For My Father

William Morrell French

April 11, 1916 - March 25, 2002

 just might be my favorite smell
because it is the smell I most associate with my

Hardware stores, 
wondrous places 
with lumber stacked to the ceiling,
two by fours on shelves,
saws, table and hand,
knotty pine,
painter's hat and brushes,
remind me of you, Daddy.  

How I loved when he would call out and ask 
if I wanted to go to the hardware store.
I think he liked that I loved those hardware stores so much.
I'd say,
"I love hardware stores."

Daddy, you took us camping in the Colorado mountains.

Coleman lanterns,
Coleman stoves,
percolators that made coffee over an open campfire,
camp cook kits made of aluminum,
were packed up and put in the back of the old station wagon
as we headed out to find our favorite "green spot."

After sunset,
 pine trees, 
looming larger than they seemed during the day, 
became a backdrop for a scene where family and friends gathered around a campfire,
 with cigarettes flickering around the edges of the fire,
grey smoke spiraling in the dark sky,
to listen to and to tell stories.
Oh, how we laughed.
You, Daddy, were the Chief Storyteller.
I loved your stories,
You were the best storyteller ever.
Oh, how I miss you and your stories.

Snuggled in smelly green World War II era mummy bag sleeping bags,
scratchy green Army blankets spread over and under me as I slept on the ground,
staring at the stars,
thinking of those stories,
and pondering the vastness of the world, 
the universe, 
and what lay beyond,
sounds of the stream finally lulled me to sleep
in those magical days of childhood when my father took us camping.

Songs, we sang songs.
Daddy would start out with,
and he would drag that "O" out forever.
I had a little pony,
His name was Dapple Grey,
I lent him to a lady to ride a mile away,

She whipped, she slashed him,
She rode him through the mire;
I would not lend my pony,
For all the lady's hire.

I never hear that song these days,
but if I did, I'd think of my dad.

Homemade rootbeer bottled in empty Coors beer bottles was my favorite summer treat.
I loved it when Daddy made homemade root beer.

Games, we played games at the dinner table.
We were not allowed to read at the table, but we played games.
I spy...
"Is it vegetable, mineral, or animal?"
We were allowed to ask those questions when you had us stumped.
Actually, he stumped us a lot.
Little did we know that he used that game to teach us deductive reasoning.

My father and I on graduation day.
B.S in Business Administration 

Books, we read books.
My father always had a book in his hand if he wasn't building something,
or fishing,
or working on the house or the yard.
In his younger years, he worked hard at the railroad and on the house and the yard,
so to went to bed early to read.
In later years, he read large print books from the lending library of books for the blind in Denver.

It was expected that we would be readers.
T.V., or the "boob tube" as he called it, was not in our home until I was a teenager.
I still don't like to watch T.V.
I read.

He taught me to believe in myself,
to stand up for myself,
to think for myself and not blindly follow others.
He spoke truth to me when I didn't do those things.

My father had a temper.
He never liked any of the boys I brought home.
He chased most of them away.

He liked things neat and orderly and insisted on square corners on the bed.
We made sure the kitchen table and surfaces in the kitchen were not sticky.
He hated a sticky surface.
Every table setting better include a salad bowl or salad plate for the salad and bread.
Oh, and there had to be a knife, a fork, and a spoon in place for each meal.

He was demanding.
He was as gruff as a bear on the outside,
but I've known fewer as 
kind and generous as he was on the inside.
He gave to those in need,
and even when you weren't in need, but he seemed to sense you needed a little gift,
or some gas money,
he opened up his wallet and he gave.
He was so giving.
That was one of his best traits.

He wrote.
He wrote family histories and collected family genealogies.
He carried on a correspondence with his parents,
his children,
his cousins,
his siblings,
his relatives that were connected generations back.
I even found letters he wrote to his grandparents, signed,
"Love, Billie,"
in his papers.
I have a large file of the letters he wrote to me.
He was a great writer, communicator, and keeper of the family histories.

In his later years, he became a born-again Christian.
The transformation that Christ made in his life was dramatic.
His faith was strong to the end.

During his last days, I was by his side with my sisters.
I'm so grateful for those days when I was able to witness the 
firmness of his faith
 while trying in some small way to give what little 
rudimentary comfort
 I could to his physical body in its final decline.

In my journal on March 23, 2002, just two days before he died, I wrote,

It is good to be here with him.  Yesterday, he told me over and over again, "You're a good girl." He would say, "Sally Lulu, you're a good girl."  I would say, "You're a good Daddy."  

He was that.
He was the best Daddy ever.
He was my Daddy.
And, I was his Sally Lou.
I remember when he died, I was filled with absolute certainty that 
he loved me,
that he was proud of me,
and that was enough for both of us.

Retired English Teacher Teaches A Family Member English As A Second Language

Family Ties ~ The French Connection

At least 30 summers ago, there was a Fourth of July French family reunion and picnic at the home of one of my cousins.  A favorite cousin, one I had not seen in many years, was there with her three beautiful young daughters.

The day was a hot one.  For some reason, I asked the girls if they wanted me to put their hair up in French braids.  One by one, each sat on the floor before me as I brushed and braided each one's hair.  That is when I first got to know and to love my first cousin once removed named Annie French.  I think she was about eight years old at the time.

Unfortunately, I didn't see a lot of my cousin and her daughters while the girls were growing up.  The next time I spent any time at all with them was twelve years ago when we gathered in Cousin Mary's hospital room just before she passed away from ovarian cancer which was discovered very shortly before her death.  The girls were still so sweet, so beautiful, and so very young to lose their wonderful mother.  They were barely out of their teens and into their twenties.  My heart broke for them.

I knew Mary had given them a wonderful foundation. She, a single mom, had raised them to be strong, independent, yet loving, and caring young women. She also raised them to be strong in the faith that she had taught them.

Annie, the one I call Mary's mini me, always wears a glorious, winning smile just like her sweet mama did.  After her mother's death, Annie went on to graduate from college and to travel around the world as a single woman.  Most of her trips were mission trips.  She journeyed to Peru to take some seminary classes from a branch of the Calvary Chapel Bible College in Peru.  There, she met her future husband.

Thanks to Facebook, I have been able to follow her journey from afar.  I saw the photos of the beautiful bride that Annie was when she married her handsome smiling groom, a native of Peru, in Peru.  I read of their missionary work in Peru and in Costa Rica.  I was thrilled to see photos of the beautiful daughters they soon had.  I admired Annie's handiwork of sewing that she did for her husband, her home, and her daughters.  I was impressed by Darwin's work in the the ministry.

Perhaps, our lives would never have intersected again except at family gatherings when the Torres family might be stateside if Darwin and Annie had not come to the United States late this spring for an extended sabbatical.  Their plans were that they would return to Peru to plant a church in Cusco, Peru.  They were being sent out to do this work by Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel in Colorado Springs.  They hoped that during the time the family was stateside, Darwin would also be able to take the test to become a U.S. Citizen.

A Springtime Meeting ~ An Answer to Prayer

In mid-April of this year, I wrote in my journal, "I am feeling stuck in a holding pattern of clouds and rain and storms...As I look out the window, I see patches of blue, lots of patches of blue as the clouds dissipate.  I got stuck in a storm pattern before the storm even materialized.  Our feelings really have next to nothing to do with reality."  I went on to write that I would be happier if I dug deeper into what made me happy and got unstuck from my holding pattern.  I prayed for opportunities to do more of what I love best: working with people and teaching.

Later, that very day, I got a message from Annie on Facebook.  Not knowing my professional background, she asked if I knew anyone who could teach her husband English so he could pass his citizenship test!  

Just prior to returning the the United States from Peru earlier in the spring, Annie had been working with Darwin so he could take the test for citizenship while they were in the States.  At home in Peru and in Costa Rica, the girls were learning English and were bilingual in Spanish and English.  Annie and Darwin communicated only in Spanish, and the girls spoke Spanish to their father.  This meant that Darwin's English was quite limited.  When he first took the test, he did not pass.  They hoped he could take it again soon, gain his citizenship, and they could return to Peru to begin their new ministry.

When Darwin did not pass the test the first time, Annie asked her aunt, my first cousin, if she knew  of someone whom might be able to help Darwin with English.  My cousin said, "Ask Sally.  She taught English.  She might know someone who knows how to teach ESL."  

I was beyond excited when Annie contacted me.  I told her I would be thrilled to help Darwin.  I told her of my background and even told her I had been praying for an opportunity to teach again.  We scheduled a time to meet at my home.  I dug out all of my old books and got ready to get to work doing what I love to do: teach English to speakers of other languages.  

I was a bit daunted by the task.  We didn't have much time.  Where should I start?  

At our first meeting, seated around my kitchen table that was covered with books on grammar, picture dictionaries, and other resources, I did an assessment to determine Darwin's understanding of and use of English.  Once that was complete,  we set our goals and objectives for the times we would meet.  Annie was my translator when Darwin and I could not connect.  I told them that the first goal would be that they would no longer speak in Spanish at home, but would use English.  I knew that we didn't have much time, so I wanted Darwin to use English for speaking and listening as much as possible.  I also suggested he start reading English storybooks to the girls at bedtime.

From there, we took off.  Darwin was such a gifted and willing student.  It was such a joy to work with him.  Along the way, we got to know each other and were able to share a bit more about our lives and about the faith we shared in common.  My heart became quite knitted together with the beautiful hearts that live in Darwin and Annie.  Darwin has a gift for language.  He is a bright and able student.  He worked so hard on learning English.  He expanded his opportunities to listen to English by going on a retreat with other men from his church.  He began going to Bible Studies taught in English.  He sought opportunities to have conversational English times with other men in his church.  

The French Connection ~ A New American Citizen

On June 20th, Darwin took the U.S. Citizenship test for the second time.  This time, he passed with flying colors.  Many prayers were answered.  He was not nervous during the testing.  He remembered what he had learned when the questions were asked.  He especially remembered the conversations and times we had when we went over "Who" "What" "Where" "When" and "Why" questions.  Those type questions can be so hard for second language learners.

Last night, on July 5th, Jim and I were able to have Annie and Darwin and the girls in our home for a celebratory dinner.  We grilled hamburgers.  I made potato salad.  We even had that American dish of apple pie topped with ice cream for dessert.  

My profession which has given me so many wonderful experiences over the years just keeps on giving back to me.  I am so grateful I was able to work with Darwin.  I am blessed beyond measure to   have taught immigrant children, young adults from other lands studying English as a foreign language, and adult learning English for various purposes.  To have the opportunity to work with Darwin in his journey towards citizenship will be one of my great joys.  I loved getting to know this wonderful young man of God.  I am excited about following his journey as he goes to Peru to plant a church.  I have been so richly blessed because our lives have intersected at this point in time.  I needed this experience of teaching him and learning from him and from Annie more than they will ever know.  Now our hearts are forever knitted together.  

Darwin and Sally photographed in our classroom setting: the kitchen table.

After my father retired, he spent much time working on family genealogies and gathering photos and stories about the French family history in the United States.  My paternal family history in the United States, the history that Annie and I share,  goes back to 1676 when our ancestor first came to these North American shores 

Now, 340 years later, I had the opportunity to welcome a new American citizen to our family.  He came from South America.  He married into the French family and became a much loved family member.  I couldn't help but reflect about the rich family history that keeps being written in this wonderful land that has been home to my family for over three centuries. 

A few years ago, I wrote a reflection on what it means to me to be a citizen of the United States of America.  You can read that post here:  I Am An American.  Now, I can add this chapter to my American story just as Annie and Darwin are writing their own American story.  

Our connections are deeper than that of family history.  We are more than cousins.  We are bound by our love of Jesus and by our Christian faith.  

I was reminded of Ephesians 2:19 as I thought of the connection that I now have with this family. are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household.  

The French Connection:  Annie, Darwin, & daughters with Sally

Darwin and Annie will leave to return to their new home near Cusco, Peru, in less than a week.  They will begin the work of establishing a church and working with those whom already are anxiously awaiting their return.  I will miss having this family as a part of life, but I am so happy that they are returning to the land of Darwin's birth to do the work they have been called to do. 

Thank you Annie and Darwin for including me in your journey.  Thank you for making me a part of the story you two are writing with your lives.  It has been my honor to work with you.  I love you.  My prayers go with you.  

I Am Against the Land Swap Proposed by the Broadmoor

It is rare for me to use my blog as a place for political action or political views.  I am very passionate about a land swap that has been proposed by the Broadmoor Hotel to the City of Colorado Springs. If you live in Colorado Springs, I urge you to write Mayor Suthers on this matter.  I also urge you to sign the petition linked below this letter.

Dear Mayor Suthers,

I am a third generation native of Colorado Springs.  My grandfather on my father’s side came here in 1908 to work for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.  My great-grandparents on my father’s mother’s side settled in the Florence area as early as 1889.  On my mother’s side, her great-grandmother was in Colorado Springs within just a few years of its founding.  My mother’s father, came to live with his grandmother within a few years after his grandmother arrived, around 1893.  Needless to say, my roots go deep in this community.  

My father, William (Bill) French, was born in Glockner Hospital one hundred years ago on April 11, 1916. During his early childhood he lived on the west side of Colorado Springs.  The neighborhood where he grew up in his earliest years was razed to build some of I25.  When he was around ten years old, my grandparents bought a home at 823 E. Boulder, which was the family home until the 1980’s.  My father grew up going to Columbia School, North Junior High School, and Colorado Springs High School.  When he graduated from high school, he attended Colorado College and worked at Busy Corner Drugstore.  During the war years, after he had married and started a family, he purchased a home at 924 E. Boulder.  This was my childhood home.  Just before I was born, and just before he left for World War II duty, he went to work for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as a clerk.  My grandfather, A.M. French, was a telegrapher for the D&RG RR and had been since 1908.  So, not only do my roots go deep in Colorado Springs, but they also go deep when it comes to General Palmer’s railroad.  I am a railroader’s daughter.  For that I am extremely proud.

 A lover of Colorado Springs, her beauty, and her history, my father would take us on long rides every weekend showing us the town, the land, and the area that he considered our heritage and our legacy.  He was a storyteller, and oh how I wish I could remember those stories.  I think we all could benefit from hearing the stories my father and his uncles could tell us about Colorado Springs.  

During the time the Air Force Academy was built, my father was assigned as a loss inspector for the railroad and it was his task to inspect all the building supplies that were shipped to the Academy by rail. Since my father was able to have a bird’s eye view of watching the Academy be built from the ground up, he wanted to share that historical time with us by taking us on rides up to the area every few weeks so we could see the progress being made.  Those are treasured memories.

During this same time, and after, my father was involved with the Colorado Springs Planning Committee.  I am not sure of the exact dates when he served on this committee.  I only know of how much he wanted to preserve what he thought made Colorado Springs the wonderful place that it was.  He was against anything that took away from the natives having access to public lands that had been bequeathed to the city.  He believed that we had a duty to honor General Palmer’s views of preserving the beauty of Colorado Springs.  He did not want developers of any type to destroy the natural beauty of Colorado Springs.  He believed we could have growth while also preserving our natural treasures and keeping them open for the general public.  It was then the public’s duty to keep these treasures of land safe.  Whenever we went for picnics in The Bluffs or in the Garden of the Gods, we had to form a human chain just before we left so that we picked up every piece of garbage, paper, cigarette butts, or bottle caps we might find in our path.  We were taught to leave things and places better than we found them.  We were taught to leave no or little footprint when we were in the places of nature that surrounded Colorado Springs or in other part of our beloved Colorado.

My father worked with and for Mr. Thayer Tutt, who was director of the D&RG RR.  He would always tell of stories of when he had to go see Mr. Tutt at the Broadmoor.  Mr, Tutt would ask, “Bill, how’s your railroad doing?”  My father would answer with, “I believe it is your railroad, and it is doing well.”  There was a close connection in those days with the holdings of the Broadmoor and the railroad, but I don’t think my father ever saw that as anything that would indicate that the Broadmoor was interested in a what many would call today a “land grab.”  The Broadmoor was a local treasure and enjoyed by her citizens, just as so many other showplaces of Colorado Springs were.

It was in the 80’s, after my father retired, that the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was changed forever.  That was when Phil Anschutz, a man who owned "more land than any other private citizen in the United States” bought the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.  It broke my father’s heart because he saw it as a way for the new owner of the railroad  to access some of the most valuable land in Colorado.  He knew the railroad was a good as dead when this deal for Anshutz to purchase the railroad was over.  He was right.

Some of us are not fooled by the transaction called a land swap. I see this as one more way for Phil Anschutz to acquire another piece of Colorado for his empire.  My father was not one to mince words; neither am I.  I think the winner in this swap is not the people of Colorado Springs.  The winner is the Broadmoor and Phil Anschutz.  I urge you to stand on the side of the people of the town whom elected you by making sure this land swap never happens. I urge you to keep Strawberry Fields as an undeveloped area owned by the City of Colorado Springs to be treasured and loved by, and enjoyed by her citizens.  I urge you to stand against corporate gain that may drive small businesses out of business.  I urge you to stand with the “little guy” that doesn’t have power in city politics.  I urge you to listen to the taxpayers of this town who do not wish to have a land swap of a piece of land that should remain in the City of Colorado Spring’s possession and under her protection.  

Yesterday, as I parked my car near what was once know as Busy Corner, Tejon and Pikes Peak, and I crossed Pikes Peak heading south on Tejon, my eyes drifted to where the magnificent Chief Theater and Burn Building once stood.  As I looked at that empty space that is covered with a parking lot, I was reminded of a conversation my father had with Mayor Larry Ochs back in the seventies.  My father was in Colorado Springs visiting after he had been transferred to Grand Junction to serve as Superintendent of the Western Slope of the D&RG RR.  As the two visited, Mayor Ochs asked my father what he thought of all the changes in Colorado Springs.  My father’s reply was, “I think Colorado Springs is becoming a kleenex town.”  Mayor Ochs asked for clarification, “A kleenex town.  What do you mean?”  My father’s reply was so indicative of his wit, his ability to use great metaphors, his love of Colorado Springs, and his disappointment over the loss of historic buildings and spaces, “Yes, a kleenex town.  You use it once, then you throw it away.”

Mayor Suthers, I urge you not to throw away Strawberry Fields.  Making a land swap with the Broadmoor Hotel for this property would bad for the citizens of Colorado Springs, for those whom may wish to visit our city in the future, and for wildlife.  Again, I urge you to remember not to throw this property away by making a deal that is not in our best interests.  Remember my father’s kleenex analogy when you ponder this decision.  Vote against the swap.  


Sally L. Wessely

Memorial Day ~ A Time of Remembrance

Memorial Day,
day of remembrance,
was first set aside in 1866 as a day to remember those soldiers whose lives were lost in the Civil War.
It was celebrated on May 30 each year.

I remember as a child that we sometimes called this day Decoration Day.
Over the years, I think the meaning of the day has evolved.
Some see the day as a day to honor those killed in the service of their country.
Others see the day as a day to remember those whom they have lost to death.
They remember them by visiting their graves and leaving flowers.
Others see it as the beginning of summer and celebrate it by having a barbecue.

Memorial Day
Evergreen Cemetery

In 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday designated to be celebrated each year
 on the fourth Monday of May.
I found a short video about the history of Memorial Day that you might find interesting.

For me, and for many of my family members, Memorial Day Weekend is fraught with sad memories.
Five years ago, my daughter's life ended in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 29, 2010.
This day fell on the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend.
It seems we always have two anniversary reminders of her death.
The actual date, and the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.

This year, I found myself alone on Memorial Day.
Jim had to work.
Family did not gather as we sometimes do because of busy schedules and bad weather.
I chose to spend the day remembering those no longer with us by visiting the cemetery alone.

My mother asked me to leave some flowers on her mother's grave.
I was so touched when she told me how she wished
 she could take some flowers to her mother's grave.

I never knew my grandmother, Lulu Castle Townsley.  
She died from breast cancer at the age of sixty-seven in 1941,
 four years before I was born.
An independent woman, she homesteaded by herself in Northern Colorado before she married my grandfather at the age of 35.
Throughout her life she worked very hard to support herself and her family.
As a child, she made bread for the family while her own mother worked when her father died when she was nine years old.  Mother told me her mother had to stand on a chair to reach a counter where she would knead the bread.
Lulu Castle Townsley had to fend for herself as a homesteader.
She drove a horse and buggy across the plains to town, Pine Bluffs, Wyoming,  with a hoe beside her in the wagon which she used to kill the rattle snakes that would get entangled in her wagon wheels.

She was forty-two years old when my mother, her only child, was born.
She worked throughout my mother's childhood as
a milliner,
a cook,
a caretaker and cook for sanatoriums for TB patients,
as a seamstress.

Even though I never met my grandmother, she has always been a strong role model for me.
My grandmother was born 141 years ago and has been gone for 74 years.
It makes me so sad to think that my mother only had her mother for 25 years.
I have been blessed at age 70 to still have my mother with me.

As I stood at my grandmother's gravesite, I told her that her daughter, 
my mother, is still here with us in the land of the living.
She will turn 99 years old at the end of the week.
I told my grandmother not to expect her to join her anytime soon.

My mother comes from pioneer stock,
yet she is a very modern woman with old fashioned values
 who always stays up to date in all that is going on in the world.
She is an amazing woman.
I think her mother would be very proud of her.
I know I am.

Albert, Lulu, and Alberta Townsley
Woodland Park, Colorado

My mother
Alberta Townsley French
December 2014
age 98

Today, I left flowers on the graves of my maternal grandmother, my maternal great-grandmother and her son, my great-uncle.
All are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado

My father and my daughter are buried not far from the other family grave sites.


I didn't get over to the other part of the cemetery where my paternal grandparents, aunts and uncles are buried.
I explored the older area of the cemetery because of its historical significance.

General William Jackson Palmer,
who served in the Civil War,
and then founded the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is buried in this cemetery.

I love all of the old structures on the grounds of the cemetery.
This is the old chapel that located just to the north of where General Palmer is buried.

As I got out to take a photo of the chapel, I saw a blue bird sitting on top of the  commemorative plaque in front of the building.
He flew away before I could get a better photo of him.
Can you see him?
At first I thought he was a small robin.
Then I saw his blue feathers and wings as he flew off.


Nearby, is this interesting sculpture.
The inscription reads,
Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
But to support them after.
~ William Shakespeare
from "Timon of Athens" (act 1, scene 1)

Today, as I spent the day remembering those no longer with us,
I also was reminded of those whom have supported me throughout the past five years.

One of Julie's dear friends ran the Boulder Boulder.
When she finished the race, she posted how Julie was with her during the race.
Her post was a reminder of how many dear friends Julie had in her lifetime.
Those friends will never know how much their love and support has meant to me and to her family.

I also think and remember so many of my dear friends and family members whom have been there for me during these past five years.
Many of you are blogging friends whom I have never met in person.
You have walked with me through many dark days.
You have spoken words of encouragement and love.
You have helped me find healing.
You have listened to me far more than I have listened to you.
You have supported me.
You have not left me to flounder through dark days alone.
Thank you.
I love you all.
It is good to have a day of remembrance.

I Am An American

I am the daughter of

The Isle of Jersey
was home
to my first American ancestors.

In 1676,
 a young man,
Philippe Gavit, (also spelled Gavet, Gavett, Gavitt, and Gavvitte)
 a Frenchman,
 left that island in the English Channel off the French coast of Normandy,
and headed for America.

He stepped ashore in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Soon, he married and established the beginning of what would become my American family.

I am the daughter of early American entrepreneurs and land owners.

Philippe Gavit's granddaughter,
Prudence Gavit (Gavet)
William French,
a Protestant Scot-Irish from Londonderry, Ireland, in 1738/9
at Westerly, Washington County Rhode Island.

Their son, William French, Jr., my father's namesake,
 fought in the Revolutionary War.

A great grandfather on my maternal side fought in the Civil War.

My father and all of my uncles served proudly during World War II.
French Family sons and daughters during World War II
Father, of Sally French Wessely, William French, is on far right.

I lost a first cousin, Steven Reichert in Viet Nam.
French Family Cousins
Steven Reichert, killed in Viet Nam at age 19, is third from top left.
Sally French Wessely is second from left.

Steven Reichert
First Cousin of Sally French Wessely
Name on
Traveling Viet Nam Memorial Wall

I am the daughter of Americans who went to war for this country.

My grandfather when asked what nationality we were always said,
"We are damn Yankee rebels."

I am the daughter of Welsh coal miners.
From the green hills of Wales they came to the dry hills of Colorado
  to work in the mines.

I am the daughter of coal miners,
union members.

I am the daughter of proud Democrats who always voted the Democratic ticket.

I am the daughter of Scotch Presbyterians.

I am the daughter of those who worked for the WPA.

I am a daughter of those who came west to breathe the high mountain air because
 had made life in the humid east unbearable.

I am the daughter of storytellers.

I am the daughter of those who searched for gold in the west.

I am the daughter of
shop keepers,
a telegrapher sending and receiving messages across the wires,

I am the proud granddaughter of a homesteader.
My grandmother, as a single woman, established
and lived in a homestead on her own.
It is my great sadness that I never knew this woman.
My mother as a child with her parents
Albert and Lulu Townsley.
Lulu homestead by herself prior to her marriage

I am the daughter of strong Christian believers,
and renegades who never believed.

I am proud of my heritage.
I believe in extending the American dream to others.

I am a teacher of immigrant children.
Their stories could break a teacher's heart.
They left family, culture, language, and friends,
sometimes unwillingly,
to have an opportunity for a better life.

These children have taught me more about the American dream
than I ever learned in any class in American history I ever took.

I married a man whose parents were refugees from Nazi Germany.
James (Jim) Wessely
with his parents
Kurt and Emmy Wessely
I am grateful this country provides a place of refuge to those escaping
The Holocaust,
and the horrors of war.

I am grateful this country remains the land of opportunity for many.
I am also aware of how much poverty and inequality we have in our own country.

I am well aware of the need for immigration reform.
Few things anger me more than calling a person "illegal."
People are NOT illegal.
Some are in the country without documentation.

This problem of immigration is a complex, generational problem.
I know many families who might not have had documentation to be in the United States.
I know this because students have trusted me enough to tell me this.
As a teacher, it is my legal responsibility to provide an equal educational opportunity to every student
K -12 regardless of immigrations status.
(Plyler vs. Doe 1982)

I am an American teacher who worked with marginalized populations.
I am proud to have worked with this strong,
group of students and their parents.

I am an American.
May I never forget my roots in this democracy.

Sometimes, I see us fighting over the use of words in our Pledge of Allegiance and it breaks my heart.
We have our freedoms,
thankfully we have,
and I support,
our freedoms,
but at times it seems that we are forgetting that we are to be indivisible.
It seems our  First Amendment Rights
are used in ways that appear to shout that we no longer believe in
liberty and justice for all.

We live in troubled times,
but I,
an American,
 continue to believe in the dream my ancestors,
those damn Yankee rebels,
fought to establish.

There are fifteen lines in that famous poem, The New Colossus, written by Emma Lazarus
that became associated with the Statue of Liberty.

I am an American.

I am pondering every line of that poem written about the "Mother of Exiles."

I hope you will do the same on this Independence Day.

Read more about the poem and its author here:  How a Sonnet Made a Statue the "Mother of Exiles."