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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Night Swimming



Night Swimming 



I like night swimming, I always have.  Not swimming in a pool where you know you are safe, but in rivers and lakes - at night - when it’s dark, and you’re throwing caution to the wind.  Literally, since I was at an age to have my own car I’ve always kept towels, a bathing suit, and a change of clothes in the trunk in case I felt the need to run to the beach or lake and go swimming.  Last night was one of those nights.  There was a storm brewing, but when you need a swim, you just need to swim.

This week of political agendas and facebook friends deleting each other for their opinions, and my simple attempt to claim a piece of my heritage - knowing that if we erase the past we are seconds from repeating it - made me need water, lots and lots of water. 

I have been night swimming for thirty years of my life since I left the protection of my elders, and it’s a special thing to me.  If I go to the beach for an extended time I am in the water at night, out beyond the crashing waves, swimming and floating and looking at the moon and stars, with little to no fear of creatures eating me.  

Last night, after a week of chaos, I just had to go.  Damn the storm!  Luckily, I have a husband who doesn’t actually share my need for lots and lots of water, but understands that it is part of who I am.  We drove through storms and crazily fogged roads after days of one hundred degree temps and reached the lake.  There were a few cars in the lot by the dam.  Most had bikes and were racing each other on the highway over the dam, but there was no one in the water. 

The water level in our lake is very high right now, and the beach is now part of the lake, a gentle slope down to the depths.  The paths are mostly erased and one has to work hard over the rocks to reach the water.  I left the car, and my clothes on the rocks, and struggled to reach the water - not seeing the easier path, but that is another thing that defines me.  I sank into the water, striking out, floating, and sighing away the stress and the chaos that we now call normal. 

As I lay in the water, feeling the drops of rain on my face, and listening to the thunder roll, I finally felt some peace.  I looked around at the space I was in and realized I was the only person in the water, despite the cars in the parking lot and the boats in the distance.  And then I realized that in my thirty years of night swimming, outside of organized water and pools, I’ve always done it alone. 

I swam back to shore and sat with my husband on the rocks for a moment, expressing my realization of how folks didn’t swim in lakes and rivers at night, and how it emphasized I was different and alone in my difference.  Maybe I was a little melancholy because the battles this week showed me that I am very much alone. 

God is funny and weird and good, and last night I felt Him.  As soon as the words left my mouth about being the lone night swimmer a hoard of people appeared above us, trying to discern the rocky path to the water.   Eight or so folks were there to swim at night and I realized as much as I feel alone in this world a lot of times, I’m not alone, and that is the message I took with me.  We’re not all afraid to strike out into the water as the thunder rolls above and the skies are dark. 

As they came down on our tiny beach and enjoyed the water the sky began to clear and the stars and moon came out, and although I have no idea of who they were, or their trials in life, I knew they were like me.  I only caught one name and it was a toddler named Iris, and again I knew that God was showing me that I am not alone.  You see Iris is a song by the Goo Goo Dolls that both my son and I loved and often sang together in the car on our errands before he died, and I can never hear it without thinking of him.



So as the world rages, deeper and deeper, calling accusations out to anyone, and ending friendships over opinions, I have night swimming.  I will continue to love all people no matter their color, sexual orientation, or opinions.  And last night with the thunder, lightning, and fog, I found that I was not alone as I swam in the dark.

As always, keep seeking and keep believing.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Save the Confederate Flag

Save the Confederate Flag

 
The Confederate Flag issue seems to be making me a little crazy, as well as everyone else I’ve listened to or read in the last days, and I know that it is a delicate issue.  I grew up in a world of soldiers - WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and my brother is now in Afghanistan.  I am a Daughter of the American Revolution, and my ancestors fought in the Civil War. 

To me the Confederate Flag is a symbol of rebellion, and despite how the history books have changed to fit the needs of the world, or at least guide the students to where their “thinking space” is in the acceptable place, I know that the flag was about rebellion. 

I got in a lot of trouble in sixth grade social studies when “Roots” came out because I challenged the teacher on several points – you see I spent my weekends in archives with my father chasing down history.  My history teacher didn’t even know what the archives were, but she knew Alex Haley would tell no lies.  My father was, among many other things, a genealogist and a historian, and he long complained about the records being changed before his eyes, and if it wasn’t old ladies with hidden fountain pens trying to make their family upper crust, or at least erase some shame in the old census books, it was the new retelling of history on a national TV network.  

I was not raised to be racist.  I was born in 1965 during the Civil Rights movement in Georgia.  My father insisted we treat all people equally, and as a man in power to hire others, he hired people of a skin color darker than our own and paid them well, if not better, than those of our own pink hue.  My ancestors not only fought in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, they also funded the first black college in NC.



I will feel no weight under what is happening in the world now.  The flag is rebellion, and trust me my ancestors were rebelling when they saw something other than skin.  My ancestors also fought side by side with people of a darker hue in the Civil War. 

The world is saying this flag caused the murder of nine people studying the Bible, but no one is addressing another murderer on too damned many pharmaceuticals (he was arrested a few months earlier for pharmaceuticals).  And no one is addressing that it was a church and it was Christians who were killed.

And now the world says I need to be ashamed of my heritage.  I wonder which part I should be ashamed of - the fact that my ancestors fought proudly to free us from European control, the fact that my ancestors worked diligently to lift the African Americans out of poverty, or that I have light eyes and hair?   

I feel no shame.  And although I never carried the stars and bars, I love my brothers and sisters who understand history and stand for it every day.  Maybe I have been lackadaisical as I grew up under the historian and I didn’t always listen as well as I should have, but I’m listening and reviewing now. 

I’m standing up for the Confederate Flag, call me any name you like, but it’s the South, it’s God, and it’s Rebellion, and I know where I came from, despite what colleges are teaching now.  My father was adamant about history when he was alive, and he often stated the importance of never forgetting where we had been, lest we do it again.

We are on the cusp of doing it again, if we erase all memories of what happened before then we are steps away from doing it again.  My father used to say it would only take three generations to change the thinking of a nation, and I am literally in shock seeing it happen in my face. 

This post originated from evidently not understanding the color wars rage on.  It hurt my feelings terribly that a friend of mine, his skin darker than mine, brought the race issue up yesterday.  I was shocked, I was hurt, and I was terribly dismayed.  I barely slept. 

Seems my father’s prophecies are coming true.  I won’t scoff because I also see things happening before they do.  And now I am remembering all those trips to cemeteries, sitting on the porches beside swamps with elderly black folks and eating catfish, or sitting in fine homes of white folks in the middle of dying cities and drinking tea while my father jotted notes in his notebook, or running the microfiche in libraries and archives, or taking machetes through the back forty of someone’s property to find the old family cemetery to scribble down names and dates.

The flag is rebellion and that is why the war is raging.  And hell, I might have to find my own flag.  Please don’t give in to the one world order, claim your culture, and my culture is just as important.  I love Southerners, I love New Englanders, I love Westerners, I love all folks who made their way here to make a life.  We have a great country and our differences are what make us great.  Once they take my flag, my culture, know that they are coming for yours as well.

As always, keep seeking.






Thursday, June 04, 2015

Wow!


 Wow!



Wow is a multi-purpose word.  It can be used in the sight of destruction or birth.  It is often utilized to describe the delicate tastes of foods or wines or to express pain.  It is can be heard on videos showing us the colors of a sunrise, sunset, rainbows, or a tornado.  It’s a good word.

I suppose when we use any word the reader wants to see the picture, but as H.P. Lovecraft taught us long ago - sometimes seeing the picture takes from the story.  Sometimes we should only use our own senses to tell us what the monster, or the sunrise, looks like.

The world is so interconnected these days, you could make a statement and the next thing you know your neighbor is asking, or your cousin three times removed has called, but some things need to be enjoyed, without sharing, and just punctuated with the word -Wow!

I don’t like surprises, but still the unexpected creeps up under my skin.  I am not one for practical jokes, but God has a way, even at my age, to still throw something unexpected into the mix.  And all those who know me, know that I love God and absolutely know He has an amazing, sometimes disturbing, sense of humor.

In my day I have used to word to elucidate many things, if only to myself, and I remember the old School House Rock education on television in the 70s where Wow was always punctuated with an exclamation mark, and rightly it should be.  Wow things are simply wow, and not to be confused with other words or pedestrian things.  Wow things wake us up, or make us cry, or change our very being for having been blessed to witness or experience them. 

Sometimes sharing our Wow lessens it, so although I may share this tidbit of information, I won’t share what inspired it, because the simple inspiration is all that matters.  

Standing a little taller and sharing a laugh with God. 

Wow!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kicked By The Goat Shidu






 Kicked By The Goat Shidu




I went to a local farm yesterday in Trenton, SC, investigating intentional communities.  We paid for a brief tour and enjoyed it tremendously.  I’ve always wanted a farm, and have had a small one in the past when I was home schooling my son.  On the small farm I had we raised chickens, goats, ducks, with a half an acre vegetable garden where I grew corn, squash, tomatoes, and beans, and there was also a large pond for fishing.

Looking back on our lives, as we are prone to do, that time on the farm was in many ways idyllic.  I was with my son all day, every day, and it was a time that was the inspiration behind the book Kicking The Goat Silly and if you read the book you know there were some dark times, but overall I miss the farm and I really miss my son.

Yesterday, part of our tour included feeding the animals on the farm.  The horses were beautiful, but since they are bigger than me I didn’t step into their pasture, the sheep were sweet, and of course, I loved the ducks and chickens, but the goats got to me.  I learned how to milk a goat, which is something I was happy and grateful to experience, but the large male goat, with the huge horns, awoke something inside of me.  I’ve heard the term olfactory memory since my friend, a psychology major, introduced me to it about thirty years ago, and I’ve experienced many over the years, scents reminding of elementary school or my grandparents kitchen, but that damned goat opened a door of memories that left me crying for hours.

I suppose I haven’t really smelled a goat or a true barnyard since our lives changes and my son and I moved off the farm.  He was ripe into adolescence and the often-accompanying rebellion when we moved, and I suppose that time on the farm was the last calm place before he died a few years later. 

When I saw the goat, a large Nubian-mix goat, very reminiscent of my own goat, Silly, I wanted to go to the pen immediately.  The lady giving the tour took me through the maze of gates and into the pen.  As I scratched between his horns, smelling the musky odor, I was transported to a different time.  I remembered trying to wash the musky scent out of my son’s clothes as he often played with and wrestled with our goats, growing stronger after many brain surgeries and infections, and I could never quite get the smell out of his clothes, or the cloth-covered chairs where he’d sit to play video games.  The musky smelling furniture, the clothes, and my son are all long gone, but for just a moment, with the scent, it was as though time had reversed and I was there again. 

I didn’t wash my hands for a long time, and I am an avid hand washer, because I didn’t want to lose the scent, the transformation through time, but life moves forward and those days are gone, and are never to be returned to unless I can find someone with a time machine.  Who knew a goat could trip your world up so desperately?  I should have known, but I was caught unaware as the scent on my clothes and hands kept reminding me of days long gone.

I lamented the fact that my son was dead, I cried over the fact that I tried to be smart and didn’t have more babies, I snuffled over the fact that I will never have grandchildren, and am soon looking into my fifties.  I worried over being alone with no kids stopping by and checking in or just calling to chat.  I wrapped myself in a quilt and cried like a baby.  I should have known the power of a goat, having written Kicking The Goat Silly, but I was caught helplessly unaware as I imagine a deer feels when the headlight shine on him.

Shidu is the word for the childless parent; thanks to a very good friend I now know this word, and I am totally grateful for discovering there are other folks struggling under the weight of being childless.  We are not like others who have never had a child, we had a child, but for one reason or another, we are now childless.  I miss my son, and wonder how he would be as a man as his 31st birthday approaches. 

My brothers have children and grandchildren now, and I can’t help but wonder how my life would be different if my son had lived.  I was smart about the bearing children thing, I didn’t have another because I knew the weight of that rest solely on my shoulders, but now, looking back, I declare myself a fool.  I listened to the world and decided pets were a cautious attempt at living, and bearing more children made me weak.  Now, as I view my life going into my fifties with no children, and although I have some awesome nieces and nephews, I know I made a grave mistake.  I tried to be wise, and smart, and took my birth control pills, but life has shown me that I should have procreated. 

I try not to jealous of families, but I have to admit it hurts, the stupid goat reminded me of how it hurts, and I was pleased to see that people like me have a name, if not much recognition on Mother’s and Father’s Day.  A noble laureate, Mo Yan, has spoken out for a need to support Shidu parents, and coming from China, with their one child law it makes sense that there is a need for support.  I am just grateful that there is a name, because I have long lamented the rules in the Bible that widows and orphans should be taken care of, but we who tried, loved, and lost have no mention.

So here’s to the nameless goat I met yesterday, I thank him for reminding me, and I thank him for his gentle way and the musk on my skin.  Although olfactory memories can leave you crying like a baby, I am grateful for the heartbreaking memories, tears, and snuffling like a little kid, at least it’s a reminder that I’m still alive and that is a good thing.




Saturday, May 16, 2015

Screaming In The Wind

 Screaming in the Wind



 I was having dinner on an outside patio at a restaurant yesterday as I was going over the new book with my editor, and as smokers are prone to do, I lighted a cigarette.  I wasn’t the only one on the patio smoking, but immediately the table next to us got up and moved seats, giving the harsh looks that non-smokers love to give those who are still smoking.  I noticed, as they settled at a table across the way, a long discussion with the server and a couple pointed fingers in my direction. 

The patio on which we were seated had a nice breeze coming through and was filled with shrubs, trees, and birds looking for scraps.  It was also only about a hundred feet away from the road with much idling traffic stopped by a red light as people were trying to get home as weekend was beginning.  Those people, though, weren’t concerned about the fumes from cars filling their lungs and nostrils, no, they were only worried about a little pipe tobacco stuffed into a paper tube. 

I don’t buy or smoke store bought cigarettes filled with chemicals and carpet glue that are now called “fire safe”.  I buy loose tobacco and roll my own, but even if I did buy prepackaged cigarettes, I feel sure that my little bit of smoke is not as harmful as fumes coming from hundreds of cars idling at a red light.  I am also sure a whiff of my smoke is not as harmful as allowing children to drink artificially flavored sodas and all the preservatives that go into restaurant food.  The only difference is how the media has declared smoking to be the most harmful thing, while ignoring that the caramel coloring and other additives in a soda are cancer causing. 

A recent article has declared that over 500,000 people a year die from psychiatric drugs, and in a day when one in five children are on such drugs, whyare we still worried that a little smoke from a cigarette will send them to their deathbeds?  Maybe it’s because the media and the news channels aren’t pushing the message day after day, and there are no PSAs declaring how dangerous those drugs are, and the reason there are not is because the pharmaceutical companies run the world.  Just watch your evening news, every commercial is about a new drug or at least that was the case when I last watched TV.

As much as the world declares that smoking is harmful, many, many studies show that it is not as harmful as the media wants you to believe.  Did you know that smokers rarely get Parkinson’s disease and they are less likely to get Alzheimer’s?  Did you know that irritable bowl, ulcerative colon, and even high blood pressure are less in those who smoke? 

In a world that doesn’t tell you the things in the vaccines, like mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, animal cells, and aborted fetus cells, yet insists you put them in your blood stream; in a world that puts more chemicals than food in the things you put on your dinner table, and pays millions to advertise how healthy they are; in a world where arsenic is found in our chicken meat and water, but is declared healthy; in a world where pharmaceuticals and doctors kill more than guns and car wrecks per year - one must sit back and question. 

Did you know those who smoke have less breast cancer?  And have you noticed that as American’s quit smoking in the last decades the incidents of lung cancer have increased?  Did you know that in the countries with the highest numbers of smokers, like Greece and Japan, they have lowest rates of lung cancer?  I’m sure you haven’t noticed because your news channels haven’t told you.  Pancreatic cancer has increased with sales and advertising of diet sodas, and colon cancer has increased with most eating at fast food restaurants because they are too busy to cook natural foods at home.  

And being as cancer is the biggest money maker in this country, when the ACS pulls in billions, yes billions of dollars a year, and when doctors are being tried all over the country for treating people for cancer when there was no cancer, we have to sit back and question.  Can you imagine a cure for cancer?  Not in this world, because there are billions of dollars and this world is money hungry, not cure hungry.

Did you know asthma has increased since smoking has decreased?  Did you know they used to tell asthmatics to smoke?  Do you know many food flavorings can increase attacks? 

I grow tired of writing these types articles as everyone wants links so they can decry that the info provided isn’t “acceptable” information because it’s not coming from the forces that are hurting us and making the decisions for profit, and not health.  Truth is truth, though, and truth is hard found down here, and you’re not a popular person for declaring such hidden truths.  I suppose there are popular truths, which aren’t actually truths, and then there are the unpopular ones, which no one discusses for fear of offending someone, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t rooted in reality.

A recent study has declared that our attention spans, as humans, are now less than a goldfish.  With the introduction of our “smart” phones, our attention levels are less than a fish in a small bowl.  Now the studies all over the world telling how these phones cause brain cancer are ignored, mainly because our news media aren’t pounding them into our heads hourly, between the drug commercials, and with the PSAs of people suffering brain cancer. 

No, what we get pounded into our heads is that smoking kills, even though humans have been smoking and living next to fire since their beginning.  These food additives, gasoline powered motors, vaccines, and phones are new to us, but smoking we have done forever.  It simply doesn’t matter if I provide links, or the testimonies, I know I will change no one’s belief, so I will just leave a statement from one of my favorite fictional characters, Roland Deschain, from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series …

“Smoking keeps the bugs away.”



Saturday, May 09, 2015

Childless Mothers on Mother's Day


Childless Mothers on Mother's Day



I wish a happy Mother’s Day to every mother.  I wish a happy Mother’s Day to those who have lost their mothers.  I wish a happy Mother’s Day to those who never knew their mothers. 

And most especially, I wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to those who no longer have children to celebrate their motherhood. 

In the last few days I’ve been trying to write this article, this statement, this thing without a proper name that lurks inside me. 

There is a name for a woman or man without a spouse, they are called widows, which is a strange name, but yeah, that is what they are called.  There is a name for children without parents – those folks are orphans, and God be with the orphans of this world. 

What is the word for childless parents?  We once had children, but now we are a bit lost and we struggle.  In this world that has been at war since I was born, shouldn’t there be a name for us?

I am not the only childless mother on Mother’s Day.  What is the word for that?  Am I missing something? 

I lost my son in an accident, others lost their sons and daughters in wars or car wrecks or fires or sickness or disease or murder or addiction or any number of ways our children can die. 

What is our label?  We are not widows or orphans, which Jesus made clear we should pray for and help and I firmly believe we should, but now we are simply childless and there is no name for us.

Childless parents are a reality for many people on this brutal earth, wars have been raging since I first became aware of the television during the Vietnam War, then there was the Gulf War, and other wars, and I read 1984, and we’ve always been at war.

I am a childless mother on Mother’s Day, and I know I am not the only one. 

I am not asking for special favors, but studying history, and reading the Bible, and checking my etymology dictionary as often as I can, I can’t find our word and I’m pretty sure history dictates that we should have one – look in any cemetery, we’re not that rare.

I do feel sorrow over the people without their mothers, I am blessed to still have my own.  I also ache over those who never knew their birthplace or their roots; I can’t imagine the difficulty of attempting to find your place. 

I especially feel for mothers out there who are not going to get a phone call or flower or gift or dinner with their child on Mother’s Day, but may visit a cemetery. 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Crabs in a Bucket


 Crabs in a Bucket



I read something on the Internet the other day, it was a psychological study that mentioned many dos and many don’ts, and the thing that stood out to me is “never mention your goals”.  It seems by mentioning your goals aloud or by posting them in any number of social media or simply discussing your dreams at dinner with friends, it lessens the likelihood of your desires even seeing fruition.  I’ve known this about dieting since I was young; I never spoke of going on a diet.  Most of my secretive diets were successful, but once I told someone they would encourage me to cheat.  What is it about humankind that encourages someone to cheat?

A crab in the bucket is all I can say.  I remember my father talking about the phenomenon from when I was a child when we spent lots of time at the beach.  A crab will pull down any crab it sees escaping, and I suppose if I had lots of education I could clarify it in big words, but simply - no one wants to see the other escaping the bucket.  Any intuitive person can experience this simple part of humanity when viewing the educational system or the riots that are happening in the United States these days or a quick view of social media.

Maybe I am an odd one in that I hope and pray people will do better, that they will get the golden ring, and that they will meet their goals, but according to the study, going back into the 1940s, I am the rare one.  I honestly pray that friends and family, and sometimes odd strangers who decide to talk to me, will find what they are looking to achieve.  I would like to think that those who know my goals are praying and cheering my attempts, but the studies going back nearly seventy years say that I am a hopeless optimist.

The term hopeless optimist has never been a description ascribed to me.  I am swampy, green, a little dark, and always below the surface.  I have lamented surface dwellers as something I don’t quite understand, but even knowing that I wish the best for everyone and wish for their dreams and visions to come true.  So in this day of social media where people post their deepest thoughts, and their dreams, it disturbs me that folks aren’t encouraging, and aren’t pushing their friends, their follow crabs, out of the bucket.

I have goals, a new novel coming out, my husband’s new CD released, and I would only want the encouragement and prayers that we succeed with our endeavors, but this study, perhaps older than time, tells me I am still a babe in the woods in understanding a fundamental part of humanity. 

We want to overcome, we all want to do better, but maybe, just maybe, many want that without putting in the effort.  I suppose most humans are focused on themselves, their pains, losses, and condemnations, but how are we to grow without giving something of ourselves?  Without joining together to push that crab away and then beginning the struggle that is totally personal, how do we expect another to succeed when we’re holding them down?  How do we expect to succeed when we’re not giving the push to get the other over the rim?

So as I go squirrel up my chickens, and cut the grass in the yard that is far too long, I’d like to ask that even if you don’t admire your “friends” on social media, even if you are pissed off about your brother or sister or cousin or high school friends, please encourage them to be the best they can be and pray for their dreams.  You never know when there may be a hand reaching over the rim of that bucket helping you along.

Keep seeking and believing.