Family Myths: More Ancestry

I realize there were a couple of you who started following my blog out of a shared interest in ancestry, and just as soon as you hit that follow button, I managed to hop down every other crazy blogging bunny trail except anything resembling family trees.  This one is for you.

Like every family we have our family myths – among them are:

  • My 4th great-grandmother was the first cousin of Davy Crockett
  • Our family owned a plantation in Georgia
  • The plantation in Georgia was partly used as a basis for Tara from Gone with the Wind
  • A Union soldier took my great-great grandfather’s new shoes when he was a little boy, and threw them down a well.  When the man returned as a carpetbagger years later, my great-great grandfather chased him out of town.
  • There was a secretary (the wooden kind, and by wooden not “stoic” unless you’re anthropomorphizing a desk) used by Gen. Wm. T. Sherman from where he issued the orders to burn Atlanta.  His signature can still be found carved into the desk (he must have been hell on nibs, or maybe the secretary was made from balsa wood).
  • And then the newest one – my great-grandfather worked for a railroad in Chatanooga and killed a man with the ticketing tool, because the man offended him.  My great-grandfather was fired from his job for breaking the tool. He was never punished for the crime, because the man he killed was African American and this was at the turn of the 20th century.

I’m a tad cynical when it comes to any myth, but when it comes to family myths I’m even more so. Deep down, I want these stories to be true.  They’re part of my make-up.  They’re partyly how I’ve always define myself. They’ve occasionally been  the reason I’ve stood toe-to-toe with someone in and shouted, “I am SO his cousin!!” Then as I grew older, and could throw in the occasional smidge of maturity,  would dismissively retort, “I don’t need to prove it to you.  I know what’s true.” It turned out that I eventually needed to prove it to me, too..

With the help of my Mom, I proved that dear ol’ Davy wasn’t my 4th great-grandmother’s first cousin as was depicted in one hand-drawn family tree. (Actually, it was that hinky little line that said “Davy Crockett” that started the investigation.)  Let me just say you don’t exactly get a hero’s welcome when you make that announcement to the family.  No, “hey Beth, thanks for taking away a bit of my identity – that a girl!” I had single-handedly (dual-handedly since Mom helped?) dismissed one of our better family stories.  Go me!  On the bright side, if there is a bright side, we did prove we are related even though it’s quite distant.  That’s a win, right? Still cousins! Everything is ok! Sure, his father and my 5th great-grandfather weren’t brothers, but really whose is? Brothers! Who made that stuff up? Am I right? Really all our findings meant was that dear sweet Sarah (GGx4) was probably not helping Davy kill bears when he was only three, and thus the song was all about Davy. Scene stealer.

The one I’m currently working on, since I can’t disprove shoes being tossed down any wells, is about the secretary.  It’s supposedly still in the family. I had asked if someone could send me a few photos of it. I wasn’t even looking for the story to be a myth. I had only wanted to see the desk of legend, and maybe a close-up of the carved-in name. I figured this would be a rather simple request.  Well, it turns out the person to ask is elderly and may not understand who I am. Then the story became that writing would be out of the question – it would be even more confusing. Oh, and well, we don’t even have her address.  It might be better to conference you in on a phone call. (I should mention here a quirk of mine: I was a telemarketer in college and after for several years  (yes, the bane of your evening routine), and after countless chats over countless years, I do not care to be on the phone for any length of time.  In fact, I chose my particular career path based on limited phone time. It’s actually a screening criteria when go job hunting. The only reason I carry a cell phone is for emergencies (oh, but I did discover the joys of the GPS, so it’s dual purpose – GPS and phone rock in my purse for emergencies), and I never have the ringer on; there’s no point in calling it.  In sum, I kind of have a freakish little phone phobia.  So, when I hear sentences that go “I’ll conference Beth in,” they sound like my perfect idea of a nightmare. I’m sure Dante forgot the phone level of Hell, but I know it exists.) I cheerfully declined and worked on my back-up plan to get the information.  Sadly, it involved two hours of phone time (oh karma, if we ever meet in a dark alley…), but it got the information flowing again.  I contacted a cousin who is part of the particular family branch who supposedly have the secretary. It became its own challenge. Before I could even get him to contact this branch, he insisted on blustering (for two hours – did I mention two hours?) about the censuses of the time, and how our shared relatives didn’t live anywhere near where Sherman had come through and that their property values didn’t support a plantation (there goes a 3rd myth). The conversation was akin to listening to a timeshare pitch in order to win the blow-up cooler. “Before I’ll ask, you must hear me out on why your side of the family are morons.” He actually used the phrase, “Mary Chrstine’s family…” as a way to deride us which “may” have lead to some voice raising on my part since Mary Christine is my great-grandmother. It almost wasn’t worth the blow-up cooler, but I was an hour in and I really wanted my way.  (An only child thing?) Then he asked if I understood logic. (He’s one of those who would jovially describe himself as the smartest person in any room – possibly all the rooms.), and I still insisted, “talk to those people who we think might have the secretary and let me know what THEY say.”  Yes, I understand the logic, but I wanted to hear directly from the source of those who are believed to have the secretary. Maybe there’s some piece of the story we don’t know.  I’m just not in the habit of making assumptions. Yes, I get Occam’s Razor. Yes, this is likely a tall tale, but hey, let’s ask the questions and not summarily discount stories because they don’t neatly line up with a census paper trail.  There’s a reason the story is there.

Well, I finally convinced, him and he contacted the cousin who I was told would know where the secretary was. Unfortunately, she had never heard of the secretary.She also had never heard about any plantation, but she did agree to contact the older relative I was supposed to be conferenced in on.

So, that’s where we stand right now on the secretary.  My best guess is it’s another family myth, but it’s one I would really like this one to be true. I want to look at the picture, see the signature driven into the wood (imagine what the paper looked like),  and I want to have that shared history with Sherman.  I don’t know if I can live in a world where Sherman wasn’t the great defiler of family furniture.  I don’t want to live in that world. :)

Rebels True

I had a plan, a beautiful plan, a plan that involved getting back to the type of writing I think I do best – anecdotes.  Those little stories where I heighten a piece and it turns into one of my goofy, isn’t life just ridiculous? blog pieces.  I really wanted to stick with that plan.  That’s my foreword on this piece.

I’m about a year away from my 30th reunion at a school where I was a “Rebel”.  We flew the confederate flag at our games running it up and down the field, it was emblazoned on the outside of our gym along with our mascot “Johnny Rebel”, we played “Dixie” as a fight song.  If we lost a game, a more dirgeful rendition echoed through the stadium.  When our band returned from a game, as soon as they crossed Town Lake (part of the Colorado River) that divides the city into North and South Austin, the band observed a reverential silence.  When we graduated, Mama Craig, our Government teacher, sat on a stool and sang a mash-up of Dixie and Turn Around.  I can still hear her pure and beautiful voice as it carried throughout the Tony Burger Activity Center.

A group on Facebook was created to prepare everyone for the upcoming event.  People joined, pictures appeared along with  the posts of excitement and disbelief that we’re that much older (only on the outside).  I did my part to drag my friends kicking and screaming into the group with the simple explanation of “misery loves company”.  I admit, I’m not overly excited about attending despite having gone to the 10th and 20th.

There are a few reasons I cringe at the idea. 1) Once the class upper echelon took over the planning, it went downhill.  The reunion was no longer inclusive of the entire student body; it’s now the popular kids.  Unfortunately, those kids don’t quite know how to find the other kids. (And we’re all still kids in my mind.) Their phone tree mirrors our football roster. Drill team members, cheerleaders and a few band folks are thrown in for spice.  When you’ve been involved in big event planning, as I have been, it’s hard to watch and not wince, and hard not to  wonder whether it’s their intention to exclude the other 300 people or are they genuinely too inept for the task. I suspect a combination of both. In my past, I’ve brought speakers to my University (Dr. Ruth, who was adorable, and Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers, who was simply incredible to sit and talk to), and I’ve worked on large scale events in previous jobs.  From my experience, event planning takes a lot of work and well… planning.  There’s actually some skill involved that these folks woefully lack and it shows, but hey they like putting it on so what the heck.  That party we threw in ‘85 was hopping! Just add 3 more people and we have a reunion! 2) I wasn’t popular.  I was (am)  nerdy.  I was the President of Orchestra, in NHS, and in the German Club – you get the idea.  The most defiant thing I ever did was sit in the hallway during a time we were supposed to be in our various clubs and look defiantly when we were challenged by a hall monitor while one of my friends said (out loud using words others could hear), “yeah, we’re in a club – the Breakfast Club!” Oy. (She was not impressed and we scurried back to class.)  I loved math and science.  My idea of a great time was coming in early to work on my Chemistry lab work, being nose deep in a book, or working through Geometry proofs.  I was living on the edge.  Combine that with my natural prissiness and being reasonably unattractive and you get a feel for me.  I’m not the girl you invited to the Homecoming dance.

At our school was a group who called themselves the Right Wing Extremist Organization (RWEO) headed up by a little toad named Shannon; the living embodiment of a balding hyperactive rat terrier.  He and his little gang would bully other kids unchallenged.  Any disagreement with them was greeted with insults. If you believe the rumors, they also upended one “liberal” headfirst into a toilet for daring to challenge them or their narrow views. I remember them openly mocking a particular girl in my government class when she recounted a traumatic story of being in a police ride along (something we had the option to do as part of the class). Laughing as tears streamed down her face, because she’d witnessed someone die. How ridiculous she was boo-hooing over a death – liberal, hippie, cry-baby. They’d scrawl their little slogans on our classroom’s chalkboards, and mostly wander the halls acting like pricks.  They’ll be at the reunion, too (well, maybe).

Let me knit this all together

Earlier this week one of our classmates posted his feelings about the confederate flag; it was an impassioned piece explaining why he felt it was time to remove the flag (and I completely agree with him).  He explained that as a black student that imagery bothered him and while it didn’t bother him as a teenager, it certainly bothered him now as an adult.  He wrote about how he’d fought in Iraq and Afghanistan for people’s rights, but that he didn’t fight to support this flag.  A bunch of folks followed-up with their support, and then came Shannon’s post. “You’re wrong.” (Quick aside: Shannon had responded to another classmate’s page and eloquently expressed his disagreement with a well-worded, “you’re a dummy,” and then followed with a brief note about how he was unfriending the aforementioned “dummy.” He’s truly one of the school’s more gifted debaters (sarcasm font)). I won’t get into how someone feels cannot be “wrong,” but the original poster was not “wrong” for how he felt.  Well, that wasn’t enough for Shannon, he then fired back with “[my lacky] and I have decided this reunion has become too political, so we won’t be going”. Nevermind the fact that for four years he turned our school into political theater. Someone saying “I don’t like the flag” was clearly going too far – too political!  He used the tried and true “we’re taking our toys and going home” tactic complete with breath holding. And as we all know, you can’t have a reunion without a showing of the RWEO; the whole thing will collapse.  That table they reserved for 30 of the 364 students will now be reduced to 25.  Chaos will ensue! The reunion will be a complete failure.  What will this say about the 35th? the 40th?  Immediately a post fired back, “{your lacky] and his social secretary will be missed.”  My inner 15 year old chortled gleefully.  I’d never actually seen anyone sass the RWEO guys.  You see, for a long a time one of my dreams has been that someone would shut this guy down publicly, and wow, thanks fairy godmother I’m heading for the ball.  While it wasn’t a complete shutdown or maybe even close to one, it was the closest I’d seen in years.  See, the folks I know while clever and quick-witted are all more akin to a lumbering Great Pyrenees, in contrast to his terrier, and would really much rather sit thoughtfully, pant a bit, get pats and hopefully nap than acknowledge there’s an annoying terrier bouncing around for attention.  It may be the more mature response, but my personal vote is for the thoughtful, well-worded, humiliating smack-down WWF Thomas Paine-style.  BOOYAH!  And since he’s never challenged me on any one of my sites, I’ve never had the opportunity. Plus, I lack the intellectual prowess for a true public shaming.  I’m simply more sass than refined wit.  It’s a shortcoming. We all have flaws.

Anyway, I had to chime in at this point.  I agreed and added that to me the flag and mascot were just symbols and changing them wouldn’t alter my memories, the friends that I made or the education I had.  That you could paint the school hot pink, call us the fighting fluffy unicorns and sing the Barney theme song at the Homecoming game, and nothing about my past would change.  I personally don’t need those symbols to always remain the same; and were they to change, it would have no real effect on me.  And the truth is, it’s time for a change.

What happened next? The original poster acquiesced explaining it was never his intent to prevent Shannon or his friends from attending the reunion.  That instead he would personally not attend so that Shannon would be able to go.  Whew! Here I was worried that the whole thing might be slightly less douchey   The post disappeared along with the OP’s personal high school photos, and he’s no longer in the group.  What a shame, too.

The whole thing makes me sad and re-emphasizes why I will not make this one. I have my memories and my friends from high school without needing to be part of this rather disappointingly exclusive club.

The Lazies: What the Service Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

One more rant and then I promise to stop for a bit and return to things like genealogy or anecdotes about my random encounters with fake mustaches to celebrate Freddie Mercury. Of course, that is unless someone does something wacky like fly a Confederate flag over their Capitol building and wonders, “how on earth could racism possibly be alive today?”  As usual, I digress.

A few months ago I was reading a post by Mike Rowe.  Now let me just say, I completely adore Mike Rowe.  He’s introduced me to a world of things I never want to do in my life, and he’s made me appreciate those who do. If you aren’t familiar with him, he’s the former host of “Dirty Jobs” and is the narrator for Deadliest Catch.  (WOOO! Northwestern! WOOO! Time Bandit!) He has that every-man appeal, a beautiful voice, oh and he used to sing opera.

I follow him on Facebook to get my weekly dose of “Friday’s with Freddy” and to read his responses to crazy fan mail, which he always greets with a great amount of wit and humor.  He’ll also occasionally tackle tough political issues, and while we don’t always agree, I always appreciate the eloquent way with which he explains his point of view.  You can tell he’s put a great deal of thought into the subject at hand, and if I’m not in agreement I almost always walk away thinking, “While I don’t agree, I completely see and appreciate where you’re coming from.”

Back to that post from a few months ago – the subject had to do with livable wages and raising the minimum wage.  What I want to talk about is not what Mike said, which was against raising the minimum wage, but the comments that followed.  The gist of which seemed to be a highly vitriolic stew of, “people who work in minimum wage jobs are lazy.  If they wanted to have more money, they could.  No one to blame but themselves.” (Imagine all of that written rather hatefully.)

It reminded me of a training class I recently attended where they attempted to teach the class empathy by assigning us a made-up person, giving us the bare minimum of details, and then asking us how we felt as that person.  Mine was a working mom who had two kids in school and lived in less than ideal living conditions.  When asked how she felt I explained my life was hard in ways people couldn’t understand, but I was proud of my kids staying in school and I worked each day for them.  Now because I could believe that a person in that situation was doing her best and would actually be proud of her children, I was told in front of the class that I was wrong, and the trainer clucked her disapproval at me sensing I clearly failed her assignment, missing the point entirely. (She later attempted to teach us how to read auras.  I allowed her to see mine in all it’s shining glory which led to a small standoff.  When I’m the problem-child in a class, something has gone horribly wrong.)

My point to that story is that not everyone who is impoverished needs your pity, and not everyone who is working a minimum wage job is lazy or lacking in some important way.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working for minimum wage, you know there’s not a lot of time for sitting around and daydreaming.  In many cases you’re serving the public either directly or indirectly.  You’re stocking shelves, running forklifts, greeting customers, mowing lawns, trimming hedges, scrubbing toilets, or you’re scrubbing feet, and hands.  You’re picking up trash in a truck or throughout a building. You’re in a file room, entering data or answering call after call.  And when you’re done, you run to the next job, because you understand that there’s a great imbalance between the cost of living and the minimum wage.  You have to keep a roof over your head, food on the table and oftentimes not just for you – you have a family.

I would argue that in general these are not lazy people.  These are the hardworking people who keep our society running and help us feel civilized with our mani/pedis, our towel service, our pool maintenance, groceries, etc.

One of the world’s richest women, Gina Rinehart, once said, “ If you’re jealous of those with more money don’t just sit there and complain, do something to make more money yourself. Spend less time drinking, smoking and socializing and more time working.”  I can only assume she inherited her fortune thanks to her avoidance of vice and of course her hard working  nature (and delightful disposition). She then went on to push to lower the minimum wage for miners to below $2/hour, so that Australia could be more competitive.

Gina got to where she was thanks to her family (despite her blinders that tell her she’s an amazing little tycoon with certain tycooning gifts which include a disdain for her lazy, socializing, smoking, drinking miners). In theory her descendants will inherit that same fortune without doing much more than being born and having decent financial advisors along the way (all of whom I will presume will continue shunning the aforementioned vices).  Much like the Royals.  Much like the Hiltons or any family dynasty.  In fact if you think about how you got to where you are you can likely attribute some of it is your drive, some of it to your environment, some of it to your education, and some to your personal network (whether family or friends).  I am where I am because I am reasonably intelligent.  I went to college and earned a degree, because I didn’t see there was a choice considering my family and friends; it was just a given.  My parents went to college, most of my friends went to college and many of them have advanced degrees – there are plenty doctors of all types, whether they’re PhDs or MDs. (They’re a talented lot even if they are overachievers.) They’re the kind of people who indirectly push you in ways you don’t realize you’re being pushed.

The  jobs I’ve held over the years are a result of family connections and personal connections; I didn’t do anything special other than show up for an interview.  In fact, I can’t name a job that I have had that can’t in some way be attributed to someone else.  Sure, I’ve moved up using my own skills, but I wouldn’t have gotten my foot in the door had it not been for someone else helping to crack it open.  With hundreds of applicants applying for even the simplest of jobs, it helps to have someone say, “hey, would you talk to Beth, too”  Not everyone has that network.  Not everyone has the opportunities I have had. Not everyone is equipped to work in a white collar job, and you know what? That’s ok.  We need everyone; they’re critical to our society..

My point is that there is a lot that plays into getting and maintaining a job, and while laziness may be a factor for a small group of people, it’s certainly not the defining characteristic when we’re talking about the poverty cycle..  If you think it’s an easy thing to break out of, then it’s likely you weren’t born into it.  My father was.  My father went on to be a professor of Social Work, and he can tell you best how he broke free, but suffice it to say it had to do with his environment, his education, his network of friends and a particular family that exposed him to new and different ways of thinking.

So, when I see people standing up and saying, “I want to be paid more to be able to live – to support  my family – to give my children opportunities I didn’t have – to rely less on public assistance”.  I don’t think disdainfully, “that’s just lazy talk”, I think about how we make that happen.  If I pay more for a barely edible burger that I don’t need, and now a person no longer has to rely on SNAP to feed their family, then I’m ok with that.  They’re not asking to move into your gated community, they’re just asking to live safely.

These people aren’t lazy, they just want to survive, and we should be mindful of that when they’re serving us and be thankful instead of contemptful of that person standing at the register. (Because at the end of the day they can spit in your food or dump your trash can on your immaculate lawn).

We should be doing our party to help.

Bravery

If you’ve been awake in recent weeks you may have seen the current cover of Vanity Fair which showed a stunning Annie Leibovitz photo of Caitlyn Jenner after she made her transition.  I admit to looking at it initially with a certain amount of curiosity and thinking, “beautiful” and “good for you,” before moving onto other headlines from that day.  Throughout the rest of the week various online news outlets (and even NPR) kept the story alive by reporting on celebrity reactions, the tweets from her children, and some promised future interviews with her ex-spouses, friends, the guy at the coffee shop, etc.  I admit I lumped it all under “celebrity news I’m not interested in, “ because let’s face it, unless Jodi Foster is coming to my house to invite me to consult on her next project or Timothy Olyphant is writing me a note admitting to keeping a photo of me in his trailer, I don’t care.  Anything Kardashian related headed my way makes me want to poke myself with a sharp object. Apologies to Us, People, the Enquirer, Daily Mail, etc., but I don’t see anything you report as real news (but you guys are great for the hair salon or bathroom)..

I watched the tidal wave of “news” on the matter crest and then slowly ebb away.

During the peak of all of the excitement a gentleman made a certain Facebook post complete with an image grabbed from online depicting two soldiers that went viral.  The gist of the post being that Caitlyn’s transition was not “brave” or “courageous” or “heroic” unlike the image being shown in the other photo he selected – one depicting a soldier carrying a comrade who had his pistol drawn as he was being carried off – real “American” courage.  While attempting to credit the source of the photo, this same gentleman discovered that the picture was actually a photo of a toy figure, and the person who created the image was a man who had been beaten nearly to death because he was a cross-dresser. The gentleman quickly owned up to his mistake and followed-up with a post about the lesson he learned that day. I personally had great respect for him, because he could have easily let that information slip past, but instead he wrote about it and how it transformed him.

When I read about his error I snorted a bit at the irony, and once again returned to other news. I certainly never planned to post my thoughts on it; I had none – nothing really new to add. Then today rolled around, and I saw the same post re-posted, but missing the key follow-up post, and then for no good reason I took a moment to read the comments that followed.  I guess I was satisfying that most human need to rubberneck at train wrecks, or maybe I just felt like getting mad (it was a rather slow day truth be told, and MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!).

There’s really never a good reason to read most comments to any story. Regardless, I hopped down that nasty rabbit hole of bile and gritted my teeth as I read the most hateful wretch bubbling up in support of the original post. The writers were completely oblivious to the follow-up post (or maybe they were blatantly ignoring it). They used the post as a vile catalyst to feed on each other’s disdain, on each other’s hatred and ignorance.

I suspect most of what was said in response came more from a place of “why is this news” than anything else, but unfortunately they worded their disgust ways that went to the proverbial “there” by hammering on phrases like “American heroicism”.  This Caitlyn’s transition was not “brave”. That it was not “courageous”.

What is Bravery? Courage? What does it mean to be Heroic?

Merriam-Webster tells me Bravery  is “to have the quality or state of being brave.”  Brave – “having or showing courage <a brave soldier> <a brave smile>.”  Courage = “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Among the definitions of Heroic = “exhibiting or marked by courage and daring.”

Bravery isn’t limited to the beaches of Normandy, the Helmand Province, or the streets of Saigon.  Bravery is the bullied kid that still gets on the school bus under threats of violence every single day. Bravery is my gay friend walking into his dorm room every day while in the midst of being tormented by his roommate who used my friend’s towel as toilet paper and his pillowcase as tissue paper and not falling completely apart. Bravery is holding warlords hostage to come to the table and reach a peace agreement for Liberia.  And bravery is sometimes staring defiantly into the face of a photographer in the Phnom Penh S-21 prison, knowing you will be executed.

Bravery ranges in size from an elementary school girl singing her first solo to astronauts riding an explosion that flings them to the moon. and bravery doesn’t know international boundaries; it’s not just an “American” thing; it’s a “human” thing. To believe that it is somehow contained within our borders is to be grossly out of touch with a much larger world. And bravery doesn’t always occur to the battlefield either – ask any of the 9/11 (or 911) responders.

You do not have to be part of the LGBT community to understand that what Caitlyn Jenner did, in front of the world, was brave. Putting yourself out there for the world to judge is hard, and doing it when you’re a well-known former Olympian makes it that much harder.

Dislike the story because it’s sad that it’s still news – and it’s actually important news for the LGBT community, because we’re currently not in a place where we simply accept that a person made a choice (as evidenced) – maybe a choice we don’t approve or understand, but a choice that was theirs to make.  Dislike it because you’re tired of the Kardashians.  Don’t dislike it because it doesn’t depict “bravery.” It does.

Caitlyn Jenner is brave.  As brave as anyone I know.

In the Land of Cotton (or Clay)

My family is Southern. I’ve tried and tried to start this story without a declaration, but there you have it; I’m at it again. My family is Southern. They hail from the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, but mostly Georgia and Alabama. I’m sure some slipped into Mississippi and Louisiana along the way, but if they did, they didn’t stay long as they made their way to Texas or they were disowned. Who’s to say? (Yes, there’s a Southern hierarchy and no, we’re not even going to talk about Arkansas.)

In researching my family and chasing down all the branches, twigs and stumps, I found I couldn’t hit the early 1860’s without discovering every able-bodied male – every “great” (from grandfathers to uncles) fought for the South in the Civil War. It would be more challenging for me to find someone between 14-60 who didn’t. I have relatives who were injured at Shiloh after their regiment was nearly cut down to the man, relatives at almost nearly every major engagement, and then a relative who died at Ft. Delaware as a POW. After the war, there was a great who named his son John Wilkes Booth (+ the family last name) and then I see John Wilkes ooth went on to name his own son John Wilkes Booth, Jr. I believe there’s even a III. I guess the song “Let it Go” hadn’t hit the charts then. Needless to say, I cringe a lot when I do my research, and each time I come across the JWB’s anew, I cringe like it was the first time. (Then I announce it to my husband like it’s new news and usually get, “you’ve told me that before”. “Oh? Well, can you believe it? John Wilkes Booth?!?” Then I let time slip by so I can repeat it again.)

With relatives from Atlanta, I’ve grown up with stories like the time the Union soldier approached my great-great grandfather as a boy and asked him about the shoes he was so proud of. My great-great took those shoes off to show him and the union soldier dumped them down a well. Then there was the time that Sherman took over one of our family’s homes and marred the wooden secretary as he wrote out his orders before burning Atlanta. That secretary is still in the family. To the older Atlanta relatives, Gen. Sherman wasn’t just Sharman, he was Sherman and a little spit – like that was his full name. Gen. Sherman Patooey, and you could only mutter or growl it out. I can use scalawag correctly in a sentence. FYI, it’s also followed by a patooey when correctly used. Various members of my family had slaves (just like Ben Affleck’s family only a Sony leak isn’t how you’re finding out, and Henry Lewis Gates, Jr.’s job isn’t on the line because of it – great job there, Ben). I can’t answer to this other than to say it bothers me to the core, because I want to believe my family stood up and said, “this is wrong, this is unjust,” but the truth is they didn’t. They named their kids “John Wilkes Booth.”

But, let me stop here a sec and make the declaration that I’m not Southern, I’m a Texan, and more importantly, I’m a US citizen. Which brings me to this weekend. We have a family cemetery and church out in East Texas; it’s well into the piney woods where the earth becomes a soft red clay. (Not the most ideal earth to bury someone in, but hey… it’s what we got.) Every year, for decades and decades long before I was around, the families have come together over Memorial Day (and Labor Day, but that stopped who knows when) to clean up the graveyard, which used to just be dirt. We’ve got grass now! At these events there’s usually a ceremony of some sort to talk about cemetery business, then there’s sometimes a raising of a flag while music is piped through a tin-y sounding speaker system, there’s often a speech or two (sometimes by the more upstanding family members like that one gal who was a dentist) and then we can get to the real business – the potluck. While it’s a bit amateurish, it has its own charm and it brings us together. I expected this year someone would raise the US flag, we’d recite the Pledge of Allegiance, talk about the upkeep of the grounds and then, you know, get to the food bit. I’d at some point brave the port-a-potty and then swear off of it, trying not to take in any liquids for the remainder of the hot day. (Hey, it’s at least better than the outhouse, which is also available.) You know, the usual Memorial weekend day routine. Then this happened..

The Battle Flag of Northern Virginia, one of the Confederate Flags and most commonly associated with the Confederacy.

..

and that’s when my jaw hit the floor. I was gobsmacked, because “gobsmacked” is the best way to describe my reaction. Oh, Dorothy, we’re out of Kansas, girl. This isn’t the same ol’ Star Spangled Banner, saluting the flag of yore.

The Black Roses (part of the Daughters of the Confederacy) in the Texas heat and humidity (you may have heard we got a little rain recently)

Black Rose bowing to the grave of one of the soldiers.

Now let me back up and say that I think it’s wrong to not honor and recognize Confederate soldiers. They fought, bled and died for what they believed was right at the time. But I can’t deny how uncomfortable I felt nor how that feeling skyrocketed after we were asked to honor the Confederate Flag after we had pledged allegiance to the US flag and the Texas flag (hey, I’m a Crockett). At “now face the confederate flag” my hands dropped to my side and I stared at the reenactor. I’m never saying, “…and undying devotion to the cause for which it stands.” Maybe I’m taking it too seriously (I have that habit, ask my friends; I’m the unfun one), but to me you get into this funny little grey area where you’re pushing treason. Did I mention I’m not Southern, I’m Texan (and that’s only on days when our governor isn’t threatening to secede or you know, openly talking about how we’re all going to be round up into Wal-Mart detention centers). Still, this gal broke into Dixie and started doing a little dance when she picked up the tempo and all of what I see as craziness became “the best cemetery clean-up day ever”. And they did honor the three Confederate veterans with a 21 muzzle loading gun salute who did fight the fight they felt was just.

21 Gun Salute

But holy cow!

A photo, because I just liked him best…

(Complete aside – I posted one of the photos on Facebook with the comment “So, this just happened”  to comment on the surreal nature of the event, and immediately one of my cousins responded with the best line, “OMG. There is grass.”  Which is truly one of the craziest things to be seen in the photo and made me burst out with laughter.)

Texas Proud

I’m a Texan. By all accounts (or just the more reliable ones) I’m a “proud Texan”.  I was born here, I was raised here, and if my lack of motivation and drive persists, I’ll die here.  I’m good with that.  As a Texan I was indoctrinated at an early age to love Texas – the good and the bad.  A bit like I love my momma, apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet.  Ok, I don’t actually care one way or the other about Chevrolet – I’m indifferent – that’s the word! They’re fine and all, I’m sure.  I mean no offense to anyone driving one.  Oh, and while we’re at it if we could turn apple pie to some sort of cobbler and maybe replace baseball with tennis, that would be swell.  Now the love of my Momma still stands, except let’s call her “Mom” or “Mother”, that would be more fitting.  Whew.  Got all of that out of the way.  I love Mom, peach cobber, tennis (if I have to pick one) and car companies ending in “a”. And Texas! Don’t forget Texas.

As a Texan, I get to defend Texas to my out-of-state friends more times than I’d care to.  Yes, in education we rank among the lowest, but many of us are fairly state-aware, despite what you were taught in whatever place you came from. And hey, we rank low in a lot of areas! TEXAS PROUD! We’re # (shoot, I don’t have that many hands)!

I feel like I’ve beaten this dead horse before, but let’s face it, I’m too lazy to link back to some post where I defended Texas.  It’s out there.  I’m sure my ire was up.  I probably typed a few sentences using heavy, angry keystrokes. No, I won’t link those two adjectives with a contraction, and I’m aware that I’ve now ended a few sentences with prepositions, but that’s how I’m rolling today. I’ll make 32 other egregious grammar errors before I get through this post.  Blame the Texas education system and a poor attitude.

Here’s the thing – Texas is my family.  I can pick on it, but God forbid someone outside of it start – thems fightin’ words.  Until last week…

Normally, I don’t like to get into my politics on my blog.  I ust like to throw random anecdotes at you until you cry for mercy. Those cries herald an extended blogging sabbatical while I wait for the next thing to inspire me.  Normally, I shrug off what comes across the national news about my state.  It’s rarely good. It’s never an “atta boy, Texas” with no trace of sarcasm. Normally, I don’t cringe.  Did I mention, “until last week”?

Let’s talk about Operation Jade Helm 15. You know that thing where Obama was planning to come to Texas to institute martial law.  I think we were going to be rounded up into Wal-Marts and then who knows what would happen next.  That story.  The one where Governor Abbott sent the Texas National Guard to keep an eye on the US military.  State officials from both sides of our state government sent the Governor notes basically saying, “what the…?” This played out in the media for a bit.  Towards the end of last week we were notified by Gov. Abbott that he’d been briefed by the Pentagon and he now felt assured we Texans were not in peril.  Whew! I’m not a huge fan of Wal-Mart.  Bullet dodged!

I was gobsmacked..

I can handle being called out for my drawl.  I can even handle my out-of-state friends being stunned that some Texans have had book learnin’ and can keep our drool from spilling down the front of our shirts.  But this… this… I’m at a complete loss of words.

So, where I normally would avoid politics and in turn avoid posting other people’s thoughts on politics, I felt I had to be called away from couch sabbatical and post something – sometimes – other people’s words – people who are better at expressing themselves about this lunacy than I.

Strong Language Warning:

From the Stonekettle Station Blog:”Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas”

“Paranoia is a mental Illness, not a super power.”

And Jon Stewart, who is always brilliant:  You can start at 4:45 if you just want to cut to the Jade Helm chase.

I’m such a proud Texan….

No, We Can’t Be Facebook Friends

When I first joined Facebook my criteria for accepting friend requests was fairly simple: Would this person attend my funeral?  Ok, would they attend it if they didn’t have other pressing, out-of-town commitments like being stuck in Malta, or Barcelona (typed with a lisp), or out hiking in the middle of the Badlands, or you know trapped in Waco in some death cult? Ok, would they at least kind of make a sad face that the average person could read as sad and then send a sympathy card to my husband or my parents? Ok, would they at least avoid hitting the “Like” button if my husband posted my obituary?   If I could answer “yes” to any of those questions, they were in – unwittingly signed up for my media shares and occasional thought burps.  When I looked at the final count I was confronted with an awful truth – only a tiny handful of friends and family would actually show for my funeral.  I made a mental note to suggest my wake be held in the backyard shed.  That could be nice, and with three people it might make the space look like it was bustling with mourners. (Mourners are universally known for their bustling.)

As Facebook grew, and more people joined, I had requests from folks like my former Girl Scout troop, high school and college friends, old roommates, people I met in improv, people I knew solely online, friends of friends, former co-workers, and that one girl who claims we went to the same school, but I haven’t a clue who she is. My “Friends” list quickly jumped from 3 to over 3 in no time. Then invariably came requests from current co-workers. I was rather careless in the beginning by accepting any request that came my way in an effort not to appear rude. Once I realized the mistake I quickly discovered the security settings and created a friend limbo which limited their access. I didn’t want to run the risk of having a meeting room meltdown should I actually “unfriend” one of these folks.

There are now only a few co-workers who can see my entire feed (weekly drivel). These carefully selected folks went through a rigorous screening process – the Vegas Vet – or “what happens on FB stays on FB”.  Basically, we don’t talk about each other’s latest post – a knowing nod in the hall suffices.  A simple head gesture that says,  “I know you have a camera, oh and you also have photogenic cats, two fierce Bengal plastic mouse chasers – keep it cool, I’m just walking on by casual-like, ‘’Sup!’”  The day I get one, “I hate that picture of you” “You look weird.” “Why would you post that?” the offender is either removed completely or moved to the special FB purgatory where they can only see my profile picture, but hey we’re still friends – that’s nice right?  (For the record, those are actual remarks I’ve received in the hallway at my office.)

After some careful thinking, I finally resolved to make my life easier by not accepting new friendship requests from current co-workers.

Now here’s where I need to state that I don’t see a FB “Friendship” as a real friendship. If I did, we’d be back to the three people at my shed wake. I see it as a way to find and catch up with people you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s a great way to have very superficial interactions, to catch up with George Takei or Mike Rowe, and it can be a solid personal PR tool –  you can promote yourself, your latest achievement, your business, etc. That’s not to say that I don’t have real friends there, but our friendship is strengthened by our outside interactions (unless they live in Japan)  – not by the latest photo meme being passed around. I accept I may be alone in this assessment.

So back to the co-workers.  I received a new request a couple of weeks ago and realized we were going to have to talk.  I didn’t want to talk.  Talk is perilously close to confrontation and could end with someone getting upset. I talked the situation over with my friends (the three wake shed-ders you’ve come to know and love), and with their advice in hand I politely explained that I liked to keep work separate from home. This is actually true. I’m that person who doesn’t tend to talk about personal things at work. I’m the person people throw proverbs at like, “well, I guess still waters run deep” (which either means I’m quietly treacherous or I take sketch classes, and occasionally show up on stage with a puppet in hand). Plus, my friends might post that awkward picture of me not drinking (because I’m a tea-totalling, uptight prude), and how awkward would that be?

PedroPoopsJoy_Beth

At the end of the brief chat I felt good, I felt adult. I had handled a particularly awkward conversation with great aplomb and it went, in my mind, really well.  Of course it went really well until it didn’t, and that’s when I received multiple texts about how embarrassed they were and how they’d put me in a bad situation, which they hadn’t. They said they hoped we could still be friends. I was at a complete loss and ended up spending the better part of my evening texting them off the FB ledge which included sharing my philosophy about FB not being an actual friendship.  I explained that we were “real” friends and that was more important than any one line blurb I might throw out there or any #TBT baby photo (no Tori, you may NOT go back in time and squeeze my little fat baby cheeks – whoops, sorry I digress).  I eventually got them to a place where they were reasonably ok with the situation.  At least, I think they were ok with it, but you see how well my thinking goes.

I guess Jay shouldn’t count on her showing up at the shed.