a man of letters – prejudice by any other name is still prejudice


Two years ago in the summer of 2018 I published posts containing letters written by my father to family members from his teenage years in the early 1940s to his death in 1976.  I called the series “a man of letters” – it became one of my favorites published here. I included letters from other members of my family in the series. On this Memorial Day I remember with shame and sadness this exchange between my grandmother and her two sons who would be swept up in WWII in the European theater. 

While the war took center stage in everyone’s mind in 1942 and my dad noticed that his hunting and fishing buddies in Richards, Texas had a younger sister, apparently hormones were also raging in my dad’s brother Ray who would have been almost twenty years old in April of 1942 when he received a surprise letter in the mail from his mother. It was dated April 27th.

“Dear Ray, Your daddy and I were tickled with your surprise visit this past weekend. You always have to work, and it was a treat for us to have you home for a whole weekend. I am pleased to see that your appetite is still good. I’ve never seen anyone love chicken and dumplings the way you do!

Now, son, I need to have a serious talk with you about Geneva Walkoviak. I know that you had two dates with her while you were home. We can’t have you getting too serious about Geneva. And, I’m sure you know why. Even though she is pretty and seems sweet enough, the facts are that she is Polish and Catholic and those are two things that don’t mix in our family. You may not be able to appreciate the problems with that, but take my word for it. You stay with your own kind. Now, let’s leave it at that. I know you wouldn’t want to let us down.

Try to make it home for your daddy’s birthday this summer.  All our love, Mama and Daddy”

Polish. Catholic. Prejudice takes twists and turns through the years, decades, centuries. The names change, but the sentiments do not. Polish people in Richards at that time had a distinct accent – they were often first and second generation immigrants who farmed the contrary Texas land. The children rode a small yellow school bus to the red brick schoolhouse in town carrying the hopes and dreams of their families in tiny brown paper lunch bags. The men and boys got their haircuts at my grandfather’s barbershop. Their money, as is always the case in prejudice, was evidently neither Polish nor Catholic.

Today bigotry is often based on what language is spoken, skin color, or country of origin. Hispanic refugees and others seeking asylum in this country are subjected to inhumane treatment that is unacceptable to all of us who respect the values our nation was founded on: everyone is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We do not separate children from their mothers and then put them in prison camps. We’ve done that before to African-American slaves whose families were ripped apart and scattered to the four winds. That is not who we think we are. That is not who we are, is it?

Catholics – Jews – Muslims. The religion roller coaster ride continues with death-defying speed and mind-boggling ticket prices.

What a tangled web we weave in a small rural southeast Texas community consumed by the thought of a war in 1942, and yet my grandmother decided to set aside time to write a letter to my uncle which sadly exhibited the same kinds of prejudice that created anti-Semitism in Germany which was the impetus for the war in the first place, where a name like Walkoviak and a pretty Catholic girl named Geneva could become the target of pointed prejudice.

I am ashamed and saddened by this letter. I do not find it surprising, however, because I remember my grandmother as a wonderful strong funny woman – but flawed. She would have been 39 years old when she wrote that revealing letter to her son. I’m not sure her positions changed during the next forty-five years of her life. She agonized over voting for the Democratic candidate John Kennedy in 1960 because of his Catholicism, for example; but I do recall she relented in later years when her grandson, one of Ray’s sons, married a Catholic girl.

My dad, on the other hand, must have been blissfully unaware of the family drama because three months after his mother’s letter to his brother, he wrote to his parents following a visit  for his father’s birthday on July 29th. His father turned 44 on that birthday. This letter is dated August 1, 1942.

“Dear Mama and Daddy, It was good to be home for Daddy’s birthday this week. I’m back at work today, and the grocery store is still standing. And, I’m still stocking shelves. Talk about boring. At least, it gives me money for school and to help Lucy and Terrell with the bills. It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Beaumont for a whole year. The War is the big topic on campus and off. Doesn’t look like we’re doing very good against the bad guys. Daddy, you better go up to Washington and see Mr. Roosevelt. I think he needs some good advice for a change. You could get things going in the right direction.

I didn’t see much of Ray while we were home. He spends a lot of time with Geneva Walkoviak. She’s the only one he likes to spend money on. Of course, I guess you didn’t see much of me, either. Selma and I went to see the same movie three times. I’m beginning to like her more than her brothers.

Probably won’t be home again until Christmas. The classes are a little harder this year. But, you’ll see that my grades are hanging in there really good. I want you to be proud of me. Your son, Glenn Morris”

Obviously my uncle Ray rejected his mother’s ultimatum and continued to date the pretty Polish girl who happened to be Catholic. That made me smile.

Throughout 1942 the impact of the war came closer and closer to home as more  young men enlisted – teenage boys were leaving their farms, day jobs, and classrooms to join the armed forces. They would soon cross oceans by sea and air to defend their country from the Axis powers.

Stay tuned

Ray and his mama

my Uncle Ray 

my grandfather George, my daddy Glenn and my grandmother Betha

My Aunt Lucy

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

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Ella James, today is your NanaT’s birthday, and you are her greatest gift…


 

Once upon a time your NanaT visited a faraway place called Greece, and she loved that place very much. One night she was going out to eat the yummy Greek food with your NanaSlo and their friends because the yummy Greek food was one of her favorite attractions while she visited the faraway place.

On their walk to get  the yummy Greek food, a little white dog appeared on the steps in front of your NanaT.  The little white dog was very dirty with curly fur that had not been combed for a long, long time.

Your NanaT stopped to sit on a large stone next to the steps. And can you guess what she did next?

She petted the little white dog for a long time, gave it one of her best smiles and then followed the little dog home to make sure it wasn’t lost.

The End

This story has a moral for you, Ella James. Your NanaT has always believed in rescuing both people and animals in distress. As you grow older, you will most assuredly see her strength and determination to make your world a better place in action. You are a very lucky little girl. Imagine the love your NanaT will give you, her special granddaughter, if she made a place in her heart for a little white dog in a faraway place.

Happy Birthday, Pretty – thank you for rescuing me twenty years ago – you’re simply the best.

Pretty’s Greatest Gift

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

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is this our fifth set – match point?


The year was 2001 (much more than a space odyssey) – the setting was centre court at Wimbledon – the round of 16 for the men included a 19-year-old newcomer named Roger Federer playing the 29-year-old four time defending Wimbledon champion, an American named Pete Sampras. Since I have been in tennis withdrawal for the past two months without my favorite clay court season in the spring, I tuned in to the Tennis Channel this afternoon and stumbled on to one of their Tennis Classics which happened to be this passing of the guard match on the green grass of the hallowed grounds of the All England Club in London. Federer, whose career over the past twenty years has earned him the title Greatest of All Time by some, beat Sampras in five sets that afternoon but lost in the quarter finals that year. The match deserved inclusion in the Tennis Channel Classics – wow. 

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Whether the surface is a hard concrete one,  one made of red clay or manicured green grass, the goal is the same: to win. To beat someone. To play better, smarter and mentally tougher than the opponent. To be more physical and aggressive. To charge the net when an opening appears. To cover the baseline when the shots go deep against you. The court is a battlefield where the scales of justice are often tipped by net cords and fractions of inches along white lines. The game is tennis.

For men who play singles, the winner is usually required to win two of three sets.  In Grand Slam (French Open, Wimbledon, US Open, Australian Open) events, however, the rules change to  the best three of five sets to determine the champion.  If each man wins two sets, a fifth set is played.  The fifth set is often the scene of one man’s surrender and loss to another man’s courage and inner strength.  The first four sets are evenly played, but the last one is too much for the body, mind, will or all of the above for one of the guys and the desire to win or to not lose drives his opponent to victory.

I love fifth sets. I particularly like them when they are close and long, and I’m not even paying for my seat in front of the television set. Nope, I’m watching for free, but I have the Deluxe Box seats and have seen my share of Grand Slams in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York City.  From my ABCs of Agassi to Becker to Connors to my current personal favorites of Federer and Nadal I admire the passion and persistence of the five-set winners.

There is a moment of high drama called Match Point when the difference between winning and losing in the fifth set can be measured by split-second choices and breaks in concentration. Match points can be saved which means the game can go on for hours, but in the end a match point is lost; the winner often falls to the ground on center court with a victorious smile, joyous tears and wave to the crowd.

As I watched the five-set match today at Wimbledon, the thought occurred to me that match points in tennis have an advantage over those we have in real life. The fourth round opponents I saw today knew the importance of the fifth set and its match point in that moment, but the rest of us may never know when we miss the chance to win –  or lose what we value most.

Roger Federer through the years

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We live in dangerous days facing an opponent in Covid-19 that doesn’t play by the rules as we know them. Please stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

 

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different war, different century – same yearnings


Danger, danger, danger – where are our safe places, our safe people, our safe distances from our safe people in our safe places…to mask or not to mask, that is the question. But of course we are not the only generation to wage war against enemies seen and unseen. Seven years ago I published this post about a young soldier who tried to comfort his mother on Mother’s Day from a place that existed only in her imagination.

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The handwriting on the letters has almost faded away, the yellowed paper and envelopes  so torn and fragile I’m afraid to open them for fear they’ll disintegrate. The dates of the letters are in May of 1918, which I calculate to be 95 years ago this month. They are three letters written by a young Marine serving “somewhere” in France in World War I to his mother who evidently thought they were worthy of saving. Pretty discovered the letters  when she was on one of her fishing expeditions for treasures in old houses.  Occasionally on her adventures at yard sales or estate sales she finds words for me to read – words that someone saved for a reason. No longer wanted by family, they’re sometimes stuck inside the pages of books she buys or in a little box or even in a scrapbook tossed aside as unimportant. I don’t think the names are necessary but I will say the mother lived in Indiana. I’m glad she thought her son’s words were worthy of saving. I believe they’re worthy of being read again.

 Somewhere in France,  May 12, 1918

Dearest Mother,

Today is “Mother’s Day” – your day – and I wish I were home to spend the day with you.  Altho I cannot send you a big box of flowers I will endeavor to send a little flower that grows near me on a green hillside.

I hope you are well and happy today.  Of course I realize how you feel about me being over here, the two battles you have to fight, that is, keeping up a brave front and smile when I know you feel bad about me.  Mother dear, I really am safe and the best news I get from home is that you are well and enjoying life. I would rather hear that you enjoyed a good show, say once a week, than to hear that you had denied yourself one little thing to help the Cause along. I sort of figure that you have done your bit, so please try to have a good time and remember that I don’t fare so bad.  It isn’t nearly so bad here as you all imagine.

We eat, sleep, read magazines, letters and roam around to see everything going on. We aren’t getting any furloughs at present. I mean my outfit, but maybe it won’t be long until we can go touring again. I’ll have many stories to tell you when I get back, and I’ll trade stories for some good pies & cakes – and any eats at all that you cook. We move so much that I thought I’d have to throw away some pictures, but I’ve found a way. We always find a way. It seems a necessary part of a Marine to get along most any old place and get along well.

I sent a list home of some things I want – and you may add on to that list a few pounds of homemade candy, preferably fudge. I don’t care how old fudge gets, it is always the best tasting eats we ever get from back there. I can buy French candy & chocolate at the Y.M.C. A. huts, so you see that we really don’t suffer for those things, but nevertheless some good old homemade candy is the stuff.

I write you once a week, when possible, as an answer to Dad, Sis & your letters so they must not feel slighted, but this is your letter, and nearly every mother who has a son in France will get one too. Spring is coming in very beautiful, but the rain is so frequent here.  After a big rain the sun pops out with a blue sky and green hills – then everybody is happy.

I tried to subscribe for one of the 3rd Liberty Loan Bonds but they aren’t selling them here.  I would like to have one of each issue. I have no kick coming about getting mail now as it is coming pretty regularly.  I’d appreciate some of those fried chickens you spoke about but I think I’ll wait until I come home.

Well Mother dear, next Mother’s Day we will celebrate properly and have a good time.

Love to Dad & Sis, and you…

Your loving son, Buddie

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Perhaps next Mother’s Day we will all celebrate properly and have a good time without fear of the invisible enemy that attacks us through the Covid-19 virus. Ironically this letter written in 1918 by a soldier looking forward to the spring in France was a Marine who had no way of knowing a pandemic that would sweep across the world was about to begin. The Spanish flu or the 1918 influenza pandemic began in the spring of 1918 and lasted through the summer of 1919 with an estimated 500 million confirmed cases according to Wikipedia. Did Buddie survive both the war and the virus… I wonder…

Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

 

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tis the season


Mom’s 80th in her church fellowship hall in Richmond, Texas

Thank you to our mothers for giving us birth – not a small feat, sometimes done under the most difficult circumstances – thank you for your daily sacrifices made on our behalf, for sharing our joys, sorrows, achievements, failures, dreams, fears…for being with us in sickness and health. We celebrate you if you are with us, and we honor your memory when you are gone.

Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

 

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my heroes have always been cowboys, but…


The eyes of Texas are upon a real cowboy, his family, his friends and classmates today as we say farewell to one of our own. Doyle Danford passed away yesterday following complications from surgery he had several weeks ago. Doyle was a special friend of mine in the eighth grade when I was the new girl in Brazoria, Texas, the daughter of the new principal everyone was wondering about.  My classmate Doyle, his brother Neal, his younger sister Virginia lived down the short street from our house and the brothers regularly rode by on their horses. Soon the shy quiet Doyle reluctantly answered my plea for a ride with him. We rode many Sunday afternoons after church. The new girl in town had a real friend whose friendship remained for the next fifty years.

My heroes have always been cowboys like Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and Sheriff Matt Dillon. I loved the good guys back in the days when they were easy to identify.   Brave men who stood tall against  villains with black mustaches curling oddly around snarling lips – those were the best. I wanted to be one of those good guys.

Cowboys, on the other hand, rode beautiful horses, wore boots with their jeans or buckskin pants and had great wide-brimmed hats with no worries about kryptonite.   Their pretty girlfriends knew who they were and were prepared to wait for them while they fought their battles in the dusty streets or the sage covered hills. They always won because they could outdraw or outsmart their enemies. When we moved to Brazoria, I was thrilled a couple of cowboys rode past our house every weekend.

Doyle was also my first real date which I had at the age of thirteen; that first date represented an age of enlightenment doubtless lost on him but profound for me. I found the girl sitting on the other side of me at the eighth grade Valentine’s banquet more fascinating than the young cowboy with the crewcut sitting on my right. Doyle was my good friend, but he wasn’t my boyfriend – not really.

Doyle married his beautiful high school sweet heart Sharon and remained in Brazoria with her and their large family until his death yesterday. He did, however, put his beloved horses in a trailer to follow the rodeo circuits around the southwest for many years to win calf roping competitions while he worked to build a successful business for his family. Doyle Danford was the only real cowboy I ever knew in my life; I mourn his loss on several levels today including a part of my youth gone with him. Those days, those places, those people belong to a young girl who was happy to find a lifelong friend.

We’re really just passing through on a journey from here to there. I haven’t quite made it to “there” yet, but Doyle made it to “there” yesterday. His legacy is a family life well lived plus an empty saddle that will pass to a new generation. Rest in peace, my friend.

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Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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what’s in your wallet?


Quick, quick – let’s get the US economy rolling again. The stock market has hit big money where it hurts most – in the pocketbook. The number of people unemployed is 30 times higher than the number of people infected with the coronavirus. Let’s reopen everything right now! Hm. Let me think about that. Meanwhile, nine years ago in August, 2011 I published this post about my love affair with numbers, money and financial mayhem. It seems strangely relevant today.

CONFESSIONS OF A FINANCIAL ADVISOR

 Forty years is a long time or a short time, depending on your perspective.  For example, if you’re talking about your work, career, job, employment, occupation, profession—it’s a long time.  If, on the other hand, you’re talking about life expectancy, it’s definitely short.  Context is everything.

In order to spend forty years in some variation of giving advice to people about their financial futures, I had to be in love with numbers.  The love affair began at an early age when in elementary school my mind grasped the concept of “1 + 1= 2.”  Imagine the simplicity and order and, yes, the comfort of that equation.  Consider, then, the possibility of “2 – 1 = 1.”  Astounding.  Okay, maybe not astounding, but certainly intriguing to my young mind.  Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.  Numbers could be manipulated and re-arranged in combinations that hid secrets or unlocked them.  Context was everything.

At some point in my educational process, numbers were combined with dollar signs.  Dollar signs represent currency values, the medium of exchange for goods and services, or “must-have’s” and “can’t-resist’s.”  We become accustomed to seeing numbers with this “$” in front of them.  We learn that good news for us is a dollar sign followed by a large number, if it indicates what we have.  Bad news is a dollar sign followed by a big number, if it signifies what we don’t have.  Again, context is everything.

Eventually, the numbers and dollar signs blur with the addition of a comma and several zeroes, which means the numbers are so big you don’t even want to discuss them.  Millions become billions that grow into trillions, and then someone wins the lottery.  Someone else loses her retirement savings.  A national election is won or lost as a result of the number of zeroes in the unemployment levels.  New words are discovered for numbers with dollar signs.  Net income before taxes, and net operating losses before moving corporate headquarters overseas.  Deficit—a nice, neat word for spending more than we have.  Surplus, a term of endearment.  Generally accepted accounting principles, a floating lifeboat in an ocean of corruption.  Stock markets that run up like bulls when greed has a green flag, or down like bears when fear chases them to their dens.  Ratios, which have something divided by something else. Price/earnings ratios.  The words melt in your mouth, not in your hands.

Once upon a time, numbers were written by hand and manually checked for accuracy.  Checked and cross-checked to make sure that “1 + 1” still equals 2.  Long ago and far away, hamburgers with all the trimmings cost $0.25, and a gallon of gas was the same price.  Silver quarters and silver dollars were the currency of choice.  A penny saved was truly a penny earned.  And a copper one, at that.

In the midst of those days, I consummated my love affair with numbers and became an accountant.  Not just a plain old accountant, but the ultimate—a Certified Public Accountant.  It wasn’t easy.  Professions rarely admit new members graciously, and it took three attempts for me to pass the entrance exams.  But, I knew my numbers wouldn’t disappoint me, and they didn’t.  They welcomed me into a world of debits and credits and spreadsheets that generated financial statements and the obligatory returns of the Internal Revenue Service.  It was a world I inhabited and embraced for twenty years.

During that period, from 1968 to 1988, my faithful adding machine with the little spool of white tape that could be checked, torn off, and stapled to paperwork as a record of accuracy was my constant companion.  Regardless of the task, numbers were printed on white tape and preserved.  How could there be a shred of doubt about anything when numbers supported your position?  Need a bank loan?  Net income must be high.  Paying income taxes?  Taxable income must be low.  Which brings us to another new word—reconciliation, a word commonly used in domestic disputes but also invaluable in financial circles.  Numbers must be “reconciled” to tell different stories to different audiences.  Their historical framework must be plainly visible to the untrained eye.  Context is everything.

And then one day towards the end of that time of long ago and far away, the numbers were swallowed by a machine called a computer.  They were devoured and simply vanished from their connection to the people and values they represented.  All control of reality was relinquished to a keyboard attached to a screen.  As I watched those screens over the next twenty years, numbers with dollar signs zoomed through cyberspace and into a Twilight Zone of futuristic projections with reckless abandon.  New Age economics clashed with Old World mathematics.  Did “1 + 1” still equal 2?  No one really cared.  Numbers were about possibilities, and the hopes and dreams of financial freedom with a few chronicled trends tossed in for good measure.

By the year 2008, hamburgers with all the trimmings, in the world of the here-and-now, up close and personal, cost twelve quarters, and they weren’t really silver ones.  A gallon of gas cost more than the hamburger, and the price was determined by a four-letter word group called OPEC, which was run by men who lived across the Big Water and not just down the street.

Since it’s impractical to carry enough quarters to buy hamburgers today for a family of four, we traded our coins for paper currency that is lighter in weight, which makes it easier to transport, and also encourages a whole new industry of manufacturing wallets and pocketbooks.  To ensure that Americans will purchase several of these to carry their currency, we have created “designer” brands with diverse colors, shapes, and sizes for the discriminating consumer.  Our paper dollars require protection and easy accessibility with a pronounced element of style.

The paper money supply is monitored by various governmental agencies and the vast wasteland that is the financial media.  In the 21st century, it is now possible for all computers to talk to each other and for bank customers to swipe debit cards that look like credit cards to quickly access money from their bank accounts for purchasing goods and services without actually producing the paper.   Abracadabra.   Whoosh – the money flies out of one account and into another one as long as you remember your personal identification number which is subject to theft unless you protect your identity by paying more money to watchdog security systems.   Additionally, hundreds of thousands of advisors and analysts can experience the joys and frustrations of instant mass information, which bombards us every time we refresh our television or computer or iPad or iPhone or some other newer screens yet to be developed. Experts are available for every topic.

            Question: “What do I need to do to save for retirement?”

Expert #1: “You are alone. You need to do it yourself.  Stay tuned to my television show, and I will teach you the secrets that have made me the gigantic success I am today.  Subscribe to my newsletter.  Buy my books.”

Expert #2: “You are not alone, but you can do this yourself.  If you call my toll-free number, someone will personally help you in this time of financial uncertainty.  We are your friends.”

            Expert #3: “You cannot do this by yourself.  You need to work with an advisor who understands your needs and objectives.  Professional advice is the surest way to success.  We care about you.”

You see the problem.  So many experts, so little time.  And context?  Clearly, it isn’t everything any more.  Context is defined and massaged to frame five-minute segments on twenty-four-hour, seven-days-a-week news programs.  In five minutes, answers are given to economic questions that have plagued theorists for years.  Five minutes later, different responses to the same questions create confusion for the listeners brave enough to stay tuned.  In the immortal words of Andrew Shepherd, the President in The American President, “It’s a world gone mad, Gil.”

 As for me, my forty years with numbers were good ones and passed too quickly. The people behind the numbers were always real and taught me many lessons that I would have never learned without them.  From parents planning for their children’s education, to seniors securing their estates for their families, to the gay and lesbian couples who were forced to find alternatives in planning for their futures because they had no legal status, I saw that the use of financial resources often reflected the caring character of my clients who owned them.  I am grateful to those clients and friends for their trust, which I diligently tried to earn through the values instilled in me by my dad—treat everyone equally and with respect because every person matters. And, most importantly, keep your sense of humor.

Once in a while, when you lose that comedic edge and worry too much about the numbers and dollar signs, try to remember that it’s only paper, after all.  And, for perspective and context, avoid watching more than one financial guru at a time on whatever channel you select for your financial news.

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Pretty trying to get our granddaughter to nap yesterday

Yes, I know the photo is totally irrelevant to the subject matter, but Ella’s Nanas are shamelessly fascinated with her – even when she sleeps. Oh my goodness.

Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

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dropkick me, Jesus


When I was a high school student in West Columbia, Texas (what are the odds of living in West Columbia, South Carolina sixty years later?) I was a member of the “pep squad” which cheered for our football team every Friday night in the fall under lights that were as important to our town as those in the 2006 – 2011 TV series Friday Night Lights. Our team, the Columbia High Roughnecks, weren’t nearly as successful as the fictional team in Dillon, Texas but that didn’t matter. We loved them anyway. At home during football season my daddy and I loved to watch the UT Longhorns on Saturdays along with the bowl games during the holidays. On Sunday afternoons my daddy, granddaddy and I watched the Dallas Cowboys together.  We were a football family – the following is a post I published in March, 2015.

My love affair with country music is rivaled only by my love affair with football and until very early this morning when I was in the kitchen making toast for Pretty to have before she went to work, I never knew their paths had crossed. Country music and football, that is.

I could hardly believe my ears. As a matter of fact, I thought I had misunderstood the words I heard. I was fixing toast that refused to brown for some reason known only to the stove that is possessed by evil demons named Burning and Undercooking when I thought I heard the words dropkick me Jesus blaring from the country classics radio station playing on the TV.  What’s that you say? Stick with me Jesus? Is that a country classic? Maybe gospel country music?

Two things as background. One, my AT&T U-verse decided over the weekend to change its music programming to a different venue and now uses something called Stingray for all music channels. Two, I hate change.

But I am between hell and hackeydam in this case and must use the new station if I want to hear the country classics. Many of the “classics” on this new station are different so it’s possible I won’t recognize some of the tunes I hear anymore. (Where’s Willie when you need him?)  So when I thought I heard the lyrics dropkick me Jesus I assumed I didn’t really hear those exact words – just maybe something like those…which is common for my super-senior hearing.

But then I clearly heard the lyrics I’ve got the will Lord, if you got the toe. I lost the padded glove I was using to pull the toast from the oven and rushed around the corner past the liquor cabinet to the den where the TV showed the current song with its artist. Sure enough, as Granny Selma used to say when she was in her right mind, Bobby Bare was singing:

Dropkick me Jesus through the goalposts of life

End over end, neither left nor the right…

Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights

Dropkick me Jesus through the goalposts of life.

The song went on with references to the departed brothers and sisters forming some sort of offensive line, but mostly it repeated the title enough times that I knew the refrain by heart. Actually, I doubt I’ll ever forget it. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Bobby Bare recorded the song written by Paul Craft in 1976. How could I have missed this gem for so many years. Thank goodness I caught it today. I will mull over the sentiments of dropkick me, Jesus for at least the rest of the week, and to think I owe it all to the Stingray music channel I didn’t know I wanted or needed – the same channel which is now playing Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.

I’ll put that on hold for another day.

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As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ramble like a wrecking ball through our lives, I wonder about sports in general, football in particular because decisions will soon have to be made determining the fate of the 2020-21 season. I don’t envy the calls those officials will have to make, but I hope the decisions are made with more than a coin toss.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

Pretty holds Ella who is fascinated by Charly

(Charly hasn’t quite figured Ella out yet)

This is a totally unrelated picture taken yesterday from our screened porch.

 

 

 

 

 

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i was the world in which i walked


In a nod to April as National Poetry Month for the United States and Canada, I celebrate with this post from March, 2015 about an unlikely American poet Wallace Stevens who saw poetry as a second language while the insurance business was his first, or maybe he should have been a prize fighter. Happy National Poetry Month to everyone who writes the poems we love to read! 

My name is Sheila, and I’m a word-a-holic. I collect them, I store them, I love them. Occasionally I take them out of my hiding places and admire them again. Pretty does the same thing with words – but hers are published in books she takes from a shelf – books that have beautiful covers and words that are strung together in page after delicious page.

This past week I found a prized addition to my collection – a totally random sighting while I was waiting for Pretty in the lobby of an office building. This jewel was engraved in very small letters on a large plaque as a kind of afterthought following the brief biography of an influential man of medicine.

I was the world in which I walked. – Wallace Stevens

I stared at the words…mulled over the words…and was knocked in the head with a bolt of fresh truth and knowledge.

I was the world in which I walked.

Uh oh, my little voice of reason whispered to me. You ought to be a bit more cautious in your complaints and cynicism and yes,  especially your downright negativity about “the world” being this or that because it turns out YOU are your world so that must mean the problems start with YOU.

Well, that was so frightening I decided to find out who Wallace Stevens was to make such an audacious statement of truth. I turned to my trusted friend Wikipedia and got an eyeful. His tagline was Poet, Insurance Executive. He was an American Modernist poet born in Pennsylvania in 1879 to affluent parents. He went to Harvard and the New York School of Law but spent most of his life working for the Hartford  insurance company in Connecticut where he was a vice-president until his death in 1955.

He started writing poetry later in life with his critically acclaimed works published after he turned 50. He won the National Book Award for Poetry twice: in 1951 and 1955. And he won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1955. Gosh, his world in which he walked must have been a bed of roses.

Not so fast, my friend. Wally’s World was quite messy. The woman he married in 1909 had been a saleswoman, a milliner and a stenographer; his family opted to boycott the wedding because she wasn’t quite up to snuff, as we say in Texas. Wallace never spoke to his parents again during his father’s lifetime.

From 1922 – 1940 Mr. Stevens spent a great deal of time in Key West, which became an inspiration for his poetry. That was the good news. The bad news was he didn’t play well with others and had unseemly arguments with Robert Frost whenever they were in Key West at the same time. As for his relationship with Ernest Hemingway in Key West, well apparently their disagreements turned to fisticuffs with Wallace having a broken hand and Hemingway a broken jaw in one of their notorious spats.

So Wallace Stevens was, like most of us, a man who had been at least two worlds in which he walked… so I felt better about my negativity that, to date, has not caused me to come to physical blows with anyone but perhaps needs to be toned down a notch or two  with a more regular nod to the positives in which I walk.

You are the world in which you walk. Chew on that for an extra minute.

P.S. One of the more memorable quotes Pretty said to me when we first met was, “I think insurance companies are the scum of the earth.” At the time, I was an insurance agent.

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Today perhaps more than ever we really are the world in which we walk – and how carefully we walk in that world affects more than ourselves. When we venture out,  we must try to remember the Covid-19 pandemic is not gone simply because we are tired of staying in. Be sensible in your choices, be sensitive to the needs of others.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

Happy Legal Anniversary, Pretty 

April 24, 2016

 

 

 

 

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something old, something new – something special


I realized today I first published this post about my Aunt Lucy and her friend Jan on March 08, 2013 less than two weeks before my aunt’s death on March 21st. When so much has changed as a result of Covid-19 and its invasion into our world along with all who inhabit it, I felt the need to revisit this story of a relationship that lasted until the storms of life raged no more against it.

“I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I doubt I deserved my friends.”
—— Walt Whitman

Yesterday I visited with my favorite Aunt Lucille who lives in Beaumont which is ninety-nine miles east of Montgomery on Texas Highway 105. I always enjoy my visits with her. She’s got spunk, and contrary to Mr. Grant’s opinion of spunk on the Mary Tyler Moore show a gazillion years ago, I like spunk.

Lucy refuses to give up her independent living apartment in a retirement community that offers assisted living and other higher levels of care for which she would qualify. Instead, she keeps her mind active with crossword puzzles and other word games in the daily newspaper. Her knowledge of current events acquired through the TV and conversations is as good as it gets. She pushes herself out of bed, showers, dresses and puts on makeup every day.

My aunt Lucy will be ninety-three years old in May and has a list of ailments plus a personal pharmacy to treat them. A recent setback makes movement even more difficult for her, but she makes a determined effort to rejoin her friends at their reserved dinner table downstairs almost every evening. It’s a long walk from her apartment on the third floor to the lobby of the next building for meals. Trust me.

Yesterday she told me one of her friends was coming by this afternoon for a visit. I recognized the name because she had talked about Jan for as long as I could remember. She told me Jan was recovering from a stroke and her caregiver would be bringing her by. When Jan arrived promptly at two o’clock, Lucy got up from the sofa in the living room and pushed her walker toward Jan’s. When they met in the middle of the room, they both smiled and hugged each other with genuine joy on their faces. After introductions all round, we sat down to talk.

Lucy and Jan met in 1953 when they both lived with their husbands in an apartment complex in Beaumont. They first talked when they were outdoors hanging clothes on the clothesline behind their apartment building. Both women were new to Beaumont – Jan’s daughter was born in the spring before Lucy’s was born in October that year. They were new mothers who quickly became new friends. Their husbands luckily liked each other, too which meant the couples got together often. Lucy’s husband Jay died in 1979 while Jan and her husband Otis shared a sixty-fifth wedding anniversary before his recent death.

What struck me as I listened to them talk about their families, about what was going on in their lives now was how remarkable it must be to have a friendship that stretches across sixty years of change and challenges. Their bond survived everything life threw at them. Hot and cold seasons came and went for six decades, but their loyalty to each other never got too hot to go up in flames or too cold to freeze and wither away.

In a separate happening this week I was reminded of friendships I’ve lost in the past years along with the pain that accompanies losing them. We are a mobile society; our moving parts rarely stay in the same place for very long. We change our homes, our jobs and the people in our lives that go with them. Sometimes we just change the people in our lives. For Lucy and Jan, however, the new became old over sixty years – but always remained special. Their story of friendship is a remarkable one I continue to salute today.

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Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

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