Breaking Free

“If an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. If broken by an inside force, Life begins. Great things always begin on the inside.”

3378496797_592b53dd4fSeveral years ago, we started raising chickens by setting up two incubators in the spare bedroom and hatching eggs. The incubators were the manual type in which we had to simple thermostats and egg racks, but I had to manually  maintain proper humidity and turn the eggs by hand four times per day for the entire 21 days. During those 21 days, I did not sleep more than 6 hours at a time.

Finally the eighteenth day came when I started hearing peeping within the eggs and started seeing peck holes in the eggs. I could see the tiny beaks inside the eggs pecking away at the shells. Soon wet and exhausted little chicks began to flop out of the shells and lay wet on the egg rack. Within the hour the little chicks rested, dried out,  and active little balls of fuzz which moved freely over the eggs that remained in the incubator. They were ready to be moved from the incubator to the brooder that I had set up in another room.


The first chicks that made their way out of their shells were lively, but as time went on, the chicks who had not yet freed themselves of the shells were much more sluggish and unable to get themselves out. Some chicks died in their shell. It seemed unfair that these poor little animals should have to suffer inside the eggs simply because they could not manage to remove those shells. I felt that I had to do something to help them.  I helped the chicks that were in their shell and still alive. I helped them by easing the shells off their tiny weak bodies. Most of these chicks, however, ended up dying before they ever made it out of the incubator. What I didn’t realize was that getting out of the shell was a necessary skill that the chick had to accomplish on his own. Depending on outside help would not work. The changes in the chick’s circumstances had to come from the inside.

Each one of the chick’s pecks weren’t much in the large scheme of things. The chick had to manage focused consistent actions in order to accomplish his goal of getting out of the shell that held him trapped within it.

I can take a lesson from the chick in the egg. Just as the chicken is responsible to remove his own shell, I am responsible for any progress I make in my life. Just as one single pecking action on the shell doesn’t free a chick, one single action that I do in a day won’t make much of a difference. However, if I do that action, and it is the right action, and I do it daily, it will make a difference. I cannot depend on anyone on the outside. I am required to make the right competitive actions to reach my goals as well. To fail to continue action means that like the chick, I would remain remain in my own shell. No one can free me. I must do it myself. Freedom is an inside job.

Do you know about the First Revolutionary War Commander and Chief of the Continental Navy?

I spent 6 years Active Duty Navy and 10 years in the reserves, and I don’t remember ever hearing about this man.

On February 26, 1802, Esek Hopkins, an American Revolutionary War Admiral and commander and chief of the Continental Navy died. He had been born in Rhode Island on April 26, 1718. He began his sea career captaining merchant ships. During the French and Indian War, he became a successful privateer. A privateer was an entrepreneur of the high seas who claimed the enemy’s merchant goods. In other words, he was a pirate.

Esek Hopkins

Esek Hopkins

In 1775, at the beginning of the American Revolution, Rhode Island appointed Hopkins as commander of its military forces. Later that year he was promoted to Commander in Chief of the  Continental Navy. In mid-February of the following year under orders from the Continental congress, Commodore Hopkins disembarked from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attack British maritime forces in the Chesapeake Bay and  along coast off Rhode Island.

Hopkins knew that would have been a suicide mission, so instead undertook the Navy’s first amphibious offensive. On 3 March, his squadron landed party ashore on New Providence Island, in the Bahamas and seized the local defensive works and captured equipment and supplies which would be used by the continental military. On 4 April 1776. On the way back home, Hopkins encountered and captured two small British warships. Two days later they  engaged HMS Glasgow but without consequence. They returned to New London, Connecticut on April eighth.

Hopkins was censured by congress, but he continued to be in charge of the American Navy for another year, but was dismissed from service early in 1778. However, with his men and with Rhode Islanders he stayed popular. He served in that State’s legislature through most of the next decade and was active in Rhode Island politics until he died February  26, 1802. RIP Admiral Hopkins.

When did Ohio Actually become a US State?



I have been having difficulty coming up with events that relate to the American Revolution this time of the year, but in my research I found this interesting controversy related to Ohio. On February 19, 1803, Congress accepted Ohio’s constitution, but statehood not ratified till 1953. How did that happen?

Unlike Vermont and Tennessee, whose State government already in existence was simply recognized by Congress via what we now refer to as Acts of Admission and unlike Kentucky, which was authorized to form a State government which would thereafter take effect on a date specified by what we now refer to as that State’s Enabling Act. Ohio was voted on by Congress to be allowed into the US as a state in the last session of April 1802, but then  State of Ohio was drafted and adopted by convention on 29 November 1802, said Constitution calling for elections in January for a Governor and a legislature styled the General Assembly to convene at the then-Territorial capital of Chillicothe (the territorial/state capital at the time) on  March 1, 1803).

In the meantime, Congress passed- on 19 February 1803- what was officially titled ‘An Act to provide for the due execution of the laws of the United States within the State of Ohio’ which, among other things, expressly observed that “the people… did… form for themselves a constitution and State government in pursuance of whereby the said State has become one of the United States of America”.

clown girl

Louisiana, the next state admitted to the union, was required to submit its State Constitution to Congressional for scrutiny before being allowed entry into the United States. The State of Louisiana had a much different background than the states that had joined the union thus far. Its primary religion was Catholic and rather than English roots, it had French and Spanish roots. Also, it was the only State at the time divided into parishes rather than counties. Therefore, Congress felt that it was important to make certain that Louisiana’s constitution was compatible with the rest of the country.

Ohio had, however, been immediately accepted as the 17th State of the Union without any debate. As Ohio prepared to celebrate its Sesquecentennial in the early 1950s, the way that  Ohio was admitted into the union became an issue. When the events organizers went to look for the official document stating that Ohio had been admitted to the union, there was none.

Republican Congressman George Bender was concerned enough to introduce a bill on the floor of the House on January 19, 1953 that would retroactively admit Ohio to the Union as of March 1, 1803 which was the date the Ohio General Assembly first convened, thus formally instituting State government in the State. This proposal allayed any fears regarding  Ohio’s legitimate statehood status and also officially declare a specific date as the date Ohio became a State.  The House passed it  on May 19  and the Senate followed suit on August 1,   President Eisenhower signed it into law on August 7, 1953. This date fell on the anniversary of the Northwest Territory Act of 1789  (which Ohio was a part along with Indiana and Illinois).

Some individuals even today question the legitimacy of Ohio’s ratification of amendments to the constitution because this official ratification did not occur until 1953. However, if one goes back to the timing and wording of the original documentation in congress, this act of congress was unnecessary. In addition, because President Eisenhower signed this law into effect making it retroactive to 1803, the question of Ohio’s original date of statehood therefore becomes a doubly moot point.

Last week I promised you an announcement this week. Today I would like to announce that I will soon be publishing my first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening. Declare your independence from high food costs by beginning your own vegetable garden in your own back yard this year. More information about this book during the next several weeks.

A Matter of Perspective

Today is the second day in a row that my daughter’s school has been canceled due to inclement weather and the eighth day this entire school year. Her school district is known for not having snow days when other schools in the area all are off because of snow, but this year is different.  It is certainly a coincidence that my work in progress A Coward’s Solace is situated at Valley Forge, and this winter has been quite severe for this part of the United States. It is also not a coincidence that even though this winter has been cold and snowier than we have had in quite a few years, in respect to other winters of the past, this winter really isn’t so bad.

The past few winters have been extremely mild for us here. Last year, we almost didn’t have a winter and wouldn’t have had if we had not had snow in March. Many of us who were around in the 1970s could tell some interesting stories about how much snow we had back then. Come to think of it, California was having a drought back then as well. Weather does cycle through dry-wet, cold-hot cycles.

Weather Report at Valley Forge 1775-1782

The winter at Valley Forge was a rough one. But, a winter encampment for their second season at Morristown, New Jersey was their worse as far as the actual weather was concerned. The Valley Forge Encampment was difficult, not so much because the weather was severe, but because the soldiers lacked proper clothing, housing, and meals. There were seven winters during the Revolutionary War.

The winters could be rated on the following scale: severe, moderate and mild.

1775-1776 Moderate
1776-1777 Moderate
1777-1778 Moderate
1778-1779 Mild
1779-1780 Severe
1780-1781 Mild
1781-1782 Severe

The Encampment saw two severely cold periods. The end of December with a low of 6 Degrees and the end of March with a low of 8 Degrees. The low in January reached 12 Degrees and February was 16 Degrees. The troops arrived at Valley Forge on the 19th of December and eight days later, the deepest single snow of the season fell, which was followed by the severest cold. They were plagued by periods of cold, which would thaw and then refreeze. You can imagine the muddy and messy drilling in that kind of weather.

Three continued snowstorms occurred that winter, but none of them were blizzards. More moderate to heavy covering. Most of the snow occurred around February 7, 1778.  Dr. Muhlenberg reported on February 8, 1778 “There was heavy snowfall. Deeper now than we have had all winter.” However it was washed away by a heavy rains within the next 2 to 3 days. The heavy snowfall of the 8th, compounded by the heavy rainfall brought flooding conditions making roads impassable.

Between the cold and freezing temperatures, there were even some above average warm temperatures during the encampment when some thaws occurred. These occurred around Christmas and then three times in January lasting several days.

Living in inadequate temporary log huts built during foul weather and lacking proper clothing built during some foul weather,  caused the winter to be unpleasant for the Continental Army. It was not the severity of the weather. For us, the severity of our weather is based on the fact that most of our recent winters were much more mild than this year. Because of the poor living conditions at Valley Forge, the weather seemed worse than when they overwintered in much better living conditions in New Jersey even though the weather was much more severe. Let’s just hope our mild winters return next year and that we continue to have warm clothes, good food, and warm homes.

Dealing with the Flu

The Flu Has Invaded Our Home

It started Monday. My daughter wasn’t feeling well. I took her temperature several times and found that it ranged between 99-101 degrees Fahrenheit. That first day I didn’t give her anything for the fever. My theory with fevers, especially low grade fevers like the one she has is not to treat it. My feeling is that she has generally good health and if I allow the fever to take its course, her immune system will become better at fighting infection. I wasn’t too worried about her eating because again, I feel that there is a good reason not to eat when you’re not hungry when you are ill. I did however, made certain that she drank as much fluid as possible.

Yesterday it was my turn to get sick. I started by sneezing and coughing and had muscle aches all over my body. I had that taste in my mouth that tells me I am not up to par and I also felt as though I didn’t have any energy. I slept all day yesterday, but my temperature was within normal range until this morning when it went up to over 100 degrees F. I’m just glad that I had the second part of this post done earlier in the week. Now if I can just get caught up again with my novel writing. I am a couple of days behind on my word count.

This Day in History

January 22, 1690 – Iroquois tribes renewed allegiance to British against French.

iroquois-indians-5The waterways around the Great Lakes were strategic highways to the interior of the Northeast in the American colonial period. Both the French and British conducted expeditions and raised forts to defend their claims on the area. The conflicts between the French and the British increased after 1664, when the British captured the colony of New Amsterdam from the Dutch and were driven out in 1675. The Iroquois were the native inhabitants of the land. Because the French were more prevalent, the Iroquois sided with the British to curb French expansion into the territory. The Algonquins who had been displaced by the British colonies on the coast sided with the French. Until 1690, the British minimized direct contact with the French; all conflicts appeared to be struggles between the French and the Iroquois. The Iroquois fought against the Americans during the Revolutionary War. The British maintained alliance with the Iroquois until the end of the American Revolution.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Organizing My Computer Space

me_on_the_laptopThis weekend, I rid my inbox of of the thousands of emails. I followed the organizing program of schedule, delete or delegate. I didn’t delegate anything, but I did delete a lot and there were a few that because I had kept them for a reason, I took the time in my schedule to view them and to do what ever it was I needed to do with them before I either deleted those as well. Some I stored them in an email folder. Others I took the information that I wanted from them and cut and pasted information into a word document folder. The videos I watched took notes and then deleted the email. I also cleared out my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday folders some of which contained information dating back to August.

Since this has been a long weekend with the holiday and all, I learned how to use OneNote a Microsoft program that I have had on my computer since I got it three years ago. I found this video especially informative.

This Day in History

From the Headlines of the American Revolution

David HenleyToday I have started a new section in this blog called this day in history. Because events of The Locket Saga series is currently set in the revolutionary war period, this day in history relates to the American Revolution.

On this date in 1778, the first American Court Martial began. David Henley, a Continental Army officer who served as George Washington’s intelligence officer and Prisoner of War Commandant, was Colonel of the Massachusetts. He was commander in Cambridge, Massachusetts when the troops captured at Saratoga were brought to Cambridge. General Burgoyne (captured general) brought charges of cruelty against him for how he treated British prisoners. Court Martial proceedings began against him on this date and lasted until February 25. He was exonerated. British General Burgoyne challenged him to a duel, which was to occur in Bermuda. Henley accepted the challenge, but never showed up in Bermuda. Instead,he served as the American intelligence chief.  Henley later served as the Agent for the United States Department of War for the Southwest Territory, which later became the state of Tennessee in the 1790s. Imagine if the Americans lost the revolution. How do you think things would have been different?

Now that my emails are cleared,  next weekend, I want to out the book marks that I have accumulated over the past three years. I want to go back and save the URLs to specific folders in my One Note so that when I want to look at specific topics, I will have related URLs all in one place.

Who else has been busy organizing this month? Anyone else have any good ideas on how to organize bookmarks on the computer for easy access? I would love to hear about it. What is your opinion of the new feature This Day in History, Headlines from the American Revolution. I would love to hear from you.

The Ghost of My Christmas Future

The Christmas tree is now lonely without all the gifts around it to keep it company.

The Christmas tree is now lonely without all the gifts around it to keep it company.

Christmas was a day late at our house. Well, actually, it wasn’t, we just celebrated it a day later than everyone else. My husband is a truck driver and the load that he was supposed to get so he could make it back by Christmas was canceled. They had to get a load for him at the last minute which meant he ended up coming home over a day later than we had anticipated. I have learned that “you have to row with the flow” when you’re married to a truck driver.

Because we decided to postpone the regular festivities, on Christmas Day, my daughter and I went to see the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty I enjoyed it. I remember having read the short story when I was in middle school. I remember enjoying this James Thurber work although many other students I am certain found it less interesting. As a writer, I also have a secret life, a life where I vicariously live through characters who are of my own creation but who seem to take on a life of their own. The movie, like the book, was thought-provoking, and I think that Ben Stiller did an excellent job bringing the character to life in a unique way.

Yesterday we opened our Christmas gifts, one of mine was a writing tray which I am currently using to support my laptop on my lap as a write. I then cooked Christmas dinner.

Now this Christmas is over, and it is time to think about the coming year. I have determined that New Years resolutions do not work for me, but this part of December is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and to look forward into the next. As in the Christmas classic A Christmas Carol, a good question for me to ask myself is “Where do I want to be next Christmas and how do I get there?” In this story, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge discovers that his future isn’t predetermined. His life can be changed by changing himself. He learns that there is more to living than having money. His value as a human being is determined by the relationships that he develops as he generously gives to those around him–his business clerk (employee), his nephew (family) and the poor (charities). So to take a page from Charles Dickens and ask myself, “What can I do over the next year to foster a happier life?” What I do now and with whom I spend my time will determine how I spend next Christmas. Like Scrooge, I am the one who gets to decide my fate.

What will You Get For Christmas?

One of the things I like about Dad’s poems is that each had a story behind it. During the past few days, I have finished my Christmas shopping and started making Christmas goodies for the coming week. All this shopping reminds me of the poem that Dad wrote about the Christmas shopping experience.  I am not certain of my exact age at the time, but one Christmas, my mother’s electric cook stove went out, our television went on the fritz, and we bought a new stereo system. As a result of all of that, Dad wrote a Christmas poem telling the story adding his talent and his imagination to make the story memorable with a touch of humor.

Christmas Gifts

by R. Leonard Swanson

Sis wanted something special

Now that she started High

So Dad bought her for Christmas

A stereo high-fi

   Then Mother said the Daddy,

“The kitchen needs a change.”

rangeMy Daddy went and bought her,

A new electric range.

I like so many programs

The rest don’t care to see,

So Dad bought me a present,

A portable TV


We all got what we wanted

On this glad Christmas Day

But do you know what Daddy got?

A lot of bills to pay.

And so it is with Christmas, Daddy ends up with the bill.

And so it is with Christmas, Daddy ends up with the bill.

I hope you enjoyed my walk down memory lane this week. I also wrote a couple of articles this week that I believe you would also enjoy.

Streusel Coffee Cake

This  streusel coffee cake is still warm. It is so good that my family couldn't wait to sample it.Are you looking for something warm and wholesome for your Christmas breakfast ? This made-from-scratch Streusel coffee cake is sure to be a hit.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Education

Harvard University Commencement Exercises are pictured May 30, 2013 in Cambridge, Massachusetts

 In recent years, great strides have been made by colleges and universities for including online courses of study. What are the advantages to an online education? What are the disadvantages?

Thanks for visiting the Ugly Ducking. See you next time.

Memory of a Christmas Present and a Christmas Past

Boni and her grandmother going to see The Nutcracker and making Christmas memories.

Boni and her grandmother going to see The Nutcracker and making Christmas memories.

Last Sunday my twelve-year-old daughter and her grandmother went to see The Nutcracker Suite. I am certain that this holiday adventure will be one of those memories of the Christmas holiday that my daughter will always remember cherish. First she loves her grandmother, second she loves Christmas, and third, she loves the ballet.

The first memory I have of Christmases past was the year that my brother Tom was born. I remember coming down stairs and being surprised by the fact that my mommy was not there, but my Aunt Mary was washing windows. (We had moved from Snider Circle the previous spring, so this was the house where I grew up .) She told us that we now had another baby brother and that when my daddy got off work that he would be taking us somewhere else to stay for a few days.

 I remember that my brother Allen stayed at my Aunt Myrna and Uncle Carl’s house. Carol and I stayed at Aunt Mabel’s house. When we arrived at Aunt Mabel’s house, I remember two of my older cousins were there as well. Jane and Ardie, Aunt Pauline’s, (Dad’s sister)daughters, were staying at Aunt Mabel’s  , I now assume, to help care for my sister and I. (I was three and a half years old and she was about 14 months old by this time). I remember sensing that Aunt Mabel seemed to favor Ardie over Jane. I remember that Jane left early, I think before Christmas. The details there are a little hazy.

I remember Christmas morning. I remember getting up early in the morning and seeing Aunt Mabel’s shiny aluminum Christmas tree, but it looked different because under the tree were presents and some were for me! I only remember one special present that year. I remember looking in the box and seeing a pretty little doll dressed in a little blue dress (or was it pink?).

I remember that I named the doll Susanna. I remember why I named her Susanna. I remember that I was watching Shirley Temple movies at the time and one of my favorites was Susanna of the Mounties. The doll had curly blonde hair and Shirley Temple had curly blonde hair. It seemed a logical name for my pretty doll.

Since then, I have shared my delight in Shirley Temple movies with my daughter as well.  Though I no longer have my Susanna, at this very moment, sitting on our DVD shelf is a copy of Susanna of the Mounties. My mother-in-law may have shared The Nutcracker Suite with her, but I have also been able to share the first Christmas I remember with my daughter through this old, delightful movie.

Comparing the Poems of R. Leonard Swanson and Edgar Guest

Dad at nursing home 001Since my father’s death on October 19, 2013, I have been working on compiling a permanent memoir of him along with his poems for a hardcover copy of his work. When I was growing up, my father, R. Leonard Swanson always said that he wrote write in the style of Edgar Guest. Because the Nursing Staff at Corry Manor called Dad “Santa Claus” and because it is the holiday season, I thought it would be appropriate to compare Dad’s poems to Mr. Guest’s poems. I have done a little research into Edgar Guest’s work and found a Christmas poem that he wrote and I have a Christmas poem that Dad wrote. There is a bit of difference in style, but there is definitely a similarity.

A Christmas Greeting


Edgar Albert Guest

Here’s to you, little mother,
With your boy so far away;
May the joy of service smother
All your grief this Christmas day;
May the magic of his splendor
Thrill your spirit through and through
And may all that’s fine and tender
Make a smiling day for you.

May you never know the sadness
That from day to day you dread;
May you never find but gladness
In the Flag that’s overhead;
May the good God watch above him
As he stands to duty stern,
And at last to all who love him
May he have a safe return.

Little mother, take the blessing
Of a grateful nation’s heart;
May the news that is distressing
Never cause your tears to start;
May there be no fears to haunt you,
And no lonely hours and sad;
May your trials never daunt you,
But may every day be glad.

Little Mother, could I do it,
This my Christmas gift would be:
That he’d safely battle through it,
This to you I’d guarantee.
And I’d pledge to you this morning
Joys to banish all your cares,
Gifts of gold and silver scorning,
I would answer all your prayers.

The Greatest Gift


R. Leonard Swanson

On early Christmas morning

The kids ran down the stair

To open all the presents,

They knew were waiting there.

I was so very happy

As I stood beside the tree

Watching them open up the gifts

And clap their hands in glee.

Suddenly I closed my eyes

And I began to pray,

“Dear Lord, help them remember,

Whose birthday is today.”

They, with their toys are playing

In merriment and mirth,

Dear God, impress upon their hearts

The blessed Savior’s birth.

Victims of the worldly things,

Please do not let them fall,

But grant them Thy salvation

The greatest gift of all.

What do you think? Can see the similarities?

My writing is quite different from that of Dad’s for instance, he wrote short carefully worded poetry, whereas I see a bigger, more complex scene so I tend to write novels. I know they say that writers should begin with short stories and move onto the more complex. I didn’t do that. I don’t know that I could write a short story now. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading short stories. For instance I love Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” as well as “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber which will be coming out as a movie on Christmas. I like poetry too, when I’m in the right mood, but I personally would rather write novels and articles. Last month I wrote the first draft of my upcoming novel: In the Shadow of the Millpond which I hope to have finished late in 2015. This past week I wrote two new articles for hubpages. At hubpages  hubs are what they call articles. If you would liek to write hubs for hubpages, here’s the link.

The articles that I wrote this week were:

Chicken and Lentil Noodle Soup

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

Simply click on the links to read the articles. I want to thank Bill Holland and Lisa V for the comments they made this week! I really appreciate the feedback. It certainly helps know that there are people who enjoy what I write. I will be writing my next post on Monday! Have a Safe and Wonderful Weekend!