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 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:

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


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.