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Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 12:46 PM PST

What's in your Wallet?

by alabamaliberal

The press conference I just watched was one more effort to inject a dose of reality into the world that is the United States in 2013. Think about this for a minute: We have everyone focused on one page on a brand new website - everyone. Not just those who wanted this site to succeed but those who absolutely did not want it to succeed as well. And virtually everyone in between.

Lost in the insanity is an obvious problem:  Those who are digitally literate and those who aren't are not necessarily on the same side.  There are plenty of old school democrats walking around with their iPads and iPhones who really don't know diddley about technology. I would put Andrea Mitchell in that category.

While I like Andrea, I was struck by her body language (shaking her head no as she was emphatically declaring Obama's newly announced fixes toothless) and wondered how much actual experience she has had with websites, computers and the ongoing effort to bring the US into the digital age that seems never to be realized.

It's all about what's in your wallet, I think.  Let me try to explain.


Have you used your smartphone for transactions?

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Alabama Liberal (aka Susan Hales, doublygifted, or simply "Warley" to some)  pretending to know all there is to know about my new Galaxy III from CREDO!
The earth didn't move and there were no fireworks on the mountain. Those who were there came on faith that the relationships we'd built one by one over the past few years would grow into something more, and it did, exponentially. Alabama just convened the first statewide day of training for the new grassroots organization of progressives who call ourselves the Alabama Democratic Majority. There were those of us who have been active in Alabama politics since birth, like Peggy Wallace Kennedy, and those of us who came back to Alabama determined to see the good in this fractured and much maligned state despite the headlines and the hollerin' - and it was a day to remember!
Meeting of 350 Alabama democrats in Birmingham, August 2, 2013
When Mark Kennedy walked out to address us at 10 am yesterday morning he received a standing ovation. I was one of the first on my feet. I wrote my first diary here about the man, and only yesterday actually met him. Meeting his wife Peggy was for me a sobering experience, because I have spent most of my life trying to resurrect my own father's life from the destruction the past three decades have done to his memory and yet there was the daughter of George Wallace himself, a man who had symbolized my desire to leave Alabama all those years ago, who has come forward bravely to help us all understand what it was like to move through that very personal experience of being his daughter. Peggy is someone I truly admire. And her husband Mark as well. (Karl, he's still here despite your hard work trying to destroy him.)

Unlike myself, most of the attendees yesterday had never left Alabama or had come here from other places. I was able to meet many of them during the breaks, and hope to get to know many more on the FB page where the photos of yesterday's amazing event are being posted. If you are not convinced that real change is happening, try this on for size.  Or just go to the website and sign up, then roll up your sleeves and let's get to work!

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In this morning's excellent article on the two brothers who terrorized Boston and the rest of the country, a sentence and a quote jumped out at me. The younger brother was quoted as saying that "Going from High School to College is totally different" - which might not seem like a very stupendous comment in the overall scheme of things, but if we want to help our young people, especially our male children, mature into people who can flourish within society, we need to understand this transition from high school to college.

See the book by my friend Nick Tingle, titled Self Development and College Writing, which helped me understand what my 19 year old freshmen writing students were struggling with.  

I wish I could take the time to develop these thoughts in more depth, but I have a project due for a client, and a son getting married in two weeks. And both my sons have had bad experiences with me being on the internet for hours and days as I try to fathom the world that we live in. They have their own PTSD from having grown up as my children. But the thing I want to share with you is this: Going from high school to college is as different as going from one culture to another. It is as difficult a transition as a young person can make.

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Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 07:34 AM PST

Remembering Momma

by alabamaliberal

Yesterday I did something I never imagined I'd have the courage to do. I participated in a ceremony honoring my mother for having been one of the founders of a school in Baldwin County, Alabama in the late 60's. Much is always made, and rightly so, of the reasons for these schools popping up all over the south, and yet my mother was not one who would have started a school so that children would be able to learn in a segregated society. Far from it. She had already lived a life of joining in a different culture than her own. When she consented to marry my father, she put herself in the midst of some pretty strong elitists -- my grandmother being the queen  - and she made many compromises in order to "keep the peace" in the family.

Starting with marrying my father. Raised Southern Baptist, my mother and father got married in the Opelika Baptist Church with my father's uncle, an Episcopal Priest, officiating. How's that for starters?

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Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 12:26 PM PST

Breakfast at the Whistle Stop

by alabamaliberal

Down here in Mobile, Alabama, there is such a strange atmosphere - everyone is unsure of the person next to them - and everyone is afraid to "come out" as liberal or conservative so most people I know take a very mealymouthed middle of the road approach.  The events of this morning are just one more example of this phenomenon.

Because I'm less able to keep my opinons to myself, I tend to be the type that most of my friends avoid during times like this. Either they know as much as I do and don't want to reveal that, or they don't want to hear what I have to say.  The fact that I've been working for the Obama for America group here in Mobile didn't surprise anyone, but the fact that I've been confidently smug for a good while has baffled many. The opportunity to see this operation from the perspective of a data coordinator for the Alabama organization, which has been putting all it's energy into the Florida effort for over a year, has given me a great sense of confidence that we can smile tomorrow morning.

I voted last Wednesday because I will be spending the final hours of this campaign working, either helping the phonebanks and the GOTV effort, or getting the data in and closing up the books for this season and preparing for the future. The fact that I see this campaign through the lens of someone who takes the long view is not surprising if you know the true story of Barack Obama and his history. Where I'm from, you always take the long view. Change is always a work in progress. We know that.

But there are too many people around here who believe in miracles. Too many people who have a false sense of entitlement. The biggest problem is the lack of an open dialogue where everyone can speak without being labeled, without recriminations, and without being silenced by those who are threatened by change.

I took time this morning to take my 93 year old next door neighbor to vote. He depends on a walker and has very little hearing left even with hearing aids. He is, however, much more keenly aware of the complexities of the world than he's usually given credit for. He has a tendency to voice the things he's heard on FOX news but if you question him, as I'm tempted to do, his real understanding belies the simplistic views of that station. So we get along fine for the most part.  After he voted, we went to breakfast at the Whistle Stop, where Romney stood in the rain on a rainy morning and talked about cheesy grits.


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I'm just going to post a link to this diary, with the following comment: She approached Karl Rove at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, introduced herself, and tried to ask him if he could do anything to help her dad at this point.

It's very instructive what happened next.

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When I think about this election in the years to come I will remember last night for the remarkable event that no one knew was going to happen. Not that we didn't know Joe and Barack were going to exceed expectations, not that we didn't know the night would be full of exceptional clips from all the wonderful Dems on the schedule in Charlotte - no, the night for me will be remembered for the unexpected and jubilant crowd of 115 who showed up and cheered uproariously when Joe Biden and then President Obama hit the high notes, touched the tough issues, and set off the fireworks in the room.

We have been ignored, forgotten and completely written off here in Mobile, Alabama and yet, if you could have seen that room last night, all of us smiling and clapping and yelling at the big screen TV with rabbit ears on top, as we didn't have the funds or permission to actually get cable in the empty building we use for our Obama for America headquarters. We had a covered dish, southern style, and enough good food and drinks to go around. We even had two local candidates that braved the party naysayers and showed up in the face of overwhelming odds to get out and buck the trend toward total Republican domination in this part of the state.

We had 115 people. That's an amazing result for a group that doesn't even exist in the Alabama democratic party per se. That's an amazing result for a handful of volunteers who work tirelessly every day and have for three years to keep the dream alive in this area. And when I joined a month or so ago, I wasn't sure we'd have twenty people show up.

But that room was full. That room was tearful. Jubilant. Celebratory. Excited. Signing up for phone banks, buying yard signs, bumper stickers and the rest. It was great to see. I'll never forget it. And I hope it's the beginning of the end of one party rule in this state.

I have been writing about what Rove and company has done to this state since 2005. I've been encouraged by the recognition that the rest of the state has gotten for the attempts at change, and Left in Alabama has done a great job of corralling bloggers and information for the rest of the state. But Mobile still doesn't have a progressive presence and there are plenty of progressives around here wondering where the other progressives hang out.

We come in all sizes, shapes and colors. We were just the tip of the iceberg in this area, I'm sure of that. And hopefully we'll be able to rally around Obama/Biden and come out of the woodwork for good this time. Because in this area, the second most important thing besides re-electing the president is bringing about drastically needed change in Mobile and Baldwin County.


Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 11:32 AM PDT

Shame is a powerful weapon

by alabamaliberal

Watching Now with Alex Wagner has been thrilling this morning. Her special segment on women couldn't have come at a better time for the campaign, given the "last gasps" of the dying party of fear and shame. The days of being able to silence women and men because of shame for who they are, what they've experienced, why they know what they know regardless of their exclusion from some old boys club, shame in where they are right now in their lives or where they've been (on welfare, suffering through bankruptcy or just living on the margins as best they can, which is where I've been for several years) or shame for how they managed to claw their way past all the obstacles that still exist in this culture all too often - these days are slip-sliding away, and I'm glad to see it once again.

I've lived through these heady days once before. The death of Helen Gurley Brown is reminder enough of the last huge crack in the fabric of the male dominated culture, and while it never healed over completely, the cracks have not resulted in a shift away from the fault lines of women's issues, including the right to be a sexual woman in this world.

We have seen many ways that this has been brought about since the 70's and I don't have time or space to launch a feminist diary. I am thinking more about the power of shame. That's what most people seem to miss in the way the media, the political operatives and the party of fear manage to make us afraid to stand up and be ourselves, naked and in the spotlight.

Just ask the two Republican embarrassments that emerged today. The shame is palpable today. And everyone seems to be piling on, getting in one liners and quips like the one Andrea Mitchell just threw out when she said "Fact finding, indeed!"

I have to chime to say that I don't think there's anything wrong with skinnydipping. Okay? Nothing. That's just as stupid as saying you must be married before you have sex. If you want to claim that you'll be a virgin when you marry, go ahead, but that's really more laughable and shame-inducing a stance than any would dare to make, and yet that's really where they are trying to move us to. The war on women that has been going on since the 70's and before is nothing new.

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It's 5:15 am in Alabama. I'm on I-65 headed to Montgomery for a day spent with my cousin that I never get to see because she lives in Virginia, and is only in town for one more day. The blessings that have come my way this day are all due to a blue light under a seat in front of me. I am blogging while riding on a Greyhound Bus from Mobile to Montgomery.

Going by bus wasn't my first choice. I called rental places and was all set to rent a midsize car when I found out that I'd need a credit card and proof of income (oops, neither) or a utility bill in my name (oops, not that either, as I live in a house that is owned by an elderly woman and I don't have anything in my name).

 If that young man had not turned in front of me in October or whenever it was, I'd still be driving my son's Volvo as I really loved that S70. But it's scrap metal now. No one was injured, and no one went to jail, I hope. The young man who was driving uninsured had his own problems living in this state as a young black father of two, trying to do the right thing, trying to get his little girl in a good school, and trying to get his job back after having cancer.

I felt sorry for him. Believe me I know how many shitty tickets life can hand you. And he did me a favor.

I don't have a car. I live near a bus stop in a city in Alabama that has pretty miserable public transportation, and I ride a 1972 Western Flyer around town, to Walmart, Michaels, and sometimes to the downtown market ( I missed the Tour de Koop yesterday sadly.)  I'm a member of MOB, Mobilians on Bikes. We have a facebook page. Check it out.

Next week there is a bike tour of some towntown gardens. I'm planning to go.

Today, however, I'm travelling to Montgomery, for the day. For $44 plus cab fare. I don't see how that could be any better. I'm spending the day with my cousins, going to the church where my uncle was the preacher for 35 years, and then returning home in time to feed the cats and let them all know I didn't leave forever.

Not that they'd suffer. They are pampered. But they knew something was up when I went to bed at 8 last night. And I've got a friend that will check on them if I start worrying, but I don't think they'll even miss me all that much.

And having my internet access while I'm traveling is wonderful.

Traveling this road, from Mobile to Montgomery, is a part of my life that I've written about in my stories. I can recall trips to Granny's house from Fairhope when I was seven or eight, and there was no interstate.

And I can recall train rides from Mobile to Montgomery. I never took the bus to Opelika, where my mother's mother lived, but I did take the bus to Columbia, Mississippi often, starting when I was very young. My parents would put my sister and me on the bus, and my grandmother would get us on the other end. We were watched over by the bus driver and I have never forgotten that. I can recall bus rides I've taken that were not as pleasant, and other transit rides in my younger years, but the fact is that the only time I ride a bus now is to the USA football games. And that's got to change.

I'm going to become public transportation savvy. I can see this.

I didn't know how much my life would change when I learned how wonderful it would be to live carless.

I really can't see myself owning a car again. The yellow cab company is two blocks away, (I actually called them twice to move my stuff to the house I'm in now, and by some clever horsetrading I didn't have to rent a truck at all)

And this bus is pretty damn comfortable. I'm probably keeping someone awake by my laptop screen lights but I hope not. It sounds pretty peaceful and even the little two year old seems to have calmed down for a nap. Maybe when she gets up she'll come sit with me and I'll show her something online.

How cool is this? I could be driving up the highway by myself, spending gas money, (round trip to Montgomery usually would take about a tank) as I recall. And with a ten year old car there are other things to worry about. My sons both work in Birmingham and I really would love to be able to see them both but the cost has been prohibitive. Well, guess what, guys. This is my new favorite thing.

I'll be checking out rates, routes, and making trip plans now. And I can do that as I travel. I bought my tickets online and saved money. The staff in the station were great, friendly, polite, and interesting. The cab company that picked me up is going to have to learn the meaning of promptness even at 3 am, and that won't be hard to do.

Hell, maybe I'll even start driving a cab for them. Nah, I am still more interested in living my live the way I like living it.

I am focused on one idea for the next few decades of my life. Autonomy. That's it. That's all I have ever wanted. It's been tough, until now. I had always depended on someone else for security. Now, thanks to social security, I may be able to find that autonomy.

I can't live on social security alone. I know that. But I can, if the world will ever catch up to the visions I've had for a long time, earn a living doing what I do best.

Here's something I noticed this morning. I walked into that waiting area in the bus station and I thought it was my stage. Seriously, I felt like everyone in there was someone I might talk to, even though many seemed to be hispanic or some other nationality. I couldn't tell by looking at them but I could hear different languages spoken. And I recalled my father's third wife, a hispanic woman herself, saying that my father talked to everyone no matter where they were. That's true, and I have always been like that as well.

Everyone needs self-esteem, and a feeling of autonomy. People don't need to feel that they are under suspicion, they don't need to fear that they will be misjudged, and they sure as hell don't need to be stereotyped.

I had never been on one of these new buses before. I immediately saw the big wide seat near the exit, thought of my airplane days and gravitated to that seat. Then I started thinking that something was wrong with what I had done. I looked around, and noticed that the seat had a handicapped marker on the window next to it. I looked across the aisle and realized that there were designated handicapped seats and about the same time, a very large woman came down the aisle and stopped at the row where I was sitting. I looked at her, and said,  "Would you like to sit here?"

That would be nice, she said quietly. I moved back to another seat, and when I did, I also got my bearings a bit more, and realized that these buses are well designed for the modern traveler. There are two outlet plugs in front of me, pockets for my book or a smaller laptop, and a pocket for my drink, an armrest and comfortable seats and a seatbelt.

I looked at that outlet. I stared at it. Wow, I thought, I didn't need to run around today trying to find a place to buy a new battery for this laptop (an old one I bought at a yard sale after my newer one was stolen by a neighborhood kid).

I had no idea there would be plugs in the back of the seats. What other wonders await me as I discover a different way to travel? I would love to hear from you guys about traveling via train, bus, etc.  

I am working with a man next door who is 93, and has seriously impaired hearing. He's so intelligent that I have been trying to find ways to make his world more accessible as his knees give out and his diabetes makes his feet hurt. He has some great doctors and I'm pleased that the younger dermatologist he's seeing now sends him home with all sorts of information on what they are doing. My concern is that he could be getting so much better treatment if he could interact with the medical profession instead of being seen as an elderly person who doesn't understand technology. This man is a working engineer. At 93. He still gets called in to work because he is the only one who can do certain things. He would benefit from a Telikiin if I could get him to part with the money, but he wants to SEE one first.

I'm working on him. Text has to be large enough to see, and he needs speech recognition for sure. But the thing I like best about the Telikin is their tech buddy concept. I've had so many people who have struggled with computers and they just expect me to show up and fix things, but the tech buddy is even better. You can actually log in through their site and access their computer remotely which I'm sure lots of you guys know how to do. But with Tech Buddy, any nephew, sister, son or daughter can do that for an older person. This is a cool idea.

Anyway, the sun is coming up, and I can see the trees. I'm gonna post this, and see what the day brings.


You, DK. You. The good friends I have here that give me hope that we can finally learn to talk to one another civilly, that we can learn from one another and that we can "all get along" someday. It matters to me here in Alabama more than you can appreciate. And when I see diary after diary that has in it's headline some trashing of Alabama, when every show leads with some mockery of Alabama and it's people I can't imagine how it's ever going to change. Then I remember that it already has changed. Over and over it changes, every time we have that dialogue and march arm in arm. Every time we speak out and every time we get a blast from the past that reminds us that time is on our side.

That song. Time is on our side. Why do you think the songwriter wrote it in the way he did.? Why were the lyrics and the music so forceful? Why was it necessary to say something so simple? Because the one word in that song that isn't emphasized is OUR side. We all live in a yellow submarine. We are all targets if we try to be different. We can't be different and not be obvious. It's the nature of things. And so the artists among us find ourselves eitiher ostracized by someone, or they find that we are too radical to sehear our message, read our words or join in our songs.

It sucks sometimes being an artist. Especially if your message spans generations and is universal. It isthrilling when the message becomes clear to one person at a time but you become too passionate for some people and passion is sometimes not appropriate to the message eing heard.

A norweigan visitor to the bistro where my art is hanging right now said it best: You are in a difficult spot being between generations - I think I know what he meant. I'd dress like the "hipsters" if I thought I'd get away with it. I used to do that at art school befrore I became a graduate student and had to represeent the school in a different way. I was fond of wearing men's oxford shirts with writing on them and image transfers that said what I couldn't say out loud. It was the time and the season for messages but no one around here wanted to hear them.

I have been back in school during several national events. I returned to school as soon as I could pick myself up off the emotional floor where I was left by the Bush V. Gore -- Idecision - prior to that I'd been creating a website for a jewish friend of mine named Stephen Goldfarb. The webiste is in the archives now. It was called LeoFrankLynchers and I did it anonymously because of the pollitical firestorm it caused in the area where I lived and other places. The fact of the matter is that I was afraid of people ike Bob Barr and Newt Gingrich. In those days, if you were a progressive and lived in marietta, Georgia you might have reason to be afraid of these men.

When I see the mail come in to this house where a 96 year old Republican lived until her stroke a few months ago, I see the claims of people like Bob Barr, John Bolton, Ollie North, and so many others trying to terrify an elderly woman into donating more money to save the Republican party from itself, using fear to try to change the world, and ponder what it is that they want her to be afraid of, I really do realize that the delicate edge of their precarious balance is that they kn ow that the elderly mostly just want us to all get along. hat's all that matters to them.

The Republican National committee finally called the house yesterday in person. I was so glad to finally be able to explain to the dittoheads that she is too old to support them with the money that she has left. She is going to need all of it to take care of herself most likely. I hope she lives to be 200 and gets a chance to see the world she believes in. come to pass.

She loves cats. Wouldn't turn a stray cat out if her life depended on it. She is not a cynical hateful woman who wants that black man to be defeated. She's not afraid of his religion either. She really doesn't have a dog in this fight at all. She no longer listens to the TV because she can't hear and she isn't really interested in the arguments about whose side is right and whose side is wrong. She isn't even a legacy republican like those in my family. She came from nothing, from a family whose father abandoned them and then died, and she was the one who raised the rest of them and worked at Brookley Field until it closed. She was one of the last employees. Her husband, who died a few years ago, was also a Brookely Field employee and they lived a good life here in Mobile, but like most of this town, the closing of Brookley Field was a shock that never stopped hurting.

Mobile is a town that has had many Tsunami's of ecomonic shock and the gulf oil spill is just another one. We are always dependent on things we can't control whether it's torrential rains flooding downtown Mobile or Hurricanes wiping out the city. My adopted town of Mobile (I'm from Fairhope, and there is, despite what I've written before a difference) b has a reputation that sadly is tarnished by the constant avalanche of bad news and economic impact that only the devoted are able to stick around to record.

Those of us who, like myself, have five or six generations of family buried in Magnolia Cemetary and who have sloshed through one too many swampy funerals in that to bury yet another proud member of the family, people who have had positions of power as well as those who silently supported them and died without their stories told, (I'm workign on it, trust me) and yet you have to wonder why my immediate family is not buried here. My mother is in Montrose and my father in Tampa, and I don't know where I"ll be buried. I don't care though as long as the story I have to tell gets told before I'm done.

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While watching The West Point Story, with James Cagney and Doris Day, I was struck by how clearly the early films portrayed the concept of a studio owning the star. The not so subtle subtext was how the military owns the cadet at West Point, with the story line being that of love, marriage, and a career doing what you're good at vs. doing what you get paid to do, following orders and saluting the man in charge.

I confess that I'm illiterate when it comes to movies. I'm hoping to rectify that now that I've been given the chance by virtue of living to the ripe old age of 62 and being allowed to live with some means of support that is not subject to some authority figure saying I can or can't be who I am.

The fear I have is that the authority figures will change. I'm already subject to my son's approval, the fear of what I'll say next or the concerns that others have that I'll get out of "line" and stir up the mud somehow. That is "the breaks" as they say, of being in show business.

And that's what an artist is. A showman. So's a teacher. Try to persuade someone to listen to you without being a showman. You can't do it. I am always walking a thin line between people saying "Oh, great! Here's Susan" and people saying "Oh,'s Susan...(again).  

So often we just want to be heard. We don't dare send out the message ahead of the interaction, and this makes for some tough selling. I have had a hard time "looking the part" of an artist in the framework of the hip little bistro where my art is hanging. They tend to see me as an old lady who has an annoying habit of talking to people when they aren't interested in listening.

Interest, then, is a prerequisite to sales whether you're trying to sell a painting, a concept, or a product. When I was trying to get the bank to loan me money for an interior design business in North Carolina in 1981, the bankers would tell me about the fact that there were no "metrics" for that type of business. They would talk about the number of cars that pass by a certain location and look up the stats on a particular business but a creative business like mine was not in their book. The metrics didn't hold up because the market for design is not static. It's variable. The products that we sold, fabric and wallpaper and furniture and custom design -- those were market dependent. You couldn't say how many employees you'd need, or how much your supplies would cost because that was variable, and the only thing you could say was that the cost of sample books was subscription based and horrendously expensive because you had no way to bypass the need for an actual sample of each colorway of each fabric so that exact colormatches could be obtained.

I managed to fund the business myself - with my husband's help. For a time it was a good thing. Eventually the pressures of being a mother and a business owner would conflict with the duties of being a wife and our marriage came to an end. It was a tragic end to us all, and no one came away unscathed. But we managed to deal with the dissolution of this marriage in what I thought was a progressive manner. We went to a mediator, rather than engage lawyers.

Because we did that, our sons have a relationship with both parents to this day. It has never been easy, but it has been the way we've coped with what seems to most outsiders to be a really uncomfortable relationship. I don't see it that way.

Our children were never mine any more than they were his. Now that they are both in relationships, it's likely that he and I will find ourselves sitting on the same side of the aisle again for the first time in a very long time. I'm hoping that the best in both of us will emerge to make it the best moments for us both. Because I'm no longer his wife, I can't reflect on him the way I once did. And yet our children are still part of both "houses" if you will. So there's always gonna be some trait or other that is part of the famil heritage that blends into the mix and makes us interesting combinations of our ancestry.

This ancestry, with all it's DNA and cultural shaping from social institutions that have come from a deeper well than we can fathom at first glance, is also what makes it so hard to be who we are as adults in the world. My sons struggle daily to emerge from the envelope of their parents expectations and try to be fully who they are. This wasn't always the way children were allowed to be. That's what I'm talking about when I speak of Chattel in terms of children. I might have to use my artwork to illustrate a bit. But here goes.

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I confess my mind works in crazy ways. My last diary, Chattel Mortgages, was just a prelude to what's going on in my goofy head.

See, I remember the day in 1972 when I got married to a man who was in the management training program at his company.

He actually told me that someone at his office told him it'd be better if he had a wife.

I didn't think about it much at the time. The diamond ring looked pretty good on my finger, and was having a lot of trouble keeping myself out of other situations that my new career as a flight attendant was introducing me to.

So we married. In 1972. In Montgomery, Alabama.

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