Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Separating Children From Their Families, Part 2

Lisa Wingate's compelling work of historic fiction, Before We Were Yours, is based on the true story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and Georgia Tann, the director of the Memphis branch of the organization. From 1924 until 1950, Tann and her agents "stole" over 5,000 poor children from their families, or conned parents into signing away their parental rights.  Tann then sold these “orphans” to people who could afford to pay for a child. 

I know many of you read Wingate's book when it first appeared in 2017 or have seen the made-for-TV movies based on Tann's actions, but the topic was relevant to me and also seemed timely to current events. 
Georgia Tann, proprietor of Memphis Children's Home Society
When I read Before We Were Yours, I read it with the knowledge that I, as a former social services worker, had one time tried to take a mother’s children from her because I thought it would be better for the children.  I'm not saying I was wrong or right in my actions, I just remember that it wasn't a decision I made easily. You may read about it here. 

During the Great Depression, an estimated 50,000 people lived nomadic lives on the waterways of the country.  The shanty boat families often camped along the riverbanks when they  weren't moving back and forth on the water. These poor families were one group that Tann and her henchmen preyed upon. 

Wingate’s fictional narrative tells the story of one shanty boat family. Rill Foss and her siblings are taken from their river gypsy parents, Briny and Queenie Foss, through trickery and strong arm tactics.  When Queenie, the mother, has trouble delivering twins with the aid of a midwife on their houseboat, Briny rushes Queenie to the hospital in Memphis. The doctor tells Briny and Queenie that the twins died, a common ploy that the Memphis Children’s Home Society uses to obtain newborns for adoption. Hospital personnel then trick Briny and Queenie into signing papers that terminate their parental rights for all their children.

While the Foss children are home alone on the houseboat awaiting the return of their parents,  men board the boat, abduct the children and take them to a boarding house for children in Memphis, which is part of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The oldest child Rill tries desperately to watch after her four siblings, Camellia, Fern, Lark and Gabion in the harsh conditions of the boarding house filled with other children. Rill soon discovers that children disappear from this facility; some children are adopted after adoptive parents pay the proprietor of the enterprise, Georgia Tann, a substantial fee, while others just disappear and are presumed dead.

Friends of Briny and Queenie from the river shantytown, Zede and Silas, try to help the children escape, but by then the family has been destroyed. Rill and her sister Fern are fortunate to be placed together, adopted by a wealthy family who loves them, treats them kindly, and provides them with many advantages growing up. Rill resigns herself to being May Weathers, the name given to her by her new family.

The story of the Foss children unfolds in alternating chapters in Wingate’s book. Rill’s voice details the horrifying circumstances she and her siblings face as they are forcibly removed from their riverboat home and taken to the Memphis Children’s Home Society.  The next chapter switches to present day and is the voice of Avery Stafford, a young woman from a prominent political family in Memphis. Avery is searching for answers about her beloved grandmother Judith’s life as Judith Stafford’s memories and words are lost to dementia. Eventually the lives of the women, Avery Stafford, May Weathers, and Judith Stafford, intersect.

Georgia Tann’s contemporaries were either ignorant of her nefarious network or willing to ignore her methods of procurement and treatment of children. At one time, Tann’s contemporaries praised her as the “mother of modern adoption.” Because Tann catered to prominent men and women who desperately wanted children, the stigma of adoption began to disappear.  Actors Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, June Allyson and Dick Powell used her agency to adopt children. Eleanor Roosevelt sought Tann’s advice on issues of adoption and child welfare during the Depression.

Actresses Joan Crawford and June Allyson
with the children they adopted from
the Memphis Children's Home Society
In 1945 between 40 and 50 infants in Tann’s boarding homes died of dysentery.  However, Tann and her network were so embedded into the circles of power and control that when the Tennessee legislature passed a law requiring that all boarding houses for children must be licensed, they exempted her establishments.  

When a Tennessee governor who wasn’t a friend of Tann was elected, her lucrative empire began to crumble.  A 1950 study of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society exposed the horrors of the Memphis operations, and the report was submitted to the Tennessee governor. 

Many parents whose children were stolen from them tried for years to find their children.  Authorities made this next to impossible. Even after the horrors committed by Georgia Tann were exposed, Tennessee public officials sealed the records of her homes until 1995!  

During the years Tann operated her series of boarding houses for “orphans,”  it’s estimated that 500 children died in these institutions. In recent years, Tann has been described as the most prolific serial killer of children in US history.

Wingate consulted multiple sources to confirm and tell the story of the Memphis Children’s Home Society: books, articles, plus the 1950 report to the governor of Tennessee. 

Once again, an ugly chapter involving the treatment of poor children is being written in the United States. Along our southern border from April--June 2018, Border Patrols agents and immigration officials separated an estimated 3,000 children from their parents, immigrants from Central America, who are trying to enter the US from Mexico. 

According to parents, government immigration agents told the parents that their children were being taken to another space for a shower or bathroom break but in reality, the children were removed to large holding facilities until the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) could take custody of the children. The adults were sent to detention centers without seeing their children. Some immigrants report that they were pressured to sign forms waiving their reunification rights, others were told if they agreed to deportation, they would be reunited with their children more quickly. This was a lie.  

When the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Colleen Kraft, toured a Texas holding facility for children, she found children in great distress. Kraft wrote after her visit, “Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians – protecting and promoting children’s health. In fact, highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short and long-term health.” Long-term toxic stress bathes the brain in hormones that can permanently alter the  "wiring" of a child's brain.

On July 20 President Trump finally ended the wholesale separation of children from their parents, bowing to intense political and public pressure, and US District Judge Dana Sabraw gave the government until July 26 to reunite children with their parents. The government says it reunited 1,820 children with their parents or close family relatives by the deadline.

As of July 29, 711 children had not yet been reunited with their families. The parents of 431 children have already been deported, making the reunification process more difficult. Immigrant advocacy lawyers continue to work on behalf of these children and their families, trying to reunite children with parents or other family members.

I think of the Memphis Society Children’s Society Home when I read of the horrors these immigrant parents have endured. 

Wingate dedicates Before We Were Yours, to  “… the hundreds [of children] who vanished and for the thousands who didn’t. May your stories not be forgotten.”  

I hope the stories of these immigrant families are not forgotten, because the United States is a better country than these incidents indicate.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Separating Children From Their Families, Part 1

In the early 1970’s I was working as a caseworker for the county department of social services (also known as the welfare department) in my Appalachian hometown.  My assignment was an Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or AFDC, caseload.  The AFDC program, in effect from 1935 until 1996, provided federal assistance to children whose family had low or no income.

I don’t recall how many families I served, but it was enough that making home visits to each family was hard to accomplish.  I would read the file on the family and if it appeared that the adult caregiver(s) and the children were doing well (even though they were living in poverty), a phone contact might suffice—if they had a telephone.  

However, several days a week I drove the back streets of my hometown or the mountainous county roads to make home visits to the families on my caseload. Typically, I would check on the well-being of the children, see what services the family might need, and try to match their needs with community resources. 

In my early days as a "welfare worker"
While I worked for social services, a few families took an inordinate amount of my time. The challenges might be a large number of children in the family; adults in the home who had mental health or other health issues; or I suspected that the children were neglected. I returned repeatedly to these homes trying to monitor the situation and to promote a healthier environment for raising children.

During the two-plus years I worked my AFDC caseload, I went to court one time to ask that the courts remove children from a mother’s custody.  This single mother had at least eight children. I worked with the mother for months but she never made much of an effort to comply with the department’s suggestions. The house was filthy. I remember the interior walls had food stuck to them. It appeared there had been a big food fight at some point but no one bothered to clean up afterwards.  A loaf of bread and peanut butter and jelly sat out on the table all the time and the children would wander by, fix something to eat—if they were tall enough to reach the table--and keep moving. One of the younger boys in the family frequently had cuts and bruises on his arms and legs, and occasionally his face. When I asked what happened to him, he said one of the older children had hit him or pushed him down, etc. 

At the very least, the children lacked consistent adult supervision and guidance. The worse case scenario was physical abuse also was present in the home. The older children missed school frequently, kept home to babysit the preschool children.

I finally made the decision, with the assistance of my supervisor and other more experienced workers in the department, to take the mother to court to gain temporary custody of the 
children. She had a lawyer, or perhaps the court had appointed the lawyer to represent the children’s interests, I don’t remember.  I do remember testifying.  The lawyer asked me about my previous experience with large families. In another county where I got my start in the field of social services, I had large mountain families on my caseload. I also had served as a substitute teacher in the local Head Start program so I had some job-related experience and sympathy with the problems of poverty.

Mother with infant
I felt these children should be removed from the home with the idea that the foster care worker would then work with the mother to help her improve her parenting skills so the children could be returned to her custody.

After the family services judge heard all the testimony and examined the documentation each side provided, he ruled in favor of the department of social services.  When the deputy went to get the children who were supposed to be waiting in a back room, the mother and her boyfriend had fled the county with the children. I remember being surprised because that was the first time I saw that the mom cared enough about her children to fight for them.  The sheriff didn’t try to apprehend the couple. A warrant for the mom was probably issued.  If she were smart, she never returned to this county.  I know I never saw her or the children again.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Writing Snail Mail

I’m working on a blog post that keeps growing and growing, longer and longer, and I’m fretting over how to deal with it.  Are all the words necessary? Should I divide into parts? As I get frustrated, I think about the writing process.

Homemade envelope from a friend
I remember when I taught middle school and later at various colleges and universities, my students would often become stuck at the beginning of a writing assignment. I advised the students to jump-start their writing by pretending they were composing a letter to a close friend. At this point in the writing process, don’t worry about being perfect, I say.  You’re just sharing information informally with someone. 

This strategy often worked as long as the student fulfilled Part 2 of the process-- revising their writing in accordance with the assignment and editing their grammar, punctuation and spelling, as needed.
I left teaching and moved into administration at the right time, because any effectiveness of that strategy went out the window some years ago.  I can imagine the blank stares of today’s youth.

 “A letter?” someone asks. “I just have to write one letter? I'll take 'T.'”  

“No, I’m not talking about the alphabet. I’m talking about a letter like snail mail.” I say.

“I’ve heard of snail mail, is it anything like email?  My grandmother still uses email,” one student says.

“My grandmother likes Messenger,” says another.

 “I use Snapchat,” a girl volunteers.

“Whatsapp is where it’s at,” the boy sitting across from the girl tells her, flirting a little bit in the process.

“I think Viber is the best,” another girl jumps into the conversation, which is spiraling away from the issue at hand.

“I’m not talking about electronic mail,” I take another stab at it. “I’m talking about letters like the mail carrier brings and puts in your mailbox, the kind you take to the post office.”

Handmade envelope for a friend
“Dr. Edgerton-Scott, we need help writing a critique of this article. Why are you talking about something that no one understands?” another student asks.

“Never mind,” I say. “Who wants to share their strategies for getting started on the critique of the article you’ve read?”

“What’s a critique? they ask. “Are we going to have to think?”

Sunday, June 24, 2018

I Excel at Leisure

I’ve always said my husband Ricky and I excel at leisure. This isn’t surprising because my childhood was filled with enjoyable vacations with my family, mostly at the South Carolina beaches, but sometimes in Florida.
Daddy with family friends' children and my sister (in middle)
Myrtle Beach, SC
My sisters and I (far right) in Florida
My sisters and I (middle) at the beach in SC rocking the sunglasses
and sailor hats!
Since we've been married, Ricky and I have been fortunate to travel to foreign soils, e.g., France, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, England. In 2017, we enjoyed a leisurely cruise on the Rhine with our neighbors, explored Guatemala with friends, and visited other friends and family across the United States. 

Feeding swans from our stateroom on the ship

Exploring different countries during our cruise
Volcanoes in Guatemala seen from hotel balcony
Lake Atitlan
Central square in Antigua, Guatemala 
So far in 2018 we are staying closer to home, but still having fun. In May, Ricky accompanied me to the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Conference attendees visited two plantation homes to see the architecture prevalent in the mid-nineteenth century. The first night of the conference, we attended a reception at Ducros Plantation in Schriever, Louisiana, about three miles from Thibodaux. This home had recently changed ownership, and was being renovated to feature an event venue downstairs and living quarters for the family upstairs.

Ducros Plantation
(Facebook page)
Madedown Plantation, a former sugar cane plantation built in 1846 on Bayou Lafourche near Napoleonville, provided an example of Greek Revival architecture. This plantation home was significant as the first major work of Henry Howard, an Irish-born American architect, who designed over 280 buildings in Louisiana. Madedown Plantation was recently purchased by American artist Hunt Slonem who is refurbishing the house and grounds, but the guide told us it will remain a bed-and-breakfast.
Arriving at Madedown Plantation
Madedown Plantation grounds
On the way home from Thibodaux, we stopped at the Shadetree Inn, a bed-and-breakfast located on a four-acre hilltop in St. Francisville, La and owned by an old friend of Ricky’s. After we checked in, Ricky chatted with Kenwood, and they filled each other in on their lives since they were last together. We ate supper at the Magnolia Café, a local hangout, and after a little shopping the next morning, we were ready to head back to northwest Louisiana.
Shadetree Inn
St. Francisville, La
Shadetree Inn patio
I love our historic Highland neighborhood, so I don’t feel deprived when we stay home in Shreveport. My friends Sarah and Howard opened their garden for our Northwest Louisiana Master Gardener Le Tour des Jardins in May, so I volunteered to work there during the two-day tour. I greeted and guided the public through my assigned section of the garden and answered questions—I learned a lot quickly. Mainly I relished the beauty of their garden the whole weekend.
Corner of Sarah & Howard's garden
Another perspective of "my" corner of Sarah & Howard's garden
Window frame re-envisioned 
While our neighborhood has some spectacular homes with curb appeal and lovely outdoor spaces, it’s a never-ending struggle to keep the entire neighborhood presentable. Many people litter or let their garbage can overflow. I can’t understand people who throw trash on the streets and sidewalks or who don’t monitor their blocks for litter. I prefer to be surrounded by beauty.

Toward this goal, the Highland Restoration Association picks up trash and does landscaping of selected beautification areas throughout the neighborhood.  If I am in town, I try to participate in the monthly trash pick-ups. It’s not a task most people enjoy, but I like coming together with other concerned citizens to improve the appearance of our neighborhood and hopefully to teach by example. One member of the HRA board involves his three young daughters in every clean-up.  They are diligent, cheerful workers, and it does my heart good to see them participate as a family.

A young volunteer pulling weeds
Another worthy initiative in our neighborhood is the quarterly Highland Open Studio Tour Sundays (HOSTS), which promotes art and artists in the neighborhood. June marked the fifth anniversary of HOSTS, and Ricky and I decided to open our house and showcase his blacksmithing “studio” under the camellia tree in our backyard. Ricky sold his LazyR wares, and I invited other artist friends to display and sell their art at our house during HOSTS. We ended up with six artists, including my multi-talented friends Melissa and Loretta. We also had the Fiddlin’s Tim Trio (Tim, Bruce and Randy) playing their mix of standards, swing, and jazz in our guest cottage.

Ricky at his forge, Lazy R Ranch
Ricky's horse head hooks

Ricky displays his hooks on our patio during HOST

Horse head hook in my library
Since HOSTS started at noon on Sunday, all the studios served food and drinks. We offered a variety of finger sandwiches and cookies, washed down with either lemonade or Moscow Mules. One studio had gumbo, another jambalaya. While attendees browsed and purchased the art, they could essentially eat a meal, especially if they went to every studio.

We paid the Fiddlin’ Tim Trio by buying them tickets to the Shreveport House Concert scheduled for later that night and featuring renowned New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich.  OffBeat magazine in its Best of the Beat Awards has named “Johnny V” as Best Drummer/Percussionist on numerous occasions. Drummerworld called Johnny V “the quintessential New Orleans jazz drummer, with all the exuberance and skill befitting one who grew up in the birthplace of jazz.” 

Johnny V lived up to his reputation. Our friend Bruce Gay of the Fiddlin’ Tim Trio described the concert afterwards:  Johnny V "was a gnome on a throne--he twisted, turned, bounced to rhythms he felt. He WAS the different drummer people dance to. He was rhythm itself. His band was great--better than great- engaging, funny, chops like you hear about.”

Beautiful serene gardens, original art, volunteer activities, live music, good friends—they are all part of the View from my Highland Cottage, and I feel so fortunate.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

An Unwitting Button Collector

I wrote about my love for dishes in my last blog post written almost two months ago.  Now I find myself writing about being an unwitting collector of buttons. I wager I’m not the only woman who has become a button collector without realizing it. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with collecting buttons. Button collecting is the third most popular collection, according to a button collector’s blog I read. Button clubs, button conventions, and a national button society all cater to avid collectors.

My mother sewed and made clothing for my two sisters and me during our school years.  She had a stash of buttons still on their cards, as well as a button jar.  When my sisters and I were young, the button jar fascinated us. We were like King Midas with his gold coins. We loved looking at the buttons in the jar.  We loved dumping them out, counting and sorting them. Some of the buttons came from clothes we owned.  The biggest button that I remember came from one of Mother’s coats.  It was a mottled brown button with a convex surface, the kind of button that attached behind the button face, with no holes showing after it was sewn on the coat. I wonder what happened to the button jar, perhaps one of Mother’s grandchildren squirreled it away.

I don’t sew except to reattach the occasional loose button or to hem a pair of slacks, so why do I have a button collection? If you’re a woman, you may already know the answer. Every blouse, sweater, skirt, coat, and jacket purchased comes with a small plastic bag or tiny paper envelope attached to the clothing.  Inside the bag is an extra button or two.  For years, I’ve removed the envelope containing the buttons from the clothing, opened a dresser drawer, put the button packet into a larger zip lock bag, and closed the drawer. Then I would forget about it. I never used any of the buttons. 

Recently I opened that drawer and saw the zip lock bag full of button packets. It was like seeing them for the first time. “Why am I saving these?” I asked.

I decided to open the packages and look at the buttons, knowing I no longer owned the clothing that went with the majority of the buttons. I bet there were a hundred small envelopes.

Empty packages that held buttons
I opened all the packets and dumped the buttons into a single clear plastic zip lock bag so I could see them. I noticed several green buttons that went with a raincoat that I haven’t owned for years. It was a three quarter length coat and I thought I looked pretty cute in it. One of my favorite buttons was a large button with a tribal design on it. I remembered the navy sweater shirt it went with, gone for more than a decade. The short-sleeved shirt buttoned up the front and was designed to hang loosely. It barely covered my midsection. I felt risqué when I wore it to work, so I never raised my arms very far above my head. I immediately recognized a fabric-covered button that went to one of my all-time favorite dresses, a red and navy swinging shirtwaist that looked like it came from the 1940’s.

Zip Lock Bag of Buttons
I sorted through black, red, green, blue and white buttons, thin mother-of-pearl buttons, clear plastic buttons, fabric-covered buttons. If I lose a button now, I can look in the zip lock bag and have a better chance of finding a match.  More than likely, I’ll just use the buttons in arts and crafts projects. However, some nights when I’m alone, you might discover me dumping out my bag of buttons and running my hands through them as if they are golden coins—or perhaps, golden memories.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

It's Dishes Day!

People who know me know that I love books. I have a library in my house with shelves full of books and a sliding library ladder that allows easy access to those on the highest shelves.

But people may not know that I also love dishes—I’m talking plates and bowls, cups and saucers, teapots and pitchers.

Teapot from my sister and vintage platter
I own a lot of china, pottery, and glassware:

A white-on-white Moonspun Lenox fine china setting for eight, almost 50 years old now, made in the USA. This pattern was made by Lenox from 1968-1995.

Moonspun by Lenox
Vintage china passed down from my mother, or given to me by friends from their mothers and grandmothers.  
Vintage china and stoneware
There are beautiful plates with sky blue rims and 24 karat gold borders around a floral bouquet, passed down from my mother who received them as wedding gifts.  My sisters and I each have two plates to display in our homes.
Vintage plate, made in the USA, passed down from my mom
I have fine bone china from several English companies, a plate from Germany perfect for serving cookies, china from Japan, old stoneware, and other plates from US china makers. The place of origin and the marks on the bottom tell a story about each piece.
China cabinet in dining room

I love all this sweet vintage china.
The 50th anniversary gold-plated coffee set, with a mark that says Winterling Bavaria Germany that belonged to Ricky’s grandparents. 

A glimpse of the gold plated china and the demitasse cup 
A collection of demitasse cups from Ricky’s mother, some plain white, others decorated with pink roses or butterflies, and one advertising the May 12, 1937 coronation of Prince Edward VIII.

Cut glass pieces inherited from my parents and Ricky’s aunt and uncle. 
 Detail of cut glass reflected in mirrored walls of china cabinet
Our everyday Botanic Garden BritishPortmeirion dishes featuring different flowers with their common and scientific names.  

Everyday dishes of British Portmeirion stored in butler's pantry
The Pyrex (which turned 100 in 2015) and Fire King mid-century modern glassware that my estate-sale-going friend Rebecca passes on to me.

Miscellaneous glassware in butler's pantry
A Somayaki Japanese tea service Ricky brought home from Vietnam. The Somayaki pottery is unique because of its double wall construction, which keeps the hot liquids hot while the outer layer remains cool to the touch. Unfortunately, the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and subsequent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear facility, resulted in the mandated abandonment of the village where Somayaki pottery was made. Local rocks that were responsible for the unique glaze are now contaminated. Some young artisans around Japan are trying to keep the tradition of Somayaki pottery alive with mixed results. 

Japanese Soma-yaki tea set
A set of heavy-duty Iron Mountain stoneware dishes, the Blue Ridge pattern, manufactured in East Tennessee from 1965-1992 not far from my Southwest Virginia hometown. I acquired mine in the early 1970’s, and many are from the “seconds store.” 
New Lenox Christmas china, now manufactured in capital “C” China, with green holly leaves and red berries on each piece. These were gifted to me over several Christmases from our friends in New Orleans whom we met as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Admittedly, Christmas dishes are a big weakness of mine.  
Christmas dishes displayed in butler's pantry
More Christmas dishes

 My favorite Christmas mugs
There are more treasures that I didn’t mention. I know owning all these dishes may seem excessive in this time of minimalism of belongings, but what can I say—I‘m a collector!

Luckily, we have sufficient storage for my dishes and china collection. We have a large formal china cabinet in the dining room passed down from Ricky’s grandparents 

Ricky's grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary
A corner china cabinet in the dining room just for cut glass, a butler’s pantry hutch (now part of the kitchen) for storage of less formal dishes and serving pieces, plus another old china cabinet in the guest cottage. We also have regular kitchen cabinets where daily use dishes are stored.

Portmeirion tea set
The obvious question becomes why do I keep all these dishes? 

To me, their beauty and uniqueness are sufficient reasons for owning them. I also enjoy creating displays with the dishes. It’s both a form of play therapy and a creative outlet. I love the stories attached to each piece—sometimes a personal recollection of how I acquired the item; and sometimes it’s the story of the manufacture of the pieces and the history behind them. Many of the companies that created the china, glassware, and pottery are no longer in business because of the changes in cultural practices, the surfeit of cheap items from China, or misfortune befalling the manufacturer. 

I think the beauty and diversity in our world is diminished as these companies and their wares disappear.

P. S. I'm not the only person who loves vintage dishes. View Susan Branch's blog here to see and read about her collection of vintage dishes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wednesday Hodgepodge Questions

I was looking at a blog post that was linked to a blog hop, From This Side of the Pond, and I'm not even sure what a blog hop is. In my subsequent explorations, I accidentally linked my blog to the Joyce's Hodgepodge blog hop page and its weekly random questions, so now I must answer a series of questions and figure out what the next step is to keep the "hopping" going.

1. What's a word that describes your life? A word you wish described your life? 
The word to describe my life is happy, the word I wish would describe my life, productive (and happy).

2. Back in my day we played outside with the neighborhood children because there were dozens of Baby Boomer kids all around.  We entertained ourselves for hours by playing simple games. We played badminton, croquet, a game we called Indian ball with a batter, a pitcher and a couple fielders--you hit the ball, the person who fielded the ball rolled or threw it aiming for the bat which the batter laid on the ground in front of "batting box." If the fielder hit the bat, it was his/her turn to bat and the batter took the field or became the pitcher. We had large games of Kick the Can or Hide and Go Seek when the Oklahoma cousins were visiting in the summer. Our hiding territory stretched over multiple backyards.  We got mayonnaise jars from our moms and hammered holes in the lids, then we spent all evening catching lightning bugs and putting them in our jars. When it was time to go inside, our mother made us release the trapped lightning bugs. When fall arrived, we went Trick or Treating at Halloween with no fears or hesitation as to our safety.  In the winter, we went ice skating on frozen ponds in our neighborhood, we went caroling to the neighbor's houses at Christmas.  Childhood play was more free wheeling then and less circumscribed and facilitated by adults.

3. When it comes to takeout are you more likely to opt for Italian, Mexican, or Chinese food? Does a typical week at your house include takeout?

If we do take-out, it's usually Chinese, occasionally tacos from the small Taqueria on the edge of our neighborhood. We eat out quite a bit, more often at lunch, and mostly dine-in places.

4. Think about the people you most respect. What is it about them that earned your respect?

Their authenticity--they are comfortable with who they are and are kind and caring toward others. I also like intelligence.

5. What's something your friends might see and say is 'so you'?

Probably a book or something vintage.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

I don't exactly know what I'm doing on this blog hop.  I'm still trying to figure out the rules. That's mainly my thought process at the moment, nothing very deep.

Other random thoughts: I'm thinking about my niece Emily's new website,, where all her blog posts are archived and her new ones will appear.  She writes about her family's life living in the Czech Republic while returning to the United States a couple times a year to visit family and ground herself and the kids in American life and culture. The website is so professional in its appearance, the photography is gorgeous, and I even read some blog posts that I somehow missed when they originally appeared in the Prague Monitor. 

I'm wishing I was going to be in Paris with her, her family, and my sister and brother-in-law this week.  They are going to have adventures that I can enjoy vicariously when I talk to my sister or read about them on Emily's website. Our trip last weekend to New Orleans is the closest I'll be to France this year. We stayed at an AirB&B near Magazine Street so we spent a lot of time roaming in that fun and funky part of town. Our B&B was only a block from LaBoulangerie on Magazine Street with its delicious pastries. We bought our breakfast pastries and brought them back to our hidden courtyard to eat.

The rain here in the northwestern corner of Louisiana has finally stopped--and it's started up again. We've been getting inundated the last couple of days. Tomorrow I need to unload the five bins of Mardi Gras throws we brought back from our friends' house in NOLA.