Dear Abby-Happy 23rd Birthday Tribute To My Beautiful Inside And Out Daughter

Dear Abby-Happy 23rd Birthday Tribute To My Beautiful Inside And Out Daughter

(Abby age less than one year and me in Destin, Florida)

Twenty three years ago today, September 6th, 1997, my dear Abby, aka Abigail Drennan Roush, was born. Most people are born at age zero. Not Abby. On the wisdom scale, she was born at a sage age of 40 years. We have joked about this as she became a real adult and in her teen years, but there is much truth to it.. Abby has always had a “knowingness” about her that baffles the mind if you are grading her on the chronological scale for “knowingness.” or wisdom. I call her my canary in the coal mine.

The day Abby was born, we sang “Happy Birthday” right after she popped out. Immediately after that, I had to have skin contact with her. They handed her to me, and I held her flesh to mine. 

Then, I took my epidural tree trunks that used to be my legs, slid off the table, and dug around in the placenta for an hour looking for the “How To” manual on what to do next. I came up slimy and empty handed. 

Abby is a special human. In fact, on that wisdom scale, she is three years older than me. 23 plus 40 being 63 to my 60. Her brain may not be fully cooked for another two years, but her soul carries much in the ways of wisdom, wit, kindness, compassion and caring.

When Abby was four years old, I had breast cancer. We were standing in the bathroom at Lowe’s and she understood that my treatment would make me lose my hair, so she said, “Mom, I want to shave my head.” Followed after two seconds with “Will it grow back in two weeks?” We compromised, hence the mohawk shown here, full of blue glitter.

In her twenty three years, Abby has accomplished much in the ways of hobbies and interests. First, and currently foremost, she is a passionate fly fisher. Ties her own flies and you can see from the pictures, she is in her element when standing in the crystal clear rivers where she finds, catches and releases many a trout, all of whom have a better life for her being in it, if only to get the hook out of their mouth and set them free. Her very first fish is pictured here, which she caught with the tiny little Tigger rod in the image. She got on Tulsa’s Channel Six Fishing Photos segment with Dick Farrough with this amazing catch. And she has the fish and rod still, as yours truly made sure they were properly preserved.

In school, Abby was a member of her academic team at Bixby High School as well as a part of the journalism class there. Apples not falling far from her maternal family tree there, with an aunt who once was a gifted anchor and colorful feature reporter on a KOTV in Tulsa, an uncle who holds six Emmys and a Peobody for his journal;istic expertise as well as a maternal grandfather who was once nominated for a Peobody for his work in broadcast. 

From her dad’s side, Abby has an impeccable work ethic, dry wit and a keen mind for all things mechanical. I bought her the same good phone as mine so that I could be fully confident when I called her for technical support. She loves Jeopardy, and is damn good at it too. She once took the online test as a teen was put in the pool to be a potential player on Teen Jeopardy and I suspect, one day, WILL be a contestant, as she has the fortitude to get there.

Hobbies include a devotion to Dungeons and Dragons online, a language I definitely don’t speak, she’s an avid reader, and when it comes to the outdoors, she is fully in her element there. Abby loves to camp, has been to Alaska twice to deep sea and fly fish, is an avid longboard and soon will likely expand her activities to include what my Gulf of Mexico backyard here in Destin, Florida has to offer. Surfing, kite surfing, more fishing, I can’t wait to see what lights her fire here. 

She is also an avid kayaker. Started that in her teens and has done some white water there, too. If I had to guess her favorite experience, I would wager that would be the fact that with bear spray on her hip and friends at her side, she has summited Mt. Elbert, a 14,439 foot not for sissies mountain two hours from Denver, Colorado not once, but twice. In her life, she has been training for climbing out of valleys, not by choice, but out of sheer survival necessity, navigating the challenges of living with tough stuff in her family of chance. 

(Here comes the photo dump. And this is paired down! But please read on as there is more to share!)

In just the last year, Abby has achieved much. She got her GED, joined the IBEW, (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) and started school as an electrician’s apprentice, gotten her first apartment on her own, bought her first car on her own and did it all, with a brain that won’t be done for another two years, stone cold sober, in the midst of a pandemic. I don’t know about you, but had I faced these times at her age, I am not sure I would have fared so well.

And while I am proud of Abby’s achievements, my greatest pride is simply in her. Who she is, not what she does. 

All I wish for her in this life is that it be one filled with love, laughter, fabulous adventures across the globe, friends who understand what a gift she is to them and a peace that passes all understanding. I will celebrate her accomplishments, sure, but for this parent, I hold no expectations that my daughter needs to do anything other than simply show up, be true to herself and be.

I love you, Abby Roush. To the moon and back. And I will close with the lyrics to the song that I sang to her many times at bedtime, one which we have yet to fulfill our pact to have tattoos of a couple of the lines. Those lines will be “bloom and grow” in my handwriting for her and “forever” in her handwriting for me. 

From “The Sound Of Music”

Written by Richard Rogers

Edelweiss, edelweiss

Every morning you greet me

Small and white

Clean and bright

You look happy to meet me

Blossom of snow

May you bloom and grow

Bloom and grow forever

Edelweiss, edelweiss

Bless my home-land forever

Small and white

Clean and bright

You look happy to meet me

Blossom of snow

May you bloom and grow

Bloom and grow forever

Edelweiss, edelweiss

Bless my home-land forever

Gratitude Beach

Gratitude Beach

I have just had the most moving experience. From Tulsa, Oklahoma to what I am going to rename Gratitude Beach. But for the sake of geography and Google search for when you want to come here, I live in Destin, Florida.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is efb47442d918e9c6debade097a53567b.jpg(My new home.)

Destin used to be a fishing village. Today, when the million plus tourists aren’t flocking here between June and September, it has a modest population of just under 20,000 people. My county of Okaloosa has just over 200,000 people while the city of Tulsa, my home for most of 50 years boasts a headcount of 400,000.

I like the smallness here. The potential for greater intimacy. The intrigue of a possible Peyton Place Syndrome, where your business is everyone’s business. I am going to be on my best behavior with the hopes that I won’t be somebody’s “Did you hear about…” punch line. I do have a history rich with sentence completion that does not make me proud. But I am happy to report, that is way the hell back in the rear view mirror, somewhere around 1985.

This move has had many moving parts. I downsized from a three bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment. Could have been a daunting task, but the reward at the end of the journey being a zip code on the Emerald Coast was quite the incentive to be thorough and to only to keep those things that I needed or that continue to bring me joy.

In that process, I sold some antiques. And that was a fond farewell. I wrote about Beulah here, the dry sink that was a fixture for most of my life as my parents were big antique lovers in New England and New Jersey back in the 1950’s, both of whom are now deceased.

The last antique treasure to go that I still had affection for was the church pew.   This piece of wood that has held together for well over a hundred years with not one nail was like a member of my family. It always lived where my mom was until she was no longer living, at which time, it came to live with me in my marital family home. And when that family was no more, the church pew, much like a good loyal dog that sees you through hard times, followed at my heel and moved twice with me.

Once I had custody, it went from empty and welcoming, to whimsical display of my fancy shoes and wind up toys, an ever changing display of the whimsy that I insist in surrounding myself with.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 117009264_374315020220931_7800420205910773569_n.jpg(Tulsa decor)

Well the universe is a generous kind place, filled with generous kind people and a friend here in Florida bought the church pew from me when I shared the Craigslist post on my Facebook while I was still in Tulsa, with the plan that I would deliver upon my arrival here. He even paid $25 over my asking price, which was welcome, as the move was not cheap and the funds were required. I was happy to know that I would know what loving home it went to. Much like my furniture art, I get attached to things that bring me joy, and this church pew has done that over time.

A week ago today, when that friend showed up to help two others unload my life as it is now, from the innards of a big yellow truck and up three flights into my tree house apartment in paradise, that same friend, after learning the story about the bench and what it meant to me, gifted it back to me as a house warming present. I gotta tell you, God Is Good, All The Time, if I am just paying attention.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0808201127.jpg(My new theme)

Now I move again. This time, forward. Into whatever and whoever God has in store for me. To know, to love, to be in relationship with, to serve. All the top priority of each and every day that I continue to be gifted with. Which is my truth. That every day IS a gift. Pandemic or no pandemic. Worldly calamity or World peace. NO MATTER WHAT. My life is a gift. Every day, when I wake up, I get to open a day like a present. And I get to spend my time, energy and money in ways that I hope are pleasing to the universe and the God that I intend to serve in whatever ways I can be useful.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0808201128.jpg

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always come from a place of gratitude. In fact, last night, was just the opposite. After a week of being driven to unpack everything I own and nest, I was exhausted. I had hung over a dozen pictures, unpacked and broke down at least that many boxes.

I was angry that ATT wanted me to pay them an additional $50 for my last month of TV and internet. Something about my “12 month special” rate expiring and leaving me with the final month at a higher rate. And I am not proud of the manner in which I spoke to the innocent woman on the other end of the phone. It was not her fault that I had not read the fine print, but, no. I wasn’t paying without a fit. And I had one. But at the time, because no one was watching, I justified my bitchy tone on the phone by telling myself, “My words were not unkind.” But if you were to rate my tone of indignation on a 1 to 10 scale, it would have easily hit 9.75. I was not nice. And I knew it and I felt it and I cleaned up my mess just as fast as I made it. “I realize this is not your fault. I know my tone is cranky and I am sorry.” But not before I got in another jab at ATT for, I don’t know, not teaching me to read the fine print first? “I just have always had trouble with ATT and their poor communication.” What an ego I have on me at times!

Her name is Elvira, by the way, my ego that is, if you are new to my stories here. You know, the one with the big boobs and big black bouffant to match. She really has a mouth on her. And much attitude, coupled with little to sometimes no patience. She is a justification queen. Suffice it to say, I finally decided that my serenity was worth $50 bucks. Besides, I owed it. I just didn’t like it. And more important, I was not in a good place when I made the call, or should I say, when Elvira insisted on picking up the phone to channel her frustration at the latter part of the afternoon. She and I both were quite tired and sore from unpacking and acclimating. To a third floor walk and a town where there are no mask mandates for the public, except for those local or national chains who won’t allow customers or employees to be present if a face mask is absent.

This has been a scary scene for me in that respect.  Moving from Tulsa, where there was a mask mandate for all public anything to a state that has achieved ranks up there with the big apple for viral cases. Two weeks ago, a friend died from the virus and another here in Destin, who required hospitalization, thankfully, just recovered. And for me, social distancing and wearing a mask are mandatory because I don’t want to give or get a sickness that is a stealth by nature.

This, coupled with all that goes along with a major life change, be it positive or negative, I really just needed to vent. But to a friend, not passive aggressively getting it out to an innocent call center employee who, for all I know, is as done with pandemic life and being stuck at home for work, as I am sure are many people, when I dare to think of others above myself.

These are teachable moments to me. These ugly actors in my behavior. And I look to others who are of a similar mindset to be of service and do the right thing in their walk of life to tell me what they see. So when I was about to take a dive in the deep end of self pity last night, I reached out to a friend who is very uplifting and positive and just plain fun. Truth be told, I wanted a commiserator. Someone to wallow with me. Just for a minute. Instead, again, thanks to a generous Universe, what I got was an unexpected gift. Here is the text:

ME:  “I got to tell you it’s almost cruel to be living in such a beautiful place and shut into my apartment. I’m having a little bit of pity here. I won’t stay there though cuz it’s going to take a minute before this s***’s over with.” (Start the violins and call me a wambulance.)

ME: “Hope you’re having a good Friday! Hate to end anything in a pouty tone. LOL.”

FRIEND: “I don’t expect you will sit there long. LOL. We are too blessed to sit in pity.”

Those words really hit me hard. In a good way. I was at a crossroads. About to choose how the rest of my gift of a day was going to go. And because of the suggestion of looking at blessings that I heard there, I took that as the Universe using this person to kindly remind me I have so much. So much. So much. To be grateful for.

I love the way God uses people if I only allow them in. In my ugly moments. In my times of sometimes repulsive to me neediness.

And I love the saying:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 117083112_298249238281450_376421188364482437_n.jpg(Miramar Beach-Where I go every morning)

I just came back to this post to publish, after taking the afternoon to do my art, which I do with intent every Saturday afternoon. Just as I began to sit to do my art, I saw that sitting after writing for a time needed to be interrupted. So I went to the floor to stretch and I hurt my back. Bad enough that it scared me to think that I might need to go to the ER. But I just took a breath between the ones that the wincing was taking from me and I reached out to four people who walk the same spiritual path that I do. Two are doctors and two are not. All are a part of my family of choice. And every one of them offered their service, with one bringing my gimpy ass self the Tylenol, Motrin and heating pad that were recommended by someone who knows more than I do, loving me out loud and with action. Acts of service is a love language you know.

So tonight, I will order a pizza to be delivered to  my third floor tree house apartment in paradise and bask in the love that the Universe has showered me with in just these last twenty four hour, never mind the last week.

I am indeed grateful. For everything. The pleasure of having eyes that can embrace the beauty of the beach as I go there every morning to see God and fill my cup as well as the times when I hurt with pains of change or pains of moving or pains of missing my daughter because those are the things that move me to grow in my spiritual life. Through those I know in human form who I like to call my God Squad. The ones who tell me the truth in kind and gentle ways. And I am grateful for all of the pain and difficulty that makes me need more than just me. And when I turn those needs to a power greater than what I have, I am consistently richly blessed in ways that you have to know are beautiful.

(My morning set up.)

Time To Go Tulsa

Time To Go Tulsa

(I’m getting loaded.)

Well Tulsa, It’s about that time. I’m leaving you. This time, I think, for good.

I came to you with my mom from Connecticut after my dad died when I was 7. We were supposed to be moving to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but my mom made a permanent detour via Southern Illinois and then here when I was in the 8th grade. 

I started school in one of your junior highs, where the boys in my 8th grade band class were not too kind in their words to me as I was “welcomed” to Tulsa and into the band. When the band instructor introduced this new barely pubescent 12 year old flutist from Illinois, the boys in percussion chimed in. “Is she pointed or flat?” Said the first. “She’s flat.” Replied his buddy. To which the band instructor said  “ .“ That was my first wrongful attachment of pain to you Tulsa. To be fair, I already had a chip on my shoulder for my mom not taking me to the beach in Florida.

I went on to two of your private high schools and graduated. I went away to a short lived college career before I returned to you at 17. I worked in your restaurants. Drank in your bars. 

I escaped you at 19 for a year of fun in the mountains. Skiing and drinking in Crested Butte, Colorado. 

Then a summer in Lake Tahoe working at Caesar’s. Then a couple of years in Texas. Houston first where I got married and drunk alot.  Then on to Austin, where I got unmarried and sober. Once.

After that Tulsa, my car brought me back to you.  All in my early days of sobriety. When the advice is to not make a major change in the first year. I must have thought that being blonde and left handed made me exempt as I left my husband and Texas with all that I owned in my car  bearing a sign in the window which read, “Tulsa or Bust,” to return to you at less than six months sober.  I went to a lot of your meetings. Loved and was loved by a lot of your people.  

I spent three and a half months in one of your halfway (insane) houses, then several apartments over five  or six years until that second marriage of 24 years happened. 

We lived on your outskirts in the sod country of Bixby, Oklahoma for 14 years, where we built a lovely home, complete with three hand prints, one for mom, one for dad and one for 4 year old Abby, dated 2002 on the floor in the corner of the garage.

(Our Family Home)

We fled from you for our first year of marriage to the Dutch Country of Pennsylvania. I could not be with you. I did not like you. I thought you made me unhappy. And I was sure that leaving you was the answer.  

After one year of experiencing that the natives of Lancaster, PA only like people who visit and loathe those who bring moving vans, we aimed for Austin, Texas, but you had the job that fit the mechanical engineer in my house, so back to you, Tulsa,  we came. 

While you welcomed us back,that marriage of 24 years eventually ended here. And so did the dream I had spent have of my life believing in here in Tulsa. 

My creative work of painting began here as my marriage was coming to a close. I started to paint whimsical furniture for kids going into foster care. I also started my real spiritual work with you Tulsa.  I pushed up out of the ashes of my former life, and you generously provided me great teachers of what God does and doesn’t look like to teach me the lessons of the day.

(Samples of my work)

I completed my treatment of and survival from breast cancer here with you Tulsa 18 years ago. Some of your docs could use some work, in my experience, but there were enough good ones here to meet my needs. I mean, I’m still here. Right?

I have known much unhappiness while living with you. You get dark in the winter and you are cold to me too. I have spent much of my time living with you complaining about you. About the way you look. You don’t have an ocean. Or mountains. Your lakes feel like big mud puddles with sticks and snakes and God knows what else in them. I sound like a bitchy wife or ungrateful child here. Don’t I?

One thing I have learned and forgotten and relearned over and over again in my spiritual walk of 35 years is that nothing is perfect and focusing on what I see as negative just makes it more so. Conversely, focusing on what I do like makes it even more so. In other words, it’s all about perspective. And appreciation or as I like to call it, gratitude.

Tulsa, I want to ask your forgiveness. You did nothing to me. My unhappiness was not your fault. Your version of traffic is nothing compared to what I knew in Texas. Your people are, for the most part, friendly and those who I was in relationship with for support, were quite loving indeed.

I could live with you and find the good in you of which there is much. And I learned to do that quite well as I learned and experienced over the years that my happiness is an inside job. To be done wherever my body resides. 

But Tulsa, the God of my understanding has directed my body and soul to the beach. I suffer pains in my body and spirit in the darker days and cold of your winters. Each season is harder on me than the one before as my body and mind advance in age. We just aren’t a good match, you and me. Not today. And because of that Tulsa, I am leaving you.

I am an artist and while you have a quite impressive art community here, one that I only began to truly discover in the last year or so, my bliss is in the colors of the Emerald Coast of Destin, Florida, where I pick up keys to live on August 1. Sapphire blues, emerald greens, periwinkles, tangerines, pinks, turquoises-all my favorite palette to surround myself, dress myself and work with, all on the ever changing canvas that God puts out for my eyes to feast on there at the beach in the water and the sky. It pulls me like a magnet. That’s how God is in my experience.

And so does the weather, particularly their version of winter. I spent all of February there basking in their version of cold, while my daughter sent me pictures of the snowman she had made in our back yard. While I love the smile you put on her face as she stood next to said snowman with the hot pink spray painted boobs, I was so relieved that I could hang up the phone and be with the door open where my body was in a relatively warmer place. 

I have a calling to help young women who are marked with the F word of Felony.  Women who have done their time for their crime, which in most cases was non violent and drug related, done at a time of sickness not badness, but can’t get a break or a decent job in our society. I want to teach them to paint and sell furniture. Something I began here with you Tulsa. And I have found a community of these women in Florida who I can help.

I do love you Tulsa. You do have your own unique beauty and style. Your Riverside Drive along the Arkansas River. Your Philbrook Museum, Woodward Park and Mapleridge neighborhood, just to name a few. 

You have provided me with good friends, great loves, jobs, shelter, amazing doctors, wonderful homes, terrific neighbors, treasured memories, and you are the birthplace of my favorite co-creation, my daughter Abby. 

Thanks for my Happy House. The one on Rockford Place. The one with the hot pink door. This has brought me great joy. My back yard full of bunnies doing what bunnies do best as they just keep making bunnies. For my sun porch where my art grew as my heart grew. And my living room filled with light all around and my ever changing pictures of my picture window. What a delightful revolving evolving art show that has been to see. With each passing moment, as I look out through the panes.

And my front porch that I took for granted until the pandemic hit. That porch became my window to my spiritual friends. Where I sat perched at 8 am, every day since March, armed with phone, coffee and gratitude and a need for connection, abundantly filled by people all over the country. In that tiny screen on my phone. Channeling God through channel Zoom.

(My Happy House and my art)

About Abby, Tulsa. I have never lived more than 20 minutes from her 22 year old self. And she is staying here with you. So, please. Take good care of my little girl. The one who lives inside of that bright, funny, gifted beautiful young woman of whom I am so proud. Surround her with your best God squad to protect her and love her as I will only be able to do so at an 800 mile distance. Keep her safe in her home and on your streets and in your workplaces and with those she keeps company with. 

(The best thing I ever did)
(Abby in Destin-Hope to Recreate This. Probably not gonna happen.)

Thank you Tulsa. For being my home all these years. And for letting me go.

Pandemic Pie and Offspring Gratitude

Pandemic Pie and Offspring Gratitude

I am setting a timer for five minutes. Then, I am going to write as much as I can of things I am grateful for.

Annnnd GO.

I am grateful for the time with my daughter since March 1st as I get ready to move 800 plus miles away from her. 

I am grateful for seagulls, sandpipers, white sand, blue water, green water, drinking water, food, shelter, clothing, 

Keys, prayers, mediation, friends, family, my pink rug, my turquoise table, my happy meal toys, art, whimsical brains, colorful ideas, words, letters, 

This, you, me, legs, arms, faith, fear, pain, growth, grief, joy, grace, salt, pepper, hello fresh, cake, cookies, 

The dog that is coming, the love that is coming, the friends that are waiting, 

My car, my health, my breath, my yard, 

The rabbits, my eyes, seeing color, my art, my sense of humor, your sense of humor, 

You reading this, me writing this, 

The sun, the moon, the stars, the sky , clouds, rain, dark, light, full spectrum lamps, 

Paint, medicine, vitamins, zoom, blue books, 

Writing, music, theatre, 

Pauses, 

Coffee, spaghetti,

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, 

Seeing color, tasting flavor, feeling love, feeling warmth, suntans, flip flops, beaches, towels, umbrellas, cameras, pictures, photographs, 

Education, growth, compassion, empathy, openness, teachability, 

Listening, speaking, laughing, crying, 

Deepak, Oprah,

you, 

Shoes, Kate Spade.

The timer just stopped.  But I am not going to. Because there is so much more. I am so glad that all I have to do is this moment. Right now. Until all of the moments add up to one day. This day. And this day is a beautiful one. Because I woke up. Still breathing. That’s a win. 

(My Kate Spade Shoes)

It’s pandemic season. And I find it like living a marathon. I am choosing to be with me for the most part. Only seeing a few people in person and at that, with a distance between us of six feet, or, according to the screen saver at the Home Depot checkout counter, six pies. 

I saw this yesterday when I went in to get packing supplies. On one side of the screen is a universal sign for “person.” Like on bathroom doors. On the other, the same image wearing the orange Home Depot apron. Between them a horizontal line with arrows on each end. Above that line, the words “six feet.” Below the line, “six pies.”  I am wondering. Do people have to be 12 inch pie eaters to work at Home Depot? 

(This wasn’t it, but I like it.)

Mine are more like 10 inch pies, so I will keep a seven pie distance from you. And then when you go, I will eat the pies. But I like cake right now. So how about a seven cake distance? Yes. Three yellow birthday cakes with chocolate cream cheese buttercream frosting alternating with four simple chocolate cakes with cream cheese ganache frosting. The recipes from scratch coming from Bon Appetit and my kitchen. 

I have learned to like cooking since March 2020. And over ninety plus days, I have added three food groups. Cookies, cake and Hello Fresh. 

I choose to not go to restaurants. I think I have had less than a dozen delivery or pick up meals in all of these weeks. Instead, I have slowed the the pace and enjoyed dinner. At the table. With my daughter. What a gift. Delicious. And the food is good too. Hello Fresh. Delivering to our door every Tuesday. A box filled with Hall of Fame recipes. All of the ingredients. No waste. Exact amounts. And colorful simple recipe cards with simple instructions. Just wash the produce, cut or slice or zest or dice. Bake or boil no trouble or toil. My daughter and I have taken turns with preparing the meals and cleaning up after.

Prior to this pandemic, I was not a fan of cooking. I have had anorexia in my history. Buying groceries, keeping them in my house, planning a menu, getting the ingredients-all have been great stressors in my past. Exhausting mentally. 

But now, thanks to the pandemic state in which I reside, I have upped my game. Not just assembling food groups like a chore. With the same chicken legs and rice and tuna and salad. I did the bare minimum to nourish before and while my body’s needs were met, I was missing out on so much in my soul. 

The Zen of thinly slicing scallions. Separating the white from the green. Zesting bright yellow lemon. Patting dry chicken like a mom who dries her baby’s butt. There is a nurture in meal prep. And while this may not be news to you, for me it has been a daily headline. Of Color. And texture and flavor. 

Crispy Parmesan Chicken
with Garlic Herb Couscous & Lemony Roasted Carrots

That has fed my body. My soul. And my spirit. Not just by preparing. Or cleaning up. Both of which have been gifts to be grateful for as doing the task forced being in the moment . Not just for the delicious tastes that met on a plate. Orange carrots roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper, topped off with the zest of a lemon and some of its juice. No wait. There’s more! Next to this vegetable was couscous. Who knew? I didn’t! This gooey, slippery bland on its own food that looks like tapioca in the pan could take on such flavor from garlic and butter and scallions and salt. But wait. There’s more! Next to that, what was once a sad saggy breast, naked with not even skin, transformed by salt, pepper, sour cream, pancho bread crumbs, fresh shredded parmesean and smoky paprika into a lightly crusted juicy delight. 

The best part of the meal?

The face across the table. 

That I have gotten to see for so many dinners. 

Because of the pandemic. 

My silver lining dinner date. 

Abby.

(Me and my daughter, Abby.)
The Man In The Big Yellow Hat-My Dad

The Man In The Big Yellow Hat-My Dad

My dad had two names. His given name was James William Bunn. But for his career in show business, he used the name Jimmy Blaine.  

(Jimmy Blaine, my dad)

I am prompted to write this with two days in mind. Today, which is Father’s Day, and the day that he died.

I was just seven years old. March 18, 1967. It was a Saturday morning. I sat perched in my father’s big leather chair. In the TV room. Next to the table which had all of his smelly pipes on a circular stand. One was a corncob. The others traditional with black curved mouthpieces attached to dark, rich satiny wood bowls.  The room was above the garage at the top of the stairs with a birds eye view of the kitchen. We met there every Saturday morning. For a date with Bugs Bunny and Sylvester and Tweety. 

My dad was nowhere to be found. As I looked down the stairwell into the kitchen below, I saw one of our neighbors there. And I knew. Something was terribly wrong. This neighbor was not a fan of my father. At just seven years old, I had the awareness that at some point, she had been angry with him for driving her daughter home from babysitting after having a lot to drink.

(Photo from real estate listing showing view up the stairs from the kitchen)

The next thing I remember is seeing my mother and our minister coming up those stairs. I loved my mom, but that was not the planned meeting I had in mind. “Your father has gone away in an airplane. And he won’t be coming back.” The message the minister delivered to me. Not “Your father has died.” Or passed away. Instead, I was lied to.

Two years later, my grief reared its head. Watching the movie “Love Story” in Oklahoma City where my brother and sister were in college and I had gone to visit. In the movie, when Ali McGraw’s character died, all of my pain came to the surface in a rush of tears. A hysterical episode. But not like from Seinfeld.  It was the first time in my nine year life that I had ever cried so hard that I can still remember it today. 51 years later.

Since my father died, I have known over fifty fatherless Father’s days. It has been my norm. And over that time, until recently, I have all but forgotten him. My best friend of my life. I had written him off because of things he had said and done to members of my family. And I regret that. 

So today, this Father’s Day, June 21, 2020, in this year of perfect vision I honor both of you. James William Bunn and Jimmy Blaine.

Jimmy Blaine supported a family of five. With a brilliant talent. His voice. And his words. He made a fine living from both. We lived in privilege in Larchmont, New York. Complete with a membership to the Larchmont Yacht Club. The kind where really big yachts come to play. Then on to bigger and better as his career was burgeoning. Building a dream home on two acres in Wilton, Connecticut. We had four collies and a pony at one time there.  

(Larchmont Yacht Club, NY)
(Our house in Wilton, Connecticut)
(The Bunn Family sans Phyllis-I’m the one in the hat with the face on it.)

A singer, radio and television announcer, my dad was the voice of Nescafe coffee. And what Ed McMahon was to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, my father was to Jackie Gleason on the show of the same name. The one with The Honeymooners. He once filled in for Buffalo Bob on Howdy Doody. Went by the name of Jersey Jim. He performed Vaudeville style with Bert Parks. The man who I watched sing “Here she is, Miss America” all throughout my childhood. It is surreal to see that my dad has an IMDB page. And to search his name on Youtube, only to find sharings of recording he made on 78 records of children’s songs in the 50’s.

His last career venture wise was to record all of the Curious George books. Complete with him reading and singing, backed by a chorus and full MGM orchestra. The first of the series was an album that I still have. One one side the first book. “Curious George.” On the other, “Curious George Takes A Job.”

James William Bunn fought in World War II. He had dropped out of college to enlist. He became a pilot and was a Lieutenant in the Eighth Army Air Corp, known as the Mighty Eighth. There was no Air Force at the time. He was stationed in England as a B-17 bomber pilot. He saw combat, flying missions over Nazi Germany when he was just 20 years old and lost several crewmen when his plane was hit by enemy fire.

James William Bunn was attacked again. This time, on his home soil of New York City. Manhattan to be precise. Someone had mugged him. Left him for dead in a stairwell in 1952 with a fractured skull. Today’s terms call it a traumatic brain injury. A trauma that spilled over.

The doctors put two steel plates in his skull. He was prone to grand mal seizures. That means big ones.  The stories my mother told about him having a seizure where she kept a tongue depressor at the ready so she would not lose a finger if she put her hand in his mouth still resonate with me. He was just 27 years old.  Lying at one end of a hospital trying not to die while at the other end, my mother was giving birth to my sister. I was not born for another eight years.

(Dad on the streets of Manhattan)

Jimmy Blaine was “The Man With The Big Yellow Hat.” It was his last gig. In this picture, he was wearing a felt hat that he had spray painted yellow. This was a big party, complete with a live monkey on a leash, upon the release of the album. I believe we were at Tavern On The Green in Central Park. That’s me in the bottom left with my mom and I both eating BBBats toffee on a stick. Chocolate. And it is likely the drink I had was a Shirley Temple. With lots of cherries.

(Curious George Launch Party)

Today, as I look at this picture of my father just months before his untimely death, I am filled with warmth that he is looking. At me. With what appears to be an expression of love. From a father to his child. 

On March 18, 1967, my father walked past my door at the top of the stairs, turned the corner to complete the walk past the white spindle railing topped with a dark stained  wooden banister. Into my parents room. Where he would have the last of the grand mal seizures. This time stopping his heart. And breaking mine at the same time. He was only 42 years old.

So Happy Father’s Day. To my two dads. While I miss you both, I am grateful that I can honor your memory today. And every day.  I am so grateful for the gifts you gave me. My voice. My words. My sense of humor. My passion for an audience.  

One last thing. James William Bunn also got his Master’s degree from Columbia University, where he did his master’s thesis on the works of Mark Twain. He was a big fan.  This was the quote from Mark Twain on his headstone:

“Green Sod Above

Lie Light, Lie Light

Good Night, Dear Heart

Good Night, Good Night.”

This Is The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

This Is The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

(IT’S THURSDAY!)

Stuff Dreams Are Made Of is both a shop and a place to create. Just off the charming street of Main in Jenks, Oklahoma, home to antique malls and small town folks businesses is where you will find it. From the outside, it’s just a modest craftsman bungalow. Plain and simple. Bookend boxwoods under matching porch rails topped with identical pillars. 

But don’t judge this book by its cover.  Once you cross the threshold, you forget everything behind you. At least I did. 

There is so much for the eye to see.  Kind of a curiosity shoppe. Two big tables welcome 8 or 9 people with a space to create. Bins and bowls and tables filled with finds from generations past-old marbles, postcards, teacups, valentines, matchbooks, dolls, letters, buttons, dollhouse furniture, old tins, sequins, wooden boxes of every shape and size, vintage toys, shadow boxes, old keys, vintage jewelry, fabric, ribbon, yarn, paper, canvas, glue, paint- all in a miraculous sense of order throughout the three rooms and butler pantry downstairs, as well as the munchkin height room at the end of the stairs that run straight up the middle of the house.

The walls are covered too. Mostly mixed media masterpieces created during open hours, but also some previously created art work just begging for a repurposing. 

And that, for me, is the draw. Mixed media art. To take an existing canvas. There are many to choose from. Some for $2, some donated for free. Then, breathe new life into it, using any material that floats your boat. 

My favorite is this collage I made using Vogue Magazine images and other found objects. The original painting underneath I am sure has a story. It was a general with three stars on his uniform. I left that exposed because I am a giver of stars. That is a story for another time.

I started going to Stuff Dreams Are Made Of over a year ago. To create. I am religious about it. Because making art is healing. For my soul and brain. Every Thursday and sometimes on Saturday. 

And I had company. Always Linda. She is the shopkeeper.  And giver. And helper. And sharer. And listener. And knower. And seeker. And teacher. And (only by request) opinion giver. And creator extraordinaire.  And my good friend. Anywhere from three to six people might come and go during open hours. Regulars. Emilie would show up with her quick wit and beautiful heart. Pamala with her unique talents and contributions. Heather with her smile from ear to ear. Lisa with her quiet wit. Mary with an entire craft room in tow. Janie with her brilliant mind.  Ann with her ladybugs and great giggle. Lauree with the laugh of the century. Elaine with her sense of humor. Shawna with her impeccable spirit. Dwight with his quiet gifts. Paul with his attention to detail and great taste in flowers and women. 

I was there every Thursday. All day. Nothing could keep me away. Not heartbreak, insomnia or even chronic pain. I was and am fully committed to the creative process. Every Thursday.  

Lunchtime is a ritual of Happy Meals and “Your Holiness” prayers. 

I have over a dozen toys proudly displayed around my home. And it’s true. They make me happy. 

(Linda and I picking up Happy Meals.)

I continued into my second year until the doors closed temporarily due to pandemic. Even then, Linda could not be stopped. To encourage continued creating, there is a Giving Tree outside the shop. Offering goody bags with things to make art with every Thursday for curious passers by encouraged by the sign on top to “TAKE ONE.”

(The Giving Tree)

Linda would offer a suggestion for what people might do while there. Things like:

Dollmaking, Mixed Media Mandalas, 365 Days Of Thankfulness Jars,

Start with a: Rock, Dragonfly,Triangle, Heart, Scribble,Rock, Game Board

Making An Altar To Love.

I rarely did the theme of the day. I always had more than one idea of what I wanted to create. And Linda allowed it. No rules, except for the ones we learned in Kindergarten to clean up our messes. She tolerated me. I sprawled out over three people’s spaces the minute I walked in most days. Linda lovingly had me corral all my stuff.

I healed from a lot through creating in this house. With these women. And a couple of men. While the mood for the most part is light to honor the time for creating, (politics and religion are checked at the door) when someone around the table has a hardship, it is lessened around the tables of Stuff Dreams Are Made Of. It was just a by-product that beautiful art was created in the process as grief was shared and lessened and lessons were shared and learned. 

I think I can understand how those women who gathered for quilting bees felt. What an incredible exchange can be made among people who are smack dab in the middle of creating. The brain goes to a relaxed place and healing happens. And art is the by product.

Also much laughter. There were times when a tiny plastic banana became a phone which was passed around for each willing party to have a chat with whoever was on the other end. When the phone was passed to me, the voice on the other end was hostile and uppity. With an Italian accent.   I think it was a zucchini that called on the banana phone, but I will never know. There is no way to trace the call.

On Halloween, I got married to Frankenstein by a grieving woman.

I will say farewell to Stuff Dreams Are Made Of in the coming weeks. And I will miss the laughter. And the tears. And the celebrations. And the Happy Meals. And the incredible supply of objects to make into art. And the 10 cent trinkets in the old hard case suitcase in the front room. I had to elbow my way between Emilie and Pamala on several occasions to get in on the new additions before they got nabbed.

The one thing I won’t miss is Thursdays. Because wherever I am, Thursday will be there too. And I will continue my commitment. To make the world a brighter place, if only on my living room wall. By being fully committed. To the Stuff Dreams Are Made Of.

Thank you Linda. For your vision. Your heart. Your generous spirit. You have taught me much more than just how to become a better artist. You have led by example and shown me how to become a better person. And a better friend. Thank you for that. I love you very much. 

And so it is,

Amen.

(Linda Reynolds, Owner, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of -323 W. “A” Street, Jenks, OK, USA.)
Pass The Ranch Please

Pass The Ranch Please

Today my daughter and I went from our home in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to see the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie. This is a wide open Nature Conservancy that offers a vast wildlife habitat. Famous for buffalo roaming the fields. 

I have lived in Oklahoma for almost ever and have never seen this famous preserve, so after a friend told me how beautiful it was, my daughter and I set out for a field trip. 

She drove. I cannot be trusted at the wheel in her eyes, which can At times be valid, so I sat there like a giant five year old on a kindergarten field trip. Excited to see what I had not. I wanted to see the buffalo and also to see the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond’s ranch, which is right next door. 

Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman

In these parts, Ree Drummond is famous. For her recipes and for her mercantile and restaurant in Pawhuska, OK, where she sells here food and kitchen wares. I don’t much like to cook, but I will tell you, her crockpot pot roast with red cooking wine, carrots, potatoes and onions recipe is melt in your mouth. To. Die. For. If you like to cook, you probably have heard of her. And if you shop at WalMart, you may have seen her gorgeous colorful kitchen and cookware line aptly branded Pioneer Woman. 

“This is it.” She said, as we entered the rocky road. “Where is the Drummond Ranch?” I said. “Up there.” Past where we are going.” I decided it was no big deal. Which it was not. I have posted a picture of Ree Drummond and what I would have seen had we detoured. Didn’t miss anything. Before we got to the Tallgrass Prairie, my daughter pointed to a different ranch entrance with another name on it, just like the Drummond ranch sign in the photo. “See that? Picture it with the name Drummond instead.” 

We didn’t pass the ranch and I was fine with that. But I thought it was funny when I asked her if we were going to pass the ranch. Hence, the name for this post. I amuse myself. Hey, it’s free.

As we are headed to the Tallgrass, neither one of us has much of a clue as to what we are going to see or how long it takes to get there. All I knew was that it was about a 10 mile gravel road trip through the – you guessed it – Tallgrass Prairie. And that is what it was. A prairie. With tall grass on it. And lots of nature and critters and bugs and birds living in it and on it and under it and around it. Now I am going to confess. I have never much been a fan of the lack of scenery in Oklahoma. It is flat here, with a few hills and the lakes, in my experience, are like giant mud puddles with snakes and roots and God knows what else on the bottom. I am a snob for clear water lakes and mountains and oceans as backdrops. So I tried to keep an open mind and focus on being fully present. Which was hard as I am getting ready to have the Emerald Coast of the Gulf of Mexico as my permanent backyard a month from now. 

It took us about an hour and a half to get there. Upon arrival, my daughter was cruising along so I asked her to slow down and stop. There were some buffalo off in the distance. We stopped. I got out and took pictures. They were off in the distance. I was hoping to see them up close.  It was nice outside of the car where I could hear nothing but the biggest flies, tiny birds in the brush squawking with their heads arched back and the wind sweeping down the plain. It really does that. It sweeps. I saw it. Don’t believe me? Look at my pictures. Here’s proof.

And about 20 minutes into the gravel ride, my daughter was getting sleepy.  It was almost noon. She is off work right now and  this was about her lunch time nap in the parking lot time. So, roles reversed, the offspring settled in for a thirty minute nap in the car while the eager parent, happy to be out of the quarantine house, followed a trail for a little nature walk.

I stayed the course. Tried to be in the moment.  Appreciate the beauty that WAS there. Wide open skies. Wide open spaces. It is a thing of beauty.  No city noise. As I chose from two paths, it was easy really. One was covered in clover, which was covered in bees. I wasn’t afraid, or, well, I was nervous to piss them off. They were having so much fun! Buzzing from clover to clover. Making a whirring concert of zzzzzzzz. I sat on a chair full of bees once. 

So I took the clover free path. And as I started up, I had to pee. I have peed all over Oklahoma in the last three months. Walking places where there is no bathroom. This may not be a big deal to you tree huggers out there, but I’m a Winnebago kinda girl, so yeah, I felt pretty cool for hanging my bare butt out in the tall grass. 

I also decided on this outing that I am addicted to my phone and taking pictures. I had it in my mind to take all the colors of all the wildflowers in pictures. So that I could, oh, I don’t know, have another thousand pictures to have to dump next week because I have thousands of them that I have taken and done nothing with. Well, the phone went dead before I  could get from the pink flower on to the orange and the purple and the yellow and the gold. And I stood there. In the middle of God’s country. Nothing but blue skies and prairie as far as the eye could see. Pouting. For a minute. I told myself the point was maybe that I actually just be present for the beauty rather than trying to catalogue it. I also thought about picking all the colors of flowers to take home to take pictures of them later. Oh my God. I am a sick woman! I left them where they lived, looked around and avoided being like those people I like to judge at live concerts for the fact that they have the show right in front of them. Live. And yet watch it through their tiny screen of their phone, which stands between them and the performance. I wonder. Just how many of those people go home from that $200 show and watch it on their 6” phone with that tiny speaker?

Back down the hill, my daughter refreshed from her nap, we set out. To get out. Of the Tallgrass Prairie. There is only a little ways to go and much to our surprise and pleasure, there are a whole bunch of baby buffalo at the fence! Up close and personal! So we go talk to the babies, take their pictures, listen to them snort, watch them roll around in the dirt, pee and poop, take some pictures and decide we are done. Next stop, fried chicken lunch.

Phone signals are spotty out in nature, so we decide to just follow the road we are on. Rather than turn around and go back the way we came. Hey. It’s not like we had any place to be. We are quarantining together after someone at her work tested positive for COVID 19, so we are happy as clams to be out of the damned house!

We drive along for about twenty or thirty minutes and when I look up, I say, “Abby, we’re in Kansas.” The opposite of Dorothy when she said, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” We laughed and decided to just keep going. Head to Coffeyville. For Popeye’s fried chicken. Well we got lost again. So tails tucked, we finally hit highway 75S and headed back to Oklahoma. Got to Bartlesville about 40 minutes from Tulsa for that fried chicken. Then home. For now. 

Joy, Party Of One

Joy, Party Of One

Since this is the only day I get, today I decided to choose Joy. All day. And I’ll be damned if that has not been what the day has been filled with ever since. 

It started with me waking up, thinking about staying in bed after going to bed, struggling to fall asleep, vibrating from the news of the day. Then realizing I actually had things to look forward to, so I got up.

I went into my routine. Writing three pages, reading devotionals, meditating with Deepak for 26 minutes. (He comes to my living room every morning. For free!)

When writing, I was identifying various feelings like excitement, sadness, fear and joy.

Excited because I get to move from landlock status in Oklahoma to Emerald Coast Gulf of Mexico status in Destin Florida a month ahead of my original September 1 escape plan.

Sad that this means I will have one less month in the same house with my favorite person on the planet, my daughter.

Fear. The usual suspects. Money, having enough, not having enough. Making friends, not dying from Covid or the next beer truck I don’t see when I’m crossing the street. Same shit. Different day. Blah, blah, blah. Exactly that. I write the same list of fears as if it is part of my diet. And I am sick. Of that!

So using my year of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy fact checking, I realize:

I have a lot

  • Going for me. 
  • To be grateful for. 
  • Of friends. 
  • Of talent that can be monetized.

Which brings me to the topic of THIS day. One in a series of which all I get is this days, and I choose. JOY.

That doesn’t mean I won’t feel other things. 

I am feeling a lot in the department of growing pains because I am doing a lot to grow in many areas, so I am good with that.

What it DOES mean, however, is that my focus as of 9am became this. “The JOY that is God guides me NOW.” Today. All day. This is my mantra. 

And here is my report so far. 

9 am. Decision to choose Joy begins after declaring it to about 30 witnesses.

9:30am. Went to dentist to get a crown. They didn’t give me the one I asked for, the one with the sapphire in the middle that I was gonna wear on my head, but oh well. And while I was there, I had a blast. Because I was focused on Joy. Each engagement from the front office to the dental assistant to the doctor, who has been filling the holes in my head for over thirty years was a total gas. Minus the gas. 

We laughed and talked about Florida and dating sites and cooking and kids and jewelry and parenting. I left fully sated. Social outing number 1.

Next stop, alterations for my daughter’s work pants. And once again, being focused in joy, the encounter was joyful. The woman who owned the shop and I (me through my cute mask with the puppy smile painted on it so that when I put it on I look like a happy dog person hybrid because I hate not being able to show my smile in public) had a delightful exchange. About pants and hems and daughters and enjoying our conversation right while we were having it. She even said that the last person she had in her shop and she had the same conversation. About how much these little exchanges of routine errands are now mid pandemic social treasures!

Now to get the eggs. I have put this off, so puppy mask on I go to the grocery store! Get the eggs, look at the humans. Not unlike an eager puppy wanting to lick their faces and get petted, but that would have been weird. And socially inappropriate. Instead, I gathered eggs, hair and nail vitamins and shower apples.

And this is what I told the sweet lady who at self checkout with the boring blue mask, reduced the cost from organic shower apples at $500 a pound to the rightful insecticided shower apples price of $1.29 a pound.

“What is a shower apple?” She said. “I’m glad you asked. A shower apple is one of the many dining experiences that happen in my shower when my daughter is using it. I know, because I harvest shower apple cores during my showers on a regular basis.”

Time for lunch. And a delightful phone call with a fellow creative who dismisses her gifts a bit and me giving her an on the spot pep rally in her ear about life. 

Then, a phone call. Money coming to me for work that comes easy to me. So much joy!

Now for more joy! I filled out my application for my next home to be. A lovely apartment with a fountain view just off a Florida bay. One with the desired natural light in the form of a wall of windows in my living room, a window in the adjacent patio wall as well as another window on the next wall above the dining space! If you know me, you know I am solar powered and that my current picture window is something that I will be leaving behind. So yay for new windows and more joy!

Next up, a conversation with a beautiful young woman. One riddled with the Universe playing pranks on us. In a good way. We were reading something written decades ago, but the relevance on the page was talking about world events just like those we are having today. We laughed at the irony as the book we were reading is one that the Universe uses to prank many people all over the world.

Then, I met with my shrink. She has been providing care for me for over two years. With a clinic that has met my needs since 2013. This includes ten stays in the psych ward. But that was not all. They could only go back to 2011. And that was not my first psych ward rodeo. That story, in its entirety, will be told later.

For thirty years, I have been under the care of a doctor for what has been at times a very cruel brain chemistry. And in that time I have become something of a mental health care connoisseur. Also, an unofficial psych ward concierge. During my last hospital stay in 2018, and I do mean LAST, the staff there knew me and my history. They had participated in saving my life and getting me back to functioning many times. One day, a young woman in her thirties came in for her first, and I suspect only psych ward stay. When she arrived, the nurses asked me to “show her around.” So I did. I told her, “You’re going to do great here.” Words she chose to have tattooed on her chest and the last time I saw her a few months ago, she was doing great. Engaged, building a home and successfully running her creative business.

Today was a pivotal moment in that I will only meet with my doctor one more time. Before she goes on with her career in the state of Texas and I move on with my life to the state of Florida. 

As a teaching hospital, they would assign me to a resident psychiatrist for a one year period during which they provide me with medication management and in this case psychotherapy. And along the way, there was always an attending physician to oversee the training. This offered me some degree of continuity, which was helpful considering one of the residents I got to see for a year once laid her head across her arm on the desk during our session. Kind of like a little kid who is too tired to hold their head up. I’m hoping she chose pediatrics.

But in my case with this resident, I had the privilege of being in her care for over two years, as I was quite ill when she came on the scene. My marriage of 24 years had come to an abrupt end and I got very sick in the throws of my grief.

During the two plus years, using a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication, she helped me get well. And let me tell you, the before and after pictures, if there were any would have had you questioning if the person in the before was the me you see today. 

Today, I got to thank her and the attending, who I was just going to joke with when he came in at the end of the session. I do say to my friends that I suspect they feel good about their jobs as they have seen me go from 7 medications to 2 and being unable to leave my home or feel anything at all to the livewire contributing member of my life that I am today getting ready to start a new life at the beach.

But what happened instead was a flood of emotion. Gratitude. For these doctors and this clinic and hospital that has been at the center of my mental health care inpatient and outpatient for the last seven years. I was moved to tears and the attending even said he needed Kleenex when I finished telling them how grateful I was for the care they had given me. 

So, yeah. I’m gonna dare to say, that now at 7pm, I have successfully had a day filled with joy. And I still get to hang out with my daughter.

As for my mantra. “The JOY that is God guides me NOW?” 

It was and is my truth. AS long as I choose it. Every step of the way.

Teach Your Parents Well-Lessons learned from my offspring

Teach Your Parents Well-Lessons learned from my offspring

May 30, 2020 The Year of Perfect Vision

The older I get, the less I know. And that works for me. Because that gives God something to work with. Teachable gray matter.

And I get some of my greatest lessons from young people. You know, the ones who get a bad rap. The millennials. I try to be mindful of the lesson teachers. Meaning, I never know who my messenger from God is. It might be the person with the foil lining their stocking cap. God uses everyone.

And last night, God used a 22 year old. Who was born at 40 on the wisdom scale, which makes her 62. While science says her brain won’t be fully cooked for three more years, her soul is intact since before her physical day one.

We talked about George Floyd. And the police. And the world. And our society. And I got schooled. Because I sit in my little box, judging from my one tiny perspective the big blue marble that we all live on. And that is one limited, finite view. If I thought there was a right and wrong to how to look at things, I would miss so much. And I have done that. Set in my ways at more than twice her age, I think I have wisdom. And while that may be true, I don’t corner the market on that.

The conversation started with enthusiasm. Excitement. Sharing of beliefs and ideas. Probing questions and answers exchanged between us. It was exhilarating for me. But the more we discussed what is happening in the world from two views, the more frustrated we each became from our seats. And what began as an energized exchange, was quickly drained of all power by the facts of the contents.

I make it a habit not to watch the news. My reason has been that the things that I see, like Charlottesville or the politics of our day leave me quite literally sick. So up until March, when there began a pandemic, I stayed happily ignorant. Justifying this by saying, “I just need to take cover when they sound the tornado sirens. I’m good.” And left it at that. But I’m not good. And I can’t leave it at anything. Anymore. Because me sitting here ignorant of the world around me is irresponsible. 

While I spent my evening after our conversation writing, I found myself happening on a Facebook LIVE video. At first, I scoffed. “Just another talking head. Bleeding out loud about the world events.” Also, she was a person of color. And while I like to think I am not prejudiced, I was raised byu a racist from the depression era and while I am not proud to admit it, I have not completed the unlearning process of that white bread childhood. 

Shame on me. I hadn’t even heard a word. I made that judgment just by looking at the face of the young woman who had over 200,000 views on this video and honestly, that was the reason I stayed. And listened. I thought if that many people were listening and watching what she had to say, it might be good to see what that draw was. I shared her video on Facebook because what she said disturbed me. Her caption read, “I’m scared. And you should be too.”

What I heard was a well articulated fear for the safety of her children and her own safety and the humiliation she had suffered while trying to take care of and make feel safe those who were sworn to keep her safe. She said it better. And she said something about Atlanta that told me she lived there.

What I did not realize, because remember, I don’t watch the news because it makes me sick was that there were riots going on in her back yard and that she was literally fearing for her life and the lives of her children.

So I got over my bullshit and I watched the news. And while I can sit back at a distance from my little box and see the whole world stage from the safety of my white bread living room, not everyone has that privilege. And more to the point, I cannot sit here worried what people will think of me if I express my true feelings about what I see in the world today and claim to be a person who gives their life daily to the service of my fellow human. 

So here is what I see. A planet. With lots of water and land. And people. And on my neck of the woods, there is an echelon. Of people. With the ones at the top, looking down on the rest. Like the suites at a sporting venue or the racetrack. Protected, well fed, with fancy suites. While most of the rest of the people are in the cheap seats. 

And these are the people who do the work so that the ones in the suites can have the money from the work of the backs of the people who do the work to afford the suites. 

And the people in the suites like it when the people in the cheap seats. Fight. And suffer. Because then maybe none of them will look up to notice that the ones in the suites are having a party. And I would say the party was on the people who work’s dime. But it’s much more than that.

In our conversation, I was schooled to the fact that there are school teachers who do their noble work, only to have to go to work at Home Depot at night, missing their family to do so, in order to just survive. Just as I write this, I am getting the same frustration as I had when we talked last night. I need to keep my head out of the sand. And stay informed. And above all, I will ask God, what can I do to affect change? Truly. Because I have taken for granted the freedoms I have had. The ones my father fought for in World War II. The one I have that when I drive my car if I get pulled over, I can be free to get my wallet out of my purse without fearing that the officer might think that because of the color of my skin, I might be drawing a weapon and shoot me. The freedom to live in a country where those who were slaves and built so much of this country are still slaves. To fear. And that is wrong. 

I listened to the other view last night. Two actually. The one in person I treasure. And am so grateful I stayed open. Before we talked, I was judging the riots I had heard about in Minnesota. “That’s not going to help. People are going to get hurt.” Really Lucinda? People are getting more than hurt. People are getting murdered. Wake the fuck up. What I heard from both of the young women was that maybe this is not a riot but a revolution. Perhaps it is necessary for the greater good. 

I don’t know. And that works for me. Because there is a lesson going on here. And it is my duty as a human being to show up for class.