Saturday, November 21, 2015

Granny's house...

Everybody should have a "Granny's house" like this one...  My dad and his siblings spent many growing up years in this house.  My uncle and aunt bought it and Granny lived there until she died in 2007.  Two of my cousins grew up here.

It's that time of year again.  Thanksgiving will be upon us next week.  I won't be attending the annual festivities held in Virginia at my Granny's house.  I went last year to celebrate my dad's life and sing "Softy and Tenderly" at his memorial service.  This year, we're staying in Germany and will likely have a low key celebration somewhere at a restaurant.

I'm feeling kind of bittersweet about not attending the festivities.  I mean, getting back to the States, especially at this time of year, is an expensive logistical hassle.  Given the recent spate of terrorism, it's probably even more obnoxious in 2015 than it was in 2014.  And then, once you get there, you have to contend with personality clashes and the inevitable stress of being around family.  I have a very large family and it's hard to fit everyone in Granny's house.  I love my family, but a lot of my baggage comes from the time I spent with them.  Depression, alcoholism, and the byproducts of those demons affected me, just as they affect everyone.  Several of us have sharp tongues and short tempers, which can make things more of a challenge.  I also tend to feel overwhelmed at large gatherings. 

Still, despite all of that, I do have a wonderful family.  My father's mother, Granny, lived to be almost 101 years old.  She died in July 2007 and her funeral was huge.  My dad, who was 74 years old at the time, was still functional when we laid her to rest.  The next year, he had back surgery and his life was never the same.  He died not quite seven years after his mother did.  Then six months later, I lost an uncle.  Three months after that, another uncle died.  And in October, I lost my only uncle on my mom's side.  It's not lost on me that my family is starting to move on to whatever's next in the eternal universe...

This time of year, my relatives post photos of the festivities on Facebook.  I always feel wistful when I look at the pictures.  Today, some of my cousins shared these photos of Granny's house, so I thought I'd steal them and post them on my blog...  I doubt any of them read this rag, so it's probably okay.  Or, they'll never know...  

By the creek, looking up the hill to the barn and granary.  This property is bordered by two creeks that intersect near where this picture was taken.

If I'm honest, I feel a bit like an outcast among most of my relatives.  I'm not nearly as politically conservative or religious as most of them are.  However, I will admit that I did inherit the family music gene and sense of humor.  Somehow, my sense of humor is more raucous and profane than everyone else's is.  I'm like Bette Midler in a sea of staunch Republicans (which most of them are).  And it's not even that I'm all that liberal myself.  I mean, compared to them I am, but compared to the general public, I'm not really.  

Oddly enough, I think my more liberal outlook comes from my dad, who was interested in the world.  He loved to travel and had a heart for helping people.  When I told him I wanted to join the Peace Corps (though for admittedly selfish reasons), he was very happy and so proud.  A lot of military folks think the Peace Corps is for tree hugging granola types.  That wasn't the case in my family.  My sister was a Volunteer in Morocco and I was one in Armenia.  I had another cousin who wanted to join, but didn't end up going for some reason.  My Aunt Jeanne died the night I was completing my application.  At that time, it was a very long application that took several hours to complete.  I remember it was my second one.  I threw the first one away because I didn't think they'd ever accept me.  I was wrong.

This was taken last year at Thanksgiving.  We had a rare November snow, which I got to see in person.

Down near the horseshoe pit.  My uncle did the masonry by the creek.  In 1995, my Aunt Jeanne died and her kids planted a tree in the front yard.  It's now grown large and beautiful.  

Anyway, my dad fully supported my Peace Corps endeavor.  He wanted to visit me in Armenia, but he and my mom never made it.  It was too expensive to go there and, I suspect, it was too much of a hassle for them.  I don't blame them, really.  Armenia in the 90s was not the most visitor friendly place.  However, if you're a Christian-- and most of my family members are devout Christians-- it is a fascinating country to visit.  It is widely accepted to be the first country to embrace Christianity.

The two years I spent in Armenia changed my life.  I didn't realize it at the time.  I came back from there profoundly changed.  It changed the course of my life, everything from my goals to my world view.  I started to think more globally and, having been to and seen real suffering in a struggling country, developed more empathy for people outside of the United States.  I went from being pretty conservative and seeing things in black and white to seeing things in shades of grey.  I became less comfortable with absolutes.  I became less patient with dogma and closed mindedness.  At the same time, I am definitely not fully liberalized.  I have little patience for "butt-hurtedness" or overly politically correct bullshit.  I have a lot of love for the practical, sensible, and useful.

Part of my very large and growing family.  I think we may be missing about twenty people in this photo.  The days of everyone making it home for Thanksgiving have pretty much ended.    

My time away also changed the way I saw other people.  I don't know if I became more street wise or cynical, but I stopped seeing people with the same idealized vision I used to.  My feelings became more acute in some ways and less acute in others.  I didn't get as emotional and depressed as I used to, but I also became less tolerant and forgiving of people who were unkind to me.  It was like I became saturated and less able to tolerate slights, whether or not they were intentional.  I was less willing to ignore barbs.  I don't think I'm as sensitive now as I was a few years ago.  Life with Bill has been really good for me.  He makes me happy and he fits right in with my big family.  They all love him... probably more than they love me!

You'd think I'd be more conservative being married to a military guy (and though he's retired, he will always be military).  What happened is that Bill became more liberal.  He went from being a politically conservative Mormon Army officer to a guy who is still spiritual (probably more of a Catholic than anything else), but doesn't go to church.  He is truly one of the kindest people I have ever met.  In fact, it seems like he would have been a better choice for the Peace Corps than I was.  But, I think I would have made a terrible Army officer.

Well, I've rambled on long enough with this post.  I will miss my family at Thanksgiving, but I'm grateful I can spend the holiday with Bill and our dogs.  It will be peaceful and relaxing and comparatively inexpensive, if not very exciting.  I'm sure I'll hear all about the family reunion, though.  There will be Facebook posts and emails... and maybe even a Skype (though I doubt that).  I mentioned it to a cousin who said I'd be missed.  Maybe I really will be.  Who knows?


  1. Hello,

    My name is John Draper. You don't know me from Adam. What led me to you is I'm a first-time novelist who is furiously marketing his first book, A Danger to God Himself. As such, I'm continually scouring the internet looking for blogs who might be willing to review my book.

    My book is about a Mormon missionary who goes insane on his mission. I'd like to send you a free copy, paperback or Kindle.

    Let me tell you the story behind my story:

    Writing this novel cost me my religion. I’m not bitter or anything. Actually, it was liberating.

    I started the book eight years ago as an Evangelical who wanted to skewer Mormonism. The book took me eight years to write. I probably read 25 books on Mormonism (and read everything on Mormonthink at least twice) and 25 books on schizophrenia. What’s more, I started attending a local ward undercover.

    Long story short, I saw that devout Latter-day Saints had the same religion I had, really. Basically, we both loved God and Christ and we wanted to serve God and live more like Christ. I had to admit, the only difference between us was the words we used to describe our experience.

    Further, I came to realize that the only reason I believed what I believed was that someone had told me to believe it.

    I was just like so many Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals—if not all.

    Bottom line, I became an agnostic.

    The novel is narrated in the first person by Kenny, the missionary companion who watches his companion, Jared, succumb to schizophrenia. At first, Kenny and others assume that the voices Jared is hearing and the visions he’s seeing are from Heavenly Father.

    But as Jared gets sicker and sicker, Kenny has to rethink his whole view of God and how God does or doesn’t interact with the world. Kenny’s journey became my journey: theist to, at best, deist.

    So . . . I’d like to send you a free copy of my novel. I’m hoping you’ll write a book review—good, bad, or indifferent. Or maybe you’d like to interview me. Or maybe I could do a guest post.

    If nothing else, you get a free book out of this.

    Obviously, I want to sell more books, but I really think this book would be of interest to your subscribers. I think they will be able to see themselves in Kenny.

    I know the book's not for everyone. My mother, for example, loved it but complained it contained too much vulgarity. I'm not sure how much vulgarity is too much, but the book does contain 91 F Bombs. (I counted.)

    Let me know if you would like to talk more.

    Thanks for your time


    1. Hi John,

      Your offer is intriguing, though I wish you had contacted me via Facebook rather than leaving this unrelated comment on my blog post. Had you contacted me that way, I would have written a separate post and included your letter. It may have gotten better exposure.

      I don't usually allow spam or blatant advertising in the comment sections of my blog. I do have a number of ex Mormon readers, though, who may be interested in your offer, so I won't delete this. They can contact you privately.

      As for me, I tend to read more non fiction than novels.


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