Gratitude Sunday: It’s In The Blood

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Does my sassiness upset you?” from the poem Still I Rise
Maya Angelou

Sunday Haiku
Fierce wind pushes trees
down like wooden dominoes,
wreaking wild havoc.

Sunday Musings
Nationally that was one disastrous Valentine’s Day. I can’t go there. It’s too horrible, and should have been responsibly addressed decades ago. The greed that supports tragedies like the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida is unconscionable. It’s been nearly 20 years since Columbine. At this point it’s not about automatic weapons, or mental health, it’s about how we are failing as a nation. My thoughts and prayers are dead. We grieve. We grieve.

On the home front, my Valentine’s Day was quiet, as preferred. Boxes of chocolates were had by all, and by happenstance, we were all home at the same time and shared a meal when our timing is usually every person for themselves.

Grief makes me crankier than usual. I’ve been thinking about my crankiness for a few weeks now. What annoys me and why. Sometimes I have no immediate psychological/emotional answer. Then I recall my lineage. It begins with the DNA. Blood tells a story.

From my mother, I am descended from the first Bradfords on the first few ships full of British immigrants to America. We were among the first undocumented immigrants in America. These folks were risk-takers to say the least. They were escaping what they perceived to be oppressive government and in those days there were still land discoveries to be made, and the early immigrants thought all land they stepped on was theirs for the taking. No matter the effect on the native people. They were searching for freedom to live their lives the way they wanted, and they weren’t going to be stopped. They left behind all they knew and grieved for the loved ones they left. They grieved. There’s the injustice and voice against oppression gene.

Somewhere along my line, the oral story goes, on my maternal side we added a little native blood. I don’t have proof, but that’s the family legacy. Natives, of course, knew and respected the sacred mother earth, knew the mysteries of her ways. They were abused by usurpers. They grieved the abuse of their peoples and their land. There’s the not understanding disrespect for our earth and native peoples gene.

On my father’s side of the family I am related to the Donner family of the California tragedy. I won’t judge what they may have experienced or resorted to during that hell-trip, but these people were tenacious. They set a goal and embarked and persisted with every mistake that could ever happen on a cross-country wagon journey. They endured watching each other die along the way, and they made difficult choices I would never want to face. Either way, they were fierce to face the wintery elements of the Sierras and they grieved their family and fellow travelers who died on the journey. There’s the endurance in the face of adversity gene.

My paternal grandmother walked from Utah to Idaho when she was a child. They came with a group of wagons with more success than the Donner Party. Anybody who was not driving a team walked, so as to not tire the animals. Women in the late stages of pregnancy were allowed to ride, my grammy said, but the way those wagons were rigged and with the staggering steps of the animals over the rugged land, I imagine it may have been more comfortable to walk. It would make sense to me when a woman went into labor all progress of the wagon train was stopped until the infant arrived. Gram’s not here to ask any more; details of the story are gone with her. I remember her saying they plundered the land for native foods, and camas lily was a favorite; they dug the bulb and boiled it. There’s the you can’t stop me gene.

Side note: most summers we took a vacation in Idaho to visit family. In a few spots along I-84 you can still see traces of the Oregon Trail, ruts in the land from the wooden wheels on the wagons, though it’s not as easy these days at 55 or 70 miles an hour. It was much easier to use an established trail than to create a new one, so the ruts are to this day fairly deep. Both coming and going Mom cried during that section around Baker City. One year I finally asked her why she cried. She said she always thought of the journey of the women, how hard it must have been for them taking care of their families; their monthly cycles and those of their growing or young married daughters; their pregnancies and lactations, miscarriages and stillbirths; burying their children and relatives and friends along the trail; accommodating their husband’s “needs” in the midst of a group of people with only a canvas cover separating you from the elements and prying eyes; rough camp style cooking over open fires; dwindling supplies, questionable sources of food, and limited sources of water; grieving the families they left behind. Mom grieved the women. We have a few women’s diaries from then, but women spoke in shrouded terms about the issues and functions of being a woman because of modesty and propriety.

A few generations ago, my mother’s family married into the Dalton family. You can easily google the Dalton Brothers, infamous bank and train robbers. The men in my family married Dalton sisters who probably didn’t do any actual robbing, but still, blood is blood. Perhaps the sisters grieved for brothers living lives of crime. There’s the outlaw gene.

More recently, when my mom was three and her brother was six, in the midst of the Great Depression, their dad packed them, and his wife, and his brother, and his brother’s wife into a model T Ford truck filled with the possessions they could carry and still get the humans in, left half their family, and drove to Idaho from Oklahoma for a new start. Grandpa had 200 dollars in his pocket to get them started in their new home, not wealth by any means, but a fair amount of money in those days. The Dust Bowl forced him to make the decision to pursue a new start, though I suspect from hints Mom dropped he was just as glad to get away from his mother-in-law. I have a picture of my great-grandmother and knowing a few stories about her I know she lived a fierce and challenging life; you can see it in her face. They drove several states away to where there was soil and water enough for a man to farm the land and make a living. Grandpa didn’t own his own farm; he made his living managing farms for other owners. They started over each time they changed owners, as the manager’s job often came with an on-site farmhouse. They grieved the family left behind. There is the start over gene.

My dad was the first of his family to go to college. My mom read insatiably across all disciplines (where do I hear that echo from?) with her high school education. I was encouraged to pursue and research all my interests, which in a low-income family takes place with hours spent reading the big family purchase of the World Book Encyclopedia or in the local lending library. After age 12, I was allowed to spend many hours at the library. So many books, so little time.

As I’ve aged, I’ve learned for me grief does not heal. One does not “get better”. It’s not an illness; it’s a hole in your heart or your soul or the middle of your stomach or wherever one feels that grieving feeling. It’s a deep and abiding sadness for things one cannot change. There’s so much to grieve beyond losing loved ones: how people treat each other; that one country subjected another country to a nuclear bomb, not once but twice; that one man coerced others to try to exterminate an entire religion along with disabled and challenged people to “cleanse” their country; angry people thinking they have the right to hurt others in the name of their anger; people who think they have the right to hurt other people in the name of their god; war; loneliness; climate and earth abuse; I better stop now. I’m grieving. There’s the curiosity and intelligence and empathy and grieving genes.

I can’t say specifically which part of the blood makes me annoyed and cranky at hurting behaviors. I come from freedom seekers, undocumented immigrants, outlaws, tenacious pioneers, and fierce women, from the kind of stock that keeps going in the face of adversity, from people of poverty who eked out livings while rarely achieving the American Dream of comfortable wealth, but we get by. We grieve, and we prevail.

Maybe keeping a cranky on keeps one always prepared. I’m fond of a few platitudes and here’s where that one about being “prepared for the worst, and expecting the best” applies. Bad stuff can happen in the blink of an eye, but one thing I’ve learned with people is if you expect the best from them, in most cases they live up to your expectations, even though I’ve been disappointed more times than I want to say. I guess that’s not being too cranky there, merely cautionary optimism or open-hearted pessimism.

I come by my crankiness, my sassiness, my intellect naturally. It’s in my blood; I’m genetically predisposed. I nurture it, reading widely, civilly expressing an informed opinion while honoring and embracing the thoughts and opinions of other people as well. I’ve earned my cranky facing adversity, set-backs, failures, and re-starts many times in my own life. Like my ancestors I’ve never had the luxury of setting goals, making plans, and having excellent outcomes from those goals and plans. I’m the one who breaks a wheel in the deepest wheel rut in the middle of the desert, and has to fix it before the snow and the baby comes while the pack of wolves howl waiting for the inevitable death ahead. Resourcefulness, tenacity, and the ability to wake every day and put one foot in front of the other are good traits to have in one’s DNA.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Spring is really starting early this year, and this weekend we expect a big freeze and a bit of snow in my area. The ground next to my aquatic center is really warm because of the heat the building generates and has inspired pale pink rhododendrons to burst into bloom. Camellias are early bloomers any year; here’s one in muted red. Another camellia in clean pure white. My plum is early-fooled into pinkishly white buds.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Viewing is on 2018 Winter Olympics hiatus. Love me some winter sports, though I cannot perform any of them. I could get the gold medal for Armchair Spectating. My other competitive sport is Falling Off My Own Ankles; I know, it’s really clever being clumsy.

Currently ReadingRed Clocks (2018, fiction) by Leni Zumas. This is one of the most significant novels of the new wave of women’s literature I have read in the last year. Recommended for your Must Read List. No spoilers. * Learning To Be Old: Gender, Culture, and Aging (2003, aging and psychology) by Margaret Cruickshank. Language makes the frame in ageism; words like burden, gray menace or gray peril, geezer glut, and crone all undercut any perceived advantage to the experience of aging.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Mr Kitty aka George Murphy who only wants food and snuggles, in that order, and could not care less about anything of social and political import, though he is a bit counter-productive when he wants to lie in my arms or on my computer when I am writing.
  • Avoiding a sniffle turning into the full-blown crud by burning it out with huge applications of hot jalapeno salsa and Chinese hot mustard and hot ginger tea, and a few well placed naps. Knock on wood.
  • Not having been sick (influenza, a cold or upper respiratory infection) for more than two years since I left my last place of employment. Knock on wood.
  • The joys of the 2018 Winter Olympics on TV.
  • My indoor electric heat.
  • Mild winter despite the cold snap this weekend.
  • Running the dishwasher late at night to warm up the pipes before the cold blows through.
  • All the women I know who are expecting babies this year are doing well.
  • The hubster getting new screens in place over the attic vents after getting the squirrels out of the walls, just in time to prevent the annual invasion of the starlings. He was in his room when the squirrel ran up the side of the house and tried to get in to his usual entry. Hubster says he heard a squirrel-language expletive when he couldn’t get in.
  • My own box of Valentine chocolates so I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
  • Claiming a new cousin after mentioning on social media being related to the Dalton Brothers and a local woman responding she was as well. Blood or not, it is fun to claim cousins.
  • Actual cousins where there is no doubt whatsoever about blood relatives.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

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