photo by Sheri Dixon

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Through the Decades (Decay + Hades = Decades)

Halloween circa 1960's

(my childhood)

Everyone old enough to walk upright trick or treated- almost NEVER with parents- older kids took the younger ones. Starting at DARK on Halloween night. If a porch light was on, the house was fair game. If the porch light was off, you left them alone. At least that was the line you told your parents while sneaking the spare toilet paper and eggs outta the house (which our parents totally saw). We were told, "Don't cross the street- stay on our block" but we interpreted that as, "Stay in our zip code" and our parents knew that, too.

We'd plumb fill up a pillowcase with candy, return home, empty it out and go back out again. The neighbors always pretended they'd never seen us before...several times that night.

Halloween was over when all porch lights were off and/or midnight. They generally coincided.

Halloween circa 1970's

(my teens)

As a high-schooler, I collected a tidy sum to wear a frog suit (not like a scuba diver, like an amphibian) and travel from the field house on the first floor, up the THREE flights of stairs (traversing each floor first) to the top of the school at the other end at final passing time. The stairs were hell wearing flippers but I made over $100 in collected bets.

Trick or treating had lost its appeal somewhat- to be replaced by "working" at the Jaycee's Haunted House, which was by turns hot, freezing, dirty, wet and exhausting. It was awesome. I worked there in costume a few years, then helped them organize and run it for a few years. We gauged our success by the number of people I'd have to help escort out the side doors because they couldn't take another step forward. I also met my first husband there. First a treat, then (aww, hell. Figure it out).

Halloween circa 1980's

(my 20's)

We'd moved out to the country, meaning no neighborhood. The kids were little and the family was spread out half in North Racine (20 minutes from us) and half in West Racine (another 20 minutes from there). I'd dress the kids, we'd get in the car and race from one relative to the next one so they could run up the porch, ring the bell and be fussed over and petted, then back into the car and to the next one...all in the 2 hour alotted "trick or treat time" the city enforced. Late afternoon on the Saturday closest to Halloween.

Halloween circa 1990's

(my 30's)

I'd moved to Texas and was working 2 full time jobs. The only time I noticed Halloween was when we got prank calls at work about black cats and newt's eyes.

Halloween circa 2000's

(my 40's)

A new child, and a new environment. The days of random trick or treating were over, replaced by church "Harvest Festivals" or other organized events- Boo at the Zoo for the younger kids and "Halloween at the Hatchery" for older kids. We hosted a few Halloween parties and they were alot of fun for everyone, incorporating the tamer aspects of the haunted house years.

Halloween circa 2010's

(my 50's)

Holy moly. I've got an almost-teenager. We've far outgrown church festivals, Boo at the Zoo AND the Fish Hatchery and we flat don't have the time or resources for a big Halloween bash at the new place (yet- we have plans simmering in the cauldrons of our minds, we do...). So we went to the Denton Day of the Dead yesterday. It was fabulous. Trick or treating (from classic car to classic car and booth to booth) good food, fun/funny/horrific/horrifying costumes on kids from zero to a century old (my favorite- Dead Elvis). Alec went as Guy Fawkes and had his photo taken with several people and others gave a thumbs-up for the Revolution.

(Alec at Recycled Books and one of the books he got there)

We ate at Fuzzy's Tacos and the evening concluded with a terrific performance of Cirque du Horror under the sliver of a chilly Texas moon.

Over half a century of Halloweens come and gone. Wasn't it just yesterday I was dared to knock on mean old Mr. Cushman's myself? Four years old and terrified, by god I did it, even though his porch light was off and all the neighborhood kids were afraid of him. The door creaked open, Mr. Cushman glared out and I met his eyes with my own steely gaze. Stuck out my sack and squeaked "Trick or Treat". He filled my pillowcase with candy and I returned to the sidewalk triumphant.

One thing I've always known- it's better to face monsters than turn your back on them.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy- We ARE the 99%

So many people are having a terrible time figuring out "exactly what this Occupy Thing is all about". The problem, I think, is that there isn't ONE thing that it's about. It's about a whole lot of things that have been going south for a very long time.

It's about people- good hardworking people who go to work, pay their bills and follow to the letter the steps to attain the American Dream.

That dream was within reach 50 years ago. A family of 4 could not only subsist, but thrive on one income- buy a house, buy a new car, pay for nice things and college educations for the youngsters. A good job meant fair wages AND health insurance benefits AND a pension.

Then society started shifting. Some folks say it began with Womens' Lib but I call bullshit. I know MY mom had to go to work to help pay the bills and she sure didn't do it with a smile on her face- I don't think most moms did. They did it because wages did not keep up with rising prices and they HAD to.

But it was easier to blame Womens' Lib on "destroying American Families".

And it kept shifting. Prices kept rising and wages rose just barely enough to allow people to think they were "getting ahead". Good steady jobs weren't quite so steady anymore and people started re-locating to follow the money, sometimes every few years, meaning hardly anyone anymore stayed anywhere long enough to collect their 20 year gold watch. Or pension. Or pay off a house. Or make and keep friends and maintain family ties and roots.

But it was easier to focus on the presumed assumed benefits and advantages of a constantly moving society than to worry about what all that upheaval was doing to our collective families.

Meanwhile, up in the penthouse...

Rich people have always been with us- they do things like build factories and start banks and spend their pocket change on frivolities like the Arts and sports teams.

Here's some other things they've always done until recently.

They've paid ALOT more taxes. Sometimes up to 75% (compared to the 23% they are taxed now). And here's the funny thing. THEY WERE STILL FREAKING RICH. But more than that- those were the years our country could afford to do things like
-build an interstate highway system
-send people to the moon
-construct a whole shitload of community colleges

But WAIT- there's MORE.

They also employed lots of people.

Then, right around the time everything was going to hell in a handbasket on accounta Womens' Lib and people re-locating for work, two things happened.

Laws changed which allowed the really rich guys to pay a lot less in taxes, and the really rich guys moved lots of their business out of this country.

But I'm pretty sure those two things had nothing to do with the decline of the standard of living here in the USA. As stated before, it was the damn Womens' Libbers and those greedy people running all over creation in search of the almighty dollar.

That the income of the top 1% has increased by over 200% while the income of the other 99% of us has stagnated is surely just an anomaly. Which I also like to refer to as "bullshit".

Meanwhile, on Wall St...

The banks (owned by some of the really rich guys) and investment companies (ditto) and all the big corporations (____) were getting annoyed by any sort of activity that looked like they weren't being trusted. So they bought themselves politicians. Actually they bought damn near ALL the politicians and told them to get rid of any pesky regulations- they just slowed down the process of making money "for everyone".

So the politicians did. And all the big guys on Wall St. and in the board rooms of the corporations smiled. Some of them tried to do the right thing. Some of them saw a wide open road lined with money just for them and they ran with it. All the way to overseas bank accounts. Even though it was OUR money that we had put there for them to keep for us.

If any of us down here at the bottom of the heap were to take someone elses' money and run with it, we'd be arrested and tossed in jail. The banks told their purchased politicians to "fix it", so the politicians took MORE of our money and literally bailed their asses out.

So they did it again.

Meanwhile, down on the farm...

Companies like Monsanto (Native American for "Bastard Devil Seed") have been willfully and with complete knowledge poisoning our families while siccing their purchased politicians on dangerous folks who have the audacity to grow their own food instead of buying it at Walmart like good Americans.

Meanwhile, at the homeless shelters...

Folks who were told that the only way they could get money to buy a home would be with adjustable rate mortgages signed on for them- because that was the only thing offered. They were told that "most likely" the rates would not go up and in fact (are you a betting man, buddy?) may even go down please sign on the dotted line.

Meanwhile, in the cemeteries...

Tens of thousands of Americans die every year for lack of affordable accessible health care.

So Occupy is about a lot of things.

Here's what it's NOT.

It's NOT The Liberal Tea Party.

It's NOT "just" Occupy Wall St.- there are now Occupy's all over the country (actually all over the world) in front of banks, corporations, political and civic buildings- anywhere and everywhere shit needs changed.

It's NOT a buncha unemployed disenfranchised dope smoking drum beating hippies who are reluctant to pay back their student loans in underwater basketweaving. There are retired people, families with children, military people, nurses and doctors, anyone and everyone who are not looking for blood- just asking for morality and accountability from those who are holding all the cards...and all the money.

It's NOT being run or financed by any political party or union or private entity- people from any other group are welcome as long as they do NOT co-opt it. It's being powered by individuals and reported on via the interwebs from digital cameras and cell phones.

It's NOT Obama supporters- most of us are frankly disappointed in our current President. And it's not liberal democrats. It's everyone from every walk of life.

It's NOT advocating for a government or financial collapse. Just some adjustment to make things a little more American than they've gotten lately.

It's just what it says- Occupy. Be there. Show up. Peacefully resist the inequities that do NOT have a damn thing to do with how this country is supposed to work.

Occupy is the first step. Facing things that need changed head on.

Next week is the next step- Turning our backs on 'em- Move Your Money. Out of the big banks and into local banks and credit unions. This should go hand in hand with a shift to doing EVERYTHING locally- grocery shopping, clothes shopping, haircuts to donuts- locally owned and run businesses rather than national chain stores.

People say, "This has to turn violent before it accomplishes anything- no one wins anything they're not willing to fight for".

Not necessarily.

If Occupy can maintain its solidarity without becoming attached to any other group or movement, if it can remain aggressively passive and peaceful despite being baited and bullied, and if enough Americans Go Local even if they never show up to protest real change can occur.

That's a lot of "ifs", but if it doesn't work, we're either headed for violent civil strife, or a continuing spiral into something ugly, either way America- the America our Forefathers imagined and the America we'll be leaving our children- will be lost.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Say Tomato, I Say "I Don't Have Time For This!"

So we were out of town for 5 days and have 3 days at home till leaving again for 3 days.

During this interim, I worked yesterday, we had dentist appointments and got Alec all costumized for Halloween today, and tomorrow I work again, then bake something to take to our friends' house this weekend. No time to spare, I am hoping almost beyond hope that I find the time and energy to do the dusting and cleaning that need done sometime tonight yet.

World events are twirling and twisting in the air and won't go away- the Occupy movement fills me with equal parts hope and dread and an anticipation of...something.

Family changes and events swell and boil and simmer and burble over my brain- a rushing river carrying me along whether or not I'm ready for any of it- we're so fortunate to have places to go, the ability to get there and people who love us, so fortunate that our family grows in surprising yet wonderful ways, I just wish sometimes for a day, one day that I need be no one for nobody save myself and every day I promise myself just such a day "as soon as...".

Because one thing I've learned is to cherish every moment with every loved one and I MAKE time to spend one on one with each precious member of the family. Because one day my boy will be grown and gone and the other members of my family are all...older than I am, and I come from a family of ridiculously long lived women. So chances are good that one day I'll be able to take a day for myself one after the other, over and over again without end.

I dread that day.

'Course I wasn't thinking any of that yesterday driving to the post office. I was thinking, "Holy shit I have 3 days to get all this stuff done but I think I can do it if nothing else plops like a steaming pile of cowpatty onto my plate", when I drove past the veggie stand and there it was.

The case of tomatoes.


I'd been looking all summer for the cases of tomatoes that are generally stacked at the front of the stand, but the heat and drought were even too much for the tomatoes this year and there never were any.

Till yesterday.

I cursed out loud and pulled into the parking lot.

The vendor said that no, he hasn't had any cases for sale- this ONE is because here at the end of the season some of the tomatoes are coming in with blemishes and can't be used in the little plastic baskets that hold 5 or 6 of the perfect ones so he set them in...the case. And set the case out front. Instead of last year's $12 a case this one was $5. On accounta the blemishes and whatnot.

Filled with equal parts hope, dread and anticipation I loaded my tomatoes into the car and took them home. Because I far prefer feeding my family stuff I've made myself from scratch with all fresh ingredients. And tomato sauce is crazy easy.

But it takes time.

Time I don't have right now.

Time I had to make because blemished tomatoes wait for no one.

So I made tomato sauce tonight- 12 pints of it- and they're happily chillin' in the freezer.

It's 11:08pm and I haven't started cleaning. I may do it and I may not. I may get a start on it or I may say, "Screw it" and go to bed.

All that remains to be seen...after I type out the recipe for tomato sauce and find a suitable song for my playlist.

Mama Dixon's Fresh Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes- about a dozen
Onion- 1 medium
Garlic- 3 cloves
Brown sugar- 3 tbsp
Salt- 2 tsp
Basil- 2 tsp

Trim off all woody parts/blemishes from the tomatoes, cut into chunks and place in large kettle. Chop onion and garlic and add to kettle. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, stir and simmer covered till mushy (about 30 minutes), stirring every so often.

Remove from heat and ladle 4 cups into a blender. Blend just until it's sauce- chunkiness according to personal preference. Pour into containers and freeze.

makes 4 pint containers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Just In Case You Get Hungry While I'm Gone

So I'm literally cooking my way out the door- we're headed to Missouri tomorrow morning for the Gathering and will be gone till Monday night.

The farm is in the capable hands of Joe- with Wendy as his supervisor.

I've run all the pre-trip errands, done all the pre-trip laundry and am assembling all the cooking ingredients I'll need this weekend. Just fixin' to put the bread in the bread machine before bed and I thought...Hey- I think I'll share this recipe for

Sweet Potato Bread

1c milk
1 large egg + water to make 2/3c
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
4c unbleached white flour
2/3c mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1 1/2tsp bread machine yeast
1/2c cranberry nut trail mix (any trail type mix will do as long as there's no chocolate or yogurt chips or other melty stuff in it)

Add all ingredients to bread machine and select "basic white" cycle.

Ya'll have a great weekend and I'll see you next week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Big Red Horse

I've been horribly remiss in blogging- life is extremely hectic right now- all good things, no worries- but I feel awful not posting anything for so long, especially since my personal goal is 3 times weekly and it's been almost 3 weeks since my last post. Therefore, I'm sharing this short story with ya'll- I wrote it a few years ago and pulled it out yesterday as a possible reading for a radio show, but it won't work- I can't read it without crying. *Enjoy*

The big red horse waits quietly, one ear forward and one back, about to give the most important performance of his life.
Having traveled thousands of miles, and having given many outstanding performances, he's ready for this one as well.

Born in sunny California, Regal Risk (Frisky to his many friends and admirers) was a big showy colt whose glowing red coat and tall white stockings were the perfect package for his 'look at me' attitude and his huge willing heart.
As a young gelding, Frisky was Top 10 National Halter Gelding two years running, and then began his under-saddle career.

At the age of 12, Frisky was purchased by Amy Langhorst and went home to Ohio. With Amy, Frisky was shown extensively in Western Pleasure AOTR, and achieved his Legion of Merit. Frisky had his own following at shows, and people came by just to see the big red horse with the enchanting personality.
The year Frisky turned 25, Amy decided he should retire to a warmer climate and a life of leisure.

This is where I came in. Amy asked if Frisky could come live with me and I made sure she knew that I'd love to have him but that my facilities are not as fancy as he was accustomed to- my horses are out all the time with a run-in for shelter, their few acres enclosure mostly wooded (meaning his 6 foot long tail would need to be trimmed) with a pond to swim in (meaning that his white sox would be getting dirty), and that I flat out don't have time to ride the horses I already have, much less another one. Amy assured me that that's exactly what she was looking for- someplace Frisky could relax and just be a horse for once. Frisky packed his bags and headed for Texas.

Amy and I were both worried about how a 15 hour drive would affect the old guy. The trailer pulled up and Frisky was led out- head up, nostrils flared, tail awave, prancing as though on springs.

Frisky settled in with his new stablemate, and proceeded to begin his retirement. No shows, no being ridden, 100% pasture time and getting just as dirty as he pleased. For the first time in his life, he had nothing to do.

He hated it.

I first noticed a change in his expression. He got kind of a bratty, bored look to him, and started picking on the other horses. Then he started fence fighting with the yard dogs. Although into his 20's, Frisky was not at all ready to retire.

Enter Rebecca, who needed a temporary replacement for one of her string of horses. Even though Frisky hadn't been ridden in several years, he just walked into his new job and did it. When the horse Frisky was filling in for couldn't come back, Rebecca asked if Frisky could stay on.

Regal Risk++ aka Frisky, the big red horse, waits quietly, one ear forward and one back, about to give the most important performance of his life. Saddled and bridled, Frisky is led up to the mounting ramp.

A helper on each side, young Kevon is transferred into the saddle- helmet on his head, voicebox in his lap, grin on his face. Rebecca asks Kevon what he'd like Frisky to do. Kevon presses a button on the voicebox and a metallic voice says "Trot". "No, Kevon, you can't trot first, you must walk first" Rebecca says, barely hiding a smile. Kevon grins and again presses "trot". Finally, Kevon is persuaded to press the "Walk" button and off they go, around the arena. At different spots, they stop, and Rebecca asks Kevon to do various things to help his balance and coordination. Sometimes there's a furry puppet dangling from the ceiling that Kevon grabs and makes bounce and it makes a sproinging noise. Sometimes he holds brightly colored flags straight out as he rides. Always he has a huge grin on his face- one of the only times he ever smiles.

And always at the end of his ride, they trot- Frisky floating as if on springs, tail in the air, Kevon grinning ear to ear, poor helpers running full out to keep up.

Frisky works three days a week with three different children who are handicapped and autistic. Standing in the line-up, he gazes intently across the field to the playground of the special-ed school, looking for 'his' kids.
He is in his glory.

After years in the show ring up to the national level, strange and sudden sights and sounds are met with a ho-hum attitude. When Rebecca starts out new horses, it's usually a month or more of having them watch what goes on before she puts a child on them, since the toys can be alarming and the verbal outbursts of the autistic children even more so. Frisky was working his second day there. He is clearly adored by his small riders, and truly appreciated by Rebecca and her crew.

The first time I went to see Frisky in his new role; I was brought to tears by one thing. His expression is no longer bored and discontented.

Standing in the line-up, the big red horse waiting quietly, one ear forward and one ear back, ready for the most important performance of his life, is happy.

*Post script- the morning of a semi-annual show for the parents and families of the students, Frisky was nowhere to be found at breakfast time- an unheard of occurrence. After an extensive search, his body was found deep in the woods, his favorite spot in the shade and on a little ridge. There was no sign of inward or outward struggle, and it is believed that at age 30, that giant heart just gave out.

Frisky’s body is buried where he chose to lay down for the last time, but his spirit lives on in every child that he touched.

In every rainbow that flashes across the sky, I know where the red comes from.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Moral of the Story

Back when Alec was a wee thing of 2 or so, we considered adoption since all my parts had been recalled, removed and demolished.

We ran into some roadblocks- we were too old, Ward's health was too sketchy (and that was BEFORE most of the health shit hit the fan), I'd already grown 3 perfectly good children inside of me, but the main sticking point was this- we're not card-carrying Christians.

Even though I'd grown up Lutheran and spent years teaching Sunday School and Ward had been presented at the local Episcopalian church on Sundays to get HIS Jesus on, we were not and are not members of a "church family".

We've actually pretty much grown away from the entire Supreme Being concept- not out of despair or disillusionment or anger, but just because when you lay it all out in the light of day, it looks...questionable at best.

We're not anti-God or pro-Satan and respect others' beliefs- this life is sometimes hard and scary and any spiritual coping mechanism that makes someone more assured and secure is a good one.

Do I believe in "god"? I believe in...something. Energy? Life force? The Circle of Life and reincarnation/recycling? Something.

But not the god of the Christian bible. That one seems too petty, too vain, too un-godlike and too...human.

I believe Jesus was real, a real teacher and a real inspiration. But I am not a Christian.

So we are considered unfit.

In this year of political posturing it seems like every candidate is showing how much more Christian they are then the others. It's a big ol' pissing contest...with bibles.

Here's what I don't understand.

Why is saying you're Christian an automatic pass to an assumption of morality?

I consider myself a moral person. I KNOW Ward and Alec are moral persons. Every single person I love are moral persons yet only a handful attend church- any church.

Every one of us knows right from wrong. Every one of us cares for others before themselves. Every one of us seethes at injustice and works for equality...for all.

Is that not the very definition of "morality"?

I've known some moral Christians- good, kind people I'm proud to call family and friends.

I've also known some real Christian assholes who are mean-spirited and judgmental and who have no problem causing mental and physical harm to someone they deem unworthy or somehow flawed in the name of their god.

Of course there are people who don't believe in anything or anyone but themselves, and I avoid them like the plague they are.

But here's the important part.

You do NOT need religion to be a moral person.

It is absolutely possible to behave in a moral manner without believing in God.

Humans are capable of knowing right from wrong and more often than not will do the right thing regardless of whether or not Santa or God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster is watching them and making a damn list. (pun intended)

So cut the crap.

Stop using the label "Christian" like it's the fucking Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Like the only way anyone can be trusted is if they have a reference from a Church Home.

Show me you are trustworthy by how you live your life, how you treat others you don't need to impress, how you regard women, children, old people, disabled people and dogs.

By what you say and do when you think no one is watching.

Religion has not a damn thing to do with morality.

Character does.