notes of two native daughters, a native granddaughter, and a native daughter-in-law (2)

This quotation from Maya Angelou is written on the walls of what is now The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration located on the site of a former warehouse where slaves were kept in prison while awaiting their fate in Montgomery, Alabama before the Civil War and the emancipation proclamation. Pretty, our tour guide, had made reservations for us to visit this museum at 9:30 last Saturday morning so our group of four was up and about very early on a gorgeous warm day. Our motel was right around the corner from the museum so we all walked over – still laughing and teasing each other about the winning and losing from the card games the night before.

The museum itself is open to the public by reservation, but it is not staffed by tour guides. Everyone is allowed to wander at their own pace to read the explanations of the artifacts, documents and jars of dirt collected at verified lynching sites across the country from 1882 to the present. The number of sites is still undetermined but from 1882 – 1968, nearly 5,000 African Americans were reportedly lynched in states across this country. Congressman John Lewis who wrote the foreword for the book Without Sanctuary calls these lynchings the  “hangings, burnings, castrations and torture of an American holocaust…what is it in the human psyche that would drive a person to commit such acts of violence against their fellow citizens?”

Our group split up as we meandered around through the various amazing exhibits. Pretty and I wandered in one direction, Leora and Carmen went off on their own journey through time as we all saw the intimate lives of American slaves come alive through the magic of hologram technology that portrayed the heartache of families savagely separated from each other, the pleas of the children looking for their mother. Interesting fact:  approximately 12 million people were kidnapped over the three centuries of slave trade to America, according to The Legacy Museum. 12 million living, breathing individuals. I felt overwhelmed by the atrocities with each turn Pretty and I made on our visit.

Overwhelmed, ashamed, guilty, angry – those are the emotions that swirled around in my mind with each personal account of my legacy as a white person in America. The pictures that showed cheering crowds of us – sometimes in the thousands – while an African American man was hanged, shot, burned…pieces of his body sold as souvenirs…post card pictures made…popcorn sold. I dreaded looking at the people watching the horrific acts in a party mood with as much fear that I would recognize someone in the crowds as the fear I felt for forcing myself to look at the actual horrific acts perpetrated by the mob violence. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how Leora and Carmen felt.

The museum connects the legacy of slavery with subsequent decades of racial terrorism and lynching. Visitors see the link between codified racial hierarchy enforced by elected official and law enforcement with both the past and the present. Contemporary issues surrounding mass incarceration are explored with interactive exhibits and examination of important issues surrounding conditions of confinement, police violence, and the administration of criminal justice.”  (Legacy Museum – Equal Justice Initiative)

Interesting fact: One in three black male babies born today is expected to go to jail or prison in his lifetime.  One in three. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. In 1979 when Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs, roughly 320,000 people were in prison in our country. Now, the current total incarcerated is 2.1 million people with a higher percentage of people of color.

As Pretty and I were getting ready to leave the museum, Pretty wheeled me to a very large interactive map of the USA. By merely clicking on an individual state, the number of lynched persons discovered to date in that state was highlighted. I foolishly couldn’t resist my native state of Texas. The total number was 338. The interactive map also showed the details by county: the name of the person and the date of the lynching. I made the mistake of going to my home county, Grimes, and saw the names and dates of 10 black men lynched there. Right in my home county. Where were my grandparents on those days, or did I really want to know?

Shortly thereafter, Pretty and I left the museum. Leora and Carmen were not far behind us. We were all truly lost in our own thoughts and the walk back to the hotel was very quiet.

As usual, Pretty saved the day by encouraging us to finish packing for checkout, finish the leftover food in our room, and call for our car. We were headed for what turned out to be redemption for us all at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and a woman named Wanda who helped us shift our focus from evil to good. Hallelujah!





Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Random, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

notes of two native daughters, a granddaughter and a daughter-in-law

The unremarkable tourist riverboat we were on had two main decks with different musicians and singers blaring away on each one, smiling cocktail waitresses bringing drinks with exotic names and a view of the Alabama river that was spectacular as we glided along for almost two hours on the second day of our Civil Rights self-guided tour. Willie’s daughter Leora and I opted for a booth on the lower deck while Pretty and Willie’s granddaughter Carmen climbed the steps to the upper level. We took the late afternoon cruise – we all needed a little rest and relaxation to try to add a little levity to a day filled with a roller coaster of emotions in Montgomery, Alabama.

Leora and I ordered drinks and loudly sang along with the partygoers on the lower deck. We cut up, as we like to say in the south. Pretty and Carmen stayed away from the liquor drinks (and us!), which may explain how they could climb the steps, but they said later the music upstairs was equally fine. I’m thinking they cut up, too, but probably a little more restrained.

Pretty, Leora, Camen and me

This past week Pretty and I had an extraordinary opportunity to make a pilgrimage with the daughter and granddaughter of Willie Meta Flora whose 45-year relationship with my mother was featured in my Mother’s Day post on the photo finish (May 11th). It is now six years since my mother Selma and their mother/grandmother Willie have been gone. We have visited them twice in their Texas home during that time period but keep in touch with them – guess where? – on social media and texting.

We had arranged to meet them at our favorite restaurant in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Chickin’ on the Bayou’s fried shrimp baskets are to die for, and Pretty always visits the little shop next door.

We really weren’t planning a stop in New Orleans this trip, but an inadvertent travel tip from one of Pretty’s “connections” sent us right into the middle of Bourbon Street that first afternoon. Carmen and I sampled beignets in a little bakery where we stopped, and I was delighted with the French pastries. Carmen, on the other hand, said she preferred the Texas version. Following this detour, Pretty drove us across the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway at sunset toward our stop for the night in Biloxi, Mississippi. The sunset was breathtaking as the majestic yellow ball disappeared into the water.

The stop in Biloxi was quite the adventure since only one room with two double beds was available at the motel…not exactly what any of us had pictured, but oh well, we were exhausted and the slumber party ended almost as quickly as it began. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

The next day we packed the car and headed toward Alabama.

new Alabama Welcome Center has amazing sculptures

The heart of our civil rights tour began in Selma, Alabama that afternoon.

the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Selma march began

The highlight of the day for all of us was our visit to the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the first Selma march to Montgomery began on what is now known as Bloody Sunday,  March 7, 1965. The name is attached to that day because of the brutality of the Alabama state troopers and local police in beating the marchers with billy clubs and using tear gas to disperse the crowd. More than fifty out of approximately 600 people assembled were hospitalized after that first attempt to march to Montgomery from Selma.

Two days later the leaders organized another attempt to cross the bridge and again were forced to retreat. Finally, a third attempt was begun on March 21st., and with the protection of federal troops, the marchers successfully completed the 54-mile walk to the state capitol in Montgomery on March 25, 1965. Let me repeat that: the march was 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery.

Why subject yourself to the hostility, hatred, brutality and pure misery of walking 54 miles along the Jefferson Davis Highway? Congressman John Lewis, one of those hospitalized on Bloody Sunday, had this to say in his book Across That Bridge:

During the Civil Rights Movement, our struggle was not about politics. It was about seeing a philosophy made manifest in our society that recognized the inextricable connection we have to each other. These ideals represent what is eternally real and they are still true today, though they have receded from the forefront of American imagination…

But we must accept one central truth as participants in a democracy: Freedom is not a state, it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society. The work of love, peace, and justice will always be necessary, until their realism and their imperative takes hold of our imagination, crowds out any dream of hatred or revenge, and fills up our  existence with their power.”

memorial honoring Congressman Lewis far left

our little group reads about Selma March at Edmund Pettus Bridge

And then we rode in an air-conditioned car the 54 miles to Montgomery, checked into our nicely cooled motel rooms and broke the solemnity of the day with an evening of cards and leftover ribs from Hancock’s Barbecue, the little family-owned place in Selma with ribs as good as those she had in Texas, Leora said with surprise.

Thank goodness for that night of rest and laughter. The next day in Montgomery was a difficult one.

Stay tuned.







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both my girls got haircuts this week…have a look!

Spike pays no attention to the new “looks”

I think they’re fabulous!

yes, of course I’m cute…

but where are my cookies?

Mother’s Day at home with Pretty, the dogs and the pool. Life is good.

Stay tuned.



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the photo finish

I wrote the following story in February, 2012; it was first published in my third book, I’ll Call It Like I See It, and was reprinted with my permission in an anthology entitled Mothers and Other Creatures. I think of these two women, both of whom I loved dearly, especially at Mother’s Day but truly every day…

The Photo Finish

In 1965 when I was a freshman in college my parents bought their first home ever in Rosenberg, Texas, after almost twenty years of marriage. My dad was the assistant superintendent of the local school district and my mother taught second grade in one of the elementary schools in the district. Since I wasn’t living with them, I’m not sure how the decision was made to hire someone to help with cleaning the bigger new house, but when I was home for spring break, my mom introduced me to Viola, who was hired for that purpose. When I returned to stay the summer with my folks, Viola was gone.

I never knew what happened to Viola but was so self- absorbed I didn’t really care. Early in the summer Mom informed me we would have a new woman who was coming to work for us and encouraged me to keep the stereo at a lower volume on the lady’s first visit. I was in a Diana Ross and the Supremes phase and preferred the speakers to vibrate as I sang along but I obligingly lowered the level for our potential new household addition.

I needn’t have bothered. Willie Meta Flora stepped into our house and lives and rocked all of us for more than forty-five years. She became my mother’s truest friend and supported her through the deaths of her mother, brother and two husbands. She nursed my grandmother and my dad and uncle during their respective battles with mental illness, colon cancer and cerebral palsy. She watched over and protected and loved and cared for my family as she did her own, which included five daughters and two sons and an absentee husband. In many ways, we became her second family and she chose to keep us.

Willie and my mom shared a compulsion for honesty and directness that somehow worked to keep them close through the good times and the hard times in both of their lives. They were stubborn strong women and butted heads occasionally, but most of all, they laughed together. Willie’s sense of humor and quick wit kept Mom on her toes and at the top of her game in their talks. They also shared a deep love for the same man, my dad. In her own way, Willie loved my dad as much as Mom did, and my father loved her and loved being with her right back. His death broke both their hearts.

Although Willie kept her own apartment, she and Mom basically lived together in the years following the death of Mom’s second husband. Mom planned her days around the time near dusk when Willie would be there to spend the night with her. Willie became her lifeline to maintaining her independence, and the two of them grew older and crankier as time passed. Willie and I talked on the phone frequently, and she began to tell me she was worried about Mom’s safety and getting lost when she drove around town in her old brown Buick LeSabre. I dismissed her fears and ignored the signs of dementia until Mom’s 80th birthday when it became apparent she had major problems in everyday living.

Not long afterwards, I was forced to make a decision about my mother’s long term care needs and opted to move her to a Memory Care Unit in a facility in Houston which was a thousand miles from my home in South Carolina. Why not move her closer to me? A good question with a complicated answer that included my trying to keep her available to Willie and her family who could drive Willie to see Mom. If my mother could choose between visiting with me or seeing Willie, there was no contest. I would always come in second.

Mom will be 85 next month and struggles with the ongoing physical and mental battles associated with Alzheimer’s in her ultimate race towards death. This past fall I moved her again to a different residence that is still in Texas but much closer to my second home which is also now in Texas. Alas, she’s two hours farther from Willie, and Willie has only been able to visit her once since her move.

Willie will be 81 next month. She and Mom have the same birthday month, and now they have the same dementia. We don’t talk on the phone now because she can’t form words I can understand. When I visited her yesterday, she didn’t recognize me and was uncomfortable with getting up out of her bed, just as Mom is sometimes when I go to see her. Willie’s five daughters and three of her granddaughters are coping with the same problems I’ve faced with Mom–trying to keep her comfortable in a safe environment.

When I consider the strength of these two women and their determination to rise above their inauspicious beginnings in an era when women weren’t valued for their strong wills, I feel a sense of admiration and respect and gratitude for the examples they’ve been for me and for Willie’s daughters, too. We are the children of our mothers and we reflect their strengths and weaknesses in black and white. Theirs was a mysterious bond that we may never fully understand, but the similarity of their physical and mental conditions in these last days is surreal and takes irony to a new dimension. Leora, one of Willie’s daughters, told me recently she thought Mom and Willie just might end their race toward death in a tie. I think it will be a photo finish.

Willie M. Flora died Saturday April 14, 2012. Selma L. Meadows died Wednesday April 25, 2012.

It was a photo finish.

Warmest wishes to all of our friends in cyberspace from Pretty and me for a wonderful weekend. If possible, spend time with your mother. If impossible, cherish your memories.

Until next time…


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just shy of perfection to me

My paternal grandparents celebrated their 50th. wedding anniversary in May, 1969, which means they were married in 1919 when my grandfather was 21 and my grandmother was just shy of 16…

newspaper clipping from Navasota Examiner in May, 1969

(Grimes County, Texas newspaper)

They shared a 60th anniversary ten years later, but my grandmother died in May, 1983 which put them a year shy of their 65th.

Today in 2018 they would be a year shy of their 100th. wedding anniversary. Imagine.

One of the great regrets of my life is that I was living in Seattle, Washington when they celebrated that golden wedding anniversary. I missed a special family celebration to honor two people who loved me unconditionally and exerted such a powerful influence on me in my early years.

That influence lives on in my memories, my daily life and, hopefully, my character reflects their best qualities. They were a remarkable combination – just shy of perfection to me.

Stay tuned.









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peace be unto you, namaste, shalom, toodle do

Truthfully, I have lost confidence in political surveys since the presidential election of 2016 here in the United States when almost no survey gave DT a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected. Hopelessly wrong, right?

So let’s just say I now take any survey with a grain of salt. However…this week I saw a survey that reported 61% of Americans now support marriage equality which I thought was really, really fabulous –  it put me on an activist high until I just moments ago told Pretty about these results. Why did I tell Pretty?

She brought me back down from my euphoric state by saying that same 60% (in another survey) believed all US companies have the right to refuse to do business with anyone who identified as LGBTQ. Whaaaat? Say it ain’t so, survey taker. Hush up, Pretty.

Now I’m down a rabbit hole and can’t get out which I will blame on Pretty because I decided to look outside the United States to see how LGBTQ people are treated. What I found stunned me.

Predominantly Islamic countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Somalia have laws that follow Sharia teachings of  homosexuality as a “vile form of fornication, punishable by death.” Kill the doer and the receiver by any available method like public stoning which averages as many as six per day in Saudi Arabia or throwing people out of buildings in Iraq and Syria. Peace be unto you is the standard greeting for most followers of Islam, but apparently not for the gays. A more appropriate greeting for us: death be unto you.

Thank goodness for Israel with its Gay Pride parade every year in Tel Aviv and its progressive policies which make Shalom much more than a word I love to say. Despite original teachings in Judaism condemning male intercourse as contrary to their teachings, the Israeli government has been evolving toward a positive position on equal rights for the LGBTQ community since the 1980s. Somebody stop me right here.

But no. I included India in my rabbit hole because of the character Raj on The Big Bang Theory which is our go-to nighttime relaxation therapy show, but I probably shouldn’t have because homophobia is evidently rampant in India. Homosexuality is punishable by law with a possible life sentence in prison, although a recently enacted right to privacy statute in India allows the gays to safely express their sexual orientation. Hm. Now I’m wondering how that works in real life. It’s okay for me to say I’m a lesbian, but if I say I’m a lesbian I could be put in jail for life. Tricky. Instead of Namaste, I should say I might be gay or I might not be.

I could go on and on with Christian denominations in every country such as the Roman Catholics and Protestants who have cheerfully wielded amazing power in condemning the LGBTQ community within the confines of their sanctuaries, spilling over into the ballot boxes and other expressions of political influence; but I’m afraid even Pretty wouldn’t want me to go there on a day as beautiful as this one.

I will leave you with the reason our UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voted no on a resolution to condemn death penalty sentences around the world against gay people for having sex. Ambassador Haley explained her vote was “because we feared it would lead to all executions being banned in the United States.” Seriously? In what world does that make any sense…

Enough is enough already. Stick a fork in me. I’m done. I am climbing out of this rabbit hole into the sunlight of a gorgeous day in Columbia. Pretty has moved on to other work activities so I think I’ll see if Spike and Charly want to catch a few rays outside with me. To borrow a happy phrase from Pretty’s good friend Shelley whenever she leaves our house, “Well, toodle do.”

Toodle do and stay tuned.









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can you walk 4 miles in Pretty’s shoes?

Occasionally I luck into making a good decision – not often, mind you, just once in a blue moon…

the moon wasn’t blue, but it was a full moon

(the view from our little balcony – the moonlight bathed our room)

My apparently good decision was to take Pretty to the beach for a couple of days for our anniversary. The background story involves Pretty’s penchant for purchasing her own treasures not only for herself but also for her antique businesses which means there is nothing left for me to buy for major occasions such as our anniversary. Enter my idea for the beach trip to Tybee Island, thanks to the magic of online surfing. Yes, Pretty totally gave me credit for this splendid idea.

neither Pretty nor I had ever been to Tybee Island

(which is just across the Savannah River into Georgia)

you betcha!

As soon as we got to our room, after a minor aggravation at the front desk about who Pretty was and why wasn’t I the one rushing in to handle the check-in process since the reservation was in my name, Pretty took off for the beach to scope out her walking destinations while I made sure the tv was operating properly. She walked a mile the first afternoon we were there and came in raving about the Tybee beach.

We determined to jump out of our box for tv viewing on our trip, and I became hooked on the house channel when Pretty went out for a walk. Yes, believe it or not, I had never watched the house channel before and I became emotionally invested in the couples who had to make the tortuous choice between “loving” their newly renovated home or “listing” it to move to the most fabulous new home in the universe. I mostly wanted to love it because I definitely preferred Hillary the hot renovator over David the blah realtor. Sigh. Who’s surprised.

the weather was perfect, the island lovely

I spent a small amount of time poolside

the views were spectacular, the colors simply amazing

Fannie’s offered a wide variety on their menu

I’m not sure we would recommend the combination of

 nachos and fried shrimp for dinner –

just because you love them both doesn’t mean they go great together

Alas, while I pondered the love it or list it issues, Pretty spent most of the next day walking on the beach and ended up walking 4 miles from our northern end of the island all the way to the southern tip and back. Now why would she do something so excessive.  I have no clue.

She came limping home with a huge blister on the bottom of her foot. Uh, oh. Pretty was confined to quarters, and we watched our very first episode ever of Dancing with the Stars that night. We found the competition among the athletes as gut wrenching as my roller coaster of emotions in the  love it or list it dilemmas. We were disappointed that the snow boarder was bumped instead of one of the basketball players who we felt should stick to hoops – no disrespect intended.

on the way home Pretty discovered an art gallery…

…and was excited to find a tiny treasure

next stop: Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah

the infamous resting place that became the cover for

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

the bird lady statue had been moved to a museum

but Pretty struck the proper pose

while I soaked in the views

Can you believe this luck? An estate sale!

The end to a truly perfect mini-vacation for Pretty was the adventure of following the Estate Sale Today signs to a secret location hidden in a Savannah suburb.

Utopia. Bliss. The words I would also use to describe the getaway to Tybee Island…I predict we, as General Macarthur famously declared, shall return.

Stay tuned.





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the view from behind totally rocks!

When a birthday begins like this, what can go wrong…

Spike and Charly were up early with me

the sun also rises

I love the early morning outside in the back yard when the sun is coming up through the trees, and all is quiet except the jets on the pool which sound like  mountain waterfalls discovered after a long hike in the hills of the upstate, a hike which I never thought I’d really be able to make because I stopped so many times along the trail to catch my breath and look upward to try to see the end of the trail, hoping to be able to finally hear the majestic roar of the waterfall.

In reality, when I stopped to rest for a few minutes, what I saw when I looked up was the posterior of Pretty as she forged ahead to scout the next section of the trail to make sure I would have a place to dilly dally along while she continued at her measured pace.  When I stop to think about it, I have spent the last 18 years of my life following Pretty’s posterior. It’s a view I’ve always loved.

Today my mind meandered to one of my favorite hikes with Pretty. It was six years ago when we followed the trail to Peachtree Rock.

wherever we hiked, Pretty led the way


Ollie liked to lead, too so he stayed with Pretty

the waterfall was just enough beautiful

Pretty and Ollie climbed all the way to the top

Pretty surveys her spoils as the Victor of that day’s climb

Peachtree Rock in March, 2012

(vandals and erosion destroyed the rock in 2013)

I was lost in my reverie of memories on my birthday in the early a.m. hours when I heard Pretty calling Happy Birthday to me from the hall for the first birthday greetings of the day. By this time I had moved inside to the den, and Pretty sat down next to me as she straggled in sleepily to chat.

I really can’t believe you are 74 today, she said.

That’s because I’m 72, I replied and we both laughed out loud.

Numbers have never been Pretty’s strong suit. She had a convoluted explanation for her gaffe, but in the end was, of course, incorrect. Too funny. If only she’d miscalculated in the opposite direction…

Birthday # 72 was a rousing success that apparently continues along with anniversary adventures on the horizon. April is a banner month for our family. Number One Son and Pretty Too celebrated their 3rd. Anniversary the day after ours and are thrilled to take their party to an Eric Church concert – whoever he is. I say Party Hearty, kids; these are your good old days.

I also say stay tuned.







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I had decided to take a sabbatical from calling it like I see it until…

…Pretty talked me out of it.

Yes, Pretty was convinced some of my cyberspace friends would miss me. I told her I thought I might need a break from blogging after almost 9 years so that I could focus on doing some “serious writing.”

Writing about what? Pretty asked.

And there she had me.

I couldn’t think of anything truly earth shattering I had to relate to anyone, nothing pressing that couldn’t wait another year or two, and really nothing I couldn’t say to my friends in cyberspace anyway. Bravo, Pretty. No wonder I married you legally two years ago tomorrow.

The years have flown by – I never thought I would live to be 30, and certainly never dreamed of 72, but I always dreamed of having a wife from the time I was a very young girl. I just never dreamed one day I would be able to marry another woman legally, and I for sure couldn’t have imagined I would marry a woman as perfect for me as Pretty has been.

To borrow from The Sound of Music, somewhere in our youths or childhoods, we must have done something good.

Pretty knows best

Stay tuned. If you will, I will.













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Yesterday we had a fierce storm with tornado like winds, driving downpours of rain and no electricity from about 2:30 p.m. until 9:00 0’clock this morning.

As darkness fell in our family room last evening, Charly had a mindful moment hiding her face in the absence of the television sights and sounds she was accustomed to seeing and hearing during a lazy Sunday afternoon. Pretty had no Wi-Fi  so no Facebook scrolling.  The winds were howling louder than the beagles behind our house.Was the world coming to an end, Charly wondered as she hid her face behind her favorite pillow in her favorite chair?

Thank goodness Pretty saved the day, or night, with her lamp she purchased from the Thrift Store on one of her many pilgrimages across the river to her version of paradise. I tend to be less than enthusiastic about her treasures carefully picked among the donated items, but I was thrilled to have this bright light shining through the darkness of powerlessness.


We exhausted our conversation ideas that included wondering what in the world the people of Puerto Rico were doing without power all this time while I played Scrabble against the computer since I also had no Wi-Fi, and Pretty read a book.

The lamp was a life-saver.

We went to bed early.

Stay tuned.

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