Tuesday, October 27, 2009


My mother hates chickens. When we were kids and she was a single mom on a very limited (as in poverty level) budget, chicken would have made perfect economical sense for the five of us sitting around the table. But nope. If we needed an injection of pure Southern cooking, the deep fried in the cast iron skillet kind, we had to wait for Sunday dinner next door at Grandmother's.

While perhaps not exactly alektorophobia (only because rich people get to have diagnoses like the fear of chickens), mother's distaste for all things fowl was still quite severe. Not until the Dairy Queen came out with chicken strips -- something that looked nothing like its origin -- was mom able to finally partake of the crispy goodness of the fried bird.

The origins of her aversion are rooted in her childhood (wow ... what a shock) when she had to participate in wringing the creatures' necks before they were robbed of their feathers, introduced to that infamous black skillet, and appeared on her plate. She vowed never to have to eat that particular offering ever again.

I tell this story because my mother has been on my mind quite a bit lately. She and Doc have figured out a way to "live" around his trips to dialysis and the fact that he doesn't move as fast as he used to. She sometimes responds to my weekly inquiry about how she is with, "Fine . . . We're doing as good as can be expected. Doc passed out on the porch a couple of days ago and after Mike heard me yelling and came over . . . " Then the story continues as though it's perfectly normal to have an 84-year-old black out on your front steps. And, I guess in her case, it is now.

My mom is rather resolute. Life is what it is and you make it better or you just accept it and move on. But one of the things she finds hard to accept ... as do any of us ... is a mother outliving her child. She's done it, but even though my brother was 38 and his death came years ago, she's still not "over it" and never will be. (I say that only because of the well-meaning but ignorant people who assured her some day she would.) This week she witnessed another mother lose another son.

Dianne was once a frequent guest in our home. I worked with her at the aforementioned Dairy Queen and my brother dated her. Her post-Kelly boyfriend became her husband and Jimmy was ideal for her. (Meaning no offense to my bother but in this case they all wound up with their soulmates.) They went to college, got great jobs, had great kids, became pillars in the community (by choice since they both had bigtime options for employment that would have planted them in some urban area quite easily). And now ... they have experienced great loss. Their son lost the fight to cancer. Two decades hadn't even passed since his birth. And while, Jimmy (son's name as well) was a true champion by all accounts, the unfathomable happened and he lost the war.

Now what does this have to do with chickens?

Because survivors like my mom and maybe everyone with roots in a small town know that in the midst of tragedy beyond comprehension, you find ways to keep going.

Mother faced her fear of the chicken. The Crooms are egg farmers when they are not being successful professionals, church volunteers and incredibly supportive parents. They supply several members of First Baptist Greenfield with their weekly dozens. Since they've obviously been at the hospital and not at home, folks missed their Wednesday night delivery.

So my 79 year old mother decided to step in. She recruited my (yes-he-uses-a-cane) stepfather and enlisted the help of Dianne's sister to get around the dog and raided the chicken house.

At least, I thought that's what she was doing. She told the tale as though she were going to be right there in the coop, lifting the objects of her lifelone disdain and robbing them of their treasures. I was struck with waves of admiration as she told the story.

Later I found out that what she did was get into the house where the goodies were already cartoned and simply got enough for the congregation who were having to eat cereal rather than omelets for breakfast.

But I was still proud of her. Because I had to hear the egg story before we got to the fact that she was also caring for Dianne's ailing mother with several other folks from town and that she would be helping with feeding the family.

Caring for each other . . . that's just what you do in a small town. At least you do when your name is Margaret Campbell Porter.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hmmmmm. . .

With no children and no spouse to tend to in the evening hours, I tend to scan the channels -- a lot. Here are a few things that make me go hmmmmm . . .

Is anyone else concerned that there are enough women to have an ongoing program called, "I Didn't Know that I was Pregnant"?

Will you be watching the golf channel when they have players compete in a Disney-built goofy golf tournament to see who will move on to some big championship spot? (I won't. I didn't even watch the entire commercial.)

What I would like to say to the crazy dude in California, "Maybe you weren't really thinking when you decided a 6-year-old is a good accomplice in a con game. Didn't you see Paper Moon? Don't you know this cannot turn out well?"

What did B list "stars" do before reality TV decided to highlight B list stars?

Why have housewives in Atlanta, New Jersey, New York, and Orange County not sued to have the names of these programs changed???

I will forego the foundational garments but I would dearly love to wear some of the clothes on Mad Men. And I love, love the fact that the director has told the actresses not to work out! Curvy women unite!

And since I mentioned some crappy stuff, I'll tell you that Mad Men, Iron Chef, Top Chef, Medium, and Amazing Grace are among my favorites. Some day I'm going to be a well-read, articulate, super sensitive free spirit who knows how to cook. Until then, I'll keep watching these programs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Signs of a Passing

"No twitting at the table." -- Martha Stewart in latest Macy's commercial

This weekend's Houston Chronicle had an above the fold (that reference is for all the oldtimers) story on a local mega church's use of twitter in services.

Miley Cyrus cancelled her Twitter account this week.

These seemingly disparate activities lead me to one conclusion. Twitter is on the downhill slide.

At least that's what I'm telling my boss. Yes, there are folks who are using it daily and with entertaining outcomes. Social networking has definitely come into the spotlight as a result. But my geek friends were into it years ago. Commercials and the church have just acknowledged it.

Applying the diffusion of innovation theory, that means the early adopters are looking for a new "wave" to focus on (that reference is for the googley newtimers). The early majority are quite proficient at capturing life in 140 characters or less and the late majority think this is THE way to connect to a generation.

Sure we may have a few years of vibrancy left, but I'm not banking on it.

To twitter or not to twitter is no longer my question.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One Morning of Wonder

Ever wonder if the things you wonder would be quite as wonderful to anyone else?

For instance . . .

I wonder if I'm right that the voiceover on the last commercial really was John Boy aka Richard Thomas?

If my friend knows that I hate that her mom has to endure chemo and that I wish I could take that cancer and my friend's MS and shove them both down a disposal in some cosmic kitchen, hear the sound of them being chopped to nothingness and then walk away . . . back to my friend . . . for a dance (that I would make her dance even if she didn't think she had the rhythm to do it)?

If visitors to my home get the same sense of comfort from the earth tones of my rug, walls, leather furniture and art by or about women that I do?

If the fact that I only go online sitting in one place will permanently cause an indentation to my couch?

If the gift of knowledge that my writer friend shared about the phrase "put her foot in it" is now even more sweet after I heard an African American hip hop artist use it this morning?

If anyone has noticed that several popular songs right now are asking people to do something significant and would make great soundtracks for a training conference on volunteerism?

I wonder about small towns and if it is inevitable that girls like me who felt stuck there once upon a time usually come back to a deep appreciation for the connectedness that is instilled in its residents . . . as deeply as the accent that I return when I'm tired or really comfortable?

If everyone who reads the status updates on their Facebook friends experiences the spectrum of diversity that I see daily -- twitters about children's eating habits, recipes, calls for the president to both speak out and shut up, party invites and prayers, sermon outlines and innuendo . . . oh! and sometimes in multiple languages?

If the rain will dampen the spirit of those going to the art festival I worked yesterday or rodeo day at the zoo that I'm supposed to do today?

If there's anyone out there who would like to partner with a woman who wonders like me?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Color Me Pink

I paused at my usual vantage point. A participant in numerous "walks for the cause", I knew the location along the route where six lanes of pink-wearing walkers would be most visible for a longview. Taking in the thousand or so in that one spot and then knowing that somewhere around 30, 000 others had just passed this point or would soon was . . .


All that organizers would have wanted it to be.

Inspiration was easy. The survivors wore special caps or shirts to designate they had thus far beaten a disease that had taken the lives of so many -- who were memorialized on the backs of shirts of friends and family members. Some survivors didn't need the apparel. The lack of hair, pale complexion, and gaunt face announced to all that these were the current combatants. Their presence underscored that each day of life is its own victory.

I cry easily. Give me a good Hallmark commercial (or frankly, even a cheesey bad one) and I'll tear up. But my tears came and went quickly as I became infuriated with the injustice of a disease that robs daughters from their mothers, fathers from their children (yes, even men get breast cancer), sisters from sisters, and on and on and on. One of my favorite examples of writing -- West Wing -- took on the subject of cancer in an episode. President Bartlett, bored by a dinner party with his wife's medical friends, overhears one of them mention something about the disease and perks up. After a few moments, he begins to understand that a cure for cancer is within reach . . . if only enough money and time could be devoted to it. His team is called together and Rob Lowe's character is commissioned to write the lines that will ignite an accelerated movement in that direction after they are delivered during the State of the Union. Reminiscent of Kennedy's declaration that we would have a man on the moon, the idea was to underscore the potential, not the possible. The words are written . . . and never spoken. The politics of making words reality trumps inspiration. Lowe's character is later prompted to report, "We almost cured cancer today."

Almost is never good enough. And so, while a walk does me some good physically and calls attention in a very pink way to what is being done and is left to do, I'm energized to do more. Write? Sure, that's easy. Give? Have been and will continue. But what else? I'm open to what doors open on this one. Cancer eats away internally. Cancer bites. And I'm ready for a fight. I'll let you know when I get to throw the next punch.

Words Mean Something

This week, on two occasions, I heard folks defending Roman Polanski with the rationale that what he did wasn't "rape rape." This morning, I was watching early Sunday morning TV and heard an ad for yet another "reality show" about rich women -- this time in Dallas -- and heard one woman unapologetically state, "I don't mind being called a bitch, because I'm a nice bitch."

Huh? Huh?

Rape doesn't come in degrees. A bitch is a bitch is a bitch. (And, yes, you can quote me on that.)

Perhaps the fact that I know the pain of finding an error in a published product after numerous (and yes, I mean several, lots, more than five, yea verily a multitude) of eyes have scoured it for potential oops, or because I was educated in a system prior to online publications where the ease of corrections was a fantasy rather than a "change-it-and-upload-a-new-version" reality, but I still think we should choose words carefully and be especially careful when we are addressing the public.

"Rape rape" suggests that some version of rape exists out there (in what I can only suppose is la la land) that is acceptable or at least not worthy of prosecution. And, even though it was a singular quote by a rich Dallas diva, "nice bitch" reflects that same tendency to put wrong on a spectrum. I'm not a black and white person when it comes to most things but I'm also not devoid of the need for anchors. When we start giving what we have defined as "this" the option of also now meaning "that or that" we are giving a nod to the deconstruction of language. And, while I'm a big believer in the phoenix' ability to rise, I need to believe that we can hold tightly to language . . . that new words can be created to take on thoughts that have evolved.

Still . . .

I'm reminded of a friend's story of trying to introduce his son's 20-something-year-old friend to art. They were touring a museum and both he and his son were going to great lengths to explain the history of pieces, the interplay of colors and the potential meaning behind the choices, the fact that pieces reflect the thinking or the debate of the time, etc. They continued through the museum and when the young woman came upon a modern piece that was nothing but a few blocks of color on canvas, she studied it for a few moments and then declared, "I get it. I hear what you've both been saying but ... I'm still calling 'bullshit' on this one."

Rape rape? Nice bitch?