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.)

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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

Wikipedia

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”?

Unless I Change My Mind

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – FEBRUARY 10: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announces her presidential bid in front of a crowd gathered at Boom Island Park on February 10, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Klobuchar joins a crowded field of Democrats vying for the 2020 nomination. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

During this long period of silence I have been very annoyed by the campaign in general, sad about the impeachment and yet allowing the nattering political media constantly in my ears.

Of course Donald should have been impeached and should be removed from office. Bill should have been removed too. Listen to Season 2 of the Slate podcast Slow Burn while you walk the dog if you need convincing.

In the meantime the flipping Iowa Caucus is in a few days and you need to know what to do. Of the remaining candidates I like Andrew, and Amy. I’m left only kind of liking Pete.* This has not led to actual discord in my family but lots of discussion. Our Pete yard signs are sagging out there in the snow and JM canvasses for him every weekend and goes to team meetings and wears the regalia. I think that’s great and helps move things forward even if I won’t do it. The youth of America affiliated with yrmama are all over the place. Some are downright socialist and some are confused and tempted to bail on the caucus altogether.

What to Do: You should obviously choose Andrew or Amy for the first alignment, and then get behind the other one or Pete if you need to realign. (I’m not going to rehash the rules of play for the caucus. There will be plenty of people at your precinct site telling you how to do it if you don’t already know.) Iowans take the caucus incredibly seriously and many Hawkeyes are exacerbating their IBS just from the long sleepless nights of worrying over getting this right. Monday it’s finally time to vote with our feet and hearts in the gymnasium corner where the banner of our true love flies. We’ve thought enough and we now need to follow our hearts. That’s how we get it right.

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ours were red

But really, Amy is the one. I’ve kind of liked her all along but recently I feel a surge of warmth and sureness in my heart whenever I think about her. If yrmama were a politician she would be Amy. She is rock solid, incredibly tough and pragmatic and can sway Republican voters her way. Because she is a lawyer and a very successful and powerful senator she already knows how to get things done. I believe she really would get things done too. Amy has been flying under the radar all this time because she is tater-tot casserole. She is that ideal German Shepherd mix that will quietly kill raccoons. She is a sensible haircut. She is weatherproof. She will not flinch when Donald gets in her face because she probably had to wear a horrible gym suit in junior high. When she plays dodge ball with him she’ll aim for his face at close range. He’ll go down hard and see stars. He’ll have to sit out the rest of the class period holding a towel up to his bloody nose, muttering about revenge and conspiracy theories.

*Bernie, Joe and Elizabeth are too old. There is no reason for the baby boomers to keep running things. They’ve always insisted on running things. That said, any of these would make an ok president.https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/times-up-baby-boomers-its-gen-xs-turn-now/2019/04/25/4e6593e4-6768-11e9-a1b6-b29b90efa879_story.html

The Pose

Dorothy, my maternal grandmother, knew what to do when someone was taking her picture. This was not due to the Gladwellian 10,000 hours of practice put in by modern girls, but because her uncle was a professional photographer. There are lovely portraits of her from the time she could stand where she’s popping out some version of this: face the camera, line your left heel up with the instep of your right foot, tip your head just a hair towards the outstretched toe, then find an arm position and facial expression to match the occasion. Here, that being some boy about to give her a corsage. The bob! The shoes! The gorgeous dresses they got to wear in the 1920s!

This mirror selfie approximation of the pose took about 30 tries and I’m not even kidding. It’s the best I could do. Grandmother’s foot trick is subtle, brilliant and surprisingly hard to not over play. Turns out the rest of it requires standing up very straight and then relaxing your shoulders and neck so that your head just sits there. Who knew. Today’s fashion statement involves second hand, black Old Navy jeans, the same brown belt I wear every day, a scoop-neck Patagonia t shirt and a DIY cardigan. If you have a tightly knit sweater you are tired of, or that makes you sweat too much, you can find a pair of scissors, slice it up the front and voila; a cardigan. No, it does not unravel into a big mess. I’ve committed this wanton act of creativity many times and your should too.

yrmama’s New Leaf

In the photo above, taken in the late 1960’s perhaps by my father, we have the adorable baby yrmama surrounded by her grandma, mother, brother and grandpa. Grandma was a figure larger than life – affectionate, bossy, and very hardworking. No one in this photo is very comfortable in front of a camera except, it appears, Grandpa. Baby yrmama doesn’t care much either way about the camera but hates the way her mother and brother are holding on to her lest she bust out in unruliness. Ha. Little did they know about who they were dealing with, literally.

In the photo to the right we have full-grown yrmama. Today’s hairstyle was achieved with a big old handful of mousse and a nice long wall squat under the hand drier in the pool locker room. yrmama was blessed with teflon hair that rarely needs combing and I’m not even kidding. A secondhand magenta madras shirt is layered under a rust sweater that yrmama actually bought off the rack at Target when she went to a genealogy conference and found she had not packed warm enough clothes for scouring the nearby graveyards for familiar names. That strategic clashing creates a nice glow, don’t you think?

I’m now more or less the same age Grandma was in the first photo and I think I look something like her. My life is very different than Grandma’s but like her I am very hard-working and very bossy. I’d like to say I’m as affectionate as she was but I’m not sure it’s true.

I have three daughters who always look terrific in photos whereas I usually look apologetic. I remember a time when I could not stand to look in a mirror with someone. I just didn’t have the confidence to see what I looked like while someone else was looking at me too. My daughters all spent a good portion of their adolesences practicing what to do when a camera shows up. They can effortlessly “find their light,” strike the pose, flip the hair, tilt the head, jut the hip, tip the chin and exude confidence.

oswaldpharmacy.com

I don’t really know what I look like. I’m always surprised by mirrors and photos and unpredictable reflections. Photos confuse me because I look like I’m trapped inside an unfamiliar voluptuous mound of flesh. That effect is especially highlighted if I’m caught sitting in a chair, trying desperately to look tall, thin and blond and perhaps not even there. My son, who was born looking like a super model and never even had to practice, recently took a brilliant photo of himself on the beach with me in my bikini, sitting in one of those painful cloth folding chairs. Good God. In some photos my face sags, like a gravity burst is sucking the joy out of me. I look like one of those droopy-eyed dogs. Sometimes I look like my mother. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the photo is of me or my oldest daughter.

In the past few years illness has messed dramatically with my size, from normal (the way I’ve always been, the size and shape I was from high school through my late 40’s) to way too skinny, to normal again and then shooting past that to mildly plump. Every time my clothes don’t fit I give them away and restock in my new size at Crowded Closet and Goodwill. Resultingly, there’s hardly anything I’ve worn for years like I think most people have, clothes in which I might feel nostalgia, or like my same old self. I pull a hanger from the stuffed rack at Goodwill and think, “omg, that’s huge,” when it’s actually my size. When I was too skinny the shorts my size seemed impossible so I tried to make slightly larger, reasonable sizes, work and they literally fell off my narrow butt.

So, I’m practicing. Maybe I’ll watch some instructional videos on how to look like myself in a photo. Meanwhile, I’m becoming very clear on the fact that this corporeal form of energy pressed into matter that is my vehicle through this lifetime is just that. It’s doing a fine job of helping me hurtle through space and time. I like it! Now, if I can just learn to see myself in it as the molecules get switched out for new ones and the pattern continues to break down (aka aging) I will have won.

You’re welcome.

What’s a good look for the day after an impeachment?

source: Terribly Cute

I’m not even kidding, but the sun came out. Everything in the world feels more relaxed. I had the House impeachment debate on in the background all day yesterday because it just seemed like the kind of event I should acknowledge. But today we can move on. And I’m still burnt out on politics. But will watch the stupid debate tonight anyway.

So the look for today is navy blue cotton leggings (Kohls 2016), a very thin navy blue striped sweater (Goodwill clearance) and a spectacular pair of robin’s egg blue boots.

Fluevog

When one’s feet look this good, what else does one need? yrmama has always been all about having fun getting dressed, but the combo of these magical boots and my polished wood cane led the mind beyond.

Last summer at an Ehler’s Danlos syndrome conference there were a bunch of wheelchair riders, brace wearers and cane walkers. The more assistive equipment one had – a scooter, oxygen tank, iv pole – the more aggressively cute the personal style. Bright red lipstick that said, “I know you just want to talk to my service dog but hey, I’m the person here and you have to look at my face.” A pink wig that said, “I know you want to stare and think it’s awkward that I’m using a chair, but goddamit, look me in the eye.” Same for fantastic shoes, or a beautiful vintage dress with crinolines. An effective way to get people to stop fixating quite so much on your unusual circumstance is to draw even more attention to yourself. “If you’re going to look, I’ll give you something to look at.” Or maybe, “This light is going to shine so bright that the glare in your eyes will make you forget everything but me.”

Burnout is real

I’m am exceptionally disillusioned with politics right now – this thing is taking sooooo long and the UK just gave old Boris a big wet smooch. I mean, we didn’t think Donald could win, but he did. We’re counting on him losing again, but maybe it’s more likely he won’t. And whoever wins, half of us will be flipping out and having a huge panic attack as if it’s not our fault. We are a species not very good at looking at the big picture, after all.

But here’s what I never get burned out on. My torch. I get to use it to pop bubbles in the epoxy resin I pour over my crazy little assemblages of ephemera.

This Sucrets tin has an initial layer of resin curing around a Shrinky Dink lady smoking in her mid-century magazine living room. I’m not sure yet where we’re going with that. But lotsa smokers sucked on Sucrets back in the day.
This battered Belmont Household Nail Box features two models presenting a painting of some mountains in China above a layered pool of jewelry fragments and glitter. The final layer of resin covers some tissue paper scraps that help the glitter not be too shiny. You know, keep your light under that barrel.

You might fairly ask, “but yrmama, what kind of passtime is this nonsense for an over-educated white lady like you? Can’t you get a job? Or play golf?” And yrmama will calmly remind you, “ars longa, vita brevis, bitch,” even though she can’t really speak Latin. Because no one can you ding-dong.

Play on, dreamers

yrmama and JM biked to brunch. Identical meals – hardened, folded-over egg lay on our plates, inside the fold was chilly pico de gallo, rubbery once-melted cheese and a TON of big ‘ol cubes of pork belly (aka bacon). No home fries. No toast. So what did we do with those repulsive “omelets?” We cleaned our plates and paid. Then outside we said, “omg, that was so bad!” I still feel sick when I think of what I ate that day.

Maryland Science Center

Now you might say, “But yrmama, surely you noticed the omelet was not your cup of tea before you ate the WHOLE THING.” And I would reply, “We were talking about Pete! Maybe I didn’t notice.” Then you might say, “yes, but this was egregiously bad food. You still feel sick from it.”

Fine, but JM and I were taught to clean our plates NO MATTER WHAT by genuine Great Depression survivors, including congealing disgusting meat bits. If there’s a little mold, trim it off. Sure the texture may have gotten strange, but there’s still flavor in it. JM so terrorized our own children with this ethic that I still regularly find thimble-sized plastic containers holding one or two bites of long ago dinners stashed in the refrigerator for “later.” These are bites they have no intention of eating but are afraid to scrape directly into the compost bucket.

Now with my dotage on the far horizon a crazy idea has dawned: when there is a decision to be made or a plate to clean I can ask myself, “what is in my best interest right now?” I fell out laughing when I first tried that question on for size. Ludicrous! What’s best for me? Without considering all of you? The interesting thing is that my own best interest in any given moment leads to pretty good decisions.

I know you are shocked by this. yrmama is so full of good advice. She appears oddly youthful and shiny. She is beyond reproach, omniscient and omnipotent. How can she have been walking around for decades with such a log in her eye? She doesn’t seem like a doormat.

It’s hard to know how to prepare for life as a human. Is yrmama a ruse? Are we in a waking dream? Could we pretend to be as well as we wish to be? Play on, dreamers. Onward and upward.