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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Not a great Christmas.

This is the first Christmas without Mom. It's also the first Christmas I didn't even want to bother with even a tiny tree. I know next Christmas will be better, but right now I just want to get through it.

Bought presents for a few friends, sent out a total of 4 Christmas cards. I did put up Christmas sentiments on Facebook and sent an E-card on email. That's about it. Today I had several invitations out, and had accepted one, but woke up queasy and just nauseated by the thought of food, so I canceled. I think my body was telling me I needed alone time to process.

The Christmas service last night was lovely, and I had planned to go to this morning's. But last night was perfect. That was my Christmas, and it was enough. The church tree and all the hanging greens were decorated with over 1000 peace cranes folded of white paper. A giant paper angel blowing a trumpet in flight hung across the sanctuary, and a multitude of smaller heavenly host hung everywhere overhead. I'm in the choir, and our anthem was "In the Bleak Midwinter" which was lovely. I think we did it well. The rest of the service was mostly carols, which I love to sing.

Back when I was a teenager, I had a book of Christmas carols. I used to sing every single one of them, all the verses, standing in the living room with the tree. My family consisted of myself and my parents. I don't mind taking my Christmas pleasures alone, it comes naturally to me. But this year, knowing that my parents and husband are gone, this year is the first time I've actually felt alone.  It's sad, but it's OK. I know I have lots of friends and many cousins, and one aunt and uncle. And I'll never regret not having children. But this one time, I feel alone. I'm going to embrace the feeling because I know it's teaching me something. Eventually I'll know what.

Looking out my study window at hills dusted with snow and the neighbors across the street, I see some are gone - looks like most are gone. I'm glad for them - if they're the type of people who need to have a crowd around them, I'm glad they do.  As an introvert and an empath, I require solitude to process and detox. Even as I write this I can feel peace descending on me.

I am going to spend this Christmas day writing and then watching movies. And it's enough.

Blessings and happiness to everyone, this day and the new year.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Got home in a bad mood

I know it’s the holidays, that’s got to be it. Just something broke the camel’s back tonight. Tried to make myself do a little outside decorating at least. Tried to drive some nails into the outside walls and couldn’t. Dropped 3 times what I got in, gave up.

When I get home every single day, Kira (a cat) starts screaming at me. So I put out the food. The cats mob me while I’m doing it then don’t eat it. Then Kira starts screaming at me to sit down so she can sit on me, and God forbid I should do anything while she’s doing it, like knit. I keep the litter boxes clean but I got those covered ones to try to keep the stench down since they don’t bury their poop, but at least one of them won’t use them. Every single day there’s poop right in front of it. That’s all I can smell, anywhere in the house, no matter what I do.

The house is filthy and cluttered. The only thing worse than looking at it, than living in it, is trying to fix it. I'd like to decorate for Christmas but I just can't get motivated. It'd all look bad in here anyway. This will be the first Christmas without Mom, and I frankly wish I could just be unconscious until it's over. 

I’m so hungry, but everything smells like cat poop and it hurts so bad to eat I wish I could just poke a tube in my stomach. And then the fucking internet wouldn’t work. I unplugged the modem and it worked again, thank God. 

I hate these kind of moods. But then who doesn't? Bummer because I just got back from a very nice short vacation. Seems like I always have to pay for a good mood with one of these downers.

I've entered a novella in a SF writing contest, and sent a short story and a poem to a magazine. First attempts at traditional publishing I've done in a long time. I need to get the synopsis done for 1 finished book to try it on a traditional. Then there's the sketch I need to do so the new cover artist can get an idea of one of the characters, since he seems to want to use that one for the cover. The vivid description wasn't enough, I guess, but some people are more visual. 

I did eat a piece of peanut-butter toast and a cookie. Guess I'll go see if I can force anything else down.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving, 2016

The turkey breast I bought turned out to be pre-seasoned, so I didn't try the recipe I'd planned. OK by me, I'm a very lazy cook. It even came with a gravy mix. Plopped it in the crock pot with 1/2 cup water and that was that. Dinner will be at 4. I'm also having dressing made like Mom always did, a different cranberry salad than hers - it's labor-intensive and I'll have more time to cook at Christmas. Also scalloped potatoes (from a box) and asparagus. I have a piece of pumpkin pie from Village Inn that I picked up last night when I ate dinner. So I'm set.

This will be my first Thanksgiving alone, since Uchol died last year and Mom died last March. That's the last of my immediate family. Don't feel sorry for me, I don't. I like solitude, the peace and quiet. Much as I remember those huge family Thanksgiving dinners at Grandma and Granddad Smith's with fondness, the crowd got to me and after dinner I'd go find somewhere I could be alone for a while. Or close to it. Sometimes I went out and played with my two (or three if the California Smiths came) younger cousins. The women would all go into the kitchen to clean up and divide the food, the men would park in front of the Game, and the teenagers would go upstairs to shoot pool on Granddad's table. Not really fitting with any of those groups, I'd find somewhere else to be and recharge.

Today I'm going to hook up the X-box I bought for my birthday a couple weeks ago, and the Skyrim game I bought with it. Wish me luck! I've done some computer games but never an X-box, or a game that's as complicated as that one looks. It also looks like a lot of fun.

So much to be thankful for, I don't know what to write down. My house, my job, my friends, the little view of the hills out my study window. My church and the people in it. My writing. Books and cats. Coffee. Ice cream. Not having to worry about food. Having enough money to be comfortable. My cousins. I'm also thankful for the work Jared Padelecki and Wentworth Miller have done to ease the stigma against mental illness in general and depression in particular. Revealing their own struggles when they're so much in the public eye was very brave. Jared's posts in Facebook in particular have made me realize I'm not the weak-willed emotional basket case loser for having depression that people have made me feel like my entire life. The fact that I'm 63 and still here means I'm strong, I'm a warrior. I no longer have shame about my depression, and that makes me less depressed. I know I can fight it because I have fought it.

So, despite the losses of the last year, I am deeply thankful for my life today.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Physical Beauty

I wish every young person could realize how beautiful they are. Youth and its singular beauty are so fleeting, and we live in a society where people are told from their earliest years to pick apart their looks and everyone else’s, to fuel the multi-billion dollar cosmetic, fashion, and diet industries.
This is not a new phenomenon, though it’s surely gotten much worse. I was an odd-looking child, I guess, because I was bullied about my looks (back then they called it teasing) on nearly a daily basis clear through grade school. I was fat before it was an epidemic, and I was usually the fattest kid in class, unless there was another one. I had extremely curly hair that was difficult to control, and glasses that were so thick (I was farsighted) that my eyes looked abnormally large. I wore said glasses from first grade on.

The names were the least of it. Bug-eyes, Bubble-eyes, Marla Mountain. My classmates rewrote the songs we learned in class to celebrate my ugliness. When I asked for help from any adult, teachers, parents, I was told “Everyone gets teased” and “Don’t let it bother you.” It was my fault they treated me that way because “You let them see it bothers you.” Finally I learned there was no help, and it was evidently my fault because I really was freakish looking.

By Junior High, which back then started with 7th grade, my one goal in life was to pass for normal. Mom took me to my pediatrician, who put me (a few months short of my 12th birthday, mind) on amphetamine diet pills. In 1965, drugs like that were considered to be good for you as long as a doctor prescribed them. I also took ballet lessons, which eased my terminal clumsiness and helped with the weight loss, although even at my thinnest I was “the big girl” in that class. There was nothing I could do about the glasses at that time, though my eyesight had gotten better over the years. This is another way farsightedness is different than nearsightedness. If you read a lot – and I was a bookworm from birth – your eyesight actually improves.

When the process was finished, I looked normal. If I hadn’t been so convinced I was an ugly freak, I might have noticed that I had grown into my face and was actually pretty. But I had been conditioned for too many years to believe, soul-deep, that I was ugly. If a boy showed any interest in me, I was convinced he had been put up to it by his friends and was going to pull a humiliating prank on me. By the way, both male and female classmates had done that to me on the phone repeatedly in grade school. It's one reason I don't like phones.

Enter teenage fashion magazines. Entire magazines devoted to telling teenage girls that they’re imperfect and must fix themselves. At that time it was through makeup – tons of it. You think contouring is a recent development? Hah. Sometime go to a library and have a look at Teen or Seventeen from the 1960s if you can find it on microfilm, or maybe they’re online. Every new cosmetic was touted as saving us from our unfashionable pasts. “Finally a real color instead of those awful beige frosted lipsticks we’ve been wearing.” Said beige frosted lipsticks had been touted as “Finally a natural look instead of that awful red lipstick.” From my lofty age of 62 I can tell you this happens every few years. Regularly. Of course I haven’t taken a single peek at a fashion magazine in a couple decades.

And it goes on. Your hair is never right. Too long, too short, too curly, too straight. Your body? Pa-lease. The range of what’s acceptable as beauty is so tiny no one can find it. You can go from too fat to too thin in five pounds.

Now, I can look at old pictures of myself and see that I was pretty. Damn but I wish I had known it at the time. And what bugs me senseless is seeing beautiful young people – now it’s boys as well as girls – convinced that they’re ugly because they don’t look like the photoshopped, posed, made up, and well-lit pictures in magazines. They’re being bullied, not by classmates, but by this entire superstructure of the media and fashion, cosmetic, and diet industries. They haven’t got a chance.  And I haven’t a clue as to what to do about it.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

I'm Nobody : How I met my husband

I wanted to try singing karaoke. I was terrified to sing solo in front of people, even though I was pretty sure I had a good voice. My friend Jennifer told me she often went to this little bar where they had a great karaoke DJ. "No stage, you can even sing sitting down if you want. Everybody's drunk, they'll clap and cheer no matter what." So we went, and I sang. First one was awful, then I sort of got the hang of it. Finding songs in the right key for my soprano voice is the tricky part; I'm a rocker not a country singer. I loved it and made up my mind I'd come back.

After singing a few, we sat and talked. Out of the blue Jennifer shouts, "Hey, Shin!" I turned around and beheld a handsome Asian man with long silvery hair and a pirate's grin who had just come in the door. He waved back. I didn't notice the wheelchair until he was halfway across the room.

"Damn, he's cute," I said to her. "Shame about the wheelchair."

"Oh, he can still do it," she commented casually. My jaw dropped. "Hey, you want to meet him? I've know him for years."

"Sure," I managed to reply.

"We'll let him shoot some pool and sing a song or two and then I'll invite him over for a beer."

While we continued talking and drinking, I kept an eye on him. He was very good at pool - kept winning. I suck at pool but enjoy watching it. Then the DJ called him over, and he sang Willie Nelson's "Always on My Mind" in a clear baritone. Not a country fan myself, I do like Willie, and that song.

After he was done, Jennifer called him over and bought him a beer. He was funny, charming, and had an interesting accent. He also had my attractiveness trifecta: a beautiful mouth, kind eyes, and big strong hands. He also had very nice shoulders and gorgeous hair. He was easy to talk to and actually got my jokes. I had a great time.

Monday, May 16, 2016

I'm Nobody: My First Love, such as it was

Mourning my husband has led me to thinking about past relationships. I've been in love a few times, or thought I was. My relationships just don't last that long. I'm not going to enumerate all the assorted dates and crushes, but I want to analyze the times I really thought I was in love.

First love, age 24, the one I lost my virginity to. If you think that's late, hey, it was Kansas in the 1970s and I had been raised a churchgoer. I was holding out for True Love, although not necessarily for my wedding night. Now you'll really laugh. He was 29 and also a virgin. Both of us lived with our parents. That was also not unusual for that time and place. Most young women lived with their parents until they got married. He worked for pay on his father's farm, so it wasn't like he was freeloading.

Not going to use real names here; I'll call him Keith. we met at the church we both went to. He had been dating a friend of mine, but she dumped him. We had been at some church do at my parents' house, and everyone had left but myself, Janet (who lived with us), Keith, and another guy. Somehow, Janet and the other guy wound up making out in the living room, while Keith and I sat in the dining room by the fireplace and talked. For hours. Not long after, he called me for a date and we started going out.

At first we seemed very compatible. He was easy to talk to, and we had our Kansas backgrounds and church in common. I felt like this was probably The One. So I set about losing my virginity. I had no clue how to seduce someone, but I really wanted to. Each makeout session, I let it go a little farther - until I scared myself and called a halt. To his credit, he stopped when I wanted him to. The first time we went "all the way" it was plain mortifying for both of us, since neither of us knew what we were doing. We learned by practice, like everyone does. It got good. Very good. We could barely keep out hands off each other.

My life has a sound track. At the beginning of this relationship, the chorus of Barry Manilow's "Weekend in New England" really fit:
And tell me, when will our eyes meet?
When can I touch you?
When will this strong yearning end?
And when will I hold you again
He had two habits that I hated. One was smoking cigarettes. My parents both smoked heavily and the smell always choked me. Kissing someone who smokes is just plain disgusting. Tastes just like a dirty ashtray smells. The other habit was smoking pot. I never did drugs, never saw the point. The danger seemed to be so much greater than any possible enjoyment. So I asked him if he would just not smoke either one around me. He agreed. He did try to get me to smoke pot, but I just wasn't interested. Frankly, I've had enough trouble with my lungs; I had no urge to deliberately inhale foreign substances.

Things were good between us for a while. We had a lot of fun. We went out regularly, usually every weekend, and he called me every day - which I thought was too much because he'd run out of things to say and then just stay on the line silently. I always had to say, "Well, I've got things to do, goodbye." Sometimes I wondered, if I was really in love with him, wouldn't I want to stay on the line just listening to each other breathe? But I found it irritating.

Then he started this really lame mind game. Every couple months after we'd gone out and had a good time, he'd tell me that 'we shouldn't see each other for a while' because he had 'things he needed to work out.' Weirdly, he kept calling me every day after one of these pronouncements, and we'd go out on schedule the next weekend. I couldn't figure out what he was trying to do.

Finally, after one very romantic date, we were sitting on the porch and he turned to me with a tender smile like he was going to kiss me, and announced, "We shouldn't see each other for a while. I have some things to work out."

It was like someone threw cold water on me. Suddenly, I was looking at a stranger, and not a particularly attractive one. Then he admitted he'd been high on nearly all of our dates and was high right then, and found it funny that I couldn't tell. I don't remember the rest of the conversation. I was shocked and confused, as it had never occurred to me a person could fall out of love instantly like that.

Of course he called me the next day. This time I told him that I didn't know how not seeing each other was going to help him work his things out if he was going to call me every day. I asked him to call me after he got done. He actually skipped calling for a few days, and I was startled at how relieved I was. Then he called to set up that weekend's date like always. I asked him if he had worked out everything he needed to. Carelessly he replied that he had, as though he'd forgotten all about that. So we went out.

I felt nothing for him. I thought maybe I was just still angry. I thought the feeling would come back. It didn't. We went out for another couple of months, and finally I admitted to myself the feeling wasn't coming back and I really didn't want to see him anymore. Without the feeling, I started noticing a lot of things I hadn't picked up on. He really wasn't very bright, and had no ambition whatsoever. When I talked about my writing, he'd always say, "I could write a book." Yeah, right.

Very gently I broke up with him. His reaction was "But - but I love you!" He hadn't said that to me in months and months. I stood firm. For the next five years he'd call me every few months and ask me out. I always refused. Finally he stopped. Was he really in love with me? Maybe, but he didn't understand me, and he certainly didn't respect me. Was I really in love with him? It felt like it at the time. It might have simply been the right time but the wrong man. Or maybe I was just in love with the idea of being in love.

Many years later, I heard about him through a mutual friend. All he did was smoke pot. He'd rent a cheap apartment and work at a meaningless job until he'd accumulated enough money to live on for a while, then he'd quit the job, stay home, and smoke pot until he ran out of money. Man, did I dodge a bullet!

And at the end, these lyrics fit: Bob Dylan, "Don't think twice"
So long honey baby
Where I'm bound, I cannot tell
But goodbye's too good a word, gal
So I'll just kinda say "Fare thee well"
Now I'm not saying that you treated me unkind
You could have done a lot better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right

Friday, May 13, 2016

I'm Nobody: What passed for my love life

I have figured out that as far as relationships, I'm good for about two years. I was married for ten (he died) but I recently realized that the only really great years were the year we lived together and the first year we were married. Then he made his big mistake, and I stupidly forgave him for it. But once trust is broken you can glue it back together, but it's never the same again. He kept making smaller versions of the mistake, and while I never stopped loving him, I trusted him less and less. And with the trust, a little of the love went too.

I dearly wish we could have been a team. I never felt we were after the big mistake. Maybe if he hadn't kept doing it, the trust and love would have healed. I mourn his good qualities, the things I fell in love with him for, and I'm trying to forget the rest. It's hard.

After all these years, one marriage and a lot of boyfriends, the pattern of my relationships has come clear. Some dates were one and done, disinterest on both sides. Others were three dates before the big 'nah.' Sometimes the thing would last a few months. But all the serious relationships lasted about two years.

I seem to be an odd woman. I don't play games or manipulate. I'm straightforward and ask for what I need, though I rarely get it. Even with my late husband, I had to do the whine or the pouty face when I wanted something. I hated that. I hate pulling that fake little-girl crap. I'm smart, independent, self-sufficient, and evidently most men hate that.

I know I never want to be married again. I don't even want a live-in. I like my solitude too much. I would like some occasional companionship, and yes, sex. But the price I'm willing to pay is a LOT less than it used to be.

Once, clear back in college, some class or other had us all figure out what we wanted in life. I wanted to be a good novelist, find a good man to love, and own a home. At that time I thought I could have all three at once; a lot of people do. Well, I've had the man, I'm on the third house. Maybe the rest of my life is going to be for the writing.

Monday, May 9, 2016


This was a hard Mother's Day to get through. 

The force of nature that was my mother, Marjorie E. Sturdy, quietly slipped away to the next life in her sleep early in the morning of March 8, 2015. A very private person who valued her independence above all else, she had been moved to a lovely private foster home eight days earlier, as her condition had worsened enough that she couldn’t be left alone anymore. The women in her family all lived to ripe old ages and didn’t depart until they were good and ready. For her grandmother Wilson, the last straw was not being able to even see colors to match quilt blocks. For Mom, it was not being able to live on her own.

I wanted to take care of her when she grew older, but she would very rarely let me do anything. A true giver, she was always happiest doing things for others, one of those rare Christians who truly sought to follow Christ’s life of service with loving kindness. That wasn’t all there was to her, however. A complex, private woman, she didn’t show her deepest sides to very many outside her family.

She was my rock, my anchor, the very ground beneath my feet. When my imagination soared too high, she was the one who grabbed an ankle and brought me back to earth. I am so lucky that she was my mother.

The world has lost a great lady.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

I do NOT believe God is a giant white man.

"Heaven is real" - I believe that. However, the book and movie about the kid who 'died' - or almost, depending on which version you read - and actually spent time there has me extremely skeptical. If his story is real, then God appeared in a way the toddler's mind could grasp. Frankly, I think he was coached so his parents could rake in money and get their 15 minutes of fame.

God is bigger than that, and it's stated in the bible he has no physical form. Hence all the voices from above and the burning bushes. This is part of why "God became flesh and dwelt among us" is such a big deal. God encompasses the entire universe.

It also is quite plain that God has no gender, if you're educated enough to read the bible in its original language. I had a religion teacher in college that had, and he informed a fascinated class that none of the words used for God in the old or new Testaments specified gender. They used words that referred to an intelligent being (as opposed to 'it' which only refers to inanimate objects) who was of no gender at all. English, indeed no European language that I know of, has such a word. So God, according to the bible itself the way it was originally written, cannot be male.

As the Jewish religion and Christianity both began in the middle east, there's no way God would be white even if God had a physical body. Those folks never saw a white person. White folks were a lot farther north. The people living there at that time were all brown skinned with black hair and brown eyes. So why would their God be white?

So according to the bible, there is no white guy sitting on a throne up in the sky. People who think this are making God in their own image, limiting God according to the limits of their minds and then insisting this is the real God. Shame on them.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I'm Nobody: Memoirs

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!
They'd banish -- you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one's name the livelong day
To an admiring bog! 

Chapter One

I am born – but it’s complicated

My parents, like many, met at college. However their cases were different from most people. It was 1949, and both of them were late students. Dad had been in the Army in World War II, and had been working as a taxi driver in Kansas City before the G.I. Bill got him into college. Mom had worked as a telephone operator during the war, and had a brief and terribly unhappy marriage that ended in divorce. They were both in their late 20s.

It was a whirlwind romance. They met in September of 1949, and were married in February of 1950. They had known each other an entire six months. For the rest of her life Mom advised people to know each other a year before marrying. Once I asked her if she regretted marrying Dad on such short notice. Her reply? “Never.” Then she thought for a moment. “If I’d met his family first I might have thought twice.”

Dad came from a difficult, dysfunctional family. He was the next to last child of six, and left home at 13 to become a hobo and ride the rails during the 1930s. He lied about his age and his name, worked on the Civilian Conservation Corps for a while, and goodness knows what else until the war started. He never went to high school, and had an 8th grade education. I suspect he had to take remedial classes or get a GED before college. He had three sisters and two brothers. His sisters were thick as thieves and very bossy. They were all into music, and tried to interest him in it. He had a lovely baritone but refused to use it. I was never sure if he was really tone deaf or faking it so his sisters would leave him alone.

The sisters had picked out a very good friend of theirs for him to marry. He would have none of her. Then he married my Mom, a divorcee who couldn’t have children. I don’t think his sisters ever completely forgave him, and they never really accepted Mom.

My mother knew she couldn’t have children, because she had life-saving surgery several years before that included a hysterectomy. She and Dad discussed whether or not to adopt, decided they would, so they went to an agency and got on the list.

In early 1953, a 19-year-old girl became pregnant by 30-something unmarried man. I have no idea and never will if this was seduction or rape. I was told that she went to him for help, and he sent his lawyers to tell her that as he was a pillar of the community, she mustn’t ruin his life. She went to a sister’s in another city for the duration. In those days there was no safe abortion. Your choice was between risking your life with a back-alley abortion or going for an ‘extended visit’ somewhere where no one knew you, where you had the baby at a home for unwed mothers. You couldn’t choose to keep the baby, either. Many times the nurses wouldn’t even let the girl see the baby before whisking it away.

My birth mother cared enough to meet my parents while she was still pregnant, but didn’t care enough to give me a temporary name for the adoption papers. She couldn’t wait to put the entire thing behind her. I was born at 9:26 pm on a Saturday night. By 10 am the next morning, she was out of town. When I tracked her down in my 30s, she wanted nothing to do with me. I respected that and didn’t take it personally. I only wanted a medical history, and was able to get that – as well as the above story – from the sister she stayed with while she was pregnant. I wasn’t the kind of adoptee that wants a ‘blood connection’ with someone. I met quite a few blood relatives, and while they were nice people who rather startlingly looked like me, they were strangers. My real family is the one I grew up with. Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood. Does that make me well-adjusted or odd? I don’t care.

I was born in one of the worst snowstorms to hit Kansas in a November. My Dad was away on business, and that Saturday night Mom got a phone call: “Mrs. Sturdy, your baby’s here. It’s a girl.” I’ve always joked that she had the easiest childbirth of anyone. Because of the snowstorm and Dad’s business trip, it was four days before they could travel the hundred miles or so to the town I was born in. I was tiny, and it was a Catholic hospital. Dad always claimed the nuns carried me out in a hanky. I was born with dark brown shoulder-length hair that never fell out, and huge blue slightly crossed eyes. Mom’s birthday is eight days after mine, and she always said I was nearly a birthday present. After probably a ton of paperwork, they took me home.

I have no memory of that home. It was in Concordia, Kansas, and we lived there only a year and a half. I can, however, share some of the stories Mom told me. She had a book that told new mothers what to expect from the child, such as when it probably would walk, start talking, and other such things. After about eight months she threw the book away. I did nothing on schedule. Not even close.
According to Mom, I never babbled. But at the age of seven months, one day as I was sitting in my high chair waiting for breakfast, I pointed to a button on my shirt and said, “That’s a button.” First thing out of my mouth. That was her first clue the baby book was going to be useless.

I had no teething pain. She told me she walked into my room one morning, and I grinned up at her, and a little black tooth had appeared. Yes, black. My baby teeth came in decayed. I started going to the dentist very early, and had fillings in nearly all my baby teeth. Evidently they were able to scrape some of the black off, as my baby teeth weren’t solid silver. Every six months I was taken in to have my teeth coated with fluoride to prevent my permanent teeth from doing the same thing. It worked, by the way, but the enamel on my permanent teeth was thin and weak. I’ve had tooth problems my entire life, and lots of fillings no matter what I did.

For the first six months, a social worker dropped in at odd moments without notice to make sure I was being treated well. Mom said she always picked the worst moments to arrive, but evidently thought things were all right because the adoption was indeed finalized. One of those worst moments: I got my diaper off, and had been finger-painting myself and a nearby wall with poop. Lovely.

I never crawled. Mom says I went right from scooting on my butt to walking. I crawled later, when I got a puppy (at age 3), to follow the puppy around.

Mom believed in doing things with a baby, in showing the child as much of the world as possible, right from the get-go. She never talked baby talk to me, which could account for the first sentence. She also read to me with the book in front of both of us, right from day one (okay, four). In spite of my bad eyesight, it evidently had an effect. I've been a bookworm my entire life.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Analysis of Go Set a Watchman

The book came out just as I was moving, and of course I forgot which box it was in. Finally I’ve read it, and then I needed to mull it over. I thought it was a good sequel – and yes, I know it was written first – to To Kill a Mockingbird, a book I have always loved even though it made me cry.

If you haven’t read it yet, read no farther, because I will mention details that will spoil the adventure for you.

I’ve heard complaints that the saintly Atticus as portrayed in the first book was ruined. I disagree. One reviewer stated that the first book was a little girl learning that her father was God, and the second a woman learning that he wasn’t. This is true, but it’s not the entire book in either case. Atticus’s character doesn’t change between the books, not a single iota. Our knowledge of him, however, deepens in the second. Yes, he attends the meeting where considerable hatred of black people is spewed, He does not, however, join in the spewing. And later he explains to Jean Louise that the person doing most of it came from elsewhere, and attends all such meetings saying the same hateful things. Atticus is quite clear he doesn’t agree, but feels he can best serve the community on the inside of this committee. He does, however, have the parochial attitude towards black people that pretty much anyone in the rural South at that time had. While he doesn’t hate them, he in no way considers them equal to white people. The book is very plain, spending pages discussing it, that Jean Louise is unusual for being ‘color-blind.’

Jean Louise is an outsider. She doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, not in Maycomb, not in New York. All of Maycomb knows this and expects odd behavior from her, explained in their minds as “She’s a Finch.” The entire Finch family is known for being eccentric. And right here is the crux of this book. In Maycomb, your entire life is determined by your Place. You might not like your Place, but you can’t get out of it, and trying to – even in a tiny, well-meant fashion, like a black man trying to be nice to a white girl he pitied, can be punishable by death. In addition, your Place is determined by the circumstances into which you were born, which Henry stated beautifully to Jean Louise, that if he ever stepped out of line, people would shake their head and say that was the Trash coming out in him.

No matter what he does, or how educated he becomes, Henry will always be Trash. No matter what she does, Jean Louise is a Finch, and will be seen as eccentric even if she isn’t. For example, the swimming with their clothes on turned into skinny-dipping in broad daylight to the people of the town, and nothing will convince them otherwise. In one way this gives her more freedom, because any odd thing she does will just be chalked up to Finch Eccentricity.

Her Place in Maycomb dove-tails with her father’s. While he can effect change in the community from the inside, she can change it from the outside. She, by her eccentric Finch ways and her New York ideas, and her color-blindness, can cause the community’s comfort zone to expand. Henry is being groomed to continue Atticus’s work after he’s gone. Even as Trash, if he’s careful, he’ll have an expanded Place, thanks to Atticus, leading the community into the future from the inside. They have both been set as watchmen.

“Love who you will, but marry your own kind,” said the aunt. This is harsh, but in its way true, although the definition of ‘your own kind’ is different in other places than it was there. To Aunt Alexandrea, it means someone of your own social status. To most of us these days, it means someone who shares your values, world view, and your passion in life.

At the end of the book, Jean Louise has shed the last bit of childhood, and can see her father as a human being, with faults and nobility mixed, like everyone. She also sees she has a Place in Maycomb, if she chooses to take it. She can, and probably will for a bit, go back to New York. Sooner or later she will return to Maycomb, and her Place in it. I don’t think she’ll ever marry. Jean Louise Finch is unique, and no one is truly her own kind.