Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Beginnings-Looking Back
Today is the last day of my grand experiment of participating in NaBloPoMo. The theme for January was Beginnings.

I had vague ideas when the month began of what I wanted to accomplish, writing the blog on a more consistent basis, sharing it more with the world. I did not anticipate what it has become in such a short period of time. 

I have connected on a new level with people because of this, been able to explore a bit deeper some relationships, and solidified in my own mind my viewpoints and positions. 

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday. I made the statement that my goal was to assist others through being a positive element in their lives. Helping others be optimistic, facing their inner lives with honesty, being able to encourage, educate, inspire, edify. These things are very important to me.

I believe that being victorious at life entails a level of awareness of self that is a very painful process to undertake. There are elements to being self aware that are very much private and those elements that are societal. The societal elements necessitate the involvement of others in the process. Now, these others may or may not be cognizant of their role, and we may not be aware of the similar role we are playing in another persons similar process. Sounds complicated? That is because it is.

We are complicated creatures, us humans. We are the yin and yang, the light and dark, the good and evil, the sweet and sour, the agony and ecstasy of the universe. We are capable of divine love and debilitating hate. We crave solitude yet all the while we are seeking out the companionship of others.

The advent of blogs has created a forum that melds together people in a unique and terrifying way. We can now explore our own psyche, and those of others, in a isolated/public manner that poses ecstatic possibilities.

The theme for next month is Relatives. I am going to post more about my biological family, and introduce you to some of my chosen family. You will hear about my sisters-of-the-heart, and learn how they came to be. On the 21st, there will be the most personal and private post I could possibly write. I may at times need to omit actual names, because I do want to honor the privacy of people. I ask respectfully, if you are reading this and do not want your name in any of the upcoming posts that may potentially include you, please let me know. I have the comments section set to send all comments to me for moderation ahead of publication and I may contacted in that manner.


Monday, January 30, 2012

My Pawpaw Slade

Relatives is the NaBloPoMo theme for next month, but in light of the passing of my Uncle Jack, I thought I would start a little early.

My Pawpaw was James Roy Slade, and he was a farmer. That really says much less about him than was admirable. He could build a gate so sturdy that the fence would be gone and the gate still swing plumb. He was a deliberate man, as I knew him. I would guesstimate he was well into his forties at the time of my first memories of him. 

They farmed on the side of the mountain just outside of Bluefield, VA. The community was known as Bluestone, and not a few of the people were related to his family. His father, Grat, whom my nephew Grat is named after, was a blacksmith, sawyer and farmer. There were [I think-] four boys {Lewis, Dan, Roy and Henry} and three girls {Mildred, Nancy and Francis} in the family. At least those are the ones I can remember. Pawpaw worked as a driver for Bluefield Produce circa 1935, though I am unsure when he left that job. In later years, he worked as a custodian at Graham High School and as a school bus driver.

He was a devoted family man, as well as a dedicated member of the Ebenezer United Methodist Church, the Masonic Lodge, and the Eastern Star. He worked hard, selling eggs, milk and butter to a sizable customer base in Bluefield as late as the 60s. 

In addition to the dairy cows and white leghorn chickens, he raised hogs and sheep. He owned mules, which were the muscle in front of the hay-rake, the mower and the plow. There was an apple orchard on the farm, as well as a grape arbor, berry thickets and at least one plum tree. He grew wheat and oats and field corn. There were hay fields. At various times there were ducks and rabbits as well. The vegetable garden was overflowing with tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, onions, cucumbers, green bell peppers, lettuce, cabbage, green beans, English peas, salad peas, beets, October beans, lima beans, and I am sure I am forgetting something.

He arose early in the morning, built up the fire in the cast-iron cook stove, and headed to the barn to milk. He milked by hand, assisted by his sons in the early years, and two of my half-brothers in the latter years. He came in from milking and feeding the stock for breakfast, then headed back out to do farm work the rest of the day, somehow managing to fit in work at a public job as well. 

I can remember well him smoking a pipe, or hand-rolled cigarettes when I was young, later switching to Viceroy cigarettes then chewing tobacco in his later years. He loved coffee, and would drink cold black coffee straight from the coffee pot in the afternoon. 

Winter evenings would often be occupied with secretive meetings between him and other men who came to learn the secret works of the Masons from him. 

He always had to have a sweet with buttered biscuits or cornbread with his evening meal. The sweet may be molasses (he made his own), honey (he harvested his own) or Mawmaw's ground cherry preserves. The butter was butter Mawmaw made by hand, from their own dairy cows. 

I have been told that in his younger days he would drink a bit of moonshine now and then, and that he was known to join in informal bluegrass performances. He wore false teeth, and would entertain us by taking them out from time to time.
My grandmother was the love of his life, he always called her Darlin'. He passed away very soon after her in the winter of 1986. I think he just withered without her, they married when he was about 17 and he was past 70 when he died.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Am So Blessed To Be Me

I was blessed from a young age with a large, loving, boisterous family. 

My mother may have only had two brothers who had lived to be adults, but both of her parents came from large families and people gathered at their farmhouse as a matter of course on Sundays and during summer months. Cousins, aunts, uncles abounded. We lived about 30 miles from them, and were not able to be there all the time, but we visited often. My mother would take us when we were small to stay for a few days when it was time to can vegetables from the garden. She helped Mawmaw, and we ran wild. 

My first memories of drinking coffee are from there - I would sneak around the dining table after the adults had wandered off and drink the cold coffee left in the cups. I still like coffee that is at room temperature, and have learned as an adult to drink iced coffee as well.

Pawpaw saucered his coffee. I always wanted to do that, but never quite mastered the technique. {saucering coffee is when you pour the steaming hot coffee from your cup into a deep saucer then drink from the saucer, though slurping is a more descriptive word for the process} I think, though I am not sure, this was done because the coffee would literally be boiling hot and pouring a portion into the shallow saucer enabled one to drink without blistering your mouth and tongue because the saucered coffee cooled faster than that in the thick earthenware cups.

Both of my uncles lived out of state and the times they visited were very special. I have always felt such a deep love for my family, never questioning the veracity of my feelings. As a child, I felt surrounded by these loving adults who really cared about my welfare.

As I have aged, one by one the elders in my family have passed away. Like petals from a flower, they have fallen away through the years. 

1986 was a difficult year - we lost both of my grandparents as well as my father in a very short period of time, less than three months.

As I write this Mom's younger brother, Elmer Jackson Slade, lies in his final hours at a hospital in Georgia. He called me during the Christmas season, and we talked a bit about this and that. He was concerned about Mom, and I tried my best to reassure him about her health. My amazing cousin Leigh has been as good and loving daughter to him as any woman could be, and I admire her strength and courage.

I like to think of Mawmaw, waiting for her baby to come home. She will have biscuits and sausage gravy ready for him. She will pour percolated coffee from the pot on the back of the wood-burning cookstove and listen as he and Pawpaw talk about the vegetable garden. He will be laughing and cracking jokes, keeping a smile on everyone's face. It is early in the day, because life and death are about beginnings and changes, not endings.

That is something I have learned from being a part of my large, loving, boisterous family.
I am so blessed to be me.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Those Deep and Private Hurts

I originally started another post for today, but have reverted it to draft. I just spent over an hour with someone on the telephone, and when I went to get a fresh cup of stale coffee after the conversation ended, this phrase kept echoing through my mind.

Those deep and private hurts.

We all carry them. Deep and private hurts can result in various ways.

When we are young, things happen that we do not yet have the intellectual or emotional maturity to process. We feel the hurt, pain, humiliation, confusion, bewilderment but do not really understand why. 

Humans are definitely complicated creatures. We operate from points of motivation and compulsion we often do not acknowledge or recognize. 

In our current society, we reward the strong, the stoic, those who are driven and persevere.

We are independent and fiercely protective of our individuality, we do not want to have to answer to anyone for our actions.

We confuse want with need, weakness with sensitivity, courage with aggression.

These behavioral patterns are developed over time, sometimes out of necessity or desperation, and grow so ingrained that they become a part of who we are as adults. We do not question. It is just the way we are.

We affect one another as a result, often totally oblivious.

An personal anecdote to illustrate:

The year was 1992. I arrived home from a meeting on a Saturday afternoon to find the closed in back porch in disarray and my husband perturbed with me. There were light-bulbs scattered about - on the floor, in plastic bags, on the top of the clothes dryer. He looked at me in total bewilderment and queried, "Is it possible that we have just one 60 watt bulb that is not burnt out I can put in the bathroom so I can see to shave?" 
I silently walked over to a wooden box, retrieved said bulb, and handed it to him. After he had replaced the bulb in the bathroom, he asked why I had so many burnt out bulbs.
I explained that as a child, we were told not to put  burnt out light bulbs in the trash, and I did not know what else to do with them so I had squirreled them away. I had been doing this for nine years, and had brought 6 years worth of burnt out light bulbs with us when we moved from Florida to North Carolina.
We were able to trace backwards in my life and determine that as a child, because my father would burn the trash, he had instructed us at a young age to not put the spent light-bulbs in the trash can so he would not be injured by exploding glass. As a result, I had developed an ingrained habit of not disposing of the burnt out light-bulbs. Ever.
We need to learn to recognize these deep and private hurts we all carry, and try to be sure we are not instilling negative behaviors and habits into our relationships as a result of them. 

I really think it would be beneficial. Cathartic even.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Random Thoughts

This is going to be another one of those random collection of things that have been milling around in my brain.

I feel much better today than I did yesterday. That pleases me a great deal.

All in all, I have fond memories of my years in elementary, junior high, and high school. Richlands was not a bad place to grow up in the 1960's and '70's. 

I have signed on to do the NaBloPoMo for February. The theme is "Relative(s)" [not sure if the email had it plural or not!] On January 9 I blogged a birthday tribute to my mother - should I set about composing similar posts for other people in my life, living and dead, or is that taking the theme too literally? There are only two birthdays I can think of at the moment, but I could be random, or focus on other dates of significance and/or relationships.

I watched a documentary today, "Something Is Wrong With Aunt Diane", on HBO. It triggered a thought process that went something like this:
If she did have an alcohol or drug abuse problem, I can really understand if people in her life were unaware. I have seen that happen more than once. 
I have gone to amazing lengths, and made questionable choices, more than once when I had physical or emotional distress.
How well does anyone really know me? How much impact does my recent and distant past have on my current relationships and how they are conducted?
Why does money seem to always inject an unsavory tone to news stories?

Smokie the cat always wants to curl up and sleep on one of our laps after she has eaten. She is not the first cat I have ever shared a home with, but I do believe she is the most loving.

One of my brothers and his lady friend may come to visit soon. I plan to prepare cubed steak and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits, and brown sugar pie. The menu is comprised of his favorite foods. I will try to document at least part of the food with the camera, and do a blog post with one or more recipes. 

I think the best thing that has happened to me in the last 12 years was meeting Roger. I wish more people knew him better. None of us are perfect, but he is as close to being perfect for me as could possibly exist.

I used to drink my coffee with creamer and sugar, then switched to Splenda. For the past couple of weeks, I have been using just creamer. I think that artificial sweeteners accelerate or increase my appetite. I have been drinking my hot tea with either honey or unsweetened.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A day off ...

Allergies? Sinusitis? Migraine? Stress? Tension? not sure. I just know it hurts, and all I want is dim and cool and quiet.
Catch ya'll on the flip side.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Poor Smells Like

It is no secret to those who have been reading my blog that these are not the best of times for us financially. We are making it, and that is what matters. I am learning much during these spare days, not the least of which is how full and complete my life is in myriad ways that I previously overlooked. 

Being here, and spending so much time online, I have had opportunity to become more familiar with issues and events that previously would not have been on my personal radar. I have deepened some relationships, made new connections, and been blessed in the process.

There are several blogs I read on a regular basis. There is a wonderful website,, that is a wealth of education and inspiration for me. One of my regular reads on Patheos is Star Foster. Today, she wrote of her current financial struggles, and to say it is eyeopening is an understatement. I think one of the reasons I enjoy her writing so much is her total open attitude. She does not deal in euphemism and innuendo. 

We see news stories everyday about the economy. This being a presidential election year, these stories are everywhere. Big, sweeping stories of fault and blame, numbers up, numbers down, recovery and recession, the disenfranchised and the privileged. Star does not write of these. She writes about beans and cornbread, ramen noodles and vats of soup. 

My first husband used to complain when I made boiled cabbage for dinner. Not because he did not like boiled cabbage. He was very happy to sit down to a meal of boiled cabbage, fried fatback, fried potatoes and cornbread. Just make sure he had some hot sauce to pour on the cabbage and potatoes and he was very glad to eat his way to the bottom of the bowl. 

He complained because of the smell of the boiled cabbage.

He was born in 1933, and came from a large family. His father was a storekeeper, and they would take boxes of groceries to needy families in the cotton mill community where he was raised. His overwhelming memory of those deliveries was, and I quote, "Poor folks houses always smelled like boiled cabbage."

These are times in our communities when a great many homes are smelling of boiled cabbage. 

Times when ramen noodles and saltine crackers are on family dinner tables, not just in college dorm rooms.

Times when meatless meals are not just Mondays, but Wednesdays and Fridays and every other Thursday.

Times when we are planting tomato seeds and onion sets and seed potatoes so we can be sure we will have food on the table come September.

Times when those who live where it is possible are raising chickens for the eggs, and butchering the hens when they quit laying so they can have chicken and dumplings for Sunday dinner.

I grew up in a small town. My father was an exceptional gardener. My mother's parents had a large farm. I learned to garden almost by osmosis, and was helping can green beans and tomatoes and make homemade relish at a young age. I have skills, knowledge and experience.

I worry for those who do not, those who will gather around a stranger in the dried bean aisle of a grocery store because they do not know about sorting, soaking, rinsing, seasoning and cooking dried beans and legumes.

I worry for their children.

I worry for our future.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 24

Today marks day 24 of the blog challenge, but I will not make a post a day because I did not post the day that we observed the protest over SOPA. That is okay with me though, because I felt it was an important issue that needed attention. 

The challenge has been interesting, and I do intend to continue to post more than I did previously. Perhaps I can participate the next round, and do better?

Today I want to talk about spirituality a little bit. My spirituality, my beliefs. What it is that keeps me going from day to day. I am not sure there is a name for the cobbled together set of concepts I strive to maintain. So here they are, not in order of importance:

  • I believe that each human has inherent value and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect unless they have shown they do not do the same to others through their actions and choices.
  • I believe we have a sacred responsibility to be careful and thoughtful stewards of our mother earth and her resources.
  • I believe my actions are my responsibility and your actions are your responsibility but all actions have widespread ramifications so we need to be cautious and not rash in our lives. 
  • I believe that how we treat others should not be influenced by our perception of what we think they can do to benefit us materially.
  • I believe that there is a connection to all of nature in each of us, and that what I do or neglect to do has results, every day.
  • I acknowledge that there is a balance to our existence, good and evil, light and dark, life and death. 

This is just scratching the surface, and I feel it may sound simple. I do believe in a higher power, and think it is perceived in different ways by different people. 

I do not believe in forcing my beliefs on others, or condemning anyone because they do not believe exactly as I do. That being said, I do not agree with using any belief system as an excuse or reason to act in harmful ways towards others, in word or deed. 

I will close with a favorite quote: 
There are no unsacred places. There are only sacred places and desecrated places.- Wendell Berry

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Suppose *this* is 'Why It Has To Matter'

On the 13th of this month I wrote about the LGBT community and acceptance. I am very naive in some ways, because it has always puzzled me that in such advanced technological and intellectual times as these, when information is available in copious amount from a plethora of sources, people still cling to what are in my view outdated and inherently dangerous ideas.

I am reproducing here, in entirety, a comment that was made on this particular blog-post, and then I am going to delete the comment. I do know the person who made the comment, and want to assure them I am not deleting their comment to try to stifle their opinion. I firmly believe in the right of free speech, individual thought and opinion. I abhor censorship. I am deleting the comment so they will not be subjected to any sort of retaliatory discourse because I do not want my blog to be used for such.

I am quoting the comment, only editing out identifying information, because to me it illustrates the struggles and roadblocks facing a vital part of our society. Any errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation have not been corrected.

oh ellen this is a subject dangerous for me. I truely believe a person's sexual behavior is learned, just like being a pedophile, a race car driver, a school teacher or a farmer. I try not to judge anyone but I don't care for skinheads because they advocate hate and I don't care for gays because they advocate that deviant sexual behavior should be out in the open and not behind closed doors. I have known many gays and even though I liked them as a person I don't agree with public discussion of the behavior. Life ia like a theme park, with many different people, there to enjoy the experience, having to pay for admittance, traveling in different groups some having fun -others not. Gays are like those riding bungee jumping rides seeking the big thrill. Drama and trauma, crazy daredevils. Please don't be angry with me I just don't want children to be taught this is normal behavior

Oh, my how this comment concerns me.  On so many levels. I have known people in the LGBT community for all of my adult life. I, and you, probably know more people in these categories than is realized, because of the type of attitude represented in the above comment. I honestly am at a quandary as to what to say. Not speaking out is tacit agreement, condoning what I truly feel is a dangerous attitude. Opening a contentious dialogue is not my desire either, because tempers flare and defenses are drawn and hurts are inflicted.

As stated, I do know this person, and know they read my blog on a regular basis. So I am going to make a personal appeal to them. Please reconsider you thoughts on this matter, and research some of your statements. Get to know a gay or lesbian couple who are in a committed relationship. Search out a transgender person in your area, see them not as a freak of nature but as a warm, loving, caring human with obstacles to face in life merely because of who they are you and I cannot even begin to comprehend. 

"Deviant" behavior of a sexual nature is not confined to the LBGT community, and is, in my opinion, a very subjective term. When we teach children a narrow concept of acceptable behavior, and their nature, experiences and personality lead them outside the boundaries on an individual basis, we are effectively removing from them the support and love they need from us to develop as productive members of their cohort (In statistics and demography, a cohort is a group of subjects who have shared a particular time together during a particular time span ).

I guess I really should stop here, because I truly want white owl at midnight to be a place of calm and reason, and I am walking a narrow line right now.
In life, every moment of every day is a teachable and learning moment. This has been one for me, and I am going to watch more closely the few comments made on my blog posts.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soul Refreshment

Being from the mountains as I am, I have opportunity everyday to gaze upon the awe-inspiring displays of nature. Not everyone is so fortunate.

This is for you.

There is one view, on the way home, I have shared before. When you are driving towards our house from the town of Lebanon, there is one spot I call the top of the world. It truly feels you can see forever, to infinity and beyond as Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story would say. Once you start winding your way down towards the Clinch River, you have a view across the mountains and valleys that will leave you breathless.

My nephew, Grat Slade, took these pictures today. He lives near Bluefield, VA, and there are incredible mountain-scapes there as well. We had a blessing of rain here yesterday, fog last night and bright sun and winds this morning, They combined to put on a show unrivaled anywhere. He describes this as "clouds rolling across East River Mountain". One comment on the picture described watching the same sky this morning : "I was out and stopped the car and just looked at the sky. It was a beautiful sky, it looked like you were pulling up a blanket."
Soul refreshment.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Relations and Relationships

Relations. When I say relations I am talking about relatives, people to whom we are directly connected by DNA via procreation and indirectly connected  via marriage and co-habitation.

Relatives. I have quite a few relatives. My father was one of eight children, my mother had three brothers. My mothers parents each came from very large families. When I was growing up it was not uncommon for family gatherings to be counted by the dozen. We are talking outside  get-togethers, with enough food and milling about to resemble a movie set filled with extras.  The stereotypical Southern Family Reunion. These were often timed around a birthday of one of the elders, or the hometown visit of those who had sought their fortune and future outside the hometown and off the family farm.

When they married my father had 2 sons, as did my mother. They had three children, meaning that in the end I can admit to 5 brothers and one sister.

I do not feel especially "close" to any of the surviving four (one half-brother is deceased).

All of my life, for as long as I can remember, I have been an observer, and often feel the one on the outside looking in. Peeking around the edges to see what everyone else is doing. There is a great deal in my individual history that I am sure can explain the reasons for this feeling of disconnect I have, much of which I shall not or cannot share in a forum that is as public as a blog.

I was thinking about this today, because my mothers younger brother is ill, hospitalized out of state. He and his family are some of the relatives whose visits used to trigger the gatherings at the family farm near Bluefield. In the past ten years, I have become adult friends with his daughter, and my first cousin. I am very thankful that we have been able to have the opportunity. I really hope her father is not in too much pain. 

And I came across the following, a blog post I started yet never completed:
We all have them. Stress points. Sensitive topics. Pet peeves. Those people who can with a word, an intonation, a glance or gesture raise our hackles. Very often they are relatives, and very often the sensitivities are heightened during holiday and/or family celebrations. Situations that reduce us to a quivering mass of nerves, total brain paralysis and a state of altered consciousness where we will ourselves to be elsewhere, doing anything but dealing with the current scenario.

I have a friend whose parent is a frequent trigger in their life. This friend is no slacker in life, nor are they inexperienced at dealing with people. They have been self-supporting for all of their adult life, and are well-respected in their field. The parent can trigger guilt and stress with barely a lift of the eyebrow or turn of phrase.

Another friend's parent has never been shy at expressing their disappointment and disapproval at lifestyle and choices, yet they dutifully drive over three hours one way to attend family events and holiday gatherings. Without fail they depart early, pent up with suppressed emotions and responses choked back.

Some stress points are less apparent, yes just as damaging. Paralyzing.  Triggering past events, unhealed injuries, affronts that were never confronted much less resolved.
These are the things on my mind this chilly, foggy January evening. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fractured Friday

Odd weather we are having these days of January. I am not really complaining though. Less cold equals less heat pump therefore lower AEP bills and I am definitely all for that.

Etta James has passed away. People always pile on the accolades when a musician. author or artist passes away. When you go back and read their biographies you often see they were beset by misfortune or plagued by obscurity in their time with us. I wonder why we only sing praises when they are gone?

I have been unemployed for 15 months this week. I truly never imagined this would happen to me. I will never view social/public assistance programs in the same way as I did two years ago. Nor the recipients.

I think people fixate so much on things they cannot control, like the weather, because they are so ill-equipped to handle the things they should be able to control. And yes, I am including myself in that collective.

More time spent understanding and less time spent trying to impress or condemning may solve more problems than we think.

Listening without offering opinion or serving up one's own issues is likely the greatest of the graces one can employ.

Graciousness and civility seem to be traits, in my opinion, that would benefit society if encouraged and cultivated more.

I heard it said once that the best measure of character would be to face whatever life brought you with grace and dignity.

I am less reliant on income for contentment than I would have thought. It must be true that the best things in life do not have a price tag attached.

I find myself editing my vocabulary a great deal, even when I write this blog. Not for profanity, but for words I fear the average reader may not be familiar with.

One of my favorite phrases is "unmitigated gall".

The everything topping they put on bagels and bakery breads is really tasty and is applicable to both sweet and savory usage. Not many foods are that diverse.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Peanut Butter on a Bald Head

There are women I know who are my real life heroes. They face those situations in life we all live in fear of with grace, courage, dignity and humor. Perhaps not all the time, but in the end with grace, courage, dignity and humor. 

These are not traits you wake up one day and say, Today I shall be courageous or graceful. These are traits that are inherent to your character, often forged of pain and disappointment. Character is built over time.

I once knew a woman when I lived in North Carolina whose name was Diane. The pains and disappointments in her first 40 years had been legion, and she had developed a strength and depth of character that inspired. She was raising her two granddaughters at an age she had thought would be her time. She worked, went to church, was a wife, mother, teacher, friend, loved to play golf. Then she was diagnosed with non Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

Chemotherapy. Nausea. Debilitating pain. Visit after visit to a medical clinic for treatment, followup, tests. 

The facility that was the sudden center of her out of kilter universe was very close to a large shopping mall. She had realized after a few weeks of this new bizarre life that was suddenly hers that her appetite window (the time in her treatment  when she was able to eat and actually wanted to eat) was very specifically the day of but prior to her chemo. She would go to a carefully selected restaurant to have the one meal she could actually enjoy prior to the next set of days of pain and agony. 

On a dreary February afternoon, as she strolled through the mall, having enjoyed her lunch, she was stopped by a young woman who was taking a product survey.

"Excuse me, Ma'am, would you mind answering a few questions about your personal hair care routine and the products you use?"

"Not at all"

"I am struck by how thick and healthy your hair is. Would you care to tell me your 'secret'?"

"Peanut butter"

"Peanut butter?"

At which point Diane adroitly removed her wig, having lost her hair weeks before. "I massage it into my scalp every night before I go to sleep."

I am not sure what triggered this memory, perhaps the many brave courageous women in my life who know the value of humor in maintaining equilibrium. How blessed I am to know each of them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

White Guilt

I suffer from white guilt. You will not find this in a search of physical or psychological disorders, or I do not think you will. I have not really tried. I use this term to describe the gut feelings of shame and remorse and empathy I feel when I see racism and bigotry and discrimination. 

Case in point would be this article about the treatment of Native Americans by whites and the US government. I have been told, and do believe, that I have at least a small portion of Native American ancestry. One day I will locate pictures of my father's mother and his oldest sister to share, and you will see why. 

The White Owl in my online presence is in honor of these ancestors. 

Yet when I see news stories or blog posts about the treatment of Native Americans, or blacks, or Hispanics, or Muslims,[ or or or or I could keep going!] I feel this guilt and shame. I am not sure why I feel this way. I am not aware of anything I have ever done to anyone that would leave these feelings so deeply embedded in my psyche. I may have ancestors that were soldiers or settlers of some sort, but as far as I know there are no glaringly obvious examples of greed avarice or murder lurking in the branches of my family tree.
I am left to wonder if in our society's obsession to be "correct" we are becoming a horde of overly sensitive ineffectual lemmings.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Biting My Tongue

I usually don't get all steamed about things right off the bat. I used to in my younger days, but the years have mellowed me in some respects. Now, you may think that is a good thing, but it is not  always. Because I let things simmer. They lurk around somewhere in my wrinkly grey matter and when I address or try to resolve the matter at hand, I have days of complicated thoughts to try to make sense of without totally exploding.

There are a couple of situations like that I am dealing with right now, and I am being so cautious. My gut, primal reactions are to be harsh and lash out. The problem being that should I do that, I may damage relationships I do not want to, or cannot afford to, damage. 

I will pose a hypothetical question to people at times, trying to work through a problem like this. I want input, and I invariably get less and more than I want. Less constructive perspective, and more unwanted advise. So I have started talking to my cat.

Yes, I have started talking to my cat Smokie to try to navigate my way through complicated human issues and situations. At first, I thought I had really lost it. Now I am not so sure. She listens, does not judge, keeps her mouth shut, and gives me the opportunity to hear my thoughts and emotions as they will sound to others. I can tighten things up, edit myself where needed.

Writing does not always help, because I tend to hit send on a comment, post or e-mail without careful consideration.
That's all.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Food Memories - The CDA store

In the heat of July, 1989, I moved to a small town in Gaston County, NC, Dallas. Gastonia is the largest town in the county, which borders Mecklenburg County, and Charlotte. Gaston County was an important part of the textile industry in the early 1900's and there were still a few mills operational when I lived there. In Gastonia there were at one time three large mills operated by the same family that were named after family members, Clara, Dunn and Annie. 

In close proximity to the mills there was a small grocery, a precursor to today's convenience stores. The name of the store was CDA. They sold tins of Vienna Sausages, bottles of soda pop, loaves of bread, bags of potato chips and Little Debbie snack cakes. There was also a flat-top grill, and a sandwich press. You could buy a hot sandwich there from early in the morning until about two in the afternoon. The sandwiches all has the unique character of that part of the state. There were fried  livermush, bologna {all the way was fried bologna with mustard onion and chili}, steak {not Philly-style but cube steak chicken fried then simmered in a brown gravy} and pimiento cheese sandwiches served on hamburger rolls and pressed in the sandwich press to flatten, heat and very lightly toast the product.

I suppose they had hot-dogs. I do not eat those, so I never notice. Hamburgers I am fairly sure were available as well. Truth be told, I only ever ate a lunch hour sandwich from there maybe once or twice, because there fame, the apex of the CDA experience was breakfast, or a mid-morning snack. 

When you walked in there in the morning, the aroma of fried pork products and eggs would greet you at the door. Bacon. Ham. Sausage. Livermush. Bologna. There would be a line to the door, snaking around the shelves and by the coolers that held bottled juices, cans of Sundrop and cartons of milk. You grabbed your drink on the way, called out your order the minute one of the servers caught your eye. The order would be written on a brown paper bag, and made so fast you would have it in your hand in minutes. The fried eggs were tender, the yolk barely firm. The bun was run across a butter roller, slapped on the grill, the egg and toppings were piled on, it was wrapped in waxed paper, pressed to compress and melt the sliced American cheese, and handed to you in short order. 

When I saw the soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld, it reminded me of the CDA. Oh, but it was so good!
Today I made egg, ham sausage and cheese sandwiches a la CDA for us, but they were not the same. I do not even know if the store is still there. I moved from the area in 2001, and a lot can happen in 11 years. But those sure were good sandwiches. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

gotta make the doughnuts
Do you remember that commercial? Dunkin' Doughnuts, way back in the day [as they say]. That is the way I feel right now.

I made a commitment to blog everyday, not everyday I feel like it. And oh, my, today I do not feel like it. I have a headache, combination of sinus issues and not enough caffeine I suspect. I am determined however, so I soldier on.

I have been dealing a bit with drama the past few weeks, and that probably has not helped. I even dreamed about the whole mess last night. Actually, I think my subconscious was trying so hard to decipher the mess that I was working out escape scenarios in my sleep.

I get tired of deciding what to eat every day. Deciding what to cook is hard for me. I do enjoy cooking, and enjoy it most when there are people other than Roger and me to eat the results.

Doughnuts. I do like to make doughnuts, though I have not done so in ages. I have not deep-fried anything in quite some time. I worked in fast food and in the high school cafeteria years ago, and still despise the smell of deep frying in progress. I bake a great many things that others fry, from chicken to french fries. I even roast green tomatoes and summer squash in the oven.

Nonsense from my brain just to say I blogged today.

gotta make the doughnuts

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why does it have to matter?

I really cannot recall the first time I realized that one of my friends was gay. I know I was still in high school. Coming of age in the 70's was truly a different time than now. The confluence of the end of the war in Vietnam, the blooming and booming drug culture and the continuing fallout from the civil rights movement made for interesting times.

Looking back, I think that the area of human sexuality has been the slowest to change in terms of understanding and acceptance. 

I can remember the first time I spoke up for a gay friend. I overheard my mother talking about the 'issue' of homosexuality on the telephone. When her conversation was over I said something to this effect :

I cannot believe you would sit there, a professing Christian, and presume to judge a person without knowing them, trying to understand them! Can you imagine how it must feel, knowing that part of the very thing that makes you an individual is despised by society to such an extent? Being a homosexual is not something he chose. It is a part of who he is, like the color of his eyes or the way he has curly brown hair. He is a kind and talented and loving person. And being gay is just another part of all that make him who he is.

My mother, now 79, will now speak up for gays. I do not think it is because of what I said. I think it is because she came to love, as a son, one of my friends prior to knowing he was gay. 

I read this on NPR earlier today threats-and-lies-and-who-im-supposed-to-be and remembered how she was able to accept him, and later more and more people. Not in spite of their differences but because of who they are. And I wonder how could anyone .... well, you know. 

I have friends who are gay. I have friends who are bisexual. I have friends who are straight. Their sexuality is not a deciding factor in whether or not I love them. Why does it have to matter? 

That is all.

Why does it have to matter?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How I Am Me
This is one of my favorite photos of myself. I think I look thoughtful and engaged.

I have some old family photos that my cousin Judy sent me, photos from the Cundiff branch of my family. Judy's mother and my grandmother were sisters, maiden name Cundiff. There are so many surnames floating around in the family tree of me. Smith - Ernest - Philpot - Slade - Cundiff - Shufflebarger - Carbaugh - 

I was looking at those pictures and saw this:

and this:

and this:

I saw myself, in the faces and poses of these women from my past. 

I never really felt that connected to my mother's ancestors. MawMaw's siblings had already begun to dwindle away into the fogs of memory by the time I was a adolescent, and the tales we were told were those of toil and hardship. Husbands dying, children with sickness, dreams and aspirations crushed under the weight of the Depression. 

Perhaps the perspective of age has opened an ability in me to see what was always there.

My family has the habit of saying of me, "Oh, she is all Smith." I may have a lot of mannerisms and attitudes from my father's family. I definitely have his sardonic, sarcastic ways. Yet there is more to me than that, and I have discovered the partial source in these photos. 

We are who and what we are by nature and nurture. Not either/or but both. I have a daughter I gave up for adoption at birth. I was given the gift of meeting her face to face two years ago. I was floored.

When she was just a babe in arms I had been sent a picture of her, and felt that it resembled one of me at a similar age. When we connected after she was already grown, I had to opportunity to see pictures. I felt she looked like me. Nothing prepared me for the experience of sitting across the table from a person that had my gestures, lifted her left eyebrow as I do, was wide if hip and hearty of laugh as I am.

We are unique one of a kind individuals, humans. Yet we are the result, the culmination of all those that came before us. 

I especially like the lady in the porch swing. Attitude. It can carry you over many bumps in the road of life.