The Sun Rises and Shines in Washington DC

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

I took my first trip to the nation's capital in 1975 with my parents, my sister and my maternal grandmother, Mamoo. A few days before the trip, Mamoo fell down the short, steep hill at the front of our house in Carrollton, Ga., and broke her leg. Not to be deterred by a small inconvenience, Mamoodrove with us from our home, into Atlanta, and we boarded the overnight Amtrak train to Washington.

My sister Kathy and I shared a small bedroom compartment with Mamoo. There was not a bit of wasted space. The top bed pulled down from the wall, a sink was in the corner and the passenger seats rearranged to form the lower sleeping bunk. Kathy and I slept together on the top bunk while my grandmother and her broken leg were on the bottom.

The next morning, we made our way to the dining car for breakfast. The tablecloth was white and there was a flower in a white bud vase in the middle of the table, all quite elegant to me, a middleschool girl from rural Georgia. As the train pulled out from a stand of trees and began crossing the Potomac River, the skyline of our nation's capital came into view.

My first sight of our nation's capital left me awestruck: the Capitol and the monuments were visible, but the building that remains etched in my mind is the Washington Monument. Shaped like an Egyptian obelisk, it reaches straight up to the sky, or so it seems. Actually, it is 555' 5/8" high (the length of nearly two football fields), and, in clear weather, is visible up to 40 miles away. Viewed from just a few miles away, it appeared impossibly big to me.

During our trip, my family visited the Washington Monument. Visitors were allowed to climb its spiral interior staircase, which was adorned with plaques and odd-shaped windows.

Our walk up the stairwell seemed to take forever. We had to pause a few times to catch our breath before completing the 896 steps to the top of the Washington Monument, but we made it. I remember the journey up the stairs, but do not remember being at the top of the Monument. It was the journey to the top, not being on the top of the monument, which remains etched in my memory. These days, when I visit Washington I usually fly into Reagan International Airport. Each time, as the plane descends, I scan the horizon for the Washington Monument, the signal that I am entering our nation's capital.The monument was built to honor the first president of our country, George Washington. In 1833, thirty-four years after his death, the Washington National Monument Society was founded to raise funds to build the monument. By 1847, the society had raised almost $30,000. Architect Robert Mills' design was chosen, and construction began the next year. (Mills had built a similar 200-foot obelisk monument to Washington in Baltimore years earlierFunding ran out in 1861, and construction was halted for 15 years until 1876, when Congress appropriated $2 million toward the completion of the monument. It was completed 8 years later, in 1884. Today you can see where the construction stopped. The monument changes color, the stone used in the newer, top part of the monument looks lighter than the older, lower, more weathered stone.A few years ago, I was talking with a friend, who is an architect, discussing the symbols and meaning in architecture and monuments. He reminded me that the original plan by Major Charles Pierre L'Enfant, the French landscape engineer who laid out the city of Washington, called for the Washington Monument to be constructed on a north-south axis with the White House. This plan was canceled when it came time to build the monument, because the ground was too soft.Instead, he told me, the monument was constructed southeast of a true north-south axis with the White House, although on a perfect east-west axis with the Capitol.

My friend continued his lesson, informing me that the east side of the capstone at the top of the monument bears the Latin inscription Laus Deo, which means "Praise be to God." As the sun rises in Washington, the first building it touches is the east face of the Washington Memorial.

It somehow seems fitting that, as the sun rises over our nation's capital, the first rays illuminate the phrase "Praise be to God."

The actual inscription is not visible from the ground, but the National Park Service created a replica, which it displayed inside the Monument. In 2000 the display plaque read:


Reproduction The builders searched for an appropriate metal for the apex that would not tarnish and would act as a lightning rod. They chose one of the rarest metals of the time, aluminum. The casting was inscribed with the phrase, Laus Deo, (Praise be to God).

But recently, a colleague told me that he saw the plaque in the display, and the last sentence was missing.

In addition, the replica of the capstone, located in the monument, had been positioned so close to the wall that "Laus Deo" could not be read.

Last week, due to an email campaign and public pressure, the last sentence referring to the inscription was restored on the plaque. Those who visit the Washington Monument can once again read what is inscribed on the capstone.

As for me, each time I travel into the city, I continue to look for the Washington Monument, a beacon of hope, a sign that I have reached our capital city.

And I think, Laus Deo - Praise be to God.

Copyright 2007 by Jackie Cushman
All Rights Reserved

A2A4A Update

After any months of training and planning it is the night before the marathon.  Cynthia and Jeanne arrived in Greece on Thursday, Phyllis arrived Friday during the day. Kathy and I arrived last night. Our organizer, cheerleader and Athritis Foundation helper, Angelic is also on site.

After a lovely dinner at a nearby restaurant last night, we headed to bed around 11 pm local time. The good news is that we were all so exhausted that we did not mind going to bed 6 hours earlier than normal.

Today included touring the Acroplois, the National Museum Archaeological Museum. We also managed to get in a bit of shoe and jewlery shopping.

We also scoped out the ending spot for the marathon - tomorrow we will post the picture AFTER we finish.

So far we have raised over 33,000 for the Arthritis Foundation. Kathy claims to have a few checks on the way in to make it to 40,000 - but it sure would be nice to break 50,000. If you would like to donate to the arthritis foundation please go to our team page.

Have a great day!

Athens Stadium

Learning From a Dog

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

A few weeks ago, while visiting my husband's grandmother, I noticed a book about dogs called "Cesar's Way" on a side table in her living room. I thought this was a bit strange as she has no dog, but, since my husband and I were planning to get a puppy for our family, I borrowed it.

I began reading that night and was instantly engrossed. While not a specific how-to book, it offers valuable insight into how to be a good dog owner and how to create an environment that will increase the probability that your dog will be happy, healthy and well-behaved.

Cesar Millan's approach is to focus not on changing the dog, but on changing the owner's thoughts, approach and habits in interacting with the dog. He recommends that, rather than treating the dog as we would a human, we should treat the dog as a dog. Instead of wondering why the dog sometimes does not behave, we should bear in mind that a dog is an animal first, then a dog, next a member of a particular breed and, finally, a dog with a name. In other words, it is not the dog's approach to us that needs to change, but our approach to the dog. By taking a different approach, we can evoke a different response from the dog. Isn't this true in other parts of life? While we might want to control others around us, it is helpful to remember that one has control only of oneself. This is most apparent when one works hard, creates habits and rituals and is disciplined. By controlling one's own thoughts and actions, one can affect others and, in turn, their interaction with us.

Cesar continually repeats that exercise is the base of all other dog activity; that an unexercised dog is an unhappy dog. The minimal recommendation is for an owner to ensure their dog exercises for a half a hour twice daily. This is to ensure that the dog is expending enough energy so that it will be able to relax and behave during the rest of the day.

I find this concept of exercising to provide an outlet for energy that would otherwise be turned into uncontrolled behavior to be true for my children as well. A bit of time to run around and expend energy allows for focus and concentration for children as well as dogs. I am reminded of this on days when errands and commitments get in the way of activity, and we all get restless.

According to Cesar, after exercise and discipline, owners must take into account the dog's natural pack mentality and the impact it has on the owner-dog relationship, especially when it comes to discipline.

Cesar writes that dogs view all interactions from the point of view of a member of a pack. A pack leader sets rules and boundaries, which is the job of a dog owner in a good relationship. Without clear rules, boundaries and leadership, a dog becomes stressed and unsure of how to act, often acting inappropriately.

I find element to be helpful when communicating with other people. That it is important to look at events and activities from the other person's perspective rather than one's own perspective. I also know that I often get so consumed with my perspective that I forget that there are others.

Cesar mentions the importance of the owner projecting a calm, assertive energy to convey to the dog that the owner is in charge, is in control, and is the leader. This aura of confidence radiates between people as well as from people to dogs. People are drawn to follow others who are able to project this calm assertive energy. It is simply quite a challenge for me to maintain this perspective at all times.

Finally, Cesar talks about affection but only as the third element of an owner-dog relationship, after exercise and discipline. Cesar contends that humans often project their desires onto their dogs, in the belief that if one needs a lot of affection and attention from one's dog, then the dog must need and desire the same level of affection as well. While certainly affection is good and appropriate, it makes for a happy dog only in the context of exercise and discipline.

This is the hardest element for me, remembering that my own need for affection should not get in the way of what might be best at a particular moment in time. Not to smother my child with affection if they run into any difficulty, but to allow them to learn and gain strength on their own.

Last weekend, armed with a new perspective, new information and a new approach, we acquired a new puppy. Midnight is a 7-week-old black Labrador. To say she is cute is an understatement. For the last few days, we have focused on leading so she will follow and providing her with enough exercise to expend her pent-up energy and grow stronger. She is receiving plenty of affection.

Currently, Midnight is quietly sleeping in her crate. She ran after the children before school this morning. I am hopeful that, after expending a bit of energy themselves, my children will focus on learning and the dog will continue to sleep, at least for today and then we can begin again all over tomorrow, trying to incorporate what we learned and where we made mistakes the day before, continually learning from a dog.

Copyright 2007 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved

Too Good, but True; A Sheriff enforces the law

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

Most of the chain e-mails I receive, I delete. Occasionally I read one that appears to be humorous or interesting. My mother sent me one titled SHERIFF JOE IS AT IT AGAIN. This e-mail, while not humorous, is definitely interesting.
The chain e-mail is about Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the operation he runs in Maricopa County, Ariz. The e-mail says the inmates live in tent cities, there are female chain gangs and inmates eat brown-bag lunches. I had received Sheriff Joe e-mails before, as had my husband, and we always dismissed them as urban legend, amazing, entertaining, but certainly not true.

Intrigued by the latest e-mail, I thought a bit of investigation was in order. The Web site for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office includes information about many of its programs. The inmates do in fact live in tent cities. They wear pink underwear, which has eliminated the problem of underwear being stolen. The POSSE program assists in collecting child support from deadbeat dads. In addition, the Web site posts pictures of area residents recently charged with crimes.Based on my initial Internet research, I concluded that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a real person and runs a real operation. My next step was to talk to a person in the department. I reached a public affairs officer on the phone. He was very professional, nice, providing me with an e-mail address and stating, "We all have Blackberries, so just e-mail your questions." I typed up a list of questions, e-mailed them out and a few hours later received a call from Sheriff Joe Arpaio himself. Now I was really intrigued. The voice matched the persona and reminded me a bit of John Wayne, deep and husky with the underlying feeling that he was shooting straight when he talked.I asked Arpaio if all the information in the e-mail was true. No, he said, "we didn't take over the county animal shelter, we started our own." The jail, which once housed inmates, became empty after the tent cities were built. Now the facility has become an animal shelter, housing 200 dogs and cats. The horses, which "do not fit in the cells," are kept in the tents with the inmates. Sheriff Joe noted, "The women prisoners take care of the cats and dogs and the men take care of the horses."As for the brown-bag lunch, that information was not correct either. Instead of feeding inmates three meals a day, Maricopa County feeds its inmates just two meals a day. The first meal is "brunch" consisting of a bologna sandwich. The day's lone hot meal is served at night. This plan results in a total cost per inmate per day of $0.30 for meals.

Inmates either work or they are put in lockdown; TV is restricted to authorized programming, which often includes the 10-part series on government by my dad, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. When I inquired if the inmates liked the tapes the answer was no, "Not my problem, not why I show them."

In addition, Arpaio stated he "took away their (the inmates) Kool-Aid, so they are drinking a lot more water now." Water for showers is also limited, the inmates shower only twice a week.

While this might sound harsh to some, Arpaio's philosophy is, "Inmates should never live better inside our jails than they do on the outside because, simply put, jails are not hotels." Clearly he does not view making the inmates happy and comfortable as part of his job.

In addition to managing inmates and animals, Arpaio is enforcing immigration laws, something that few other sheriffs have taken on. His staff includes 160 deputies who are 287 G certified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His view is that he was elected to enforce the law and that is what he is going to do.

There are three groups that work on immigration enforcement: human smuggling, jail operations and community actions. Combined, they process around 1,000 suspected illegal aliens per month. Jail operation includes determining the immigration status of inmates. If they are illegal, they are identified and turned over to ICE. If they are convicted and sentenced under state law, they serve their state time first and are then released to ICE. There are currently 2,100 illegal aliens being held.

When asked why few other law enforcement leaders are following his lead, Arpaio surmised, "They can't take the heat." When asked if he received any pushback, his response was clear. "I'm taking heat now, locking up illegals." However, he made it apparent that a little heat was not going to make him change his ways.

As to laws not being enforced by other law enforcement agencies, he noted; "They think they can enforce the laws they want." noting that pressure from groups might sway some. When I asked why he enforced the laws his response was simple "That's my job."

So the e-mail I got was mostly true, the core is there. Sheriff Arpaio's job is enforcing the law, and he is doing his job. What's he not worried about, what others may think. He's doing his job, are we doing ours?

What is our job as citizens? To be active and involved, to pay attention to what is happening in our communities, to demand that those we vote into office do their jobs, or to replace them. After all, they do work for us.

Copyright 2007 by Jackie Cushman
All Rights Reserved

Sweet Thoughts of Tradition, Persistence, and Resourcefulness

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

Traditions are the glue that helps hold families together. They remind us of times we have shared together and trials we have some through together. My favorite cake is red velvet cake. For the past few years, my mother has baked me a red velvet cake from scratch for my birthday. This week, mydaughter turned eight. She requested that my mother, (her Gigi), bake her a red velvet cake for her birthday. Red velvet cake is delicious, the deep red of the cake and the white of the frosting provide a rich visual contrast when the cake is cut. It is a sweet, but not-too-sweet, moist cake with a hint of coco that contrasts perfectly with the incredible sweetness of the icing (made with almost a whole box of confectioners sugar).My first memory of a red velvet cake is from my freshman year in high school. My sister, Kathy, who was a senior, decided to make a red velvet cake for her boyfriend's Valentines Day present. She bought all the ingredients and began the task of making the cake. Not one for following directions, Kathy left out the flour. When she pulled the cake out of the oven, it was flat, and she figured out that she had left the flour out of the cake and threw it out the back door for the birds to eat. Kathy then returned to the store a second time to get the myriad of ingredients again.The second time around, Kathy remembered the flour, but -- while the cake was in the oven cooking -- she noticed the coco was still on the counter and had not been added. This led to her second cake being thrown out the back door for the birds. Kathy made a third trip to the grocery store.By this time, Kathy was a bit frustrated, but very focused on reaching her goal. I can still picture her looking down and reading the recipe. I was sitting on the side of the kitchen in the dining area, intrigued by her process, but keeping out of her way as she cooked.The third time around was the charm. All the ingredients went in as listed, the cake rose as expected and came out of the oven looking lovely. The birds did not get this third cake, but instead Kathy added the icing, and the present was ready to be given.

At the end of the marathon cooking session, the recipe was covered in spots of red food coloring, reminding me of scars, marks of the trials and tribulations Kathy had suffered while making the red velvet cake. It may have taken longer than expected, with a few more trips and ingredients, but Kathy was persistent and successful.

This same recipe has been used for years in our family, and every time it is pulled out, it reminds me of Kathy's afternoon baking marathon, which eventually led to success due to her persistence.

This year, Gigi did indeed make the red velvet cake for Maggie's birthday. She added a new twist by using a heart-shaped pan to symbolize her love for her granddaughter. But the larger pan, and my old oven, which tends to cook at whatever temperature it pleases, resulted in burned edges. Gigi solved that neatly: simply cutting the edges off and declaring it a fairy cake, telling us that the cake's hard bottom should be left for the fairies to eat.

Simple resourcefulness, but it worked. Maggie was thrilled with her cake, the taste was wonderful and the fairies were left with a treat.

We often try to ensure that everything turns out perfectly, especially for our children. If we actually accomplish this task, what do we really teach our children -- to expect perfection and not be happy with less? While perfection is a worthy goal, we must keep in mind that it is a goal that is often missed. When challenges, obstacles or delays appear, it is best to gather ones' resources, move on and adapt maintaining the same end goal, but understanding that the process needed to get there might change. The moral of this story is simple. It's a reminder that not many things in life turn out perfectly, but if you are persistent and resourceful they will often turn out right, useful and memorable.

Copywrite 2007 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved

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