain.

The friendship between America and France did not stop there. The journey to learn more about this kinship has become a fascination for me, at one point resulting in an amazing experience for me to be surrounded by our allies at Yorktown. (see below)
Exploring the French American Alliance has been a fascinating journey for me. Although I began my journey simply with a book, it was fueled by meeting the Colonial Williamsburg interpreter who brings Lafayette to life. Along the way I've been sharing some of what I'd learned. In light of the recent events, I thought I'd collect the relevant posts here for those who are more interested in learning about the special friendship between France and America.   

Lafayette, We are Here...a Key to the Future

Castroville, Texas


Surrounded by the French at Yorktown Day

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Yorktown Celebrates American Victory and French American Alliance 2010



Airplanes in the Great War and...Lafayette?

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National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC

Lafayette Quotes....and a Book

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Lafayette by Harlow Giles Unger

l'Hermione Craftsmanship, Significance and Yorktown Port of Call

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l'Hermione at Yorktown


l'Hermione, Lafayette, George Washington, Mount Vernon Port of Call

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l'Hermione at Mount Vernon


Bastille Day, America, and WWI