Peace, Poetry

Peace is…

Patrick Williams’ jazz draws me into a hypnotic spell.

I melt into my chair and hear my mother from beyond, “Don’t slouch!”

The saxophone massages tensions from my neck, my head buoyant.

Syncopation strokes the shoulders.  Melodies dangle me like a puppet.

A brown bird sits on my windowsill for the longest time.

She seems to know I need a friend.  I am still so she will not leave.

Brown bird preening her feathery cloak occasionally looks at me.

How amazing to have the choice of staying or flight.

Prolific crepe myrtles boast bold colors to proclaim landscape dominance.

Each bloom winks at passersby, not a shy nod to a neighbor’s presence.

Crepe myrtle enters like a woman with flaming, red lipstick

and a dress that dares you to look twice.  Crepe myrtle holds court.

Each night Ken says, “Dear wife, it is time for bed.”  I smile at “dear wife.”

Ken is like music playing familiar notes, the pattern ever-changing.

He is the brown bird that will never leave a garden of crepe myrtle.

Peace is being surrounded by the things I love.

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Aging

Life in Isolation

Isolation is a challenge for seniors.  My personal experiences include:

  • I bought eight swim dress cover-ups as my uniform.  They feel like nighties, but I can go outside to pick up packages left at my door without revealing too much skin.
  • Ken and I stood in the kitchen Wednesday trying to figure out what day it was.  We missed Tuesday and I am not sure what happened between Monday (trash day) and Wednesday.  More of the same ol’, same ol’ happening.  The upside is that winter will go much faster if all our weeks are only six days.  Let us do away with all Tuesdays!
  • I never wanted to ZOOM, but now it is a must.  I had a tech in to put ZOOM on my phone, computer and laptop.  I was unsuccessful at setting up a meeting with Sarah this morning, but she managed to invite me into her home.  I am a work in progress.
  • I have learned to cut Ken’s hair GI style. 
  • Shipt delivers our groceries.  I struggle with product sizes.  Either we seem to have enough spaghetti sauce for 100 or only enough juice for one serving.  I am literate.  Within the next year, I will master ordering.
  • I am playing Words With Friends on three different sites.  Sometimes I am holding my phone and looking at my computer as I play several games at once.
  • Perhaps my best lessons in this “hell” is that 1) I can live with myself; 2) I can live with Ken; 3) I can let go of the rage and move toward more productive thought patterns; 4) I am certain my convictions regarding justice, hope and change are well-founded; 5) I am grateful for my sense of humor, friends and family; 6) I can do this another year.
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Peace, Personal Growth, Personhood, Politics

POLITICS 2020

I have given a great deal of thought to linear thinking lately.  Vile posts and conversations have invaded my space.  I listened to the rant of an unfeeling Sons of the Confederacy member who believes the virus is a hoax.  I have seen posts by well-educated people who are unwilling to recognize history as a fluid experience with learning opportunities rather than as a place we inhabit mentally in perpetuity.

Both parties have people who, although not at the fringes, are incapable of expanding their world view.  Single-mindedness or linear thinking is another way of renaming lack of empathy and bigotry.  I do not believe many of these people behaving in bigoted ways are aware of their harm to others.  I also believe most would claim to be without prejudice.  Linear thinking is not given to self-examination, but is generous with the judgment of others.

I believe there is room for compromise for the sake of peace and, most importantly, for the sake of justice. 

Compromise 1:  Wear masks.  The people who want to open everything up get their way.  Those of us who want to be protected from the virus get our way.  Win.  Win. 

Compromise 2:  Relocate the monuments.  Living in Texas magnifies all symbols of personal independence.  The questions are: When the symbols of independence and freedom were erected, were they meant to only allow freedom to whites?  Were they meant to intimidate people of color?  Are these symbols of oppression more important than the living people whose souls shrink in their shadows?  Are the monuments representative of who we are today?  Do the monuments keep us stuck in the painful past?  My compromise:  Put the monuments in Confederate cemeteries or in museums.  Raise a statue of a man reading to his child in front of the local library.  Put a quote in front of the courthouse, “Justice cannot be for one side alone, but for both.  Eleanor Roosevelt.”  In front of the schools erect monuments that inspire achievement – scientists, artists, John McCain (one of my more recent political heroes).  

If we do not learn to compromise, we will lose our country.  The question for us all is whether being right is worth sacrificing our democracy.  Let’s get real and do the hard work of learning to get along.  Regardless how we may want to win all the marbles, our children may lose everything if we plant our feet in the past and refuse to move forward.

Stating the obvious: the past is behind us and the future is our gift to the next generation.  What are we creating in the now?

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Humor, Politics

The Accident

My late husband and I built a house in the N. Georgia Mountains.  We would soon learn red-neck law.  Rumors were that the sheriff was paid off by the drug dealers who dropped canisters of drugs from planes in fields, and if a canister broke open and a few cows died…..oh, well…..  The local restaurant menu offered local statistics including the fact that there were no blacks in the county.

            Another sub-group the red-necks discriminated against were the Atlanta folk migrating to the county for fresh air, the scenery and less crowding.  Just as some Texans hate the blasted thinking, weird Austin-ites, people in this Georgia county hated everything about people from Atlanta.  Local thieves broke into Atlanta migrant homes on a regular basis.  Although law enforcement knew who the thieves were, they chose to ignore the thefts.  Atlanta folk were fair game.  The thieves eventually made the mistake of breaking into the home of local, retired teachers and were arrested immediately.

            I decided to stay alone in the mountain home during the week with my German shepherd and rifle to save our home from damage or theft.   We continued to work on the finishing details of our home on weekends.

            With a shopping list for lumber, nails and other building items, one Monday morning I left home in my pick-up truck, the dog riding shotgun beside me.  We had worked hard all weekend and I was exhausted.  Apparently, I fell asleep.  All of a sudden I felt a steep decline into a deep ditch on the left side of the road.  Weeds whizzed by my window.

            Brakes applied.  A sudden stop.  The dog who had been thrown against the dash was peeved.  I tried my door and it opened enough that I could squeeze through.  The dog refused to exit with the woman who was responsible for his discomfort.  I feared copperheads and had not worn boots.  I climbed the steep embankment and would realize later that my concern should have been for all the chigger bites.

            While building our home we had used some day labor from the minimum security prison.  In the approaching truck on the lonely country road were one of the prisoners we had hired, a second prisoner and a pig in the truck bed that was going to the processing plant run by a local Baptist minister.  I climbed into that truck with two prisoners and a pig. 

            The self-proclaimed Baptist minister, as found in little Baptist Churches on every corner in Georgia, was kind.  I called my husband and a tow truck to pull me out of the ditch.

            The tow truck broke two chains trying to pull my truck out of the ditch.  The top of the truck was even with the road surface and wedged into the red clay.  At last the truck was free, but a tire was flat.

            Then a Barney Fife character arrived.  He flashed the lights on his patrol car and strutted towards me, an Atlanta woman despised by all good red-necks.  The prisoners and Baptist minister left me alone with the deputy.  After getting my ID and my story of the accident, he told me I had broken the law by moving the vehicle.  I could be put in jail and furthermore would not be able to collect insurance on the accident.  He spent a great deal of time berating me for my failures. 

            After he left, I sat on my tailgate and had a good cry.  I had escaped death in the accident, ridden with prisoners and a pig and was going to jail.  The total lack of empathy for me, my health and my helplessness in that moment was lost on the deputy who had all the power.

            I did not go to jail.  I did collect my insurance for the accident. 

            I have thought about my helplessness after my accident as I witnessed abuse by the police against our black citizens, a 75-year old man pushed to the ground and left bleeding, and media deliberately pelted by rubber bullets and tear gassed. 

My story does not compare to that of systemic racism and death by bad policemen.  At the same time, I have seen firsthand what is happening in our court systems today and the arrogance of policing. 

I hope we will not do away with good public servants who police our streets, but will reduce their numbers in favor of more community advocates working with people in trouble.  Laws probably need updating.  More importantly hearts and heads need changing.

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Church, Personal Growth, Politics, Uncategorized

CHURCH SYSTEMIC RACISM

I am a liberal, old, white woman who has supported equal rights for women and people of color over the decades.  I would NEVER vote for a white supremacist like Trump.

I do not know the black experience because I was born into white privilege.  This is not to say I did not experience poverty as a child or did not work hard over the years.  And I might add, I have had to deal with over-zealous police who scared the bejesus out of me, but my outcome was better than that of a person of color.

Why is the church, MY CHURCH, not doing a better job defending the rights of black people?  We must acknowledge there are a number of bigots in our congregation who would claim they are not.  The white, thinking church congregants want to be too polite.  Don’t rock that boat!  We protect the feelings of people who hate because they are volatile, loud and will throw scriptures around like bread crumbs to ducks on a pond.  Enough!

I am scratching my head over the hypocrisy of this position considering Biblical teachings.

Over the past few years, I personally have had the following experiences with other women, just to name a few:

  1.  I did not feel a team calling itself the Rebels and carrying a Confederate flag (the flag tradition ended, I believe) should be allowed in the public school setting.  I was told by clergy that as a native Texan, she could accept this tradition.  Apparently, Texas tradition trumps (pun intended) all things holy.  As a congregant, this conversation diminished my respect for the practicing theology of my church.  Needless to say, I left this church.
  2. I am a Methodist and have been very enthusiastic about educating girls in foreign countries, as well as in the U.S.  This was the original passion that drove the creation of United Methodist Women – the right for every girl to receive an education, especially in countries where girls were seen as “lesser than” the boys.  When I asked why the mission of UMW was not being shared with the women in my church, I was told it was too political.  I had never heard that mission was political in my previous churches.  As a congregant, I felt I was being told to be silent, join a Bible study and allow ignorance to flourish in my congregation.  Silence was polite and easy.  Talking about the needs of brown children was too controversial.  After all, we were allowing Hispanic children to be caged at the border in Texas and were remaining silent as a church. 
  3. A church woman called me.  In the course of our conversation she told me, “The Bible says you should respect Trump.”  I need not expound on this church experience.  Not pretty.

For women, like me, who were brought up to be polite and not create a scene, it requires some tenacity to speak up. 

Our silence gives permission to evil intent in all its forms.  I recognize at this point in history, I need to be vocal. 

I am proud of our protesters.  They are not only making demands for their own rights, but are most likely going to save our democracy.

Those of us with heart and intellect must be less polite and more engaged.  We owe that to our black neighbors and to our country.  The peril is great.

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Poetry, Politics

SILENCE

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of distant voices

singing with enthusiasm in churches long ago,

four part harmony proclaiming love while people of color

watched white folk sit at the lunch counters.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of distant voices

giddy because frocks, shoes and jewelry were purchased

and the people of color sat at the back of the bus

after pressing white girls’ dresses.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of today’s voices

  in posts, tweets and TV interviews searching for peace and justice;

and the President mocks people of faith with a photo-op Bible

as George Floyd’s spirit moves a nation.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of today’s voices

on streets across this nation, “I can’t breathe!”

The police shoot rubber bullets.  “I can’t breathe!”

Seats of power threaten to silence Americans.  “I can’t breathe!”

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of breathing –

in and out as my rib cage moves, the cadence of life.

George Floyd is still.  History repeated. 

Freedom more rhetoric than practice.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of silence

by the privileged who know the price paid for their wealth.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of silence

by churches never confronting bigots in their midst.

There is a ringing in my ears.  I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.  I CAN’T BREATHE. 

Silence.

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Humor, Marriage, Uncategorized

Remembering Pre-Isolation

This morning while texting back and forth with my Shipt shopper at HEB, Ken (my husband) came into my office. He said, “Look on the bright side. You have not lost me in the grocery store in two months.”
I shared the story with my shopper and told her, “Don’t bring anyone else’s husband to my door. One is enough!”
 
Times have changed. This memory has been repeated many times since we married. Ken is wandering up and down the aisles and talking to every HEB employee as he looks for his favorite brand of salsa. Meanwhile in front of checkout, with a full grocery cart and ice cream melting, I try to call him. No answer. His phone is still on do-not-disturb from the previous night.

My Typical Vegan Grocery Shopping List

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Peace, Personal Growth, Personhood, Politics, Stress, Uncategorized

To My FB Friends

I heard an interesting interview of a mental health professional.  (I never remember names.)  She said there was a stress study of cadets.  The expectation was the cadets’ stress would be highest in the beginning of their studies or even when nearing finals and graduation.  The highest stress was after they passed their classes and their careers were promising.  The research discovered that the stress was higher because they no longer were in a struggle together, no longer in unity with their classmates.

I find that is true of me (and maybe you) during this pandemic.  We are not pulling together as Americans.  One political party is not the enemy of the other, unless individuals create chaos by reposting feeding-frenzy nonsense.  I personally am not going to be used by manipulators manufacturing articles to divide us.  I believe science, not fantasies.  I believe most people on both sides of the aisle are basically good and share my American values.

I am stressed each time a friend posts another deep state conspiracy.   Government workers are our hard working neighbors who have children and grandchildren who play with our children/grandchildren.  They keep us safe in law enforcement, process paper by the tons, work for the VA, investigate nursing homes complaints, and keep our tap water clean, etc… etc…..

I am stressed by people who post their rights to infect others (me!) by not wearing a mask or curtailing their activities.  As much as I grieve for those who lost loved ones – almost 80,000 families, we could have had twice that number if we had not been responsible.  The time out was not a waste of my time.  I had no burning desire to kill someone (the elderly, medical personnel, my neighbors).  I am a grown-up and can be still for a brief time.

I am stressed by people, most churched and professing love, who have chosen to be hateful rather than be my friend on FB.  It is a choice.  I will miss them, but not the hate.

My stress goes down when I behave in a loving manner, am kind and rational.  My choice.  What I control.  I hope more of my friends regain their loving centers before we are lost to one another.  No one can have too many friends, especially during a pandemic.

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Uncategorized

SWALLOWED BY COVID ISOLATION

I sat in the pit of my own being

like the trapped wolf gnawing at its foot

or a jarred firefly touching silently against the lid

or a button forcing its way through a small, garment hole.

 

Then I raged against politicians

and gamblers who shopped without masks devaluing my life—

charlatans as homicidal as an armed thief

and as merciless as a mass shooter.  People were dying.

 

I moved through the grief for my country,

emotionally spent, to the altar of acceptance,

powerless until the next election to do more than observe,

wear my mask and gloves, and simply exist in timelessness.

 

I want to believe humanity will learn from this nefarious virus—

the invader of our dreams, the wall between us and the world,

intellectual divider and destroyer of tolerance,

the slayer of grandparents, health workers, moms, dads and children.

 

After we have buried the dead.  After we can earn a living.

After.  After.  After.  Will we embrace the migrant picking our food?

Will we support educators, custodians and bus drivers?

Will we find one America?  Will we be better humans?  After…..

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