HOLIDAY NEWSLETTER…..Early and Late

For many years I wrote a parody of the “Holiday Newsletter”, mailed for fun to family and friends. After 2013/2014 years of grief and sadness, the humor didn’t seem appropriate and I stopped. In 2016, my sister-in-law included my 2007 letter in her card to us. John had been after me to write them again. So I took her cue as a sign. Here is a look back at 2007.

Dear family and friends,

We didn’t think the postage for a holiday letter was in our budget this year, but we save a bunch of money by switching to Geico.

John and I are becoming naturalized to our Georgia environment. We thought we could hold out, but Georgia is as invasive as kudzu. This is the most deceptive plant ever to grow. It creeps over, under, within and through everything in its path. There are fields of kudzu, forests of kudzu, lost car lots under kudzu and a living curtain in our back yard that will hide our chicken house by the end of summer.

All Georgians have one or more chicken houses. A typical chicken house is the length of two football fields and the width of a yardstick, more a chicken hall than house. They are in every state of repair and disrepair and it appears to be illegal to remove a chicken house from any property at any time. I believe statute 111, section 14, states: a chicken house, no longer able to house and properly shelter poultry, should be evaluated as facilities to house and protect Georgia’s red ant colonies, any piece of machinery larger than a carburetor or as perpetual garage sale facilities. Under penalty of law, said chicken house may NOT be demolished as long as the last single rafter does not touch the ground. In the event that a wall collapses, so as to prevent the last rafter from ever touching the ground, the building is to remain untouched in perpetuity. It may, however, be enshrined in kudzu as property value will not diminish, nor taxes either, for that matter.

Gainesville, Georgia [nearby] is the “Chicken capital of the world”. We know that because someone decorated their water tower, in the same vein as Atlanta, Illinois being the “Paul Bunyan holding a hotdog [no one thought of an ear of corn?] capital of the world”. The things we do for, or to, our communities!]

Back to chickens; we have never actually seen any living Georgia chickens in these houses. We kind of assume they may be snuck [Georgian term] into or out of the houses, under cover of darkness – a covert meat operation possibly. We do have poultry processing plants in the area, but again, we have only ever seen empty cages on the trucks. Our food, “poultry”, may be of suspicious origins; who can say. John and I are considering the possibility that the law drove the moonshiners from their still operations to chicken operations. He found remnants of four stills on the property at his new golf club. If he can locate the chicken house, we will know for sure.

Now we did NOT say we have never seen chickens in Georgia. We see WILD chickens all the time, crossing the road, sneaking through yards, scavenging gardens and flowerbeds. We think they are the freedom fighters of their species – escapees harboring plans for revenge. Who expects to see wild chickens? Wild possum, raccoons, coyotes, a bear maybe, but wild chickens? Only in Georgia!

Worst of all, we like seeing wild chickens in our backyard and kudzu covering our chicken house. If we put one single piece of upholstered furniture on our porch, they will tattoo “Georgian” across our foreheads and we will never be able to visit Illinois, as citizens, again.

We wish you a blessed and joyous Christmas season, good humor and love.

MEMORIAL DAY When I Was a Kid

We didn’t have too many soldiers in my family, but Memorial Day was a huge day for the YOUNG family. There would be my grandparents, Elmer and Arnetta, my folks with four children, my Dad’s brother, Kent and his family, their sister, Aunt ‘Cile and her children, sometimes my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Rosa and often the youngest brother, Max and his family. It was a whole caravan of Youngs. Sometimes we met up with extended family at cemeteries where they had the closest ties.

We all put peonies, tulips, lilacs, anything blooming, into water-filled quart canning jars packed into cardboard boxes, in the trunk of each vehicle. Alongside came picnic foods, lawn chairs, card tables and horseshoes for the men.

We caravaned  to Atlanta, Stanford, McLean, and Congerville cemeteries in central Illinois, placing flowers on family graves.

Outside Congerville, we always stopped in the driveway of the local ‘sale barn’ [where livestock sales were held].  There we set up the card tables and spread the wonderful picnic foods everyone brought [my goodness, they all could cook….the best food in the world]. Following the “Young” blessing, we filled ourselves to the brim. While the women cleared and repacked, the men played horseshoes.  We dozen or more kids found some way into the sale barn and played among the pens and gates and auction desk.

After the horseshoes were over, we loaded up and headed to Mackinaw and Goodfield cemeteries before the ride back home to Atlanta.

It was always the same each year and never the same and I should do it again before it’s too late for ‘one more memory’.

God Bless our soldiers, I knew one pretty well, but my Memorial Day is also filled with how it used to be on this day each year.

 

An added note:  A few years ago, on a trip back to Illinois from our Georgia place, John and I took a day to visit all those cemeteries. I hoped to find as many graves as I could remember and write of their locations before I couldn’t. It was pretty much an all day trip, but we had a good time. We found over 50 sites of relatives and friends. I had to hunt a few, but I found them all.

I knew going home that I couldn’t possibly put flowers, real or artificial, on the graves, but my heart wouldn’t let me visit and leave nothing. Having some lovely flowered, heavy fabric on hand, I sewed small pendant-type flags and skewered them on 3/16 dowel rods. They were perfect and could be placed close to the stone and out of the way of those who mow.

My family will have to go a long way to find me in Kingston Cemetery, Pike County, Illinois someday. The stone is there and waiting for just the right time.

 

 

ALLOW ME AN OPINION

Today I was reading a commentary by Aaron Haviland titled “I Thought I Could be a Christian and Constitutionalist at Yale Law School. I Was Wrong”

He was commenting on the uproar instigated by inviting a lawyer from Alliance Defending Freedom [ADF] to speak on campus discussing Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Let me preface my writing by qualifying that I AM NOT a college graduate. And I AM a conservative. I AM, also, almost 70 years old and feel entitled to my own opinion. I think of myself as fair, not entirely acquainted with every current event, but certainly “aware” of many unfortunate things that transpire in our current world of politics, education and division among the citizens of our country.

I see division and deceit as today’s norm and I do not think this was normal in the past. We have devolved to this point when we should be striving for evolution, the supposed growth and improvement direction.

Back to my thoughts. If a law school is having a guest lawyer appear to lecture or speak, it would be my opinion that all students would benefit from hearing him/her. Law should be Law and Yale is educating the future of our legal system. It works when both sides are heard and informed decisions are made.

However, the outcry, over this speaker, was tremendous and by these university acknowledged groups among others:

LGBTQ – Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans

APALSA – Asian Pacific American Law Students Assoc

BLSA – Black Law Students Assoc

SALSA – South Asian Law Students Assoc

LLSA – Latinx Law Students Assoc

MLSA – Muslim Law Students Assoc

MENALSA – Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Assoc

JLSA – Jewish Law Students Assoc

NALSA – Native American Law Students Assoc

Yale Law Women

Yale Law Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice

Women of Color Collective

American Constitution Society

Yale Law Democrats

First Generation Professionals

These 15 groups [how many more might there be at Yale?] were protesting a single guest speaker, [regarding a current legal case] at a prestigious expensive university. REALLY?

Given all these groups, how can we not be inciting division and confrontation among the students? I can’t begin to imagine why these groups have been allowed to grow and flourish. Of course, there isn’t one group labeled as ‘white’ anything, because we have all been conditioned to regard THAT delineation as racist. How are groups of African, Color, Indian, Asian, Jewish, etc, not racist? Simple –  someone has allowed this division to be authentic and inclusion to be problematic.

When we allow and encourage this division and sorting by color or tribe or ethnicity, we are promoting racism where we should be promoting diversity of thought by a common group. If you come to the USA for an education, you should be getting indoctrinated in the commonality of all human beings, promoting the laws and statutes of the USA.  The only divergence allowed should be the interpretation of  right and wrong. We should only be promoting the ability to think and reason and debate, without regard to color, ethnicity or personal attributes.

Our universities are creating the socialist agenda by inciting. Our universities are creating racism by allowing and encouraging endless groups of diversity. Our universities are no longer for educating and producing thinking individuals. Our universities are actually inciting a specific plan of attack on our national attributes long held in trust.

Why are we paying for this? Why are we putting our precious young minds into this cesspool of waste? Who will pay the ultimate price for our lack of concern? Who is guarding our gates to the future? It certainly is not the parents of these students. It is certainly not the university boards and decision makers. We seem to think our high school graduates are no longer educated enough to be out in the world without that college diploma, but we have even less regard for the education process in their last four years than we did in the previous 12 or 13 years. We have parents who attack school boards and administrations over any infringement they perceive to their student at age 6 or 10 or 14, but no interest what so ever at the indoctrination of their 19 year old?

Parents, if you send a smart, worthy, high school graduate off to Yale, just what are you expecting to get for your money? Were you expecting that student to only assimilate with his race/creed/color/sexuality/ethnicity and their priorities, or were you hoping for a student who can function in a world that identifies everyone as thinking, educated and fair in their treatment of others? My guess is you don’t really give a rat’s ass what you get for your money as long as the name on the diploma is spelled correctly.

And that is why I think the idea of a college education is no longer the attribute it once was. We just aren’t proving ourselves worthy of safeguarding our kid’s futures, when it takes a bit of work, worry and real concern on our parts. We seem to have too much on our plates to follow through. It’s much easier to pay the big bucks and expect someone else to see to our kids and let me tell you, there are plenty out there more than willing to incite, lie, promote and indoctrinate young minds into their ways.

You can call them professors, instructors, community organizers, campus posers, university administrators, etc.; just don’t call them to care about your student, past the influx of fees and dollars you spend.  THEY HAVE AN AGENDA which includes using your child.

We have to invest more time and attention to the universities that actually teach and build thinking and learned students. We have to spend far less time and money  in the universities that condone and encourage division and student unrest at the expense of a real education.

Our children’s future, our country’s future, rests on parenting with more integrity and regard. The education world, here, has changed, but it has not evolved. We can no longer be complacent.

 

28 CARDS

My memory isn’t great at dates. Today I am sorting and purging AGAIN, and I ran across 28 cards I was keeping. I got them all for one single Mother’s Day, but which? Not sure. It may have been 2010, but it hardly matters. I got them all from the same person.

They are signed:  “Much, Much Love”,  “Hope you have a  great day”,  “WOW, are you surprised to be getting a Mother’s Day card?”,  “Sorry, all I got you was a card, LOL”,   “Hope you are loving your cards.”,  “J”,   “<3”,  “WOW, I’m nuts, LOL”,  “Much Love”,  “Oodles of love”,  “Awwww, pretty sappy huh ?!?”,  “Roses are red, violets are blue, I wonder how many cards, I actually got you…..??”,  “Who said it’s just one day”,  “LMAO”,  “Hope all these cards have helped offset the smattering of negative mail such as ….bills, invites from OH…[LOL]”,  “So, I just grabbed a card for ya….LOL”,  “We all love you”,  “Love, Travis. In case he doesn’t come thru on his own”,  “<3, Happy Mother’s Day”,  “Roses are red, violets are blue, excited about this new house, which sounds perfect for you!”,  “Love Ya”, “I love you”,  “Memories – Spider? Or cat hair – Holy Shit, SPIDER”,  “Much Amore, Madre”,  “Hope you are truly enjoying Mother’s day….which is every day!”  “Love”.

There are lines and lines of notes, quotes, poems, love and laughter spread throughout all the cards. They didn’t come all at once. It was a great time to get the mail, which is rarely that big a treat.

So one year, much love was shared, long distance. We had all those inside jokes that make up a family. A word or deed mentioned and we could both laugh “long distance”. The handwriting was family.  The cards lined our desk, decorated the night stand, and marched across the mantle. They were a rush and I loved each one and laughed in all the right places. I knew the fun that was enjoyed shopping and writing and sending. It almost matched the trip to the mailbox and the opening and reading. Sort of like a treasure box on each end.

Our family treasure boxes disappeared with the firing of a gun.  Even as grown-ups, we were unprepared and ignorant of how to walk or run or crawl beyond that single moment. The bullet ricocheted from boy to Mom to sister and brother and father and grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins and great relatives.  It is still bouncing from love to love, from caring person to caring person, plowing through each heart and moving on, target after target.  It  is coated with so much torn love and anger, the weight should have stopped its journey by now, but it seems destined to orbit our family planet far into the future.

My first instinct [remember, I’m sorting and purging] was to purge! How many keepsakes can I store? Who else would want these cards, but me? I can’t believe I still have them! The thing is ….. I read them and now I can’t throw them away. I knew what they were when I found them and that’s when I could have pitched them. After rereading them, I can’t.

I have put them back. Maybe I want them because they came “before”. Maybe I want them for the love that is on them. Maybe next time around, I will let them go.  Not today…….

 

A RAMSEY, ILLINOIS Pit Stop in Late April

Driving home from Illinois is no longer a one day trip. This past Tuesday, I left Bloomington at 5AM heading to my son’s house in Tennessee. I am NOT an interstate driver, so I had my two-lane course planned out. I could leave Bloomington heading South on US 51 South and drive all the wayyyyyyyy thru Illinois and a tiny bit of Kentucky, before getting on a different road.

About 7AM, driving thru Ramsey, Illinois, I decided to look for the local pickup truck drivers. I watch for them parked at a cafe and know that is a good spot to grab a meal. Sure enough, I spied a half dozen trucks parked and stopped in. Upon entering, there are two tables of guys  and I am certainly not what they were expecting to see over morning coffee. [I have my hair colored at the beauty shop in a most beautiful and unusual shade of purple….really, it is lovely…..but unusual.]

The easiest way to meet their stares is with “Morning guys” to them all as a group. It’s the ice-breaker. I order from the waitress and they have asked how I came to Ramsey. I say and one of the guys points to a baggie on the table asking what I think of its contents. I reply “why, you lucky dog. If you aren’t careful, I may just slip out of here with that and be thrilled to do it.” He has a bag of morel mushrooms that another guy at the table brought to him.

Morels are the prize mushroom of our Illinois world. They are to brag about, divvy up one at a time and never tell where you found them or whose property you had to trespass to get them. Supposed to be in Georgia, but I have never found any.

Best line ever, came a few minutes later when another guy at the table, said to me that Gary [the mushroom sharer] was selling morels for $5. a pound [if someone will sell, they go far higher than that], “you pick”.

It will forever be a classic line. I couldn’t help busting out laughing. And I can’t help sharing the story.

NOT YOUR REGULAR RICE

I like to go to my local health food store in Franklin, NC.  I buy luxury items. I buy things I don’t even look for in my regular grocery store and sometimes I buy something novel to try. I have a few standbys’ that are luxury, like walnut and grape seed oil by La Tourangelle. I buy chocolate bars if they happen to be on sale – dark, of course. Occasionally I buy specialty pasta [John was born with a pasta gene] and sometimes bulk items.

On one of my town trips, I stopped in to browse the healthy stuff, the supplements, my oil and the goodies, set out to entice me into spending.

In the bulk area that day, I noticed black rice.

At our house, wild rice – the absolute real deal – is a staple and as black as I had ever cooked.

SIDETRACK:  I order it in bulk from Wisconsin, 5 lbs. at a time; repackage and we eat it often. I give it as gifts too. I can blame my Northern sister on developing our ‘wild rice taste’.  It takes a long time to cook, but always worth it. No family holiday meal would be complete without wild rice. [Boil in water to cover, a cup or more plain wild rice till tender to taste – it does NOT have to be puffed and open, just nicely tender. Drain. Into a skillet, using scissors, cut ½ lb. bacon and fry till crisp. Remove bacon, and add, give or take, 1 cup of chopped onion, 1 ½ cups chopped celery, ½ cup slivered almonds [she adds sliced mushrooms-I would never]. Saute several minutes, add back your drained rice and bacon and serve. You will notice I never said to pour out the bacon grease, but you can adjust and / or include some butter as you like. Some bacon makes lots of grease, some not so much. This reheats nicely. I will eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.

Back to the health food store:  I checked out this black rice and moved on down the aisle. Soon I was back, checking the price and wondering how to cook this rice, when another customer in the store quietly said to me “you can’t buy that, of course,…..it’s Forbidden”. He was right too. The rice was called “Forbidden Rice”, plain as day on the label.  So, being a shopper AND female, it was pretty much a given that I would be buying “Forbidden Rice”.  It might end up tasting like sewage, but how could I be deterred?

I bought a ½ lb. of Forbidden Rice and took it home to sit for ages in my cupboards along with my plain white, my basmati, my rice-a-roni  [yes, I buy that too, sometimes] and my wild rice. I shelved it to the back a bit, not prominently to the front of the shelf. Because…..you know why……it was Forbidden. What if someone saw it? What if I had to explain buying that particular rice? What the heck was I going to do with it?  What recipe would disguise that it was forbidden? Dare I serve it to company? And tell them!

Turns out Forbidden Rice is just black rice – no special flavor. I know I cooked it, but whatever I cooked wasn’t the standout recipe that would stick in my mind.

The very best attribute to that rice was its name – and all the fun of it; being warned in the store, admitting to the purchase at the register, storing it at home and serving it, too.

This just goes to show a number of things.

1] I will talk to any stranger at the store, even when the talk turns to “forbidden” things.

2] It doesn’t take much to get me to part with money.

3] I can stash food for months before digging it out to cook.

4] If something is “forbidden”, I just can’t leave it alone.

5] If I can write a blog post about rice, I’ll probably write about anything.

If you go shopping your local health food store, you should be aware there could be forbidden things just waiting to accost you. And you have my permission to warn any other purchasers, “THAT RICE IS FORBIDDEN, I’ve read you shouldn’t buy it!”

ARTHUR AND MARIE

He was born in 1910. She was born in 1914. It’s an old story.

I wish I had been curious and wise enough to ask the right questions, to draw out their love story and lay it out for you here. I didn’t and I can’t.  Their story is timeless and painful.

I met them in another life when I was living out my first love story. It was a time when I was young and barely concerned with the complications of real life. I married into a family of rare generations, both fascinating and confusing. Because I was genuinely self-centered in those years, every family reunion was spent relearning who belonged to whom, their places in the family structure and trying to appear as if I knew everyone when I only saw them once a year. They all knew my place and probably knew my character flaws as well.

Anyway, I married into the early end of the lives of Arthur and Marie. Arthur, nicknamed Poddy, was my husband’s uncle, his Mother’s brother. We visited Poddy and Marie on occasion. Poddy was soft spoken, with a nice smile and he was a skilled craftsman in his wood shop. Marie was a homemaker and not soft spoken, with no smile and a sour disposition. No matter how friendly your attempt, she didn’t seem to care. I wrote it off early on, as old age.

How wrong I was! We learn life lessons in jarring ways..

Their marriage produced three children, a son and two daughters. The first was Shirley, born in 1936. Next came Freddie in 1938 and lastly Connie in 1945. In my imagination they must have had a pretty lively household with two toddlers, probably during some lean years. I like to think they were made of grit and grace, an average family, living life. Along came Connie and made her place as the baby.

Living life should be so normal and uncomplicated, but sometimes living life is just about the most cruel ordeal no one can ever prepare for. Such was the case for Poddy and Marie.

I can’t begin to dress down the tragedy of their lives. Some people just face more than should be endured…. I haven’t the details; they hardly matter. The facts are that Shirley died of rheumatic fever in 1949. She was 13. In 1952, at the age of 14, Freddie died during an operation.  In 1964, Connie died in a car accident – age 19.

And in some miraculous way for Arthur and Marie, their hearts continued to beat.