Writer’s Block Party

Writer’s Block Party

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“The women in my small group at the writer’s workshop were writing about trauma and stuff. I tried to tell them that there was a lot of that.” This comment from a man I met at the beach who is a fellow writer. The difference being, he writes fiction. I don’t. His inference was that there was already enough writing about trauma. I say write that shit because there is so much trauma to be written about and the writing and the telling will heal the writer and some of the readers. The message I want to convey in my stories about the things I have survived is that of survival. And you can’t hear enough about that. This is a tough world. And survival is part of living in it.

We met because he was talking about an annual writer’s workshop here in the Florida panhandle that happens every year. One that just wrapped up and that I was thinking of attending next year. Several things I heard him say provoked me. To be fair, I think he was coming from a place of wanting people to succeed, and by that I mean sell books, but I heard some rules around that and I am not sure that I want to plug into a formula to sell. I want to write what I am meant to and then let the results or any monetary success happen. Or not. “I tried to tell them in our sharing group that their writing was a little manic.” What does that even mean? Do I really want to go to a workshop to be told what someone who writes about sea monsters thinks of my work? Aren’t my opinion and that of the source of my words the ones that really matter? What is my motive in going to a workshop anyway? Don’t I already have a style of my own? Or am I looking for a magic formula to sell, sell, sell. And maybe get my ego stroked to the tune of $1000 to me. 

I am a creative person. And a bit of a rebel in that. What I mean is, when I paint, I resist “rules”, like complementary colors, proportions, blending colors. I like to paint what is in me, which, so far, is two-dimensional whimsical, bold, and colorful, whether on furniture or on canvas. It sometimes happens that my instincts for what colors and patterns to combine fit some of these formulas. But it is not because I set out to do it. It is because I am true to my own creative expression. Most of the time. I just want to leave my mark of happy colors or inspiring words in the hope of brightening up the places in the world that need it. Like maybe your home. Or your heart.

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The same is true of my writing. And I have been moved to write a book because when I share with others the good side of the things I have survived, they thank me for sharing. Say I give them hope. That I say what they want to in a way they can not find the words to express.   

When I shared this with my fellow writer standing in the parking lot with the Gulf of Mexico playing back up as its angry waves crashed upon the shore, he was a bit dismissive, as if to say, “It’s already been done. And too much at that.” He also noted that these were women he addressed. Not sure if that was significant to him, but I wonder if he would have noted if they were men. 

He challenged me to go home and write a story for an hour. Then put a bunch of stories together in a book. I entertained that for a minute thinking I probably should because, after all, the suggestion is being made and if it is true that there are no coincidences, it must be true for me. If I use that logic though, then the gallery owner who looked at my paintings and said that I should go online and practice to get good at mermaid bodies and faces so I could sell would have been the right thing to do. If I wanted a career cranking out paintings for Kirkland’s or Home Goods, I would do that. But I don’t.

The good news is that I have my own relationship with my work. And allowing others in needs to be done selectively when I am holding tight to my own convictions. Maybe I won’t sell any more art furniture or canvases. Maybe I won’t have a bestseller. Maybe there won’t be a book at all. I have only been able to write eighty-some pages so far because the subject matter is tough.

Here is the real truth about the block I have entertained up to now. Telling my story could potentially be cathartic, so that would mean parting with some of my baggage of grief and loss. Even though shlepping these bags gets old, it is what I know. It is in my muscle memory to remember that I grew up in a home bereft of nurture and rich with neglect, suffered from alcoholism and anorexia, marital abuse and mental illness, lost a baby, a house, two breasts, and two husbands, and more, I think I fear what I will do with my hands when I really let them go. But all of this is possible if I stay true to myself and what my instincts move me to write. Paint. Create.

There is also the possibility that I do sell a book. That there is abundance beyond belief in so doing. Just typing these words is a challenge because I am owning the very real possibility that my life may one day no longer be small and as I write, my hands want to grab that baggage instead, like a security blanket, but I refuse. 

There is a movie called Finding Joe on Youtube about the influence of mythologist Joseph Campbell on our culture. In it, are testimonies of Deepak Chopra, Mick Fleetwood, inspirational author/teacher Allan Cohen, professional skateboarder/entrepreneur Tony Hawke and others about finding your bliss and living it. The message here is one of how we are all tigers and that there is an abundance of food for sheep that we are offered, but very little food for tigers. I intend to feed my tiger and encourage you to do the same.  Whatever you do that you love, that lights you up, that makes you feel young again, that brings you joy, DO MORE OF THAT. Bake the cake from scratch. Try the new recipe. Take the pictures. Plan the trip. Write the poem. Play the instrument. Make the move. Life is all about practice. The only thing stopping you from practicing yours is you.

And now I am going to take my own advice and get back to my book.  This time, I will put my trepidations and hesitations in my suitcases under the bed so that I can get on with letting go. I suspect it will be awkward at first, but I am confident I will find something to do with my hands.

Anti Social Media-My Recent Experience with Facebook and Online Dating

Anti Social Media-My Recent Experience with Facebook and Online Dating

Destin, Florida February 2021

I am sitting on my couch on a Monday afternoon. It is raining outside here in Florida. 70 degrees.  It is March 1st. I don’t know why I am writing but I am. I am binge watching the same Netflix show of seven seasons that I first began in October as a way to cope with so much alone time during this pandemic isolation. I am at the end of season seven for the fourth or fifth time, I have lost track. It is called Offspring, a show complete with hot Aussie men, a dysfunctional family, sunshine, laughter and tears and quite alot of wit and poignancy, but I got bored after sleeping through an episode or so, so here I am typing away. 

I was feeling lonely and started to do what I used to do which was look to social media to fill the void. I got as far as my Facebook page, where I updated my profile picture, knowing that by so doing, I could get some likes and loves and maybe if I am lucky, some comments. Those are the brass ring you know. I mean, anyone can hit a like or a love but an actual comment. Someone actually ambulating their fingers and going to the trouble to make words out of letters, well, that just feels so…empty really. In the long run. Because this is what happens next, for me, and this is the reason that I have abstained almost entirely from Facebook since the middle of December.

Now, I have set myself up for more loneliness, not less. Because now, I have a choice to make. I can go back to my Facebook to see if anyone has seen my new picture and then see if I have had any likes or comments. And then I can spend time living in my head wondering if certain people I find attractive have seen my picture. Or, whether friends have missed me or not. In the past, it inevitably ended up with entire evenings lost in scrolling, reading posts, being outraged at some, tickled at others, touched by a couple of memes, but ultimately coming away feeling spent, tired and MORE lonely than when I signed on and those hours spent scrolling are never coming back to me. Because I have used something outside of me to try and fill me up, when what I am actually doing is abandoning myself in the process.

Social media!?! It really isn’t social at all. At least not in my “I live alone in Pandemia and I am single” experience. Because since the time I have left Facebook, I have only heard from a small handful of the over 1400 friends on my account. Admittedly, there are probably about half of those who are only friends for business reasons. We have a code where we friend each other and then like each other’s business pages to grow those business pages and hopefully grow those businesses. Facebook algorithms give business pages more exposure when they show a higher number of followers and fans.

I am not judging or criticizing any of those people who I have not heard from. It is a two way street. Just observing my behavior that leads nowhere good.

The view from my window

Today, I decided to do something different. I know people who say that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insane behavior. And I want to feel better, not worse. So that is why I am telling on myself here because who knows, maybe I am not alone in my behavior. Wouldn’t it be ironic if by posting this story on the social media apparatus of my WordPress blog page people relate and take some kind of comfort in knowing that they are not weak or flawed or unloveable, all feelings I have had today backed by the gray rainy sky that blocks my solar mood altering sun from me. 

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of Covid 19 taking life as we knew it, and hermetically sealing it, or in some cases, us in, leaving REAL social interaction in some cases potentially dangerous to our health. I am so thankful that I have remained well from that sickness. 

The sickness I have had has been loneliness. Actually, loneliness is not a sickness, but I have some shame admitting mine. My response to my loneliness at times, is seen by some as sick behavior. I am just going to call it learned behavior. The other social media that I have gone to at times looking for something outside of me to make me feel less lonely is online dating sites. While I do have a valid desire for a loving romantic partnership, I have a pattern there. I start out telling myself that I can do so in moderation. Just sign up for one app, only check it every so often, maintain balance in the rest of my life and before I know it, weeks go by, four dating sites are downloaded on my phone, hours of my nights spent scrolling through pictures of men looking for…something outside of myself to fill my void, entertain me or take away my pain. There have been several dates. First and last, all in ones. I can’t believe I am admitting this on paper, but truth is the only way for me. And the truth is that I don’t want to feel discomfort or grief or loss or boredom for that matter and these are things in me asking to be felt.

I have a support network in place set to catch me when I need to be comforted as I purge losses that I have distracted from in any number of ways. TV, food, shopping, men, women, your life, world news. It is far more exhausting to distract at this point than it is to just sit with the feelings and let them come out. But I still fight just holding still.

I am having to unlearn some bad advice, or better described, “programming” I have subjected myself to for a very long time and took to be gospel truth.  For many years, I have heard the terms, “fake it til you make it,” and “act as if”- two of the worst bits of advice given by people who don’t know what else to say when someone is really in need of dealing with some really uncomfortable feelings. Advice typically given by people who can’t be with their own uncomfortable feelings, so it just trickles down like a bad infection to many unwitting eager for relief listeners. I tried it. It doesn’t work.

For me, it only caused me to believe that I was somehow flawed for having anger or fear or grief or loneliness. And I have them all. At some point or another. Because I am human. I still have shame even writing this here. But I want to be over this. 

So as of this moment, I am not cruising Match.com or Bumble or Tinder or Hinge or Plenty Of Fish, which, by the way goes by POF.com and would be better named POFFOT.com, (plenty of fish floating on top.com), and yet I go there. Desperate. But I want to bring a more whole me to whatever relationship I have coming, which I sometimes trust the Universe is preparing for me.

To be fair to me, and to anyone out there, I don’t bring a healed person to the table, so I am going to do some more of that before I get out there again and I really hope that I allow my daily walk of life to be the source of people I date because online dating leaves me spent. And not in the sweaty, fun way. I rationalize going there by saying “It is hard to meet people out in the world” which I find to be true, but I also find meeting people who I have anything in common with online to be difficult as well. Maybe more so than if I just give it up and see what happens. At the store. At the beach. Who knows. Clearly, I don’t and my way certainly isn’t working.

Honestly, I don’t feel like I am very available right now. I tell myself and others that I want a meaningful relationship and I do. But if I am completely honest with myself, I don’t have a lot to bring to the table right now and I don’t want to lose myself in someone else or use their attention as a distraction for feelings that I am trying to avoid. That is not fair to them. And not good for anyone. Just writing that here is scary because it means getting more intimate with me.

So that is where I will be. Hanging out with friends, open to timing other than mine to fulfill that heart’s desire because I have done nothing but wear myself out, lead people on, lie to myself and spin my wheels. I have caught myself saying “he’s a game player.” “He’s unavailable.” “He’s all talk.” That all may be true, but guess what? I am the common denominator. The laws of attraction are at play here and that tells me that these things are all true of me too, or else why am I attracting this type of man, so I am stepping back.

In the meantime, I have art to create, words to write, a one eyed cat who needs and gives love, a beach to comb, sun to soak up and being to do.

My name is Elvira and I’m an alcoholic.

My name is Elvira and I’m an alcoholic.

(My ego, Elvira)

I got sober at the age of 25. That means for over half of my life, I have not touched a drink. There is much discussion of ego among my sober friends and I.  And somewhere in the last year, I decided to give my ego a name. Elvira seemed fitting. For one, she has the big boobs I wanted when the breast cancer afforded that option 18 years ago. That didn’t go the way I intended, but the cancer did go, so I really can’t complain.  

This morning in the shower, when I was talking to God about writing, the suggestion was made that I introduce Elvira here and speak using her voice. So, here she is!

Elvira: Well THIS is interesting. For all of the times I have screamed for attention, today, Lucinda decides to give me the floor.  

Lucinda: You know, Elvira, you really can be a brat! I have the best of intentions for things like learning to have delayed gratification when it comes to shopping or dating and you just sit in your big chair over there staring at me, shouting bad advice like “Ah go on, spend the money. You can’t take it with you.” Like you have nothing better to do. 

Elvira: Well I DON’T have anything better to do. 

Lucinda: Actually, that’s not entirely true. Did you know that by definition of the word ego, you are a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance? The difference in you, Elvira, is that you want to be all important and it just doesn’t work like that. Another definition of you sees you as the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity. So, I think we should work together. And I want you to understand that I am the alpha in this relationship. Capiche?

Elvira: I’m listening…

Lucinda: Elvira, you and I have one simple job to do. And that is to love.   That is pretty simple. But it is not easy.  Now the first thing you think of when I say that is boys. Romantic love. That is only part of it. That is just a heart’s desire we share. But the love I am talking about here is a universal thing. It is our purpose in the short time we have left here. 

 Clearly, you have trust issues. And you seem to have a God complex and a want to be in charge of me. Well, you are not the boss of me, girlfriend. You are not. I surrender my will to God on a daily basis with the intention of being of service to the best of my ability each day with whatever I do, whoever I talk to, however I spend my time, money and energy. But you get so impatient with God’s plan for us. Why?

Elvira: Well, I have known much disappointment in life with you. And I just want to have some fun for the time we have left here. What is so bad about that?

Lucinda: Nothing. Nothing at all, but when you try and bend things to go your way rather than allowing them to go the way God has planned, you end up creating your own misery and that spills onto me. I know, for example, that you and I have heart’s desire to grow old with and love another in a romantic partnership.

But your lack of trust and fear of being alone with and getting to know me kept us in a marriage that was not happy for anyone for most of 24 years and since that time that same lack of trust in God’s plan and fear of being alone kept us both in relationships where we were settling for less. Don’t get me wrong, we learned lessons from all of these, but we stayed longer than necessary in a couple of them and across the board, there was a pain in the endings that could have been avoided altogether had you and I joined forces years ago and learned together to trust that God would take care of us and taken the time to know each other then as we do now.

Elvira: Yeah, well, I didn’t see much evidence of that care of God growing up with you. I mean, where was God when your mom left us alone all the time?

Lucinda: I get it Elvira. It looks like we were alone. And it felt that way to me, too. But it turned out that we were safe. Right? Nothing happened that I can recall anyway. So here is the deal. Let’s look at facts over feelings. The feelings we shared were those of neglect, lack of love and abandonment. And maybe there was some truth in that. But our mom always came home and in her absence, something kept us safe. Do you see my point here?

Elvira: I am beginning to, yeah.

Lucinda: I think everything that did or didn’t happen to us so far in this life that may have caused pain was a well learned lesson, sometimes more than once that we can now, moving forward for whatever time we are still here, avoid re-learning if you will just work with me here and be a little more patient and trusting.

Elivra: That sounds easy, but when it is Sunday afternoon, and we are alone AGAIN in this pandemic isolation that has droned on for five months, aching for companionship, I just want to talk to boys.

Lucinda: Look, Elvira, you are preaching to the choir. But let’s “play the tape” as they say. Let’s say we meet someone online who is nice enough and let’s say we agree to have coffee and let’s say you make me forget that there is a pandemic because you can be pretty persuasive and we get up close and personal when we have no way of knowing short of a test that is not 100% reliable as to whether they or we have this virus, is it worth the risk?

I know this is a marathon. A waiting game. To see when the coast is clear. So why don’t we just indulge each other until things are safer. We can make nice dinners for each other like we would for a special someone. We can watch great movies. We can play great music. We can make happy art. We can call people who might be lonely. We can share LIVE video of the beach with people who are landlocked. We can write with the hopes of inspiring others who are in the same boat with this pandemic fatigue. Basically, we can give to each other and share with others and when I say until the coast is clear, hell, we have the Emerald Coast of the Gulf of Mexico 5 minutes away where we can go every day at a safe distance from others to get filled up on God’s beauty and the gifts of the Universe. We can love from a safe distance and get filled up in return.

This will all change, Elvira. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. But I do know it will change. We will go to restaurants again. We will hug our friends again. We will go to the movies again. We will have parties again. But until that is a prudent thing to do, let’s just accept what is, take it a day at a time, and make the best of it. 

Elvira: Ok, but I am gonna need a dog, cake and cookies and ice cream. And I mean the good stuff from scratch, and Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen Daz, not that other store brand crap.

Lucinda: Fair enough, Elvira, fair enough.

Fences and Barricades and Alphabet Soup-The Weekend The President Came To Town

Fences and Barricades and Alphabet Soup-The Weekend The President Came To Town

June 19th, 2020 The Year Of Perfect Vision

The tension is palpable in the town where I live. Tulsa, Oklahoma. Today is Juneteenth Day, a day that commemorates the abolishment of slavery. 

Tomorrow, President Trump and Vice President Pence will be in Tulsa for a political rally, where the City of Tulsa estimates there will be 100,000 people in attendance. 

The President’s Rally is set for 7pm. And a Black Lives Matter walk is set to go from Veteran’s Park at 6pm.

Oklahoma’s Governor Stitt has called out the National Guard.

And I am anxious.  In sixty years on the planet, most of that living here in Tulsa, I have never felt such a palpable tension in the air as I did today when I woke up. So much so that I felt moved to go see for myself what was happening on the eve of these events.  

I went downtown to take pictures. I had heard that there were convenience stores boarded up. Six Quik Trips to be exact. Looking like they are bracing for a hurricane. So I started there. At the edge of downtown. And it felt like the calm before the storm. The skies were providing the perfect backdrop too, as clouds loomed dark and large with the pending rains for today. 

As I headed downtown, I stopped to take pictures of the Leon Russell tribute graffiti art. The man at the gate, kind enough to open it for me so that my pictures would not appear to be fenced in.

Next stop, I drove to the site of the rally. The BOK Center. And the first of the barricades. Like the ones in the French Revolution. Where that Civil War was fought. 

It was only 7am, so I didn’t see much activity. There were a few Trump supporters waiting at one gate. Media from all over the country setting up a few blocks from the venue. Behind fences.

I decided to go to the Greenwood District. Black Wall Street. The site of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which had its 99th aniversary in recent weeks. Only a few barricades there. It is less than a mile from the BOK Center. I had heard that there was a BLACK LIVES MATTER banner being painted on the street and I wanted to see it for myself. 

When I arrived, I was told that those who painted it had just left, so what I saw wasn’t even dry yet. All the while, the skies were getting ready. I was excited to see people. Period. I have chosen self isolation for the most part of the last ninety plus days.

As I was leaving, I felt an immense sense of powerlessness. And impending doom. 

I fear that tomorrow there will be an explosion in downtown Tulsa. As haters of blacks, haters of whites, haters of police, haters of Trump, haters of Trump supporters, haters of Trump opponents converge. All of this hate going into a bowl full of people. Who are suffering. An alphabet soup of suffering.

H-atred, A-nger, F-ear, I-gnorance, B-oredom, I-ntolerance, D-isgust, R-age, C-ontempt, I-nsight, C-ovid F-atigue. As if to prepare for a R-iot. Or should that be R-evolution?

T-ime will tell. It always does. It tells what happened. T-hen. And what is happening. N-ow. As a result of what happened then.

I confess to having rubbernecker disease. A morbid curiosity as to what will transpire. 

I want to say I hope it is peaceful. But I think that is arrogant of me. As if I know what is best for all those involved. So I’m going to say this instead. Whatever happens tomorrow in Tulsa, I hope when T-ime tells the S-tory, if there is V-iolence, there will be something G-ood that comes after. C-hange. C-ompassion. E-ducation. C-ooperation, T-olerance. A-cceptance. G-rowth. L-ove.

Growth is necessary. As I-ndividuals.  As a C-ommunity. As a S-ociety. To A-dapt to the C-hanging T-imes and W-orld we live in. H-istory proves that.

When I grow, in most cases, there is some pain. Some say it is the touchstone to growth. I have found this to be true. And I know that I am more inclined to make necessary changes only after the pain is so great there is nothing I can do. But C-hange. And G-row. It hurts in the process. But the P-ayoff is great. Something U-seless is D-iscarded so that S-omething N-ew can take its place.

I inevitably always reach a point where E-nough I-s E-nough.

I think Tulsa and this country are headed for a huge growth spurt tomorrow. And I fear there will be pain. And it is not for me to judge the necessity of that. Or that pain in this case can be avoided. I do not know. 

But my prayer in the midst of all of this is that when all is said and done, whatever consequences come when 100,000 people plus converge amidst the fatigue of a pandemic state and all of that alphabet soup, we may end up spilling the old soup and making new. I think we are due for something that tastes better than H-atred and F-ear. 

It just makes me sad to think that if and when the soup spills, someone will get burned. 

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. 

Storm Season-(It’s about tornadoes and racism)

Storm Season-(It’s about tornadoes and racism)

It was June 8, 1974. 46 years ago today. I was 14 years old. I was home alone, with my two dogs and two cats, a long corded landline telephone, set up for relative safety on the floor of my mother’s walk-in closet. Surrounded by spectator pumps of every two tone combination known to women’s feet, I sat there. Alone and frightened. 

Storm Season in Oklahoma runs from late March through August and today marks this 46th Anniversary of one of the worst tornadic events to hit Oklahoma in history. 16 people died in the state, two in Tulsa where I lived when two powerful F3 tornadoes plowed through the city.

Because of the tornadoes and flash floods in the Tulsa area, all of the television stations were knocked off the air.   All I had was radio. And the phone. And the animals. And all those shoes.

My brother, Jim Bunn, then a reporter for Tulsa’s KRMG Radio and young adult at just 23 years old, was out in the field.  A field rich with headlines as he has landed there frequently during  his illustrious career as a multiple Emmy and Peabody honoree for the way he tells a story. Places like San Francisco when the AID’s epidemic broke out, Ground Zero on September 11th, Atlanta when the Braves “Finally” won the World Series. Quotes because his poster board which read the same in all caps, was the back cover of that issue of Sport’s Illustrated.  (I digress here. Proudly.)

As I sat on the floor with Charlie Brown, Sam, Peanut and Kitty, my brother called me periodically to check on me. Keeping me informed in the moment. Doing the job our mother was failing on that night.

Since that time, I have become a seasoned storm survivor. Weathered over 40 storm seasons in total. There were many storms in and outside my marital home, where I lived  14 years with my husband and daughter on a vulnerable bald spot in Bixby, Oklahoma.

When the tornado sirens sounded, I would join my daughter. Laying on our sidewalk in front of our house. Looking into the open sky.  Unobstructed by trees. Or lazy hawks makin’ lazy circles. We both just stared up with childlike awe of the greenish eerie stillness just before the storm hits the fan. So much drama in total silence.

When the air began to move, we would move to the hallway. With pillows and mattress, two dogs, a cell phone, radio and the satellite TV up and running in the living room. When she was little, my daughter once packed a bag full of groceries and provisions and brought it into the hallway with her. Canned goods and such. These are great memories for me.

Now,  it is storm season again.  And since the end of March, there has been much atmospheric pressure.

In January, Tropical Storm COVID19 hit Washington state. Over a thousand reported dead there as of yesterday. Travelling inland and maintaining force coast to coast, COVID19 has, according to the CDC, infected over 1.9 million Americans, killing nearly 110,000  to date. 

And while there are no tornadic weather events in Tulsa this season yet, the storm warning alarms are sounding. Not the ones that go off on the first clear Wednesday of each month to be sure the alarms are in working order.

But in the streets, as people are walking in protest of the deaths of unarmed men and women of color.   

Retired Generals are calling out the leader of the most powerful country on the planet for abuse of power.

This from Donald Trump’s retired Secretary of Defense General Mattis, as he recalled the oath he had taken to defend the constitution:

“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens,” he said. “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try.” 

I gotta tell you. I really don’t want to write about this. I don’t. Because it makes me really uncomfortable. I am an artist. I like to paint whimsical colorful happy things to try and bring joy to the world. That is where I find my bliss.

But when I asked my God about what to write today, this was my answer. And since I want my will to align with God’s will, I comply.So I am more than willing to comply.  I have the privilege of whiteness and articulation, so I will use my words to try and be helpful in some small way.

The black community is expressing their words, too. They tried to speak peacefully from the sidewalk that what they saw bothered them while George Floyd took almost nine minutes to die under the knee of a white Milwaukee police officer.  

Had they tried to help him, they may have been hurt or killed too. I can only imagine the pain they felt, bearing witness to this death. If I could guess what they were thinking, which I cannot know, because I am white, it would go something like this:

“I am a woman of color. Watching a man of color under the knee of an armed white officer. There have been over a dozen cases in the last year alone where this did not end well for the person of color. Do I step in and help? Maybe cause my baby to lose her mother? I am angry, but I cannot show it, or I may be next.” 

There was no peaceful option there, from where I sit. In my white skin at a keyboard. 

We use force when defending our nation against the enemy. Don’t people who have tried to be heard peacefully at least deserve our compassion for their raised voices? 

The Civil War-that’s an oxymoron-did not end with two sides sitting across a table peacefully discussing their issues. It ended with a president who had had enough of the enslavement of African Americans.

Peaceful is not something that has worked. I think it is a great ideal, but reality and history both indicate that much change for the good requires more than just a peaceful demonstration in order to affect change. I am not suggesting that looters are right or that looters are wrong. Or that anyone is right or wrong for that matter. 

What I am saying is that people who I call fellow citizens are rightfully tired of and no longer willing to live in fear.  And I don’t blame them. I don’t have the answer but I am happy that there is a focus on the question. It is in the news, which, by its nature only leads if it bleeds. So can you blame these people who have not been heard by other means? When the stories that get told are the ones with violence or blood on them? These are just people. Trying to improve their lives. Raise their children in safety. If I felt that my children were not going to be safe in this world, I might be angry too. What would YOU do? 

This country was built on the backs of slaves after we stole it from its original habitants.  If I look at it THIS way, I am a guest here. And I was taught to have manners when I am a guest in someone’s home.

I was taught to say please.  

So to people of darker skin:

Please. Don’t give up.  Keep speaking your truth. Yelling if that is what it takes to be heard. I am hearing more people speak to the issue at hand and what can be done.  Valuing you. Listening to you. And I for one, intend to do better. To help keep this on the front burner of those who would rather be looking at a skillet of burgers than what I have to say.

To people of white skin:

Please. Do better. Be open. To listen.  To comfort. To care. To walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Not to judge, but to breathe and empathise. Imagine yourself having to decide if you are going to live or die when pulled over just because you are black and are getting your license out of your purse.

I was taught to say thank you.

To people of darker skin: Thank you for your patience. Some of us are slow learners. I for one am hanging up my shame so as to not insult you further with that waste of precious time. I am praying for what steps to take as one person in all of this.

To people of whiter skin: Thank you. For getting off your couches and exercising your right to protest injustice with the intent to bring change in the world. For loving people who don’t look like you and bearing some of their burden. 

I was taught to say I’m sorry.

To people of darker skin:   I am sorry for my part in staying uninformed about what has gone on in your world and not doing more in mine to affect change. 

I am sorry for seeing this as “your” problem while I don’t think twice going over the speed limit about what might happen if I am pulled over. 

I am sorry for not seeing you as just as worthy as I am. Of everything. 

I commit to do better.

To people of whiter skin: I’m sorry. For my part in the apathy that we all share and can no longer if we really want to believe we live in a free country.

And I was taught that when I did something wrong, I needed to make it right.  

And here we are. At the start of a new civil war. Only this time, the president is stirring the pot. Not setting anyone free. But I am hopeful. That with this giant step backward, we will see two big leaps forward.

I will close with this. When I picked up my curbside groceries the other day, it was really hot outside. I have been doing this at Wal Mart for months now with the COVID outbreak, so I see the same young men there on a regular basis. There are two who have brought me my groceries who happen to be black. I am guessing them to be in their late teens/early twenties.

In the beginning of the shelter in place here in April, I thanked them and all workers for their courage as I feel all grocery workers are brave to go to work when we can’t know who might be carrying the virus. It was a light exchange.

The other day, the young man who brought my groceries looked exhausted. I told him I could not imagine what that was like to be in and out on that hot pavement all day. I think he was tired from more than just the heat.

As he was loading my car, he commented on the fact that I had canvases in the car. I told him I had just been in a show. He told me that he likes to paint. We talked about art, my favorite thing and I encouraged him to keep doing that. I like to encourage people to be creative because of the healing it has brought me. I want everyone to have some of that. And while I was empathetic to the heat, I felt awkward about the elephant in the room, and said nothing to acknowledge the unrest going on today.

I will not repeat that behavior in the future.

White Shame

White Shame

June 1, 2020 The Year of Perfect Vision

I am ashamed of myself. And I should be. For years, I have rationalized my choice to not be informed about what is happening in the world. In particular when it comes to Black Americans or African Americans or people of color, however you choose to phrase it. 

My justification has been one where I say, “It’s not MY problem.” And at times, in the past I have harbored the thought, “Slavery is over. Get over it.” Not proud of that.  And I have been so wrong for that. 

Because the truth is it is MY problem if I claim to be someone who tries to love everyone and be in God’s will to do just that so if I am doing that, I don’t get to pick and choose who I love. And while slavery in its original form of people actually owning people like property may be in the past, the repercussions of that are still playing out in the lives of the descendants of those people today. 

I want to be careful here too because I don’t want to pretend I know something just because it might impress you. So, I  hold myself to integrity of being authentic. 

I was born into an all white family. It was 1960. We were wealthy. My father was in show business. White was the norm. Color was the help. Emma used to bathe me and love me and mother me for money. She was the only maternal nurture I had at that time too because my birth mother had nothing to give, living with an abusive husband and having a wonder bread life in public in the limelight of his show business monied career took up all of her time. 

When I look at my childhood for any maternal memories, Emma is the only person who comes to mind. Because in my experience for the first five years of my life, five days a week, Emma WAS my mother. She bathed me. Fed me. Clothed me. Loved me. Which is a verb. 

And in my early racist training that was happening on a subliminal level, I saw her as something other than a human being. I saw her as a servant. Similar to a slave. I once made her cry too when I said she had funny hair. That is the pivotal moment when in a perfect world, my parents would have properly educated me. I am sure they made me apologize.  I doubt that they were even conscious of the depth of her pain at my remark. It went deeper, I am sure than just her hair. But they did not. I was five years old. But old enough to get more of a lesson than I did.

I was too young to have known better. But I know after growing up with my mom that she was a racist. She learned it somewhere. And never unlearned it, so by osmosis, I learned it too. And am still unlearning it, with current events finally getting my attention.

My family did not mistreat Emma. She was a part of the family. But to me, she was hired help. So I see a blurred line in that. I lived in a community of affluence, complete with a white only Yacht Club, where I swam and my siblings learned to sail. And I was oblivious to what was REALLY going on.

Today, I cannot speak first hand for what anyone else experiences when they are marginalized and murdered as a result of the ignorant judgment they suffer based on the color of their skin, because I live a privileged white life. And I have hid in that. But if I am going to fulfill my purpose while I am here, which is to love people, I cannot compartmentalize that anymore and say, “except for those people.” 

I have had two conversations today so far about what is happening in the world today. One, with a friend who is a middle aged white male. The other, a good friend also middle aged and who happens to wear a Sergeant’s uniform with the Tulsa Police Department.  Both conversations addressed the Black Lives Matter concerns that are in the headlines since the death of George Floyd, an eight minute knee on the neck by an officer chokehold which looked like murder to me, as cities across the nation are seeing protests, fires and looting to protest inequality against people of color with the focus largely on our Police officers nationwide.  And all of the rest of the injustices that have been perpetrated on African American citizens of the country that I call home. 

There were two protests in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I live, this weekend. The first, which I was at, which was motivated by the death of George Floyd, was a small gathering of a few hundred people around the deaths of many people of color at the hands of men who wear the uniform of law enforcement.

 Yesterday’s protest was to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. And there was a big rally around that anniversary. This was an attrocity that many people know nothing about.

(From Wikipedia under Tulsa Race Massacre)

 The Tulsa race massacre (also called the Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre) of 1921  took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district – at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street”.

More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals and as many as 6,000 black residents were interned at large facilities, many for several days.  The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 36 dead, but the American Red Cross declined to provide an estimate. A 2001 state commission examination of events was able to confirm 39 dead, 26 black and 13 white, based on contemporary autopsy reports, death certificates and other records.  The commission gave overall estimates from 75–100 to 150–300 dead. 

The massacre began over Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building. He was taken into custody. A subsequent gathering of angry local whites outside the courthouse where Rowland was being held, and the spread of rumors he had been lynched, alarmed the local black population, some of whom arrived at the courthouse armed. Shots were fired and twelve people were killed: ten white and two black.[18] As news of these deaths spread throughout the city, mob violence exploded.  White rioters rampaged through the black neighborhood that night and morning killing men and burning and looting stores and homes, and only around noon the next day Oklahoma National Guard troops managed to get control of the situation by declaring martial law. About 10,000 black people were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property (equivalent to $32.25 million in 2019).

Many survivors left Tulsa. Black and white residents who stayed in the city were silent for decades about the terror, violence, and losses of this event. The massacre was largely omitted from local, state, and national histories.

In 1996, seventy-five years after the massacre, a bipartisan group in the state legislature authorized formation of the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Members were appointed to investigate events, interview survivors, hear testimony from the public, and prepare a report of events. There was an effort toward public education about these events through the process. The Commission’s final report, published in 2001, said that the city had conspired with the mob of white citizens against black citizens; it recommended a program of reparations to survivors and their descendants  The state passed legislation to establish some scholarships for descendants of survivors, encourage economic development of Greenwood, and develop a memorial park in Tulsa to the massacre victims. The park was dedicated in 2010. In 2020, the massacre became part of the Oklahoma school curriculum.

(End of article.)

After the rally that happened during the day yesterday, it went on into the night, near where I live and while the unrest that developed on Tulsa streets did not measure up to Atlanta, Brooklyn or LA, I could feel it in my spirit at home. 

My house is less than a mile from where the protest had turned into a volatile scene. I watched live via Facebook feed from our local Fox news as a hundred or so people were filling the streets after Tulsa Police was asking them to stay on the sidewalks. Water bottles were thrown at Police and they responded with pepper balls. 

The crowds were dispersing, but the unrest was there. And it made me uncomfortable. Not for my safety. But for my part. Because I play one when I sit in my safety of white privilege, patting myself on the back to say that I have friends of color, as if that is enough. One , who owns the Oklahoma Eagle, the African American newspaper here in Tulsa, I say is my friend. But am I his?

The truth is, he is someone I rarely talk to. Or reach out to. Or act like a friend would act with. And he has been a friend to me and to my family since I was 19. He probably harbors no ill will to me, but there was a time when he showed up at my apartment, taking time from his busy criminal law practice, to be my friend. I was in the throws of depression and he was doing what God asks of him and of me. Loving all people. And on that day, he took me to a monastery in the Osage Hills. Acting out loud his love. For God. And demonstrating that love. For me. 

My friend who is a police officer is a good man. And a kind human being. He has been a good friend to me. Seen me at my worst and loved me when others were too uncomfortable to be with that. And he is being lumped in with the rest of the law enforcement officers. The ones who are hurting and killing while in their uniforms. And that makes me really sad. When I hear him after those who use his friendship with a phone call for police advice but also post from the safety of their Facebook keyboards unkind things about the police when he is one, hurting my friend who had done nothing to them.

The other friend, who just left my house, asked me what did I think of what was going on? Before that question, we were having a fun chat about love and relationships. But when the topic changed, the mood did too. It ended with a mutual agreement. As he heads to New Mexico to get his teenage son and bring him back to Tulsa to finish raising him, he was mindful of the fact that this child of his has grown up around white people in the desert and that Tulsa will be a new experience for him. And we both agreed that we have a part to play in the educating of our children as well as action to take ourselves to no longer exclude the concerns of the world by saying, “It’s their problem.” We both agreed that as human beings who share the responsibility to love all, we cannot discriminate. Anymore. 

There is no way for me to end this with something that makes me feel comfortable. So I will rest in my uncomfortable. And I am grateful for it. I am getting a wake up call. And if  being responsible to my part in any of this means, I sit in my own discomfort as I search my soul on how I can affect change, I think that is the least I can do.