Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Presidential Biography: Jackson

Photo of Andrew Jackson

I expected a biography of the American Lion, the hero of New Orleans and the unlikely president who broke the presidential mold, to be a little more interesting.  In fact, Jon Meacham's biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, turned out to be something of a slog.

I do think a biography of Jackson as an upstart would have been interesting.  Another lesson I've learned while reading these biographies is:  you must pay attention to the subtitle.  As the subtitle of this book suggests, this isn't about the young Jackson, it is primarily about his eight-year tenure in The White House.

Meacham also wrote the biography I read about Thomas Jefferson.  Based on these two books, I think Meacham tends toward the sensational.  In his Jefferson biography, he dealt a lot with the Sally Hemings affair.  In American Lion, he devotes way too many pages to the domestic squabbles between Emily Donelson, The White House hostess, and Margaret Eaton, wife of Jackson's secretary of war.  He did link the conflict to the famous upheaval in Jackson's cabinet, yet the level of detail devoted to the scandal was, in my opinion, excessive.  It definitely did not serve to make the book more interesting.

Although the biography was not an exciting read, I did learn a lot about Jackson's administration.  I learned how he expanded presidential power being the first to liberally veto.  I also came to understand the challenges he faced in keeping the union together under the threat of secession.  He was, like many of his predecessors, somewhat of a contradiction.  He was a common man who sought to extend the power of common men, yet he was a slave-holder.  It was also his Indian removal policies that led to the Trail of Tears.  He was a a forceful personality and fierce fighter both in the battlefield and as President.

Seven presidents down!  Up next:  the second-tier presidents.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An October Daybook

Outside my window...

are these lovely flowers under a clear sky.  I'm not sure what they are.  I think of them as black-eyed Susans on a vine.   Although they're vigorous now, they're not long for the world.  The cold morning tells me the first frost is not far away.   We'll both enjoy the quintessentially fall days like today as long we can.

Giving thanks...

for my husband who goes out to slay the dragons every day.  As the kids and I drove downtown in morning traffic today, I was reminded of the sacrifices he makes to provide for us at home.  It's only been ten years since it was my daily commute, but ten years seems a lifetime. I don't think I would have the stomach for it anymore.

I am thinking about...

the contribution I'm making to our little family unit.  I'm convinced I'm adding value by staying home even if that contribution is not to the bottom line.  However, I know I need strive harder in all areas as a wife, mother and educator. 

In the kitchen...

Southwestern chicken chili is simmering in the Crock-Pot.  I pulled it out of the freezer yesterday and dumped it into the cooker at noon.  I went to a Wildtree freezer meal workshop last month and am now fully committed to a freezer-meal lifestyle.  I've always been too much of a procrastinator to pre-assemble meals before.  What a luxury on a busy day!  

Like most direct-sales products, the Wildtree wares are not cheap, but I enjoy supporting people who earn income this way.  

My family has eaten four of the meals so far and all but one have been quite delicious.  I'm planning on going to my second party next month. 

In the schoolroom...

we're in our sixth week of school following our vacation.  I like to follow a six weeks on, one week off schedule, which means we have a break next week.  Oh happy day!  It amazes me each cycle how needed this seventh week is by the time it rolls around.

Around the house...

The kids are cleaning while I type.  Huh?!?!  That's not a typo.  Their dad promised a little surprise for them this weekend if they get their rooms cleaned.  

I am reading...

The Princess and the Goblin to the kids after lunch.  I started it in October after being directed to this post and have four chapters to go.  It is proving to be a real crowd-pleaser.  I highly recommend it.

Little House in the Big Woods pop-corn style with my daughter.  It's her required reading, but I want to know how her reading is progressing so I'm tagging along.

The Bible following a year-long plan.  I started sometime in September and am on day 26.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson for book club.  Traditionally we read a classic horror or mystery book in October.  It's my second time reading this one.  Primarily because I know how it ends, I'm not enjoying it very much this time through.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


We recently celebrated this guy's 10th birthday.


He's come a long way in a decade.

Ten is twice the number of pounds he weighed when he was born.

Ten was the number of days we stayed together in the hospital.

I hated being in that hospital every one of those ten days.  In my hormone-addled state I was not one bit appreciative of the medical care we were receiving.  Borrowing a phrase from Anthony Bouvier, I thought of it as our 'unfortunate incarceration'.  I only wanted our little family to be at home away from the nurse practitioners, the needles, the monitors, that guy, Billy Rueben, the nurses kept talking about, and, especially, those dreadful scales.

I may have taken it more in stride had I known in ten years he'd be big and strong.  If I had had a glimpse into the future and known he'd be making macaroni and cheese from scratch, quoting the Bible and poetry, and playing a mean Irish fiddle, my heart would have been put at ease.  (I would have tactfully overlooked the part about him tormenting his sister and hiding half-chewed food in his pockets.)

Yep, at ten he's pretty okay--a guy who loves baseball and Oklahoma City Thunder basketball and books.

And maybe because it took him so long to get here, he really loves just being home.