This Historical Summer of 2016

imageThe Summer of 2016 is one for the history books.  Fifty years from now, people will still be talking and reading about it.  So many things are shifting in our world.  And here in the United States, we have a political season unlike any I can remember in my lifetime.

The Republican Party has just nominated a TV reality star named Donald J. Trump who has no political experience as its nominee.  He won his primary by trash talking his running mates and using the slogan: “Make America Great Again.”

The Democratic Party has nominated the first woman candidate of any major political party in our country, Hillary Rodham Clinton.  She fought hard in a campaign with Bernie Sanders who pushed her to work hard to pull her party and also her country together.  Her slogan: “We Are Stronger Together.”

For the next few months Donald and Hillary will take their messages to the public as they try to persuade the people of our country to vote for them this November.  To be honest, most of people have already made up their minds based on their party affiliation.  I am one of those voters.  In the 1960’s I decided that I resonated with the diversity found in the Democratic Party that pushed forward issues that I cared about: Civil Rights, Woman’s Rights, and more recently LTGB Rights and Environmental Issues.

I understand that just about half of the country feels just as strongly about the Republican Party based on their focus on military strength, their economic policies, and their understanding of traditional family values.

But after the past two weeks of political conventions, we have to stop and think: “What is going on?”  We have watched both parties and listened their candidates speeches.  Donald Trump has said:”I alone can fix things.”  He is not asking advice from his party’s previous presidents or current leaders and advisors.  He says that he knows more than the generals and career diplomats and military advisors about what is needed to keep our world safe.  He has mocked women, Hispanics, minorities and those with disabilities… and he has especially denigrated his opponents with name calling and bullying.  I find his behavior simply abhorrent.

I believe that the majority of his own party’s leadership are ashamed of his behavior, yet many are still backing him and hoping for the best because of their party loyalty.  Even when he does things like invite hackers from enemy countries to invade our cyberspace, they look the other way or are silent.  They say they are powerless to stop him, yet they insist that they are strong enough to keep his bombastic leadership style under control.  If they couldn’t beat him in the primaries, how do they think they can control him when he goes on the world stage.

As a school child, I was taught that America is only great when we continue to work together “to form a more perfect union.”

Growing up in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, we all learned and were proud of the Gettysburg Address which was delivered by that great Republican President Abraham Lincoln.  As he presided over a country that was deeply divided and at war with each other, he held out the hope that we would remain the United States of America.  As he stood on the battlefield at Gettysburg, he reminded us that our government, our country, would only survive if it remained “of the people, by the people, and [for] the people” with “malice toward none and charity for all.”  Those are good words for our times.

We, the people, need to pause and ask ourselves: “Who is the best leader for our time?”

I have watched how both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have run their campaigns and conducted their conventions.  While I have been rooting for Hillary Clinton all along, way before the conventions, I now have to say that I see her as the only viable candidate to become the President of the United States.  In my opinion, Donald Trump has disqualified himself to be our next commander in chief and leader of our country because of his actions and his antics.  I’m not sure what his policies are, or if he even has thought through most issues that our country is facing.  He speaks in sound bites and slogans, but gives no details.

Moving forward, I am not going to make a point of posting a lot of political blogs during this election season.  Instead, I am going to pray for our country, its leaders and its electorate.  I’m also going to be cheering on our athletes during the Summer Olympics in Rio.  USA! USA!

I’m also going to respectfully continue to share my opinions and post some political messages on Facebook.

To be honest, most of us would rather see lovely pictures of flowers and family photos on our Newsfeeds.  But this is an important election year and one that I am not going to sit out.  I am going to speak up and pass along what I find newsworthy.

I also promise that I will try to balance my posts between inspirational messages and political punditry…and pictures of flowers and family.

If you want to remain my friend on Facebook but not see my political posts, you can easily block them…especially from websites I most frequently share.  I’ve already tried that and it works great.  That way we can remain friends!

I hope this historical Summer of 2016 not only raises our awareness of the political issues that our country faces, but also provides you with precious moments with family and friends…and some inspirational messages that will help keep you sane when the political rhetoric gets too heated.  After all, we’re all in this together.

Love and Blessings, Mary Anne+



Remembering my Great Uncle James Stapleton on the Centennary of his death on 01 July 1916 at The Battle of the Somme

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This May, my husband and I made our way to the Sucrerie Military Cemetery in Colincamps, France.  As we stood by the graveside of my Great Uncle James Stapleton of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, I was well aware that I was representing five generations of his family who were never able to stand on this sacred ground.  He died on the bloodiest day of battle in British Military History, 01 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  Today we observe a worldwide day of remembrance for all those who lost their lives during WWI, especially during this tragic battle.

Sucrerie is a relatively small cemetery that lies in the middle of Flanders Fields. Now it is surrounded by pastoral farmland, but 100 years ago it was at the epicenter of the fighting.  For the next few years, it would change hands between the Germans and the Allies several times.  They took turns trying to push the enemy East or West depending on their allegiance.

The word “sucrerie” in French means “sweet,” but visiting my great uncle’s grave was bitter sweet for me.  I thought of his parents, my great-grandparents, receiving word back on the farm that their son had died in battle…so far from his place of birth in County Carlow, Ireland.

I thought of James’ brothers and sisters who were scattered in England, Ireland and America…and how they must have been shocked and saddened to hear of his death.

My grandmother, Anna Marie Stapleton Soens, was his sister who was the oldest of thirteen children of Mary Anne Ward and Edward Stapleton.  She was living in Chicago at the time, and had married John A. Soens and was raising a family of her own…eight children with a ninth on the way.

My dad, James Lloyd Soens, was born just months afterwards on 22 December 1916.  I cannot know exactly what was in my grandmother’s heart when she named her newborn son James so soon after her brother died in battle.  What I do know it that it is an Irish custom to pass along the name of a deceased loved one to a child born soon afterwards, and I assume that was the case when my father was born.

Perhaps it was so that James’ name would be carried on, which it was, from my dad to my brother and then his son.

I am posting a picture that my husband took of me just after we placed a poppy wreath on James Stapleton’s grave.  It was then that I thought of the words of “O Danny Boy” as I sprinkled Irish soil on his grave.  I had collected this soil on a visit to The Hollow, the family farm back in Carlow County.  I’ve walked down the very lane that he would have taken when he took his leave to join the Royal Irish Fusiliers.  The words bring tears to my eyes.

“O Danny (Jimmy) boy, the pipes the pipes are calling, from glen to glen, and down the mountain side…’tis you must go and I must bide.”

“You’ll come and find the place where I am lying, and kneel and say an ‘Ave there for me.”

And so the song continues on, and the lyrics are forever etched in my heart as is the memory of my standing at the graveside of my Great Uncle James Stapleton.

“And I shall hear tho’soft you tread above me, and all my grave will warmer, SWEETER be, for you will bend and tell me that you love me, and I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.”

We remember and we love you James.  From your family…including your great-niece Mary Anne+