Archive for February, 2009

Excuse Me, Waitress. I Don’t Believe I Ordered a Breast…

February 26, 2009

dennys

Around these parts, breastfeeding has figured prominently in the news of late.  Specifically concerning Crystal Everitt, who on a recent Sunday at Denny’s restaurant, breastfed her child with her entire breast exposed, just as the after-church crowd was sitting down with their families to enjoy a leisurely lunch.   Having been an enthusiastic breastfeeding mama myself, I’ve tried to keep…ahem…abreast of this situation—by reading not only news reports, but local message boards where people are clearly passionate about the subject.

Here are the facts, as I understand them:  She was breastfeeding at Denny’s with an entire breast exposed.  A few nearby diners (with families) spoke to the manager, the manager quietly and politely requested that Ms.Everitt cover herself, she refused, and an ugly scene ensued with police finally being called.  She left the restaurant and soon called the press who, like Pavlov’s dogs, promptly began to salivate.  She was interviewed by the local TV station in one of those trendy hipster cafés feeding her child (again with her breast exposed, no doubt shocking some of those who had turned on the noon news to watch while they ate lunch).  Later, she led a protest at Denny’s with other breastfeeding moms (again on a Sunday) where a manager from Denny’s apologized—-and she refused to accept his apology.  The story was all over the local print media, as well.  Local columnist Edgy Mama wrote in the Mountain Xpress: “People, listen to me for a moment, kay (sic)? Breasts, like udders, are food-conveyance devices…no need to…warm the fricking milk.  Boobs are natural bottle warmers.  How cool is that?”  Well, Edgy Mama, I’ll grant that it’s pretty cool but I was amazed at how many of the women supporting Everitt asserted that breasts were ONLY for feeding babies and not to be associated with things like pleasure.  And I couldn’t help but think, “Dang, ladies…y’all have missed out on some FUN!”

And, yes, as someone who breastfed frequently in public, I do have an opinion on the situation and although that’s not really what I want to talk about here, let’s go ahead and get it out of the way.  In fact, I’ll just cut and paste from the short comment I made on a well-known local blog:

“…And as someone who also grew up around a lot of older and more conservative folks, I know that many of them have more modest proclivities than I do. And I don’t see that as either good or bad—it just is. So, when I was out in public, I threw a light cover over exposed areas when I nursed. It was no big deal and caused no harm to my baby and no one ever, in all the times I nursed in public, had anything negative to say. It seems to me that those who take the defiant stance of refusing to cover themselves are making a judgment about those who have more modest tendencies and that they are trying to impose THEIR values on others. And I wonder, if their objective is to promote breastfeeding, if they’re not antagonizing people more than winning them to their very worthy cause.”

I also wanted to add that I find it interesting that Ms.Everitt just happened to be there right at the time that local church-goers would likely be sitting down there with their families.  I find it curious, as well, that she asserts that all she wanted to do was to breastfeed her child because if that were truly her objective, I think she would have simply gone ahead and slipped a light cover over her breast,  her child (and the other diners) would have eaten in peace, and no one (except those nearby) would have been the wiser.  Instead, an unpleasant scene was created, the police showed up, and I’m quite certain her baby was distressed by the whole encounter.   But, of course, had she covered herself, she wouldn’t have gotten to be the Noble Breastfeeding Martyr, would she?

But, as I said, that’s not really what I want to discuss.  What I really want to talk about here is respect.  And tolerance.  And understanding.  All attributes that most political progressives and liberals would like to smugly think of themselves as having.  I know, because I am a liberal.  A blue-collar liberal.  And I was appalled at the tone that so many of those who would call themselves “liberals” took in the debates that played out on the local message boards and blogs.  Particularly here and here in the Mountain Xpress forums.  It was pretty ugly with “entopticon” asserting that another commenter had a “mental disorder that makes them freak out when they see a breast” and that they were “deranged” and “warped” and had a “diseased mind” because they dared to speak of having courtesy for others who might be uncomfortable with an exposed breast in public.  Then “entopticon” (who took every opportunity to demonstrate his vastly  superior intellect *insert eyeroll here*) insulted the intelligence of another commenter, and later resorted to calling those who disagreed with him “right-wing extremists.”  And, yes, one commenter did call Ms. Everitt “an attention whore,” but he later apologized.

Good Lord. 

As a blue-collar liberal who voted for Gore, Kerry, and Obama, I’ve often torn my hair out over some of my blue-collar friends who vote consistently against their best interests and I’ve wondered why they did so.  And I’ve often seen liberal commentators lamenting the same thing and wondering why they can’t win over the blue-collar constituency, baffled as to why liberals are seen as “elitist.” 

Well, it’s complicated and I don’t fully understand it myself, but what I do know is that liberals are often seen as elitist because they…so often are.  The one thing that came across to me in reading the message boards and comments concerning the breastfeeding brouhaha was that many of the people (whom I’m sure would call themselves liberals) came across as just plain contemptuous of those who were offended by an exposed breast.  They weren’t content just to state their own viewpoints—they resorted to name-calling and general attacks on conservative people and so-called “right-wing extremists.”  And, yes, I know that personal attacks are also a favorite tactic of those like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.  But when we, as liberals, resort to the same thing, we are not only exposing our own prejudice and intolerance, we are playing into the hands of those like Rush Limbaugh, who will twist our words into something even uglier.

“Extremists” and “fundamentalists” come in all shapes and sizes…and political and religious persuasions.  It would behoove us all to acknowledge and contemplate the meaning of liberal which includes (in my American Heritage dictionary) “open-minded and tolerant” as well as “tending to give freely; generous.”  Contempt often breeds contempt, just as respect and courtesy often breed respect and courtesy. 

To quote “Think of Others” who also commented on the Mountain X-press forum:

Me Vs.You is ultimately what is going to end this planet.  Let’s try to reach a middle ground on the easy stuff!  Peace out.”

Yeah, I’m with him.  Let’s try to reach a middle ground or at least begin to try to understand each other’s feelings.  And so-called liberals need to examine their own prejudice and intolerance, seek to overcome their contempt for those who think differently from them, and remember that not all “extremists” are right-wing.   

Peace out.

Sock and Glove and Grace and Love

February 20, 2009

hank-blog

 

Meet Hank.  He’s the newest member of our household.  And like a mother who’s just brought her first baby home from the hospital, I can’t stop looking at the little guy.  After all, it’s a wee bit like birthing a baby…because I made him.

 

Okay, maybe those of you to whom this sort of thing comes easily are wondering what the big deal is.  After all, you make stuff that’s much harder and way yonder better all the time.  I know…I’ve seen and admired all that gorgeous stuff on your blogs. 

 

But, see, I’m not so talented in that way.  Wait…that’s an understatement.  It would be more accurate to say that I am utterly miserable and piteously wretched when it comes to arts and crafts.  If you were being kind, you might say that I am “domestically challenged.”  So I’ve developed an inordinate and irrational fear of  attempting any sort of handiwork.

 

I feel quite overwhelmed when I look at craft project books because they all look so intimidating and complex.  Pages and pages of instructions.  Arcane words and phrases. I even bought one of those Klutz books for kids—to learn to knit.  I thought maybe even I could handle instructions geared to kids.  But I’m afraid I never got past “casting on”.  (Or was that casting off?)

 

Anyway, before Christmas, I was looking at my Amazon Recommendations and saw a book with the straightforward and not-so-intimidating title of Sock and Glove by Miyako Kanamori.  I was enchanted by the very cute and compelling little critter on the front. So I bought it.  And true to its title, it turned out to be a book about making your own cute and compelling little critters—out of socks and gloves.

 

And here’s what I love about it:   First of all, the instructions are as straightforward and unintimidating as the title.  So, right away, I felt like maybe, just maybe, I could actually pull this off.  Plus, there was nothing fancy to buy.  I just used a pair of plain brown jersey work gloves.   (Because they were less than a buck. It might be easier, though, to use the knit gloves she recommends).   Also, I loved the way even the animals she made had imperfections, so that I didn’t feel like it would be a travesty if mine weren’t perfect.  And, as you can see, they’re not.  In fact—uneven stitches, ragged edges, hanging threads—they’re all there, plain as day.  But that’s okay—I have a few hanging threads and ragged edges myself. :-)

 

But after a while, Hank got lonely.  He was a little shy around the other stuffed…I mean, invertebrate…animals that have lived here since our children were small.  They were all storebought and finely stitched in China and Taiwan, with fancy plastic eyes and soft polyester fur. He was afraid they’d look down on him, with all his flaws and blemishes.  So, I decided to make him a friend.  A little sock friend. 

 

hankandhomer-blog

 

Meet Homer, the sock monkey.  Yeah, I know Homer is an odd name for a monkey, but, for some reason, he reminded me of Homer Simpson.  Or, even worse, maybe a cross between Homer Simpson and Krusty the Clown.  Can you see it?  And yet, somehow, he’s really cute!  Homer and Hank became fast friends and love to hang out together.  Here they are looking at the pretty green tulip shoots starting to emerge out back.  They can’t wait for spring. 

hank-and-homer-together-blog

 

Now those of you for whom handiwork comes easy may think me silly, but after I finished Hank and Homer, I was so excited and happy that I almost cried.  Because I’ve failed so dismally at this kind of thing in the past and I didn’t think I could do it.  Because I, with my many imperfections and inadequacies and self-doubt, managed to overcome my fear of failure to make something I felt proud of, even if it wasn’t perfect. Because even with their many imperfections, Hank and Homer were utterly adorable and lovable.  And I thought about how even I, with all my flaws and blemishes, am adored and loved by our Heavenly Father and by all those who see me rightly.  Those that look past all those imperfections and see what is essential and true. 

 

Who would have thought I’d find grace in a little brown glove dog and a sock monkey who looks like Homer Simpson?  Grace is always there—in the most unexpected places.  Sometimes, we just have to make sure we recognize it in whatever form it takes.  Whatever ragged, frayed, uneven, and imperfect forms it takes. 

 

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hank-closeup-blog

A Trashy Kind of Love

February 16, 2009

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I love looking at the Google search phrases (listed in my stats) that bring people to my blog.  They range from the poignant to the silly, from the creepy to the poetic.  They make me laugh and cry and cringe and…scratch my head, puzzling about how certain phrases brought someone to my blog.  And sometimes, they give me ideas for posts. 

Like a recent one:  best thing I ever found in a dumpster.   Now that might not sound like the kind of phrase that would send you down memory lane, but my memory lane is strewn with some pretty peculiar stuff.  :-)   

I smile to myself sometimes when I read “green” blogs—that is blogs whose focus is talking about the ways in which the writers live what they call a “sustainable” life.  Like going to thrift stores or growing a garden or just making do with what you already have. All good stuff, of course, but really it’s always been just a normal way of life for our family and most of those I grew up with. Remember that country song years back—“I Was Country Before Country Was Cool?”  Well, I was “green” before “green” was cool.  But we called it being thrifty.   Both my parents and my Aunt Ellen (who I was very close to) had gone through the Depression and not only talked about it, but still practiced a lot of the frugal habits that brought them through hard times.  And, naturally, I picked up a lot of them, except for washing and reusing aluminum foil.  I had to draw the line at that because of, well, those little wrinkles in used foil.  For me, there is just a little too much potential for nasty microbial activity in those little crinkles. 

Anyway, when Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man and I first met, we quickly discovered we had a lot in common.  For one thing, between the two of us, we had just about every record Doc Watson ever made.  For another, we had a terrible weakness for ice cream.  Still do, though we might need to get over that if the price goes up anymore.  But one of the most surprising things we had in common was the fact that we both liked to dumpster dive.  Well, I say “dive”, but to tell the truth, I was always a little squeamish about actually getting down inside the dumpster.  I tended to just peer in and mostly skim the cream off the top, so to speak.  Tom, on the other hand, was a brave and fearless diver and was not afraid to plumb the murky dumpster depths.   

Of course, all this was back in the days before they put fences around dumpsters and positioned guards at the sites.  Nowadays, when we stop to drop off trash and casually glance around to see if there’s anything good, the guard eyes us suspiciously, as though he knows our sordid past.  So, our dumpster diving days are over, though we do still keep our eyes peeled for curbside treasures.

But, oh what a time we had.  There was one particularly choice dumpster site north of Chapel Hill.  For the most part, there was camaraderie (if an underlying competitiveness) amongst the divers. If there was something we couldn’t use, we’d offer it to others and we’d help them carry any particularly large largesse.  Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man and I had some wonderful times there during our courtship.   I was, for sure, the ultimate cheap date.

dresser-blog

Which brings me back to the Google search phrase that brought someone to my blog:  best thing I ever found in a dumpster.   Now it wasn’t easy to narrow down my choices, but here are three of my favorites.  At the top, is a framed fireback Tom found leaned against a dumpster in Raleigh.  We think perhaps someone was moving and discarded it in desperation.  I hope they’d be pleased to know that it went to someone who loves it.  In the middle is a dresser that someone left on their curb to be disposed of.  I like the clean, simple lines of it and the sturdiness of the solid birch it’s made of.   Pictured at the bottom is a pot we found on our second dumpster date.  There were other pots there, but sadly, they were broken when someone threw them into the dumpster.  It was hard to see art so recklessly discarded.  But I’m happy that, at least, we could save one piece. 

We used to call our trips to the dumpster “shopping at the green store,” not because we were recycling, but because the dumpsters were painted green. :-)  We miss shopping at the “green store” but we are so grateful for all the many treasures we found there and that we’ve done our part to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  And if they were alive, I think Mama, Aunt Ellen, and Grandma would be pleased to know that so many people are doing the same these days—that, in fact, it is  trendy to do so.   They probably would laugh to imagine reading books to learn how to live a simple life and would surely be quite amused to think of themselves as being on the vanguard of the simple living movement.  Who would have thought they’d be such trendsetters?

(Edited to add:  Just wanted to clarify that my statement above about “green” blogs was not meant in any way to disparage “green” or simple-living blogs.  On the contrary—I admire them very much and have learned a lot from them.  And I know for sure that Mama, Grandma, and Aunt Ellen would feel the same.  They’d love knowing that so many have adopted their penny-pinching ways!      Beth)

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Happy Birthday to Me: My Two-Thousand Dollar Birthday Gift

February 10, 2009

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I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago.  But contrary to the impression possibly created by the picture above, it was not my fiftieth.  As a matter of fact, it was my fifty-first. Or as I prefer to call it—my forty eleventh.  Because 51, in my opinion, is a numeral without much to recommend it—a rather dull digit without the pleasing plumpness and resonant roundness of 50.   Fifty-one is just…blah.

Anyway, I took the picture above (which shows my address number marker where I used to live) specifically to illustrate the post I was going to do last year about turning 50.  But long time readers of my blog may remember that last year about this time, we were moving.  Well, I say moving, but really, the problem was that we had nowhere to move TO though our house had already sold and the new owners needed to move in NOW.   So, things were a tad stressful and there was no time for thoughtful reflection on turning 50, especially since at the time, I was feeling about twice that.

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, just in time for my 50th birthday, the transmission on my usually reliable Camry suddenly refused to go into reverse, making driving a little nerve-wracking since all my forward progress had to be made with great care and consideration, lacking as I was the option of backing up.  And, yes, I did see the bitter irony in the fact that my car was beginning to fall apart around about the same time I was.  And, no, it wasn’t funny.  Not at the time, anyway.   Come to think of it, it’s still not funny.  

Which brings me to what Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man gave me last year for my fiftieth birthday.  I’d always dreamed of how I might get something really extraordinary when I turned fifty.   Maybe I’d take a special trip since I’ve rarely traveled farther than North Carolina.    And indeed, I did receive a lavish gift that involved travel.  And it cost almost two thousand bucks!

It was (drum roll please) a shiny, bright, sparkling…rebuilt transmission!

Yep, it was a beauty.  And when the man in the transmission shop told us (after gleefully swiping our Visa) that our transmission was guaranteed so that no matter where we traveled in the USA we could get it fixed if it failed, I told him, “Don’t worry…after paying for this, we won’t have the money to travel.” 

He was not amused.

Anyway,  maybe you’re wondering what wondrous thing Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man got me for my birthday this year.  Well, for a while there, it was looking like it would be another extravagant gift, perhaps even surpassing last year’s!  Yes, for a while there, I thought Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man would be giving me a shiny, bright, sparkling…new furnace!

Yes indeed, soon after my birthday, during the coldest snap here in six years, our furnace suddenly stopped. And although we kept it going for a while by manually spinning the blower fan just as we switched it on, eventually, that little trick didn’t work (not to mention the fact that doing that was really tiresome).  We had to figure out something more permanent.  Which we feared might be a new furnace.

To make a long story short—after much prayer and supplication and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth and the repeated taking apart and putting back together of fan motors over a span of ten very cold days, we finally heard the sweet sound of our furnace roaring to life.  And we cheered and broke out the Welch’s Sparkling Grape Juice that I had gotten for my birthday and toasted our furnace and each other and all the many good things in our life.

“Here’s to the loud roar of our old heat pump and to warmth and to a husband who can fix anything!” I said. “Well….except for transmissions.”

Tom smiled and held up his glass and said, “And here’s to another year with you—and to you making it to fifty-two!”

We laughed and clinked our Winnie the Pooh jelly glasses together, drank, then poured another glass.

I raised my glass. “And here’s to love.” 

“Hear, hear,” said Tom. We clinked glasses again and sat back, sipping our juice and basking in the delicious warmth pouring through the vent, thanking God and all our lucky stars for our blessedness.

So here’s to warm hands and warm hearts, to cold sparkling grape juice, to cars that go backward and forward, to bland and humdrum 51…and to love, no matter what your age.

Hear, hear.

Secrets

February 2, 2009

dictionary-blog

We all have family secrets.  The kind that only our very closest friends and family know.  Oh, I don’t mean the skeleton-in-the closet kind that, often, are best kept hidden.  I mean the kind we have that, when discovered, cause us to grin a sheepish grin or maybe squirm and giggle nervously.  You know, like the fact that you sometimes drink out of the milk carton or maybe occasionally don’t change your sheets for a couple of months or that you keep a secret stash of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the sock drawer, while telling everyone you’re on a diet.  Harmless stuff, pretty much, though I really don’t think you should drink out of that milk carton.

Okay, I know you’re probably reading eagerly now, thinking I’m going to tell you one of our secrets.  And you’re right, though the photograph above probably already gave me away.  But, in case it didn’t, here goes:  We have upwards of eighteen books hidden amidst the dustballs under our couch.  

Yes, I know, horrible…but true.  It all started years ago in the first of our many tiny homes.  Now there’s nothing wrong with tiny homes, but they can be a problem when you have approximately seven million books.  Okay, not really.  It just seems that way when we move.  And it’s the reason our friends and family make themselves scarce  every time we announce that we’re moving.  They remember past moves when, in their naivete, they volunteered to help.  Along about the five-hundredth one-hundred pound box of books, they all said the same thing:  “Y’all have too many books!”

Now, we all know that it’s just not possible to have “too many books.”  I mean, to me, that’s like saying, “You have too much money” (not that anyone’s ever said THAT to us) or “You have too many sunny days” or “You have too much chocolate.”  Really, it’s more the fact that we have too little house and too few shelves. 

But I digress.  What actually happened is that years ago when I’d be curled up on the couch reading and would run across a word that I didn’t know, I’d want to look it up in the dictionary.  But the dictionary would be in another room because we didn’t have a lot of space to spare in the living room.  So, lazy person that I am, I was loath to interrupt my book to get up and get the dictionary.  After all, I could usually figure out the word from its context.  But the trouble is, I’d then have to guess at how to pronounce it.  And I’d often guess wrong.  Like the word “despot.”  I knew what it meant, but I never looked it up.  So, over the years, I can’t tell you how many times I said it “des-SPOT”, with the emphasis on the second syllable.  And until a couple of years ago, no one corrected me.  So I cringe to think of all the people who probably snickered into their sleeves and thought me ignorant.  Which, of course, I was.  But I didn’t want them thinking that.

Anyway, that’s when I realized that our couch had both plenty of room underneath AND a charming little skirt that could hide not only dustballs the size of Chihuahuas, but a lot of books, including our large collection of dictionaries and thesauri.  So we’ve never had to get up to get the dictionary again. 

Just remember, if you come to my house and want to look something up, do be careful when you stick your hand under there.  Those dustballs can be a little scary.  Not to mention the monstrous spiders.  Or the lizards that we’ve found living in our couch through the years.   But whatever you do, don’t go in our closets

After all, there might be skeletons there.


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