Lessons from a Butterfly

One week ago today I was doing my pool exercises when I saw something so very extraordinary I took a calculated risk to retrieve my cell phone from the buggy it rests in without disturbing the amazing sight.

butterfly on caterpillar body – gently folding and unfolding wings

as it moved its legs across the still corpse

The carcasses of two recently deceased caterpillars lay next to the steps where I entered the pool every day. I scarcely paid any attention to them when I moved down the steps and into the water. After all, the bodies of caterpillars that were casualties of the chlorine were common and a dime a dozen, weren’t they.

I also paid very little attention to the small dark colored butterfly that flew around me in wide circles for about 15 minutes until it came to rest on one of the caterpillar bodies lying on the cement next to the pool steps.

I was so startled at the sight that I stopped my pacing to watch as the butterfly established a kind of rhythm – opening and closing its wings while it moved its legs back and forth across the dead caterpillar. I felt like I was an intruder in a private ritual of grief reserved for these tiny creatures that made our human tears a poor substitute. And then I began to think the butterfly didn’t fly away from me because it sensed my shared sorrow.

Today, exactly one week later, I was on the last leg of my routine early morning walk around the pool when I saw this remarkable sight.

a beautiful large blue black butterfly landed right in front of me

This gorgeous creature flew next to the pool steps, landed, and began to open and close its wings just as the one had last week. I sat down in my buggy seat to better observe what I believe was…what?…the same butterfly from last week…another butterfly…what does that matter really…

What I learned was a powerful lesson about the importance of all creatures great and small, the individuality of grief, the exquisite beauty in hope embraced by a spirit willing to take flight following great loss.

Stay tuned.



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a man of letters – part 2 – after the war, the GI bill and my dad

When my dad came home from World War II, he eloped with my mom and began a financial roller coaster that dizzied him for the rest of his life. Dad wanted to get married and finish his education – both of which required money – but he had none. Enter the G.I. bill.

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act was signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, and was better known as the G.I. Bill. The American Legion in cooperation with the Veterans of Foreign Wars urged the federal government to provide for the approximately 12 million World War II veterans returning home who would flood the marketplace looking for jobs, and the G.I. Bill was the government’s response. The bill provided tuition and living expenses to attend high school, college, or vocational/technical schools. Low-cost mortgage loans to buy homes or start a business were included in the law as was one year of unemployment compensation.

Glenn and Selma married in May, 1945 when he returned from England after the war to his small southeast Texas home town of Richards in Grimes County. He was on furlough when they eloped, and they left immediately for a honeymoon via train to Miami, Florida. The honeymoon must have been successful on some levels, although my grandmother reported that my mom called her crying, wanting to come home several times while they were gone.

During those early summer months together Glenn was honorably discharged from the Army Air Corps and decided he wanted to finish the college education he had begun at Lamar College in Beaumont before the war. Not surprisingly his higher education choice was the University of Texas in Austin because he always considered UT to be the most prestigious state university.

Evidently the plan was for Selma, who by then was three months pregnant, to live at home with her mother in Richards which was 150 miles from Austin; Glenn would visit on weekends. A penny post card (note it really was 1 cent) dated October 30, 1945 was the first of a whirlwind of words he sent Selma in the fall of 1945 – continuing the letter writing campaign he began when he was in the service.

“Dearest Darling,

Just to let you know I made it all right which I did, I’m writing to you. Clever, no?

I found me a place 5 miles from the college to stay. I”ll tell you about it when I write tonight. I do intend to write tonight.

I’ll see you sometimes Saturday.

I love you,


True to his “word”  Glenn did indeed write a letter to Selma on the night of October 30th. from his new digs in Austin. The letter was postmarked the following day.

“Dearest Darling,

As I promised in the card this afternoon, dear, I’m writing to you once again already.

Several times I’ve started to forget this whole foolish idea & start to work, but somehow I’ve managed to keep up my pecker. The big job yesterday was finding a place to stay. Another lad about 24 and I hooked up & started looking and finally found a place about 2 miles from the city limits. The place itself is very nice; the vista is swell; but the distance is multi. We have to pay $15 per month for the room. We’re eating in the commons & the food is pretty common. Reasonable enough, however.

A little about my roommate. He’s an ex-serviceman. He was a pilot. He’s from Big Springs, Texas. Pretty pleasant associate. He has a Buick. Fine car.

Honey, I wish there were some way that we could be together & I’ll sacrifice anything to accomplish said end, but as far as getting an apt. here…that’s out of the question. Some other place maybe. I’m already getting anxious to see you again.

Tomorrow registration. Thursday, School starts. I’ll see you Saturday, lover.

I love you,


back of the envelope – a hasty afterthought

Selma at home in Richards

The very next day, Halloween, found my father writing another letter to my mother, but I will save that one for next time.

Stay tuned.






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Maya Angelou: wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now

“Being a woman is hard work. Not without joy and even ecstasy,

but still relentless, unending work.

Becoming an old female may require only being born

with certain genitalia, inheriting long-living genes

and the fortune not to be run over by an out-of-control truck,

but to become and remain a woman command

the existence and employment of genius.”

Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

The words of Maya Angelou never cease to create feelings of admiration and awe for me… to the extent that my gosh- why- couldn’t- I- have- written- that paranoia kicks in. The little paperback I randomly picked up yesterday afternoon on an end table in our living room which Pretty now uses as her Rescued Books sorting room caught my attention because it was (a) small and (b) written by Maya Angelou. The book was titled Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now.

As I read the book yesterday afternoon, I was grateful to Pretty who always leaves priceless gems around for me to discover, pick up and savor. She knows my love for Maya Angelou and her works so I suspect it was no accident the book was in a conspicuous place.

This book captured my attention and immediately reminded me of my book The Short Side of Time for a couple of reasons. Both books acknowledge the influence and importance of Oprah Winfrey. Ms. Angelou dedicated her book to Oprah Winfrey “with immeasurable love” and I began my preface with “I can actually thank Oprah for this book.” Both books contain a collection of previously published short essays/articles – mine from this blog and Ms. Angelou’s from articles appearing in Essence and Ms. magazines. And it’s right there, my friends in cyberspace, that the similarities end.

My daddy used to tell me to avoid making comparisons to anyone else because there would always be someone who could do something better than I could or someone who wouldn’t be able to quite catch up to my abilities. Needless to say, Maya Angelou is in a category all by herself when the subject is personal essays, and I will never be able to quite catch up to the sheer poetry of her writing in these intimate stories. I can, however, read them with delight.

Many of her brief essays resonated personally with me probably because she published them in 1994 when she was 66 years old. The topics she covered as she described her own journey took me with her, and I cheered for her courage and power displayed vividly on every page. My mind meandered to the person I was in 1994 and how I would have reacted to this book when I was 48 years old. Would that white middle-aged lesbian activist understand what a blueprint Ms. Angelou’s journey could offer me when the storms of life were raging over the next quarter century of my life.

Whether you are a youngster setting off on the journey, a middle-aged traveler  making plans for the next twists and turns, or in the third act of your life seeing the final bends and bumps in the road; I strongly recommend you treat yourself to Maya Angelou in this book or any other writings she’s done. I leave you with her thoughts on people.

“I note the obvious differences

between each sort and type,

but we are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.”

Stay tuned.


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behold the frog log

Our first summer last year with a swimming pool was a real adventure – our yard is a frog mecca teeming with loud nocturnal noises, and unfortunately the frogs can’t distinguish a chlorinated pool from a perfectly wonderful fresh water pond. Therefore, every morning during the frog summer season last year I rose early to check the skimmer basket for our pool and usually found a frog, sometimes two, battling the effects of the chemicals.

I had a little net that I used to pluck them from the skimmer and release them to make their way to safety far away from the poisonous fake pond. I was always so happy to see them hop away and hoped they remained part of our nighttime chorus which continues to be noisy this year.

This year is different, though. At some point during a dinner conversation with friends several months ago I talked about my remorse for the frogs who lost their way and ended up in our skimmer basket. One of the friends at the table told me about something called a Frog Log that was an escape route for creatures caught in their frantic search for a way out of their precarious situation as they were engulfed by an overwhelming tide that had betrayed them.

She went on to say I could order one on Amazon…which is exactly what I did. Behold, the Frog Log.

such a simple, yet brilliant idea 

So now I am wondering if we could invent a People Log that would offer us a rescue route from our worries, problems, angst, nightmares, depression, sorrows, panic attacks…a way out when we found ourselves in the wrong pond overwhelmed by the vicissitudes of life, as my daddy used to say when he was at a loss for describing personal turbulence.

The good news today is that this summer I have had only one frog in the skimmer basket. The loud frog choruses still pierce the summer heat with their deep bass voices – Pretty and I see the frogs hopping in our yard and around the pool at night when we walk outside with Charly and Spike, but the Frog Log apparently is the real deal.

If anyone comes up with that People Log invention, please let me know.

I promise to stay tuned. I hope you will, too.



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don shequixote tilting at windmills? where is the moral outrage?

“Where is the moral outrage in this country,” MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle asked yesterday (August 01) on Morning Joe in referring to a discussion Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D – Rhode Island) led earlier in the show about the hearing the Senate Judiciary Committee held Tuesday, July 31st., on the status of the immigrant children forcibly separated from their families in response to the zero tolerance policy of the current administration in previous months.

Indeed, where is the moral outrage in America? Where is Don Quixote de la Mancha when we need him…come on, all you would-be Cervantes fiction writers out there. Give us a champion, that character who is brave enough to undo wrongs and bring justice to the world. Give us a Wonder Woman who penetrates the No, No, Get Out signs at the federal detention centers around the country, goes inside the facilities, gives us the real pictures of the detainees’ circumstances and rescues them from harm.

Give us a Sherlock Holmes who is up to the task of searching in Central America and Mexico for the parents of 711 children whose families were basically stampeded out of our country, according to the testimony of Commander Jonathan D. White who is in charge of the reunification efforts of the United States Public Health Service. Commander White went on to say at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on July 31st. that the separation policy had not been in the best interests of the children. I’m thinking that Sherlock Holmes could use the assistance of several IBM Watsons because he will be looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack while 711 children remain incarcerated.

Television writers, give us a Law and Order prosecutor Jack McKoy character who will speak truth to power and bring charges of deliberate cruelty or cruelty by incompetence to those responsible for the creation and implementation of the zero tolerance policy because no one gave any federal agency prior notice before Attorney General Sessions announced the policy. And Hollywood screen writers, hurry up and give us another Chief Trial Judge Dan Haywood who ruled the military court in the film Judgment at Nuremberg presiding over the trial of four judges that served on the bench during the Nazi regime for crimes against humanity.

Come on, media moguls. We need Don Quixote – like heroes… hopefully more successful than his character which tilted at windmills he believed to be ferocious giants. Sigh. Oh well, you can’t have everything in a fictional hero.

Speaking of tilting at windmills, I visited the campaign headquarters of the Congressman from my district yesterday. The purpose of my visit was to hand deliver a letter I wrote asking for his immediate intervention in the migrant reunification process. I included a copy of a previous blog on this issue (see my blog adding to the hue and cry on July 19th.) which I was fairly sure he hadn’t read before. What I found interesting about his campaign poster on the front of his headquarters  was the family portrait.

Representative Joe Wilson and his family

I had to wonder whether this man would be glib in his response to the zero tolerance policy if it had applied to the children or grandchildren of members of Congress. I’m just saying.

As I drove to Zaxby’s to get a basket of toast after I left my windmill tilting, I saw another sign next to our West Columbia City Hall.

Indeed, Mike Barnicle, where is the moral outrage of a nation blessed because their God is the Lord – referring to the same Lord who said in Matthew 19:14 (King James Version of the New Testament) “But Jesus said, Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

If only we could treat the migrant children as the kingdom of heaven.

Stay tuned.



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forget Chelsea? never

Spike’s bark was loud, much louder than his usual warning bark for the intruder who dares to walk past his house on Cardinal Drive in the early morning hours before Pretty, Charly and I have roused ourselves from sleep to greet another Sunday.

But then Spike’s bark became a long higher-pitched wailing sound as he raced into our bedroom and jumped with full force on Pretty as if to say wake up, wake up, you Sleepy Head. I need you.

The impact shook the bed and brought us all to full alert. Charly rose with a menacing growl toward Spike which is what she likes to do anyway. Then she joined in the barking to form a chorus that was way too much for Pretty and me.

I asked Pretty what in the world was going on outside our bedroom so Pretty got up and opened the blinds in time to see a man walking a large black lab up the street as he rounded the corner of Wren and Cardinal. Mystery solved. Spike had remembered his best friend Tennis Ball Obsessed Chelsea, his and our favorite black lab, who left him and the rest of her earthly family two years ago now.

When Spike found us, he became the fifth dog in our home. Unbelievable to think back on that time. How did we manage with five dogs? Very well, thank you for asking.

Out of that pack of five dogs, Spike chose our black lab Chelsea to be his best friend. Spike adored Chelsea but alas, his love for her was unrequited. She didn’t object to his devotion, but she rarely returned it. Chelsea sort of tolerated Spike with good humor.

Now whenever Spike sees a big black lab walking past his house, he thinks it must be Chelsea wagging her tail at him as she passes by. I’d like to think he’s right.

Spike relaxing with his best friend Chelsea at Casa de Canterbury

Stay tuned.





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precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul

While I angst over the children still illegally separated from their families in my home state of Texas and begin to plan another series on letters my father wrote me while I was in college at the University of Texas in Austin in the 1960s, I looked through hundreds more photographs and came across a few that brought back words from an old gospel song we sang at church: precious memories…how they linger…how they ever flood my soul.

little me, my grandmother, family dog Scooter

This picture was taken by my mother who captured a definitive moment in my life which she surely imagined at the time she snapped it was simply “cute.” Now 70 years later if ever there were one image I could say conjured up my entire childhood, it would be this.

My grandmother was clearly on her way home from work because she held two packages in her arms which meant she had brought something we needed, but she stopped to hug me outside our house before she went in. She may have been on her 30-minute lunch break from the general store where she worked as the only clerk 10 hours a day six days every week. Since she had no car and didn’t know how to drive, she walked the short distance down the dirt road from our home to work. Her lunch breaks were always too short, she said.

Or she was home after standing 10 hours on her feet at the end of her work day at 6 o’clock. Regardless, she must have been exhausted as she stopped to show me some love. Now what I was doing with a golf club that was as tall as I was remains a mystery to my memory, but my grandmother Dude’s love for me will always be crystal clear for as long as I have memories.

Here’s another one of my favorites, but no explanation is necessary, right?

the hat has been with me from the beginning 

(not sure who the little boy is)

Stay tuned.




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I just can’t let it go

My grandfather on my daddy’s side was born on July 29, 1898. His name was George Patton Morris. One week from today he would be  120 years old.

This is my grandfather with his mother, Margaret Antonio Moore Morris, in front of what I assume was their home in Walker County, Texas. My grandfather looks to be about 2 years old.

He was safe, had food to eat, a place to sleep…grew up working hard on a farm with his four sisters and five brothers in east Texas…

… his family farm was about 420 miles north of Brownsville, Texas where today, this moment,  more than 1,400 migrant children remain in a Wal Mart converted to a prison facility for them.

I’m trying to imagine what their pictures will look like when they look back, if they have the chance to look back, on their childhood experiences in a department store detention facility.

The roulette wheel of life spins out of control. I hit a lucky number.

Stay tuned.



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adding my voice to the hue and cry: crimes against humanity – convention on the rights of a child

I am not an attorney. I am not a politician. I am not a renowned author. I am, however, a concerned American citizen who happens to be a blogger with a voice that today adds to the hue and cry already surrounding an administration that has lost its way in serving the best interests of the American people and our democracy. I would like to add a case to the numerous litigations currently being filed against our leaders for Crimes against Humanity and for compromising our ratification of  the Convention on the Rights of a Child.

I am naming in my case the following people: President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions,  Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckebee Sanders, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Shulkin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Convention on the Rights of the Child Adopted by the United Nations and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989
entry into force 2 September 1990, in accordance with article 49 (ratified by the United States in 1990)

Excerpts from the convention:

Article 9

  1. States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child’s place of residence.
  2. In any proceedings pursuant to paragraph 1 of the present article, all interested parties shall be given an opportunity to participate in the proceedings and make their views known.
  3. States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.
  4. Where such separation results from any action initiated by a State Party, such as the detention, imprisonment, exile, deportation or death (including death arising from any cause while the person is in the custody of the State) of one or both parents or of the child, that State Party shall, upon request, provide the parents, the child or, if appropriate, another member of the family with the essential information concerning the whereabouts of the absent member(s) of the family unless the provision of the information would be detrimental to the well-being of the child. States Parties shall further ensure that the submission of such a request shall of itself entail no adverse consequences for the person(s) concerned.

Article 10

  1. In accordance with the obligation of States Parties under article 9, paragraph 1, applications by a child or his or her parents to enter or leave a State Party for the purpose of family reunification shall be dealt with by States Parties in a positive, humane and expeditious manner. States Parties shall further ensure that the submission of such a request shall entail no adverse consequences for the applicants and for the members of their family.
  2. A child whose parents reside in different States shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis, save in exceptional circumstances personal relations and direct contacts with both parents. Towards that end and in accordance with the obligation of States Parties under article 9, paragraph 1, States Parties shall respect the right of the child and his or her parents to leave any country, including their own, and to enter their own country. The right to leave any country shall be subject only to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and which are necessary to protect the national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Convention

Additionally, in 2002 an International Criminal Court was established in the Hague in the Netherlands. The Rome Statute provides for the ICC to have jurisdiction of crimes against humanity.

Article 7 of the Rome Statute states crimes against humanity means any of a number of things including “deportation or forcible transfer of population …intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health…as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population with knowledge of the attack…whatever their status all migrants are entitled to have their human rights protected…because their own government cannot or will not protect them, they are forced to seek international protection.”

To repeat, I am not an attorney, but I can read the codes of conduct my country has agreed to over the years. The recent forcible separation of more than 3,000 children from their migrant families seems to me to be a crime against humanity and especially criminal acts toward children. I would like to see everyone involved, either by taking action to create and enforce such a policy or serving as an accomplice to such crimes by not resigning from their positions in protest of these heinous acts, be indicted by the International Criminal Court.

This is the best I can do with my voice. Perhaps some of my readers will have their consciousness raised as to the seriousness of wrong actions against defenseless children with no intention of reuniting them with their families in an expeditious manner. I personally find this policy created and implemented by my own government to be reprehensible and if I choose to say nothing, I am equally complicit.

In the midst of the daily dramas and chaos that characterize this administration, I cannot forget the children who are being unfairly detained today in Texas camps and prisons…every day, every night. Migrants Matter.

Stay tuned.




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