If you’ve been reading for awhile, then you should be well aware that my posts vary wildly. Thoroughly researched political and historical posts which also include my thoughts, to frivolities such as fab recipes or accessories from the 1990s. It’s like a grab bag of what the hell is going on up in here. It’s really all a way to learn, to hone my writing skills and vocabulary, as well as supplying an outlet for my many ideas and thoughts that are swimming around in my head begging to escape.
You’ll also notice that my parents are mentioned… a lot, and probably not in the best of light, especially recently. Because, well… politics. While my parents may be insane now (though this can’t be proven), they actually taught me a great many things that shaped me into the person I am today. Things that they either never believed in to begin with or else somehow forgot along the way. Or perhaps they were just puppeting things they’d heard (but didn’t understand?) and I chose the best pieces of unsolicited advice? I’m not entirely sure. However, in this post, there will be no parent bashing (or very little?) and I will disclose all the wonderful bits of advice and wisdom that they imparted to me… whether they actually meant to or not.
So, for better or for worse, these were the take-aways from my childhood that shaped me into the person that I am today.
To Thine Own Self Be True: It is a partial quote from William Shakespeares’ Hamlet, for the character Polonius, which reads, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”. They are his parting words to his son, Laertes. While Shakespeare meant the quote to mean take care of yourself first, by avoiding vice, so that you can take care of others; the meaning has changed over time to simply mean ‘be true to yourself; be yourself”, which is how my mother thought of the meaning.
However, while the newer meaning is very good advice, my mother tried to play it up Bette Davis style and shout it in exclamations whenever she could, even if the occasion didn’t warrant it, which did make you want to shrink away and forget that you ever heart it. But, I still remember it and it helped me on my journey to be true to myself again.
Your Only As Good As Your Word: This is wisdom that my mother received from her father. A man who was born in 1898 and fought in The Great War (World War I). She’d parry this with sayings of integrity, but it all means the same thing. To give your word on something, means that you keep your word. As in if you say you’ll attend a function, then you attend. If you say you will do an action, then you do it. Otherwise you lack integrity. It shows poor respect for the person that you promised something to as well as showing a lack of respect for yourself if you go back on your word. Obviously important issues are acceptable like death in the family or a birth or some other such thing. I try my hardest to have integrity and to be as good as my word, because I do think it is important.
A Firm Handshake Shows Good Character: This is not entirely true and possibly never was. Also I might be the last person on earth to give a firm handshake. I do think that it promotes honesty and a sense of trust, as well as giving the illusion that I have a backbone. Which I do, but I think it’s felt through the handshake. I have shaken hands with people who won’t look me in the eye (but in a shifty way, not in a cultural “we just don’t do that” sort of way. There is a difference) and have a limp and rather slimy effect to their handshake. They do seem untrustworthy. But also too have a felt a firmer handshake from people who seemed untrustworthy as well, which is why I say that it’s not entirely true. Also, it’s not that I’m breaking fingers or disjointing wrists, but I rather like having a firm handshake… even if this rule never applied to women, and even if I’m the only one implementing it, or even if men look at me strangely for it.
Nature is Important: I learned this from my mother, via her own fathers wisdom. Trees were important and almost rather sacred, as were all the animals; domestic or wild. He owned land, which we still own, and was a tree farmer, as we are. But it was important to let nature take care of nature. And when it was time to clear cut, you always replanted and let nature take over again. He never set traps or poison out for the animals on the land. And if he did go hunting, he didn’t lazily bait the animals to him, and he did not practice over-hunting or sports hunting. We were also taught to respect Mother Earth, to plant more trees (even not on our own land) and to never litter. As far as animals; ff a stray cat or dog needing feeding in the neighbourhood, he did it. If a stray or family pet needed medical help, he did it. He patched up more animals, including neighbour animals. He also treated them with care and kindness and never as something lesser than, or something to be abused. He did know what he was doing medically speaking and taught my mother, who in turn taught me.
Respect for the Dead: This one was taught to me by both of my parents. They had a fondness for visiting cemeteries and would drag us kids along with them, though I don’t remember a time where I ever minded going. They taught me to be respectful in a cemetery and to not run around or shout and yell; because it’s disrespectful for any other mourners who may be there. They also taught me to not touch headstones, play with headstones, play with things associated with headstones (flowers, trinkets, etc). Also to never stand on top of the dead. You stand beside them to show respect.
The Joy of Giving: My parents’ words were always, “Don’t give your stuff away.”, “Don’t give that item to that person.”, “Keep all of your stuff for yourself.”, ect. However, through their actions, they showed me to be compassionate. One time we hired a dad and son to come and rebuild part of our fence, sometimes it was people from the phone or electric company who were having to work on lines in the neighbourhood all day in the hot sun. I was shown to offer them a drink of water. Simply because they are people that we can see and it’s hot and they’re working. It’s the nice thing to do.
My dad does always cook for an army, but he’s always ready and willing to show love through food, because that’s how he is. So, if he’s made a big pot of something and people come to the house, he wants to feed them. Sometimes he doesn’t even know them! But perhaps their car broke down and their waiting for someone to come and get them. They’re not merely stopping at the door and leaving, but staying. He’ll offer to feed them. When my sister and I were a part of the Intertribal Society, (which was a group at the local uni where Indigenous students could come together, but the group encouraged anyone, any race, any age to join, to show fellowship and community), we hosted Pow-Wow’s. The dancers, drummers, and workers always have a dinner and my dad happily jumped at the chance to feed people.
And as I said, it was through their actions and not their words. Dad doesn’t like for me to feed people, just himself. Mom doesn’t like me to give people water, unless it was her idea. They don’t like the idea of donating items or cans of food to help people unless they just happen to be in a giving mood that day. However, I never picked up on the more selfish aspects of their nature. I do give, when I/we have it to give. If my town is having a local canned food drive, I see what we can spare and take it. One time this place was offering something free if you brought in canned goods. It was an effort to get people to actually donate. I refused the item and was told I was the first person to refuse though they had a mountain of donated things already. That’s not the point of helping other people, in order to get something. I have received unexpected thank you’s and thank you notes and letters, which are nice, but I never donated thinking I would receive such things. It’s simply because in my heart it feels like the right thing to do. And I can’t claim all of my knowledge from just simply being born with a kind and giving nature. I saw that nature in my own parents.
Never Judge A Book By Its Cover: This was taught to me, directly as well as indirectly, my my parents. However it was through words and not through actions. My mother always gave the friendly reminder to not judge a book by its cover, so I had to ask what that meant, since she kept saying it, but I wasn’t judging books based on covers, and was looking at all the one’s we had in the house. That’s when I learned that it meant not to judge people on their appearance. My dad would always relate the story of how his father had never finished school. Had to drop out in the eighth grade to help his family on the farm. It was a big deal, this story, but there weren’t really explanations as to why it was a big deal. However, I saw my grandfather as a great man, intelligent though perhaps not bookish, and just an all around swell guy. Lack of education, while important, doesn’t mean the person is worthless. That was my explanation in my head for the stories significance, though I’m sure is why my dad and his sister kept swimming it around without a concisive conclusion.
However, my parents were always judging books by their covers, especially my mother. She’d tell me not to talk to this person or that, all the while clutching at me with startled apprehension in her eyes, trying to pull me back to the “safety” of her. But the people I chose to seek out were actually pretty nice people. Like this one guy at our church that no one would associate with, apparently because he was an alcoholic. He was an older gentlemen, his clothes only a tiny bit shabby, and he was rather grumpy. But there was just something about him that gravitated my child soul to him. I even actually pestered him, though I think he found it pretty adorable. I really liked him. He wasn’t a bad guy. He wasn’t creepy or sleazy. He was just lonely. But, my mother hated that I always wanted to talk to him because she was judging him based on his looks and the snide whispers that circulated about him, while I, as a small child, was only seeing who he really was. My mother would also choose to associate with lots of people who polished up well, but were actually pretty creepy. Regardless, I still think that this is a good thing to follow in life; to not judge a book by its cover.
Education is Everything: This was taught to me by my mother as well as her mother and sister. Very big into education. Though I came to find out later that their meaning was pretty skewed. Get as much formal education as you can. Higher education at a university, continue until you can’t. There was also a slight undertone of don’t associate with people who don’t think this way. However, my meaning was simply education. Read, learn, study, research. Always learn something, always be open to new idea’s, continually expand your mind. There was nothing in my definition that restricted this learning to formal or higher education. My mother, who did complete a four year university, and was constantly reminding me on the importance of education is actually pretty limited in her education. I may not have a degree in anything, but I’m not stunted to think that I can’t learn a foreign language if I wish, or to teach myself how to sew, or to know everything that I can about the Revolutionary War. Or that I’m not restricted to statements of history which were learned in school, although historical documentation tells a different story.
My mother for all her education, will not hear anything against a former President of the US. Not that Andrew Jackson was being mocked for the title “Friend of the Indians” because he wanted them all removed and simply away from him and his interests, though said it was in their best interest to move. It was political satire, though that meaning was misconstrued to paint a different picture in her 1950s history textbook in grammar school. No, she learned he was a friend to the Indians like they were BFF’s and nothing will change her mind. Not no way, not no how!
I’m not trying to be a snob, but I am far more educated than my mother. I, who never finished university. I, who doesn’t have a degree in anything. It is because I never stopped learning. I challenge, I’m open, I’m still eager to learn. Because I research and research again. I have a willing desire to expand my limitations on thought, which has helped me unlearn rather harmful views that were instilled in me as a child; views predominantly voiced through educational textbooks in schools, through teacher interpretation, through my parents’ lack of substantial information in school. Education is important. Continual education and expansion of knowledge. I don’t outrank her in the education department because she is old, it’s because she ceased to learn, or even re-learn.
A Love of Reading: My dad’s parents were not big readers, though he and his sister swallow books like they’re air. My mothers family, however, were very big into books. I always received a book as a gift, sometimes more than one. Not merely birthdays and Christmas, but Valentines and Easter as well. Everyone in my family was always reading, and reading alone was highly encouraged. So from a very young age, I poured over all the books we had in the house, whether I understood them or not. I read through our Encyclopedia Britannica series in elementary school. I was always happy to receive a new book when gift giving came around, and of course to re-read old favourites.
Drinking Water: This doesn’t seem like much, to me, at first glance, but when I think of all the people who simply don’t drink water, I’m grateful that my mother raised us on it; considering that it is highly important for bodily functionality. Other children were busy drinking milk, sweetened iced tea, or soda. We were rarely ever allowed to have any soda or kool-aid or tang or any other such things. Ice water is the majority of what we drank growing up. If not that then a glass of milk when we were children or homemade lemonade that’s tangy sweet and nothing like Country Time Lemonade which is basically a soda. My mother even gave us water bottles when we were babies. If we were only thirsty, she’d fill a baby bottle up with water and we learned to drink and appreciate water at an early age. I won’t even deny that I tried to buck that system and incorporate Country Time Lemonade, orange or strawberry soda, or other things into my life, but I’m glad that she started us out on water in our baby times and continued it through our childhoods.
A Fondness for Cats: I know I already touched on this in the Nature is Important section, but this one deserves its own entry. Because my mother loved cats, she introduced my dad to them, so when they got married, they had cats. Cats are treated like royalty around here and it started with my mom. As a baby they would lay all over me and sleep. She felt that she should leave them, but other people felt that cats will suffocate a baby or steal its life force (? I know, right!). When she would try to remove them from my sisters crib, she would keep sleeping and the cats just came back. With me, however, if my mother tried to remove a cat, it would wake me up and I would reach out my hands for them and cry and fuss until she put the cat (or cats) back. My first word was kitty. I’m not even kidding. I learned a word for cat before I ever learned what to call my parents or my sister.
She taught us how to treat cats, and not be rough with them; how to take care of them and give them food and water. Proper ways to play. Like don’t just swing the cat toy violently around through the air, but tug it a little across the floor, so that the cat will actually want to engage. She also taught me cat midwifery. I know that sounds ridiculous, and there is no actual title for it, I just gave it one. But our female cats would have babies when I was growing up and I wanted to know absolutely everything in order to take care of cats. Some of our cats were so independent and did not want help, but others would just lie there and not do anything. I was helping to birth baby kittens since I was four. It was always an anticipated moment for me. Plus, the smell of baby kittens is delightful. Well, clean, several hours after birth baby kittens.
I will probably not see baby kittens born anymore, because I do believe in spaying and neutering so that cats aren’t running wild everywhere with people collecting them and killing them shelters. I’d totally get fixed if it only cost me $45, so I’m not doing anything I wouldn’t have done myself. But, if I ever do find myself in that situation, then I know exactly what needs to be done.
- Male cats will eat the babies (in 98% of cases – we did have one who helped), because they see the babies as a threat. So, no male cats present.
- Things can get messy, just as with any birthing, so have a quiet, not too big or too crowded of an area. Cats like to feel safe, but not squished. And have old, clean sheets down.
- The mother will lick the babies clean as she births them, to get the mucus away from their mouths and noses. If she does not (as can happen, and did happen to us), take a soft washcloth that’s damp with warm water and wipe the kittens faces, else they will suffocate if that stuff is not removed.
- She’ll move around and change positions while in labour. She’s just like a human female and just wants to get into a position that’s more comfortable and better for her body. You can gently help her so that she’ll say in the space you’ve prepared (if she’s a babying kind of cat only. If she’s a free spirit don’t ever make her have her kittens where you want them), but it’s natural and OK for her to reposition and move.
- I have never had a cat die on me in birth. I have had cats who were very anxious and not very well equipped to birth. Simply keep calm, pet her gently and in soothing tones tell her she’s doing just fine. Works like a charm. I suppose the same way it does for human females. However, never pet her on her belly, and only her paws, shoulders, head… if that’s somewhere she likes to be petted in that moment.
- There’s no need for hot water or umbilical cord cutting. Just make sure the babies faces are clean and that the mother cat is calm, and everything else works out just fine. The kittens will have a tiny piece of cat umbilical cord attached to their bellies, which is not attached to anything else once they are birthed. It will fall off after a few days.
- The cat births the placenta after the kittens (as do human females), however the cat will eat the placenta. She should be allowed to do this. It’s in her nature and will not harm her and will give her some nutrients back. (It’s sort of the same with bunnies and their pellet poop. They’re supposed to be eating it at least once, it’s what they do to get nutrients).
- Keep the mother cat and her kittens in a nice cozy spot. We always chose a large enough cardboard box with the lid flaps folded inward and a sheet and something soft in there. The box generally stayed in my parents walk-in closet.
- The mother will leave her kittens. She needs to. To use the bathroom, eat food and drink water, and just get the heck away from them and be by herself. It’s normal and fine. Obviously, during this time, you’ll be changing the kitten soiled sheets for a clean set of sheets, because you do not disturb the mother cat when she’s in there to make her get out to change them. She’s not having any of that nonsense!
- Don’t touch or handle the kittens too much until they have their eyes open and are about a week old. It will agitate the mother and it agitates the kittens to be picked up. It’s disorienting for them. Mother cats grasp the skin on the back of the neck. You can do this with a kitten, like when you need to change the sheets in the box. Just make sure they don’t weeble-wobble too far or you don’t step on one before getting them back into the box.
- Though baby kittens are the most adorable things ever, I agree with Bob Barker and I suggest that you spay and neuter your pets. It’s difficult to give the kittens to good homes where they won’t be neglected, lost, thrown out, thrown away, or where they, or their inevitable offspring, aren’t stuck in a kill shelter waiting to be euthenized. Kittens are fab, but this is a better all around option for cats. It’d be selfish of me to have my cats continually having kittens just so I could snuggle them. Don’t worry, there are loads of cats out there and they multiply a lot. But by doing your part, you won’t rid the world of cats and kittens, you’ll only rid the world of abandoned cats and kittens and the “need” for kill shelters.
Cat related, but not about birthing; but cats are carnivores, so if you try to make them a vegetarian you will kill them. Yes, they can have grasses and such in their diet, but meat is their most vital source of nutrients. No vegetables alone will give them what they need. They also produce their own Vitamin C by laying in the sun. They’re bodies can’t handle Vitamin C any other way, so to give it to them will kill them.
Civil Rights are Human Rights: My parents lived through the Civil Rights in the south during the fifties and sixties. Through their stories, I learned. I learned that black people were thought of as lesser than, by having to drink from different water fountains, sit in theatre balconies (although as a kid this is where I always wanted to sit, so I didn’t understand it as a bad thing, until later when I understood choice), using different restrooms, and basically never being allowed to associate with white people.
How schools and public pools were segregated, then the laws changed, but the stupid people closed those pools and schools instead of letting the black kids in. Those are my parents’ exact words. They thought that the white people in charge were stupid for their petulant reactions. My parents lamented on how terrible it was for the black people.
They talked about how the KKK were very active and would burn crosses on peoples lawns or kill black people. How everyone was afraid. They talked about Medgar Evers, Vernon Dahmer, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in silent, reverend tones; as if they were in awe of them and still so very sad that they were cut down in their prime.
From what they said, and how they said it, I investigated these events and people on my own as a child. I began to think of these Civil Rights activists as an extension of my family. Someone I had never known, but still had lost, and their stories were kept alive in the family.
I, however, did not really understand Freedom Summer (where three kids were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi). I didn’t really understand what it was about. The sections about it were very lacking in my school textbooks and my parents didn’t really mention it. My parents and teachers stated that people didn’t really like talking about the Civil Rights because it was too painful. I could see why. It was a terrible time. And as a young child, you trust your elders because they’re supposed to teach you right. My parents and teachers would only stumble upon Freedom Summer to say that those people from the north shouldn’t have come down here and tried to meddle. As a kid I agreed with them.
However, it would be a long time until I realized that we agreed for very different reasons. I agreed because I thought, “Well, yeah! Things were terrible down here. Who would come down here?!? Those poor people. I wouldn’t have come down here meddling.” Which I think I figured was more like they were hitting the white people in charge, baiting them to make them change, like poking a sleeping bear, and as a kid that seemed like a stupid idea. And it is a stupid idea… if you’re not fighting for something, as I was led to believe because no one wanted to discuss the reasons.
But they were very good reasons to get involved. To stop voter suppression and ensure that black people were allowed to vote; allowed to have a say in how they were governed. That is a very good reason. Or the Freedom March, that no one discussed, where James Meredith, who wanted to be allowed to attend Ole Miss University, but was denied, until the government forced Ole Miss into accepting him, marched to bring light to the still segregated south and its terrible voter suppression. That’s a very good reason to march.
And my parents and teachers are correct that a lot of people who lived through the Civil Rights here in the south do not wish to talk about it. However, I think both sides (black and white) and not wishing to discuss it for very different reasons. The Whites, because it was just a big “fuck you” time and they lost things that they wanted. The Blacks, because it was a fearful and dangerous time and it’s painful to remember, and possibly frightening to retell; as in ‘if the wrong person hears that I’ve talked… what then?”
There are two things, though, that I still can’t wrap my head around. Emmett Till. Did his family in Chicago not realize how scary and terrible things were in the south? Because if I knew someplace was horrible, I wouldn’t send my child down there, or any family member, I would insist my family come up here, or meet half-way in a more tolerable state, or just that no one’s going to be seeing each other at all.
I’m not trying to blame, or even shame, Mamie Till’s memory, and I also realize that hind-sight is 20/20, but no one discusses this. Even if she did know things were bad, no one every really expects things to be worse than they could imagine or to have their son murdered. And while I say that I wouldn’t send my child, I only know how bad it was because I’m in the future… and can I even honestly realize just how terrible it was without having lived through it? So, how could I ever judge? I couldn’t. I’m just wondering about the pre-circumstances. Did the family in Mississippi warn her against the travel? It’s just something I’ve always wondered about.
The other is James Meredith. Obviously I understand anyone wishing for higher education wants to be allowed into a higher education facility. But, Ole Miss? Their mascot was Colonel Reb (as in Ole Johnny Reb from the Confederacy, aka The Civil War) and their football fans and cheerleaders were also sporting something to do with the Confederacy or the state flag. They still want to change back to Colonel Reb. Meredith was not a stupid man, he would have known this. Did he simply want to challenge and buck the system by obtaining admittance into the most outwardly racist University on the planet? No one talks about his reasons for choosing Ole Miss and it makes me wonder why he did.
And again I state that I’m not sure if my parents have changed with age, or they were always this way, but regardless I seemed to pick up on their stories of the Civil Rights Movement and choose the heart wrenching truth, and simply disregard the rest? I’m glad they told me the stories, no matter what their interior feelings about the stories were. It gave me a life-long passion to know and understand the Civil Rights Movement and everything the black people represented to society at the time, represented to themselves, and all of the great endeavours they struggled to bring to light; rights they strove to gain.
Women’s Rights are Important: Again I’m not sure if my mother was just puppeting her own mother, or if she really believed it at the time (because you wouldn’t know that now), but I grew up learning about the plight of women. Sometimes there was a daliance into the woman’s proper place in society and the non-candour talk of doing everything in your power to marry and wait on your husband hand and foot. But my family would break ranks from time to time to talk about how women must break free of the “game”, and this was mainly my grandmother. I honestly am not even sure if they realized that they were speaking out against their own proper societal “advice”, or if it was subconscious.
I just know that there were very important snippets, by my grandmother and my mother, about how women shouldn’t be forced to continually have babies, or to sleep with their husbands when they don’t want to, simply because it is expected of them; or even to marry if they do not wish it. Or how women used to end their pregnancies with button hooks for shoes, coat hangers, poinsons, or tainted medical tools by butchers in back alleys, because they didn’t choose to have a baby and did not want to have one, but that men wouldn’t allow it legally, and thankfully Roe vs Wade happened, so women would never have to go through those horrors again.
How women have always had to cow-tow and serve men, whether they wished to or not, and never had a choice in the matter. Or how women were tortured, beaten, locked in prison, and ridiculed and abused for wanting the right to vote, to own land, to be seen as actual people. I was told that being independent, and not having to rely on a man, is very important. I was taught, indirectly, that women always have their choices made for them, by men, and that choice is very important, so women should have it… in all aspects of their lives, minds, and bodies. Don’t ever let anyone make your choices for you.
Obviously, I could never get the hang of, nor agree with, the “game”, and while I’m not some “crazy man hater” that most people would attribute to a feminist, I am very into women being able to choose whatever they wish; and never being told what their choices have to be.