Category Archives: Maribeth Shanley

Hidden Southern Culture by Maribeth Shanley

I’ve lived in the south for half my life. In the depths of my heart, I have never liked the southern environment.

For many southern whites, racism and hatred, coupled with a suspicion of different people are alive and well. That suspicion and hatred are evident when another white person looks your way and rolls her eyes at an old black man sitting on a bench in front of a grocery store. As a gesture of agreement, I presume the recipient is supposed to respond with a similar eye roll. When I encountered such a glance, I returned a glare of disdain at the woman who quickly looked away then scurried to the parking lot.

Then, there are all those sneaky racist ploys on the part of southern GOP candidates as they gerrymander their districts to cut out the black voters from their district, ensuring they will win the vote. In South Carolina, for a Democrat, that devious white southern culture shows through at the voting booth, when, as a first time SC voter, you realize your choice is to either vote for the Republican or abstain from voting for most local seats. Too, voter suppression is obvious when town mayors shut down the Sunday polls during an election, thus, curtailing the Souls to the Polls vote where preachers load their congregation onto buses and drive them to the polls so they can vote.

Most of my time in the south, I lived in Tennessee. Racism was evident, especially with the display of the Confederate flag. The excuse for openly touting the symbol was wrapped up in the rationalization of a demonstration of one’s southern heritage. My skin crawls when I see that symbol of oppression whose history included lynchings.

I once wrote a Letter to the Editor of THE TENNESSEAN about the heritage equation. In that letter, I compared the impact of the flag for blacks with the impact of the Nazi flag for Jews. The day my letter was published, I received several hateful phone calls from males identifying themselves as Sons of the Confederacy. I also received a letter from a woman who thanked me for making the comparison as she had always discussed her southern heritage in the same manner. She wrote that now she understood and promised never to make that comparison again.

Living in Tennessee was tough enough. However, the real challenge has been my life in South Carolina, the first State to secede from the United States of America. The South Carolina Declaration of Secession stated that the reason for secession had to do with the issue of slavery which the wealthy planter class was not willing to relinquish. I searched the internet for that Secession statement shortly after moving to South Carolina. I did because I knew in my heart that there was a hidden darkness which still exists here.

I also began to detect that there was a hidden culture rich in history and tradition that existed. I could feel it in the small southern towns. So I began to explore that culture only to find that it had a lot to do with a particular crop grown in Antebellum South Carolina.

During the colonial period, Coastal Carolina was the largest producer of rice in America, and it happened by accident.

Around the year 1685, a ship sailing from Madagascar was caught in a fierce storm off the coast of South Carolina. The ship sought refuge in the Charleston Harbor. While being repaired the ship’s captain met a prominent planter who was known to be the first English settler in the Charleston area. The captain and the gentleman, Henry Woodard, spent time discussing commerce. When the ship was repaired, and the captain and crew were to make their way to their original destination, the captain gave a bag of rice to Woodard who experimented with the rice. The resulting crop was so good that shortly after rice became the main cash crop for the Coastal river plantations of South Carolina.

Rice farming was labor intensive. It required workers who not only possess knowledge of the land but of the cultivation of the rice crop. Growing and harvesting required all this and lots of free labor working long, painful hours to keep the planter class living the lives of luxury to which they were accustomed. Thus, the planters needed an African for the plantations specializing in rice growing. Coastal West African soil was similar to that of Coastal South Carolina. The Coastal West African tribes were expert rice farmers. They became the target of capture as they were kidnapped then transported to South Carolina.

As I began to explore my surroundings, I soon discovered a people rich in culture and color. The culture is called Gullah. The color is the many art forms that came out of that cultivation of rice.

The modern Gullah people are the descendants of the enslaved Africans brought to the Low-Country of South Carolina for rice cultivation. Slave traders kidnapped individuals from a wealth of different ethnic groups throughout the Coastal areas of West Africa. Communication became a challenge for the slaves. Thus, a creole language called the Gullah language was born. The language influenced by a culture rich in African influences defined the uniqueness of the Gullah people. This distinction has become a badge of pride for the descendants as they carried on many of the traditions by turning them into an art.

Sweetgrass Simple        Sweetgrass Intricate     Sweetgrass Elaborate

In particular is the Sweetgrass Baskets woven mainly by females and sold to the public. Every artist brings her distinct technique to the art form.

The original “coiled” baskets brought over on the slave ships were called fanner baskets. The slaves used them to inspect the rice. The baskets were critical tools of rice production and processing. As time went on the techniques of basket weaving was passed down to descendants who turned the tool into individual expressions of art. These baskets now grace homes and museums around the world. They are purchased for their beauty and displayed in museums as a tribute to the rich culture of people stolen from their homes and brought over in chains only to serve as free labor for a class of wealthy white plantation owners. The baskets range in price and design. A small, simple basket could cost as little as $50 while an intricately designed basket could cost as much as several hundreds of dollars. Although the artist ensures the purchaser that the basket is a functional one, most basket owners place their basket(s) in their homes to be admired for the beauty of their art and artist.

Footnote: Rice remained a dominant crop for South Carolina up until the end of the Civil War. With the Emancipation came a fast decline of the wealthy rice economy. Without the free labor of slaves, rice plantations were unsustainable. In the early 1900’s rice farming disappeared from South Carolina.

 

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Girls Need Heroes Too

I was born in December of 1947.  I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, which were extremely oppressive decades for women and young girls.  There were no female heroes little girls could look up to and aspire to become.  The closest I came to female heroes was Lois Lane and Dale Evans.  Later, I would fall in love with and read every Nancy Drew book published.  I wanted to become a sleuth like Nancy.

The sad truth is, there were no such characters as Wonder Woman, Super Girl or the like.  Boys had the monopoly on heroes, which made growing up with realistic aspirations a given.

I was the oldest girl of six children.  My brother was the oldest of all six.  Our family was a dysfunctional one with a father who wielded his power over everyone with zeal, and a mother who was wholly beholden to her husband.   Dad was an officer and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Navy, which meant he was not home all the time.  He would go off to sea for months on end.  In his absence, our mother took over the household.  She was in control and, in my eyes, did a great job.  However, when Dad would return, she shrunk to her second-class-subservient-role never questioning the demotion.

Mom became anything but a role model for me, especially when she would stoop to talking in a baby-like manner in the presence of Dad.  The mere thought of that behavior makes my skin crawl.

Living in a household populated by lots of people, I was extremely lonely.  The reason for my loneliness was devastating for me.  I fell victim to a father who was also a pedophile.   To date, my siblings have confirmed that I was his sole family victim.

I realize now that I spent my entire life in my parent’s home trying my best to hide from my father.  The only periods I felt safe were those when he was gone.  While he was home, I looked forward to family vacations when we would stay in motels.  I learned to love the evening sound of traffic as trucks and cars whizzed by the motels.

While he was home, I sought safety in my mind.  I found solace retreating to my mind where I would write my future; one which was free of harm; and, one where I was equally important.  Too, I would devise situations where I could protect myself from him and his hands.

When in high school, for example, I talked my youngest sister into sleeping with me promising her she’d never make another bed.   With her in my bed, I knew our father wouldn’t risk coming to my bed during the night to bother me.  All the while I lived under my parent’s roof I didn’t realize I was cultivating a new female hero.

With my ingenious thinking, I was becoming my hero because I was devising ways in which to stay safe.  Still, I craved outside female heroes.  Those didn’t come along until much later, and after I finally fled my parent’s hell.

It’s no coincidence that I met my husband of now forty-seven years in 1970, the year I left home.

Until then, I tried numerous times to leave.  Each time, however, my parents would play the blame game with me, e.g., “How dare you think of leaving, after everything we’ve done for you.”  In truth, they did little for me.  In fact, when I went to work for the Federal Government at the age of 18, they demanded that I hand over my entire paycheck from which my Mom would give me a meager allowance.

Working out in the world,” at 18 I decided I wanted to go to college; my parents did all they could to discourage me.  Until then, I never considered college.  For one, I was never encouraged to think of anything other than getting married and having as many children as God would give me.  Too, until I experienced the freedom of being in the workforce, I was constantly in a state of emergency where I directed all my energy toward staying out of harm’s way.

I would soon learn that there was a college fund; but, it was never meant for me.

It was originally intended for my oldest brother.  When, however, he made it clear he had no intentions of attending college, the fund was reassigned to my sister who was two siblings younger than me.  I was not intelligent enough. Instead, my label was not college material.

My parents were panicked.  How can we discourage Maribeth?

They enlisted my Dad’s younger brother, who was a Dominican Priest and a professor at Catholic University in the Washington, D.C. area where we lived, and I worked.  He, Tom, devised the perfect plan as he made an appointment for me with a female dean at the University who was instructed to intimidate and discourage me, leading me to acknowledge I was indeed not college material.

I remember that dark-haired, be-speckled queen-bee type woman.  When I told her I was interested in studying biology, she went to work scaring the bejesus out of me as I became convinced I could never pass chemistry.  So, the next day I went back to work, leaving my college wish behind.

In April of 1970, and after having saved a down payment for a new royal blue Camaro, I finally moved away from home.  I planned to move back to the Washington, D.C. area and, in one year, qualify for a program where I would be sent overseas to work.  I wanted to move and work in Brussels, Belgium.  I wanted to move far away physically and emotionally from my past.  I wanted to begin living the life I only dreamed of living.

I never made it to Belguim.  Instead, on my first night in D.C., I met Bob.  He had become friends with my older brother, with whom I stayed while looking for my apartment.  Bob was different from any male I had met.  He was kind, going to college while working as a meat cutter in the Safeway stores.  He was paying for college via his earned income and the GI Bill.  During the Vietnam war, Bob had spent four years in the U.S. Army as a medic assigned to an evacuation hospital.

Soon after meeting Bob, we moved in together.  We married in September of 1970.  One Sunday, while talking to Bob about what I wanted from my future, I told him about my desire to earn a degree.  For Bob, that was a no-brainer.  He encouraged me and a few months later walked me through registration as I registered for two evening classes with the University of Maryland, the same college he attended.

I began taking courses during the evenings, and, during the day, I worked at the Civil Rights Commission.  My world was expanding rapidly.  I relished every single minute of my growth.  Ironically, the same uncle had left the priesthood, married an ex-nun and was in the process of moving to Washington, D.C. where a job was waiting for him.  He asked me to take him around to apartments.  During those few days, Uncle Tom tried his best to break up Bob and me.  He explained to Bob that he was leaps and bounds ahead of me intellectually.  He begged Bob to break up with me.  “Maribeth is a sweet girl, but she’s not all that bright.  You will become bored with her and wind up breaking her heart,” Tom explained.  Bob countered that Tom had no idea who I was nor how intelligent and complex I was.  Tom lost that argument and Bob, and I married a few months later.

I think I was always looking for female role models, so, in 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency, I fell head over heels in love with his beautiful, assertive wife, Hillary.

Hillary was everything I aspired to be.  She was bright, inquisitive, assertive and she was not a typical wife, let alone First Lady.

Soon after Bob and I wed, the Navy assigned my father to the Pentagon as he subsequently moved my Mom and younger siblings to the D.C. area.  A week after Bob and I married, Bob’s father called him.  Bob’s daughter, Kimberley, from a long-past marriage, was living in a foster home in the California area.  Social Services removed Kim from her mother’s living quarters where a live-in boyfriend beat her with a beer bottle.  A month later, I was a mother.

When we married, both Bob and I agreed that we would not have children.  I never knew why I didn’t want children. However, I knew I didn’t.  So, becoming a mother the way it happened was a shock to my senses.  For the first few months after Kim’s arrival, a Social worker visited us on a frequent basis.

My mother went to work on me coaching me how to act.  She encouraged me to make cookies for our first Social Services visit.  I reluctantly did.  However, the social worker caught on to my feelings of reluctance to play the stereotypical mommy role.  When she left our first meeting, she instructed me to be myself and act naturally.  It wasn’t too long after that meeting that the social worker suggested that we had the option to send Kim back to California.  Bob had not been a father very long when he and his first wife were divorced.  Thus, when suggested, he flirted with that solution.  Too, he was terrified of losing me.  I, however, could not agree to send her back.  I had spent my entire childhood in misery.  I was not going to be the person who doomed Kimberley to a life of misery knowing she was unwanted.  So I raised her, giving her all the guidance I could offer.

When Hillary came along, she was the very role model I had thirsted for all my life.  I was captivated when she made the statement, “I’m not sitting here like some little woman who stands by my man like Tammy Wynette.”  Later, she followed that up with, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and have teas; but, what I decided was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public office.”  Wow, hot dog was my reaction to this assertive, proud female who was my age and was standing up to the world with vigor, confidence and an I am who I wish to be boldness.  And, so, I stepped up and became the same type of woman, one who proudly assumed the label of uppity.

Later in life and during a job review, my male supervisor evaluated me as an average worker on paper, however, in our meeting he raked me over the coals.

I was the Kroger, Nashville Division’s first female Meat Field Supervisor.  I supervised two store districts and thirty meat departments.  My approach to those departments and their meat managers was not the typical field supervisor one.

Instead of playing a merchandising department cop, my style was to become a partner with the departments.  Everything I did, including sending out a plan that accompanied the weekly sales plan was intended to help the departments utilize their merchandising skills.  For example, I would discuss selling cuts of meat that made up for the unprofitability of the cuts on sale.  I respected the department heads and their staff.  In return, I was respected and appreciated.  In fact, after several inventory periods, all my stores began bringing in profits that surpassed their expected profits, something that had not been achieved in recent history.  The zone and store managers loved me because I was making them look like heroes.  My immediate supervisor did not.  He felt threatened; and, so he told me I had a reputation for being too pushy.  He then told me that women should have a quiet power.  I listened, felt bad, questioned myself, but, then, picked up my head, held it high and, when offered a job with a Fortune 500 company, I moved on.  I would later learn how much respect I earned while I was the Meat Field Supervisor.

One of my husband’s co-workers was friends with the Kroger, Nashville Vice President of Store Operations.  This VP expressed regret that I left the company as he called me a shining star who was destined to go places with Kroger.

Recently, a friend asked why I was still commenting on Facebook that I was #StillWithHillary.  He explained that although he respected the former Secretary of State, there were so many other outstanding women in politics and business.  I decided not to give him the short, tart FB answer.

Instead, his question made me ask myself the same one.  I wanted to know the answer, and that would take me time.  I explained that to him and told him I would give him the link to my blog when published.  He accepted my offer and said he looked forward to reading my answer.

Hillary Clinton was my first real female hero.  She came along for me when I desperately needed a female role model.  She was everything I aspired to become and now realize I was already becoming.  Although there are many outstanding women qualified to become our first female president, I feel Hillary earned that right to be the first.  She earned the right to be the first female to break that ultimate glass ceiling.  She wasn’t, and now I look to the future.  However, I will always stand with Hillary Clinton.

As Hillary became my first hero, I became my second hero.  I have overcome much in my life to accomplish more than I ever expected.  As the title reads, Women need Heroes Too.  As girls and women, we need other females to look up to and emulate.  We also need to be so proud of who we’ve become that we too become our hero.

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Humans are Not Born Hating – Humans Learn to Hate

My introduction to the hatred of racism was stark and unforgettably poignant. I was nine years old.

With my family, I had just moved from my birthplace in East Providence, Rhode Island to Pensacola, Florida. Before the move, I had no idea white people hated black people. I wasn’t aware of color.

Raised a Catholic, our new neighborhood was located in St. John’s Parrish. However, since we moved in the middle of the school year, for my older brother, Danny, and myself, St. John’s School was at capacity. We had to go to school in downtown Pensacola. We were enrolled at St. Michael’s which required a city bus ride.

My dad was a U.S. Naval officer. He arranged for Danny and myself to ride our bicycles from home to a fellow officer’s home. So, on a Monday morning, we set off on our thirty-minute ride. Once there, we met the woman of the house who showed us where to park our bikes and the location of the bus stop. The lady was kind enough to wait with us on the sidewalk in front of her house.

The bus arrived about ten minutes later. Danny and I boarded the bus. Danny paid our fare, and he sat down on the seat directly behind the white haired, bespeckled bus driver. I didn’t want to sit up front.

While growing up in Rhode Island, my grandmother would take me to downtown Providence on a city bus which stopped a half block to the right of our street and on the main street, Pawtucket Avenue. We always sat in the very back of the bus. With memories of my then lucid grandmother, the rear seat became my favorite seat.
Without noticing anything different or strange regarding who was sitting up front versus who was sitting toward the back of the bus, I walked the long isle to the back and sat down in the middle. I was the only person sitting in the long, brown leather seat. The middle allowed me to look out both windows, right and left, as well as out the back window.

Once I was seated, the bus doors closed and the bus began to move. I was enjoying my ride as I dangled my feet which didn’t yet touch the floor. I recall a few people sitting toward the back watched me. I smiled at them, and they smiled back.

Several minutes later, the bus stopped to pick up other passengers. Before the bus driver shut the doors, I looked up to see Danny walking toward me. At first, I thought he had decided to sit in the back seat as well. I was wrong.

He stood in front of me and said, “The bus driver said you couldn’t sit back here. He told me to tell you to come up front to sit.”

I recall asking why to which Danny answered, “I don’t know, but he said you couldn’t sit back here.” I

I wasn’t convinced as I barked back, “Well, you aren’t my father, so I don’t have to do what you tell me to do. I like it back here! This is my favorite seat.”

Danny looked disappointed as he turned around and walked back to the front of the bus.

I was looking out the side windows and waiting for the bus to begin moving again. Suddenly, however, the doors, which the driver had shut, burst open with such fury that its thunder ripped through the silence of the bus. I was frightened as I looked up to see the bus driver now standing looking back down the isle.

We all waited as the tall, skinny, white haired driver pointed a long arm and a long, skinny, crooked finger at the back of the bus. Now other passengers were turned around looking at me when the driver yelled, “You, little girl. You better march yourself up here to the front, or I am going to put both you and your brother off the bus right here. Now, march!”

Scared to death, I got up and walked to the front and sat next to Danny in the seat directly behind the driver. I recall one old lady smiled at me as I walked toward the front.

Later that evening, I told my mom what had happened and asked her why I had to sit up front. She explained that we now lived in the south which was a very different place than where we used to live. Rhode Island, she explained, was a northern State. She continued to assert that, in the south, black people were not allowed to interact with white people. She tried her best to explain the meaning of segregation, telling me segregation applied to every interaction, even on bus rides. White people were allowed to sit up in the front portion of the bus, while black people had to sit in the back. White people and black people weren’t allowed to sit with each other or in the same vicinity. Through observation, I would learn that if all the rear seats were occupied, black people who boarded the bus had to stand in the aisle, holding on to the metal poles above their heads until one of the “blacks only” seats became vacant. Even if there were vacant seats in the “whites only” portion of the bus, black people were not allowed to sit in those vacant seats.

The next day, my second day of school, my bus ride to and from school was an entirely different experience. I watched as white people got on the bus and sat on the forward side of the middle door, while black people walked to the seats behind the middle door. No blacks sat up front, and no whites sat in the back. Soon I was noticing other differences. During that school year, I watched little old black ladies with their grocery carts filled with grocery bags board the bus. There were always more black people riding the bus than there were white people. Too, most of the blacks were women of all ages. I recall one little old lady boarded the bus with her loaded grocery cart. There were no vacant seats, so she had to stand. Her face expressed exhaustion. Plus, she was very short in stature, causing her to have a difficult time reaching up to the overhead rail to hold on. Several times, when the bus would stop, she stumbled nearly falling to the floor. I was seated in one of the long seats which faced the center of the bus. I watched this lady struggle. I felt sad that I had to keep my mouth shut because I wanted to get up and give her my seat.
My mother was right. Segregation was everywhere.

All Department stores had four bathrooms. Two were marked as White Men and White Women while two other doors read Colored Men and Colored Women. Also, there were two separate water fountains in every store. One had a sign above that read White Only and the other read Colored Only. I also began to notice that black people rarely looked directly at white people, while white people always looked suspiciously at black people. It was a difficult, confusing three years living in Pensacola.

I never adjusted to living in the south. I couldn’t wait to move back to Rhode Island. Although my parents never talked at length about the separation, intuitively, I knew it was wrong. Sometimes, when no one was looking, I smiled at a black woman if she looked at me. Some smiled back while most did not, but immediately looked away from me.

As it causes pain for all decent people, I am sad that our country is once again experiencing the angst of hatred by one race against others including blacks, Mexicans, Latinos, and distrust of those whose religion is the topic of scorn. The most depressing piece of this new hatred and distrust is fostered and encouraged by the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. When I was that young girl living in Pensacola, Florida, I couldn’t understand how or why white people could hate another group of people because of the color of their skin. I am no longer that little girl, yet, I still have difficulty grasping the hatred the has reared its ugly head recently.

During my years working as a regional manager for McCormick, I recall traveling to the Miami area. I loved Miami because, like New York City, it was a great example of our country’s proud heritage called the melting pot. So many different ethnicities live in the Miami area. I loved traveling to Miami for its wealth of diversity.

I don’t know what the future holds for our country. There’s so much hatred and fear that seems to permeate our country. Even some liberal minded people seem to fear and resent the undocumented people who live and work hard in the U.S. What on earth do people have to fear?

 

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FINAL LANDING PAD

           I am so happy that we have finally moved into our very last house. My days of packing and unpacking are done!
As there’s lots of work to do in a previously owned house, there’s lots of work to do around a new house. Most of the work, for me at least, is outside.
I’ve always loved adding flowers to the perimeter of all houses in which we’ve lived. Past houses included creating new beds, sometimes significant, complete with a bench or two and a path through the garden. I’m afraid I’m way over the new bed syndrome. In fact, I’m not even terribly enthusiastic about adding the flowers, vines and such to my perimeters. It’s hard work!
Impatients

          Two houses ago, I discovered perennials. I used to plant mostly annuals. Not anymore. For this house, I’ve planted several annuals for that immediate wow effect. Fortunately, I now live in South Carolina where winters are mostly mild. I expect some of my annuals will come back, e.g., Lantana. One year in Tennessee, where we lived twice for a total of 31 years, my Impatients along a fence border came back. I’ve planted Impatients on the shady side of this house. However, I’m not holding my breath they will come back. After all, the first two years we lived here were unusually cold ones. So, perennials have become my new BFF.
gazing ball

I’ve bought about a half dozen ready to plant perennials such as coneflowers. I love coneflowers. This year, there seems to be a wider variety of new colors. Not only are there the traditional white and pink coneflowers, but there’s yellow and orange that add a lot of wow to any garden.
Now that I have some color in my perimeter garden, I’m relying on buying perennials from catalog nurseries who have, in recent years, expanded to the Internet. I am an avid internet shopper.
Like gardening, I used to be a regular mall shopper. I loved going to the mall. It didn’t matter that I would return home empty handed. I liked looking. Not anymore. It’s too time-consuming, and now, I’d rather get my walking time in walking our dog with my husband. So, the Internet has been a BFF for a long time. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m one of the original avid Internet customers.
One of my favorite catalog/internet nurseries is Spring Hill located in Ohio. I’ve bought from them for probably twenty years and four previous houses. Their prices are reasonable, the variety is significant, the plants hardy and, if some of them don’t make it, they will replace them the next planting season. I bought about a dozen plants this spring and lost only three. I’ll order more plants in the fall. In the meantime, I can’t wait for my hard copy of their catalog. I love looking through the hard copy as I plan what I will order and plant next.
Once I am satisfied that I have filled my gardens with ample flowers and vines, the next target is early spring planting, e.g., daffodils, tulips and such. I was under the impression that those cold weather bulb plants wouldn’t do well in SC. However, the landscaper who mulched and created a beautiful stone edging for my gardens told me they love South Carolina weather. I hope he’s right. I’ll make sure by asking the question of nursery owners. I love spring bulb flowers, so, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that two fall seasons from now, I’ll plant spring bulbs.
My last two homes, I bought worm castings from a company called Worms Way. Castings, when spread in the flower beds, become live brown worms which are the very best way to aerate your gardens. Plus their waste creates wonderful compost. Castings are inexpensive and natural. Worms Way evidently went out of business, but good ole, dependable Amazon had several suppliers. So early spring, I bought castings and spread them throughout the gardens. As I dug holes for my first few annuals, I also dug up a big juicy worm. I was thrilled to see the little guy or gal. I knew I had lots more who were deep in the ground aerating away.
I also bought a compost bin from Amazon. I tried composting several years ago but wasn’t successful. This time, I also bought a thousand red composting wiggler worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. They came packed in a box and secured from crawling around in a green bag. Once my compost bin was put together and set up over the right spot behind a few bushes, I followed the instructions to loosen the soil about 18” X 18.” I then opened the bag dumped in the worms, and the traveling material then covered them with wet newspaper. They will rehydrate and become visibly active as they begin to break down the grass clippings, pine needles, egg shells, banana peels and a few other worm-tasty goodies. I’m looking forward to the worms producing nutrient-enriched compost I will feed my flowers. There’s an added value my compost bin and the wigglers will provide. Because I’ve never been a vegetable gardener, I can dump my dog’s waste into the bin as well. The wigglers will do their job of breaking the waste down into compost.
Not only am I a lover of beautiful flowers, but I also love what is called yard art.

yard art
I recall the first gazing ball I placed in a garden in the backyard of our first house. The red gazing ball sat atop a concrete column. My next door neighbors had never seen a gazing ball. In fact, the female neighbor asked me if I was trying to call home, ala ET fashion. I regret leaving my last red gazing ball atop a wrought iron ball stand for the people who bought our last house. Red gazing balls are hard to find. However, a trip to one of my favorite brick and mortar stores, Hobby Lobby, sent me home with a short stand and a multi-colored blue/pink ball. It’s pretty where it currently sits.

yard art 2
I have other yard art in my gardens such as shepherd hooks with hanging plants, bird baths with sun generated fountains, and melodious wind chimes. My gardens are looking good. I even ordered a second wind spinner like the one I already owned. It’s sitting in the garden I share with a next door neighbor and has the utility box in the middle. I do love wind spinners. This one I have is my favorite. It reminds me of the tall ships of yesteryear.

wind spinner 2
Finishing off my outdoors is my love for birds. I love feeding the birds.
When we began visiting the lot our house sits on; I noted there weren’t too many birds in the area. Surrounded by trees, we chose to back up to one of the two lakes versus the wooded perimeter. I wasn’t confident that I would attract a lot of birds right off the bat. I suspected that I would be able to attract a pair of bluebirds since I did see several. Thus, one of the first things I did was set up my bluebird house. One pair built a nest around the middle of March. I watched the parents build the nest, feed their babies and carry out the small white sacks of poop. Years ago when I began attracting bluebirds, I read they will not nest in a used nest, even their own. I was about to open the box and pull out the nest when I noticed they were back in the box. They had their second nestlings. I lost track of when they began nesting the second time when I noticed that the male was sitting on one of my shepherd hooks with nesting material in his mouth. I walked far enough away to note that he was building a nest in another birdhouse. I thought, hmm, I wonder if there’s a reason they didn’t return to the same box. When I opened the box and put my hand in the nest, I felt an unhatched egg. This time, I pulled the entire nest out of the box. Within a day the pair began building their nest in the original box. I’m told that in South Carolina, bluebirds will nest up to four times each season. I’ll have to keep an eye on the box since I would love to encourage a fourth nest.
Bluebird numbers have declined over the last few decades due to competition with sparrows and Starlings. I’m happy to help the population build to a healthy population again. I’ll keep these birds coming back to my yard all year long too by continuing to feed them mealworms.

blue bird house
We have a Wild Birds Unlimited down the street. They sell live mealworms that are packed in oatmeal. Stored in my refrigerator, I can feed the bluebirds these live worms. I also bought a bag of dried mealworms. In the past, I haven’t had much luck with bluebirds eating the dried variety. However, this pair seem to love both. The dried worms are less expensive and easier to store.
I do also have a nice variety of other species that include: cardinals, sparrows, purple finches and the cutest little birds I can’t identify. This little bird makes a squeaky sound much like the squeaky sound of a dog’s squeaky toy. One of the couples nested in a box hanging from one side of a double shepherd hook. I need to take a photo of them and ask the people at Wild Birds Unlimited if they can help me to identify this sweet bird.  Backing up to a lake is fun for bird viewing as well.  It’s a new lake, however, we already have a few Egrets, two Blue Herons and a small Green Heron who visit frequently.  Oh, did I mention, we also have our very own alligator?
alligator on bank

In the past, I’ve been fortunate to attract hummingbirds. I did not expect that I would attract these little acrobats this year. However, I put out a feeder in April.

hummer2

To my surprise, two little gymnasts showed up almost immediately. They must have been waiting for me to come along.
I’m well on my way to finishing planting so I can have years of enjoying my flowers spread and bloom with little more needed from me than to feed them, compost around them and provide sufficient drinks of water. I’m looking forward to my low-maintenance yard in the not too distant future; one that’s alive with color, butterflies, hummingbirds and the songs of birds along with chimes singing to a soft breeze. All will soothe my soul as I sit on my upper deck or lower patio reading or falling to sleep.

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A Year Of Change – by Maribeth Shanley

My year, 2017 began in November of 2016.  It began with the election; one where our country had the grand opportunity to elect a formidable, caring and genuinely ethical woman to lead our country.  Instead, our country, driven by what I still consider an obsolete, Electoral College, elected the most uninformed, lazy, crude, rude, secretive man in history to become the leader of our country.

I spent the rest of 2016 and well into 2017 mourning the death of a dream.  I’ve been through all the stages of grief which began with severe sadness and evolved into anger and action of that anger.  It’s interesting and oddly ironic that along with a change in myself, the investigation of this grossly inept president is heating up as connections to our country’s arch-enemy, Russia under a cruel and cunning dictator, Vladimir Putin is discovered, and people are unmasked.

As I was experiencing the multi-stages of grief, the loss hit again.  This loss was intimate and unexpected.  My little male fur child, Pooker died.  Diagnosed as being diabetic, Pooker continued to experience complications as they became more severe and frequent.   As I stood on the precipice of a new stage of grief, on February 4, 2017, Pooker died in my arms.  This time, I fell harder than ever back into the first several stages of grief:  shock, denial, pain and guilt.  I experienced destruction as my heart felt like lumps of rubble.

elvis-has-left-the-building

Time has passed; and, with that passing, I am recovering.  I no longer feel the anger I did over the election; and, I no longer feel the complete devastation I felt when Pooker left us.  I am experiencing a rebirth.

Bob_Chopper[2293]

Today, Friday, June 2nd, my husband, Bob, officially retires.  We’ve lived in Myrtle Beach for three years, and I have experienced the area on a limited basis.  I have one friend I met at the gym Bob, and I visit three times each week.  Except on weekends, the time at the gym gives Bob, and I time together.  I’ve been grateful for that together time.  However, I have craved more.  Bob is not only my husband of 46 years; he’s the light of my life and my best friend in the world!  Beginning tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to spend as much time with Bob as will be possible.  Plus, we will use much of that time, at least in the beginning, exploring the surrounding areas of North and South Carolina into the coast of Georgia.  Prime on our list is Savannah, Georgia.  Since the book turned movie,  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I’ve wanted to visit Savannah.  

Next year, we hope to cross the country to the Pacific coast.  I’ve traveled by land as far as Greely, Colorado.  I only experienced a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.  On multiple occasions, I’ve seen them from the air as I traveled back and forth with the company I worked for.  Bob has seen the entire western portion of the U.S.  The trip will take two and possibly three weeks to complete as we travel out to the west taking the northern route through the Rocky Mountains and out to the Seattle area.  We will then travel down the coast to San Diego.  From there, we will travel back home via the southwest route.  Such a trip will enable us to experience the full beauty of our country.  

We’ve discussed traveling outside the country.  I’m not sure we will be in a hurry to do that.  I’m not interested in Europe.  Other than our continent, the only continent I’ve wanted to visit is Africa. 

Senufo mask

At 29 and when I began my senior year at the University of Illinois, I enrolled in what I thought would be an easy class.  I enrolled in a Western Africa Art Appreciation class.  It actually turned out to be the hardest class I had taken.  In fact, after the first quiz, I talked to the professor.  She informed me that I had enrolled in an advanced class and counseled me that I still had time to drop her class and pick up something else.  However, by that conversation, I had fallen head over heels in love with Africa.  I loved the different cultures and the idea of all the wonderful animals.  I stuck with the class as I spent extra hours reading literature at the University library.  I managed to get a C from the class, the only C of my four years at the university.  However, it was a C I was extremely proud of.  To this day, I can look at a piece of Western African art and know which tribe created it.  Thus, Africa is definitely in our future. 

I only recently became aware of my change.  The emotions of that transformation are calm with a hint of excitement.  Humans work all their lives beholden to companies and individuals with those companies while they are never able to imagine how retiring feels.  For most, it’s a frightening proposition.  Many people don’t prepare for it.  We’ve been preparing for five years.

Five years ago we agreed that I would retire and Bob would continue to work.  I left the corporate world in 2004 to run my clothing company, Iron Cowgirls.   In 2008 when the market crashed, and I was forced to sell the business, it quickly became evident that I had little to no opportunity of re-entering my old profession at the same salary with which I had left.  There were too many people with my talents competing for the same jobs; and, most of them were younger than me.  Thus, after trying the commission only world, I realized it wasn’t a good fit as I lost more than I gained.  So, I retired and took on the continued task of managing the finances with a focus on enabling Bob to retire debt free.  It’s been a daunting task, especially since the sale of my company didn’t clear out all the debt it acquired over the four years I managed it full time.  However, never shrinking from a challenge, I managed to knockout, one by one, every single debt Iron Cowgirls and we had acquired.  When Pooker became ill, we had a slight setback, but even it will be gone as, tomorrow, Bob files his last expense report.

During this entire process, I’ve come to recognize that working toward Bob’s retirement has been cathartic.  I feel a flush of excitement and a sense of peace as I anticipate the rest of our lives.  This process made itself evident when, yesterday, as I was dressing, I had an overwhelming feeling which culminated in my saying out loud, “I no longer have anything to prove to anyone.”  I have no one to prove myself to, and that includes me!

I will continue to write because I love writing.  Too, it’s simply exciting to know I have a talent I never dreamed I had.  I am currently working on an anthology of short stories.  I also want to finally write that memoir which will include my entire family.  I have other books as well that I’ve begun and left hanging.  The one thing I will not do, however, is hold myself to a time table.  I will write when I want to believing that approach will encourage me to write more.  No pressure, the sheer enjoyment of writing will push me naturally.  Now it’s Bob’s opportunity to discover what he likes to do. 

I have no doubt he will find something and maybe he will find multiple somethings.  Bob is brilliant, funny and very talented in so many areas.   The one thing I do know, he will enjoy his retirement.  So many people sink into depression feeling they are now worthless.  Not me and not Bob!  We will continue to thrive individually and together.  With all my heart, I look forward to our future and the many adventures I know we will have.

 

 

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Time to Ride!

I’ve been riding my own motorcycle for about thirty-five years.  I love riding my bike.  It’s probably one of the most empowering feeling a woman can experience.

HD sprint

My first exposure to motorcycles happened one evening after I met my husband, Bob.  The year was 1970.  He owned a 1967 Harley Sprint 350,  made in Italy.  That model was produced before the quality Harley Davidsons of today.

Early in the 1980’s, Harley Davidson nearly went extinct.  Mismanagement and Japanese competition nearly killed the Company.  “In 1981, however, a group of executives who loved the company and its product closed ranks to rescue Harley-Davidson from decline.” (from Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time by Daniel Gross, et al.)  By adopting Japanese quality control and production methods, these executives reinvented Harley Davidson.  Bob and I had a grand opportunity to buy shares in the new company.  Ignorance and a lack of funds stood in our way.  In hindsight, we should have taken out a loan.

The evening Bob broke out his small Sprint, I stood on the sidewalk watching him ride it down the street in front of his apartment building.  Half-way down to the end of the road, he did a wheelie.  His “trick” scared me to death.  Later that evening Bob admitted it was his first wheelie and he also confirmed that it frightened him as well.  He sold the bike soon after.

We married in September of 1970.   Bob never got over his desire for another motorcycle.  In the meantime, he followed the Harley Davidson company.  In 1982, we were talking seriously about buying our first home.  I knew how much Bob wanted another HD, so I told him, “Before we take on a mortgage, I want you to buy a motorcycle.  If you don’t do it now, you may not be able to get one.”

In 1982, we went down to one of the local Harley Davidson stores.  We lived in the Nashville, TN area.  We met and made friends with the owners of that dealership.  Bubba Boswell, the son of the owner, was learning the business so his father could retire.  Bubba sold Bob his first authentic, made in the U.S.A. Harley Davidson.  He purchased a Roadster 1,000 with a “Fat Bob” tank.

Bobs first bike

The day he picked it up and rode it home, I followed him in our car.  I was so nervous for Bob that I didn’t allow a car to pull in front of me and behind him to exit the I-40 split.  I felt bad afterward as the driver blew his horn and flipped me the bird for my action.  However, I didn’t want anyone else driving behind Bob and his new motorcycle.

We arrived home safely and, later that day Bob, and I went out for a ride.  I was anxious at first.  He had what is called a passenger “sissy” pad attached to the back fender.  However, he didn’t purchase a “sissy” bar.  The sissy bar gives the passenger a false sense of safety.  The bar is designed to help prevent the passenger from sliding back and off the bike.  I had to hold Bob around the waste instead.  When we finally arrived back home, I knew I was in love with riding.  Later that week, Bubba called Bob to tell him about the Boswell rides which took place once every month.  We were eager to ride with the group and met all sorts of great people, some of whom we rode with during off-ride weekends.  It was, however, on one of the Boswell’s rides that I got the bug to ride my own motorcycle.

We were riding in a group of about thirty motorcycles when I spotted a young woman several bikes ahead of us.  She was riding her own root beer brown Low Rider.  The year was 1985.  I was mesmerized by the sight of this woman whose long dark hair was tied off by a white scarf.  Her hair and the long white scarf danced in the wind.  I thought her vision was the coolest vision I had ever had.

At lunch, I ran up to her and asked her about her bike and experience.  She encouraged me to get a bike for myself.  Bob and I talked about the idea that evening.  The more we discussed the subject, the more we decided that, for budget reasons, I should get a Japanese-made motorcycle.  Later that year, however, I came home from a business trip and was greeted by a wonderful surprise.

I walked into our garage where I immediately noticed a bright light hung from the overhead garage door rail.  The beam illuminated a shiny royal blue 883 model Sportster with a huge red bow on the handle bars.  My heart skipped several beats when I noticed the words scrolled on the tank.  They read Harley Davidson.

I immediately realized Bob wasn’t home.  I didn’t want to ruin his surprise, so I quickly ducked back out of the side door, locking it behind me.  I jumped in my  car.  I rode around for about an hour at which time I drove back into our cul-de-sac, approached our driveway and saw our car sitting in the driveway.  I got out of my company car, opened the trunk and pulled out my suitcase.  As I entered the garage, Bob was standing in the garage next to the bike under the bright light.  He was beaming ear to ear.  I did my best to act surprised and must have been successful because it wasn’t until several months later that I confessed to Bob.

The following day, a Saturday, we took my bike out, and I got on.  I had been learning to ride and practicing my skills on Bob’s motorcycle.  We often went to the vacant Grand Ole Opry parking lot on Sundays where I would practice.  I started my 883 and began riding.  Bob would run from one end of the cul-de-sac to the other end as I would ride toward him practicing stopping.  I already knew not to lay on the front brake, because one practice ride on his bike, I gently laid down his bike on the front crash bar when I failed to use the foot brake but grabbed the hand break instead.

Riding back and forth in the cul-de-sac, I soon became too brave for my britches.  I thought to myself; I can do this.  So, much to Bob’s alarm, I left the cul-de-sac and began riding the bike through the neighborhood.  I was riding in the newer section of our subdivision when I rounded a corner too fast.  It was dusk, and the light from the setting sun confused me as I realized I was going too fast.  I had to make a split-second decision between laying down the bike on the asphalt versus the soft new grass of the front yard of an unoccupied house.  I chose the grass.  The bike did an 180-degree spin then toppled over with me on the bike.  I found myself sitting in the mud.  My right leg was pinned under the bike.  I sat up and turned around to see if anyone was around.  I needed help freeing my leg.  No one was around as all the surrounding homes were new and unoccupied.  I finally freed my leg, got up, bent down and picked up the bike.  I thought, I need to get Bob so he can come get this damned bike.  Then, however, I recalled what Bob once told me.  He said, “When a person lays down their bike, if that person doesn’t get back on it immediately, that person may become too afraid to ride alone again.”  Thus, I climbed back on my bike, started it up and drove it home.

Bob was panicked.  It had been over a half hour since I left the cul-de-sac.  He and our neighbors were looking for me.  He was standing in the driveway when I drove up.  My right turn signal was hanging off and dangling in mid-air.  Covered in mud, my bike had a small ding on the tank.  Bob was not pleased.  However, he was gentle with his scolding.  The following morning, he refused to ride my bike to Boswells.  Instead, he insisted that I ride it.  I did.  I followed Bob through all the back roads to Boswells, drove up the ramp and into the garage area.  A few weeks later, I picked my bike back up.  Bubba fixed everything but the small tank ding for next to nothing so we wouldn’t have to file an insurance claim.  That was my last incident for several years.

If you ride a motorcycle then you understand the saying,  ‘It’s not if you will crash, but when you will crash.’  I have had two significant crashes over the years.  Each time, I got back on my bike right after or soon after.

After my first crash, I refused to leave my bike where I crashed.  Instead, I insisted on riding it to the emergency room so I could have a gash on my chin stitched.  I recall the two guys we rode with begged me to ride on the back of Bob’s or their bike to the hospital.  The woman who rode with us pointed out that part of my chin was hanging down.  I looked down at my top and saw blood.  A female witness patched my chin, and off we rode with me on my bike.  Several days later one of the guys commented to me, “Next time don’t be so macho!”

My last crash was a nasty one.  We were in Myrtle Beach for Spring Bike Week.  Our friend and my Iron Cowgirls’ business partner and his girlfriend were with us.  Rick and I set up an Iron Cowgirls’ booth for the week.  Before the rally, we all went for a ride to Charleston, S.C. for lunch.  About thirty miles south of Myrtle Beach it began to rain.  We stopped to eat breakfast.  When the sun came back out, we got on our bikes.  Bob felt apprehensive and suggested we not drive the two hours to Charleston.  He had a foreboding intuition.  Being stubborn, I dismissed his fears and insisted we go.  We did.

On our way back to Myrtle Beach, Bob was in the lead, I followed behind him and Rick and his passenger, Cindy pulled up the rear.  It was a nice day, and we were enjoying the ride when suddenly I spotted a stray dog on my right side of the four-lane highway with a grassy median separating the lanes.  I slowed down when I spotted the dog.  I thought I saw the dog dart out onto the highway, so I swerved to my left.  I over-reacted and soon found myself off the highway.  I was on the narrow portion of the median where there was no grass but had traction.  I was concentrating on keeping my bike on that traction path while looking ahead trying to gauge where I could safely reenter the highway when I spotted a huge semi-truck tire depression in front of me.  I knew I had to ride through the depression.  I braced myself and held my breath as my mind yelled, Sh**.  I made it through the depression, sighed relief and thought, I should be fine now, as I also spied my escape route several hundreds of feet ahead.

Suddenly, however, my handlebars began to vibrate violently.  I felt confused as my mind asked,  What the hell is happening?  Then my mind screamed, This shouldn’t be happening!  I suddenly felt my front wheel turn into the grassy median.  I knew I was going to crash.  I did.  The next thing I knew I was face down and lying on the highway.  Later Bob told me he watched in his rear-view mirror as my body flew over the handlebars and tumbled onto the highway.  I tumbled down the highway several times until I stopped.

When I realized I was lying on the highway, I became alarmed.  I was at the bottom of a small hill.  I knew large lumber trucks traveled this highway on their way to the paper mill north of where I was lying.  I immediately jumped to my feet and ran over to where my bike was lying.  The handlebars were separated from the bike and lying close by.  I thought, My handlebars broke off in mid-air.  That’s why I felt the vibration!  I was standing over my bike cursing to myself when Bob and Rick with Cindy pulled up.  As Bob walked over to make sure I was okay, I said, “Bob, I think my handlebars broke in mid-air.”  Of course, Bob was too upset to listen more closely and Rick, who, at times, could be a know-it-all dismissed my comment later telling me the bars broke when I crashed.  Everything was happening so quickly that what I knew happened got lost in the flurry of events.

Fortunately, a Park Ranger was driving in the opposite direction when he also watched me crash.  He stopped to help.  We were about fifteen miles south of the Georgetown hospital when he offered to Bob to take me to the hospital.  Bob asked me to go with the ranger and asked Cindy if she would ride along with us.  I wasn’t comfortable riding with a strange man, so although I agreed, as the three of us walked toward his truck, I stopped, turned to him and said, “You better not do anything wrong because I’ll beat the sh** out of you.”  He smiled and assured me he was harmless.  He was.  He drove us to the hospital and dropped Cindy and me off. He gave us his name and phone number asking us to call him the next time we were all in Myrtle Beach.  He was a nice guy.  He wanted to have us over to his house for a barbecue the next time we were in the area.

I was fine.  I had a lot of road rash.  I have spots all over my body, including on my chin where the top layer of my skin was ripped off.  Those spots have no pigment to their color.  I have to apply a flesh-color crayon to cover the colorless patch on my chin.  The poor dog wasn’t as fortunate as me.  He did run into the median.  A couple in a truck stopped.  They were going to take the stray dog home with them but, when they tried to catch it, the dog panicked, ran back across the highway and was hit.  He died.  That made me very sad because, if only I had not overreacted, he may still be alive.  We found out later that lots of dogs were dumped off in the same proximity by careless owners who no longer wanted their dogs.

That night the shower I took was, by far, the most painful shower I’ve ever taken in my life.  Since the top layer of skin had been scraped off, I had lots of  sub-layers of exposed skin.  I had been wearing shorts that day and had a tank top on to boot.  Too, South Carolina has no helmet laws in place.  I was extremely lucky I wasn’t more severely injured.  That first evening Rick told me Bob sat down on the grass and cried when the ranger drove off.  Five years later, Cindy told me that they all expected they would come back to a dead body on the highway.  Thank my lucky stars, I’m still alive and only have to cover my chin with makeup to cover the patch.  I must admit, the following day I asked Rick who had a second motorcycle at home if I could ride it while my bike was in the shop.  I know, I’m slightly deranged.

While I was at the hospital, a highway patrol officer came by to take my statement.  My adrenaline was rushing through my body by then from realizing what had happened.  I forgot to tell the officer of my suspicion, that my handlebars had snapped in mid-air.  The only person who mentioned the handlebars was the fellow who helped us by picking up my motorcycle and dropping it off at our hotel.  He was a custom bike builder.  I told him what I thought happened.  I also told him what Rick said.  He assured me that the bars did not break upon impact.  His knowledge of motorcycles and his intuition suggested that they had broken before I crashed.  Thus, once we were back home, I began to conduct an investigation.

mb-s AIH

My bike was an American Ironhorse Texas Chopper.  The first phone call I made was to call the American Ironhorse Company.  I talked to the company’s vice president.  He acted concerned but didn’t satisfy my questions.  Thus, I also called a bolt manufacturer in the Nashville area.  I had the two sections of the broken bolts.  I talked to a bolt maker.  I told him the outside of the bolt was chrome.  However, the guts of the bolt looked like soft metal.  As I answered his questions, he told me he suspected that the bolts were an inferior make.  He further speculated that  the interior metal was inferior while the outer portion of the bolts were chrome versus the bolts being solid chrome.  I called a few lawyers in the area, but none of them seemed interested in talking further.  That I failed to mention it to the officer who wrote the report was a problem.  I soon dropped the issue but convinced Rick that the bars had indeed snapped in mid-air and as I rode through the depression.

I did call American Ironhorse a second time, but no one in management would talk to me again.  Ironically, when my bike was repaired and returned to me, it was better than new.  It was apparent that the assembly-line paint job had been dramatically improved.  The paint scheme was more dramatic and had more of an individually custom paint appearance.  My bike no longer looked like an assembly line bike.  The bike was white with cascading gray, biting skulls on the tank and fenders.  Both Bob and I believe American Ironhorse knew they had used faulty bolts.  Instead of talking to me again and chancing a lawsuit, they instructed the paint shop to give the bike a custom look, hoping I would be happy.

Since that crash, my riding has become more conservative.  It was such a violent crash that I recognize how fortunate I was to come away from it relatively unscathed.  I never want to have another experience like that again.  I also now listen to Bob when he has a bad feeling about something I shouldn’t do.

I’m now riding my ninth motorcycle.  In 2008, I traded my third Ironhorse Chopper, a hard tail (no suspension) one for a HD Cross-Bones.  I love my Cross-Bones which HD doesn’t make anymore.  However, my favorite motorcycle of all was my first Ironhorse.  It’s pictured below.  The model was called the Outlaw.  The paint scheme is a custom paint job.  I specifically asked for the colors.  The scheme reminded me of the “Billy Bike,” Dennis Hopper rode in the 1969 cult film, Easy Rider.

Outlaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Pain of Losing a Family Member – A Tribute to Pooker

Someone once said to me, “Losing your fur children becomes easier.”  Another person once asked, “It was just a dog.  Why are you so upset?” 

My answer to the first comment.  It does not at all become easier.  In fact, it becomes harder with every death of a fur child.

My answer to the second person, I can only repeat the quote on the front of the card sent home with us and Pooker’s cremated remains. 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”  Anatole France

I was mourning my last fur child, Skipper, when Bob and I brought Pooker and Slugger home.  I wasn’t sure I was yet ready for another child, but Bob thought it was the best thing for me.  Skipper died of diabetes and complications as a result of the diabetes and a second disease he suffered from for many years.  The existence of puppy mills was just being learned by the public and, given the circumstances of how we were given Skipper, we suspected he was a victim of a mill.  We thus, thought his diabetes was also a result of poor housing conditions, so Bob decided to look for a credible Schnauzer breeder.  We lived in Nashville, TN at the time.  Bob found a show dog breeder four hours from Nashville on the outskirts of Knoxville, TN.  

We drove to the breeder’s home on a Saturday.  When we sat down in their living room, they brought in two puppies.  The two boys were brothers.  Slugger was the boy Bob was originally told about.  I sat watching Slugger gleefully run around the room playing with his toys when Pooker strolled over to me, raised himself up as he rested his tiny paws on my knee.  I picked him up. 

Prior to picking him up, I noted that the two dogs were very close with one another.  We were told they had the same father but different mothers.  They were born nine days apart.  Pooker was not only the smaller of the two, but he was the youngest.

About a half hour later and after tossing Slugger’s toys for him to fetch and hugging a cuddly Pooker, it was time to make my decision.  Bob asked me which dog I wanted to take home.  My answer, “Well, if I have to choose one, I choose this one (Pooker).  But, I’d really like to bring both home.”  At this point, the breeders excused themselves so Bob and I could discuss.

We had just sold our house in Illinois and moved to Nashville.  Being the money manager (Bob lovingly calls me the CFO) I told Bob we could afford both.  Satisfied, we left with both dogs.  They sat on my lap on the passenger side as Bob drove.  We planned a quick stop at the PetSmart store just prior to hopping onto I-40.  Pooker immediately fell asleep.  Slugger, however, was wide awake.  I sensed he wasn’t certain about what was taking place.  I know he recognized my preference, so I became focused on changing his perception.

We parked in the lot in front of PetSmart and carried both dogs into the store, and put them in the baby seat of the bascart.  Of course, as we rolled them to the collar and leash isle, people cooed over the cute puppies.  Both dogs were eating it up.

We bought a blue collar and leash for Pooker and a red collar and leash for Slugger.  The minute we put Slugger’s collar on and attached his leash, I could sense a total change in his disposition.  He knew he was where he belonged, with his forever parents and his pal and brother. 

little-boy-blues

Over the next eleven years, the boys grew and enjoyed their lives with us.  Pooker gravitated more toward me as Slugger gravitated toward Bob.  We became a happy family.  Our Nashville veterinarian called the boys bookends.  I referred to them as “the boys.”  They experienced true love.  From day one, it was obvious we made the right decision bringing them both home.  They loved each other immensely

It was interesting to watch them grow up to develop different personalities.  Pooker was a cuddler.  He’d allow me to carry him in my arms like a baby.  He often encouraged our friends to do the same.  Slugger was more independent.  He definitely didn’t want to be carried like an infant.  He is a loyal, sweet dog whose face would melt your heart.

Both boys enjoyed impeccable health care.  Longtime customers of Banfield the Pet Hospital, we purchased the Optimal Health plan for both boys.  Banfield pet hospitals are located at the back end of PetSmart stores.  Although we were told it wasn’t anything to be concerned with, Pooker always sounded like he had a little congestion.  It led me to make the statement early on that if either dog became ill, I knew it would be Pooker.  Of course, I hoped I was wrong, but I’ve found over the years that I have an intuitive sense which isn’t always a happy sense to possess.

Last year one of the boys’ two yearly comprehensive exams left our Vet concerned about the results of one of Pooker’s tests.  His blood sugars were slightly elevated.  She wasn’t alarmed but told us she’d check him again in a few months. 

In May of last year, Pooker became ill.  He stopped eating and was lethargic.  We took him in for an exam.  The news was devastating.  Pooker had diabetes and his pancreas was inflamed.  Our vet could do nothing more for him and suggested we take him down to the Charleston, SC area, two hours away, to be checked by an internal medicine specialist.  That was the beginning of our painful journey.

Pooker was diagnosed with pancreatitis and he was severely dehydrated.  The clinic needed to keep him there for several days.  They got him rehydrated and calmed down his pancreas.  At the end of the week, he was ready to come home as he was put on a special diet as well as insulin.

After that episode, Pooker would become sick every month until it became more frequent.  He and I made many trips back down to the Internest and he spent several more days at the hospital.  At one point, they had to operate on him, removing his spleen and gall bladder.  After each stay, we were told that, with the proper dosage of insulin, his diabetes could be regulated.  However, I looked up diabetes in dogs on the Internet and learned that veterinary medicine had made many strides over the years.

Diabetes in dogs is complicated.  Instead of the disease affecting them as Type 2 diabetes affects humans, canine diabetes is more like the deadly Type 1 diabetes often called Child Diabetes.  This information stunned me and helped me to realize just how sick Pooker was.  Being a Schnauzer also complicates the situation.  In fact, one vet told me that schnauzers are prone to just about every disease a dog can get and it affects them more dramatically. 

Soon after his first hospital stay, I came home from a weekend in the D.C. area.  I sat down on the sofa with Pooker and looked at his eyes.  I could see he had developed cataracts, just as our last dog, Skipper had.   We were about to get one of the cataracts removed when we learned that, unlike with most breeds, it is an emergency situation with Schnauzers.  Thus, by the time we got him to the eye vet, it was too late for him.  He would be blind for the remainder of his life. 

We had lived with our other diabetic, blind dog, Skipper.  We were prepared to live with Pooker’s blindness.  This time was different, however.  We were about to move into our new house when he lost his sight.  So, instead of encouraging him to get used to being blind in his current environment and then having to get used to being blind in a new environment, we made the decision to baby him.  After all, in the new house, he could now fall down two separate flights of all wooden stairs. 

Baby him we did.  For instance, during the middle of the night, we took turns taking him out to relieve himself.  There were many times too when I would spoon feed him because he wasn’t interested in eating his entire meal.  Pooker would always let us know when he needed to go out.  He would voice a little bark.  His bark let us know that he was either thirsty or he needed to relieve himself.  He was good about alerting us immediately every time, even during the night.

When his appetite would disappear completely, we knew he was extremely ill.  The last time, we took him to Banfield and was told we needed to take him back down to Charleston, we did.  Again they got him rehydrated and calmed down his pancreas.  I was out of town when Bob picked him up that weekend.  He was told that Pooker was doing well and, so, when Bob got him home and I arrived home, we felt optimistic.  However, the optimism didn’t last long at all.

He came home on Saturday.  By Wednesday evening, he wouldn’t eat.  The clinic was supposed to send Bob home with an appetite stimulant in the event he lost his appetite again.  That Wednesday evening we called down to the clinic’s emergency hospital.  The ER vet tried to call in a prescription to our local CVS.  However, by the time she did, the CVS was already closed.  The next morning, Pooker’s vet called it in and we picked the prescription up.  By Thursday evening, he still wouldn’t eat.  During the day, I talked to the nurse at the clinic and she told me it usually took about 24 hours for the stimulant to work.  We decided not to panic and would try again in the morning.  However, we didn’t make it till the next morning.

At about 10 p.m. we all turned in.  Pooker was restless.  He threw up a little, so I kept a towel close by in case he were to throw up again.  He did, and what he threw up was heartbreaking.  He threw up blood, lots of blood.  We both knew he was dying.  We talked about taking him to the all night clinic about fifteen minutes away in order to have him put to sleep.  We were about to do that when something stopped me.  Intuitively, I felt it wasn’t what we needed to do.  Thus, I told Bob I was going to sit with him in the living room.  Bob stayed in the bedroom comforting Slugger who was asleep on our bed. 

I wrapped Pooker in two blankets as we sat down.  I held him in my arms for a half hour as he calmed down and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.  I don’t know what I expected.  Part of me hoped he would make it for awhile longer, but something also told me he wouldn’t.  I kissed him and stroked him as I talked to him before he fell to sleep.  We sat there for about four hours, when at 3:52 a.m. he took his last long breath.  I knew it was his last.  My hand was under the blanket and lying on his heart.  I felt his little heart stop.  He was gone.  I called to Bob and he came out and sat with us.

I remained in the living room holding him until about 8 a.m. when I called Heavenly Paws Animal Crematory.  The owners were the same people who cremated our little 21-year-old cat, Sissy two years earlier.  During the last few hours, Pooker’s brother, Slugger was able to say good-bye.  Poor Slugger had a hard time with Pooker’s illness.  He watched us carry Pooker up and down the stairs.  Toward the end, Slugger needed to be carried up the stairs.  Nearly four weeks later, he’s just now beginning to walk up both flights by himself.

Our cat, Skeeter, has been devastated as well.  Soon after Pooker was diagnosed and after moving into our new house, we brought two kittens, a brother and sister home.  It took Bob two years to get over losing Sissy.  Toward the end, Bob attended to her every need.  The man who for 46 years claimed he was NOT a cat person, found out that he was indeed a cat person simply because he’s an animal person.  Skeeter, the boy cat, began cuddling with Pooker in his bed.  Skeeter could tell Pooker was ill and so, he became Pooker’s constant companion.  Before we left to rendezvous with Heavenly Paws, I lay Pooker on the spare bedroom bed so Skeeter could say good-bye.   Three weeks later, Skeeter was still looking for Pooker, especially if I brought out something with Pooker’s scent on it.

pook-and-skeeter

This past week, I began sleeping with Pooker’s prize possession, Froggy.  Where toys were toys for Slugger who would throw them up in the air and catch them or run with glee when we would toss them for him to chase, for Pooker, toys were possessions.  Froggy was his favorite possession as he would constantly try to sneak out the door with Froggy in his mouth.  A few times he got away with it.  Once, I found Froggy outside.  He was soaking wet.  I’ve repaired Froggy numerous times when I would spy white fill seeping out a hole.

 froggy

This week has been especially difficult for me.  I’m not sure why, but it has been.  I even had to skip an important meeting with the group, Horry County Democratic Women’s Council of which I am a member because I have been feeling sad.

Time will heal our wounds.  However, I already know that I will continue to occasionally cry over the years when something brings him back to me.  After all, after eleven years, I still cry for Skipper.  Our animals are our children, and when they go, it hurts like hell.

elvis-has-left-the-building

The above photo is one I sent to the Charleston area Veterinary Specialty Care clinic.  I call the photo, Elvis has Left the Building.  I sent it to them after we received a beautiful sympathy card signed by many of the caregivers who paid great attention to Pooker especially during his hospital stays.  Everyone one of them loved our little boy.  He was a sweet boy who could win your heart just by looking at you with his sweet eyes.

We love you, Pooker.  You will forever live in our hearts.

 

 

 

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The State of Our Union

As I consider the state of our Union, I think about the people who wish to come to the U.S. seeking the American Dream.

Recently our new President signed an executive order banning those who practice one of the oldest religions of the world, Islam, from entering the country.   The ban,  implemented this weekend,  victimizes individuals of the Islamic faith, including a small child.

Below is a photo of the five-year-old Syrian refugee child holding a small baggie in her mouth.  She’s unable to hold her baggie with her hands because her little arms and hands are bound behind her back with handcuffs.   What makes this photo more egregious is what Sean Spicer had to say at his press briefing after the weekend flurry of arrests, detentions, and people with visas turned away at their departing airports.

syrian-child

When asked about the little girl, Spicer commented that just because the child in handcuffs is a little girl doesn’t preclude that she isn’t dangerous.  What kind of man has such thoughts about an innocent kid?  Too, what kind of lasting effect will this have on this young girl who stands with her back against the wall next to her parents?

Two Saturdays ago, I participated in the Women’s March on Washington, D.C.  Protest marches are not foreign to me.  In 1970, at the age of twenty-two, I moved from my parents’ home in New Jersey to the D.C. area.  I grew up in a strict military family environment where no one was allowed to voice dissent against anything that was going on in the U.S., especially the Vietnam War.  I held my feelings close to my vest during my last years under their roof.  When I drove my car from New Jersey to D.C., I recall thinking, I’m going to do everything I was never allowed to do.  I did indeed, including marching with thousands of anti-war advocates through the streets of Washington, D.C.

The job I moved to D.C. for was one with the U.S. Navy at the Pentagon.  However, I soon left the Pentagon for a position at the Civil Rights Commission where I worked with some of the original freedom fighters from the Civil Rights Movement.  Upon my written resignation, the Admiral I worked for called me into his office.  I quietly listened as he tried to convince me that Communists populated the Commission.

I loved working with the Commission whose purpose is to protect all the civil liberties our great country espouses.  My years in D.C. engrained within me a fierce tolerance for all people regardless of their gender, color, ethnicity or religious beliefs as well as those who did not lean toward religion.  Diversity is the very fabric which makes our country so rich with complexity.

I think about Benjamin Franklin’s words.

As Franklin emerged from deliberations at the Constitution Conference of 1787, outside Independence Hall, a female called to Franklin asking, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin’s words ring loud in my ears these days.

Franklin’s words, “If we can keep it,” feel urgently precarious in this year, 2017.

Just this morning as I ate my breakfast and watched Morning Joe on MSNBC, the group discussion turned to the death of Navy SEAL, Ryan Owens.  The discussion surrounded criticism coming from the DOD.

Willie Geist began the discussion surrounding Trump’s trip with his daughter, Ivanka to attend Ryan’s funeral.  Willie expounded on the Pentagon’s  criticism surrounding the Yemen mission that killed the Navy SEAL and civilians, including an eight-year-old child.   Pentagon officials criticized Trump for authorizing a poorly vetted mission where AL QAEDA detected the commando team.

Mark Halperin followed with, “You have some DOD officials saying this mission should never have been approved and that the President made a mistake. That is a very serious accusation, particularly since the first mission he authorized did result in a loss of life.”  Halperin continued, “We’ve talked about a lot of stories today. This is in some ways the most important because it goes to the fact that you have people in the Pentagon who are willing to say that the Commander in Chief made a mistake and that it was not sufficiently vetted, and to make this point throughout the program, without a Defense Secretary in place for more than a few days with the Secretary of State just in place. It’s a serious time for the President to be making these kinds of decisions. And, if the accusations are true, it’s amongst the most serious charges ever leveled against him.”

Joe Scarborough finished the discussion by commenting that this is probably the new normal for people at the DOD and the CIA who are witnessing these types of things coming out of the Whitehouse.

Scarborough continued, “We’ve warned the Administration that if you cross the CIA and people in other agencies, including the State Department, they will cut you up.  What was leaked to the NEW YORK TIMES, which again, this has been an extraordinary two weeks in.”

As I listened to the discussion, I wondered if Ryan Owen’s parents were aware of the complicity of the President regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of their son.

Halperin finished the discussion by mentioning that this comes on the back of Trump insulting the Australian Prime Minister, one of our closest allies, whom Trump hung up the phone in the middle of the conversation.  Halperin also mentioned the conversation Trump later had with Mexico’s President.

AP released an excerpt of the transcript they obtained of the second conversation with President Pena Nieto.   Trump warned in that conversation that he was ready to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them.

Mexico is one of our closest trade partners.  Recently I heard the Mexican Trade Minister comment that millions of dollars flow from Mexico into the U.S. every second of every day.

WE HAVE A REPUBLIC IF WE CAN KEEP IT.

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2016 Election – A Woman In Mourning

I’ve been a Hillary Clinton supporter ever since she came on the national scene in the early 1990’s. From the minute she began opening her mouth, I knew she was no ordinary First Lady.  It was evident that she was a seriously independent woman who was strong-willed, confident, and fiercely assertive.  I was fascinated by her chutzpah and her take charge persona.  I laughed loudly at both her Tammy Wynette and baking cookies comments.  I was even happier when I learned she was my age.  She was kicking ass and taking no prisoners.  My kind of woman!

In a tizzy, the media was questioning her insistence that, as First Lady of Arkansas, she continued to practice law as she pursued her own formidable career versus behaving exclusively as the first lady.

Here was this attractive woman with big, beautiful blue eyes and long blonde hair, pulled back with a headband speaking words which were then and now considered outrageous.  “I’m not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.”  Hillary later followed that up with, “I suppose I could have stayed home baking cookies and having teas, but, what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.”  She immediately became news, controversial news.  How dare she consider her own profession to be equally important to her husband’s.  How dare she not put her career on the back burner to present the image of the stand by your man First Lady.  After all, how many sacrifices would she be expected to make?  She had already relinquished her identity when, as First Lady of Arkansas, she legally changed her name from Hillary Rodham to Hillary Rodham Clinton.  When she exchanged marriage vows with her husband, Bill, she did so while keeping her birth name, the name of the person she knew herself to be.  After all, she married Bill because she loved him.  It had nothing to do with becoming his property or his obedient second-class citizen wife.

Hillary resonated with me like no other woman in public service.  She was strong-willed, confident and took no bull.  She was her own woman, and she wasn’t afraid to let everyone know who and what she was, an “uppity” woman who refused to take her assigned chair at the table, a chair far removed from the head of that table.

During that period of my life, I was struggling in a man’s world trying to make my own way as a formidable colleague and, if necessary, opponent to my male counterparts.  I had spent my life as a second-class citizen and, like Hillary, I wasn’t going to let the world get away with putting me in that hole.  My shape was an octagon.  However, society was trying to pound me into a square hole.

I grew up in a military family with a mean-spirited, arrogant father who happened to be a pedophile whose crimes I knew intimately.  My dad was constantly trying to hammer my octagon personality into that square hole.  Later in life, as I entered the workforce, he and my mother demanded that I hand over all my earnings every week from which they would give me an allowance.  They did this while my older brother, not only kept all his earnings, but my mom also bought him his toiletries.  I was expected to purchase them out of my allowance.  My mother was an obedient wife who goose-stepped around her husband.  She marched to his drum and even went so far as to look the other way at what he was doing to me.

In the workplace, I got to know the male world well.  I recall, at 18 years old, the day a boss smacked me on the ass.  That was before HR diversity and sexual harassment training.  It was before sexual harassment was considered to be wrong.  So, I said nothing to his superiors, cried in front of that boss as he apologized for his behavior.  I’m sure he simply didn’t want to be reprimanded.

Being a daughter/victim of a pedophile had its silver lining.  My torment caused me to remain hidden from my family as, while in my home, I lived exclusively in my head.  The gift of having been molested was that I became keenly aware of my environment and I was always watching for males who wanted to either abuse me or shut me up.  I began to develop my strong-willed, confident, assertive personality.  I honed my uppity skills.

For example, I avoided being kidnapped or raped one evening when I was returning to my car I had parked in the Asbury Park, NJ train station parking lot.  I was taking a night class in Asbury Park.  It was February.  The streets were covered with new snow and ice from a previous storm.  As I waited to cross the street at a traffic light, I noticed a black, slightly beat up car stopped at the light as I began to cross in front of it.  I caught the image of a man behind the wheel.  The temperatures were in the teens, and this man wore no coat.  Instead, he wore only a white undershirt on his upper body.  I became alarmed because I could see he was watching me as I walked toward the train station parking lot. Instinctively,  I knew I needed to get in my car before this man, and his car could turn into the lot.  My gut told me I was in trouble.  Thank you, dad, for giving me that skill of knowing my environment!

As I crossed the street, in my head, I talked to myself.  I told myself to calm down, walk quickly but carefully.  I didn’t want to fall on the ice.  I then grabbed my keys from my coat pocket and held the key in a ready to unlock position.  I continued to tell myself to stay calm and get in the car as soon as I could, start the motor and back my car out.

Just as I backed my car out of its parking space, I saw the black car turn into the lot.  I passed the man in the black car as I exited the lot and sped down the street toward the Interstate.  I ran the same red light this man and his car originally sat.  I watched in my rear view mirror making sure I had lost him.  I was shaking the entire time, but, I had already become a warrior woman who was smart enough and keenly aware enough to avoid danger.  I had been a victim once; I was not about to become one again.

Later in my work career, I worked at a Kroger store in Nashville, TN.  I was 31-years-old, was a recent college graduate, who had previously taken a man’s job as an apprentice bricklayer.  I was that store’s first head seafood manager.  I had also recently requested entrance into Kroger’s management training program.  The male zone manager for my store didn’t care for me.  He could see I wasn’t your typical subservient female, and, so, he tried to block my request.  However, again, I was not about to be told I couldn’t do something because I wasn’t a submissive female.  So, I typed up a letter, addressed and mailed it to the zone manager.  In that letter, I insinuated that if he continued to block me, I would visit the EEOC office to file a suit against him.  I was admitted soon after that.

My thirteen-year career at Kroger ended after a job review.

When I graduated from management training,  Kroger immediately promoted me to the newly created  Seafood Field Specialist position which gave me jurisdiction over  fifty seafood store departments.  I had proven myself as an innovative leader while managing the first seafood department in that division.  The Seafood Specialist position was not yet defined.  So, I basically created it as I worked in that capacity.  My last above average review, came before my going back to the stores for a short-lived store management experience.  I was then brought back to the Meat Merchandising Department as the company’s first female Meat Merchandising Field Specialist.  I oversaw twenty Nashville City Meat departments and fifteen Kentucky country stores.   I loved being a pioneer.  So, instead of approaching my new position as so many other field specialists did, i.e., a merchandiser enforcement officer,  I approached my position as a teacher.  I had a firm grasp on merchandising and marketing and so, I went about training my meat managers to become better merchandisers.  The result was that my stores began to perform above their expected gross profits which were a first for both the city and country zones.  Meat managers, store managers, and zone managers loved me for what I was doing.  I was helping them, and the Division look better to Corporate Kroger.  However, the man I worked for, the division Meat Merchandising Manager, didn’t like me and didn’t like what I was doing.  This man was a short man with a Napoleon complex.  Instead of being grateful for helping him also to look good; he felt threatened that I was trying to take his job.  So, during that year’s evaluation, on paper, he rated my performance as average. However, it was what he said verbally to me that sent me looking for another job outside of Kroger.

This little man told me I was too aggressive instead of what he felt my behavior should be.  He said, “Women should have a quiet power.”  He’s fortunate I didn’t anticipate his demeaning words because I would have brought a recorder into that meeting.  I would have not only filed a complaint but, since diversity and sexual harassment training was in full swing, I probably would have cost him his career.  Lucky him.  Not so lucky me.

As a small manufacturing company named Golden Dipt began courting me, I asked for a meeting with my Meat Manager’s boss.  During that meeting, however, It became evident that the Merchandising Director was not going to support my position over his Meat Merchandiser’s position.  I smiled and thanked this man for the meeting, knowing that I was now, more than ever, determined to leave Kroger.  Two weeks later I was offered a Regional Manager position with Golden Dipt.

As a woman in a male-dominated world, this was who I was when Hillary Clinton first ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008.  I was a woman, who, against all the odds, fought my way through the ranks and salary scale.  I was thrilled that a woman was in the race for the highest position in the country and world.  I felt crushed when she lost to Obama and swore I would not support him.  I did, and part of what convinced me to support him was Hillary’s humility and her strong endorsement of Barack Obama.  She asked me to throw my vote behind Obama.  I did.

During this last campaign, as the accusations of lying and other ugly indictments were launched, I was baffled that people believed all the accusations.  While Secretary of State, except for the GOP Congress who hated Obama, Hillary was lauded by many as the best Secretary of State in decades.  Her popularity was high.  That all disappeared as she made it public she was running in 2016.

One of the unfortunate facts of this last campaign:  in the guerilla warfare arena, Democrats are amateurs compared to Republicans.  Democrats behave in a more respectful manner than do the Republicans.  This comparison is especially true since the emergence of the Tea Party candidates such as Trey Gowdy.  This group of Republicans is nastier than many of the old guard Republicans.

On the evening before Obama was sworn in for his first term, several members of Congress held a secret meeting.  During that meeting, they vowed to obstruct all Obama’s proposals.  They were determined to ensure he would be a one-term president.  When Obama won his second term, these same Republicans along with the New Tea Party members revisited their vow.  Thus, the GOP Congress declared a state of obstructionism during Barack Obama’s entire presidency.

From the minute Hillary declared her candidacy in 2008, the GOP connived and, through the media, created a false image of who Hillary Rodham Clinton was.  They did not like that she was still not just uppity, but, in their minds, she was blatantly arrogant.  So, during her Secretary of State years, the GOP launched a campaign against her with the intentions of creating a false, ugly perception of her.  They then backed it up with hearing after hearing of false, baseless accusations.  A Republican politician once unashamedly repeated to a reporter a quote which was first written by Adolph Hitler in his book Mein Kampf.  Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels later repeated the quote.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Thus, the members of the GOP repeated their accusations over and over again to the point of creating a false perception of reality.  During the eight years between 2008 and 2016 those voters who didn’t know Hillary Clinton and failed to find out who she  was, believed the lies.”

I worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign before the South Carolina primary and again during her run for President.  I worked the phone banks.  During that time, I also joined the Horry County, SC Democratic Women’s Council.  On November 8th, I spent all that voting day at two polling stations.  I was the Democratic Party Poll Watcher.  In other words, I gave my all to Hillary’s campaign.

During my watch on November 8th, I consoled a woman who broke down in tears when a poll manager informed her that, according to South Carolina law, she was not allowed to vote.  The woman had recently moved to the State and registered to vote.  However, she registered two days past the 30-day- prior deadline required for the General Election.  I also watched many young mothers cast their votes for Hillary as their daughters looked on.   It was a proud day for women.  We were going to vote to office our first female President.  With Hillary Rodham Clinton, we were going to gain a gloriously qualified woman president.

The day began with a lot of optimism.  By the time I arrived home around 8 p.m. and ate dinner in front of the TV, I felt optimistic.  By 9 p.m. my heart began to sink.  At 9:30, I told my husband I could watch no longer.  I was going to bed.  During the night, I got up twice, went to the living room and turned on the TV.  My second trip to the TV was around 3 a.m.  When I turned the TV on, Trump was making his victory speech.  I spent the next hour crying as a sleepless female friend and I instant messaged each other.

I was so distraught for the next few days, that, although I got out of bed, I didn’t get dressed.  I would find out later in the month at a Council meeting; I wasn’t the only female Council member who became immobilized.  I also felt lost.

I am a news junkie and passionate about staying ahead of current events.  I could no longer bear to watch CNN or MSNBC.  I’m just now finding alternatives during the day when I’m not writing or doing something else.  Too, immediately post election I joined my Facebook friends in venting our anger and consoling each other with posts.  I was so distraught for several weeks that I spent a lot of time on FB sharing political posts and writing political posts.  I had a lot of company too.

In the wake of the election, and a month later, I realized that I was not just distraught; I was depressed.  I experienced clinical depression one other time in my life.  It was after my mother’s death and when I opened my Pandora’s Box of childhood sorrow at what my dad did to me.  During that time, I saw a therapist and took Zoloft as a means of getting my brain to release serotonin as I worked my way out of depression.  So, as hard as it was to admit I had once again become clinically depressed, I need to get my serotonin flowing again.  I know I will overcome my depression as I work my way back to my usual happy emotional state of mind.  I am also not visiting FB as often.  I will persevere because, when I put my mind to anything, I accomplish what I set out to accomplish.

In the meantime, I am writing again and am becoming even more active in the Council.  I’m on the board that will solicit young high school female writers to participate in the Council’s Annual Scholarship Essay Contest.  As a board member, I will also participate in judging the entries.

I am sad my dream of living to see a female president lost to the least qualified male candidate in recent history.  I am sad that this man is one of the most hateful and hate mongering candidates to come along in my lifetime.  I could have lived with a Jeb Bush or a John Kasich presidency.  However, I’m not just sad but angry, that, despite knowing the hatred this man has spread, voters looked beyond all his hatred to vote him to the highest office in the world.  I’m sad too that this man is determined to continue to destroy our fragile environment as he betrays the working middle-class voter he promised so much to.  I am sad for his hatred and desire to persecute Mexican immigrants and Islamic refugees.  I am sad that the woman who most deserved to be president lost to the crassest and crudest of all nominees in modern history.  I’m mostly sad that Hillary didn’t have the chance to smash to smithereens that highest glass ceiling for me, my generation and all the generations of young women and young girls coming behind me.  With all my heart I hope I do live to see a Madam President.  Till then, #StillWithHer and, for the man with the orange skin, #NeverMyPresident!

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Marching Toward the Apocolypse

As the reality of this election sinks in, the threat to our future also sinks in.

If the most qualified candidate in recent history lost to the least qualified in recent history, we get a dire image of what our future holds. As I watch Thursday’s segment of Years of Living Dangerously, I am reminded that our greatest fear should not be Trump’s possession of the nuclear codes. Instead, it should be his ignorant refusal to understand and fear our Earth’s biggest threat to our survival, Climate Change.

Nuclear codes? If a nuclear war were to happen, for most living creatures, it would be the world’s least painful method of going extinct.  In contrast, the end resulting from climate change will be a slow, painful, death for everything.

Right now, in West Africa, there’s a migration taking place that, by far, “trumps” the Syrian migration and it’s solely due to climate change which has changed once fertile farmland into a wasteland. What was once the water-rich land is now a desert scape of the planet Mars magnitude.

Every week, thousands of men travel out of the region looking for a future they can bring their families. Their common destination is the shores of Europe.  However, they find no future because many of the areas they travel to are under assault as well. However, that assault is only in part a direct result of climate change.  It is also the result of an influx of migrants fleeing other human-caused crisis such as war.

As in much of the West, the U.S. included, this influx has spread a sense of nationalism, bigotry and hatred the likes of which has been non-existent since the 1930’s.  When met with this resistance, the African men attempt to travel back to their families only to run out of money leaving them “stuck” somewhere in the middle, between home and their original destination.

When asked, why did you leave your home, one man explains, “There is nothing where we live.  There is no rain, so there is nothing to eat.”  Another man calls out the temperatures he left behind.  “113 degrees!  120 degrees!  How can a person live?”  A third man explains, “There is no sea, and the earth no longer works.”  Even these men understand that there is something they can’t explain happening to our world.  They understand there is something causing the earth to no longer work.

Most alarming is the fact that many of these men become easy target recruits for Boca Harem and other jihadist groups. More danger for the West as the ranks of jihadism grow, resulting in an endless source of recruits willing to die in the present because they see no future.

In the U.S., a similar future lurks on the horizon.

In the once rich farmlands of California, a drought of magnitude proportions is currently under way.  California alone provides a cornucopia of produce to the U.S. and the world.  It produces over 200 different crops.  Almost half of the nation’s produce comes from California.  Some of these crops, such as almonds, are grown nowhere else in the U.S. or the world.  Loss of these valuable commodities would devastate the U.S.’s ability to provide product to the grocery industry, leaving whole departments and grocery shelves barren.  The devastation would create a cataclysmic national security problem.

A helicopter flies over a major water resource.  Floating boat docks now sit on desert-like sand; and, a major dam sits out in a similar site with no water to hold back or flow out.  The barren landscape forebodes the future.

The present drought has lasted four years.  The future for this same expanse of land, once water rich, predicts decades of drought.  The water that is currently regulated will dry up leaving no water to ration.  The ultimate horror of the site is the fact that this reservoir with its current limited resource is one of California’s main source of water.  California’s population tops 38.8 million.

Texas also grows a vast variety of crops to include fruits and nuts, vegetables as well as, grains, fiber and oilseed crops from which we get our cooking oils.  Texas is also experiencing an epoch drought.

In both drought-assaulted Texas and California, farmers are on their last legs.  Many farmers see a bleak future where they and their families will be forced to abandon their land to seek a living elsewhere and in a new industry.  These same people would leave their livelihoods penniless since their land will be rendered worthless by the droughts.

A picture tells a thousand stories.  Such is the case with the map of California.  This one shows the current condition of that States drought.  The areas are color coded to represent the intensity of the dry conditions which range from dry (yellow) to extreme drought (red) to exceptional drought (dark red).

current-california-drought

The second map shows the magnitude of the crisis in Texas.  NASA satellites have produced the ability to map out the crisis in both California and Texas.

texas-drought

Recently, however, Myron Ebell, Trump’s pick to head up the EPA transition and an avid climate change denier said he would direct NASA to cease using its satellites for climate change mapping purposes.  Ebell considers the use as wasteful.  Ebell would essentially abolish the EPA as Trump yanks the country’s participation in the Paris Accords on climate change.

At the 2015 Climate Change Conference held in Paris, the Norweigan Refugee Council discussed the imminent human migration result of climate change.  The council chairman explained, “Every second a person is forced to flee his home because of an extreme weather or climate event.”

The future is now!  However, there is no convention for climate refugees as there are for war and human rights refugees.

Jan Egeland, Norweigan Refugee Council (NRC) Secretary General, explains that science predicts that a child born today in 2016 has a 60% more likelihood of becoming displaced by a natural disaster.  The question is, will it be 200 million or a billion people who will have to relocate?  No one knows.

This question generates the second question.  Given there is no precedence, how does the world deal with these people?  How indeed when much of the world governments, now led by the U.S., view climate change as not significant or as a hoax and scientific evidence as a left-wing conspiracy.

The future looks bleak for our once perfect planet and its inhabitants. The Obama Administration was instrumental in ushering in progress toward gaining world commitment and cooperation to change the future.  Under a Trump Administration, that progress will not only end; the world will be set back decades as climate change continues to ravage our world.

As the waters rise on the Southern most coasts of the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, climate change refugee numbers will also rise.   As with the future refugees from California, Texas and the current refugees from West Africa, these coastal refugees will leave their homes penniless.  They will have nothing to lose.

In my mind’s eye, I see a future much like the fabled futures portrayed in shows like The Walking Dead.  However, the real future is not a fantasy one where zombies wander the land.  Instead, the future is one filled with living humans migrating inward as they seek a new future.  Hordes of people will leave their worthless property penniless and what will they have left to lose.  We march toward an apocalypse.

Note:  Recently, I wondered if my husband and I had made a mistake moving to the coast of South Carolina.  In October, the east coast experienced an unprecedented hurricane.  We also had the mountains of Tennesse on our original retirement list.  As Bob and I sat in the dark of our house, winds howling outside, I bemoaned our mistaken choice.  Now, I realize nowhere is safe.  I say this as Gatlinburg, TN where we had been looking burns to the ground.  The mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina have also suffered from climate change in the form of a drought.  The future is coming, and the people of the U.S. will pay for their vote.  As Trump promises to transfer funds used by the EPA to study climate change, he will use the money to repair the infrastructure.  New roads and bridges will be good for those migrating hordes seeking shelter from drought and flooded cities.  They will have new highways to travel to communities they will fight to take.

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