Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gone but not forgotten

Drew fixed my DSLR for my birthday a couple weeks ago.  My favorite thing to do is photograph old cemeteries and I have this grandiose vision of finding old cemeteries in Mississippi, taking lots of pictures, and making a coffee table book.  It's a good goal, but for now, they go on my blog.  I love any old cemetery, from enormous marble headstones to tiny illegible cement markers. As long as they're old and I don't have to expose myself to ticks, I'm there.  I'm especially interested in segregated cemeteries, slave markers/stones, private home cemeteries, and secret Union graves.  Whatever insider information you have, let me know.

We decided to get out today and find some old places in Pelahatchie.  We found Antioch Cemetery, Shiloh United Methodist Church Cemetery, and Walter's Grove Cemetery, a segregated cemetery that's home to 2 graves of slaves.

I'm always struck by the graves of infants and children.  They're always so small to me, and most of the infants are just memorialized as "infant son/daughter of...," not even names.  It strikes me because we really live in a completely different world than 150 years ago - we have a reasonable and realistic expectation that our children will outlive us.  In the 1800s, they didn't.  The deaths of children were expected and commonplace  This, to me, is reflected in the nameless tiny stones that mark infants'/children's graves, whereas I can't imagine if Ace died that I'd demand any less than a 6' marker.

Antioch Cemetery is the final resting place of the Thames children.  6 of the children had the measles, went out to play in the cotton field, and came home wet.  They all died within 18 days.  What fresh hell those parents had to be in.  Incomprehensible.  Here are their graves:









A lot of graves say "Gone But Not Forgotten."  This is something we tell ourselves; that we'll never forget our loved ones. Well, someone's gonna forget them. It's nihilistic, but unless you make a drastic change in humanity, in 175 years the only memory of you may actually be something like this:

Antioch: 






Shiloh:







Walter's Grove: 



Walter's Grove had several plastic markers, indicating that the survivors don't have the money for a stone marker. These make me incredibly sad - if I had to mark my parent's or husband's grave with something that a medium-strength thunderstorm could take out I'd feel awful. 





Although the last one had some pizzazz:



Finally, Walter's Grove was home to the graves of two slaves, a man and wife, Luke and Grace Patrick. I've seen slave graves before; marked with wooden crosses or a small cement marker emblazoned with the word "slave."  This was not at all what I expected. 




Fences are generally markers of exclusion in cemeteries - for families or the very rich or well-connected.  This fence didn't even have a gate, which tells me (the eternal optimist) that someone wanted these graves protected and respected.  The inscription on Luke Patrick's stone said "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see The Lord."  I couldn't read the inscription on Grace's.  These were beautiful and I was incredibly touched that two people who were so dehumanized in life were venerated in death.  I have to research more on this.

Others from today that I kinda like (but am criticizing myself about because my skill isn't what it used to be):






Anyway, this was my first outing so I'm a little rusty. Hope to have more for y'all soon!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

I like making things about me.

I had the best weekend.  I'm going to describe it a little out of order to emphasize its full impact on me.  Jump into my rented TARDIS; mind the upholstery.

Our first stop in the TARDIS is Monday morning.  After I dropped Ace off at art day camp at 9, I got the WASP-iest coffee I could find at Cups and got home and realized I could do anything or nothing at all for SIX WHOLE HOURS.  So, naturally, I stripped to my underwear (sorrynotsorry) and sat in my fluffy recliner and enjoyed a completely quiet house while I drank my Java del WASP.

I decided I wanted to watch documentaries and found American Experience: Freedom Riders.  I learned SO much from that doc; it was extremely well done.  Highly recommended.  I then asked for recommendations for civil rights era documentaries on Facebook and Twitter and several people recommended Eyes On The Prize, a 14-part PBS series on YouTube, so I started that.  One hour is entirely about Mississippi and it's horrifying.  Art day camp kinda got kiboshed so I'm stalled on hour 8, but it's all so informative and I recommend it as well.

Stop number 2 in the TARDIS brings us forward to Saturday.  My very best friend and her husband came from New Orleans to stay the night and since he's a photographer and she's always loved photography, I decided to take them to the photography exhibit documenting the civil rights era at the Mississippi Museum of Art called This Light Of Ours.  One of the more moving photographs was of a 104-year-old gentleman of color being hoisted above the crowd after registering to vote for the first time in his life.

This was one of the more shocking images:

(Photo credit: Matt Heron)

I held back tears when I saw that picture and had to look away.  I cannot fathom being a person of color and seeing that woman holding that sign in an era in which I had to fear violence or death just so I could be granted the right to vote or send my child to an integrated school.

For our 3rd stop in the TARDIS, we're going back in time to Friday night.  It was the public premiere of A Mississippi Love Story, a short film documenting 14 months in the life of my good friend Eddie Outlaw and his husband Justin.  It's a very moving, poignant, and funny film about the fight for gay rights in Mississippi and I urge you to spend the $2.50 to buy it and support the project.  Hopefully it'll get national attention.

Here's where I make these very important events about me, like I do - I'm in A Mississippi Love Story.  Since I still have the TARDIS, let's go back a year when SCOTUS struck down DOMA.  I had an appointment with Eddie that morning before the decision was handed down, although I suuuuuure tried to reschedule because I was afraid he'd be nervous and mullet me.  He assured me that he'd be very zen and calm because "everything's the same right now.  Your haircut will probably be the best I'll give all day because I'll either be very excited or very angry for the rest of the day."  Sure enough, he did a great job, after which we walked outside where he gave interviews and our close friend Lori and I stared at our phones waiting for the live announcement of the SCOTUS decision.  Lori and I jumped up excitedly when we got the news (I still remember the tweet from @SCOTUSblog; it just said "DOMA," but with a strikethrough), but Eddie was giving an interview to our local news station so we had to hug each other and keep quiet until he was finished.  He finished the interview, read the decision out loud for the documentary crew, then Lori and I practically exploded into the scene to hug him and make the loud noises we're prone to make until his husband walked out and they gave each other the kind of hug you only see in the credits of Love, Actually.

(Photo credit: Yo.)

I'm also in the movie briefly at a rally at the Capitol.  I'm really overstating my presence - you can only see me if I point myself out to you for all 6 seconds I'm in there, but by damn, I'm in there.

Back to Friday night.  After the movie, Eddie and Justin both gave speeches, and in Eddie's, he said the only thing he felt somewhat hesitant about was getting his friends involved - he didn't realize how much his friends would be in the film.  I wanted to walk to the front of the room and pinch his arm.  This entire week, I've seen pictures and videos of vile, despicable racists.  Holding up hateful signs, committing acts of violence, sneering angrily at people, simply because people of color wanted to not be second-class citizens anymore.  What must the children, the grandchildren of these people think of them?  They were committed to permanence for acts of hatred.  I would be mortified if the woman with that awful sign in the picture above was my grandmother.  Or if *shudder* I was a descendant of Ross Barnett.  (I hope God lets me kick Ross Barnett in the balls.  A couple times.)

Then there's me, very briefly committed to permanence in a film about the advancement of gay rights in America.  Excitedly and tearfully hugging a gay man in one of the most victorious and emotional moments in his life.  Ace didn't have any questions when I introduced him to "Mr. Eddie and his husband Justin" - how will Ace feel about me in 20 years?  In 50 years, when (God willing) LGBT people are no longer second-class citizens and being a homophobe is as shameful as being a racist is now, will I be able to show my grandchildren A Mississippi Love Story (in our futuristic Apple iHouse which is underwater yet entirely solar-powered with walls made of computer screens and voice-activated vodka tonic dispensers) and have them be proud of me?  

(As an aside; I don't want to compare myself to the white Freedom Riders or anything.  I don't realistically face violence or death for my involvement with the LGBT movement.  I do fear violence somewhat for my involvement with the protection of women's rights and the abortion clinic and won't let Ace play alone in the front yard.  But that's another story.)

Here's the thing - change is coming, and you have an inevitable legacy.  Let's get back in the TARDIS and skip forward to June 29, 2064.  LGBT people are no longer second-class citizens - being a homophobe is as shameful as being a racist is in 2014.  Your grandchildren are at a photographic exhibition about anti-gay rallies in the early part of the century and see you holding a sign with a sneer on your face.  How will they feel about you?  How will you explain to them that you actively suppressed the advancement of people who only wanted the same rights you have?  I'll be proud of the legacy I'm creating for the rest of my life, will you?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hate

Hate is a disease.  Hate is an infection.

You can be born with hate; that is to say, it can be an infection transmitted from your parents who raise you with that hate.  It is all you know as a child and during your formative years.  It can be part of the interpretation of the religion with which your parents raise you.  Like your parents give you your morals, your guidance, your status in life, they also give you hate.

Hate can be a tiny seed implanted in you through some negative event, like a member of the subject demographic of your hate imparting some wrong upon you.  You hate the deed that was done so much that you grow to feel that it was the greater entity to which the person who imparted that wrong belongs that is responsible for that deed, so you hate that instead of the wrongdoing itself or simply the person themselves.

For whatever reason hate is borne inside of you, when unimpeded, it can only grow.  It grows to consume you, it becomes part of your being.  Not only do you hate the people or the ideology that is the target of your corrupting disease, you hate everyone responsible for bringing that person or ideology to power.  You grow to hate everyone who simply stands by and continues to allow those people or that ideology to exist, although those uninterested parties have never been done harm by the person or thing you hate.  It grows, it multiplies, and eventually, you become hate itself.

I said in the above paragraph, "when unimpeded."  Hate can be cured.  Hate can be purged from your system like any other disease.  Life experience and wisdom often cure hate.  But, most often, those with the disease of hate surround themselves by others with that same hatred or worse, are charismatic masters of rhetoric, like Hitler, who implant that hate in others.  Combine hate and power and build entire demographics on it?  Much, much harder to cure hate.

Then, those who are targets of that hate, hate in return.  It grows to where they not only hate the hateful oppressor, but the entire demographic to which the oppressor belongs, the ideologies the oppressors by proxy espouse though not related to the oppression to which the hated are being subjected, and all those people who stand by and let the greater demographic of the smaller hating oppressing class prosper.

Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, one of the most vile, hate-filled organizations in the United States, is dying.  He could be dead by the time I hit "publish," I don't know.  He has infected all of his descendants with the hate with which he is infected and is a charismatic enough master of rhetoric that he has created a small but powerful following.  The main target of their hatred is the LGBT demographic.  I am not gay.  I am a Christian.  Fred Phelps calls himself a Christian, though his works do not reflect the teachings of the deity I share with him.  I have seen the hatred of Fred Phelps and those like him create a hatred of Christianity, which I certainly can't blame LGBT people for.  Not only does he piss me off as an LGBT ally and fuel a greater power which oppresses people I care about, he also makes me look bad as a Christian.

Yet, I want Fred Phelps to find peace in death.  I sincerely believe that the majority of his life has been filled with suffering from the disease of hatred with which he is infected and I want him to be released from that.  My belief in the afterlife is foggy, but if there is a Hell, I don't want him there.  I don't want anybody there.  I want everyone to spend their afterlife with God, in peace, released from all of the things that tortured them on Earth.

I believe God will punish Fred Phelps, I do, and greatly, and deservedly.  He has most assuredly turned people away from God with his hate, and he should be punished for that.  But I want him to be released from the hatred, the suffering, the disease he had on Earth.  When he dies, the internally- and externally-fueled suffering of a diseased man, and the power which he exerts over those he infected, will be over.  And for that, I will be glad.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

I need car manufacturers to hear me.

Cars are fancy these days.  Minivans come with vacuums, some cars have backup sensors and even cameras, some have headlights that turn with the road, some will parallel park for you, some have sensors that tell you if the car two cars ahead of you is braking suddenly.  (I do believe the last two are voodoo.)  These are just middle-of-the-road cars, not even for 1%-ers - these are cars I see during my daytime trashy TV commercials.  This is the future!

I have a 2013 Limited Edition Toyota Camry SE.  It was an impulse therapeutic purchase while Ace was in the hospital last January.  Drew and I were emotionally compromised, so we blew the cost of a small house on a car.  It has a sunroof that opens, like, 9 different ways, big tires, leather seats, seat warmers, and a USB port.  Its LCD touch-screen display tells me what song is playing on my iPod, the band name, the album name, and shows me the album cover.  I can switch to satellite radio or Pandora.  I can see my fuel consumption rates and tire pressure and access a map.  I can make and receive phone calls from the display or my steering wheel and the call comes through the radio speakers.

While the car is in park, I can input an address and a businesslike female voice will gently navigate me turn by turn to my location.  Also while the car is in park (safety first), I can check movie times, nearby gas prices, stock prices, sports scores, and make restaurant reservations.  You get the picture.  I'm saying, my car is pretty fancy for a Toyota.

Yet, my vanity mirror still shows my disturbingly multiplying amount of gray hairs in glaring detail.  What the hell, science?  Young people with smaller budgets and hair that's all the same color are not buying Limited Edition Toyota Camry SEs.  Well-established thirty-*cough*-year-old people are your target market, and we're a little salty up there.  I don't care what my next car costs or if I have to *beleaguered sigh* give up the ability to check my stock inflation while my ass is nice and toasty in my leather seat, I want my vanity mirror to blend the grays in.  It's called a VANITY mirror, can we not make it for the vain?

Monday, February 03, 2014

Baconators and heroin

This may piss y'all off, but you're pissing me off, so I don't really care about your feelings.

If you have ever been significantly overweight, barring a medical condition causing the weight gain, you have no moral high ground to talk about the famous actor who died of a heroin overdose yesterday.

Stop furiously texting me and hear me out.  You, for whatever reason, developed an unhealthy relationship with food and didn't exercise enough.  Maybe, just maybe, you use food to cover up your feelings.  Maybe you didn't use it to cover up your feelings - you just REALLY enjoyed food and just couldn't say no even if you knew you'd had too much.  So you gained a bunch of weight.  Gather 'round, kiddies, that's addictive behavior.  Are you pissed that I'm calling you an addict?  Then tell me how your behavior doesn't parallel the pattern of an addict's.

Some (damn) people are able to eat comfort food or just overstuff themselves on special occasions and snap out of it and exercise it off and face their feelings and go on about their lives and maintain a healthy weight.  We significantly overweight people, when we eat unhealthy food, hope we are those (damn) people.  We are not.  We stuff our faces, vowing to work it off or start a diet on Monday but that doesn't happen, so we figure what the hell, might as well stuff our faces again.  Eventually, we become overweight and we crave more food to satisfy ourselves.  And sugar, trans fats, aspartame, all physically addictive, and we NEED more.  We know when we put that food in our mouths that we're hurting ourselves, but we don't care.  That's addictive behavior.

You know when I knew I had a problem?  When I ate a Baconator (two beef patties, two slices of cheese, four slices of bacon, condiments, lettuce, tomato, and a bun) and a large fry to stifle my anger and was still angry and hungry and wanted more.  That was a rude awakening.  I was fortunate enough to be in a place in my life and have enough money where I could seek professional help.  Others are not so fortunate.  I don't judge them, and neither should you.

Replace "food" with "substances."  Some people are able to have a couple glasses of wine after a particularly hard day or get drunk occasionally and not have a problem.  Some people can take a pain pill as prescribed for pain and then let the rest of the bottle rot away in their medicine cabinets forgotten.  Some people can smoke cigarettes once or twice a month.  When we try a substance for the first time and enjoy the high, we hope we are the kind of people who can walk away from them.  When addiction happens, it's triggered from the first time you try a substance.  You don't know until you try it.  You're aware of the chance, but you think it won't happen to you.

It's the same thing with heroin.  Some people can and do use heroin recreationally and don't develop an addiction.  I'm sure that when Philip Seymour Hoffman tried heroin for the first time he didn't think he'd become addicted.  Nobody WANTS to become addicted to anything - they just want to experience a high or have a temporary escape, or be like non-addicts who can use those things on occasion.  And as with food and other substances, heroin addicts eventually need more to become satisfied.  You never know which dance with your drug of choice will be your last.

"But Stacey, Philip Seymour Hoffman was clean for a really long time and went back to it."

Hey, overweight people?  Have you ever gotten to a much more manageable weight for a number of months or years then gained it back?  Tell me how you're better than Hoffman.  Hint: you're not.  Unlike with substances, you can't quit eating food.  You can develop a healthy relationship with food and a good exercise regiment and keep the addiction at bay.  Then at some point you're just tired of watching numbers all the time and just want to be like one of those (damn) people who doesn't put on weight with everything they eat.  You know exactly what you're doing to put the weight right back on, but you do it anyway, thinking there's no way you'll get all the way back into your fat pants.  Maybe a footlong chili cheese dog won't kill you immediately like too much heroin in a needle will, but you know eating the wrong things and not exercising will eventually get you overweight again.  You do it anyway.  That's addictive behavior.

Hoffman probably didn't put that needle in his arm thinking it would kill him.  Maybe he did, who knows.  But turning your nose up at him for falling off the wagon ignores the very real disease of addiction.  He could no more stop himself from putting that needle in his arm than an obese person can stop themselves from getting a third plate at a buffet.  Yes, they can stop themselves, but the voice of addiction is much, much, MUCH louder than the voice of reason.  I topped out at 291 pounds.  I know.

(Before you "but Stacey" me some more, I'm aware that you can be 100 pounds overweight and still have healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar numbers.  I'm also aware that you can be at a healthy weight and have healthy numbers and eat a fried chicken sandwich with mayonnaise with every meal.  You can also be a meth addict and still have all your teeth.  Doesn't mean you won't lose all your teeth eventually.  I'm also aware that you can eat healthy and exercise and still be overweight.  That's awesome.  I'm referring to people with food addictions.  Did I cover everything you want to "correct" me about?)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Parentier-than-thou

I've seen this post all over my Facebook this morning.  I reckon she envisions herself as some kind of revolutionary but 99% of the parents I know espouse this philosophy.  It's just part of the universally accepted rule book for how to raise a child.  I do it, you do it, your parents did it, their parents did it, ad nauseam, time immemorial.  I hate to wreck this selective memory echo chamber, but I call bull.

My parents certainly espoused this philosophy.  They were in no way going to cater to my individual meal demands.  I sure did go some nights without eating supper.  I have lived in France, New Orleans, and Los Angeles and traveled to Las Vegas and New York City and have been exposed to and tried many, many different cuisines.  I have been adventurous in my cooking since reaching adulthood and am very open-minded about the things I will try.  Key word:  TRY.

Y'all, I am a super picky eater and I assure you, I will slap damn be a brat about not eating the foods I don't like.  The food I find most offensive in the world is cooked cauliflower.  I don't know what hellish otherworldly realm cauliflower goes through during the cooking process that turns it from a perfectly palatable vehicle for hummus into... whatever it becomes, but I refuse to eat it once it's cooked.  I'm not throwing it in the face of the person who cooked it, but I will not put it in my mouth - I don't care if Justin Timberlake cooked it for me.  And no, I won't like your cooked cauliflower, no matter how proud you are of it.  You can put a bunch of parmesan and garlic in a goat's ass and deep fry it and it still tastes like a goat's ass.  I also refuse to eat anything that has the texture of a tongue (ugh, sushi), I think cooked cabbage smells like farts and tastes worse, the only spicy food I will eat is crawfish, and I think you might as well put a teeny mound of hot rotting garbage on a filet mignon if you're going to put bleu cheese on it.  Disgusting.

You know whose parents did not espouse this philosophy?  Drew's.  I know this because his mother llloooovvvees to recount literally every single meal he ever turned down and what she would serve his spoiled self instead.  She cannot tell me enough about the times she'd make "spaghetti with meatballs and red sauce from scratch and muffalettas and gumbo and fried catfish but noooo, he wouldn't even try it.  He ate Chef Boyardee instead.  Oh, he LIVED on Chef Boyardee, boy boy.  I thought he'd turn into a can, Stacey!  Thought he'd turn into a CAN."  And I assure you, Drew's mother is an incredible Cajun cook.  But she spoiled him to pieces.  You know who's the least picky eater I know now?  Drew.  Once he started cooking his own food, he became a lot more adventurous and now he'll eat anything, especially his mother's food.  The only food he doesn't like is raw celery.  He even eats MY cooking, so pray for him.

There's a whole massive middle ground between "mmmyyyy children eat a new cuisine from a different country every night or they starve" and "I thought he'd turn into a CAN."  It's okay if you are on one side or the other, and it's okay if you fall in the middle.  It's where my parents fell, and I guarantee it's where most parents fall.  No, my parents didn't serve me a bowl of Cookie Crisp on a silver platter if I didn't eat what they served me, but they also weren't serving star fruit and quinoa at every other meal.  My dad was (is) a very meat-and-potatoes and restaurants kind of guy and my mom and stepdad had 4 kids to feed and were doing their best to please a crowd 6 nights a week.

I make Ace take a few bites of new things, several times, but once it's established that he absolutely hates it, I'm not going to make him eat it.  Blueberries, for example.  What food is more inoffensive than blueberries?  Why would ANYBODY not like blueberries?  Ace just doesn't.  I've given him blueberries in every presentable fashion and he simply hates them.  Am I gonna give him blueberry pancakes if that's what Drew and I want for supper?  Of course not.  He gets a grilled cheese sandwich and some baby carrots.  Now, if I'm cooking something I know he likes and he wants something else, or if I cook something new that's relatively inoffensive and he refuses it, sorry, champ, see you for breakfast.  But 99% of the time, Drew and I make stuff that the whole family likes.  Ace gets a healthy diet and doesn't fight much with most meats and fruits and veggies, so I'm not gonna fight with him over food if I don't have to.

I'm pretty sure the writer of the article is the same way, and I'm pretty sure all of you reposting that article are, too.  There's so much to fight with your kids over, why fight over food every night, or hell, even every week?  She probably just wanted to brag that her kids like goat cheese.  The children of France who ate Neufchatel for lunch laugh wholeheartedly.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ugh, oysters.

Man, I freaking hate oysters.  They have GOT to be the worst food.  So gross.  Taste, texture, all of it, buuu-HARF.

Since I hate oysters, everyone should hate oysters and anyone who does like them is wrong.  Just read the Bible!  Eating them is a Levitical sin.  It goes completely against my way of life of eating tasty animals because watching one of Those People eat an oyster just makes me sick to my stomach.  And don't get me started on OYSTER BARS, where oyster-lovers flaunt their gluttonous sin in front of regular, God-fearing people.  And how many serious hand injuries have happened in those oyster bars while shucking, hmm?  The love of oysters is clearly dangerous and unnatural.

People are not born to like oysters because eating oysters is a sin and God doesn't make mistakes.  It's got to be due to some childhood trauma, like an older sibling forcing them to eat boogers resulting in some kind of Stockholm Syndrome.  Or, even worse, being exposed to oyster lovers.  How could I possibly explain to my child that people like oysters?  He, himself, will never like oysters because I will raise him knowing the truth that oysters are disgusting.

Now, we mustn't judge oyster lovers.  Love the sinner, hate the sin.  But I should be allowed to exercise my religious freedom and deny an oyster lover housing or employment because I absolutely disagree with their lifestyle.  Oyster lovers shouldn't be in any kind of leadership position over children because one of them might offer a child an oyster.  We CERTAINLY shouldn't allow oyster lovers to marry each other and spread the oyster-loving agenda!  What if they succumb to the aphrodisiac properties of an oyster binge and create a child who grows up to love oysters?

Do I sound ridiculous?  Well, so do you if you're against equal rights for LGBT people.  Get on the right side of history, y'all.



(Oysters really are gross though.)