Human Jellyfish

March 11, 2014 Leave a comment

When did we become a nation of spineless wimps, unable to emotionally cope with perspectives different from our own?

Was it when social media became so popular? Maybe now that we see so many differing perspectives, we’ve shut down mentally and cry “that’s offensive!” at every turn. No, people were offended before Facebook.

Maybe, then, it was the invention of the internet? Connecting with people outside of our usual circles exposed us to things we’d never even heard of before. No, television and newspapers accomplished that long before the World Wide Web.

Was it in the middle of the 20th century, when people were frequently admonished with, “those things aren’t polite to talk about in mixed company!”? Maybe that was the start of it. But no, that admonishment is much older than the 1950’s.

Perhaps it goes all the way back to the start of our country? Clearly people were getting into serious trouble for speaking their minds back then because it conflicted with the powers that be, making the 1st Amendment necessary. No, people were getting into serious trouble long before then!

Maybe it’s not just our nation, but all nations! We have the Puritans, and before that the Spanish Inquisition, and before that a thousand years of medieval times to show us that different viewpoints were often met with harsh punishment. Before that, we have the biblical times, and the ancient Roman civilization, and the ancient Chinese dynasties.

So maybe the question isn’t ‘when’ but ‘why’. Why do people become so troubled about information that doesn’t fit their preconceived ideas and ideals? Why are people so uncomfortable with different political or religious viewpoints that they figuratively (and sometimes literally) stick their fingers in their ears? What is it about pointing out differences that makes people so angry?

Why do people get so offended by things that they’ll cast aside a longtime friend or family member who doesn’t agree with them? Why are there a hundred psychological diagnoses for people who just can’t deal with things that aren’t familiar, or who can’t cope with experiences that are outside of their realm of reality? Are we really so mentally fragile and emotionally stunted as a species that we can’t speak our minds without someone crying foul?

Difference of opinion are what progresses us as people. If we never heard anything that challenged us, we’d still be living in caves, grunting at each other. If we didn’t speak up when something was wrong, we’d never change for the better. If we never questioned anything, we’d never learn anything.

We’re devolving, losing our spines. We’re becoming human jellyfish, and that’s not ok with me!

Speak up! Allow yourself to be challenged. Question everything! And when someone whines because you’re offending their delicate sensibilities, tell ‘em to grow a spine.

So You Wanna Be An Atheist

December 9, 2013 4 comments

So You Wanna Be An Atheist…

We all know atheism is hip and sexy. Atheists get laid more than anyone, they don’t pay any taxes, they get wined and dined, and they skate into positions of wealth and power in our society. All you have to do is say you’re an atheist and suddenly the world opens up for you. Your friends and family think you’re awesome and want to be just like you, you get in free to all the best clubs, you get the best tables and the fastest service in the restaurants, you get complimentary penthouse suites and limousines, and your adoring fans follow your every move on the Internet and show up asking for autographs while you’re out with your date (which, you have to admit, makes you look pretty cool).

So, how do you penetrate this insular, elite segment of society? What does it take to rise to the top and become one of the jet-setting atheist crowd?

At last, here is how you, too, can be an atheist, one of the privileged few:

1) Stop believing in a god. Whether your concept of a deity is one who created the universe and then went to sleep or disappeared, whether it is one who takes an active interest in your sex life and answers your prayers, whether it is one who lives on another planet and occasionally intercedes in human affairs on behalf of its pet humans, or whether it is more than one god or goddess, the first and most critically important thing to do is not believe in it or them. Actually, that’s it. Nothing more is required of you. You don’t have to defend your lack of belief if you don’t want to, you don’t have to arrive at your non-belief through a process of reasoned argument or self-seeking, and you certainly don’t have to pray. There are no elaborate rituals to undergo or affidavits to sign. You can go on believing in Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, yetis, trolls, liberal globalist conspiracies or orbital mind control lasers if you want to, and nobody will accuse you of not being an atheist. Well, some might, but you are not obligated to take their criticisms seriously. Really, it’s as simple as that: Shed your belief in a deity, and you are an atheist. If you are reading this because you want to be an atheist, congratulations, you probably are already.

2) If you want to be more radical about your non-belief, the next step is to become more educated. Now might be a good time to stop believing in Bigfoot, too. Familiarize yourself with the works of atheist writers such as the Four Horsemen: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. Train yourself to debate and to be able to identify logical fallacies in an argument and to resist pseudo-scientific claims. Watch YouTube videos by atheists and listen to atheist podcasts. You might also want to become familiar with some of the YouTube material put out by religious kooks like Ray Comfort and Alister McGrath, though these can be painful to watch. If you are an American, it would be a good idea to have a working knowledge of the King James Bible as well.

3) If you want to be a more militant, capital-A Atheist, get active. Join a secular organization like American Atheists or the Secular Student Alliance and pay dues. Go to conventions and conferences and network. Join or start a group on Facebook and a meetup group in your area, and get together regularly and socialize, bitch about Christians, plan events, and drink beer. Speak loudly with your atheist friends when you’re in a bar in order to invite Christians to come over and start arguments with you – this can be quite entertaining but could get you in trouble if you are not careful. In addition to proficiency in verbal ju-jitsu, it might be a good idea to have some actual Kung Fu skills.

4) Kick it up a notch. Get more active. Get a position in the administration of one of those organizations you have joined. Get on the planning committees of those conferences and conventions you’re going to all the time. Cultivate personal relationships with politicians and convince them they need to pay attention to the wishes of atheists in their districts, and that churches ought to pay taxes. Get involved with school districts and convince them they need to not teach creationist horseshit in their science curricula. Contribute to Planned Parenthood and volunteer your time (and Kung Fu skills) as a security guard at a clinic that performs abortions.

5) Now it’s time to make your mark on the world. Make a name for yourself. Get yourself elected president of your favorite atheist organization, or start your own, and build it into an internationally known force for reason and justice in the world. Write a book, or several. Do speaking tours and book signings all over the place. Appear on talk shows and participate in debates on college campuses.

6) If you don’t succeed at 5), you might think about becoming bitter, angry, depressed and hostile. Cultivate that malicious streak that guided you toward atheism in the first place. Actually eat a baby. Have gay sex even if you’re not gay, just to piss off your parents. Perform blood sacrifices to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Burn down a church, preferably a megachurch where you can cause millions of dollars in property damage. When you see people collecting money for Catholic homeless shelters on the street corners, pull over and kick the crap out of them and take their money. Picket the funerals of Christians. Wear T-shirts that say things like “Jesus is coming! Somebody get a towel!” Perform abortions for free in your garage. Move to New York and cultivate a heroin habit. Convince yourself that the Second Law of Thermodynamics shows that the universe is decaying, life is pointless, and we are all doomed. Kill yourself in a way that will air on prime time TV.

7) If 6) is not for you, good. Forget about all the other steps and go back to 1). Honestly, that’s all there is to it.

Well, there you have it. Now you are equipped with all the necessary knowledge to be an atheist. Now you will have the red-carpet treatment wherever you go, and members of the sex of your choice will flock to you. Your limousine is waiting…

Copied with permission from my friend Sean Gale at Kill Your TV.
 

Tale of Two Daughters

November 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Two daughters from the same parents.

One was a child whom many would consider troubled. She was loud, defiant and sometimes belligerent. She bucked the rules every chance she got. She had a rocky relationship with her parents. She’s an avowed atheist who regularly speaks out against religion.

The other toed the line, and never got in trouble. She was quiet, compliant and obedient. She was the goody-two-shoes; the prudish child. She’s a Bible-thumping Christian, who regularly speaks out against sins and sinners.

All grown up now, they’re still very different from each other.

One is a habitual liar, thief and scam artist. She’s been arrested several times – for as many different crimes. She’s spent time in prison and on probation. She never finished high school. She’s had a child, but the child was taken away and put in foster care. She’s been homeless or living out of hotels for nearly her entire adult life. She’s never had a steady, solid relationship. She’s estranged from nearly every family member, and the ones she still has contact with would rather she be estranged from them as well.

The other has never been in trouble with the law, not even so much as a parking ticket. She’s honest to a fault and trustworthy. She graduated near the top of her class, and went to college on a scholarship, but did drop out. She’s had a couple of long-term, solid relationships, and has been married twice. She’s raised 3 children, never once having any run-ins with protective services. She’s always had a home, and has been relatively responsible with money. She gets along with most of her family.

By now, I’m sure the assumption is that the bad child, the atheist, is the one who grew into the delinquent adult … and the good child, the Christian, is the one who grew into the responsible adult.

That assumption would be dead wrong.

I know I gave my parents a run for their money when I was growing up. I’ve turned into a damn good adult, though! I’m proud of who I am, and my accomplishments. I’m proud of the way I raised my children.

And I’m ecstatic that I didn’t turn out like my sister.

Stripped and dyed

October 23, 2013 Leave a comment

My Son needed a dresser. His clothes were strewn about his room. But we didn’t have the money to buy him one. His aunt gave him a small dresser, which he filled with everything but clothes. Aside from his closet, he didn’t really have any place to store his clothes.

About a year ago, we were introduced to FreeCycling. I looked around, and didn’t find anything that was really useful to us, so I forgot about it for several months. Then one day this past spring, I remembered, and started browsing again. Only this time, there were hundreds of posts, and I became hooked on it. I found myself checking for new posts several times a week. Then daily. Then several times a day. Never for anything in particular, just looking to see if something caught my eye.

I wasn’t even thinking about a dresser … until I saw one on our local FreeCycle FB group. When we got it, it was an ugly orange color, and the previous owner’s children had marked it with pen, marker and a ton of stickers. It was in decent shape, otherwise.

Unfortunately, we didn’t think to take “before” pictures. Never did we expect to turn out a piece of furniture that was even worthy of having its picture taken. Boy were we wrong about that!

Neither my Husband nor I were skilled in refinishing furniture. Since it was free, we decided to just take a crack at it, and see what happened. If we did a terrible job, we’d just chalk it up to experience. You know what they say – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

When the weather was finally nice, we started stripping it. Using a chemical stripper didn’t work so well. We applied it twice, and busted our butts trying to scrape off the old mess. Someone suggested lightly sanding it so the chemicals would work better.  Well, it didn’t, and Bill ended up sanding most of the old varnish and stain off, until it was down to the natural wood. Then he fixed quite a few things (drawer glides, feet, back) and put some brackets in the corners to make it more sturdy.

We were encouraged when we saw the results, and thought maybe we could actually make it look halfway decent. Provided we didn’t screw up on the staining and varnishing part. When the weather was nicer, I stained the body with ebony wood stain. I had no idea what I was doing, so of course I Googled every “how to” site I could find. I was shocked at how nice it looked after only 2 coats of stain! Once the varnish was applied, it was starting to look like a professional had done it. The only snafu was that the wooden knobs (bought to replace the old hardware) didn’t want to take the stain.

Wanting a little punch of color on the drawers, I researched how to stain wood in unconventional ways. We experimented with copper pennies (pre-1970 worked best) soaked in vinegar for a Caribbean blue. I used a rag, soaked it in the solution, and rubbed it onto the scrap piece. The color was nearly indiscernible. While that turned out to be a gorgeous color, it would have taken far more pennies than we anticipated, plus the smell of the vinegar was nauseating. So I decided against the pennies. I do wish I’d seen this first, I might have changed my mind.

I wondered if I could get the same color using Rit dye, so we bought containers of yellow and blue. I didn’t really research it very well, since it was just an experiment on a scrap piece of wood. I mixed 1/4 teaspoon of each color into a cup of water. The water turned a dark – almost muddy – teal. Again, I used a rag to apply the color to the scrap wood. It turned out just the same as the pennies did. I was becoming discouraged.

I went back inside to do some serious research on the Rit Dye, not even knowing if it was possible to dye wood that way. The first site I happened upon was this one, which gave me all the answers I needed!  I needed hot water! I grabbed a Mason jar, microwaved a cup of water until it was just about boiling, then ran back outside to add the Rit dye to it (1/4 teaspoon each). I dunked a piece of scrap wood into the jar, and the results were immediate! It didn’t produce exactly the color I wanted, but it was a start. We experimented with different amounts of dye, and finally found one that was very close to the Caribbean blue.

Then an idea hit me. I wondered if the vinegar/penny solution would have the same results if it were hot. So I ran back in and microwaved that … taking the pennies out first, obviously. Back outside, we dunked another piece of scrap wood into the jar, and although it wasn’t anywhere near as dark as the Rit dye, it had the same immediate effect. But the smell was horrible, and the color wasn’t dark enough, so we again scrapped the penny idea. It wasn’t until later in the day, after the wood had dried, that we got to see the full effect. Let’s just say, I’ll be trying it on something else in the future!

Since the dresser was for my Son, I thought I’d let him decide on the color.  Thanks to Whitney at Shanty2Chic for providing the link, I found the ColoRit Color Formula Guide. He choose #384 under the “Cool Red” subset of colors.

We didn’t have anything large enough to dunk the entire drawer front into, so we ended up buying a storage bin, which we could use afterward for … well … storage (we needed one, anyway!). Following the instructions from the Shanty2Chic page, and the dye ratio from the Rit site, we boiled 2 pots of water, added the dye, and hoped for the best.

We dunked a drawer in, waited 60 seconds, then took it out to see if it was the right color. It was pretty darn close! Another 30 seconds, and we had the color we wanted. I remembered the not-quite-black knobs, and decided to throw them in the dye, just to see what would happen. They turned out a beautiful mixture of the black stain and the reddish dye.

All that was left to do was to apply the varnish to the drawers. I was worried that it would change the color of the dye, but we couldn’t leave them unprotected, so I had no choice. It did change the color a bit, but not terribly. It pretty much just darkened it, and brought out more of the brown than the wine color.

The end result: a gorgeous dresser that the kid can take with him to college or leave in his room for his visits back home.

This pic shows the more of the true reddish color of the drawers.

Next project: another FreeCycle dresser that was in terrible shape. We’re hoping to do it the same color as this one.

An angry sort of pain

October 4, 2013 4 comments

Today, we buried my step-mother.

And I’m angry.

Not angry because she died. Not angry because of the illness that precipitated her death. Not angry at any number of things that I will probably be angry about at some time in the future, distant or otherwise, while going through the stages of grief.

I’m angry primarily because of the funeral service. Or as the Quakers call it, a “memorial meeting”. They don’t have a church, they have a meeting house. They don’t have services, they have meetings.

Prior to today, I would have said that Quakers were the most sane of all the christian religions. I had attended Sunday school there as a teenager (aged 13 until 17, when I figured out how to get out of going without pissing off my father). I had even once or twice attended a meeting with the adults. I thought they were the most boring things ever. But I thought that was because I’d been brought up in pentecostal, methodist, baptist and other denominations (my mother flitted around from church to church), and had a biased view.

Today, my opinion was changed, and not for the better. I’m now wondering who the sadistic fuck was who came up with this idea of how to remember a loved one. If I had a time machine, I’d travel back in time to punch him or her squarely in the gut. What I experienced today was easily the most brutally painful memorial service of my life.

They even print out a pamphlet to warn people about what they’re about to experience, and leave many them sitting a couple feet apart on the benches, along with a travel-sized package of tissues. Ok, the tissues were a nice touch, I’ll give them that. The pamphlet reads:

“The Religious Society of Friends holds as the basis of its faith the belief that every human being is endowed with a measure of the Divine Spirit which may be directly experienced. Our manner of worship embodies this belief. We gather in quiet assemblies, mindful of the words: “Be still, and know that I am God.” We come together in reverent silence with the desire to draw nearer to God and to understand God’s will.

For Friends a memorial meeting is similar in many ways to a meeting for worship. It is not only a time for sharing feelings of loss, but a time for celebrating the life of the departed person. We reflect on the value of that life as it relates to the lives of all of us.

All present share in the is process. We sit quietly; at times an individual may be moved to speak, to offer a prayer or a message that has come out of the silence. All are welcome to do this.

The responsibility for the spiritual depth of the meeting rests with each attender. Those who keep silent as well as those who give a vocal message do their part when they yield their minds and hearts to the guidance of the Spirit.

Friends hope that in the meeting for worship a consciousness of the Divine Presence will be felt by every attender, and will be a source of direction, strength and comfort after leaving the meeting.”

Let me be perfectly clear. For those who have chosen this religion, and who choose to attend weekly meetings, this might be of some comfort for them. But for the rest of us, it’s downright painful.

The magnitude of how painful is not fully comprehended by just reading the warning pamphlet. It sounds nice, even quaint, to the reader. The reality is very different. I’ll now attempt to convey the awfulness of it.

When the meeting starts, there are a dozen or more elders seated on benches facing the rest of the room. Not one of them appeared to be under the age of 60. Men and women with nametags. It felt very imposing. Sort of like a jury, and we were all defendants being judged. I don’t even know what their purpose was, or why they were sitting in this position of authority over the rest of us.

One of the women rose to speak to the room, which, by the way, was packed with about 100 friends and family. She explained how things would proceed, and laid out what can only be described as rules to be followed. We were to sit in silence unless someone felt compelled to speak. After a person spoke, we had to allow a few minutes of silence in order to let everyone “reflect” on their words. No exact number of minutes were given, and I naively assumed that it was meant that up to a minute – 2 minutes, tops – would pass between speakers.

Oh how wrong I was! In the 75 minutes that this meeting lasted, only 7 people stood up to speak. Between each speaker was at least 5 minutes of dead silence. The kind of silence that makes your ears ring, because it’s so loud. The kind of silence that makes you aware of the beating of your own heart, and occasionally the beating of the heart of the person sitting next to you. The kind of silence where every breath is heard, every shuffle of body on seat and foot on floor. And not a comfortable silence, either! It was an incredibly painful silence. The kind of pain where you realize that many other people might have gotten up to speak, had they not felt so intimidated by the silence.

It was brutal. In my head, I shifted between willing someone, anyone!, to get up and speak, and just wanting it to be over. I knew my father intended to stand up and speak, because he had printed out what he wanted to say and was holding it for the majority of the time. I don’t know what he was thinking during all that silence, but I imagine it didn’t feel very good for him to sit for such long periods in abject silence, wondering if the reason nobody stood to speak was because they didn’t have anything to say. I wish I could have whispered some words of comfort to him, but a whisper would have sounded like a megaphone, and I wasn’t sure if the elders would reprimand me for disturbing the silence.

I figured (correctly) that he was waiting to be the last person to say something. I assumed that when he was done, he would end the meeting by telling everyone to go into the next room for refreshments and socialization. I was wrong. He sat back down, and left it to the elders to dictate what came next, whenever they felt enough silence had passed.

When one elder finally did stand and address the room, I was starting to feel almost panicky, as if she was going to tell us that we had to sit until a specified time before we would be allowed to leave, or if we’d be allowed to leave. This feeling wasn’t unwarranted. Before the meeting even started, my Husband received an emergency phone call (my girls were involved in a car accident) and had to leave. He returned just before my father stood to speak. When he moved to walk in and resume his seat next to me, one of the elders, stationed at the back of the room, grabbed his arm and told him he couldn’t enter. I watched this unfold in utter astonishment.

What the hell kind of person keeps someone from going to their loved ones at a time like this?! I have been to far too many funerals in my life, and never have I seen someone be physically restrained and told they couldn’t enter. NEVER!

As soon as we were given permission to leave (after another “moment” of silence), I bolted out of the room. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I didn’t even take the time to turn and hug my father, I was so freaked out and angry. I wasn’t alone, either. Many people rushed out of there, either to the adjoining room where refreshments were being served, or outside.

I spoke to one of my step-sisters a little while later, and partially confided in her how excruciatingly painful the whole thing was. I jokingly told her that, when my father died, if this was the kind of “service” he wanted, that I’d kill him all over again! I never, ever want to experience anything like that again in my lifetime!

At some point, I will have to discuss this with my father. I’m not sure exactly how to bring up the subject, or when, so if any of my readers have any advice, I’d be happy to hear it! Has anyone ever experienced anything like this before? Is this typical of all Quaker memorial meetings, or was this an anomaly? Is it something I should bring to the attention of the elders?

All I know right now is that I feel my step-mother was robbed of a beautiful memorial service. I’m angry. And that’s not how a person should feel after a memorial service.

Food stamps in restaurants!?

April 28, 2013 2 comments

Lately there have been quite a few memes popping up regarding food stamp usage in America.  Most of them are shared by the ignorant and bigoted people who feel the need to try to shame people who are using such benefits.

Why they do this, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it makes them feel better to put down those less fortunate than themselves.  Maybe it’s because they are truly ignorant of what it’s like to be poor enough to have to use programs like these. Maybe it’s because they’ve been brainwashed by their favorite politician, news program or religious leader to think that people on welfare are lazy and selfish.

No matter what reason they use, the people who post these memes are the ones who are wrong. Wrong for not bothering – or outright refusing – to fact-check. Wrong for lacking compassion. Wrong for not using common sense.

The most recent meme that’s been floating around is the one complaining about restaurants accepting food stamps. Again, those posting it or “liking” it are guilty of not fact-checking and not using common sense.

Federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) policies allow each individual state to determine whether or not to allow food stamps to be used in a restaurant. Some states do, some don’t.

Now before you get your panties in a wad, or start screaming, “See, I told you so!”,  there are a few things you should know about how it works, who qualifies, and the reasoning behind the policies.

You can’t just walk into any restaurant willy-nilly and use food stamps to pay for a meal. There are restrictions.

The restaurants have to be approved to accept food stamps. That approval isn’t handed out to just any restaurant. There has to be a reason that restaurant gets approval. Most of the time, it’s because it’s in an area where there are a high number of people who are qualified to use food stamps in restaurants, or in an area where there aren’t many other options for qualified food stamp users.

Then there are the qualifications for food stamp recipients. The only people who qualify are the elderly, disabled or homeless, and rarely, those who don’t have functioning equipment at their homes (refrigerator, stove).

According to the USDA website:

“With very few exceptions, SNAP benefits cannot be used in restaurants – less than one-tenth of one percent of SNAP benefits were used in restaurants in FY11. The law permits States to authorize restaurants to serve meals to some elderly, disabled, or homeless SNAP clients, who are unable to prepare meals at home. Only four States have chosen to do so.”

In the Pennsylvania SNAP handbook, section 503.3 describes what is and isn’t allowed:

SNAP benefits may also be used to pay for meals prepared and served by any of the following:

  • Authorized meal-delivery services
  • Communal dining facilities for the elderly or SSI households
  • Rehabilitation centers for drug addicts or alcoholics
  • Group-living units
  • Shelters for battered women and children
  • Authorized providers of meals for the homeless
  • Authorized restaurants serving meals to the homeless, elderly, or disabled   7 CFR § 271.2(9)

Only homeless persons may use SNAP benefits in qualified restaurants. The CAO must issue a PA 2SP to the eligible client. The CAO must make the case record show that a PA 2SP was issued as a controlled document and include the name of the person in the household who is eligible for the qualified-restaurant program.

The reasons for allowing such provisions are because “homeless individuals don’t have kitchen spaces to cook meals, so buying unprepared foods at a grocery store may not be all that helpful. Those with disabilities might have a harder time cooking. And lastly, studies have shown that seniors are less likely to eat if they don’t get hot meals.” [source: Findlaw.com]

Anyone who disagrees with food stamps being used in this manner are also guilty of lacking compassion. If you continue to post these memes, do so at your own peril, because I will call you out on being willfully ignorant, bigoted, heartless assholes.

 
*definitions*:

ig·no·rant

[ig-ner-uh nt]

adjective

1. lacking in knowledge or training; unlearned: an ignorant man.
2. lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact: ignorant of quantum physics.
3. uninformed; unaware.
4. due to or showing lack of knowledge or training: an ignorant statement.

big·ot

[big-uht]

noun

a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race.

My grandmother, the activist

January 17, 2013 4 comments

When I was growing up, I thought my grandmother was the meanest woman on Earth. I don’t recall any good memories of her at all until I was around 19 or 20 years old.  I have one funny memory of a time, while at my Aunt’s house, my cousins and I played a practical joke on my grandmother. The joke went smashingly well! The aftermath … not so well; we got into so much trouble for that one! But at least it was memorable.

I have fond memories of my grandfather, even though he died when I was 6 years old. I remember times spent at their little corner store, and a flash of a memory or two about times spent playing with my cousins in my grandparents’ backyard.

My grandmother moved to Arizona around 1980 when I was about 10 years old. I don’t even remember the occasion of her actually moving! I just remember that she lived in Tucson, and I had the worst time remembering how to spell that word.

Some time in the early 90’s,  my grandmother came for a visit. She brought her “friend” with her – a man named Joe. I was living in my own place, and dating the man who would be my first husband. I remember my grandmother taking a bit of an interest in me and my life, and asking me to show her and Joe around town a bit. They both sat in the back of my car like teenagers while I drove them around. It was kinda cute.

The next memory I have of her is when she was quite ill, and came to live with my father for a period of time in the mid 90’s. I remember visiting a couple of times, and how miserably grumpy she was, and not wanting to visit with her much because of her bad mood.

She ended up moving back to Arizona, where she eventually died in 1998. By that time, I was 27, divorced from my first husband, in a committed relationship, and my Son was just over a year old. I don’t even remember if she met my Son, or even knew I had a child.

As you can see, I wasn’t very close to my grandmother at all. Most of what I know about her came from stories I heard after she died.  I’ve learned a good bit more about her since I’ve started doing genealogy research, which ironically started because I found out her side of the family came from Native American ancestry. I wish I’d known that growing up, and had taken the time to talk to her about what she remembered.

I’ve discovered that she and I have very similar qualities to our personalities.  We both have a love of learning. We are excellent typists. And looking back, I’m thinking she wasn’t mean as much as she was someone who embraced her inner bitch, just like I do. In fact, I think she’d be pretty damn proud of me if she knew the person I’ve become.

The best evidence I have for this conclusion are the letters I uncovered while going through old photo albums. It looks like my grandmother was also an activist, in her own right! And that makes me grin from ear to ear!

The Case of the Missing Bandshell and Broken Lights
a.k.a. – The Verbal Bitchslap My Grandmother Gave the Mayor of Wilmington DE

Rockford Park is in Wilmington Delaware. It is one of the sites for the Summer Concert Series – free concerts in the park during the summer. This was something my grandparents enjoyed doing together in the late 1960’s.

There were some problems that occurred that must’ve made my grandmother downright furious, judging by the letters she wrote to the Mayor of Wilmington and the newspaper.

bandshell_1969

bandshell_1969-a

bandshell_1969-b

bandshell_1969-e

bandshell_1969-f

bandshell_1969-g

She received a note back from Mr. George Sargisson, on a membership letter, which is undated. The note at the bottom reads:

Many thanks to the [surname redacted] – thanks, too, for your letter to mayor, Frank, etc. It’s to the point & should get some positive results. Hope future concerts go OK & without a hitch.
George Sargisson -

bandshell_1969-h

Things didn’t go any smoother the following week, prompting my grandmother to show her skills at persuasive writing yet again. I may have to try this tactic some time in the future!

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Finally, she received a reply from the mayor’s office. I must give proper kudos to the mayor’s Administrative Assistant, Allan C. Rusten, for a brilliant and funny reply!

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Things seem to have been very different 40+ years ago … these days the typical kind of reply you’ll get from someone in office is a canned response that usually doesn’t even address your reasons for writing to them in the first place.

I’m also very impressed that the mayor remained calm and objective in his reply to my grandmother, even though he launched a bitchslap right back at her for her insinuation. (an insinuation that really pissed me off when I read it, thinking that not much has changed in 40 years when it comes to the vitriol aimed at those less fortunate)

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And lastly, another written note from the Executive Director of RP&S, Wilmington DE. The note reads:

Thanks Mrs. [surname redacted], for showing Hal’s letter. You certainly got ‘em “moving” (slowly) – saw Hal yesterday at Rotary & told him that there were still 3 lights out! Hope remainder of concerts go well. Thanks again.
George Sargisson
7/18/69

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Incidentally, there was a write up about George T. Sargisson in 2007, about what he accomplished in Wilmington. There’s also a little bit at the end about the permanent bandshell that my grandmother was talking about. He appears to have been quite an extraordinary guy. I’m sure my grandparents were lucky to know him.

Information about Harry G. Haskell Jr (who, as of this writing, appears to still be alive!) can be found on Wikipedia, or here at this link.

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