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Monday, December 24, 2012

Blessings and a Rant

There is so much on my mind these past days. I suppose I really need in some ways to curtail my activities online, much as I have curtailed watching the "news" on television. Going back to July, take a retrospective with me. We saw a big gay rights / same-sex marriage brouhaha. That took us through to August, then it was time for the presidential election. Oh the debates, the controversies, the vile vicious hatred that flowed like water from all ideologies and directions for week after week after week. During the Election Season we saw a terrorist attack in Libya and a truly horrendous hurricane that decimated the northeast, especially New York and New Jersey. 

One would think the atmosphere would ease, clear once the election was over ... nope. We just carried on as usual. The big news/controversy going into December was the looming "Fiscal Cliff", which to be honest I would be more concerned over if it were not the same song just a new verse that we hear year after year after year. Lots of recriminations and no solutions. Then the unimaginable happened. 

December 14, 2012. Tragedy and loss almost beyond comprehension. Twenty children dead. Six school personnel as well. A mother murdered in her bed by her youngest son. And the perpetrator taking his own life, along with the answers to the wailing sobs of "Why?!?!?!" heard throughout the nation. 

The dead were barely identified before the new uproar began. Gun Control. Second Amendment rights. Identification and treatment of the potential nutjobs walking among us. Conspiracy theories. 

Then we have the "Mayan Apocalypse" "Great Shift" for December 21, 2012. I am so tired of it all. Really really tired. 

People are not going to change. People are greedy, selfish, power hungry, money grubbing, self justifying animals. I feel so over it all.
 
I tend to be unconventional in many ways, and do not *do* Christmas per se, except to the extent that is needed for family gatherings. I do not send cards any more, and gifts are not part of my MO either. I just wanted you to know that for me the spirit of love, community and fellowship that most people try to drag out of the mothballs for six weeks out of 52 each year should be more than that. For if we cannot embody a love and appreciation for our lives, families, friends and fellow creatures every day we show disrespect by doing so on demand.  

There is a greeting I routinely send to people on my Facebook friends and family list. I tweak it from time to time to suit specific personalities and/or relationships. Here is my greeting for all year, not just for the current season:

Brightest Blessings to you on this day. May you have more happy than sad, more laughter than tears, more love than hate, more friends than enemies, more sunshine than rain, more light than dark this day and all days to come.

Love, Light and Blessings Always. Ellen

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A December to Remember - and Mourn

This has been a difficult month thus far.

I believe most people identify with that statement on an individual level most months. Things happen, life happens. Much of what sticks for us is the difficult, the painful. The good, the easy, the happy - these melt into the background. We expect as our due the good in life. 

But life is not always good, or easy or happy. There is chaos and pain and turmoil at every turn. We are constantly challenged by life. Challenged to rise to the occasion, to overcome the obstacle, to accept the unacceptable. It is those times that we remember, that we memorialize. The Pearl Harbor Memorial has been a common December remembrance for decades.


We also remember John Lennon 

at this time of the year.

Sadly, we now have another image that will permeate our collective memory for December, that of Newtown, CT.

There are no words, no wisdom or musings I can add that will change or ease what has happened. As a nation we are reeling once again at the actions of one person that have altered our lives in inexplicable ways. Hundreds of friends and relatives have had their understanding and appreciation of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" altered forever.

Once more we are forced to ask some difficult questions of ourselves and those we look to as leaders. Many questions with no clear answers, much pain and anguish that has no ease. 

There are countless families that will savor their times with friends and family at a more intense level this year. Children will continue to add to their memory bank another holiday season. The adults and older children will have perhaps a sharper appreciation of the intangibles that we strive for in life. 

My birthday has always waged a battle with the holidays, as it is a mere 9 days before Christmas, 7 days before Yule. This year a pall I am not sure will ever lift was added, because in my mind December 14 will loom larger that December 16, 25 or 21. 

We need something to change. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Newtown ... How many places will be added to the list?  I do not think there are any easy answers. There are most definitely a great many difficult questions. 

Blessings to all who read these words.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What do you remember about your mother?



I am not sure how you go about crediting photos, but the above image is from Rides.com.

I posted this to my Facebook wall, and the following conversation developed. My Facebook name is Ellen WhiteOwl Smith-Apple. Rhiannon Smith is my niece.

I posted the first comment with the picture
You think Mom would go for this? I giggle just thinking about the look on her face. I am so mean ...
Rhiannon Smith She might like it :)

Ellen WhiteOwl Smith-Apple She would say Wheeeeeeeeeee!!!!! When we were young we tried to teach her to ride a bicycle, and hula hoop. Get her to tell you about it. She was so much fun as a mother.


I have thought a great deal about this over the weeks since I had this interaction. My mother was 25 years old when I was born, and throughout our childhood she was one of the fun mothers. I am not real sure I appreciated that aspect of her personality. There was a lot of laughter in our house. My sister and I would roll on the floor laughing at times.

When we (my sister and I) were about 12 and 14 she went to work at the elementary school as an aide in a kindergarten class. She loved children so much, and would wipe their tears and give them hugs as needed. I suppose that would not be allowed in schools today. She made it a personal crusade to assure that there were sufficient funds for all the children to participate in all activities. No child went without ice cream. All children went to paid activities like shows and plays and field trips to farms. Each child had at least one book to take home from the book fair. Those with less always had enough. She took socks and gloves and underwear and soap to school on a regular basis. She unabashedly harassed her clubs and ladies groups for monies to help the children at her school. All of this was done in a manner as to not belittle or call attention to those in need.

We were not well off. We were not even middle class. I cannot ever remember having surplus, except for laughter and family and love.

She and my father did well, they loved us and helped us grow into pretty decent people. She usually but not always let Daddy do the physical discipline. We were rambunctious kids.

They played with us, games and cards and outside. They welcomed all of our friends, often feeding 3 or 4 extra at mealtimes.

Just a few memories of my mother on the eve of my 54th birthday.



Barn

Seen from the truck, a barn and pasture on New Garden Road
This was in October, 2012. Photography by Roger Apple, using a Kodak Z915.

Pretty scene, is it not? This is on the road that we drive if we go from Nashs Ford to Honaker. Not abandoned, part of a working farm.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Special Day

Did the title grab your attention?

Today really is a special day, as was yesterday, as will be tomorrow.

Oh, no - yadda yadda affirmation crap

No, not really. More along the lines of seize the day pragmatic this is how Ellen makes her life work thoughts.

You see, when I was younger I was always waiting for IT to happen. The big moment, the day of all days, the event that would make sense of all that had been happening up to that point. Then I would get depressed, though I did not see it as depression. As a result, I totally missed the point of life for a long long time.

( This is the seize the day part. )

We have opportunities and joys and sorrows all the time. I mean ALL the time. We are sentient sensory beings. Sentient in that we are thinking, reasoning communicative beings. Sensory in that we conduct our lives based on the input received through our senses. You remember those. Hearing, touch, taste, sight, smell. There is a constant flood of raw data streaming into our brains through our central nervous system from our environment. Our brain processes the data, and sorts it into blocks of information we can process instantaneously, drawing in no small part from a database that has been being amassed in our memories since before we were born.

As we age parts of the collection process may not work as well as they once did, at times people may totally lack one or more of  our senses. Our brains and bodies adapt and compensate.

Today is special because I am able to combine everything I have learned and experienced up to this point in my life and experience the events of the day based on that vast database.

Example: Yesterday I received the wrong items on a sandwich at a restaurant. If I return to the same restaurant today I will be more precise in my order. Were the sandwich especially repugnant to me, I may opt to go to a different restaurant.

Every day will present situations that necessitate the same process of evaluation and adaptation. Many of them are so ingrained in our overall experience that they pass unacknowledged. 

I began writing this post almost two months ago. We are now in the first week of October, one of my favorite times of the year. The temperature here at Little Beaver Creek has already been in the forties some mornings, and there is a dappled effect to the bright sun as it streams through the tree branches. A time of anticipation, expectation. And yet there is a melancholic element as well. 

There is an air of uneasy anticipation wafting about, unease about the impending election, unease about jobs and the economy, trepidation about the future.  The energy created can be one that energizes, or one that paralyzes.

I suppose that is the thing, is it not? How we utilize what was and what is to mold what will be next. Because life works like that, in a stream of activity. We want to manipulate the flow and speed, but we really can only take the ride as it comes to us. We can't slow down the sweet, speed past the unpleasant, rewind and have a "do-over" on the really stupid things we invariably do. 

I am taking a long hard look at the state of Ellen's life, and there are changes that need to be made. Today is special because I can start those changes now. 

That is a very good thing. One heartbeat, one breath, one step, one decision at a time. That is how life is lived. Not in the regrets or glories of the past, not in the dreams and dreads of the future. But in the here and now. Today.

A special day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Votes and Assholes

It has been several weeks since I posted on my blog, and every few days I say to myself. "Self, you really need to write something profound for your legions of followers to have for hope and inspiration."

Then I laugh, because at most 15 people may read this.

Unless you live in Narnia or a constant state of ignorant bliss you are more than aware of the impending presidential election, which true to form has ignited maelstroms of debate and acrimony across the nation. This year seems to be especially acrimonious, which I am speculating has to do a great deal with the addiction many of voting age have for social media. Say what you will of the medium, Facebook has definitely provided an almost unfettered platform for the passionate, the impassioned, the educated and the uninformed upon which fierce battles are waged constantly. 

I am trying to stay out of the way of the majority of the posts and links and clips. Not because I am not an active citizen, but because I do not see the benefit in the process. 

I registered to vote as soon as I could, and have voted in every election I was able to since. I have voted in local, state and national elections. I have seen the election of candidates I supported, and the defeat of candidates I truly thought would have been capable. I have been proven wrong in my beliefs, and I have been right about issues and concerns. None of which gives me any special ability or knowledge that results in being able to force my opinions down someone's throat. 

Truth be told, it is very challenging to vote and do it right. The sheer magnitude of information and disinformation available to the American public is at an all-time high. There are network and cable and syndicated "news" programs. There are print and online newspapers and magazines. There are unsolicited phone "polls" and "surveys". There are flyers and pamphlets starting to trickle in through the USPS. There are yard signs and bumper stickers and the impassioned handing out literature in shopping centers across the country. 

We cannot know which choice will end up being the correct man or woman for the job.

There. I have said it. Let me repeat that.

We cannot know which choice will end up being the correct man or woman for the job.

There is no clear choice, no flashing red or blue arrow saying this one. 

The right person today may be a mistake next week, and the mistake we make today may end up being the best mistake ever made. 

We need to trust more, we need to have faith in the ability of our fellow citizens to do the right and good and decent thing at least 51% of the time. We need to remember that life is a multitude of colors, not just black and white. We need to look for and cultivate the good in one another, and understand that the most any of us can do on any given day is try our best with the resources we have at hand. 

When someone, ourselves included, falters, we need to remember that no one person carries the weight of all of life, we share that burden among ourselves. 

Sure, I would prefer 100%, or even 75%. But I am pragmatic, realistic. So I am shooting for 51%, maybe 60% on a good day.

I have one vote come November and I will use it to the best of my ability, I have an asshole too. Doesn't mean I have to be one. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Life Wearies Me - Or Perhaps It Is Just People

A damaged soul, for reasons that may never be known [ and if known will probably not make sense or be coherent] commits a reprehensible act. Almost before we can process, the crap starts to fly around the blogosphere, drip down the Facebook feed, scream at us from the "news".

Conspiracy theorists. Gun Control. Terrorists.

Cameras and microphones and livefeeds as the friends and families and shattered lives are hounded relentlessly.

Religion and psychology and psychiatry and education reform and media influence and popular culture are all prodded and poked by the talking heads on the television screen, spouting theories and spinning lies and truths into a fabric that will be cut and sewn and ripped apart ad naseum in the days, weeks, years to come.

Connections are made where it is convenient though implausible. The unscrupulous suck the tragedy dry like insatiable vampires as they desecrate the private pains for their own gains. Why not? they self-justify - my cause, my beliefs, my candidate, my agenda is what really matters.

There is a book  I read about six years ago for the first time that speaks to the idea that we create our own reality. As invincible as we go about life thinking we are, our current incarnation of energy that includes the ability to think, reason, dream, communicate is a very fragile and fleeting thing. Since according to Don Miguel Ruiz we create the reality we walk in each day, why not make it a reality of hope, of joy, of dreams, of possibilities?

I am not naive - one does not get to be 54 years old and go through the events of my life and retain a childlike innocence and naivete. I am firmly committed to the belief that life is about balance, light and dark, good and evil, yin and yang. That being said, we are sentient beings. Why are we (humanity as a whole) not able to function in a manner that is less base? What benefit is history, all the volumes of recorded history, if we continue to repeat the same actions and continue to get the same results?

There is greed, avarice, discord, hatred, cruelty in this world. Life is a cycle, and what becomes ceases to be. There is generosity, compassion, love, gentleness in this world. Life is a cycle, and what becomes ceases to be.

Embedded in the here and now for each of us is a chance to choose, to make a difference that matters in good ways.

Yet once again, when the incomprehensible has occurred, the lowest common denominator rises to the forefront.

Life wearies me, or perhaps it is just people.

Friday, June 22, 2012

One Person Can Make a Difference ... I Did

I realized something the other day. I made a difference in someones life. 

This story goes back in time a bit, and may be longer than my usual posts, but I feel compelled to share.

When I was 24, and too young to have better sense, I left my beloved mountains. I was heartsick, feeling adrift in life. I had a friend who had relocated to Fort Pierce, Florida, about 50 miles north of West Palm Beach on the Atlantic coast. She invited me to visit her, and I left Virginia in the Spring of 1983. I would not live here again until the Spring of 2001. Eighteen years, and so very much happened to me during that time.

I met my first husband the first few weeks I was there, and was living with him soon after. Details are not important there, that tale can be told another day.

We were married in October of 1986. I was working at a large truck stop as a cashier and he had begun work as a heavy equipment operator for the state. Previous he had been a truck driver. In the course of his work he had become acquainted with a gentleman I will call MB. MB was a very likable person, and had come to Florida from Ohio to make a fortune in trucking, { Everybody thinks they can make a fortune in trucking, and it is not that easy! }

MB's business had fallen on hard times and he had taken to driving a dump truck for a local contractor. In Florida there is a tremendous amount of moving dirt and sand around from one place to another, dredging out swampy areas, filling in swampy areas, like ants in an ant farm. 

My husband came home one day and said a terrible accident had occurred. MB had blacked out while driving the dump truck and wrecked. He was in the hospital and it had been discovered that he had a brain tumor. Now I am not in the medical field, and do not have proper terminology or understanding, but I will try to explain the way it was explained to MB and his wife. This particular type of tumor was like a spiderweb on the surface of his brain. It spanned from almost the center in the rear, along the left side above the ear and over to just above the right eye. It was growing rapidly, like the tentacles of an octopus wrapping around the brain. Surgery was a necessity, not an option, and as soon as possible.

As I previously said, MB's trucking business had fallen on hard times and he had let his insurance lapse. He did not have health insurance with the company he was working for and his wife was on Medicare. 

MB was the kind of man who would pick up a strangers tab in a restaurant, pay the utility bill for a friend in need, give clothing and shoes to the homeless. He was a good person. People had taken advantage of his kindness, and prospered. Now he was in need. His wife was having a very difficult time, and getting doors shut in her face at every turn.

"Ellen, we have to do something to help them. They are decent people, they do not deserve this."

"What can we do? We barely make our own bills."

"I don't know. Put a jar out. Do Something"

So I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper.

They sent a reporter to interview me, ran the story, and I started getting mail. Letters, cards, plain envelopes. With checks, cash, money orders. I opened a special account for him at a local bank. I received an offer from a person familiar with 'the system' to help expedite his social security and Medicaid approval. 

He received enough in donations, five and ten dollars at a time, to keep a roof over their heads, cover the urgent bills, and keep the dark specter of worry from the door while he recuperated.

I made a difference. All I did was write a letter to the editor of the local paper, and I made a difference in one life. Not a big life altering difference, but enough of a difference.

I made a difference.

Anybody can. You can.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

What is wrong with people?

Yesterday evening, I was catching up on the news on MSNBC and read this story about Mark Zuckerberg. I felt good, reading the story. For me, it was about someone who has priorities in order. Mark Zuckerberg is a billionaire, his new wife just graduated from medical school. They have been a couple for seven years.

Dr. Chan and Mr. Zuckerberg lead very low profile lives. That cannot be easy for someone with his business, and the publicity that tends to hound and haunt the very successful and very wealthy. From my perspective, having a level enough head to be the founder and CEO of a juggernaut like Facebook and yet live a life that is not ostentatious is a feat in an of itself. To be in a long-term relationship with the head of a internet success story like Facebook and have the focus and tenacity to earn a degree from Harvard and then go on to graduate from medical school speaks volumes.

MSNBC has comments open on their story. The content of some of those comments is what baffles me. Mean-spirited, snarky, judgmental, racist, bigoted ... I do not even have the  adjectives to begin.

There are several websites I read on a regular basis, one of which is Pantheon, "where Star Foster attempts to be clever regarding all things pagan". She is a quick-witted, well read young woman who has a gift for researching a subject well and standing by her words. The comments section of her blog used to be as educational and thought-provoking as the articles themselves. Used to be.

Star had comments open Pantheon up until right after Easter of this year. This was posted, because of "cumulative negativity" that came close to killing her blog. Even so, it is drastically different. Still very enjoyable, and I still read whenever there is a new article. There was a lot of trolling in her comments section, more than a few posts that were hijacked, and even I as a reader found this distressing. I cannot imagine how Star felt.

I follow community pages on Facebook that have to be ever vigilant to keep the hate at bay. They bravely soldier on, still allowing comments and posts on their walls because they value the freedom of expression that is guaranteed in the Constitution and is one of the cornerstones of our country.

I have made no secret of my support of the LGBT community. I just received this message :


Dear Ellen - This is ***** checking in with you.. I appreciate all of the wonderful words that you have taken the time to write. I send my LOVE to you with regard to Chuck. He will be missed but not forgotten. like you, he was my friend ! Your words have touched my heart. I feel that I have fallen victim to a HATE CRIME . Please keep me in your prayers and thank you once again for standing up for the LGBT. LOVE, *****
So this is where I am tonight, wondering what is wrong with people? I wept when I read that message, because a kind and caring person, who has had to battle everyday in ways I cannot imagine just to live a life naive people like myself thought was guaranteed here, has fallen victim to a hate crime.

Comments are still allowed on here, but they are moderated now. Because with freedom comes responsibility. And at least one person has shown me that I have "haters" as well.

Power. Jealousy. Hatred. Xenophobia. Abuse.

These are our enemies. What is wrong with people that they cannot see this?


Saturday, May 19, 2012

LGBT and Equality - To me, it is personal

I posted this on my Facebook Wall earlier in the week:


"So there is this event for which I sent invitations out to everybody on my contacts list. Basically, it is to either wear purple if you are LGBT, orange if you support LGBT on August 1. Personally, I think if you are LGBT and in the closet to any degree it would be understandable to wear the orange... Anyway, I sent out the invitations to everyone on my contacts {friends} list, and I must say it has been quite the education to watch the accepts and declines roll in. To me, supporting the LGBT community is taking a stand against hatred, bigotry and discrimination. I do not see this as an overtly religious or political issue, though some use it for that purpose. Throughout history, various "groups" or segments of the population have been considered "fair game" as far as unequal treatment is concerned. Jews, blacks, women, the mentally and/or physically impaired or disabled, various and sundry ethnic groups. The list goes on and on. If we are honest, the problem of treating one segment of the population as being inferior or less in some way while elevating one's own is rampant worldwide. In the rawest form, it is about power. I am naive, you see, because I honestly thought people were evolved and educated enough in this day and time to see what a fruitless and self-destructive exercise participating in any sort of hatred, bigotry or discrimination is to the human race as a whole. Sadly, I am wrong, at least as far as the "friends" I have on Facebook are concerned. To date my naivete is losing the poll, because the declines exceed the accepts/maybes. That is all. It makes me sad."



I started to say I am not writing this blog post as an explanation, but that is not a truly accurate statement. This is an explanation of sorts, a bit of back story, some personal history. A tale of how I arrived where I am today as far as the issue of gay marriage is concerned.


I can remember participating in the laughter and jokes as a child. The school yard talk of "homos" and "queers". I am not really sure how old I was when I reached a true understanding of the meaning behind those terms. I do know I equated the slang names as being similar to the names used in a derogatory manner towards the other "groups" I reference in my Facebook post ... 
Jews, blacks, women, the mentally and/or physically impaired or disabled, various and sundry ethnic groups. I remember the curiosity I held in regards to what being a homosexual entailed, and hearing the whispers about a female phys-ed teacher, the thinly veiled slurs directed towards a local department store owner.

Then I met Chuck. Chuck and I struck up a friendship based on a shared problem - we were both chubby teenagers. At least I think that is what the first impetus was. That was all so long ago. I did not really have a boyfriend in school, though a great many of my friends were boys. I was more prone to stay a part of group activities, and though the group was fluid, he was often part of it. There were several guys, and a couple of girls, about whom there were rumors as to their sexuality. Chuck was one of those.

Soon after I met Chuck, I met 3 other guys  - I will not *out* anyone, so they shall be A, B, and C who were victims of the same rumor mill. I had a rather verbal exchange with my mother at one point about the things that were said, because I overheard her discussing A with someone on the telephone. I can still remember asking her how she thought it would feel to be judged and convicted of being less that equal to others based on who you are, not on your contributions or abilities, but who you are. I was maybe 17. A, B, C and Chuck all went to great lengths to mask their sexual orientation. It was the 1970's, and we lived in a small town in rural Virginia. I imagine they had no choice.

A 'came out' to me the summer we graduated, the first of several friends to do so. B, C, Chuck, and others followed. I already loved these people and assimilated this aspect of their lives into that love. I listened to their tales, they cried on my shoulder at times, I worried about them.

All of this was not easy for me, but I do not doubt it was much harder for them. Chuck was special, had he been straight we would have probably tried to make a life together. He and the others all settled in larger cities, and I lost touch with all but him for years. 

Because I knew and loved these wonderful people, as I set out upon the series of adventures and misadventures that comprise my life, I have been able to be more accepting and understanding of people. I have worked with and for people in the LGBT community, I have been amazed at their courage, and wept for them. I have seen that they are no different than you or I. 

I stand by my original statement that it is my opinion that supporting the LGBT community is taking a stand against hatred, bigotry and discrimination. I do not see this as an overtly religious or political issue, though some use it for that purpose. Throughout history, various "groups" or segments of the population have been considered "fair game" as far as unequal treatment is concerned. Jews, blacks, women, the mentally and/or physically impaired or disabled. various and sundry ethnic groups. The list goes on and on. If we are honest, the problem of treating one segment of the population as being inferior or less in some way while elevating one's own is rampant worldwide. In the rawest form, it is about power.

I am slightly bemused, and not a little bit pissed, to have been the target of backlash since my statement of support. Apparently, I have been calling people racists and bigots. That was not my intent, and I did not realize supporting friends and loved ones would generate such a reaction. My first inclination was to engage, and I did a bit of that. Then I remembered my Daddy telling me not to stomp on fresh cow shit because then it would get on me as well.  So I am trying to be nice. 

This is personal to me. I have friends who are gay, and I love them. Several are in long term monogamous relationships. They own property, they hold down jobs, they vote, they buy American when they can, they are good people. But they cannot eat in public as a couple without being pointed at, talked about and at times "witnessed" to. 

I want to understand how people can unilaterally deem a segment of the population that contains individuals of all religions, ethnic identities, social and economic classes, political affiliations and professions not deserving of the same rights as the rest of the citizenry. It still escapes me. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sisters, Daughters, Mothers and May


May is a month of days about women.

Mothers Day.We all have one, and whether they have passed or are living, whether the relationships are/were healthy or dysfunctional, we have an awareness of the day.

Teacher Appreciation day - Yes, I know that not all teachers are women, but I never envision men when I think of the teachers in my life. I think of women.

My sister's birthday, the birthdays of both of my grandmothers and Mothers Day are all in the first two weeks of  May.

I have written here about my daughter, my mother, my mother-in-law, my mother's mother and my sister in previous posts. I do not think I have written very much about my father's mother, my Granny Smith. Let me tell you a bit about her.

Mattie Mae Ernest Smith. She passed away when I was in the seventh grade, in the Spring.

She was a gentle soul with an iron backbone. She was the center of the family, holding together all of them as her husband was away from home most of the time. He was an engineer for the railroad. She had two sisters, Okie and Maude, and a brother Harry who also lived in the same county. Her family was originally from Sugar Grove in Smythe County. She met her husband when she was working as a seamstress in Bluefield, WV.

They traveled by passenger train to Bristol to marry, and had eight children. Sons JT, Poss and Norman. Daughters Zelma, Fay, Sue, Geraldine and Christine.

I grew up within walking distance of my grandparents home, and have enough memories of them to fill a book. She loved flowers, and sewing. She would drink hot tea and eat cucumbers in the afternoon. She had long hair that she wore in a bun. Her hair was snow white. She kept a leather change purse and a handkerchief in her bra and she always smelt slightly of lavender.

Granny was a loving person, and soft spoken always.

I hope in some small way I can be like her.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lesson from a tree


There are no unsacred places. There are only sacred places and desecrated places.- Wendell Berry

This is one of my favorite quotes. We have a creek - well really two - that run along our property. They merge and flow on to the river, less than a quarter of a mile from our house. There is a weeping willow tree at the corner where they meet.

A couple of years ago, in the spring, we had some fierce storms. There had been a great deal of rain, and the winds pushed the willow out of her soil. Were it not for my husbands shed/workshop we would have lost her. The willow forked, and the heavier and stronger side was splintered off and lying against the shed. He took a saw, and completed the division. The most amazing thing happened.

The tree sprang back, and the root ball settled back into the waiting earth. He then took the amputated limb and planted it along the creek near another corner of our property. Roots took hold, and now we have two willows on the creek.

I believe that we learn best from life when we understand the contrast of the fragility and transitory aspects along side the ability of all living things to adjust and accommodate.

This is our miracle weeping willow. You can see where the division occurred. 
Our little creek has minnows and frogs and turtles and crawdads and snakes. We have squirrels here, all manner of birds and butterflies, and cats. We grow melons and grapes and vegetables and flowers. There is no aspect of this little ecosystem that is independent, they all nourish and devour, thrive and perish. For me, that is what life is. The difference, the fulfillment for humans is the ability to adapt, learn, exalt and contemplate in the midst of what was, is and will be without our input or neglect.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Re: National Day of Prayer

RE: National Day of Prayer  I "like" quite a few pages on Facebook, one of which was https://www.facebook.com/SouthernRecipes. I had "liked" the page solely because I am a middle aged Southern woman who loves to cook and eat. On Thursday, there was a promo for the National Day of Prayer. This was included :  For those of us of the Christian faith, today, May 3rd is the National Day of Prayer - visit the web site to find an event in your community: http://nationaldayofprayer.org/about/find-an-event/.

I commented on the post, saying something to the effect that there are other spiritual traditions in this country and that Christians are not the only ones that pray. 

My comment was deleted.

I commented again, cited the deleted comment and stating that the deletion disappointed me and as a result I was "un-liking" the page. 

My second comment was deleted.

Now I know that a Facebook pages content is at the whim and discretion of the creator/administrator. I have posted more than once that I have no compunction whatsoever at deleting or blocking and that if people do not want to see my posts, etc. they have the option of not reading or looking at my page. 

I am not ticked off by the removal of my comments.

I am amused, in a sad way, at the action of this woman. She has a Facebook page that more than 35,000 people have liked and a website as well. The stated purpose for both is Southern cooking and recipes. I wonder if this poor unfortunate soul actually thinks that:
a) only Christians pray 
b) only Christians can participate in the National Day of Prayer 
c) only Christians read her content on Facebook and the website she runs 
d) perhaps all of the above


I know she will never see this, and that is too bad. Because there are people of all ethnicities, races, religions, paths, cultures and persuasions trudging through the data on the internet every day who live full and productive lives (that may even enjoy the occasional food or drink from Mississippi) that she judged and condemned with the deletion of those comments.

There is such a dearth of understanding and inclusion in this country. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 4

Today is my sister's birthday. She is 55. Hard to imagine. It seems like only yesterday she was a sophomore in high school and I was putting on her knee-socks and stretching the tops because my calves have always been bigger than hers. I have always been bigger than her, taller, weigh more, talk more too!

We used to fight so bad, as only sisters can. I love her though, cannot imagine life without her in it. She is eighteen months older than I am. When we were small, Mom would get all upset when we argued, say she was so glad when I was a girl because Virginia Carol would not have to grow up without a sister. I understand.

I could not say Carol when I was small, and called her "Caugie" (I know!). Later it became Carr-ey, and I called her that until I was in my teens. Our younger brother always called her Sissy.

She and I were both married (my first, her only) in 1986, the year our father passed away. I always thought we subconsciously waited until after Daddy was gone before we married because he was THE man in our lives up until that point.

Two women could not be more different. She became a school teacher, and taught until she was able to retire from public schools. Now she works for Old Dominion University in their Distance Education program at our local community college. She never smoked or drank, has two exceptionally intelligent and well-mannered sons, and is well-respected in our hometown. She is blonde, and slender. She struggled with weight as did I, she won her battle.

Me? I have quit college, several times. Never held a job longer than 4 years, smoke, drink when the mood hits, have always been heavy.

She has been there for me when I needed her, every time. I have done my best to be here for her. I appreciate and admire the woman she has become.

I am glad she is my sister. This is me, Mom and Virginia Carol at Mom's on Christmas a couple of years ago (2009)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hamburgers

I made hamburgers for supper last night. Roger said afterwards he does not care if he ever eats another restaurant hamburger again ... as far as he is concerned the best hamburgers are the ones I make. Makes a girl feel good, you know?

I have a complicated relationship with meat protein, going back to my childhood. Apparently, as a very young child I would devour any flesh willingly. My mother tells me that I was especially fond of the fat on roast. I know that I liked bologna as well because it was bologna that turned me off of meat for years. I had apparently eaten several fried bologna and mayonnaise sandwiches and gotten ill soon after. I refused to eat any meat at all, especially processed foods such as bologna and wieners. Even now, at 53, I do not eat bologna, hot dog wieners, kielbasa, summer sausage, salami and numerous other processed meat products. I also did not eat eggs for years, and still do not like commercial mayonnaise on a sandwich. {odd, isn't it, that my system knew mayonnaise was made from eggs?

Gradually over time, I began to eat red meat, and chicken. But no fat! Bacon has to be crispy, steak very well trimmed, roast and ham I pick apart like I am in tenth grade biology class. Hamburger has always been difficult for me. For years, I have preferred to purchase a roast, have it trimmed, and either get it ground at the market or grind it myself. I began doing this about 23 years ago.

Anyway, back to the hamburgers. Round roast, ground. Patties thin, fried in an iron skillet with a bit of bacon fat and butter. Seasoned with an all-purpose seasoning like Old Bay or Lawry's Seasoned Salt. Fry without pressing, moving around, or turning until they are very well browned, caramelized even. Turn, repeat. This will give you a moist interior and a crunchy good exterior.

Place the patties on the bottom half of a hamburger bun straight from the skillet, still hot. Top with your choice of cheese (provolone, pepper jack, cheddar, american) immediately. Our preferred toppings are sliced tomato (last night I used Roma), thinly sliced onion, sweet hot pepper rings* and either mayonnaise (Roger) or spicy brown mustard (Ellen).

Ah. Bliss.

*Sweet hot pepper rings. We purchase these at Sav-A-Lot, a discount grocery store. The brand is Bell-View. They are delicious. The same store has French Roast coffee, their brand, for 6.79. And it is just good as Folgers or Maxwell House.

There you have it. Oh, and I buy roast on sale and freeze it in patties or one pound portions after it is ground.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Iris In May

We have these beautiful Iris in a bed by the garden. Some flowers seem to just speak to me of my childhood and Iris is one of those. Both of my grandmothers had Iris in their flowerbeds, I suppose that is why.

Actually, the Bleeding Heart, Iris, Lilac and  Rose of Sharon we have all remind me of my childhood. Both of my grandmothers as well as my mother had a love of flowers. It is nice to be outside on days like today, with the song of life itself humming all around you. Insects, birds, the sound of the creek. There is a wonderful breeze blowing and the sun is warm.

So here I present to you 7 pictures of Iris and a picture of a spider as well.












In other news, I am feeling much more me, day by day. I am actually feeling anticipatory about future events, and that is a big step forward for me. Now, go outside and appreciate life. It is a nice thing to be able to do.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Is Here

It has been a month since I blogged. I realized it had been too long when Roger asked me how the blogging was going. In his gentle giant, passive aggressive, conflict avoidance way he was saying it is time for me to blog.

We became aware about a month ago that one of the cats, LPG, had given birth. The mommas always wait to bring the babies out, so we waited as well. Experience has taught us that if we disturb the kittens they get moved. The pictures show the mother, three grey and white kittens that look like Momma, a solid grey kitten that already tugs at my heartstrings, Domino our long haired mostly white cat and TC - matriarch of the bunch. TC showed up soon after we were married, so she is almost ten years old. She is the source of the others. Grandmother and great-grandmother. The cat that was the mother of LPG and Domino met an unfortunate end in the road.










These are some of the plants that have come up thus far from Cushaw seeds Roger planted.


The melons are planted on a little island where the creek runs through culverts that take the water under John Simms Hill Road.

There is water on two sides of out property. The island is also home to cattails. The rocky brushy hillside you see is home to our kitty graveyard.


There is a non-venomous snake that lives by the creek in the rocks. Roger tells me there are at least three of these - I am not scared of snakes but I do keep my distance so I will take his word on these reptilian matters.


At the rear of the property the creek is deeper, and there are several drops and pools for the pleasure of the minnows, crayfish and such. I love this picture of the water bubbling across the creek bed.



We have Iris that have budded and will be in bloom any day. I will get pictures up when I can. The next few weeks look to be a bit busier for me, which is a good thing. 

Happy and bright May Day blessings to all. We are having a gathering by the creek this weekend, in the beauty of the full moon. Food, a fire, the creek, and friends. 'Twill be a fine time to be sure.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Write

When I am stressed, upset, frustrated.

When I feel hurt, betrayed, unappreciated.

When I think I have been demeaned, belittled, misjudged.

But

I also write when I am happy.

I write about things, and people, that matter to me. I am too honest, often. I abhor secrets and subterfuge. Games like that I do not play well. 

I share personal intimate details about my life not because I want to sound "big". Many of the things I share on this blog and elsewhere are not events where I come off as stellar. I am more aware than anyone of how imperfect my life and actions have been, and there is nothing that can be said to me I have not said to myself already. 

But 
{and with me there is often a but}

Leave my family alone, leave my friends alone, leave my mother, my brothers, my daughter, my husband alone. I am a big girl, I can handle myself. I may cry, and shake. My blood pressure may spike, I may get stomach cramps and a headache, but I will handle myself.

Make me angry enough, and I will be sure that you rue the day you ever heard my name or saw my face.

Now that you can take to the bank.

That is all.