Gettysburg – looking for common ground


Whatever you do, don’t discuss elephants or donkeys in the newly formed group Politics, Facts & Civility in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; the group was formed by local citizens of that same town made famous by an American civil war battle in July, 1863 and a speech made by president Abraham Lincoln four months after the battle in November of that year. The group PF&C was formed to bring together Republicans and Democrats in the small town to try to find common ground in a friendly atmosphere – to try to tamp down the rancor,  partisan rhetoric and bitterness in their home town that was a microcosm of the ugliness and downright meanness taking over the political discourse across the country. Family members divided, neighbors pitted against neighbors, and these people wanted to seek a new way forward. The group was small with ten members at a recent meeting, but the hope was for finding more ways in which we were alike than we were unalike, to borrow Maya Angelou’s words. Bravo.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, a testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war… The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here…” Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November, 1863

The world noted for a news cycle what was said by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in her tortured testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. The world noted for several news cycles Judge Kavanaugh’s tearful dramatic denials which conjured images of him for me of his being seated next to Clarence Thomas for the Supremes’ official portrait. The world noted briefly the unhinged outburst of Senator Lindsay Graham who I implored on his Senate voice mail this week to please ask the media to refrain from continuing to say Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina — yes, even that blatant rudeness and disrespect  will not be remembered by the world (except perhaps by the person who inspired him); but we, the people, will never be able to forget what was done in the United States Senate during the first week of October, 2018.  The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was a lifetime appointment with generational implications.

We continue to be involved in a great civil war testing whether our democracy can long endure, don’t we? New divisions, and old ones unresolved…new wounds, and old ones framed in new language continue to test our commitment to each other as citizens of a nation dedicated to beliefs in government of the people, by the people and for the people. Our new civil war is as uncivil as the first one was, and our convictions in the guardians of our democracy through its legislative, executive and judicial branches of government hang by threads as thin as the ones in my favorite pair of pajamas.

The Kavanaugh confirmation process was described by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley and his sidekick Orrin Hatch as being dysfunctional to the Beyond Thunder Dome power. While American citizens gathered outside the committee room in the halls of Congress and around the capitol grounds to protest the Kavanaugh confirmation — even had the audacity to confront individual senators in the elevators and in their offices — I found rays of sunshine amid the darkness of the dysfunction. My new heroes as champions of democracy during the hearings were Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Senator Kamala Harris of California for their eloquence in expressing their positions, their calm demeanor while questioning Kavanaugh and their polite refusal to be led down the rabbit hole of disrespect.

Bravo again to the Politics, Facts & Civility group in Gettysburg. My hope is that your membership grows and expands to include citizens in the towns near you… until the movement becomes a wave washing across the entire state of Pennsylvania which then spills over state boundaries all the way to South Carolina.

Pretty tells me all the time we need to start with our own neighbors who haven’t spoken to us since we’ve been here now for 18 months. My attitude toward them has been mostly uncivil, too, as I tend to believe they vote Republican and disrespect the gays. But I know for sure we have common ground in keeping our yards maintained so maybe that’s a place to begin. Gosh, it sure has been a warm October so far, hasn’t it?

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

playing Texas hold ’em with my friend Finn


“Three of a kind does not beat two pair,” my soon to be 8 years old friend Finn said defiantly as he stared at my three 5s and his pair of 8s + pair of 4s while I began to rake our biggest pot of chips for the morning toward me.

I stopped raking. “What did you say?” I asked politely.

“I said 3 of a kind does not beat two pair,” Finn repeated.

I shook my head with authority. “Who told you that?” I asked.

“My dad,” he replied and continued. “He plays poker on Friday nights with men who smoke cigars.”

Apparently my poker playing knowledge was suspect on several levels.

Finn and I were playing cards earlier this week because his school had a holiday and his parents Dave and Saskia did not. They had responsibilities at their jobs at the University of South Carolina and had asked me to look after Finn for several hours. Pretty was out of town on business so Finn and I were on our own.

After starting the day making rice krispy treats that didn’t quite live up to my hype, we watched a Woody Woodpecker movie on Netflix. Finn had seen it several times before and was able to tell me in advance about the key scenes in the movie which removed any anxiety I might have had for Woody and his friends’ well being. I highly recommend it. Woody’s shenanigans haven’t changed one bit from the ones I remembered watching six decades ago. Very fun.

Following the movie, I asked Finn what he would like to do next. I mentioned we could play poker on my iPad which we usually did after his swims at our house. As an afterthought, I asked him if he’d rather play with real cards. He nodded, and we were off and running.

His favorite part of the game before the 3 of a kind controversy was our new automatic card shuffler. He was fascinated by it which meant our cards were shuffled carefully and thoroughly for each hand we played.

“Well, let’s call your dad to see if we can get him to resolve this argument,” I said and dialed Dave who couldn’t answer, of course, because he was teaching.  Hm…what to do.

“Would you believe me if we saw the poker hierarchy on a computer screen,” I said.

“What’s a hierarchy?” Finn asked.

After explaining what the poker hierarchy was, we went to my office computer and I easily found one while Finn hovered next to me.

“Look at this. High card, one pair, two pairs, three of a kind, straight, etc.”

Finn sat down in the seat of my walker, folded his arms, looked directly at me and said, “My dad lied to me.”

I burst into laughter, but he was having none of it. We discussed the situation at great length in all seriousness while I argued that maybe he had misunderstood his dad, maybe it was a different game and so on. Finn continued to shake his head and kept repeating his belief that his father was responsible for his loss of the biggest pot of our game.

Finally, I saw that Finn’s competitiveness wasn’t going to allow the biggest pot to get away so I suggested that on this occasion, since an honest mistake was made, why didn’t we split the pot and go on with our game. Finn mulled the idea over for a few seconds as I watched the wheels spin in that clever brain. He nodded and ran off to the table to evenly divide the chips. No audit necessary.

When his mother came to pick him up, Finn wasn’t ready to go so Saskia volunteered to bring our lunch while we kept playing. Never send Saskia for sandwiches – my reuben was on pumpernickel bread. That bread tasted as nasty as the rice krispy treats Finn and I had made earlier. I forgave her, though. Not even pumpernickel bread could take away the sweet memories of my morning of fun and laughter with my young friend Finn.

Until we meet again, stay tuned.

Finn, Charly and Spike love cake

(photo taken at our house earlier this month)

 

 

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged | 9 Comments

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.

 

 

Posted in Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Random, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged | 8 Comments

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,

Glenn”

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,

Glenn”

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.

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 2 Comments

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.

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged | 14 Comments

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.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 5 Comments

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.

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged | 6 Comments