Friday, October 31, 2008

I Didn't Inherit That Gene

My Mom loved holidays. She was quite crafty so she made most of our decorations when we were younger. And she went all out for every holiday. It was like a complete redecorating process every few weeks from October through Easter.

Halloween was amazing. She always made our costumes and she always dressed up. The photo at left is Mom dressed for Halloween in 1969. She made her witch costume, blacked out a few teeth with one of our black crayolas, applied scary makeup, added funny groucho nose glasses, made a red yarn wig, and crafted a witch hat. Then she stayed in character the whole night, handing out candy, speaking and laughing like the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz.

I didn't inherit that gene.

Early in my 20's I tried to follow in her footsteps. I worked in childcare as a teacher and that was back when we actually celebrated Halloween with costumes and parties. I dressed up as a crayola one year, a little girl another year, a witch the next. And I was a great witch. I can do the witch voice and laugh just like Mom. "I'll get you my pretty!" "And your little dog too!" "AAAAAAHHHHHHH - HAAAAAAAAAAAAA - HAHAHA". Mom would be proud!

I loved helping my own children with their Halloween costumes, being creative, decorating the house, painting faces, making sure they were having a great holiday.

Over the years, I just quit participating. On the day of Halloween, I began to devise ways to be gone during trick-or-treating time, either with my own children or, as they grew older, just because I didn't want to buy the candy. Or I bought the candy and my daughter handed it out. Mom would be embarrassed.

So tonight, my plan is to go see a movie. Sad. But it is what it is. I will call my youngest sister to tell her Happy Birthday and hope that when I have grandchildren, the motivation and my mother's influence will return.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gettin' Kind of CHILI Out There.

Chili is just a part of fall and football.

Yesterday was one of the first chilly days this fall. And, for college football fans in East Tennessee, it was an important football Saturday.

I have always loved football. When I was 12, I wanted to play professional football and truly could not understand why women could not play. I could name the starting lineups and positions of the Dallas Cowboys, the Miami Dolphins, and most of the Washington Redskins.

In high school, I was the equipment manager/statistician for our varsity team. OK, admittedly, I did it to spend time around football players but also because I loved the game.

Over the last 20 years, I have grown to love college football. I lived in Alabama during the Bear Bryant years, one of my coaching idols. I had always been a University of Tennessee fan but living in Alabama and being married to a dedicated Alabama fan, you can get sucked in. I drank the Kool-aid. The crimson Kool-aid.

Then we moved to Knoxville, home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Home of Neyland Stadium, the largest football stadium in the US. It holds 110,000 people - an average size city. Everything in this city is orange. I have seen an orange and white checked riding lawn mower. Really. On fall Saturdays, the downtown area around the campus turns into a sea of orange and white and crazy people. It is so much fun.

Yesterday, Tennessee played Alabama here in Knoxville. We are a house divided. My daughter followed in her dad's footsteps and is a rabid Alabama fan. I returned to my pre-marriage dedication to UT when we moved to Knoxville. Sometimes it's better if we don't talk football.

So I made chili - yummy chili. With cheese, green onions, and sour cream. It's one thing we can all agree is good come football Saturdays.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays (or Fridays as the case may be)

I love rainy days. They hold no gloom for me. I enjoy sitting in my sunroom - yes, I see the irony - and listening to the sound of the rain, watching as it drips and falls off the eaves of the house and the leaves of the surrounding trees. I am suddenly aware of the need to clean out the gutters but I can easily put that out of my mind until another day.

Today is such a day. My boss said to all of us, "Good job, go home early." I did not hesitate. I headed for the grocery store, intent on acquiring the necessary ingredients for yummy chili. I was soaked by the spitting rain as I loaded the bags into the trunk of the car. That's ok, I thought, as I headed home. Chilly and wet just means I will get home and change into my long sleeve tshirt, yoga pants, and fuzzy socks. Which is exactly what I did.

I will be catching up on my DVR shows this afternoon, snuggled up under a throw, listening to the rain.

It's a good day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I am continuing with a few more family stories in my attempt to show the impact one can have on our history. I also want to remind everyone to write down their own family stories. You may think they are insignificant now but one day, they may help another generation understand their world.

No matter what you think of the Civil War - North vs. South, slavery vs. state's rights, good vs. evil - the fact is that many families were greatly impacted by the war no matter the reasons they were fighting. My family was no exception.

Mason Lee Wiggins was a planter and Senator from Halifax County, North Carolina. His wife, Elizabeth or Betsy, came from a family of soldiers and was the daughter of General Jeremiah Slade who was a hero of the war of 1812. Mason and Betsy had 12 children and lived at Woodlawn in Halifax County. Betsy kept a detailed diary and many stories we know of this family come from her diary. She was also a prolific letter writer. I have several letters from her sons and nephews to Betsy and one from her to her son, Blake, after his marriage.

During the war, Mason and Betsy had 7 sons serving in the war. Blake was a surgeon in Mississippi, Will and John were in the Texas Rangers, Alfred (also a surgeon), Tom, and Octavius (Octa) were in the Scotland Neck (NC) Cavalry and the youngest, Eugene, ran of to South Carolina at the age of 14 to join.

Alfred was killed at the head of his cavalry charge at Bull Run. Octa and Eugene were both severely injured in battle. Here are their stories:

From a letter from Betsy to her son Blake dated July 14, 1862:

Your Pa went to Enfield in the carriage to carry Tom (who came up to bring Al) and when the carriage returned I saw some others besides your Pa and thought it might be Eugene and ran out to meet him. The only one I recognized was cousin Jerry Slade of Ga supporting some one that seemed very feeble with his head bound up. Supposing it to be some wounded friend of his, when your Pa said "Betsy don't you know Eugene". I thought I should have fainted as my poor boy laid his arms around my neck and was made to realize it was indeed my own baby Eugene.

He fought through the thickest of the Thursdays and Fridays battles 26 and 27 June and escaped unhurt. Mondays battle near the James river he had received nine buck shot wounds in his left arm between the elbow and wrist and a ? rifle ball past(sic) through his jacket sleeve above the elbow had his haversack and canteen both shot off but he did not flinch but continued in the battle until after night when he was struck down- ? with a red hot cannon ball from the enemies gun boats.

When he came to his senses three days after he found himself in the Leabrook Warehouse hospital without sight or hearing. The ball had not touched him but came so close as to burn off the rim of his hat. It was supposed it was the concussion from the ball that had injured him so, bursting the blood from his ears, loosing his teeth, and bruising his shoulder. Soon after his senses came to him he could see and hear a little from his right eye and ear. He knew no one in the hospital and they would not let him out.

All this time we had telegraphic dispatches that he was safe up to Tuesday which quieted our fears at home while a lad only 14 years old was suffering what he had to go through among strangers. He stayed in the hospital until Monday nearly a week. He said he new(sic) he should die where he was and concluded he would get out if he perished in the ?streets? so when the servant came in the unguarded door with bread he slipped out and got in the ? where he providentially met with ?J. Snow our sheriff who carried him to the exchange where Dr. Joyner and Dr. M. Perry were. Dr. Joyner had been looking for him for nearly a week and with him he came out to Enfield meeting with cousin Jerry at Weldon, going home with a sick furlough.

The girls courage me to hope Eugene's sight will be restored which I pray God may be so but as yet he has no power to open or see at all out of his left eye. His health has improved a great deal the short time has been at home. You may imagine his altered appearance when his own mother did not recognize him after only 4 months absence.

Eugene lost his eye and it took a very long time to recover. His brother, Octa, however, had many adventures to come. Octa was a Lieutenant in General Lane's Brigade and apparently, pretty fiesty.

As reported by General James H. Lane in Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 9,1881, Pages 145-156 and pages 495-496:

On May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania Courthouse, was seen by General Lane, caught unarmed in the woods by the enemy, daring two Yankees to fire on him. He not only escaped but by his boldness, immediately afterward captured the flag of the 51st Pennsylvania , bringing the flag and several prisoners with him.

Also during the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse he was wounded in the charge of May 21st.

Was captured at Petersburg during Grant's attack (he received a head wound and was left for dead then taken prisoner), confined in the Old Capitol Prison (he spent his 21st birthday there), While being transferred to Harrisburg by train, he jumped from the car window just as the train crossed a bridge and as it was dark and rainy, he made his escape.

He obtained a working suit and valise to avoid recapture and worked in Baltimore until he made enough money to buy a new suit and pay his passage to Richmond. When he reached Richmond, Lieutenant Meade and General Lane dressed him in soiled military clothes and a lady friend escorted him to the Provost Marshall at the Baptist Female Institute. He surrendered there as a "straggler", was paroled and given transportation home to North Carolina.

Octa recounted his stories in a small booklet that he made for his daughters. He tells of being at Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Spottsylvania where it was believed he had been killed. In fact, when he finally arrived home, his family still believed he was dead. What a surprise for them as he slowly walked up the long oak lined avenue at Woodlawn to his grieving family.

When I hear these stories, I realize that I have no idea what their politics were or how they felt about the reasons for the war. I only see the sacrifice they and their family were willing to make.

My genealogical line is as follows:
Mason Lee Wiggins married Elizabeth Slade.
Son of Mason Wiggins and Elizabeth Slade Wiggins, Blake Baker Wiggins married Mary Lorrain Dewees
Son of Mary Dewees and BB Wiggins, Blake Baker Wiggins III married Trinkins (Eddie) Cabaniss
Daughter of BB Wiggins and Trinkins Cabaniss, Aline Dewees Wiggins married Frank Cunningham
Son of Frank Cunningham and Aline Wiggins, Frank Cunningham Jr married Georgianna Marcella Gilligan
Son of Frank Cunningham Jr and Georgianna Cunningham, Frank Cunningham III married Annette McKnight
I am the daughter of Frank Cunningham III and Annette McKnight

Friday, October 17, 2008


Although I am quite obsessed with it, I have no intention of discussing the current election. In this forum, I prefer to look to the lessons of the past and how they have shaped our nation. In my family history, there are several who gave service to our country whether as political activists or as fighters for freedom, some famous, others unknown. But they all have interesting stories. You have them in your family too, you just have to do some research, ask some questions. I thought I would share with you some of my family members that have had an impact on our great nation.

Timothy Matlack was born in 1736. He is my 8th great grandfather. I will outline the genealogy below for those that have interest in it.

Some movie buffs recognize the name - in the movie "National Treasure" his name was part of a clue which leads to the characters stealing the Declaration of Independence. We have known about him long before the movie though.

Timothy Matlack was a Quaker, most well known as the scribe who penned the official Declaration of Independence on parchment in 1776, now on display at the National Archives. He was also a colonel during the revolution and a quite colorful leader as well as a political and social radical.

He was a gambler and loved being around those of all social classes. This behavior and others got him kicked out of the Quakers. He promptly joined other disowned Quakers that had supported the war to form the Free Quakers and continued to challenge traditional practices such as slavery. He had no patience for those who did not support the new country's independence and wrote letters to George Washington warning of Benedict Arnolds treason. Later he served as prosecutor at Arnold's trial.

Timothy and his wife Ellen Yarnell had five children and died after a long life in 1829. My genealogical line is as follows:

Timothy Matlack married Ellen Yarnell
Daughter of Timothy Matlack and Ellen Yarnell, Martha Matlack married Guy Bryan
Son of Martha Matlack and Guy Bryan, Timothy Matlack Bryan married Anna Elizabeth Wilson
Daughter of Timothy Bryan and Anna Wilson, Mary Wharton Bryan married Oscar Lorrain DeWees
Daughter of Mary Bryan and Oscar Dewees, Mary Lorrain Dewees married Blake Baker Wiggins
Son of Mary Dewees and BB Wiggins, Blake Baker Wiggins III married Trinkins (Eddie) Cabaniss
Daughter of BB Wiggins and Trinkins Cabaniss, Aline Dewees Wiggins married Frank Cunningham
Son of Frank Cunningham and Aline Wiggins, Frank Cunningham Jr married Georgianna Marcella Gilligan
Son of Frank Cunningham Jr and Georgianna Cunningham, Frank Cunningham III married Annette McKnight
I am the daughter of Frank Cunningham III and Annette McKnight.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What's In Your Bag?

The things women carry in their purses! I always thought you could tell a lot about a woman by what she had in her purse but I had no idea of the interest others had in the same subject.

I recently ran across a Flickr group called "What's In Your Bag?" People lay out the contents of their bags/purses and take a photo. Of course, I had to join in.

The funny thing - this photo has been viewed 594 times as of today! My photos on Flickr average about 30 views each. My next most viewed photos, all of my feet, have 150 views each. The foot people are busy. But apparently, the purse people are even busier. Go figure!

So what is in my bag? Here is a list from the top left side

  • My purse is by Fossil - it is the most wonderful purse and I love it but it cost more than anyone should ever spend on a purse.
  • My pink notebook - for reminders and general jotting down of things
  • Small makeup mirror - I never use this and have no idea why I keep it in my purse
  • My orange and red wallet - holds money and credit cards
  • Toothbrush and floss - I had just been to the dentist
  • My Ipod - it is always with me
  • A napkin with movie times and the movie ticket stubs for "Nights in Rodanthe" and "My Best Friend's Girl"
  • Turquoise wallet by Vera Bradley - holds all my store discount cards and punch cards
  • Chapstick with 45 SPF
  • A pen engraved with my name - a gift from one of our VPs for beating budget last year
  • Keys - work, home, and car
  • Pepcid - a recent development, now all better
  • Yellow "Moo" card holder - Moo cards are mini calling cards with my photographs on them
  • Oxy Clean spot remover spray, purse size
  • My Vera Bradley Checkbook cover which holds my checks
  • Lip stuff - which I rarely wear but I am always looking for the perfect shade
  • A random red ribbon
  • My name tag for the American Business Woman's Association
  • My business card holder which holds . . . my business cards ;)
  • The best lip balm ever from Bath and Body . . . minty
  • Nail file - it says "Season's Greetings" and I have had it for about 3 years. It is worthless.
  • Tylenol
  • A zip drive - I'm a geek.
  • Toothpicks from The Boathouse, a restaurant in Chattanooga.
  • My work cell phone
  • My Vera Bradley notebook (are you seeing the theme here?) in which I write ideas, blog topics, etc.
  • Point and shoot camera
  • Blackberry, better known as a Crack-berry
  • Dental toothpicks
  • Discount coupons for Talbots. These are just in case I find some money laying around that needs to be spent on me, me, me, I'll have a coupon.
  • A set of keys for each of my kids cars.
Despite evidence to the contrary, I am not a Vera Bradley addict. I do own a lot and I like the stuff but most of all I have was given to me by others, mainly my daughter. I have another wallet, a computer case and two bags. OK, I like it a lot.

So - how brave are you? Are you willing to dump the contents of your purse for all to see?

Monday, October 6, 2008

To Give Or Not To Give

I have heard a lot of discussion lately on homelessness and panhandling. In Atlanta, where panhandlers are known to be aggressive and pushy, even violent, the city has installed meters, similar to parking meters in locations around downtown. They ask that rather than giving to panhandlers, you put that amount into the meter where it can be redistributed to social service agencies that support the homeless.

Other cities that have many tourists and many panhandlers are doing similar things. The goal is to curb the panhandling, providing a comfort level so the city can draw more tourism. And to redirect the money from those that are fraudulent or addicted and to get it to those that truly need it. It is very controversial and there are valid arguments both in support of and against these efforts.

I have heard many discussions on this topic. You can't talk about panhandling without the lines blurring across homelessness, addiction, and mental illness.

We all have stories, from our own experiences or shared with us by friends, of giving a panhandler food or offering a job and having them laugh or cuss at you saying "I just want the money Pal".

We have heard the stories of students who, as a social experiment for class, dress in shabby clothes, stand on a downtown street corner and ask for money. It is not uncommon for them to make as much as $50 an hour. And there are many for whom this is their full-time job, not just a social experiment.

My heart breaks for those who really need help but my logical mind reminds me that there is help available. As I visit my son downtown, I see the same people over and over and my son calls them by name, chatting with them for a minute and reminding them that no, he doesn't have anything to give them today either. He lives around the corner from 2 shelters.

I was fascinated by the documentary Reversal Of Fortune. the story of Ted Rodrique who had been homeless off and on for 20 years. One day, as Ted scrounged in his normal dumpster for cans and bottles, he found a briefcase containing $100,000 that had been hidden there by the filmmaker, Wayne. Wayne says he was inspired to make Reversal of Fortune because of his daily interactions with homeless people in Los Angeles. His question - '"What would happen if I actually was able to give someone $100,000 and the free will to do with it what they wanted to do?" "Would that turn their life around or would it create more problems?"

Ted started out well and with the best of intentions to improve his life. But between his demons, old habits, and a series of bad choices, within a year Ted was homeless again. You can read more detail about this story here. It is quite fascinating.

I don't think meters will solve this problem but I don't think giving panhandlers money solves it either. Some people want to be in the position they are in. Others need help that our guilty couple of dollars cannot give them. I think Rabbi Shmuley has the best advice. He suggests giving when you can give, not giving when you feel you shouldn't, but always treating the person with dignity and respect. And always look them in the eye. No matter the circumstances, they are a human being.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

It's My Bloggerversary

This week last year, I started my blog. It was Breast Cancer Awareness month and I had so many things to say . . . about my plans to walk in the Race For The Cure, scrapbooking at the Crop for the Cure, my mom and her battle with breast cancer and the happenings since her death.

Today's photo is also in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness. It is for Boobiethon 2008 to raise money for research.

Breast cancer was the impetus for my start in blogging. Little did I know that one year later it would have become so much more in so many ways.

This is an outlet for me. I can use my photography and words to share a story. I am not a good writer but I do love to tell stories. And I love visiting my blogger friends to hear their stories.

I have "met" so many friends across the country through their blogs and weirdly enough, I feel like I know them all so well. Family members stay updated. Interestingly enough, the people that I thought would support my efforts are NOT the ones who are regular readers. Some friends/family members read and rarely comment but send me emails. Others read stealthily and later repeat one of my stories to me at gatherings. And I love that strangers stop by. And come back.

Thank you all for visiting over this past year and for your kind comments. I look forward to sharing with you all for some time to come.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Upside Down World

There's upside-down people who walk down the street
With upside-down shoes on their upside-down feet
In an upside-down world

There's upside-down clocks that make everyone late!

Upside-down food that won't stay on your plate
In an upside-down world
In an upside-down world!

There's upside down everything all over town
It all looks so funny that I've got to frown
'Cause a frown is a smile when it's turned upside-down
In an upside-down
What side down?
Upside-down world.

It's been a long week. Early this week, I had to "react in an appropriate manner" with 3 people. I hate it when that happens. I hate it for them. I hate it for everyone.

I had to calm people down without giving explanations. "Trust me" was what I wanted to say but how could they? They don't really know me. To them, I am just a name on a letter or voice mail message. Why would they trust me? So I didn't say it.

Yes, I am being vague. Sorry about that. It's hard to express feelings about a situation but this forum is not the place to give details about this situation.

So my real point in all of this was that I actually feel good today. It was a stressful week for all involved. But I was there. Every day. I was as honest as I could be. I addressed situations that needed to be addressed. And today, the end of the week, they now trust me. They have confidence that it will be better. That it was the right thing to do. They know me and what I stand for. They trust me.

That makes it all worth it.