Lifted Out of Despair #MondayBlogs #LoveWins

Last week I was in a very dark place.  Then in these last two days  (6/25/2015 and 6/26/2015, to be specific), the US Supreme Court decided in favor of marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act.  I couldn’t stop my head from spinning or my feet from dancing.  Add to that, Alabama and other states took down the Confederate flag (see http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/confederate-flag-us/story?id=31997573).  [Sadly, as of this writing, South Carolina is still dragging its heels.]

And so I feel I can really truly enjoy the remainder of this month, as today is my birthday and I want to celebrate.

Me at one year old. Early signs of exhibitionism are evident.

I’m still keeping a low social media profile so I can focus more on my writing outside my blog as well as continue to play catch-up with other things.

Have a wonderful day, dear Reader.  Have a wonderful week!  Before  you go, enjoy a semi-gratuitous cat video.

 

 

Death, Despair, and Disgust

As you might guess from the title, dear Reader, this isn’t going to be a “happy” post.  I’ve thought long and hard about whether to write a post at all.  I thought about updating my last Monday post, the one on Montgomery, expressing the horror I now feel at the juxtaposition of the United Daughters of the Confederacy memorial of Jefferson Davis’s inauguration across the street from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.  In my post, I had suggested that it was well and good Alabama acknowledge its history as a proponent of slavery, rather than pretend it never happened.

Then there was the massacre last week at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  Nine dead.  And why, dear Reader, why?  Simply because they were black.  That’s all.  A racist needs no other reason to kill, to terrorize.

And now when I think of that UDC marker across from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and I think of the churchgoers who have to pass by that marker, I get sick to my stomach.  How naive I feel, how stupid.

I still haven’t organized my emotions well enough to carry on like, well, like … whatever.  Friday I had several mini-meltdowns until finally, safe and alone at home, I wailed.  I felt such despair.  I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the massacres that have occurred on American soil by American citizens in my lifetime.

And later I felt disgust as I heard presidential candidates dance around the fact that the massacre was an act of domestic terrorism.  Just because it was nine people and not 168 makes it no less an act of terrorism.  Just because it was a church and not a federal building makes it no less an act of terrorism.  And just because it was a young white man doesn’t mean we assume he was mentally ill, that if only we could keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill …

What happened that night at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church was a racially motivated act of terrorism, nothing less.  And there’s nothing more I can say.

I have closed comments on this post.  I don’t want you, dear Reader, to feel you have to respond.  I know many of you, like myself, are inclined to leave a comment with most if not all the posts we read.  I want to lift that burden from you in this particular instance.

I also feel rather humorless right now.  I don’t want to put on a happy face for its own sake.  So I’m going to slip under the radar for a while, at least until the crying stops.

 

Cover Reveal: Singularity by Helena Hann-Basquiat and friends!

Singularity 6 x 9 coverThe time has come.

The time is now.

Singularity is the new novel from Helena Hann-Basquiat, with Sara Litchfield, Sandy Ramsey, Lizzi Rogers and Hannah Sears.

Singularity is the sequel to last year’s JESSICA — a metafictional look into Jessica’s possible pasts.

Singularity is coming August 1, 2015

Singularity is its own novel, and can be enjoyed all on its own, but if you haven’t read JESSICA, GO HERE to read the first chapter or GO HERE to purchase a copy in paperback or e-book.

 

 

Sweet Home Alabama #MondayBlogs

Well, Alabama ain’t my home and Lynyrd Skynyrd ain’t my favorite band (except for Free Bird and that in large part because it was the favorite song of a cousin I looked up to).  But Alabama is my husband’s mother’s home state.  The city of Montgomery in particular.  A place he last visited more than 50 years ago when he went as a little boy with his mother and sister to visit his Mamaw (look it up).  Recently we took a trip to Montgomery to see if it had changed since my husband’s last and only visit.

You laugh.

But this is the Real South I’m talking about.  Sometimes some things don’t change.

We were only in Montgomery for one full day, which we spent driving and walking around, seeing what might spur my husband’s imagination memory.

For example, Chris’s World Famous Hot Dogs.

My husband had his first chili dog there when he still wearing knickers.  Like I said, about 50+ years ago.  And the place is still there.  They still serve chili dogs although my husband complained it wasn’t quite the same as he remembered.

The Capitol building was a high point as was the walk up to it, on Dexter Avenue. The flowers in this photo were not in bloom during our visit, but it was still a sunny day with blue skies and fluffy clouds.

"Alabama Capitol Building" by Carol M. Highsmith - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID highsm.07064.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.العربية | čeština | Deutsch | English | español | فارسی | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | polski | português | русский | slovenčina | slovenščina | Türkçe | українська | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Alabama Capitol Building” by Carol M. HighsmithThis image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID highsm.07064. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

My husband had a vivid memory of seeing a gold star embedded in one of the steps to the Capitol.  Something to do with Jefferson Davis, he recalled but being just a child, he was fascinated by the star, not the history.  Where exactly on the Capitol steps would it be, he didn’t know.

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Inscription: “Placed by Sophie Bibb Chapter Daughters of the Confederacy on the spot where Jefferson Davis stood when inaugurated President of the C.S.A. Feb. 18, 1861.”

Finding the star wasn’t difficult at all once I looked it up on my iPad.  And the view from that spot was rather pleasant, although my photography skills are rather lacking.

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The view from the Capitol building, down Dexter Avenue. Montgomery, Alabama. May 2015.

Only two blocks before the Capitol building was a modest church. It’s stature smaller than many of the other many churches in Montgomery (and I do mean to use the word ‘many’ twice).  We might have just walked by Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor for several years.  Services are still held at the church and a small museum is on the bottom floor.  I’m not a church-going believer, but this is one church in which I would be happy to seek shelter.

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Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, founded in 1877, and first known as the Second Colored Baptist Church. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., served as pastor from 1954-1960.

But in an interesting juxtaposition, on the corner opposite the church, a tombstone-look marker reminded us of Montgomery’s long journey forward.

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Yes, in 1942, some people still pined for the good ole days of the nascent Confederacy, when they could sip mint juleps in the shade of their verandas while their slaves toiled to their deaths under the searing Southern sun.  If they couldn’t go back in time, they would surely make sure that people knew of their desire.

The juxtaposition didn’t end there.  Directly across Dexter Avenue was another marker, a newer one that filled me with hope.

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And the strangely moving sight of shoe prints, all kinds, all sizes, stretching from the Civil Rights marker above, across Dexter Avenue, to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

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One image I didn’t capture but still sticks in my mind as clear as the moment I saw it:  In the ladies’ room at the Planetarium (yes, Montgomery has a planetarium and a very nice one, too), the soap dispenser had an interesting insignia.  The insignia described Alabama as both “The Cradle of the Confederacy” and “The Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.”  It looked something like this, but on a soap dispenser.

This seal represents the South to me, not just Alabama.  On the one hand, history and one’s part in it should not be forgotten.  “Cradle of the Confederacy.”  The marker, commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, directly across from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.  These are reminders of Alabama’s history and the role it played in the Confederacy and the Civil War.

Wrongs must be righted. “Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.” Shoe prints stretching across Dexter Avenue, representing the March from Selma to Montgomery.  The marker commemorating that march.  These demonstrate that Alabama is moving forward in history, not forgetting its history but (hopefully) refusing to repeat it.

Or am I giving Alabama too much credit?  Perhaps Alabama still pines for those days long gone, those days before we knew what what we were capable of doing to each other.  Perhaps some think there’s still a chance the Confederacy can be reborn and, for them, “Cradle of the Confederacy” is a source of pride.

What do you think, Dear Reader?  Are these odd juxtapositions of historical importance?  Or is there some poetry here, like a song suggesting, “it’s complicated.”

 

Top Ten Thing Not to do at a Wedding

1WriteWay:

Go to weddings much, Dear Reader? Well, tis the season and as those invitations start pouring in, consider these 10 warning tips from John Howell.

Originally posted on Fiction Favorites:

Since June is wedding month, I can’t let it pass without making some comments on what we should all avoid if we are in a wedding, invited to a wedding or are getting married. I hope you enjoy it.

a wedding images

Top Ten Things Not to do at a Wedding (no matter who you are)

10 If you are a wedding guest, do not be tempted to pick up and shake a few of the wedding presents to see if there are sets of china or appliances inside. If you do, at best those observing you will know you bought a cheap gift or none at all. At worst, you will be asked to step away from the gifts by a large man with the word SECURITY above his left pocket. He also happens to be the brother of one of the celebrants, and you are now busted since he assumes you…

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Hair Today … #MondayBlogs #GoodHairDay

Eat your heart out, Katy Perry.

I got me one of the best if not THE best hairstylist ever.  Some might say that I’m too old to have my hair dyed like this:

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Obviously, I don’t care what some people may think …

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Yup, I’m feeling pretty smug.  Happy Hair Day!

 

Ten Things Not to Do at Graduation Time

1WriteWay:

Ah, it’s that time of year when someone you know, maybe even someone you love, is graduating. If you’re a parent, a graduation attendee or organizer, read on for some useful warnings about what not to do during graduation. Courtesy of John Howell.

Originally posted on Fiction Favorites:

The inspiration for this list is the fact that it is graduation season. When you think of all the graduations that are being held in the US alone, you realize the potential exists that these ten things occur with similar results. I hope you enjoy the list and can manage to avoid them.

a graduation

Ten Things Not to Do at Graduation Time

10 If you are a graduate, do not put something dumb on your mortar. If you do, at best even if your family sees you they will not want to admit you belong to them. At worst the picture taken of your message will go viral and will show up every time someone searches your name on Google including prospective employers.

9 If you are a parent of a graduate, do not blow any type of horn when your child receives their diploma. If you do, at best you…

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Not Letting Go, Part 1 #MondayBlogs

Several months ago I went on a trip down memory lane, posting images of work I did during my college years. Click here if you want to read/reread that post.  I’ll wait.

Well, here I go again, and this time a little further back in time.  1976.  Spring semester at the community college I was attending.  I had joined a literary guild the year before, and every year we published one or two volumes of a journal.

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The guild was a very, very nice group of students with a faculty adviser.  They welcomed me immediately, were kind and tender with my highly sensitive nature, and were my first introduction to professional criticism.  Mrs. Hazel Swartz, the adviser, adopted each one of us.  We frequently had meetings at her house, and once she took me to dinner to explain to me why “peeping” wasn’t the best word to use when describing the sun coming up over a mountain.

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It was a very small world I lived in.  I quickly learned that my next-door neighbor had had the dubious pleasure of teaching Hazel to drive a stick-shift many decades before.  I remember he said something about fearing for his life as they sped up and down the hills of Queen Anne Road.  Few of the students were from my neck-of-the-woods, so to me they were savvy world travelers, even if they had only come from as far as Long Island.  They seemed so much older, wiser, and sophisticated than me.  I had a crush on one, a poet who seemed to genuinely like my writing.  But, of course, I  thought he was too good for me so I took up with someone else.  That was unfortunate.  My first lover could have been a poet.  Instead I wound up with a narcissistic, emotionally abusive loser.  Ah, the idiocies of youth!

Anyway, for the last almost 40 years, I’ve carried from my home in upstate New York to various apartments in California and finally to my house in Florida two volumes of our journal.  The second one is my favorite.

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With this one, I was starting to feel like a writer.  Recently I sat down and leafed through the contents, cringing at some of my feeble attempts at poetry and fiction writing.  But I paused at one bit of prose.  It’s not fiction because the people and the circumstance were real.  But, in this piece, more than any other, I recognize my voice.

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Those very early years, 1975-1976, I could imagine only being a writer.  I had no imagination for any other kind of employment.  I was naive, ignorant, but I was who I still am.

Top Ten Things Not to do if Your Inhibitions Have Been Set Free

1WriteWay:

Do you sometimes feel uninhibited and just (for once) want to act on that freeing, expansive feeling? Well, better read this list of ten things not to do if you’re in that mode, otherwise it may be the last time you act on your lack of inhibition. Courtesy of John Howell!

Originally posted on Fiction Favorites:

The inspiration for this list is a lifetime of observation of the behavior of people who finally let down their defenses. The lowering of defenses may have been as a result of being over-served or just a decision of not wanting to hold back any longer.  Although becoming open and honest without pretense can be a right thing more often that not the consequences of id liberation make such a move the source of regret.  I hope you enjoy the list.

a uninhibited

Ten Things Not to Do if Your Inhibitions Have Been Set Free.

10 If you feel uninhibited, do not free your body from clothes to match your mind. If you do, at best you will be all alone in the woods. At worst, you will become aware of your condition as the mall cops wrestle you to the floor and try to hide your parts.

9 If you feel uninhibited…

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A Different Kind of Review: Kindness Wins by Galit Breen

I’m on a roll, dear Reader.  Two different kinds of review in two weeks!  Amazing what a few days away from the day job can do for a writer.  My vacation has not been all writing and reading, as I’ve been fairly absent from social media.  We took a brief road trip.  More about that later.  For now, I want to share a review of Kindness Wins by Galit Breen.  This is a very important book for anyone engaged in social media.  I don’t have kids, but I loved this book.  I hope you enjoy the review.

***

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Brittany giggled when she saw the photo Lucy had posted to Instagram.  In the photo, the two of them were sitting on an sandy spit in the middle of the creek, their long hair whipped around their shoulders, the sunlight making sparkles on their wet faces.  It had been an oppressively hot day, and the two girls had played in the shallow creek like toddlers, splashing each other and getting soaking wet.  They were happy, and they were laughing as Lucy took the selfie.

Brittany clicked Like and started to write a comment when something caught her eye.  There, from a guy she barely knew, was a comment:  “What fatties you both are!  How gross!”

Brittany looked at the photo again.  Okay, their t-shirts were sticking to them and maybe the way they were sitting made them look like they had rolls of fat, but, really?  Why would anyone write something so nasty?  She wanted to blast him.  She wanted to tell him that he must be a miserable and lonely person to write something so mean.  But she stopped herself.

She glanced over at the book that Mary had given her a few days before.  It had been a birthday gift from the three widows–Mary, Melissa, and Maggie–along with her first iPhone.  She knew the cousins had misgivings about her developing an online presence.  They trusted her, but they didn’t trust other people.  Not after what Brittany had been through.

But, as Lucy had so well argued, it was time for Brittany to come into the 21st century.  She was almost 20 years old, the same age as Lucy, and she needed to reclaim her life, a life almost cut short by a man she once thought of as her father.  Lucy would help her.  She had read Kindness Wins and, truth be told, she was the one who had recommended it to the widows.  Brittany thought she should stop thinking of them that way, but it was too hard.  She just needed to make sure she never referred to them as “the widows” online.

Brittany picked up the book and leafed through it again.  She had read it in one sitting, and then flipped back and forth, considering the bulleted “takeaways” that the author, Galit Breen, had included at the end of each chapter.   She really enjoyed how the book was laid out, each chapter being a “habit” for a child to learn about being online, with reading resources, discussion points, and the takeaways at the end.  She knew so little about social media, she was almost embarrassed to admit it.  Lucy understood, though.  Lucy understood everything about her.

But what to do about the mean comment?  Brittany’s fingers itched to retort.  She felt that liking the photo and then saying nothing might send the message that she didn’t care, or that she thought the mean comment was okay.  Lucy would know better, but other people might not.  A sentence from Kindness Wins popped into Brittany’s head: “It doesn’t hurt to be kind.”  She didn’t feel she had the guts to take on the bully, but she didn’t have to hide either.

“What a fun day we had! That’s what counts <3″  Brittany hit Return.

Well, Brittany thought, the bully will probably roll his eyes at that but no matter.  She and Lucy could create a virtual storm of kindness that will drown out the meanest comment.  And if they practice what Kindness Wins preaches, maybe eventually the bullies will just go away.  Better yet, maybe they will become kind.

***

Dear Reader, this is just a snippet of what you would get out of Kindness Wins.  If you’re a parent, grandparent, babysitter, caregiver, teacher, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend of friends with children, you will want to read this book.  Breen has an engaging writing style.  I really appreciate her honesty in sharing her own experiences and her own mistakes.  Kindness Wins will definitely influence how I engage in social media from this point on.

For a great interview with Galit Breen, courtesy of Laura Zera, click here

Get your copy of Kindness Wins here from Amazon.

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