“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Grief Front and Center

Grief is on our minds. On our hearts.

I guess I was lucky that the first time I felt grief for the loss of a human, instead of a pet, I was 20-years-old. I was a junior in college and in the midst of having a great time. Then in November 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Along with all kinds of other unfamiliar emotions, I felt grief and I cried. And, yes, I remember exactly where I was and, yes, the memory stuck.

Public Grief

It would be another seven years before I faced a personal grief for the loss of a family member. After that, it felt as though life was only grief of some kind, personal or public. I have posted more than several pieces on grief. Samples include: here, here, here, and here.

So many attempted assassinations and killings of public figures later, public grief has become all too familiar. Remembering is like watching a documentary of your own life fly by, getting faster and faster and faster until it stops in Tucson, Arizona almost a month ago now. How can a month feel so NOW, or years feel so close?

The victims of the University of Texas sniper (1966), Robert Kennedy (1968), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968), the Vietnam war being play out nightly on television, Kent State students (1970), Alabama’s governor George Wallace (1972), Israeli Olympians in Munich (1972), Jim Jones’s cult members’ suicides (1978), John Lennon (1980), and Ronald Reagan assassination attempt (1981).

All kinds of terrorist acts worldwide involving Americans took up the 1980s and 1990s: Beruit (1983), TWA hijacking (1985), Italian Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking and murder of an American (1985), Lockerbie, Scotland, Pan Am flight (1988), World Trade Center garage bombing (1993), Oklahoma City bombing of a Federal building (1995), U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), the U.S.S. Cole bombing (2000).

Then the 9/11/01 tragedies.

In between, killings at home occupied televisions: Columbine High School students killed (1998), Virginia Tech students killed (2007), Dr. George Tiller ambushed and killed in Wichita (2009), the Ft. Hood, Texas, rampage where a psychiatrist killed 12 and wounded 31 (2009), the Austin, TX, IRS building attacked by man in a small plane (2010), eight employees killed in their Connecticut office by a fellow employee (2010), University of Alabama (Huntsville) faculty members shot by Dr. Amy Bishop (2010).

It won’t stop. It goes faster and faster, until the horrendous events in Tucson stop us cold.

No Stages

A recent Time magazine article asked, How do we cope with grief? And suggested that the answer may be “Good News.”

For three decades, our beliefs about coping with grief have been influenced by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross’s 1969 On Death and Dying and on her 2005 On Grief and Grieving; in the last decade or so, academia and more scientific data collection has revealed new insights. The findings are the subject of both the Time article and Ruth Davis Konigsberg’s new book, The Truth About Grief.

According to Konigsberg, the new research overturns the five major myths: We grieve in stages; we must express our grief; grief is harder on women than on men; grief never ends; and counseling helps. It may be that these myths have restricted our ability to be as resilient as we can be when confronted with grief – public or private.

Personally, I think a parody of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Potter Stuart’s comment about pornography – knowing it when he sees it – fits my thinking: I won’t attempt to define the kinds of feelings that make up grief, but I know it when I feel it.

Dear Editor

Last month I wrote a letter to the editor of the Tuscaloosa News, which the paper ran December 31. It follows:

We must all join and become the anti-drug

The facts about drug use among Tuscaloosa County youth make it clear that it will take more than parents alone to act as the Anti-Drug. It will take our entire Village, including media professionals, as well as representatives from many sectors of this county, working together to make a difference. Start by going to http://www.pridetuscaloosa.com. You’ll find stats, as well as information about an organization that needs support in reversing these numbers -- the Tuscaloosa County Drug Free Community Coalition. Scroll down to the link for surveys on the left side. Here’s some of what you’ll find:

l The average age of first use of alcohol is eleven, that’s 11, before junior high/middle school and well before their brains have finished developing.

l Drug and alcohol use among Tuscaloosa County’s youth is shockingly above the national average just about in every category.

l As use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana falls in the years before the 12th grade, use of all other drugs – from cocaine to heroin to hallucinogens to ecstasy to meth – rises.

l While national figures on use of prescriptions drugs out of the family medicine cabinet are yet sparse, figures for use among Tuscaloosa County youth are HIGH, about 25 percent of those surveyed.

l Our youth are primarily participating in illegal use of substances on the weekends in homes.

The Tuscaloosa News has an opportunity to take a leadership role NOW, by re-thinking its glorification of bar hopping in the Friday Tusk section of the paper. It’s where we all get our options, times, and places for things to do. There sure aren’t pictures of anyone going to the opera; only pictures of nice-looking young people, maybe 21, maybe with great fake IDs, whom the Tuscaloosa youth can admire.

So listen up, parents, grandparents, educational professionals, business people, media personnel, social workers, psychologists, helping/care-giving professionals: There’s an organization where we can all put our energy – the Tuscaloosa County Drug Free Community Coalition. Read about it at www.pridetuscaloosa.com. Maybe the News can cover the next meeting, February 1, 2011, 7 p.m., Tuscaloosa County Extension Office auditorium in the Courthouse Annex downtown.

Joanna Hutt, advisory board member, A Woman’s Place, and new member of the Tuscaloosa County Drug Free Community Coalition

Drug Free Community Coalitions

The Tuscaloosa County Drug Free Community Coalition is one of many such coalitions in the country – either already established or seeking the grant that will support the creation – that were created from the Drug Free Communities Support Program, created in 1997.

Information about funding provides deadlines:

The DFC Program follows a similar cycle each year. ONDCP along with our program partners at SAMHSA anticipate releasing the 2011 DFC Request for Applications (RFA) in January of 2011 with applications will due in March 2011. The DFC Mentoring RFA will likely be released in February of 2011 with applications due in April of 2011. New grant awards for both will be announced in late August.

The relatively large grants available to coalitions require specific conditions to be met and substantial information to be supplied. Information is here. The first step is to gather facts and statistics, which Tuscaloosa outlines on its PRIDE site. The statistical information from my community was astonishing, even to me, the mother of a drug addicted daughter and advisory board member of A Woman’s Place, a 28-day residential drug treatment facility.

I look forward to working with Tuscaloosa’s Drug Free Community Coalition, which is in the early stages and aiming to apply for the first grant.

It’s a serious effort with serious potential to do some good in the local community.

Anti-Drug Cookbook Available

A new cookbook, which Spittin’ Grits introduced last fall and which can foster discussions about methamphetamines and other drugs while around the dinner table, is now available to purchase. Back Around the Table: Celebrating Food, Family and Recovery is for good eating and for good talk.

Its goal is to support bringing families back together around the table and to encourage communication, awareness, and prevention of drug abuse.

Part of the proceeds of the sale of Back Around the Table will support Alabama’s ZEROMETH ad campaign.


Back Around the Table’s availability it also timely.


This word that used to denote silly cartoon characters is the current nickname of the activity of buyers’ going around to stores to get as many cold tablets as possible to use in cooking meth, a dangerous and toxic activity. Yesterday the AP Wire service released a story, “Meth flourishing despite tracking laws, say feds” by Jim Salter, which ran in many U.S. newspapers and which you can read here.

According to the AP story, meth-related activity in general is on the rise again, including “smurfing”: “up 34 percent in 2009.” These numbers comprise arrests, seizures of the drug, and the discovery of abandoned production sites, and three states lead the way: Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Alabama is also high on the list. According to the DEA, meth is the one of biggest threats in our state.

The DEA’s U.S. map of meth lab incidents, shown below, rates the states’ meth activity.



An Anti-Drug Campaign

Anti-drug campaigns have come and gone. Mostly gone. Drugs have kept on coming and haven’t gone. The ZEROMETH campaign is different: it is specific to methamphetamines; it is targeted at young people instead of parents (Parents – The Anti-Drug) or no one in particular (Just Say No) or at users in general, but with no force behind it (This is your brain on drugs); it is based on what is known from users and from science; and it is tough.

One Alabama District Attorney who was involved with the campaign from the ground up, Jimmie Harp, Jr., Etowah County, describes the ZEROMETH campaign this way:

ZEROMETH is a hard hitting and gritty campaign. . . .The television ads, print ads, and other supporting media are designed to create a dialog between our youth and their parents, teachers, coaches about the life-threatening and dangerous consequences of trying meth even one time.

Order Back Around the Table here:



Numbers Games

Today, on 1/1/11, numbers just jump to the forefront. Prime. Primal.

Another set of numbers: The Alabama Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 last year and No. 15 this year, just beat the Michigan State Spartans, ranked No. 7 this year, 497, a huge margin. Nobody predicted a score like this. We believe, here in the southeast, that the SEC is always underrated. Miss. State also beat Michigan handily.

When Alabama’s #42, Eddie Lacy, made his second touchdown, the camera cut to Coach Nick Saban who mouthed something like, “Oh, come on.” He apparently never meant to run up a score like this. But the fourth-string players deserve to score; they practice too.

My prediction: Watch Eddie Lacy next year. My other prediction – and this will do it – says that Auburn – and I’m choking – will beat Oregon on 1/9/11.

Eleven football players are on the field at one time.

Eleven. A strange number, it seems. Google “eleven” and you’ll discover a bunch of stuff: It’s the first three-syllable number. World War I ended the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The first Lunar landing was the Apollo 11 mission, which gave us memorable words and images, like “The Eagle has landed” and “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

A “hendecagon” is an 11-sided polygon. It looks like this:


And it’s the inside rim of the American Susan B. Anthony circular dollar coin. It looks like this:


This coin, the first coin with the image of a real woman, was “unpopular.” How can a coin be popular or unpopular? Some say it is “collectible.”

A total eclipse of the sun was observed all over Europe on 11 August (my birthday) 1999 at 11:11 a.m.

And, of course, there is 9/11.

Anyway, I will make one last prediction: 2011 will be an interesting year.

Happy New Year from Spittin’ Grits, and please come back.


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