All posts by dixonl2014

Encouraging Mini Me!

The other day, I listened to my Calm App and one of the meditation coaches suggested that we look at pictures of ourselves as a toddler, a young adult and a current one. He asked, “What would you say to your younger self? As he talked about self-care, he reminded us to be gentle, patient and kind to ourselves when things appear to be less than perfect and to take deep breaths as we calm ourselves during trying times.

I studied a picture of myself while seated on a couch with my sisters when I was three and living in Detroit. As I took a closer look, I looked petrified, stymied and my older sister had her arm around me for comfort. I wondered what was going on here. The youngest in families, my position, is often corrected and criticized every step of the way. I thought, “Hmm.” I would walk over to mini me, bend down and whisper in her ear, “It’s going to be okay.”

I then looked at a picture of myself when I was about eight years old. I was posing at a tea which I had attended with Mrs. Anderson and her niece. She was the hairdresser that lived across the street when we lived in Memphis. She had pressed by hair and had to carefully go around an injury from being hit in the head with a brick by the notorious Hunter boys. On another occasion, they had shot me in the eye with a slingshot as I walked down Florida Street. But to my astonishment, my picture exuded confidence. I was the only one who knew the full story behind that picture so I would give her a thumb up and would emphatically say to her, “Good job!”

I viewed a picture of me when I was sixteen and as a bridesmaid in one of my sister’s weddings. I exhibited a sweetness but also an immense naivety in thinking that if I was kind to others, they would also be kind to me. Wrong! On that November day in Chicago, I had no idea of what was in store. Crude and unwarranted rude behaviors were forthcoming like a steamroller. I would worry for her, say a prayer and I would give her a pat and say, “Careful, there. Careful.

I took the meditation coach’s advice a tad further and looked at mini me at the age of thirty-eight, living back in Memphis. By that time, harsh realities had set in, and her pained look is so apparent to me.  Disappointments in love, career and financial struggles had clouded her once highly optimistic outlook. I would walk over to her and take her poised hand and softly say, “Take a deep breath. Breathe out and release all of the toxicity.”

Then I looked at my latest selfie now displaying an evolved me who has become an educator, librarian, published writer and blogger. I smiled back at the latest snapshot and thought, “This woman has secrets. She knows things. She has weathered a few storms and has indeed seen fire and rain. But she is continually coming through quite nicely.” I would applaud her and raise my voice a little and say, “You’ve come a long way, baby!

Lynn M.
January 28, 2023

January ~2023

It’s twenty twenty-three,
We are mentally free!

On this MLK Day?
Serve! Sharing is the way.

As hidden truths explode,
Lies. falsities implode.

Yes, take those higher walks.
Engage in fewer talks.

Just watch all things shift.
With others? Have no rift.

Gently, choose those around.
Let charities abound!

Lynn M.
January 14, 2023

Soul City ~ A Book Review

Toure’s Soul City is a laugh-out-loud satire about black life and the conditions of the people. It goes from moments of hilarity to moments of silence deemed by heart-wrenching truths. Cadillac Jackson is a writer who comes to town to write about the city but is soon too caught up in its daily activities to write the first sentence.

Toure uses aptronyms where the people’s names match either their jobs or personal traits. He has characters such as Spreadlove, Ubiquity, Jiggaboo, Emperor Jones and a host of others as he goes through the spectrum of any town. From city government to the church or to the town’s favorite eatery (a buttered biscuit shop), Toure takes the reader on a thorough ride through Soul City with its fun, pathos and sobering history until the last drop is savored!

Spreadlove is known for his many women who have a blind allegiance to him regardless while the very poor live in Ragamuffin Projects which has been designed to let in minimal light. Loud music is piped through the community and when the speakers malfunction one day, the people are lost and terrified by the silence. They are at total loss and do not know what to do with themselves. Whereas, Jiggaboo has taken such a low role for profit that no amount of therapy can help his self-loathing.

Ubiquity is the town gossip whose entire goal is to garner a shock-effect from her victims, while poor Unicorn is exploited for his physical prowess and ends up taking his own life to put a halt to the pain. Some even voluntarily sign up for The Slave Experience where they live in chains, wear rags and are subjected to beatings for a year. They vow that they can take it for one year, if their ancestors endured it for a lifetime. And then, there is the Reparations check scam where the citizens get the $100,000 deposited into their checking accounts, only to see it constantly diminish in increments, though they had made no withdrawals.

Toure’s bold and unabashed look into the harsh realities of the black condition will cause the reader to laugh-out loud at times. In other moments, the starkness of certain situations may cause the reader to wipe away a slow tear. These caricatures and their daily antics give aha moments, shake-your-head moments and moments of sheer wordless silence.

Lynn M.
January 7, 2023

I Would Die 4 U- A Book Review

Toure takes an in-depth look into Prince’s music in his book, I Would Die 4 U. He matches Prince’s lyrics to many of his songs to actual events that were happening in the musical genius’ life. Prince had a work ethic like no other and could easily work up to forty hours straight until he had achieved the right sound and effects. Some said that he could not be separated from his music, and it ruled him. 

He would hear a sound and he knew that he had to get it down before it vanished, which some artists may understand. He played all the instruments on a piece and then merged them together to create his own music. He studied many of the great musicians and composers from Mozart to Coltrane and it has been said that he came up with his own genre. 

Prince felt driven and called by God to accomplish things and he felt that time was ticking through the hourglass, so he had a lot to get done before making his exit. His androgynous   appearance, his petiteness and his boldness in mixing both male and female clothing put everyone on notice. It has been said that he could outshoot the guys on the basketball court while wearing high heels. 

Prince was wrapped in a cover that pulled in the generation X–ers because they too were latchkey kids like Prince and had often been left alone for too many hours to delve into adult worlds. He baited in his audiences with outrageous sexual antics but underneath the façade, he was deeply spiritual. He strongly felt that he was here on borrowed time and felt that his main mission was to spread the Word and evangelize the masses. 

Toure discusses how he started his concerts with hot, sensual movements and then once he had the audience’s full attention, he slowed the tempo down and started giving subtle sermons. We recall lyrics such as, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life,or he encouraged with lines like, “A feeling of self-worth will caress U.” He took risks and combined sexuality with spirituality and reminded his listeners that, “It’s always darkest before dawn.” He told one interviewer, “The whole point of the show was, I’m going to do the dirty half of me in the first half because that’s what you came to hear but in the second half, I’m gonna show you what it’s really supposed to be about.” 

Prince was keenly aware of his mortality and saw the afterlife as a world of never-ending happiness. Similar to many artists, his childhood was racked with pain but like the oyster’s agitations, the gods were creating a special pearl. Prince was gifted to the world in a small package, but he could sing both male and female parts in his lyrics, play all the instruments and most of all, he fascinated us all with his brilliance and mystique! 

Lynn M. 
December 31, 2022 

I Wanna Dance with Somebody: A Movie Review

I recently saw the new movie, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody. It is amazing how someone comes along and touches our heartstrings and causes us to cry though we have never met the person. I found myself crying during parts of the new movie because I had not allowed myself to actually and adequately grieve this top-selling artist’s passing in 2012. 

I think we were too stunned when it happened though we watched her life spiral out of control on the world stage. The cast in the new movie was awesome and once again, we are all reminded that biopics are difficult. I admire actors who are brave enough to take on an icon’s life. Some of the performers may be Oscar-buzz worthy, which was produced by Clive Davis along with her sister-in-law, Pat Houston.

It opens with Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie) singing in the church as a young teenager who develops a friendship and love for her friend Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams). Her mother, Cissie Houston (Tamara Tunie) has a formidable presence throughout the movie and her father (Clarke Peters), once her manager, is there for most of her journey. After she and Robyn are questioned and pressured about their love affair, she meets Jermaine Jackson and then Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders). The young actor has an uncanny resemblance to Bobby Brown and even had the gap between his teeth to boot! He totally channeled him.

We journey through her life from her early hits, The Greatest Love of All to I Wanna Dance with Somebody from the 80’s. She matures and takes on the heavy responsibilities of being everything to everybody as her father spends her money to give others’ lavish lifestyles. She evolves onto the movie sets, and we see parts of The Bodyguard where she miscarried while filming, though she did several other movies. Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci) is her go-to and advises against taking her last world tour which ended in disaster. She was ridiculed because of her lost voice and range. The drugs had taken their toll which she started doing with her brothers when their parents were fighting; however, it grew to epic proportions while married to Bobby Brown. 

In her last scene, when she was at the Beverly Hilton for Clive Davis’s party, we all hold our breaths as she sits in the bathroom looking in the mirror. It is unclear whether there was something in her drink from the hotel bar or in the drugs a man slipped her while pretending to ask for an autograph. But they graciously spared us the final scene of her actual death. Instead, they pulled away to a medley concert from her healthier times and showed photographs of the real Whitney Houston throughout her life.  

I stood for this great woman as the credits rolled and it was my personal chance to say goodbye, again. But just as tears started to flow, she sang, “Don’t Cry for Me.” She was right when she sang Dreamgirl’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” The lyrics say, “No, no, no way, I am living without you. You are going to love me.” I thought, “She is still here.” We do love her, and she is only one click away. Push play and listen to Whitney sing I Look to You while wearing a gown like no other! Remember why she continually steals our hearts today!

Lynn M. 
December 24, 2022 

How Did You Do in ’22?

As you draw closer to the end of 2022, you may ask yourself, “What did I accomplish?” It would be a great idea to make a list of what you did achieve. First, you are still here. Start with that gracious fact that you did survive up to this very moment. Then, go from there and recall your accomplishments, for each month and see where your list ends. 

This Biblical quote is helpful in formulating a gratitude journal for everyday people. “But let every man prove his own work and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone and not in another.” (Galatians 6:4). You can see from the stories on the news feeds that huge sums of money do not equate to happiness so you can go from there. 

Here are a few things you can ask yourself: 

  • Did you work this year and earn a legal income? 
  • Are you proud of the work of your hands? 
  • Did you create something that those coming behind you could use as a future guide? 
  • Did you help someone by sharing a gift, a helping hand or even a listening ear? 
  • Did you encourage someone, even a small child, or help that person feel more secure? 
  • Did you practice positive thinking in this era of unnecessary trolling and meanness? 
  • Did you think before you spoke and decided to hold your babbling tongue on some issues? 
  • Did you make new friends this year? 
  • Did you delete some toxic people from your life? 
  • Did you create your own wealth, or did you pilfer from the work of others? 
  • Did you practice calming activities such as quietness, deep breathing, walking, journalling or whatever enhances your peaceful aura? 
  • If you have spiritual sources or gurus on which you depend, did you tithe or share your profits? 
  • Did you practice kindness and patience with those in your sphere? 
  • Are you feeling healthy in mind, body, soul, and spirit? 
  • And most importantly, are you happy with where you are in life? If not, how do you plan to change that in the New Year? 

Think about these things. Begin your list so that you can start 2023 with a cleaner house., clearer plan and made-up mind. Kudos!

Lynn M. 
December 17, 2022 

Three Girls from Bronzeville: A book review

When I saw a picture of Dawn Turner receiving the 2022 Pattis Foundation Chicago Book Award in the Newberry Magazine’s Fall/Winter 2022 edition, I took immediate notice. I looked up her book, Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate and Sisterhood and saw that it was available at our local library. I put on two jackets and warm clothing and walked to the Crown Library and thank goodness, it was there on the shelf.

I dived in and finished this page-turner in three days. Dawn Turner talked about the south side of Chicago and lived in places and spots that I have also frequented throughout my journey. She lived in Lawless Gardens where one of my sisters once lived. She went to Doolittle School which I drove by daily and spoke of Pershing School where I temporarily subbed. We both even attend Hyde Park High though I did so before her.

Her daily walks to Lake Meadows Shopping Center reminded me of when it was in its glory days and had stores such as Goldblatt’s and Woolworth’s. The nearby Alco Drugstore, which she also mentioned, was a place where many south siders traveled at all times of night because it stayed open 24 hours. We could purchase items like iodine, mercurochrome, BC or Goody powders, all virtually impossible to find these days.

For me, this was a deeply engaging tale as she remembered the off-limits Lake Meadows Complex where the black elite lived, a place I often visited to see a close friend. She too mentioned the elusive Prairie Shores Complex where I later resided for over a decade. Turner goes into detail about the early years of the three Bronzeville girls which include her, her younger sister Kim and her dear friend, Debra.

Quite typical of an observer who would go on to become a Chicago Tribune writer, Dawn was the silent onlooker as her sister Kim and friend Debra both took a walk on the wild side. They got caught up in the mean streets of Chicago and became dangling victims of its spewed venom. Every south sider from Chicago should pick up a copy of Three Girls from Bronzeville as they reminisce and see what happens to Dawn, Kim and Debra!

(Reviewed on Amazon and Goodreads) ***** 5 Stars

Lynn M.
December 10, 2022

To Drive or Not to Drive?

While reading Lally Brown’s Don’t Drop the Dolphin: An Expat in the Turks & Caicos Islands, she mentioned a time when she was teaching her teen daughter how to drive a car. A flurry of memories rushed back as I recalled that harrowing time in my teen life.

When I was about 15, I followed protocol and took the driver’s education class with Chicago Public Schools. I even traveled to another infamous high school to take the road course in a mobile unit and left that venture with my learner’s permit. But I still needed my actual driver’s license and that is when the real tests begin. 

Back then, people commonly practiced driving in a big vacant lot on 47th Street close to Lake Shore Drive. By that time, my father’s patience had obviously waned and as his fourth child, I was met his tantrums and meltdowns. He was frayed and impatient and at one point he even vowed that I was trying to kill him. We both returned home in shambles and with me in tears when my mother quietly vowed, “I will teach her.” 

Thus, we would go out in the early mornings before she went to work. We used St. Lawrence Street for practice driving because it is not a busy thoroughfare, and it is or was a one-way street. I calmly progressed and her patience added to my confidence as I learned how to be a safe driver. 

Then, the day arrived when I was ready to take my permanent driver’s license road test so Daddy and I went to the DMV out on King Drive (then, South Park). Yes, he took me. The agent was mean and very nasty, and he said that I failed my three-point turn. I returned to Daddy in tears with my failed test proof in hand. He was quiet and said, “You’re going back tomorrow.” I was shocked. And sure enough, we returned the next day. The gods spared me from getting the same agitated man and yep, I passed!

It takes the patience of Job for parents to step in to make sure that their children are legal citizens, armed with all that they need to adequately function in society. They both gave what they had to give and since those early days, I have driven countless hours alone and from state to state. Sometimes, all I had was enough gasoline and money to get to my destination. I often had good music and I had miles and miles to clear my mind and do as the Brits say, “Sort things out.” Thanks to my ever-loving parents for not giving up on me as I learned to maneuver the road! 

Lynn M. 
December 3, 2022

The One and Only: Stevie Wonder

We were both born in the city of Detroit in the same year of 1950. He made his entry into the world four months before me. The difference? The world knows him, but they do not know me. He is the one and only Stevie Wonder or Stevie Wonderful. We first heard of him when his song Fingertips came out right after our family arrived in Chicago. 

Somehow, we ended up being a part of The Great Migration by traveling north after leaving the Jim Crow southern city of Memphis. My father, a northern-born man, had gone back south to retrieve his family. He had gone ahead of us after trying to deal with working in the South. He got a job in Chicago, an apartment in Woodlawn and a car with his sister’s assistance and came back to get us. 

So, as we tearfully settled down at 6140 So. Kenwood and new friends and music saved us. Stevie sang Fingertips and later, My Cherie Amour as Motown made its debut in everyone’s hearts and put the Motor City on the map. And thus, Stevie Wonder has been and still is one of the steady musical backdrops of my life. 

Quite like a dependable friend, he has always been there with a new song to help me remember the major and pivotal points of my life. He is like the tick marks on a number line. I could easily add a year above each song and tell anyone where I was and what I was doing at that time. 

When I moved into my first apartment in 1972, I think of songs like Been So Long or lyrics like, ‘Mary wants to be a superwoman and try to boss the bull around…” Then the song moves into a slow heart-warming tempo that asks,” Where were you when I needed you last winter? My love?” The hits and albums kept rolling like loose tires down a hill. We sang to albums like Talking Book , Fullingness First Finale and Innervisions, to name a few. 

I woke up many mornings singing, “You always creep into my dreams,” or “Boogie on Reggae woman.” As life moved forward, Stevie’s music played in the background whether washing the dishes, moving to another apartment, driving to work or even trying to make sense of a tattered love affair. 

And then, quite like a revolution? Boom. In late 1976, he had the audacity to create an album with two records. And this was pre-CD’s, so there were two LPs, in his album Songs in the Key of Life. And my, it was so much material that everyone could find something to love such as He’s Misstra Know it- All or As. I was also going through a revolution because I decided to quit my teaching job and make a quantum leap. I headed to the Deep South to attend graduate school at a HBCU. 

Later in the 80’s when I settled down in Memphis again, he had mellowed even more. I think of lyrics such as, “These three words” and other love songs like Part-Time Lover. And boom. We heard he was coming to town. I do not remember the location of the venue, but they had him on a circular stage and he went around as he sang.

My friend Michelle later said, “I touched him.” I was like, “What?” She said, “I touched him.’” He had walked pass us as he entered the one level room, so she was like the woman who touched Jesus. I shook my head and I guess that he is used to it whenever people can get close enough to steal a touch. 

The Steve Wonder stories could go on and on, but after seeing him this past Sunday on the American Music Awards, I was inspired to write this piece. He still looks great and revealed his great sense of humor when he told Wayne Brady to, “Begone” as he was talking to him outside of his dressing room. Surely his ability to laugh at life has kept him young and he can safely rest on his laurels from now on! 

Lynn M. 
November 26, 2022 

Attempts at French!

While reading Book 3 of Beth Haslam’s Fat Dogs and French Estates, she triggered a memory for me when she decided to take a French class before moving to the south of France. Her new instructor was firm and reminded her to speak in French only ‘ou parler en français seulement.’ It made me think of my many attempts to learn the language and I basically never got there. 

In high school, I took four years of French. My teacher, Ms. Nessman was kind and named me Margarite’, the most French version for my middle name, Margarita.  We spent countless hours in the foreign language lab in our headphones while listening to French dialogues and scripts. We conjugated verbs until the proverbial cows came home. But I still could not converse with a person in French other than saying hello, my name or goodbye. I probably can write it better than I can speak it because I understand the layout of the language which is like English as a Romantic language. 

In college, I took a couple of French courses. One woman catered to those who sat close to her in the front of the room and spent most of her time teaching the French map. But when I left there, could I have a conversation in French? Non. However, I can locate cities on the map of France as I follow Beth Haslam’s journeys through the country.  So, I should thank the teacher.

Years, hence, I was able to take a couple of free classes while teaching at Chicago State University in the early 90’s. I chose French and Modern Dance. My French instructor was a young woman from Senegal, and she too was steeped in the textbook version of learning the verbs. We loved her but I only had one semester with her. Perhaps if I had had more time under her instruction, my French would have taken off. Yet to no avail, I was not ready to have a conversation with anyone from France.  

Eventually, someone realized the fact that the textbook versions of the language were not working. Not everyone was able to afford the Berlitz immersion classes so, finally conversational classes emerged. Aha, I thought. Later, while working as a librarian at South Suburban College, I took a Conversational French class. I really wanted to learn and stayed after work to further study French. 

My instructor first reminded me that I was no longer to be addressed as Mademoiselle but would be called Madame due to my age, married or not. Great, I thought. That was a real confidence booster. Anyhoo, she did her best and I do recall us labeling furniture pieces in rooms on a graphic page to enhance our French vocabulary. She also spoke in French during class. 

Her efforts were not lost because I did leave her class with enough confidence to go ahead and purchase a ticket to France when the opportunity presented itself. When I got there, I tried using the phrase, je voudrais (I want) at a McDonalds. They looked at me as if I was an alien that had just dropped down from Mars. They talked amongst themselves to figure out what to do. So, I resorted to pointing to what I wanted. 

And that is how I spent the rest of my trip. I operated as a mute who pointed and spent a lot of time in my room. The man on the hotel staff tried to give me a lift and confidence booster and told me to at least try. I met another American who told me that she just pointed to what she wanted. We laughed. Luckily, the staff at the hotel and nearby train station where I got daily directions both spoke in several languages. 

I took several stabs at the steak of learning French. I had a host of teachers who had limited time to share the language they already knew. I believe that living in a bilingual environment is the real answer to mastering another language. Or perhaps, teach it to the very young child because as the saying goes, It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks

Lynn M. 
November 23, 2022