Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas to All!

Christmas is almost here.  I still have sweet potato pies to bake, and a few gifts to wrap, but I'm almost done.  Tomorrow, I plan to bake, wrap, and listen to Christmas music.  We're having Christmas dinner on Monday at my sister and her husband's home.  I'm bringing the pies.

When I was a child, it seemed that there was an eternity from one Christmas to the next; now, I want to slow everything down.  Time is passing far too swiftly and I grab onto every precious moment that I can. 

I just looked outside at the lights that I strung yesterday and they are all aglow.  I feel at peace with myself and I'm happy.  I am thankful to be able to say that.  Getting here, being happy, has been a long struggle for me.  I am still amazed that I can feel contentment and take pleasure in something as simple as Christmas lights. 

I know that I'm very fortunate.  I've known the darkness of depression, a darkness so black that it swallowed the light.  I know that there are millions who are still trapped in that never ending night.  I wish that I could say that I know the path out of the dark, but there is no single pathway.  The journey is different for each of us.  I can only say that it may help to make a daily effort to cherish yourself.  No matter how insignificant you feel, you are a person of worth.

I'm no therapist.  I don't know any secrets to finding inner joy and peace.  I don't feel superior.  I am humble because I know that the darkness is always out there and that becoming trapped in it again is possible.  I live in the present; I remember the past; I look forward to the surprises of the future.  Merry Christmas to all!

O Holy Night by the Temptations

Friday, December 22, 2006

Struggles with Packaging or Why I'm Wearing a Band-Aid

I like the holiday season but I try not to get too carried away with seasonal decorating.  Everything that I put up, I'm going to have to take down.  The last time I put up a Christmas tree was in 1987.  I was madly in love at the time.  I put up the tree because he wanted a tree.  Let's call him GB.  (Okay, those are his real intitials.  GB, if you're reading this somewhere out in cyberspace, this song is for you: Cry Me a River .)  However, I digress; this is not about you. 

Typically, when I have the desire to hang baubles on a Christmas tree, I invite myself to help one of my married female friends decorate her tree.  Often, they find themselves with no assistance in tree decorating as many of their spouses believe that their job ends once the tree is placed in the stand.  The rest have been banished from assisting in tree decorating by their wives after placing all of the best ornaments on the side of the tree facing the wall one time too many.  My married lady friends  are always appreciative of an extra pair of non-spousal hands. 

This year I had the urge to extend my decorating to higher levels than in the past.  I purchased a ceramic tree with cute little lights built right in but I still felt that something was missing, so I decided to put up outside lights.

My initial plan was to place them around the front door, but I was too short to reach above the door.  I briefly considered standing on a stepstool that I own.  Only briefly, and then I thought about spending the holidays on crutches and scratched that idea.  I settled on placing the lights on the small bushes that line my flower bed.

I had purchased 200 lights for the door, but 200 seemed insufficient for nine bushes.  I decided to take a rest break and contemplate my dilemma.  I was fairly certain that I could get more lights at the store but I wasn't certain that I wanted to venture out into the frenzied crowds looking for last minute Christmas presents.  Then I had an "Aha!" moment.  I would simply decorate the three center bushes with lights. 

Before placing the lights, I decided to open the package containing the combined photocell sensor and digital timer that I had purchased to use in connecting the lights to my electrical outlet.  I carefully examined the package for a tab, or an identation, some indicator as to where I was to open the package.  There was none.

The package contained a ground stake, a thingamajig for connecting the lights, with a ten foot cord, and was about six inches wide by 20 inches long, and covered in hard plastic.  Evidently, there is a lot of theft associated with this item.  That's the only reason that I could figure out why the package was sealed up like a CD. 

I grasped the package between my knees, placed my fingers on the edge and attempted to pull it open.  The plastic didn't budge but I broke two fingernails.  It was time for the scissors. 

I tried to poke the tips of the scissors into the top of the packaging but the scissors just sort of slid sideways, bounced against the plastic, and flew out of my hands.  Undaunted, I took a firmer grasp of the package and managed to make a small slit at the top end.  Working the scisslors further into the package, I began to cut and was feeling quite pleased with myself until I knicked the outside of the electric cord.

The package clearly stated, "Do not splice, repair or modify cord set." 

I decided to change my angle of attack.  Meanwhile, the five year old that lives across the street had decided to visit me.


Fortunately, his mother noticed that he had escaped the nest and called him home.  I was spared from admitting to a five year old that I had spent 30 minutes trying to open a package.

I began to get worried; it would be dark soon and I really wanted to get the lights up and glowing.  What would Xena, Warrior Princess, do?  Letting out a battle cry, I decided to use the scissors like a spear to pierce one of the outer edges.  Success!  I cut a long slit down the side of the package and reached in to claim my prize.

I pulled out the thingamajig, plugged in the lights, plugged in the thingamajig, and voila--Christmas lights.  As I stood in the dark  admiring my handiwork, I noticed that my fingers were wet.  While reaching in to grab the prize, the plastic edge had left me with a few cuts on my fingers.  Bloodied, but triumphant, I marched into the house to find a bandaid. 

Tomorrow, I have a couple of new CDs that I plan to open.


Friday, December 15, 2006

SALE is a four letter word!

It all began when I opened my mail on Monday.  It was a simple folded card from Catherine's Clothing Store.  For those of you unfamiliar with Catherine's, it sells plus size clothing.  If you're a size 14 and up, then Catherine's has glamour for you.  They also have sales, lots of sales, sales all the time!  The card that I received in the mail read Merry Christmas and included a coupon for $15.00 off any purchase of $25.00 or more made between December 13 and 16.  I am a frequent shopper at Catherine's and the store is generous with little perks like the gift coupon.

I reminded myself that Christmas is about giving to others and not buying things for me.  I also reminded myself that I have a walk in closet filled with clothes in various sizes.  (Ask a friend with weight issues to explain why I have clothing in multiple sizes in my closet.)  I did not need any new clothes.

On Tuesday, I almost threw the coupon away, but then I told myself that I would use it to buy a Christmas gift for someone else.  I slipped the coupon in my purse, secure in my giving spirit for the holiday season.

On Thursday, I had to go to Chapel Hill, about 30 miles from my home in Raleigh.  To get there, I had to pass a shopping center that was home to a Catherine's store.  I made it to Chapel Hill and was on my way home when the coupon called my name.  I'm not kidding; I'm certain that I heard it say my name.  Then it started chanting: sale, sale ,sale!

I was helpless to resist the call and the next thing that I knew I was in a dressing room, surrounded by clothing items that I didn't need, but they were on sale.  This story does not have a pretty ending.  I managed to resist the impulse to buy a pair of leather pants but only because my butt looked like a leather covered car seat in them. 

The good news is that with my coupon, my Perks card (another 15% off) and the sale price of the items that I purchased, I saved $45.00.  Of course I spent $119.26 that I would not have spent if I hadn't decided to take advantage of the sale.  On the other hand, I have a cool new outfit to wear for my holiday party, a soft burgundy velvet two piece outfit with glitter at the neckline.

I think that I need to make a New Year's resolution to avoid saving money by taking advantage of sales.

Holiday song is The Little Drummer Boy as performed by Jane Olivor.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

That Pesky Word

I dropped by TK's journal to read his latest post; I have him on my alerts.  I can count on him to raise interesting issues that make me think and I wasn't disappointed.  I started to leave him a comment but soon realized that it was going to exceed the comment length, so I'm posting my comment here.  To place my comment in context, you need to hop over to TK's journal and read his post first.

To TK, regarding his post: This is powerful stuff and I admire your strength of character in being willing to put it out here for all to read. 
I agree that there is a double standard but I don't think that it is so clear.  I don't use the N-word and I've debated with family members and black friends what I perceive as the harm that is perpetrated when we use the term among ourselves.  However, there is still a difference between one black person using the N-word in reference to another.  The N-word does not have the same power, the same insult, when used black on black.  Maybe it's impossible for a white person to understand and maybe it appears inconsistent, but there it is. 
The best example I can give is family interactions.  Siblings call each other names, fight over stupid things and it's all a part of growing up.  But let someone outside of the family pick on your brother or sister and you are immediately ready to stand up for him or her, no questions, no hesitation.  You can thump your brother upside the head for taking your toys but Johnny from down the block better not touch him. 
Michael Richards wasn't using the term to be humorous, nor was he using it as sort of an insider term  of affection or camaraderie.  He used the N-word with the full force and  power of the hate and degradation carried with the word.  Our choice about the use of the N-word is an internal struggle, but nothing that we do gives license to any white person to presume to use the term. 
There are black comedians that use the term, but they don't use it as a weapon.  It's used to make a point, a sort of insider joke.  Richard Pryor was one of the first black comedians to use the word in his comedy act.  But after visiting the African nation of Zimbabwe, Pryor rejected use if the word. In writing about the people of Africa, Pryor stated, 'There are no niggers here. The people here, they still have their self-respect, their pride.'  Paul Mooney, a black comedian who was a writer for Pryor's comedy shows, recently announced that he will no longer use the N-word, following Michael Richards' tirade at the comedy club.
My main objection to the use of the word by black people is not that I believe that it has the same intent when used black on black, but that our use confuses white people, leads them to believe that somehow we are condoning the use of the N-word.  Perhaps it is a part of the schizophrenia that we suffer as a people, a collective internal struggle of identity caused by the peculiar nature of our history in this country, that makes us capable of abjuring the use of the word and allowing it to be used internally.  The majority of black people in the US are not descendants of immigrants.  Immigrants elect to migrate to a new country; our ancestors did not choose to travel across an ocean, packed in the bowels of cargo ships like chattel. After emancipation in 1865, we still were not treated as full citizens of this country.  We were the "other," treated as inferior, not just by social convention but by law.  Truthfully, I am amazed that we have survived with our sense of identity reasonably intact.
As difficult as it may be to fully comprehend, the use of the N-word by black people has nothing to do with the use by Michael Richards or any white person for that matter.  Richards is not a young child; he didn't use the word without fully understanding its meaning.  He intended to belittle and insult the black men at whom he directed the word.
As for the perception that effective black leadership died with Dr. King and Malcolm, I don't think that is an issue for white America to judge. I realize that this will offend some people.  But in my middle-age years, I've become impatient with the notion that white folks know what black folks need.  We certainly do not attempt to define who is worthy of white leadership.  My personal belief is that we have reached a time when a single, charismatic leader is not the essential force for advancing change.  I believe that the political arena is where the next great wave of change will take place.  Dr. King and Malcolm were necessary at the time, when the entire social foundation of this country was firmly built on a belief of white superiority and black inferiority.  I believe that they successfully cracked that foundation, but that we are still a ways from building a new structure.  I have hope that we are capable of doing so.  I believe that an essential step is to continue to engage in open and honest dialogue.
New holiday song is Santa Baby as sung by Eartha Kitt.  This is not a song for the kids!  By the way, previous songs remain available in the entry in which they were originally posted in case you have favorites that you want to revisit.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

A Cure for What Ails Ya'

I received an email from a friend who's having a bad day at work.  Her bra is killing her, she can't breath, and on top of all that, her boss is driving her nuts.

For those of us who are generously endowed (Warning, if you're easily shocked or offended, stop reading now!) bras are a necessity, sort of like getting an annual pap smear.  Not enjoyable, but it must be done.  Unfortunately, the bra that you have worn a dozen times before may turn on you.  One day you're sitting in a meeting and suddenly your boobs feel unnaturally constricted.  Surreptitiously you try to make a boob adjustment but your co-worker, Bob, is leering at you, so you silently suffer, hoping that the meeting will adjourn soon and you can make a quick trip to the ladies' room. 

Of course, the only real relief will come when you arrive home and free your boobs from confinement.  Whenever my doorbell rings, I have to make a quick visual check to be certain that there isn't a bra tossed over the back of a chair in my living room.  When I arrive home, divestiture begins as soon as I walk through the door and sometimes I let things fall where they may.

Concerned for my friend's well being and feeling her pain, I tried to think of words of comfort and advice.  I was also motivated to say something because of her threat to go postal.

I thought back to the times in my life when I have been stressed or unhappy. What had alleviated my sadness, calmed my nerves, soothed my spirit?  The answer was so simple, so doable, so logical!  There is only one solution, one thing that can avert bloodshed--eat some chocolate!  Chocolate makes everything better. Man breaks your heart--eat chocolate!  Can't pay your bills--eat chocolate!  Boss driving you crazy--eat chocolate!  Many a woman could have avoided prison time if she only had put down the gun and had a box of chocolates.

This has been a public service announcement.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

The American Way

I've been checking my journal alerts today and as always, finding humor, joy, sadness, and intellectual stimulation as I travel in J-Land.

I dropped by tks333's journal, Ramblings from the Edge, and I was particularly struck by his most recent entry.  It covers multiple topics, but his observations about former president Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestinian Peace Not Apartheid are what caught my eye.

I appreciate tks333's perspective but confess that I fundamentally disagree with his estimation of President Carter as a deluded dreamer.  I think that Carter is one of the most philosophically adept thinkers that has graced the presidential office since this country began.

According to tks333, "In my opinion President Carter is a deluded dreamer of such magnitude that even attempting to implement some of his ideas would see the absolute collapse of this nation and the end of the American way; he would have this nation abrogate its independence and ideals for the greater good of the world body."

His observations achieved their intended purpose; they made me think.  I love journalers that make me think.  That's why his journal is on my alerts.  I left a comment with tks333 that I‘ve  decided to share here.

The deluded dreamer managed to negotiate peace between Israel and Egypt.  There are many wonderful things about this country, but our biggest delusion is that the American way is so sacrosanct that it is superior to all others.  Certainly, part of the American way is to offer help and assistance to other nations in their time of need and we should be commended for those efforts.  But this is also the country that practiced slavery; implemented Jim Crow laws to continue the oppression once slavery was legally put to an end; the only country to ever use an atomic weapon not once, but twice; imprisoned American citizens of Japanese descent for no other the reason than we were at war with Japan (we were also at war with Germany but didn't imprison any German-Americans); maintained diplomatic and economic ties with South Africa in spite of its government sanctioned policy of apartheid; invaded a sovereign nation under the pretext of looking for what our own intelligence told us were nonexistent weapons of mass destruction; the list could go on but what's the point? 


Does this mean that we are the worst nation in the world? Of course not, but it does mean that we don't always take the moral high ground.  We make errors. 


What exactly is this American way that we must preserve at all costs?  Why is preserving America's independence and ideals more important than the greater good of the world body?  Rather than being deluded, perhaps Carter's is the only sane voice in a world of self-interests and blind patriotism.


That's my opinion.  What do you think?  Please feel free to agree or disagree; what I love about J-Land is the opportunity for open and honest discourse.


Speaking of which, I've been trying to decide if I wanted to write about actor/comedian Michael Richards public meltdown during his performance at a comedy club.  It has been a long time since anything has left me speechless. 


Like most people, I was dismayed by the blatant use of the N-word.  I can't even bring myself to write that word.  I don't use it, not even as some so called term of endearment when used by one black person to another.  However, I have family and friends who on occasion use the term.  They do not use it as a pejorative, but as a playful term, sort of an insider’s code of communication.  Nonetheless, it always makes me flinch and I tell them of my dislike for the word.


Many of the posts that I’ve read on the web chastise black people for the use of the N-word.  Some are from black people who say that the use of the word demeans us all.  Some are from whites that want to know why it’s okay for a black person to use the word but not okay for a white person to use it.


I’m in the camp of black folks that oppose the use of the word.  I cringe when I hear it used whether it is intended as an insult, a jest, or a term of endearment.  I don’t buy into the notion that the N-word loses its negative aura if black folks embrace and claim it.  I think that’s nonsense at worst, wishful thinking at best.  As for white people using the N-word, it is inappropriate under any circumstances.  Trust me on this.


In my lifetime, I've had the word used against me as a racial slur more than once.  Each time it felt as if someone had slapped me or branded me with a hot iron.


Richards use of the N-word as he chastised audience members for heckling him was shocking.  He made a choice.  He could have referred to them by other negative terms.  Insulted their parentage by calling them bastards, or SOB's.  But he chose to use the N-word. 


I have trouble accepting his assertion that he is not a racist and that he doesn't know why he used that term.  He attributes the use to his extreme anger.  What if the hecklers had been white?  He would have been angry but he wouldn't have used that term.  I can't separate his choice of terms from the race of the hecklers. 


I have lost my temper and said things that I later regretted, harsh, angry words to people that I cared about.  But I've never used a racial or ethnic slur in my angry tirades and as I've gotten older, I've managed to temper my feelings and my out of control angry outbursts are a thing of the past.  "When I was a child, I spoke as a child."  Now I've put away childish behaviors.

Perhaps even more disturbing than Richards' use of the N-word is his comment that "fifty years ago you would have been hanging upside down with a f*#%ing fork up your a**.  In spite of the comments to the contrary on You Tube, the reference is to the practice of lynching.  As practiced in this country, the lynching of black men and women did not simply involving the hanging by the neck until dead practices of the old west.  Lynching was designed to be humiliating as well as provide a gratifying spectacle for the watching crowd.  Victims were hanged or shot; some were burned at the stake, castrated, beaten with clubs, or dismembered.  Public lynchings were used as an intimidation tool, to keep black people in line, to make certain that black folks knew their place.

Between 1882, when records began being kept, and 1968, there were 4,743 known lynchings, including 3,446 black men and women.  One blogger (not a member of J-Land) proudly made the point that Richards’ comments regarding hanging black people were not really that insulting because they were inaccurate.  He stated that fifty years ago was 1956 and that he had searched and could find no records of any lynchings in 1956.  My friend HR, a historian and professor, assessed the blogger as being an idiot.  I agree.  I think that he missed the point entirely. 

When I was a child, the most horrifying story of a lynching was that of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955.  Visiting his cousins in the south, he allegedly whistled at and by some accounts, put his arm around the waist of a white woman.  The woman’s husband and his brother, beat Emmett until he was unrecognizable, mutilated him and killed him.  Both men were tried and acquitted by an all white jury.  In a magazine article in 1956, the men confessed to committing the murder.  Double jeopardy prevented them from being tried again.

I have been deeply disturbed by comments posted on various websites that have insisted that Richards’ remarks are no worse than what black comedians say about white people.  I don’t  condone any type of prejudice but to counter with that black folks sometimes say mean things about white people is to miss the bigger issue.  It is not about Michael Richards, it is about a country that lives in denial, a country where ignorance of history is the national pastime.  As I’ve read commentary on the web, I have been appalled at how many people clearly know nothing about the dirty history of race relations.  Not ancient history, but recent events of the last 75 years.  So many people live in a world constructed on misinformation and half-truths.  In the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Michael Richards has apologized several times for his remarks.  That’s nice but I have trouble finding his apology meaningful.  He always prefaces it with the statement, “I’m not a racist.”   I’d find his apology a lot more credible if he’d begin with, “I have deep seated issues with race that until now, I’ve never acknowledged.”  As a matter of fact, I think that would be a good opening line for an honest discussion of race in this country.

Almost forgot, new holiday song.  Technically, this isn't a holiday song but I like it a lot.  It's the 23rd Psalm set to music.  The artist is Jeff Majors.  The CD is called Sacred.

> Psalm 23