Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Reflections 2016 #memorialday

Memorial Day is a time to honor our war dead. Born out of the ashes of the Civil War, Memorial Day honors all the war dead from every war we've been involved with. 

War requires bravery, courage, and a fearlessness many of us don't possess. It requires skill most of us don't have - rifle shooting, pistol shooting, and accuracy when throwing a grenade.

As I was researching today's post, I came across a solider who fought in World War I. His heroism and bravery struck a note in me and I wanted to share his story.  This is what Memorial Day is all about.

Henry Johnson with his Croix de Guerre 
Henry Johnson was born in 1892 in Winston-Salem, NC. He moved to New York and entered the service in 1917, joining the "Harlem Hellfighters," all black National Guard unit.  This unit was one of the first African-American units in World War I on the French battlefield. When the unit arrived in France, sadly, white American units refused to fight alongside the Harlem Hellfighters.  General John J. Pershing attached Henry's unit to a French one. The French soldiers were happy to have the Harlem Hellfighters.

May 14, 1918, Henry and another soldier, Needham Roberts, were on sentry duty in the Argonne Forest.  Just after 2 am, their position was attacked by 20 Germans. Outmaned, Henry fought back.  Henry's partner, Needham, was injured and unable to shoot back. Henry fought fiercely with his rifle and grenades. When his weapon jammed, he used it as a club, and when it fell apart, he used his knife to fight the Germans. The raiding party fell back.

Henry received 21 wounds, but had over a dozen casualties. Henry fought with bravery and courage, and was willing to give up his life in the face of such adversity. The French gave him one of their highest military honors - The Croix de Guerre in 1918. This is France's highest award given for bravery and Henry was the first American to receive this award.

I thought his story ended there, but upon my research, I discovered more.

My son, Joe, placing flags on Memorial Day 2015 

Henry went back to the US.  He participated in a welcome home parade and even gave lectures. However, when he spoke of the abuse he suffered at the hands of American white soldiers, the lectures dried up.

In September 1927, the Veterans bureau certified he had a 100 percent disability due to tuberculosis. He passed away in 1929 and was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1996, the United States posthumously awarded Henry the Purple Heart. In 2003 he received the Distinguished Service Cross. In June 2015, President Barak Obama gave Henry the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award.  Part of his Medal Honor award reads:  "Private Johnson held back the enemy force until they retreated. Private Johnson’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness went above and beyond the call of duty.

His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army."

Henry was 36 years old when he died.  Thank you Sergeant Johnson for your bravery, your courage, your inner strength in the face of adversity, and your service.

My son, Andrew placing flags on Memorial Day 2015

Question for you: Do you have a loved one in the military, or do you know of a family member in the service?  Which branch are they in? I'd love to hear your stories.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Review: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen #bookreview #queenofthetearling

Book Review for: The Invasion of the Tearling
Written by: Erika Johansen
Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-229039-7
I read: the hardback

5 Stars
Riveting storytelling!

Johansen pens an enthralling sequel with "The Invasion of the Tearling." Kelsea's kingdom is invaded by the Mort, and she must master her power and secrets or the Tear will die.

Picking up where book one leaves off, Kelsea is preparing for invasion. While this is heavy on her mind so are other matters - the Arvath and their greed, her emotional growing pains, and her struggles to teach herself the power of her sapphires. Secrets, too, threaten to undermine her. Who really is the red queen? What is the Fetch trying to atone for, and why does Row Finn need forgiveness?

Johansen's writing is easy to read and she's a master at dropping clues. It's the reader's job to put them together. The plot pushes forward like a locomotive, unable to hold back.

The characterization is spot on, depicting Kelsea's triumphs, and emotional struggles with the darkness from the stones that threatens to engulf her. The supporting cast each have stories that tug on the reader's heartstrings.

Invasion of the Tearling is a fictional fantasy novel that I would recommend for 18 years old and up for strong language, drug use, and sexual situations. It's a fantastic read, completely riveting, and will leave the reader breathless. I couldn't stop turning the pages!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Seriously Backpacking #lifestyle

Back in March, I decided to get (HAT) High Adventure Team, Basic Backpacking certified for the boy scouts. As a cub scout leader, I could introduce the appropriate high adventure awards to my pack and as a Committee Member of my older son’s boy scout troop, I could help the boys earn high adventure awards. 

Truth be told, I think I like scouting just as much as my boys. I love getting out in nature and exploring different places.

And it doesn’t get better than going backpacking. Everything you need is in your backpack so you better pack it tight and just what you need!

I took the Indoor Session in March and now it was time for the practical, Outdoor Session.

Our destination: A 5 mile hike to Bear Trap Camp in the Los Padres National Forest.

The challenge: heading out we had 1,000 foot change in elevation from 3900 feet to 5000 and two hills.

On the journey: our HAT facilitator, Bill, myself, Steve and Robert. Along for the ride were my husband and my 14 year old son.

We met up in Ojai at the local cafĂ© for b-fast. I’m not much for eggs so I got a Belgium waffle and bacon.  

After coffee and food we drove approximately 30 miles north of Ojai and arrived at Reyes Creek Campground. We parked our cars at the trailhead and checked our backpacks.

Mine fit alright. Empty it was about 5 pounds. Full, it was 28 pounds! I had a pillow, change of clothes, 10 essentials, camp shoes, personal hygiene items, sleeping bag, mat, and lunch. I didn’t even carry the tent. My husband did. Bless him. I think his backpack was around 35 pounds.

Since I figured I would be the slowest, I offered to go first and be the pacesetter. It was sunny, but not too hot. Almost immediately we were climbing. I had to control my breathing. It leveled out a bit then we hit the switchbacks. That made going up the first hill easier. I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath, but I tried not to linger. They say you should go about 2 mph and allow 1 hour for 1000 feet of elevation which proved accurate. Around 2 we arrived at Upper Reyes Campground #1 – a 3 mile journey. We had lunch – chicken from a can, lettuce, and pita which I packed along with a cutie orange. And to be honest, I felt like I was starving. I haven’t eaten like that since the Army!

After lunch we hiked up another hill with switchbacks and then down the other side. At the bottom was a full, running creek and Bear Trap Campgrounds. It was 4 pm! Cool air settled over us and I dug out my sweat jacket, glad I brought it, but to be honest, I didn’t pack the right clothes. I didn’t have a set of pants or thermals so that was a learning experience for me. I got a campfire going and we talked about different types of cooking stoves when backpacking. We discussed the “bear”muda triangle, where to set up tents and cooked a jambalaya in a big pot. I loved it. 

I hung out by the fire to stay warm before retiring for the night. Thankfully no bears paid us a visit, but I did smell a skunk trolling through our campsite. The next morning, I was the last to get up. I crept toward the fire, warmed up, ate some oatmeal and drank some camp coffee. It was Trader Joes. Highly recommended.

My husband and son helped me pack up my tent since I was lagging behind. After taking some pictures, we were off. It was 830 amish. Immediately, we were climbing up a steep hill. I had to stop once to catch my breath, but after that I was good. We made good time to the Upper Reyes Campground, took a break, and kept on hiking. We arrived at the trailhead around 1130. I was tired and sore, but thrilled too. I did it! Not bad for being 47. I even think I lost 5 pounds. Now I’m looking forward to bringing hiking and backpacking adventures to my son’s boy scout troop. 

Does anyone else hike? I’d love to hear about your hiking or backpacking adventures and tips.

Scout on!
PS – Hope you like the pictures. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Book Review Tuesday: The Martain by Andy Weir #bookreview #themartian

Book Review for: The Martian
Written by: Andy Weir
Random House Publishing
I read: the ebook
Yes, I saw the movie!

4 Stars
A Compelling story of the Human Spirit

Weir pens a futuristic novel that one can believe will come true with “The Martian.” Man has developed the technology to venture to Mars. Our hero, Mark Watney, is a member of the 6 person Ares 3 crew. Six days into the mission, a sand storm forces the crew to evacuate. Watney is injured during the evacuation and presumed dead. Only he isn’t. As the crew of the Hermes head back toward Earth, Watney must survive on Mars by himself. 

Problems pop out of the woodwork. There’s Watney’s immediate dilemma on Mars – making food and water, coupled with NASA’s political issues – what to do once they find out Watney is alive. There’s plenty of twists, turns, and unexpected challenges. 

Weir balances the characters with a fine touch. They’re well-rounded, flawed, and realistic. While the book is an easy read for the most part, I got bogged down on a lot of the technical aspects that Weir tries to explain. If anything, this is why I enjoyed the movie more than the book. The movie made the science easy to understand. 

What works well is the believability that his could happen in the near future. Weir’s researched the topic well and it shows in the realism he brings to the novel, not only in the science but in the characters. Watney’s character inspires hope despite his challenges. Readers can connect and empathize with his plight. 

This is a mainstream fiction book that sparks the reader’s imagination. I would recommend this book for 12 years old and up. Gripping and honest, “The Martian” will keep readers turning the pages to find out what is going to happen next.