Today is America’s Independence Day. It celebrates the announcement of the Declaration of Independence, our formal statement to King George and Great Britain that we no longer were willing to retain our status as colonies.


There’s more than a little confusion about which event happened when regarding the Declaration of Independence, so here’s an historical timeline. Not everyone agrees on this exact timeline, but it’s close for most purposes.

JULY 2, 1776: John Adams, a leader for independence, gets the delegates to the first Continental Congress to unanimously ratify the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft document because in a rare moment of general consensus, the delegates agreed that Jefferson was the best writer.

JULY 4, 1776: The Declaration of Independence is signed. July 4th becomes the U.S.’s official independence day, although John Adams argued it should be July 2nd, the day the document was ratified rather than the 4th on which it was signed. But that was Adams — arguing about everything.

JULY 4, 1776 through August 2, 1776: Following its signing on July 4th, the Continental Congress announced the Declaration of Independence. It is distributed and read across the colonies. The process of reading the Declaration — getting the official word out — took about a month.

By August, a more attractive document displaying all the delegates’ signatures had been produced. In any case, whether or not the colonists had read or heard the document officially read, everyone knew about it. The “official word” took a month to distribute, but men on horseback going from town to town told their friends and family and the word was quickly spread. People talked in pubs like and over the pasture fence, as they do today. But without Twitter or cell phones.

JANUARY 1777: The first printed versions of the Declaration of Independence are distributed to the general public. The colonies are fully engaged in rebellion against England.

Jefferson’s original draft, with changes by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Jefferson’s notes of the changes made by Congress, can be viewed at the Library of Congress.


You can see the most famous version of the Declaration, the hand-written signed document, at the National Archives in Washington DC.


Memorial Day

Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day) is observed on the last Monday of May. It commemorates the men and women who died in military service. In observance of the holiday, many people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries.

A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.


Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Harbor flag

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies.

d-day remembrance manchaug memorial

After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Israel, my other country, did not have a memorial day as such. There was Independence Day, celebrating the country’s official nationhood … and a very somber Holocaust Day. Independence Day was the only non-religious holiday during which businesses and the government closed down.

Holocaust Day, the only thing that closed was the television and radio station which did not broadcast. The sirens blew for a full minute at 8 in the morning and again at 4 in the afternoon. Everybody stopped what they were doing and stood until the sirens stopped. Traffic stopped. Cars and trucks pulled to the roadside. Drivers got out and stood. Listened. Remembered.

Even if you were alone in your home, you stood to honor those dead who never carried a weapon and got no medals.

Official holidays become less important as we get older, but personal milestones become more meaningful. Calendar marking become more like seasonal reminders and less like a time to party.

Have a great weekend, however you celebrate. Remember those who fought … and those who died because a war happened to them.

It’s good to remember war, to hope we’ll someday stop fighting and find another way to settle our differences.


My mother was not a regular kind of mom. This confused me a lot while I was growing up. Other mothers made cookies, kissed boo-boos. Hung out with the other mothers in summertime. Swapped recipes. Watched soap operas.

My mother didn’t bake anything, much less cookies. She was a terrible cook because she hated it. She was an unenthusiastic housekeeper and the whole “huggy kissy” mothering thing eluded her. She didn’t watch soap operas, loved the Marx Brothers and MGM musicals. She never graduated high school She read voraciously and constantly. Especially about science and space. She was fascinated by quarks, black holes, and antimatter.

She never kissed a boo-boo; I don’t remember her kissing me at all. She wasn’t that kind of mom.


She had no interest in gossip, recipes, or cute stories about anyone’s kids. She wanted to talk about politics or the space program and which nations were so hopeless they needed a complete redo, from scorched earth up (she had a list). I think if she were still alive, she’d probably add the U.S. to her list.

She enjoyed talking to me — I’m not sure if she talked to anyone else — about being a young woman when FDR became president. How, when the NRA (National Recovery Act) was passed, there was a spontaneous parade in New York that lasted 24 hours. Ticker tape and all.

How the government had surplus crops during the worst years of the depression, and government agents took the extra food, dumped it in vacant lots, then put poison on it so no one could eat it. Even though people were starving. I thought she was just paranoid, but I have since learned that it happened, just the way she said it did.

She didn’t trust government, was sure they were spying on us. Positive that  J. Edgar Hoover was out to get us and he had a long list — and we were on it. Turned out, she was on target about most of it.

Mom1973-3She was in favor of equal rights for everyone, everywhere. Pro-abortion, in favor of birth control, gay marriage, putting wheat germ in everything (yech,) and holistic medicine before anyone knew what that meant. She wanted all religion out of the schools and government.

She was in favor of the death penalty. She felt there were people who should be taken out and shot. No long terms in prison (too expensive). No years of appeals. One well-placed bullet in the brain and justice would be served.

That was my mom.

She gave me Knut Hamsen to read and a grand piano for my 14th birthday. As well as appropriately anatomical books about sex (she figured I needed accurate information so I could make informed decisions).

She hummed most of the time, sang the rest of the time. She got the words wrong all the time. She read me poetry when I was very small and treated me like an adult. She was a grimly determined atheist and would debunk any hint of religious belief should I be foolish enough to express it. I always felt she had a personal spite on God for failing her and the people she loved.

She was the most cynical person I’ve ever known and it seems I am following in her footsteps.

So here I am. Almost as old as my mother was when she left this earth. I think my mother would like this version of me. I think she always liked me, probably more than I liked myself.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, daughters of mothers, and mothers of mothers. Let’s celebrate being women and being alive. It’s not such a small thing.


earth day 2016I run this Walt Kelly Pogo cartoon every year. Despite the passage of time, it is as true now as it ever was. It shouldn’t be. Garry and I remember the first Earth Day. How sure we were that everything would get better. We believed we could fix the world.

Forty-six years later, the earth should be cleaner. We should be saving the planet, not destroying more of it. But, reality bites. The earth is more endangered than ever.

Pogo - The First Earth Day - 1971 - Walt Kelly

Pogo – Earth Day 1971 poster – Walt Kelly

Save the planet. Save something. Live greener. Use less stuff. Don’t litter. Do what you can. Don’t let the despoilers buy all our beautiful places and pave them. Say no to fracking. Say yes to fossil fuel alternatives.

Vote for smart people. Caring people. Vote for people who understand that climate change is real. That if we are not good shepherds for our earth, there will be no earth to shepherd.

Let’s leave a green planet for the next generation and the ones thereafter.

For a history of this day, see “The History of Earth Day.”


Dinosaur Cartoons

Colorful ain’t the half of it!

It started when one of my favorite bloggers announced that he was selling all his cameras and buying one, cheap (and poorly regarded) Canon mirrorless camera because his equipment addiction had gotten quite out of control … Happy April Fool’s Day!

audible april fool

I think that rather outdid themselves and everyone else by announcing a full-cast reading of “Excerpts from the Encyclopedia Britannica.” They actually give you an audio sample to listen to which is composed of dramatically read entries from the encyclopedia.

Who know what other adventures lay before more on this strangely wonderful day?

audible april fool -2Today is an excellent day to keep your tongue firmly wedged in your cheek. Don’t believe anything you read until you get to the end. And don’t “share” anything until you’re sure the clown isn’t set to pop out of the box and yell “APRIL FOOL!”

Doggy Store 1


Christmas living room poster 2015

After last year’s “live baby tree” debacle wherein all three baby trees died in their pots before the ground unfroze enough to plant anything, I have returned to the fake tree alternative.

Christmas old photo postcard 2015

It turns out, we don’t have tree lights because all the trees we’ve had for the past five or six (or more?) years came with lights. The price of lights has gotten sufficiently high to make me feel I can live without them.


I added red bells, big silver ribbon atop the tree (all four feet of it!) … and red velvet bows. With some gold curling ribbon to fill the gaps and it’s pretty.


Surprisingly satisfying. Not finished, quite. A little more to do and presents to be wrapped will fill the table eventually.


Modest, but definitely a Christmas tree. It’s the season of lights, but not on our tree.