yrmama the Medium

yrmama is busy taking names and wrestling with an appropriate voice to use in outing her ancestors as slave holders. I usually come off pretty snarky but these ancestors were real people despite the logs in their eyes and people are complicated. I need to treat them respectfully, to an extent, and the enslaved individuals I am naming deserve to be talked about in a respectful context too.

Black lives matter. That’s such a low bar; to matter.

I think when people pass on they have the opportunity to become perfect versions of themselves. My enslaving ancestors want to set things straight and they need my help to do it because I am still here and they are not. I also believe some of then are still assholes on the other side so I don’t give all of them equal voice.

Where I come from bad things can be disappeared if they are ignored long enough. “It was bad, but it’s in the past now and no one needs to know anything about it.” The enslaved population recedes into the corners of the room and melts into the wallpaper. “Well I’ll be, look at all this money. We sure do work hard around her, now don’t we.” yrmama is soooo upper-midwestern, it is disorienting having all these old-timey southern ghosts hanging around, clamoring for attention. Not that there is anything wrong with being southern. Some of yrmama’s best friends are southern.

While yrmama cultivates her family trees you can read this: The Half Has Never Been Told; Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist. It is an excruciatingly (for a non-academic anyway) detailed account of history, economics and politics, woven together with downright lyrical passages that he composed from the content of slave narratives. It’s pretty readable, really, for something that would have made me sigh and power-skim in college. It has taken me an unprecedented amount of time to finish it due to the real world backdrop of children being teargassed for saying Black Lives Matter and that bitch Coco V. (yrmama is not sick anymore, but goddam it, put on a fucking mask. If you can wear pants in public to shield our eyeballs from that horror you can learn to wear a mask too.) Plus there is a limit to the amount of horribleness I can read about and assimilate in a day.

so yes, read this book. – thank you Amazon, for this easily found and copied image

A few friendly reminders as I send you on your way: Don’t say all lives matter, or that you don’t see color or that your ancestors were too poor to own slaves or that you are probably part Cherokee and do not ask your black friend how they are doing with “all this” or to explain it to you. That’s why God made Google.

The Tree of Forgiveness

John Prine

yrmama’s governor, Kim, is generously allowing gyms and restaurants and malls to reopen in certain counties. She says the counties that have no cases of the Rona, or only a few, shouldn’t be punished for outbreaks in the rest of the state. Kim? This is you punishing us? Sheesh. You barely made us close anything anyway!

Kim also reminds us every day of her belief that “we are all in this together,” which we aren’t. For example, yrmama’s on the front porch, enjoying an exploding meadow of wildflowers between here and the woods. The air smells like flowers. The house is so big that the twelve of us each have our own home offices and don’t even have to see each other unless we want to. Dang, we all have our own porches! None of that shoulder-to-shoulder stuff for us. Short on cash? Head down to the cellar and crack open another treasure chest. I’m not stuck in an apartment with two toddlers and a cat. Donald’s proclamation that the poor folk have to keep working in the meat packing plants no matter what is only an annoying whine, like a mosquito if there were any here. If you have money, baby, it all goes away.

Oh Donald, there’s no going back because time only moves one way. (I know, quantum physics time travel Outlander blah blah blah – hush. That’s not what I’m talking about.) If I ignore the livelihood of individuals for a moment I’m absolutely fine with all the packing plants closing. I don’t even like meat. I don’t need oil. It’s time for the oil industry to be over anyway. We aren’t going back. Everything is different now and that’s good.

Here’s the deal: Human consciousness has to evolve through a few hurdles before Mother Nature stops punishing us with the Rona.

Through your experience of excruciating confinement have you learned yet to forgive yourself for insufficient life accomplishment?`

Have you started to trust yourself?

Have you embraced non-duality yet? Still stuck in your stupid whirring brain?

Have you learned to stop when you start to get tired?

Have you done like John Prine and opened up a bar called The Tree of Forgiveness and invited everyone who ever hurt you? John understood that forgiveness, hard as it is to let that shit go, is really all about getting the upper hand.

Young John

Five Questions

Have you learned yet to live as though love was stronger than death?

Have you developed the discipline to focus on what you are doing without stopping to check wordnik for synonyms of pedestrian words describing “reality”?

Are you able to sit still and let peace wash over you? I find it helps to use “dopamine” as a mantra.

Have you learned to live as though dopamine was stronger than cortisol?

Can you forgive yourself for the relentlessness of having something to prove?


Seven Questions for Your SpiritualQuest

Have you forgiven yourself yet for doing almost nothing lately?

Have you learned to trust yourself yet?

While we’re at it, do you trust anyone?

Is it okay with you that a human life, at its longest, is very short?

Have you forgiven yourself in light of the fact that no matter how hard you work you won’t get everything done in time to die?

Do you trust me?

Have you resolved to say, “fuck it,” and forgive anyone who ever did you wrong? Btdubs, this will give you an upper hand so high I don’t even want to hear about it.


The Dog Days of COVID

These days, how are your powers of concentration? How about perception and introspection? Discernment? Do you find your insight sharpening? No pressure – I’m just saying if we are going to use this here global upheaval as an impetus for the evolution of human consciousness it is time to get on the stick.

Photo from washingtonpost.com

Or are you one of those ends-timers? In 1999 did you make sure all your important documents were securely in ziplocs before New Years because the pipes probably would burst at midnight when the entire infrastructure of the modern world collapsed? Have you taken them out of the ziplocs yet? Do you find your prepper mentality to be spiritually nourishing?

Have you remembered that actually nothing is real except for the moment that is right in front of your nose? I’m not even kidding. All that exists is some kind of energy and our weird human reality is our experience of that energy in various forms, mediated by our weird human bodies. Blobs of molecules which themselves are blobs of concentrated energy (E=MC2).

Energy in – sound vibrations, light vibrations, touch – some turned into thoughts by the mechanisms of our weird human brains.

Energy out = whatever we make of all that in any given moment. B

Don’t forget. And if nothing is real, in the weird conventional human sense, nothing matters. As Andrew Yang taught us, you can just say, “Whatever, it’s cool,” and you will feel better.

Whatever, it’s cool Just try it.

That Bitch CoCo V v. yrmama

I’m not that sick. And no one can get a test in the state of Iowa unless they are over 60, a health care worker, resident of a nursing home or hospitalized. Our statistics count only those cases. But what would happen to the numbers if anyone who might be sick with COVID 19 were tested? What would happen if there was information gathered on the course of this illness in people who are definitely sick with it but can ride the fucker out at home? Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Helpful.

I had to check the calendar, but I think if today is April 15 (it is, I checked), I’ve been sick enough to stay mostly in my infirmary cell for almost three weeks. I’ve been well enough to say , “Hey! I feel okay! I think I’m 95% better,” and then be all queasy and shivery and headachey again. It seems kind of cyclical, like when I had malaria. With malaria it would disappear for a day, then the fever would lay me out with delirium again. The intervals got shorter. With this presumptive COVID, the cycles are less mechanical and they seem to be losing steam each time around rather than gaining. Yesterday and today the brick in my chest is back and minor exertion makes me huff and puff unflatteringly. My daughter who knows rocket scientists and Ivy League robot engineers (meaning she’s a medical expert) says that the puffing is not because I’ve grown weak and wussy, but because that bitch CoCo V is still compromising my lungs.

JM, who also had it but not so bad, and I hobble around our lair. His arthritic puffy knee hurts so I say helpfully, “maybe you should put that elastic brace on.” He counters with, “hey, that feels good! And while we’re at it you should remember you can use that inhaler.” We are that fun couple everyone wants to party with.

And despite all that, this is perversely exciting, isn’t it? I would never have guessed something might come by that shuts the whole world down like this. It’s a forced quit, a reset. I’m used to being at home a lot and being alone a lot and having everything closed further simplifies my life. I know that’s easy for me to say, as a relatively wealthy person with plenty of space who really likes all her roommates, but like everyone, I’ve got to work with what I have. If I were well enough to roam freely it wouldn’t change much.

I love knowing that everyone is doing this one way or another and resetting. We’re isolated, but a lot of folks are crawling out of the woodwork, talking and writing to all kinds of old friends. Everything is different now and I think it is going to stay different, probably in some very unpredictable ways

Nothing don’t mean nothing, hon, if it ain’t free

Oh my dears – Here we all are, all around the world mostly sitting in the beds we’ve made for ourselves over the years. (In some cases the beds other people’s choices have made for us. Or the beds brought to us by unearned good fortune.) Many of us are growing daaware that our beds are all lashed together too, riding the swells like one gigantic air mattress.

Westmoreland Gazette

Boris Johnson? I’m genuinely sorry you are so poorly and genuinely sorry for all the fun I made of your hair. Mockery is cheap and unflattering.

Kim Reynolds? Please, I know it’s a gamble and you’re backed into a corner and everyone’s yelling at you at once. (FYI, Kim is the Governor of Iowa and is declining to issue a formal stay-at-home order.) Is there some sort of devil’s pact with Jared, where you defend individual freedoms in the face of death in exchange for priority access to emergency medical supplies? You say you don’t want to impose toooo many restrictions on us because you are concerned for our mental health. Thank you for that sentiment, but let’s talk about freedom and liberty.

Freedom starts with the idea that everyone is born free and therefore freedom is an absolute natural right. You get to do whatever you gol darn please. Liberty begins with the concept of most humans being born into a state of bondage. In that plan social order depends on a natural hierarchy in which the more fortunate and superior have the privilege of more liberties. Fighting for freedom means fighting for equality; fighting for our liberties means protecting the pecking order we value. I think most of us believe this country is based on fundamental freedoms. I also think our founding fathers were more into defending their liberties. And they also tended to stay out late at the pub during the summer of 1787 arguing about it very drunkenly.

So, Kim, are you trying to protect Iowan freedoms or Iowan liberties by entreating us to stay home rather than ordering us to stay home? It’s okay if you don’t know. I don’t either! It’s complicated but worthwhile to consider. No one has a fundamental right to kill or sicken someone else by exercising their right to stand in a legal clump of 9 germy people playing cornhole and drinking beer. Likely their mental health has them thinking something like, “shit, that bitch CoCoV is either gonna get me or not so in the meantime let’s party.” Back when yrmama cared about the presidential primaries she observed that we simply want leaders that we trust to take care of us. Which brings us back to the big life raft of beds in the first paragraph: we really can’t go wrong trying to take care of each other.

Genealogy and Social Justice

I was a little nervous when I decided to start publishing identifying information about my slave-owning ancestors. I considered giving my brother a heads up to see if he had any feelings about me outing our forebears. Then I thought, f*$%$ that. The dead, especially the ancient dead, are fair game. I know their abhorrent behavior does not reflect on me. I also know that by being white I have massive privilege, and that the black people whose labor was stolen to build this country are to be held up and regarded with awe. Their value was so immense that the 100 year old nation had a horrible, bloody protracted war over control of it. And their power was so feared that Jim Crow was invented. I could go on.

For a time I dug into the ugliness of the past just because I felt compelled to, but it remained mostly a matter of, “omg can you believe this garbage?” Recently I stumbled onto the concept of Reparational Genealogy through this podcast. Carolyn ni Lochlainn lays the idea out with a thoroughness I won’t attempt here. Basically, because researching enslaved ancestors is difficult to say the least (white privilege again) we descendants of enslavers can contribute the information we have. The pre-Civil War record keeping that genealogists use was invented for white people and is about white people – censuses, wills, taxes, plantation records, runaway slave notices from newspapers etc.. Identifying enslavers and their exact locations along with whatever records there are of the enslaved – first names, or even just the tally marks made to count up males and females in each age group – can help people make vital connections. Descendants of enslaved people are just as entitled to know their family history as anyone else and I might have access to part of the information someone needs to put their puzzle together.

Downton Abbey taught us that “family” is not just the folks living upstairs. When we allow historical narratives to continue to stubbornly ignore with a wink the team of people that grew the tobacco, built those doggone big houses and had to stand quietly in the corner pulling the rope that worked the dining room ceiling fan, it is dishonest and brutal. I like digging into the nasty business of my slaveowners, domestic abusers and bootleggers simply because I’m not meant to see it. I don’t mean to do anything that would hurt anyone still alive, but when a historical narrative doesn’t match up with the facts or I find a pocket of time and place that is very, very silent I want to investigate. Everyone deserves the opportunity to see the whole picture and put together a meaningful narrative.

Barn Kittens

yrmama is not a cat person but I have two new, very wild barn kittens. Four eyes peer down warily from the rafters as I faithfully pour out the kitten chow day after day. The larger gray one, William Clopton, now meows at me when I first come in and I don’t know what that means.

Any child who ever tells you they will take full responsibility for an animal doesn’t know what they are talking about and should not be believed. That animal will ALWAYS become yours. yrmama is really allergic to cats so it was one of my thirty two daughters who decided to bring the kittens here. yrmama is no dummy and knew giving permission made for a 93% chance that they would be her barn kittens, and now, since that daughter is completely AWOL from the barn, they are entirely mine. They are destined to remain wild too because yrmama’s already busy (thanks C19!) respiratory and immune systems don’t allow much time with them. But the kitten’s wildness is part of their appeal. This is what it would be like to be luring fox kits, or baby skunks in to eat. (If there is a de-stunk baby skunk that needs a barn to eat cat chow in – call me.)

See how nice they are?

I have been trying to position the food bowl so that I can see their little butts when they eat, but it doesn’t work so I don’t know their sexes. And it doesn’t matter, since I’m going to trap them one of these days and take them to be neutered rendering kitty gender a completely moot point.

In the meantime I have bestowed genderless names on the kittens in honor of my ancestors who believed that as many people as possible should be named William Clopton in order to bamboozle future genealogists. The big gray one is William Clopton. It’s eyes are a bit too close together which creates a resemblance to Rod Blagojevich. The smaller kitten has front paws that were put on at the wrong angle and has slightly shortened front legs, maybe a form of kittie dwarfism. Consequently, it sits back on it’s haunches with it’s front paws crossed over it’s chest, like a rabbit. Or a kangaroo. Or a T-Rex. My ancestor’s second favorite name was Robert Clopton. This cat’s additional degree of cuteness led me to cute-ify “Robert” a bit, so I call it Bobert Clopton. Bobert might not be able to hunt as well as William Clopton but gets around just fine.

I took a DNA test turns out I am 100% yrmama


In 1989 yrmama lived in St. Louis and someone left a message on her answering machine about doing genealogical research on the Clopton family in that area. As a heedless youth, she didn’t call him back, but she sure would now. In those olden days people had to do things like call all the Cloptons in the St. Louis phone book to find anything out. I did know from working with school field trip groups in my job at the science museum that there was a Clopton school somewhere nearby, which was surprising, and that all the teachers and students were black, also surprising. I thought Clopton meant Iowa and we all know that is likely to mean white. Then I did other things for about thirty years.

It turns out that there are a whole lot of Cloptons who don’t live in Iowa and who are not white. My father was Edwin Clopton, as was his father who went by Bill. From there on back is a long string of Williams, Johns, and Roberts and Davids. Most of them were named William and I’m not even kidding. Maybe that’s why Grandpa was Bill. Going backwards there are five generations in Iowa, a couple in Hart County, Kentucky, then Virginia. Virginia tobacco plantations all the way back to Jamestown in the early 1600’s.

I’m now obsessively compiling information about my enslaving Clopton forebears and the folks they enslaved. Thank you, internet. I’m not sure exactly why, but I want to know which ancestor in my direct paternal line was the last to own slaves. I believe it had to either be John Robert Clopton (1760-1830), or his son David Clopton (1794-1865). Both of them were born in tobaccoplatationland, New Kent County, Virginia and moved westward during their lives. John Robert settled in Hart County, Kentucky, a slave state, but with a different flavor, I think. Young David moved on from Kentucky into Missouri, into Iowa about 1850, and then retired and died back across the Mason Dixon line in Missouri. One of David’s sons, Robert Clopton (1823-1865?) even fought for the North in the Civil War and died in combat in southern Illinois. That’s quite an expanse of reality for David although I don’t know what he thought of any of it.

So David. John Robert. Which of you pulled the plug? I want to know why. Why did you give up that evil gravy train? Was it economics? Was it downward mobility? Did the overwhelming westward ho mood inspire you to liquidate and put all your capital in expansionist adventure? Did you suddenly turn into an abolitionist? What the heck were you thinking? Did you have any idea that the next five+ generations of your lineage would pat the too-inquisitive on their tow heads and say, “we don’t talk about that”?