NanaSlo and Grandbaby Ella – Day One of Babysitting
(just before Mama Caroline got home from work)
please get home soon, Mama, the Nanas exhaust me
NanaSlo and Grandbaby Ella – Day One of Babysitting
(just before Mama Caroline got home from work)
please get home soon, Mama, the Nanas exhaust me
I’ll be just fine and dandy,
Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas.
I’m barely getting through tomorrow,
but still I won’t let sorrow bring me way down.
—— Carol Hall lyrics from the musical
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Gosh, the hard candy Christmas has gone viral. I thought we could keep it local with just a few hits along the holiday trail stories but nope, Newtown, Connecticut changed the name of that tune. We Americans have a tragedy of unspeakable grief that will quickly reverberate in cyberspace around the world to a populace who will ask themselves, What is wrong with those people in America?
I think it’s a fair question and one that we must ask ourselves. What is wrong with us? How do we enable and encourage this rage and senseless violence against our own? Why do we have a Columbine in our not-too-distant history and how will these same historians record the massacres in Aurora, Colorado and at Virginia Tech? What can possibly be written about the Sandy Hook Elementary School horror of losing twelve little girls and eight little boys and six adults who were their educators in a few minutes on a regular Friday morning at their public school. Much will be written through the coming years, but what we do in response to these shocking events will define our culture and our country.
To the politicians in Washington I say, You need to become statesmen and stateswomen. You need to set aside your vitriolic verbal attacks on each other. You are the adults in our family, and we have placed our trust in you by electing you to represent us and when what we see on our Ipads and Iphones and other high-tech gadgets as well as on our regular old television programs is bitterness and bickering and bashing each other verbally, you’re setting a bad example for your children. You make them believe that rage is not only acceptable but necessary. Take a deep breath. Step back for a moment. Look at yourselves and see what images you project for your people. Could you please just play nice.
To the parents who have brought children into our world and have great expectations for their futures and who now are bipolar between anger and anguish, I say I’m so sorry. No one deserves this. No one is being punished for removing God from Sandy Hook Elementary School. God isn’t in this equation or else we would have to blame Him for allowing the assailant to have weapons, wouldn’t we? Not so fast, my friend, or as my daddy and Ann Richards used to say, That old dog won’t hunt. But what can we do? Should we as parents insist on police protection for our children in all public schools regardless of age? Would police protectors be able to thwart the enraged and armed assailants? These are the questions we ask ourselves.
Which brings me to the central dilemma of the complex challenge of early identification and intervention for our Angry Ones and that is, of course, beyond Thunder Dome to me. Our children are now raised in a culture of violence. They play games with it, they sing songs about it, their heroes are violent athletes, their movie stars make action movies with so much “action” their hearing is impaired when they leave a theater, their country sends soldiers to places they have to learn to pronounce and spell like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria…Viet Nam…Korea..and these soldiers kill other people in the name of peacekeeping. Our children are surrounded by violence. They may go to sleep with the sound of gunfire in their neighborhood and on their street corners. They may wake the next morning to find a friend, cousin, uncle, father or brother has died during a battle over what? Drugs? Gangs? Money? Territory? Aha. There we have it. There is no escaping the violence so why on earth would we be surprised that these children who are accustomed to violence, who have access to weapons, would shoot us when we make them mad or when we are, well, just being ourselves and they don’t like us that way?
This is the season of hope, joy and celebration for some; the Prince of Peace and Santa Claus are the bearers of Good News and Great Gifts for many of us. But it is also a season of sadness for those who have lost family during 2012 and who will be reminded that their holiday season is different this year. The season won’t be the same – ever. Some people will struggle to find the money to give their children what they want under the tree. Friction and tension will make family gatherings more problematic than peaceful. In our sense of hurry and anxiety over putting food on the table we might miss the opportunity to say: I love you today, I love you every day and you will always be special to me.
I remember a hard candy Christmas with the disappointment of not getting what I wanted from Santa Claus but rather getting a sack of penny candy of bright different colors that tasted alternately sweet and sour but couldn’t be chewed at first because it was so hard. Gradually though, if you waited long enough, you could bite the smaller piece in two and swallow them both. Success. Astonishingly delicious.
I expected a hard candy Christmas personally this year for a number of reasons, but I wasn’t prepared for a national one. Regardless, here it is and my hope is that America will never be the same – ever. That our national consciousness is raised to include in our vocabulary the words kindness and reconciliation and forgiveness and a genuine passion for a better world. We’ve waited long enough. We have tasted both the sweet and the sour and, as Dolly Parton sings through the lyrics of Carol Hall, we won’t let our sorrows bring us down.
(Originally posted on December 16, 2012)
Pretty will be the first to tell anyone that I am the world’s last to know anything about pop culture because I am not a twitterer, instagrammer, pinterester, redditer, or snapchatterer. I am not linked in, tik tokked, or tuned in or up on most days. I’m not passing judgment on any of these or the countless other social meda platforms nor am I necessarily proud of being uninformed although I remain stubbornly committed to Facebook regardless of whether anyone is bothering to influence my vote in the 2020 election. Just try. Please try. I will get you.
I do, however, continue to watch CBS Sunday Morning faithfully because it is one show that Pretty and I can enjoy together. (Remember she continues to boycott all real news programs since the 2016 elections but instead gets her news information from Twitter.) So yesterday Pretty half watched CBS Sunday Morning by herself until I straggled in from our bedroom in a semi-conscious state thirty minutes into the broadcast. Segments came and went as I ate leftover sweet potato casserole from Thanksgiving for breakfast before taking my morning meds.
I was shaken out of my television reverie by the Faith Salie commentary called OK, BOOMER in which she humorously described ok, boomer as a recent put down by the Gen Z (1995 – 2010) population of their aging Baby Boomer elders (1946 – 1961). Hm. What up, Gen Z?
Apparently we the Boomers are being blamed for “rising waters, disappearing species, crippling debt and crumbling democracies.” Whaat? That’s all our fault? Easy for you to say, 48-year-old Faith Salie (Gen X 1961 – 1981). Where were you guys when we were ruining climate change? Ho, ho, ho – and a merry old millenial (1981 – 1996) to you all for a holiday season free of guilt for any of the world’s most dangerous threats. The Boomers did it.
Anyhow, as my now deceased Greatest Generation friend Libby Levinson used to say whenever she was about to change the subject, Faith’s sally struck a nerve that I usually reserved for my free-floating anxiety over the current criminals in charge of the country. It was a bridge too far.
I can’t bear to be thought of as old and irrelevant, I ranted to Pretty who was quite familiar, of course, with the OK BOOMER memes. Then I got irritated with her for not feeling disrespected because she was, after all, one of those Bad Old Boomers herself. The only person who can ever make you feel disrespected is yourself, Pretty said. Oh, sure, I said. Go ahead and quote one of my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quotes back to me. Sigh. I could feel the air being let out of my anger. That Pretty.
Today I sat in the pedi chair that belongs to the great pedicurist/philosopher Esther Isom who was responsible for the title of my last book: Four Ticket Ride. I couldn’t let the Ok, Boomer thing go so I was still raving about it from her chair which reminded me somewhat of a throne so I’m sure I had my proclamation tone in full force. I couldn’t believe Esther hadn’t heard of the funny haha put down from our children either, because she also was always in the cultural know, but she took it with a grain of salt.
Tell them let’s see what you got first, she said with a laugh. Of course we won’t be around to know how they’ll do, she continued, but they’ll learn life isn’t as simple as they think it is.
Point taken. I am not unaware of my generation’s shortcomings – we have been poor stewards of our planet, insensitive to the needs of the poor, squandered the earth’s resources to keep gasoline in our vehicles, failed at equality for people of color, elected corrupt public officials at every level of government – to name a few. I sadly recognize and confess my Baby Boomer sins.
But hey, we’ve been on the front lines marching against the Viet Nam War, opened up amazing opportunities for women in the work force and athletics, secured marriage equality for same sex couples, fought for civil rights; and worked, worked, worked to achieve the American Dream. We were competitive but with the spirit of a rugged individual. We were the original gangsters so… before you write me and my cohorts off as ancient and irrelevant, let’s see what you got first, kids.
In the meantime, show some respect.
“The oak trees were alive with color in the midst of the evergreens. Bright red and yellow leaves catching the sunlight as Daddy and I walked through the brush. The smell of the pines was fresh and all around us. We didn’t speak, but this was when I felt most connected to my father. Nature was a bond that united us and the gift that he gave me. And not just in those East Texas woods. He envisioned the whole earth as my territory and set me on my path to discovery. In 1958, this was remarkable in a girl’s father…
To this day, Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday. It seems less commercial than the others and struggles to hold its own before the onslaught of merchandising that we call Christmas. The dinners in the fancy restaurants and hotels and cafeterias never measure up to the feasts my grandmothers served their families.
Perhaps, though, it is the love and closeness of those family ties that leave the sights and sounds that last a lifetime.”
This excerpt from the chapter Thanksgiving in the Piney Woods is from my first book Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing. I was so surprised when the book received a 2008 GCLS Literary Award – and thrilled, too.
my family on my grandparents’ front steps circa 1956
(I am seated on the bottom row in my flannel shirt and corduroy pants,
unsmiling, at my mother’s request for some strange reason)
Today is a different Thanksgiving in a different home in a different state in a different century, but I still believe in the love and closeness of family ties that bring the sights and sounds that last a lifetime. I know they have in my lifetime.
And now for Thanksgiving in 2019 we are beyond Thunder Dome thankful for the new family member we love to hold and hope she looks our way with smiles. Pretty is beside herself with our granddaughter Ella Elisabeth James, and so am I.
Ella loves her NanaT
Pretty and I wish all of you in cyberspace that love and closeness on this special day for thanksgiving.
Pretty and I have so much to be thankful for this year I plan to do a Very Thankful Thanksgiving post in the next few days – complete with pictures of our six weeks old baby granddaughter. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday between Halloween and New Year’s Day because the traditions of family times and places on that holiday linger in my memories alongside my hopes for the promises of a new year.
However, I also have much for which I am not thankful as the year comes to a close. I live in a polarized country that now has the weight of an impeachment process in the Congress, the “almost third” such process (I saw Nixon resign and walk away with his now famous V sign in 1974) in my lifetime. Nixon. Clinton. And now Trump. The public hearings that began this week gave the American people a better understanding of a president who apparently serves at and for his own pleasure. This is not a pretty picture, and as Wanda Sykes likes to say when she makes fun of white people and our free-floating guilt, it makes me sad.
As if the impeachment process weren’t enough to make me less thankful, I find the more compelling news articles in 2019 weren’t articles of impeachment but those regarding the creation of detention centers along the southern borders of my home state ofTexas and other states to accommodate the thousands of Latino refugees seeking asylum from persecution in their own countries.
An image forever etched in my brain is of Salvadoran Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande River from Mexico to safety in the United States in June of 2019. Their story is only one of many who made the treacherous journey to the US only to find – not freedom – but incarceration in a detention system run by for-profit companies that are often more interested in what they are paid than the people in their care.
According to The Guardian.com the number of persons living in detention centers throughout the United States totals 52,722 as of September 10, 2019. Unbelievable.
On our way home from babysitting our grandbaby tonight, Pretty asked me to please stop being so negative about the football coach, the football team, the rainy weather, the cold weather, politics, the president and whatever else we were talking about. Evidently I had a pre-Thanksgiving meltdown right there in the car. She told me my passionate outpourings made her more worried and raised her anxiety level. When I asked her whether she didn’t share my thoughts, she said she did indeed about almost everything I’d brought up but she preferred keeping her opinions to herself and offered a suggestion to me that I do the same. I told her I felt less anxious if I spoke up and shared my worries with her.
Hm. Maybe I should limit my negative opinions to my blogs. Now there’s an idea Pretty will support.
Stay tuned for my Very Thankful Thanksgiving post.
Good morning … or afternoon, he said glancing at the clock on the wall, why don’t you come over here and we can talk while we wait?
I glanced around the usually filled waiting room at the rehab facility to see an elderly man sitting by himself. He was wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap so I knew he was retired military and probably about my age.The white hair definitely looked like my hair color. His blue jeans did their best to hang in there under the weight of a man whose belly fell over the belt struggling with the blue jeans. I recognized that look and the battle with the jeans because I fought that same battle every day. Yep, we were two old people sitting in a rehab waiting room. Evidently one of us was looking for conversation.
Sure, I said with what I hoped was an air of conviviality, and sat down in a chair across from him. Not too close but closer than I would normally sit with someone as I waited for my PT trainer to appear with a wave that signaled I was up next.
What would you like to talk about? I asked him, expecting a dialogue in which we compared our progress in rehab and complained about how hard it was to get better once you’d had knee replacement surgery or some other body part that was now a foreign object in opposition to our own natural parts that had worn away with age.
Politics, he said rather abruptly, but seemingly something that popped out of his mouth with no forethought.
I was stunned. I was on the short side of time with my second knee’s rehab, and I had sat in that same waiting room 44 times during the past six months, and not one time had anyone mentioned the word politics to me. Just my luck – I was ready for the light at the end of the tunnel, and here comes a train.
Uh, actually I don’t think politics is a good topic for us today, I said with what I hoped was a degree of innocence.
Why not? he asked.
Well, I said, as I quickly ran through 40 years of political activism in my mind, I don’t think you and I would be quite on the same page in a political discussion. You see, I’m what’s now referred to as an ancestral Democrat and I’m very aware that this county has only a few of us – I’m guessing only one in this waiting area.
He thought about that for a second, then frowned. I gave 21 years of my life to the military and another 25 in civil service, he said. I’ve got two types of health insurance – Medicare and another one, and you (pointing a finger at me) have got candidates running around talking about Medicare for all and taking away my health insurance plans. I don’t like that. I don’t want to hear about it.
First of all, I said, thank you for your service to our country and I believe you should have any benefits available so I am very happy for your retiree benefits. Some of the Democratic candidates have other ideas for health care so we won’t know until the primaries whose ideas will win the day. He continued to frown.
Luckily, I was saved at that moment by my PT trainer who brought this man’s wife out from the training area. No wonder we hadn’t talked about rehab – he wasn’t there for his own sake. He had brought his wife who was celebrating her last day in PT. She hugged my trainer who had already motioned in my direction.
I saw the train whiz by without incidence as light reappeared at the end of the tunnel. Only four PT sessions left. Get me out of here, Percy.
Pretty began today by announcing she wished we turned back the clocks every night. If we did, she continued, she would be out of bed every morning at a respectable hour. That’s hilarious, I said, and laughed.
Our conversation went downhill from there because I was watching the news, of course, and Pretty tuned in long enough to give her opinion on the latest WSJ/NBC poll which showed 46% of those questioned would vote against Agent Orange in 2020, 34% said they planned to support AO for sure, and 17% said their vote depended on the candidate – to which Pretty added the comment that the 17% were ashamed to say they would vote for AO again. You go, Pretty. Snap! Pretty really shines when she has that extra hour of sleep.
Frankly, my dears, our topic shifted from the quid pro quo of Agent Orange that precipitated the formal impeachment proceedings against him this week – the topic of the Sunday morning news programs – to an old Mother Goose Rhymes book published in MCMLIII (1953 for those of you who are struggling with your Roman Numerals) by Platt & Munk Publishers. Now what is the reason for our newfound interest in nursery rhymes?
Because we have a grandbaby in the nursery, and she apparently is wild about Pretty’s version of Pat A Cake which includes animation and bears slight resemblance to the version in the Mother Goose Rhymes book. But whatever works, right?
I decided to reacquaint myself with the Mother Goose tales in the book and was pleased to recognize several favorites I could still recite to our new grandbaby.
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.
Now that was as easy as the ones about Jack and Jill, Little Boy Blue and Little Jack Horner who sat in a corner and stuck his thumb where he really shouldn’t have. But then I ran across one of the rhymes I’d forgotten.
There was a crooked man, and
he went a crooked mile,
And he found a crooked sixpence
against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat, which
caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a
little crooked house.
That Mother Goose had it going on. Who knew she could be so prescient about politics in the 21st. century. Substitute Agent Orange as the “crooked man,” and all the other “crookeds” fall into place. He bought a few crooked cats named Giuliani, Barr, Pence, and Pompeo who conspired to withhold aid appropriated by Congress for an ally that was in a precarious position until this ally dug up dirt on a political opponent in the 2020 election. Mother Goose might think this quid pro quo was what she would call an old-fashioned shakedown.
And now they all live together in the West Wing of the White House.
I’m not teaching Ella this rhyme until the crooked man has slipped off the wall with Humpty Dumpty.
Give credit where credit is due. Mick Mulvaney was actually born in Alexandria, Virginia – not South Carolina, according to his Wikipedia profile, and grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. He didn’t attend any schools or colleges in South Carolina but at some point in his life he moved to a Charlotte suburb called Indian Land which is, indeed, just across the state line in South Carolina.
His political career began with four years in the SC state legislature so my state gets total recognition for the man who would be Acting Chief of Liars in the West Wing of the current chaotic administration that belongs to Agent Orange turning to Red.
Here’s the thing, Mick. I watched your entire infamous press conference last Thursday, the 17th., in living color on a regular tv from my favorite ancient recliner in the den. I wasn’t streaming on any devices. I didn’t take a break to go to the kitchen to get a Butterfinger. I didn’t walk around outside with my dogs. No one interrupted your comments by calling or texting me. Nope. I saw the whole thing.
Several hours after I watched you spell out Agent Orange’s foreign policy as a pay for play high stakes game with our national security twisting in the wind, you called Mulligan which is a word used by golfers to get another shot when they knock the ball so far out of the fairway they’ll never find it in the woods. Mulligan, mulligan, you cried. I never said any of that about Quid Pro Quo or any of those other things like Get Over It or We do it (foreign policy) All the Time This Way. Never. Never. Never. It’s just those mean old liberal media peeps getting the words turned around to suit their evil intentions to undermine Agent Orange who is, as we all know, out to make not only America great again but restore Civilization as well.
Hm. I wonder if you still have that minority interest in Salsarita’s restaurant chain? Maybe that experience will qualify you for an executive position in the successful hospitality business you claim is the ultimate goal of Agent Orange “in the end.”
Because the end is headed your way as surely as a freight train coming at you. There’s no light at the end of your tunnel.
Pretty and I actually watched the Dems debate last night together all the way to the end of the three hours plus a few minutes over (which was significant because Pretty typically gets her debate news from Twitter so I struggled along by myself on the first three and since I struggled by myself, I set a personal limit of two hours… then I stuck a fork in either them or me).
As we listened and watched last night, we talked about the candidates to begin to make our own short list out of the dozen on the stage to a manageable group of four or five. That number was arbitrary on our part, although some of the political pundits ostensibly favored the smaller number for the November (gasp! another one so soon?) debate.
Throughout the evening I gave in to my selfish leanings toward the candidates who promised me the largest increase in my monthly income. For those of us who live on fixed incomes, that’s a major concern. Andrew Yang was the clear winner on that score with his continued MATH (Make America Think Harder) promise of $1,000 per month to every citizen, but I have to admit even I have begun to question the concept of the VAT – value added tax – since it’s passed along to the poorest consumers who may need the extra $1,000 just to keep up with the large increases in the costs of food, gas, shelter, automobiles, computers, etc. which is short for Everything The Consumer needs.
Pretty, who has never been a member of the Yang Gang, vetoed him again last night.
Senator Kamala Harris who was my first choice for the nominee before any of the debates, cuts Yang’s promise of $1,000 per month to $500 per month – her solution advocates a $6,000 earned income credit for everyone who needs it. Oh well, maybe not everyone who needs it, but I feel sure I would qualify under any plan she proposes. Pretty and I both like Senator Harris, but last night we decided to make her Attorney General to rule over and redo a US Justice Department that has confused the interests of the American people and the Constitution of the United States with the interests of Individual Number One whose position becomes more precarious as the days go by.
As the evening wore on, I agreed to let Julian Castro go back to Texas with Beto O’Rourke. I had hoped for a better showing from my Texas guys, but sadly, I finally agreed with Pretty that neither one of them was really presidential material right now. Goodbye, Texas. Perhaps a new Cabinet position for Southern BorderDisasters with Beto and Julian serving as co-chairs with a mandate to please, God, close those detention camps and help the people in them to breathe free air again. Give them a home where they safely belong.
Tom Steyer, I have supported your campaign to remove Individual One since 2016, but Pretty says no so off you go. Regretfully I say thanks for your service but no thanks for being the president. Possibly Secretary of the Interior or Treasury Secretary since you are a bona fide billionaire.
Speaking of thanks for your service, let me add my gratitude to the two veterans who are still in the running – two veterans with a very different attitude toward foreign affairs: Representative Tulsi Gabbard and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. This is how Pretty and I know we are out of step with the mainstream. Many in the media and at home in their living rooms evidently thought Mayor Pete had a very strong debate performance. My cousin Melissa, for example, who I can count on for honesty told me today that she is now in the Buttigieg camp after his winning ways over the field last night. She remains moveable, however.
Pretty and I both love Mayor Pete but we see him as a President in the Future, not in 2020. We’re keeping him on our short list, however. I reluctantly say goodbye to Rep Gabbard because whenever she asked if she would make a great Commander in Chief of the armed forces, I answered yes. Pretty vetoed her in general and wouldn’t even go along with me when I wanted to make her Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs. Adios, Tulsi.
Hm. That leaves us with Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and ex VP Joe Biden. This is a tough group to say good bye to on so many levels. I have appreciated Amy Klobuchar since her questioning of the Supreme Court nominees – I think she’s wicked smart plus when I saw her making her announcement outdoors during a snowstorm, I have to say I was impressed. Pretty doesn’t share my enthusiasm, but I think Amy might be a dark horse. She’s won every race she’s run before, she said. Leave her on the stage, Pretty.
The frontrunners according to the polls (that are questionable on their reliability) – Sanders, Biden, Warren – are all in their seventies which makes them as old as I am and I, like former President Jimmy Carter, know for sure I don’t need to be President at my age so I doubt any of this group should be either but what the heck, Pretty and I decided to join the Warren bandwagon for now; however, we are, like my cousin Melissa, moveable. We added Senator Booker to our ticket for VP for various reason that include we’ve liked him for a long time. He’s younger, more energetic and understands the wounds that divide our nation. Bring it on, VP Cory.
Finally, did anyone other than me hear Elizabeth Warren say she supports a $200 per month raise for Social Security recipients? What’s not to like about that?
Totally unrelated picture – but what a look from
Grandbaby Ella who is two weeks old this week
I’d love to know what she saw?