Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Per the UK Telegraph site: “Women growing up in 19th Century Massachusetts were not expected to be particularly influential, or to fight for human rights, but Louisa May Alcott, one of the best-known female authors of the time, was rarely one to conform to type.” She became a famous feminist and campaigned for the abolition of slavery.

As her family were not wealthy, Louisa worked to help support them as a housemaid and teacher. When the Civil War broke out, she volunteered as a nurse. She wrote up her experiences there as Hospital Sketches. She had already been publishing writing under various pseudonyms, but the success of this book led her to have the courage to use her own name. Shortly afterward, she wrote her coming of age novel Little Women, for which she is best known today. It was based on her own family. Again quoting from the Telegraph article. They say the book “may seem overly moralistic and formal by today’s standards, but set a mark for female individualism in the 1860s. The women were at the centre of the book and fully formed characters who grappled with their own choices, even within traditional domestic roles.” Alcott went on to write several novels in the series, such as Little Men, Jo’s Boys, and Eight Cousins. Today we celebrate a brave, independent nineteenth-century woman.

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Quotes by Louisa May Alcott

I like good strong words that mean something.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.

Let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth’s sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.

“Stay” is a charming word in a friend’s vocabulary.

The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.

A faithful friend is a strong defense;

And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.

I want to do something splendid… Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead… I think I shall write books.

Love is a great beautifier.

Wild roses are fairest, and nature a better gardener than art.

Simple, genuine goodness is the best capital to found the business of this life upon. It lasts when fame and money fail, and is the only riches we can take out of this world with us.

The emerging woman … will be strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-souled, and strong-bodied … strength and beauty must go together.

I don’t pretend to be wise, but I am observing, and I see a great deal more than you’d imagine. I’m interested in other people’s experiences and inconsistencies, and, though I can’t explain, I remember and use them for my own benefit.

Nothing is impossible to a determined woman.

Some books are so familiar that reading them is like being home again.

Women work a great many miracles.

… for when women are the advisers, the lords of creation don’t take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it, and, if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails, they generously give her the whole.

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Advent

In most, though not all, Christian traditions, today, November 27 marks the first Sunday of Advent. Advent comes from the Latin adventus a word related to “coming.” The season consists of the four Sundays before Christmas, and ends on Christmas Eve, as we symbolize the wait for Christ to come as a baby born in Bethlehem. It also marks the beginning of the liturgical year.

No one can say for sure when this festival started. We know it was in existence by 480 C.E., but that is the farthest back it can be traced with reliability. In the old days, this was a much more serious and solemn time of year and was treated much as lent is before Easter, a time of fasting and repentance. It was sometimes called the Nativity Fast.

The usual liturgical color associated with Advent is purple, signifying royalty, or blue, signifying hope. Traditionally three candles in the Advent wreath are purple, though that can also vary. The first candle is associated with the patriarchs of the Old Testament and is sometimes called the candle of expectation or hope. The second is associated with the prophecy of Christ’s birth and may be called the candle of prophecy, or of peace. The third, often a rose color, is the candle of joy, signifying the birth announcement by the angels to the shepherds. The forth is sometimes called Mary’s candle and is often called the candle of love.

In Christian tradition, the month of December is known as Advent; Christmas begins on December 25 and continues 12 days to January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany when the Wise Men visited Jesus and his family. That’s where the song The Twelve Days of Christmas comes from. So rather than Merry Christmas, allow me to wish you a Happy Advent!

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Quotes about Advent

Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.–Mother Teresa

Advent is the time of promise; it is not yet the time of fulfillment. We are still in the midst of everything and in the logical inexorability and relentlessness of destiny…–Alfred Delp

These special holidays give rise to various liturgical calendars that suggest we should mark our days not only with the cycles of the moon and seasons, but also with occasions to tell our children the stories of our faith community’s past so that this past will have a future, and so that our ancient way and its practices will be rediscovered and renewed every year.–Brian D. McLaren

What has happened to the old-fashioned, spiritual Christmas? The cause is our disregard of Advent. The church set aside this four-week pre-Christmas season as a time of spiritual preparation… It is a time of quiet anticipation.–John R. Brokhoff

Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us … a healing memory; it brings hope.–Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide…–Edward Hays

Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience. … May this Advent season be a time for bringing hope, transformation and fulfillment into the Advent of our lives.–Unknown

It is fitting that the feast of St. Nicholas comes at the beginning of Advent and the beginning of the shopper’s season. As the patron saint of shoppers he proclaims, “Keep it simple!” Keep it simple enough to fit in a shoe or a stocking.–Edward Hays

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Buy Nothing Day

This year November 25 is Buy Nothing Day. It is an international day of protest against consumerism. It is celebrated in the United States and some other places, on the same day as Black Friday, which is the busiest shopping day of the year. In other places, it is the last Saturday of November.

The idea for this day began in Canada in 1992. Soon, campaigns started appearing in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Norway and Sweden. Participation now includes more than 65 nations.

Critics of the day say it simply means people shift their shopping to the next day, but the idea is to get folks thinking about spending less on things, and more on what matters – giving the gift of time instead of money, or making handcrafted items, or using the day as a time to give back to the community through local charities or the world through contributions to an organization doing good work, rather than buying presents. Some have also used this day as a call to buy locally rather than from national chains. I have found wonderful, unique gifts from the craft sales in my area.

As a Quaker, one of the things I value is simplicity, and I see Buy Nothing Day as a call to live out that value. Much of what I give is handcrafted, and I love giving those gifts that cost my labor, not my pocketbook, or donating to a good cause – in my case Friendly Water for the World who build filters to create clean water in Africa and other places– instead of buying something unneeded.

So I urge you to get creative in what you give for Christmas this year. It’s okay to start small and take baby steps.

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Quotes about frugality and how we spend money

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.–Elise Boulding

Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.–Stephen Butler Leacock

But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.  ~Mohandas K. Gandhi

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.–Vernon Howard

The only reason a great many American families don’t own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments.–Mad Magazine

Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.–Ambrose Bierce

The hardest thing is to take less when you can get more.–Kin Hubbard

Who covets more, is evermore a slave.–Robert Herrick

The trouble with us in America isn’t that the poetry of life has turned to prose, but that it has turned to advertising copy.–Louis Kronenberger

Live simply that others might simply live.–Elizabeth Ann Seton

We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.–Donald Horban

We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.–Gloria Steinem

…existence has become an unreasoning, wild dance around the golden calf, a mad worship of God Mammon. In that dance and in that worship man has sacrificed all his finer qualities of the heart and soul – kindness and justice, honor and manhood, compassion and sympathy with his fellowman.–Alexander Berkman

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Doctor Who Day

I would be remiss if I didn’t do a post on Doctor Who Day. Besides being the longest running science fiction program – it first aired on November 23, 1963 – I have also been a fan for forty years or more.

The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, who travels anywhere he wants in space and time in his TARDIS, which is bigger inside than outside. Because the cloaking device, or chameleon circuit as it is called in the program, got stuck when he was visiting Earth in the mid-twentieth century, it now looks like a blue British police telephone box. If this sounds like Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure, it is because they swiped the idea from Doctor Who.

Of course, having the TARDIS look like an ordinary object was originally done to save money, but it has become an iconic figure, particularly in England, where the program first aired. It first came to America in the late 1970s, and a few of us became diehard fans then.

Being an alien, the Doctor has one trick which has enabled the show to continue for so long. When his body gives out either from age or another reason, he is able to regenerate, and look like someone completely new. This has enabled thirteen different actors to play the part on television, not including some extra-canonical appearances like Peter Cushing, who played him on the big screen.

His iconic enemies are the Daleks, who are mutants traveling in machines which look like small rounded tanks. They are very much like Nazis in their pursuit of racial purity and domination.

Although this all sounds like escapism – and it is – we also learn important lessons from our favorite Time Lord. Fight injustice when and wherever it is found. Stand up for the weak even when no one else is willing to do so. Never give up. Help those who need help. Be brave even when you’re afraid. When called on, be willing to make the hard choices. Never give in to hate. Celebrate intelligence, not force.

So check out Doctor Who if you have never watched it. I’d recommend some of the newer episodes, the ones aired in the last 10 years of so to start with.

Dalek outside the TARDIS
Dalek outside the TARDIS

Some quotes from Doctor Who

The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.

You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world!

Some people live more in 20 years than others do in 80. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.

In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.

There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive… wormhole refractors… You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.

We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?

You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand! You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right, even when everyone else just runs away.

The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world, or a relationship… Everything has its time. And everything ends.

A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.

There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything we believe in. They must be fought.

Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.

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National Novel Writing Month

Although it may be a little late to mention, November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it is sometimes called. Quoting from the official NaNoWriMo Web page: “National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.” The idea is, people begin writing a story on the first of the month, and by the end, they have a 50,000-word novel. The site offers what they call “prep,” which are articles about writing, essays by authors, prompts, and links to a local community of writers participating in the event. Writers are encouraged to announce their intention publically and get involved in a group, both of which help to keep one writing.

The sponsors suggest two books to get you started: No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, and Ready, Set, Novel by Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant, and Tavia Stewart-Streit, which is a workbook for aspiring writers.

So if this has sparked your creativity, or given the push you need to get a novel or other writing started, may I suggest you start today and aim to finish a month from now. Exercise that creativity and get writing!

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Quotes about writing

Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing.–Alan Wilson

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.–Isak Dinesen

At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then–and only then–it is handed to you.–Annie Dillard

At its heartmeat core, writing is about exploring the questions of your heart on the assumption that what intrigues you, what inflames or amuses or ennobles you, will have the same effect on someone else. It’s about taking chances, and taking risks, and pushing yourself to be honest in the issues that present themselves.–J. Michael Straczynski

Find out what your hero or heroine wants, and when he or she wakes up in the morning, just follow him or her all day.–Ray Bradbury

For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.–Ernest Hemingway

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.–G. K. Chesterton

The good writer, the great writer, has what I have called the three S’s: the power to see, to sense, and to say. That is, he is perceptive, he is feeling, and he has the power to express in language what he observes and reacts to.–Lawrence Clark Powell

Hard writing makes easy reading.–Wallace Stegner

I was gravely warned by some of my female acquaintances that no woman could expect to be regarded as a lady after she had written a book.–Lydia M. Child

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.–Anais Nin

The only difference between a writer and someone who wants to be a writer is discipline.–Ayelet Waldman

The secret of good writing is telling the truth.–Gordon Lish

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.–William Somerset Maugham

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.–Gene Fowler

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Equal Opportunity Day

November 19, the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (given in 1863) has been designated Equal Opportunity Day. Read these words by President Eisenhower, spoken this day in 1957, and see if they don’t apply even more today.

“Today, when our national strength is being tested at every point, this tradition takes on added urgency. Our nation’s economy can ill afford to waste the talent and abilities of any individual because of discrimination against him on the basis of his race, his color, or his creed. Every citizen who helps to make legal and economic equality a living fact, is helping America.” Today we might add “or his or her gender.”

There’s a cartoon I have seen on the Internet, which shows three boys before a fence with three boxes beside them. I’ll explain it in words, but to see the cartoon, click here. Equal means each boy gets exactly the same box, even though they are different heights, and it means one boy cannot see over the fence because he is so much shorter than the others. Equality or equity means that they pile up two of the boxes so that the shorter can now see over the fence. The tallest needs no box, the middle needs one, and the shortest needs two so that they can all achieve their objective. This can carry over to life, where some who come from positions of privilege do not need any more help than their own hard work, but others may need a hand up in the form of some kind of social aid. I hope on this Equal Opportunity Day, we all are willing to fight for equity or equality for all.

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Quotes about equal opportunity.

While our country has made great strides in breaking down the barriers which for so long denied equal opportunity to all Americans, we are not yet the beautiful symphony of brotherhood of Dr. King’s dream.–Adam Schiff

Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.–Denis Waitley

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.–Nelson Mandela

All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent.–John F. Kennedy

Can a woman become a genius of the first class? Nobody can know unless women in general shall have equal opportunity with men in education, in vocational choice, and in social welcome of their best intellectual work for a number of generations.–Anna Garlin Spencer

I want to state upfront, unequivocally and without doubt: I do not believe that any racial, ethnic or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge, regardless of their background or life experiences.–Sonia Sotomayor

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home.–Eleanor Roosevelt

I stand for simple justice, equal opportunity and human rights. The indispensable elements in a democratic society – and well worth fighting for.–Helen Suzman

The problem … is emblematic of what hasn’t changed during the equal opportunity revolution of the last 20 years. Doors opened; opportunities evolved. Law, institutions, corporations moved forward. But many minds did not.–Anna Quindlen

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Homemade Bread Day

For November 17. When I was growing up, my mother made bread every week. It was nothing fancy, just plain white bread which she often put raisins in to give it more nutritional value. She used the same dough for everything, from loaves of bread to rolls to sticky buns (yum!) to pizza dough. One of the things my sisters and I still laugh about is Saturday night pizza with raisins in the crust.

I also often make my own bread, but it’s not likely to be plain white. I usually use wheat flour now, and use different recipes according to what I’m making, whether that’s a plain loaf of bread or rolls or one of my favorites, focaccia bread.

Although this holiday is always celebrated on the same date, no one seems to know how or when it came about. It is possible it was started by the Homemade Bread Day Committee of Montague, Michigan, and perhaps in the mid-1970s.

However, about bread itself, we know quite a bit. Quoting from one of my go-to sites, gone-ta-pott: “Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods, dating back to the Neolithic era. The first breads produced were probably cooked versions of a grain-paste, made from ground cereal grains and water, and may have been developed by accidental cooking or deliberate experimentation with water and grain flour. Descendants of these early breads are still commonly made from various grains worldwide, including the Iranian (Persian) lavashs, tabuns, sangaks, Mexican tortilla, Indian chapatis, rotis and naans, Scottish oatcake, North American jonnycake, Middle Eastern pita, and Ethiopian injera. The basic flat breads of this type also formed a staple in the diet of many early civilizations with the Sumerians eating a type of barley flat cake, and the 12th century BC Egyptians being able to purchase a flat bread called ta from stalls in the village streets. The development of leavened bread can probably also be traced to prehistoric times. Yeast spores occur everywhere, including the surface of cereal grains, so any dough left to rest will become naturally leavened. Although leavening is likely of prehistoric origin, the earliest archaeological evidence is from ancient Egypt. Scanning electron microscopy has detected yeast cells in some ancient Egyptian loaves.”

So celebrate a bit of human history, particularly women’s history, and made yourself some bread today!

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Quotes about bread

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?–Julia Child

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.–M.F.K. Fisher

For less than the cost of a Big Mac, fries and a Coke, you can buy a loaf of fresh bread and some good cheese or roast beef, which you will enjoy much more.–Steve Albini

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.–Omar Khayyam

There is not a thing that is more positive than bread.–Fyodor Dostoevsky

Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.–James Beard

With bread all sorrows are less.–Miguel de Cervantes

Without bread all is misery.–William Cobbett

Man does not live by bread alone, even presliced bread.–D. W. Brogan

I would say to housewives, be not daunted by one failure, nor by twenty. Resolve that you will have good bread, and never cease striving after this result till you have effected it.–in ’Housekeeping In Old Virginia’

Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.–Nikoli Berdyaev

If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a lily.–Chinese proverb

Rather a piece of bread with a happy heart than wealth with grief.–Egyptian Proverb

Better dry bread in peacetime than meat in wartime.–Hungarian Proverb

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