Archive for November, 2010

north dakota

November 28, 2010

so yes, our youngest son took the job in North Dakota, one hour from the Canadian border. This is his “big adventure”, he is going to an oil rig town of 13,000 to be a news and sports reporter. Today is his longest driving day and they are having blowing winds and snow. Not good. We will hopefully keep in touch w/ him as he drives. If they get 2-3″ and not 12″ in the next 24-36 hrs., he may not have too much trouble. Meanwhile, I’m staying RIGHT HERE in the sunny south, where our heat is coming on at night but then it still warms up to high 60s- low 70s during the day.


Little Boy

November 22, 2010
Little Boy
I am thinking of a little boy,
who did not talk until 3 years old,
got the award at summer camp for “boy sick most often,”
had ear infections so rampant,
a doctor inserted tubes to take them away,
which improved his hearing,
which allowed him to hear language,
and he began to speak;
I am thinking of an 8 year old,
stealing packs of baseball cards,
he and 3 buddies deciding to do this
all together — at the SAME TIME,
We allowed the police to take him to the station,
Getting finger printed scared him so bad,
he refused to enter this store again,
I am thinking of a 12-year-old
confiding to me in secret,
face beaming with pride,
“Mom, I want you to know,
I quit smoking.”
We praised God when he graduated from high school.
Posing as his father, he called in sick so many times,
We made a deal with the school:
Only his mother could call in for him;
This child, bounced on his head in the locker room,
unconscious in the ambulance,
awoke on the way to the hospital,
where we met him at the door,
This child whose soccer team won regional
the last game of his senior year,
now keeps in touch with teammates,
his loyalty to school and friends unmatched,
Goes away to college and finds
he can wake himself up
with something called “an alarm clock“,
Graduates in May after I get my PhD,
This son, our youngest,
so stubborn, so headstrong,
outmatches his father in being opinionated,
manages to offend
half of those he ever meets,
The world is black or white to these two,
and there is no such thing as gray,
This son, to whom family means so much,
loves caring for his nephews,
watching football with his dad,
This son now finds a job,
1000 miles from the nearest relative.
We plan to stay in touch on facebook,
share lives by cell phone,
visit by train,
Somehow in the last 25 years,
This child became a man.

Sitting Bull: a true American hero

November 20, 2010

a true American hero: Sitting Bull

I am astounded and angered at Fox News’ recent denigration of the choice of our President to include Sitting Bull in a children’s book of American heroes. Evidently, Fox news wants to brand Sitting Bull, one of the greatest Indian chiefs of all time, as “someone who killed a US general”. All I have to say is: MY GOD. Are we going to rewrite textbooks and burn other books that told the tru(er) story of what we really did to the Indian people in America? Really? Are we going to turn into a fascist state so we can feel good about how Sitting Bull died? Are we going to shame ourselves by once again denigrating his memory– one of the greatest leaders of the Indian people of all time, and one who still is considered a spiritual leader among Indian peoples? Wow. I thought we were beyond this reality, but we are not. Below are some comments I wrote while this realization fell upon me:

Sitting Bull is the Indian chief of all Indian leaders. He has always been my favorite Indian leader since I read a number of books, in my 40s, about Native Americans and their history in the US. He was the last to bring in his starving, freezing people to a reservation before they all died. He had taken them up into Canada at the last. He was a true leader, really a spiritual leader to his people. After coming in, there was a brief skirmish while they were all lined up in front of cavalry who stood over them with guns on the reservation, a shot was fired, and Sitting Bull finally died, an old man in captivity, gunned down while standing there unarmed.
What astounds me about news like this is the realization that people’s hate and lust for power could, even in 2010, lead to history books being rewritten, great heroes becoming known to children as someone who “killed a US general”. Amazing. I really thought we were beyond that, but we are not. Living through the 70s when we had a new rash of “cowboy & Indian” movies where they tried to show the history from the Indian viewpoint, I find it astounding that we could once again go backwards away from this realization. Some of those movies were:
Little Big Man
A Man Called Horse
Return of a Man called Horse
Soldier Blue

what was the recent one about the Indian in the army who helped raise the US flag in WWII and they became heroes? He died a drunk. That film showed prejudice and ignorance about Indian people during the 40s-50s. I’ve shown a number of films in my classes, documentaries. Some of those are:
Matters of Race: We’re Still Here
Spirit of the Dawn

Books I read, on my own, as an adult:
Black Elk Speaks
The Life of Sitting Bull
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

and others…….
Who do these people think they are? How do they sleep at night? It is well known how US soldiers lined up Indian peoples, took away their guns, then simply gunned down all the men, women and children standing there defenceless. This happened many times. The people who gave these orders were not heroes, they were murderers. Wounded Knee was the last time this happened in a major way. The “Battle” of Wounded Knee was a massacre such as I just described. It was a retaliation on some of those who had beat Custer at Little Big Horn. One Indian group was trying to make it to another group they were going to join with, to escape living on the reservation, I believe. It was families, moving, as nomads, trying to reach another group of tribes. They were detained, weapons taken from them, and then gunned down. This is well documented.

This photo is in the Smithsonian Institution. I wonder if his photo is there because he killed an American general. I think not. I located it on the web connected to this webpage: 

This website seems to be an online report from a K12 student. Even this young student knew the real history of Wounded Knee.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and Christmases past

November 19, 2010

This is a story of Thanksgivings past. The story of life with my parents has sharp dividing lines. The first part is a story of feeling safe, being sheltered from suffering, and living a life based in love. I grew up in upper middle class homes with 2 parents and 3 siblings. There was many a dinner party where my parents entertained friends. These were true friends, not just formal gatherings. My father played dixieland jazz, my sister and I would dance, my mother would serve food and martinis, and my father would sit around enjoying himself, sharing with friends and being with his family. The dividing line is his early death at the age of 50, after which our mother went into a tailspin for a while, was dropped from the elite social circle that was connected to my father’s position at the university, and alcohol became her main companion. She later reformed, recovered, and never went back to her old companion, which was helpful in our having any relationship at all. These periods in my life are: before age 16, age 16 to 32, and then life after age 32 until her passing 22 years later. The following is a segment from before age 16, recalling “Thanksgiving and Christmases past”.

My parents each trained me well and gave me certain lessons in life. Our holidays were filled with delicious home cooked meals, and much spirit. We always made a big deal about decorating the Christmas tree. It was an event we looked forward to. My mother always read us “The night before Christmas” on — the night before Christmas. 🙂  My mother took us to church regularly, usually United Methodist or Presbyterian, depending on where we lived. She grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church. My father was a strong Baptist in his young adulthood and even sang in the church with his parents and some other relatives. But as he aged, he became more and more disenchanted with organized religion. He would go about twice a year, to please my mom. My father taught me a love for education, dedication to his students, a love for life, a commitment to contributing to the advancement of life on earth.
Our Christmas holidays were unfortunately, centered around gifts, and we received many. But they were happy times.
I used to go to church when none of the rest of my family would go with me. I would also go to a chapel which was to be open for prayers at any time. I always love sitting in a church and looking up at the stained glass windows. In high school, I was president of my church youth group for about 2 years. We organized a “coffee house” for youth, held every Friday night, where we had snacks and dancing. We also met every Wed. night. At a slightly younger age I attended a Presbyterian youth group called “Chi-Ro” where we gathered every Saturday to make crafts together. So my youth is filled with memories of the church as a place to go, where we liked to go. I also have wonderful memories of Christmas caroling, the old fashioned way, where we actually walked around singing carols at people’s houses. We never knew if they would come to the door and acknowledge us, but the joy was in the singing. It was always cold. We usually gathered together at the end for hot chocolate.
My father died when I had just turned 16, in August. That December, I organized a Christmas caroling group all by myself, and we went around the neighborhood. I remember there was a dog that followed us and would start howling every time we started singing! It was as if he wanted to be a part of the singing. When we got done that year, I returned home to find some of my relatives from Indiana had driven out to Pennsylvania to spend the holidays with us, as a surprise, since it was the first Christmas without my father.
The next few years were more difficult, but I wanted to write my pleasant memories of the holidays. At the end of her life, my mother found her faith once again, and always had a Bible and certain little booklets from a women’s Bible group she would keep in her living room and read from. She returned to her roots, the Dutch Reformed Church, now the Christian Reformed church, and found much solace there. Her faith was childlike and somewhat based in fear: Her best friend, who died before her, told her, “We won’t know each other Marti, We’ll be angels!” She had no concept of life as an angel except perhaps floating around on clouds and singing praises of God. It was a somewhat childlike faith. But she believed.
One of the strongest auditory memories of any Thanksgiving dinner was my grandfather’s voice reciting the Lord’s Prayer. He always said it the same: He bowed his head and devoutly recited it at a speed so fast you could hardly follow the words. It was a lower voice, a respectful, more formal pronunciation of words, but one he memorized and recited at a zooming speed, without stopping to think. This was a man who had to quit school at the 6th grade, in order to work to help support his family. At some point in his life, he memorized this entire prayer.


November 15, 2010

Figured budget, paid bills, payday tomorrow, bought groceries, decided we don’t have the money to go home to Indiana for both Thanksgiving and Xmas. I am very bummed about it. This is the longest we’ve been away from Raven & Caspian, probably ever. It is really difficult not to see them. And they think we are coming. They will have to wait until December. But one main goal for us now is to make our budget work. We have to. And that is a primary responsibility we need to fufill, for ourselves but also for our kids.

We are planning to have a meal w/ the family in Raleigh, which is WONDERFUL, it’s just that we’ve never missed a Thanksgiving “back home”.

Went back to the diabetic cookbook tonight. Neither of us are diabetic but it’s a good diet. made “Hungarian chicken paprikash” which is a fancy name for chicken & noodles with paprika.

My son may take a job in northern North Dakota. Right now their HIGHS are in the 30s and lows in the 9s…. like 9 degrees. They are having light snow every day this week. I would’ve said, “Nope, not that one!” but he wants a job. He will feel really good if he secures this job in his field of journalism. He will write for their local paper and cover all high school sports, for some random middle-to-small size city about an hour from the Canadian border.

I think I have mild depression due to menopause. Not that I’m depressed about MENOPAUSE — I waited for it long enough! But it just goes with the territory. There is no rhyme or reason to it, I’ve just been noticing “it just is”. It’s hard to explain to someone who does not experience such things, like a husband maybe. It may be the highest show of my character to go forward every day, while feeling this way. It is mild, after all, but something that such an outsider may feel “shouldn’t be there” or “should be overcome”. I am different, I like to feel what’s there, embrace it and observe it. But I’m thinking of getting some mild meds, for the 1st time in my life.

Still trying to think of some majorly fun thing to do in class tomorrow….! haven’t hit on anything yet….. Heaven forbid, the last full week of class could be B-O-R-I-N-G…! Aaaah, what a tragedy. Will they survive it?

My children’s class at Grant Homes this week will be about “cleanliness” and I think we’ll try to make soap! Sounds like an adventure. I need to find a little story or children’s book about cleanliness. I’m thinking of bringing a blow-up picture of some lovely germs.

*peace out*

Grant Homes children’s class

November 11, 2010

I did my children’s class at Grant Homes today, a weekly 1/2 hour to 45 mins. virtues class. At this point, we have done:







Today’s word was unity. All the others they have recognized. Unity they drew a total blank! This surprised ME, so we spent a little time talking about what it was. Does it mean we are all the same? (Yeess….–looking at me doubtfully—NOooooo)

I am getting to know the kids, still do not know all of their names. They are all African American. Craig and Elijah are brothers. Taherah and Taleyah are twin sisters. There is Dynasty, Lulu ( aboy’s nick name), others I cannot remember right now. Today they were doing homework when I arrived, so we took the ones done w/ homework out into the gym. I tried to get them to draw pictures for the main words in “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”

powerful: they drew a tornado, a storm,

light: the sun, lightning

unity: we decided on a capital “U”

That’s about as far as we got. I am continually taken aback by their lack of attention span. It is NOT THE SIZE OF A GNAT!! The term “Learning Disabilities” is the understatement of the century!! My God, I will say one sentence and they all start talking. It takes continual effort. The black women there are good at controlling them. One glance, one harsh word & the kids quiet down. It’s a threat, a power play, I am not good at. I do not let the kids run over me though, They are respectful to me. I will not tolerate disrespect. But it’s a continual battle for their attention.

We tried a couple of games. They were okay but didn’t work too well. One is a cooperative game where you stand in a circle, pass around a (garden glove), each person giving it to someone who has not had it yet. Then you do it again & they have to do it ALWAYS to the SAME person they did before. Then you put 2 gloves in play, then 3…… so it gets very hectic. You have to remember who gave it to you and who you always give it to. We started the game, the boys started throwing the glove in the air, then smelling it, “This is FRESH!” then someone has to go to the bathroom, then whatever.

I need to look up the Book 3A & do some games where they practice being in a pretend box, then jumping outside it, then back in, etc., so they BEGIN to learn a FRACTION of body control!

The thing they LOVE and always appreciate, is coloring. I don’t need to bring fancy markers or glitter glue, just simple crayons. They are always excited. They get 2 crayons each, then they can bring me one back to trade for a new color. Once in awhile, I let them take their 2 crayons home. They are so impressed. They are always eager to open the treasure box, see what the virtue is for the day, eager to read the quote, even most of the time to hear the story. Today we talked about Unity of Human Beings, and read a story on “Come Home With Me”, about houses and homes of different types around the world. Maybe a little bit sinks in. Maybe they learn something, who knows.


November 7, 2010

I don’t know what to say about these past elections. It is depressing to me, really. Honestly I think that capitalism is about done. The greed that is manifested, the viciousness, the hate-mongering, it is about at its limit. We will either move into fascism, or change to be a better, more fair-minded society that is not hell-bent on putting the blame on the wrong set of people. We will put limits on wealth and take care of those in poverty, OR the system of capitalism is about done. “As ye have done to the least of my brethren, ye have done unto Me.” hmm

What always amazes me is the way that corporate America, those at the top of the business world who make MILLIONS more than most of society could ever dream of,  remain anonymous and hidden from view. It’s not President Obama, people, who is taking all your money and jobs!! Don’t you see how those at the top of business are laughing at your pitiful accusations? They don’t care who you blame– it can be the illegal Mexican families in this country, who are here out of desparation and are working harder than any of us– you can blame them if you want. You can blame the government that just came to power a whole 2 years ago. They don’t care who you blame, as long as it’s not THEM, those who are claiming bankruptcy and calling on the Federal govt. to “bail them out,” with accompanying threat of America’s economy falling apart if they lose their … let’s say… posterior… while still paying each other millions (millions) in bonuses and then spending their bail our money on BUYING UP other small businesses — not on helping people to stay in their HOMES (oh no). They’re not losing their homes, and they’re not losing any sleep over it. They’re in control as they always have been and laughing at the rest of us struggling to survive.

Unemployment rates are running around 10 percent right now across the country. Some places are less, some are more. Some are at nearly 25 %. That’s 1 in 4 not having a job in some communities. Are we going to fix this by not letting our elected government provide a more equitable society?? I don’t think so. Let’s open up the free market & see who survives. It ain’t gonna be you, Joe plumber, trying to start your own little business. Those miners are going to re-enter those mines in very unsafe and hazardous conditions, and next time a bunch of them will die– like they did in, was it West Virginia a few years ago? They died. They didn’t make it to CNN filming them being pulled up out of the hole they were in and companies offering them presents. They died. The little guys are dying. The wage gap is ever wider in America, and GROWING. That means those at the top, who remain very much the same people over long periods of time, gain MORE of the total wealth and income pool, while those at the bottom earn less and less, or control a very small percentage of the total income and wealth pool.

Who is MAKING MONEY, making a profit over hiring those illegal workers, some 12 million of them, across our country? Why are they here, really. Who is making money off them? It’s not THEM. THEY work long hours, and don’t complain when they are treated unfairly, because they fear being sent back home. At least here, they are working, earning some wage, and they hope for their next generation to have a better life. They’re not earning a profit, they’re stuck in dead end jobs and can’t complain about working conditions. It’s not really their immediate BOSSES although they certainly profit from their low wage laborers. It’s the owners. Those at the top holding stocks in their company, making the true profits on these workers. Are they even going to suffer if there’s some kind of ‘crack down’ on businesses employing them? NO. Ever heard of the unemployed “reserve army” out there waiting to pick up jobs lost by others? That’s a term from Marx. Karl Marx. No, I am not a communist. With miserable unemployemnt rates, it only HELPS those at the top because there is a literal reserve army of workers ready to pick up where others leave off. Always available. Happy to work and not interested in building coalitions or any such thing, for workers. Hooray for their stocks gaining more & more profit.

And now we have for-profit PRISONS, run by private companies. What does this mean? The state or federal govt. actually pays a company so much PER PERSON, to manage them in their prison system. The ethical problem is, these companies now have a vested interest in keeping those prisons FULL at all times. So much for thinking about society in general and trying to PREVENT crime in the first place. They’re in business to keep it going, now.

anyway, I’m tired, really. I have to turn away from politics because this is how it makes me feel. People are suffering. My students are too young to have any life experience to tell them these things are for real and threatening their own plans and goals. So they want to believe if we just keep power out of the hands of the government, everything will be okay. So now we have tea partier idiots calling for an end to social security, Medicare, and other such federally-funded, federally run programs. Great!! Let’s do away with the state and federal highway systems as well! Perhaps we can go back to local police taking care of their own communities and do away with the federal database system that means they can actually SHARE and benefit from each others’ information. In that case, all a criminal has to do is cross a state line & he’s in the clear. Cool. It is so ridiculous, I can’t even tolerate listening to them on tv. The scary thing is that so many people are rallying behind them! I don’t get that at all.

I am not for either party. There are things that would place me in either party. But I am for a more just society and I think the way to go is to further unite our states to share information and laws, all that stuff. We are a NATION after all, are we not? Didn’t we resolve this issue when we were only 13 states? Aren’t we proud to be a NATION, united, with one government? Where is all this going?

memories of COLD

November 5, 2010

I grew up in the plains area of Indiana. Wind whips across those straight, flat cornfields in Winter like nothing you’ve ever felt before. Highways close because snow drifts so bad it closes the highway. Snow is no respector of roads cars need to drive on. It also causes “snow blindness” which is when snow is blowing so hard that you cannot see through it. You become literally blind. Most snows are not this bad; it depends on the wind and the amount of snow. Temperatures also make a difference. Getting cold enough to snow is not the entire snow story. When it is JUST cold enough to snow, it actually feels WARM — something like 30 degrees. At those temperatures, the snow melts fast. It also packs into a good, hard snowball which can be like getting hit with solid rock. The colder the temps., though, the less the snow packs well. It is too dry and fluffy to pack. Not good for snowman building or fort building, not good for snowball fights. Besides that, you turn blue with cold when you’re outside too long, in the really cold weather.

As a kid, I would be dressed in numerous layers of clothes and boots, and sent outside to play for hours. We had a blast just playing in our front and back yards, making snow angels, making a snowman, digging and building a “fort” and crawling in it, hiding under the pine tree in our front yard, sledding down the small hill on the side of our yard, or sledding with friends at a larger park.

One winter I was sledding with a good friend at the Country Club hill. This was a huge hill, great for sledding a long, long distance down. We were going down on a round disc, turning around as we went, when my friend’s brother decided to THROW his sled right out in front of us! He was a young boy trying to do something “funny”. It was not funny and knocked me out unconscious. I must have been thrown. It is the only time in my life I woke up with a circle of concerned faces looking down at me. My friend and I walked to her house which was not far, and I don’t think I ever told my parents about the incident. (The only other time in my life I was knocked unconscious was with the SAME girlfriend at the same park, when we had the brilliant idea to ride our bikes down a black tar hill right next to this sledding hill. I did a somersault off my bike, head first forward, and woke up in a few minutes.)

The year we lived in Michigan was my ice skating year. On Saturday mornings, I would go early and try to be the first one on the ice, which was actually a frozen pond or lake. I loved to watch the guy in the machine out cleaning the ice to make it smooth. I would walk to the place to skate, which was a good distance in itself. I was always cold when I arrived and looked forward to the hot chocolate inside the building where we would rent our skates.

My snow memories include more than once being literally “snowed in” for days. Being snowed in means you cannot go outside — like “AT ALL”. You are stuck inside your house. Hopefully you have enough food for a few days. If so, then it really becomes a wonderful, cozy time of family togetherness. I mean that. During those times, their schools would close, we would watch movies or more often choose one game which then turned into a tournament for 4-5 days. For example, Monopoly championships; Euchre; or just simple games of UNO. Those are also some of the rare times when we put an entire jigsaw puzzle together. I remember one year we did 3 of them. Some of my best memories are during those times, being stuck in the house with all my kids (and husband). We would cooperatively dig ourselves a path to get out eventually, with snow shovels, and help dig the neighbors out as well. Depending on where you live, you have to wait longer or shorter times for the snow plows to get to you, so you can actually DRIVE somewhere.

Cold is truly cold, up north. You can lose fingers and toes if they become frostbit. I remember one time my husband and I, being young with no working car, decided to walk downtown to get on a bus to get somewhere else. The walk was SO COLD, our fingers went numb, and we had GLOVES ON. That is below zero weather.

When we lived across from Purdue stadium, it made no sense for me to drive to campus, since I could walk in the same amount of time. But the walk was about a mile, to get from our house to where I would attend or teach a class, as a grad student. I walked, & became used to wearing my LONG winter coat which went below my knees; warm gloves; and a scarf which wrapped across my face (to protect my nose), around the back of my furry hood which was also over my head, and then tied again in front. I was SO WARM, it worked very well.

The nice thing about these stories is that they actually are just memories. Today the high in South Carolina is 59 and lows tonight in the mid-30s, and they think they are cold. This is not cold.