The Travelers

Nearly twenty years ago I packed everything I owned into a little 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier and said good-bye to my family in Georgia. There were tears in my eyes as I looked in the rearview at Small Town, U.S.A and my stomach felt as if a gymnast had taken up residency. I was leaving everything I had ever known to be familiar.

I won’t go into the reasons why I had to move on, but I had five-hundred miles and eight hours in front of me to reach my destination. When I arrived at my new home in Florida, I parked my car under the Spanish moss draped oaks and walked past the bromeliads blooming phallic red and purple plumes along the path. A giant luminescent-green grasshopper and dozens of tiny yellow frogs greeted me at the door. The house was empty and the only sound came from a clock ticking on the wall. That sound would be my greatest comfort for the next three years.

I spent those three years writing poetry, painting pictures, and learning the computer. There was a huge void in my soul that has not entirely dissipated in all these twenty years. And yet, I thought of the immigrants who left behind their world in search of a better life worlds away and felt truly blessed. But my plight was trivial by comparison.

I had family here. I had a career that promised a means of self-support. I had shelter. I had food. And I didn’t need clothing; after all, my landing place was a nudist community. But it WAS as if I had dropped off the edge of the earth onto another planet.

We are all travelers. It’s not enough to think of our ancestors who came to this country in search of a better life. It’s not enough to think of our ancestors who slaved, and fought wars to secure their new homeland. We need to embrace those who seek refuge within our borders today. We share one world.

The Statue of Liberty is most often associated with immigration. Many did come through Ellis Island on their way here, and many of us, including my own children, would not be here today if that had not happened. It’s a symbol of hope and new found freedom.

There are others, though, who came on slave ships, crossed dangerous deserts, drifted through the perilous seas to make their way here. They weren’t promised freedom and were abused and mistreated. They labored and lobbied their way to freedom, and still do. They are us, too.

While I commend anyone for trying to access legal citizenship in this country, I recognize, also, how nearly impossible and time-consuming our bureaucracy has made the process. I have friends here and across the States who have been working for decades to achieve what we take for granted.

The hate spewing memes and posts circulating social media spitting bile at illegal aliens and undocumented workers make me ashamed to be an American. Talk of building walls, deporting all members of a religious faith, and killing women and children make me nauseous. And the comments under these posts make me cringe. Have we no social conscience? Have we really forgotten who we are?

There’s a man who sculpts statues that seem to make the Statue of Liberty such a small thing by comparison. His name is Bruno Catalano, and like the designer of the Statue of Liberty, he is a native of France. A fascinating series of sculptures called “Travelers” depict people setting out on their journey with suitcase in hand and the center of their bodies missing. It’s as if that hole is their lost self, and they’ve set out to rediscover it. I’d like to leave you with his images of who we are:

The Travelers

Bruno-Catalano-8

Bruno-Catalano-1 Bruno-Catalano-17-600x900

Bruno-Catalano-13Bruno-Catalano-3

catalano-bruno1399626461Bruno-Catalano-15Bruno-Catalano-12

catalano-bruno1455537462 - Copycatalano-bruno1406794705

Images are from Bruno Catalano and you can see more of his work at this link.

 

Meal Train: For People Who Fall Between the Cracks

logo_home

I may have mentioned this on my blog or in comments before, but I am going to tell you about it again for a very important reason.

When I was a small child, we (siblings and cousins all) spent summers with my grandmother. She was a hard working enterprising woman who worked a farm and had a green thumb. My uncle built her a green house. Aside from her cooking, which a vast collection of county fair ribbons proved was the best around, she could make anything green flourish and grow. She was well known for both.

On Saturday mornings, she would get up before sunrise, go out to the hen house, wring a couple to a few necks, scald off the feathers, wash and prepare the meat, and fry up a half dozen to a dozen chicken dinners, throw on some mashed potatoes and biscuits, a side of green beans and take these dinners to all of the people on the prayer list at church.

All us grandchildren would pile into the car, and Grandfather drove us to the homes of the sick and shut-in. There, we would sing songs, make beds, wash linens, do dishes, sweep floors, whatever needed to be done. They were always happy to see Miss Barbara coming with her crew.

Before we left, Grandmother would comment on their potted plants and shrubs. This flattery always resulted in people begging her to take a few cuttings, which she did, in carefully, wet, rolled newspaper.

When we got back to the farm at the end of the day, it was the grandchildren’s job to set these cuttings into sand filled, wooden soda bottle flats. My uncle had rigged up irrigation that misted these until they rooted. That is how she started a horticulture business and nursery that has passed through four, going on five, generations. We spent our days pulling weeds, watering and repotting plants.

I am certain that this Saturday ritual is partially responsible for my nursing career and my love of gardening. More significantly, though, it is responsible for my compassion to care for those in need.

Nowadays, with families spread out all over the map and people, young and old, far removed from children, parents and grandparents, especially in some of the bigger cities, people are often alone when dealing with pregnancies, childbirth, surgeries and illness. Churches don’t always pick up on the isolated, the sick and the shut-in unless a church relationship has already been established. There are also those with an aversion to the church for whatever reasons.  Compassion is not reserved for saints.

Through her mothering groups from Facebook, my daughter was introduced to “Meal Train”. It is a nifty tool for organizing events through social media. Check it out. Bookmark the page. The Meal Train makes it possible for people to reach out and connect to each other in times of need. It’s FREE to use!

How it works:

When you learn of someone in need; for example, a young woman who has a C-section and no family in town, a lady who lives alone and just had knee surgery, a gentleman who just came home from the hospital…you, your organization, or church representative can go to Meal Train and use the calendar to set up a meal train for that person. A week, a month, 6 weeks, whatever they are going to need.

It makes organization a breeze. The organizer gets the allergies, food preferences or dislikes from the candidate. The candidate’s address and info are entered by the organizer. The meal train gets posted to Facebook groups and/or email lists…people in the groups or on the list can sign up to drop off a meal on a date that is convenient for them. In this way, there is no left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. The recipient doesn’t end up getting the same dinner every night. The schedule and food to be prepared are posted right on the meal train site.

It is easy to plan the family meal to include another plate for one night of your choosing.

If you see the Meal Train link on your Facebook page, click on the link and do a good deed.

Pass it on to your local groups.

Know someone in need? Organize a Meal Train.

Support Friends. Strengthen Community.

Promote Social Progress.

Let’s Go Backwards and Criminalize Abortion, Again! My Story: Part Two

My disclaimer:

I know that self-disclosure can be a dangerous thing. With all that is going on in Texas, South Dakota, and other communities across the country, I feel a need to go there with a couple of personal stories. First and foremost, it is not my intent to debate right or wrong. Second, all I can really do is tell you how it was in my life. Third, pray that you don’t have to make the sorts of difficult decisions I have had to make. Finally, wish you the best possible outcome if you have faced or are facing similar circumstances, or know someone in such a situation.

Continuation from Yesterday’s Post:

It was 1978; I was not yet 18 years old, with a son not yet two years, an abusive, estranged husband in Germany, and an abortion two weeks behind me. I had spent the last two weeks sitting in the living room floor with my son in my arms, crying, and listening to Linda Ronstadt albums, over and over. Linda Ronstadt gave way to Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks and slowly I began to feel less sorry for myself.

I still had my job as a nursing assistant at the local hospital, but I had spent most of my money on the abortion. I knew that I could not stay in my apartment, but I had no idea where I could go. My grandparents, a hundred miles away, were clueless to all that was going on with me. I did not feel that I should trouble them.

One night, at the hospital, I met a man, D.H., who was at the hospital because a female friend of his, A.L., had overdosed. On what, I don’t know, probably Quaaludes and Tequila, since that was the passing fancy. The drug culture was not new to me as my husband and his friends were in the thick of it before he joined the Army. It was just not something I personally imbibed, except for an occasional smoke or a very rare snort of a line…which did absolutely nothing for me. It was certainly not something I wanted my son exposed to. Yet, this man made me an offer I could not refuse.

D.H. was of Polk County Pot Plane fame. (I won’t go into the details of that, you can look it up on the web, a “B” movie was made about it [the movie is a joke, not at all how things really happened]). He had led the group who unloaded the plane and had a 75 acre pot farm hidden away in the North Georgia Mountains. D.H. was a Grizzly Adams type of guy, with long, blonde, bushy hair and beard. He ran a hippie commune in the midst of this pot farm where about forty young men and women made their home. They were mostly runaways, remnant draft dodgers, or people over eighteen who had been kicked out of their homes. Four or five of the young women had infants or toddlers. He invited me to relocate there and bring my son. All I had to do was help with the children, gardening, harvesting food and meal preparation. Being a farm girl in my youth, I thought this would work out well. My son would have playmates and I would be living the farm life again, which I had so dearly loved in my childhood.

Meanwhile, back at the apartment, I had a new neighbor, a Greek Adonis, N.K., whose friends and family owned and operated the local pizza parlor. Knowing I would be moving to this farm in the wilderness, I also knew I would have to give up my job at the hospital. I had no transportation, and while a few of the men had vehicles, I could not depend on them for a regular ride to my work. This guy, N.K., promised me a job as a waitress, paid in cash every Friday, plus keeping my tips daily. Most significantly, he would pick me up and drive me to work every day. I would only be working evenings from 4pm until 10 pm Thurs. and Sun. and 4pm to 2am Fri and Sat. I had promise of cash and a ride. I also had built in babysitters for my son.

I acclimated to life on the farm/commune quite well. I would get up and bake biscuits every morning served with grits, eggs, ham and sausage. We had goats, pigs, a couple of cows, and chickens. The vegetable garden was plentiful. We made jellies and jams from wild berries. The kids all stayed together with their toys in a huge playpen we had constructed outside and two smaller ones inside. The women, with flowers in hair, running around in tie-dyed maxi dresses, blue jeans and sandals, attended to each other’s children as needed. We were rainbow colors dancing rings around the sun.

Evenings, all would gather on a huge Asian rug in the living room in a circle on the floor, pass around the pipe, and talk about the day’s events or what was planned for the next day, listening to Marshall Tucker, CSN&Y, Pink Floyd, Bob Seger or whatever tunes we happened across. Fluorescent posters papered the walls of the old farm house, lit by black lights and strobes. We had a pet raccoon, named Rocky, and two flying squirrels that would join us. Though not ideal, I did feel safe. I did not; however, feel that I or my son had any sort of future there.

My new found friend, N.K., would come inside the house with us on those weekend nights that he drove me home from work. He was exotic, tall, dark and handsome, speaking with a thick Greek accent. I was all of 5’ 4 1/2”, 100 pounds soaking wet, had long blonde hair that I sat on, and bright green eyes. I must have seemed exotic to him. My commune friends were suspicious (and perhaps a bit jealous). N.K. drove a black on black, brand new Trans Am. One night, a couple of guys from the commune were busted in the parking lot of the pizza parlor and my friends were sure N.K. had something to do with it, but I doubted it. Needless to say, I was not trusted anymore.

N.K. vehemently denied any involvement, and I believed him. After all, he informed me that he was planning to move to NYC with his partner to open a Greek restaurant in Jamaica Bay. He offered me to join them. I didn’t know, at the time, that he was deeply entrenched with the Greek mafia. That is something I learned a thousand miles from my home and a month later. All I knew at the time is that I was promised a job in the new restaurant. N.K. also assured me that he had connections in NY that could get me a modeling job. With some hope for a future, I left my son in the care of his grandparents, and struck out for NYC.

Friend is a dangerous word in some circles. I won’t go into the details here, but I will say that his plans for me did NOT include a modeling job. At seventeen, I was merely a charm on his arm to various functions and parties in wait of my 18th birthday, which would be November 15th. N.K., and his friends, who were brothers, S.N. and L.N., and their wives, were busy setting up the new restaurant.

N.K. had secured an apartment in what was once an old bank. It was two stories. The upper rooms were stocked with evening gowns, cocktail dresses, shoes, accessories and makeup. There was only one door in or out of the large apartment. N.K. bolted it locked when he left for the restaurant every day. There was a vault in the old building that once housed a safe. The safe was no longer there, but the space had been converted into a well secured closet. The closet housed guns and drugs. My job was to guard these, call N.K. if anything suspicious occurred, and to escort the entourage of beautiful women who came and went to the upper rooms all day and all night to change clothes. These women had keys, and I didn’t. Where they went every evening, I did not ask.

One day about noon, I was sitting in the living room reading a book when I heard scratching at the front door. At first, I thought it was one of the girls who had forgotten her key. Now, it was November and already cold and windy, but there were no tree branches near that door. Then, the scratching again. I was dead bolted inside this apartment with no way out, … or so I thought. Then I heard “Ayuda! Ayuda!” There was a Peurto Rican village on one side of our Greek village and a Mexican village on the other. These were the first words I learned in Spanish, long before I learned to count.

I tried to peer out the barred window, but I could see nothing. Again, I heard, “Ayudame! Ayudame!” louder, pleading, crying. A knock at the door, timid at first, and then forceful.

I put my book down and, on a whim, tried the door. It opened, and into my arms fell a young girl. She had long black hair and large brown eyes. Her eyes were screaming with fear, yet glazed and reddened from crying. Her face was pale and dry, no tears. Unable to hold her, we both went to the ground. Her head lay in my lap. Her lips were blue. She was larger than me, but could have been my age, a young woman, not more than twenty years. She could have been younger. Her blue jeans were wet and black, soaked with blood. A pool of blood at her feet, and a trail behind her to the sidewalk and beyond. Her breath was in gasps. Her pulse was fast and thready. I had to let her go to call for help. Amazingly, people were passing on the sidewalk, and no one bothered to help at all. They glanced in our direction as if to say, “Looks bad, but not my problem,” as they stepped around the bright red sidewalk mess.

I left her there in the doorway. I made a call to the operator and asked for an ambulance. My fear, though not as great as hers, was that the police would come and find the closet. A fleeting, selfish thought. N.K. and I would go to jail. It was not something I could dwell on long. This girl was dying. Already, she slipped out of consciousness, eyes closed, limp as a dishrag. I knelt beside her and held her in my arms, brushing her hair from her face with my face, and begging her to hold on. Her skin was cold against mine. I felt her spirit leave her body. I knew she was not going to make it. She was barely breathing when the medics arrived, along with the police.

They carted her off on a stretcher and into an ambulance. She was somebody’s child, somebody’s sister, she was somebody; perhaps, a mother, like me. The questions from the authorities came like rapid gunfire. Was she alone? Did I see which way she came from? Did she say her name? Had I seen her before? Did I know her? Did she get out of a vehicle? How long had she been there? Did she say anything else at all? They repeated the same questions a dozen times and all I could say was what little I knew. They took photographs. They walked all around the building. Then they left. No one asked to come inside.

I cleaned up the blood all the way to the sidewalk, and followed the trail, as the police had, to the parking lot behind the building, where it disappeared. I called N.K. on the phone and told him what had happened.  He was furious with me that I had opened the door, and more so with himself for having left it unlocked. “She could have died on our doorstep!” I exclaimed.

The next day, N.K. made sure to dead bolt the door. About 10:00 am a couple came to the door, a man and a woman. They identified themselves as detectives from some task force. I could not open the door to let them in, so I spoke to them through the door. They asked me the same questions I had been asked the previous day. They told me the girl had died. She died at 5:00 pm, alone in a hospital, another statistic. Yes, it is always 5:00 somewhere. She had suffered a traumatic botched abortion. They believed by her pimp, or some John. Who knows? It could have been a “friend” trying to help her out of a bad situation. These were common deaths back then, not even noted in the news. She was known in the neighborhood as a street girl, Maria, like so many other Marias. No last name. Maria Doe. Just another whore. Who knows why? Somebody’s child. Perhaps, somebody’s mother.

God only knows why that door wasn’t bolted on this particular day. God only knows what life He saved Maria from, what life Maria saved me from. Or why?

Why did I find that ledger in 1992 stuck between two torn down walls?

This is from where comes some of the passion to tell the story in Red Clay and Roses.

This was 1978, just four years after Roe versus Wade, two years before I started nursing school.

The title of yesterday’s and today’s post is sarcastic. Of course, I can’t possibly imagine criminalizing abortion again. It would not stop the practice. It would only create more criminals, cause more pain and suffering.

I can’t condone abortion used indiscriminately and irresponsibly as contraception. I can support a potential parent’s right to decide and choose if they are ready to be responsible and committed to raising a child. For the child’s sake, if for no other reason.

If you want to know the rest of the story, you will have to wait until I get around to writing the memoir, autobiography, or roman à clef.

Teaser: I spent the latter part of my eighteenth birthday night naked in Central Park, near Fifth Avenue, close to the zoo, hiding behind a trash can and my hair until rescued by a soul man with a huge afro named George, and his woman, Ernestine, in a big, shiny, black Cadillac who took me to K-Mart to buy clothes. I made it back home to LaGrange, Georgia, by way of the Cayman Islands. It’s a long story.

Let’s Go Backwards and Criminalize Abortion, Again! My Story: Part One

I know that self-disclosure can be a dangerous thing. With all that is going on in Texas, South Dakota, and other communities across the country, I feel a need to go there with a couple of personal stories. First and foremost, it is not my intent to debate right or wrong. Second, all I can really do is tell you how it was in my life. Third, pray that you don’t have to make the sorts of difficult decisions I have had to make. Finally, wish you the best possible outcome if you have faced or are facing similar circumstances, or know someone in such a situation.

It was 1975, and I was living in an orphanage, the Ethel Harpst Home, in the North Georgia Mountains. I had been in foster care for several years after a few years with an abusive step-parent on the heels of my mother’s death. I don’t believe, at that time, I knew what love was anymore. I felt love as a child and had loving grandparents, but there had been enormous fear and loneliness. At fifteen, I wanted to know love. I wanted to feel loved.

I met a guy at school. He was popular and his family was prominent. He jumped through hoops at the Harpst Home to be able to date me, meeting with the house parents and the home’s administrator. He wrote letters and his parents wrote letters. I felt immensely desirable. First, house dates for months, then away dates.

Then, on about the third away date, I was date raped…but he “loved” me, and I was just “confused”. Sex was supposed to be fun. It didn’t matter that my faith had indicated to me that I should remain a virgin until marriage. I had been violated, but he “loved” me. He bought me flowers, candy and jewelry. He called me twice a day. We had mutual friends and they were all having sex. It was the sexual revolution. Birth control pills had come out in 1960, so by 1975 everybody was on them, but me. To take birth control pills would mean admitting that I was having sex, and I could not do that. By March of 1976, I was pregnant. The Baptist Church I had been attending closed its doors to me. After all, what a horrible influence I would be to the other young women.

“Free love” was trendy, and casual sex, once forbidden, was becoming commonplace. Roe versus Wade had decriminalized abortion in 1974, and birth control was relatively easy; however, neither was readily accessible.  I did have a Social Worker, Shelia Turner, who spoke to me about options. My boyfriend could be arrested for statutory rape. I could have an abortion, and not leave Harpst Home or disrupt my life in any way. I could go to an unwed mother’s house in Atlanta, give the baby up for adoption and return to the Harpst Home to complete my education. I had a $17,000.00 scholarship to Wesleyan and my teachers were encouraging a career in journalism. The option to have the baby and keep it was not suggested, but it was the option I chose.

My boyfriend was excited to become a father and eagerly offered to marry me. We were wed in the United Methodist Church. I stayed in school, and graduated early in advanced classes. At sixteen, December 20, 1976, I gave birth to a healthy bicentennial baby boy. My nineteen year old husband worked at a meat processing plant and he decided to join the Army as his father had been career military.

He completed his Basic Training and MOS in South Carolina. His first duty call was to Stuttgart, Germany. We could not go, my son and I, because he had not been in the service for two years. Before he left, he beat me severely to let me know that he could kill me if I was unfaithful to him while he was gone. I put him on a plane July 11th, 1978. There were tears in our eyes, and at seventeen years old, I took my eighteen month old son home to Cedartown, to our apartment which had a $300.00/month rent, $100.00/month power bill, and no groceries.

I discovered the rent had not been paid for the two months my husband had been home, nor had the power bill. I pawned my wedding band and engagement ring to pay the bills and buy food. A week later, I discovered I was pregnant despite being on birth control pills. I could not believe it. I also received a letter from my husband telling me simply, “I am tired of being married, so go back to South Georgia, Love Bryan. P.S. Take care of my son.” My son’s family refused me any assistance.  His mother advised me to, “Woman up, like a military wife should!”

I had no car. There was no public transportation in that small town. I worked two jobs while my neighbor babysat raised my son. I worked as a clerk at the drug store from 1:00 pm until 9:00 pm, had two hours to walk home, eat, change clothes, and walk to my second job as a nursing assistant at the local hospital from 11:00 pm until 7:00 am.  Had two hours to walk home, eat, change clothes and be back at the drug store to work from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm…every other day. I had from 2:00 pm until 10:00 pm every other day to be a parent and to sleep. I was earning $2.33 an hour. The clerk job was on a rotating shift and the nursing assistant job was straight nights. I was trying. The bills weren’t getting paid, and we barely had groceries.

The Church, you ask? Turned away.

After a month of these work hours, I went to the health department for assistance and was put on the W.I.C. program. I went to the Department of Family and Children’s service for welfare, but they could not help me because my husband was military. They sent me to the Red Cross.

The Red Cross could not get me food assistance, but they arranged for me to fly to Germany to speak with my husband’s Commanding Officer and tell my husband of my second pregnancy. I left Ft. McClellan, Alabama in a cargo plane alone. My son was with his grandparents.

Once in Stuttgart, I went to the guest house and then to see my husband’s C.O. He told me that Bryan had problems with drugs and alcohol, disobedience, and was heading for a dishonorable discharge if he did not straighten up. He told me that he was supposed to be living on post, but he had been staying off post. He gave me an address.

I took a cab to the address and had it wait, because I did not know what to expect. There was a store with an apartment above where I was to find my husband. I walked up the steps on the side of the building. Once at the top on the landing, I peered through the screen door to see my husband in bed with a woman who could have been my twin. It was a small apartment and the sofa was opened into a bed in the living room. They were sleeping in each other’s arms and appeared to be quite comfortable. I did not wake them. I went back down the stairs, got back into the cab, and went back to see the C.O. I told him what I saw, and that I was pregnant and needed some assistance. He assured me the he would get an allotment check cut out of my husband’s pay. I got back on a cargo plane and came home.

The allotment was $100.00 per month. I quit my job at the drug store. I filed for divorce, and went to the Hillcrest Clinic in Atlanta and had an abortion on August 25, 1978. I could not manage to feed one child alone. I was hopeless and helpless. It was how I chose to help myself and my son. It was my only hope. The divorce took two years. I remarried. My hat is off to women who have been able to raise kids alone. At age fifty-three, I have three grown children, two grandchildren, and retired early from a thirty year career in nursing.

I have no regrets.

You may be wondering why I decided to tell this story. I had an interview published yesterday that made me think about what motivated me to write Red Clay and Roses. Where did the passion come from to tell the stories of Althea, Bonnie Jean, and Sybil? A story that tells of three women with unplanned pregnancies before Roe versus Wade, and before birth control. The secrets they kept. The choices they made. Their consequences. The good doctor and how he illegally served his community. Swamp Witch Wilma and how she did the same. 1954. Do we need to go back there?

Tomorrow I will tell you the rest of the story. Yes, there is more. Tomorrow a young girl dies in my arms.

Bloggers: The Real and the Imagined

Wizard-of-oz_hologram

As a nurse, especially when working as a psych nurse, we are taught to read body language, to pick up on subtle biological cues, note changed inflections and tones when listening to words spoken.  You get none of that online. Even when you are acute enough to read between the lines, it’s not the same thing.  You are working off of one sense, and your brain has to assimilate the information from there.  The other four senses are impaired.  We are all reading with impaired senses. There is no real emotion in it, only the sense of sight, you see the words, your mind has to create the rest and none of us think quite alike.  What you write is subject to interpretation by the reader. We are operating like the drunk driver.

When writing novels, we are always writing from our own perceptions, trying to convey a personality through words. Not our own personality, but the character’s personality.  Their mannerism, mood, actions, reactions, language, how they uniquely interact with the world around them. A world that we also created.

Many bloggers, especially anonymous bloggers who have created an online persona of sorts, do the same.  The ones who use a character image to write and respond to comments are really adept at projecting an image they wish you to see; like Mr. and Mrs. Bojangles (Not really characters that I know of, I am making them up for demonstration purposes). She signs her comments Mrs. B and he signs his comments Mr. B.  They take turns posting whatever they wish the world to know about the Bojangles and how the Bojangles receive the world around them.

They might really be Mr. and Mrs. Morgan down the street. He may kick his dog and she may beat her kids, you really don’t know them. Online, they are a sweet little old couple who offer advice to young people on starting a family. Then again, they may be ministers of their church and dutifully assist their parish in all manner of life’s challenges. Again, you don’t know.  You just know their online persona.

ozLike the Wizard of OZ, they are protected by a curtain of anonymity.

Do you ever wonder about the people you meet online? Surely you do.

Then, there are bloggers who write outright, open about themselves and their personal lives, their work, their talents, their writing process, their ambitions, the way they perceive the world around them, signing their writing by their real life name, posting it at the top of their blog as I do.  How well do you really know them? Being online, you don’t see their flaws of character, that they bite their nails, never comb their hair, cross their legs and & arms when seated, and smell like yesterday’s cheese. You also don’t see their strengths of character, the way they shake a hand, their smiles, their infectious laugh, the way they always hold the door for others.  You can only guess, by the words they write, what they must be like in “Real Life”.

Whether it is the “real you” or a persona that you have imaginatively created, I am truly amazed with you all, from the 25 year old unemployed Australian guy sitting in a coffee shop with the brilliant mind looking for his niche that ponders life and its meaning, to the passionate 20 year old writing majestic prose and poetry lamenting lost love, from the quirky 80 yo great-grandma who recalls history with a twist of lime, to the struggling 30-something writer who ambitiously defeats personal odds to develop an entire series of marketable books.  The guy next door, the lady with 9 kids, the satirical comedian, the girl coping with mental illness and drug addiction, you are all why I keep coming back. I love the diversity that is you, real or imagined.

The collective consciousness of the blogosphere is both mystifying and marvelous!

How Are You Inspired to Choose the Dedications in Your Books?

In the front matter to my book, “Red Clay and Roses”, there is a dedication, as many provide when they author a book.  I want to share with you the story behind the dedication.  It is not an ordinary dedication for supportive family and friends.  It is a dedication to a man whose name I never knew.  Well, it is to some degree, because I do mention my loving and supportive husband, Greg.   Read as follows and then I will explain:

While visiting my grandparent’s farm in my youth, an elderly African American man told me,

“If your children can look at my grandchildren and not see color, then we have made progress.”

This book is dedicated to him, the progress that we have made,

and to my loving and supportive husband, Greg.

Back story:

I am more than a half century in age at 52 years.  I was born in 1960 in Georgia.  Schools in my hometown were not integrated until 1971.  In 1972, I went into Foster Care.  In Foster Care, I was at home with other children of many races.  I did not give race much thought.  Same was true after I went to live in an orphanage in 1974.  By then, all of the schools in the area were integrated.  Most neighborhoods were exclusive, and many still are in the Deep South.  Things were very different in my grandparent’s time.

My grandparents lived on property that has been in my grandmother’s family since the land lottery of 1827.  My greatest American ancestor, Thomas Holland, won this 500 acre lot and one other lot for his war service in the American Revolutionary War.  It has been occupied by my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins ever since that time.  Though only one home survived the Civil War, the land did.  My grandfather’s family’s Baptist Church stands on one end of the property and my grandmother’s family’s Methodist Church stands on the other end.

During my time growing up, throughout the time spent in Foster Care and the Orphanage, I was able to spend time with my many cousins and the hired help (mostly black) and their families on my grandparent’s farm.  This was primarily weekends, holidays, and summers

As I matured, I spent six months in New York City, and a few years in Atlanta Georgia.  City life was much different than time on the farm or in my small hometown.

The dedication and why it is meaningful to me:

I was not as deeply indoctrinated with racial opinions and bias as many others in my community growing up.  My grandparents; however, were very deeply indoctrinated.  While they were respectful in many ways, treated their hired help kindly, and paid them well.  They still had their set ways of thinking and acting.  Not having been very much influenced by the Civil Rights Movement, being way out in the country, they internalized the community around them, as most do.

The story:

When I was 19 years old, had a small child, and was already divorced, I spent some brief time in my grandparent’s home.  A female friend from North Georgia had come down to visit.

We were gathered at the dining room table having the noontime meal (called dinner in the South, not lunch).  The dog started barking and we heard a truck pull up into the driveway.  My grandfather got up from the table to go see what the ruckus was all about.  A few moments later, we heard him call out, “Mama, yo nigger is here to plow yo field!” very loudly.  He slammed the front door.

My friend and I looked at each other with our mouths agape.  Grandfather came back to the dining room and continued his meal, while Grandmother went to the bedroom to fetch her purse to pay the man.  A black man, an African-American, on invitation, had come with his rototiller to prepare Grandmother’s garden.

I got up from the table and went out onto the front porch where the elderly black man stood with his hat in his hands on the front steps.

79628-2218

“Sir, I am so sorry for my Grandfather’s behavior,” I apologized.

“Whatever are you apologizing for?” he asked.

“Well, he called you a nigger and slammed the door in your face.  That was rude and I am ashamed for him,” I went on.

“Little lady,” he said with a wide smile, “I ain’t never been nothin but a nigger. For all my long life, nothin but a nigger.  Your Grandpappy, he ain’t never knowed me as nothin but a nigger, all his long life.  But if your children can look at my grandchildren and not see color, well then, we has made some progress!”

His statement resonated with me for my whole lifetime.  I raised my children to not see color.  We sang “Everybody’s Beautiful” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” before they were able to talk good.  Their friends were always welcome in our home regardless of color or national origin.  My two grandchildren are of mixed race, although they look nothing alike.  I could not imagine not accepting their father as family.

We are, each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

~Luciano de Crescenzo

After I wrote “Red Clay and Roses”, which was highly influenced by my life experiences and those of my family, I had to come up with what I felt was a meaningful dedication.  I did not feel the typical, “Thanks, to my supportive….,” would suffice.  The book has a significant amount of racial tension in it.  This African American man’s words came back to me.  We have made progress, and for that I am grateful.

facebook-header6.jpg

How do you decide what to write as a dedication in your books?  What inspires you to be grateful?  What progress do you see?

Interracial Relations, “Trendy?”

The 50th Anniversary of MLK’s march on Washington reminds us of the great strides we have made in overcoming the racial prejudice that existed during the era when the political machine took on a whole new color.

If you click on the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. you will see a video from “Rolling Stone”.  The following link tells the stories of people who lived through the transitions of the era.  Their stories should not be forgotten.

images

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom or “The Great March on Washington“, as styled in a sound recording released after the event, was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history and called for civil and economic rights for African Americans. It took place in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr., standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech advocating that racial harmony should prevail upon the march. (Wikipedia)

The march was organized by a group of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, under the theme “jobs, and freedom”. Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000. Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were black.

Racism results from oppression, poverty and ignorance.  These three things are the greatest influences on society’s reluctance and inability to become more than tolerant, but to embrace and accept the changing tide in this country.

I have been reading many articles and blogs on the issues of racism over the past few days, and what I am seeing is that interracial relations are currently considered, “Trendy.”  My daughter, who has racially mixed children, agrees.  I can only pray that it is much more permanent than trendy.

My granddaughter has the Hispanic phenotype of her father, a Puerto Rican.  My grandson has the Arian phenotype of his mother, a German/English/Cherokee.  The Puerto Ricans are a mix of Spanish, African-American, and Island Indians.  They are a mixed race family and not unlike many families in the Orlando area.   My daughter feels that, while we are far from “post racial”, we are moving closer toward an accepting society where race is less of an issue than it was 50 years ago, but her life experiences with these children let her know that we are not there yet.

She has had people ask her if she was babysitting.  She has had people ask her if she adopted, and to go so far as to congratulate her on adopting, “Typically less than adoptable children.”  She has had day care staff members assume that she was picking up a child other than her own daughter simply because she is white and her daughter is not, asking her for I.D. to prove she is the parent of the child.

The Trayvon Martin-Mark Zimmerman case reminds us that there is much progress to be made if we are to truly see people and not color.  I am hopeful that we can get there soon.

“Red Clay and Roses” speaks to the issue of racism as it was fifty years ago, and to the issue of Civil Rights and Women’s Rights.  It is fiction based on the true stories of those who lived during the era and faced the challenges of it directly.  It is an historical reminder why we should strive for acceptance and assure that we never go back to where we were fifty years ago.  These are issues worth remembering.