Thanksgiving Thoughts 2017

Last night, while peeling potatoes for potato salad, I popped in my earbuds and opened Pandora Radio, selecting my Scottish Traditional Station. It both soothes me and stirs my spirit. And, as always, it makes me feel more connected with my ancestors.

I wish I could have known them. I have so many questions that can never be answered.

I thought about my Scottish great great great grandparents, Robert, b. 1790) and Meary (Mary, which at that time was spelled that way), and their son, also a Robert, b. 1818. What drove them to leave Scotland and immigrate to a tiny little port town nestled on a small inlet on the central Northern coast of Nova Scotia, just south of Prince Edward Island? Did they know people or have family already in Pictou, Nova Scotia?Forced off their native land during the great Highland Clearances, according to oral family history, my great great great grandparents and their family immigrated to Nova Scotia when my great great grandfather was a teenager, about 1832. There is a record showing his birth in 1818, born in Nova Scotia, which conflicts with this oral history. I want to know which is true. I want to know where in the Highlands my people came from. How did this affect him? Could the loss of family land be what drove my great grandfather to drink his life and wages away?

I thought about my great great great grandmother, born in Belfast, Ireland in 1830. When did she/her family immigrate to the same Nova Scotian port as my great great great grandfather? Why did they immigrate? Was it because of the potato famine? Troubles between the Catholics and Protestants, which have long plagued Northern Ireland, Belfast, in particular? After they immigrated to Pictou, when and how did my great great grandparents meet?

What did they look like, these ancestors of mine? What color hair, eyes did they have? Did they sing? Write? Marry for love or convenience? What did they do? What traits and physical features of theirs have been gifted to me in my DNA? These are the fundamental questions of my life, because these people, these distant, hazy, decades gone ancestors, are me. Who they are, what they did, where and how they lived, have shaped my DNA, made me, ME.

As I cut up the potatoes, I wondered again about my great grandmother, thinking about the fact that, due to her fathers tendency to drink his wages away before he got home on payday, she, several other siblings, and her mother all, at various times, worked in the cotton mills as weavers, threaders and cutters, and at one time my great grandmother and a great uncle were the only two supporting the family of 11. Long, dangerous work hours, breathing cotton fibers, risking life and limb working around the large mill machines…

My grandmother raised 5 children by herself after the death of my grandfather in 1936. And I thought about the old pictures I found while cleaning out my mother’s house, and I see people of the land, of the outdoors. Cooking over campfires at huge family get togethers, a group of women suffragettes with signs, women of the family posing with cigars in theirs mouths. My favorite picture of my grandmother isn’t the one where she’s dressed to go to church. No, it’s a picture of her in pants, jacket and boots, with students from the college where she worked and my grandfather taught geology, heading out on a hike. That’s her, front row, seated, on the right.

I see that I come from a long line of strong, capable women and fiercely independent people. So, on this Thanksgiving, I am not just thankful for all the things we’re always thankful for, I’m also thankful for for the ancestors I’ve never met. The decisions they made, the lives they lived, the places they immigrated to, all those choices led to me being uniquely who I am.

I look at my hands, worn, rough and scarred from a lifetime of work, yet still strong and graceful, expressive, capable. Do they resemble my grandmother’s? My great grandmother’s? Someone in my paternal line, as I know nothing of my biological father’s family?

My hair and eye color, my inborn traits, physical/personality attributes, the fact that through my maternal line, I am a fourth generation American, all these things have been handed down to me by my people in the decisions and choices they made. Recent scientific research has shown that the experiences your ancestors lived through, altered their DNA, micro evolution at work. I believe with my whole heart that we are not only shaped on a mitochondrial level by the lives we lead, but also where we live those lives. I am deeply thankful for their choices and sacrifices. Without them, I literally would not be who I am.

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We Are All Charlottesville  & Things I Can’t Say on Facebook 

It’s Sunday, August 13th, 2017.  I’m sitting at the kitchen table my favorite place to sit, where I can watch the birds that come to the feeder, (mainly goldfinches at this time of the year), drink my coffee, and crochet or read or play games on my phone. My spot. 

This morning I am crocheting, a new project, a shawl called Virus Meets Granny. I bought this lovely yarn called Mandala , by Lion Brand yarn. It comes in color wheels that have 590 yards per wheel. I bought two wheels of the “Wizard” color and started on the shawl yesterday morning.  I worked on it all day yesterday, as I watched the news about the tragedy in Charlottesville Virginia. It was a calming influence, keeping me busy, while I watched the horrific scenes unfold.  I watched as scenes reminiscent of those of my childhood played on the TV in 2017, and I was sickened.  And I need to get some shit off my chest, for my own sanity.  

My parents were older, so I was exposed to a lot of news, and discussions about politics within the family and in general terms with others in the community. I also read a lot, and still to this day, have a love of learning about all kinds of things though I was not allowed to learn about Martin Luther King, because, as my mother explained to me, “everywhere he goes, he causes trouble”, yet despite having a Southern Baptist father, and a northern Yankee Methodist mother, I still grew up, in the 60’s, not prejudiced exactly, just aware there were differences, so I didn’t know what exactly the differences were, and I wondered why there was so much hate towards them, when they were just people too, just like me. I simply could not wrap my head around such hate. It was the same way, watching coverage on the evening news, seeing people with utter hate in their eyes, screaming at black folks, attacking them and firebombing their churches and killing them, seeing the young of our country leave as brave young men, still boys, really, the culture was still so young and un-jaded, only to come back broken and hard eyed from the Vietnam war, the protests against the war, and the draft dodgers. I still remember my parents very clearly denouncing the draft dodgers, the protestors  and the black folks. And I remember seeing these images of war, both at home and overseas, thinking, well, hate and war IS a bad thing, why are we killing people?  Aren’t we taught we’re not supposed to kill?  Aren’t we taught that were supposed to love our neighbor? Aren’t we taught that God created everybody in his image?  So why are we doing this?   Why is there so much hate? And just what the hell is wrong with people? In middle school, we watched filmstrips in history class about the concentration camps. I was sick to my core at the scenes of starving prisoners, the people being marched into the showers, then gassed.  Men, women, children, killed because they were different in appearance and thought.  The piles of shoes, jewelry, clothes and other items taken from the doomed, the mass graves, the gruesome experiments, all of it.  As a pre-teen and teenager, it shaped my views just as profoundly as seeing the hate and blood and death on the nightly news.  Made me question, made me seek out answers, made me listen and learn, both from good and bad. And yet, 50+ years later, 154 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and we’re still going around in circles, with the same damn groups, over the same. damn. bullshit.  

And when I see friends, people I’ve known all my life, post comments like “I am a proud white American man/woman”, my first thought is, “I really don’t know if I can be friends with you anymore”, because a statement like that is pretty much an endorsement of these hate and rage filled idiots, saying you’re in agreement with them.  For people to be ok with groups like this?  Well, you’re no patriot, you’re no christian, that’s for damn sure. You’re not even a good human, because you can’t claim to be good or christian when you are killing (see: The Ten Commandments), or patriotic when you are trying to take freedoms away from anyone not just like you.  You’re part of the damn problem, keeping this bullshitthis hate, this divisiveness going, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. But apparently, you’re not. Hell, some of seem proud of it, and that is morally repugnant. 

I grew up with the specter of the Cold War. I remember seeing images of how bad the Soviet Union was, with food shortages, bread lines, people dying of starvation, gulags…and I’ve lived in fear of things like that happening here in this country.  One thing I’ve learned from studying history, is that you can NEVER say, “Oh, it can’t happen here!”, because brother, it sure as hell can, and damn quick, too. Iran had freedom in the 1970’s. Women wore the same clothes we wore here, short skirts, big hair, makeup, heels.  Oh yeah, it can change in the blink of an eye. 

So as I sat there, and watched all this bullshit unfold, with the specter of nuclear war looming over us, tension with the Russians, and all the other wars going on in the world, all the hate, the labels that divide humanity into warring tribes that then war amongst themselves, making everything about “us VS them”, and I grieved for my country. 

Ask yourself this.  What I f the neo-nazis that stormed the campus of the college the night before, with their tiki torches, cargo shorts and polo shirts, their shields and regalia and their precious little signs had been a Black Lives Matter group instead?  I guarantee many would be howling with outrage.  Oh, you’re quick to condemn THAT movement, yes you are, but when it’s these dim witted,  backassward cretins, these white supremacists, these nazis, these mouth breathing knuckle-draggers, you balk, and either blame everyone equality (false equivalency!) and give some generic statement denouncing it in as vague a way as you can, or you’re silent.  It’s your silence that is the most telling.  

We have no leadership right now, none.  What we have is a petulant and petty, small minded, greedy man-baby waggling dicks with a crazy dictator over who’s is bigger. One who has, and still is, systemically alienating our allies, pissing off our enemies, putting the entire world at risk. 

We have infighting going on, because El Presidente has encouraged it during his campaign, and, by not directly addressing the specific groups involved (white nationalists, kkk, nazis) in harsh and condemning terms, gave a quiet nod, a dog whistle, to the scum that he was ok with it.  Call it what it was, o orange one, otherwise, you’re a hypocrite.  Remember that whole thing you did where you complained that President Obama (and others) couldn’t say “radical Islamic terrorism”?  Yet here you are, pulling the same shit you condemned him for.  Just say it, it’s ok, we know–it was white supremacists , it was kkk, it was neo-nazis.  And this shit is on you, pal.  You’re the one who stood on the world stage, before AND after the election, you’re still doing it, spreading your hate, giving your tacit approval to the scum who howl with glee and are all too happy to do your dirty work for you. You’ve emboldened them, and we are now watching history repeat itself.  Those who do not learn from history will continue to make the same mistakes, repeating the pattern(s). And isn’t that the definition of insanity?  

God or Jesus isn’t going to fix this, not any of it.  Hell, that’s what most of them are fighting about anyway.  “My god(s) are bigger/better/more correct than yours. Yours are wrong/false/weak.  

No, it’s on us, ALL of us, to fix this.  I’m tired of hearing people say, “You have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, no one is going to do it for you.”  Well, practice what the hell you preach, get off your knees and get to work. This is not a time of complacency, it is a time to resist the darker dregs of society that want to stamp out our individuality, destroy our diversity, cause us to live in fear, act out of hate, and harm other humans over something so petty as the color of skin, a difference of beliefs or country of birth.  

If you’re angry, use your anger constructively, NOT destructively.   Build up, don’t tear down.   We hate what we fear, and we fear what we don’t know.  It’s time to change that. 

“Suffer not your neighbors affliction, but extend your hand.” (Source: Patti Smith). Something to think about.  

I’ll leave you with this short, moving video, written and produced by Seth Andrews, narrated by Nathan Phelps.  https://youtu.be/L6IPFyHEv3o

Fight the good fight, friends

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Lost Sunday 

It’s 7:06 AM as I write this. I’m on my 4th cup of coffee, and contemplating getting things done around the house that need to be done, but that I have no desire to do. It’s quiet, dead quiet, and I really enjoy that. At my work it’s very loud, very noisy, lots of air hoses, and people talking, so I love a quiet house when I can just enjoy it.  Dearest is working today so I don’t have to listen to the TV, or anyone hollering for a meal, and I can just kind of do my own thing.  So at the moment, I’m enjoying my last cuppa coffee, and getting ready to eat a chewy nut butter bar, from Kashi. 

They’re not too bad. I’ve been eating one on the way to work.  Processed, yes, but not as bad as sugary breakfast stuff like donuts, muffins and pastries.  And not loaded with fat like bacon or sausage.  It has monounsaturated fat, the so called “good” kind.  


At least I can pronounce the name of every ingredient, though that “natural flavor” has me raising an eyebrow. Still, no high fructose corn syrup, whole grain oats are the first ingredient, and they’re low in sodium.   

Well, the coffee is gone, and I’m facing a mountain of tasks to do today. There’s a pile of dishes in the sink, there’s a pile of laundry in the bedroom, and I have two packages of chicken wings to cook and sauce for dinner tonight.  See: Sunday BBQ Chicken

I also have a few gardening chores to do, dead heading the Petunias and SuperBells, moving the basil and oregano to the garden, as they’ve outgrown their pots, choosing daughter strawberries for the berry bed and clipping off all other runners, some weeding, and everything needs a dose of fertilizer.

It is now 12:20 PM, and I have managed to tackle the mountain of dishes, do two loads of laundry, and look through several cookbooks I got from the library and decided I didn’t like any of them.  Still haven’t fried up those chicken legs, and gotten them ready for dinner tonight. In all seriousness, I really feel like I need to just go lay down and take a nap.

Update: Did just that!  Took a two hour nap, finally woken by the chiming on my iPod and an angry and upset husband on the phone.  I was in such a deep sleep that I missed five cell phone calls (my ringer was off) and three home phone calls from him.  He was frantic when I didn’t answer, and was imagining the worst.  After all, I did have a mild heart attack Memorial Day weekend.

It’s now 6:40 P.M., the wings are cooked and ready to be sauced and frozen for later in the week.  Time to go water the tomatoes, and get things ready for work tomorrow.  

Till next time, friends!

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~~~Anxiety~~~

I have finally found the best way to describe anxiety: It’s like walking a tightrope made eggshells, (up on your tiptoes, cringing all the while), over a dark, roiling sea of panic without a safety net. You feel like you’re skittering dangerously on ice, and no one sees or understands the heart pounding panic seething through you.  It’s all you can do to keep your mask in place and act normal when others are around.  All you can think is: “Please go away I need to be alone my mask is slipping stop talking go away oh god don’t ask me how am”. All the while, you’re feeling the panic ramp up another notch, and you’re doing your best to keep it contained. 

Anxiety is weird.  Often times, the more you try to calm down, the worse it gets.  You could be having a great day, then get totally broadsided by the freight train that it is without notice.  It just comes out of nowhere.  

Anxiety is cruel.  It makes you worry unnecessarily about even the most inconsequential things to the point that it triggers a panic attack at worst, or keeps you on the edge of tears, off balance, and skittering on that ice again, at the least.  

Anxiety doesn’t care about your plans, your work schedule, get togethers with family and friends, errands, appointments…not one damn bit.   

In fact, it revels in broadsiding you out of nowhere, thereby ruining your day.  It delights in every hour you spend in sick dread, on the verge of tears, feeling weak and vulnerable.  It is the most common form of mental illness, as, in its various forms, it affects around 40 million people age 18 and older. It develops due to complex risk factors, such as genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events.  Women are twice as likely to suffer from it, and it’s common for anxiety sufferers to develop depression.  Additionally, PTSD and OCD are closely related to anxiety disorders, so can also suffer from those, as well as the depression. 

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor.  Try the breathing/grounding techniques, get therapy, take the meds. Do what YOU need to get better.  Don’t just do nothing. There’s no one way to treat anxiety disorders, so be your own advocate, and get help-see your doctor.  I cannot stress that enough!

I had my first panic attack about seventeen years ago.  My husband had been in a horrendous wreck, and I’d been caring for him as well as working full time, and three or four days a week, I’d have to race home, get my husband, and go right back to town to get him to his physical therapy appointments.  Everything was on my shoulders.  When he was released to go back to work, it felt like the weight of the world was lifted from me.  So much so, that I fell apart.  

It happened one ordinary Spring evening.  We were done with supper, I was cleaning up the kitchen, my husband was on the phone with a buddy, and our daughter was watching tv. I remember telling my husband I was going to go lie down for a few minutes, as I was just exhausted.  

I lay down on the bed, and immediately  started feeling weird. I could feel my heart pounding, my chest felt tight, and my breathing became erratic.  I sat up, rubbing my chest, thinking, omg, is this a heart attack?  The more I tried to calm myself, the worse it got.  

I jumped out of bed, ran to the front room, told my husband, “I don’t feel right”, and promptly lost all strength and started shaking violently.  My husband and daughter got me into bed, sat with me, and I immediately started feeling better.  I put the incident out if my mind, and life went on. 

After a couple of weeks, I noticed I felt really fidgety, my right eyelid would twitch, and I just felt off.  When I went for my annual, I mentioned it to my doctor.  I went home with a low dose, mild antidepressant.   

I did feel better, no anxiety, no twitching, nothing.  And that was the problem.  I. Felt. Nothing. I didn’t care about anything.  You could have told me the world was going to blow up in ten minutes, and I would have just shrugged.   I took meds for a year, and spent that year learning the signals that my anxiety was ramping up and how to calm and distract myself when I felt them coming on.   I describe the way it made me feel then, and still does occasionally, as “the vomity blackness”.   I felt that if I were to fall to my knees and vomit, it would be all this blackness.  

I dealt with it pretty well over the next few years, using techniques I learned during the year I took the meds; deep, slow breathing, grounding, distraction with something requiring focus, writing…and, for the most part, I had few episodes.   

That all changed in 2008, when I came home to the front door kicked in.  Fortunately, they only took my husband’s pain meds and an old .22 revolver from the 50’s that was my dad’s.    

This set off a new round of anxiety, which, after about six months or so, developed into a fear of leaving the house.  It’s something I still deal with, not as much this past year, but I know that if I get over tired, I’ll have an episode.  

It was really bad for a while. I would  generally use up all my PTO within the first few months of the year.  I would be ready to leave, had my coat on, purse, lunch, totebag, truck running…and there I’d be, standing in the kitchen, tears streaming, feeling shaky and sick…as soon as I made the decision to stay home, it would be like a huge stone being lifted off my shoulders, and I would feel better immediately.  Other times I’ve left for work, late, my pace getting slower and slower, until, about a mile from work, I’d turn around and go back home.  

For me, meds are off the table.  I don’t like the mindlessness of them.  I deal pretty well with my anxiety these days, though I still don’t like leaving home, and sometimes social situations, even with people I know and love, flip me out, and I stay home.  In the crazy world we live in, home often feels like the only safe place.  

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A Quick Note About My Blog & Recipes…

I started this blog with the intent to express how I, personally, saw life.  I started noticing though, that more and more of my creative writing was ending up getting posted and then a lot of cooking posts.  In an attempt to bring some order back, I’ve started a second blog, and I’ll be moving the recipes posted here, along with all future cooking posts, to their new home over there, but for now, they’re still here. 

As for the new cooking blog, it’s not going to be fancy.  I’m not a chef, I’m just a woman who loves to cook, here in my simple kitchen, preparing food with love and efficiency, getting the most out of my food dollars, and I’m willing to bet, many of you are, too.  Check it out here: https://thesavorytoothedcooker.wordpress.com/ 

Till next time, friends!!!  

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Face It, Winter’s Coming

It’s hard to believe it’s almost the last day of November and I’m outside, and it’s  61°F.  I’m enjoying the last few hours daylight and tending to some last garden tours that seemed to slip my mind or got put by the wayside until today.

As I sadly carried the window box planters,  with green and still growing strawberry plants,  from the front porch around to the backyard, and pulled my two year old sage and lemon thyme plants from their pots, I realized why I’d put off this last garden chore…denial of the approaching Winter.   These last bits of greenery greeted me every morning on my way out the door and every afternoon when I got home since Spring.  It was bad enough when the baskets of petunias were done and put up for the season.  Now, without the lovely ceramic flower pots and planters brimming with trailing strawberries, the front steps look bereft, barren, naked.  And lonely.

Despite having a couple of  heavy frosts over the last week, the herbs were holding up remarkably well, and the strawberries have new growth.  However, overnight temps in the teens next week, will most likely put an end to that.

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The plants will overwinter in the small, heavily mulched kitchen garden.  Once the frost kills them back, I’ll mulch them with straw as well.  Funny thing, after the sage and thyme died back last year, I yanked them out of the smaller pots they were in, and tossed them by the compost bin.  There they lay, all Winter long, roots exposed, so it was very surprising to notice new green growth one day, when taking scraps out to dump.   I’ll be putting them in much bigger planters next year, planters that won’t freeze up and bust, like the ceramic pots they were in.

There’s weather coming in, darker clouds are rolling in, and the wind has picked up a bit.

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Probably should head inside and get dinner started.

Till next time, friends…

Have a wonderful evening!

 

 

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What Is Culture?

via Daily Prompt: Culture

What is culture?  When you hear the word ‘culture’, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?  Does it differ from when you were younger?

Growing up in the 70’s, culture, to me, meant things like the opera, the ballet, museums.  I had a very narrow definition of culture, largely because I was a farm kid, and my introduction to “things of culture” were books and the classical and vinyl records my mother had.   As I grew older, I understood it to mean differing beliefs, traditions and ways of life among different races, religions, and countries.  I discovered that even within individual countries, regions often had their own cultures.

Here in America, we’ve begun to use the word in another way, a way that doesn’t have such an enlightened meaning behind it.   We use it to describe negative things, like “rape culture” or “culture of greed”.  Increasingly, it’s used as a derogatory term, as if cultures other than white Christian American are somehow wrong and not worthy of even the barest understanding.

I would like to know where respect for others’ ways of life went.   Was it ever really there in the first place?  Or was it just lurking in the shadows until now?  Something to ponder, for sure.

 

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