Farewell

This blog, Crooked Creek, is just over five years old. It has been a good run, but it is time to bring it to an end. As I’ve told a couple of folks “I’ve said all I have to say.” They laughed, I suppose doubting there would ever be such a day. We’ve covered subjects fun and serious, general and personal, big and small. They will be here for several months if there is something you’d like to re-read and something you’ve missed.

I appreciate so much the 609 followers from over thirty countries. Some strangers I feel I’ve gotten to know through this relationship. Other followers are those I know personally and, regardless of the status, each follower is appreciated. Those who have commented have meant so much to me. Those comments added much to the subjects posted and encouraged me throughout the tough times when this platform became daunting. I wish each of you well.

I will be concentrating on health issues including chronic leukemia. Autumn is coming and I plan to get out and enjoy that favorite season. I’m hoping for more energy to explore in nature again as I have done in the past, walking the paths of Pope Lick Part and other beautiful and near by places.

A fond farewell, Sue B. Mattingly

ARIZONA

Arizona recently “refurbished” its gas chamber built in 1949 which has not been used since 1999. The plan is to execute prisoners with cyanide and other gases. This is the same gas combination (Zyklon B) used by the Nazis to murder more than one million men, women, and children during the Holocaust. Is this worthy of a democracy?

Lethal injection is the death of choice for Arizona prisons and the state has paid over $1.5 million on lethal injection drugs despite its Department of Corrections facing a budget crisis. Executions have been on hold in the state since the lethal injection execution of Joseph Wood was badly botched in 2014. Now the state plans to offer a choice . . . gas chamber or lethal injection.

Arizona last used its gas chamber for the execution of Walter LeGrand in 1999. At that time The Tucson Citizen reported “agonizing choking and gasping” during the execution. It took LeGrand eighteen minutes to die.

Frank Atwood and Clarence Dixon are the next people to be executed in Arizona and while their lawyers attempt to raise legal arguments the two men have a choice to contemplate. Which way will they choose to die if their appeals fail? In my opinion, both are cruel and unusual punishments for us to inflict upon other human beings.

Source: Death Penalty Information Center

Novel Review

I don’t read a lot of novels, except historical ones occasionally. Over two days earlier this month I read a really good one based on the recommendation of several friends. The genre is listed variously as Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction, Coming of Age, Family Life, and Survival! Probably all of those apply to “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.

I was a little puzzled by the title since I’m familiar with crawdads and I’ve never heard them sing. On Crooked Creek, we called them crawfish, but they are the same thing and they don’t sing. Nevertheless, it was a great read. I immediately wondered why the book had not become a movie, but I learned that one is in the works to be produced by Reese Witherspoon. 

The book follows a small girl growing up alone after being abandoned by her entire family. She grew up in the marshlands in North Carolina learning to take care of herself. She only attended school one day because she was laughed at by the other students when she could not spell. Her only friend, a young boy, took the time to teach her the alphabet and she taught herself to read. 

I’ll stop here before I tell you too much, but the story goes on until this little girl dies in her sixties. It has a very surprising ending. I recommend this award winning book if you like novels. 

TEXAS

The state of Texas put Quintin Jones to death on May 19, 2021, without any media witnesses present to observe the execution. Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its death penalty statute in 1976 Texas has put to death 571 individuals. This is the first time there were no media witnesses. 

Officials blamed the problem on “miscommunication” by inexperienced members of the execution team. Some of the new personnel who had not been a part of an execution before simply forgot to summon the media into the waiting/witnessing area they said. My question is, why were inexperienced people in charge of an execution? What else might they have forgotten to do? No wonder we read about botched and painful experiences of those being executed!

According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), Texas law authorizes five media witnesses to observe each execution specifying that one witness must be from the Associated Press (AP). Later AP coverage of the event highlighted the importance of media witnesses in revealing problems such as have been seen in AL, AZ, OK, and OH where inmates were seen gasping for breath for several minutes or writhing in pain. Per DPIC Executive Director, Robert Dunham, “If the state with the most experience in executing prisoners lacks the competence to carry out this most basic execution function, what does that tell us about what else in the execution process states and the federal government can’t be trusted to perform properly?”

Qintin Jones

Photo by DPIC

Quintin Jones’ case had already attracted national attention because his was a resumption of state executions which had been on hold during the pandemic, but also because the victim’s family had requested clemency. That and a petition with more than 150,000 signatures didn’t convince Gov. Greg Abbott to grant clemency to Mr. Jones. 

Summer!

It is officially summer per the calendar even though technically summer began last night at 11:32 p.m. Due to the summer solstice, today will be the longest day of the year and tonight will be the shortest night. Regardless of the technicalities summer means fun in the sun and we all have our favorite things to do during this time of year. What are your favorites?

My favorite summer activities include anything to do with nature. Walking in a park, sitting by a river, watching the sunset over the ocean are all wonderful experiences. I hope that you have a safe and happy summer season.

What’s Your Enneagram Type?

Are you familiar with the Enneagram Personality Test? I was not until I read a book by Richard Rohr. He referred to the Enneagram in his book “Falling Upward” and it raised my curiosity so I researched it further. https://crookedcreek.live/2021/02/01/falling-upward/

The Enneagram presents nine personality types with some overlapping. The book I just read, “What’s Your ENNEATYPE?”, talks about “triads” and “wings” and other combinations of the major types. I was disappointed that the book did not have a test where one could determine one’s type. As I read I decided that I was a number One type and yet I wanted to be sure so I found an Enneagram test Online. It confirmed that I was a number One as I had thought.

Most of you have probably taken the Meyer-Briggs Personality test either in school or on the job. I’ve taken it at least three times and have found the results consistent over the years. The Enneagram is similar and if you take both tests I think you will see obvious similarities.

The Enneagram book was interesting and I recommend it to those who like the Meyer-Briggs test although I am partial to it over the Enneagram. The book gives much information about making the most of life with your personality type. You can find out about your Enneagram personalty by taking the test at https://www.truity.com/test/enneagram-personality-test

Flag Day

In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The Flag Resolution, stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Wikipedia

Flag Day is not a holiday and businesses will be open.

Tumeric

Do you use tumeric to cook? It is a bright yellow aromatic powder obtained from the rhizome of a plant of the ginger family, used for flavoring and coloring in Asian cooking and formerly as a fabric dye. My Mom used it and I do too.

Have you noticed anything wrong with this blog so far?

I have misspelled the spice in both the title and the first sentence. After years of using this ingredient, for some reason, I looked at the spice jar recently and realized it is spelled turmeric. That made me wonder if I had been pronouncing it incorrectly so, of course I googled it and was enlightened.

It is pronounced tur·mer·ic (ˈtərmərik) per the dictionary and you can hear the correct pronunciation here: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/pronunciation/english/turmeric

Is it possible I’ve been the only one pronouncing this word incorrectly? I’d appreciate your feedback.

SOLITARY

Albert Woodfox was a teenager when he was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The Louisiana prison was called Angola and those incarcerated there were treated like animals. They were strip-searched sometimes multiple times a day and were made to work for two cents per hour. Woodfox tells the story of his more than forty years in solitary confinement fighting for his freedom. This is a heartbreaking true story and it should surprise no one that Albert Woodfox is a black man.

I recommend this book particularly if you are interested in the correctional system in this country.

Eighty

I just learned that Bob Dylan turned eighty years old on May 24th! How can this be? Dylan is a hero of mine, but as a rock and roller how can he be older than me? He won the Medal of Freedom in 2010 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.

Receiving the Medal of Freedom

He is prolific in song writing and I would be hard pressed to name my favorite. “Blowin’ in the Wind?”, “Girl From the North Country?”, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” I could go on and on with those I love and I bet that you can too.

Photos from Wikipedia

What are your favorite Dylan songs? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUKYhpj2sQg

Porch Parties Again

Spring time in Kentucky brings many treats, dogwood and redbuds in bloom, daffodils and tulips and lots of sunshine. One of the best things is weather for Porch Parties again. Even though most friends are vaccinated we still enjoy visits on the porch, theirs or mine. Sometimes we share a glass of wine but always good conversation and enjoyment. I look forward to many more parties on my porch or patio as spring turns into summer.

June

Some things you may not know about the month that starts tomorrow:

  • Aquarium Month
  • Candy Month
  • Dairy Month
  • Effective Communications Month
  • Fight the Filthy Fly Month
  • Gay and Lesbian Pride Month
  • Great Outdoors Month
  • Sue’s Birthday
  • National Accordion Awareness Month
  • National Adopt a Cat Month
  • National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month
  • National Iced Tea Month
  • Rose Month
  • Turkey Lovers Month

Anyone play the accordion? Love your turkey? You’re right at home in June!

Photos by Pixabay

Reproduction

We all know, or should know, the danger of global warming to our futures, but most people are unaware of another very real danger. Did you know that sperm counts are dropping and women are having more problems with egg quality? There are more miscarriages today and more genital abnormalities in infant boys. Girls are reaching puberty at an earlier age. These problems are not just in humans, but also in animals, fish and amphibians. 

Shanna H. Swan, an epidemiologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, has sounded the alarm in her new book, “Count Down.” Swan states that from 1973 to 2011 sperm count fell by 59%. The question is why and Swan says that the problem is endocrine disruptors which are in chemicals that fool the body’s reproductive cells. This plays disaster on the sexual development of fetuses. These chemicals are in almost everything we touch, canned foods, cosmetics, even ATM receipts. Chemical companies lobby against safety testing of these endocrine disruptors and that leaves us unaware of the dangers we face.

There are those who have other theories about the reproductive changes seen over the past few years but the World Health Organization and other professional groups, such as the Endocrine Society warn about endocrine disruptors. Canada and some countries in Europe have regulated these chemicals but the United States has not. We need to let our representatives in the Congress know of our awareness and concern. 

What else can be done to protect against these chemicals? Swan suggests storing food in glass rather than plastic, not microwaving in plastic, buying organic produce and avoiding pesticides. 

Photos by Pixabay

“East of Eden”

“East of Eden” by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck is a journal about several families and two in particular that become close in a dark way. One of the families, the Trasks, is similar to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck’s characters are fascinating in many realms, such as love, mystery and murder. 

Most people have read this book. If you haven’t I recommend that you do. It has entertained readers for over half a century.   

Books

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Cicero

I believe this quote is true. I cannot imagine life without books or a room without books. As you’ve noticed I have blogged a lot of book reviews over the past several months. I cannot imagine a pandemic without books! This past year of being locked-down would have been unbearable without books to read.

What books have been especially important to you over this year of inactivity? Please share with us how books have helped you get through the COVID months since March of 2020.

Photo by Pixabay

Here are some other book quotes to think about.

“Books are funny little portable pieces of thought.” Susan Sontag

“Every book is like a purge; at the end of it one is empty . . . like a dry shell on the beach waiting for the tide to come in again.” Daphne DuMaurier

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” Jessamyn West

“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.” Katherine Mansfield

“Good books like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.” Louisa May Alcott

“Do give books – religious or otherwise – for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful and permanently personal.” Lenore Hershey

“Truly each new book is as ship that bears us away from the fixity of our limitations into the movement and splendor of life’s infinite ocean.” Helen Keller

Photo by Pixabay

“A Promised Land”

“A Promised Land” is an autobiography by Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States. It is a long, thorough account of the former President’s administration. Obama is honest and forthcoming about the trials, triumphs and failures of his time in office. He is very good at giving credit to those who worked with him. I found the interworking of the White House and all that is involved in leading this country fascinating.

I recommend this memoir.

The Death Penalty Exoneration

Research by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) shows the total number of people exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death is 185. 

The data from these 185 exonerations (see three case studies below) shows that particularly with people of color, innocent death row prisoners were convicted because of a combination of police or prosecutorial misconduct and false testimony.

It would seem that when this many people have been found innocent of the crimes that put them on death row, many others have been executed in spite of innocence. 

Case Study #1:

Joe Ligon entered prison when Eisenhower was President. He was released 68 years later. His trial was one day and he was referred to as “colored.” He was a child of 15 at the time of his conviction.

Most of his family is now dead. He re-entered a world he didn’t know. 

It has cost taxpayers $3 million to keep him for those 68 years excluding his treatment for prostatic cancer. 

Case Study #2

Raymond Riles arrived on death row in 1976 the year Gerald Ford lost his re-election bid. Forty-five years and 8 presidents later he remains of death row having lived through 3 execution dates that were canceled. 

Experts have deemed him extremely delusional and grossly psychotic. Texas may soon grant him a new trial where he could be placed in the general population of the prison rather than on death row.

Raymond Riles

Case Study #3

Pennsylvania death-row exoneree, Christopher Williams, was released from prison on February 9, 2021, after being exonerated in a second murder case. The second wrongful murder conviction had kept Williams incarcerated after he was cleared of the murder for which he was wrongfully condemned to die.  As unlikely as it may seem this man was wrongly convicted of murder twice. 

Christopher Williams

Source: DPIC

Book Review

“A Pledge of Silence” by Flora J. Solomon

This novel is not my usual read, but it has much to recommend it. The story is about a nurse who joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1941. She was happy to be assigned to a base in Manila and for a while all went well there. When the Japanese later invade the Philippines she is taken prisoner for three years. The tale of horror includes abuse and near starvation. Although there is some romance, actually quite a bit, it is still a realistic story of what those in the military endured in World War II and how it affected their lives forever.

Death Penalty Cost

Have you ever considered what it costs to carry out an execution? Have you given thought to the fact that you and I pay for our fellow citizens to be executed? That’s right, it is tax payer money which makes it possible to take the life of a convicted prisoner.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons spent nearly $4.7 million dollars on the five executions carried in July and August 2020. With an average annual federal incarceration cost of $37,449.00, the burden to U.S. taxpayers for each execution exceeded the price tag of incarcerating a federal prisoner for 25 years.

Source: ACLU

Surprise Visitor

Recently, I was on a camping trip with my daughter. I wondered whether I’d be able to sleep in a camper since it had been many years since I had camped. I needn’t have worried. I went to sleep easily in the crisp air of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. In the middle of the night there was a crunching sound near our trailer. I thought that it must be Allison’s dog, Jackson. Allison found the flashlight and bravely opened the camper door to find our midnight visitor!

Photo by Allison Puckett

“Unbroken” Book Review

“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

This true story follows the life of Louis Zamperini (1917-2014) from his grade school years until his death at the age of ninety-seven. His was a life well worth the effort of reading this riveting, best selling book. In fact I have read it twice in seven years as well as seeing one of the two movies made of his life based upon this book.

Louie, as he was called, was a precocious young boy with a knack for getting into trouble. Somehow his family was always able to correct him without breaking his spirit for adventure. In high school he funneled his energies into running and while in college at the University of California he broke speed records which led him to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where he met Adolph Hitler and set a new lap record.

Leaving college to join the Army Air Forces he became a bombardier during WWII. He, the pilot and one other man were the only survivors after his plane went down in the ocean during a search and rescue mission. They survived Japanese attacks, sharks and near starvation aboard an inflatable raft for forty-seven days. Only he and the pilot remained alive when they finally landed on the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands where they were captured.

The account of inhumane treatment in two different Japanese prison camps was difficult to read. The beatings and humiliations endured by Zamperini and his fellow prisoners of war are beyond my imagination. In spite of being singled out for the worst treatment because of his Olympic fame, he managed to survive. After discharge from the military Zamperini suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder leading to alcohol abuse and a tormented life. He was, however, unbroken and through a spiritual encounter he recovered and found forgiveness in his heart for his transgressors. He then devoted the rest of his life to working with at-risk youth.

I recommend this book and would award it five stars out of five.

Camping

It had been about 40 years since I camped when my daughter, Allison, invited me to go with her last weekend. I hesitated for about ten seconds before saying, “Yes!” My hesitation was about my daughter’s ability to pull and handle the trailer. I didn’t know if she had done it before. She assured me that she was ready and she was right. She operated like a pro pulling that load up and around mountain roads and backing it into our campsite.

A little history is called for here. The trailer that we camped in was formerly a tool hauler. Allison and her husband, Stan, converted the trailer into a camper which they refer to as a “tramper.” It has a double bed, an air conditioner, heater that looks like a fireplace and space for Jackson, the big Red Heeler they adopted. Allison’s favorite feature is the large door in the back that accommodates her motorcycle.

The Tramper in our campsite.

Due to rainy weather, we didn’t take the motorcycle but we did take Jackson with us and he was a very good boy.

Jackson

We left early Friday morning for the Great Smoky Mountains.

We’ve arrived!

The trip was fun and we were soon at the campgrounds, unpacking our food and building a fire in a light drizzle of rain. The rain soon stopped and we explored our surroundings.

Night Falls

On Saturday the sun came out and we drove into the Smokies. We saw so many beautiful sights including a bear, many deer and wild turkeys. Unfortunately I was having such a good time that I forgot to take many photos. When the rain came at night we watched old movies and rested well. On the way home we stopped at Cumberland Falls Sate Park and enjoyed one of our favorite sights. We had a picnic for lunch beside the Cumberland River.

Cumberland Falls
Allison and Jackson

We arrived back in Louisville around 7 p.m. feeling tired and very happy. It was a great trip! I’m up for tramping anytime now.

Pay Attention!

April has been designated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as “Distracted Driving Month.” It seems to me that it should have been named “Non-distracted Driving Month” but be that as it may, we need to be reminded to pay undivided attention to our driving.

The NHTSA states that at least eight people die each day from distracted driving. That is in addition to the 1,000 who are injured daily. Cell phones are the first culprit that comes to mind. We love our phones and it is hard to not use them when driving, but whether hands-free or not, using them is dangerous. Auto manufacturers have not helped because they keep coming up with more technology to use while in the car.

Technology is not the only danger. Other areas named by the American Auto Association (AAA) as distractions from driving, include loose gear, GPS, eating, children and pets.

Stay alert! Stay alive!

Photos and Graphics by Pixabay

“Dead Wake”by Erik Larsen

A Book Review by Dianne Bynum

“Dead Wake The Last Crossing of the Lusitania”

Erik Larsen has become one of my favorite writers of historical novels. I really enjoyed, and learned a lot, from “The Devil in the White City.” Both novels are about events I knew very little about. I knew that the sinking of the Lusitania was a reason for the US to enter WWI but I didn’t know much else. Larsen personalizes this tragedy by introducing us to the passengers of the Lusitania during the voyage. The reader can’t help but wonder who survives and who doesn’t. It was also interesting learning about our president and his personal challenges during the days leading up to the First World War. I would recommend this novel to history buffs and to those that love a good story. 

Adolescent Eagles

If you have not looked in on the Florida eagles lately, you should do so before they fly away. Although only about 2 1/2 months old they are testing their big wings. E17 and E18 won’t reside in the nest much longer. They are fledging further each day. https://swfleaglecam.com/?fbclid=IwAR36G6NPVtbd8mT_aIDtSGwzcHc7wlPf-CK6pupVCHa86zUFoAjlJBgtl5I

If you don’t know their interesting first days you can catch up here: https://crookedcreek.live/2021/02/06/eagles/

E17 & E18 at the rehabilitation center 2/6/21

“White Fragility”by Robin DiAngelo

Robin DiAngelo is an antiracist educator with years of experience. Her book, “White Fragility,” is thought-provoking on many levels but her main thesis is that all white people are racist. That is an explosive statement but throughout her writing, she gives examples of how the white race has maintained a culture of supporting racism as a structure of the social order.

Michael Eric Dyson, who wrote the book’s forward, states that it is a “ vital, necessary, and beautiful book.” DiAngelo not only points out how we, as whites, get things so wrong, but why and what we can do to overcome our fragility.

I highly recommend this New York Times bestseller.

GUNS

Do you know how many people died in US wars since the Revolutionary War? It is around 1.4 million. That is fewer than Americans killed by guns in the last 45 years. Including accidents, murders, and suicides more than 1.5 million lives have been lost to guns since 1975. 

A gun is not inherently bad. They become bad when used improperly or in emotional settings. Guns for hunting are generally safe in the hands of experienced users and when locked up away from children when not in use. The same is true of handguns used for target practice. Automatic rifles like those used by mass murderers belong only in the hands of the military. 

I’m not a gun expert, but I know guns kill about 80 children under four years of age annually and that is more than police officers killed in the line of duty. Those statistics don’t require an expert.

The United States has to do better. We have more guns (~400 million) than people (330 million). It is not about CONTROL. It is about the SAFETY of innocent people. 

Citizens need to rise up and speak up. Call your state and federal legislators, protest, be a voice for gun safety today!

“The Longest Ride”

“The Longest Ride” by Nicholas Sparks is sweet, tear-jerking, and readily forgotten. If you have read even one book by this author you know what you are in for. For this reason, I can only blame myself for recently listening to the audible version of “The Longest Ride.” I have a trove of books on my Kindle that I have not listened to and so I’m going through them now in no particular order. 

This Sparks book is about a sorority senior named Sophia and her new boyfriend, a rodeo bull rider named Luke. It is also about Ira who is ninety-one years old and his wife Ruth who has been dead for nine years. The book goes on and on with a sweet tale about each separate couple and you know they will somehow become connected in the end. They do, in a slightly unexpected way and the young couple lives happily ever after. 

If this is your genre you will love it. I think you can tell that it isn’t mine, but then I’ve been told I read a lot of “dark” material. 

Home

this place i call home 

it’s a long day and a drive home

into the setting sun and dusk

as i pull up in front of my house,

stand at the curb,

and look at this place 

i call home…

a soft glow emanates 

from the porch light,

revealing an old rocker

and the plain grapevine wreath

that hangs on the wall behind it

i realize this simple facade

is a postage stamp 

on the letter of my life…

a statement of who i am

and where i live…

my shelter and my refuge…

where i rest and lay my head…

and it’s all i need…

this place i call home…

by Sylvia L. Mattingly, March 25, 2021

Photo by Sylvia L. Mattingly

“White Rage”

From the Civil War to today, “White Rage” by Carol Anderson Ph.D. defines the powerful forces opposed to black progress in the United States. Anderson wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in response to talk of black rage. She proposed that the problem was instead white rage that brought about the unrest in this country at that time, 2014. Her book, “White Rage” followed. 

Our cursory study of the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment would have us believe the struggles of African Americans ended in 1865. The author details how Blacks were met at every crossroads to be turned back by powerful Whites. 

Every American should read this award winning book, no, should study it, to finally understand what Black Americans have faced and why the struggle continues to this day. 

“12 Years a Slave”

Solomon Northup, a black man, was born free in 1808. He lived in New York State with his wife and three children. He worked and supported his family and loved playing the violin. One day he was kidnapped and following being sold multiple times he ended up spending twelve years as a slave on a Louisiana plantation. During this time he was brutally beaten and existed working on little to eat and sleeping on a dirt floor. He had no idea whether his family was still alive when he was finally freed.

Published in 1853 this detailed and true description of life as a slave became a best seller. This true story is spellbinding and heartrending. It was eventually made into a popular motion picture. I recommend this book.

Writers In Prison

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in prison? In solitary confinement? On death row? Now you can know those things and much more about a prisoner’s life by reading what prisoners write at https://prisonwriters.com. “Prison Writers . . . . Where Prisoners have a Voice” is an internet site of writings by people who are currently incarcerated. The articles are about all aspects of life before and after imprisonment. They are edited by professional volunteers and writers are paid $10 for each piece that is published on the website.

Please check out this link and read such articles as these popular ones:

  • I Was Repeatedly Raped in Prison
  • Best Prison Slang Words You (Hopefully Won’t) Need to Know
  • Love in Prison: 12 Tips to Dating A Prisoner 
  • Remember Amy Preasmyer? She Writes Us From Solitary
  • Life Behind Bars As A Convicted Sex Offender

Authors’ photographs and sometimes a bio accompany many of the articles written by inmates.

Sylvia’s Poetry

a blue-sky day

dried grass plumes
rise above a patch of cattails…

cattails whose heads
have long since blown open,
now fuzzy and disheveled,
nod in the breeze

naked tree branches
scratch and claw
at a bright blue sky…
anxiously waiting
to slip from winter bondage
and break into bud

signs have begun to appear..
portents of things to come…

the greening of grass…
nodding white snowdrops…
yellow winter aconite…

spidery witch hazel blooms…
yellowish orange
against a blue-sky day…

all harbingers of spring…
unnoticed by many
but treasures to the watchful eye

Sylvia L. Mattingly
March 4, 2021

Photo by Pixabay

Assisted Death

We all know, or at least have heard of, individuals who spent the last part of their lives in long-term facilities without any quality of life while eating up all of one’s lifetime savings. Medical costs at the end of life are a huge portion of one’s lifetime medical expenses. There are others who have a terminal and debilitating disease such as Parkinson’s who do not want to live helplessly until natural death occurs. Such people are likely to desire the end of life, but unless they live in certain areas of this country this is not an opportunity for them, at least not legally. In areas that do allow one to end their life, cancer is the number two diagnosis for self-deliverance, behind ALS. 

There is much controversy regarding the act of ending one’s life. The American Medical Association is against physicians being involved in such acts because the physician is to be seen as a healer instead. Others, particularly religious groups, see this self determination of the end of life as suicide and therefore a sin. Advocates see it as death with dignity. 

In 1990 the Patient Self-Determination Act was passed when the Supreme Court ruled that a person had the right to refuse nutrition and hydration to end life. This quickly lead to the Living Will with which most of us are familiar.   https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/ At about the same time the Supreme Court ruled that assisted death would be up to the states. Since then, nine states and the District of Columbia granted that right to its citizens. One in five Americans live in those states and fewer than 4,500 have died utilizing this right. 

Interestingly, assisted death by injection is forbidden. The person choosing to die must be able to ingest oral medication. One-third of those who obtain the medication for this purpose do not take it, even though it is on hand.  

Maine, one of the nine states, named their law Medical Aid in Dying and the current medical protocol, called D-DMA: contains #1 powdered digoxin, which is normally used to treat irregular heartbeat but causes the heart to stop at extreme doses. And #2 a mixture of Diazepam (Valium), which suppresses the respiratory system in high doses; Morphine, a narcotic that also suppresses the respiratory system; and Amitriptyline, an antidepressant that stops the heart at high doses. This cocktail is said to produce peaceful sleep followed by death. It is not easy to obtain this method of dying. Maine requires an oral request followed by a second oral request. A written request is then required at least fifteen days later. 

Final Exit”, by the founder of the modern American right-to-die movement, Derek Humphry, was published in 1991 and offers information on ending one’s life where it is not legally permitted.This book offers various ways to end one’s life listing each by lethality, minutes to death, pain level and other factors. Some methods, e.g., the use of a plastic bag and helium or nitrous gases require that someone remove the apparatus prior to a coroner’s visit if the deceased doesn’t want it known that they ended their own life. The book even includes information regarding life insurance. The fact that this book has sold 2 million copies seems to indicate great interest in the subject and the many methods of suicide/euthanasia described within. 

“Sophie’s Choice”

Written by William Styron, one of my favorite authors https://crookedcreek.live/2018/02/26/books-3/ “Sophie’s Choice” is a tragic story of a young Polish woman who was sentenced to a prison camp in Germany during World War II. After her release she holds her heartbreaking family secret within until many years later. When she finally finds the strength to share it that leads to her dreadful end. This book is a moving story about a trio of characters; this woman, her mentally ill lover and their twenty-two year old friend. If you have not read it, give it a try, if you like this type of fiction. I do.

Tiny Shining Star by Sylvia

tiny shining star

twinkle

tiny shining star…

beyond the night

away so far…

in darkest depths 

of sunless skies…

your sparkling 

leaves me mesmerized…

even in 

the light of day…

you shine 

though millions of miles away…

oh star

that in the dark of night…

guides us

with celestial light…

your mysteries 

i’m left to ponder…

my eyes so filled

with awestruck wonder

Sylvia L. Mattingly, February 6, 2021

Photos by Pixabay

Big Red Surprise

My brother, Steve, lived in California with his family of four children. He had told his kids about Kentucky where he was born and raised. Some things were significant, I guess, but some were just about simple memories. It seems that California, at that time, lacked two staples that he missed, Big Red Soda and White Castle Hamburgers. I found it hard to believe that Big Red could not be bought there, in that state that had so much that Kentucky didn’t have. I did understand that the White Castle chain may not have reached the West Coast. Apparently he told his kids, particularly the oldest son, that when they came to Kentucky he would be sure that they had the privilege of both of these culinary delights.

As fate would have it he brought the family home and instead of taking the kids out for these things he’d promised, he first needed to visit a favorite aunt who he had not seen for a few years. No problem! I was an aunt too and in an effort to become their favorite, I loaded them all into my SUV and out we went to White Castle several miles away. I was also thrilled to have my young granddaughter, Katie, there to go with us too. The kids were less than impressed with the onion laden hamburgers but ate them without complaint. If fact, I was so eager to give them this great experience that I stuffed these kiddos with White Castle staples.

They were good kids and pretty quiet on the drive home as I told them that Big Reds awaited them at my house. When we got there I prepared desserts, Big Red Floats! For each child I added vanilla ice cream to a tall glass and then poured it over with Big Red. They ate, they drank, they loved the dessert! By the time their parents came home, I had a house full of nauseated kids. Some were white. Some were green. One was vomiting athletically.

When you think you are helping out, if it involves kids, greasy burgers and Big Red, think long and hard before enacting your benevolent plan.

“To Kill A Mockingbird”

Like most of you, I have read “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee more than once. And, of course, I’ve seen the movie based upon this extraordinary book multiple times. I decided to listen to the audio version while riding my Beast. I’m sure you remember this contraption but in case you do not please check it out: https://crookedcreek.live/2021/02/25/the-beast/

I am so glad that I made this decision. The book is narrated by Sissy Spacek and she does Scout’s Alabamian accent perfectly. As I listened to Scout tell the story of her life with her brother Jim, I forgot completely that it was Spacek speaking. She was an eight year old girl full of curiosity and full of spunk.

Unfortunately, the court scenes with Atticus Finch were what I had remembered most clearly. After listening to the audio book, however, I will always remember Scout and her adventures in a small southern town.

I recommend this wonderful book, but also suggest you hear its narrated version if you have not.

Camp Grandmother’s

Life has been an adventure and I just realized that sounds like it is coming to an end. That isn’t what I mean, but after seventy-seven years on this orb, I have much to look back on. Education was fun and my career was satisfying, but pure joy only comes from sharing life with those you love. I am blessed by two wonderful daughters who brought sons into my life; even though they are called sons-in-law they are much more. Thirty years ago my first granddaughter was born followed seven years later by the second. It is hard to believe that it was so long ago because my memories of them as children seem so fresh.

From the beginning of their lives, they spent a lot of time with their Grandfather, who they called Pop, and me, Grandmother. As they grew our games became more complex but none were more fun than pretend. The oldest, Katie, was an actress and she loved getting into character and acting out elaborate roles. Her younger sister, Elizabeth, was fine with pretend too, but also loved being outdoors following her Pop around as he worked.

As they got older we went on short vacations each year before school started. One year we went to Kings Island in Cincinnati and another we spent a few days taking in the sights of Chicago. We shopped for back-to-school clothes and before we knew it grade school became high school and then college. Their days of staying at Camp Grandmother and Pop’s may be over, but the fun memories remain forever.

“The Call of the Wild”

Like most of you, I imagine, I read “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London years ago. I remembered the short book to be about a sweet dog who returned to the wild and lived happily ever after. This week, while riding the Beast, a.k.a. my Cardio Strider, I decided to listen to the audible version of the book. How could I have forgotten the cruel abuse this dog endured?

Buck was a one hundred and forty-pound St. Bernard and Scotch Collie mix who lived on a nice estate in California. A worker there stole the dog away from his owners who loved him and sold him to be used as a dog to pull sleighs in Alaska. Buck knew nothing about what was expected of him but he finally learned through many beatings by multiple owners. He eventually ended up in the Yukon area of Canada where the Klondike gold rush was taking place.

Again Buck learned cruel lessons from both the dogs he was forced to work with and from various men who owned him for a time. Finally, mercifully, he was rescued by John Thornton, an experienced frontiersman, who had a heart and a fierce love for Buck. They traveled the frozen country-side for a few years until Thornton was murdered by Native Americans. Buck was furious and savagely attacked the people until many of the Yeehat tribe were dead. Buck then followed his primordial instinct which had been calling him for some time, and he joined a wolf pack to live out his life in the wilderness and his wolf heritage.

The author, Jack London, published this animal fiction tale in 1903. He realistically gave this magnificent dog human traits and thoughts that were easy to accept as authentic. “The Call of the Wild” has been adapted into over one dozen films and remains an all-time favorite.

The Beast

Those of you who have followed this blog for a long time know how much I have enjoyed walking, especially in the parks near my home. I loved enjoying the changing seasons, animals such as deer which I often saw and just the exhilarating feel of being out in nature. A year or so ago I was walking 3-4 miles most days and then trouble struck. Like many seniors I now have a bum knee. Some of my friends are getting knee replacement, but I’m determined that isn’t going to be me. I’ve had two steroid injections with varying results and weight bearing can still be very painful at times.

After a few weeks of physical therapy I forgot all that I’d been taught and instructed to do, i.e., exercises. I’m not a good PT patient. Recently though I recalled a horrible machine that the therapist seem to enjoy seeing me suffer on. It was big and intimidating but was supposed to strengthen the leg muscles that would better support the knee. The more I thought about that contraption the more I thought I should have one to use at home. That was a problem because there was no room for it in my condo.

The more I thought about it the more I decided that I could live without the sofa in my office. With the help of my daughter someone was identified who needed a sofa so, much to the chagrin of my cat, Elliott, I gave the sofa away. Elliott would probably say I sacrificed his “napper.”

Next I had to find the machine and it wasn’t hard to do. It is called a Cardio Strider, which I promptly named The Beast! I will never tame it, but over the past week I’ve averaged 1.5 hours and eight miles per day. The Beast is big, it’s ugly and Elliott hates it. He seems to be embarrassed for me when I sit astride it and begin to work-out. I’m not going to give up. I’m going to get this bum knee in better condition so that I may be back walking in the park when spring gets here.

The Beast

COVID GRIEF

It has been a year since the pandemic began here in the United States. At that time, none of us knew what we were in store for. We were innocent and naive thinking we’d be inconvenienced for a short time. Now we know the hardships COVID19 is capable of causing. We wear masks, try to maintain a safe distance from others, don’t hug our loved ones and avoid shopping or eating out. People are working from home. Children have been trying to learn through virtual lessons. People we know and love are sick or perhaps even dying. Nothing is normal and we miss everything that we took for granted.

Most of us are aware that we are changed. We are not ourselves in many ways. Our feelings are not unlike those of grief when experiencing a specific loss, such as in divorce, a loss of a job or home, the death of a loved one or our own approaching death. In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first described what she called the five stages of grief. Looking at these stages now may help us to understand some of our current feelings and moods. Those five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

It is easy to see that our first reaction to the pandemic was denial that it could possibly be this serious. As time went on and we realized our lives were severely altered it was natural to feel anger. Anger at being told what we could and could not do, anger at those who refused to take those necessary precautions and anger at the inconvenience of it all was a frequent feeling. Bargaining may be harder to recognize, but at times we surely promised mentally that we’d follow the rules and that would bring an end to this curse sooner. Depression, including suicide, today is a significant problem according to mental health professionals. It is hard to fight when one is depressed and the condition becomes a vortex of despondency and a feeling of inertia that makes each day hard to face. Acceptance is having hope and in the case of COVID a feeling that normalcy will return and that life will be joyous again.

These stages of grief do not always come in this order and it isn’t unusual to switch back and forth among these stages. There are no exact parameters. Some degree of each stage will probably linger and overlap other stages. After twelve months of this experience you can probably identify these stages of grief in your life. Hopefully this recognition of the process and an understanding of the stages will help us to go forward with hope.

Photo by Pixabay

The Full and the Hollow

This poem by Sylvia (Mattingly, my niece) really touched a chord with me. During the past twelve months of pandemic many days have felt sorrowful, burdensome and hollow. I’m so grateful though, that there are days that which are full, full of love, caring, helping. Both kinds of days make up our lives for which we should be thankful. I hope your day if full of brightness and joy.


the full and the hollow

sometimes life leaves you hollow

and in that hollow,

sorrows fall and settle 

like snow…

burdensome

as they deepen…

blowing and drifting 

in empty silence 

across the icy landscape 

of a saddened heart

but…

sometimes life leaves you full

and in that fullness,

joys rise and radiate

like sunshine 

carefree 

as they uplift…

waltzing and fluttering 

to notes of music

across the melodic dance floor 

of a happy heart

and so… 

these opposing forces

abide in us…

completing us…

the yin and the yang…

the full and the hollow

Sylvia L.Mattingly, February 5, 2021

Photo by Pixabay

COVID19 in Prison

Each day we hear statistics regarding the number of COVID 19 cases and deaths occurring. We hear local, state, national and global figures. Our reactions vary depending on our own experiences with the pandemic. Unfortunately, we can become indifferent to the barrage of numbers unless it has affected us personally.

Numbers we don’t often hear are relative to how many cases and deaths take place in prisons. The incidence of COVID among prisoners is one in five. There have been over two thousand deaths which is 51% more than the general population. Each person who dies in prison leaves behind family who care about them. These loved ones need the same support and care that any grieving person needs, but it is difficult to receive due to the stigma of imprisonment.

A group of family members and other survivors have gone together to prepare a crowd sourced memorial for those who die in prison. Please review these obituaries, read about those who have died while locked away and look at their faces. They are our fellow human beings. Let’s spend some time honoring these lives lost. https://www.mourningourlosses.org

Finish February

Let’s wrap this month up! I’m ready for March. How about you?

DATESPECIAL AWARENESS
February 16World Voice Day (maintain your vocal health)
February 20World Day of Social Justice
February 21International Mother Language Day
February 22A Day Without News (honoring journalists)
February 22World Thinking Day/International Scouts Day/Founders Day
February 27International Polar Bear Day
February 27Anosmia Awareness Day (anosmia – loss of sense of smell)
February 28Rare Disease Day
Photos by Pixabay

Eagles’ Nests

A few days ago I shared with you the adventures of a bald eagle family in Florida. I hope that you have checked in on the live cam awaiting their return to the nest. If not, take a look at: https://dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html

Looking at that huge nest which is home to this family got me thinking about the wonder of how nests are built. All birds build nests but none in North America as large and sturdy as those of bald eagles. I did a little research and this is what I learned.

Both males and females work together to carry the materials and design the nest but the female does more of the actual placement of the pieces that construct the home. The eagles’ nest can be as much as eight feet across, twelve feet deep and weigh over one ton! The interior of the bowl is lined with soft down from the parents and other materials such as lichen or sod. The sticks used in construction are large and can sometimes be carried in the parent’s talons for miles. It takes approximately three months to complete the huge nest and this process just precedes the female laying her eggs. Most bald eagle pairs use their nests for many years, they simply do a little renovation as necessary. This process results in the nest growing in size and weight each year and it may be used for over thirty years. It is also believed that the couple working on the nest together strengthens their bond.

Placement of the nest can be in any type tree or when unavailable even on the ground or on a cliff. The taller the tree the better so that there is the ability for the parents to observe the surroundings for danger. Nests are usually near a river or lake for foraging for fish for the babies to eat.

The source of some of this information is Journey North.org and Photos are by Pixabay

February 11-14

Celebrate!

DATESPECIAL AWARENESS
February 11International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 11Promise Day
February 12Darwin Day (his birthday)
February 12Hug Day
February 13World Radio Day
February 13Kiss Day (why can’t we kiss and hug on the same day?)
February 14Valentine’s Day
February 14World Whale Day
Photos by Pixabay

Eagles

Off and on for the past several years I have watched bald eagle families on a live cam in Florida. It is sponsored by a realty company and has four cameras active at all times. The main one is aimed into the nest and lets you watch the entire process from egg laying through hatching and then much later the young ones taking their first flights. 

The other three cameras show the surrounding area including a pond where the parents forage for fish. You can see the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam at: https://dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html 

On January 23, this year, two eaglets (E17 & E18) hatched on the same day which is unusual. For several days we watched as they were loving fed by H (Harriet) the Mom, and M the Dad. They were wonderful parents in every way. On January 29 I was devastated, as I’m sure were all watchers, when the nest was empty. There was a typed message that they had been removed by CROW. I was so sad to think that those little balls of fluff were kidnapped and no doubt killed by a crow. 

It took a while for me to learn that CROW stood for the Clinic for Rehabilitation for Wildlife! The clinic staff had noticed that E17 and E18 had an eye problem. Their eyes were partly shut and had an exudate and CROW swooped in to help. Using a cherry-picker to reach the nest they took the eaglets and moved them to the clinic for treatment. 

Although this is a good thing that they were able to help the little ones, it was still very sad to see Harriet and M sitting on the branches of the tree looking out and wondering where their babies had gone. 

An update stated that the eaglets were doing well and should be put back in the nest after two weeks of treatment. By my calculations that should be around February 12 so I stopped watching the sad empty nest and grieving parents. To my surprise on Friday, Feb. 5 a friend texted me with the exciting news that the babies were back so, of course, I started to watch the little ones all alone in the nest. It was sad and scary. Hour after hour passed and I wondered if the parents were going to return. I was so afraid that the eaglets would become weak from no food. I knew that CROW staff was watching the camera and knew more about the situation than I did, but still I worried.

Finally, in late afternoon the parents returned. They took turns with E17 and E18, brooding, feeding, fluffing the nest. Isn’t nature wonderful? You can now check in on this bald eagle family anytime you choose. Over the weeks ahead they will grow, explore and eventually take their first flight. We can enjoy the progression and look forward to H and M’s next brood.

E17 & E18 at the CROW clinic (Photo by USA Today)

Title photo by Pixabay

February 6-10

Now we are on top of this month’s special awareness so we can celebrate or remember as appropriate.

DATESPECIAL AWARENESS
February 6International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
February 7Rose Day
February 8Propose Day
February 9Chocolate Day
February 10Teddy Day (yes, that’s teddy bear)
Photos by Pixabay

February1-5

February is a month chocked full of special awareness. First of all it is Black History Month and I, personally, think it is a shame that a month (and the shortest at that) has to be set aside for black history. If the contributions of African Americans were taught as part of American History then a special month would not be needed. Black Americans should be included in the teaching of all our history, but this is not the case. Therefore, we need to learn and acknowledge those contributions this month and remember them throughout the year.

Here are some others we may have missed:

DATESPECIAL AWARENESS
February 2World Wetlands Day
February 2Groundhog Day
February 4Rosa Parks Day
February 4World Cancer Day
February 5World Nutella Day 
This catches us up to date. More to come!
Photos by Pixabay

Sliver of Moon

sliver of a moon

only a sliver of a moon
hangs above the horizon…
a thin white arc
against the dark night sky…

every night i watch it rise
and every night it widens…
illuminated by the cast off
light of the sun…

a waxing crescent
grows with the passing days…
blossoming into
a wondrous nocturnal flower…

there for us to see
in all its celestial glory…
yet time ticks by
and the waning begins…

and like the ocean tide
that washes over the sand…
our nighttime treasure
slowly ebbs away…

Sylvia L. Mattingly
Completed January 27, 2021

Photo by Pixabay

“Falling Upward”

“Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr

This book attempts to explain the spiritual life during two halves. The author sees this as young adulthood where life’s priorities are strict, organized and goal driven, but a time of making many mistakes. He sees the second half of life, beginning at approximately the fifties, as being more stable, peaceful and enlightened. These stages he relates to organized religion.

The author is a Catholic priest and explains his theory based on spirituality but not necessarily from the Christian point of view. He includes other religions such as Islam, Judaism and the Buddhist faith in his examples and references. This book and Rohr’s theory would probably be of little interest to those without any spiritual or religious background.

As a person well into the “second half” I could identify with some of his points but still found the book a bit confounding. I believe his main point was that we grow upward by falling down, i.e., making mistakes and being hurt. There is wisdom to be had in this book, but a plethora of analogies made it a bit hard for me to stick with it until the end.

PBS has called Richard Rohr “one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world.”

The Death Penalty

In July of 2020, President Trump reactivated capital punishment for federal crimes. This declaration was in spite of a lack of public support for the death penalty. There had not been a federal execution for 17 years, but he made up for lost time by executing more than three times as many as the federal government had put to death in the previous six decades.. Thirteen people have been executed in these few months, three during the lame duck period of his administration. For the first time in history the US government executed more citizens than did all states combined.

Twenty-two states do not have the death penalty. They are: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.

An average of 3.5 prisoners on death-row have been proved innocent. Since 1976 more than 171 people have been exonerated. Those statistics alone should be enough to stop the death penalty in this country. The number of executions since 1976 is 1,531. How many of those people were innocent?

For more information on this subject see the website for the Death Penalty Information Center at: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/state-and-federal-info/state-by-state

Thorough statistics are available at DPIC Fact Sheet at: https://documents.deathpenaltyinfo.org/pdf/FactSheet.pdf

Photos by Pixabay

According to the ACLU which obtained documentation through the Freedom of Information Act, the first two months that the death penalty was re-instituted the expenses were over $4.7 million. This included all expenses for staff brought in from other federal prisons so they could learn how to carry out lethal injection. I was surprised to learn that the federal government pays all expenses for victims’ families to travel by air to witness the execution. In addition their hotels and food are covered as well as any expenses while they are in town. Other expenses include security for protestors who gather at the time of the execution.

“The Good Earth”

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck, published in 1931, is a story of hardship, love, riches and death set in China in the early Twentieth Century. Buck grew up in China, the daughter of US missionaries and then moved back there after college. She knew the culture of that era and after reading this book you will too. I found some parts hard to read because of the lack of worth and respect ascribed to female children and women, but it was enlightening.

Being a well known classic I thought that I had read this long ago. Recently, I picked the book up off my shelf and upon review saw nothing familiar. I always write the date I purchase a cook inside the cover and I saw that I had owned this book for sixteen years. It is dogeared and had a boarding pass inside which I often used as a book mark while traveling. It remains a mystery as to whether I had read it before and forgotten the whole story! Regardless, I am very glad that I have read it now and if you have not, I recommend that you do.

Pearl S. Buck has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. By the time of her death in 1973 she had published more than seventy books. It is available in audio and also graphic adaptation editions.

What is your opinion of “The Good Earth?” I am sure that most of you have read this story of a family that depended upon the earth for sustaining their life and lifestyle.

Another Poem by Sylvia

the same nighttime sky

i’ve watched 

another day go by…

the sun now setting 

in the western sky…

and with it my heart

so deepeningly blue…

are we 

still,

the same me

the same you?

don’t we 

share,

the same earth

the same sky…

the same moon

the same stars

in the same nighttime sky?

don’t we 

want,

the same hope

the same chance…

the same truth

the same peace

in this same lifetime dance?

i’ve watched 

another day go by…

the sun now rising 

in the eastern sky…

and with it my heart

no longer so blue…

together we can be

a new me

a new you

Sylvia L. Mattingly

January 20, 2021

Written before and after today’s Presidential Inauguration, in hopes of the end of such hateful divisiveness and instead, a reunification in this country.

Things Change

Back in the day there were strict rules enforced by society about the attire of a bride. White dresses were for women who had never been married or had a child. The whiter the dress the more virginal the bride, I suppose. A veil was even added for the mystery of the pure woman beneath. I’ve never been to a wedding where the groom wore anything except a dark suit or tux depending upon the formality of the service. There wasn’t a special attire for men who were previously married or fathered a child. I have known weddings where the bride wore colors, however.

The same double standard is true of the wedding party. The guys are all groomsmen. Are they married? Who knows or cares. The bridesmaids are a different story. There is one who is chosen to be closest to the bride and she is either a “Maid” of Honor or a “Matron” of Honor depending upon her marital status.

But things change over time and I am totally on board with that. In today’s world any bride is entitled to a white dress and there are even maternity wedding gowns today. They come in any color including white. Take a look at this link for a great view of the selection available: https://www.pinkblushmaternity.com/collections/maternity-white-dresses

This is what is on my mind today and I wanted to share it with you. I love that traditions have changed in this area and that women are a little closer to equal thinking and acceptance. I welcome your thoughts.

Photo by Pixabay

A New Day

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amanda Gorman is a 22 year old Harvard graduate who was selected to be the inaugural poet at President Joe Biden’s swearing in ceremony today. You may hear her beautifully recite her poem here: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/20/meet-amanda-gorman-the-youngest-inaugural-poet-in-us-history.html

Title photo by Pixabay

Land of the Lost Souls

“Land of the Lost Souls, My Life on the Streets” by Cadillac Man

This book was originally written by Cadillac Man in spiral notebooks over a period of sixteen years. He covers the perils, freedoms and uncertainties of a man living on the streets of New York City. No matter how many homeless people you’ve seen, perhaps even known, I am sure that you know little about what their day-to-day life is like. I know that I did not. This book gives an intimate and frightening view of what that existence is like.

Cadillac Man got his street name from being hit by a Cadillac and afterwards bearing the imprint of the car’s logo. He has a way of telling much of his story humorously, but there is also fear, fighting, death and even romance in his life. If you are offended by foul language then perhaps this isn’t a book for you. I found the gritty verbiage more believable than if it had been sanitized.

This book is illuminating and probably should be read by most of us who have a safe environment and place to call home. There are many reasons why there are folks living on the streets and we should be more aware of them.

A New Year Haiku

2020 Then
Pandemic COVID19
We want it over

2021
Capitol Insurrection
Who expected this?

Who would have indeed?
All those paying attention
Will it be over?

No one knows for sure
Peace and harmony might come
Or more rioting

What is the cause here?
Plenty blame to go around
Arrest each one now

A new day comes soon
January twentieth
Hold our breath ’til then.

Title photo by Pixabay

“The Second Grave”

“The Second Grave” by Carl Wedekind

Attorney Wedekind writes about violence in Kentucky’s history beginning in 1742 and through the end of the twentieth century. His purpose is to demonstrate that as the state has transitioned from the days of lynchings, duels and family feuds abolishing capital punishment should naturally follow.

The reasons most often given in favor of the death penalty are:

  1. Executions will deter murder by others in the future
  2. Society’s sense of justice demands executions
  3. Victim’s families loss and grief requires executions for justice and closure
  4. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money to keep a murderer locked up for life with free room and board
  5. Rehabilitation of a murderer is unlikely or impossible

The author addresses each of these and gives both examples and statistics to disprove each. He is for the abolishment of capital punishment and presents a strong case.

Because this book is dated (copyright 1999) I started to not review it here, but after more thought I changed my mind. It is still relevant to the discussion of capital punishment and the history of Kentucky is similar to that of other states. The truths apply universally and over time.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of capital punishment whether for or against. It will also be of interest to any Kentuckian.

Dishes With Attitude

Depression Glass

Depression glass sounds, well, depressing. It is far from it as can be seen in the photos below. Depression glass was made from 1929 to 1939 in the United States during the, you guessed it, Depression. Such pieces in beautiful colors of pink, yellow and green, are collectors pieces today and I have about two dozen dishes passed down by my maternal grandmother who I called Mammy. I love them because they were hers and then my Mom’s. I wonder where they will end up, because my heirs are not likely to really care for them. They are not that practical to use, since they are rather fancy in design. I’m guessing that they brightened the daily life of many homemakers during the depression when money and everything else was scarce.

One of the best things about these fancy dishes is that they could often be obtained for free in products such as Quaker Oats or at very low prices, making it possible for most homes to have at least a few pieces during that era. My depression glass makes me happy because of the memories it evokes.

Carnival Glass

Carnival glass is harder to describe so I’m going to rely on the three photos below and Wikipedia: “Carnival glass gets its iridescent sheen from the application of metallic salts while the glass is still hot from the pressing. A final firing of the glass brings out the iridescent properties of the salts, giving carnival glass the distinct shine it is known for.”

Carnival glass was first made in the US, but later was produced in almost every country. It was particularly popular in Australia. Huge production took place in the 1920s, again when housewives were looking to brighten up drab lifestyles and homes. The name comes from the fact that such pieces were often given as prizes at carnivals and fairgrounds. Much of it was sold, however, and some pieces today are collector’s items which can be worth considerable amounts of money, particularly the scarce colors. Carnival glass is fun because it is so different from what we commonly see today.

I have a few pieces of Carnaval glass passed down by each of my Grandmothers.

Fiesta

Fiesta dish ware speaks for itself! It is made in a fiesta of colors and it has brightened my home for over 60 years. It comes in open stock and I chose it for my dishes rather than a china pattern when I wed back in 1960. China came later, but Fiesta dishes served our family growing up and still decks my table today, everyday.

Fiesta is a line of ceramic glazed dishes introduced by the Home Laughlin Company of West Virginia in 1936. The art deco style dinnerware was not manufactured from 1973 to 1985 but is produced today in the colors in the photos below and many others. Over the years colors are introduced and then retired. A few of those pieces I have from Mammy’s kitchen, gray, rose and a very dark green.

Fun fact, at one point some Fiesta colors were found to be slightly radioactive, due to uranium compounds being used in the ceramic glaze. I have one such piece, a bright coral salad plate. I will keep it forever. I think my Fiesta dishes will find happy homes after I die, because my daughters and at least one granddaughter enjoy pieces already.

Cut Glass

Cut Glass dishes are not as prevalent as the other fun kinds described above. I have one cut glass bowl seen below. Cut glass is not the same as glass etching. Rather it feels slightly sharp to the touch at each of the cut surfaces. Pressed glass looks similar but is smoother and less valuable. I wish I knew the history of this cut glass bowl, but all I know is that it was my Mother’s and she loved and valued it, so I do as well.

The Sun Does Shine

“The Sun Does Shine, How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” by Anthony Ray Hinton – with Lara Love Hardin

In 1985 “Ray” Hinton was a twenty-nine year old man living with his beloved Mother and working a full time job within the community. He wasn’t perfect. He had written a few bad checks and had once stolen a car, but he was not a murderer. That did not keep him from being arrested, tried and convicted to be put to death in Holman Prison in his home state of Alabama. Hinton was innocent and for three years he could only think of that and of getting even with those who put him in prison. During this time he did not speak except to his Mother and his best friend who visited him. After those years he realized that anger and hatred were not helping his cause and he began to make a life where he was even though he never gave up believing that one day he would be proven innocent.

For thirty years he lived, ate and slept in a cell that was 5X7 feet and during these years he had only one hour per day of exercise in an outdoor chainlink pen. Somehow he made his life worth living. He knew he was innocent and he had hope. He started a book club on the cell block and for the first time prisoners had something more than the Bible to read. They were only allowed two books and they had to share them up and down the rows of cells, but after everyone had a chance to read, there would be a discussion of the book. The men now had something to think about other than their approaching executions.

His incompetent trial attorney half-heartedly appealed his case without any success. Justice was hard to come by as a poor black man but year after year he continued to hope. During the time he spent on death row he knew each time there was an execution because his cell was only feet away from the room where this took place. As the generator kicked on for the electric chair the lights in the cell block would dim. Then he smelled the burned flesh of his fellow prisoners, men he got to know over the years they were contained in close proximity. Fifty-four men were killed during the years Hinton remained on Death Row.

When the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) learned of his case an attorney was sent in to seek a re-trial. After a few years there was another attorney and further attempts were made to fight the legal system and to obtain justice for Hinton but to no avail. Finally a miracle occurred in the form of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the EJI, (and author of “Just Mercy” https://crookedcreek.live/2020/11/23/just-mercy/ ) who made a surprise visit to Holman Prison. He informed Hinton that he was taking over his case. More years of legal proceedings took place until Stevenson finally took Ray Holman’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2015 he finally walked out of prison a free man.

This story of courage and forgiveness is well worth your read. I highly recommend it for better understanding humankind as well as the Justice System or what stands for justice in the United States.

See “Decades Behind Bars” by Gay Holman at https://crookedcreek.live/2019/05/27/decades-behind-bars-book-review/

Happy 2021

Most of us will not be sorry to say, “Good-Bye” to 2020, but if we are here to discuss it we can be grateful for the survival. With so many throughout the world succumbing to COVID19 we are lucky to be welcoming a New Year.

I wish a happy and safe new year to each of you. May your 2021 be filled with hope and success.

2021

Photos by Pixabay

The Unlived Year
Midnight strikes and the old year's gone.
We close the tablets we've written on.
And torn 'twist hope and doubt and fear,
we open the book of the unlived year!

An unlived year! Ah, stained with tears
are the well-thumbed volumes of other years!
Soiled by blunders and black regret 
are the pages we read with eyelids wet. 

But fresh in our hands once more is laid
a clean, new book by the Master made.
Unmarred are the pages lying there--
Twelve new chapters fresh and fair.

It is ours to write the daily tale,
of how we conquer - or how we fail;
Of struggle and effort and hope that makes 
like a song in the heart, when the bright day breaks.

Yes, fresh in our hands with the title clear, 
is the challenge now of an unlived year!
Author Unknown

The Visit Poem

the visit

 

upon waking,

the first day of this new year,

i opened my back door

to find visitors…

 

not just the usual gathering,

but an unorthodox menagerie…

visitors of the most extraordinary kind…

 

a boastful bluejay

flashing his brilliant wings…

a haughty mockingbird

exhibiting his boisterous nature…

 

a bashful carolina wren

darting back and forth

from bush to bush…

a host of chatty starlings

conversing amongst themselves

from higher in the trees

 

and my usual visitors…

the common house sparrows

hiding in the safety of the holly bushes…

a male cardinal, tweeting madly

from the utility line.,,

and a handful of doves,

camouflaged against the bare ground

beneath the empty feeder…

 

my visitors come anxiously…

awaiting their morning manna

of sunflower and millet seeds…

peanuts and thistle…

 

but the most striking visitors of the day

are the dozens of robins

devoid of their usual warm weather fare,

come to feast on the ripened red berries

of the foster hollies…

 

and here am i…

ever grateful for the visit

where in my own private aviary

without walls or doors

all are free to come and go at will…

knowing they can…

knowing there is safety,

but knowing there is freedom…

 

and here am i…

in awe of what nature has delivered

on this the first day of a new year…

knowing that not only is it they

who have come here to me,

but i in turn

who have also paid the visit

By Sylvia L. Mattingly, January 1, 2020… the year of perfect vision.

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Photo by Pixabay

 

Monday Book Review: “Separated”

This New York Times bestseller, “Separated – Inside an American Tragedy,” was published in July of this year. The author, Jacob Soboroff, is a TV journalist who won the 2019 Walter Cronkite Award for Individual Achievement by a National Journalist and the HIllman Prize for Broadcast Journalism that same year. Soboroff witnessed firsthand in Texas, Arizona and California what the United States of American did to thousands of families seeking asylum in the US. In short, families were separated and often placed in chainlink cages similar to dog kennels. Parents were held having no idea where their children were and usually that was thousands of miles away.

Much of this separation was done in secret before it was known to be a US plan to deter those seeking asylum from coming across the southern border. Soboroff went the shelters and tent cities and interacted with both Border Patrol and particularly one father son family from Guatemala. The author’s observations and his sharing of his own horror are memorable.

If this is a subject that interests you, and it should interest all of us, I recommend this book for a better understanding of what was done and to some degree is still being done to families who seek safety in this country. Of necessity, this book contains the names of numerous government agencies and their acronyms and this can impede what would otherwise be a fast read.

Happy Holidays

My family tradition is to celebrate Christmas (the Mass of Christ) and I wish a Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate Christ. I know there are other traditions of faith and festivity and I wish Happy Holidays to all readers according to your customs and beliefs.

Photos by Pixabay

@#$%^&*(+_((*&^%$#!!

The “Monday Book Review” (“The Other Wes Moore”) was scheduled for January 4, 2021 but for some reason WORDPRESS decided it should go out on Tuesday, December 22, 2020. Just thought I’d add this note of explanation so you’d know I really do know it isn’t Monday!!! Although, in truth, somedays I’m not sure what day it is.

Monday Book Review

“The Other Wes Moore” by Wes Moore

This story is both heartbreaking and enlightening. Two children with the same name grew up at the same time in similar conditions. Each was fatherless and each struggled in school and the “hood.” As adults one is a Rhodes Scholar and Military Officer, the other is in prison for life without a chance for parole. This book follows each child as he grew into adulthood and the contrasts are striking.

The author states, “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.”

I found this book very illuminating and recommend it for you.

The Great Conjunction

If you didn’t see it last night you may be in luck and still able to see Jupiter and Saturn close together in the sky. I expected a artistic “Star of Bethlehem” but it looked more like a very large and bright star. By blowing up a photo of the conjunction you could actually see two circles, i.e., planets. I know there were those who saw it clearly through telescopes and at planetariums but it was pretty cool with the naked eye, too.

The fact that these planets are only this close together every 800 or so years made the experience magical. I was overwhelmed by thoughts of the magnitude of this universe and of how little we really know about it. We are but a speck of dust on a tiny orb and yet at times we fuss and fret like we rule the world.

View, Contemplate, Enjoy.

First Day of Winter

snow devils

the frigid arctic wind

stirs up snow devils

that spin and twist

in a cold driven rage

spin drift sprays

off the rooftops

as the cold polar air

sinks and plunges

like a thick heavy weight

toward the ice crusted ground

the air looks solid

and dimensional

as though one could reach out

and take hold

of its thick bitter substance

but in doing so cringe

at the marrow numbing

coldness that courses

through blood and bone

chilling and freezing

even to the core

the snow devils dance

twirling and spinning

in a mad white frenzy

set loose by a polar vortex

that has lost its way

across a wind whipped landscape

written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly 

February 3, 2019

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Photo by Pixabay

The Days of Christmas

Christmas Season

It is upon us full swing! Are you enjoying the season?

Each family is different regarding what timeframe makes up the Christmas season. I know some people who start shopping in autumn and always put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. Others wait for December, but we all know that commercial Christmas begins after Halloween when all the decorations and specials are in place in stores.

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How did Christmas get to be about shopping and exchanging gifts? I bet the Wise Men had no idea what they were starting!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Many Christian families celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas. Those twelve days begin on December 25th when Jesus’ birth is celebrated although no one knows the actual date of his birth. The eight day of Christmas is January 1st and is not associated with New Year’s Day, but with the circumcision of the baby Jesus. The twelfth day, January 6, commemorates the Maji which is the visit of the wise men who brought gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.

And there it began.

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Photos by Pixabay

Zoom by Pat

On Christmas Day in this Covid year,
Let’s Zoom Zoom Zoom.
There are other ways to spread cheer.
Let’s Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Mailing cards and I O Us.
Certificates for grub and booze.
Another time to meet and schmooze.
For now let’s Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Presence and presents both can wait,
‘Til a later, safer date.
Only then can we clean the plate.
For now, Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Sing a carol, deck your halls,
Post some pictures on your Platform walls,
Use the phone and make some calls.
Use Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Better days are on their way.
Might be April, possibly May.
Until they come, at home let’s stay.
Just Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Peace and blessings I send to you.
Thanks for all you say and do.
You took care so I say, “Woohoo”!
Let’s Zoom Zoom Zoom!!!!

By Pat Bush – November 2020

Photos by Pixabay

Missing Raymond

So many things are easier when done with a team. My husband, Raymond, and I were a team of two for over fifty years. We could make up the bed in seconds, one on each side. Preparing a meal, whether for the two of us or a big family gathering, was a cinch as we worked together. In the six years since he died I think of him everyday, but never so much as when I’m working alone.

Some jobs are a chore, others like putting up and trimming the Christmas tree, are a pleasure. As I lift each ornament I recall when and where it was purchased or who gave it to us. Some commemorate a special event such as the birth of our granddaughters. There are many years of memories on the tree when it is completed. And, while Raymond is no longer with us his memory is. I hope that somehow he knows this.

Masks Are Simple

Masks, hand washing, social distancing, Three easy things to do that saves lives, but they have to be done correctly.

  • Distancing = six feet separation.
  • Hand washing with soap and water for twenty seconds.
  • Masks cover the nose and mouth.

I am sick of encountering people with their mask placed UNDER the nose! What part of breathing do they not understand?

MY GINGKO by Sylvia

my gingko

of origins that rise

from lands of jade

with fan-shaped leaves

so fittingly displayed

a crown of yellow foliage

fills my view

so strikingly 

against a sky so blue

then suddenly they fall 

without a sound

yellow leaves now drifting 

to the ground 

a skirt of gold 

now lying at my feet

a treasure where the 

earth and heaven meet

in nakedness your winter bones laid bare

your massive furrowed trunk

left standing there

a monument of centuries gone by

this living fossil rising to the sky

by Sylvia L. Mattingly

November 12, 2020

Click List

In March, I began shopping for groceries via Kroger’s Click List. That seemed pretty simple in the beginning. You go Online, list the groceries you want and then they designate a time for you to pick them up. Employees bring it to your car, load it up, hand you your receipt and you go home to put away those groceries you’ve “clicked.” Seems the perfect solution during the times of COVID.

Well, that’s true, but there are snags. I don’t want my spinach two days past the “use by” date. I don’t want P.F. Changs meat substituted for spring rolls. I don’t want six bananas when I order one. I don’t want my Tostitos chips packed beneath my canned goods! One must be patient, forgiving and willing to learn before the Click List manner of grocery shopping becomes an acceptable replacement for in-person shopping.

One day I needed a 9-volt battery for a chirping smoke detector. I couldn’t order just that, could I? Of course not. So I allowed the Click List program to make suggestions. A few minutes and $88 later, I had ordered my battery to be picked up in a few hours. The chocolates and ice cream were enjoyed! I’m still learning.

Just Mercy

MONDAY BOOK REVIEW

“Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), has been called America’s Mandela and after reading this book I think that is fitting. The book has been awarded many honors and is a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Stevenson, a lawyer, has spent his entire professional career representing those who had no one else to defend them. He and staff at the EJI took on the cases of individuals who had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole as children. He defended the innocent on death row. Many of his clients were people of color, all were in poverty and could not afford legal fees.

The book is chocked full of individual cases, but one is followed in detail, that of Walter McMillian. McMillian was arrested for a murder that he was in no way connected to and spent years on death row before Stevenson managed to win his release. All the court proceedings along with the obvious prejudices against this black man are very enlightening.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a just Justice System for all citizens of this country.

Please read about the Equal Justice Initiative at https://eji.org You will find it very interesting.

A Poem by Sylvia

wicked cold evening

it’s mid November
and a cold drive home . . .

i’m surrounded by evidence
of progress and infrastructure
in the asphalt serpent that i travel on . . .
the bridges of iron and concrete
that span a winding river . . .
the steel and glass monoliths
that stretch skyward
above a sprawling city . . .

as i snake past
the coldness of concrete and steel
i’m drawn into the perceived warmth
of a rose colored sunset . . .
a blanket of soft pinks and blues
pulled up against a western sky

i rumble across the river
on a double decker bridge
leaving one city behind
and entering another . . .

i am a child of nature
a woodland soul, as my name implies . . .
a lover of the earth
and all things celestial . . .
now rooted in an urban jungle . . .

as i turn down market street
past the tall inner-city structures . . .
there before me . . .
low on the eastern horizon . . .
hovers a full “beaver” moon . . .
bright and bold against the blue black sky

my mind is flooded with memories
of another beaver moon now three years past . . .
and memories of someone
who is as distant as the moon itself
on this wicked cold evening

by Sylvia L. Mattingly
November 23, 2019

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