By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

I rarely venture into political territory in my posts, but I asked my friend, Helen Delaney, for permission to repost her recent blog.  Her family history is exactly the immigrant diversity we want and need in our country. I, too, thought there was a sea change when Obama was elected. I also wept with joy at what we thought was a healing in out country. Our current president has given permission for hate and bigotry and I am saddened that  there are still many who embrace those darker angels of our nature.

This is Helen’s post. She titled it Unfriend Me, Unfollow Me.

“Just three days ago, a friend asked me why I stopped writing my blog. One of the reasons, I told him, was that I just didn’t believe in talking unless I had something to say. I told him that I had run out of things to say, and that I just couldn’t bore my friends for the sake of maintaining a blog. Besides, I wanted to turn my energy toward my second book. That was three days ago. That was before my ancestors came into my consciousness and nudged me in their ever-so-gentle way. The way spirits do.

I have never expressed my personal political views on this blog or any public media outlet because I saw no value in it. My position was that people will believe what they want to believe, and that my political views, no matter what they were, would attract anonymous, angry people with nothing better to do than to sling mud from behind the safety of their darkened rooms and backlit computer screens.  I don’t enjoy conflict, online or off, and so I kept my views to myself. But now, I’m done. I’m done, because I am here, alive in my body, in this country, on this tortured night, representing my ancestors.

Let me introduce them: My maternal grandmother: Her name was Sarah. Her father was German, her mother African American. Her husband’s mother, my great grandmother: Her name was Elizabeth, and she came to this country from Syria. I’m sure that wasn’t her name when she stepped up to the immigration official to be registered. Then, there is my paternal grandfather. His name was Edward and he was all or part Native American. Cherokee. His wife, Helen, came from a family of Irish indentured slaves. My parents were the “mixed blood” children of those I have named. They lived in South Carolina before and at the turn of the last century. In this country, they were all either indentured whites (in our case dis-owned by their families), or Negroes. I’ve seen the census reports.

I cannot imagine the bravery, courage, or the depth and breadth of love it must have taken for them to raise families of seven, eight children. Or just to stay alive. I also represent their children, uncles who fought in both World Wars, my father, who wore a policeman’s badge in Philadelphia for 35 years, a man of color who could not rise in the ranks but who nevertheless served and protected all the citizens of that city, my mother, who broke ranks with her family to come North with my father so that I and my brothers could live a life that was free of harassment, degradation, fear, and sorrow. Or so they thought.

When a black man was elected President of the United States, my husband and I sat before the television set and watched Barack Obama and his family write a chapter in history unlike any before it, except, perhaps, the one written by Abraham Lincoln.  At last, I told my husband, the tears running down my face, our country has become what it said it would. It has marched steadily toward its own ideals. It has kept its promise. My husband, who was Irish American, nodded, tears blinding his own eyes. We were proud of our country. We were proud that the idea of freedom, that the experiment in equality, the stumbling, difficult climb into a true democracy, and the repudiation of all things indecent, had made us the most powerful, important nation on the planet. We were not to know, on that night, that it was only a moment in time.

We have taken a step backward to a place my ancestors would recognize. My tears tonight are ones of grief. I am not proud. I am ashamed. I am ashamed that I must accept sympathy from my friends around the world. I am ashamed that our doors are slamming shut against people like my ancestors, and that all sense of generosity, compassion, and conscience seem to be absent from the hearts of those who could make it different. I am ashamed that once again, my ancestors are the subjects of hate and derision. No wonder they won’t let me alone.

And now, I’m done. I can no longer be quiet. I speak for those who came before me, those who gave me life, and for my children and my grandchildren. Today and ever after, I disavow the indecent, hateful bigotry that is despoiling my country and the man who is the face and the voice of it.

And I say to you, whoever may be reading this blog – if, after what has happened in the past two days, indeed in the past year, you can still support the man in the White House, his ideas, his language, and behavior, you support everything I, as an American, as an African American, as an Irish American, as a German American, as the great granddaughter of a Syrian woman, and the granddaughter of a Native American man, abhor, and I ask you to unfollow me. If you are a “friend” on Facebook, I ask you to unfriend me now.

This is the time to take a stand. It is time to speak clearly. No more excuses, no more mealy-mouthed explanations. No more burying heads in the sand. It’s over. The President of the United States is a racist. I repudiate that hateful concept, and I repudiate him.

Matthew said it: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Choose your camp.”

When It’s Too Cold to Go Outside

We’ve had some really cold weather lately. Much colder than normal for the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The kind of cold that required dripping the pipes at night. The kind of cold that makes going outside for any reason painful. The temperatures are supposed to moderate for the next few days and some predicted precipitation will be rain instead of snow.

My husband builds a fire in the fireplace every night.  On these very cold days we light it around 3:30 in the afternoon. By that point I’m ready to leave my office and sit and knit and watch something mindless on TV. Thank you Amazon (The White Queen) and Netflix (Hart of Dixie).

I’ve blogged before that I knit sweaters for kids using the Guideposts Knit for Kids pattern. I love the mindless knitting but hate sewing the front and back together. So my friend Mary Ann Hillier volunteered to sew up five sweaters that had been in a bag for a year. Only a good friend would do that for you. Once before I had a friend who got a bag of sweaters to sew for me. Soon after they moved away and I never heard from her again. That won’t happen with Mary Ann. She’s a member of our What-we-just-finished -reading Book Club and will be a beta reader for my third novel.

Mary Ann is a generous soul. She started a non-profit to supply backpacks full of school supplies to underfunded schools in Mississippi. Their mission: Paper and Pencils, Inc. is a non-profit organization providing school supplies to children in the Mississippi Delta because we believe education is the one true way out of poverty. Learn more about Paper and Pencils.  You might be motivated to make a donation.

A couple of times my husband and I have helped Mary Ann fill the backpacks and prepare them for shipping. When I think of the advantages our four children had, it just doesn’t seem fair.  These Mississippi kids don’t have the basics, so Mary Ann’s non-profit gets a check every year. I wish it could be more.

But, back to knitting. It seems I never have quite enough yarn for one of these Knit for Kids sweaters (they can be knit in various sizes), so many are often striped or color blocked, using leftover bits of yarn. Yarn that people give me or I find at thrift stores. Because I had bags of yarn in various places in the house, I had to pull everything out to try to find what I needed every time I wanted to start a new sweater. It took time away from mindless television watching.

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That led me to think about organizing my yarn stash by color families which led to a trip to Lowe’s for plastic bins. In one of the closets I found a box of art supplies that had been put there when we moved into this house eleven years ago. The art supplies belonged to my mother. Bottles of Acrylic Polymer Medium. Does that stuff go bad? I emailed an artist friend to see if she could use it. An upright vacuum cleaner that I never use will go to the thrift shop. And three slender black metal poles that have threaded ends. I have no idea what they could possibly be. I suppose since they have been at the back of that closet for eleven years, they can go in the trash. Or, perhaps I will move them to the garage. They might be good garden poles.

My yarn goal is to use up what I have before I buy more. If you’re interested in knitting sweaters to keep children warm, here’s the link to more information.and patterns.

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If it had been warmer this week I might have spent some time in the garage inventorying leftover seeds. Maybe next week. The seed catalogues are arriving daily.

 

In the Rearview Mirror

We had a postponed Christmas dinner last night with Laura and her family.

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It was lovely. We toasted with blue champagne, had oysters and shrimp from the grill, country ham on country biscuits and my excellent curried cheese ball while we stood and chatted in Laura’s kitchen.

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I don’t know where Laura was in this photo. On the far right hand side, I think, behind her husband in the Santa hat. Then we made room for tenderloin, potatoes and fresh asparagus sitting at the beautiful dining room table. Laura loves to make a festive table.

I made the desserts. Two Key lime pies at Laura’s request and an apple pie. And because I had eight egg whites left from making the Key lime pies, I made chocolate espresso meringues. I don’t have a pastry bag so dropped the whipped mixture from spoons. They were beautiful and delicious.

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I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I suppose I used to and they always seemed to be about losing weight. But 2017 was a year when I made a concious decision to step away from many volunteer activities. 2018 is going to be a significant birthday for me and I have a third novel to finish. It’s been marinating in my brain for ten years. That’s long enough. I’m getting close to the end of the first draft, but some of my characters seem intent on following roads I didn’t see, and I have to take the time to see what they want to do. They usually turn out to be right.

I suppose part of my decision in 2017 was because of volunteer fatigue. People come to assume that you will keep doing what you’ve always done. But I knew I was putting my own projects on hold and I didn’t want to do that anymore. The other thing is that I am making enjoyment a priority. If I raise my hand to volunteer, is it something I’ll enjoy doing? There are a lot of things in life that just have to be done, but I want to enjoy the things I choose to do.

Writing is one of those things. I find writing to often be an unconcious process. I get centered at my computer, sometimes using a dowsing crystal to help open my brain to the “movie” of my book. Then I write what I see. My friend, Helen, says I’m channeling and I won’t go quite that far. But I do enjoy the process!

In March of 2018 the Bay to Ocean Writing Conference will happen without me being part of the planning. For the past ten years I’ve been on the planning committee doing a variety of year-long tasks. By the time we’d get to conference day I was too tired to attend sessions. In 2018 I will enjoy attending.

Eastern Shore Writers Association is also going on without me. I’ll just be a paid member. Those almost daily hours spent keeping track of membership are now spent writing. I found some membership software to take over for me and the board agreed to the change. It was time that the organization moved in that direction and I gave them a push.

I stepped aside from my role as co-chair of Green Thumb, the St. Michaels Woman’s Club gardening interest group. It was time for new ideas, and there have been some splendid ones.

I did raise my hand to help at the St. Michaels Farmers Market last summer but it was just for an hour or so on Saturdays and an hour to send out a weekly market update. The market is undergoing a restructuring. I don’t know if I’ll raise my hand in 2018. I want to see what’s going to happen to the market before I volunteer.

And last year I was still involved in the organization of the St. Michaels Community Garden. A friend and I have been sharing the responsibilities for about five years. It’s time to pass the torch. We sent out an email asking for volunteers and got radio silence. The next step is to itemize what we do and send that out. Maybe if people see the discrete chunks, some will raise their hands. If people want a community garden it will survive.

I’ll stay connected with my Working Writers Forum. They’ve been reading what I’m working on for eleven years, and they always give me good advice.

Laura and I are hard at work for the Christmas play we’ve been commissioned to write for The Merlin Players in Faribault, Minnesota.  Collaborating with Laura is a priority for me. We both enjoy the process. It’s FUN!

It is now a little after 8 o’clock in the morning on the first day of 2018 and I’ve been up for several hours. I am at my desk and have just pulled up the file of my novel. I can’t wait to see where the story goes this morning.

I’m going to enjoy 2018. #enjoymylife