Dictionary.com defines an activist as: “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, esp. a political cause.”
What an activist is not?
Someone with a wide audience already available to them but doesn’t use that audience until they publish a book and decides that as a way to market that book, it would be great to pretend to speak out for people while accepting large amounts of money to speak on this particular issue. Meanwhile, the individuals that you are speaking out for, have suffered a fate much, much worse than yours, however you will accept acolades of courage and bravery because most people do not know better.
That’s an opportunist.
It has been over a year since I have posted on this blog. How did that happen. I’m always one that intends to keep a blog – in fact, in the past when I first learned about blogging through Xanga, I posted armies of blogs per day, every day. I get comfortable where I am, then something inspires me to change. Try a different platform, something about the current blog that annoys me or simply just finding things I wish I could change and trying to start over and change them. It’s all lame, really, and a testament to the difficulty that I sometimes have in 1. committment and 2. following through. That being said, so much has changed in the past year, me not the least of them, that I crave the outlet to separate all of my thoughts and different aspects of my life without prejudice. I haven’t really had that much this past year, as my career took a path that I could have never predicted, so it time again.
I won’t bore you with a play-by-play of the events of the past year. As much as I love our home, I miss New Orleans so much. The streetcar, the visits with Miss Elizabeth at Blue Cyprus Books, Miss Norma’s Sno-Balls, the park and the zoo. I enjoy aspects of being here on the swamp – the added protection it gives me that I didn’t have before – something quite important when dealing with those people of our past whose mental stability comes into question each day as they act more and more like someone you simply do not recognize, as well as the ability to breathe deeply in a way that I couldn’t when we lived on Plum. I miss it. I have yet to really allow myself to call this place home, hoping one day to find ourselves back in the Big Easy when life has calmed down and ugly custody battles and Northern arrogance no longer dictates who, what, when, where and why of my life, but happy to finally be at a point in our life where we have moved forward into planting roots and owning a home and finding a community. Thirty minutes away from New Orleans isn’t far. It really isn’t. Sometimes, however, it is far enough to create a feeling of loneliness and longing for people, places and things.
At any rate, it is the right time to call this place my salvation on particularly bad days and my sanctuary on days when I simply need to write and thing and separate my thoughts of the confusion that often comes with over thinking.
And still, No regrets. Never.
I knew it was coming. For months I watched as one by one, those around me left, leaving huge holes, figuratively and literally, where they once stood. One by one, they all fell down, violated and stolen, taken without permission, used. I would watch and wonder what happened after they fell, the journey they took, how their fate ended. I hoped. I hoped that they would find peace, that no further harm would happen to them. What could I do? I was stuck here, powerless, waiting.
Each time they entered, I wondered if it would be me. I watched, quietly observing as they marred what was all that I knew as my life. The green was slowly dying, being replaced by a dense sunlight, a wilting brown, spaces of nothingness in my community that once was not there. As I watched, I waited. I wailed inside seeing the others go, but felt enormous relief that it was not yet me. I knew though, that one day when I saw them come forward again, it would be me and there would be nothing that I could do but surrender and accept my fate.
Over there, the empty space to the right of the poison ivy, I remember when she came. I had been here about three years. I watched as she blossomed, as she grew. She was one of the first to go. It seemed like a crime, really, her being so small. They didn’t care. They had no discretion. They took whatever they wanted, ravaging, stealing the souls from this place, not giving it a second thought. Up a few feet, that one hurt. He was there near the beginning. When I first came, he welcomed me, protected me. As I watched them take him away, I had to close my eyes. I couldn’t watch. I couldn’t. Now I wish I would have so I could have seen him, just once, to help me be strong.
And now, here I am, alone. No one comes and goes anymore. They have all found shelter somewhere else, being scared off by the noise, by the barren landscape, by the change when change couldn’t be afforded by anyone. I stand here, tall, reflecting. Sometimes the worst friend you can have are your thoughts, racing, taunting, leaving you feel even more alone.
I stand here and wait, knowing soon, it will too be my time.
I am cheap. I was raised in a family where you didn’t buy something unless you needed it, there was no such thing as spending money on fast food, and if you are too lazy to cook it – you don’t deserve to eat it.
Today I went to Dollar Tree and picked up groceries. This is something that I just started doing and it has saved our family so much money each month on groceries that it is absolutely amazing. I purchased everything from a few Hot Pockets for my husband when he gets home from work at 2:oo am to chicken broth. I was able to get a bag of frozen fries for $1.00 Tortillas, lunch meat, lunchables, orange juice, pretzels, animal crackers, instant potatos. $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 This is good food, not expired, not flavorless (though if it was they have a whole colony of spices and herbs there, too, and not just plain ole generic knock offs.
They have Campbell’s tomato soup there for $1.00. The bonus? They are the 45% more cans, which makes things like making chili even cheaper. Additionally, one can of soup only need to be used at lunch time instead of two. And I can use the soup as a base in Bacon Cheeseburger hotdish. Oh, and the have the Sargento cheese that I use for the topping of said hotdish there, too. For $1.00
The only thing that I need to get from the grocery store is ground beef, chicken, yeast (to make bread), milk, and eggs. If I had my way, I would have my own chickens so I could use their eggs and so I could butcher them. (Can you tell that I am completely from the country?)
My husband works very, very hard for our money. It is his job to make it. It is my job to make it stretch as much as possible. I take a lot of pride in it and the fact that my daughter thinks I am the best cook ever brings me a lot of pride, too.
I feel really thankful today, given the state of the economy, that I have the tools to be able to take care of my family in this way.
I have been putting off writing this post.
I am leaving New Orleans.
There. I said it outloud.
I could rant in this post how eff-ed up it is to live in a country where a court can tell a law abiding citizen where and where they cannot live, but I won’t. I could go on about how much of an emotional terrorist my ex-husband is, insuring that I have no peace, even 1,200 miles away from him, but that post would drain me too much emotionally and create a climate inside of myself full of negativity and hate. I should probably go on about how I am a thrity-three year old woman more than capable of making good decisions, especially when it comes to my child that I am with day in and day out – even homeschooling her when I found the schools to be a bad environment for her in the city, but it would do no good. Nothing that I could say right now would adequately describe the situation that I am in so instead of having my hands tied and a little girl left unprotected from a man that violated her in the worse way and my family continually sinking because of the unnecessary cost this is forcing upon us, I will simply say that I am leaving.
In trying to see the positives out of everything, I realize that this does mean many different things to my family. It means more financial freedom – owning a home – better schools – children that I trust my daughter to play with – more space – land – and in some ways, freedom from some of the things difficult to escape in NOLA.
As I write this, I look at the piles of things to do. My husband works every day for the next two weeks, so that task falls on my hands. My body is in a great deal of pain thanks to my fibromyalgia, but I don’t have the luxary of just slowing down – things need to get done and I need to be the person to do them.
I’m cautiously optimistic.
I’m not moving that far away from NOLA, but it’s NOLA, and there are so many things that I am truly going to miss – watching the streets from the street car, my visits with Miss Elizabeth at Blue Cypress Books, the zoo, the aquarium, City Park, and Miss Norma’s Sno-Balls. I am going to miss being able to count on seeing Miss Evie ride her bike around the neighborhood and listening to my neighbor play the french horn. I’m going to miss the banana trees in my yard, the Asian plums, and the feeling I get when I ride anywhere with my husband and look around.
I’m leaving NOLA, but so much of me will still be here.
I remember when I was in third grade. Somehow, I had convinced my mother – who then had to convince my penny-pinching Irish father – that I wanted needed the complete collection of Little House on the Prairie Books. I grew up in Wisconsin. Every day, after school, I ran home from the bus stop to watch Little House on the Prairie from 4pm – 5pm on channel 9. Ten miles from my home, we had our own little pioneer village. I was at one with Half Pint. My mother purchased the books for me, and boy, was I proud of them! SO proud, in fact, that the very next day I took them to school for show and tell. Unfortunately, on my way to show and on my way to tell, I fell down in a snow bank and the paperback copies of the books were destroyed. I was heartbroken, ashamed, and afraid to tell my mother. I told her, she assured me it was ok, but I didn’t ask for anymore books after that, afraid the same thing would happen again.
Now that my daughter is eight, I am forcing introducing her to Half Pint, Mary, and Baby Carrie. Reading the Little House series is apart of the curriculum that I have created for her. I think it teaches her a lot of important things, as well as teaching her about the area that her Mama comes from. This has an added appeal to her, as I she received the first season of the television show on DVD as a Christmas gift and we do have a lot of fun snuggling up with one another in my room and watching it while my husband productively spends his time playing Resident Evil or some other zombie killing game in the living room.
Our vocabulary for the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, is as follows:
We use this words as our spelling words and as practice in using reference books.
We have been making our bread from scratch, so she gets a bit of an idea of what goes into that. We also made two batches of Apple Cinn. jelly. Next week we are making cheese!
Easy White Cheese
Great for breading and frying, stir-frying with vegetables, or by itself, this mild cheese will keep refrigerated for one week.
1 gallon milk
2 T. lemon juice
3 T. white vinegar
Pour milk into a large enamel pot. Slowly bring the temperature up to 180F. This may take an hour. Stir frequently to prevent scorching, and hold the temperature at 180F for four minutes. Combine vinegar and lemon juice and add to the milk, stirring gently, until the curds separate form the whey. Line a colander with cheesecloth, and pour the contents of the pot. Tie the corners of the cheescloth together to form a bag and let it hang to drain for three hours. The cheese will be solid when its ready. Wrap and refrigerate. Yield: one pound. Variation: Herbed Easy White Cheese — Add 1� teaspoon dried chives and � teaspoon dillweed to the curds before hanging.
And we are making maps of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Of course a Little House in the Big Woods unit would not be complete without making a handkerchief doll.
And our poem for memorization is :
By Judie Fordham
Judie Fordham, “Pioneer Dolls,” Friend, July 1992, 27
When pioneer children were crossing the plains,
They didn’t have cars, airplanes, or trains.
They walked beside wagons loaded clear to the top
With food, bedding, and seeds for the next season’s crop.
There just wasn’t room for a toy or a doll—
The wagons were filled with all they could haul.
So Papa’s handkerchief became a new toy,
A cherished soft doll that brought lots of joy.
This cute little doll loves to play or just sleep.
She’ll brush away tears if ever you weep.
So keep her close by—she’s easy to hold—
And pretend you’re a pioneer child of old.
Our big project, though, is to make a log cabin and all of the furnishings inside. The Dollar Tree has craft sticks for $1.00 and although it is a long way from actual logs, that is going to be the walls to our cabin. We are going to gather small rocks and clay for the fireplace.
We had a pretty earth-shattering experience in our household since the last time I posted.
No one died. (Knock on wood)
We fought minor Post-Mardi Gras Krud without any trips to the doctor. (Thank God!)
I didn’t get asked to sing for The Runaways reunion tour (though I totally would, if anyone out there is listening, and maybe y’all should reunite – at least for one show since I was too young to ever see you live)
Cleo got her library card.
Oh, I know, it’s just a library card, but not in this house and not to Cleo. No, this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime, I’m-the-luckiest-girl-in-the-world, I-need-you-to-buy-me-a-wallet-now moments.
We dressed and got ready to go to the Latter Library sale as we do most Saturdays. I had been doing some research on books I wanted Cleo to read along with her homeschool curriculum. We are tackling the Little House on the Prairie series as apart of school, and I wanted her to see some authentic Pioneer Days stuff and get some pioneer-ish recipes for us to make so she can appreciate how hard those that came way before us had to work and could see exactly how far we have come (whether good or bad I leave that for you to ponder) and I thought it would be a good time to go into the library. I have not seen Cleo light up like this since she caught her shoe at the Muses parade during Mardi Gras. And then when she got Tumbles the dog at Christmas. For Cleo, this was a serious deal.
“Um, excuse me, Ma’am,” Cleo said in her little voice – the one she uses when she is trying to be super polite, but talking to a stranger who has something she wants. I think she was afraid that they would turn her down if she used her big voice.
“Yes, baby, what can I do for you?” the boisterous librarian said behind her librarian desk.
“I would like a library card, please! How many of my coins do you need?”
“I don’t need any of your monies, baby, all you need to do is apply for one.”
“Like you apply for a job?” Cleo asked.
So, Papa Bear took care of applying for Cleo’s library card and I took care of making sure Papa Bear had all of Cleo’s information right, not trusting him to because he is, after all, a boy and boys aren’t always that great when it comes to important things like birthdates. (I assure you there is no bitterness or glares in that statement)
And off we went. We went to the children’s section and by the time we and worked our way down the first row, Cleo had nearly fourteen books that “looked interesting” or “could probably teach her a thing or two.” I sat her down and explained that we didn’t have to get all of them at one time, that we could find the ones we need and return them to the library near our home, but that simply wouldn’t do. The library by our home didn’t use to be a mansion and she HAS to go to the Latter Library because it WAS a mansion. More important, though, is it has a carriage house and she just KNOWS that the horses that used to live there had to be incredible horses so we need to there to HONOR the horses majesty. Yes, she said the word majesty and the emphasis was hers.
Needless to say, after she had the library card in her hand, she was happy.
“Mom, we can go to the library every week BECAUSE I HAVE MY OWN LIBRARY CARD!”
“Mom, we should go shopping. I need a wallet BECAUSE I HAVE MY OWN LIBRARY CARD!”
“Mom, I don’t need you to teach me anymore. I can teach myself BECAUSE I HAVE MY OWN LIBRARY CARD!”
Somewhere, we lose that as adults – the need for only the simple things and the simple things meaning the most. It is like a sweater that we outgrow and we throw away. In thinking about it, it made me a bit sad, the fact that at one time I used to appreciate every single little thing so much and now, well, I’ve been having a case of the grumpies lately – a combination of a lot of things- and have felt so…unhappy.
I decided to try to see the world through the eyes of Cleo, a tough cookie who has been through her own hard times that some cannot even imagine, and try to see how much power is there in the little things. I’m trying…. I’m trying….
“Mama, do you think I will get a shoe?” Cleo asked as we were making our plans for the Muses parade. I had been told by so many people that the Muses parade was THEE parade that I certainly did not want to miss, so despite my apprehension of navigating around the city at night, without my husband, in an area unfamiliar to me, I knew that this was the one thing I needed to do if I did nothing else for Mardi Gras.
“I don’t know, baby, maybe!”
“Mom, you said baby and maybe and they rhyme. Are you trying to be a rapper?”
“Yes. I am MC Hurry-UP- Let’s-Get-Ready-to-go,” I said, giving Cleo the look I promised I would never give, the same look my mom gave me and the exact same look I had seen my Grandma Bea give my mom.
We put on her dress and her wings and she asked for some make up, a night to play dress up and receive gifts from the gods for her and a night to challenge myself and the fears I had developed for me.
We arrived a couple hours early, setting up a picinic, me reading Augsten Burroughs, her reading Captain Crankypants or Underpants or whatever it is that she devours and laughs and tries to mock the pictures of. She spread out on the blanket, her head on my lap, me caressing her hair, her looking up at me and smiling. A Kodak pictures in our mind that we never will forget.
It was finally time for the parade to start and she took it all in, waiting and waiting. She caught bead after bead, refusing to place some on her neck, partly due to being weighed down and partly due to wanting to share with her mom. It was our night, My Girls’ Night, and I was spending it with one of my favorite girls.
The parade came to an abrupt stop and we sat down, waiting to see what had happened. We had struck up conversations with the people next to us, an older couple visiting from Michigan. We talked about the Mid-West, about New Orleans, and about the transition of moving down here. They chatted with Cleo about books and art. After forty-five minutes and the temp dropping, we decided to head home. The parade was still stopped with no start in sight. We walked the half block to the parades beginning intersection when we saw movement, so we quickly ran back to our spot, and thankfully the Michigan couple welcomed us in, vowing for our previous parade placement when a couple of college kids became upset that they were going to have to compete with a child for beads.
Cleo held her sign up high as each float passed by.
One of the women on the top of one float pointed at Cleo, making eye contact with me, and tossed down to me the coveted Muses prize, a hand decorated shoe. These shoes are hot commodities, with women of all ages holding signs asking for the shoes to be gifted by a generous rider. Cleo’s eyes lit up bright, she gave me a thumbs up, and screamed, “YES!”
“Mama, we can go home now! I got a shoe!!!” she said, jumping up and down.
“Let’s watch the rest of the parade and then we will go home, Ok?”
We repeated the same routine as each float passed by. Cleo received a few stuffed animals, which made her happy since next to just about anything, stuffed animals are her favoritest thing in the world. She has a trunk full of Bratz dolls that go unplayed with, but her stuffed animals have homes made from cardboard boxes with Cleo’s artistic flair added.
And then another lady signaled to me. Another shoe, this one orange in color – Cleo’s new favorite color.
More beads. More stuffed animals. More smiles. More laughs.
“Does she have an octo yet?” asked the little boy near us.
“No, she doesn’t.”
“She can have this, “he said, handing it to her, causing both of them to laugh, smile, and blush.
And at last, the last float of the parade. Cleo did her same routine, jumping up and down, holding up her sign, screaming, “Throw me something Missus!”
The eye contact came. Along with another shoe. The light in Cleo’s eyes was so bright. In that moment, she was so happy. The difficulties that she faced this past year were erased all she felt was pure joy. Mama’s heart was smiling.
“I need to make sure I bring one of my shoes to Miss Elizabeth,” Cleo said.
And that did it. In the middle of the lights and the crowd and the Mardi Gras joyfulness, I broke down in tears, looking at my daughter, with such a big heart and so considerate of others. That’s my girl.
The next day, we took the shoe that Cleo picked out for Miss Elizabeth over to her bookshop. We took the other shoe to Cleo’s Miss Ellen, the woman who has worked miracles in Cleo’s life. The remaining shoe is proudly displayed on her bookshelf, so she “never forgets our best date out”, next to her Octo and her Elvis scarf she was pinned with by one of the motor scootering Elvi.
This is the Mardi Gras I chose to remember. This is the Mardi Gras that should be reported on NBC, ABC, and whichever other national channel that wants to mar not only Mardi Gras, but New Orleans – a city that is trying to do the best that it can with what it has. A city that care may have forgotten, but not a city that has forgotten to care.
I joke with The Viking and tell him that I have some sort of super-sensitivity to paranormal things, as I seem to wake every evening/morning during thee witching hour, unable to go back to sleep until the hour is complete. I also have bat ears and hear every single thing, so along with my witching hour wake up call, I hear the house creak, someone pass by our house, and a change in Cleo’s breathing as she slumbers away. Of course I know there are a multiple of reasons why – post traumatic stress (I am most certain), living in a city where noise is all around us, fibro – needless to say, though, if I were to write my letter to Santa Claus tonight, I would ask him for a safer New Orleans and a good night sleep free of interruption and sleep disturbance. You wouldn’t believe what continual sleep disturbance can do to a person. Go read or rent Fight Club and it will fill you in.
So here I am, wide awake, getting upset that I am wide awake – which will simply lead to not being able to sleep for a while, which leads to me getting upset about that. Damn you, cycle of ill will towards and very tired Mommy.
The jelly that I made earlier today/yesterday (depending on if you count the new day really starting at midnight or if you have slept, etc) set. I am relieved to know that. Not really, but at least I know that now, since I am up at thee witching hour.
Ok, enough complaining. Maybe that is what I should have given up for lent.
Once upon a time, there lived a girl from the country. Growing up, she watched her mother sew dresses, bake bread, can veg, and make their own jelly. When she grew up and had a family of her own, she distracted herself from life and having three babies under three by doing many of the things that she grew up watcher her mother do. She decided that her mother didn’t do it because it was cheaper or because she loved doing it, she did it to escape, like some people shop or some people drink.
After I left my last life, swam around trying to find myself like Nemo for a while, and started my new life – I left those things behind. Not necessarily because I didn’t enjoy them or because I didn’t think they were important, but because it represented something really bad to me. It represented my mom, who suffered for over a decade with an illness that took her ability to breathe away. It represented my last marriage, loveless and full of control and abuse. It represented selling myself out in order to make my family happy and to follow what they thought were the right and things were to do. It meant having to have perfection, no emotion, and being a nodding and agreeable Stepford Wife. So I rebelled. I rebelled against homemade food. I rebelled against immaculate housework. I rebelled against everything that was my old life, the things I resented, all of those thing I wish could be changed by some magic time machine that didn’t change the course of the future so much that I didn’t have my current husband, but changed it enough to spare those that needed to be spared.
So you can understand exactly how theraputic yesterday was, mixing flour and yeast and oil and water together, kneeding with my hands, punching out air and kneeding again, when I made the first loaf of homemade bread that I have made in many years. Making it here, in New Orleans, with a different life, a different set of circumstances, with different meaning.
It made me miss somethings – the country, the quite, the security that comes with it and the safety too – it made me appreciate other things, mostly internal things like myself that keep me moving forward, even when I want to stay paused, even when I want to stop, most of all though, when I wish I could simply rewind and edit.
Baking homemade bread – cheaper than therapy and tastes much better
The bread recipe I used:
3 cups flour (white or wheat)
1 package, or 2 teaspoons yeast
1-tablespoon sugar (or brown sugar, or honey)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup of lukewarm water.
First, mix your dry ingredients, and then add oil and water. Stir with a fork or spoon until sticky and stiff.
Turn your dough onto a floured countertop, and knead for a full 5 minutes.
Place your dough back into the bowl and cover with oil, move dough around so all sides are covered.
Place your dough into a warm spot, free of drafts with a cover (such as a table linen, or dishcloth) and let it set for about 2 hours.
After it has set, take it out and “punch” it down to release any built up air inside, knead again.
Place dough into very well greased loaf pans, and let it rise again for about an hour.
Place in oven and bake at 350 degrees for roughly 30-40 minutes.