Thursday, November 30, 2006

Too busy!

Let's try again!  I don't know what I did wrong, but my last entry began producing strange signs and symbols, so I deleted the whole thing and I'm trying again. 

First, I've been busy this week and haven't had time to write much in my journal, but there are many things on my mind and I promise to share this weekend.  I, of course, assume that you are interested in all the things running through my fevered brain! 

New holiday song is by Whitney Houston.

Joy to the World

In need of a little soul food?  I recommend a visit to River's inspirational journal.  You'll feel spiritually refreshed after spending time there.

PS I've added new poems to my poetry page!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Music, music, music!

I have been asked how I added music to my journal.

Disclaimer:  I am not an expert; I function via trial and error.

First, I have to say thank you to all the folks who have posted their methods for adding music.  I learned a lot from them.

Before I get started with the instructions, here are a few things that I've learned.  There are multiple ways to add music.  The mp3 file format works better than wma.  For some reason, the same song in wma is huge and takes forever to upload.  Naturally, most of my music was in wma format.  (WMA is the format for Windows Media Player).  If your files are not in mp3 format, I strongly suggest that you convert them.  You can use some fancy program or do what I did. 

Open Real Player (it's a free download if you don't have it). Pop in the CD with your music on it.  Make certain that you select CD/DVD from the Real Player menu bar to the left, next select "save tracks."  A window will open and you may select the tracks that you want to save.  The default is that all tracks are selected and if you want them all, then just click okay.  Real Player saves the tracks in mp3 format.  You should designate a folder to save your music too.  Mine is called, My Music (clever, huh?).

1. Decide what song you want to add to your journal and copy down the file name exactly.

2. You have to upload the file to the web. AOL makes that simple by providing us with web space. 

3. Go to keywords, type in "My FTP" and hit enter.  A window will open.  Select "My FTP Space." 

4. Another window will open, select "Upload." 

5. And yet another window will open.  Make certain that "binary" is selected. 

6. Type in the remote file name--that's your song!  Use all lower case letters and don't leave spaces between words, for example, if the song is Ave Maria, type avemaria. You also have to put the file type on it so it will look like this: avemaria.mp3.

7. Select "continue." 

8. New window, click on "select file".  Another window opens and you  browse your hard drive until you find your file. 

9. When you locate the file (song) select it, click open and the title will  appear in the blank space of the FTP window. 

10. Next, click "send" and the upload will begin.  When it is done, you'll receive the "file done" message.

You have to use HTML code to link the song to your journal.  There are many ways to write this but I went looking for the easiest that I could find.

Here's the code:

<a href= " screen name/thesongfilename.mp3">song title etc.</a>

The only thing that you should change is the text in red.

For Ave Maria, my code looks like this:

<a href= "">Ave Maria</a>

I also have a link in my About Me box that reads "click here for holiday song."  The code looks like this:

<a href= "">click here for holiday song</a>

The 07 is before avemaria because that's part of the way the song is identified on my hard drive.

You do not have to use red text.  I just used it to make it easy to see what you need to change to add your song! 

Copy and paste the code in your About Me section or in a journal entry.  IMPORTANT: Prior to pasting in the HTML code, select  HTML under "View as."  You have a choice of "Text" or "HTML" when adding to About Me or making a new entry.  Choose HTML, paste in the HTML code, and save.

There will be a hyperlink in the About Me or journal entry where you placed the code.  Click the link and the music will play. 

Monday, November 27, 2006

Good People

A few days ago, I asked people to visit the journal of a woman who is filled with sadness.  As I suspected, J-Land is filled with wonderful people.  First there was Bea, who added the request to her journal.  Then there were all the others, way too many to name, who stopped by to visit her and let her know that she is valued. 

When I began my journal a few months ago, I had no idea that it was going to lead to meeting so many interesting, warm, witty, people.  There is Bea who always has words of wisdom and comfort; Jo (private journal) who sends me the funniest emails that leaving me rolling on the floor; Kate who writes with such intellectual verve about a variety of topics and always makes me think; Stacy who inspires me and makes me laugh; Marie who delights me with her focus on living life to the fullest and makes me hungry with her delicious recipes; and so many others that provide me with sustenance.  I can't name all of you here, but please know that I appreciate each and every one of you.

One last thing, I've added a new song, Ave Maria  by Jane Olivor.  She has an exquisite voice; it's what I imagine an angel sounds like when she sings.  She has a great Christmas album, Songs of the Season.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I am so grateful to those of you who visit me here.  I particularly love comments and I reciprocate and check out the journals of those of you that leave a trail.  That's how I found a journal entitled, "The Disintegration of a Female Personality."  The author feels that she is invisible to the journaling community.  Please prove her wrong and visit her.  Please leave her a comment or two to let her know that she is valued.  It's a simple gift to give in this season of giving.

Friday, November 24, 2006

This and That

It's official; I may now start humming Christmas carols.  The holiday season--Christmas and New Year's Eve--used to depress me.  For years, I would mope around like Scrooge's bad tempered sister, determined to suffer quietly, so as to induce guilt and concern from friends and family.  I'd sit alone at any holiday season gathering, sighing quietly, until someone inevitably asked, "Are you okay?"  I made a profession out of having the holiday blues.

Fortunately, I finally realized that what I enjoyed was the attention.  I'm a drama queen; I want the world to revolve around me.  Like so many insecure people, I need to constantly be reassured that I am valued.  This realization didn't hit me like a thunderbolt from out of the heavens; it's more like it slapped me on the fanny after I had unloaded a ton of money sitting in a leather chair at my therapist's office.  (You don't have to lie on a couch unless you want to do so.)

I gradually came to understand that what I thought of as self-sacrifice was more of a need to force everyone to acknowledge me. 

"She's tireless; she's always ready and willing to help out; Poor dear, she never takes time for herself."

Sighing, I could trudge on, secure in the knowledge that although I was unworthy of love, friendship, etc., I was needed.  (Sigh, sigh!)  Fortunately, I discovered, after quite a chunk of money spent, that I didn't have to sigh and look pitiful in order for my friends and family to care about me.  I also discovered that deep down, I like the holiday season.

I love Christmas carols and you can't really sing them except for about four weeks every year.  People look at you strangely if you show up for karaoke night in July and sing The Christmas Song.  In honor of the holiday season, I am posting a link for a favorite Christmas Carol that will change every few days. Today's selection is Aaron Neville's version of The Christmas Song .   His CD, Aaron Neville's Soulful Christmas, includes wonderful traditional carols such as O Holy Night, Silent Night, and O Little Town of Bethlehem.  Neville has an exquisite tenor voice that lends itself well to these beautiful carols; he also includes more contemporary titles such as Please Come Home fo Christmas and Let It Snow, Let It Snow.

I've also discovered how to get the attention that I need.  ( A leopard doesn't change her spots!)  Every year I host a holiday party with decorations, music, beverages and food!  I search out new recipes each year and prepare them with loving care.  My reward comes when my guests exclaim with joy over every tasty morsel.  My Christmas bash also gives me an excuse to wear something with sequins; I really like glitter.

As this holiday season begins, I wish joy to all the lonely and unhappy people out there.  I want you to know that you can find joy in this season of love and giving.  To those of you who always find the joy in this season, please take a moment to reach out to others who struggle with depression that often worsens at this time of the year.  Warm them with your comfort, cradle them in your joy, give to them of your spirit, help them find happiness in this season of peace and love.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

My Public Service Announcement on Sleep Apnea

In one of my recent posts, I mentioned that I have sleep apnea.  I had a couple of requests for more info on sleep apnea.  Please understand that I am not offering medical advice, just what I know about sleep apnea based on my own diagnosis seven years ago.  Until I was diagnosed, I didn't know anything about sleep apnea.

There are three types of sleep apnea; the most common type is Obstructive Sleep Apnea.   That's the type that I have.  Left untreated, any of the types of sleep apnea can lead to serious heart problems. 
Essentially, you stop breathing, then your brain kicks in and says breathe, but every time you stop breathing, it's a stress on your heart.  One indicator of possible sleep apnea is heavy snoring.  It's not a steady, rhythmic snore, it's more like a series of loud snorts or gasps, with little periods of silence in between. 
If you suspect that you or a loved one has sleep apnea, the first thing that she/he should do is ask his/her doctor to set up a sleep test.  This involves going to the hospital in the evening and spending the night.  They hook up equipment to monitor your heart rate, pulse, breathing etc.  Then you go to sleep.  They set up the room to look like a very comfortable hotel room.  They watch you sleep and monitor your vital signs.  If you show signs of apnea, i.e. you periodically stop breathing, then they fit you with a CPAP machine or some other type of device to reduce the episodes of apnea.  They have to determine what pressure setting is needed to reduce the apnea episodes.
You won't go home with a CPAP machine.  There are a lot of medical supply companies that supply CPAPs and other durable medical equipment.  Your doctor will write you a prescription for the CPAP.  Then a technician from the company that you elect to use will meet with you to show you how to use the machine.  Most insurance companies will cover some if not all of the cost of the CPAP equipment.  Usually, the insurance company will begin by renting the equipment and after 6 to 12 months, it will authorize the purchase of the CPAP. 
I get my supplies from Apria Healthcare.  They are nationwide.  I like them because I used to have to travel a great deal in my old job and I had to use an oxygen concentrator hooked up to my CPAP.  The CPAP is very portable, the size of a large shoulder bag but the concentrator isn't portable.  At no charge to me, Apria would arrange for an oxygen concentrator to be delivered to whatever hotel I was staying in, any place that I visited.  My health has improved considerably and I was able to dispense with using the oxygen concentrator about five years ago.
CPAP masks come in a lot of different styles.  I use a mask that fits over my nose but there are some that fit over your nose and mouth.  The CPAP blows pressurized air through your nose and down your throat and that keeps your airway from collapsing.  When I got my CPAP, I woke up the next morning feeling rested for the first time in ten years!  Once I started using the CPAP, a lot of my other health issues improved drastically in a matter of a few months.  I was able to cut the number of prescription meds that I was on in half.  All symptoms of my Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) have disappeared and I haven't had a problem with CHF since 1999.  In addition to heart problems, untreated sleep apnea can also contribute to depression, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias and type II diabetes.
Most people have initial difficulties adjusting to sleeping with head gear and a mask on every night.  However, it is important that you work towards full use of the CPAP.  I don't take even a brief nap without mine.  The quality of rest that I get with it makes it worthwhile.
Below are some useful websites that provide info on sleep apnea.  Please feel free to email me if you have any additional questions.

More poetry

For those of you that would like to read more of my poetry, I have posted several poems on my newly created hometown AOL page.  Please visit Sheria's Poetry Shop.  No, I'm not selling anything, it's late and no clever titles popped into my head!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Online Dating: a Follow Up

In reading the comments to my most recent post, Stepping into the Twilight Zone of Online Dating, I discovered that my kind readers felt that I left some things unanswered.

From River: Even though you were searching for a soulmate, did you find an ever-lasting friend?  Yes, a very good friend, whom I treasure.

From Carly: You did not say what you thought of his looks after meeting in person. He's not Denzel Washington or Pierce Brosnan handsome, but I find him attractive.  He's quite charming.

As always, thanks for stopping by and leaving comments.

Stepping into the Twilight Zone of Online Dating

Sometimes you know that a thing isn’t a good idea but you get swept up in it any way, sort of like Dorothy and Toto whirling away to Oz.  There’s always a beginning, a point when you have a choice.  Choose one direction and life goes on as before, choose another and you end up being chased by a wicked witch.  Never let someone else choose the direction for you, especially your two best friends.  


“Online dating, you should try online dating.  You’re a smart, interesting woman and your problem is that you don’t meet any decent men.”


Best friend number one and best friend number two basked in the glow of their mutual satisfaction as they offered the obvious solution to my lack of a love life. 


Me: “Smart and interesting are code for unattractive.”


“Don’t be so negative.  You’re an attractive woman, you just have to sell yourself more.”


I should have pointed out that women who sell themselves often end up developing unwanted relationships with local law enforcement, but like Dorothy, I got swept away and the next thing I knew, I was composing my first personal ad.


I selected a site called Love Access because it was inexpensive (cheap).  After answering a few questions about myself, I was given the opportunity to select the characteristics that I wanted in a man.  They didn't have breathing on the list, so I picked a few other things--mature, tall, employed etc.  Then I composed a couple of paragraphs about me and waited.


My first hit was from a 23 year old who who was neither mature nor employed, but he was tall.  I also assumed that he had difficulties reading.  I sent him a polite note explaining that I thought that the difference in our ages was too great.  He sent me a note back with a detailed description of a certain part of his anatomy and a caution that I didn't know what I was missing.


The next contact was from a gentleman seeking a Proverbs 31 woman.  I checked my bible and realized that there could be a problem with a difference of opinion with this match.  Proverbs Chapter 31 describes the ideal wife as a woman who "rises while it is still night and distributes food to her household" and "at night her lamp is undimmed."  When does she sleep?  Realizing that I would only disappoint him, I decided to not respond at all.


By this point, I was whining to my best friends that this was not going well.


"You need to sign up with a better dating site, something more upscale."


I dutifully registered my profile at  My first email from included 20 possible matches with a percentage ranking indicating how closely each matched my criteria.  I was pretty excited and began checking out each potential match by reading their complete profiles.  Hmm...Mike, Joe, and Rufus all wanted children.  I'm 51 years old, so figuring that this could be a deal breaker, I moved on.  Hubert, Sam, and Charles were undecided as to whether or not they wanted children and indicated that it was a maybe.  Then there was Mr. Big who was unhappily married and was looking for a discreet woman. (All names have been changed to protect somebody!)  I entered into email communication with one gentleman who seemed quite nice, but he lived in Oregon and didn't like to travel. He suggested that I come visit him but I've seen Psycho more than once and couldn't get that shower scene out of my head.


So far, I had spent about $80.00 and I hadn't had a single date.  I was ready to give up and accept my single, never married status as permanent.  But my best friends were full of encouragement.


"You give up too easily!  You've got to give the process some time."


By now, my sister was a member of the cheerleading squad, telling me of women that she knew who had met their future husbands online.  Pumped up, I decided to register with the big kahuna of matchmaking sites,  It took over an hour just to answer the questionnaire that would be used to match the 29 points of compatibility that would guarantee that I would connect with my selected matches.


To my delight, the next day I had email from announcing that I had several matches.  Unlike the other sites, eharmony, guides you through the first levels of communication with an exchange of questions/answers, must haves/ can't stand, and finally open communication.


Perhaps it was the more involved registration process, but there was definitely a more serious tone at eharmony--no unhappily married guys seeking discreet women!  I made it to open communication with a few and went on some decent dates, but there were no bells and banjos with any of them. 


Then I met J.  We hit it off in our guided question exchange.  When we began open communication, our first conversation lasted four hours. (It was by telephone; he lives out of state.)  Over the next few weeks we talked often and for extended periods of time.  I was in heaven.  He was witty, intelligent, had a great sense of humor, kind, compassionate and tall!


Unfortunately, this does not have a happy ending. 

The girl doesn’t get the boy; the boy doesn’t want the girl.  The good thing is that no one dies. 


Like all of the online dating sites, eharmony encourages you to post a recent picture of yourself, which I dutifully did.  Unfortunately, J,who is not exactly the most computer competent person that I've met, didn't have a photo posted.  (No, I'm not shallow, this has nothing to do with me judging him!)  When I set up my eharmony account, I selected the option that in order to see my photo, the other person's photo would have to be available as well.  I then promptly forgot that I had selected this option.  J had no photo and as a result was unable to view my photo.


Blissfully unaware that J had no idea what I looked like, I assumed that he liked short, fat ladies, until he asked me to read him some of my poetry over the phone.  Following is the poem that I read to him:


For Women Who Wait      


If I were a beautiful woman,

I’d feed blood oranges to my lover—

one segment at a time—somewhere in Italy, on a verandah.


If I were a beautiful woman,

I’d wear orange chiffon with a scarlet scarf

and enter rooms like a sunrise.


If I were a beautiful woman,

something beyond this fleshy monolith—

I’d dance the merengue,

be the coquette with strangers,

launch a thousand ships in my name.


But being less than ordinary,

being downright plain,

being not beautiful—

I simply wait.


When I finished the poem, there was a moment of silence, followed by a question, "You don't consider yourself attractive?"


The honest answer to that question is maybe.  It depends on my mood.  I write poems about moods, impressions, feelings that I may have experienced directly or merely observed. 


I  did the only thing that I could, I immediately sent J a photo of me and waited.  He called the following weekend and I was grinning from ear to ear.  I assumed that while I'm no Halle Berry, that he at least found my visage passable.  We talked, as usual for a couple of hours, but I needed to know.


"I assume you received my picture."


"Yes, I did, thank you," a polite response but it told me nothing.  I breathed deeply and took the plunge.


"No pressure or anything but I need to know where you see us going with this relationship.  Do you see romance in our future?"  There's nothing like being direct.


"I really like you, I love talking to you, but...(you can hear a but coming from a mile off)...I tend to be attracted to women who are rather svelte."


He actually said svelte; he has a good vocabulary, not very many people use the word svelte in every day conversation.


J and I are still friends and we speak often; we've even visited in person once.  We have a lot of common interests and we continue to have marathon conversations.  I keep asking myself what I learned from this experience.  So far, my answer is absolutely nothing.



Perhaps I did learn some things:

1. Even if he asks you to read your poetry to him, don't;

2. You can spend a whole lot of money and still not get what you want; and

3. Following the yellow brick road isn't always a good idea.




Friday, November 17, 2006

Laa-Laa and me

A few postings back, I promised to explain why I share my home with a Teletubby named Laa-Laa.  I try to keep promises.
I live with Laa-Laa.  She's yellow and a Teletubby; she's also stuffed.  She talks, but she only has a repertoire of four phrases which makes her a pretty good roommate.  You have to press her tummy to make her talk.  I am quite popular with the under four-year-old set because of Laa-Laa.  The photo is of Laa-Laa, wearing her favorite tu-tu, on her television show.

I acquired Laa-Laa in 1999 but my Teletubby obsession began in 1998.  I went to the doctor on January 19, 1998 for what I thought was a routine visit and ended up in Cardiac ICU at Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill.  I'm very good at denial and had convinced myself that my inability to walk from my bedroom to my bathroom was a passing thing and that I'd eventually catch my breath.  The doctor didn't agree.

Doctor: Do you have anyone that you can call?

Me: Call?

Doctor: Yes, I'm admitting you to the hospital.  Do you have any family or friends that you want to meet you there?

Me: Huh?

So I called my sister who insisted upon talking to the doctor who just kept saying, "Yes" over and over again. 

Meanwhile, I was rediscovering my ability to speak in sentences.  I suggested that I could drive myself over to the hospital, but the doctor nixed that notion and said that I had to ride in an ambulance.

Me: What about my car?  I can't leave my car in the parking lot!

It's amazing how your brain can just cease to function.

Anyway, I ended up in the hospital for a week with congestive heart failure, a leaky heart valve, and a cardiac arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation).  I was tethered to the bed by an assortment of tubes and wires so there wasn't a whole lot to do.  I watched television.  One morning I discovered the Teletubbies--Po (red), Laa-Laa (yellow), Dipsy (green) and Tinky Winky (purple or blue depending on the color resolution on your television).

It's a simple show, after all babies and toddlers are its intended audience.  It was just about my speed.  It required no real thought on my part and the Teletubbies were cute.  I particularly enjoyed the boom-boom dance which consisted of waving their rather large fannies in a fashion that rivaled the best hula dancers.  I liked all of the Teletubbies but I developed a special affinity for Laa-Laa, coquettish, giggly, and always slightly bemused with the silliness of the other three.

I landed back in the hospital again in April 1999 but this time at WakeMed.  I was very fortunate that I had moved to Raleigh.  It was at WakeMed that they discovered a major underlying factor in my health issues--severe sleep apnea.  While I was vacationing in ICU again, a good friend  purchased  Laa-Laa to keep me company.  I took an immediate liking to her and made her a member of my household.  Okay, she is the only member of my household.

While we were in the hospital, she became accustomed to sleeping in my bed, a practice that I continued when we returned home.  I once banned her from the bed when I had a sleep over guest of the adult male persuasion.  He had issues with sharing space with her after he rolled over on her one time too many (remember, when you press her tummy, she speaks).  However, he eventually left and Laa-Laa was still around.  I promised her that I would never again betray our relationship; it's me and Laa-Laa forever. If you don't like it, you can go home and sleep in your own bed.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tiger, tiger burning bright

I found this lovely tiger on a website sent to me by a friend.  I love tigers.  The website has tons of fantasy themed images (warning: some are very adult) and all you have to do is cut and paste the HTML code and voila! William Blake wrote a lovely poem about the dangerous beauty and mystery of the tiger.  To read the poem click here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Holidays, Movies, and Africa

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and Christmas is not far behind.  Fortunately, I received my new copy of Entertainment Weekly in yesterday’s mail listing all the movies being released during the holiday season. 


I am hopelessly addicted to the celluloid screen. There is nothing that I love more than to blissfully escape into a world of endless possibilities as I settle into a comfortable seat in a darkened theater with my buttered popcorn and diet coke.  At the top of my list of must see films this year is the new James Bond film, Casino Royale.  I love action films, so I’ve also added Blood Diamond to my must see list.  Set in Africa, starring Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, and Leonardo DiCaprio and a huge diamond, it promises to be loads of fun.


As I like to be an informed viewer, I searched the Internet for some preview details about Blood Diamond.  I found the usual reviews and such, but I also encountered an interesting article about Hollywood’s renewed focus on the African continent and the number of new films set there.  The article presented a generally favorable view of Hollywood goes to Africa but acknowledged that some feared that there was an air of paternal colonialism in many of the films.  This got me to thinking about the recent hoopla about Madonna’s efforts to adopt a child from the African country of Malawi. 


Some folks have chastised Madonna for her desire to adopt this child and remove him from the orphanage where he has resided since the death of his mother in childbirth.  I think that there is valid concern about the loss of cultural identity in removing the child from his homeland but I suspect that there are many children with an Anglo-African background that are far from being culturally adrift. 


The other dominant anti-Madonna adoption argument is that she’s only trying to copy Angelina Jolie.  When I was a child, I used to accuse my younger sister of copying me when she would wear the same color hair ribbons that I was wearing.  However, when I purchased a house in the neighborhood where she and her husband already lived, she did not accuse me of copying her.   I know that celebrities are different from the rest of us, but do we really believe that Madonna and Angelina are in a competition to see who can collect the most babies of color? 


After giving it much thought, I’ve realized that I am tired of all of the critiquing of the motives of white celebrities who have taken an interest in Africa and its people.  I don't know anything about Africa except what I've read in books and seen on television or in movies.  I assume that I can't rely on such information for a totally accurate picture.  I've never been to Africa.  At least Madonna, Brad, Angelina etc. have actually been to African countries.  I don't recall seeing a ban on black folks in the US going to Africa and adopting babies.  Instead of whining and espousing suspicion about the motives of white folks adopting these children, why not get off our collective butts and make some effort to provide education, access to medical care, food and whatever else may help African nations to become economically self sufficient. 


Adoption is not an evil plot concocted by white celebrities to steal African babies.  I find it ludicrous to believe that wealthy white celebrities are in some sort of conspiracy to adopt African children because they want a pet. 


Perhaps they do feel some sense of guilt, but some of the rest of us need to feel more guilt.  Guilt is why I send donations to the local soup kitchen, guilt because I allow my commitment to my work to keep me from volunteering at that same soup kitchen.  Guilt is why I stop my car and hand a five-dollar bill out the window to the guy on the corner with the "will work for food" sign.  Guilt is why when I see those television programs with children starving in Africa or India or somewhere in the world, I write a check.  As for Hollywood's love affair with movies set in Africa, let's hold Hollywood accountable for contributing to the local economy while making the film.  Using as much local labor as possible, making permanent improvements to local housing (movies require building sets, make them durable and something that the locals may use when the cameras leave), and buying materials, supplies, goods locally.


Africa is a continent, a collection of nations and collectively, Americans, black and white, don't know very much about its history or its present.  Instead of critiquing the actions of others, I think that it's about time that more of us started learning something about this "dark continent" and what we can do to help. 


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Speaking a Common Language

Daily, there are more and more emails finding their way into my inbox that call for walls at our borders and a crackdown on illegal aliens.  I think that some folks are actually beginning to believe that we are truly talking about folks from another planet.


Among other things, we seem to have a fear of being compelled to speak Spanish and anxiously wail about the need to declare English as our official language.  Having spent many years in the public school system, I don’t have any worries that the majority of Americans will be learning a second language.   About 25 years ago, the US government had the notion that this country should convert to the metric system.  You see, most of the other major nations of the world with whom we conduct commerce use the metric system and it would be much more effective to conduct business if we were all using the same measurement system.  However, Americans, always proud of our ability to insist on doing it our way, refused to cooperate.  The remnants of the effort may be seen in road signs that indicate kilometers alongside miles.


When I visited Mazatlan, Mexico a couple of years ago, I was anxious to try out my minimal Spanish.  Everyone welcomed my efforts, but most of the people who ran businesses, waited tables, drove taxis, ran the hotels, etc., all spoke English.  Americans are particularly proud of our ability to speak only one language; it is not uncommon for residents of other countries to speak two or more languages.  By the way, road signs, street signs etc. in Mazatlan were usually in English as well as Spanish.


But here at home, the immigration issue, whether legal or illegal immigrants, continues to be at the forefront of US politics.  Alarmists warn that illegal immigrants are taking my hard earned money via the taxes I pay.  Quite frankly, I’m more concerned about my tax dollars supporting the war in Iraq but to be fair, let’s take a look at illegal immigrants impact on the economy.  According to a recently released study by UNC-Chapel Hill, Hispanics make up 7% of North Carolina’s population (my home state).  The study also found that Hispanics contribute more than $9 billion to North Carolina’s economy, of which $756 million annually is contributed in taxes.  In addition, each Hispanic resident of NC costs the state a net of $102.00 per person.  For a summary of the report, or the full text, go to


But wait, I also need to be concerned that Americans are becoming a minority.  Funny thing is, if you substitute “white” for “American,” you can find the same warning on many of the interesting white supremacy websites on the Internet.  See for example,


American isn’t really an ethnic designation, it’s a descriptive term, and it just indicates that you live in America.  Folks that live in Central America and South America are also Americans.  If you want to get really specific, all of us are immigrants, albeit some of us involuntarily.  The only indigenous Americans in the US are the Native American Indian tribes.


What heritage do we need to protect?  Why are we so easily swayed by racist scare tactics?  Back in the late 19th century and on into the first half of the 20th century, the social science of eugenics was very popular in this country.  At the core of eugenics is a belief that some people are genetically and therefore inherently inferior to others.   Eugenics was touted as scientifically based in colleges and universities across the country.  It was used as the basis for justification for continuing practices of racial segregation in the United States.


The resurgence in anti immigrant fervor is not new.  Eugenics fueled the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924.  Eugenicists played a central role in the Congressional debate as expert advisers on the threat of "inferior stock" from eastern and southern Europe. This reduced the number of immigrants from abroad to 15 percent from previous years, to control the number of "unfit" individuals entering the country. In addition, the new act strengthened existing laws prohibiting race mixing in an attempt to maintain the purity of the gene pool.


In my mind, there are far more pressing matters in our country than singling out yet another group of people for discrimination and hate.  This time the issue isn’t so much skin color as it is language.  We become hysterical because we are asked to press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish.  The world has gotten smaller.  It no longer takes us months to travel across the Atlantic to Europe.  I can sit in my home and talk via instant messaging with a person that I’ve never met who lives in India.  We have information in Spanish and English in this country.  The world is not coming to an end; it’s flourishing.  We all have to decide where we stand on human rights issues, but it is important that we have a clear framing of those issues before we decide what we support and believe. 

Sunday, November 12, 2006



Abandoned houses are always grey.

Brick, wood, stone,

doesn’t matter.

Grey wraps around them, down to the foundations,

masking remnants of childish laughter,

obscuring murmured conversations

over coffee or tea.

Grey washes away passion,

wipes up all evidence of desire.

Memories vanished,

dreams extinguished,

all signs that someone loved there,



Friday, November 10, 2006

Acknowledging the Elephant

Thank you to everyone who has left comments; I've tried to visit each of your blogs and if I haven't visited yet, I will!

I am particularly touched by the positive responses I received on my postings about race, the elephant in the room that we so seldom discuss.  There is an website that I think that you may find of interest.  It's a PBS site based on programming that was on TV in 2003.  The title of the site is Race-The Power of an Illusion.  There are a lot of interactive activities of the site.  It's an excellent site for children as well as adults.

The link:

If you visit the site, please let me know what you think of it.

Happy weekend to everyone!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The Trash Queen

My friend, HR, calls me the queen of trash.  He is referring to my fascination with popular culture.  I look forward to Tuesdays because that’s the day that my new issue of Entertainment Weekly arrives.  I watch for the postman and hurry out to greet him every Tuesday.  I suspect that he thinks that I have an interest in him, but I just want to get my next fix of gossip about the glamorous. 


I like to think of my tastes as eclectic; after all I also have a subscription to Newsweek.  But HR reminds me that I watch Survivor and Big Brother faithfully.  I got him hooked on both for a couple of seasons but he eventually fell by the wayside, feeling that the weekly displays of deceit, manipulative behavior, and betrayal were a bit too much.  I call it entertainment.  The first line in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina reads,  “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” 


I think that sort of explains our (my) fixation with reality television.  It’s the bad behavior that makes us watch.  Promises are made and we breathlessly wait for them to be broken.  Outright lies are told and we are in on it, thanks to the all-invasive diary-cam.  For those of you who are not a viewer of reality shows--most have opportunities for individual participants to talk in private to the camera.  Big Brother actually has a diary room where the players admit their dastardly ways.


I don’t think this fascination with peeping into other people’s dysfunctional behavior is new.  When I was a girl, I remember the magazines with the lurid headlines, “Me and My Stepfather: Unspeakable Acts.”  They were adult magazines with titles like True Romance and Modern Romance.  The covers featured some doe-eyed blond wearing tight shorts and a peasant blouse, pulled down off her shoulders.  I wasn’t allowed to read these magazines, so every chance that I got, I would sneak one into the bathroom, lock the door, and delve into a world of wanton desire.  By modern standards, they were pretty tame, suggestive but not explicit and no nudity, but lots of underwear shots.  Most of the time I didn't know exactly what they were talking about but I knew that whatever it was, it was forbidden.  That was good enough for me!


I think that the ready availability of explicit pornography has ruined the market for those titillating magazines; I don’t see them on news stands any more.  So here I am, ready to confess to the world.  My name is Sheria, and I like trash!

Monday, November 6, 2006

Musings from a Colored Girl Part II

I received several interesting comments about my last post on skin color including one expressing surprise at encountering some black people who perceived having lighter skin as a desirable goal.  It's sad that skin color is still an issue within and without the black community, but it is.  It's a complex issue that stems out of slavery in this country.  Following is a simplified version of the color complex that still affects Black America.
The first settlers that came to this country were predominantly male.  It was a dangerous journey and a hard life and most did not bring their families.  They did however bring slaves and some of those slaves were women.  The slave women were property and not thought of as equals but they had the right equipment to satisfy the needs of the settlers. These sexual unions produced children. 
Skip ahead fifty years when the south is beginning to thrive and slave owners are still slipping out to the slave quarters for a little fun on the side.  The children from these unions were a mix, not fully white but not fully African either.  The south's solution was to devise an elaborate system of laws classifying people based on the amount of "black blood" they possessed.  A union between a black and white equals a mulatto; if a mulatto mated with a white the child produced was classified as a quadroon; if a quadroon mates with a white person the child produced is an octoroon.  Blacks didn't devise this system of classification; it was created by whites.  New Orleans is the crowning example of the very public use of the classification system.  Continuing on after the Civil War was a custom of holding balls attended by octoroon women and white men for the specific purpose of finding a suitable mistress.
Why the fixation on skin color or black blood?  Well, genetics allowed that the offspring of these black/white unions came in a variety of shades ranging from dark brown to white.  It was important to the white landowners that only their legitimate children inherit their estates.  Blacks could not inherit the property but what about those children who weren't easily identified as black?  Could they come forward some day and try and claim their birth right?  To ensure that this didn't happen, most southern states had laws that specified that the race of the child was the same as the race of the mother.  The system of classification allowed for identifying anyone as black who had even one black ancestor somewhere along the line.  Because nature didn't always cooperate and make identification easy, there were people with black ancestry, who because of their physical appearance, passed for white. (Of course they had to escape and leave their families behind forever.)  Even those not fair enough to pass for white, found benefits in their lighter skin tones.  There was a preference to have lighter skin slaves work in the house.  Seems sort of illogical because surely the master's wife had to have some idea why some of the slaves were lighter than the others.  Nonetheless, house slaves were often selected for their lighter complexion.  Being a house slave meant a somewhat better life than being a field slave, relegated to hard physical labor under a hot sun all day.  On the other hand, many house slaves suffered almost daily abuse from angry ladies of the house who recognized a certain resemblance between the house slaves and her own offspring.
I don't find it surprising that black people began to internalize this color consciousness.  To be white was better in a societal context.  Even the poorest white person had more rights than any black person.  Even free blacks did not have the rights afforded to a white person.  If you were light enough to pass for white, then you had opportunities that you would never have as a black person living in a society controlled by whites.  Even after emancipation, lighter skin blacks were more acceptable to whites.  Human nature being what it is, societal norms for acceptability and attractiveness are set by the dominant culture.  In Eurocentric American culture, the further removed an individual's physical appearance from the African, the more acceptable that individual. 
I don't indulge in a great deal of anger about race; I decided long ago that to do so would be self-destructive.  But I do have anger about the damage done to the psyche of my people by white privilege, arrogance, and blindness.  I am continually amazed at how little white people know of  this country's racial history.  Too many people appear to believe that slavery was a self contained institution, bad but long gone and therefore of no significance in the present.  The legacy of slavery still permeates our society, like a cancer. 
I often encounter whites who are somewhat bewildered by what they perceive as black folks' obsession with race.  Well meaning, they ponder as to why we can't all just get along and offer that they don't see color, people are people.  I can't speak for all black people, but my color is a part of who I am, if you don't see it, then you don't really see me.  I find nothing objectionable in that you recognize that I am a black woman.  I only object if along with that recognition comes an assumption that I am inferior and you are superior.  Simply acknowledging differences in skin color is no more offensive than noting hair or eye color.
I've worn myself out and I have to end this post.  This is a subject that always leaves me weary.  My final comment today is that I am continually amazed at how strong and resilient my people are, that in spite of a societal construct that rejected us as a people, that continually told us that we were inferior, we have managed to grow and develop our own identities.  We are strong.  We are survivors.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Musings of a Colored Girl

In 1955, my mother gave birth to a colored girl. By the 1960s, I was black and proud. Sometime in the 1980s, I became African-American. I think that I'm black again in 2006 but sometimes I'm still African-American.  Recent comments posted to this entry reminded me that I've also been a Negro.  No wonder I'm neurotic!

White America often accuses black folks of playing the race card. I think we play the hand we were dealt. America is obsessed with race. A child is born of two parents, one of Caucasian ancestry and one of African heritage. Equal parts of both, the child is identified as black. A friend of my mine once said that it offended him that it took two white people to make a white child but only one parent with any fraction of black lineage to make a black baby.

Black people have become swept up in this need to identify people by race. When Tiger Woods appeared as a golfing phenomenon, there were black folks who became angry when he identified himself as a mixture of Asian, Black and Caucasian. We wanted to claim him as exclusively ours. This obsession with race that infiltrates American culture makes us believe that our worth as a people hinges on ensuring that our identity remains intact. We object to including a category for multiracial on census forms because we fear that it will dilute our numbers, there will be fewer of us who are black, African-American, colored.

Twice this year, newspaper headlines have touted the birth of twin babies, one black and one white. In each instance, one parent was of mixed race.  I was bemused by one headline that read,"Twins Are of Different Races." The article quoted doctors who stated their own surprise and commented on how unusual and rare an occurrence this is. None of them took this as an opportunity to point out that race is a social construct. The babies aren't different races; they just have different skin tones. The Human Genome Project and other genetic research programs have found no consistent genetic markers to identify race. We are all human beings, we just look different. Classifying people by skin color has no more logic behind it than classifying us by hair or eye color.

I think that I want to be a colored girl again. When I look in the mirror I see a woman with chocolate brown skin and dark brown eyes, a woman of color. When I look around, I see a world full of people, each and every one of us,a person of color.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Guest Editor (I'm so excited!)

Hello everyone, my name is Sheria and I’m thrilled to be guest editor!  I’m supposed to tell you a little about me, so here goes.


I was born in 1955 in Stantonsburg, a little southern town in eastern North Carolina.  Okay let’s skip a few years, otherwise I’ll tell all my secrets.


I’ve lived in NC all of my life.  On those forms that ask for status, I check the box that reads: single, never married.  I live alone except for LaLa (the yellow Teletubbie, it’s a long story and I’ll blog about it someday).  I had a mid life crisis when I turned 39 and left my career as a high school English teacher to become a lawyer.  I’ve worked for Legal Aid and most recently for a nonprofit policy advocacy group, which has disappointed my friends and family who all expected that I would become wealthy upon passing the bar.  Okay, I sort of planned to become wealthy but I discovered that I wasn’t temperamentally suited to billable hours and preferred public interest law. 


I love music and have eclectic tastes.  My CD collection includes Patsy Cline, Celine Dion, Prince, Bob Marley, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Aretha Franklin.  I also love to read, watch movies (especially old movies from the 30’s and 40’s) and cook for my friends.  I write poetry and I’m working on my first book.


Okay, that’s it; I need to talk about my picks.  They are in no particular order of importance.


First up is How Did I Get Here?   Wendy O’Donnell says that hers is a “journal of motherhood, life, wonderment, and unceasing irritation.”  It was the unceasing irritation part that hooked me.  She’s very witty and writes about those everyday pieces of life that make us all a little nuts.


I ran across Naked on Roller Skates in another blogger’s links list.  I was intrigued by the title and checked it out.  Nancy is a fellow North Carolinian.  There is so much heart in her writing.  I was moved to tears by her remembrances of her deceased father.  She also has a great sense of wry humor, particularly in writing about her children.  Reading Nancy’s blog is like sitting down with a friend for coffee and a chat.


I stumbled across On the Move while I was checking to see if my own blog was listed in the Journal’s index.  (It is!)  Ian is a 43-year-old guy somewhere in the UK who loves to cook.  He also loves to take pictures and in my humble opinion is a very good photographer.  He and his wife are in the process of selling their house and I confess that I was on pins and needles when the first buyer changed his mind and jubilant when another buyer showed interest.  Check out his mini slide shows, they are wonderful shots of waterfalls and seashores, etc., and you can increase or decrease how long you want each slide to linger on the screen.  For more of Ian’s photos and other writing, including poetry, go to


Daughters of the Shadow Men hypnotized me with its frank and powerful discussions of life from the perspective of a 75 year-old-woman.  There is much pain in this journal but I am drawn back to it over and over again.  She writes with unwavering honesty about her suspicions that her father was gay and her own missteps in choosing men to love.  I weep with her but I also admire her tenacity in being a survivor. (content warning)


For a change of pace, check out My Life Change and Weight Loss Journey aka My Diet.  This journal is for anyone who has ever struggled with weight loss.  It is witty, entertaining, and inspiring.  Stacy had me totally hooked when Jimmy Buffet’s “Lime in the Coconut” began playing when I opened her blog.  This is the perfect site for when you really want to eat that bag of Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies and that pint of Ben & Jerry’s French Vanilla in the freezer.  Read Stacy; you may still eat the cookies and ice cream but you’ll laugh while you’re stuffing your face!


Finally, a friend sent me the link to Kleinschmidt 2005 about a month ago and I’ve been a regular reader ever since.  This is a political blog that focuses on some national issues but with a lot about North Carolina politics.  I think of Kleinschmidt as a political humanist, concerned about the well being of all humankind.  He’s a councilman in Chapel Hill, NC, home of the University of North Carolina (UNC Tarheels!).  I freely admit to being a liberal and proud of it; this blog is not everyone’s glass of iced tea but like all southerners, I love iced tea!


Well that’s it folks; I hope that you will check out my picks.  Enjoy!