Saturday, January 30, 2016

Branded Man?

Unless you've been living under a rock--or you never watch TV or pick up a newspaper or magazine--you've probably heard the name Steven Avery a lot recently. I did, but I didn't pay too much attention to it until my daughter Kelli convinced me to watch all ten episodes of Making a Murderer, a documentary currently on Netflix. Wow! What a story!

Avery is the Wisconsin man who, despite massive alibi evidence, was convicted of sexual assault in 1985. He served 18 years in prison before DNA testing proved his innocence. Two years after his release, he was arrested again, charged with the murder of a 25-year-old female photographer. Avery was tried and convicted of that murder and sits in prison today, as does the slow-witted, then-teenaged nephew, Brendan Dassey, who testified against him in a statement, then recanted that testimony in court.

If you have believed, as I always have, that if you should ever be questioned by the police, all you have to do is tell the truth and they will be reasonable, the recorded interrogation of young Brendan will scare the pants off you.

It seems that almost everyone who has watched this documentary has an opinion about Steven Avery's guilt or innocence. I don't, actually. Avery has done some despicable things (he once threw a kitten onto a fire), so I do have an opinion about his character, and it's conceivable to me that he might be capable of murder. It's possible he committed this one. The problem is, whether he did or not, he was framed for it. On that basis alone, he deserves a new trial.

As for Brendan, I think his only crime was being young and stupid and using his big imagination to try to give the cops the answers they so clearly wanted.

If you've been following this case, I'd love to know what you think about it. And if you're unfamiliar with it, you might want to delve into it and find out how seriously things can go wrong when people in power have pre-conceived ideas and lofty personal goals.

The song is "Branded Man" by Merle Haggard.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks for Allen0955 for posting this video on YouTube.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ten Years Later

I had intended to post a new blog entry yesterday to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Velvet Sacks, but first the shower curtain fell, rod and all, then the dogs went outside and came back in with thick mud-soup all over their paws, and by the time I got everything cleaned up, straightened out and rehung, I was no longer in a writing mood. Doing laundry seemed like a better idea.

Well, guess what! This morning I realized that today, not yesterday, is the actual anniversary date. Apparently, fate intervened and kept me from posting a stupid, self-congratulatory mistake on the Internet. Way to go, Fate (or Coincidence)!

Some things were different ten years ago, some remain the same. I was working full time when I started the blog in 2006; now I'm retired. I didn't have health insurance; now I'm safe in the arms of Medicare. My knees were just beginning to give me trouble; now I have one new, sturdy knee and another, still unstable one, in line for replacement not too far down the road.

My two beloved dogs from ten years ago, Kadi and Butch, have passed on and made room in my home for two new ones, Levi and Gimpy, who share their days here with my grand-dogs, Lucy and Oliver. Lucy was with us back then, but Oliver came along later, after Winston passed.

The size of our family has both grown and diminished. Three of my five grandchildren have married during this blog's existence, each of those three marriages has produced a baby, and a fourth child is on the way in a few months. In that same time span I've lost aunts, uncles and a few good friends. This very morning my great-niece gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl, and this afternoon a 58-year-old niece by marriage will be laid to rest, too early, near her mother.

Ten years ago I was complaining about President George W. Bush. I was so glad to see the end of his two terms, yet if I match him up against today's crop of GOP candidates, he seems a little more sensible than the rest of them do. Or at least a little less idiotic. That doesn't mean I'd want him back.

Ten years of water under the bridge, and life goes on. So will Velvet Sacks for the foreseeable future. Many thanks to all of you who have joined me in this journey.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Distinguished Visitor

President Obama visited Baton Rouge this past Thursday for a brief speech and a town-hall type meeting at McKinley High School, the first high school established in East Baton Rouge Parish (in the early 1900s) for African-American students. TV news programs showed videos of people camping out overnight to be first in line to get tickets to the event. I would have loved to have been among them, but not enough to camp out on the street.

Instead, I watched live coverage from home. I was moved by the faces of the people who did get tickets, mostly black people, all of them beaming with joy. Hundreds of people who didn't have tickets showed up and milled around peacefully outside the school, hoping to catch a glimpse of Barack Obama--their president even more than mine. When he spoke to the estimated one thousand people assembled in the auditorium, the folks outside gathered around news vans and listened attentively to his every word.

I don't recall another president in my lifetime who has faced as many obstacles as this one in terms of opposition from the other side of the aisle, yet he has maintained his dignity and even his sense of humor through all of it. He appeared light-hearted and relaxed during his exchanges with the Baton Rouge audience the other day, and I hope that the kind of love exuded by hometown crowds like that one will tide him over when he gets back to business as usual in Washington.

I'll bet he's counting the days until his term is over. You know Michelle is.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Dreams of Flowers in My Hair

Helen, who writes at A little of this-n-that, ended 2015 by sharing a secret she's held since 1969: she really wanted to go to Woodstock. Her post was entertaining and awakened a similar memory I've held close to my metaphorical vest.

The year was 1967 and half the young people in the US (or so it seemed to me) were going to San Francisco to celebrate The Summer of Love. I had just left a bad marriage, taking my two small girls with me, and was working in a new job as secretary to an East Texas district judge. As happy as I was to be out from under the thumb of the husband, I sometimes felt that I was in way over my head. I'd been a stay-at-home mom and was learning that working a full-time job and then coming home to an evening of caring for energetic children was exhausting. Money was tight--very tight--so I worried constantly about that, and I worried that the job didn't allow me enough quality time with my kids. And I was lonely. Truthfully, I'd been lonely for a long time, throughout most of the six-year marriage.

I had watched with only mild interest the nightly news images of flocks of "flower children" showing up in San Francisco, but late that summer, just about the time I filed for divorce, my interest piqued, driven by one song that played endlessly on the radio. I was nothing even close to a hippie, had never done drugs nor aspired to, and didn't have one red cent available for traveling, but I fantasized regularly about joining those throngs of long-haired, bell-bottomed "gentle people" who were picking up and heading west.

Even if I'd had the means, I wouldn't have gone. I was a mommy, my girls were my life, and the proverbial wild horses couldn't have dragged me away from them. But sometimes, when it was late, when I was physically and emotionally fatigued, when the girls were wild and wouldn't settle down even after I'd put them to bed, I'd imagine what it would be like to thread a few flowers into my hair and shuck all responsibility.

It's rare today to hear that fantasy-inducing song played on public media, but sometimes it shuffles up on my iTunes. Even today it draws me into longings as deep as those I felt in 1967.

It's funny how something I never did has held a place in my heart for nearly fifty years.

The song is "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair), performed by Scott McKenzie.  Thanks to oMyBadHairDay for posting the video on YouTube.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Rediscovering the Viewfinder

One of the things I've missed most in recent months is photography. I couldn't walk easily enough to seek out pretty scenery, and I was really, really tired of taking pictures from my patio. I know now (despite the fact I'm battling bronchitis this week!) that it  won't be too long before I can get out again, go to photogenic places and try to capture their beauty with my camera.

I was surprised the other day when something unusually pretty popped into my view and prompted me go get my camera. That hadn't happened for a while. We'd just finished dinner, something that was spicy, greasy and delicious, and the little dabs of color and the arrangement of the grease bubbles on my dirty plate inspired me. (Okay, I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Whatever.)

Anyway, that kind of primed my photographic pump, and I've taken a few more pictures since then. I still can't get out too far, so most of those new photos have been shot--deja vu--from my patio. Only now I don't seem to mind so much.

Over the years I've taken dozens of photos of birds sitting atop the utility pole in my next-door neighbor's yard. Here's the newest of them:

The sycamore tree two doors down was split in half by a summer storm in 2015. I can only see the very top of it now:

This is Gimpy on a windy day:

Here I was aiming the lens through the back fence into another neighbor's yard. Can you believe how green everything is?

Turning the camera a little to the left toward the same back fence, here are two pecan trees gleaming in the sunlight:

I saved that pecan-trees photo to show you next-to-last because I just so happen to have a picture taken almost exactly one year ago of the same two trees. Here's how the scene looked on January 6, 2015:

Looks like last year got off to a gloomy start and never got a whole lot better. I  hope to expand my photographic boundaries in 2016.

Friday, January 01, 2016

"Wake up, open your blinds..."

So began Sister-Three's comment this morning on my last post, which was written three months ago. Many thanks to her and to the others of you who left notes of encouragement while I was absent from the blogosphere.

Yesterday, the last day of 2015, was the first day in months that I was able to sit comfortably at my computer desk and type a few complete, coherent sentences. "Comfortably" and "coherent" are the key words there. My old, worn-out knees were causing me so much pain that most of my thoughts weren't pleasant ones, and if a positive thought did flit across my mind by accident, I couldn't hold on to it long enough to write it down.

But that was last year. This is 2016, and things are different now. Now that the brand-new, metal and acrylic knee I acquired in mid-November has healed substantially, it has given me the gifts of diminished pain, improved mobility, and one heck of an attitude adjustment. I had never realized that pain could be so debilitating, could drive someone to such deep depression that the future looked uninviting, but I have been schooled.  That darkness is behind me now, thank goodness.

An acquaintance recently told me that his father's orthopedist, discussing impending knee-replacement surgery, told him, "You're going to hate me for six weeks, and at eight weeks you're gonna love me." I now understand that completely. I'm at the end of week seven, the pain from the surgery itself is finally abating, my head has been clear of medication side effects for a few weeks, I'm off the walker and mostly off the cane, I've just resumed driving short distances (freedom!), and all of a sudden my personal skies are blue again. What a relief!

I don't want to leave this topic without saying how much my daughters have helped me in the past few months; emotionally and physically, they've been there for me, and I don't know what I would have done without them. Having always prided myself on my independence, it was difficult to acknowledge that I needed help, let alone ask for it. My girls didn't wait for me to ask. They've pitched in with the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the pet care, the hospital stay, and miles and miles of transportation to and from doctors' visits and physical therapy. They've let me cry when I needed to, and they've made me laugh when I didn't think I could. I'll be forever grateful.

So, back to the future: I'm awake and my figurative blinds are once more open. I'm excited about blogging again, though I'll admit to being a little anxious, too, hoping the burst of enthusiasm I'm feeling today won't fizzle out before I get back into the swing of writing regularly. Thank you for continuing to check in here now and then. I hope you'll stick with me while I give it my best shot.

Happy New Year to all of you! Woo-hoo, 2016!

The song is "Believing" by Nashville cast members Charles Esten, Lennon Stella and Maisy Stella. Thanks to kaid030795 for posting the video and lyrics to YouTube.