What I Discovered In the Coverup

A couple of days ago I had a small medical procedure that involved sutures near my ear and included a head wrap bandage that left me looking a bit like Jacob Marley’s Ghost in the Dickens classic,  A Christmas Carol.

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Moderately vain woman that I am, I wrapped one of my long scarves around my head to hide the bandage and set off from the doctor’s office en route to my stepmom’s house which was a significant distance away.

It should come as no surprise that the one time I wanted to scoot home unnoticed, I missed a turn and had to stop for directions twice. I ended up driving through a very rural part of Georgia where I began to consider that a headscarf worn to conceal a bandage might make people see me not as stylish, but perhaps something to be feared.

I’ve wrapped many a scarf around my head to protect my hair from the wind or sun and added sunglasses at times in a playful attempt to emulate a variety of film stars such as Sharon Stone or Elizabeth Taylor, but never have I worried that I might encounter hostility or suspicion because of what I normally consider a fashion statement or something to protect me from the weather.

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I’m generally not easily intimidated, I served in the military in the late 70s and early 80s and because we live in a world where women are more likely than men to be victims of violence or harassment, I learned early how to suss out situations where I might not be physically safe and how to avoid them.

I viewed it as living a state of awareness rather than one of living in fear.

I thought I was pretty good at it until the other day when I sashayed out the door with my scarf-wrapped head on my way to the car. It was not until I stopped the first time for directions and drew a couple of odd looks and no help at all from the two men at the gas station that I began to consider my head scarf might be an issue. It’s possible they didn’t know where the major highway in question was in relation to the gas station, but I left feeling like something was off in the exchange.

Given the open hostility and racism modeled and encouraged by Donald Trump at his rallies and in his Twitter messages over the last eighteen months, for the first time I became aware that there might be more ways to feel unsafe than I am accustomed to.

The next time I stopped was at McDonald’s where I was able to get coffee and directions from a nice woman behind the counter. I will admit that the lingering look of an older white male ( mid 50s like myself ) made me wonder if he was trying to decide if I was one of those immigrant people Donald Trump thinks need to go back to where they came from or a dangerous Muslim with malicious mischief on her mind.

Being a white female raised in the Christian faith in America, racism has never been part of my personal experience in that it has never been directed at me.

Safely in my car having found the right road back, I thought about the brief taste of the anxiety I’d felt and wondered about the  people who deal with fear and dread every day due to clothing that reveals their religious faith, or those whose skin color marks them as other to some of the more radical and angry groups of largely white audiences mobilized and encouraged by the hate speech at Trump rallies and the folks who are his supporters. I’m not saying all Trump’s supporters are the same, but how could anyone pledge their allegiance to a man who at best insults everyone and tries to eviscerate those who challenge him.

The big question here is not whether I imagined the odd look or the possibility that someone might say or do something ugly to me because they thought I was a Muslim, but how did America go through such a radical transition in such a short period?

We are a nation of immigrants with only a small percentage being native to this land and if I was afraid to be mistaken for a Muslim woman, how do those who need to dress in the ways of their faith feel about living in a country where the words ” Freedom of Religion ” no longer truly mean Freedom.

I’ve been more afraid for America than I can remember having listened to the reactions and praise for Trump’s ideals over the last few months.

More than fear, I have felt a level of grief I had not expected watching people lose themselves to their darker sides and behave openly in ways that are shameful and embarrassing for those Americans who appreciate diversity and who honor the struggle in all of us to be better together than a nation divided by bigotry and hatred.

I will be holding my breath tomorrow as I watch the election returns and want to say to every person who has truly felt the fear that I probably only imagined, my vote will have been cast for the candidate I believe can lead us back to a stronger  better nation where there is a place at the table for everyone no matter what they wear on their head or where they may have originally called home.

One indivisable nation because that is who we are when we are at our best!

Made In America

There is something about seeing an American flag planted firmly on English soil even for a day that makes my expat heart beat a bit faster. Driving down the lane six days ago to James and Gillian’s home for their annual July 4th celebration, I felt a kind of excitement similar to that from childhood, the one reserved for Christmas morning and the hope that Santa might have answered the dreams of a wistful child.

I wondered to myself and even aloud several times to our American guests if the flag would be there like last year. It seemed impossible to think that it wouldn’t since I had seen it properly folded as an American flag should be, and tucked in a box the week before when talking with Gillian about the party plans for the day.

Still, the part of me that doesn’t like to be disappointed was holding back a bit of enthusiasm and expectation, just in case. In case of what I’m not sure, but nothing pleased me more than seeing the flag airborne as we came down the lane.

I don’t think I ever felt as giddy in all the years I’ve seen it flying including the times when I stood saluting the flag as a soldier in uniform while serving in the American Army. Perhaps it has something to do with making a home in a new country that makes me realize and value a few things differently … things I may have taken for granted before moving to the UK.

I don’t want to get too deep and philosophical in this post. I’d like to show you instead how we all came together with our mixed lot of British spouses along with some unmarried but permanently settled Americans and those working here who will likely go home to America to live one day.

I want to show you the fun. I think it was a good experience for our visiting American guests, Jamie and Barbara and one they may talk about when sharing their UK trip with friends back home. I can’t help but wonder what they’ll remember though and what mattered most to them that day.

It would not be a proper American celebration without a little ” baseball ” although for me to call it baseball would be a stretch. In Gillian’s version, (I can’t remember if she called it baseball so I’m taking a bit of creative liberty here) you had a choice of what type of ball you wanted hit or kick and also a choice of bat, racket, or use of a cricket bat for smacking your ball of choice.

The kids all seemed to love it and the adults were willing to continue to play even as the rain came down.

You can see the rain in this shot especially if you click on the photograph. It’s a bit blurry as I was trying to protect my camera from what John will charmingly often refer to as a ” spot of rain.”

Our scorekeeper Mitt made notes throughout, but I don’t know if there was a winner as I fled for dryer quarters while the rest of the braver folk stayed at it.

Between the ball game and the meal that followed, I went on a walk and photographed a few colorful images not associated with the July 4th holiday.

You can just make out John in the background trying to get a shot of me while I was trying to coax this peacock into posing for a portrait and since my friend Cindy in the US mentioned she’d like to see a photograph of me from the 4th, I’ve added the photograph that John was taking in the shot above.

Then I spied a Dogwood tree still blooming even though it was July. In Georgia, Dogwoods welcome the spring months not the warmer months of summer.

After a the game was over and while the burgers were cooking, the adults divided into four teams for the ever popular quiz that is such a part of British life. At Gillian’s request, I had prepared a 20 question quiz of all American questions that carried us into the mealtime which is one of my favorite parts of the holiday.

Everyone brought some of their favorites and I brought Pioneer Woman’s sheet cake in mini-cupcake form as well a potato salad made from my family’s recipe. I don’t have food pictures as I actually put the camera down for a few minutes to eat, but the sing-a-long afterwards made for a few interesting shots.

We’re finishing up the dessert portion of the meal and getting ready to rock … er sing I mean.

Gillian and Tina chatting about the music … I think.

Gillian getting the children involved. They had instruments too.

I’m not sure what Tina said here, but it Barbara seems to have found it funny.

I like this photograph of a young father and an older more experienced one talking to the baby girl.

The always tender father-daughter moment although one might argue that she was searching inside his shirt collar.

Gillian with her children as they led us in song complete with hand gestures.

Now with the baby girl from the earlier father-daughter shot going to mom for the sing-a-long, Gillian’s MIL looks on at the song lyrics that Gillian prepared for the party.

My friend Jamie showing a little fan appreciation with his applause after the song ends.

Gillian always does such a great job with everything making a party for 30 or more seem like no trouble at all. I love the way she completes the evening with music and once again, I’m grateful to be included in her circle of friends. Her husband James certainly does his share too and while you’re not likely to see him with a guitar in hand he can make you feel welcome in any number of ways in addition to grilling the hot dogs and hamburgers to perfection.

 

Gillian

James

Is This How Pioneer Woman Does It?

Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Sheet Cake As Mini-Cupcakes

Unless you have made these yummy treats you have no idea how delish they can really are. What you see here is the result of turning Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe into mini cupcakes which were perfect for the party we went to last night and the July 4th celebration we’re going to on Sunday with some of our expat community. It was the first time I’ve made them in mini-cupcake form and the success was clear by the clean serving trays we came home with after watching my cupcakes disappear into the mouths of a mostly (except for me) group of Brits.

Several people asked as they complimented my bite-size cakes if they were an American speciality to which I gave credit where it’s due and said, ” Yes, but not a family recipe of mine. ” I told them it belonged to this wild woman out West who went by the name of Pioneer Woman.

Okay … so maybe I embellished a little with the wild woman comment, but as most Brits seem to think they’ve mastered an American accent if they sound like John Wayne when imitating us, (likely having learned their technique as my John did from old western black & white films) I thought wild woman out west would fit the image many seem to have of us as a tough talking, gun-toting, straight shooting, slightly unruly lot.

Passing by the dessert table or puddings, as all desserts are sometimes referred to here was a teenage girl who overheard me give credit to PW and turned to me and said, ” Oh, I read her, did you see what she said about iPad on her blog? ” I have to admit that PW seems to be moving farther abroad than she may realize. Thanks to the internet, not only has she young American followers like my daughter reading her, she’s picking up teen readers in rural England as well.

While PW appears to have a tidy kitchen when making her varied goodies, I must admit that my prep area looks a bit different.

Not Pioneer Woman's Kitchen

Thank goodness for lots of counter space or work-tops as John would refer to kitchen counters.

Messy Cooking With Elizabeth Harper

Gone, these are all gone now.

I call the cupcake closest to you, ” The Half and Half  ” for half nuts/ half not … neat huh? Okay, so I ran out of the frosting with nuts and had to use some without. I bet no one even noticed at the party last night. Creativity is key in marketing. I think I like that … Half and Half … I wonder what I could call my other kitchen mishaps.

My daughter once referred to my turkey meatloaf as looking like cat food, I must say years after that high recommendation by my then seven-year old, it’s one of the things I do best now. (Pssst, I’ll be making my cat food/turkey meatloaf for some American visitors this weekend) I promise I really do use ground turkey … no cat food involved. Cross my heart.

Remember what I said earlier about messy … I wonder who’s going to help me with these dishes!

Maybe I could do a reality show for messy cooks … how about you, are you messy or neat when whipping up family favorites?