Archive for May, 2013

oldest daughter

May 31, 2013

I am in denial about my age. I really am. It is not possible my oldest daughter, oldest child, will turn 36 in another week. But it is.

I want to do my best to post something about each of my children on their birthdays this year. They were all born in warm weather, Spring, Summer, early Fall. June, August, early September. Jasmine was born in June.

She was a tiny-featured, delicate, petite baby, about 6 1/2 lbs. at birth. From what I remember, 6 lbs. 5 1/2–6 oz. I am one of those mothers who doesn’t automatically remember weight & length of babies at birth. But I can get close. She was about 6 lbs., 5 & 1/2 oz. & 19″ long. So petite. Born to be blonde for sure, as there was just a little light colored hair. Thin little fingers, and almost no nose at all. So tiny. So sweet. And so her name befits her well: Jasmine. The delicate, white or yellow Jasmine flower, so sweet-scented.

The labor was long, but who knows how much of that was because of the ancient, barbaric practice of keeping me tethered to a fetal heart monitor which allowed me little movement in the 15 hours we were at the hospital before the birth finally occurred. Total labor time was about 24 hours. The doctor was … typical doctor, egomaniac, but at the same time, open to a Leboyer birth. He tried to be caring and respectful. We turned down the lights, no spotlight was used, it was about 5:15pm with dusk approaching, and we kept our voices low. All natural birth, and out she came, Jasmine entered the world. Immediately she was placed into a warm little bath, where her daddy held her, the Leboyer bath. It is supposed to make newborn babies feel comfortable, as they just left the water world behind. It seemed to work exceptionally well. There was such JOY in the room, and she relaxed and opened her eyes. Pure joy and happiness. Then little Jasmine Aglaia was whisked down the hall, her father carrying her, to be weighed and measured.

Delightful mother memories of a 24-yr-old new mommy. We had an ancient pediatrician who denied breast feeding because of a “possibility” of mother/child problems with blood types, so after nursing her once or twice, I pumped breast milk down the drain and nurses fed her a bottle. This was our first major trial. I could have stopped breast feeding right then & there. But with support of husband and mother-in-law, when we got home I soon put the bottles up on a shelf. She was used to them and preferred them, & I realized, if I don’t put them away I’m done. We made the shift, she adjusted and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

These are happy memories and I cannot imagine, really, that I am the age that I am, with current knee pain giving me fits, and an inability to lose weight. My husband & I each face our own health challenges at the moment. But these are sweet memories.

Her middle name, Aglaia, is a name of one of 3 Greek goddesses. Aglaia was a goddess of beauty.


names from the Dutch side

May 26, 2013

Once you get back far enough, names don’t quite work the way they do today. For example, I don’t quite have the details, but somehow families followed the female name at some point. They didn’t use “first names” and “last names” like we do, so it gets confusing. For example, one male child was named “Bote”. His father’s name was Jacob Botes. But from what I can put together, this is a list of first names for the Dutch relatives I have.

Male names from the Dutch family tree:




Pieter Alberts







Jacob Botes




Female Names from the Dutch family tree:














Cosmopolitan Canopy

May 23, 2013

I just finished “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: race and civility in everyday life,” a new book by Dr. Elijah Anderson. I am familiar w/ Dr. Anderson’s work, use “Code of the Street” in my classes and have written a short review of it for a forthcoming publication. I also lived in Philadelphia for 3 years, from age 13-16. I also love qualitative work. Dr. Anderson’s specialty is ethnography. I love the richness it gives to description of everyday settings, the analysis of how we interact in terms of race, gender, class as human beings.

My years in Philadelphia were formative in many ways. To this day, I long for a hot pretzel, bought at a corner stand, with large drops of salt and covered with bright yellow mustard. My mouth is watering! I also learned what a “hoagie” is, and know a true Philadelphia steak & cheese sandwich smothered in onions.

In Germantown, I rode a train to school, the same train Dr. Anderson describes riding from Chestnut Hill into inner city Philadelphia. I would get on this train at Queen Lane and gett off in Mount Airy, to attend my school there. One of the things that first intrigued me about “Code of the Street” was Anderson’s description of going down Germantown Ave. from the Chestnut Hill area to inner city Philly. I was a professor’s kid, & my father a mechanical engineer. He left Purdue after 24 years to teach at Drexel, & died at a very young age of 50. At the time of his death, I believe he was Dean of his Dept.

My memories of Germantown are of a 13-year-old girl. Besides being a time of puberty, especially my first year there was a lesson in race relations. My hometown in Indiana was largely white, although today it has a fairly large Hispanic population and is across the river from Purdue, which has one of the largest Asian contingents of any university in the country. The black population is fairly small but was always present, & has a strong history in that community. Moving to Germantown was one of my learning moments in terms of race, as suddenly my school was about 50% African American. I have vivid memories of that year, largely because I hated the school, all the teachers in it, and because of the issue of race. I do not remember any black teachers. There might have been 1 or 2 that I did not have as a teacher of one of my classes. I was elected President of my 8th-grade class that year. I was the outsider. My job as President was to keep the kids (my peers) quiet on the bus when we traveled to a different school for “shop” and “home ec”. I never liked home ec, sucked at using a sewing machine, and found the class frustrating and debilitating. The history teacher was also our gym teacher. If she got mad at us, she would end gym class and take us back to the classroom for another history lesson (as punishment)!

In this school, we could not talk at lunch. We had to file in straight lines, without talking in the hallways, from one class to another. When we went out for “recess” the playground had no playground equipment or “jungle gyms” to climb on. From what I remember, the girls stood around and did hand games and the boys got in fights. The school also appointed 8th graders as “marshall” to walk around the lunch room and tell kids to be quiet, who might attempt to talk to one another. In other words, they were given a position of status and asked to rat on their fellow classmates. It was the most bizarre educational setting I’ve ever seen.

When I think about it, I am amazed that my parents allowed me to walk down to the train station and ride the train to school every day. I find that rather amazing. I can remember different types of black and white students in the school. Some were more street oriented than others. As students, we came together in our hatred for the school, but we were also aware of a racial difference. I do not remember any white kids having “crushes” on black kids. This would have been taboo. In those days, crushes were about all we considered doing, at age 13. I had a secret “crush” on one African American boy, John Dillard was his name. But I would have never stated this openly. I also remember another girl who was mixed race Japanese and African American. We played together every day at school, and at the train station, and we never once considered going to each other’s houses after school.

I didn’t do too well in my Presidential duties and “quit” my job. The administration wasn’t too happy with me, and I was called in for a conference, where one teacher asked me if I was an only child. I remember my father yelling at one of my teachers quite loudly into the telephone, which was very uncharacteristic of him. I “graduated” from 8th grade that year, as the school went from Kindergarden to 8th grade. From there, we went to either “Boys high school” and “Girls high school” (where Patricia Hill Collins graduated from); or to Germantown High. My family moved to Drexel Hill. When my father died of a heart attack, my mother moved her 4 kids back to Indiana.

What strikes me about “Cosmopolitan Canopies” is that they exist as interracial mixing places, where people don’t mix in their neighborhoods or living rooms. THAT is what is really needed— mixing in our living rooms. Without that, we are stuck with these “canopies” where people interact, but so superficially! I guess it is a step in the right direction, but is so far beneath the understanding of human beings as one human  race, where we truly welcome each other into our HOMES, and do our best to make the other feel comfortable, as Dr. Anderson mentions, rather than worrying about our own discomfort………. It is discouraging to me that we are still this segregated. My husband & I don’t live that way. That is, we actively seek out friendships across racial lines and this is our everyday life way of interacting. We are still affected by the racial structure of America the same as anyone else. We are aware of the effort needed to do this, but we do it. We are also aware of how much that stands out, because everyone everywhere mentions it and seems to see it as different. That is also discouraging. It should be the norm. We will never understand how to overcome these barriers without integrating our living rooms and having real discussions and sharing as family & friends. Another friend of ours wrote a book, “Seeing Heaven in the Face of Black Men”. This is about seeing one another in this light. Anderson talks about blacks always having to live with association with the black ghetto, middle class blacks having to disassociate themselves from that group, to show they are not that group. Rather than seeing the ghetto in the face of black men, we must see heaven. This is such a powerful statement, & shows the level of positive-ness that is needed to change that image. We must see the face of God in one another. See family in the face of one another.

Sociologists who influenced me

May 22, 2013

The other day at a gathering of people, I met a fellow sociologist. He had graduated from a school in England and studied Cultural Studies. I understood that is not a study of cultures, in the anthropological sense. It has more to do with culture in the form of media and how we are influenced by it, virtual becoming reality, things in ads becoming more real than that reality, and other such fun topics. He asked me who were the sociologists who influenced me the most. It had been so long since I had thought about that, I went blank. I tend to go blank anyway, when put on the spot. But I’ve been teaching for over 10 years now, and 5 years in the rural south. I learned to muffle my own opinions, in favor of getting students to voice theirs. Coming to the south, even moreso, as I was trained by some of the more liberal thinkers in the north at Purdue University. There were some who revolutionized my world, made me see it in a totally different light than I had seen it before. But in the classroom, the goal is not to promote one’s own theoretical view. I’ve taught social theory for the past 5 years, doing my best to highlight views of ALL theorists we study, as valid in their own right, & letting students critically think about who they agree with most. Sometimes it’s hard to keep my mouth shut. I do my best.

The only person who came to mind that evening at the gathering, was Herbert Blumer, symbolic interactionist I aligned myself with the most. He was one of those who made me switch gears in mid-air, made me look at my world in a fresh new light. People interact on the basis of the meaning they have for things. This meaning is formed in interaction. He also wrote a signature piece on race relations which social scientists still refer to today and use in their new books coming out. In fact, it is being rejuvenized. “Race as a sense of group position” is the title. The idea that nothing is inherently good or bad in itself, that everything that exists has no inherent meaning in and of itself but is formed in interaction with others, is a radical thought. As grad students, we one time visualized this by talking about a chair. A chair is just a piece of wood constructed in a certain way to achieve a certain end: having something to sit on. But then think of all the symbolism involved in something as simple as a chair. How about a throne– a king’s chair? Only a King is allowed to sit on it. Think about a board room — who sits in the end chair, and faces all those coming into the room? In Japanese style management, the person farthest from the door is the most powerful person in the room. In my office, I have my own office chair. It is a comfortable “professor’s chair” that someone placed there for me — although not newly ordered for me. The other chair in my room is for a student or other guest visiting. It is not as comfortable, is older and sits facing me, not facing the hallway. We also played little games with the idea of a chair, and questions different people would ask about a chair:

  • a positivist: A chair is just a chair. There is no question about its utility or purpose.
  • symbolic interactionist: What does this chair symbolize to the person sitting in it? It has no inherent meaning in & of itself.
  • feminist: Has a woman ever sat in this chair?
  • Conflict theorist: The more powerful in society have larger, more comfortable chairs.
  • Functionalist: Chairs have a purpose because they have existed over time, and in every type of culture. What function does it serve?

These are the kind of games you play as a graduate student in sociology.

So in thinking back over who influenced me the most, I came up with some female sociologists. When I read Dorothy Smith, a lightbulb went on inside me and I knew I belonged. Dorothy Smith taught me I belonged in sociology. Suddenly, the way I saw the world, as a woman traversing back & forth across the worlds of academia and home life, made complete sense and was a valid place from which to start research. Sociology didn’t have to always remain in the abstract! It could be a practical place from which to work and analyze information, and one could start from what she knows and move on from that place, to learning about others, and comparing it back to what we know. And then I read Patricia Hill Collins (along with bell ho0ks, Angela Davis & others who were not sociologists) & I learned another perspective– another view of the margins. And I realized that there is no “one” answer, or one way to look at the world. There is no “right” answer. We each just have a different and valid view of reality, and somehow putting them all together makes up the world.

Each person I read taught me another view. Edward Said, Stuart Hall, Herbert Blumer, George Mead, Marx Durkheim Weber (we almost have to say them in one breath), WEB DuBois, Oliver Cromwell Cox, anthropologists Margaret Mead, Foucault, Clifford Geertz, psycho(logist) Freud, the Frankfort School, there is such a rich history of people I read and learned from in taking classes.

Some of my professors were published and influenced me as well: Kevin Anderson (translated Marx); Anthony Lemelle (Black male identity & sexuality); Leonard Harris (Racism, Alain Locke Harlem renaissance philosopher); Siobhan Somerville, Pat Bolinger, Jeffrey Ulmer. I can think of so many who taught me so many things. I do not think I have imparted a smidgeon of the transformative thought I was exposed to in my undergraduate and graduate school days, to my students. Part of that is the culture I find myself in. When I showed Al Gore’s film on the environment, it was met with such a resistance and description of him as the devil incarnate, I quit showing it. Teaching is always a delicate balance of exposing students to new ideas and new thought, but not alienating them completely. It depends on the culture of the place, how much is offered at a time. I am still learning the balance.

Alexander Reid’s mother’s line: Harry Thomas Owen from Wales

May 21, 2013

And if, rather than following the Reid paternal line, you follow Alexander Reid’s mother’s line, you end up in WALES. The mother of Alexander Reid was Sarah Sallie Owen. Her father was John Leatherwood Owen, son of Barnett Owen, who was the son of Walter Owen, then EVAN OWEN who was born in Wales. Evan Owen’s father was HARRY THOMAS OWEN, who immigrated in 1683 to some Welsh land tracts given by William Penn, evidently to the Welsh. Harry Thomas was born in Llanfyllin Hundred, Montgomery (County?), WALES. It looks like a fascinating little town of just over 1100 people today, half of whom speak Welsh, SW of Liverpool in the mountains of Wales. There is a will left by Barnett Owens who ended up in Kentucky. To his son John Leatherwood & a few other children, he left $20 bucks each. 🙂   To other children, he left the rest of his estate in Kentucky. I think this was the beginning of my disinheritance from wealth.

Alexander Reid

May 19, 2013

My daughters or I can join D.A.R. through this person, my 4th great-grandfather, Alexander Reid, b.1755 in Greenbriar, VA, died 1851 Bedford, Indiana. AL & I found his gravesite on one visit off I65 in the middle of nowhere. There is documentation he fought and was wounded in the Battle of Germantown & the Battle of Monmouth, was discharged, later re-enlisted & was captured at the seige of Charleston, detained a month & then “made his escape”. He rec’d a pension from the govt., lived in KY & later southern Indiana. He married Rebeccah Mitchell & they had 9 children, the 9th being Thomas Reid, b. in Madison, KY in 1800. Thomas married Sarah Sallie Owen. Their 4th child was Alexander J. Reid b.1829 in KY. He married Nancy Jane Smith, & their 4th child was Charles Reid, my Grandma Mary Reid Agnew’s FATHER.

My Grandma Mary grew up in southern Indiana. That’s how she somehow met my Grandpa John Wesley Agnew down there around New Albany. She grew up in the hills & dales of southern Indiana, farther north from New Albany. It is a very pretty rolling countryside part of Indiana.
Our REID family line leads back to Lanarkshire, SCOTLAND, and then to Ulster, IRELAND. If you notice, the map of Lanarkshire Scotland is just to the east of where the AGNEWS originate from Scotland, in Lochnaw, Stranraer.
IOW, the Agnew family tree definitely leads to SW Scotland, & from there over to Ireland, & then to America.
        Alexander Reid Tanksley cem.    Lanarkshire Scotland

Sunday morning

May 19, 2013

Sunday morning

A girl walks her bike around the pond,

She wears bright pink stockings,

a dress of key lime green,

and daydreams,

Our teenage neighbor

turns up the volume on the stereo,

his parents, baby sister, away at church.

Earlier, just outside our gate, a small boy asked him

how to catch a fish,

Sky darkens,

Clouds hang heavy and low,

Silence comes to the pond,

now the color of alligators.

Martin Brink family history

May 16, 2013

So, Martin Brink immigrated from Holland in 1882, at about the age of 24. The Dutch often immigrated to Chicago. He and Trenje (Trena) were already married. in Holland, their name would be Ingbringhoff and not Brink. If records are correct, they were married in 1879. Later records list her name as Catherine or Cathrine. I didn’t know she was called Catherine.

This wife dies in 1931. Martin, however, marries her SISTER, Flor Van Shapen, in 1935 at the age of 78. He dies one year later. I have a vague memory of Trena dying from a fall down a stairs. There is some sort of memory of being told this, because it always made me think of my own grandma Cena’s basement stairway which was very steep & treachorous. I remember some older aunt telling this story & laughing about him. Martin & Trena were the parents of 5 girls, my grandma Cena being the youngest.


May 15, 2013

Today I paid my bills. This is meaningful activity to me, and gives me great joy. It is my dearest wish to pay off our debts, to live well, to be trustworthy, to be wise with money. This is truly a life goal and we have a lifetime of struggle to prove it. Some have it easier than others. Our road has not been easy.

Most of the world lives in what we would call abject poverty. This is a distressing structure of current society and must eventually change. How most of the world can be denied access to resources to allow them to develop to their full potential is beyond me. Most people are not even aware of this situation. This is because we live in a manner that allows us to be blind to the great suffering of others. Is it our fault? No, but is it theirs? We were not put upon this earth in order to hoard its luxuries. We were put here to learn to serve one another, to accompany one another on this journey. We are social creatures, we do not survive alone. We need the company of others.

No, we will never all be the same, nor will we ever share and share alike. There is something about being human that wants to strive. To each is given talents & skills & our task is to discover our own. Those that work harder should be rewarded. But that is not how society works. Those that work the hardest, day in and day out, are barely surviving. Their reward is possible survival to the next day. Those born with money who don’t work at all— live a life of luxury. The truth is, most of the wealth of the world is held by a tiny percentage of the earth’s peoples. Not because of their own merit or their working hard, but just because they were born into it. All I’m saying is, we can do better than this. Everyone has a right to an education, a right to opportunity, and most of the world doesn’t see that in a lifetime.

Meanwhile, I paid my bills. I checked off those amounts on my payday budget and feel happy and accomplished. When you have lived through times in your life when you could not do JUST THAT, it feels incredible to just be able to pay them. I pray for good health enough over the next 20 years to make a huge debt go away, and leave something to my children. Inshallah.

As the sun sets behind the horizon, I will take a late walk around the pond.


so peaceful

May 14, 2013

So peaceful, another day goes by, bright sunshine all around but cool (about 70 degrees). Turtles in large numbers now congregate on the pond, telling each other about their day. They jump or “run” (slowly crawl) away from me as I walk by. One thing I love about this pond is the mistrust of all the animals on it, of humans. This means they are still “wild” life, untamed. They live as they live and do not interact with humans. The duck population has grown rapidly, as the Neighborhood Association decided it would be a good idea to place a floating “duck house” on the water…. I don’t mind a few ducks, but now one mamma has 10 ducklings that follow her. How many do we want?? There is one larger pair of snow white ducks, no babies yet. There is the one polygamist with his two females that swim around the pond, and I SUSPECT that he fathered the other 10. Shameful!

The exception to the above “wild” life is the pair of geese, who unfortunately are being fed by the idiot down the road– the same one with a trail of cats & dogs that follow her into her house and back out again. She throws pellets to the geese, who cover the walking path now with their excrement, and said lady doesn’t seem too inclined to clean it off, since she lured them there. The geese they could do away with and I wouldn’t complain a bit. They are disgusting. Besides that, they are likely to come up to you as you walk by, now expecting a hand out, and one of them actually bumped me in the leg! They scare me and I don’t enjoy walking past them. I’m sure if I were 3 years old, I would be completely terrified.

Got my 1 hour of sun and have been since sitting inside monitoring an online discussion and lazily watching the day pass by. Very peaceful. My left knee has decided to develop a problem, so I can’t walk. I manage to hobble around the pond once a day & go to the doctor next week.

It is relaxing to be out of class. I’m sure in 3 months I will be ready for it again, but right now relieved to not have to be up on all the latest depressing news, ready to lead discussion on the latest political arguments. Most of our politicians are showing their blatant greed and hatefulness and their absolute inability to come together to resolve any one issue. I believe change has to come from the people, from Ground Zero, from collective will. Nothing is coming down the pike from the folks at the top.