Open call on Salon: July 4, Americanism.

I responded to a prompt on Open Salon… go read it.



Tuesday: Write, submit, teach, doctor (physical), write, read, sleep.

Wednesday: Edit (poetry maybe?), blog, doctor (RA), conference call, teach, write, read, sleep.

Thursday: Blog, work, read, sleep.

It all sounds so simple in just verbs and the occasional noun. It is the action of it that slows me down.

The Times They are A’Changin’

When I moved here, in 1986, the county had no traffic lights, no McDonalds, or Wendy’s. People didn’t lock their houses or cars. Flatrock had the “Trading Post” – with two gas pumps and an adjacent saddle shop. There were three schools, county wide, one elementary, middle, and high school. Kids from all three rode the school bus together. Well, three public schools and two private schools. Jamie, Chris, Ian, and Ryan had the same bus driver that JL did.

Trees arched over narrow country roads, dotted with old farm and plantation houses. Pastures with horses and cows, grazing on lush, green grass stretched endlessly into the horizon. It was an easy place to want to be.

It was idyllic. A vast change from the frenetic Northeast where I had grown up. The town I grew up in is a city now.

Change seemed to come slowly, here. Beth and her husband were killed, shortly after Ian was born. Murdered. She and JL were good friends. I had seen her two days before she was brutally killed and her house set a-fire. We chatted about being home alone, watching Psycho, and the need to keep doors locked. In retrospect, it was an ominous conversation. It left me very unnerved.

But life takes over and we move on. Traffic lights—I think there are six now. The Trading Post closed. Sheetz replaced it, with twenty gas pumps, an ATM and fast food. McDonalds, Food Lion (the old Food lion). Crystal and Robbie were murdered – Crystal was one the phone with a friend, who heard the whole exchange. Jamie was friends with Robbie. New elementary schools, a new high school…

Sure, other murders happened – husband finds wife cheating, or wife finds husband. The sort of violence that you could wrap your mind around. You could follow the story, and rationalize it. And it didn’t happen often. Another Food Lion arrived, the new Food Lion.

Then Tahliek Taliaferro was murdered. A black boy, killed by 2 white boys, in the company of a young woman. Through my work with the county schools, I was acquainted with everyone involved, old county names. I was in California when I got the call. Someone snapped a picture of me standing overlooking the pacific ocean listening to my children—3000 miles away—telling me there had been a shooting—on our road. Murderers on the loose. They were apprehended, days later. Their trial could be another whole blog—or book—that I hope someone writes. It’s not my story to tell.

There were two other murders in the county that summer—and the universe shifted for citizens here. Last year, a boy was stabbed, on the Taliaferro property, if stories are to be believed. He died at the post office. Earlier this month, two men were brought to the county from Richmond—down one of those idyllic country roads—they were shot and left for dead. One survived.

And yesterday, two men—whose names and families I know—were killed, right up the road. At 4:30pm. I drove that road—right by the murder site—at 3:30 and then came home about 5:30, right by it again. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, either time. Jamie noticed a yard with lots of cars and people milling around. But dismissed it, because despite all of the afore mentioned crime, people here still believe we live in a safe place.

I can hear all the old county people blaming this on people moving here from the city. But all of these murders happened here. All of the names are old county names…

What has happened here? What will happen when the much-contested Walmart arrives? With it will come the inevitable increase in crime rates.

Where will my idyllic home be then?

It’s been a different sort of month, so far. Trips to the Chiropractor, three mornings a week, have dramatically impacted my “free” time. I generally leave for work between 9:15 and 9:30. My appointment is at 9, that’s the only way I’ll make it to work on time—but it means I need to leave home by 8:30.

It’s an important hour.

In order to maintain my morning writing routine, I would have to get up by 4am. And I can’t do that, because I work until 8pm, most days. It’s been a conundrum. I have one more week of three-times-a-week.

And then my trip to The Porches. One week in the company of just writers, doing writerly things.

I haven’t finished the books we plan to discuss on the retreat—and that’s the upside of going to the chiropractor 3 times a week; I use the decompression machine for 15 minutes each visit. So, while I lose writing time, I gain 45 minutes reading time each day.

It worries me that my time management is delineated like that. In minutes. It’s like that at work too. I feel like I am always watching the clock, anticipating the next thing to be done. And between my regular duties (teaching, talking to parents, scheduling teachers, students, meetings with parents, payroll, emails, troubleshooting, conferences with my bosses, visiting schools, talking to local merchants, etc.) I am juggling the move. So we have added to my daily list of duties (at ten hours a day) reviewing floor plans, discussing light fixtures, door and paint schedules, signage, banners… Floor plans could be a full-time job. I am grateful for the amazing staff of women who work for me—or I would have collapsed long ago. I could write novels about each and every part of my job. Mostly good–but the not so good is completely debilitating, it creates rancor.

I will be glad when the move is done, when the chiropractor isn’t eating all of my free time. My plate is overfull and there are not enough hours in the day for me to add anything else.

I need a vacation.

Guest Blog: Amiee Hiers, The world we live in…

Peter, Paul & The Joneses

We have only been living this industrial, consumer lifestyle for about 3 to 4 generations. We know in our hearts and minds that this lifestyle isn’t working. Pollution, landfills are full. We now take our garbage overseas to contaminate that land as well.

Why are we such great consumers? Well, it actually comes down to war. War, you ask? After the World Wars our factories that were making our weapons, ammunition and vehicles now needed to make something else so the companies, now large corporations could still make money. “Rosie the Riviter” was no longer needed. The factories where “she” once worked were now making items and gadgets they tell her would make her life much easier around the house. Almost everything was advertised as “Once you purchase, use or consume this item you won’t know how you ever lived without it!” Our Great grandparents knew what most of us now don’t. Why don’t we know? That’s an interesting question.

Only 4 generations ago we were making our own “Everything” We didn’t need so many factories, making so many things.

Soap, soap was soap and it was used for everything. The same bars or liquid you made yourself, usually in the fall, would clean your floors, pots and pan, clothing and you. We now buy what we think are many different kinds of soaps and detergents to do all kinds of different things. Since we are the 4th generation in this span we, unless a hobbyist, buy all our cleaning products. We don’t know we are basically buying 5 different bottles labeled for 5 different uses but, all with the same ingredients. We know we can’t live as comfortably or as complacently without them. If we knew that we already had in our cabinets or pantry the same main ingredients, drastically cheaper that would do the same job or better we might kick ourselves. There is also the apathetic. They know but, they don’t care. There is a huge population of the apathetic. I wonder what it would take to finally impact them.

We used to make our clothing ourselves. Usually you had someone in your family who loved the craft and was the most talented. They would usually cloth the whole family. An Irish family would have their own unique knitting pattern for their sweaters. A deceased family member could be identified simply by the knitting pattern on their sweater, if needed IE a Fisherman washed up on shore. The patterns were and are still on record. They made their own wool. They didn’t buy spools or material at the local craft store.

My late aunt was an executive at Polaroid in Cambridge, MA. She bought all her material but she made all of her business suits herself. They were amazing! She was always complimented and when asked where she bought them she would say in Sweden. She wasn’t able to admit she made them in fear a co-worker would think less of her for not paying hundreds of dollars for one suit. She drove a diesel Volkswagen bug for 30 years. After it was 10 years old she told us she was looked down on because she had an older car. She then gave it to my mother and she bought herself a large gas guzzling Buick. My mother took very good car of the VW Bug. When my mother got married and was going to finally send the Bug to the dump my aunt bought the Bug back from my mother. Put in a new transmission, belts, and a new paint job. Now this car was a vintage classic! The car they told her was unbecoming of an executive was now a very trendy car. A trendy car that I was told had over 350k Miles, that’s when the odometer stopped working.

We used to heat our homes using the same equipment we used to cook our meals. In the winter your fireplace or wood stove was burning all day and night. My Nana kept the entire house toasty warm simply by filling the large cast iron kettle with water and sitting it on top of the stove. She would sleep cozily by the fire in the winter and refill it as needed. She would hand pump her well water outside before bed and have the water buckets by the fire. No nose bleeds from dry hot air like they had later. They did what everyone at the time was doing. They installed a coal furnace to heat their homes. Coal was dirty, it turned the walls black with soot. They were all breathing this in. My Grandfather died from Lung cancer… I wonder why?

They had electricity but Nana hardly ever used it. She still read and knit by candle light. She cooked on the wood burning stove, fried fresh eggs every morning. We ate duck for our holidays. She raised rabbits and ducks. She killed skinned and gutted them herself. Making sure to drain and save the animal fat to render later and make her soap. She didn’t pick up meat for dinner at the local market. We don’t know what to do without the meat at our stores.

It was her children that used the electricity. An electric stove was bought for my Nana. It was a joke in the family that it was never used until Nana gave the house to her Daughter Valry. Valry contemporized the family homestead. However, she used the coal delivery service, heating the home with coal until the company ran out of business in the 1980’s. She has always had breathing problems. I wonder if 40 yrs of breathing coal fumes had anything to do with it. She was forced to convert to oil heating in 1987. I literally mean forced by local laws! She had it installed but I was told she never used it. She simply went back to heating the home with a wood stove. She had replaced the ancient model with a very classy one. This model was for heating only. She said in passing that she used the electric stove to cook and she had a hard time finding any model made for use inside the home that had cooking duvets built in. We don’t know how to live without our oil or electric heating, gas or electric stoves, or at least on a regular basis.

We have and consume too much. We now have so much “they” didn’t have. Computers, cell phones, microwaves, blenders, I can go on and on. We (4th or 5th generation of industrial consumerism) never lived without these things. Most of us don’t know how to live without them. We have trapped ourselves into this mess! Why, are some of us so arrogant that we think our value and quality of life is more valuable than the earth itself? We will be long gone before the earth is. Why do we think it would be so difficult to use less energy and fossil fuels? The first engine that was ever made was meant to run on peanut oil! Not, Fossil fuels at all. It was a business man that decided to try to sell his oil for use in engines. Automakers liked the idea. We didn’t have as many cars back then. We had enough oil in the US to run and maintain the cars they were producing.

Crisco was originally manufactured to be used as oil for oil lamps and candles to light our homes! When most homes being built were being wired with electricity a business man had to find a way to sell his product to continue to make money just like the War factories had done. Cooking oil and or grease, really? My nana never used Crisco she said it was poison. “We were never meant to eat such a thing.” Well she was right but, that’s another blog all together.

Once I learned about the damage we were doing to the earth and ourselves I couldn’t understand why we hadn’t changed. Business men found ways like those above to change and continue to make money. Why won’t the US auto makers manufacture diesel vehicles for its customers, aka consumers.  Why won’t they manufacture cars to run on bio fuels like other countries? Why won’t they make electric or rechargeable cars affordable for all? Why won’t Electric Companies that run on natural gas or coal start installing Solar panels and produce wind turbines? Why not link with solar panel manufacturers to created an infrastructure of it? Why not install solar panels on roofs of new housing, on apartment buildings? Why won’t they make a change like business men did before? After researching, this is what I have come up with.

Greed: Greed in its worst form. If everyone used bio diesel in our cars the big oil and car manufacturers would lose their business. It’s a fact, a diesel vehicle lasts 10 to 20 years longer and is cheaper to maintain. They wouldn’t need to produce as much because we wouldn’t be consuming as much as we did before. This means they would make less money. Solar, it costs money to create and maintain the panels along with energy storage. In the end when the infrastructure is in place they wouldn’t be able to make as much money as they do now polluting with coal and gas. They lobby, and pay large amounts to ensure they stay. Money, over clean water, money, over clean air. What will they do when there is no clean air or water left? Money won’t buy them out of that chaos! It’s greed. Does greed cause apathy?

It’s time for a change! I make my own soaps disinfectants and cleaners. Only one of these items I can’t make myself which is bleach. I buy my lye but, I know how to make it if I needed to. All I need to clean my family and my home are all natural items that come straight from the earth itself. IE, Sodium Borate, aka Borax. Soda ash, aka washing soda, salt, bleach, lye, alcohol, ammonia, animal fat or a type of vegetable or grain oil and vinegar. If you go look at all the cleaning products around your house those are the main ingredients I guarantee it. I don’t buy separate laundry and dishwasher detergent. I make batches of each right at home as needed. Usually a month’s worth at a time. I save hundreds of dollars a year making my own. Ask anyone. My clothes, dishes, house and Family are just as clean as yours. Bleach isn’t necessary. I could live without it. I am apathetic to bleach! Using bleach isn’t killing our environment nor is producing it so I don’t feel guilty.

I have stopped using my central air conditioner. It was more than half of my electric costs. Ceiling fans do the job just fine. I do have a portable AC if it gets seriously hot here in FL. Using the portable AC instead of the central unit saves me 75% on my electric bill. When it does get cold, sweat pants with a sweatshirt and covered feet does well. I have many thro blankets for us if we are still chilly. My home does have a well. I can’t afford to take my house off of city water. It would cost me more than a year’s worth of water. I was able to change the outside water pipes back to the well. My yard spigots and sprinkler system is on well water. Imagine how much I could save if I didn’t have to pay the water company to unhook me from their pipes? If the house was run completely on well water like it used to be I would save roughly $2400 a year! Most homes now are not built with wells. So we are forced to consume. Forced to use and buy city water. Some of us have never lived without it.

There is no need for us to consume so much! 150 years of industrial consumerism has destroyed our world and ourselves. We can still have our televisions, cell phones, air conditioners cars, etc. But, do you really need the latest model phone, when the phone you are using works perfectly? Do we really have to believe that commercial that tells us “We have to have it?” “We can’t live without it?” Of course we can. Get the TV, AC, car, microwave etc. repaired. Do you really need that big 3D TV? Does your 42 inch plasma not do enough for you? How many of the features on that TV do you actually use? I bet a simple pair of needle nose pliers can fix that zipper on that jacket or jeans. Take 5 minutes and fix them instead of consuming another pair. Stop robbing Peter to pay Paul in order to keep up with the Jones’!

Word Count: 2136

Songs that make a difference

A lot of songs that seemed innocuous growing up have had a major impact on the way I think about life, like this Monkees song. I think as I stumble upon them, I’ll share.

Why don’t you cut your hair?

Why don’t you live up there?

Why don’t you do what I do, see what I feel when I care?

Why don’t you be like me?

Why don’t you stop and see?

Why don’t you hate who I hate, kill who I kill to be free?

Writer’s block, Random DNA, and The Art of Being Human.

Someone sent me the link to E’s blog ( I read and cried. My heart breaks for her, for her son, for what I know lies in their future. Then I stopped and thought, but she’s not Jewish. She’s Irish. Like me. How is this possible? I did some research (oddly there’s comfort there — I know it’s sick, but it’s really who I am). 1 in 50 Irish Americans carries the “broken” gene that causes Tay-Sachs. 1 in 50. People of French Canadian descent also carry it. 1 in 50 sounds high to me. I grew up in an Irish American community — I had babies with a man of French Canadian descent.

What the hell?  Why didn’t I know any of this? And why populations in Diaspora? Northern-European Jews, Irish-Americans, French-Canadians. Does the turmoil of flight, the detachment from home, cause something as fundamental as your DNA to fall apart? How fragile the human.

Are my children carrying this?

My grandchildren?

Have we simply dodged the proverbial bullet by having children with partners outside of the afflicted populations?

Random strands of whole DNA?

Dumb luck?

Does this silent poison live in my family’s genetics? Could this gene align with a future partner’s ill-fated DNA and create the profound loss for one of my children or grandchildren? Why isn’t everyone tested for this? At least when they get married?

I haven’t been doing any writing. My excuse has been that my life is overwhelming; work, home, kids. No space, no money, no time, no energy. Someone in my universe is always pulling at my heartstrings (I need to talk, to borrow a dollar, a ride); invading the bubble that I need to be able to write…

All of that sounds so hollow after reading E’s blog.

It sounds almost like hubris.

I have had horrific experiences with my children; broken neck (miraculously healed because of his age), traumatic brain injury (“the brain is a mysterious thing; he’ll either be a vegetable or he’ll die” Or he will recover and be fine, he’s fine — seriously), run over by an 18-wheeler (“She’s probably not going to make it to the hospital, so take a minute to say goodbye in the ambulance”), and IPH — whose road was the longest. 19 months of daily apnea episodes. 19 months of not knowing if he would take another breath.  19 months of not leaving his side. But I lived on the hope of “ors” and “probablys.” I lived with the hope that each breath taken got us closer to that safer tomorrow. Painful futures narrowly averted by dumb luck, the roll of the dice. I have had brief glimpses of what E’s future will be like — and I am too sad for tears.

And I have my children to hug today.

E’s blog is filled with some of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful prose I have ever read; filled with honesty and passion. Filled with the courage to meet the moment head on. Her son is going to die — and I can’t write because it isn’t quiet enough? Because I’m worried about crazy sisters, an aging parent, money — life. Because I work too much, don’t sleep enough. Yeah. It all seems trite. I set up this new blog (yesterday). I had intended to post last night; but IPH has a term paper due about, of all things, the history of prejudice against the Jews. We did that last night and I’ll finish proofing this morning.

I am taking the opportunity that E is offering me to remind me that I am blessed throughout my struggles. The “struggles” I encounter are created by the richness of having the opportunity to move forward — against all odds — with healthy children and grandchildren. Despite my arrogance, hubris, and self-pity I am afforded the opportunity to move forward, flawed, but intact.  I need to create that writing bubble and insist that others give me the space and opportunity to use it.

Like other people who know E, I have vowed to read her blog daily, to witness the heartbreak, to listen to her sobs, to respond when appropriate. To use her example of strength in my own life and be reminded how fragile the human is while reminding myself – through E – how profoundly strong the spirit.

Welcome to my new blog.