Over the last year I've felt at times that I was in an alien country and time. THIS IS NOT THE COUNTRY I SIGNED UP FOR IN 2000! That's been the scream in my head.
After the Parkland slaughter of children, horrible tragedy that it was, I have felt more comfortable. And you know who did it? The young people. They have been the ones who are shouting Truth. They are the ones railing against the current divisiveness, calling for action of Congress and labeling the gun laws Wrong.
Like the child who called out that the emperor wasn't wearing clothes, these teenagers are shouting that the adults in charge are lying, taking bribes from the NRA (campaign contributions) and paving the way for slaughter.
So I want to thank those under 18 who cannot vote or drink, legally anyway, and who don't owe anyone anything. Keep speaking up, please. Wake up a slumbering nation! Walk out of your classrooms on March 24.
Show us what Lent is really about -- aligning yourself with Truth and Righteousness.
Living through a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, any disaster in fact, is almost as stressful for those experiencing it directly as for distant family and friends. Having done both on several occasions, I’m not sure which is worse. For certain, the experience itself is not easily forgotten. I remember quite distinctly standing in a crib when I was a toddler and looking down at water on the floor during a hurricane in Jamaica.
After Irma and Maria hit the Virgin Islands recently, my stomach and my mind were in knots. I became involved in hourly, minutely communication through Facebook and Messenger. We all flirted with the worst outcome. Panicky notices screamed from neon-colored posts. For the first few days, I was unable to stay away from my computer for more than an hour, even if the fear of losing a loved one was exacerbated by the anxiety of everyone else pouring their dread onto Facebook. You’d think that since far fewer people die in a hurricane than an earthquake, we wouldn’t worry as much. But everyone did.
Then, two days after, the first short notices started arriving from residents who were able to get a signal on their phones from mountain tops. They tapped out reassuring messages.
“The Smith family from Whim is alive. House badly damaged.”
You could hear huge sighs of relief in the responses. And questions:
“Has anyone heard from Aunt Pearl living in Welcome?”
“I heard that looting has started downtown. Anyone know for sure?”
“Has the airport/post office opened?”
Thank God, I heard my daughter’s voice four days after the storm. I was vacuuming out my car at the car wash and here came a strange phone number – and a familiar voice. She was tense, I could tell, pretending to be casual. She was okay, she had food and water and a safe place to live. Three days later, she was much more relaxed, calling to say she had power, the first street on St. Croix to be connected. They turned on the fans, she said, as soon as the lights came on. It’s been sweltering, apparently.
So, I’m putting my angst into preparing a care package for whenever the post office reopens, probably not for a few weeks. But it looks like life as we know it will continue, both here and there, so far away. The two eyes have passed. The prayers have worked.
August 7, 2017
ANNOUNCEMENT: Today is Jamaica’s Independence Day, as a friend just reminded me. So, Happy Independence, friends! The little island is 55 years old today, and we’ve come a long way, thanks to Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Shaggy…. Some might say we have much further to go, given the rampant poverty and crime. But I say that every day in a country’s life is a lesson. Even the United States.
ANOTHER ANNOUNCEMENT. August 1 was the launch date of ATLANTA NOIR, an anthology of short stories – in which (drum roll) I’ve had my first short story published! It was fun, fun, fun to get outside my comfort zone and delve into a new genre. My story is about a middle-aged immigrant woman who made the wrong decision to migrate to the US. (It was supposed to be noir, so I had to darken it!)
The innovative Noir Series is the product of Akashic Publishers of New York, and they’ve created a long list of cities and countries as sponsors. These include KINGSTON NOIR, edited by Colin Channer, TRINIDAD NOIR: THE CLASSICS, edited by Earl Lovelace and Robert Antoni, CHICAGO NOIR, LONDON NOIR, and many, many more. Please check them out.
ATLANTA NOIR was edited by Tayari Jones, an Atlantan now living in New York, who contributed a story. It was a joy working with her. Other writers in this collection were Tananarive Due, Kenji Jasper, Dallas Hudgens, Jim Grimsley, Brandon Massey, Jennifer Harlow, Sheri Joseph, Alesia Parker, Anthony Grooms, John Holman, Daniel Black and David James Poissant.
So much to read, so little time, right? But it’s worth it!
February 4, 2017
Suddenly, I’m a Conservative!
I want to go back to the way things were.
I want to live in a diverse country.
I want people to respect each other.
I want to be accepting of other religions.
I want a woman to have the right to decide what happens to her body.
I want to know how we are going to pay for the Great Wall of Mexico.
I want rational, consistent leaders.
I want the Constitution to be respected.
I don’t want an anarchist in the White House.
And I don’t want civil war.
These thoughts came to me while I was reading an article about Steve Bannon, who has our new president’s ear. I quote from his own statement that “darkness is good,” which he told Michael Wolff of Hollywood Reporter.
“Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power,” he continued.
Then there’s the statement, reported by the Daily Beast, that Bannon said he wants to
“…bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
So, I’m a conservative. I want to go back to the good old days of the last few years. When we felt a whole lot safer.
Life is momentum. People are born and people die. Elections come and go. Wars break out and peace returns. Phases in our lives keep unfolding, too, one after the other. There is no end, no rest short of death.
I thought that retiring from my university would drop me onto a plateau of calm, a momentary lull in the constant march of … life. I’m still waiting.
I used to think that when people complained that they were busier in retirement than before, they were really lying to cover up their boredom, or they were staying occupied to keep from going crazy. Yet here I am in the same position, learning three months into retirement that the retired life can be pretty intense and tons of fun. You just have to see those grey-haired men zooming around in their expensive sports cars to see what I mean.
The contrast between the energy of my former working life and my current life is palpable. Admittedly, I often forget what day of the week it is because the days tend to blur, but I nonetheless awake each day full of excitement and plans, some of which I don’t have time to complete.
Why is that the case with so many newly retired people? Other than the fact that people are in better health later in life, I believe that retirement rejuvenation is the energy unleashed in jaded souls that had begun to feel emotionally drained/bored/unchallenged by their work, energy that now spurts out to create new lives and surroundings. Granted that there are those who don’t enjoy being retired, but I’ve found few of those recently.
Most of my retired friends are so busy that we have to make appointments to get together. Their hours are full of traveling and gardening and starting some new project. And they occasionally have time to babysit. The gym is full of retired people in the mornings, I’ve discovered. The Home Depot afternoon classes in wall-papering are overflowing. Best of all, for those in the US, most college classes are open to us free of charge – and seniors are rushing to fill those seats.
In my case, in between going to the gym, having outings with friends and some beach visiting, I’ve been renovating my home from top to bottom after its thirty years of wear and tear. My days are filled with choosing paint, tile and granite color combinations, and supervising the work as it goes along. Just when one project ends, another seems to begin.
My next plan is to get back to the work of writing, but that seems to keep fading into the future. I’m having way too much fun enjoying the new momentum.
I’ve never felt like a stranger in this country. Until now. Even when the old lady asked me, a nineteen-year-old scholarship student at Colorado College, if my family lived in a tree in Jamaica, I never felt like a stranger. Even when my blind date from the Air Force Academy laughed with his friends that he never thought he’d date a “coon,” I never felt like a stranger. Even when I protested the war in Cambodia, getting tear-gassed in Wisconsin, I never felt like a stranger. Even when two drunk white boys yelled out “Niggers!” to my ex-husband and me, I never felt like a stranger. And when I decided, after many years in the Caribbean, to return to the United States in 2000, it was like coming home.
I am now a US citizen. The intertwined threads of this country, with its different colors and strengths, have created a fabric that has always felt exceedingly comfortable to wrap myself in. It has provided me with opportunities, staircases that drew me upward to higher and higher achievements. It introduced me to people who guided and led me to others. And when it was my turn to give back, I was more than ready to give back to my students, my employees, my readers. I would never have become all the things that I have become – entrepreneur, manager, professor and writer – had I not come to this country. My gratitude is deep and wide.
Now, and all of a sudden, I feel like a stranger. This is not the country that I know.
If half of the electorate want as their president a man who incites them to hate people who are different from them, that means they are capable of hating people like me. That kind of venom – and that kind of influence – can whip people into a frenzy. Frenzy enough to invade other countries. Frenzy enough to throw innocent people into jail, or concentration camps. Frenzy enough to deport immigrants.
When I lived in Germany, I was treated with kindness and courtesy. I admired the self-discipline and intelligence of the German people. It was very hard to believe that just thirty years before those people’s parents had supported a man who had blindfolded them with a hatred so great they could do what they did.
Politicians have a power and influence that we can’t even begin to understand. When I walk into a public place in Georgia today, I look around and think, half of these people want as their president a man who says Mexicans are rapists and murderers, who mocks the disabled, who insults people he disagrees with, who plans to ban Muslims from entering the country, who promises to build a wall to keep people out.
Suddenly, after forty-five years, I feel like a stranger.
I’m tempted to start this musing with … Oh, my God, a shallow, antagonistic, volatile, provocative, racist, sexist, inexperienced opportunist might actually become president of the most powerful country on earth! – but I’m not. Tough as it is, I’m going to tear my mind away from that thought, but use it to refocus on the beautiful men out there who don’t make it into the headlines. Like Ossie.
My brother-in-law Ossie was one of the best men I’ve ever met. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack in early January. I hadn’t known him long, but got to know him quickly when I visited him and my sister on several occasions. A gentleman, he was a kind, thoughtful and intelligent man. He was always up early making breakfast, enquiring what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go that day, fulfilling every request and need that I had. He and my sister were only married for a short time but they cared deeply for each other. We are comforted by the fact that, as Ossie’s sister said in her eulogy, he died a very happy man.
Sometimes, especially in these political times, it’s necessary for all women to remind ourselves that there are caring, respectful men around. So I’m dedicating this blog to good men like Ossie. I’m writing to give praise to those millions of men who try to do the right thing. They may not always be able to achieve it, but most of the time they do. They slog to work, go grocery shopping and do laundry sometimes, take their children to ballet classes and soccer, and try to pay the bills.
Despite that fact, many women would prefer to sing the blues. I often hear the complaint from other women that there aren’t enough good men out there, they’re all married or involved or gay. That’s nonsense, I point out. The internet is full of men who are single and straight and looking for love. It was a hope at one time, but now I know it to be true, thanks to my own good partner (and the internet). And in the process I’ve been exposed to many good men, yes, some married, but others not.
I’m lifting my glass and my appreciation for those men who are nothing like the politicians we’re seeing more and more these days, good men, who try their best to please their sometimes difficult and demanding women. At the same time, I cheer on the women who put up with them when they’re less than perfect.
And here’s to all my sisters – of all ages – who are still looking for a gentleman who’s just a decent man. Ladies, he might not look exactly like you think he should look, or talk the way you want or dress the way you think he should – but he’s there. The world is full of them.
And all of those who’ve been fed reality shows where participants boast about themselves and hurl insults at others are now seeing that experience translated to the presidential election.Read More
After a few minutes’ observation, I had a mental shift that one can only have after a certain age. I went back 40 years to the Atlanta I knew when I first arrived in the city and I tried to imagine a similar scene then. I was unsuccessful.
I had grown up in Jamaica with Rastafarians all around me, but I really didn’t know much, I discovered. My goal is to educate readers who are also unaware of the culture.
In our moments of contemplation, perhaps while driving or taking a shower, we tend to move into the self-talk that decides our mental state.Read More
Maybe this is what moving is about, releasing the memories and the ghosts with fondness and gratitude. I used to call this house my sunny little cave. It's about to become my sunny little memory.Read More