Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Message To Students: Please Do Your History Homework

I'll be the first to admit that as a teenager, my social life took precedence over history class all day long.  Fortunately for me, those were the days when we could memorize facts and dates just long enough to regurgitate them onto a test before they self-destructed like the tape on the old Mission Impossible television series. A couple of years later my family made the first of many trips to Washington, D.C., and my perspective on history was changed forever.  There was something life-changing about getting close enough to see and touch artifacts from events that I'd only heard about in class or read about in books.

Much later, in my career as an educator, I had an opportunity to do something that most do not; a chance to go back and have a redo in high school history and government, this time as an inclusion teacher. A few extraordinarily dedicated teachers welcomed me into their classrooms, giving me an opportunity to learn like a kid again, and this time I didn't squander it. Because of them, I was able to support my students in an effective manner.

More importantly, I was able to answer the question, "Why do we have to learn this?" with passionate conviction. The short, simple answer to that question is this.

1-We must know where we've been, in order to know where we're going.

2-If we truly want to honor the sacrifice of those who fought and died for our country, we owe it to them to learn exactly what they were fighting for.

3-Our country is and always has been great. That being said, we've made mistakes in the past, some pretty horrendous. We've mistreated individuals, groups, and entire races of people.  It's important to examine those mistakes in the hope of never repeating them.

If I could share a few words of advice with today's young people this is what I would say:

1. Please stay awake in your history classes.

2. Ask questions.

3. Watch all of the news channels, not just one. Engage your own brains. Fiercely guard against allowing yourselves to be brainwashed into believing only one point of view to the exclusion of all other possibilities.

4. Fact check online, using multiple sources and sites. Make sure you use only reputable sites.  Take the time to educate yourself on the real meaning of "fake news" and how to spot it. has a good article on how to do this. Some news organizations (ex. Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Forbes) have been around for over one hundred years, with well-established reputations. They didn't earn those reputations by lying to their readers. With that in mind, it is still never a bad idea to double check the information using other, equally reputable sources.  Sometimes, in spite of their best intentions, journalists make errors, report information erroneously, and/or just "get it wrong".  On those occasions, reputable journalists will issue a retraction and/or an apology.  This is, quite simply, an error, not "fake news".  Sources and individuals who never admit to errors are not to be trusted.

5. Watch video presentations/documentaries, keeping in mind that not all documentaries are created equal.  Some present information as fact, while actually displaying a partial truth or twisted version of facts. It is important to find out who or what organization is presenting the information and make sure that organization does not have a hidden agenda.  Fact check the information to ensure accuracy.

6. Keep in mind that ultimately, the most accurate version of facts is usually (not always, but usually) the one that sounds the most logical, the least inflammatory, sensationalized or far-fetched. Common sense is your friend.

7. Based on your own research, draw your own conclusions, develop a conviction and share it.  Get comfortable with the idea of respectfully speaking out for what you believe in. In today's world, with the bombardment of information and misinformation through social media, we must all get used to speaking out for what we believe in and why we feel the way we do.

8. Please remember and appreciate the gift of the First Amendment: We are all individuals, with differing views and we all have the right to have our views heard in a respectful and peaceful context.  Notice there is no mention that our first amendment rights are only honored when we agree with our neighbors, our friends or our political leaders.  

You are entitled to your opinion regarding political candidates and government policy just as others are.  Some people will disagree with you, just as you will disagree with some people, and that's okay. What is not okay is shaming others for their opinions, or allowing yourselves to be shamed for yours. Our country is being challenged today in a way that it has never been challenged before.  Please pay attention and emotionally invest in your country. Not only does our democracy depend on it, but your way of life and that of your future children depend on it as well.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Glimpse Of The Past: The Elkmont Area Inside The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

My family and I have vacationed in the Smoky Mountains area all my life; but I never knew about this little area of the national park until right before we visited this past spring, 2013. There is a little slice of the past, frozen in time, in the area known as Elkmont campground. This is a very short summary of the history of the area.

 The village of Elkmont began as a home base of logging operations for the Little River Timber Company. A few years later the company began selling plots of land to wealthy businessmen from Knoxville, who established the "Appalachian Club". These men used the area primarily for hunting and fishing. In 1912, a resort hotel, the Wonderland Hotel, was constructed on a hill overlooking Elkmont. A group of Knoxville businessmen purchased the Wonderland in 1919 and turned it into an exclusive private club, called "The Wonderland Club."

Over the next two decades, the Appalachian Club and Wonderland Club evolved into elite vacation areas for wealthy families living in the Knoxville area. When the national park was created in the 1930s, most of Elkmont's cottage owners were given lifetime leases. These were converted to 20-year leases in 1952, and renewed in 1972. The National Park Service wouldn't renew the leases in 1992, and made plans to remove the hotel and cottages. In 1994, however, the Wonderland Hotel and several dozen of the Elkmont cottages were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Elkmont Historic District, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This sparked a 15-year debate over what should happen to the historic structures.

In 2009, the National Park Service announced plans to restore the Appalachian Clubhouse and 18 cottages and outbuildings in the Appalachian Club area, and remove all other buildings, including the Wonderland Annex (the main hotel collapsed in 2005).

When we visited, a park ranger told us some interesting stories about the area. He said when the owners of the homes were preparing to move, they went to great pains to spruce up their homes for the future visitors that they had been led to believe would be renting the homes from the park service. They waxed the floors, hung new curtains, and some even left letters hanging on the walls addressed to their future guests, welcoming them. It's a shame that these homes sat empty and deteriorating for over twenty years, while a huge debate dragged on over what to do with them.

 I'm glad the decision was finally made to restore some of these sites, but many more are being allowed to be reclaimed by nature. These photos were taken by my son. Many of them are of homes along the Jakes Creek area, which will not be restored. If you want to see it, I suggest that you do it soon.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Let The Good Times Roll!

I've been just dying to share how to make this cute Mardi Gras bag. What a cute way to keep up with all those beads and throws at the Mardi Gras parades, right? Or, you could use this as a centerpiece for your Mardi Gras decor. It's so easy to make.
The muslin bags are sold in packs of 3 for $7.99 at Walmart. I also picked up a package of inkjet transfer paper while I was there. I paid about $10 for a package with 7 sheets, but have since found packs of 18 sheets for about $14.25 through Amazon.
I used a whole sheet for this transfer. The subway art is my own design, available here in my etsy shop. I set my printer to print in mirror image, then printed the sheet using the highest quality ink setting. Let the ink set up for a few minutes, then iron the transfer right onto the bag. Make sure you follow the directions on the transfer package carefully. You'll need to iron a transfer this size about 2 minutes, then let the transfer cool completely before you try to peek off the backing paper.
 Because I can't resist the urge to bedazzle, I went to the discount jewelry store and picked up a few pieces of purple and green jewelry. I used one to pin on the cute purple scarf, then took the others apart and glued the stones onto the bag using Alene's Fabric glue. Let the glue set up for 24 hours and then, Voila! You are ready to let the good times roll in style! One thing to remember. If you embellish with fabric glue, I would advise that you hand wash your item. Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Heart My Mississippi Etsy Team!

If you haven't yet discovered the fabulous world of Etsy, I'm telling you there is no time like the present! Once you get there, make sure to check out the amazing work of the Mississippi artisans and collectors.

Just enter this search term: missetsyteam (no spaces) in the search box.  That's the team tag for Team Etsy Mississippi.  Right now there are almost 550 listings available using that search term alone. We are growing by leaps and bounds, so bookmark the page, visit often, and let's support each other!

We also have a dedicated board on Pinterest, so make sure to follow us there too. 

Here is a quick glimpse of what you'll find:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Instant Gratification And A Halloween Freebie for our Friends

We've reopened our etsy shop, this time adding a section devoted entirely to printables.  The listings that don't require customization are now available via instant download!  (I was personally pretty pumped about this, since I'm an instant gratification kind of gal myself.) 

We'll be adding printable items regularly, but already have several in the store, so pop on over and start shopping! 

Speaking of instant gratification, here's a sheet of cute little Halloween tags that we thought you would enjoy. Help yourself!  To save the image just click on it, then right click and select "view image".  After that, click the little "plus" sign to make the image full size.  Then you just save the full size image to your computer.

 These tags are perfect for dressing up a bag of treats for your favorite tricksters.  See what I mean?

Thread a piece of raffia, or seam binding, ribbon or baker's twine through the hole, then tie  the tag to a Halloween "happy" for a co-worker, friend, or family member. 

We have more of these in our etsy shop ready and waiting for you to "instant download"! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not My Southern Miss

 I'm a proud USM alum, and a rabid fan of Golden Eagle football. I also happen to like winning.  Having a harsh memory of the years when Southern Miss football was hardly worth a mention,I'm here to tell you that winning is a lot more fun.  So it should come as no surprise that I was doing the happy dance to hear that  Anthony Alford had chosen black and gold as his signature colors for the next four years. 

But beyond that, I was also amazed. This young man had drawn so much attention, and was being courted by huge college football programs across the nation.  Add to that, professional baseball teams tried to entice him with massive amounts of money the likes of which most of us have never dreamed.  Most people finding themselves at the center of this level of adoration tend to have difficulty keeping their egos in check.  Not Anthony.  Throughout the entire process he kept his head on straight, maintaining a quiet, respectful, humble dignity.  He made it clear that he wanted to go to college and get an education.  How many people, young or old, would have had the integrity to make that same decision?

Fast forward to Saturday, September 15th.  Anthony, at age eighteen, had been chosen to start for the first home game of the 2012-13 season. The stands were almost completely filled thanks in part to General Hammond's "Fill To The Top" campaign.  The game was broadcast on national television. No pressure there, right?  Anthony scored on the opening drive and the fans rejoiced.  Unfortunately, as often happens in football and in any other sport, the game soon turned, and ultimately didn't go as we hoped.  This was disappointing, yes.  We were all disappointed, probably none of us more so than Anthony himself.

But, what was inexcusable was the behavior of the Golden Eagle fans booing in the stands as Anthony entered the field.  Many of those fans have tried to justify their behavior, claiming they were booing the coaching, not the player.  Whatever. This post isn't a discussion of coaching decisions, but the coaches weren't out on that field trying to concentrate on running plays over the sound of their own fans booing.  No, that was a true freshman named Anthony Alford who was on the field on the instruction of his coaches, giving everything he had to give.

Anthony Alford is a young man of integrity, a wonderful role model for today's youth.  He makes clear distinctions between what's important in life and what's fleeting, obviously unlike a lot of adults.  He took a giant leap of faith in coming to play football for Southern Miss.  I hope he doesn't regret it. Thousands of  Southern Miss fans let him down yesterday.  Shame on them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Eggs and Peppers with a Twist! Pinterest Experiment Number One

I'm like every other Pinterest enthusiast; I've been building a vast collection of wonderful recipes and projects, and have big plans to give all of them a try!  One of my criteria for "pinning" a recipe is that it must be fairly simple, with a minimum of ingredients.  This is because, in case I haven't told you, I'm not a big fan of cooking.  Eating, on the other hand?  I'm an Olympian in that department.    Anyway, back to recipes and Pinterest.  A while ago I saw a recipe for eggs cooked inside bell pepper rings and it looked like it fit my criteria, so I pinned it and finally got around to giving it a try.  First, let me give a shout-out to my family for graciously agreeing to be my guinea pigs.

This is a photo of the finished product:

And this is how I did it:
As appealing as the original recipe looked, it seemed to me that it might be even better if I added a little touch of cheddar cheese and bacon...since almost everything is better with cheddar cheese and bacon added to it.  First I sliced the pepper rings about 1/4" thick, and cleaned all the seeds and white insides out.  Then I sauteed them for a few seconds on each side in a hot skillet that I had sprayed with Pam.
 I broke eggs into each of the rings and cooked them until they were set, then carefully flipped them over.  You can see from the photo that I had a little problem cutting the pepper rings completely straight, so the egg white escaped under the edges, but we didn't lose sleep over that.

Now, this is where the twist comes in.  I put about a tablespoon of Hormel real bacon bits on the eggs, and then topped each egg with 1/4 slice of cheddar cheese.

The cheese got nice and warm, but didn't melt completely, so I put the eggs into the microwave for about 10 seconds, long enough for the cheese to finish melting.

The bacon and cheese added a little extra flavor and protein, so I only served it with some sliced kiwi and a biscuit.  Now, the best news about this dish is the calorie count!  The  bacon bits are only 25 calories per tablespoon, and the cheese was 90 calories per slice, but I quartered the slices so each egg only had about 23 calories worth of cheese.  The total calorie count for one serving (2 egg rings) only came to 236.  Of course that doesn't include the calories for that biscuit, but you could easily substitute a slice or two of low calorie toasted bread.

The family gave this dish a rating of two enthusiastic thumbs up, so I'm happy to say Pinterest experiment number one was a success!