Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Curse

Since January, I’ve been trying to improve my attitude toward housework. It was one of my New Year’s resolutions. Instead of thinking of housework as a curse, I decided to refer to it as “housefun,” at least in my mind. After all, changing one's negative attitude is about mind control, and housework--I mean housefun--is good exercise, right?

To help with this attitude adjustment, I turn up the volume on my Google device, sing as I dust, and dance with the mop. I reach extra high and bend extra low, engaging all muscle groups. I convince myself that it’s good for heart health and weight control, and surely my Fitbit is registering lots of steps. Therefore it must be fun. Mind control, attitude adjustment. Bah humbug!  

Why is it I can walk three miles at a good clip and feel energized afterward, but thirty minutes of housework leaves me exhausted and dripping with sweat? Let’s break this down. “Housework” is a term that doesn’t adequately describe the process that must occur to get a house clean. “House torture” is more like it.

You see, housework involves de-cluttering, sorting, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, polishing, scouring, changing bed linens, shampooing rugs and upholstered furniture, washing windows….well, you get the picture. With all that bending, reaching, climbing, and scrubbing you would think my Fitbit watch would explode with the effort of awarding well-earned steps. But no! I can spend a whole Saturday cleaning to find I’ve racked up only 800 steps. My daily goal is 7,000 steps.  

The curse is that I like a clean house. I want my floors to shine, my countertops and sinks to sparkle, and my furniture dust-free. Hire a maid, you say? I’ll bet Barbara Taylor Bradford, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, and JK Rowling all have maids. But there’s a catch. My net worth as an author is far from $300 million like Bradford and even further from Rowling's $1 billion. If that were true, I’d have a live-in maid--make that two live-in maids--and a butler. How am I supposed to become a best-selling author when I’m busy doing housework? 

You’ve seen all those helpful hints and products that promise to make housework a breeze, right? Conspiracy theories! Fake news! I’m here to tell you the only way housework is easy-breezy or anywhere approaching fun is if someone else is doing it. When I’m scrubbing a toilet or mopping a floor, I’d rather be doing just about anything else: giving blood, having a tooth pulled, sitting on a thumb name it and I’m your gal. Mostly, I’d rather be writing. 

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Monday, February 22, 2021

I Try to Understand

When someone expresses an opinion that differs from mine, I try to understand their point of view. If we’re debating which way the toilet paper roll should be placed on the dispenser or whether coffee is a better beverage than tea...well of course, coffee wins, hands down. But if you’re a tea drinker, I don’t judge you. And if you feel you must take the toilet paper from the underside like a barbarian, so be it. We agree to disagree, and our relationship survives. 

However, if it’s an important issue, I attempt to look at it from the other person’s perspective. I think about it, meditate on it, and pray about it until I find discernment and finally peace. I’ve lived long enough that other people have sometimes been successful in changing my stance...with a few exceptions.

White supremacy is one of those exceptions. I will never, and I repeat, never understand how fellow members of my Caucasian race can justify the premise that people of color are inferior and deserve less respect than white people. Whenever I try to understand the perspective of white supremacists, nothing convinces me that it is okay. I simply cannot make sense of it or condone it on any level. 

I attended college in Greensboro, North Carolina in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. I clearly recall the sit-ins, the marches, and the riots. We awoke nearly every morning to sirens wailing not far from campus. At night, the sky blazed with flames rising from buildings throughout the city. Not that we could get close to the action. For our safety, we were confined to campus, and our administrators imposed a sun-down curfew for most of my sophomore year. 

That curfew posed a problem for music majors. We needed to use the practice rooms after dark. Evening was the only time we weren’t busy with classes and jobs. That meant walking across campus to the music building, something the male students were allowed to do. Remember, this was the sixties. We “young ladies” complained to the administration until they finally gave us permission to be out after dark as long as each of us was accompanied by a male chaperone.

When a disciple of Malcom X came to town, my religion professor was determined to take his students to hear the man speak. I have no idea how he managed it, but with or without permission, we walked to UNC-G, located only a couple blocks from our campus. We had been studying Islam, and our professor was a proponent of the adage, “Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes.” 


I will never forget what the speaker said, how he said it, or how afraid I felt as his militant words washed over me. On television, I had heard Dr. King speak with intelligence, reason, and non-violent rhetoric. This was a large, very loud, very angry Black man speaking to--or rather shouting at--a primarily white audience. Honestly, I wondered if we would get out of there alive. 

Malcolm X, the founder of the Black Panther movement had been assassinated only three years earlier. With his radical Black Power agenda, he was no Martin Luther King! But I understood. It seemed that King and his peaceful protests had failed to bring about significant change, and Black people were fed up. If they couldn’t appeal to decency, justice and their Constitutional rights through peaceful means, what recourse remained for achieving equality? Yes, I understood.

I still understand. I still have no patience or tolerance for racial slurs, racial superiority, segregation based on race, hatred or violence toward another race, or denial of fundamental rights due to race. 

If you haven’t ‘walked a mile’ in Black shoes, try this on for size. It is an excerpt from the eloquent letter Dr. King wrote to his fellow clergymen in 1963 from his jail cell in Birmingham.  

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity…

“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say wait. But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; … when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see the tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking in agonizing pathos: ‘Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?’ when you take a cross country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading ‘white’ and ‘colored’; when your first name becomes ‘nigger’ and your middle name becomes ‘boy’ (however old you are); … and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title of ‘Mrs.’; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”   

Have we as a country made any progress since 1963? Do Black Lives Matter today any more than they did in 1863 or 1963? How long must Black Americans wait? I try to understand, but I cannot. Bigotry and racism cannot be understood as anything other than wrong! And so I ask, “When will Lady Liberty’s torch, at last, shine on people of color in the so-called ‘land of the free’? 

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

What Inspires You?

One might say that the COVID-19 pandemic inspired my latest book,
After Rain, but that wouldn't be wholly accurate. Certainly the pandemic lockdown prompted my writing, but it was God who inspired it. Does that make me one of God’s chosen messengers, a prophet, or a cleric? No. I’m not qualified to claim any of those labels. But, as a follower of Christ, I’ve learned to listen in the silence of each morning for that “still, small voice.”  

For me, writing is nearly always a spiritual experience. My writing is a response to what I’m thinking and feeling, but, more than that, it is a response to whatever I’m discovering about life within the context of faith. It can also be a reflection of what I need such as strength or discernment or healing; and I have lived long enough to understand that my needs are not unique or special. Rather, they are shared by all of humanity, whether consciously or not. 

Each new day brings fresh discoveries, it seems. I learn something new about myself or humanity or God almost daily. Sometimes these revelations happen by accident--when I’m not even searching--but more often inspiration comes because I have purposely opened my psyche to awareness of life’s mysteries and God’s miracles. 

Few people make space for Divine inspiration, it seems. It’s no one’s fault. We are busy with jobs, families, chores, social media, and myriad other distractions. So, the practice of being awakened to inspiration must become a scheduled event. 

As I discussed the format of this book with my publisher, I knew I wanted it to include a space for readers to respond to the weekly devotions through prayer, meditation, and journaling. We agreed that each month’s entries should end with a lined page where readers could write their own thoughts after my prayer and meditation prompts.

If you purchase After Rain, you will benefit a wonderful non-profit organization that never charges a penny for its services: Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg, Virginia. In exchange for your generosity, I trust you will be blessed with comfort and peace by taking the time to pray, meditate, and reflect through your own journal entries. Perhaps you'll discover what inspires you. 

To read a FREE sample of After Rain, visit my author website 

Monday, February 8, 2021

If I Were a Child

If I were a child in the 2020s, what would I believe about the world? Based on the evidence, could I believe that most people are decent and honest, that police officers are helpers, that the grownups in my world have the power to keep me safe? Would I view the leaders of my country's government with respect? Would the president of the United States be my hero? Would I trust that I’m safe at school--when I’m allowed to go to school, that is--safe from invisible disease and visible violence?

If I were a child in the 2020s, would I understand that my teacher is a real person, not just a talking head on my computer? Would I remember what the bottom of Grandma’s face looks like and how the inside of her house smells? Or would I wonder if I could ever hug her again and how long I must wait before we can play our favorite board games in her living room instead of on her front porch? 

When I was a child in the 1950s, there were things to worry about, like behaving at school, because if you didn’t, you’d be in bigger trouble when you got home; like doing your chores and your homework because it was expected; like being kind because it was the right way to treat people? Oh, sure! We had polio and the Cold War to cause anxiety, but, by the time I was four, Jonas Salk had invented a vaccine, and the Cold War was far, far away--or at least that’s what parents in the fifties said to reassure their children. 

When I was a child, we watched Walter Cronkite to learn what was happening in the world, and we had no reason to believe he wasn’t telling the truth. We ate all our meals at home, but that was because my parents couldn’t afford restaurant dining for a family of six. We played outside with our friends because it was fun, not because we weren’t allowed inside each other’s homes. 

What images will be permanently scorched upon the innocent brains of today’s children? A black man calling for his mama as his breath is snuffed out by a white policeman’s knee. Masses of people marching, carrying signs, and shouting slogans--again--because after a hundred years or so, they still haven’t been heard. The twisted, orange face of a madman throwing childish tantrums. The hallowed halls of my “united” republic invaded by thugs. Fist bumps and elbow bumps replacing hugs and kisses. Ordinary, everyday citizens believing blatant lies. Adults creating problems instead of solving them.

Who will I become? today's child wonders. Will there be a place for me in a broken world such as this? Dare I hope that beauty will one day emerge from the ashes of my ravaged childhood?

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