Poem: Covered

Photo credit JDR Hawkins.com 2016 “Not surprisingly, the Antietam battlefield is reportedly one of the most haunted places in the country. Visitors have heard gunfire and smelled gunpowder near the Bloody Lane when it was completely deserted, and many have seen ghostly apparitions in that area”

 

Covered

by Shannon Laws

 

I am the grass. Let me work

writes Sandburg

 

Grass fixes a battlefield with memory loss

Pile up your second-hand mistakes

bodies of unfinished work

blood of sacrificed Saturday nights

onto this field and wait—

two years, ten

Time heals but grass covers all.

Blood Money

 

Blood Money

This month I needed to earn some extra cash. Fortunately, overtime at work became available.  In addition, I decided to take a seasonal part-time job. If that wasn’t enough I had a bright idea to give plasma.  Working on fine tuning personality flaws and various levels of unhealthy habits takes time, but physically rebuilding your kingdom takes money.  Allow me to get a little materialistic.

Riding around on a Whatcom Transit Authority bus from Fairhaven to Bakerview, I’m on my way to sell plasma.  If I make a “donation” of plasma (which, incidentally, stated in the fine print, will be used for scientific research), five times within 30 days they will pay me $300.  That’s 300 bucks!  This seems like an easy way to make money so I take two buses and walk three blocks in the rain on a Saturday morning to get there.  Literally, licking my lips, thinking about how I’ll spend the introductory payment of 50 bucks.

Checking in I’m handed a large happy-blue laminated card with my name written in dry marker.  The card uses pictures and simple words to illustrate how the next two hours of my day will unfold.  The six stages of plasma donation are: check-in, exam, survey, blood test, donation (relax) and reschedule.  At each stage, the clerk initials it. “Your card is blue so the staff will see you are a NEW person.”

This is a large building, tall ceilings, bright and clean with the slight smell of bleach.  The place is full of activity, full of donors.  Downtrodden, impatient faces wait in roped lines, these are my people. Middle-aged people who need to supplement their income seem to be the majority of the donators. It enrages me.   How is it so many people who should be far into their careers making decent money are HERE selling plasma?

 

Kingdom Re-building

Rebuilding a life takes time and patience, oh, and money.  Without any thought of where to pitch my castle, I sort of selected the worst place to do it, well the 50th worst place.  The city of Bellingham is ranked number 50 in America’s top 50 worst cities to live in due to the high cost of homes.  The financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St reported: “The median home value is 7.3 times greater than the median income, making Bellingham one of the least affordable cities in the county.”   The cost of living is way up, wages are too low.

$300,000, 949 sqft home in Bellingham

Nationwide, the picture is even more discouraging for those with gilded aspirations.  The Pew Research Center compared the annual income of a middle-class household in 1979 to those in 2011.  In 1979 the average middle-class household brought in $61,542. In 2011 it only increased 17% to $72,036.  “The EPI estimates that if middle-class household incomes had kept pace with the top 1% between 1979 and 2011, they would have had an average annual income of $156,318 in 2011.”

The residual middle-class habits still exist.  Often I shop for new cars online, look at homes for sale, window shop at expensive shoe stores downtown and flip through racks in boutiques, I’ll sneak into an art gallery or a furniture  store make a mental list of what I like then lie to myself saying “when I can, I need to come back and get this.” WHY do I do this to myself?  WHY do I believe one day I’ll own a home? Today, after seven years of living on my own I am ready to face my reality.  Unless something significant happens, I’ll never return to a middle-class lifestyle.  The time of personal kingdom building is over!

Bags of blood plasma

The plasma place rejected me for donation.
I came up one vein short.
“You’ve only got one good vein.  You need two for a donation.  We do that for your safety.
You have to wait three weeks before you can be seen again.”

THREE WEEKS?!
I’m furious.
Let me run around the block for a half hour.
Drink some water or something…
THREE WEEKS?!
*sigh*
No 50 bucks today.
No 300 bucks by mid-October.
That was a power bill, a phone bill, lunch money, school money. It was money!

At the first bus stop on the way home, I wait 20 minutes for the 232 back with three other folks. I notice they are in their 60’s, 70’s limping, carrying bags of groceries, backpacks, their mouths turned down, pressed tight.  They are my future.  What I may become.
We sit there in silence, in the rain.

fuck this day.

 

 

Poem: Girl Chases Hat

girl hat

Late night keys dangle in the wind

clouds move along the sky river

wind swirls low to pick up anything

not tied down, not held down

 

There goes her hat!

 

The thing that will keep her warm tonight

stomped by feet of shoppers, rejected as trash

her hat, made for one head.

Rain wets it.  Street oil soaks it.

 

She crosses into traffic, leaps toward the gift knitted

a story just for her. Grandmother’s poem rings

as fingers reach for the flying  thread

as long as a blood vein

 

by

-Shannon P. Laws

#

 

 

 

 

DNA Part Two: The Waiting

The-Family-Tree
Family Tree. Artwork by Pauline Murphy

Part Two
The Waiting

I’m getting close to the day.  The day my 23andMe DNA test will return and I’ll know my genetic heritage.  I’ve decided to  share the results with my two children first, then my mom and brother, (my father has passed).  Then share it here.  The story will not end with the results.  The social media aspect of 23andMe may potentially link-up the results with relatives.  As I stated before it might be boring or a big mess of family drama—let me share my mess with you.

Honestly, a social DNA site freaks me out a little.  I used my real name for processing, but a fake one for the profile.  My personal photo is a bunch of flowers.  I am chicken.  Cautious.  Nervous.  Feeling the need to protect myself, and yet I have to look, I must take a peak into this unknown.

ADOPTED FAMILY TREE

Here is what I know.  My adopted parents are mainly of Irish and German decent.  My mother and her siblings were the first generation born in America, my father was his families third.  I was raised by a working class family in the suburbs south of Seattle, on the wooded plateau of Federal Way.

Around 2009 I got the bug to research the family tree.  My dad’s Irish side was a bit beat up from divorce, my grandmothers five husbands and the generational condition of not talking about the ass holes in the family.  (Would have been nice if they would of at least saved their name and date of birth.)   Mom’s side ended with her great-grandparents, the parents of the ones who made the boat trip over.  She knew it all from memory, with the help from a few notes.  That tree is a nice big full tree, with many children.  However, I couldn’t go past 1880.  Using European genealogy sites is expensive, so I stopped there.

TartansMacLaren
The MacLaren Tartans, photo credit: Clan MacLaren Society of North America

I married into the Laws family.  While researching their tree, I learned they have a long stake in America.  The first, James Laws, came over from England, landing in Massachusetts in the early 1700’s.  There was a split of some kind in the family. Many stayed in the Carolinas while others, my ex-husbands side,  went to Chicago, then Kansas, then California. Prior to England, I could only guess that Laws was a corruption of “Lawrence” a possible connection to Scotland’s MacLaren Clan.

146_MacLaren
The MacLaren Badge

After contacting the North American chapter they confirmed the surname connection.  We joined the clan immediately.  It was exciting to learn about tartans, badges and read about the fighting history of the MacLaren.  We took the kids to the Highland games in Tucson, found the MacLaren booth and told the kids, “These are your people.”  Later we visited the popular Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace.  It felt like “place”.  A virtual family I am happy to be a part of, even if by marriage.  It is an identified part of my children’s heritage and I celebrate their lives as any mother would.

 WHAT IF

What if my DNA reveals something unexpected?  Of course it will.  Do you remember on the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are” when guest Spike Lee learns he is not 100% African?*  Blood has no boarders.  Do the boxes we check on a form define who we are in society?

Here’s another gem, this one from a usaid.gov job application:

“Ethnicity and race information is requested under the authority of 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e-16 and in compliance with the Office of Management and Budget’s 1997 Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Providing this information is voluntary and has no impact on your employment status, but in the instance of missing information, your employing agency will attempt to identify your race and ethnicity by visual observation.”

“Visual observation”―What the hell does that mean?

Lets play a game.  Can you guess Keanu Reeves nationality just by looking?  Here’s a photo of the famous actor:

keanu
Keanu Reeves

He was born in Beirut, Lebanon to an English mom and an American father.  His father was born in Hawaii, of British, Portuguese, Native Hawaiian, and Chinese ancestry.  You only get to know that information when you get to know Keanu and he shares it with you (or you look him up on IMDB).

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Nature and Nurture

My DNA test talks to the very old debate of nature verse nurture.  How much of what and who we are is dependent on our upbringing, and genetic makeup.

nature-nuture
photo: Simply Psychology

Saul McLeod writing for Simply Psychology has this to say:

“In practice hardly anyone today accepts either of the extreme positions.  There are simply too many “facts” on both sides of the argument which are inconsistent with an “all or nothing” view.  So instead of asking whether child development is down to nature or nurture the question has been reformulated as “How much?”  That is to say, given that heredity and environment both influence the person we become, which is the more important?”

If you are interested in this discussion, please visit the site (see link below).  It is full of intriguing arguments, especially about temperament and the “genius” gene.  To much information to share here.

Washington Adoptees Rights Movement (WARM) was my first point of contact for information regarding my birth family.  The site also included reunited stories.  Some good, some not so good.  One reunion I remember was about a daughter and her father that discover they had same mannerisms.  They combed their fingers through their hair the same way and liked the same type of food.  Makes me curious if mannerisms are genetic.

I am wondering what it will be like to meet any member from my birth family.  I wonder if we have the same eyes, smile, and laugh.  I wonder if any play the piano, sing or write.  My mind is full of wonder.  Questions my heart asks, the words go out into the universe like an echo, returning empty.

In part three of my series I will tackle race and religion.

#

Part One here: https://shannonplawswriter.com/2014/11/12/23me-it-begins/

Work Cited

McLeod, Saul. “Nature Nurture in Psychology | Simply Psychology.” Nature Nurture in Psychology | Simply Psychology. Simply Psychology, 2007. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.

http://www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html

MacLaren Clan of North America:  http://www.clanmaclarenna.org/

To learn more about the annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace visit:  http://www.royalfaires.com/arizona/

*http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2010/04/30/wdytya-spike-lee/