Illusive Butterflies!

In light of the loud demonstrations of last summer, which protested unfair treatment, many answers to my years of questions unfolded right before my eyes. It became exponentially clear that many invisible roadblocks had been strategically placed years ago to deter, stall and eventually stop people of color in their tracks. 

When I embarked upon this brave, new world with my newly minted college degree in hand, I enthusiastically walked out into the new frontier. I felt as if I was equipped to handle whatever presented itself and immediately fell into teaching to fulfill a teacher’s scholarship obligation. It was a rich and gratifying experience but a after six or so years, I wanted more. 

I completed another degree in hopes of entering some aspect of media. I visited printing companies, knocked on several television studio doors. I even tried advertising places and publishing companies to display my wares. Though the doors were cracked wide enough to look inside, they were not open. I heard, “Nope.” “Not today.”  Or simply, nothing at all. As one acquaintance said, “What about no response?” 

Yet through the tears, confusion, and disappointment, I was led to a variety of sages who held my hand and offered me hope. One former professor continually answered my letters and once reminded me that the butterfly is often illusive. I did not understand his meaning then and I still work to interpret it, but I think he meant that life does not always offer pat answers nor work in a straight line. 

Then, my sages begin to appear through authors of the printed word. Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones crossed my path and I studied it in-depth. I read several of his books as I clung to his positive outlook. I was even blessed to see him peeking in a door at a conference in Rosemont, Illinois, many years later. It was as if he too was holding my hand along the way. He reminded me to always bless my shelters and every traveler needs to hear that! 

Quite by happenstance, I was introduced to Florence Scovel Shinn while browsing at Oxford Bookstore on Peachtree in Atlanta’s Buckhead section. Her book, The Game of Life and How to Play It helped me immensely. Her advice assisted me in drying my tears when things appeared bleak while the hunger pains and fear were overtaking my better judgment. 

And just in the nick of time, Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World landed in my hands from an Atlanta friend. Every copy that I have owned of this jewel of a book has ended up being tattered, torn, and coming apart at the seams from constant use. Most pointedly, he taught me to persist until I succeed from his ancient scrolls. 

The list of encouraging sages who have invisibly and silently held my hand is exceptionally long and I could never list them all. However, I absolutely must add Maya Angelou whose small and powerful book of poems found me at a bookstore in Delaware, Ohio. She taught me that I was indeed a phenomenal woman that needed to keep on rising. 

Hindsight is 20-20. I am glad that I was unaware of the dark intentions that were set up to thwart my dreams and discourage my visions for my life. As the saying goes, “God makes a way out of no way.” Michael Jackson reminds us to hold hands in Whatever Happens. Enjoy!

Lynn M. 
September 14, 2021 

Gently Closing the Door!

Watching the different types of boats,
Get in those last sails,
Paddles or high speed rides,
As summer inches towards autumn.

The trees silently change from rich greens,
To the shades and tones of the colorful rainbow.

The birds get in their final twerps,
Before heading to that Southern warmth.

The cicadas sing loudly and early at noon,
Before they are forced to go back underground.

And the people move slowly,
Leisurely and peacefully as they take in
The last shards of summer before it,
Gently closes its door!

Lynn M.
September 11, 2021

God’s Pearl: A Movie Review

After seeing the movie, Respect a second time, I am finally ready to weigh in on this artistic piece. This biopic lies close to my heart for multiple reasons.

Aretha Franklin

First, I was living in Detroit in the 50’s, when the movie actually opens. Two, I remember where I was when I heard the song Respect for the first time. I spent my teen and young adult years listening to Aretha Franklin’s music. And three, Jennifer Hudson and I share our Chicago roots. I recall the day that Mayor Daley proclaimed a day in her honor after her Dreamgirls movie debut.

Having said all of that, I am somewhat peeved about some of the critics’ comments about this movie. Many of them do not understand black life and they do not get it.  They have not lived it and they misunderstand black life in all of its myriad forms. Yet, I sigh and take a step back as they have their rightful say. 

First, it would take a week to tell all of Aretha’s 76 years of living on this earth. Respect is quite like a short story.  It is not the whole enchilada. It offers its viewers a slice of life. Respect covers a twenty-year span of Aretha’s life and it does it quite well.

 It takes risks because it touches upon topics that most people would rather not deal with and certainly not view. Sexual and physical child abuse and exploitation are never comfortable subjects. She endured all of these and most often by those people she trusted the most, as a motherless child.

I compare Aretha’s life to that pearl that evolves after much wringing, aggravation and irritation that goes on inside of the oyster shell.  She was initially powerless to fight back against the powerful men who sought to control her. But, she took the reigns of the horses’ carriage and galloped on into greatness leaving them all gasping behind in the dust.

This pearl of God lives in the hearts of all. For those who are faint of heart, don’t see Respect and miss seeing what shaped this iconic gem. Those people should just go to YouTube and search for an Aretha concert and be entertained.  But for the true thinkers and reflectors of life, go see Respect and see a grand piece of art on the big screen!

Lynn M.
September 11, 2021

As They Are!

It is our charge to accept people as they are even when we do not fully understand them. Perhaps they do not fit into our spheres of operation, but it is our duty to remember that it is what it is.

Maybe we perceive them as slippery fish, busybodies, gossips, smooth criminals or tag them with other labels, but they are all still God’s children. Folks come in all shapes, sizes, and colors while dressed in a wide range of personalities. It is, not our job to change them; however we may positively impact a few along the way that are receptive to the tools we share from what we have learned along the way.

So, it is simply best to observe others. If we find their antics overwhelming at times, them look at the pathos and theatrics and seek the comical and humorous. Remember that laughter is still the best medicine.

Here is a poem from my novella, A Golden Leaf in Time Revised that Phoenix, the lead character, wrote after an emotional encounter.

“She calmed herself and reasserted her power to move forward at
the guided and given time. She took solace with her pen and paper and
wrote the following verse:

Who’s Foolin’ Who?
Traveling on the expressway of life,
I had another unexpected blowout.
But in this world of sorrow and strife,
I won’t sit around and pout.
People have crises that run deep
’Cause they don’t know God at all.
So they try to make others leap
Or keep them blind ’til they fall.
Then they can feel that all is well
And not take responsibility for a solution,
So they try to shut out those who may tell
Of their sadness and sick pollution.
But if eyes are of deep perception
And hearts are of love for God,
Then those with the crises are in deception
’Cause no one can harm a child of God!

This is still relevant today!

Lynn M.
September 4, 2021

Gee, Thanks!

Gee, Thanks!
Ye did it for evil,
God did it for my good.
So you spread lies and rumors,
Like jelly on a piece of stale bread.

Ye ran away the kissed toads and frogs,
And freed me from the undeserving people and places.
Gee, thanks!

In retrospect, I see that I am free to explore the higher.
Higher consciousness, higher thinking,
Higher events and circumstances.
Again, thanks!

For lifting me up so now I can march on,
With a more congenial drummer
Who will always have my back!
Gee, thanks!

Lynn M.
August 28, 2021

Speed Bumps!

Sometimes during those long, quiet meditative stretches of peaceful thoughts, we encounter a speed bump. A negative memory or some affront pops up and we may silently admit, “Ouch. That still hurts!” We thought that we had gotten over it, but we have to say, “Apparently not.” 

It is still down there gnawing away while taking swipes at our peace of mind. So, we know that it is time to pull out the soap, the water bucket and the good ‘ole scrub brush and get busy doing some more deep inner cleansing. We hope that total healing will assuredly come our way as we remember that healing is always a work in progress. 

Though we thought that we had successfully closed that chapter or era of our lives, we may discover that, “No. It is not entirely over.” It could be that there are still more lessons to be learned or perhaps we need to muster up some more forgiveness. But then, as we look down into our canteens of sensitivity, we may find that it is empty. There is no more balm to rub over things nor spread around. 

So, we may have to just live with certain pain. There is no more energy left to give to those situations. We have been depleted and we come to the final consensus that we cannot give it any more thought. Nothing. Zero. Nada. 

We cannot process any more pretentiousness, so we just shake our heads, and walk away with both heart palpitations and sweaty palms. We slow down our racing, thoughts and give thanks for the speed bump because It protected us from making poor choices. We press on after letting out a huge sigh of relief as we acknowledge that we must live with “the good, the bad and yes, even the ugly!” 

Lynn M. 
August 21, 2021 

One Thread, Similar Themes!

My Twitter writer-friend, Val Poore stated that she liked ‘how one book leads to another.’ She was referring to the fact that I ended reviewing two books about life on the Native American reservations. Truly, there was one thread that ran through similar themes. 

Rez Dogs is more of a juvenile piece which is written in prose by Author Joseph Bruchac. The protagonist, Maia, is stuck at her grandparents’ home on a New England reservation when the Covid pandemic shuts down the world. She is in for a lot of lessons about the differences from her prosperous life in Boston. A reservation dog miraculously shows up to comfort and accompany her during her stay. 

Shortly thereafter, a neighbor handed me a copy The Night Watchman, an adult-themed novel, which also takes place on a reservation outside of Minneapolis. It involves the trafficking and detainment of a Native American woman, alcoholism with other forms of abuse. Again, we see how life on the reservation requires improvising by those living on scanty and limited provisions. These two books gave me new insight into the lives of those that we rarely hear about, period. Each left me filled with deep reflections as I admitted how much we take so for granted. 

 I recently finished Kaia Alderson’s Sisters in Arms. It is a fictional account of two black women who were WACS or Women in the Army Corps during WWII. Though entertaining, it was based on many historic events that the women experienced in the 1940’s. Alderson offered a light spin on Grace and Eliza’s lives which overshadowed some of the more brutal and scathing losses that the women endured as they ventured into new and unknown places. 

And then, it happened again. I broke my stride to browse an outdoor book sale and noticed Fly Girl by Sherri L. Smith. It had a picture of a female pilot on the front. I picked it up and when I saw that it had been endorsed by Jacqueline Woodson, I took a second look. This time it looks like Ida wants to join the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), but there is a problem here. Ida is black and it looks like she is light skinned enough to pass for white. She plans to use that to get her toe in the door. Hmmm. Military? WWII? Brave, adventurous women? Again, a common thread and theme. 

So now, I move from the Native American reservations to two books about women of color in the military during WWII. It looks like I am in for a real treat as the thread stretches on to loop through these similar themes. I will read on to enhance by learning as summer winds down to a slow crawl as we inch towards the fall season! 

Lynn M. 
August 14, 2021 

Libraries -Sainted Places!

Libraries are truly hallowed places! Sacred houses of great minds! I have spent so many hours waiting in libraries in a number of locations. I may have been waiting for classes to begin, work shifts to change or even waiting on someone. Here, I feature only five libraries from a very long list because if I wrote all of my memories from special libraries, this post would never end!

I used to drive my mother to teach her evening literature class at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Illinois. I would climb the stairs of the old library and wait for her to finish her day. There, I wrote and wrote and wrote and thus, my first novella in a set of seven was born. It is now published and titled A Golden Leaf in Time Revised! There is a newer version of the library but the old spaces remain etched in my memory.

I also waited in the stacks when I worked as a PT librarian at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. I am quite certain that I journaled and wrote but I distinctly remember perusing the works of Thich Nhat Hanh. His writings just seemed to fall into my lap and I was in for a real treat as I read to Breathe! You Are Alive! along with his many other works.

I recall sitting in a quiet spot, in a small cubicle with a window view at the Henry T. Sampson Library at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. Of course, I had to wait for some evening class to start and I do remember browsing a copy of The Chronicle of Higher Education along with other scholarly publications that were lined along the wall.

And then, there was the old Main Library in Downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue which is now called the Chicago Cultural Center. It was beautiful, warm and welcoming with its long, winding staircases. But the book volumes outgrew those spaces and over time, the current Harold Washington Library was built on State Street. It has a different feel to it yet it is still filled to the brim with patrons. Its long, heavy wooden tables are truly any writer’s dream desk!

I will close with sharing precious memories of time spent in Boston Public Library’s Main Branch on Boylston Street, the country’s first free municipal library. I lived close by and walked there regularly. The library has so much character and each department is comparable to getting to know a lot of different people.

Each nook and cranny probably has its own stories. Sometimes, it felt as if the great writers from the lined shelves were whispering and saying, “Try me!” I heard some of them and picked up books such as Nina Simone’s I Put a Spell on You and the little-known younger Bronte sister, Anne’s books. I read all of her books and I felt as if I was watching her Mr. Huntington in action!

I could go on and on about the libraries that I have known and adored. They are one of the few places that all can enter for free and still leave with both fulfillment and an arm load of books and other materials. They are truly sainted places and spaces even if they have been altered, renovated and changed from the way we remember them. It makes me think of the Beatles’ In My Life. Push play and enjoy!

Lynn M.
August 7, 2021

Be Encouraged!

Be encouraged!
Stand strong!
If need be, stand alone.
Though the way ahead
May seem to be unclear.
But it is sure, if you don’t lose
Your head, Your faith, Your footing,
And mostly, your resolve.

Turn off the telly,
Mute the noise.
Listen to the wind, the crickets or the birds.
Reach back to those ancient sounds
Which propelled our elders forward,
Eons ago.

And they will surely do the same for you,
We, us – who remain back here.
We must bring up the rear for our youth
And thus, bring smiles from those on the other side.
So troopers, march on, stay focused,
And mostly be encouraged!

Lynn M.
July 31, 2021

Rendered Speechless!

This is a spoiler alert! When I recently finished Louise Erdrich’s book The Night Watchman, I was rendered speechless by one of the subplots, not the main plot, of this engaging novel. One of the focal characters, Patrice (Pixie) is the breadwinner for her indigenous Chippewa family. 

She is the only one in the family who has a job, and she works at a jewel factory performing very delicate operations. Her father is broken from the many onslaughts of reservation life, and he has become an abusive alcoholic who is often gone away from the family. No one looks forward to his infrequent returns, especially their mother because of what they all must endure when he is at home.

Her older sister, Vera, has moved away to the Big City but is now considered to be missing and the family is deeply concerned about her. Pixie puts her job on the line as she borrows days from her co-workers to venture into the Big City to look for her sister. She is tricked at the train station and ends up in a would-be perilous situation herself. She temporarily works at a bar swimming in a fish-like tank with dyed water for the customers’ entertainment. 

One of their friends, a boxer named Wood Mountain, senses that she could be in danger, and he goes to the city to make sure that she is okay. No one will tell them where Vera is at that time, but they do end up bringing back Vera’s infant son after Pixie makes her get-away from  the bar.

The family embraces the baby and all cuddle and nurture him as Pixie returns to her regular job. She eventually begins to fall in love with Wood Mountain and finally gives into him as her first lover. Overtime, Vera surfaces and she has been detained against her will and trafficked on a ship. When she is used and nearly dead, they discard her on the side of a road in Duluth and fortunately a medic finds and helps her. 

Vera makes it back home, but she is damaged both physically and spiritually. They are happy to see her and she falls back into the embraces of the family. By, then, Wood Mountain is extremely attached to the child and often frequents the family home. And then, it happens. 

Pixie returns home from work one day and notices the rhythm between Vera and Wood Mountain as tries to say he loves them both. But Pixie, says, “No. It is not going to happen like that!”  Instead, she agrees to help fix up a small house on the property for Vera, Wood Mountain, and the baby Thomas Achilles.  

 I see Pixie going on to greater heights like on to college or choosing some new path for herself.  She has the strength of character to do so, but this part rendered me speechless. How much can one give? And how much can one accept from another’s labors? It reminded me of the movie The Valley of the Dolls, when Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins) walked away with a wrangled, wildly beating heart but definitely moving on! 

Lynn M. 
July 28, 2021