Saturday, July 31, 2010

Just a little technology can go a long way....

1. I finished a DVD series, recommended by my brother, called Wonderfalls.

Apparently the show was on television in 2004, and since I wasn't watching television at the time except for General Hospital (*tee hee*), I totally missed it. (See photo at left as to why I watched GH for so long..... )

If you like well-written and humorous tv, Wonderfall's for you.

2. Sarah, a former student, came over last night to hang out while her parents went to see Peter Frampton and the Steve Miller Band. They didn't actually "intend" to see that concert, they were actually working the concession stand for their daughter's high school band, but that is too much information. I think Sarah said her mother is working the venue for Sugarland. I'm thinking that band boosting has changed.

Never mind.

Peter Frampton before ---- and after.....

Anyway, while Sarah was here, I told her, as a graduate of KMHS Magnet School of Math and Science and Technology, that she should teach me how to "hot" link to videos, pictures, and other media to my blog.

In two seconds, I was learned.



So, I'm practicing using "hot" links -- because of this.

and this guy's comment:

"It's music over the phone while you are on hold that makes me want to kill someone. Atrocious. It's one thing to have wait on hold for "5 minutes to 20 minutes" and then have this sonic assault permeate my mind in between getting hustled for new way to have my money removed from me."

The two most memorable (scarring) experiences I've ever had with forced ambient music were:

I. I went to see a popular film on opening day once, I can't remember what it was. I arrived at the theater early in order to get a good seat. I waited in a very long line before the doors of the theater were opened. I was able to get a good seat. The problem was, the film didn't start for over an hour, and once I had the seat I couldn't get up because someone would take it. I hadn't brought my portable music device and this was before the days of iPhone, so I simply had to wait. I suddenly noticed that the theater was playing Christopher Cross's "Arthur's Theme"– you know, the song that has the chorus that begins: "When you get caught between the moon and New York City...". Now, this is a hateful song from a hateful artist, but I could tough it out for a couple of minutes until the song ended.

That grateful moment arrived, followed by a brief silence. Then the same song started again! I assured myself that it must have been a simple mistake and waited until it mercifully finished for the second time, followed by a welcome silence and the murmur of the still-arriving audience.

Then the song began to play again

"...when you get caught between the Moon and New York City..."

And then again.

"...I know it's crazy, but it's true..."

And then again.

"...the best that you can do..."

The song played over and over and over again for the entire hour and twenty minutes until the movie started. Someone threw a drink at the screen, but missed. A baby cried. A few people gave up their seats and left, then came back during the previews and sat on the floor in the front.

Sometimes, even today, I "...wake up and it's still with me..."

II. Once in the late 1980s I was at Hershey Park, an amusement park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, home of the delicious cheap chocolate, waiting in line to ride a then-popular roller coaster. The park was crowded, the line was long, snaking through seemingly endless wooden corrals. A recent addition had been made to the waiting areas of the more popular rides at the park: television sets, suspended from the ceilings of the ride corrals at intervals, so there wasn't a single place the entire length of the line where you couldn't see and hear one of the televisions. The idea, I suppose, was to try to alleviate the boredom and misery of waiting in a very slow line on a humid summer day. I also suspect that the park got money to play promotional content on a loop. And what was playing on those televisions, visible from every part of the line, and audible through multiple low-fidelity speakers? This. And no, this isn't a tiresome use of a completely played-out internet joke. That was really what was playing. Over and over and over again.

For almost two hours.

I totally laughed until I cried because back in the late 1980's, I went to Six Flags over Georgia, and I was waiting in line for the Scream Machine, and this same video was on loop as I waited under the cover of that pavilion with its 16 lanes of human line waiting-- I totally forgot it till I saw this guy's comment.

Bravo. LOL

Sarah.. thanks for the tip. :)

Hooded and Other Things at Graduation

My nephew James graduated from KSU on Wednesday night.

Weird night for a graduation.... middle of the week -- July.

The traffic, light around the college, but kind of stalled out around the facility, stopped and started as I parked my car in the East Parking deck and walked to the convocation center.

Edie? Should that be capitalized?

After being at two, huge high-schools for the last twenty-years of my teaching career and graduating classes of 800 plus, the crowd for this ceremony was small --- and only about 3/4 of the seating filled.

Unlike high school, where rabid parents (with limited tickets), siblings, and sometimes grandparents stampede into the arenas and dash like rock fans to get a front row seat (being assigned as a ticket-taker several times to these events --I witnessed this first-hand), these mild mannered, well-dressed humans stroll into the event and sashay to the vacant seats, politely allowing others to go ahead of them.

Since most graduation ceremonies are now displayed on a huge monitor, I didn't understand the desire for those front row seats at graduation. Of course, I wasn't a parent to a valedictorian or even aunt to one (at least not yet -- Paul? Andrew? Glenn? Stephen? - you're my last chance), even though I am sure that if I had produced an heir, he would be brilliant, witty, and behaviorally disordered, but probably not valedictorian. :)

I plopped down in-between my sister and sister-in-law and flipped through the program.

I looked at the list -- OMG -- over a 1000 graduates, but from the chairs set up for the graduates, I could tell that most of them were not showing up to "walk."


I'll be out of here in minutes.

*raises puny fist*

But, oh no...

KSU graduated their first doctoral student, and as my brother Kenneth quipped, "It's like the first grand-child."

KSU, puffed up and proud, made comment after comment and bragged and bragged about their new "child." Photo-ops, shaking hands, throwing around hoods, and basking in the limelight, KSU recognized this doctoral feat as many as six times during the two and half hour commencement.

At one point, I leaned over to my sister-in-law and commented, "Are you as over this guy as I am?"

She affirmed.

Meanwhile, we clapped for his family in the stands. In fact, we clapped for this guy so many times I lost count. That ceremony would have been an hour shorter it this guy hadn't graduated from KSU on the same night as my nephew. Why didn't that guy finish in the spring? Better question -- why didn't my nephew?


*slaps James up the side of the head*

At one point, they announced the title of his dissertation: "The Elliptical Moves of Four Math Equations on the Cognitive Forces of the Pythagorean Theorem as Presented in the Brains of Male Children Brought Up In Households that Only Ate White Rice" ***

Or something like that....

I was like -- why tell the audience [who had been praying for their kid to graduate at all] the name of this guy's dissertation? Does it mean anything to them? Does it mean anything to the folks who had to read it? How many Google hits will it get?

I was just happy the doctor didn't present it to us.


Really, if you have been to one graduation, you have been to them all.

We sang the National Anthem. My brother, sister, and I sang loudly -- it must have been cause we knew the words and the tune and grew up trying to out-sing the other in church.

"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."

A lot of the parents around us did not know the words. Not to "My Hope is Built" but to the National Anthem.

*scratches head*


We live in a changing place.

We clapped for the doctor again, and he had his picture taken with the guy who lead us in singing the National Anthem.

The speaker, Nels Peterson, recently furloughed from the governor's office and a KSU 2001 graduate, did a nice little speech on how important relationships were and how not to worry about money but doing something you love...... anyway, he promised to be "short," but his definition is different from mine.

Then he had his picture made with the doctor.


Then deans of school stood up and conferred and certified the degrees.

We clapped for the doctor.

Then the doctor got his hood, the specialists in education got their hoods, the masters folks got their hoods -- the hooding ceremony took forever.

My nephew Andrew and I were checking off names like they were on a to-do list.

Andrew: I am so not walking when I graduate.
Me: Operative word -- "when."
Andrew: You're just not that funny.


My other two nephews chatted it up and listened to music on their headphones, my brother Kenneth checked the Braves's score on his I-Phone.

This is how the modern world copes with monotony.

*tee hee*

I checked out the many graduates who didn't get the memo on wearing black slacks under the gowns, the number of folks who waved to themselves on screen, the families who stood and hooted when their graduate received their diploma, and tried to figure out if there was one single student on that commencement list that I taught.

There was one who got hooded.

Hood, hooding, hooded, have hooded? Hoodie?Hoodi? Hoodo? I don't think it's a verb? Edie?

Congratulations, Amanda, on your Master of Arts in Teaching and your Hood.... I hope you can get some wear out of it.

The Masters and the hood -- *grins*

Finally, the undergraduates walk -- and receive their diplomas.

I'm pretty sure we clapped for the doctor again, sang the Alma Mater (Egads, who writes this stuff? "Kennesaw, dear Kennesaw,/ Nestled in the Georgia pines,/ What a special place you hold,/ /Treasured in this heart of mine." I personally saw no pines.), recognized professors, clapped for the doctor again, and then finally, the processional freed us.

I did like that a bagpiper lead the processional and the recessional -- even though I didn't know the tune -- the sound was beautiful.

It's always a proud moment for someone you love to graduate -- it is an accomplishment -- a sign of perseverance and determination, of meeting goals, and even though more people than ever graduate from college, for me, it doesn't lessen how proud I feel when one of my own does it.


*** real title of doctoral Ed. D's dissertation: "A Study of the Relationships Between Epistemological Beliefs and Self-Regulated Learning Among Advanced Placement Calculus Students in the Context of Mathematical Problem Solving."

I like my title better.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

McCafe Caramel Frappé

You know what else is cool?

School started today for my former colleagues -- a thing called pre-planning, which Dante happened to leave out of his levels of hell, only because it hadn't been invented yet.


Anyway, at 11, I called Dr. P, a recent retiree, and asked her if she was thinking about what she was missing?

Edie: Nope, I'm waiting to see Obama on The View.

Me: You know, you couldn't do that if you were in a meeting hearing about the new evaluation tool for teachers, or Georgia's new power standards, or how to fill out a field trip form, or sign out your receipt book, or being issued three rubber gloves, or going through your 84 emails, or testing your spanking, new four pens and eight file folders, or registering for your parking permit, or memorizing the school's mission statement, or wondering if you have lunch duty -- for shame, or, after thirty years of teaching, seeing that your lesson plans have the right components. Ya know?

Edie: I gotta go - -it's coming on now.


What did I do today?

I walked three miles at Kennesaw Mountain, bought myself a caramel frappé from McDonald's, went to Target, stopped by my sister's for a tomato sandwich, watched the Young and the Restless, and then pinched a cutting from a friend's oak-leaf hydrangea for rooting. And, I had to get my neighbor's mail....

I'm worn out.



Nan -- Brendan -- Phillip -- Tawn --- Angela -- Trudy -- Ashlynn -- Melissa -- Mike -- etal:



PS. I know that frappé needs that little thingy over the "e," but I gotta go --- looks like the birds need a few cubes in their "cocktail" hour water.


Monday, July 26, 2010

The Given Day

Dennis Lehane's The Given Day didn't surprise me at all.

As with any Lehane novel, he spares no details when it comes to graphic, grueling, and gritty, and as with his other books, skimming becomes one of my reading tools, but all of that does not keep me from reading what he writes. Compelling and interesting, Lehane's stories always have memorable incidents.

Set in 1917 in Boston, Lehane's The Given Day tells the parallel stories of Danny McCoughlin, a member of Boston's police force, and Luther Lawrence, an African American running from his past. As expected the two stories intersect, but what is not expected is how.

Lehane had me turning pages from the first page and reading this seven hundred page novel like it was on fire, sometimes a hundred pages in a sitting. Lehane delivers fast reading because his narrative knows no "pause" or "stop" or "ponder" -- it propels forward, fast and furious, like a car chase or a Van Diesel movie -- not that I have seen the latter.

*tee hee*

Seething beneath the surface in post WW1 Boston was a dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Promised a raise since 1903, the Boston Police Force grumbles and mumbles about their poverty status and resents, for one thing, that with their small salaries, they also have to fund their own uniforms and guns. Barely able to make ends meet, the "beat" cops work eighty hour weeks and sometimes twenty days in a row before a day off. To add fuel to their situation, the conditions of the precincts are deplorable -- rats run amok and filthy quarters seem the normal.

Immigrants, revolutionaries, and anarchists note the great discrepancies between the common man and the Brahmins and stir unrest in a city primed for insurgency. Violent radicals rabble rouse the locals by setting off bombs or sending them to city agencies or even civic leaders.

A nervous Boston reacted with prejudice, paranoia, and reprisals. Boston, ripe for change, had the old guard fearing their loss of power and reacting in less than pleasant ways and the new guard fighting back for their own survival - - - the clashing of the two ways of life -- inevitable.

Lehane seems to have done his homework -- he focuses on a part of history that I knew little about -- like Philbrick does for me ---- except Lehane writes this in fiction.

Not only are the fictional characters of Danny and Luther memorable, but Lehane peppers his novel with historical figures -- Babe Ruth, W.E.B. Dubois, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Eugene O'Neil.

I likey.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Seven: And One Mentions Underwear

I read a blog titled Faith, Fiction, Friends, and on Thursdays, he blogs a "Pleasantly Disturbed Thursday," which is another word for random. I totally stole that idea today.

Forgive me, Glynn?

A really, savvy blogger would add that hotlink here .... but I'll need to work on that. FFF is a good blog -- I'm sure you can look under my options and find his blog listed. He's actually a writer unlike I, who am a ......


1. The Braves... I have a feeling about them this year --- that they will win the division and perhaps go to the World Series, only to lose to the stupid Yankees. (Is that redundant? Stupid and Yankees?) It's just a feeling. I'm not betting in Vegas or anything. I love me some Hey Ward, and it would be good for Chipper to limp into one last big show.

2. For the very first time, I am reading Anne of Green Gables. I have finished the first one -- I will have to read them in between other novels because, well, I just will, but -- I don't know why I never read these as a young girl. I know that both my nieces read them, and I remember that my students over the years exclaimed about them being their favorite novels as a child.

I've read the first one, and I have to say that I was transported to a different time -- not only to a simpler time, but it made me feel like a young girl, as I laughed at the scrapes Anne got into and the exasperation of her adopted parents. Montgomery, who wrote the novel, managed to capture an unforgettable character in Anne. Strong, perceptive, and full of independence, she's a timeless role model in a precious story full of humor; the lightness, the praise for simplicity and a genuine awe for the beauty of nature round out memorable characters who are effectively drawn if not too morally good, as they should be for impressionable young minds. Montgomery left a legacy with Anne and did many generations of girls a favor with such a heroine, one with a ferocious spirit and a love of her fellow man. Young girls would just read them from cover to cover to find out what happens next.

Thank you, Kat, for telling me that I needed to read them and Nora for loaning me your copies. :)

3. I went to my sister's this week -- every summer, we tackled some project at her house -- she always has projects -- she has a big house and my three nephews. Cleaning always needs to be done. We tackled a bonus room that had turned into a storage room -- you know the type of room -- where you don't know where to put something, so you put it in this room. Some people call this a basement. She has one of those too. LOL. I think I have already blogged about it.

In this room were all kinds of things -- wrapping paper, three rocking chairs, four end tables, extra lamps, sewing machine, old computer, Oriental rug, quilts, back copies of Bee Keepers, three swimming pool safety floats, the full Horatio Hornblower series, and misc other stuff. The two chests of drawers in there are stuffed with old linens, left over from my aunts' house in Virginia and my mother's.

As hard as it was, I convinced my sister that it was time to toss those linens. She had not used them in fifteen years -- what was she saving them for ---?

Sister: I dunno.
Me: Exactly.

We found -- lace doilies, dresser scarves, cotton embroiderd ladies' handkerchiefs, crochet lamp bumpers, and vintage card table cloths.

As we re-folded these items for giving-away, we felt sentimental and nostalgic for these things -- but in a practical sense -- it was time to pass them on. When we looked at the time and care that must have gone into some of these linens, it made us sad -- but do we give them away now or wait for the next generation to toss them in a dumpster?

As we came across a set of napkins, I remember how my mother's generation pressed them before our Sunday lunches and for company. My -- oh my -- what a different time.

4. The Young and the Restless -- I don't watch it everyday, but I do DVR it so that I can watch it occasionally and mock it. I used to watch General Hospital, but I gave it up when they broke up Jason and Elizabeth, and I dropped Days when Marlena was possessed by the devil. Now on Young and the Restless, they have Adam: he has made a girl go crazy, killed a man, stolen money, married his brother's ex-wife, embezzled from his father, spent time in jail, been married multiple times, has occasional blindness--really, it's a partial blindness -- inconsistent on the show, stalked a woman till she lost her baby, stolen a baby and passed if off as someone else's, and done some serious lying, all the while sporting a hair-do done by Weed Whacker. I stand by my adage: Adopt a soap opera -- and get to know these folks. I'm thinking of applying to be a writing consultant. :)

Wait. What am I blogging about? I think I forgot.

5. Speaking of TV, David and I are watching all kinds of television -- mostly cop shows for some reason [what happened to sit-coms -- I haven't watched a sitcom since All in the Family]--- it makes us wanna own "Laura's car" -- a black, decked-out Chevrolet Suburban; usually in these shows, four or five of them come whipping on the scene when the bad guys, well, do something bad. We love all the action in shows like Flashpoint, Covert Affairs, Burn Notice, and Memphis Beat. We're so pedestrian, aren't we?

6. Has this been a hot summer or what? Yesterday, I was over by Town Center Mall, a real mistake -- doesn't anyone work?, and when I got to my car, the car thermometer read 104. Where am I? Death Valley? I was shopping for underwear to walk in -- and just to let you know, that stuff was made by skinny folks with a wicked sense of humor. Enough said. At one point I was standing in a dressing room encased in spandex. I needed a shoe horn.

I finally found a line designed by Serena Williams. That should tell you something.

Blog readers: TMI

BTW: When I got home, I tried it on, and I was so tired, I took a nap in it -- it worked pretty well.

7. Keats has all of a sudden decided that she wishes to sleep on me at night. In the winter, I kind of get it -- it's about the warmth. In the summer, not so much -- she's like sleeping with a hot, fur covered 13 pound watermelon. Lawd. What's up with that?

That's all I got.

Madelyne: This blog's for you. :)


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Melon Tapping and Dripping Fruit

Sounds like the names for the first two band performing at Bonnaroo, doesn't it?

I love summer fruit because it drips.

It's not fully summer until you have had fruit drip down your arm.

The. Tomato.

Twice this week, I fixed (the correct verb for this sandwich) the proverbial tomato sandwich for lunch, and as I bit into the sandwich, a half of a large tomato (the other slices saved for dinner) sliced thinly but covering the bread, a slather of mayonnaise (full fat -- no lite chemical- ridden substitute), salt and pepper, and placed between two slices of fresh bread, the tomato juices either dripped on my hand or in my lap or plate or down my arm.

This is why God created Brawny.

The. Peach.

I followed that sandwich with a peach, washed but not peeled, that I bit into -- it too dripped down my arm.

A two or three Brawny lunch -- forget going green, Al, when you got the dripping fruit.


As a kid, we lived off watermelon for dessert during the summer.

I remember sitting in the hot kitchen of my childhood, just finishing some kind of full supper of yellow squash, green beans, sliced tomatoes, or okra, sometimes a meat, and sliced white sandwich bread, stacked on a salad plate, and topped off with milk or iced tea with saccharine.

My mother, the dietitian, weaned us off sugar (as well as eggs and cheese -- but that's for another blog) in our iced tea when I was young. I don't know if the chemicals from that saccharine are messing with my short-term memory now or not.

I mean, surely that's not why I walk into rooms in my house to get something and forget why, or why I forget the name of plants in my yard. I use the "whatever that is" a lot. LOL

We passed the dishes, brimming with food, around the table, and each of us took at least one piece of bread to spread with oleo.

If I didn't like the vegetables or meat, I could always count on sliced bread with margarine to ward off the hunger till dessert.

Cause dessert was watermelon.

My mother and dad both loved watermelon. My mother and dad could tap the end of any kind of melon and declare it ripe, and rarely do I remember eating watermelon or melon that wasn't delicious. I credit my mother and father's talent for "melon tapping" to being raised on farms ---mom in Virginia -- dad in Missouri.

They also used to occasionally leave a "store bought" honeydew or cantaloupe on the counter until it was "ready." I remember the kind of sickly smell that co-mingled with the other scents of the kitchen. The sickly smell never matched the delicious taste that those melons had. I was also amazed that they turned out tasting so wonderful.

We used to cut those melons and lightly pepper them and eat till we were bursting full.

But the watermelon --- was the favorite.

As I looked at the watermelon at Publix today, all nicely cut up (rind free) and placed in small and large containers and sold for 3 and 4 dollars each -- I think of how that is so not watermelon. It has no seeds. LOL -- it's a hybrid. That's watermelon for astronauts -- all encased in clear plastic, complete with plastic fork.

As I sat at the table in that steamy kitchen in the summers of my childhood, I see my mother with the whole watermelon, and a knife the size of Nebraska, cutting the watermelon into thick slices that fit a dinner plate. With a fork and the salt shaker, we would eat and eat that piece, and when done, cut it half and put our mouths to the rind. It was so satisfying and filling.

Delightful. Delicious. Decadent.

And the best part -- the juice would run down the arm, and we'd catch it with those white, paper napkins bought in bulk where you got 3,000 for a dollar. LOL

Good times.

So, tap that melon and let the fruit drip. It just means it's the middle of summer. :)

ETA: I paid 5. 79 for a watermelon today at Publix. I remember when they were 50 cents.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Help

I think I am one of the last people I know to read this book ---- Kathryn Stockett's The Help.

Over the last six months so many people, who know I love to read, have asked me, "Have you read The Help?"

Each time I had to answer, "Uh, no."

"Oh, you have to read it. It's the best book."

"If you were raised in the South, you have to read it."

"As much as you like to read? You haven't read it?"

Uh. No.

Yes, I do like to read, but I am hardly a reader of current best sellers. I actually tend to read books a lot later than others. My library used to have a "new" book section, which is where I found little sleepers like Waiting by Ha Jin or The Black Flower by Howard Bahr, a few weeks after they were released, but my library either stopped doing that or they moved it.


I remember when I was in high school everyone I knew practically went to the theater to see the 1970 movie Love Story, a tear-jerker, based on the novel by Erich Segal, and starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw.

I didn't go to the movies much, and I believe it was rated R, and my parents were vigilant about ratings and movies. So, I didn't see it till much later -- how much later, I dunno, but later.

All my friends told me that I needed to see it... that I had to see it -- that it was the best movie. They squealed about it -- talked about it -- and raved about how it was so good.

"I cried so hard!"

"I hope a man cares about me like that."

"It's to die for."

[no pun intended, I hope]

I finally watched it -- the whole thing -- and did not shed a tear. I felt like the worst teenage girl in America. In fact, I didn't really like it.

What? Not bawl my eyes out at Love Story?
For shame!!!!!
Not love it?
Yes, seriously.

It's not that the movie was not sad, but I think the "hype" by the media, the reviews, and my friends built it up for me -- so that all I felt about it -- was anti-climatic. It was sad -- but, well, it was saccharine sad. I don't do saccharine sad -- it makes me crazy.

I liked the novel The Help, but I find more wrong with it than right.

1. Lawd, the stereotypes....

2. Lawd, the love story...

3. Lawd, the "light" touch of Southern life...

4. Lawd, the good white girl....

5. Lawd, the black domestics...

6. Lawd, the nice, tidy ending...

Just lawd. At least my saying "Lawd" is one of the favorite words of my girlfriend out of Alabama.

In this novel, Stockett sets her story in Jackson, Mississippi, from 1962 to 1964, and tells the story of a wanna-be writer, Skeeter [Eugenia] Phelan, who comes home, after graduating from Ole Miss, and determines that she's just itching to do something other than play bridge, wait to get married (even though she has no man in sight), and go to Junior League meetings.

After hearing her best friend, Miss Hilly, complain about the black maid at one friend's house not having her own "potty" separate from the white's, Miss Skeeter gets a bee in her bonnet to write about something important. I mean, come on -- Skeeter? Miss Hilly? Lawd.

What Skeeter manages to do is convince the black domestics that she knows to tell their stories about being black in Mississippi and doing for "white folks." Aibileen and Minny agree to tell Miss Skeeter their story in secret in order to "change things 'round here."

Aibileen, sweet-natured and maternal, is a direct contrast to Minny, who's angry and a back talker. From their perspective comes their stories.... all of them -- including Skeeter's who becomes black-listed by her friends when controversial pamphlets are accidentally discovered in her satchel by Miss Hilly, looking for the Junior League newsletter.

There are many, I'm sure, who enjoyed this book and thought it was "wonderful," but I found it lacking --

I'm kind of sorry I didn't love it. It makes me feel un-Southern. I hope I get bonus points for liking it.


Friday, July 9, 2010

The Last Stand

Once again, Nathaniel Philbrick lures me into American history with his most recent non-fiction work on the Battle of Bighorn. By bringing in new evidence and attempting to determine what was myth and what was fact, Philbrick recreates the battle scene and the characters involved from all sides in The Last Stand, and of course, the most iconic ones -- those of George Armstrong Custer and Sitting Bull.

Philbrick admits that he had been schooled like a lot of members of his generation by Hollywood's version of the story with Little Big Man -- a movie that presents "Custer [as] a deranged maniac -- and more of a cultural lightning rod than a historical figure."

In this work, Philbrick digs deep and shows me how little I knew of the many agendas that worked to create the disaster, tragedy, and ugliness that occurred on June 25, 1876.

One contributing factor alone was the state of the US Military, ten years after the Civil War. According to Philbrick, "the once mighty military had been reduced to a poorly paid and poorly trained police force. An army of only about five thousand soldiers was expected to patrol a territory of approximately a million square miles (representing a third of the continental United States) that was home to somewhere between two to three hundred thousand Indians."

Second, the men sent to deal with the "Indian problem" were not on the best of terms. Old disagreements among officers flared, recent encounters with the Indians had been brutal, and procedures and battle plans could not be solidified. Many of the officers involved in what went on those days slung blame around -- what happened was more than devastating -- since lack of communication and information sent 600 men up against 8,000 Indians - it was a national carbuncle. In fact, it's "too terrible to contemplate."

In the fall of 1907, photographer and ethnographer Edward Curtis visited the battlefield and interviewed Crow Indians who had helped Custer scout the area prior to the battle. Curtis, working on his twenty volume compilation of the Native American cultures in the United States, found thirty years later that what happened on that battlefield was of up-most important to the Indians of the Northern plains.

Curtis also noted that all three of the Crow Indians had different versions of what occurred that day --- and one told that Custer had purposely postponed his attack until he knew another battalion was defeated. Curtis, alarmed by this version of events, wrote Theodore Roosevelt and asked for advice. Had the one Crow's point of view been published -- Curtis knew it would have caused outrage from the American public, but he didn't wish "to conceal a truth simply because it did not meet the public's perception of an American hero was to perpetuate a blatant falsehood."

The differing opinions of the Crows caused Curtis to worry about this "new" information, and the two men discussed this back and forth in letters. They both found this version to be "highly improbable," and unlike the testimonies of the Native Americans interviewed at the time as well as other American soldiers.

Eventually what came to light was that the stories of the three Crows was influenced by a rivalry within the tribe. They too had their own agenda.

Curtis decided not to publish the results of his interviews with the three Crow scouts and wrote, "I am beginning to believe that nothing is quite so uncertain as facts."

As Philbrick concludes, "we interact with one another as individuals responding to a complex haze of factors; professional responsibilities, personal likes and dislikes, ambition, jealously, self-interest, and, in at least some instances, genuine altruism. Living in the here and now, we are awash with sensations of the present, memories of the past, and expectations and fears for the future. Our actions are not determined by any one cause, they are the fulfillment of who we are at that particular moment. After than moment passes, we continue to evolve, to change, and sour memories of the moment inevitably change with us as we live with the consequences of our past actions, consequences we were unaware of at the time."

Word, Philbrick, word.

In this work, Philbrick attempts to present fact, and as we all know "history" is "his story." No one really knows what exactly happened to Custer and the men who died with him, and perhaps that's just as well. I know that as I read about what was known, it still is out of the realm of my imagination that we humans can be that cruel to one another.

Philbrick's story of the Battle of Little Bighorn is compelling, interesting, and a dissection of human nature, both of the American army and those of the Northern Plain Indians.

But, it is a mostly a very, sad one. :(

Too Busy Being Young?

Not to continue about my birthday, but I wanted you guys to know that my siblings remembered it was my birthday, as each one called me on that day.

One of them tried to sing -- I stopped him after "Happy Birthday to You."

My friends remembered -- I got cards in the mail.

My virtual friends remembered -- they send me emails, posted on the GH message board, and responded to my blog.


my nieces and nephews -- nada.



Nephew number one (I rank them all the time based on their behavior, vocabulary, or the most recent book they read) -- called me at 9:30 on my birthday night to wish me well.

Of course, his mother prompted him, but hey, he's only nineteen. He has to move himself aside to think about me. LOL

Did any other of those nieces and nephews call me, send me a card, or email?



Plus, Stephen wins for this comment: "You're too cool to be that old."

He's definitely nephew number one. That might be a position he keeps for a while. :)

Oh yeah, Amy did me wish me well after she read my blog (see previous blog comments). She gets a break -- she's in Germany, and her husband just broke his arm. (No pun intended, Amy.)


I always remember their birthdays. Every stinkin' one of them -- and they ignore mine? Like it's hard to remember their favorite aunt's birthday?

I write them poems.
Send them money.
Buy them presents.
Tell them to bathe.

Too busy being young?

Friday, July 2, 2010

I can't believe my baby will be 40.

Today is my 56th birthday.

I'm not telling you that because I want you to wish me a happy birthday, {you can, if you want --- tee hee} I'm telling you this because it gives me pause.

How did I get to be 56?

When my mother was 56, I was twenty years old. See picture at right -- that's Momma, Daddy, brother Ken and I in front of my brother's VW. Man, it captures the time.

My birthday always reminds me of my mother (go figure) and a conversation we had just a couple of months before she died.

She died of a brain tumor in May of 1995, on Memorial Day; she was 76 years old -- I would turn 40 in July of that year.

The last eleven days of my mother's life were spent in a nursing home where she slowly slipped away. Those days and hours were pretty grim -- since she had a living will, she had laid it out pretty clearly that she wanted no interference in keeping her alive through artificial means.

At the end of her life, she was incapable of communicating with us. She opened her eyes and looked around, but she made no indication she knew us -- and seemed unaware of where she was. She mostly slept.

We had no idea what she understood, how she felt, or what she wanted. After suffering a stroke, she could not move her left side or talk or write. Her strict instructions were hard, but we honored her wishes.

I held her hand a lot those last days, recited to her the 23rd Psalm, and told her how much I loved her and how she was the best mother.

Still going to work each day but going to see her for long visits each night, I also told her stories of my work as a high school English teacher, mostly funny stories. She never laughed, but she looked deeply at my face as I told them.

I told her about Daddy who was incapable of coming to see her, as he was suffering from the complications of open-heart surgery and congestive heart failure. He had moved in with my sister, who took care of him, but he was on his last days. In fact, Daddy only lived 62 days after mother.

Sad. I know, but knowing the end was coming for both of them was more of a blessing than a curse -- I got to tell her all those things, as well as hang out that summer a lot with Daddy before he died the first of August.

For the last fifteen years, when July rolls around, and my birthday comes up yet again, I think about the stories I was told as a child about my birthday.

In 1954, my parents lived in Jacksonville, Florida -- a move that they had made about fifteen months before. They had received the news that they were to move yet again -- and Daddy was needed asap to his new job in Atlanta. My mother was in the last weeks of her pregnancy with me, but they wished to birth me before they moved.

I guess I was "ripe" enough?

The doctor agreed to induce her, and they set up the appointment. The doctor suggested the 4th of July, but my mother did not wish for me to share my birthday with a national holiday -- so they picked the 3rd instead.

Ta da... I was born. Yay!!!

What does this have to do with anything? Not much, but on my birthday each year, I also think about one of the last coherent conversations I had with my mother.

It was March of 1995. I had taken mother to her neurologist, for she had some small strokes, called TIAs. For the last year, mother had been taken care of Daddy, who had a second heart surgery, and was not responding as we had hoped. In fact, we had all been told in January that Daddy had about six months to live. He needed full-time care, but she wore herself out trying to do most of the care herself.

Her neurologist declared mother in good shape as he asked her about her "forgetfulness," but she passed all the tests administered in his office with flying colors. I had gone along to be another pair of ears and to navigate the rather challenging drive through traffic to the doctor's office. My daddy hated for mother to drive on the ever crazy Georgia 400 and then I-285 east from Roswell to Dekalb General to her neurologist office.

On the way home, we stopped by a restaurant at Perimeter Mall called Mix -- she had a salad and I had a portobella mushroom sandwich (a mushroom I can't eat anymore because I have sad associations with it -- pathetic, I know -- LOL -- weird, how I feel that way) and mother and I chatted about a lot of things -- family, our concern over daddy, my job which she thought I was so good at but worked too hard, her grandchildren, and then the fact that I was about to turn 40 in July.

Mother: I can't believe my baby will be 40.
Me: I can't believe it either.
Mother: I remember the day you were born and your older brother Hunter went around to all the neighbors in Jacksonville and told them that I had gone to the hospital to get Kenneth, a Margaret. ( I am the youngest of four --- oldest brother Hunter, then sister Margaret, brother Kenneth, and then me.)
Me: I'm so much better than Margaret.
Mother: It was such a cute story, and I smile about it every time. I have had such a good life -- a wonderful marriage -- I have four great kids, eight grand-children -- my life is full of blessings. Now, my baby is 40. I am old.

I remember how much we laughed about my being 40, and all the jokes that went along with it -- and how she worried about Daddy's health and how he might not see his grand children grow old.

Ironically, she died two months later of a brain tumor.

I can't have my birthday without thinking about my mother and that conversation.

Birthdays are wonderful things -- I always want to have them. As I grow older, perhaps a tad bit more introspective, [as my friend Laura would say, "ya think?"], I find myself with the time to consider, acknowledge, and give credit to my parents for raising us -- and raising us well. '

Well, at least, that's what I think, and when I think about the past, that's all that matters. I am proud to say that I had a great childhood.

No stints on Oprah for me -- unless, she wants to declare my blog -- worthy.