Thursday, November 26, 2009

Day 179/365 A Thanksgiving Story...with apologies to Truman Capote

This is a Thanksgiving story like no other -involving hot dogs, woodburning pot-belly stoves, roaming buffalo, a high school prom gown, and a Nascar hat.....and West Virginia.

Are you thinking there's no way I can wrap all that into a coherant story?

Watch me.

The background.....

Appalachia, Christmas 1955. That's me in the middle, tasting my uncle's finger. More pertinent to this story, that's my favorite cousin, Pete, on the right. He's insisting to one of my parents that, yep, the baby sure does love moonshine!


Fast forward to Christmas 1960. Me n' Pete. No idea what we were up to, but whatever it was, no good came of it. At some point, he had decided I was actually his little sister, rather than his cousin, thereby taking up the burden of teaching me about life.


Pete's graduation picture, 1968. More than a few disillusioning years later.

The suit was borrowed from our granddaddy, and the sleeves are too short. The flower in the buttonhole was bright red and this is the only time I ever saw him in Sunday clothes. Pete had ears like my granddad's, rolled his cigarettes up in his sleeve, and loved Elvis and fast cars more than life. Later this day after graduation, he would take me out to teach me how to drive (I was 13). He figured the best way to do this was on a twisty, mountain road, after dark. There may have been more moonshine involved. All I remember is him saying "just because there's an brake don't mean you have to use it."


I don't feel free to go into all the details of his life - he got the short end of the stick, actually the short end of several sticks. He consistently made poor decisions, and I have several letters he wrote me from prison. And once he got a extra-long car-carrier tractor trailer stuck in an S-switchback curve on the backside of Hungry Mother State Park, which,in retrospect, was clearly posted "No Tractor Trailers", but, hey, he thought he could make it.

In spite of all that, and maybe because of it, he was always my most beloved cousin. He was the sort that would always be there for me, no matter what. He was the one who always did something outrageous, and many times, probably illegal. I can still hear him saying "That's my baby cousin!"

So in 1997, a few days before our first Thanksgiving back in Virginia, my favorite cousin Pete died.

It was sudden. He had lung cancer that was trumped by a massive heart attack at the breakfast table.

Being Pete, he completely upstaged Thanksgiving Day with his funeral and everyone had to drop their normal Turkey Day plans to travel to West Virginia for the services.



The Paint Bank General Store was the only place to eat between Roanoke and Gap Mills. This is the new,improved version. Thanksgiving 1997 was several years before this version was available.


The general store had wooden floors with a pot-belly stove, the original display cases with dusty piles of faded merchandise, 1970's postcards, and the worst hot dogs I have ever eaten. It was a glorified bait shop.

Note*Someone has since purchased it and performed a miracle. It has a proper restaurant, and wonderful food, and is well-worth the trip. Not sure if they still carry bait.

From the general store, there is only one road to Gap Mills. It is lined with buffalo. Live buffalo.

Large buffalo. Large buffalo that come right on up to the side of the car. They do not care if you are funeral-bound. They do not care that you are in a car, or possibly, that you exist at all. They are buffalo. Very very large buffalo.

Driving around the buffalo, we eventually arrived in Gap Mills. There are only two streets, therefore we only made one mistake before we found the correct road to the church. This particular church has sat in these West Virginia hills since the 1800's, and its most sophisticated feature was the doorway. Inside, there were eight pews on either side framing a potbelly stove that provided meager warmth. The carpeting was faded and worn, and the original oil lamps still hung on the walls between the windows.

Various family members were there, including one aunt who was there hoping for nothing more than good food afterwards, the other cousins who weren't on speaking terms with Pete when he died (they may have been hoping for a meal too), four out of five of Pete's step-children (the fifth is in the service in Germany) and their mother (Pete's current and third wife), plus his first and second wives.

The remaining pews were filled with either friends or extended family of one of the wives, including several men in flannel shirts and a couple in ill-fitting black dress suits, more than a few women in blue jeans, and one woman in a pink-sequined floor-length prom dress.

Pete was laid out in a long-sleeve shirt, jeans and his favorite NASCAR baseball hat with his pouch of chewing tobacco tucked in the casket, right where he could reach it when he needed it.

When everyone else thinks of a Thanksgiving with a beautifully basted turkey, cranberry sauce, and an elegant tablesetting, I think of buffalo, hot dogs and pink prom gowns.

And my much-missed, favorite cousin, who has now left the building, and left it much emptier than I ever imagined it could be.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 178/365 The Least Stressful Holiday

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, DC—October 3, 1863



The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Abraham Lincoln


Thanks to the National Archives, our particularily American national treasure.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 177/365 Old-Fashioned Christmas Merchandising

Ever find yourself yearning for the good ol'days? Those days when Christmas wasn't so commercial? When the Christmas shopping season didn't begin in August?

Those old-fashioned days when a Philadelphia merchant thought of a great promotional idea allowing kids to come and visit Santa in his store (conveniently located in the toy department), and Montgomery Ward created Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer as a promotional tool, with a full-color picture book given out with every order.

Roanoke Virginia (our nearest little "big" city) had a creative Christmas merchandising idea: 60 years ago tonight for the first time they built and illuminated the Mill Mountain Star, a 100-foot-tall neon star, stuck at the top of Mill Mountain, overlooking the valley.



Previously, all Mill Mountain had was an incline railroad, which is long-gone today, but if you now where to look, the tree lines can still be seen. Today, there has been occasional mention of reinstating the incline, but so far it hasn't happened.

Shortly after the star was finished in 1949, this is what it looked like. Behind it you can see the Franklin County valley stretching towards Rocky Mount. In front of the Star is the scenic overlook.


Form the overlook, this is the city of Roanoke, and the Roanoke Valley.


The same view at night. Roanoke looks for all the world like a beautiful metropolis. Why all those lights are on is beyond me, because this town rolls up it's sidewalks at 10 pm.


A refurbishment in 1997, just to give you an idea of the size. During it's construction, roughly 25 people worked on it, without safety harnesses, in the cold mountain winds. No one got hurt and no one fell. No one really paid much attention to it. It was just another job, a commercial endeavor, a marketing ploy by the local merchants association. No one expected it to stand for 60 years.

Originally, the neon lights were red and white. During the Bicenntennial, blue was added. During the Virginia Tech shootings, the star shone all white. The star is turned on from dusk to midnight, and can be seen for 60-75 miles from airplanes. In 1999, this big Christmas decoration was placed on the National Register of Historic places. Long before this, the city had adopted its nickname from the neon structure: the Star City.

So the next time Christmas seems too commercialized, just remember one of those gimmicks might catch on, and you could be looking at it for the next 60 years.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 176/365 Angels on the Head of A Pin

There are a handful of pivotal days in history-those days where entire cultures remember where they were and events as they unfolded: the news of the firing of Fort Sumter and four years later the assassination of Lincoln, the assassination of President Garfield, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the dropping of the atomic bomb, and of course the assassination of John Kennedy.

Those events are so huge, so looming, that it's always surprising to find out that other things happened throughout history on that day as well.

On November 22:

Blackbeard the pirate died in 1718

Charles de Gaulle was born in 1890

The SOS distress signal was officially adopted in 1906 (just six years before the Titanic would use it to no avail)

The Beatles White Album was released in 1968

The Concorde began flying between New York and Europe in 1977

Mae West died in 1980

Margaret Thatcher resigned


There is no mass cultural memory that recalls where we were when Mae West died, or what it was like when the first Concorde took off.

Television and the internet have made it easier to create mass cultural memories. Events like Columbine stand out in most American's memories (except for one 20-something in my daughter's English class, who was completely lost when another student's paper on "Columbine" was read. She kept whispering "What's Columbine????" Some people will always be oblivious to the life around them).

Meanwhile as the "touchpoint" generation for each of these events ages and passes on, all we have is the written or recorded memory. There are no living witnesses to the Civil War and World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 1000 a day. In forty years, almost all of the generation who were children when John Kennedy was assassinated will be dead.

When the primary witnesses to history are gone -the ones that lived it or witnessed it, or felt the immediate impact, the touchpoint is gone. The event passes into the pages of history, and recedes from human memory, make it easier to re-write history to achieve momentary goals of politicians and businessmen.

At some point in the future, perhaps the CIA will feel safe enough to release the almost one million pages of records it has retained on the Kennedy assassination, before someone decides to destroy and re-write the historical record.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 175/365 All the News in Black and White

I think November 22, 1963 set the tone for the rest of my life.

Ever since then, I've never accepted the government's explanation for much of anything, from a parking ticket to the war in Iraq. That day was the beginning of my distrust of any "official"
authority.

And it was the only time I ever saw a teacher slap a student.

We were sitting in third grade and Stephanie had been sent to the principal's office with some note or the other. She came back and said no one would take her note, that they were listening to the radio. No-nonsense Mrs. Parnham insisted that was silly, and Stephanie said the principal told her the president had been shot. And Mrs. Parnham slapped her, and said that was a horrible thing to say and she shoud be ashamed of ever saying something that awful.

It was only the first in a long line of awful things that week.

Being that my school was in Lousiania, Catholic bastion that it was (is?), the Kennedy's were very popular there. Our school was dismissed immediately while the parochial school on the side of the playground fence was hurrying to mass to pray. The nuns had tears running down their faces with handkerchiefs clutched in their hands, and the kids looked as confused as we were.

I found my mother sitting in front of the TV, crying, while Walter Cronkite fought to keep his composure. Dinner that night was a peanut butter sandwich because no one could tear themselves away from the TV screen.

Dad came home early from work, and while watching the evening news, I heard him say "Johnson finally did it." Later, when it was discovered that Oswald had been living in New Orleans, it was almost impossible not to jump to the conclusion that the mob had something to do with the assassination. After all, it was a long-standing tradition in New Orleans that the mob had something to do with everything.

I had been given a new scrapbook several weeks before and still wasn't sure exactly what I was suppose to put in it. Pretty photos of nature? Interesting animals? That weekend I put my first picture on page one: a grainy black and white newspaper photo of the riderless horse with the stirrups turned backwards as it followed the cassion in John Kennedy's funeral.


While I glued it in place, the TV ran in the background, the sound of those drums permanently sticking in my memory.


For someone my age, in 1963, the president was still The President, the only guy bigger than your Dad. The government was trustworthy, and Americans were good people. Bad things didn't happen to our country -we had the good life.


It was literally earth-shattering to have a president assassinated. Coming a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was terrifying, particularily living in southern Louisiana, well within range of Cuban missiles. As young as I was, the assassination was much worse than 9-11. It was a very personal event, as if a family member had been lost.


Someone pulled the rug out from under us, our world was shaken and turned upside down,and life shifted into black and white, with nothing quite ever again as it had been.

As it turned out, it was just the beginning -the top of the hill before a very, very long descent.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 174/365 Health Care, 1887 Style

When a person finally gets around to researching their family history, it's with the assumption that whatever ancestors they find, they will like. Funny anecdotes and charming stories will abound, and the ancestors will be, for the most part, upstanding citizens and people one would be proud to be descended from.


Logically of course this cannot be true for everyone. What about the family that is more complicated, with accomplishments and lofty endeavors that, for the most part, make their descendants proud - with the exception of one glaring event that seems, well, not admirable, not easily understood, and, at best, not explainable?


The young Civil war soldier above is my great-great grandfather, Robert Crutchfield Green. The day this was taken, April 16, 1861, he was in his hometown of Marion,Virginia. It was four days after Fort Sumter had been fired on, and the day after Virginia voted for secession. This photo was taken by a traveling photographer who saw a profitable window open when he set up his cameras inside the Marion railroad depot. Over a hundred young soldiers departed that day to join the Stonewall Jackson Brigade, the first troops to travel by railroad. The train transported the "Smythe County Blues" to Richmond, and then further on to Bull Run,Virginia, where my grandfather would be injured, recouperating during the winter of 1861, only to return to fight for four years until the surrender of the Confederacy at Appomatox in 1865, one of only nine surviving soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade.


Upon his return, he married my great-great-grandmother, college-educated Adeline Virginia Magruder, granddaughter of Patrick Magruder, the second Librarian of Congress. Robert Green defnitely married up. His marriage to my great-great-grandmother opened doors for him. Even when I was growing up (100 years later), she was still referred to as being from the "Virginia Magruders".


Robert and Addie married, remained in southwestern Virginia and enjoyed being the big fish in the little pond. They eventually had three daughters and one son. The son never amounted to all that much, but the daughters all became school teachers, eventually marrying a doctor, a successful businessman, and the last, Josephine Ellen Green, married a prosperous landholder, becoming my great-grandmother.


But I've jumped ahead in the story. This is Robert in 1886, twenty years after the War, aged considerably by it. He will live until 1916, traveling to veteran reunions, living with his daughters, serving as postmaster, but never speaking of the War, until his deathbed, when he will dictate his experiences in great detail as if they had happened the day before, to be written down by his best friend.
This is my great-grandmother, Robert and Addie's daughter, Josephine Ellen Green. She is approximately 18 years old, and the year is 1887.

Josie has just been sent to her Magruder relatives in Columbus,Mississippi, to attend the Female Academy. In a longstanding tradition of the Magruder family (one that has been passed down through the years), she will become the next in a long line of college educated women. At the age of 18, she has traveled from her home in the Virginia mountains, attended college in Mississippi,and the following summer (1888), she will return home to Virginia by way of the western frontier of Chillicothe, Missouri, where she will visit more Magruder relatives.

Fast forward 74 years.


This is Josie, at age 94, standing next to her mother's (Adeline Virginia Magruder Green) gravestone. That's how long it took her to find it.


For the first twenty-two years of their marriage, Robert and Addie raised children, built houses, and prospered. In 1887, Robert had Addie committed to the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum in Marion, Virginia. It was brand-new, a huge brick Gothic much-touted state of the art facility with "large rooms to contain the insane". Addie was one of the "charter" group of nine patients, those lucky enough to be admitted quickly.

Although I have Robert's letters from this period, and those of his daughter as she attended college and traveled around the county, and those of another daughter, and even one letter from the son to his father - never, never once, do they mention Addie. There is no "I saw your mother today", or "How is mother? When will she be home?" Not once.

The Lunatic Asylum opened during the summer of 1887, with my great-great-grandmother admitted almost immediately. By August 1888, she was dead. Letters we have from this time period do not mention her death. It's as if she never existed. In a family that kept photographs of daughters, husbands, cousins, horses, dogs, and farmland, not one picture was kept of Adeline Virginia Magruder.

Having the advantage of hindsight though, I now know what Robert Green did. In late August 1888, possibly on the 25th or 26th, he traveled alone by train to Marion, Virginia from his home in Bland County. In Marion he procured a team of horses and a wagon. His wife's body was released to him on August 26. He drove the wagon loaded with her body back into Marion, and then approximately 15 miles further on, to a tiny settlement called Chatham Hill. There, he buried his wife. If he had stopped overnight, then traveled another 20 miles, he would have been home, at the family cemetary.

The little wooden church is still standing in Chatham Hill, and there is a tidy cemetary, and my great-great-grandmother's gravestone is standing on the very,very edge of it. As far from the others as possible, and completely without family.

It took 74 years of looking to find her. And even then, my great-grandmother Josie never left the information in writing. It took me several years to locate it once again.

What possessed Robert to pack his wife off to a medical facility where they were proud of attempting medical procedures that would eventually be called lobotomies? Was she suffering from dementia? Was it what we now call Alzheimer's? Was it that difficult to keep her at home, with four almost-adult children and a husband to look out for her? Or was it something else?

Why did the family abandon her there? She was completely cut off. They never visited, never wrote, never mentioned her again, and then buried her in what amounted to an unmarked grave,not in the sense of not having a stone, but by leaving her children to ferret out the burial details over the years.

Sometimes the family history turns on you, and there is simply no way to understand choices and decisions made long ago. I would like to think that the stigma of having a "demented" person in the household wouldn't be enough for them to abandon her, but that may be the simplest explanation.

Simplest perhaps, but not understandable, and certainly not the family's proudest moment.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 173/365 Please Note

Now that some of my delirious happiness has mellowed over the passing of the health care bill (in the House of Representatives, yes I know we have a long way to go) I feel compelled to note that the bill is not all it should be.



Of course it's not all I would want it to be, since I am a fan of the Evil Socialized Medicine (it works for most of the other civilized Western countries, therefore we should be smart enough in America to figure it out, but apparently not), HOWEVER, today I would like to draw your attention to the helpful meddling of the government in yet another personal decision.



That of abortion.



I'll wait while you all jump up, flapping feathers and waving hysterically to argue your particular viewpoint again.



Now that you're done:



The new bill was originally written to embrace the Hyde Amendment (you know the one that says no federal dollars may be spent for an abortion), originally passed into law in 1976.



Trying to get past the idea that the law of the land says abortion is a legal, medical procedure for any woman in this country, but okay, whatever, the Hyde Amendment has been the law for 33 years.

Yet, in order to get this current health reform bill passed, Catholic bishops, the creepy "Family" cult (not familiar? read this book, and count on losing sleep at night afterwards) and never mind the pro-life lobby, all ganged up to include a special, special, super-duper provision that no government insurance option or exchange could ever provide insurance coverage for abortion, except in cases of incest,rape, or endangerment of the life of the mother.

Read that carefully.

Low-income Americans, self-employed Americans, and any Americans that participate in the government option or insurance exchange programs will never, ever be able to receive coverage for an abortion, except in the cases of incest, rape or endangerment of life of the mother.

Federal dollars you say? Well, yes in some cases. There will be credits for those who need them to participate in the government option or insurance exchange.

But not in all.

Any American who chooses to join the government option or exchange can use their own hard-earned income, either partly or in whole, to purchase health insurance through the government.

But they still will not be able to be insured for an abortion, except in the case of incest,rape, or the endangerment of the life of the mother.

Hmmm.

Sounds like a group with religious beliefs just decided what all the rest of Americans, who may or may not share their religious convictions, will be permitted to buy with their earned, taxable income dollars.

Perhaps that group will next decide that your income may not be used to purchase insurance that covers birth control (because they don't approve), or health care for your sick child (because their religion doesn't endorse medical intervention in the will of God), or medical care on Saturdays (because that's their holy day).

Once again women and their right to choose (irrespective of what choice any particular woman would make), just got traded by the big boys again.

And I do mean big boys. Why is it that in all the pro-life press conferences, the vast majority of the folks getting all red-in-the-face and holier-than-thou seem to be middle-aged white boys?

I'm betting they never discuss the virtues of MY tax dollar paying for Viagra perscriptions.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 172/365 Did You Mean These Founding Fathers?

A response to our recent state election, and the probable wave of religious conservatism that will sweep our state.

Above, the great American, and Virginia stateman, Thomas Paine, author of "Age of Reason", written in 1784 in the current language of the colonial streets, for accessibility by the common man.

Paine was one of our Founding Fathers, a group that includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others.

Paine is one of that group that is now held up by certain segments of our population as particularily godly people that founded America as a Christian nation.

While listing books this evening, I came across The Romance of American Methodism by Paul Neff Garber, a Professor of Church History at Duke University, published in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1931. In the preface, the author explains his purpose is to present a picture of the heroic era of Methodism, reflecting the baptism of courage, devotion to democracy, and warmth of heart reflected in the early circuit riders and laymen of the pioneer American Methodism.

On pages 42-45, the author recounts the state of colonial America (one assumes he had no reason to publish revisionist history, as current day writers do):

Brief excerpts:

"It is necessary to understand the religious and moral conditions of America during and immediately after the Revolutionary War. Americans began to accept the views of the deists, namely that God may have created the world but that he was now far away and not in contact with mankind. It became popular to attack the divinity of Christ, to sneer at the Bbible and to label religion "superstition".

"Worship was universally neglected, while immorality, intemperance, and vice increased alarmingly on every hand.

"The close of the American Revolution did not restore religious normalcy to America. In fact, it seemed in 1784 that rationalism and deism would completely destroy Christianity in America. In 1784, Thomas Paine wrote his "Age of Reason", a popularization of the current deistic views.

"Prominient American leaders began to champion deistic views. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were known as deists and free thinkers. In 1784, General Ethan Allen wrote his "Reason The Only Oracle of Man" which is considered to be the first formal publication in American openly attacking the Christian faith.

"General Henry Dearborn, secretary of war in the Jefferson cabinet, was so hostile to churches that he remarked that "so long as these temples stand we cannot hope for good government."

"General Charles Lee in his will requested that he should no be buried "in any church or church-yard, or within a mile of any Presbyterian or Anabaptist meeting-house.

"When Ashbel Green entered Princeton College in 1782, he found among the students only two who professed religion. In 1795 there were but four or five Christians in the student body of Yale College. Lyman Beecher, a student at Yale, said in describing conditions there: "The college church was almost extinct. Most of the students were skeptical. Most of the class before me were infidels, and called each other Voltaire and Rousseau. The College of William and Mary was regarded as a hotbed of French politics. I can truly say that then, and for some years after, in every educated young man in Virginia whom I met I found a skeptic, if not an avowed unbeliever.

"Even in outlying districts unbelief became common. In 1793 the Kentucky legislature decided prayers were no longer necessary at its sessions. In many parts of the country revivals were unknown. The emigrants that moved westward did not go there because of religious convictions but rather to get plenty of good land. To these pioneers the economic question was the important one.

"Between the years 1812-1815 Samuel J. Mills, a New England religious leader made several tours of the West. In the state of Louisiana, Mills found people who had never seen a Bible nor heard of Jesus Christ. He estimated that seventy-six thousand Western families were without Bibles."

Below: Benjamin Franklin, a true Renaissance Man, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

His own views on religion?

"My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my childhood piously in the dissenting [puritan]way. But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures. [Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was a British physicist who endowed the Boyle Lectures for defense of Christianity.]It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough deist"
[Benjamin Franklin, "Autobiography,"p.66 as published in *The American Tradition in Literature,* seventh edition, McGraw-Hill,p.180]


Revisionist history is always the easiest to research and the easiest to disprove. Rather than reading the re-counting of history, whenever possible read the actual words of the available letters and journals. Read it for yourself.

The Romance of American Methodism,Paul Neff Garber, 1931, offered for sale by Chewybooks on Amazon, as of November 9, 2009.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 171/365 State of Confusion

It's a sad little day for Virginia.

After a year of relative sanity, of actually moving towards a future where religion is not the defining component of state policy, where money is spent on public education and safe day care for children is a desirable goal, and above all, where women are considered to be equal citizens,today the Commonwealth of Virginia took a resounding, paranoid two-step backwards into ignorance.

After today's election, we now will be governed by a torrid threesome of religious fundamental conservatives that:

Do not support equal pay for equal work (remember that when your daughter is paid less than her male co-worker)

Do not support raising teacher's salaries to the national norm (remember that when your child's school cannot find staff, because teachers have an interest in earning a living wage)

Do not believe that employees should be able to sue employers who fire them because of their gender, race, or national origin (remind your daughter she has no reason to complain when she's fired from that job where she earns half as much, and the reason is because the owner noticed she's also Polish)

Do not believe that local social services should provide any assistance to needy families (remember this when you are laid off, and need temporary food stamps, or meds for your kids, or a roof over your head)

And lest we women make any silly decisions as to whether or not we can afford a new baby -

This newly elected unholy triumverate does not believe in contraception.

For anyone. At any time. For any reason.

Need we mention they are also anti-choice?

Ladies of Virginia, begin to breed, get out your housecoats, put away your books - you'll be staying home ala June Cleaver, while hubby goes off to work to support you and all your yung'uns.

Call me in four years when we begin yet again to repair the damage that is about to be done.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day 170/365 How Did We Miss This??

Apparently it's November 1st.

And somehow, some way, we have missed Halloween.

Halloween is considered the best of all holidays at our house. Christmas falls a distant second. Fourth of July is a even more distant third, and Easter isn't even on the map.

We have a garage full of decorations, in addition to a bathroom full of decorations, on account of we ran out of storage space, and decided it would be easier to use them as a decorating motif instead of packing them up. This is why we have a bathroom shelving unit that is an actual life-size coffin, and animated skeletons in our bathroom, with skull candles.

Think of it as Martha Stewart Gothic.


This is what I look like in my witch's costume.

Okay, not really, but it's incredibly similar. Sortof. At least the hat.

Every year we do costumes. We have everything from the Grim Reaper to sorceress witch to demon to highway man to Boudicia the Celtic queen (my favorite).


We've got skeletons of every persuasion: skeletons in cages, in a coffin, glowing-in-the-dark, in tuxedos, on doorknockers, hanging skeletons, tapdancing skeletons.....


To keep the skeletons company, there's a few witches, including the animatronic one we got last year. She stirs her cauldron and mutters things under her breath - and she's life-size. She keeps the lifesize mummy company - he mutters too -sounds vaguely like someone bound up with a gag trying to say: "Lemma go! Lemma go!" Mummy Boy lives year-round in my daughter's room, under the gargoyle bat hanging from the ceiling, not far from the stuffed Batcat and the bloody hand on a chain.


Our trick-or-treaters are usually fairly run of the mill as far as costumes go - lots of face paint and non-descript efforts. We attribute that to living in a small town in the South that struggles with the whole religion thing (the biggest haunted house near us is one of those "you're going to hell" church-sponsored efforts).

Our house, and our feeble attempt at decorating is the only traditional Halloween experience available in our area. Some years we have had upwards of 200 trick-or-treaters, including a church bus that pulled up and disbursed a full load of kids, looking for candy and ignoring the possibility of a detour to hell.

And for that reason, I'd like to apologize for letting you all down this year. Life being what it is, it really interfered this year and we just couldn't manage it. Of course, it rained halfway through the evening, so hopefully a lot of folks didn't waste gas stopping by the house.

But....

Just wait till next year.