December 1, 2002

The Difference Between Martha Stewart 
and Real Women

Martha Stewart

If you accidentally over-salt a dish while it's still cooking, drop in a peeled potato and it will absorb the excess salt for an instant "fix me up."

Real Women

If you over-salt a dish while you are cooking, that's too damn bad. Please recite with me, The Real Women's motto: "I made it and you will eat it"

Martha Stewart

Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half and rub it on your
forehead. The throbbing will go away.

Real Women

Cure for headaches: Take a lime, mix it with tequila, etc., chill and drink. You might still have the headache, but who cares?

Martha Stewart

Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to prevent ice cream drips.

Real Women

Just suck the ice cream out of the bottom of the cone, for Pete's sake.

Martha Stewart

To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes.

Real Women

Buy Hungry Jack mashed potato mix and keep it in the pantry. It lasts for up to a year.

Martha Stewart

When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking pan, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead and there won't be any white mess on the outside of the cake.

Real Women

Go to the bakery. They'll even decorate it for you.

Martha Stewart

Brush some beaten egg white over pie crust before baking to yield a beautiful glossy finish.

Real Women

The Mrs. Smith frozen pie directions do not include brushing egg whites over the crust.

Martha Stewart

If you have a problem opening jars, try using latex dishwashing gloves. They give a non slip grip that makes opening jars easy.

Real Women

Go ask the very cute neighbor to do it.

And finally the most important, and most telling, difference:

Martha Stewart

Don't throw out all that leftover wine. Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.

Real Women

Leftover wine?????? 


December 1, 2002

Let's Play a Little Game

What in the picture to the left is the personification of Pure, Unmitigated Evil?  Go on.  Have a look.  Have a guess.  Put on your detective hat!  

Could it be the window at the back of the room that seems to open onto a wide open, beckoning landscape, in contrast to the dark, dismal room?  Is it that path of hope and dreams and escapes that is evil?  No.  That's not evil.  That's a GOOD thing.  Is it the envelope on the table, appearing to be oh so benign?  Or is it benign?  Could it hold news that will blow apart a family at its hinges?  Could it change the lives of many people with the secrets it holds?  Nope.  That's a birthday card to my grandfather, probably long since shuffled into the trash and recycled into a lottery ticket or a page in a child's writing tablet.  The inverted cup?  Should a distracted waitress pour coffee it's way, a scalding could ensue.  No.  There would be no skin grafting done on this day.  The odious napkin-wrapped silverware (or death device, perhaps)?  Nope.  Not that either.  Ah.  The dreaded carbohydrate laden cake, with its insipid mission to wreck Katrina off of her Atkins path...that must be it.  So tempting.  So luscious.  So...sweet.  Nope.  The little old man on his 92nd birthday, once a robust, jolly, huge guy filled with love and smelling of tiny York Peppermint Patties and hugs and hair tossling?  The one who jumped up and down and pirouetted like a maniac if you'd let him steal "sugar and tickles" from around your neck with his rough fingers and who loved to read Archie comics?  Nope.  That would be Grandpa, the Anthisis to Pure, Unmitigated Evil.  Is it the stick to his left?  No.  Though it could easily be used as a weapon (and probably should have been and most like was seriously considered as a possible weapon from time to time), it was the cane he used to get around the last few years of his life.  It was hand carved by another kindly gentleman who called him "friend" and laughingly showed him where he'd ornately carved the word "Mary" into the hand piece of the cane.  He told my grandpa that was the only time he'd have "Mary" in the palm of his hand.   Oh yes.  Mary.  Pure, Unmitigated Evil.  My grandmother, Mary Esther Chapman.  She's that specter of wickedness hovering over my poor grandpa "Pappaw"  like the angel of death.

I wanted to love her.  I wanted to adore her.  In a world where I needed some nurturing as much as I needed air to breathe, I wanted either of my grandmothers to be what my mom couldn't be.  If ever I knocked on a wrong door, it was this one.

My grandmother was raised in Casey, Illinois.  I never knew her mother's name, but her father's name was Frank Kelly.  I always loved that name.  It sounded strong and Irish and robust.  Frank and Mrs Frank had four daughters and a son (to my knowledge).  Ione, Clorene (it may have been Corrine, but they sure called her Clorene, like chlorine), Grace and Mary were their daughters.  Doyt was their son.    Mrs. Frank was a devout Christian to the extreme, similar to Carrie White's mother (reference Stephen King, "Carrie") with prayer closets and bleeding crucifixes and marathon camp meetings.  Frank was, according to my grandmother, a drinking, a womanizer, a gambler, a smoker and rogue.  She says he gave his soul to Jesus on his deathbed, for which Grandma and Mrs. Frank were totally grateful (but flew in the face of what my grandmother later told me, which was basically if you ignore Jesus' knocks on the door, he'll eventually ignore yours when you are banging away on the other side as Death closes its icy grip - Maybe it was different for Frank).   Ione and Clorene were party girls, but Grace and Mary followed the narrow path of Mrs. Frank.  Grace married a minister named Ben and they were wonderful, even if seldom seen, figures of my childhood.  I watched Ben preach once and he was fabulous.  Aunt Grace had a bee-yootiful split level home in Anderson, Indiana and half way up where the split happened, she had *gasp* a giant organ.  In my head, it was a gothic pipe organ, but it may have been more scaled back than my 9-year-old child memory registered.  She played it for me and I was melting.  My grandma to be, Mary, went to seminary school and became a minister.  For the time I knew her, her proclaimed faith was Pilgrim Holiness.  Her hair was never cut her entire life and she ALWAYS wore it in a tight little sausage roll that made a "U" around the base of her head.  It was thin and gray as long as I knew her.   My mother told me that she left it up for so long, just combing the top, then nipping it into place with hair pins, that when she took it down, bugs would fall out of it.  I am not convinced that is true.  

Grandma wore stockings (not pantyhose, which were of Satan - that rascal, sending pantyhose to be the undoing of a female nation!) 24/7, even sleeping in them and her sleeves never were above her elbows.  She did not own a TV (although she came to our house sometimes on Sundays when we would watch the TV evangelists) and felt movies, dancing (of any kind, not just the foreplay dancing),  jewelry (she never even wore a wedding ring), perfume and make-up were sinful and would warrant me the much afeared title of "Jezebel" spat from her tight little lips.  She loved radio and again, for as long as I knew her, had a radio broadcast that went out to disadvantaged countries so that she could tell them about the Lord (presuming they spoke English, because Grandma definitely was not given to foreign language).  Grandma always wore dresses that were well below the knee and sensible shoes.

She met my grandfather at a camp meeting.  He was exceptionally handsome and I have no idea of their courtship and marriage beginnings.  Neither of them spoke of it.   My father, Guy, was their only child and while my grandfather loved him dearly, my grandmother felt he distracted her from the Lord's work.  My grandfather worked on the road a lot and Grandma would leave my father, from the earliest ages up, alone for sometimes days at a time while she would preach feverishly at the camp meetings and churches.  She gave nearly all of their money to the church, so from single digit ages up, he would be forced to go to the neighbors to beg for food.  Later, through means I don't know, her sister Clorene's sons, Dean and Wayne, came to live with my dad, so although there were more people to go foraging for food, it had to go further.  Dean and Wayne were rapscallions and by all accounts, the three of them got into more than their share of trouble, which brought vicious beatings from my grandmother and a blind eye turned by my grandfather.  

Dad met mom in 1957 and then went into the army in 1958.  They married in June of 1960 and in Sept of 1961, I was born in the basement of my grandmother's church.  She helped Dr Marquardt deliver me as the noon whistle blew in Augusta, Kentucky.  The birth certificate says 12:04, but mom says it blew right as I slid out.  Grandma was the minister for the church and the parsonage was in the basement, so it was her home.  My mother and father lived with them at the time and the bridge was out to the hospital.  My father was working, I was early and he didn't make it until afterward.  Perhaps those beginnings are what turned me on to home birth (although with Grandma involved, one would imagine it would have the opposite effect).

As she washed my tiny, 6 pound body, she must have pledged then that she would make my life a living hell because that seemed to be her goal for many years.  I don't think I have any memories of her smiling.  She was always angry, always scowling, always expecting and getting the worst from everyone.  She wept every single time she prayed in my presence, so I figure she did the other times as well.  She smelled like must and body odor and moths and the bottom of an old purse.  

When I was 10, I had to ask my mother what birth control pills were because my grandmother was claiming to have found them in my room (they were baby aspirin).  She blew out of my room like a storm of fury, waving the pills like a victory laurel and calling me a jezebel and a whore.  When my mother told her they were NOT birth control pills, I was then labeled a drug addict.  I don't think she ever accepted that they were just baby aspirin.

You know, that was just a small sample of her influence in my childhood.  I have no positive memories of her prior to 1995.  None.  She refused to go to my first wedding because it was in a Baptist church.  She never once acknowledged a birthday.  My grandfather gave me things that were obviously from him, both for birthday and Christmas, but she never did.  My mother told me once that Grandma hated her and that because I looked like her, she grouped us together.  Perhaps that was true.

My father was very tied into my grandmother.  I guess he was always seeking her approval and she was always hoping he'd be worthy of it.  When he died at age 51, my grandfather was destroyed.  He handled all of his pain inwardly, but he cried at the funeral and so I know his pain was immense.  Grandma hovered around his casket, wailing and moaning and praying to God not to let her baby feel the fires of hell.  She blamed my mother for his death, for having left his hospital room (he was not expected to die) to get something to eat and leaving him to die alone in a matter of seconds.  She never stopped blaming my mother, both for his death and for being the siren who led him to hell.

When I was home in Kentucky in 1995, I went to her apartment to see my grandfather, who was bedridden.  He was in bad shape and it would be, I knew then and as it turned out, the last time I would see him.  It was worth putting up with her to honor him and see him again.  

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  He was worse off than I expected, but the time with Grandma was OK.  We talked for a while and she mentioned that she was using eyebright washes for his eyes (?!) which immediately appealed to the Witch in me.  Knowing she would probably drop dead on the spot to know I was Pagan, I presented solely as though I use alternative health treatments and frequently use herbs to heal (all true).  She leapt on it like a cat on a mouse and we talked herbal remedies for some time in a very civil manner.  I thought we had a good connect and at least some common ground.  She called me often in the next two years.  Frequently (in the same conversation), she would try to drift into negative family bashing, ranting about my mother remarrying or my brother's many sins or how my 80-something-year-old other grandmother had stolen her cannonball bed (she didn't), but I would promptly change the subject to something positive.  We managed to carry this off for quite a while.  It got very rocky when Paul left us in mid-1996 and I kept the news from her for some time, knowing what was coming.

During that time, my grandfather died and I was the first person she called.  She told me how it had happened and what a good day he'd had before he died (on Christmas Eve).  She was truly grief-stricken and called me as the paramedics were taking his body away.  I helped her figure out what to do for funeral arrangements (by this time, I was a single mom of 4 and could not afford to fly out to be there for his funeral, which was very painful for me).  I was honored she called me first and shared something so personal.

When I moved to Sacramento in 1997, I explained to her that I had relocated because Paul had left and was marrying someone else.  It was about what I had expected.  Despite our bout of closeness (presumed by me, I guess), she launched into a heated tirade about how I hadn't been a good enough wife or he never would have strayed.  If I'd only prayed enough and been vigilant enough about converting him over to God, he never would have strayed.  I had to make up for my negligence by praying ever harder now that God would bring him back to me.  She was appalled when I told her that not only did I think that was impossible, but that I didn't really WANT him back.  I think the silence on the other end of the phone was a silent scream.  I finally had to hang up on her because I couldn't stand it any more.

After that, we never discussed anything BUT the need for me to get Paul to come back to us.   She read to me from the Bible at every conversation, specifically from Galatians 5 about the sins of the flesh.  She would sob and beg me not to commit spiritual suicide by laying with another man and told me that she knew the blackness of my heart and that if I would just pray enough, God would push it away and then Paul would come back.  ANY way, I finally  ended up being honest and telling her that if she didn't lighten up, I wouldn't be able to continue a relationship with her.  I assured her I would do my best to keep myself spiritual safe (although I did not assure her it would be by HER standards) and that if she could not take that promise as the end of it and pray for me on her own time, we would not be able to continue to speak.  She began calling at times when she knew I was at work, talking to Joe (my son) and even to Delena (my daughter, who was then 4 1/2)  to tell them that they had to help Mommy be strong and not go to hell and to get their daddy back.  That was when I called to tell her that if it didn't stop immediately, we would not be in her life.  She didn't stop, so I changed my unlisted phone number and threatened the few people who had it with DEATH if they told her.  I never heard from her again and that was in 1997.

Last night,  a woman named Sherry McBride called me around 8pm.  She is the daughter-in-law of my Aunt Grace (she of the mighty organ) and called to tell me that my grandmother, who had moved to Anderson, Indiana after my grandfather died, is in the hospital, presumably dying.  She has kidney failure.  She was diagnosed with "pelvic" cancer (she did not tell Sherry where it is in her pelvis) two years ago, prayed and told them that God had healed her of her cancer.  She did not go back to the doctor to verify this and evidently, somewhere down the line, God changed His mind.  Sherry's husband called an ambulance for her on Thanksgiving Day when she went into kidney failure.  She has a malignant mass in her pelvic cavity that is so large it's easily palpable from the outside.   They are going to put stints into her kidneys to try and get fluid past the massive tumor because they know she would not live through the surgery.

I could tell them that the mass isn't really the tumor it looks to be.  The tumor is actually hatred, intolerance, fear, manipulation, wretchedness, anger and bitterness, all coiled up in a big ball in her belly.  It's the unbearable, malignant weight she carries of having to save the world of people who will never really be holy enough, no matter how hard she tries and who will surely never be as holy as she is. 

Sherry McBride wanted to know what we wanted to do, "we" being my brothers and me, I suppose.  The basic idea was "we have something here and we think it's yours and we want to know what to do about it."  If she lives, she will have to go into long-term care.  They think she has Medicare, but they don't know for certain what all it covers and they can't find her card.  The hospital wants contacts for the next of kin.  Does she have a will?  What do they do about her estate?  (She used to own - outright - a house on 3/4ths of an acre of land right down from my former elementary school which was, the last time I saw it, filled with old antiques and sliding backwards down a cliff.   The floor had giant holes in it, the windows were bashed in and the door was broken.  I filled my van with what I could grab and took it back to her and she was angry that we couldn't bring back more.  She tends to buy houses, then leave her crap in them and rent an apartment to live in.  At that time, she'd not been to the house in about 15 years, which was about the last time the yard was mowed)  I had no clue how to answer her questions.  I am the oldest daughter, so technically, her closest living relative as far as bloodline.

I don't know my legal obligation to her care (I  know my interest level).  I don't know what to do.  I don't know what to think or feel.  Almost immediately after Sherry, my brother, Ed, called.  Ed is 8 years younger than I am and he and I constitute the only sane people in our family.  He said that he and his wife, Caren, had discussed it and decided that they live closest to where Grandma is and...they despise her and aren't going.  We had a wonderful 2 hour conversation (I never get to talk to them) and in the end, decided to assess our legal rights and responsibilities and let the rest go.  We feel bad that this other family is taking care of her now, but in the long run, that is their choice to do that and I'm not willing at this time to extend myself into her care just out of guilt because they are doing it.  My grandmother caused me nothing but pain, misery and tons of baggage through my life.  I let go of her way back in 1997 and at that time grieved the grandmother I never had.  I want to be the better person in this, but I don't know that I can.  Part of me wants to be strong enough take what I was going to spend on Christmas for my children, fly to her side and show her that a person who is really close to God is about love and forgiveness and mercy, not about anger and judgments and hatefulness.  Maybe, like she claims happened to Frank Kelly (who I might really have loved to party with had I ever met him), she could truly find God on her deathbed and see that He really is about sharing love and joy and happiness wherever you go rather than resentment, fear, intolerance and criticism.   Maybe she could know that God isn't about a book of conflicting words and letters to villagers intended to manipulate them into either political rebellion or compliance, depending on the mood of the writer.  He's about that which draws us together, not that which pushes us apart.

Maybe I could finally get the huge, gorgeous painting of hers I have coveted since childhood.  She claims it is Gregorian, but I think she misheard "El Greco" and thought "grego."  She always spoke of it as "The Gregorian."  It was huge, easily as big as her couch, and was of "The Holy Family."  It is not of the usually seen "The Holy Family" by El Greco at all.  It's more like this:


holyfamily1.jpg (24187 bytes) 
click it

or this

holyfamily2.jpg (52356 bytes)

click it

It's sort of El Greco cum Raphael and in it, Baby Christ is a toddler, standing on Mary's lap, his arms around her neck, looking into her eyes with Protective Joseph on the left looking on.  The painting is very wide and goes on to show a table with grapes and such on it.  So lovely.  I begged her for it when I saw her in 1995.  She said no.  She promised me I would have it when she died.  I asked and she wasn't sure when that would be.   She then told me the unbelievable:  that is was an original and had once hung in the Vatican.  That my grandmother had an original was not unbelievable.  In her adult years at some point, she carved an allotment out of her church giving and managed to put away quite a collection of antiques.  She haunted antique barns, auctions and estate sales and had LOVELY things.  What astounded me was that *if* the thing had actually hung in The Vatican, that she would admit it and have it in her home given her intense, white hot hatred of all things Catholic (I could kill her now just by calling and telling her that I later married a man who is Pagan and a recovering Catholic.  She'd die on the spot.)  She said that the painting had been "rescued" (read: "stolen") and then cleansed by a righteous church (presumably the church that stole it) so that it was no longer of sin.

The only other thing in her "estate" that I want is my grandfather cane.  I want to lay my hand where his gentle palm cupped Mary in the only way it could (ever, I'm sure).  

I'm going to go cry it out.  I've learned from long back not to fear the cleansing catharsis of tears.   Not even sure why I'm crying.  Just pick something from this entry and you're probably right.

Love to all of you and please, please, use your time and interactions to sow peace and love and understanding and light rather than leaving someone, anyone, with a legacy of dark hatred and fierce judgment to cry over years later.  In the Prayer of St Francis, he writes, "Where there is darkness, let me sow light...where there is hatred, let me sow love." 

With True Love Freely Given, 


Please click on Uncle Sam or the smiley globe if you've already read Uncle Sam!!

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