Archives for the month of: April, 2015

People who personally know me understand that I am huge on family ties. I love my nieces to pieces, and those nephews, too. Plus my siblings, cousins, the aunts and uncles who were there, my in-laws, my parental units, etc. etc. My family means everything to me. And anyone who is my Facebook friend knows that my current muse is The Moose, my grandniece.

I am dabbling in ancestry, and I thank my lucky stars for cousins on my dad’s side of the family (Gloria Gaddis) and my mom’s side (Patti Schacht) who have both dedicated so much time to tracking down our family histories.

Which brings me to recent news: the fact that actor Ben Affleck tried to downplay an ancestor who was a slave owner. I can’t say I blame him for his embarrassment, because it is horrible indeed to realize your ancestors once owned slaves. Still, the truth will set you free, Ben. I do think he was wrong to try to hide it.

That being said, I also share that same shame and horror, and it is something of which I also feel great embarrassment: my great-grandfather, William Cotten Downing, came from a family of slave owners. They lived in Washington County, North Carolina. Great-grandpa William was born in 1850, and was a mere teen during the Civil War. That war had great impact on him, the family, and their homestead. It had to be the most horrific time in US history for all citizens. I really don’t think any of us alive today can imagine its impact.

WilliamCottenDowning

W.C. Downing was a writer who worked for newspapers in North Carolina. As a journalism major and writer/editor in my career, I feel a kinship with him. Where I differ from him is in his political leanings. I now have in my possession many of his poems and essays that had been handed down to my grandmother, then my Aunt Virginia, then my sister Marion, and now to me. His writings show he was on the wrong side of history, on the side of the Confederacy. They also show a compassionate, loving human being. In light of history, it is hard to reconcile those two sides. My thoughts were how could a man who supported the Confederacy be a decent, kind, loving human being? But his writings show that he was both.

Several years ago, our cousin Patti found a group of black Downings at a church in Washington County. They are the descendants of the slaves that our great-grandfather’s father once owned. Surely, there are many who share our bloodline. Patti shared communion with them and asked for forgiveness of our ancestors’ transgressions. They graciously gave forgiveness and celebrated Patti in their shared faith.

I do feel tremendous shame about this aspect of my family history. But I do realize that we don’t have control of our ancestors, and that they were products of their times. Does that make it right? Of course not. But we can’t change that. I guess it’s about admitting it and growing from that. And doing the right thing every day of our lives to make the world better.

Ahh…I was thrilled when I went to the SDSU website to check for information on a project I was editing, when I saw one of my recent photos featured on the main home page.

SDSU Home Page Holi Photo

It was from the Indian Holi Festival event I shot on March 8. I had so much fun that day shooting that event. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m still trying to get the colored powders out of my camera, but that day was so worth the extra cleaning of my equipment. It was a festive, happy day of welcoming spring.

A Friday Night Date Coming Up.

After 36 years together (34 of marriage this September), the husband and I rarely go on dates. We are both more comfortable at home, or just hanging with close family and friends. We’re friggin old (heck, I’m the same age as Bill Maher). But we have an out-of-the box date coming up this Friday night.

maher

I signed up for a mixed-media jewelry class in Los Angeles through Make Art in LA, which lasts from 10:30 am til 4:30 pm. My plan to was to get there and get out. I discovered that the class is just a couple of blocks from the studio where “Real Time with Bill Maher” is taped. I inquired, and I was able to secure two tickets for this Friday’s episode. We need to be there by 5:30, so the timing worked out. The husband loves Maher’s show and his humor. As an added bonus, he’s going to have a few guests that the husband admires: Fareed Zakaria and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

The husband hates LA, but other than a trip or two to Hollywood, he has never really experienced that city. And there are pockets of that vast city that are pretty cool. Sadly, there are plenty of pockets that are soulless. But we’ll be a in a semi-cool pocket. While I’m in class, he’ll visit the La Brea Tar Pits. He’s a history/archeology buff so I know he’ll enjoy that, and he’s never had an excuse to see it before now.

I’m really looking forward to this date night with the hubby.

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