Author Archives: mlaf2013

Happiness is a memory of my sister…

I am reading a new-to-me book right now.  1000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently.  It is by Marc & Angel Chernoff.   It is a series of articles, quotes, and thought provoking questions.   Some of it is very repetitive – I’ve read the same paragraph, with just a little difference, at least three or four times now, in different chapters.   Considering how repetition is so important in retention, this is actually a good thing.

One of the pages is titled “Happiness questions to make you think.”  One of the questions is “What is your happiest childhood memory?”  When I read that, I had three memories flash through my mind, almost simultaneously.  One of those memories was of the times my mother told us bedtimes stories.  She TOLD us stories, she seldom read to us – at least, not that I remember.  I am a storyteller today, and I attribute a lot of my skill to listening to my mother as a child.  I loved those bedtime stories.

The other two memories both involved my sister.  I found that very interesting.  You see, usually when I think of my sister and my childhood, I tend to think of sibling rivalry, resentments, favoritism (we both thought the other was the favored child), fights – a lot of negatives.  I am not used to thinking of childhood memories of my sister in connection with happiness.

So when TWO of my three happiest memories involved my sister, I was surprised, to say the least.  I enjoyed remembering those times.

We lived out in the country.  Our nearest neighbors were half a mile away, on either side of us.  We had grass that, when we were much younger, literally grew above our heads, and even as we grew taller, it was still chest and waist high.  We used to play hide and seek in the grass.  We created tunnels and secret passageways.  We played house.  I can remember flattening a section of grass and putting towels down on the ground and sunbathing together, with grass walls rising around us.  Playing in the tall grass with my sister, and sunbathing with her, is one of my happy memories.

The other one?  We had a lake.  Our dad built a floating platform out in the middle.  When we got older, mom would (reluctantly) let us go down together to swim – without obvious adult supervision.  And I remember skinny dipping in our lake with my sister.  We didn’t do it often, but that is one of the happy memories of my childhood.

And that third memory?  Of mom telling us stories?  Well, for a long time, we shared a room – so my sister was part of that, as well.

Wow.  “What is your happiest childhood memory?”  Three memories flash through my head.  My sister is in all of them.

Sometimes I think that we get stuck in the pain of the past, and forget the happiness that we had, as well.  I’m glad that I had this reminder of some of those happy times.

I love you, sissy.  Thanks for the good memories.

Role Reversal

I have been pondering something the last few days.  I have been thinking about my children.

I have a certain attitude towards my kids.  I understand that this is a common feeling among parents.  I have tended to think of my children as just that – children.  I have all the memories of their childhood.  I remember all the times when they asked me for help, when Momma had the answers that they needed.

Even tho they are grown, I still have those memories that color our every interaction.  I still have the feeling of “Momma knows best.”

At least, until a few days ago.

I had the opportunity of visiting my oldest son’s work.  He is the assistant manager of a store chain that I frequent on a regular basis.  I was passing through his town, heading home from a business trip.  I stopped off to say hi, and to pick up a couple of things.  As I am just the mother, I got to wait while he assisted other customers.

I watched him answering questions, directing people to what they needed, competent, confident, and assured.

And I had a sudden thought – When did our roles reverse?

I was waiting for him – to ask for his advice and instruction.  When did that start happening?  When did that young boy, who came to me asking for help and directions, morph into the young man, that now I was asking for help and instruction?  Wasn’t it only yesterday that he was seven?  Twelve?

No.  That was years ago.

There are still subjects that my son will ask for feedback on, or information, or even help.  But now there are just as many times that I turn to him, for his expertise on something.

Role reversal.

He isn’t a boy anymore.  He has grown to a man.

A Social Media Experiment

According to Facebook, my activity for the last few days:

On Dec 29, I posted on my own timeline  6 times.  I commented on 19 posts.  I liked 7 posts.

On Dec 30, I posted on my own timeline 2 times.  I commented on 14 posts.  I liked 15 times.

On Dec 31, I posted on my own timeline 4 times. I commented on 15 posts.   I Liked 11 posts by others.

On Jan 1, I posted or shared 4 times on my own wall.   I commented on 12 posts. I liked 4 posts by others.

On Jan 2, I shared 2 comics to my wall.  I commented on 7 posts, I liked 7 posts.

Jan 3, I posted a birthday wish to a relative.  I made 1 comment.  I liked 2 posts.

Jan 4, nothing.

Jan 5, No timeline posts, 1 comment, no likes.

Jan 6?  Nothing.

Jan 7? Nothing

Jan 8?  Nothing

Jan 9? Nothing

Jan 10? Nothing

Jan 11?  A question on a business page.

Jan 12?  So far, another question on a different business page.

Between Dec 25 and Dec 31, 26 posts, 73 comments and 53 likes, for a total of 152 Facebook interactions for 7 days.

From Jan 1 until Jan 11, 8 posts, 21 comments, and 13 likes, for a total of 42 Facebook interactions for 11 days.  And 6 of those days I did not post anything.  I did send a couple of private messages to people.  I continued to play my Facebook games, but my game posts are set to me only, so they shouldn’t have showed up on my timeline.

I don’t believe I have ever gone that many days without posting on Facebook before.

Now, why did I suddenly stop my normal Facebook activity?  I got curious.

I was listening to news a few days ago.  On Wednesday, Dec 28, a young woman was live-streaming to Facebook when she evidently had some kind of seizure or heart attack and died.  Her toddler was present.  Her family said that over a thousand people were watching as their daughter died, and no one did anything about it.  She was at a friend’s house, and not found until the friend came home, some 30 minutes later.  According to the reports that I heard, although the screen had gone dark when she dropped the phone, the audio was still on.  You could hear her struggling to breathe, with the child crying in the background, until you can’t hear her breathe anymore.  The friend who found her was the one who turned the live stream off.

I thought about that.  I wondered – I have 491 friends listed on Facebook.  What would happen if I suddenly, without warning, disappeared?  Some of my other friends have gone dark, but they have usually given notice first – let their friends know that they were going to not be posting for a while.  I watch for them, and a few days later, they are back.

But what would happen if, without any notice, someone stopped posting?  Would anyone notice? If they did, how long would it take?  What would they do about it?  Anything?  Would they ask me if I was OK?  Would they comment on my wall?

One of my posts at the end of December I talked about the fact that I was climbing on a very shaky ladder, and I wished someone was with me in case it fell over.  I am a fairly solitary person.  I live out in the country, and while I have family living nearby, we don’t interact on a daily basis.  If I were to fall or hurt myself, how long would it take before anyone would notice my absence?

I decided to go dark on Jan 2.  I realized on Jan 3 how hard that would actually be – I was still reading Facebook.  There were so many things that I wanted to comment on, that I wanted to like.  I was tagged on posts that I wanted to respond to, but didn’t.  I wanted to share things.

I had not realized until this past couple of weeks how much I use Facebook to feel connected to people.  I don’t talk to people on a regular basis – and Facebook has become my substitute for casual conversation.  So many times this week I would have a thought and I would think “Oh, I need to post that” and then stop myself.  Facebook is my social connection.  Without Facebook, almost all of my conversation would be one-sided.  I talk to whoever on Facebook might be listening (or rather, reading) rather than talking to myself.  Sometimes, thru comments, I can have extended conversations that might last for a couple of days.

And I wonder how many others use Facebook for their primary social outlet.

And what happens when they no longer are posting?  Are they sick?  Are they depressed?  Are they suicidal?  Are they hurt?  Have I even noticed?  And if I have noticed that someone isn’t posting as much, have I ever asked about them?  Have I checked on them?

I have, actually, once or twice.  More likely, I don’t even notice.  If something isn’t on my feed at the time that I am on it, I never read it.  It is easy to miss postings by people.  And thus, it is easy to not be aware if someone stops posting.   I do, occasionally, go to a friend’s page to check on things.  But  with 491 Facebook friends, I’m not going to go to every single page to see what I might have missed.

Something else I realized these last few days – since I wasn’t using Facebook as a social outlet, I got more things done at home.  I cleaned more.  I painted.  I read.  Even when I don’t comment on things, I avidly read what comes across my feed.  I can spend hours and hours just reading Facebook.  This week, to help keep myself from posting, I haven’t been reading as much.  And that has meant that I have had more time to do other things.  I have thrown away things, put away things, decided to discard things.  I’ve researched, written – in general, I have accomplished more in this last week than I have in a while – and mainly because I haven’t been glued to my computer all evening.

So, this experiment of going dark has taught me a couple of things – that I am almost dependent on Facebook for my social interaction.  And with less Facebook, I got more things done at home. This experiment has also made me wonder how observant I am of my Facebook friends.  How many times have I not noticed when someone simply quit posting from Facebook?  And what would do if I did notice someone’s absence?

And did anyone of my 491 Facebook friends notice that I was no longer posting or commenting on things?  One person private messaged me on January 5th.  Another person private messaged me on January 7th.  Both of them had noticed my absence from Facebook, and asked me if I was alright.

But this experiment also taught me how solitary I really am.  If something were to happen to me – if I ever fell and hurt myself, had a stroke, whatever – it would be days before anyone came to check.

 

I would rather help someone who didn’t need it…

This Christmas is my first Christmas without my father.  In fact, since my mother died several years ago, this is my first Christmas as an orphan.  An adult, but orphan nonetheless.

Over the last few days, I have shared some of my memories of my father.  Some of them have been in speech conversation, others in online conversation.

One memory was sparked when someone mentioned that they had seen cars at a free toy giveaway that were much newer and better than their own car.  The person who commented is a hard worker, and disapproved of people who in his opinion, based on the car they were driving, did not need free handouts.  The resulting conversation reminded me of something my father said to me.

My father and I had been in a discussion of welfare, Obamacare, and people who beg and ask for handouts.   Part of the conversation involved a description of a man who was panhandling locally.  People had posted about him, and had said that this person was a scam, had been offered work, had turned it down, had declared that he would rather beg than work, etc.

My dad said something that I basically already lived by, but had not, until this conversation, realized where I had acquired this attitude.  He said

“I would rather help someone who does not need it than not help someone who does.”

Read that again.

“I would rather help someone who does not need it than not help someone who does.”

That was my dad.  That was part of his life philosophy.  Read it again.

“I would rather help someone who does not need it than not help someone who does.”

Now think for just a moment.

What would the world be like if everyone had that attitude?

“I would rather help someone who does not need it than not help someone who does.”

 

 

Sometimes it is easier to be angry than sad…

Today was my first Christmas without my father.  My mother passed away several years ago, and my father died early this year.  Every Christmas since I moved back home in 96, we have spent Christmas as a family.  Before that, my parents would drive out to CA during the holiday season, either for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or both.

I have been grieving this week, and today.  Crying some.  Remembering things from the past.

One of my memories was of my mother.  When I lived in California, mom and dad would drive out twice a year – once in the spring/early summer after school got out, and once for the holiday season.  In addition to that, my mom would take the bus out twice a year – in the fall and early spring.

We usually had good visits – up until the very end.  But for years, visit after visit, no matter how pleasant of a time we had, either the day before she left, or the morning that she was to leave, something would happen, and she would get angry.  Angry with me, upset with dad, mad at my sister, who also lived out there…

It finally dawned on me that it hurt her to leave her children and her grandchildren.  She loved us, and missed us a great deal. She didn’t want to leave us so far away to come back to her home.  But if she got angry at us, that would give her a reason to want to leave.  Anger was easier to deal with than being sad and hurting.  So she would contrive to pick a fight.  That way she would want to leave.

Once I realized that, I wouldn’t let her pick fights with us anymore.  I pointed out the pattern, told her what I thought she was trying to do and why.  And eventually, with the occasional reminder, she stopped finding the excuse to be angry when she had to leave.

I was talking about this particular memory with someone a few days ago.  For myself, it has always been far easier for me to be sad than to be angry.  There have been times when I have felt angry, and stuffed it inside.  It is more acceptable for me, in my own mind, to be to cry, to feel  sad, to overeat, than to feel anger, regardless of how righteous or justified those feelings might be.  I think that sometimes I think I am depressed, when actually I am angry, and just don’t know how to recognize that anger or express it.

We so often do not even realize how we repress certain feelings – but they are still there, and they will come out, one way or another.   Feelings of sadness might come out as depression, as anger at someone else, as overeating, as falling in love over and over – just to avoid being alone…Feelings of anger might come out in the same ways.  For me, it is easier to be sad than to be angry.  For others, it is easier to be angry than it is to be sad.

This memory of my mom has helped me to try to look beyond whatever obvious emotion that I see in others.  And sometimes it has helped me to recognized when I am actually feeling anger, rather than sadness.

Sometimes it is easier to be sad than to be angry.  And sometimes it is easier to be angry than it is to be sad.  Look beyond the emotion.

 

Word Etymology and Historical Misinformation

I have been pondering something for a few days now.  I have decided that I need to write about it.

During the month of October, I work at what has been ranked as the best pumpkin patch in Arkansas, (at least by some people and organizations) Arkansas Frontier Living History Pumpkin Patch.

I am in charge of “Indian Village” me-and-the-skins-at-ar-frontier

One of the things that I always tell my audiences when I am presenting is that while the family history is that my Grandmother’s grandmother was native American (Grandma thought Cherokee or possibly Choctaw, but didn’t know for sure) I am not culturally native American.  I tell them that I have learned from books, from taking seminars put on by the American Indian Studies department of a southern California college, and from people who are culturally native American.

Over the course of the four years that I have worked at the pumpkin patch, I have learned a few things from people who are more in the tradition and culture than I am.

A few days ago, one of our visitors, “Linda” was from Oklahoma.  She was  visiting family here in AR, and one of her relatives was on a school visit to the pumpkin patch.  After the school went on to their next activity, she lingered to talk to me.

When I was a baby, my dad carried me around town and the local college in a “Papoose carrier”, as he put it.  I share this with the students as being the closest that I come to the native American culture.  Linda suggested that I use the term “cradle board”   rather than “papoose carrier”.  She told me that “papoose” is not the best word to use.

I asked why.  She told me that “papoose” was the white man’s word, and it is better not to be used.

She went on to say that I should never ever use the word “squaw”.  Now, while I had heard that the term squaw was sometimes used in a derogatory way – indicating someone who was not married, only living with someone, I had not heard of it being a word with such negativity as she seemed to indicate.  Again, I asked about it.

She told me that the word “squaw” came from the “squalling of women while they were being raped by white soldiers and traders.”

Now, I absolutely had never heard of this.  When I got home, I started to do a little research.

I’ll start with “Papoose”.  Papoose is an English loanword.  What is a loanword?  It is a foreign word that enters the English language with little or no modification or change in either the spelling or the meaning.  Some examples found in English include “Faux Pas” – French;  “Kitschy” – German; “Modus Operandi” – Latin; “Taco” – Spanish; “Samurai” – Japenese; “Prima donna” – Italian; and “Alter ego” – Latin, to name just a few.

In the case of the word “Papoose”, its origins are said to be Algonquian.  Specifically from the Narragansett tribe.  It was first recorded by Roger Williams.  He wrote a book, A Key Into the Language of America, published in 1643.  On page 28 he lists the word “papoos” as meaning “a childe” and he lists “Nippapoos” as “my childe.”

So, the idea that the word “papoose” is a white man’s word?  About the only thing that has changed is the addition of an “e” at the end of the word.

Today?  The word is also used to mean a “child carrier”.  And for some, it is considered a derogatory term, according to at least one of the sites I looked at.  No explanation was given for why some consider it derogatory.  Perhaps because it is now believed that it was a “white man’s word,” as Linda believed.

The term ‘squaw’ is much the same.  It is another loanword. There is nothing in the word etymology history that indicates the term came from squalling women who were being raped, as I was told by that very sincere lady from Oklahoma.  Again, Roger Williams records, on page 138, that ‘Segousquaw’ is a ‘widdow’, and on page 27, ‘Squaws-suck’  is ‘woman-women’.

This is a reference a hundred years and more before the time period that Linda referenced.

As I was doing more research, I ran across a wonderful essay, Reclaiming the Word “Squaw” in the Name of the Ancestors, by Marge Bruchac.  It may be found on the nativeweb site, at http://www.nativeweb.org//pages/legal/squaw.html  In this essay, she includes the history of the word, variants, history of the introduction to the English language, and more.  I encourage you to read it.

In the process of researching, study, reading, I have come to a conclusion that disturbs me a great deal.  The history and culture of native Americans – First Nations, as they are being called in some areas – is being wrongly taught – by the native Americans themselves.

Linda was very sincere in her belief that the word “squaw” came from the squalling of women being raped, that it was a white man’s word, a derogatory word.  She had been taught that.  She is teaching that to others.  And – she is wrong.  The word “squaw” was never a white man’s word.  Was never, at least originally, derogatory.  And certainly did not come from the cries of women being abused and raped.

So, what does this mean?

A generation or more of people are being taught their own history – wrong.  The implications of this are staggering.

If you believe that something was done as a result of rape, if you believe that anytime you hear a certain word, it is meant as an insult, how easy will it be for you to work out problems with the people using that word?  And what if they have no idea that that word is considered derogatory?  Although I have not used the word in my presentations, I certainly had no idea that the word “squaw” had such a negative emotional impact until Linda told me.  And that emotional impact is an impact that should never have happened. If history had been taught accurately, if additions had not been added, the word ‘squaw’ would be respected for its true meaning.

People who already believe the worst will find it harder to find common ground, to work together, to understand each other.  And being taught a false history will make it more likely that the worst is believed.

How much of this erroneous teaching is politically motivated?  How much simply accidental misinterpretation?  How much is deliberate?

I don’t know.

I do know that I have begun to wonder how much of the history that I have been taught has been full of misinformation.  How many of the things that I think of as fact, are actually false teachings, perpetuated year after year. And have I, all unknowingly, taught others false history?

I hope not.  But that is one of the reasons why I research, study, and read.  I hope others will study history, as well.

If there are lies in what we are taught, we need to search them out and make them known.  We do not need to perpetuate lies and call it history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting away from it all!

So, I have this professional development workshop tomorrow.  I fully plan on enjoying it – it is on folk music and education, and since I do arts integrated programs in schools, and I incorporate folk music into them, this was something that I really wanted.  Best of all, this collaboration between the Arkansas Arts Council and the Arkansas Dept. of Education meant that this PD gives me double credit, both as an Arkansas Arts in Education artist, and a person with a valid teacher’s licence that has to have so many PD hours a year to renew.

Now, this PD was of even more interest to me because of the location – the Ozark Folk Center.  I love the Folk center.  If I was independently wealthy, I would spend a lot of time there.  I would take a dozen workshops a year there.  I would buy an RV and virtually live in the next door RV park.  I actually worked there for one season, as one of their day musicians.  I was also on the list of square dancers and even performed a couple of times in their evening programs.

So when I learned the location of this workshop, I was faced with a choice:  Get up really, really early Monday morning and make the 1 1/2 – 2 hour drive (depending on route, weather, and traffic) or come in Sunday and camp at my favorite campground in the area.

That would be the aforementioned RV park.  Ozark RV park is literally next door to the folk center.  I mean, you walk through a gate, and you are right there.

My mom and I discovered the place years and years ago.  For a short time, we did craft fairs together.  We were doing a fair that was taking place at the Ozark Folk Center.  Mom and Dad had an rv, and mom and I were going to take the rv up, camp out in it, and do the craft fair.  When we found that the Ozark RV Park was right next door, that was where we went.

What a wonderful place.  Friendly people.  Clean bath houses.  And high quality toilet paper.  I mean, better toliet paper than I usually see in Hilton’s.  We only stayed a couple of days, but I never forgot it.  And years later, when I worked that one season at the Ozark Folk Center, I called them up and asked them if they did tent camping as well as RVs.  Well, they did.  So every weekend I worked at the Center that summer, I camped next door.

So, what did I do for this workshop?  Hauled out my tent, and set it up next door.

The impetus for me writing this post was the feeling of comfort and relaxation that I just experienced.  Although the office was closed by the time I got here, I had plenty of time to set up my tent during the light.  Then I went into town to buy ice.  I could have gotten ice from the cooler here and paid for it tomorrow – this is that type of RV park – but I elected to just go on and buy one in town.  Came back, sat down outside my tent, ate my ham and cheese wrap that I had made.  And then I just sat down and played my dulcimer a little while in the dark.  All around me was the sound of crickets and cicadas.  The occasional night-bird called.  And as I sat in the evening coolness, in the night, I felt – calm.  At peace.  Comforted.

I am under a lot of stress, financial, grief, frustration, job (lack of).  But at that moment, everything was perfect.   For just that moment, I had gotten away from it all.  I was content with who I am and where I was.

So I left that perfection to come find electricity to type a blog post.  I wanted to share that moment of peace with anyone who reads this.  And I want to encourage you to get away from it all, even if it is just for a day.  Find a place, a moment of peace and contentment, and soak it up.

And I’m going back to that peace in a few minutes.

And I want to encourage anyone coming up to the Folk Center, if you want to camp or bring an rv, try the Ozark RV Park.  It’s a wonderful place.